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An interview with Chuck Prophet

Blake Maddux interviews singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet, who is also known for performing with Green on Red in the 80's and early 90's.

As a musician, Bobby Fuller clearly aspired to be like Buddy Holly.

Sadly, the realization of that aspiration included Fuller's death at 23 years old, the same age at which Holly had perished in a plane crash seven years earlier.

The circumstances surrounding Fuller's death remain a mystery 61 years later. Although authorities ruled it a suicide at the time, no one who is being perfectly honest ever believed that was what actually happened.

It was the music and life of Bobby Fuller that provided the inspiration for San Francisco singer-songwriter Chuck Prophet's new album, Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins. In a recent phone interview, Prophet described Fuller's truncated time on Earth as a "feel-bad...rock 'n' roll Babylon story" that is "definitely California noir."

Other homages on the album include ones that are obvious by their titles ("If I Was Connie Britton," "Alex Nieto") and others that the songs themselves make clear ("Bad Year for Rock and Roll," "In the Mausoleum").

The Boston-area stop of Prophet's current tour is at Cambridge's Lizard Lounge (9:00, $20 at the door), where he will be performing tonight with a string quartet. As he put it in my conversation with him that continues below, "It's not going to be particularly loud rock 'n' roll."

How did "Bobby Fuller Died for Your Sins" become the title of and lead-off track on your new album?

That song was written while there was a Bobby Fuller record on the turntable. And I turned to my friend [Kurt Lipschutz] and I said, "Do you hear the record crackle and the needle skips and jumps? I never saw a movie that moved me half as much." And he said, "Bobby Fuller died for your sins." And we were off and running.

Did you write "Bad Year for Rock and Roll" in the immediate wake of David Bowie's death, or did it come about during the process of writing songs for the album?

Well I mean, whenever somebody dies, you know, like David Bowie, their music is in the air.

Although the song "Bad Year for Rock 'n' Roll," you could say it's about losing the musical heroes that we lost in 2016 when the record was written, but it's also about losing any faith or losing any illusion we may have had about democracy in this country as well. I think the election year is embedded in the DNA of the whole record, really. It's about losing faith and getting it back. We live in a time of cultural exhaustion. People are exhausted. They're tired of movies, they're tired of music. I'm not. (laughs) I'm still out there playing in a five-piece band, driving around in a Ford Econoline. We're playing sit-down clubs and we're playing a lot of clubs where people crowd into rooms with a sticky black floor, you know?

Is the song "We Got Up and Played" about a specific gig or just the experience of being on the road in general?

I wrote that on a rainy Wednesday night in Cleveland, Ohio, in the fall, I think, when the days were getting shorter. I don't know if you've ever loaded-in to an empty club in Cleveland, Ohio, on a rainy Wednesday, but, you know, it's kind of sad.

How would you describe, in a word or short phrase, the following people with whom you have worked?

Jonathan Richman.

What I would say about Jonathan Richman is "WWJD—What would Jonathan do?" Jonathan is fearless, in a word. And he seems like the kind of guy—if he put his mind to it—who could take on a football team.

Peter Wolf

Peter Wolf has more rock and roll in his pinky .. [recording unclear]

Warren Zevon.

Wicked, really. He's trouble waiting to happen.

Lucinda Williams.

Brilliant and generous.

You grew up in Whittier, CA, where Richard Nixon's family moved when he was a boy. Do you have any memories of living there when he was president?

I always found Richard Nixon very fascinating, on a personal level. My fourth grade class took a trip to Richard Nixon's first law office in La Habra, California. As a tiny child, I do remember walking along the San Clemente Beach with my sister when he was in office. And I remember a secret service guy on the sand telling us we couldn't go any further. Right there at his mansion on the beach at San Clemente.

Have you ever noticed any fans who show up to gigs every time you play specific towns or who come to more than one when you tour?

We've had a woman on this last tour that started in Toronto, and then she came to Pittsburgh, and she came to New York, and then we saw her in the Northwest—in Portland and Seattle—and she recently attended a show in Salt Lake and Denver. I noticed her down in front, so I asked her how many shows she'd been to. She rattled off how many shows she'd gone to, so we presented her with a commemorative roll of duct tape. We presented it to her on stage to show our appreciation for her support, and to give her something that could come in handy down the line based on the amount of travelling she's done to get from show to show.

