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Blues Traveler is an American rock band, formed in Princeton, New Jerseymarker in 1987. The band has been influenced by a variety of genres, including blues-rock, psychedelic rock, folk rock, soul, and Southern rock. They are known for extensive use of segues in their live performances.

Currently, the group comprises singer and harmonica virtuoso John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill, bassist Tad Kinchla and keyboardist Ben Wilson. Tad Kinchla and Ben Wilson joined the band following the death of original bassist Bobby Sheehan in 1999 of a drug overdose in New Orleans, Louisianamarker.

While Blues Traveler is best known among fans for their improvisational live shows, the general public is most familiar with the group from their singles "But Anyway", "Run-Around" and "Hook". They gainedmainstream radio popularity from their fourth studio album Four, released in 1994.

Sheehan's death and Popper's struggle with obesity put a damper on the group's success, and A&M dropped the band in 2002. However, the band took this transition period as an opportunity to start in new directions musically, going largely independent and releasing on smaller experimental labels.

Recently, Blues Traveler recorded a "best-of" collection of older songs reinterpreted with acoustic instrumentation called Cover Yourself, released October 2007; a new studio album, North Hollywood Shootout, was released on the Verve Forecast label August 26, 2008.



The genesis of Blues Traveler was a high school garage band formed in Princeton, New Jersey in the mid 1980s. Harmonicist, singer and guitarist John Popper and drummer Brendan Hill formed a group they called The Establishment (later renamed Blues Band) with Hill's brother on bass and a rotating roster of guitarists. The band produced a few cassette tape demos. In addition to some original songs, their repertoire included upbeat covers of "Gloria" and "The Battle Hymn of the Republic".

The group added guitarist and football player Chan Kinchla. Although he was a promising athlete, Kinchla decided to commit to playing music instead after a knee injury. Popper met bassist Bobby Sheehan and the two became good friends, with Sheehan becoming the new bass player for Blues Band in 1987.

The quartet held a basement jam session (later christened The Black Cat Jam) which spawned the core grooves for several songs on their first album. A black cat happened to be nearby, and the group took this as a sign and adopted the Black Cat as their mascot figure.

The group changed their name to Blues Traveler, taking the latter part from the name of the primary demon in the film Ghostbusters, Gozer the Traveler.

Early years

After graduating Princeton High Schoolmarker and moving to New York Citymarker, Popper, Hill, and Sheehan enrolled in the music program at The New School while Kinchla attended New York Universitymarker. Blues Traveler began playing gigs along the New York-area club circuit, sometimes nightly, the most prominent contract was playing Wednesday nights at a club called the Wetlands. The group shared an apartment together, along with Popper's friend, singer Chris Barron, and developed a close relationship with Barron's band, Spin Doctors (which formed out of another group Popper and Hill had founded). The two groups would often share the stage, playing non-stop concerts of multiple sets.

The group attracted the attention of David Graham, son of the world-famous concert promoter Bill Graham, and became one of Graham's many acts. Blues Traveler then started a relentless touring schedule, expanding their reach up and down the east coast.

During this time, Blues Traveler acquired a devout follower, Gina-Z (subject of the band's song "Gina") who is involved with the group's business to the present day. At one New York show they were discovered by an A&M Records talent scout, Patrick Clifford, and the band signed their first recording contract.

First albums

Blues Traveler released their self-titled debut album in 1990, with the song "But Anyway" getting airplay on college radio stations. The album included Joan Osborne on backing vocals on two tracks.

A second album, Travelers and Thieves, followed in 1991. Upon Bill Graham's death that year, they released a live EP, On Tour Forever, as a tribute to Graham, which featured guitar legend Carlos Santana. The group was becoming well-known in the new wave of jam bands that was developing in the early 1990s.

Around this time, the mainstream national audience was exposed to Blues Traveler by television host David Letterman, who has introduced them as "[his] favorite band". The band has since made more appearances on The Late Show than any musical artist. Letterman's band leader Paul Shaffer has played on a number of Blues Traveler recordings.

In 1992, the group founded the H.O.R.D.E. festival as an alternative to others such as Lollapalooza, along with other bands such as Phish and Spin Doctors. Blues Traveler began recording their third album, Save His Soul. Recording was temporarily interrupted by John Popper's motorcycle accident, although the band resumed touring shortly thereafter with Popper in a wheelchair. Two singles were released from the album, "Defense & Desire" and "Conquer Me", which reached #34 on the Mainstream Rock Tracks chart.

Mainstream breakthrough

The band's fourth album, titled Four, was released in late 1994. The upbeat pop single "Run-Around" became a smash hit and was followed by the catchy "Hook". "Run-Around" won a Grammy Award and broke a record for most weeks on the chart.

Blues Traveler appeared at Woodstock '94 and later became an opening act for The Rolling Stones.

The band played on the 1995 season premiere of Saturday Night Live as a last-minute replacement for Prince. They were featured in an episode of the sitcom Roseanne, and later recorded the show's theme song for its final season. The 1996 comedy film Kingpin featured the group playing their song "But Anyway" during the closing credits. The song then became the band's third top 40 hit, peaking at #12.

The group recorded the Johnny Rivers song "Secret Agent Man" for the film Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls and the Bob Seger song "Get Out of Denver" for the film Things to Do in Denver When You're Dead, as well as Fats Domino's "I'm Walkin'" for Rebel Highway: Cool and the Crazy. Several previously-recorded Blues Traveler songs were included on film soundtracks, including The Last Seduction, Speed, Very Bad Things, White Man's Burden, and The Truth About Cats & Dogs. The band also appeared in the 1998 film Blues Brothers 2000 and on its soundtrack, playing "Maybe I'm Wrong".

