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Other side projects/The early years

Despite all of the other projects that the members of Blues Traveler took on, there were still more that came and went with a brief few sessions. Here is a look at some of the famous and not-so-famous fleeting side projects:

Power Jams
Walter Durkacz, the booking agent at the Wetlands Preserve, was struck with an idea in late 1992. What if he took all the talent that had come through the Wetlands over the last three years, combined it with other musicians he had met through connections in the music business, and assembled them on one stage? With this thought in mind, he contacted members of the Allman Brothers, Parliament Funkadelic, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Blues Traveler and other bands, and inaugurated the first Ritz Power Jam on February 5th, 1993. The concert took place at the Ritz in New York City, and the members kicked out their tunes after only a few times practicing together. Their two sets, mostly blues standards interspersed with original tunes by a few of the artists, lasted over three hours and may have been the greatest assemblage of talent seen together at the time. Add in members of Dave Matthews Band and Phish, both of whom happened to be playing in the area at the time, and it made for a once-in-a-lifetime jam.

Durkacz later scheduled another Ritz Power Jam on March 19th of the same year with almost entirely different players; this Jam was also recorded for posterity but not as much is known of it, as it was the second and last of its type. Another lesser-known jam involving members of Blues Traveler happened on August 5th, 1993 at the Wetlands, as an extension of the Warren Haynes Band set earlier that night. At the so-called Midnight Southern Jam, both Chan Kinchla and Brendan Hill sat in with the band, having befriended the guitarist during their early tours with the Allman Brothers.
With the spare time that came with taking a vacation in 1997, John got several offers to work with various artists. One such offer came while John was actually in the office. According to sources, John picked up the phone and someone asked "what would it take" to get John to play on an album. Thinking it was a joke, John named a number and to his surprise, they okayed the deal. John was taken to the recording studio under the impression that he was to play two or three tunes. Several hours and dozens of takes later, John ended up laying down tracks for nearly half of the tunes on the disc, without ever meeting any of the other studio musicians [including talent such as Bernie Worrell, Vernon Reid and others]. "Exaggeration aside," noted one insider, "it sounds like some trust-funder bought John for a day and tortured him with inane questions and bad music." The album was released later that year and despite a rumor that the band was to tour on the HORDE festival, that, and the "band" never materialized.
Blues Co-Elation album
Mentor and frequent on-stage partner Arnie Lawrence would host weekly jam sessions, usually at The Cooler on 14th Street in NYC, and Blues Traveler members were regular guests at these jams in the early days. Named "Arnie Lawrence and the Blues Co-elation", they had a revolving set of members, usually including Arnie, his son Erik, and whoever happened to be "in town or unemployed at the moment".

While most of these gigs were live and untaped, there exists in circulation an undated radio broadcast on Long Island's WBAI-FM which features Arnie and John discussing and playing cuts from a supposed CD they had recorded in a local studio. It is unknown, but doubted, that the disc was ever released commercially; Arnie mentions that "I hope nobody out there is taping this because this isn't released yet" and later goes on to say that they're shopping it around to a few labels. Guests on the disc, according to John, included Merl Saunders, Warren Haynes, Eric Schenkman, Gordon 'Stinkyfeet' Edwards, Gail Wynters, Nino Sindaloo, Larry Goldings, and Bernard Purdie among others.
Blues Traveler - the early projects
As with most bands, Blues Traveler had various early incarnations that included different musicians and names. While in high school, the members of Blues Traveler performed under different names and in different bands:

  • The Doctors [1981?] - Bob Sheehan's first band in seventh grade.
  • The Establishment [1981?] - Brendan's first band, which John joined. Other members included Sebastian Hill on bass and Levi Pervin on guitar.
  • Blues Band [1983] - Brendan and John's first band together; they recruited David Stern to replace Levi on guitar and changed their name to Blues Band. They would later go through several guitar players before Chan Kinchla came in the door.
  • Missing Something [198?] - John appears on a demo with this title from his high school days.
  • Aid to the Choking Victim [1985] - One of God Street Wine's first incarnations, this featured Bob Sheehan on bass briefly.
  • Trucking Company [1987] - According to a Spin Doctors FAQ, John and Brendan started this band with Chris Barron and Eric Schenkman while also playing for Blues Traveler. John and Brendan switched full-time to BT while Chris and Eric recruited other members and renamed themselves the Spin Doctors in 1989.