Then I'll be sure to let my friends know, if the frequently go to your shows, to make sure you notice them. Maybe they will get something practical out of it.

Yeah it's possible. We like to give back.


"Prophet's new album feels like riding shotgun down some mythic highway with a rock true believer." – NPR, First Listen

"The excellent songs keep coming." – Los Angeles Times

"Bobby Fuller may have died for your sins, but Chuck Prophet is freakin' god!" - Jim Caligiuri, The Austin Chronicle

"A fresh, full-color take on the darker side of all things Golden State." – NPR, Heavy Rotation

"He's a throwback who believes two guitars, bass, drums and a sense of humor make for great music, and he's right." – Associated Press

"He has recorded over a dozen solo albums that just keep getting better." – NPR, World Cafe

"The music attests to the enduring resilience of rock-and-roll itself." – Philadelphia Inquirer

"Memorable melodies, exuberant playing, detailed lyrics and unflinching honesty...yet another example of not just Prophet's love of rock and roll, but an ability to create it with the spirit and intensity of the best." – American Songwriter

"Prophet's voice has grown richer with time and his melodies sharper." – San Francisco Chronicle

"If you're as moved by music as Chuck Prophet, you'll want to listen to his new album."– KEXP

"He calls this collection of tunes `California Noir,' and the album delivers on that promise with songs that explore the deteriorating American dream and all its faded glory." – Magnet

"Smart, honest and thoughtful...Prophet has rarely been better as a vocalist, finding the right tone on every track." – AllMusic

"When Chuck Prophet releases a new album, it's never a bad year for rock and roll." – No Depression

"Prophet's Ray Davies-like vocals merge with the blistering chops of the Mission Express to create a rousing, thought-provoking mélange of the highs and lows of society." – Elmore

"Chuck Prophet is a big time rock and roll star in a country that has forgotten that it needs big time rock and roll stars." – PopMatters

"What could be sad reflections becomes deliverance by the power, emotion and release of rock `n' roll." – Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

"Prophet has an effortless feel for pop music's power, fun and grace." – Lexington Herald-Leader

"There is morbidity in `Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins,' but to hear Prophet tell it, it sounds like a blast." – Glide Magazine

"Chuck Prophet continues his creative roll." – The Guardian

"Hovering somewhere between the lyrical directness of Jonathan Richman and the West Coast energy of Tom Petty." – Uncut

"Prophet brings heft, heart, and honesty to songs with dynamic melodies and lyrical depth." – The Daily Country

"A reminder of how potent straightforward melodic pop/rock can be. That is not, in any way, meant to suggest that this is simple music; the themes on Bobby Fuller Died For Your Sins are deep." – The Record Collector


You still here?

I just got off the phone with Stephie and tried to start yet another fight. I was like, "I'm not sure the pears at Whole Paycheck are any better than Safeway. Just sayin'." And she said, "Why you gotta open these old wounds? You're probably right, but the lighting is WAY better at Whole Foods." (Why do I do it? She always wins. The fluorescent lights at Safeway are all "Bzzzzzzzzzzt")

It remains to be seen if we'll continue to drive 3 hours out of the way for a Whole Foods salad just to put more money in Jeff Bezos pockets. Don't mind me, I just watching the business news at the Springfield Suites in Fall River, MS. where I'm killing time after a run of shows.

Chowder to the people right on,



7/23/2017 - Newcastle/Gateshead,UK - Summertyne Festival w/The Mission Express

7/24/2017 - Sheffield, UK - Leadmill w/The Mission Express

7/25/2017 - Birmingham, UK - Hare & Hounds w/The Mission Express

7/26/2017 - Belfast, NIR - Errigle Inn w/The Mission Express

7/27/2017 - Dublin, IRL - Whelan's w/The Mission Express

7/28/2017 - Kilkenny, IRL - Set Theatre w/The Mission Express

7/29/2017 - Perth, UK - Southern Fried Festival w/The Mission Express (sold out!)


