Best Blues Band -
Nucklebusters Blues Band
"Best Of Broward/Palm Beach 2000"
NEW TIMES 2000
Over the course of its 13-year run on the South Florida club circuit, the Nucklebusters Blues Band has served as the house band at a number of reputable local venues, including the legendary Musician's Exchange in Fort Lauderdale.
Having suffered innumerable lineup changes over the years, the Nucklebusters are still riding high in the saddle with a current roster consisting of mainstay vocalist and lead guitarist "Famous" Frank Ward, vocalist-bassist Sheldon Voss, vocalist- harmonica player Jason Ricci, drummer Tim Kuchta, and organist Joe Saint.
The band's specialty is raucous, Chicago-style blues, and after all their years of nonstop gigging, Famous Frank and the boys pretty much have their act down cold. With a vast repertoire of tunes, including everything from original roadhouse boogie and smoldering instrumentals to swingin' covers of Howlin' Wolf's "Killing Floor" and Big Bill Broonzy's "I Feel So Good," it's not surprising that when locals want their blues kicks, they go looking for Nucklebusters.
Ward is equally committed to his shop and his music. He's not biding his time, fixing cars until he gets his big break. He doesn't expect B.B. King to come rapping on his door. "I have no desire to get in a van and drive 16 hours to the next gig," he says. "B.B. King could be dead in a year, and I'd have to go back to AMF tire."
Blues music came to Ward much later in life than it does for most musicians. Some buddies who worked with him at an auto center said they needed a singer for their rock band. Ward, 20 at the time, joined the group as lead singer and learned to play guitar. "It was fun. It was loud," he says. "If you're going to hang out in bars all night, why not get paid for it?"
After 11 years of rock 'n roll, Ward turned to the blues, building on a foundation of Johnny Winter and George Thorogood from his rock days. He ran an ad in a local music magazine, rounded up some other and a band was born. The drummer came up with the Nucklebusters name - without the "k". He was a big man, weighing 300 pounds. "He said, 'You got anything better?' I said 'No.' I was a scant 250 pounds at the time," says Ward, laughing.
The lineup has changed over the years and now features Ward on lead vocals and guitar, Johnny Charles Marino on harmonica, guitar and vocals, Sheldon Voss on bass and vocals, and Tim Kuchta on drums. Ward's personality is a sharp contrast from what you might expect of a blues guitarist. He is an imposing 6 feet 4 inches tall, and he laughs and smiles a lot.
But when he dons one of his dozen hats and makes his guitar cry on stage, he looks and feels the blues. "I needed the hat to keep the lights out of my eyes," he says of his hat. "Now I'm the 'guy with the hat.' "
Like most bands, the Nucklebusters played dives when they were getting started, but they landed some good gigs, too. They played shows with King and Koko Taylor, Ronnie Earl, Tinsley Ellis, and Lucky Peterson jammed with them on stage. They once opened a show for Bill Cosby. Now they play about 100 shows a year at places such as City Limits in Delray Beach, Ray's Downtown Blues in West Palm Beach, Rosey Baby in Lauderhill, and The Poorhouse in Ft. Lauderdale. "I love the stage. I really feed off the energy of the people," Ward says. "Being on stage, that's where it's at."
This summer, his band released a 14-song compact disc, One More Chance, which includes several originals and took 18 months to complete. "I got other things to do, and I'm basically a slacker," the blue-eyed blues man says of the time it took to complete the CD. "That's a tribute to my disorganization."
"Famous Frank," as Ward is known around South Florida, says blues musicians can earn $100 a night plus food and drinks, playing at bars. The best in the field might pull down about $600 a week. Ward is content combining his two careers. This way, he can afford the comfortable home where he lives with his wife, Joy, and their son, Patrick, 7. Surviving on the blues alone would be tough. "It'd be a meager living at best," he says. "I'd certainly have to cut down on a few of those frills, like food or rent."
Skip Sheffield's article on the Busters from the Boca Raton News
Article from the "Boca Life" section:
Fans of the Boca Raton-based Nucklebusters Blues Band now have a souvenier of the hometown heroes they can take home with them: the group's very first CD. "One More Chance" is one of the few CDs available at a tire store as well as your local Peaches record store. The store is AMF Tires, run and co-owned by "Famous Frank" Ward, singer, lead guitarist, and the Nucklebusters' all-around gadfly. "You don't have to be black to sing the blues," declared B.B. King famously, "But it helps."
Neither Ward nor his compadres "Johnny Charles" Marino (vocals and harmonica), Tim Kuchta (drums) or Sheldon Voss (bass) are African-American, but they all have the kind of soul you can obtain only through years of hard dues-paying.
The Nucks play a satisfying mix of straight-ahead classic blues by greats such as Big Bill Broonzy, T-Bone Walker, and Robert Johnson, along with catchy, no-frills roots-retro tunes written mostly by Ward and Marino. The Nucklebusters are not flashy or extreme virtuosos, but their steady beat and unflagging spirit is subtly addictive. There have been a lot of musicians in and out of the group in the 11 years of the Nucklebusters' existence, and the band publicly thanks some of the principal players.
"I think 11 years must be a record - except for the Nighthawks," muses Ward. "We couldn't thank all the players - there have been too many - but that's what has kept us together. Each new player helped us get better and better. I'm proud to say no one has left the band on bad terms. As I get older, I just appreciate playing more and more."