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Alvin Jett

Alvin Jett, joined by his friend, bandmate, and saxman Frank BauerFinally, after trying repeatedly, the talented Alvin Jett of Hired Help, and STLBlues were able to hook up for this interview, conducted at the famous Broaday Oyster Bar - home to the longest running weekly Blues jam session in St. Louis, every Monday night. Alvin, joined by his friend, bandmate, and saxman Frank Bauer, sat down with STLBlues and shared his story. We hope you enjoy!

Q: Alvin, it's a pleasure. We've enjoyed seeing you perform around town for a long time. Are you from St. Louis?

A: Actually, I'm from East St. Louis.

Q: Have you lived here most of your life?

A: Pretty much. I did some traveling, I was in the Navy for a little bit.

Q: When were you in the Navy?

A: Around 1978

Q: Were you out to sea a lot?

A: Yeah, I was, as a matter of fact! They put me on a aircraft carrier. I think they did that because my last name is Jett - it was like a joke, you know! (laughs)

Q: Were you able to perform much while in the Navy?

A: Just dabbled a little bit, but I really didn't play until I was twenty years old. A little later in life. My first song I learned to play was an Eagles song, 'Lying Eyes', as a matter of fact.

Q: Was there a moment or event that made you realize that music was something you really wanted to do?

A: That moment came later in my my life, but growing up, I've always had musical instruments around the house. My dad was a drummer, and he always had a bongo here, a guitar there. There was always something around the house to tinker with.

Q: Did any of the music your dad liked make an impression on you?

A: My dad was an avid Blues fan, I mean, when he was playing around, he was playing with Little Milton, people like that. Me, I had five older brothers and two older sisters who were continually bringing in new music. I'm not the youngest, there are thirteen in my family. I'm in the middle.

Q: Thirteen! That's quite a family, makes for a lot of influences! You went to high school in East St. Louis. What did you do after high school?

A: That's when I went into the Navy, I had a guitar by then, but I wasn't really serious about it, until after I got out of the service and wondered "what am I gonna do now? Then I ran across these guys on the east side, an excellent bass player and drummer. The bass player, he played guitar also. He taught me some chords and different things that I didn't know about, and I started learning about the majors and the minors, scales and things like that, and just developed from there.

Q: Did you return to St. Louis right after the navy?

A: Actually I lived in California for about a year, in San Jose
Q: What do you see as the spark that led you to begin performing?

A: I think it was my curiosity. I knew I could play, but then, after seeing a band together, I really wanted to play!

Q: As a music fan, who did you like?

A: I always liked Santana! Loved Santana, Hendrix, B.B. King, as far back as I can remember! Iron Butterfly, Elton John. A mixture of all kinds of music, you know.

Q: So you didn't get serious about your music until you were about twenty?

A: Yeah, about twenty or twenty one.

Q: What made you decide "now's the time"?

A: Well, I wanted to learn a song. That was my main motivation - I wanted to learn a complete song, and play it (laughs). So I learned the song, and after that I began hanging out with these guys. They kept drilling me on different things, and it started from there.

Q: Was your favorite instrument always a guitar?

A: Yes, pretty much. I was hanging out with Carl & Larry, they were very good musicians on the East Side. At that time they were going through a transitional period where they weren't on the road, and I'd just go by thier house and bug them every morning. I'd knock on thier door and wake them up, they'd curse me out, then invite me in (laughs). We'd play and they'd teach me a couple things.

Q: When did you decide to perform professionally?

A: Well, I got the bug! Nephew Davis - he and I were friends - we played around a little bit. He influenced me to come over to St. Louis - Mike and Min's as a matter of fact - and to sit in with Tommy Bankhead.

Q: Had you met Tommy before?

A: I hadn't met Tommy! But I sat in with him that night - Nephew was playing with him - and after that, Tommy asked me "do you want to come back next week?". I said "yeah!" That was my first official gig here in St. Louis!

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