Dean Shot has had a long and interesting career playing the blues. He counts as his mentors, the great Hubert Sumlin and someone he currently gigs with, Junior Watson. Back to the Tampa in the title–Dean was asked in 2016 to help with the booking of the reopened Stanhope House. His plan was to get The Fabulous Thunderbirds to play the grand opening with him as the opening act. While the gig didn’t happen through no fault of his own, he struck up a lasting relationship with band leader and a founding member, Kim Wilson. He subsequently began booking and playing with Kim’s Blues All-stars, and a group of us JSJBF members attended their last gig in March 2020 at McCloone’s Supper Club, just days before the world was shut down by the pandemic. After things began to open up, Kim decided to reform the Thunderbirds and asked Dean to join him as their guitarist, which brings us up to last weekend, where the band was the Sunday headliner at the Tampa Bay Blues Festival. The band has taken a break, as they prepare to go into the studio to record their 50th Anniversary collection. They will be back on the road for the summer, and you can check their website for details.
Five days later Dean and bassist Steve Kirsty from the Thunderbirds were joined by ace drummer Alex Raderman out of New York City to “headline” board member Joseph Vincent Riggio’s Blue Collar Blues show at member venue the Chubby Pickle. Host band, The Incinerators, began the evening with a wonderful set, mixing originals with some great blues nuggets. Despite being without the services of their ace harp player, board member Gary Neuwirth, who was out of town on a business trip. They were paid the ultimate compliment by one of the knowledgeable fans in the room who remarked that they “always put on a great show.”
Dean took the stage with the band providing a great instrumental segue into the Jimmy Liggins song made famous by Albert Collins, “I Ain’t Drunk.” After much applause, Dean thanked the venue and the audience for coming out saying “we’ll see you next time.” Everyone had a good laugh and the band tore into the 1950”s chestnut, “Baby Doll.” Dean’s rig consisted of a Danelectro U2 guitar paired with a Gibson GA 20 amp, which was well-suited to the next two songs, “Apache,” made famous in this country by Danish guitarist Jorgen Ingman and Dick Dale’s surf classic, “Misirlou.” Steve’s upright bass was the perfect complement, and Alex’s backbeat was impeccable, even though he confided in me afterwards that there were spots where he didn’t know where Dean would go next! That’s the mark of a real pro, which this rhythm section handled with ease.
Dean then called up his ace in the hole, harpist extraordinaire, Big Mike DaVita for some tasty licks on Slim Harpo’s “Baby, Scratch My Back.” He stayed up to contribute vocals as well on two more songs before the band launched into a rollicking version of Chuck Berry’s “Back in the USA.” On the Billie Holiday tune “Ain’t Nobody’s Business If I Do,” Dean came out in the crowd, and to their delight, had Jill Baskind strum a few chords!
A fierce rendition of James Brown’s “Sex Machine” morphed into an instrumental rendition of Elvis “It’s Now or Never” and back again. Then Big Mike returned to the stage for “Crazy About That Thing,” with Dean producing some slide work that sounded almost horn-like. It was followed by B. B. King’s “Rock Me Baby” and the night ended on a beautiful ballad, “Please Accept My Love.” It was a terrific evening of songs not often heard played by a group of musicians who were at the top of their game.
You can find Dean hosting a Sunday night show at the Muddy Waters Gastropub in Asbury, NJ when he’s not out with the Thunderbirds or Junior Watson.