Origin: Princeton, New Jersey
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Blues Traveler is an American rock band formed in Princeton, New Jersey in 1987. Spanning a variety of genres including blues rock, psychedelic and folk rock, soul, and Southern rock Blues Traveler was considered a key part of the reemerging jam band scene of the 1990’s.
Blues Traveler is comprised of singer and harmonica player John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, drummer Brendan Hill, bassist Tad Kinchla, and keyboardist Ben Wilson. Kinchla and Wilson joined the band following the death of original bassist Bobby Sheehan in 1999.
Originating as high school garage band in Princeton, New Jersey in the mid-1980s when John Popper and Brendan Hill formed a group called The Establishment (later renamed Blues Band) the duo produced cassette tape demos containing original songs along with upbeat covers that included “Gloria” and “Battle Hymn of the Republic.” The fledgling twosome later added guitarist Kinchla and bassist Sheehan. In one of their jam sessions a black cat happened to be nearby and the band took this as a sign adopting the Black Cat as their mascot. Shortly thereafter the Blues Band changed their name to Blues Traveler taking the latter part from the name of the primary demon Gozer the Traveler in the Ghostbusters film.
Upon graduation from Princeton High School the quartet moved to New York and began playing gigs on the club circuit. One of the friends the group shared a New York apartment with was high school chum Chris Barron. Popper and Hill founded a second band; The Trucking Company which morphed into the Spin Doctors with Barron as their frontman. The two groups often shared the stage playing non-stop concerts of multiple sets. At one New York Blues Traveler performance they were discovered by an A&M Records talent scout and were signed by David Graham, son of concert promoter Bill Graham.
Blues Traveler released their self-titled debut album in 1990, with the song “But Anyway” attracting airplay on college radio stations. Blues Traveler broke mainstream with their fourth studio album four released in 1994 containing the Top 40 singles “Runaround” and “Hook.” The six times platinum best seller contained the single “Runaround” and went on to win the 1995 Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a duo or group.
As forerunners of the new wave of the 1990’s jam band revival Blues Traveler founded the H.O.R.D.E. festival as an alternative to others such as Lollapalooza, along with other bands such as Phish and Spin Doctors. The band played at Woodstock ’94 and as an opening act for the Rolling Stones. Blues Traveler also appeared on the 1995 season premiere of Saturday Night Live.
Blues Traveler is best known among fans for their improvisational live shows and has released several albums showcasing the strength of the band’s performances. These include the live albums Live from the Fall and What You and I Have Been Through.
Blues Traveler is renowned for encouraging fans to record and trade live performances. Recordings span from 1986 to the present day. Annually since 1994 excepting 1999 Blues Traveler headlines a show at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Colorado on Independence Day, July 4th. The band usually plays two consecutive nights and attracts fans from across the country. The band frequently debuts new songs and brings back older songs, fallen out of rotation.
In 2017 Blues Traveler celebrated its 30th anniversary with a U.S. tour. The band’s latest album is 2018’s Hurry Up & Hang Around.
Blues Traveler Discography
Blues Traveler (1990)
Travelers and Thieves (1991)
Save His Soul (1993)
Straight On till Morning (1997)
Truth Be Told (2003)
Cover Yourself (2007)
North Hollywood Shootout (2008)
Suzie Cracks the Whip (2012)
Blow Up the Moon (2015)
Hurry Up & Hang Around (2018)
Sacramento’s K-ZAP 93.3 FM plays Blues Travelers. All part of 50 years of Rock, Blues and More, 24-7 on our station’s stream at K-ZAP.ORG/LISTEN/