Been Around the Block

Hot Rod Delux has the nostalgia thing screwed down tight.

They play 'em, they live 'em and they are (as they proclaim themselves to be) "oldies but goodies." With a name that sounds like a delicious old time diner menu item and a set list that re-animates rocking hits from the '60s, '70s and '80s, Spokane band Hot Rod Delux has the nostalgia thing screwed down tight.

Veterans in life as well as in the world of music, the members of Hot Rod Delux exude experience, creating the image of rockers who've "been there, done that, got the T-shirt," coupled with a relaxed style that makes the reproduction of bar band standards look easy. The five guys in Hot Rod Delux can break out any one of more than 50 songs on cue, harmonizing on everything from the Beatles' "This Boy" to the Steve Miller Band's "Jet Airliner."

Although band leader and bassist Jeff Rowe claims there are no "stars" in Hot Rod Delux, each member has had extensive brushes with greatness (including performances alongside big name artists). The common element and secret ingredient in the band's winning combination relies on experience in the professional music world.

Rowe says he believes he was destined to follow the path of music. "I started playing at 16," he says. "I had my own band and a half-hour local TV show [which was later syndicated by ABC] by the time I was 17." He rocked his way through college at the University of Montana and then went pro, eventually performing on stages in Las Vegas and Los Angeles with such performers as the Grass Roots, Poco, Sly & amp; the Family Stone, America and John Denver. He also worked for a time with songwriters Boyce & Hart and with the Osmond Brothers.

Guitarist Scott Livingston grew up in Los Angeles during the '50s and '60s and honed his chops working out on the instrumental surf sound (a la the Ventures and Dick Dale) that was then sweeping Southern California and elsewhere. Livingston soon discovered he had a decent set of pipes and wound up performing next to groups like the Doors, the Seeds and the Strawberry Alarm Clock. He split with the rock scene in the late '60s to attend college and start a family, only to be lured back to performance 20 years later.

The talents of multi-instrumentalist Rick Hensyel (in addition to guitar, he sings and plays keyboards, harmonica, saxophone and percussion) secured him an opportunity to play with B.B. King. Sax player Marc Sorger has performed with Roy Orbison, Michael McDonald, Bruce Hornsby, Mister Mister and Linda Ronstadt.

Erstwhile drummer Don Blackburn just scored a job back east and has been recently replaced by Eric Brown. Rowe is pleased to report that the integration of this newest member into the seasoned outfit was trouble-free precisely because Brown brings his own impressive starpower and considerable experience to the table.

"He played with Tower of Power for one summer, with Stan Kenton for one summer -- I mean, this guy has been around the block," says Rowe with no small amount of pride. "He's pretty amazing."