On the Shoulders of ‘Big Earl’ Inside the Modesto Music Scene
by Billy Gay, Fruit Tree Music School
If you have been to Sunday breakfast at Café Deva, heard some amazing blues at the Barkin Dog Grill, attended the Modesto Area Music Awards (MAMA) or listened to the opening act for B.B. King at the Gallo Center for the Arts, then you already have a taste for some of what “Big Earl” Matthews does for Modesto’s music. Big Earl has been promoting local music for over 12 years, and performing with “Big Earl and the Cryin’ Shame” since 2007. He is one of the major reasons we have such a vibrant music scene here in town.
Earl first got hooked on the blues while attending MJC. It wasn’t long before Earl started singing the blues and sharing the music that he loves, It’s the blues’ facility for storytelling that keeps Big Earl coming back to it again and again. “The blues is positive, great feeling music,” says Earl. “It’s the kind of music that gets people of all ages dancing together and having a good time.” As a blues man, Earl says that he feels “it’s the job of the next generation to pick up the torch and carry it forward.”
As a promoter, Big Earl does more than his fair share of torch carrying. Earl has put together countless shows in and around Modesto and is also in the process of putting together the second “My Friends and I” compilation CD in order to showcase some of the local, working bands that contribute to the local scene. Earl also knows firsthand how hard it is to be a gigging musician and is motivated to ensure other bands get the support they need.
As part of his commitment to encouraging new groups and young musicians, Big Earl has embarked on assembling a guide to how to get started as a gigging band in Modesto.
The guide will walk a band through everything they need to know in order to start promoting themselves effectively, including a comprehensive list of local bands, promoters and venues. When it’s finished, the guide will be easily accessible from the MAMA website.
As a promoter himself, Earl says that it is his goal to make sure that the band, venue and audience all fit together nicely whenever he books a show. Getting people to enjoy great local music and ensuring that Modesto is welcoming and supportive of great bands is what Big Earl is all about.
“In some ways, music in Modesto is more exciting than what I’ve seen in the San Francisco area,” says Earl. He adds that a big part of that excitement is the quality and variety of live music we have, which ranges from roots music and jazz to punk and reggae and everything in between.
Earl’s passion for music is clear in everything he does. He is continually pushing to improve the musical experience for everyone involved.
I want to thank Earl Matthews for the work he does to help make our local music scene something we can all enjoy.
William Gay, Lord of Sealand and proprietor of Fruit Tree Music School, has been teaching music for 8 years and performing for more than 10. He is a multi-instrumentalist and CSU Stanislaus alum with a degree in Music Education.