8/2/2017 - Haddon Heights NJ 2017 Sundown Music Series w/The Mission Express

8/3/2017 - Worthington OH Natalie's w/The Mission Express

8/4/2017 - Berwyn IL FitzGerald's w/The Mission Express

8/5/2017 - Arnolds Park IA Summer Concert Series w/The Mission Express

9/3/2017 - Nicasio CA Rancho Nicasio w/The Mission Express

9/15/2017 - San Francisco CA The Fillmore w/The Mission Express supporting Ian Hunter(!)

9/22/2017 - Red River NM Red River Folk Festival - Solo

10/1/2017 - Novato, CA - HopMonk Tavern Cookout Series - Solo


10/6/2017 - San Francisco CA Make Out Room w/The Mission Express

10/7/2017 - San Francisco CA Make Out Room w/The Mission Express

10/11/2017 - Spokane WA Gonzaga University - Solo

10/13/2017 - Portland OR The Old Church Concert Hall - Solo

10/11/2017 1 Gonzaga University Spokane,Wa - SOLO


10/30/2017 - Brussels, BE - AB Club w/The Mission Express

10/31/2017 - Den Haag, NL - Paard w/The Mission Express

11/1/2017 - Tilburg, NL - 013 Poodium w/The Mission Express

11/2/2017 - Hoorn, NL - Het Huis Verloren w/ The Mission Express

11/3/2017 - Eeklo, BE - N9 w/The Mission Express

11/4/2017 - Groningen, NL - Take Root Festival w/The Mission Express

11/10/2017 - Barcelona, ES - Sala BeGood w/The Mission Express

11/11/2017 - Valencia, ES - 16 Toneladas w/The Mission Express

11/12/2017 - Bilbao, ES - Kafe Antzokia wThe Mission Express

11/13/2017 - Madrid, ES - El Sol w/The Mission Express

11/14/2017 - A Coruna, ES - Mardi Gras w/The Mission Express

11/15/2017 - Gijon, ES - Sala Acapulo w/The Mission Express

11/17/2017 - London, UK - ULU w/The Mission Express

11/18/2017 - Hebden Bridge, UK - Trades Club w/The Mission Express

11/19/2017 - Edinburgh, UK - Belle Angele w/The Mission Express

11/20/2017 - Cardiff - Clwb Ifor Bach w/The Mission Express

11/21/2017 - Paris, FR - La Boule Noire w/The Mission Express


12/6/2017 -Houston TX Coffeehouse Live at St. Andrew's w/The Mission Express

12/8/2017 - Austin TX Continental Club w/The Mission ExpresS

12/9/2017 - Austin TX Continental Club w/The Mission Express

2/22/2018 - Tampa FL WMNF Tropical Heatwave Cruise w/The Mission Express

2/23/2018 - Tampa FL WMNF Tropical Heatwave Cruise w/The Mission Express

2/24/2018 - Tampa FL WMNF Tropical Heatwave Cruise w/The Mission Express

2/25/2018 - Tampa FL WMNF Tropical Heatwave Cruise w/The Mission Express

2/26/2018 - Tampa FL WMNF Tropical Heatwave Cruise w/The Mission Express

Page 1 of 83 - Next >

Old Friends (LYRICS)

What Makes the Money Dance? (LYRICS)

Summertime Thing (LYRICS)

That’s How Much I Need Your Love (LYRICS)

Elouise (LYRICS)


Sun Sep 03 Rancho Nicasio
Nicasio, CA
Fri Sep 15 The Fillmore
San Francisco, CA
Fri Sep 22 Red River Folk Festival
Red River, NM
Sun Oct 01 HopMonk Tavern Cookout Series
Novato, CA
Wed Oct 11 Gonzaga University
Spokane, WA


  • Show in NY/LI area

    "Hey Chuck, how about a show at the Space in

  • Haddon Heights

    "Real sorry you got rained out last night. I look

  • blog post featuring your music

    "Hey Chuck, included your music in a theme blog

  • Europa tour

    "No shows in Scandinavia??? must be a mistake -

  • Summertime Thing - video??

    "Is there an "official video" for