Tim "Too Slim" Langford: A Journey Through American Music
“ When I was learning to play guitar I absorbed everything I could....Now I just want to write and play music based on everything I like. ”
Listening to Too Slim and The Taildraggers is, as one reviewer put it, .".. like taking a journey through the history of American music." Absorbing everything he could at first, Tim "Too Slim" Langford, lead guitarist and vocalist for the group, today plays what he likes. Although his focus at first may have been blues, today what Langford likes may encompass everything from down home blues, to funky blues rock, Americana, southern swamp rock and instrumental guitar styles.
This works for him, as Too Slim and The Taildraggers have been headliners at theaters, festivals and concert stages, and the broad varieties of styles has enabled them to share the stage with everyone from Bo Diddley, Brian Setzer, Johnny Lang, Robert Cray, Ted Nugent, Los Lobos, Blue Oyster Cult, Travis Tritt, Neil McCoy, Blues Traveler, and other notables.
The band's last CD The Fortune Teller, charted as high as #9 on the Billboard magazine "Top Blues Album" sales chart in 2007 and 2008. This release was also nominated for "Best Contemporary Blues Album" at the 2008 "Blues Blast Music Awards" in Chicago.
This award winning band has been voted "Best Regional Act" 11 times by the Cascade Blues Association, the largest organization of its kind in the USA. Founding member Langford has won multiple individual awards as "Best Guitarist," "Best Slide Guitarist" and "Best Songwriter." Too Slim and The Taildraggers are also in the Hall of Fame of three North West blues societies. Their devoted fan base has grown over the years into a national and international following.
All About Jazz: Describe your sound for us.
Tim "Too Slim" Langford: I would describe Too Slim and The Taildraggers sound as Rootsyamericanabluesrock.
Reviewers and people who are fans of the band often mention that they hear influences such as Creedence Clearwater Revival, Tom Petty, ZZ Top, Johnny Winter, George Thorogood, and Lynyrd Skynyrd. The younger crowd often makes comparisons to Drive-by Truckers, North Mississippi Allstars, and James McMurtry.
I learned to play guitar by listening to blues and rock. My main influences are B.B. King, Freddie King, Otis Rush, The Allman Brothers, ZZ Top, Jimi Hendrix, Jeff Beck, and Eric Clapton. As far as the older generation of Blues players I would list, Lightnin' Hopkins ,Robert Johnson ,Son House, Muddy Waters and T-Bone Walker as influences. Kenny Burrell, Charlie Christian, and Wes Montgomery would be my jazz influences.
When I was learning to play guitar I absorbed everything I could. I learned from rock, blues, jazz and country players. I even studied classical guitar. All these factors come into play in the music I write. I performed with the Spokane Jazz Orchestra when I was in college. At the same time I was playing in a country band on weekends as well as a rockabilly band.
When I started Too Slim and The Taildraggers I wanted to play blues. Now I just want to write and play music based on everything I like.
AAJ: You will soon release a new CD entitled, Free Your Mind. It features eleven songs and was written on a touring hiatus. Tell us about this release.
TL: Our new CD, Free Your Mind, which will be released on March 17, 2009, is the end result of writing and playing music for music sake. I had no preconceived notions on how it should sound as I was writing the songs. I just let it flow from my heart. My manager and wife, Nancy, encouraged me to woodshed and take time off to concentrate on the music. We had discussions about how I had never just sat down and concentrated on writing songs.
My previous albums were all done in bits and pieces of songwriting from my travels on the road. Then when I had enough songs I would go in the studio. I tried to fine tune the songs from Free Your Mind and ended up rewriting and rearranging the songs till I felt they were the best they could be. I also believe that an album should only have 11 or 12 songs maximum. I don't like CDs that have too many songs on them. I am old school that way as I grew up listening to records on vinyl.
AAJ: This CD was recorded in your studio which, from what we understand, is in the middle of an interesting setting. Tell us about your recording studio and where it is located.
TL: Actually, I did all my demo's in my home studio. The actual record was done at a studio called The Groves, in Santa Paula, California, owned by producer Todd Smallwood. The studio is located in an avocado grove so it is a very peaceful environment to record in. The sun was always shining, which was nice, since being from Seattle and all the rain we get!
.After I had my demos ready I sent the rhythm tracks to the band to learn. I didn't even let them hear the whole song. I wanted them to focus on the groove I was trying to get for each song. The band didn't even know how the songs sounded with the vocals or what they were about until Todd and I finished it in the studio in California.
