Rosa’s Lounge, the most recent offering from Chicago blues veterans Howard & The White Boys, is named after the legendary Chicago club where the band’s new CD was recorded. Captured live on one of those magical nights where the crowd and band feed off of each other’s exuberance and energy, the recording reveals a group at the top of its game and offers insight into why many consider Howard & The White Boys one of the best live contemporary blues acts of the past two decades. Howard & the White Boys formed in 1988 and began jamming together just for fun, but their fast-growing popularity soon convinced them they could make a career of it. After only a few months, they got their first big break by opening for B.B. King. Their reputation grew in Chicago and they began performing with the biggest names in blues: Koko Taylor, Otis Rush, Albert King, Junior Wells, Lonnie Brooks, Luther Allison, Bo Diddley, and Chuck Berry.
All Access Magazine Publisher Debra Stocker recently conducted an interview with several members of the band, which consists of Howard McCollum (lead vocals-bass); Rocco Calipari (guitar); Pete Galanis (guitar); and Jim “Bucka” Christopulos (drums).
AAM: So the new Howard and the White Boys’ album “Rosa’s Lounge” is finally out, after a seven-year wait. How does it feel to finally have some new product out?
JC: It feels great, a long time coming. I know from our fans that they’re also pretty excited to finally have a new HWB CD to listen to.
JC: For one thing, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of record stores anymore where one can buy a physical CD. It’s all online shopping. Also, people are buying music digitally these days, so it’s easier for a band to get their music out there. You don’t have to rely on a label to manufacture CDs and distribute them.
AAM: To your credit, Howard and The White Boys are a full-time working band, making money and sustainable enough to employ a full-time publicist. Not all bands are able to be this successful. What’s your secret?
HM: I don’t know if there is a secret. We have been fortunate enough to build a solid fan base throughout the country. It took patience and a lot of hard work. The band has been together for 26 years. During that time we have managed to pull in the same direction at the same time. We share a common vision. Keeping a band together for this long takes more than just musical talent.
AAM: Your band calls Chicago its home base, a town well-known for it’s deep and longtime support of the Blues. Is this still the case today, or has Chicago, like everything else, changed, musically-speaking?
HM: Chicago has always been the place for blues musicians. The musical tradition still runs deep in the city. We are proud to be part of that tradition.
AAM: A question you’ve been asked countless times, but still bears repeating – how did you come up with the band’s name?
HM: The name literally started out as a joke. We had just finished our first practice and someone tossed out “Howard and the White Guys.” We all thought that it was funny but, didn’t think much of it. A few days later we were at practice again and decided to go with “Howard and the White Boys.”
AAM: Let’s talk gigs. Best gig(s) you’ve ever played? Worst gigs?
JC: Too many ‘best’ gigs. The couple of times we opened for B.B. King, or the times we’ve played with Buddy Guy come to mind. I don’t know about ‘worst’ gigs, but there have been some really weird ones, like when we were booked, for some strange reason, to play a BMX Motocross dinner at some banquet hall and all these kids were just running around not paying attention to the band. Our opening act was a ventriloquist with a bizarre-looking dummy, and the ventriloquist and his dummy ended up, at the request of the BMX people who booked us, sitting in with us and singing “Sitting On The Dock Of The Bay.” Or was it “Stand By Me”? Something like that, a really whacked-out experience to be playing this song we didn’t really know too well and have a dummy singing it.
AAM: Best place for people to get updates on Howard and the White Boys?