Steve Samuels influenced the way I approach and appreciate music and how I run a band and conduct myself as a band member. Though we were at odds often I always loved and respected him immensely. He often would just as soon wring my neck.
FYI Steve was born with a left arm that extended just past his elbow. Legend has it he and his brother Andy ( a very successful talented guitarist in the 70s rock group Redwing) only had one guitar growing up so Steve had to learn by turning the guitar upside down with the high strings up top a la Jimi Hendrix. Along with having one paw. He’d pick with a calloused elbow section. And very well, thank you.
Nite Owl Express
At sixteen I started a band with Steve Samuels in Sacramento called the Nite Owl Express. He was already a legend in Sacramento in 1970 but he saw something in The Kid which is what he called me. I was so stoked and honored to be in a band with him but I was not afraid of him. Maybe I should have been.
I just played harmonica then and but soon got a saxophone and Steve taught me how to play Albert King solos by the numbers. Like he would say notice how Albert bends the 3rd down and then up to the 5. Riffs. Learn riffs. It changed everything for me. How I approached music and solos.
One night he also held a switchblade knife to my throat for not helping load out the Hammond B3 organ after a gig one night. I was talking to girls and he was livid. I’ll never forget we were in the middle of the street, 3 am, yelling at each other and neither of us backing down. As he held the blade to my neck I yelled go ahead cut me and his eyes sparkled and he smiled that crooked smile that could melt ladies’ hearts and said just help out next time… ya fuck.
They broke the mold after “Lefty”. Maybe an inappropriate nickname but one he accepted and probably loved. He also was the one to tell me I’d got the call to play harmonica on my first paid recording session ever in San Francisco with David (Fraser) and the Four Skins.
It was at Funky Jack’s in the Haight Ashbury district. He looked pissed but he was proud of me. Steve always looked pissed off when anything involved me. He was a true original and a badass motherfucker WITH ONLY ONE PAW!!!
He ended up in LA too and eventually became a guitarist in the band of legendary harp player William Clark.
Steve died on June 19, 2014.
I loved him and I will miss him… and never forget him. RIP Lefty.
Check out his playing and singing on the video below. It will blow your mind.