This file photo shows the members of the band Mudpuppy. Pictured are, from left, Darryl Pierce, Paul Randolph, Mark "Pazman" Pasman, Amp Fiddler and Lorenzo Spoons Brown.
For nearly a decade, starting in 1994, Mudpuppy was one of the top bands in the Detroit area. The group played an eclectic mix of blues, soul, New Orleans jazz and Latin music that defied categorization.
The band, which will perform at a reunion show on Saturday at Callahan’s Music Hall, featured Paul Randolph on vocals and bass, Mark “Pazman” Pasman on guitar, Lorenzo Spoons Brown on percussion, Darryl Pierce on drums and a variety of keyboard players. It was not only multi-racial, but multi-generational as well.
Paul Randolph, from left, Mark "Pazman" Pasman and Darryl Pierce are looking forward to a Mudpuppy reunion concert Saturday at Callahan's Music Hall. The concert will benefit their ailing band mate Lorenzo Spoons Brown.
“We were different on all kinds of levels,” Pazman said. “We didn’t look like every band, we didn’t sound like every band and we didn’t fit into a little pocket too easy, like most other bands. That’s why most of our fans liked us. We didn’t care. As long as it made us feel good and people liked it, we thought we were on the right track.”
The band had plenty of career highlights. Mudpuppy was on Dan Aykroyd’s “House of Blues” radio show, appeared on the TV show “Emeril Live!” in New York, played at the original Buddy Guy’s Legends club in Chicago, and opened for War and Eddie Money. A particularly memorable gig was a show at Meadow Brook Music Festival with the Brian Setzer Orchestra and the Robert Cray Band.
Mudpuppy’s origins trace back to 1993 and a stint as the house band at the Holly Hotel in Holly, backing up touring blues musicians including singer Big Time Sarah and singer-guitarist Larry McCray.
“We noticed, from driving up there and listening to music together, that the place where we all crossed over together was this area that included the New Orleans thing, but also included bands like War and Los Lobos,” Pazman said. “All of our favorite bands were bands that didn’t believe in names or boxes. They made great American music and then let everyone else worry about what to call it. Now, that’s wonderful, but it also turned out to be, if not our demise, certainly the thing that kept holding us back.
“The blues labels would hear it and say, ‘You’re awfully good but you’re not a blues band.’ Then, we would send our stuff to the other labels and they would go, ‘Oh, you’re a blues band, we don’t want anything to do with you.’ So we boxed ourselves out of a corner. Looking back, we wouldn’t change a damn thing, because that’s what we were.”
“The audience’s got it,” Pierce said. “They dug it.”
Mudpuppy never had a farewell show. Band members became involved in other projects and the group just sort of faded into the background. Randolph is known internationally for his work with the group Jazzanova as well as collaborations with producers from around the world. He’ll be performing with the Dusseldorf Orchestra in July. Pierce tours with soul singer Bettye LaVette and also plays in the new soul/party band Jeanne & the Dreams with Pazman, who has hosted his "Motor City Blues Project" radio show on WCSX (94.7 FM) on Sunday evenings for 22 years and leads the popular Pazman’s Supersessions performances.
“There wasn’t a ‘last show.’ That’s one of the reason s we’re doing this,” Pazman said. “We just kind of fizzled out. Everybody got busy and part of the reason we didn’t just shut the door is because we all loved this thing. It was truly a labor of love. And we grew to love each other.”
“We never saw it ending,” Pierce said. “It just had its own engine.”
Saturday’s reunion show is also a fundraiser for Brown, who is suffering from kidney failure and must receive dialysis treatments three times a week. Brown hopes to perform at Saturday’s show if he’s physically capable. Also scheduled to perform Saturday are keyboardist Sean McDonald and the unofficial “sixth Mudpuppy,” singer-harmonica player Jimmy “Pickles” Nicholls.
Mudpuppy’s live shows back in the day were known for improvisational jams. Brown would roam among the crowd, whipping fans into a frenzied state. Randolph recalled a particularly memorable gig at the old Memphis Smoke in West Bloomfield.
“Basically anything that made a noise and he could bang on he would bring (to the gig) and would bring music out of it,” Randolph said. “One night, he brought out a kitchen sink. He had somebody in the audience carry it around for him.”
The crowd went wild, following him around in a pseudo conga line.
“It was amazing,” Randolph said. “Then, the next time we saw him, we said, ‘Where’s the kitchen sink?’ (Brown said), ‘I lost it.’”
Pasman, Pierce and Randolph recently visited Brown at his Detroit home. Despite his physical ailments, Brown remained the same happy fellow the band members call “Mr. Positive.”
“He had that same wonderful, bright, shiny smile,” Pierce said. “He knows he has some problems, but he was so positive. I feed off that.”
The Mudpuppy reunion/benefit will be Saturday, April 30 at Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., in Auburn Hills. Tickets are $15 in advance, $20 at the door. Jeanne & the Dreams opens. For information, call (248) 858-9508 or click www.atcallahans.com.
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