Travelin’ Blues Man

By Andrew Gilhooley / 411

Australian Dave Hole is one mean blues slide guitar player.  So impressive are his talents that he is the only overseas artist signed to his US record company Alligator Records.  This Saturday, he plays at Moe’s Alley Blues Club on a nationwide tour to promote his latest album, “The Live One,” recorded in concert at venues in Perth, Australia, and Chicago.

Dave Hole was born in England, but immigrated to Australia with his family when he was a child.  As a teenager, he listened to bands such as the Rolling Stones and the Animals, who took their inspiration from the old blues masters.  Hole was led to the music of Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and Jimmy Reed, and fell in love with the blues.  Perth’s remote location meant that blues records were hard to come by, and performances by blues artists were even rarer, but Hole searched out recordings by Blind Lemon Jefferson, Robert Johnson and others.  By this time, he was learning to play guitar, and the albums became his teachers as he sat painstakingly learning the blues licks.

At age 16, Hole formed his first band, and at around this time discovered that guitarists like Muddy Waters and Elmore James achieved some of their sound using a bottleneck slide.  He bought one, but an injury to his little finger prevented him from wearing it in the usual fashion.  Undeterred, he fitted the slide over his index finger and played “upside down,” with his finger hanging over the guitar neck.  By the time his little finger had healed, Hole had already developed a slide style of his own and stuck with it.

From the mid-1970s through the 80s, Dave Hole and his band played steadily around Western Australia, but only twice visited the east coast to play the larger cities of Sydney and Melbourne.  In 1990, Hole self-financed his debut album, “Short Fuse Blues,” to sell to fans at his concerts.  Just for fun, he sent a copy of his album to Guitar Player magazine to see if they would review it.  The results were much more than he could have hoped for – the album got a rave review. Not only that, but in July 1991 the magazine ran a feature story on him.  When Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer heard the album and read the story, he decided to take a chance and sign Hole to his label.  “I usually like to work with artists who are constantly touring the US,” recalled Iglauer, “but love of the music overcame my good business sense.”

Iglauer’s decision was a wise one.  The praise from Guitar Player magazine was only the beginning, bringing Hole to international fame before he had even played a show in the United States.  This situation changed in 1993, when Hole embarked on his first American tour, a nine-week, 50-date visit to every major city in the country.  Since then, Hole has released six more albums on Alligator and toured all over the world.  With 35 years in the business under his belt, Dave Hole is still winning new fans.  See him on Saturday and you may well be one of them.

First published in “411”, The Salinas Californian, August 7, 2003

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