Todd is a fantastic producer and musician. We saw eye-to-eye on most things as we were recording. I respect his talent and opinion and I feel he got the best out of our performances. Todd ended up playing Hammond B-3 and 12-string electric on several songs on the album.
AAJ: Because your music defies categorization, it fits comfortably playing on the same bill as many big named performers of different genres. Who have you shared a billing with and where have you played?
TL: We have had the pleasure of sharing the stage, sitting in, or backing up the likes of, Bo Diddley, Brian Setzer, The Doobie Brothers, Gregg Allman, Ronnie Milsap, Johnny Lange, .38 Special, Robert Cray, Otis Rush, Jeff Healey, Ted Nugent, Los Lobos, Lonnie Mack, Blue Oyster Cult, Heart, Travis Tritt, Junior Brown, Gatemouth Brown, Neil McCoy, Delbert McClinton, Blues Traveler, Steppenwolf, Johnny and Edgar Winter, as well as our friends like Little Charlie, Roy Rogers, Dave Gonzales, Curtis Salgado, Mark Hummel, Tinsley Ellis. As you can see it is a very diverse group of musicians!
We have played all over the continental United States, and Alaska and Hawaii. We have toured a good portion of Europe and Scandinavia as well.
AAJ: Your last CD, The Fortune Teller, received plenty of recognition for you. As well as charting on Billboard, it was nominated for several awards. Tell us about this.
TL: The Fortune Teller charted as high as #9 on the Billboard "Top Blues Chart" in 2007 and 2008. We did this without any retail distribution at first. Billboard actually called us to verify who the hell we were. We had no idea, but we charted nine weeks I believe from September 2007 through April 2008. We also were nominated for "Best Contemporary Blues" album in the 2008 Illinois Blues Blast music awards, as well as North West regional awards for "Best Album" and "Best Band." We have been voted "Best Regional Band" 11 times by the Cascade Blues Association.
As a band and individually for myself, in the 23 years since I started this band, there has been a total of 40-plus awards that have been presented to Too Slim and The Taildraggers. That would include reader's polls and Blues Society awards for: "Best Guitar Player,""Best Slide Guitar Player,""Best Band,"" Best Bass Player,"" Best Drummer,""Best Album" and "Best Songwriter." We are proud of that accomplishment.
I really like The Fortune Teller and am very proud of that recording. We received many good reviews on the album in the US and Europe.
I think we raised the bar on Free Your Mind. I am excited for its release on March 17th. People can check out all things Too Slim and The Taildraggers at our website.
AAJ: Music aside, I understand that you found a sauce you liked so much that you bought the company. Tell me about Essie's South American Sauce, and this newly acquired company of yours. How did you find and buy this company?
TL: Essie's South American Style Sauce is a meat marinade. The sauce was developed by Esther and Barry Davis who are my wife Nancy's mother and father. They owned a hotel and restaurant in Mandan, North Dakota called the Seven Seas. They had an item on the menu called the South American Steak. It was a very popular item and the sauce was the key ingredient.
Esther and Barry were very interesting people. Barry was a fabulous jazz pianist, a child prodigy and he toured in his younger years with big bands and his own trio.
Esther was a very savvy business woman who was involved in the North Dakota legislature and was a television star. She was Miss Esther on the kids TV show, Romper Room.
Too Slim and The Taildraggers
l:r: Tim "Too Slim" Langford, Tommy Cook, Dave "New Guy" Nordstrom
Esther began marketing the sauce in the '80s and it is a popular grocery item in the Midwest. Esther is retired now, and Nancy and I thought that Essie's was such a good product we wanted to make sure it did not just go away. Esther offered to sell the company to Nancy and I in 2007. We are now trying to expand the company to a national level.
It is a fabulous product and tastes great on all kinds of meat, poultry, fish, and tofu, etc. It is also gluten free. People can check out how to use the product on the website, and you can also buy it on Amazon. So, as you can see, it has a nice family lineage and interesting story, and Nancy and I believe that the world needs to know about this fabulous product.
Read a more in-depth story on Essie's here.
Too Slim and The Taildraggers, Free Your Mind (Underworld Records, 2009)
Too Slim and The Taildraggers, The Fortune Teller (Underworld Records, 2007)
Too Slim and The Taildraggers, Tales of Sin and Redemption (Underworld Records, 2003)