Robert Heft returns to Prince O’ Whales for a late-night jam
By Michael Aushenker
Robert Heft has been here before, and that’s just alright with him.
The Prince O’ Whales Sports Bar & Restaurant in Playa del Rey is one of the favorite venues of the leader of the Robert Heft Blues Band, returning Saturday in true bar-band style.
“There’s a lot of partying, but it’s not aggressive. Just people having a good time,” said the veteran blues guitarist and vocalist, performing with bandmates Jeffrey Michaels on bass, Paul Sinacore on drums and Jon Gold on keyboards. “It’s outstanding because it’s near the college [LMU], so the crowd is on the young adult side.”
In addition to performing all over Southern California and in Las Vegas, Heft plays Prince O’ Whales at least four times a year, he said. His blues unit also occasionally performs at Danny’s Bistro in Venice.
A D.C.-area native who now lives in the Valley, Heft began his path to becoming a professional musician at age 7, when he began playing trumpet before picking up a guitar five years later. As a teen he worshipped Led Zeppelin, The Beatles and the Allman Brothers Band.
“A lot of the rock I was into, without knowing it, was blues stuff,” he said.
By the not-yet-legal age of 17, Heft already began playing in bar bands — beginning with Speakeasy, a Baltimore-based cover band shredding on Zeppelin and Bad Company tunes.
“They took me with them and snuck me in the back door,” he said, chuckling.
In 1979, he came out to Los Angeles, briefly lived in West Hollywood (where he worked for the long-gone record store Nadine’s Music) and was “gigging steady” by 1984 in country-Western bands.
“I’m always myself, no matter what genre of music I’m playing. I don’t chameleon-ize,” said Heft, who nevertheless loves the country stylings of Merle Haggard, Willie Nelson, Dwight Yoakum, Johnny Cash and Hank Williams.
By 2004, Heft returned to his first love: the blues. He began fronting Robert Heft and the Blue Sonics, and when the membership changed in 2008 he re-christened his group Robert Heft Blues Band.
On Saturday, expect to hear tunes by “all of the Kings,” Heft said — Freddie King, Albert King, B.B. King —as well as some by his old rock faves. Heft also plays original tunes from his recent and upcoming albums, 2013’s “Bottom of the Blues” and the planned 2015 release “Sundog.”
“I’m a fourth-generation blues guy,” he said. Translation: “Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, Dwayne Allman; a lot of slide guys like [The Beatles’] George Harrison, Mick Taylor.”
The Robert Heft Blues Band goes on at 10 p.m. at Prince O’ Whales, 335 Culver Blvd., Playa del Rey. No cover. Call (310) 823-9826 or visit princeowhales.com. To learn more about Heft, visit RobertHeft.com.