Cypress Groove is a swamp rock and originals band out of Chicago, but born of the music that migrated here from the Mississippi Delta; born of swamp and red clay, of sweat and hard living, of cigarettes and alcohol, of mean mistreatin' women and lyin' no good men.
The band was forged at a jam night where frontman Johnny Spiz and slide guitar player Chuck Wasserburg first jammed together and discovered a mutual kinship in their admiration for artists like Elmore James, Hound Dog Taylor, Johnny Winter and Rory Gallagher. Music from these individuals helped shape the first set list and Chuck's slide playing was perfectly suited for originals like Johnny's "Shacked Up in Mississippi," an homage to Clarksdale, home of the Delta Blues, and the Shack Up Inn. (See link.)
One of the main ideas for starting this band was to create a swamp boogie feel and infuse it with a lot of energy. Starting with a core group of musicians, we also wanted to incorporate into various performances some of the different musicians that we've performed with over the years. From guitar players to horn players and violinists, the Chicago area is rich with musicians steeped in roots and American music, folk, blues, jazz and soul. We hope to invite many of these musicians to perform with the Cypress Groove Project, as we begin this, our next adventure in music.
We hope you'll take that journey with us and maybe find a renewed interest in American music along the way.
Shack Up Inn, Clarksdale, MS Photo: Scott Olson
First CGP performance at Bill's Blues jam night, with old FMB band mates Rick Hill and Dave Behringer sitting in along with Two for the Blues' own Tom Crivelone adding his signature to the band's sound. Photo: Jeff Kroll
Johnny Spiz: Vocals; harp; miscellaneous hootin' an hollerin'. Photo: Scott Olson
Johnny Spiz sure has a hell of a good time performing. Johnny started listening to the blues in his early teens, going to see many of his favorite musicians whenever possible, talking to them and coercing a few to let him get up on stage and play the harp. A chance conversation with blues legend Willie Dixon remains a highlight of those experiences.
Johnny learned a little harmonica during those years and for the last decade, he's been fronting a number of blues/rock bands. Now with the Cypress Groove Project, Johnny hopes to continue writing original material and perform live until they have to drag him kicking and screaming from the stage.
Chuck Wasserburg: Slide guitar; vocals
Chuck Wasserburggrew up near LA and picked up the guitar as a kid. Along with listening
to the usual rock & roll suspects in high school, he discovered blues
through Jimmy Witherspoon's late night radio show and through a group of
troubled youths (did he just say "yutes"?) who introduced him to
Albert King, Johnny Winter, Duane Allman and other hair-raising guitarists.
Chuck played in bands around the area and then took an extended
leave from the music scene. But when he moved to Chicago almost 20 years ago, he knew he'd
come to the right place to start again. Influences include Muddy Waters, J.B.
Hutto, Ry Cooder, Fred McDowell, Blind Willie Johnson, and any woman drunk
enough to dance when he plays.
Dave Behringer: Drums; percussion
Dave Behringer has been
behind the drums for 35 years, and is well known for his ability to create an
infectious groove for his band and their audience. He is heavily influenced by John
Bonham, Mitch Mitchell, Chad Smith, Steve Jordan, Matt Abs, Willie "Big Eyes"
Smithand Carter Beauford. Dave
continues to study his craft and has studied with drum masters Dave Weckl (Chic
Corea, Robert Plant), Steve Smith (Journey), Jason Bittner (Shadows Fall),
Horacio "El Negro" Hernandez (Santana) and Pat Petrillo (Patti LaBelle).
Steve Torres: Guitar; vocals
Steve Torres loves
to play guitar, plain and simple. A Chicago native and no stranger to
the music scene, Steve has a history of guitar slinging across this town.
He grew up listening to the music of the '60s, '70s and '80s, which clearly
left its mark on his playing style, yet coalescing to create has his own unique sound.
Steve (who also goes by the mysterious moniker, Reno Von Gitbox) comes from a long line of musicians--he says it's in his blood. "Making people happy through music is important to me. It's what I'm all about. The smiles of our fans can't be taxed by Uncle Sam. They're all ours, baby!"
And in case you were wondering, "Gitbox" is slang for guitar.