Official Website of Geno Skaggs!
Geno Skaggs & me in the background- 1970
How it Began...
Geno Skaggs (my Dad) grew up in Chicago, in the Taylor Street neighborhood, which was all Italian at the time. His real name was Chester Eugene Skaggs. His childhood friend, Boz Scaggs would later go on to the big-time, and Geno would be close behind, or rather, on his way to making his own trail. He had a rough childhood. When he was only five years old, his father left his mom. She would later remarry, but the new dad never liked Geno and rejected him because he was not his "real" son. Geno never forgave his Mom for not sticking up for him during all the abuse he suffered from his evil step-dad. His mom and her new hubby had two more sons, Vince and joe Rossetti, who grew up to be musicians too. In fact, they were playing in bands before Geno.
(Note- If you right-click on the images, copy the web address, then paste that into your browser, you can see all the records close enough to read and check out all the pics much larger.)
When he was fourteen, he moved out of his house and into his car. He got a girl pregnant at that age, but quickly broke up with her and never knew the kid. When he was seventeen, he met a girl named Marie. They had three boys- Ronald, Dan and Kenneth (I think). He broke up with her and met my mom, Beverly when he was twenty. They had three kids together- Patricia, Kenneth (me) and Maynard (who changed his name to Eddie). Geno stayed with my mom until December of 1972. I was twelve and he was thirty-five when they broke up (the first time). He was always a great Dad to me, taught me how to play guitar and bass, right from wrong, all that good stuff.
Around 1963, after working as an exterminator for about a month, when Geno was about twenty-six, he started playing bass seriously. His brothers taught him a few licks and let him play a few weddings and such. But that wasn't his way of making music. He quickly found the Chicago Blues Scene. In those days, there were a lot of blues clubs in Chicago and they all had open-mic nights. Geno frequented these places and quickly built a reputation as an all-around bass player who could play any blues song with the best of them. He bought an Ampeg amp for $50 at a pawnshop and a Fender Precision Bass, which would be his working equipment for the rest of his life (not counting the many guitars he had over the years).
Chicago Blues, at the time, was known for its electric sound and heavy rolling bass, and Geno Skaggs was probably the leading bass pioneer in that era. Check out this Wikipedia article. It doesn't mention him personally, but then, it doesn't mention any bass player at all. If it did, his name would be at the top of the list. But it does mention just about everybody that Geno played with and knew at the time. Some of the blues players in that circle of friends included Big Walter Horton, Bo Diddly, Buddy Guy, Charlie Musselwhite, Earl Hooker, Johnny Guitar Watson, Elmore James, Freddie King, Houndog Taylor, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Cotton, Coco Taylor, Little Walter, Eddie Taylor, BB King Jr., Lonnie Brooks, Mike Bloomfield, Muddy Waters, Otis Rush, Paul Butterfield, John Lee Hooker, Freddie Roulette, Boz Scaggs, Twist Turner, Willie Pinetop Perkins, Luther Tucker, Elvin Bishop and more. Geno has played with all of these people and even more that I can't remember.
The Recording Started...
Around 1966, Geno was jamming with some fellow bluesmen one night, when Earl Hooker asked him to sit in on a recording. He wound up recording about six records with Earl over the next few years. I remember one day, I was about eight years old, I went with them to the studio on the south side of Chicago to record Earl Hookers "Hooker and Steve" record. I had a lot of fun that day. I remember on the way there, we were driving in Earl's Cadillac, when Earl said "tell me where to turn Geno, you know I can't read." And Geno replied, "it's 48th street. You can read numbers can't you?" I remember being surprised that a grown man couldn't read. I could, and I was only eight.
Well, Geno experienced one of his high points of his career that day. He wrote and recorded one of his songs on Earl Hookers record- "Im Your Main Man". I also remember Steve (Stephen) Miller on the piano. He was a very cool guy and sung a very cool song too- "New Riviera", which was my favorite song on the record at the time. Even at the young age of eight, I was very impressed with earl Hooker's guitar playing, his smile and good nature. He was a very cool guy. Geno would go on to record about five albums with Earl Hooker within just a few years. On just about every record he was on, they almost always mispell his name Gino or Scaggs.
In 1968, Earl Hooker and Geno Skaggs both got tuberculosis. Geno spent six months in a sanitarium and recovered. I remember him sneaking out and jumping the fence to spend some time with us when he wasn't supposed to leave. Sadly, a year or two later, Earl Hooker died. But to Geno's advantage, his cousin John Lee Hooker happened to be needing a bass player. So, Geno became John Lee's bass player and went on to record about ten albums with him.
Going to California...
John Lee Hookers Coast to Coast Blues Band 1970 (L-R, Geno Skaggs, Luther Tucker, Ken Swank driving, Freddy Roulette on right, I don't know the two on top, one could be Paul Wood.)
When I was nine years old, in 1969, Geno was about thirty-two, he went to California to record with Earl Hooker and John Lee Hooker, and, went on tour with the Hookers and Ike Turner. I really missed him. The day he got back, we went to pick him up at O'Hare Airport. We all gave him a big hug and on the way home he told us about all the famous people he met and jammed with, how he flew several planes a day on a few of those days, and, how we were going to be moving to California. I gave my beloved bike away to a neighbor kid I never liked, because it wouldn't fit in the car. All we took with us was what would fit into our 1964 Chevy station wagon, and with Geno, his wife, three kids and a dog, that wasn't much.
On the way to California, we had a flat tire in the middle of Nebraska. We tried to change it but didn't have a lugwrench. The only place within eyesight was a cemetery, so me and Dad walked over there and broke the shed open. We found a lugwrench! We spent the 4th of July 1969 in Nevada and arrived in San Francisco on July 5th.
I remember we had to stop at some motel so Dad could talk to Little Richard. Us kids were very excited to meet him because of course, he was already a huge star. But Dad made us wait in the still loaded car. We watched him walk up to the door and talk for a minute, then Little Richard stuck his head out and waved to us!
We moved into a dumpy little one-room hotel on Broadway Street in San Francisco, about two blocks east of Columbus. It was right above a nightclub where Ike and Tina Turner were playing regularly. Sometimes Geno would sit in with them. We had a secret stairway that we knew of, since we lived there, which led right to the back-stage area. So, one night us three kids were back there, peeking through the backdrop curtain, watching Ike and Tina play, along with our Dad. That was pretty exciting too because they were huge at the time. Tina was all over the stage too. It was awesome watching their backs as they performed.
Playing in San Francisco...
In those days, we went to a lot of their shows. Geno would always sing the first set. Then he would introduce John Lee Hooker. I was always proud of him. He seemed to be the band leader, giving cues to everyone and singing all the songs before John came out. We used to go to John Lee's house a lot back then too. He had a very nice house in Oakland Hills. One night, when I was about eleven, they were there partying and jamming, Luther Tucker let me play his guitar in front of everybody there. I did some "What'd I Say" and got the first applause of my life.
He continued to play for John Lee Hooker and we got to go to some really huge arenas. Endless Boogie was a huge success so they were selling out everywhere. They played the Berkeley Coliseum one day when I was about ten or eleven. That was the day I finally figured out what pot was. I remember telling some hippies who were smoking, that, that was my Dad up there. They didn't believe me, but one of them tried to pass me a joint. Another one stopped him and said it was bad for me.
Around 1970, there was a huge concert in Golden Gate Park. I think it was called "The Yippies are Coming", at least that's what all the memorabilia said on it. There, I met Carlos Santana personally, who seemed to be good friend of my Dad's.