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Formed while the four members were high school classmates in Princeton, New Jersey, Blues Traveler came of age after graduating and jointly moving to New York City. Everyone but Kinchla attended the New School for Social Research's jazz studies program, but their real education came in the city's clubs, as they climbed their way up from playing open-mic nights to become one of the Big Apple's biggest attractions.
In 1990, three years after graduating from high school, they were signed by A&M Records. After releasing their self-titled debut, "Blues Traveler," that year, the band took to the road, their base of dedicated followers steadily growing as they shared bills with like-minded bands such as Phish, Widespread Panic and the Dave Matthews Band.
Then John Popper had his epiphany: Why shouldn't all these improv-based bands get together for a formal tour? "I just figured that by joining together we would all be able to get out of the clubs and theaters and play some big places," Popper says today. And so was born the H.O.R.D.E. tour, beginning humbly in 1992, with eight East Coast dates each averaging 7,500 fans. Five years later, it is a certified smash, having featured the Allman Brothers, The Black Crowes, Sheryl Crow and Melissa Etheridge, along with the original crop of bands, most of whom have gone on to huge, popular success.
On July 1, 1997, A&M Records released the sixth record from Blues Traveler titled "Straight On Till Morning." Unlike prior recording efforts, the band was able to spend a considerable amount of time preparing for this record. There was a month of writing and rehearsing in Seattle, there were five more weeks of collaboration in upstate New York, and then there was a month of pre-production. From the swamp boogie howl of the lead single, "Carolina Blues," to the hauntingly hooky "Canadian Rose" the depth of writing and solid performances ooze from every note on "Straight On Till Morning."
"We've always been conscious that the live vehicle is a totally different mode of expression from capturing a performance in the studio," says guitarist Chan Kinchla. "We've always loved doing both. But the ability to really make things work in a vacuum, like you have to do when recording, is something we worked very hard at."
Since signing to A&M in 1989, the band has toured tirelessly and built a solid following on the road. Without much support from the radio community or the other normally conventional record selling vehicles, Blues Traveler emerged as a word of mouth phenomenon due to the simple fact that fans connected to the band's mood and music. Averaging more than 250 shows a year, the quartet would play clubs, street fairs, the upper roadway on the Brooklyn Bridge, benefits, nitrous parties, and basically anywhere there was a working electrical outlet.
Often playing for ten people, the band would return to a town and find that the audience had grown exponentially to a hundred or even a thousand. In their travels across the United States, the band are one of the few touring artists who have brought music to each and every state. In 1992, after all of the big summer touring headliners had passed on Blues Traveler as a support act, lead singer John Popper started the H.O.R.D.E. Festival, which grew into the #4 grossing US tour of the 1996 summer.
On their fourth studio record, the band was finally commercially acknowledged as A&M broke two Top 10 singles, "Run-around" and "Hook," and sold more than six million copies of the 1994 release "Four." Never a "critics darling," Blues Traveler were finally added to the playlists of KROQ and MTV because they became too popular to ignore.
If one were to try and describe the band in one word, it would be "honest." Often they're too honest, revealing secrets which sometimes shock those who are entertained with these revelations. John Popper has often told interviewers that, "The reason the band hasn't been featured more prominently in our recent videos is because of the circumference of my ass."
The bottom line is that on the road and in the studio, Blues Traveler have honestly loved playing together since they all attended high school together in Princeton, NJ. Leaving themselves no choice, the band literally got into the van and went on the road after graduation.
Hits include: "Run-Around",
Blues Traveler may be available for your next special event.