Music News & Reviews

Much to see still in the California Mid-State Fair's final days

Alternative rock band The Spin Doctors, best known for their hits 'Two Princes' and 'Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,' play July 29.
Alternative rock band The Spin Doctors, best known for their hits 'Two Princes' and 'Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong,' play July 29.

Lady Antebellum was too busy. Charlie Musselwhite could only talk on a Saturday at 5 a.m. And the Spin Doctors could only offer up their drummer.

Needless to say, lining up interviews with acts appearing at the Mid-State Fair isn’t always easy. On the other hand, over its two-week run the fair is the hottest entertainment venue in the county. So we can’t let busy schedules prevent us from writing about it.

Due to the touring schedules of the performers, this year’s fair was heavily stacked the first week, with acts such as Kid Rock, Selena Gomez, Sugarland, Steve Miller and Maroon 5 performing. But the second week still features it share of big names. Here’s a rundown on some of the well-known acts that will appear in the next week.

Lady Antebellum (7:30 p.m. today, $40 to $70)

If you think Lady Antebellum is the name of a singer — a la Lady Gaga — then you’re probably not a country music fan.

But it’s hard to keep up with the rapid rise of this country band, which went from performing at dive bars in 2006 to becoming Grammy-winning headliners in just four years.

The band — which takes its name from the pre-Civil War antebellum period in the South — scored its first hit when adult contemporary artist Jim Brickman asked the group to perform on his single “Never Alone” in 2007. But they would score their own hit with “Love Don’t Live Here” later that year. Three years later, they were among country’s elite.

Little Boys Blue: Band member Charles Kelley is the brother of pop rock singer Josh Kelley. Growing up, the Kelly brothers were in a band together called Blue.

Song you know most: “Need You Now.” The song, describing a lonely person drunk-dialing an old flame, won four Grammy awards this year, including Song of the Year and Record of the Year.

Earl Klugh (7 p.m. Friday, opening for Chicago, $35)

A fan of Chet Atkins as a kid, Klugh had some pretty good guitar chops of his own, playing on a Yusef Lateef album when he was just 15. Also known for his contributions to George Benson’s work, Klugh become a solo act in the 1970s. Yet he’s also been a popular guitarist on other artists’ work, including Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Jimmy Buffett and Kenny Loggins.

American Idol: While a 13-year-old Klugh was inspired to play guitar after seeing Atkins on “The Perry Como Show,” he would someday appear on Atkins’s albums. And in 1978, Atkins reciprocated, appearing on Klugh’s album, “Magic In Your Eyes.”

Song you know most: “Living Inside Your Love.” The song originally appeared on Benson’s 1979 album of the same name, but was sampled years later by rapper Tupac Shakur on his single “Pain.”

George Thorogood (tonight, 6:30, free)

Thorogood, a bluesman who has recorded about 100 cover songs, is at it again with his new album “2120 South Michigan Avenue,” which includes covers of blues tunes by artists such as Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Howlin’ Wolf and Bo Diddley. It was a Diddley cover — “Who Do You Love” — that helped bring Thorogood fame in the late ’70s. Thorogood remained an important link to blues in the 1980s with both covers and originals.

No Bourbon, No Scotch, No Beer: While some of Thorogood’s best known songs entail lyrics about drinking, he told the Tribune in 2003 that he doesn’t drink anything harder than pineapple juice. “I drink constantly — I just don’t drink alcohol or anything with caffeine in it,” he said.

Song you know most: “Bad to the Bone.” This bad-ass Thorogood original is frequently used in movies, most notably a memorable scene in “Terminator 2” in which Arnold Schwarzenegger dons leather and steals a motorcycle.

Spin Doctors (6:30 p.m. Friday, free)

When the band first formed in the late ’80s, it was known as Trucking Company and featured singer/harmonica player John Popper. But Popper left his side project to dedicate more time to Blues Traveler, and Popper’s high school friend, Chris Barron, would become the lead singer of Trucking Company. After the band changed its name to the Spin Doctors, it would frequently perform double-bill gigs with Blues Traveler before declaring its independence with its hit album “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” in 1993.

Left speechless: One morning, after a show in 1999, Barron awoke in his Manhattan apartment to find that he could barely speak. He was afflicted with a rare acute form of vocal cord paralysis and was given only a 50-50 chance of regaining his voice — which he did before the band reunited in 2001.

Song you know most: “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong.” The band’s “Pocket Full of Kryptonite” album had actually been around for a year and a half before MTV and radio began playing this boppy pop melody, which contrasted with the angsty grunge rock that was popular at the time and became a hit.

Chicago (7 p.m. Friday, $35)

With its heavy brass section and a collection of soft rockers, Chicago was the leading U.S. singles-charting group in the 1970s and has scored a total of 21 top-10 hits. Formed as an experimental rock group based in Chicago’s DePaul University, the band was originally named the Chicago Transit Authority until the CTA threatened to sue. While singer Peter Cetera left in the mid-’80s, four original members remain, including singer Robert Lamm.

Elvis Connection: Cetera’s replacement in the ’80s, Jason Scheff, is the son of Jerry Scheff, a bass player who toured with Elvis for several years.Song you know most: “If You Leave Me Now.” While the band has several greatest hits, it’s most known for “If You Leave Me Now,” a Cetera-led tune that changed the group’s image to a ballad band. “For my money, it was a huge boon for what we do,” trumpet player Lee Loughnane told the Tribune in 2004. “It was another way of looking at our band.”

Charlie Musselwhite

To learn about Musselwhite’s life story, you only need to hear his 2010 album “The Well,” which details his battle with alcohol, his short stint behind bars and the tragic murder of his 93-year-old mother. Raised by his single mother in small-town Mississippi, the harmonica legend eventually wound up in Memphis, where he attended parties thrown by Elvis and sought out great bluesmen. Eventually, he wound up in Chicago, where he sat in with blues legends like Muddy Water, and later San Francisco.

The real Blues Brother: Actor Dan Aykroyd once told Musselwhite that he was inspired to create the Blues Brothers during his college days after seeing Musselwhite perform in Toronto.

Song you know most: “Suicide Blonde.” Musselwhite’s blues harp kicks off this top-10 hit by the Australian band INXS, giving the song its signature sound.