Blues Traveler recorded the Sly & the Family Stone song "I Want to Take You Higher" for the NORML compilation album Hempilation and the John Lennon song "Imagine" for the Lennon tribute album Working Class Hero. The original song "Christmas" was included on the benefit album A Very Special Christmas 3.

The double live album, Live from the Fall, was released in 1996. It featured recordings from the band's autumn 1995 concerts and showcased the strength of the band's live performances.

The next studio album, Straight On till Morning, was released in 1997. It achieved platinum status, reaching number 11 on the Billboard 200 albums chart, but did not perform as well as Four. The single "Carolina Blues" peaked at number four on the Mainstream Rock Tracks.

The band made an appearance performing in the 1999 independent film Wildflowers.

By the end of 1998, the band had prepared a concept album called The Sun, The Storm and The Traveler, based on Aesop's fable of The North Wind and the Sun, and they planned to record it after a recess in the fall of 1999. That summer, John Popper had emergency heart surgery due to artery blockage, forcing the band to cancel their annual July 4th Red Rocksmarker shows at the last minute.

During the hiatus, Popper released a solo album with a backing band consisting of Dave Matthews Band drummer Carter Beauford and members of the group Cycomotogoat.

Sheehan's death and new lineup

On August 20 1999, Bobby Sheehan was found dead in his New Orleans, Louisianamarker home, where he had been recording music with some friends the night before. Sheehan's death was ruled an accidental drug overdose, with cocaine, diazepam, and heroin found in his system.

The remaining members of Blues Traveler convened and agreed that Sheehan would have wanted them to continue as a band. Auditions for a new bassist were held in concert, and included Chan Kinchla's younger brother Tad, who was unanimously determined to be the best choice for the role. Additionally, an open call was sent for a permanent keyboard player, a role of which Sheehan had often been a proponent. Ben Wilson of the band Big Dave and the Ultrasonics was chosen, and has since become a central contributor to the band's songwriting.

The band discarded their concept album material, instead releasing a smaller online EP, Decisions of the Sky: A Traveler's Tale of Sun and Storm, and went to work collectively composing a new set of songs with the new lineup. The resulting album was Bridge, which had the working title Bridge Outta Brooklyn as a tribute to Sheehan (with both the acronym B.O.B. and his nickname "Brooklyn Bobby"). The songs "Girl Inside My Head" and "Just for Me" received airplay, but the album's sales fell somewhat short of expectations.

The live album What You and I Have Been Through and the compilation Travelogue: Blues Traveler Classics were both released in 2002.

Recent years

Blues Traveler were one of dozens of artists who were jettisoned as part of A&M's corporate restructuring. The band signed with Sanctuary Records for their next album, Truth Be Told, which only reached number 147 on The Top 200 chart.

The band's 2003 Independence Day concerts at Red Rocks Amphitheatre were released on the CD Live on the Rocks and the DVD Thinnest of Air.

The band left Sanctuary for Vanguard Records and released ¡Bastardos!, which was produced by Wilco's Jay Bennett and was touted as the band's return to music that they wanted to play. The album charted at 49 on the Top Independent Albums, and a live EP of songs from the album was released to independent record stores.

On September 19, 2005, Blues Traveler played their cover of Beetlejuice's song "This is Beetle" on the Howard Stern radio show.

In April 2006, the band headlined the first annual "OH-Fest" concert in Oneonta, New York.

Blues Traveler have been featured on VH1's Behind the Music, A&E's Private Sessions[25381], and Austin City Limits. The group recorded the title track to the Sandra Boynton children's album Dog Train, which was also used as the promotional music for the American Kennel Club's National Championship event. The band's music has been used in video games (NASCAR 2000) and commercials (Busch Beer). The songs "Business as Usual" and "Money Back Guarantee" are used as transitional music on the public radio finance program Marketplace and its sister show Marketplace Money.

The group recorded "Rag Mama Rag" for the 2007 tribute album Endless Highway: The Music of The Band.

Blues Traveler's latest album was Cover Yourself, a "best-of" album of previously-released songs re-recorded and reinterpreted with acoustic instrumentation. It was released October 30, 2007 through Columbia/Red Ink Records.

Blues Traveler appeared at the 2008 Lollapalooza festival. At their June 2008 shows, the band debuted new songs off their new album North Hollywood Shootout. The album, which features a guest appearance by Bruce Willis, released in August 2008.

Concert recordings

Blues Traveler allows and encourages fans to record and trade live performances, provided that no money changes hands and no profit is made.

The band has also given permission for live fan-made recordings to be hosted on the Live Music Archive. Recordings available there span from 1986 through the present day.

Concerts can also be found at

On their current tour, Blues Traveler sells recordings of that very night's performance. Fans can pre-purchase a copy of the show until 30 minutes into the performance and then pick up the CD after the show.


Studio albums

Live albums



Year Song Chart peaks Album
US Main. Rock Mod. Rock US AC
1993 "Conquer Me " 34 Save His Soul
1995 "Run-Around" 8 13 14 4 Four
"Hook" 23 15 13 28
1996 "But Anyway" 19 17 Blues Traveler
1997 "Carolina Blues" 4 30 Straight On till Morning
"Most Precarious" 27 25

External links


  1. - News Archive
  2. Blues Traveler's recording policy

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