Rick Halisheff

Rick Halisheff

Papa Dawg is growling’ the blues

Rick Halisheff is at the Spitfire Lounge in Vernon’s Army, Navy and Airforce Club Saturday

  • Jan. 13, 2016 5:00 a.m.

Paul Tessier

Special to The Morning Star

Rick Halisheff, best known as Poppa Dawg, likes instant gratification.

At least that’s what he likes most about playing in front of a live audience.

“It’s wild. You instantly know whether they dig you or not,” he said.

He’s looking forward to some instant gratification from a live audience when his blues trio (Poppa Dawg on lead guitar and vocals, Brian Skip Maguire on drums and James Hay on bass) take to the stage Saturday at the Spitfire Lounge in Vernon’s Army, Navy and Airforce Club.

He’s hoping for a packed house and a crowded dance floor.

“Expect to hear some real honest music — blues, R&B, soul and even some Motown,” said Halisheff.

“We’ll be doing covers by folks like Savoy Brown, Bobby Blue Bland, some Boz Scaggs, some Little Milton, Little Walter and a bunch of original tunes too.”

A former club owner described what they do as Memphis to Motown.

Halisheff likes that description.

“We’re a blues band, a bar band. We’re beer salesmen and we know we have to keep people moving. Our whole thing is bodies on the dance floor. We read the room and the audience. We play different grooves of stuff- not just the same old thing,” he said.

“You get to teach people about the blues. People say, ‘I’d never heard of Little Walter or Little Milton. You’ve turned me on to some great stuff.’ That’s really cool and it’s great to introduce people to the blues and help keep this music alive.”

Halisheff got turned on to the blues in his high school days.

“Back then I was a head-banger. I was into metal and stuff like that. Then I heard the Powder Blues and the Blues Brothers. It struck a note a note with me, even though at the time, I was playing trumpet in the high school marching band,” he said.

He was fascinated by all of the great guitarists in the blues world and happened to be teaching himself guitar at the time.

“I found this book written in 1933 in the piano bench we had at home. I taught myself to play but couldn’t imagine playing like those guys. Back then, I sang too. So I started out singing in bands. I didn’t step up and play lead guitar till I was forced into doing it in the ‘80s,” he said.

Halisheff remembers how he got the name Poppa Dawg.

“I’d walk into the club and my bass player would say, ‘Hey, Poppa Dawg, how’s it going?’ The people in the club heard him and started calling me Poppa Dawg and it stuck.”

Poppa Dawg will be growlin’ the blues for the Vernon Folk-Roots Music Society, Saturday at the Army, Navy, Airforce Club. Doors open at 6:45 p.m. with the show at 7:30 p.m. Tickets at tTcketmaster.ca, vernonfolkroots.com, the ANAF club or at the door. Tickets are $20 or $15 for members.