Johnny and the Blue Notes

Local band gets lucky finding members

Band members for Johnny and the Blue Notes. From left: John Hernandez, vocals and guitar; Mark Allan, saxophone; Jim Catfish Hunter, drums; and Bob Carey, bass guitar. Enlargephoto

Rachel Segura/Cortez Journal

Band members for Johnny and the Blue Notes. From left: John Hernandez, vocals and guitar; Mark Allan, saxophone; Jim "Catfish" Hunter, drums; and Bob Carey, bass guitar.

What do two retirees, a high school band director and a cabinetmaker have in common? They are each a part of the newly formed local band Johnny and the Blue Notes.

This quartet of blues and classic rock-loving gentlemen have been playing around Cortez since their first gig in August 2012. The very outgoing, fun-loving group of men come from different places all over the United States. San Francisco, Calif., Santa Monica, Calif., Rockford, Ill. and Washington D.C., all under the same roof. Escaping the urban sprawl, they have all congregated here, finding they share one true love - music.

The band started out with John Hernandez, 61, and Jim "Catfish" Hunter, 66, who got his nickname from the Hall of Fame baseball pitcher with the same moniker. Having traveled and played together throughout Colorado since the 1970s, the duo can't seem to shake one another, always ending up in the same place. Both are retired, living the good life, Hernandez says. A great time to make music.

Hunter and Hernandez had no intentions of starting a band. When Hunter had the cabinets redone in his home near McPhee Reservoir, he found his cabinetmaker, was more talented than he thought.

"When Bob (Carey) told me he could play the bass I said 'Well, what do you know because I know a guy who plays the guitar (Hernandez),'" Hunter recalls.

With Carey, 54, they transformed into a trio, jamming around Hunter's home, not knowing where the union would take them. So it was a happy coincidence, when their fourth member joined.

Mark Allan, saxophonist and high school band director in Newcomb, N.M., was heading home to Dolores after a long rigorous band competition. Stopping into Blondie's for a quick drink, Allan, 54, discovered the trio playing for the open mic night.

"They were right in the middle of "Unchain My Heart," which is my favorite song," Allan explains. "There I was in a suit and tie, and I said 'Hey, can I play with you? Let me go grab my sax.'" Allan hopped on stage and the rest was history.

"It was really strange how we grabbed Mark (Allan)," Hernandez said.

Allan has played with a band since he was 17. His busy work schedule left him without a band when he moved to Dolores from Rockford. The itch to play with people of the same variety was prevalent that night. Feeling complete, the band is finding gigs at local restaurant/bars here in town, most recently at Mr. Happy's Bakery and Cafe, and Blondie's.

Though they started out slow, taking a three month hiatus last year for scheduling and vacations, they are now alternating weekends with the two restaurants for the next six weeks. Last week, the Blue Notes were expected to play at Mr. Happy's but the water break on Main Street forced the show to be canceled.

"We left after sound check, came back to perform, and they weren't open," Hunter said. "There was no water for them to operate." The small hiccup was of no consequence. They rescheduled the show for the following night and played on.

This week, they will be at Blondie's on Friday, Jan. 25 from 8 to 11 p.m. They want to cater to their audience, and are not against playing festivals, weddings or parties.

Their set lists change from show to show because this group has a lot to offer. Marvin Gaye, Chuck Berry, The Allmon Brothers, Cream and Creedence Clearwater Revival are a few of the artists they cover.

"It's smart to be versatile with what you play," Carey said. "People like lots of different genres, especially in this area."

Like any good entertainers, the band plays to their crowd. With each musician starting their tenure as teenagers, there are plenty of years of experience under these four belts.

If they had no stage at all, they would be plenty happy to sit around and improvise- to jam away with people who know exactly what the other is feeling.