From "Homewreckers" to "Delta Sonics" Al Chesis sings the blues


Posted Thu, Nov 18, 2010

Denver – It only took a Muddy Waters concert for Al Chesis, a 1985 Metro graduate, to catch the blues; the next day he bought a harmonica. And years later, he’s still feeling the blues with his band.

The early ’90s the band was named the Homewreckers before changing to the Mojo-matics. In 2003, they decided to change their name to the Delta Sonics.

Along with Chesis are guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Vasquez, and John Butler (bass), who put the “Big Al” in “Big Al and the Hi-Fi’s” in the ’70s; and Tony Pantelis (drums), who has drummed for blues and jazz. While Pantelis is the primary drummer, sometimes the Delta Sonics will enlist the help of another, Willie Panker.

To keep the sound of the ’40s and ’50s electric blues, the Delta Sonics use tube amps to sound like the creators.

“It comes from America,” Chesis said. “It originated from the African-American experience, and it grew from there.”

Originating in the South, blues are known for their melancholy mood and tones. Electric blues evolved when the acoustic sound was too small to fill a crowded room.

“Each region has a different style,” Chesis said. “There are Chicago blues and Kansas City blues.  The West Coast swings harder than Chicago blues, which is more urban and electric, compared to the Mississippi blues, which uses acoustic instruments. It’s sort of like barbecue, how every style is so different.”

You can find the Delta Sonics playing shows from Colorado Springs to Wyoming. They perform at shows like The Greeley Blues Festival and Cheyenne Frontier Days, to smaller venues like Lincoln’s Roadhouse on Pearl Street and the Boulder Outlook Hotel.

“It’s music from the soul and from the heart,” Chesis said. “When [artists] played a song, they didn’t play it the same way twice. [Blues are] spontaneous. When we play there is no set list … there is no sheet music; we play by ear.”

When the big boys come to town, the Delta Sonics might be on the stage. They’ve played as the backup band for national acts like Pinetop Perkins, Bob Margolin and even with Muddy Waters’ son, Big Bill Morganfield. But there is plenty of love for this group right here in Colorado. The group also performed at the 2nd Annual Mile High Blues Festival at Mile High Marketplace.

“I really enjoy their music,” said Jerry Grenz, a Blues Festival guest. “We saw them at the Gaylord Street Festival and decided to come see them again.”

The group performed on a smaller stage this year inside the market, after playing the big stage last year. Despite the heat, patrons stayed for the show, bought their CD “Never Enough” and made donations.

“Blues is between a man and a woman,” Chesis said. “Your baby left you. Your baby did this; your baby did that. I guess all music is like that, even rap.”

Chesis wants to share the Delta Sonics’ music nationally someday, but for now you can catch them locally, especially at the Mile High Marketplace where they play regularly.

“Their music is down to Earth,” Grenz said. “There is a thread. It doesn’t matter if a kid is five or 90. It can touch anyone. That’s the thread and that’s what music is about.”

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