C A T S Q U I R R E L
S O L O B L U E S
"BLUES WHAT AM"
vernOn - baLaaguer--kid - fdntanaLs - mOnge
dixiefrog records 2023
release date 10/06/2023
p l o s i o n
recdrded at sputnik studid seviLLa spain
between 9TH and 12th may 2022
(Bios by Mike Vernon)
MIKE VERNON MBE [born in 1944], currently celebrating 61 years in the Music Industry, is now looking forward to launching a new project – CAT SQUIRREL. “I feel as if I have now gone around in a full circle. I am back where I was in the late 1950s/early 1960s – digging into the archives of the Blues Masters – and enjoying every minute. I’ve been writing a lot of new songs with guitarist Kid Carlos; my voice is getting stronger and has substantially matured over the last few years and I am determined to make use of it – I’m ready!”
Most of Mike’s career – as a Producer – has been focused on The Blues – he’s worked with Champion Jack Dupree, Eddie Boyd, Buddy Guy, Otis Spann and Muddy Waters; John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (with Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor); Savoy Brown, Ten Years After, Fleetwood Mac, Chicken Shack with Christine McVie; Climax Blues Band, Dr.Feelgood, George ‘Harmonica’ Smith with Bacon Fat; Jimmy Witherspoon, Freddie King, Lightnin’ Slim, Kandye Cane, Jerry ‘Boogie’ McCain, Bo Diddley with Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson, Jimmie Vaughan, Billy Boy Arnold, Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Johnnie Johnson and Richie Sambora; Lazy Lester, Sherman Robertson, Oli Brown, Laurence Jones and Sari Schorr – the list is almost endless! And not forgetting the substantial list of non-blues product that included David Bowie, Bloodstone, Olympic Runners, Rocky Sharpe & The Replays, Edwin Starr, Level 42, Roachford, Roger Chapman, Six Was Nine, Danza Invisible and Los Secretos. Mike also cut four albums under his own name as the featured vocalist. The first  for his own Blue Horizon label – “Bring It Back Home” – featured Rory Gallagher and Paul Kossoff; the second  for the New York based Sire Records – “Moment of Madness” – that featured, amongst others, Mitch Mitchell [Jimi Hendrix], Ric Lee and Leo Lyons [Ten Years After], Pete Wingfield, Bruce Rowland [Grease Band] and Joe Jammer. The third album “Just A Little Bit”  recorded in Andalucia, Spain for Cambaya featured Los Garcia – augmented by the outstanding wizardry of pianist Juan Ramon Veredas – along with a young and highly talented guitarist by the name of Kid Carlos. Three years later  Mike was back in the Studio with The Mighty Combo putting the finishing touches to “Beyond the Blue Horizon” – for Manhaton Records – featuring, once again, Kid Carlos. But all of that happened in the past – so let’s get back to dealing with the present!
“I am now totally re-energised both mentally and physically and convinced that this project with Cat Squirrel hits all the spots” says the soon-to-be octogenarian. “Following on from The Mighty Combo adventure I found the need to get back to my teenage years when my Blues ‘roots’ idols were Big Bill Broonzy, Muddy Waters, Little Walter and John Lee Hooker. So inspirational!”
MINGO BALAGUER [born in 1957] has been a stalwart of the Spanish Blues scene for some four decades and counts James Cotton, Little Walter, George ‘Harmonica’ Smith, Paul Butterfield, Walter Horton and Sonny Boy Williamson as his main influences. In 1986 the now legendary Caledonia Blues Band was formed by a group of Sevilla based musicians headed by Lolo Ortega; a short while later Mingo joined. In total, that very popular band, released 5 albums and were lucky enough to have worked alongside some of the ‘greats’ from the U.S. – Johnny Winter, Magic Slim, Charlie Musselwhite and Hubert Sumlin to name but four. With the Millennium on the horizon Mingo was feeling restless and looking for an opportunity to start up on a new project – enter The Blues Blasters – a six-piece band featuring Australian vocalist Brent Larkham, guitarist Quique Bonal, Alberto Miras on keyboards, Fernando Torres on bass, Xavi Reija drums and Mingo on harp. This band proved to be rather successful – they were signed to Big Bang (based in Granada) and their debut album “Keep the Blues Alive” did excellent business. In fact, on the back of that success the band were able to make a two-week tour on the East Coast of the U.S. highlighted by appearances at the Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. and at the Artscape in The University of Baltimore [July 2002]. Returning to Spain, Mingo – the now very well-known harmonicist – decided to depart from The Blues Blasters as he moved on to play with Blues Machine. Not long after that he ‘hooked up’ with guitarist Quique Bonal to form Mingo & The Blues Intruders with the help of Fernando Torres on bass and Juan de la Oliva on drums. This combo was to record three CDs in its lifetime – “Goin’ West” [March 2008] and two years later the Cambaya/Karonte release entitled “Fun to Visit” recorded ‘live’ at the Cambaya Blues Club in Antequera, Provincia de Malaga. The third outing – “Wild Wild Women” – was also released by Cambaya/Karonte in February 2013.
