Guitar Woody & The Boilers still steaming up Reno after 10 years
In 1964, a 14-year-old Woody Soules slicked his hair back, donned a lime green tuxedo with a black lapel and belted out “That’s What I Say” by Ray Charles, in his hometown of Elgin, Ill., 38 miles northwest of downtown Chicago.
It was the first song Soules ever performed on stage, and it was an act that would set the stage for things to come.
“My friends and I would play back-up for three girls in a surf/R & B band, but when that was over, we kept playing and did our own show,” Soules said.
Growing up near a blues mecca obviously had an influence on the young musician.
“Bands like the Everly Brothers were phasing out, the British Invasion was phasing in, and the Beach Boys had the Chuck Berry influence going for them, so they were holding strong, even in the Midwest,” Soules said.
But besides the sounds of the West Coast, something else motivated the young Soules to finally migrate to California.
"[Elgin] was a great place to be a kid, and I had a great childhood. But then I met a girl when I was 18, and she moved to California, and I had to follow her,” Soules said.
Once there, Soules became immersed in the local surf scene and began playing venues up and down the San Francisco coast.
“There were these places then, with names like the Last Day Saloon, that we would play when we weren’t surfing,” Soules said.
Eventually, Soule’s tastes moved further inland.
“Around 1978 up until 1986, I changed direction towards a more country and rockabilly style,” Soules said.
And then he endured low tide.
“I moved to Reno and dropped out of music for four to five years, until I was invited to a jam session at the Hacienda, and in a few weeks, I was meeting a lot of local musicians,” Soules said.
Before long, Soules had boiled down a list of talented players for Guitar Woody & The Boilers, a blues-based R & B and funk band that has been rocking Reno for a decade. The Boilers include Bobby “Slappin'” McNamara on bass, Leroy Palinsky on keyboards, Mike Bush on drums, Jon Anderson on saxophone and Joey Walker on trumpet.
The band immediately began hosting a weekly blues jam at the Ice House—now the Spice House—on Fourth Street.
Some of the band’s high-water marks include opening for John Lee Hooker, Elvin Bishop, Charlie Musselwhite, Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings, and playing at the grand opening of the Wingfield Park Amphitheater.
“We were the first band to go electric there,” bassist McNamara said.
Another historical footnote worth remembering is one show they played at Rancho Nevada, which is now a Silver Legacy welcome center off exit 2 on Interstate 80. It was so out of control that the highway patrol had to help with crowd control.
“It was an exit party for ‘The X,’ because it had gone off the air—this was around 1995, I think—and there were so many people that there was nowhere to park, so people were parking on the other side of the Interstate and then jaywalking across the Interstate divider to get the to show,” McNamara said. “The highway patrol didn’t like that, but what could we do?”
Today, Guitar Woody & The Boilers have a live album called Live Steam and are working on a CD of original material. And don’t expect them to run out of steam anytime soon.
“We’ll keep playing until we can’t play anymore," Soules said.