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Texan Rocky Athas started playing guitar at school and performing at neighborhood gigs with good friend Stevie Ray Vaughan. (You can open the pages of 'Stevie Ray Soul To Soul', by Kerri Leigh and read Rocky's recollection of childhood memories that he and Stevie shared). They were schoolmates and friends growing up in the Dallas suburb of Oak Cliff, Texas. By age 23, Rocky was honored as one of the ten best guitarists in Texas, as an inductee to Buddy Magazine's Texas Tornadoes. Stevie Ray Vaughan would receive his induction two years later. Rocky holds this honor with such noted guitarists as Eric Johnson, Bugs Henderson, Johnny Winter, Jimmy Vaughan and ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons who is also a long-time admirer of Rocky's playing.
Rocky wasn't only recognized by Texas musicians, the Irish rock band 'Thin Lizzy' wrote the song 'Cocky Rocky' after hearing Rocky play one night at 'Mother Blues', a local Dallas club. 'Queen' guitarist Brian May was also on hand for those performances and was so floored by Rocky's finger tapping style that he incorporated it on the next Queen album. May later revealed that it was the guitarist from Mother Blues who first introduced him to the style, well before Eddie Van Halen became known for this.
In the late 70's and early 80's Rocky was the creative vortex behind Lightning', one of the biggest draws in Texas nightclub history. The band toured with the hottest arena acts of the time, including Ted Nugent, The Kinks, Rick Derringer, Ritchie Blackmore's Rainbow, and Peter Frampton. At that time Rocky's fame was such that Guild introduced the 'Rocky Athas I' guitar, and Gibson honoured him by making him the only non-record label endorsee in the company's history. Rocky took a further step up and received a well-earned and more substantial taste of the big time when he signed on as lead guitarist for the legendary 'Black Oak Arkansas' who featured him on their 'Ready As Hell' LP. His remarkable musical presence is indelibly etched into the grooves of this critically acclaimed album and during their touring schedule from 1996 through 2001. He has also worked as a session guitarist for Polygram records and conducted a series of regional clinics in Dallas. He also worked with the late Buddy Miles on a project called The Blues Berries and with Stevie Ray's rhythm section of Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon.
Mega producer Jim Gaines felt Rocky's talents should be showcased under his own name and that decision resulted in the formation of his four piece Texan band, 'The Rocky Athas Group' featuring the superb vocalist Larry Samford. The 2003 CD 'Miracle' was released internationally on the Armadillo label which subsequently led to his next CD entitled 'Voodoo Moon', again produced by Jim Gaines to excellent reviews.
It was shortly after this release that Mayall happened to catch Rocky's set when he opened for the Bluesbreakers at a Texas club and he was impressed enough to take down a phone number for future reference. We should now all look forward to Rocky's contributions to the latest John Mayall band.