James Montgomery was born on May 12, 1949 in one of the blues capitals of the world: Detroit, Michigan and learned the tricks of his trade from the masters James Cotton, John Lee Hooker and Jr. Wells at the legendary Chessmate Club. His father labored for Chrysler as a public relations exec, his brother John also worked in the music industry and his younger brother Jeffrey was a LGBT activist. In the music world his family tree is short and sweet and he is a direct descendant of Sonny Boy Williamson I via James Cotton. “James was my mentor and longest known friend in the music industry. He called me ‘son’ and I called him ‘dad,” he explains about his music heritage and the strong relationship they shared.
Montgomery attended college at Boston University and got his undergraduate degree in English Lit while starting his own band. “I came to B.U. in 1967 largely because of the music scene,” James recollects.”I played in two bands in high school and I knew all the clubs and venues in Boston before I got here.” During his junior year he joined The Colwell-Winfield Band and played harp and toured with the band opening for Janis Joplin on the road. Though he loved academic life, when offered a $15,000 job at the school Montgomery took a $250,000 offer to record records and tour with The Allman Brothers Band instead. He became the first Northern act to sign with Southern label Capricorn Records from Georgia. “We got signed to Capricorn due in large part to the huge numbers we were doing at shows throughout the Northeast. Phil Walden saw us out on Long Island and loved the band. Atlantic and Warner Brothers were also interested but we liked the small label vibe of Capricorn. We got a huge multi-album deal even by today’s standards. Grew up in Detroit, out of Boston, but somehow we were called Southern Rock! Go figure.” In 1970, the James Montgomery Band was formed and his harp playing, singing and energetic and charismatic style and showmanship had him gaining a reputation as one of the hottest bands in New England joining Aerosmith and The J.Geils Band as the greatest groups to go out and see live around town. Their first release, The James Montgomery Band- First Time Out treated listeners to “Train” which was a fan favorite and became the #1 song on the radio charts at WBCN “The Rock Of Boston.” The station played the tune every day at noon for well over a year.
SOME COOL CAREER HIGHLIGHTS:
2001- Joins Johnny Winter’s band.
2002- Three tracks from his CD Bring It On Home are featured at the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, Utah during the hockey games and broadcast to over two billion people worldwide.
2007- Recorded the title song for the film Delta Rising: A Blues Documentary. with Morgan Freeman narrating and Willie Nelson, Charlie Musselwhite, Mose Allison and other major delta artists, like Super Chickan (spelled with an ‘a’) included.
2010- Does impromptu session with Mick Jagger at NY’s Trax.
2011- August 7– Steven Tyler (Aerosmith) saved the day at a rain soaked music festival in Scituate, MA by joining James and his band onstage (Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) and Jon Butcher also jumped in for the fun) after people present used their cell phones and texted messages to spread the word and packed the place in the drizzle.
2011- September 4– B.B. King and James play together at Zeiterion Performing Arts Center in New Bedford, MA.
2012- Releases From Detroit To The Delta CD with Superharp James Cotton and blues legend Johnny Winter playing on it. Guitarist Brad Whitford and drummer Joey Kramer from Aerosmith also share their talents along with The Uptown Horns (The Rolling Stones, The J.Geils Band) members Arno Hecht and Chrispin Cioe on saxes and Larry Etkin on trumpet. James and Chris grew up together in Detroit). Montgomery: “Johnny played arguably the best slide guitar he’d played since Highway 61, backed up by my band and two Aerosmith guys. Kramer sounds like a freight train on this one.”
2012- August 8– Joins The Allman Brothers Band at The Bank Of America Pavilion in Boston for a rousing rendition of “Statesboro Blues.” Montgomery: “We started touring with The Allman Brothers around 1974; maybe 1973. It wasn’t too long before Gregg and Dickie started asking me to sit in. Being onstage with them was always exciting. They were great guys in every incarnation of the word and they always came to play. It was a musician’s dream.”
BANDS JAMES HAS TOURED WITH:
The Allman Brothers Band, Aerosmith,The J.Geils Band, Bonnie Raitt (who he knows from the early ’70’s Boston music scene), Bruce Springsteen, The Steve Miller Band, The Johnny Winter Band, and The Blues Brothers (Jim Belushi and Dan Ackroyd).
MUSICIANS JAMES HAS PERFORMED WITH ONSTAGE:
B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Jr. Wells, James Cotton, Steven Tyler, Joey Kramer and Brad Whitford (Aerosmith), Charlie Daniels, Gregg Allman, Lavern Baker, Patti La Belle, Jonathan Edwards, J.Geils, Peter Wolf, Magic Dick and D.K. (The J.Geils Band), Huey Lewis, Kim Wilson (The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Elliot Easton (The Cars), Rick Derringer, Barry Goudreau, Fran Sheehan and Sib Hashian (Boston), Ricky Byrd (Joan Jett and The Blackhearts), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), Michael Carabello (Santana), Jon Butcher, Bruce Marshall (The Toy Caldwell Band), Dennis Fly Amero (Orleans), Duke Robillard, Jon Pousette-Dart, Kate Taylor, Alex Taylor, Christine Beehive Ohlman (Saturday Night Live band) and The Uptown Horns (The Rolling Stones, The J.Geils Band).
PEOPLE WHO HAVE USED HIS BAND AS A SPRINGBOARD:
Billy Squier, Wayne Kramer (MC-5), Jeff Golub (Rod Stewart), Jim McCarty (Mitch Ryder and The Detroit Wheels), Nunzio Signore (Bo Diddley), Jeff Pevar (Ray Charles, Crosby, Still & Nash), Bobby Chouinard (Alice Cooper, Ted Nugent, The Billy Squier Band, Robert Gordon), Jeff Levine (Joe Cocker) and Thom Gimbel (Foreigner).
In 2017, The James Montgomery Band released Live At The Larcom a great CD that showcases and captures his patented perfect performance and proves that forty five years into the game he’s still the most magnificent maestro around.
(by A.J. Wachtel)
Published on October 3, 2017