Interview with Pat Benny
South Bay area of
one of the country’s hippest places for live music.
Many well-known and established artists
make this their home.
It is also an often competitive arena
for a plethora of fine musicians who work hard to hold on to a
The Blues jam has always been a mainstay
here, and one of the most legendary jams was held at the old
Teahouse and hosted by The Chinese Blues All Stars.
Here is my conversation with the founder
and drummer for The Chinese Blues All Stars, Lenny G:
Well, Lenny, it’s always good to see
I was hoping you could take us
back to the days of the old Teahouse.
Can you tell me about the Teahouse?
Sure; it was 1996.
A good friend of mine, Tony Lopez, is
the one who told me to go down and talk to Aaron Song at the
Teahouse, which was a very small little place on the Crenshaw
side of the
Tony was a trumpet player, and he was
the one who really got the ball rolling, but he thought that I
would be better at organizing and putting together the sort of
thing that Erin
So, I went down there to meet Aaron and
he said, “Here’s what I want; I want to have music here.
I want a band, and I want to perform.”
He was an amateur singer and also played
harmonica, and he wanted to sit in.
Wow, to own a club and sit in with the band; that’s my dream!
Well, he says, “I also want to name
I said, sure; what do you want to call
it, and he says “The Chinese Blues All Stars.”
So, I figured the best way to start was
with my drums, of course, and I needed a keyboard player.
I figured we could go from there.
I found a player, whose name was Larry
He played great keyboard, was a good
singer and played harmonica.
He would use one of those racks, like
Bob Dylan used, to play harp and keyboard at the same time and
it was really cool.
We went along that way for, must
have been two years, until we had a little falling out.
The music was good, but we just had some
I was put in charge of the thing and he
had his own ideas, so we both decided to part ways and move on.
During that time, though, some people
started coming around and sitting in with us.
It was a casual blues jam.
So, by the time he left, we had a bass
player and a sax, and pretty soon we had a half dozen people
So, I knew that we needed a keyboard
So, by now, I had quite a list of
But it was very inconsistent; I’d use
one guy one week and another one, the next, and it was really
A friend of mine, a keyboardist that I’d
been using, Doug Lacy, he goes by the name, Doug Legacy.
He was good, but he just couldn’t be
there for every show, so he says, “I know this guy, he’s very
good and he’s just coming off the road.
I think he’s tired of doing the touring
thing, so he might be interested.
So I got a hold of him, and his name was
He liked what we were doing, and the
same guys started coming back, and the next thing you know,
we’ve got this huge, jam thing going, and it was really cool.
Now, it sounds to me like you put a
huge emphasis on having a keyboard…”
Erin was in a hurry to get
this going, and a keyboard player can sort of fill in places,
depending on who showed up.
For example, if there’s no bass player,
he can also play left handed bass.
But we had all these guys, by now, and
they were really good.
So, we had this great blues jam going.
So, it was intended to be what is now
called a pro jam?
Not really, because
Erin wanted to perform, and
Every week, he’d get up with us and do a
couple of songs.
So, we had five or six regulars, we had
a great time.
lasted about six years at the old Teahouse, and we were having a
The old Teahouse was really this cool
That’s true; the Teahouse is a
I can’t tell you the specifics,
because I really don’t know, but
Erin ended up moving the
club into the old Reel Inn, which was closed at the time and was
a much larger venue.
It was located just a few hundred
yards away on the PCH [Pacific
Coast Highway] side.
By this time, we had cut the band down,
because the same guys were showing up that I could count on,
plus all these guys were coming in to jam.
I’ll bet, as the years went by, you
had a lot of great musicians up on that stage.
We had a lot of good players; we had a
lot of bad players and a lot of in-between.
The shows were always different, because
we never turned anybody away, we didn’t discourage anybody.
I had a list, and it was all very
structured, and we had a lot of fun.
Erin was having a free barbeque
every Sunday, so there was the jam plus a free barbeque.
I’m aware that Vince Joy, who passed
away this year, was a part of the All Stars.
Yeah, he came in to the old Teahouse
to jam, and we liked him, because he played so well, and he
liked what we were doing, and he ended up in the band.
Besides playing so well, he was very
He was a pro, but he wasn’t on an ego
He was just a nice man.
So, the Teahouse closed its doors and
the party moved over to the
We were fortunate, because a lot of
the people, who patronized the Teahouse until it closed,
gravitated to the Runaway Bay.
They kept bugging Milton, who was the
owner at that time, to get The Chinese Blues All Stars.
They said, “We miss them; they’re a
great band and we’d love to have them over here.
So it was only about a month had passed
until we were playing there, every Sunday.
We should tell our readers that the
Runaway Bay has its own
history, as well.
known as Zina’s, has recently been given a new look.
Moving the stage really takes advantage
of the red brick wall.
The stage looks better, and the
beautiful bricks aren’t hiding behind the booths.
There’s been a change with the name
of the group, too.
I’ve decided, along with my friend and
bass player, Eric Williams, to change the name to The Lock
Eric and I have been working together
for seven or eight years.
Musically and socially, we lock
together, hence the name.
We get along well, and we just thought
it was time for a change.
We lost a band member, and we decided to
put The Chinese Blues All Stars name out to pasture.
That doesn’t mean we might not use it
again, but we just felt like we were headed in a new direction
and we needed a name to go along with it.
Now, the show I saw tonight, you
still had Joe Daneli on guitar.
is a great guitarist, who is capable of gearing his playing to
accompany anyone that gets onstage.
Every time I’ve watched your shows, I’m
always reminded of how well he can sing.
Joe’s a very talented musician.
We’ve been lucky to have him for so
So, for now, we say a fond adieu to
The Chinese Blues All Stars and begin a new era with The Lock
Eric Williams and I are the Lock
Brothers, and we’re going to be featuring some of the best
musicians in the South
Well, the South
more than its share of exceptional musicians.
It’s always nice to go out and hear
them, and it’s nice to know that the legend of The Teahouse
remains, and the heart and soul of The Chinese Blues All Stars
is still alive and well.
I want to ask about your web site.
I understand that you teach drums, as
Teaching is really my first priority.
I’ve been the drum instructor at
Marshall’s Music Store in Torrance for
I’m originally from Hartford,
and I came out here with a band with the hopes of making it,
like so many do, but things didn’t work out and they left.
I wanted to stay; I’d always wanted to
come to California, and I
was tired of depending on bands.
I like instructing, so the next thing
you know; well, it’s been twenty-five years.
I love teaching; it’s very fulfilling,
and I also do gigs whenever I can.
I know that you’re a great teacher,
because I’ve heard your two sons play, and they’re just
They are great drummers; I’m very
proud of both of them.
Well, they learned from one of the
finest drummers I’ve ever seen.
Thanks, again; I appreciate that.
Well, Lenny G, it’s been a pleasure
talking with you.
Our readers know that all they have to
do is click on the link below, and they can check out your site,
find show dates and see what’s going on with you and The Lock
Maybe, they’ve got a kid of their own
who’s driving them crazy, pounding on the coffee table…
Well, I can sure get him started in the
Lenny, good talkin’ to you.