The frontman and electric guitarist for Bryan Dean Trio was 14 years old then, but his passionate affection for the Gibson — as well as his grandmother — has stayed with him throughout decades of being a musician.
“My grandmother raised me after my mom died,” Dean, whose mother passed away when he was three months old, said. “My grandmother was my undying support…One of the women who I owe my life to. She was a huge, giant influence on me.”
Dean had used some of his allowance to help with the purchase of his first LP, and his grandmother had paid for the rest. Since then, he has played on Stratocasters and hollow-bodied guitars. But to this day, the six-string that's closest to Dean’s heart is the LP, the instrument his grandmother first handed to him.
Nowadays, you can find Dean rocking out on the heavy guitar – both in sound and actual weight – at various places around the city, including Boondocks Lounge and The Hog Pit Smokehouse.
Dean’s current band BDT, a three-piece blues rock group, was founded 10 years ago and remains a Tucson music staple. The trio won the Southern Arizona Blues Heritage Foundation Challenge in 2010 and made it to the semi-finals of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn. in 2011. Adding to the accolades, Dean and drummer Ralph Gilmore were both inducted into the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame in 2010.
BDT began as an independent project for Dean. After playing in several different bands throughout his life, including a jam band called Deacon and one with renowned bluesman Sam Taylor, Dean broke off and formed his own group in 2004 with his wife Koko Matsumoto.
With axeman Dean and Matsumoto on bass guitar, BDT was born. The two first started performing regular gigs at both local branches of Sakura and hiring different drummers to accompany them on stage for each show.
Right before the release of their debut album in 2007, the pair found the steady drummer that they had been looking for in Gilmore, who has owned the same yellow Gretsch tubs for decades.
“Bryan and I were just blown away by his skill,” Matsumoto said. “He is an incredible drummer, and we were so happy to have him join us.”
The trio then recorded its first album together titled Pink Elephant
, a 12-song CD composed of both covers and original tunes. Shortly after it dropped, BDT landed its long-standing weekly gig at Boondocks Lounge, and the band has been playing there on Mondays ever since.
“We love playing at Boondocks,” Dean said. “The environment is awesome, and we call everyone in the crowd a friend.”
In January of 2012, BDT came out with its second and newest album, Sobriety Checkpoint
, which was whipped together in two weeks. Unlike its debut album, every song on the band’s 13-track sophomore release was written by Dean. The final cut “Piece of You” is a tribute to Dean’s mother, who passed away in August of 1963.
“Our first album was more rocked out and had more arranged tunes,” Dean said. “The second was made on the fly with a lot of improvisation.”
And improvisation is what BDT is all about, according to its members.
The band prides itself off of never playing the same show twice. All three members believe that strict adherence to exact tabs is against the purpose of music. So during its live performances, BDT’s audience will always see a different concert from the one before it.
“Music isn’t learned,” Matsumoto said. “It’s about intuition…feelings. It’s about being in the moment, and you’re never going to experience the same moment twice. So every time we play, it’s different.”
BDT performs every Monday at Boondocks Lounge from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., and every Thursday at The Hog Pit Smokehouse from 5:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. The band will also be playing at the Blues Fest pre-show in Bisbee, Ari. on Friday, Sept. 12.
“It’s wonderful playing with these two,” Gilmore, 58, said. “It’s been a Godsend, because it’s great to have a band that challenges you and gives you the opportunity to bring what you have to the table. I have really been able to grow as a musician rather than just being confined to play a part. I feel like this band has been my arrival.”