During the Persian Gulf War in 1990, local guitarist Don Caruth was working a construction job in San Jose when his best friend Ken Colby (aka KC) phoned him and told him to hurry over. KC had been bringing some friends together for a new unnamed musical project that focused on roots funk music. Minutes before Caruth arrived, KC and the other band members overheard a television newscaster say, in reference to the war, “the Joint Chiefs are in session.” KC knew they had stumbled upon the band’s name.
Sadly, KC died at 28 of a brain tumor, but not before recording The Joint Chiefs’ first CD, Joint Chiefs in Session. Since that time, Caruth has helped maintain KC’s original vision for the band. “Bill Biala, the sax player, and I have been playing together for 26 years,” Caruth says. “Daniel Vee Lewis, the bass player, has been playing with us for 18 years. The drummer, Anthony King, has been playing with us since September, and he’s smoking—he makes the band so much better.” The stocky, engaging bandleader even has a funk-influenced hairstyle: clean cut on the sides and long dreadlocks piling up along the middle and down the back. “I grew up listening to Al Green, The Isley Brothers, James Brown, you name it,” says Caruth, who also has a vibrant solo career. “I just got back from Tahiti, where I played with Dennis Chambers and Tony Lindsay, the drummer and singer from Santana.” Caruth was also a sideman in Sista Monica’s band for six years, and has recently reunited for a couple of performances with the soul and gospel singer. “Joint Chiefs is my main project, but if Sista Monica calls, I come running,” he says. But it’s with his band that Caruth can really let loose. “When we play funk it gets kids, parents, grandparents on the dance floor.”
INFO: 9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 7. Crow’s Nest, 2218 East Cliff Drive, Santa Cruz. $7. 476-4560.