No longer a sideman, Pete Anderson enjoys solo career

Photo provided by PeteAnderson.com -- Pete Anderson Show caption
Photo provided by PeteAnderson.com -- Pete Anderson

Pete Anderson spent 17 years standing in the shadow of country star Dwight Yoakam. Yoakam’s singing and songwriting plus Anderson’s guitar, arranging and production skills were a golden combination. Together they revived the classic country sound of Bakersfield, Calif., and sold more than 25 million records.

Anderson and his band, on their way to the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville for March 22’s “Concert and Conversation: Pete Anderson: California Country’s Second Generation,” will perform at the Blue Moon Saloon in Lafayette Monday.

During his Yoakam years, Anderson also co-founded Little Dog Records and released some solo albums. The first of them, “Working Class,” appeared in 1995, but the timing wasn’t right for Anderson to go solo.

“It was in the middle of Dwight’s career and we were really rolling,” Anderson said from Los Angeles.

Anderson and Yoakam teamed up in L.A. in the mid-’80s. Before their collaboration, Anderson said, “I’d wandered all through L.A., playing blues and jam sessions. But being a young guy trying to play blues, it’s tough. Nobody wants to hear a 22-year-old, even a blue-collar white kid, singing the blues. It’s like, ‘Come on man. You’re from Detroit!’ ”

Blues was his first love, but country got him gigs in the blue-collar bars of California.

“You couldn’t play a blues bar every night in California,” he recalled. “You could play a country bar every night.”

Even though country wasn’t Anderson’s style, the genre’s guitaristic nature appealed to him.

When he encountered Yoakam, Anderson said, “It was like, ‘This works. This guy’s got great songs. Let’s go do this.’ So it was like jumping on a spaceship and saying, ‘Man, let’s take the ride.’ ”

But success with Yoakam meant putting his own aspirations to be a solo act aside. Anderson’s Yoakam era lasted until 2002. After a succeeding group project didn’t work out, Anderson took the solo leap.

“I told myself, ‘I’m not going to be in anybody’s band anymore. I’m done being a sideman. I don’t care who calls.’ ”

In preparation for a solo career, Anderson mulled over what sort of artist he wanted to be.

“I could have done country music, but I really slide on the blues side of the page,” he said. “So I started concentrating on what you’re hearing.”

There’s blues in what people have been hearing from Anderson since his first post-Yoakam album, 2004’s “Daredevil,” and much more. His 2013 album, “Birds Above Guitarland,” features the rockabilly swing of “Outta’ the Fire,” atmosphere electric country blues of “Talkin’ ’Bout Lonely” and the happy, pre-funk New Orleans groove in “36 Hour Day.”

“A little Ernie K-Doe vibe in that,” Anderson said of the latter song. “I love Ernie K-Doe.”

Playing multiple styles brings Anderson back to his younger days in Detroit. He remembers seeing blues singer-harmonica player James Cotton performing soul hits “Mustang Sally” and “Knock on Wood” amidst blues songs. And also hearing Frank Sinatra and Hank Williams songs, Buck Owens’ “Tiger By the Tail” and the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction” side by side on the same Detroit radio station.

“The populist says, ‘We don’t care who Buck Owens is or where he’s from. And we don’t care who these British guys are. We just like that music.’ ”