Meet Pete Thelen: “A Street Musician With Poetic Tendencies”

Written by on December 15, 2011 in December 15, 2011, Interviews - 1 Comment

“Pete Thelen has certainly put together something unique… the music that I hear has the darkness of the Delta blues laid over the ethereal sounds of say King Crimson or Trey Gunn. Included is an 8 page booklet with lyrics and pictures. If you are up for something totally different, you should give this a listen. It will stretch your imagination!”


Pete ThelenIn the Holiday Spirit of giving, All Access Magazine is pleased to bring our readers an interview with a very special individual. Musician Pete Thelen will present his Paz de Cristo Benefit – which feeds the homeless and needy in the Phoenix/Mesa, AZ areas – on January 15, the twentieth consecutive year he is doing so.

Thelen (PT) recently took time to speak with us about the benefit and his career.

AAM: Who is Pete Thelen?

PT: I have been very fortunate in my life to be a husband, father, son, grandfather, uncle, friend, veteran, expatriate, believer, traveler, in keeping with the season, a partridge in a pair tree. Oh, and a street musician with poetic tendencies.

AAM: How would you describe the style of music you write and perform?

PT: I write contemporary blues, hence the Blues Today CD series. I perform traditional blues.

AAM: At one time you were an integral part of the Phoenix, AZ blues scene, and then you moved to Wisconsin, of all places, what’s the story behind that?

 PT: Over the years I’ve traveled countless miles, lived in foreign countries in search of a place to settle, that honors the arts, where the people and the environment blend together in harmony. Ironically, it’s the same place I spent my childhood summers on my Great Grandparent’s farm. It is the place they traveled to 130 years ago from Europe. It took some time – I’m home.

AAM: You have been instrumental in a yearly benefit for Paz de Cristo pantry that feeds the homeless in the greater Phoenix area. This year marks 20th year of your involvement. Please discuss this.

Pete ThelenPT: My friend Greg Sheldon and I formed the Blues Dinosaurs in 1992 in Tempe, AZ. One of our first paying gigs was a wedding, and the band agreed to give the money to Paz de Cristo, a food pantry that helps the working poor and homeless in Mesa, AZ. That was the start of 20 years with the Blues Dinosaurs raising money to help Paz de Cristo. For the past several years the benefit has been at the Rhythm Room in Phoenix, AZ, and over the years some of the finest musicians in the Phoenix area and beyond have performed.

AAM: Talk about the songs on your latest cd “Travels to the Edge.”

PT: The lyrical content explores voodoo, psychics, drugs, sex, obsession, wanderlust, temptation and hopefully redemption. Musically it’s a blend of blues, psychedelic, and electronica. I call it Bluesedlica.

AAM: All musicians have those who have helped in part to influence the music they perform, who do you count as your influences, be they alive or deceased?

PT: My 7th grade music teacher. He played the sound track to “Porgy & Bess”. I could feel the emotion in every song. Muddy Waters, Hooker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jim Morrison, John Fogerty. Lastly and mostly, American blues legend Chico Chism, Howlin’ Wolf’s drummer. I had the honor and privilege playing with Chico off and on over a ten-year period. He was a gentle man, kind and sharing with his knowledge of the blues. He taught me “no fool no fun”.

AAM: So you now live in an artistic colony of sort’s way up in Baileys Harbor, WI. What’s that like?

 PT: I would like to explain where I live. Humor me. Lift up your right hand an open like a mitten. Visualize the state of Wisconsin. The thumb is Door County. Now bend your thumb toward your index finger. The knuckle is Baileys Harbor. It is a community that celebrates all the arts, and so much more. Now that you have the map, come see for yourself.

AAM: Going forward, where do you see your career progressing, in say, 5 years from now? Where would you like it to be?

PT: Firstly, in 5 years I hope to be alive and singing the blues. Performing each gig as it was my first and could be my last.

I would like to continue the Blues Today project creating songs relevant to the time.