Guitar One Magazine calls guitarist/vocalist Coco Montoya “the hottest southpaw in the blues” and raves about his “master touch and killer tone.” The Boston Globe succinctly states that Montoya’s music is “hot, blistering soul.” From his early days as a drummer to his current status as one of the top-drawing guitarists and vocalists on the blues-rock scene, Montoya earned his status through years of hard work and constant touring. It all started with a chance meeting in the mid-1970s with legendary bluesman Albert Collins, who offered Montoya a gig as his drummer. Albert took an immediate liking to Montoya, becoming his mentor and teaching his new protégé the secrets of Collins’ “icy hot” style of blues guitar. Five years later, British blues icon John Mayall happened to catch Montoya at a jam session and was blown away. Mayall recruited him as his guitarist in the legendary Bluesbreakers, and Montoya spent the next 10 years touring non-stop, proving himself to be a world-class guitar master in one of the most renowned blues bands in existence. The rest is History!
Montoya is a self taught guitar slinger who plays with an emotional intensity few string benders possess. Playing left-handed and upside down like Albert King, Montoya learned his guitar techniques from his years with Collins. “I never had a lesson in my life. “I would watch other guitar players to catch what they did. I would wait for that one moment when they would do it, and just stare at them and try and remember where their hand was, where their fingers were.
“People ask, ‘Did you take lessons from Albert?’ It’s more from just hanging out in the hotel rooms. He would grab his guitar and I would pick up one and we’d play I just learned by listening, all by ear. I just play it the way I hear it. He was always saying, ‘Don’t think about it, just feel it.’ He taught me to tap into an inner strength. I don’t know all the licks in the world, but I know the ones I can express happiness or sadness or emotion.”
From 1976 until 1984, Montoya had lost some of the feel for music and worked bartender jobs to survive. In 1984, his second mentor, John Mayall, was celebrating his birthday in a bar where Montoya was performing. Montoya’s from the hip version of “All Your Love” caught Mayall’s ear and Coco was asked to pack his Strat and follow previous Bluesbreaker guitarists Eric Clapton, Peter Green and Mick Taylor in the Bluesbreakers. “I would never be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t gotten the phone call from John Mayall.”
After three records with Mayall as a member of the Bluesbreakers, Coco decided in 1993 it was time to take the lessons from his two musical fathers and begin to sculpt a solo career. In the early 1990’s he was signed to Blind Pig Records and released three critically acclaimed discs, Gotta Mind To Travel, Ya Think I’d Know Better, and Just Let Go. In the middle of his Blind Pig days, Coco also received national recognition when he was named the Blues Foundation’s Best New Blue Artist at the 1996 Blues Music Awards.