Salida’s seminal blues band honors J.N. Bates

The years have been good to Central Colorado, musically. Beautiful vistas, dramatic weather, punishing rapids, a teeming fishery and crappy soil somehow make fertile ground for musical roots to take hold. It was not always this way.
Suddenly in the 1980, Salida sprouted a blues band that would become the dance track for most every event from FibArk to the weekly, beery, stomp and grind at the Victoria Tavern for nearly 10 years.

The Lazy Aliens Blues Band formed from local Monarch Quarry staff members J.N. Bates, Deke Rushton and Jimmy Luchetta, who had been recently laid off and were looking for a new encumbrance. They soon added Denny Daley on bass, Stew Pappenfort on guitar, Ernie Hatfield on keys, Chris Thompson on drums and horn section Tom Mallary, Dave Sparkman and Chris Byars. Salida had itself a crew of entertainers that could swing hard and slow with fodder from Taj Mahal takes to stripped-down James Brown numbers.

As club owners across Colorado were soon to discover, this was a group that could put together rich vocal harmonies, hand-clapping melodies and pocket dance-floor groove for hours and hours. It happened that they seeped into ski town bars and block parties all over the state, taking Salida’s musical reputation from warm Schlitz to a solid Coors Banquet.

For a deeper dive into the adventures of this motley crew during this period, Colorado Central Magazine published Mike Rosso and Elliot Jackson’s seminal biography of the band in the May 3, 2010, edition. Titled “Blues From Another Planet,” the article is online here.

According to Rosso and Jackson’s account, the band split up to pursue other roads of success in the late ’80s after getting snowed in together for two weeks in a single Durango hotel room. Subsequent projects include Daley’s Mama D’s restaurant, Hatfield’s many blues-based bands, Byars’ sculpture gallery and Bates’ service in the Merchant Marine. It is Bates who brings the band together, yet again, at the Victoria Tavern from 3 to 7 p.m. Sunday, July 16, for a reunion show of sorts.

When Bates returned from the Merchant Marine in 2000, the band fell victim to several reunion gigs and played loosely for another decade. They have been a fixture at gatherings and especially benefits and community events in Salida. They have been known to pull many of the talented musicians who have arrived in town over the years onstage with them to be subject to their flawlessly smooth and joyous energy, including neighbor Bruce Hayes, who assisted with their “Live at the Victoria” recording. Recently, however, it has been Bates’ health problems that rallied the band together, as much off-stage as on. Bates finally succumbed on June 9, 2017.

The performance this week on July 16 at the band’s favorite venue, The Victoria Tavern, will be to benefit Bates’ partner of 40-plus years and “fashion coordinator of the Alienettes,” Julie Bates, as she reassembles her world. Bates’ medical care was heroic but has taken a serious toll on the family who loved and supported him. Bruce Hayes and Yogi will open, and there will be a suggested $15 donation for an early Sunday evening event with a spaghetti and salad dinner. Kids are welcome and admitted free.

“Come one, come all, to the fabulous rhythm and blues review.”