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Blues and soul vocalist Curtis Salgado bounced onto the Northwest music scene in 1972. - Photo courtesy of Odaglas LLC

Curtis Salgado headlines at the Expo

Vocalist Curtis Salgado is at home with the blues. "I have a huge collection of music," Salgado says during a telephone interview from his home in Portland. "I'm surrounded by LPs and cassette tapes. Just before you called, I was listening to an old gospel record by the Staple Singers."

Salgado grew up listening to artists such as Mavis Staples, Count Basie, Fats Waller and Ray Charles.

"I lived with my folks at 2328 Roosevelt Boulevard in Eugene for 22 years," he says. "They were jazz enthusiasts. My dad loved piano players, and I looked up to him. We'd listen to music by singers like Dinah Washington and Anita O'Day."

Salgado bounced onto the Northwest music scene in 1972 with a band called Three-Fingered Jack, an event that preceded a six-year run with Robert Cray and his band.

Aside from his soulful vocals, Salgado is a fine blues harp player. In 1979, when John Belushi was in Eugene filming "Animal House," the actor caught Salgado's show, and later the two brainstormed what would become Belushi's and Dan Akroyd's Blues Brothers. The first Blues Brothers album is dedicated to Salgado.

Salgado left Portland in 1984 to front the Boston-based, Grammy-winning blues and swing band Roomful of Blues. He returned in 1987 and formed The Stilettos, toured nationally and recorded one of his early albums with the group.

Southern Oregon's Salgado fans go all the way back to when the vocalist performed in Ashland with Robert Cray at David Pinsky's nightclub, Brooklyn, and when Roomful of Blues and The Stilettos performed at Jazmin's on C Street.

"I used to play in Ashland about once a month," says Salgado. "Pinsky and I had a great relationship."

Salgado put his finishing touches on a new album a couple of months ago. The yet untitled collection will be released later this year.

"The new record is a soul album," says Salgado. "By soul, I mean the kind of music that I grew up with."

He wrote eight new songs and added tunes by Otis Redding, Bobby Womack, Frankie Lee Jones and Johnny "Guitar" Watson that fit seamlessly with his originals, he says.

"There's not a bad song on the record," says Salgado. "It'll make ya' dance, and there's a couple of nice ballads on it. It kicks ass."

Hear Salgado and his band play it live Saturday, July 23, in the Lithia Amphitheater at the Jackson County Expo in Central Point. Broadway Phil and the Shouters and David Pinsky and his Rhythm Kings will open the show. The music starts at 7 p.m.; gates open at 6.

Salgado will be joined by his band — guitarist Franck Goldwaser, bass player Tracy Arrington, drummer Brian Foxworth and keyboard player David Fleschner — at the fair.

"I've got a bad rhythm and blues band," says Salgado. "They're well-rehearsed and professional. Tracy and I have played together since the '90s, Franck is highly respected on the blues circuit and, I'd had my eye on Brian for a while before he joined the group.

"We do blues, soul, rock 'n' roll and funk," says Salgado. "Blues is about relationships and life, good and bad. It's about having a good time after work, having a bad day at work."

Salgado's new album and his 2008 "Clean Getaway" were recorded with Los Angeles-based session musicians.

"They've played with everyone and know the genre of adult-contemporary music," says Salgado. "It was like playing with a modern-day Booker T. and the MGs."

The session musicians fit with the concept for Salgado's new album.

"It's the kind of record that you danced to in your parents' rec room, with a hi-fi and a lava lamp."

Tickets cost $10 to $15 for reserved seats, $5 for lawn seating; fair admission is required. Call 541-447-8270 or see www.jcfairgrounds.com.

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