"We used to jam forever," says John Popper, lead
singer and harmonica player of the proudly old-fangled Blues
Traveler. "We'd play one song for three hours, easy."
In these days of sampled instruments, that boast should hold
about as much appeal as a Country Joe & the Fish LP. But a
reputation for jamming has actually helped Blues Traveler, a New
York combo that makes music the classic-rock way - with a brawny,
infectious mix of riff-heavy guitar and bluesy harmonica. And
they're reaping rewards for it.
The group formed in 1987 in Princeton, NJ, and released its
first, eponymous album in 1990. Its second, Travelers &
Thieves (A&M), is selling briskly and the band is
headlining a national tour. They're also playing opening-act gigs
with spiritual forefathers like the Allman Brothers Band and
Jerry Garcia. In fact, Blues Traveler's crowds often look
suspiciously like Deadheads.
Popper was introduced to the blues by, of all people, the Blues
Brothers ("I wanted to be a comedian at the time")
before graduating to the likes of Elmore James. But despite its
name, the band - Popper, 24; drummer Brendan Hill, 21; guitarist
Chan Kinchla, 22; and bassist Bobby Sheehan, 23 - uses blues as
merely a starting-off point for a mélange of rock styles.
"We don't sound like a Mississippi Delta band," Popper
says, "but we play what we mean, and that's the spirit of