With a name like "Max Bangwell" there are a few professions one might consider to be fate. Of those careers, "professional drummer" has the greatest longevity but also the most stringent requirement for wearing pants to work--usually. Bangwell opted for the path of becoming a local, blues drumming icon and he's been pretty successful at it. He's played with nearly every greased-up, revivalist rocker from Dana Point to Point Mugu but now, after 27 years in Southern California, he is in need of some help. Bangwell has been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. This Sunday, from 2pm to 7pm, more than 25 bands and musicians including the immortal Blasters and blues mainstay James Harman will bring the heat to Long Beach bar the Gaslamp to help raise funds for Bangwell's complicated financial situation and recovery.
How many musicians can boast having played with Weird Al Yankovic and Jerry Lee Lewis? Bangwell's credits are vast. He took up the drums as a teenager. A chance encounter with legendary bluesman Robert Lockwood Jr. in Cleveland determined his livelihood for the next 10 years. That gig introduced him to a world of blues legends and rock'n'roll parishioners. He packed up his Midwesterners kit and moved to Los Angeles in the mid 1980s where he settled in with a passionate upswing in rockabilly and blues culture.
In Los Angeles, he took up a wide range of musical pursuits, handling harmonica duties for Weird Al and helping to start the diverse but short-lived House of Blues record label. Around those projects, he kept a steady schedule playing famed joints like the Blue Café and Babe & Ricky's Inn.
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Imposing blues vocalist and harmonica player James Harman had been a California transplant for more than a dozen years before he met Bangwell but their musical connection was effortless."He has an intuitiveness that makes him easy to play with," says Harman. "He's the kind of player who can jump in by the seat of his pants and follow whether he knows the song or not. He can read what you're doing and give you exactly what you're looking. That's a big factor in this racket."
An even bigger racket is the health care industry. Bangwell has been a lifelong smoker. Although he was eventually able to pin down health insurance it was not before he accrued an extensive set of bills for doctors, therapists and medication. Coupled with the inability to take on work behind the drums, Bangwell's finances have suffered immensely hence the overwhelming display of support. Every pompadour with an amp will hit the stage for Bangwell's afternoon benefit including Kid Ramos, Junior Watson and White Boy James & the Blues Express. It should make for a nice reunion and a helluva impromptu car show in the parking lot.
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