Smokehouse to RocK Celebration

Six-piece rock and rhythm-and-blues band to headline 'Raven Brings Box of Delight' on May 31 at the National Guard Armory

Posted: Thursday, May 25, 2006

Juneau bass player Archie Cavanaugh and Angoon guitarist Walter Jack have played together in scores of combinations over the last 25 years, but Smokehouse - their current band - has turned out to be their most consistent incarnation.

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The group formed a little more than four years ago with another longtime friend, Ben Jackson. He recently retired from the music scene, but Smokehouse reformed this year after a two-year hiatus and played in late March during the championship dance for the 60th annual Juneau Lions Club Gold Medal Basketball Tournament. About 700 people showed up.

Smokehouse - with drummer Donnie Wells, keyboard player Doug Badilla, co-guitarist Mike Tamer and guest vocalist Salissa Cooper - will headline "Raven Brings Box of Delight," a three-hour, pre-Celebration gala of music and theater at 8 p.m. Wednesday, May 31 at the National Guard Armory.

The night will begin with a presentation of Ishmael Hope's "Gunakadeit: The Sea Monster," an adaptation of a Tlingit story told to John Swanton in 1904. Little Big Band, a Native American funk, rock and performance-art band led by Seattle glass artist Preston Singletary, will play 9-10 p.m. For more on that group, check out the Empire's Celebration section in the Sunday, May 28, edition.

Smokehouse will also perform a Beatles tribute for the June 23 Concert in the Park at Marine Park, and will play June 30 during a kickoff dance to the July 4 festivities.

The band has about 18 or 19 songs in order for its 90-minute set at the Armory. But their complete 70-song set list includes: The Beatles, Kelly Clarkston, Los Lonely Boys, Jennifer Lopez, Stevie Ray Vaughan, The Temptations, Tony Toni Tone, AC/DC, and assorted modern, classic and old-time rock and rhythm-and-blues with four-part harmonies.

"It reminds me of the garlic and ginger in pork adobo," Cavanaugh said. "It adds a lot of flavor.

"It's really cool to play with friends and musicians that have stuck together this long," he said. "When people get along and have fun at what they do and have good personalities, it contributes to a real good atmosphere."

Cooper, 22, a Juneau singer originally from Oahu, Hawaii, will be featured in five or six songs. This will be her first show with the group. Badilla used to play in a band with her dad, Larry.

In Juneau, Cooper has performed with gospel choirs and sung the national anthem at various events. She was a tribe member in Perseverance Theatre's recent production of "Hair" and had two solos: "Walking in Space" and "Easy to be Hard."

"We're very honored to have her in the band," Cavanaugh said. "It kicks us up five more notches."

"We're able to blend well with each other," Cooper said. "Of course they're a little older than I am, and they go way back with different songs. But they're very open to allowing me to sing whatever songs I want to sing."

Cavanaugh has been playing bass since he was a seventh-grader in Kake. He and his wife, Melinda, have split time between Juneau and the Seattle area for most of the last 30 years.

In the 1970s and 1980s, he lived in Seattle and played with about seven bands, trying to find "the one diamond in the sky combination." Sitting around a bar's pool table one day in 1979, he happened to meet the sister of Pete Depoe, original drummer of the 1970s rock band Redbone.

Cavanaugh extended an invitation for Depoe to come by his band's rehearsal at the Cornish School of Dance Music and Drama. Much to his surprise, DiPoe showed up and sat in on the drums.

"We already knew he was the man, simply because of how he sat," Cavanaugh said. "Within the first minute of him flying on the drums and the cymbal, he was causing reverberic notations simulating exploding diamonds. That was the percussion I was looking for."

Depoe brought in Redbone lead guitarist Tony Bellamy and the trio, with saxophonist Jim Pepper and a huge cast of session players, spent almost two years recording out of 24-track PacWest studio in Redmond, Wash. "Black and White Raven" was mastered in Los Angeles with help from Redbone songwriter Lolly Vegas and released in 1981.

• what: "raven brings box of delight," with smokehouse, a six-piece rock and rhythm-and-blues band from juneau; little big band, an eight-piece funk, rock and performance-art group from seattle; and "gunakadeit: the sea monster," a new play by ishmael hope.

• when: 8 p.m. wednesday, may 31

• where: national guard armory

• admission: $15

• extra: for more on little big band, and upcoming celebration-related events, refer to the empire's special section in the sunday, may 28 edition or visit

"My style of writing, for whatever reason, was very similar to the Latino percussion soulful sound that Tony grew up with in Los Angeles, and with the type of funk music that Pete Depoe liked to play," Cavanaugh said. "I'm going to make up my own word: It was epitomic," Cavanaugh said. "They were all atomic musicians, writer and readers."

The Tokyo-based label Vivid Sound distributed the album worldwide until its contract with Cavanaugh expired last year.

Jack played in Barrow and Fairbanks with a band called Harpoon in his earlier days. In Angoon, he's played in a band called Front Street.

Jack met Jackson during an impromptu jam in the early 1980s at the Sitka American Legion Tournament. Shortly later, Cavanaugh showed up in Juneau and the three formed their first band.

"We've been bros forever," Jack said of Cavanaugh. "His style is more of a jazz style, and that's the thing that helps out. With the major chords and the minor chords that I've been playing, he has some of the other chords - the missing parts that everybody has been looking for. We'll do whatever style there is that will get the people kicking up their heels."

Tamer, a fly-fishing and sport-fishing operator in town, moved to Juneau four years ago from Arizona. He's been playing guitar for about four decades. He grew up in the Midwest, where he spent years touring with rock and blues bands. He most recently played with Jack in Front Street at the 2005 Gold Medal dance and a New Year's Eve dance at the Alaska Native Brotherhood Hall.

"I'm pretty much a classic rock and blues kind of guy," Tamer said. "I think we shifted a little bit to accommodate some of that, but the guys are pretty versatile. We could play whatever we set out minds to."

• Korry Keeker can be reached at

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