Thursday, 28 September 2023

Music Planet Earth calling Lake County


The demographic page at the Lake County Web site estimates the 2005 population to be 65,147 people. Roughly the size of a small California city. But by my best guesstimate, Lake County has more world-class musicians layin' it down per capita than any California county. What follows is my assessment of some of the great players who live and work here.


Bill Noteman & The Rockets
Currently, Bill Noteman and the Rockets are enjoying a huge resurgence as the #1 jump blues party band in the quad-county area of Lake, Mendocino, Napa and Sonoma counties. The band was founded in 1983 by harmonica ace Bill Noteman, guitarist Larry "Mojo" Platz, bassist Dave Falco, keyboardist Dave Neft and drummer Robbie All. With the development of their hybrid blend of Chicago Blues and West Coast Jump, their star ascended rapidly. Within a year they were opening for Elvin Bishop, Commander Cody & The Lost Planet Airmen and Mark Hummel & The Blues Survivors at Northern California venues like the Cotati Cabaret, The Caspar Inn and Konocti Harbor Resort & Spa. They were a huge favorite at the Hopland Brewery.

On the first go-round the band enjoyed their strongest period between 1983 and 1986. They continued to gig occasionally from 1986-1990. At that time, Bill Noteman moved out of the area; however, the band never officially "broke up." Guitarist Platz recalls an inside joke that inferred that the Rockets had more reunion shows than the Who.

Platz, Neft and Falco spent most of the 90s in a band called Blue Haze while Bill Noteman spent 12 years with the Ritchie Baron Band in addition to side jobs with Elvin Bishop, Sonny Rhodes, Johnny Nitro, Luther Tucker, Annie Sampson and Scott Joss.

In 2004 the guys got together for two gigs in Lake County. The response was so big, it was if they'd never stopped. This year, with so much positive response, Bill Noteman decided the time was ripe for a CD release.

"We wanted to capture the raw essence, energy and drive of Bill Noteman & The Rockets. I think we succeeded in making a record that legitimizes our legacy."

They continue to roll - working most weekends of every month, with more work each year. No small feat for any band. In July of this year, they closed the Cobb Mountain Jazz & Blues Festival, sharing the bill with the legendary Sugar Pie DeSanto. On Dec. 29 and 30, they'll be opening for B.B. King at Konocti Harbor Spa & Resort.

Recently, Bill Noteman was spotted at a benefit for his blues cohort, Sugar Pie DeSanto, at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco, further evidence of his commitment to the blues. Sugar Pie recently suffered the tragedy of losing all her earthly possessions, including her husband Jesse Davis, in a three-alarm apartment fire in Oakland.

Noteman told this writer he was proud to represent the Blues fraternity from the other side of the microphone, as a fan and supporter of a great artist who is going through a rough period.

Meanwhile, Cream of the Crop, the Bill Noteman & The Rockets CD, is riding high, receiving great reviews and airplay on more than 30 radio stations globally. For the latest on the group, visit

Twice As Good
Pomo/Elam Tribal Elder Rich Steward says Twice As Good, the blues group he fronts with his son Paul, is ready to take on the world.

"We have a lot of fans in Lake County who follow us as far as Southern California and Arizona. We started here in Lake County and we owe a lot to 'em. This is our home and we'll keep coming back to thank all the fans who have supported us and encouraged us to keep going. We're not here as much as we'd like to be as we get a lot of bookings out of the area, but we do make a special effort at the risk of canceling or not taking shows to play in Lake County."

Twice As Good has evolved out the vision of Rich Steward who was born in Lake County. He is a self-taught musician who played in many bands in his career. He had actually "retired" from the music grind to raise a family. A relative gave him a guitar when his son Paul was a teenager. Father showed son a few chords and stage theory with the sage advice: "You learn the rest."

