I met up with Popa Chubby Friday night June 30 at The Lodge hotel in Davenport Iowa. It was about 45 minutes until he was scheduled to play at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, and he had literally just pulled into town.
Two nights earlier I had called him to set up our meeting. They were outside of Chicago in Indiana, and just moments before I called the van the band was traveling in had a tire blowout on the interstate. They had fishtailed and spun around a couple times. Popa Chubby was shaken but said everybody was OK. They had to get to Chicago to play Buddy Guy’s Ledgends in just a few hours, so he couldn’t talk.
To make a long story short, they made the show and spent most of the next day getting the van towed and finding a tire and rim to replace the ones they had ruined the day before. I talked to Popa Chubby again Friday afternoon still trying to set up the interview. They were stuck in rush hour traffic in Chicago’s Loop, but we did manage to get the logistics worked out.
By the time they got to Davenport they had been through several harrowing experiences in a short time period.
Popa Chubby and the boys put on a great show and nobody had a clue as to the trying time they had just been through getting to the show. The band is nothing but professional. They came they played and moved on.
I was very impressed with the calm manner in which Popa Chubby did this interview just a few minutes after his performance.
Billy Rose: Great show tonight. The audience loved you. Sounds like you had a rough couple days getting here.
Popa Chubby: Oh, man that’s just how it is man. Par for the course, something always goes wrong.
Billy Rose: Do you always drive to your shows?
Popa Chubby: Sure when we’re on tour we do. ‘Cause we gotta bring stuff with us, ya know.
Billy Rose: I would like to talk just a little about your Peace, Love and Respect album.
Popa Chubby: (laughs) Sure why not.
Billy Rose: First of all, I really like that disc. It was…uh politically inspired…I guess is how I would phrase it. Was that planned from the beginning or did it just turn out that way in the end?
Popa Chubby: It was a timely record. The election was happening, and I had some strong views about it. My intention was really that, you had to just accept what was being done without question. To me that’s un-American. This country was built on people speaking up. And saying wait that’s wrong, we have to change that. I really hoped that I would get people interested in maybe seeing some one else’s opinion, that was different from their own. I don’t think it did that. I think in hindsight…I was preaching to the converted. People who already understood what I was saying. They were saying yeah right on. But the way people have been in America since 9-11, the other side has been so gung-ho about what they consider to be patriotism. It’s like there is no other opinion. If you believe other than what the republican right believes then you are considered a traitor. Not a patriot, but the enemy!
Billy Rose: Un-patriotic, un-Christian and everything else.
Popa Chubby: Yeah, so after I did that record I caught a lot of flack for it. There are still record stores that won’t carry my records because of that. And I have to say that Blind Pig Records really stood behind me on that. And unlike the Dixie Chicks I didn’t apologize. I didn’t change my mind. And I still don’t apologize. With that record I wanted to bring people together, and it didn’t do that. So, what brings people together, music. So just play guitar and shut the hell up!
Billy Rose: Your music is kind of a cross between several different styles. I hear blues, rock, punk, jazz and a little hip-hop.
Popa Chubby: It’s all in there man.
Billy Rose: Were do your musical inspirations come from?
Popa Chubby: From all the music out there. There is a lot great music in the world, and I love it all. And it all inspires me. From Al Green to BB King to The Ramones, man I love it all!
Billy Rose: Being an old New Yorker, you probably grew up with The Ramones.
Popa Chubby: I did man, I saw them when they used to play in clubs…they were pretty powerful.
Billy Rose: I was talking with Walter Trout last week.
Popa Chubby: Good guy!
Billy Rose: The two of you make similar music. I think the two of you should make a record together.
Popa Chubby: We did work together a couple times. Once on a live thing from The Jimi Hendrix Festival in Holland. And then on a record that Ruf Records put out…me,Walter and Jimmy Thackery did a cut together.
Billy Rose: who are some of your favorite new artists out there? some that you think of highly.
Popa Chubby: my new favorite band is a band called Wolf Mother. Man, they’re a three piece band from Austrailia. I think the lead singer is an Aborigine. He’s this kid with a huge afro. And their sound is like heavy metal blues rock from the 70’s…bad ass. They are so good man. Hank 3, he’s like outlaw honky tonk and punk rock, I love him man. A guitar player named Johnny Hyland, unbelievable guitar player. New records that I really like are the Ray Davies record, from the Kinks. He just put out a new record…unbelivably good. His record is so good man. I really liked the last John Hiatt record, “Master of Disaster”, I think…that’s a great one. Betty Levette, she’s from Detroit. She’s got a new record out called “Got My Own Hell To Raise”.
Billy Rose: That sounds like a title for a Popa Chubby record.
Popa Chubby: Well, she’s hellacious man it’s like watching a female Otis Redding, she’s so good.
Billy Rose: You just got back from Europe. How did that go?
Popa Chubby: We were in England last week. That went good. I have a week off. Then I’m going to Europe for two more weeks, for like ten days. We have a good following there man, really good.
Billy Rose: Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. I hope the rest of you tour travels go better for you.
Popa Chubby: Thanks man.