‘King of the New York City Blues’ brings it to The Lariat

Ted Horowitz, better known as Popa Chubby, began playing drums at the age of 13 before The Rolling Stones inspired him to switch to guitar. Growing up in the ’70s, he was influenced musically by 1960s artists like Jimi Hendrix and Cream. “Music was my second language,” he said. “My parents owned a candy store in the Bronx that had a jukebox. I knew hundreds of songs before I was 7.”

Although most of Popa Chubby’s influences were rooted in the blues, he ventured into the punk rock scene in his early 20s: “I answered an ad in The Village Voice for a guitarist. I took the train into the city from Queens to a Bowery tenement. The door was answered by a Japanese guy with skunked hair in a kimono ‒ Screaming Mad George. I joined his band and played CBGB the next week. From there I met everyone from Television to Blondie and The Ramones and wound up doing a stint in Richard Hell’s band, The Voidoids.”

Performing in New York’s punk scene, Popa Chubby learned not only the importance of rock ’n’ roll’s theatrical elements but that rock ‘n’ roll should be dangerous. “Musicians like The Ramones and The Sex Pistols weren’t just bands. They were a threat to society.”

But blues music always formed the foundation of his playing style, and before long, he returned to his blues roots.

“Since I’d grown up on Hendrix, Cream and Led Zeppelin, when I started playing blues in New York clubs I understood that the blues should be dangerous too. It wasn’t just from playing in punk bands. Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters were dangerous men. They’d cut or shoot you if they thought it was necessary, and Little Walter packed a gun and wouldn’t hesitate to use it. That danger is a real part of the blues, and I keep it alive in my music.”

Popa Chubby first gained widespread attention after winning a national blues talent search sponsored by a public radio station in Long Beach, Calif. He went on to win the New Artist of the Year award and was selected as the opening act at the Long Beach Blues Festival in 1992. Twenty-five years and 26 albums later, Popa Chubby has attracted an international fan base thanks to the ongoing development of his creative talents and a performance style he describes as “The Stooges meets Buddy Guy, Motörhead meets Muddy Waters, and Jimi Hendrix meets Robert Johnson.”

Imposing yet endearing, Popa Chubby has forged a career and music that show he’s his own man. “I’m living in a wild time, and that is where the inspiration is drawn from. There are my issues, but the picture is much bigger than me and my situation. … We all need something.”

Sometimes all we need is a good dose of inspired music, and Popa Chubby will deliver on Friday the 13th at The Lariat.