Curtis Salgado grew up in Eugene, Oregon, surrounded by music. His parents loved everything from Fats Waller to Ray Charles and his siblings introduced him to the soul and blues of Wilson Pickett and Muddy Waters. When he was 13, he attended a Count Basie concert and decided at that moment that music was his calling. After getting his hands on a harmonica, he began devouring the blues of Little Walter and Paul Butterfield and taught himself to play.
By his early 20s, Salgado was making a name for himself in the Eugene area, first as the vocalist/harmonica player for The Nighthawks and later as co-leader of the Robert Cray Band. In 1977, comedian and actor John Belushi was in Eugene filming Animal House. During downtime, he caught a Salgado performance and introduced himself during a break. The two became friends and Salgado spent hours playing old records for Belushi, teaching him about the blues and R&B. Belushi used the knowledge in his portrayal of Jake Blues in The Blues Brothers, first as a skit on Saturday Night Live, then on a best-selling record album, and finally in the legendary film, where Cab Calloway’s character is named Curtis as a tribute.
Salgado spent several years with the Robert Cray Band and shared the stage with many of his heroes, including Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland, Albert Collins and Bonnie Raitt. When he and Cray parted ways, he formed a new band, Curtis Salgado and The Stilettos and released his first album. In spite of health problems that include bouts with liver cancer, lung cancer and quadruple bypass surgery, he has become one of the genre’s most prolific songwriters and has been recognized by his peers, who have rewarded him with nine Blues Music Awards, including the B.B. King Entertainer of the Year honor. For the past two years, he has won the Soul Blues Male Award. NPR has called him “the icon with a huge voice” and he is revered for his ability to wring every ounce of soul out of every song he performs.
Salgado’s latest album, Damage Control, released in 2020, is an album he calls “a rock ‘n’ roll record with lyrics that hit.” The album was produced by Salgado with three different groups of world-class, road-tested blues and roots musicians. The 13 songs - 12 original - will surprise and delight longtime Salgado fans. He has crafted a soul-searching, street-smart collection of vividly detailed, instantly memorable songs. His vocals weave, bob and soar, at times jabbing with nuance and then striking with power. From the defiant opening song, “The Longer That I Live,” to the title track, this is Salgado telling the world he’s still here. “Life is all about damage control… trouble and then some,” he said. “It’s about dealing with what gets thrown at you and saying, ‘I ain’t finished yet.’ He’s excited to bring his new songs to the stage, where the crowd fires him up even more. “I want people to relate to the songs,” he said. “You can dance to it but the words have to carry weight. I know if a song hits me, it’ll hit others just as hard.”
Living Blues called Curtis Salgado’s vocals “soulful beauty” and “fresh, unexpected, authentic, percolating…perfectly executed …and simply delicious.”
Come grab a taste. You’ll be glad you did.