by Tim Mattox
Usually, if you wanted to party with the 44s you’d have to drive north about 60 miles. The band, for the past seven years, has made its bones working the clubs and bars in and around Long Beach, California. Here’s the good news: the Belly Up Tavern in their infinite wisdom has decided to bring the party to you. On Saturday, March 14, the 44s roll into Solana Beach for just one night to unleash a salvo of their blues-driven, amplified roots rock.
As far as blues bands go, the 44s’ line-up is pretty straight forward and guitarist Johnny Main says their music was always intended to pay homage to the originators. “To show respect but to do things just a little bit different.” Let there be no doubt, he adds with emphasis, “We are a blues band!”
This blues band currently features Main on guitar and drummer Jason ‘J.R.’ Lozano, whom Johnny refers to as “the backbone of the unit.” They found their bottom end in bassist Mike Hightower who earned his reputation backing another legendary L.A. bluesman, Lester Butler. The latest addition came a little more than a year ago when they picked up a 20-year-old blues harp phenom by the name of Jacob Huffman.
“I’ve been working with this guy for a long time.” Lozano said about Main. “We met in this little club in Chino, California. I approached him and said, ‘Hey man, we should do some jamming together one of these days.’ Months later, he came in and sat in with us and did all kinds of cool blues tunes and after that we hooked up and have been together ever since.”
So this band isn’t your first? “We’ve had like three or four bands together,” J.R. says and Johnny cuts in, “That’s a whole story, right there… me and this guy have been together for 25 years, man.” J.R. just smiles and says, “Different bands, different kinds of things we were doing with different players. Different bass players, guitar players, and harp players. Always blues rooted. We’ve tried different things and this one project that we have now, has kind of stuck and it turned into something and we’re running with it.”
The 44s “run” has become a marathon. With two albums under their belt and the third in development Main credits the success of their debut, Boogie Disease to its producer. “Kid Ramos, man! To me” Main says, “being a guitar player…he’s a guitar hero.” The band received so much national attention and critical acclaim for that first release that Ramos was also tapped to produce their second, Americana. And now, between national and international tours there’s talk of a new project. “We are coming out with a new record that is going to kick everyone’s butt.” Johnny grins. “We are going to bring the roots, bring back the blues, and bring back the heart and soul, without having to do a shuffle every two or three songs. I’ll give you a teaser… David Hidalgo of Los Lobos.” J.R. adds, “We have some really cool ideas, to stretch it out and go in a little different direction from the norm, but I think people are going to really feel it. It’s going to be cool and I can’t elaborate on it too much because I don’t know what’s going to happen. But I have an idea of what I want to happen.”
The 44s take the stage at the Belly Up this coming Saturday and rumor has it that Kid Ramos will be in attendance… so that gives you precious little time to buy some fresh laces for your party shoes.