Northwest native Tim ‘Too Slim’ Langford and his Taildraggers are perennial favorites at the Winthrop R&B Festival
By Jed Vaughn
Countless musicians were inspired to play by the iconic classic rock of the 1960s and ’70s. It was no exception for Tim “Too Slim” Langford of Too Slim and the Taildraggers, the iconic blues/rock band that had its start in Spokane 30 years ago.
Bands like the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Jimi Hendrix, Black Sabbath, Ted Nugent and Kiss were just a few that were responsible for firing dreams for aspiring artists. Ultimately, it was a 1974 ZZ Top concert in Spokane that inspired Langford to borrow a friend’s old Harmony acoustic guitar and begin to play.
In 1986, Langford created the “Too Slim” logo – a grinning skull wearing a cowboy hat and sunglasses – while pursuing his dream of making a living playing music. In 1988, “Swinging in the Underworld” was produced and became the first of 21 CDs Langford now lays claim to. The list includes 13 studio projects and five live productions. The live compilations included a solo acoustic and four with the Taildraggers.
Langford has been called “a spectacular guitarist, songwriter and vocalist whose music has a timeless quality” by one critic and similarly lauded by many others.
In 1987, in concert with Jim Smith, owner of the Winthrop Palace (Now Carlos 1800 Mexican Grill and Cantina), Langford helped launch the first of what is still an annual event, the Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival. For the last 25 years, Langford has returned every year save one to play at the blues-and-brews weekend.
Too Slim and the Taildraggers, a perennial favorite at the local R&B festival, will be back on the stage for this year’s event on July 15-17. Langford says the community spirit and his love for the venue has inspired him to be a continual presence at the popular event.
Long list of accolades
Langford started his concert career by opening for popular acts like the Doobie Brothers, Jeff Healy, Heart, 38 Special and Robert Cray. Memorable highlights were playing on stage with Paul McCartney’s guitarist and Bobby Creeger of the Doors.
In the early ’90s, the band was touring through Europe and played a circuit encompassing Scandinavia, Belgium, Ireland and Italy. Later, in 2012, Langford found himself being “tail hooked” on the USS Enterprise in the Persian Gulf to perform for the troops.
The band’s newest CD release, “Blood Moon,” has been a top seller on Amazon.com, reaching No. 3 on the hot new release list. The highly competitive Blues Billboard Charts found Langford at No. 12 against stiff competition including Bonnie Raitt and Joe Bonamassa.
Early in June, “Blood Moon” was nominated for the prestigious Blues Rock Album of the Year by Blues Blast music awards, which take place in Champaign, Illinois, this September. The new release is reminiscent of the classic rock and blues of the ’70s with a twist of Too Slim’s unique guitar style and vocals. His other notable works include “Shiver,” “Blue Heart,” “Fortune Teller,” “Tales of Sin and Redemption,” and “Anthology.”
Langford has received Lifetime Achievement and Hall of Fame awards from three Northwest blues societies, as well as more than 40 regional and national music awards. His music and style have been praised by Rick Allen of Vintage Guitar Magazine, Brian Owens of Blues Reviews Magazine and Graham Clark of Blues Bytes.
Langford’s favorite guitars to play include the Warmoth, Les Paul Supreme and Gold “81” Stratocaster. Another favorite is a custom-built guitar with a Les Paul body and a Stratocaster neck that Langford affectionately calls the Les Paul-O-Caster.
Taildraggers bassist and studio engineer Zack “The Kid” Kasik is now driving the backbeat along with drummer Jeff “Shakey” Fowlkes. Kasik has performed with the likes of Paul McCartney and Green Day and is originally from Detroit. Fowlkes has been acquainted with Langford since he moved to Nashville in 2013.
Now in Nashville
Now living in Nashville, Langford is neighbors with Emmy Lou Harris and occasionally encounters musical and guitar greats like Billy Gibbons and Tim McGraw. Langford talked about how McGraw still plays a small club on Monday nights just down the road from his residence.
Langford originally moved to Music City USA in an effort to be closer to more work and brighter opportunities. Spokane and the Northwest, where Langford is from, have relatively few densely populated areas, making travel expensive and cumbersome between gigs.
In 2014, in a routine examination, doctors diagnosed Langford with cancer. Fortunately, it was at an early stage and treatable. He has since been declared cancer-free.
Langford has been married for 12 years and has known his wife, Nancy Davis, since 1993. She is an artist who travels and displays her unique artwork around the country.
After the Winthrop festival, Too Slim and the Taildraggers will head to Yakima on July 21 and Wenatchee on July 28. In Spokane, Langford has also been a perennial favorite at Spokane’s annual Pig Out in the Park, scheduled for Sept. 1.
A full summer schedule that includes Vancouver, Seattle, Portland and many other locations can be accessed at www.tooslim.org. “Blood Moon” is available on Amazon.com and iTunes as well as on the website.
Jed Vaughn is a Spokane-based freelance writer and photographer.
Winthrop Rhythm & Blues Festival
Dates: July 15-17
Location: The Blues Ranch, on Highway 20 just west of Winthrop
What’s happening: Music acts, food, beer garden, craft vendors, on-site camping, portable showers.
Times: Starts at 7 p.m. on Friday, 11 a.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets: General admission weekend pass, $90 in advance or $100 at the gate; Sunday-only pass, $40 in advance, $50 at the gate. Friday night, $10 or free with weekend pass (benefits The Cove food bank). Kids under 12 free with an adult.
Camping: $45 for Friday, Saturday, Sunday. Gate opens at noon on July 14, $25 to camp that night.
Performers: Ben Hunter and Joe Seamons; Rose City Kings; Grace Love and the True Loves; Too Slim and the Taildraggers; Christone “Kingfish” Ingram; Dave Alvin and Phil Alvin with the Guilty Ones; the Fabulous Thunderbirds featuring Kim Wilson; Robert Randolph and the Family Band; Nathan James; Hot Wired Rhythm Band; Randy Hansen; Randy Oxford; Wee Willie Walker; Allen Stone; Lady “A;” Stan Street; Polly O’Keary
For complete information: www.winthropbluesfestival.com