Local blues band reveals the secret of Chaz Humley
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Blues rockers Chaz Humley and the Effects always come to play -- even if Chaz can't always seem to find his way to the stage.
Bassist Jim Spence laughed and said, "It's kind of an inside joke."
It's not like they can't get by without him. By now, they're used to it.
With Scott Rogan and Tim Coll capably swapping lead and rhythm guitar duties, Alan Handley on drums, Spence on bass and Spence and Coll sharing vocals they get by just fine -- even if Chaz ends up in jail again or phones to tell the band he's on the run from a jealous husband.
The three-year-old blues band didn't even need him when it won a slot in June to compete in the International Blues Challenge in January 2013. The Blues Foundation hosts the annual challenge in Memphis, and the Effects are excited about going.
Competing in contests, and winning, is still something new to the Charleston-based band.
Rogan said, "We played our first blues contest back in October, in Marietta, Ohio, and there were some really good bands, bands from Columbus, Pittsburgh, but we just killed it. We kicked its ass."
The band didn't win, but the subject still elicits grumbling among the four members. Still, the quartet did well enough to earn an invite to the Juke Joint Challenge in Pomeroy, Ohio, where it took the top prize, which included $500 and a slot for the Memphis contest.
The International Blues Challenge is a big deal. In January, Chaz Humley and the Effects will compete with more than 100 other blues bands from around the world.
Prizes include cash, an interview in BluesWax magazine and bookings for more than a dozen great blues gigs like the 2013 Legendary Rhythm and Blues Caribbean Cruise, the Telluride Blues and Brews Festival in Colorado and the Tremblant International Blues Festival in Canada.
"We're guaranteed to play two days," Spence said of the competition. In those two days, anything is possible.
Coll added of the trip, "And I'm going to Graceland."
Spence looked at the rest of the band and shrugged. "Of course, we are," he said.
Because of winning the competition in Pomeroy, the band is already getting more invitations to play at other shows, which is gratifying and exciting, if not entirely helpful.
"We only play eight to 10 jobs a year," Spence said. "We just like to play shows, but Tim and Scott play in other bands."
For a band as "young" as Chaz Humley and the Effects (most everyone is in their mid- to late-50s), it would seem as if its come a long way in a short time, but depending on how you do the math, the Effects have been playing together for either three years or almost 50.
Spence and Rogan grew up three houses apart and began playing together in 1964 after Rogan got a ukulele. They even formed a band called The Scavengers that played birthday parties and at church until Rogan's family moved away when he was 14.
They didn't keep in touch, and when Rogan returned to the area, many years had passed.
Handley and Coll also played together in a band in their late teens, and then branched off in different musical directions. Coll became a Charleston music scene regular, joining well-known local bands like Big Planet Soul and The Soul Doctors. Handley spent a lot of time on the road, playing with a variety of professional musical outfits and doing construction work, which is where Chaz Humley came in.
Handley said, "I was in Dallas and using my full name Charles Alan Handley."
Handley's employer made the check out to Chaz Humley -- Chaz being short for Charles and Humley having nothing at all to do with Handley's name.
"I didn't have any ID with that name," Handley complained. "I couldn't get the check cashed."
Eventually, he returned to West Virginia for good and started playing with different local groups, including Fat Chance, an R& B band that Spence played horns in.
One evening, about three years ago, Handley called Spence and invited him to come over for a jam session with a few other friends. One of those friends was Rogan, Spence's childhood music partner.
The band took Handley's story of the Dallas check and turned it into a running joke -- and a band name.
"We really didn't need a front man," Spence said.
The music they play is, by default, the blues. It's a common thread and suited the kind of musicians they'd grown into.
"We're not here to peel ears," Coll said. "We've already done that."
Instead, the approach is laidback. With their various other musical projects and normal, busy lives, Chaz Humley and the Effects only play occasionally. Winning the Juke Joint Challenge and competing in the International Blues Challenge could change that.
The prospect of becoming more well known in the blues world is very exciting, but the band members are realistic. Getting rich playing the blues is probably not going to happen. In fact, over the next few months, the band will probably have to play shows to come up with the money to pay for the Memphis trip, but that's fine with them.
Chaz Humley and the Effects are having the times of their lives, even if, unfortunately, Chaz couldn't make it.
He never can, but that's okay. Nobody really misses him.
Reach Bill Lynch at email@example.com or 304-348-5195.