The ‘Hook’ brings Blues Traveler back to Hollywood Casino in ‘Run-Around’ our area

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Blues Traveler at Hollywood Casino (Part 1)

After earning a Grammy nomination this year for Best Traditional Blues Album, Blues Traveler rocks Hollywood Casino at Charles Town Races in West Virginia on Oct. 7.

“It’s funny to be a band called Blues Traveler with a harmonica player and not really be a blues band,” bass player Tad Kinchla told WTOP. “We’re more of a rock band, but we did a blues album and got nominated for a Grammy, so it’s cool to say we’re a blues band.”

Kinchla’s older brother, guitarist Chan Kinchla, formed the band with his buddies at Princeton High School in Princeton, New Jersey, in 1987, including singer and harmonica player John Popper, drummer Brendan Hill and the original bassist Bobby Sheehan.

“It was in Brendan’s basement because he was the drummer,” Kinchla said. “As of sixth grade, I remember Bobby borrowing my amp, then they’d rehearse and get some party gig, then they’d come back and the amp would be totally fried! … I went to their first five or six gigs, which were maybe a church, maybe a Princeton University free concert.”

Their other classmate, Chris Barron, went on to form Spin Doctors (“Two Princes,” “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”). “He used to open up and do acoustic stuff for Blues Traveler, but then met his boys and got their own legs and clearly wrote their own story from there on, but yeah, lightning struck twice at our high school at that period,” Kinchla said.

While Spin Doctors signed with the Epic label, Blues Traveler signed with A&M Records to release their self-titled debut album in 1990, including the song “But Anyway.”

Their fourth album “four” (1994) exploded with “Run-Around,” winning a Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group. “They didn’t think ‘Run-Around’ was gonna be a single. It was just one of the songs on the album. By no means was it the lead single candidate. The producer was like, ‘This is good!’ They were like, ‘But it’s four chords.'”

The album also featured “Hook,” which reached No. 23 on the Billboard Hot 100. “That’s a double entendre and the reference to ‘Pachelbel’s Canon,’ a very recognizable melodic phrase. The ’90s was pretty big on repetitive chords, choruses that are the same chords as the verses. … It’s nice listening to ’90s music with real people playing the instruments!”

The band brought “But Anyway” back on the movie soundtrack for The Farrelly Brothers’ comedy “Kingpin” (1996) starring Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray. The Blues Traveler guys even appeared in the movie dressed with Amish beards on a wagon after the bowling competition, where Popper also appears as the announcer with a comedic comb-over.

Tad joined the band along with keyboardist Ben Wilson in 2000 after bassist Sheehan died in 1999. His favorite album from his tenure remains ‘¡Bastardos!’ (2005). “We did it with Jay Bennett, who was part of Wilco. … There’s some really trippy parts and the songs are really idiosyncratic. … If they’re looking for deep cuts, ‘¡Bastardos!’ is a good one!”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Blues Traveler at Hollywood Casino (Part 2)

Hear our full conversation on my podcast “Beyond the Fame.”

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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