There’s nothing like the blues. Born out of poverty, “the blues” was literally a way to escape the traps of depression, which many blues musicians referred to as the “blue devils.”
Local musician Hector Anchondo gravitated towards the blues at a very young age. The future music junkie quickly became fascinated with the guitar and started taking lessons in Salem, Missouri. It wasn’t clear yet that the blues would be the type of music he would ultimately pursue.
“When I started taking my first guitar lessons my instructor said, ‘hey if you want to learn how to play rock n’ roll you have to learn the blues first’ so I immersed myself in blues and listened to everything that I could get my hands on in Salem at a time when you couldn’t simply download everything under the sun,” Anchondo explains. “You had to actually hunt for the good stuff, ask friends, read interviews and wait for another artist to mention someone else, beg a record store to order something for you or do the ol’ Columbia House trick where you got 20 free CDs for 1 penny and then never pay up. All that led me to Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughn, John Lee Hooker and many more. I had become a full-fledged blues fan for life.”
Ironically, Anchondo’s first musical venture wasn’t a blues band. It was more of a reggae-infused rock band. Simply called Anchondo, the group has been an Omaha staple for the past 10 years. While Hector Anchondo is concentrating on his solo debut, Kickin’ Up Dust, he insists his original project is still very much alive. In fact, they play an anniversary show on May 19 at Slowdown. However, the switch from rock to blues wasn’t a tough one and seemed inevitable.
“I always knew that at some point in my life I would start my blues band. I knew at a young age that it was more acceptable to be older and play blues so I made the choice to play some rock n’ roll first. I didn’t expect to start my blues band this early on, but times change and people grow up, have kids and aren’t able to fight for the same cause any longer,” he explains. “Anchondo is alive and well, but now shows are fewer in number. So the timing of it all was right, I had been playing lead guitar for a local blues/funk band called Burgundy & Gray and learned a lot more about blues and how to groove from the late band leader Milton Spellman. He really got me thinking about starting down my blues journey. Anchondo was slowing down. The time had come. “
Anchondo got to work on his blues material with a renewed sense of self. It’s clear he feels at home playing this type of music. His slide guitar is impeccable and voice, well for a 30-something, it’s mature for a blues singer. While the record is only 5 tracks long, each track is carefully composed and flawlessly executed. It leaves the listener wanting more. He feels this album is a natural progression. The blues have been calling him all along.
“It’s so passionate and expressive. The old blues guys would get up there and cut loose and let all out for the world to see, similar to the old Motown artists. I needed an outlet for my past hardships and through discovering blues, I realized that I’d feel so much better after playing for a few hours of it,” he says. “All the old blues artists have soul when they play and that comes though their music and shoots though the crowd like a bolt of lightning. Good old-fashioned soul is lacking in today’s music. When people grade music for competitions, they should factor in soul.
This year, Anchondo is intent on touring all summer and into the fall. His favorite way to spend the day is either playing a show or having band rehearsal. After so many years of experience in the music business, he isn’t deterred. In fact, he’s inspired to keep going despite the decline of major record labels and poor album sales.
“My goal is to make it on my own, grow my small business, and spread the music to any who will listen. I’m not interested in signing to a record label, I’d be interested in working with a label, like some sort of partnership, but that’s it. I won’t ever sell my soul or give anyone full control over what I’m doing. I want to work my butt off like everyone else and earn an honest living, while giving people a memorable musical experience and getting them to shake those behinds”
For now, Anchondo has his sights set on the future and is taking the proper steps to get there. His performance June 8 at The Syndey provides a nice break from the indie-rock pool Omaha is so often drowning in.
“In 5 years, I hope to be making an average living only playing music and supporting all my own needs as an artist and touring extensively. Plus, I hope to be doing a lot more blues festivals by then because I love playing festivals,” he concludes. “Lastly, I’ve always had a dream of touring overseas, so we’ll see if I can make it there within 5 years. Keep your fingers crossed for me.”