Rick Estrin & the Nightcats

by Danny Coleman

rick estrin and the nightcats Contemporary

“Getting ready to get back on the road, it’s an East Coast swing,” said an elated Rick Estrin as he and The Nightcats prepare to come to the Zlock Performing Arts Center in Newtown, PA for a 7:30 p.m. show on April 7. “What we’ve been doing the last two or three years is, we’ll get something in Europe and so then we’ll put together a little East Coast tour to go along with that. So, we’re doing Manhattan and the Bucks County thing and a couple of dates in New England and then we’re flying to I think Holland; it’s only a couple of dates in Holland and it’s a makeup for the Moulin Blues Festival in Holland; it’s a makeup date leftover from before the pandemic.” 

Born in San Francisco; Estrin was very young when he learned the ways of the streets but it was the gift of music that set him on the path he still follows today. When he was 12 years of age, his sister gave him Ray Charles’ “The Genius Sings The Blues” and that was all it took for him to immerse himself in the genre. 

Several years later, Estrin bought his first harmonica and by the time he was barely a legal adult; he was performing in area “Black” clubs where he befriended the scene’s best and brightest Blues and R & B talent. Performing with legends such as ZZ Hill, Fillmore Slim and in Chicago with Muddy Waters, Estrin eventually joined Little Charlie & The Nightcats and upon Charlie’s retirement he assumed the lead role of the band. 

Over his six decades in the business, Estrin has seen bands come and go, blues music’s rise and fall as well as influence many artists and styles. When asked about his last release, 2019’s “Contemporary” and the cyclical nature of the Blues genre and how affects his career; he was very forthcoming. 

“We released “Contemporary” right before the pandemic and that was too bad,” he laughed. “We didn’t get to work it and that made me feel like, oh, now it’s already time for another one because you’ve gotta keep putting them out there so that you can remain relevant and get gigs basically; ya’ know? I think it is somewhat cyclical but we’ve been around so long that we have a hardcore fan base; it’s not enormous but we’ve always worked. There’s been little ups and downs but everything; I mean, ever since we got with Alligator Records back in the ‘80s, we’ve been working pretty steadily. So, I’ve been very lucky in that respect but the blues, it was popular music in the ‘50s; it was moderately popular and it’s always kind of been a popular ghetto music but ever since there was a revival thing in the 1960s when artists started playing these kind of hippie ballrooms and stuff like that; it’s just gotten a little more popular and then it sort of goes away and then it gets a little more popular. The blues just has these little resurgence things here and there but that’s the thing that’s cool about it; it’s a loyal audience and it doesn’t ever go away.”  

“There’s a lot of women and a lot of younger black artists that are really going back and checking out their history and getting into the Blues and there are some really great people out here,” he went on; “We just had in the studio, this kid Harrell and he’s great and there aren’t just a few of these guys that are young and really getting into and digging back in history and getting into it, bringing this stuff back and keeping it alive; there’s quite a few. So, that’s what’s encouraging, to see young people doing this stuff. I also saw a young kid; I saw him when I was over in Switzerland, he was schooled and a great player. So, there’s a lot of, like I said, it will never go away. I agree that it comes and goes a little bit but it always stays because that’s the roots of all; there’s elements of it in practically all pop music and for rock’n’roll and other stuff; that’s the roots of everything.”  

Estrin says that although “Contemporary” is their latest release and that,  “Each song had a different thought process,” especially “A song like, “She Nuts Up;” because I know you know somebody like this;” that they are close to finishing their next release; even though this one, as he stated earlier, didn’t get the time he feels it deserved. 

“Let’s see, we’ve got two more songs to cut; we’ve got about nine or ten that are done and so we just need to finish up. We’ve got a bunch of new songs and we’re looking to put it out as soon as we can. I don’t know how long it’s going to take because there’s a little bit of a backup on getting records out now because people want vinyl and it takes longer and it is slower to manufacture vinyl. Therefore, I believe or maybe I’m just a cynic or something but the industry just needs to keep some new thing out there and if they can’t think of anything new; they’ll go back to something old just to keep people buying stuff (laughs). You know, it was the same thing when CDs first came out and then all of these old recordings that had been on vinyl; people had to buy them all over again and the record companies made money. So, that’s what they’re trying to do, something like that again.” 

“The new record,” he continued, “I think it’s gonna be good man and the other thing that I would like to say is; I’ve got the best band because I mean, if people come out to see this band; they will be happy. We’ve got the best band right now that’s what keeps me going and that always helps. They are the greatest, greatest people and the greatest musicians, the greatest entertainers, they’re just really great. Like our drummer, he takes everything up to the next level. He was Little Richard’s drummer for the last 17 years of his career. You know Danny, you’re a drummer, you definitely need to come out; you don’t want to miss the opportunity to see Derrick. I’m telling you he is fantastic!” 

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats consist of Estrin on harmonica and vocals, Derrick “D’Mar” Martin on drums, Lorenzo Farrell on piano and organ as well as guitarist Christoffer “Kid” Andersen and they are poised to bring their brand of high energy and classic blues music to Zlock PAC on April 7 and the Iridium in New York City on April 8. 

You can purchase tickets and discover more about this fantastic band by visiting https://rickestrin.com/home