Biography All Music Guide
All Music Guide:
Singer, songwriter, and virtuoso blues harpist Rick Estrin was born in San Francisco, California in 1949, and even as a boy he frequented the tough Market Street area, falling under the spell of music by Ray Charles, Jimmy Reed, Nina Simone, Champion Jack Dupree, and others, and when he picked up the harmonica at age 15, he was already immersed in the urban black culture around him. By 18, he was proficient enough on the harp to jam with the likes of Lowell Fulson and Travis Phillips. After a move to Chicago, Estrin worked with Eddie Taylor, Sam Lay, Johnny Young, and Johnny Littlejohn, and even jammed with Muddy Waters. Moving back to the Bay Area, Estrin met guitarist Little Charlie Baty, and they joined forces to form Little Charlie & the Nightcats in 1976, a high-powered electric urban blues band, and the group stayed together for some 30 years, touring and recording, issuing their first album, All the Way Crazy, in 1987 (the band would go on to release some nine albums on Alligator Records). Estrin developed into a brilliant blues harp soloist, and he had become an equally good blues songwriter, drawing comparisons to Willie Dixon and Cab Calloway, and with his flamboyant stage personality, sharp sense of humor, and a singing voice that drew the best from the material, he became the consummate frontman for the band -- to the point that many thought he was Little Charlie. When Baty, the actual Little Charlie, left the band, Estrin, along with the Nightcats' longtime rhythm section of J. Hansen and Lorenzo Farrell, and new guitarist Kid Anderson, keep the gig going under the new name Rick Estrin & the Nightcats, releasing a debut album, Twisted, under that name on Alligator Records in 2012.