For over 30 years, Driving Sideways has been playing high performance West Coast and Chicago blues. The group’s distinctive sound is influenced by many styles of music which has merged to form a unique sound. Founder and bassist Billy B, still leads the group as it continues to evolve.
“We started as a straight ahead blues band,” vocalist and bassist Billy B says “it has always been our focus and passion." "Through the years we have incorporated a mixture of different blues styles into our repertoire."
Today’s version of the band features the amazing harp playing of "Blind Bulldog" Ronnie Johnson. Ronnie, blind from childhood, was raised to be a musician by his stepdad the great New Orleans piano player Ronnie Barron. He experienced this musical style at a very early age, and it is now part of his soul. He brings that same experience to the band and keeps us firmly grounded in the blues sounds of the 50s and 60s. In addition to Billy B and Blind Bulldog, the current Driving Sideways line-up features Tony Zarate on drums, Miss Linda B on the piano and Mark "Flash Cadillac" on the guitar.
To be in Driving Sideways, you need to understand and be deeply influenced by the blues greats: Muddy Waters, T-Bone Walker, Little Walter, James Cotton, and George Harmonica Smith. You need to know the different styles of music and different ways of playing so you can bring that to the table. Billy B comments: "you have to be willing to utilize this history to make new music. The people in this band do just that and still have a great time, even after all these years."
The band plays in Southern California, but is tempted to widen their horizons.
Lately, the band has incorporated more Cajun/New Orleans influences giving them an even more unique sound. Along with the jump and swing style songs, the band's sound tends the keep the dance floor full. Billy B comments: “We like to entertain the people with our music. It isn’t unusual for the dance floor to be filled with folks doing swing dancing in front of us. It is all about having some fun and enjoying a lively musical experience. We aim to bring that energy every time we hit the stage.”
During the ’80s, the band played regionally and recorded a couple of CDs which were independently released with moderate success. In 2001, Ronnie Johnson joined the band and his amazing harp playing pulled the band into a new direction.
“The thing about Driving Sideways is that we are just as comfortable playing small bars as we are large festivals” Billy B comments. “We have played just about every size stage imaginable. Blues is the music of the people. If done right, it touches your soul."
Blind Bulldog - Ronnie Johnson Harp Vocals
Although he began playing bass at an early age, Billy B came of age musically in the Canadian province of British Columbia. He is no stranger to the blues. For some fifty years he’s been plying his trade up and down the West Coast from Vancouver, BC to here in the greater Southern California area. Staying “in the pocket” is Bill’s goal and he does it well. Good vocalist too! He has been on stage with a number of notable bands including the great Chuck Berry. He brings his years of band leadership to Driving Sideways and is the bands founding member.
Mark “Flash Cadillac” Hennings (Guitar) is a recent addition to the band. He has been called “Flash Cadillac” since his youth due to his noteworthy speed in football and baseball on the athletic field. He was born in Denison, Iowa.
He began playing guitar in grade school and played parties and venues such as Knott’s Berry Farm as an adolescent, with strong rockabilly and surf influences prevalent at that juncture. His emphasis rapidly changed when he saw Bo Didley in concert in Long Beach when he was 14 and his emphasis has been blues ever since.
Mark took an extended hiatus from music to attend an Ivy League school and earn a law degree. He then assumed a busy career as a trial lawyer and finally retired to make Blues his new career and “full time job."
His blues influences have been Albert King, BB King, Albert Collins, Rene Hall, Pee Wee Crayton, Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Johnny Guitar Watson, to name just a few. While a die-hard bluesman, his rockabilly and surf influences will be evident in both his lead and comp stylings.
Flash Cadillac - Guitar & Vocals
Ronnie Johnson aka "Blind Bulldog" was born in Orange County, California. When he was 7, his mother married the late great New Orleans piano player Ronnie Barron. Little Ronnie earned the nickname "Blind Bulldog" due to his tenaciousness and the fact that he was blind.
While growing up, musicians such as Dr. John, Hollywood Fats, Paul Butterfield, Johny Mayall, Rick Vito and Larry Taylor were frequent guests in Ronnie's home. With so many blues luminaries at his house, he quickly absorbed the music, becoming proficient on both the harmonica and guitar by the age of 12.
Ronnie had a huge record collection at his disposal and he spent countless hours listening to and learning the blues. By the age of 17, Blind Bulldog was on the stage wailing the blues. He has played in countless local blues bands including: Black Cat Mojo, Mighty Mojo Prophets; Hank True and Blues Crew. Ronnie plays harmonica in all three positions with equal ease.
Billy B. - Bass & Vocals
Linda Lightning - Keyboards & Vocals
Tony Zarate - Drums
HI PERFORMANCE WEST COAST STYLE BLUES
Linda also comes to use by way of Canada. She became enchanted with music at an early age. She began inventing tunes on the family organ, attempting to mimic what she heard. Then, at about 6 years of age, she started traditional piano lessons, probably not the most inspiring path for her to follow. Eventually, she continued on her own, trying out various genres, from classical to classic rock. However, the blues has summoned her. Sometimes she sounds a bit jazzy, sometimes a bit funky but mostly she just rocks!
Tony is the band’s drummer. He’s been playing drums for almost half a century, starting out with parades in a marching drum corp. He met Bill Burdick at a VW repair shop that doubled as a weekly jam session. His early projects include Julie Whites’s Rockslide, Bill Migraine and the Texas Sized Upsetters, The Shecky Bruce Jazz Trio and The Bluezprints, most of which Bill has been a part of in some way or another. Most recently he is still refining his blues chops with the likes of Blue JuJu and of course Driving Sideways…. “I must say, coming from a rock-n roll era, my biggest influences in music have to be Zepp/Yard Birds, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf in no particular order”..