Paul caught fire with it. He began an intense study of blues, including history, the major players as well as the obscure. From crafting licks from the likes of B.B. King and Wayne Bennett (guitarist for Bobby Blue Bland), Paul became a great player in a relatively short while. In high school jazz band his prowess earned him a music scholarship to the University of Nevada, Reno. Father and son moved to Reno with the hope of cracking the music scene while Paul was a student. Interestingly enough, Reno's loungey music scene was not the right vibe for the high-energy swing blues they were developing.

They returned to Northern California, where Paul continues to study at Santa Rosa Junior College. The Stewards decided to name their band Twice As Good to reflects their determination to rise to the top of the music game even if it means working twice as hard, refusing to accept failure en route to the goal.

Twice As Good has released two CD's to critical acclaim. The self-titled debut album, released in January 2005 features eight tunes all written by Paul and Rich Steward. Their second album, Cover To Cover, features Twice As Good treatments of material originally recorded by Jimmy Reed, T-Bone Walker, Howling Wolf, Etta James, Santana and others. These CD's are smokingly diverse, true to the blues genre, simply great Lake County music. Even blues legend Charlie Musselwhite says," We were knocked out at how good you all sounded. Good real deal blues." Musselwhite in fact is so intrigued, there are plans for a collaboration of some type in the near future. Stay tuned. Visit the Twice As Good Web site,, for updates on their rising star.

Rob Watson
What the heck is James Brown's guitar player doing living in Lake County? "Well," Rob Watson says of his move here, "the peaceful simplicity of life here was the primary factor." Watson was the music director of the Konocti Blues Cafe, the very popular music venue that was Lake County's best non-kept secret for two years before its unfortunate closure earlier this year.

During his tenure at the Konocti Blues Cafe, Watson brought an all-star cast to the stage. Grammy winning keyboardist Rodney Franklin, Sly & The Family Stone alum Rusty Allen, Miles Davis guitarist Barry Finnerty, Frankie Beverly and Maze drummer Billy Johnson, session player and boyhood chum Robert Reason and many more acclaimed players, all of whom augmented the sound of blues diva Bettie Mae Fikes.

Robert Watson was born in Vallejo in the infamous Crest neighborhood. He started playing guitar at a young age and before manhood had played in several working bands.

At the age of 18 he landed a gig with Sylvester's former backup singers, Two Tons Of Fun (who later changed their name to the Weather Girls). At this point, Watson relates, he knew he was on to something. He vigorously pursued music, working the nightclub circuit, the tour circuit and became and in-demand session player. He has worked with many greats, including Joe Sample of the Crusaders and Blues great Joe Louis Walker.

During Watson's tenure at Konocti Blues Cafe he brought in alto sax warbler Jeff Watkins of the James Brown band. Coincidentally, the godfather of soul was rehearsing his band in San Francisco. Now, if one works for Mr. James Brown, one must understand that he has rigid rules regarding band conduct. Two are everyone is addressed as Mr. and no jeans are allowed at rehearsal. For some strange reason Rob Watson's predecessor suddenly refused to adhere to those rules. On Jeff Watkins suggestion, Rob Watson auditioned for the gig and upon hearing Watson, soul brother #1 exclaimed, "That's how my music is supposed to be played."

Rob Watson just returned from Europe with Mr. Brown and will be departing for an east coast swing after Christmas. While here, he is hard at work on a solo CD project, slated for release in 2007.

Robert Reason
Robert Reason is a music producer/writer and musician who also hails from the Crest in Vallejo and is currently living in Lake County. He has been a professional since the age of 15. After a stint in the military, Robert returned stateside to go on tour with the legendary funk band, Confunkshun. Since that time he has worked with Joe Louis Walker, Ziggy Modaleski, Larry Carlton and Rodney Franklin. He has shared venues with Atlantic Starr, Tower Of Power, The Barkays, The Ohio Players and many more.

