Joe Crane - vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards; Glenn Walters - vocals, drums, percussion; Bob Flurie - guitar, background vocals; Mac Cridlin - bass; Scott Mathews - drums, background vocals; Boots Hughston - alto sax
The Hoodoo Rhythm Devils are your classic "these guys should have been superstars" story. They were a brilliant band, with infectious material that effectively blended pure R&B with gutsy swamp-flavored rock 'n' roll. Though not the most precise musicians, they often played with reckless abandon, and it usually paid off. Their San Francisco area live shows were legendary, and at one point in the mid-1970s when they were signed to the Bay Area-based Blue Thumb Records, several of their tracks were staples on KSAN-FM, the most popular FM station in the U.S.
Unfortunately, it seemed like every time the band was on the verge of a national breakthrough, they were hit with a bout of bad luck. This recording, made in 1975 as the band released its now classic disc, Safe In Their Homes, comes from the recorded archives of legendary concert promoter, Bill Graham.
Originally signed to Capitol Records in 1971, the band's debut LP, Rack Jobbers Rule (a reference to the salespeople that often decided which records did and did not get stocked in independent retail stores), went mostly unnoticed. But that LP did help launch the band's live career, which was certainly more successful than their recorded legacy.
The band then moved to Blue Thumb, home of the Pointer Sisters and Asylum Choir which included Leon Russell. Just as Blue Thumb started to get them some serious press attention and radio airplay, the label folded. They returned in 1975 with the aforementioned Safe In Their Homes, on Fantasy Records. However, just shortly after its release, the band was struck by tragedy, when their manager, Jack Leahy, his wife, and Leahy's secretary, were attacked by a mentally disturbed handyman yielding an axe. The attacker killed the secretary, and seriously injured Leahy and his wife. Ironically, the cover of the Safe In Their Homes record featuring the band, was photographed inside the dwelling where the crime occurred.
The band was put on hold until the situation calmed down. Eventually, they came back in 1978 with All Kidding Aside, their last LP for Fantasy, and their last as a band. Shortly thereafter, lead singer and main songwriter Joe Crane was diagnosed with leukemia and the band disbanded. Crane died in 1980, but his music would eventually be recorded by the likes of Patti LaBelle and Johnny Winter.
Opening with "Gypsy Fly" from Safe In Their Homes, the band next slides into "Green Light," an R&B gem from the first album that an artist like Al Green could have recorded. Drummer/percussionist Glenn "Hambone" Walters takes the mic next to sing "My Old Lady," a funky romp with a great hook. The rest of the material is just as strong as the first three tracks, especially "Safecracker," "All Tore Down," "Lotta Fine Mama," "Too Hot To Handle," and the closer, "We Gotta Get Funky."
Walters has carried on the Hoodoo banner, occasionally performing under the name and putting his own money up to put out a "Best Of" compilation that was released two decades after the band dissolved.