Dick Deluxe has always dabbled in work that experiments with applications of both art and science — whether it was when he was studying jazz technique, playing with the blues, writing computer code back in the 90s, or creating AI-driven cartoons . He is a seeker of knowledge, a reader, and a futuristic thinker and this experimental nature is heard on his album, Don’t Borax the Borax Man.
This New Orleans-based musician and Fairhope favorite gives his fans funky, punky, honky-tonk rock, with a slight hint of that signature California-Western sound. On the album, you can pick up on the influences of Elvis, Jim Morrison, Dwight Yoakam, the Ramones, and even a little Marvin Gaye, no kidding. In one night, you may hear the Ramones and then a little Hank Williams Sr.
“My dad used to say the sign of a great artist was unity and variety. So, if you have too much unity…[some of those bands I love], but the reason I think the Beatles were so beloved was because they had that variety, but they also had that unity. So they could do Rocky Raccoon, and then the real heavy stuff, and then the sweet stuff. So that is what I try to do.”
At times, Dick’s eclectic sound can be both a blessing and a curse. He was nominated for the Best of Beat Awards in the Best Blues Album of 2016 category with his latest record, Turning 61 on Highway 61, and he’s a regular at the House of Blues, which to a lot of people, if it walks and sings like a blues player then — but it’s not that. He doesn’t want to be put in a category of blues because then he wouldn’t be living his authentic self — my words, not his.
This all creates an interesting marketing challenge for his manager, Patricia Dragovan Foster.
I used to say he’s a songster, because I had to put him into a pile, a genre, in order to market him. And he would say, ‘I’m a songster,’ which means, ‘I read the crowd, I read the people I’m playing with, and then’ — I pick where I’m gonna land and do my musical thing, she said.
She noted his vast repertoire of 1000 songs and how he once played a show in California called the Thousand Song March. It was a year-long performance where he would play every week for three hours, never repeating a song the entire year.
Dick also had great success with a band in California — Club Foot Orchestra, a music ensemble that performed live musical scores to silent movies, which is exactly how they used to do it in the era of silent movies. Club Foot Orchestra is actually currently looking to do a show in New Orleans this year.
“When I started booking him, [I knew] he could do anything and play with anybody, so someone calling me looking for a bass player for a country band, or I need a blues singer, he can do that and I think it’s because both of his parents had masters in music,” she said.
Dick grew up around all kinds of music. His parents met in graduate school at the University of Chicago in the late 40s. His mother was a concert pianist who studied with Rudolph Gans, one of the great piano teachers of the 20th century. His father had a masters in clarinet performance and had a background in vaudeville. Dick’s uncle, his father’s twin brother, was a “profound genius ” and “elite musician” at the Eastman School of Music.
So, music was always all around. His dad played with Benny Goodman and Stan Kenton. About 1948 he started teaching and wound up in Ashland, Wisconsin and Clyde Stubblefield, James Brown’s drummer, in his band.
“Frankie Lane and Bobby Hackett were always hanging around and my mom taught piano, so there was always a lot of music going on,” Dick said.
His father also got into philosophy and ended up editing two of the biggest selling books in the history of philosophy from publishers Birch and Russell.
Due to Dick’s father’s involvement in the community college movement, he and his family ended up down around Galveston, Texas, where he finished up high school. Initially, Dick picked up the trombone, but it wasn’t long before he swapped that out for the guitar.
“I cut four inches off my hair the night I heard the Ramones,” he said.
So, there is always that constant throughout his life and his music — trying new ideas with the old, either enfolding in them, or pushing against them.
Some of his songs may show bravado and the harsh, but when you sit down with Dick, all 6-feet-well-who’s-counting-by then of him, this smooth self-aware, intelligence comes across in speaking about matters of science and art — in my opinion, a true dichotomy of genius.
Don’t Borax The Borax Man, Dick Deluxe
Produced, Engineered, Mixed and Mastered by TJ Politzer and Dick Deluxe; Words and Music by Dick Deluxe; The Dick Deluxe Revue: Dick Deluxe: Lead Vocals, Acoustic and Electric Guitars; TJ Politzer: Vocals, Guitars, and Slide Guitars; Fuzzy John Oxendine: Drums and Percussion; Dr. Maurice Cridlin: Bass Special Guests – The New Impericles: TJ Politzer, Joe Paquin, Zoelle Egner (arrangements-Politzer); Sax: Steve Mackay; Guitar: Sean Carney
Here are a few of my favorites from The Borax Man album.
1.) Right on the Money: displays a bit of true American rock and roll, think Elvis.
2.) At a Word : A beautiful, slow, western country sound, reminiscent of the early 80s. Dick’s poetry is on display on this one.
3.) Death Rattle: My favorite song on the album. This song explodes with some funk on the bass, and the riff reminds me of one from a Vietnam war song — perhaps a little Marvin Gaye’s, “What’s going on?”
4.) Sugar Hurricane: Appreciation for a lady who don’t take anything off anyone. Beautiful steel guitar solo.
5.) Snowing in Oakland – This is blues. Almost a little rag time.
You said you had a toothache,
You said you had to go and see a dentist,
I can tell you’ve been getting drilled.
It’s gonna be snowing in Oakland,
Before you get that cavity filled.
Ouch. The biting blues.
6.) Lonely Boy — Has a bit of a Caribbean and creole sound to it.
7.) Spotted a Hole in the Sun — A quirky, smart song about scientists.
8.) Cullowhee — displays true Americana story telling.
They are all great, though! Go check out his album here.
Dick is playing tonight at Fairhope’s Bar and Grill at 6:30 p.m.