Why Chin?


Why “Blue Chin Roots” and “Mr. Chin’s Hot Sauce”?  
As Bluto in Animal House would say, "beeeelch, why not"? Or ...

"Blue" and "Roots" are a nod to the type of acoustic music we play – blues and roots, among other styles but then we couldn't very well name the duo BlueChinRootsSixtiesBritishInvasionAmericanBluegrassPopFolkEtcetera - it doesn't quite roll off the tongue like BCR.  (Go ahead, see for yourself - we can wait!).   And Blueroots is claimed by about seven hundred other acts so Blue Chin Roots is it - for now.  But the “Chin” and "Hot Sauce" pieces have a more storied origin.

To hear Chris tell it...

Back in late 70's and early 80's, I (along with Dennis "Muddy" Juarez, Mark Carrabello, Gil Zuniga and Terry Kincannon) was a member of the group, “The Tickets”.  The band enjoyed a fair amount of success playing various venues in the Bay Area and opening shows for the likes of Greg Kihn, Huey Lewis and Pablo Cruise, among others.  Although not a Top 40 band, The Tickets played its share of the local bars and clubs, one of which was The Bohemia in Hayward.

The “Bo” was the club that every local band played. Though it had a lousy excuse for a stage and bizarre layout, much like “Cheers”, everybody knew your name and it felt like coming home. It may have been a dive, but it was our dive.

The Tickets probably played the “Bo” two or three times a month over the course of three years. As for money or exposure, it wasn’t even a Class B gig, but it did have its merits. For starters, I had an apartment  just around the corner and couldn’t have asked for a more convenient commute. No worries about a “designated driver” when you could walk home! Hayward was also our hometown, so we could always count on some friendly faces in the crowd. But best of all, the Bo paid cash and never bothered with annoying little formalities like social security numbers that would have meant reporting the income.  This was probably a moot point though since “The Tickets”, as well as most wannabe bands, never actually turned much of a profit.

What the Bo lacked in a dressing room it made up for with a kitchen - and not just a sandwich making counter like many bars. No, no, no, the Bo sported a fully equipped Hof-Brau with hot tables and a well-stocked pantry just ripe for the occasional snack on the sly. The Bo’s owner, Mr. Chin, was of Chinese descent and spoke little English so communication was fairly limited between us. But he knew a good crowd when he saw one. And while he paid us reasonably well, that didn’t make his operation immune to opportunistic pilferage and liberties taken by your basic starving musicians. Various items that disappeared coincidental with our appearances there included a stainless steel meat cleaver, a bar stool and the usual assortment of sturdy stemware, coffee mugs and drinking glasses of all sizes.

By far though, the most notorious episode of petty thievery was my own absconding with a large, unopened bottle of Tabasco sauce that, unbeknownst to me, had only been purchased by old Chin about ten minutes before I'd squirreled it away in my garment bag. It was the size of the bottle that first caught my eye.  Never before had I spied my favorite condiment in such a large vessel.  Five ounces!  What a find!  I figured it had to be the industrial "not for sale" restaurant-size unavailable to mere consumers.  But for all the commotion caused by its sudden disappearance you'd have thought a prized Ming vase had gone missing.  Apparently Chin was just about to use the spicy concoction on his personally prepared (he didn't trust his own club's cook) version of Asian-style Mulligan stew.  He had just stepped away to the bar to grab a coke when I'd come in to change clothes and nick the sauce.  I had no idea it was a recent acquisition and figured there to be plenty more of it in the cupboard.  Who'd miss one bottle anyway?  Wrong - on all counts.  The search was on!  All of a sudden the cook, bartender and bouncer were leaving no pan unturned in an effort to locate it.  Arms a-flailing and mouth spewing what could only have been an indignant stream of broken English curses at the unknown transgressor's ancestors, Chin was as perplexed as he was certain that he had left the precious bottle sitting right on the food prep counter (which he had) and that we wasn't losing his marbles (which he wasn't).

I have to admit I was a little worried that the bouncer-turned-bloodhound might search my bag but karma was on my side that night. I’m not sure how I would have explained my way out of that one. Fortunately after about fifteen minutes of old Mr. Chin’s dinner getting cold, the search was called off and he returned to the Safeway next-door to plunk down another $1.69 for McIlhenny’s finest, clutching the paper bag all the way to his kitchen bar stool (we’d get that on our next gig) to finally sit down and enjoy his reheated meal. But my larceny was lightweight compared to some of the other bands that played there. Word had it that a very expensive commercial microwave ended up in their rehearsal studio, as well as nearly half a side of beef. Security wasn’t the Bo’s strong suit and forcing a band to use your kitchen as a dressing room only invited problems.

So in tribute to Mr. Chin, we recall those bygone days of our roots (not yet blue) and raise a big bottle of Tabasco to our namesake!

 

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