Blue Largo was formed by guitarist Eric Lieberman and vocalist Alicia Aragon in 1999. Eric has been a fixture on the Southern California blues scene since 1981, when he began his four year stint with San Diego's now legendary King Biscuit Blues Band. He then went on to form The Rhumboogies, and subsequently The Juke Stompers. As part of the Southern California blues community during the 1980's, Eric became closely associated with The Paladins, The James Harman Band, Hollywood Fats, Kid Ramos and Junior Watson. He was even lucky enough to play a gig with Hollywood Fats at the Belly Up Tavern in Solana Beach, California, just two weeks shy of Fats' untimely death. Both The Rhumboogies and The Juke Stompers have shared bills with B.B. King, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, Hank Ballard & The Midnighters, Little Charlie and The Nightcats, Anson Funderburgh & The Rockets, The Paladins and The James Harman Band. And two of Eric's greatest disciples, Robby Eason and Nathan James, both went on to play guitar for James Harman. In addition to Robby and Nathan, pretty much any blues musician who has lived in San Diego from 1981 to the present will attest to Eric's major influence on the San Diego music community for the past four decades.
Eric first met Alicia Aragon when he was playing guitar with The King Biscuit Blues Band in 1982. That band had a residency gig every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at a club in San Diego called The Mandolin Wind. Because Eric was all of twenty seven years old at the time, and meeting girls at the gig was high on his list of priorities, he had a self imposed policy of not dating the waitresses who worked at the club. But when Alicia started waitressing there that rule went right out the window.
Alicia was too shy to be singing in public back then but she always had a deep love for blues, soul and jazz, and she therefore deliberately sought out work in venues that featured such live music. After leaving The Mandolin Wind Alicia worked for fourteen years at Elario's in La Jolla, where artists such as Kenny Burrell, Barney Kessell, Herb Ellis, Jimmy Smith, Jimmy McGriff, Hand Crawford, Pappa John Creach and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson performed on a semi regular basis. Now that's a lot of music and soul to ingest over fourteen years!
Eric is a band leader who doesn't sing himself and that's not the best spot to be in. You're always dependent on having a great singer who fits into the band both stylistically and personally, which is not easy to find. So throughout the years, whenever Eric needed a singer, he would try to talk Alicia into singing with him. He knew her genuine love for the music he loved and how supportive she had always been of his music. But more than that, Alicia would learn these Billie Holiday or Sarah Vaughan songs on her own, just for the love of learning them, and when she would sing them a cappella for Eric he was almost moved to tears. He knew she could bring that same passion, emotion and honesty to the forefront of his band, but it took many pleas and rejections before Alicia finally acquiesced one day in 1999. And once she did, Blue Largo was born!
Blue Largo released its debut album, What A Day, produced by Mavis Staples' guitar player and musical director, Rick Holmstrom in 2000, and released its second album Still In Love With You in 2003. While maintaining its home base in San Diego during the early 2000’s Blue Largo traveled up and down the California coast, playing such well known venues as Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco, The Derby in Los Angeles and the legendary Blue Café in Long Beach.
Then in November 2006 Eric developed a neurological condition known as Focal Dystonia, which caused him to lose coordination in his right hand. He probably should have stopped playing altogether at that point, as he could barley even play in time. If he could hold onto a pick at all, it was as if it was attached to a rubber band. But playing guitar is an addiction for Eric and he couldn't force himself to stop, just as most addicts can't force themselves to stop whatever their addition is. So he kept the band going, playing mostly small local gigs, while doing everything possible to overcome his Focal Dystonia, including learning to read Braille and taking formal piano lessons. The idea is to learn new tasks using the affected parts of the body, in order to create new neurotransmitters, which hopefully replace the damaged ones that are causing the dystonia. Because Eric tried such a multitude of things to help him overcome his dystonia it’s difficult to know which were the most effective. But he believes that if it was any one specific thing, it was spending approximately five hours a day for over fifteen years, retraining himself how to play, one note at a time, without the dystonic, spasmodic hand motions. And while he's still not one hundred percent cured, he thinks he’s about ninety five percent back to normal and is still spending those five hours a day working towards getting back to a hundred percent.
Because of Eric's condition Blue Largo didn't record another album for thirteen years. But by 2015, with Alicia's encouragement, he became convinced that he was healed enough to once again commit something to tape, and the result is the band's third album, Sing Your Own Song. Up until this time Blue Largo has always been a traditional 1940's / '50's era blues band, specializing in covers by such artists as Billie Holiday, Dinah Washington, Louis Jordan, T Bone Walker and Julia Lee. But Eric started jotting down some song ides of his own over the years, which he and Alicia revisited when they decided to record this new record, and lo and behold, Sing Your Own Song contains seven original songs, dealing with life's big issues…….. confronting challenges, despair, hope, perseverance, and ultimately prevailing! Music wise, this album has everything from gospel to Louisiana swamp grooves, 1960's rhythm and blues, jump blues, sensual ballads and lowdown acoustic country blues. And as a result of the spark ignited by Sing Your Own Song Blue Largo played San Diego’s Gator By The Bay Festival in 2016 and 2018, and both The Baja Blues Festival in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, and The San Diego Blues Festival in 2017.
In October 2018 Blue Largo released its fourth album Before The Devil Steals Your Soul, which features eleven original songs plus covers of Nina Simone’s Feeling Good, Jimmy Ruffin's What Becomes Of The Brokenhearted, Nat Adderley's Work Song and a mambo guitar instrumental called Bodas De Oro by the great Cuban guitarist, Manuel Galban. As for the original compositions on Devil, these songs once again tend to life's big issues such as the current political and social state of our country, the loss a loved one to terminal illness, the need to live our lives to the fullest and as best we can before it’s too late, and finally the incrediblel healing power of music itself!
By 2020 Eric had enough new original material for yet another album, but he lost the motivation to record once the pandemic hit. Then in September 2021 he saw that one of his life long inspirations, Steven Van Zandt was going to be doing a book signing in Los Angeles for his new memoir, Unrequited Infatuations. One of the new songs Eric had written is called Disciple of Soul, which is a tribute to Steven, and he thought it’d be cool if he had a chance to give it to him at this book signing event. So that prompted him to get the band into the studio and record Disciple. And once they were in the studio Eric figured that if they were gonna record one song they might as well record a couple more.
Six months later Blue Largo finished their fifth album entitled Got To Believe, which Eric firmly believes is the band’s best to date. This album has ten original songs plus a worthy version of Nina Simone’s Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood. The songs range from vintage soul to Americana, reggae, blues and country, and yet the album flows seamlessly. Moreover, the songs’ messages of love, hope and unity are most certainly something the world can very much use right now.
With the completely organic and unintentional stylistic change from playing vintage blues covers to writing their own original material, Blue Largo now likes to think of their music as Americana Soul. Eric just lets the songs come to him as they do and he doesn't try to write in anyone's voice other than his own. In spite of his deep love and respect for traditional blues of the 1940’s and ‘50’s, which he dedicated the better part of his adult life studying and playing, it’s not surprising that his original songs are much more evocative of the 1960’s soul music that he came of age hearing on his parents' car radio, and the great singer / songwriter albums he immersed himself in as a teenager in the early seventies, with lyrics that reflect his own life experiences, and which he and Alicia hope others can relate to their own life experiences.
In addition to Eric and Alicia, Blue Largo's current line-up consists of Taryn "T-Bird" Donath (piano), Marcus P. Bashore (drums), Mike "Sandlewood" Jones (Fender bass), and Dave Castel De Oro and Eddie Croft (saxophones.)
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