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Interview:
Magic Dick at Callahan's, 5 Things To Know
 

By GARY GRAFF
Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

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We're used to seeing Magic Dick Salwitz blow his harp as part of the J. Geils Band. But that's only part of what the Connecticut-born harmonica virtuoso does.

During his career Magic Dick, 71, has worked with guitarist J. Geils in the band Bluestime and played with the legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue. He also developed his own Magic Harmonica brand. "I love making music, and the Geils Band doesn't work all that much anymore," he notes. "I'm not going to just sit at home waiting for it, you know?

Magic Dick's latest endeavor is a partnership with Shun NG, a 26-year-old guitarist and singer who was born in Chicago and raised in Singapore before moving to Boston to study at the Berklee College of Music. Introduced by Shun's manager they formed a tight musical bond that resulted in the EP "About Time," which includes a version of Magic Dick's Geils showpiece "Whammer Jammer," as well as live shows, including the duo's current tour...

The introduction to Shun came at an opportune time for Magic Dick. "I had been looking for somebody to work wtih in a duo context for quite a long time, but I was never really happy and didn't really find the person I was looking for until I met Shun," Magic Dick says. "His manager arranged a meeting for the two of us, and I knew at that moment and also from hearing Shun's CD that he was the man for me. We have so much common background in terms of the roots (music) that we love. Despite the disparity in our ages, we're into very much of the same thing."

Shun, however, came to music late due to a conservative upbringing in Singapore that shunned most pop and rock music. "Very famously, (Singapore) would turn down acts that came in with long hair, so the music was kind of suppressed in that sense," he explains. "My parents never grew up around music, and I was never around music growing up." Growing up with dyslexia, Shun started training as a gymnast and first heard music when a friend brought a guitar to the gym. "I was blown away. I didn't know people could make music," he says. "I learned a few chords and completely disappeared into the instrument. It just captured me."

Shun's intro to the blues came through watching interviews with Steve Vai talking about Jimi Hendrix. "I was like, 'Who's this Jimi Hendrix guy?'" Shun recalls with a laugh. "So I checked him out and Jim would talk about Buddy Guy, Buddy Guy would talk about Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf. Once I got the blues, it was such a raw, pure form of expression. It was something I took to and fell in love with, and I never looked back."

For Magic Dick, working on a duo format is both different and refreshing from a full band presentation. "With the J. Geils Band, pretty much what we play is well-rehearsed and it stays that way, by design," he explains. "So there's a lot more freedom in the context of a duo. There's a lot more responsibility musically, too. That's the scary part for me; I have nothing to hide behind in this format. With the Geils Band it's a party going on the whole show. I have my role in that context. But with Shun and I, my role is hugely expanded and it's scary. But it's also very exciting and challenging, that's why I like it."

In the midst of all this, the J. Geils Band has been nominated, again, for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, something Magic Dick is taking with a grain of salt. "This is our fourth nomination, and going through that process, with its inherent disappointment, you're not sure you want to take that ride again," he says. "It's great to be recognized, but it's a drag to be disappointed. I hope that we make it in. that would be great. But I find these kinds of excitements kind of interfere with my normal groove. It's just a matter of maintaining a balance."

Magic Dick and Shun NG, and the Slide Brothers

8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 28.

Callahan's Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd., Auburn Hills.

Tickets are $35 and $28.

Call 248-858-9508 or visit atcallahans.com.




Web Site: www.atcallahans.com

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