Brown-Eyed Soul

Backed by a talented cast of characters, Erica Brown is happy about the shape she's in.

"Now, you know I wasn't having that," she continues. "I was so mad I could not see. I said, 'Fine, if this is the way it's going to be, then fine. I'm getting back up on this stage.' So I got up and gave the best performance I'd ever given in my life. And in that instant, I was cured."

After that, Brown's resumé filled in rather nicely. When Mark Brooks asked her to join Foreskin 500, Brown didn't hesitate -- even though the band's music, a funk-drenched hybrid of disco and rock, differed drastically from anything she'd done before. She signed on in time to be part of the group's 1996 effort, Starbent but Superfreaked, which received rave reviews across the country. (One of the songs, "Deliver Me," ended up on the soundtrack of The Fan, a movie starring Robert De Niro and Wesley Snipes.) And Brooks and company got a little more than they bargained for with Brown, especially on the road.

"We were driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco -- and that is an entire story in itself, believe me," she says, "and all of a sudden Dave Kerr pipes up from the back, 'You know how I can tell there's a lady in the van?' Mark was driving, and he turns around and says, 'How?' Kerr says, 'The farting has decreased considerably.' I just rolled. I said, 'Fellas, I'm so sorry. I've been ripping 'em off up here. I thought it was like that.'"

Blues explosion: Jim Ayers (from left), Marc Larson, 
Erica Brown, Scotty Rivera and Rich Sallee are the 
Erica Brown Band.
Tony Gallagher
Blues explosion: Jim Ayers (from left), Marc Larson, Erica Brown, Scotty Rivera and Rich Sallee are the Erica Brown Band.

Details

9:30 p.m. Friday, January 23, and Saturday, January 24, Brendan's Pub, 2009 Larimer Street, $8, 303-308-9933

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The exhilarating ride came to an end when Brooks and frontman Diggie Diamond found themselves going in different musical directions and opted to part ways. Foreskin bassist Dave Moore quickly signed up Brown for the Cherry Bomb Club, a short-lived project that also featured Dan Wanush (aka King Scratchie from the Warlock Pinchers and Rey Legendario Jr. from the Wild Canadians). But after sitting in with such luminaries as Hazel Miller, Sugar Bear, Chris Daniels and Sammy Mayfield, Brown realized her heart lay elsewhere. This lady was ready to sing the blues.

"It was like, 'Oh, this is it. This is the deal. This is what I want to do. This is what I ought to be doing,'" she remembers. "When it's right, you just know it."

Adding to the rightness was Rivera, a Detroit-bred drummer who'd been pounding the skins since his legs were long enough to reach the pedals. After moving to Colorado in the early '80s, Rivera had spent several years with a wildly popular combo called Black Irish, which included Billy Ryan and keyboardist Jim Ayers. When that stint ended in 1987, Rivera took some time off. Seven years later, Ayers was working with Sammy Mayfield and asked Rivera if he'd like to audition for the renowned blues guitarist. Rivera packed up his gear and headed over to Mayfield's house for the tryout. After twenty minutes of running through various beats with the guitarist, Rivera became the newest member of Sammy Mayfield's Blues Review.

"That is one of the finest things that ever happened to me," Rivera says. "[Mayfield] is like the ultimate professional on stage. To this day, he's almost like my own personal hero, even though I got to play with him. He's just one of those guys: The minute that he picks up a guitar and starts playing, everybody around him becomes better."

But Mayfield was also Solomon Burke's arranger, a job that kept him on the road for months at a time. Upon returning to Denver, he'd phone the rest of the Blues Review and set up a rehearsal, and they'd practice just a couple of hours before the next gig. The band was about as tight as a muumuu.

To keep their chops when Mayfield was gone, the bandmembers -- Rivera on drums, Ayers on keys, guitarist Tommy Butters (now deceased), bassist Dan Shore and trombonist-singer JD Kelly -- formed a side project called JD and Friends. Before long, JD and Friends was so popular that its dates started conflicting with the Blues Review, and the band became a full-time gig. Rechristened JD and the Love Bandits, the outfit played together for four years before frontman Kelly left to join Chris Daniels's band.

The Love Bandits didn't have to look too far to find his replacement. "I followed them around like a groupie," says Brown, who'd already played a New Year's Eve show with the act. So in May 1998, when the fellas asked Brown if she wanted to join, they didn't have to ask twice. What they did have to do, though, was find a new name.

"We were just the Love Bandits," explains Rivera. "We had dropped the 'JD' from it. But that wasn't going to work, because that was kind of JD's thing. We felt that he kind of owned that. So we were sitting around at Tommy's house one night trying to figure out what the hell we were going to call this thing. And then one of us said, 'Shit, why don't we just call it Erica Brown?'

"And then somebody else had to have the word 'band' at the end of it," he adds, looking at Brown. "For whatever reason."

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