For nearly three decades Powder Blues has been Canada’s favorite blues band. Their music incorporates elements of Swing, Blues, Jazz, Rock & Roll and Rhythm & Blues into their unique and instantly identifiable sound. This broad approach has resulted in an appeal whose demographic is so wide that it is not unusual to find people from seven to seventy swaying side by side at a Powder Blues concert. Throughout the years they have toured ceaselessly throughout Canada, the United States and overseas, spreading the joy of a music that makes people smile and dance.
Fads come and go, as in the current resurgence of Swing, Juke and Jive music, but Powder Blues is no follower of trends. When they first burst upon the recording scene in late 1979, with their self-financed and self-produced debut album, ‘Uncut’, after nearly two years of wood shedding and honing their unique blend of sounds in Vancouver’s then flourishing nightclub scene, the established recording industry label giants shrugged their effort off as ‘not commercial’. The band was told there was ‘no market for the blues’.
Undiscouraged, the band pressed the album at their own expense and proceeded to sell it off stage and deliver it to radio stations. When the switchboards at the stations lit up with calls asking ‘who’s that?’ other stations followed suit. After selling nearly 30,000 copies in a matter of weeks, the major record labels came calling and entered a bidding war for the band’s services and the right to distribute this ‘non-commercial’ product nationally. RCA won the contract and to date that album has gone on to sell over a million copies worldwide.
Band highlights include winning Canada’s most prestigious National Music Award, the Juno, in 1981, headlining and recording a live album at the world famous Montreux Jazz Festival in Switzerland in 1983, being presented with the W.C. Handy Award in Memphis, Tennessee in 1986 and touring the Soviet Union and being released on Melodya Records in 1990. They have appeared in concert with such legendary names as Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, James Brown, Albert Collins, James Cotton, Stevie Ray Vaughn, the Who, ZZ Top, the Doobie Brothers, Edgar Winter and Tower of Power.
The Powder Blues latest CD titled ‘blues + jazz = BLAZZ!’ on Blue Wave Records which was released in 2004. The band continues to tour regularly and has never played less than 40 shows and sometimes as many as 300 shows in each of the 28 years they have been performing.
Leader, Tom Lavin has written many of the band’s best-known songs, including ‘Doin’ It Right’ [‘On the Wrong Side of Town’] and ‘Boppin With the Blues’. Originally born in Chicago, Illinois where he learned his craft by watching and working with both cover bands and many of the local ‘blues legends’, Tom moved to Vancouver in the late sixties to study filmmaking. By night he made his living working as a musician in the thriving downtown nightclub scene. This eventually lead to his career as a studio musician and subsequently, to his role as record producer and studio owner.
Tom has been singing and playing guitar for a living for over 35 years. He has been presented with a number of awards including B.C. Music Industry Association awards for ‘Guitarist, Singer, Songwriter and Producer of the Year’, a Canadian Music Industry Association Juno award for ‘Best New Band’ and the American W.C. Handy award for ‘Best Foreign Blues Band’. He has over a dozen ‘Gold, Platinum and Double Platinum’ record awards for playing in, writing for or producing such bands as Powder Blues, Prism, April Wine, Long John Baldry, Amos Garrett, Susan Jacks, The Good Brothers and P.J. Jackson.
He has produced albums for many international labels including RCA, WEA, Capitol, Columbia, EMI, BMG, Polygram, Peerless and Stony Plain Records and has produced albums or written songs for such notables as Long John Baldry, Amos Garrett and Lowell Fulson. His four story, 20,000 square foot recording complex, Blue Wave Studios has not only produced Gold Records for Powder Blues and numerous other artists, it has recorded sound for film, TV and radio including themes, scores and jingles for countless movies, TV shows and products.