Since that time Mingo has participated in a number of other Blues projects – most notably two albums with Blues Train featuring guitarist Francisco Simon – released in 2017 and 2019. Finally, in 2020, Mingo released is first solo album – “Blue Shadow” – accompanied by Pablo Sanpa and Kid Carlos on guitars; Paul San Martin keyboards; Alain Sancho saxes; Oriol Fontanals on bass and Guillaume Destarac drums. To date Mingo has released 17 albums and has had the privilege of playing alongside Kenny Neal, Raimundo Amador, Bobby Radcliffe, Miguel Rios, Carey Bell, Jerry Portnoy, Otis Grand and Lurrie Bell. He is also well travelled – carrying his harps and amp to play at large and small Festivals in France, Germany, Bulgaria, Luxembourg, Georgia, Indonesia and the U.S. Most recently his current ‘road’ band Mingo, Sanpa & Barez Bros. was awarded the Third Place Prize at The European Blues Challenge 2022 in Malmo, Sweden.
Mike Vernon comments: “I think it’s true to say that Mingo’s considerable reputation goes before him – he is highly respected as a harmonicist and vocalist in his homeland. Do you think he might be interested in becoming a member of Cat Squirrel?” Mike enquired of Carlos. “Of course – ask him!” was his reply. Mike did so – and Mingo replied: “Of course!” Let the man himself have the last word: “Who would have thought that I would not only meet one of the people I have admired the most in the ‘music world’ but that I would also have the opportunity to work with him. Well, that dream has now come true!”
KID CARLOS [born in 1988] was introduced to Mike Vernon some eight years ago when he guested on Mike’s solo album “Just A Little Bit” – the beginning of an excellent working relationship. Encouraged by his father – a huge Blues fan – Carlos began playing guitar at the tender age of twelve and is totally self-taught. Born and raised in the small town of Guillena (Sevilla Province, Spain) the young teenager soon found himself playing gigs with a local band billed as Cotton Factory. Carlos’s confidence coupled with his undeniable talent helped him to gain an enormous amount of experience during the following few years. He hooked up with an American bassist/vocalist by the name of Bob Grove who led the band Black Jack Blues – a unit that became quite popular all over the Estados de Andalucia. Those teenage years were spent honing his craft as a guitarist and as he says: “You never stop learning!”
As time passed by and still with that parental encouragement ongoing in the background, Carlos had the good fortune to meet up with a number of other experienced and popular touring (mostly) American Blues musicians – the likes of Kirk Fletcher, Carvin Jones, Monster Mike Welch, Sugar Ray Norcia and Otis Grand. Finally, in 2007 – and still only a teenager – Carlos founded the Kid Carlos Blues Band featuring Jose Maria Pardo, Chechu Sierra and the Italian drummer Stefano Di Rubbo. The following years would see the popularity of Carlos’s Blues Band grow and naturally enough the decision was taken to record their own CD – “Talkin’ ‘bout the Blues” – with all original material! It would be some seven years later  when Carlos and Stefano looked to reform the line-up as bassist Raul ‘Lalu’ Cordon and vocalist Txako Jones joined the unit that would become Kid Carlos Band. A few years later  the Kid Carlos Band recorded their first album entitled “Cannonball” – a tribute to the Texan Blues ‘master’ Freddie King [Cambaya Records]. The band line-up was augmented for that recording by the appearance of keyboardist Alvaro Gandul and Mike Vernon as a guest vocalist on two songs – one of which was a ‘cover’ written by Vernon and originally recorded by Freddie King himself . Recently  Kid Carlos & Quique Bonal have self-produced an album of instrumentals entitled “Last Man Standing” that shows their joint guitar knowledge and mastery of their chosen instrument – blues, jazz, swing, country, ragtime and western swing – all those styles together!
Carlos has this to say: “It is an honour for me to be part of this exciting new project working alongside two legends of the Blues world. Mike Vernon produced many of the albums that I listened to when learning to play the Blues and, at that time, I could never have imagined that years later I would find myself actively working with him as part of Cat Squirrel. And then the legendary Spanish Blues harmonicist Mingo Balaguer – for me the best in my homeland. As a child I would go to see and listen to his concerts – the experience was scintillating; and now we are the best of friends and Blues companions. It has also been a pleasure to work with Pascual and Oriol in the studio – their high levels of musicianship permeates the whole of our debut album – a truly exquisite rhythmic base!”