Lance Lopez knows the blues. The Dallas native has been sharpening his blues' slinging chops since he was a child. He can feel it in his bones, through his fingertips as they slide across the fretboard. Lopez's guitar skills sometimes seem otherworldly as he bends his strings to create something soul-wrenching in songs such as "Mr. Rattlesnake," "El Paso Sugar" and "2 Cigarettes." It echos the late, great Stevie Ray Vaughan, a Dallas native whose legend is immortalized in Austin with a bronzed statue.
Now Lopez is bringing his blues magic to Coach Joe's Hat Tricks in Lewsiville, hosting an open mic live Blues jam session every Thursday evening. It's a night filled with Texas beer, Texas BBQ and Texas blues.
Coach Joe's Hat Tricks was once owned by Joe Avezzano, a former assistant coach of the Dallas Cowboys, and the only one to win three-consecutive NFL Special teams Coach of the Year awards. Avezzano loved music and wanted to create a "Texas roots venue" with good live music.
Avezzano died in April 2012, and his son, Tony, took over the operation. Tony's a huge blues fan and wanted to dedicate a night to showcasing nothing but Texas blues. Last year, he read an article about Lopez in the Observer and later invited him to play a few openers. "It's a place where players know they're going to get up there and play," Lopez says of Hat Tricks.
For the past few years, Lopez spent time on the road with Johnny Winter, who quickly took the Dallas native under his wing. "It was Johnny who brought it up," Lopez explains.
Lopez was 36 at the time, which reminded Winter of his time spent with Muddy Waters, one of the greatest bluesman to ever pick up a dobro. Waters had taken Winter under his wing, teaching him everything he needed to know about Delta blues, and Winters wanted to pass his blues knowledge on to someone like Lopez who not only feels the blues but also understands it.
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"It's up to you now" was one of the last things Winter, 70, told Lopez before he succumbed to complications from pneumonia last month. "It was awe-inspiring to be with him onstage," Lopez recalls. "It was like standing onstage with Jimi Hendrix."
Since he's been hosting the Thursday night jam sessions, Lopez has brought a series of guests to share the stage with him, including Kayla Reeves of Trans Siberia Orchestra and Jimmy Wallace. Business at Hat Tricks has doubled on Thursday nights, according to Lopez, which just goes to show people still hunger for the blues after all these years.
Now the Hard Rock Cafe in Dallas is following its lead, hosting a series of live concerts showcasing the blues every Wednesday night. It's just one of many clubs, like Keys Lounge in Fort Worth, that offer blues artists a place to channel the blues.
Lopez will be playing a show at 7:30 on September 10 at the Hard Rock Cafe and a memorial show for Johnny Winter on Friday, Oct. 10 at B.B. King's blues club in New York.