Mr. Reason has done recording projects with and for MC Hammer, Felton Pilate of Confunkshun, Lenny Williams of Tower Of Power, and he wrote a Top 10 hit for Club Neveau. He was a frequent player at the Konocti Blues Cafe. Currently he is working on a jazz CD, doing gospel/inspirational production work, video conferencing and elementary school music workshops.

A great player of similar modesty, Robert Reason recently turned down a job with Ike Turner, Tito Jackson and Joe Louis Walker to continue doing what he is doing in Lake County. How many folks can include that in their resume?

Andre Williams
Entertainer, entrepreneur, drummer, vocalist, producer, songwriter, the hat rack of Mr. Andre Williams is full. San Francisco born, Andre summered here as a child with his family. At the age of about 5, after hearing James Brown and Stevie Wonder, Andre asked his supportive parents for the proverbial drum set and hasn't missed a beat since.

Williams did his first professional job at age 13 as a drummer/vocalist in San Francisco for the Cherry record label. At the age of 21 he joined a group called Cold Fire and was signed to Capitol Records. The group toured Japan and opened for several major groups including Tower Of Power and The Commodores. Eventually, after returning stateside, Williams struck a solo deal with Fantasy Records of Berkeley. He became a staff writer and worked with artists like Dorothy Moore, The Spinners, The Dramatics and Lenny Williams. He did many "scratch vocals" or demo records of material for those acts during his Fantasy tenure. Starting in 1991, Williams did the first of several world tours with MC Hammer. Hammer heard Andre's work and has utilized him ever since. In the interim, Andre Williams has performed on shows with The Whispers, Howard Hewitt, Will Downing, the Average White Band, Jodeci, TLC and Boyz To Men. He currently has songwriting credits on three songs featured on the Whispers new CD, For Your Ears Only. When asked about the high point of his career thus far, Williams says touring with Hammer at his peak was undoubtedly the epitome of his career. There is no comparison when working with an artist of that magnitude.

Andre also is very active as a Lake County businessman. He owns two restaurants, Andre's Barbeque and Hot Rods. He also owns KMOB, 100.3 FM radio in Clearlake. He sees the radio station as an opportunity to help other artists acquire that much-coveted airplay that many large stations will not yield. In 2007 Williams plans to re-enter the video arena. He actually was the creator of a cable TV show that aired on Lake County's channel 20. After Christmas, Williams and Hammer will be shooting a music video for Hammer's next CD. Subsequently, production will begin on a sitcom to be shot in Lake County, with MC Hammer as a main character. Later in 2007, Williams will release a solo CD on Hammer's label, in conjunction with iTunes. For Andre Williams, 2007 could be his biggest year yet.

There are many more great musicians in Lake County that we wish to acknowledge. Former Star of Lake County, Tom Aiken, music teacher at Kelseyville High, very instrumental in the development of young lion (and Grammy winner) Matt Rothstein, is one. There's also Jack Tatum and Easy Andrews whose resumes are certainly equal to those we've mentioned today. It is our aim at Lake County News to keep you informed on all things musical - not just the genres mentioned today. We encourage any working musician to forward their future engagements to us two weeks in advance for inclusion in our community music calendar.


E-mail Thurman Watts at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..




Upcoming Calendar

09.28.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
09.30.2023 9:00 am - 5:00 pm
Kelseyville Pear Festival
09.30.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
10.01.2023 1:00 pm - 5:00 pm
Ron Green Memorial Benefit Concert
10.05.2023 7:30 am - 8:30 am
Rotary Club of Middletown
Middletown Art Center
10.06.2023 7:00 pm - 9:30 pm
David Arkenstone & Friends in concert
10.07.2023 9:00 am - 11:00 am
Sponsoring Survivorship Breast Cancer Run & Walk
10.07.2023 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
Columbus Day

Mini Calendar



Award winning journalism on the shores of Clear Lake. 



Enter your email here to make sure you get the daily headlines.

You'll receive one daily headline email and breaking news alerts.
No spam.