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February 07, 2018

Mahindra Blues Spotlight: Meet Coco Montoya Of The Famous Blues Breakers

Text by Sadaf Shaikh

“When John Mayall asked me to be part of the iconic blues rock band, I thought I was being pranked so I blew him off, but he called back and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing”

On his predilection for music “All I know is that the quality of every note of music that played in my house was augmented as soon as it reached my ears. Since I didn’t have the means to take lessons, I would just listen and repeat whatever I could.”

On drumming with Albert Collins “It was a serendipitous encounter at a club in Culver City in California. Albert was playing a matinee show and used my drum set. He let me sit in on the gig and asked for my number later. I didn’t think much of it until I received a frenzied call from him many months later — he was in desperate need of a drummer. I didn’t think I was good enough but I was all he could get at the time. I assured him that I would go home as soon as he got a better replacement; instead he told me that if I wanted to learn the blues, I should do it under his tutelage.”

On being part of the famous Blues Breakers “I was working at a British pub as a bartender and would go to jam sessions in the evening. John heard me play at one of those and called me with the proposal of joining the revamped Blues Breakers that he was putting together. I thought I was being pranked so I blew him off, but he called back and I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I agreed to audition with a bunch of other musicians — there was no way I could have said no to the grandfather of British blues! John and I don’t see each other very often anymore since we’re usually working on opposite ends of the world, so I’m ecstatic about jamming with him at the Mahindra Blues Festival and reliving those memories.”

On his favourite recording moments “The day I spent with Albert Collins and John Mayall working on the Blues Breakers’ Wake Up Call album. Another one is the time I was working on my own album with the fantastic Lee Roy Parnell playing slide on my project along with my dear friends and fellow musicians the Cate Brothers.”

On his collaboration wish list “Eric Clapton. It was his music that set me on the path towards the blues, and I am emotionally invested in his technique and songwriting.”

On his favourite song to perform live “Albert Collins’ I’ve Got A Mind To Travel. It makes me feel closer to him, in fact, it’s almost as if he reaches out to me like he wants to play along.”

The Mahindra Blues Festival will take place at Mehboob Studio, Mumbai from February 10-11, 2018.

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