Blues guitarist Mike Quinby brings his new band to Ashland for a celebratory gig featuring members of his family. - Photo by Michelle Colin

A Quinby gumbo

Mike Quinby is no stranger to the music scene in Ashland. His first experience as a professional musician came at the age of 15 when he sat in with his father, Jim Quinby, and the band PJQ.

"I've also been a member of David Pinsky's band The Rhythm Kings once or twice," he says with a laugh.

Like his dad, Quinby also played piano, but turned to the guitar when he was 20 after he heard Stevie Ray Vaughan perform.

"I moved to the Bay Area right after graduating from Ashland High School," Quinby says. "I played the North Beach blues scene with guitarists like Tommy Castro and eventually began touring with Joe Lewis Walker. We worked in Europe for about two years, and we opened an international tour with Huey Lewis and the News in 1991."

On and off, Quinby and his players from San Francisco would stop in Ashland for gigs at Jazmin's, Alex's, the Rogue Brewery and O'Ryan's Irish Pub.

"I had a couple of different outfits of good players that I would bring up with me," he says. "Some of the best gigs were at the bandshell in Lithia Park during the Fourth of July celebration in Ashland."

Quinby returns to Ashland to perform at 9 p.m. Saturday, March 29, at Alex's Plaza Restaurant, 35 N. Main St.

"We're doing a lot of my original material, some new things, also Tower of Power and The Neville Brothers," Quinby says. "My dad will sit in, my sister Aly will be singing with us and Paul Schmeling of Ashland will be playing saxophone. It's my 42nd birthday, and it's going to be a total Quinby gumbo fest."

At another point in Quinby's career, he met The Neville Brothers when he and Walker opened a show kicking off a Louisiana Lottery party at the New Orleans Superdome.

"Bassist Nick Daniels III and drummer Mean Willie Green of the Nevilles appeared on my album in 1999," he says. "They also performed with me for CD release parties in San Francisco and Ashland."

The album is titled "Michael Quinn," which still brings endless grief to Quinby for not using his real last name.

"My dad still makes fun of me for that," he says. "Dad's been playing piano on Sunday nights at Alex's for 17 years. His Ashland bands also included one called Country Rain, and now he plays with vocalists Julia Roupp and Marcella Ruikis."

The younger Quinby sold 10,000 copies of his album, and it was well-received on the inside, he says. But no major label record deals were offered.

"So I moved away from the music business for about five years," he says.

He lived in Boston for awhile before returning to the West Coast and settling in Portland in 2004, and he's put together a new band that is better than ever, he says.

"We've been rehearsing for about six months now," Quinby says. "This is actually our first gig together."

The name of the new band is yet to come, but the lineup includes three other Portland transplants: bassist James Williams is from the Bay Area; drummer Eric Gold is a native of New Orleans who relocated to Portland after Hurricane Katrina's devastation; and keyboard player Chris Phillips hails from Chicago.

"New Orleans funk is really the core of our music," Quinby says. "And anyone who is a Stevie Ray Vaughan fan will appreciate what we do. It's very bluesy."

Quinby and his new lineup have plans for an independent recording that will be available later this year.

"When I recorded my album, the music business was all about getting signed by a major label," he says. "There are a lot of talented people out there now who are offering professional recording services.

"And I'm ready to get back on the ball."

Cover for the show at Alex's is $3. Call 482-8818.

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