In Memoriam: Lolly Vegas of Redbone

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Lolly VegasLolly Vegas, a co-founder of the band Redbone and who wrote their biggest hit “Come and Get Your Love”,  died of cancer March 4 in Reseda, California. He passed away at home in his sleep at the the age of 70.

Lolly was born Lolly Vasquez and he and his brother Pat are of Chicano and Native Mexican-American descent. They chose the stage name Vegas because they had an uncle with that name and they liked its reference to Las Vegas.  Together they formed The Crazy Cajun Cakewalk Band, which evolved into Redbone in the late ’60s.

According to Pat, Jimi Hendrix (who also had Native American roots) had urged them to put together the all-Native group, which originally included Peter DePoe and Tony Bellamy (Anthony Avila).  Bellamy recently died on Christmas  Day 2009.

The Vegas brothers grew up in Fresno, California and started their careers in Jimmy Clanton’s touring band. with  Pat playing bass and Lolly lead guitar.  After leaving  Clanton in 1961, Pat and Lolly headed for Hollywood, where the legendary  Bumps Blackwell became their manager.  Blackwell had helped bring Sam Cooke and Little Richard to stardom and he suggested their surname change because of racial discrimination in the Sunset Strip clubs. 

Over the next ten years, Pat and Lolly shared the stage with bands like the Doors, Buffalo Springfield, and the Byrds.  On one occasion they jammed all night with the Rolling Stones.  They also became in demand studio musicians and worked alongside Dr. John, Leon Russell, Glen Campbell, Johnny Rivers, and many others. 

A major break came in 1964 when they became regulars on the hit ABC-TV music show  Shindig.  As songwriters, Pat and Lolly (with Jim Ford) wrote a hit for P.J. Proby called “Nicky Hoeky,” which led to covers by artists such as Bobbie Gentry, Aretha Franklin, and Tom Jones.  (Jones later covered Redbone’s “The Witch Queen of New Orleans” which earned him a gold record in England.)

Lolly Vegas was one of the first guitarists to make extensive use of the distinctive Leslie rotating speaker effect in his electric guitar amp and often played improvised, jazz-influenced licks. His guitar is heard on many hits  recorded in L.A. and was frequently hired by producers Phil Spector and Lou Adler.

In recent years he had suffered a stroke and was unable to continue playing guitar.

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