Article - Spanky and the Love Handles stay true to blues pedigree

Frontman Clark Vreeland extends his repertoire

The sound is vintage Chicago blues with a New Orleans accent. But naming the band Spanky and the Love Handles made some doubt the local trio’s blues pedigree. When the members tried to join the Atlanta Blues Society earlier this year, they caused a flurry of e-mails from members questioning whether they belonged. “We hosted one of their meetings and everybody was floored,” says Spanky bassist Beth Vreeland. “They were like, ‘This is blues!’”

Spanky singer/guitarist Clark Vreeland spent nearly 15 years playing with Code Blue after moving to Atlanta from his native New Orleans in 1984. “Code Blue was more like a rolling poker game,” says Clark, whose musical resumé includes being mentored by and playing with legendary New Orleans bluesman Earl King, as well as Professor Longhair, Allen Toussaint and Meters man, funk bassist George Porter Jr. “Clark learned all the fundamentals of rhythm guitar from George,” his wife Beth chimes in. Clark says one of his fondest memories with Porter is when they performed the 1980 masturbation classic “Turning Japanese” by English punkers the Vapors live at Jazz Fest with Meters drummer Zigaboo Modeliste.

Backed by local drum fixture Bob Rice (the Shadows), Spanky’s sets are dirty blues sessions that might include a gritty, Delta-mud-between-the-toes version of Willie Dixon’s “I Want to Be Loved” along with a wiggly, slide guitar rendition of the narcotic, New Orleans hymn “Junko Partner. ”

Clark — who produced the 1996 release Primitive Streak by New Orleans roots rockers Subdudes, and three Code Blue records — is currently working on a Spanky release in his home studio. Porn Quality is the working title. “We’re talking about releasing it on Internet by Christmas, along with a 7-inch vinyl with a little hole in the middle,” he says.    

Although his product might be low-down, Clark has a higher goal in mind. “We’re trying to head for the light by shining and sharing instead of heading for the darkness and trying to get all weird and heavy,” the guitarist says. “That’s about as much as I could ask for.”