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Commotion Band leader
Kari Huovinen:

"After the Woodstock movie, nothing was the same"

On a sunny spring day in Helsinki, we sat down in a peaceful restaurant and have a lunch with Kari Huovinen who plays guitar and is the lead singer of the Commotion Band and talks about the early days of his musical career and his major influences.

Where and when did you start to listen to country/rock music?

- "It all began when I was still living in my home town, Kemi. It was in the mid 60's when "Beatlemania" really hit Finland, just like it hit all over the world. It felt like they were from some other planet, the Beatles blew my mind too."

What are the first rock records that you remember from those early days?

- "Two songs were my big favorites: "Twist And Shout" and "Rock And Roll Music" by The Beatles. So guess I went straight to rhythm and blues. A good start anyway."

What was the next step?

- "I kept on listening to English and American pop/rock music from my radio. But it was until 1970 that it really hit me again. I heard the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival and saw the movie from the Woodstock 1969 Rock Festival. After I had heard CCR's album Cosmo's Factory and seen Ten Years After playing "I'm Going Home" in the Woodstock movie, nothing was the same. I was hooked by this kind of music. Pure and autenthic roots music: blues, country and rock'n roll."

When did you start to play the guitar? Did you have any musical education?

-" I think it was in 1970 when my cousin bought himself a Telecaster guitar and a Fender Pro Reverb amplifier. He showed me the guitar riff of CCR's "Down On The Corner". That was my education, everything after that I have picked by ear. Maybe it was not the easiest way, but like they say: where there is a will, there is the way..."

When did you buy your first guitar and amplifier? Do you still use them?

- "First I started to practise on my brother's guitar. It was a Lucky 7 guitar that he had ordered by mail. It was not a good guitar, when I got the money I bought me a good set. I admired a lot of Chuck Berry, Alvin Lee and Albert Järvinen, they all played Gibson 335, that is why I picked that kind of guitar for myself too. "
- "On the Cosmo's Factory album cover there is a Fender Silverface amplifier, that is why I picked the Fender Twin Reverb "Silverface". I still have the Gibson 335 but I don't use it on stage, I find Fenders and Les Pauls more comfortable. The Twin Reverb is still my companion on the stage, it is a perfect amplifier for my personal playing style. It has the clear(water) tube sound!"

Which bands did you play in before you started Commotion in 1989?

-" First I started a band called Crazy Chester Blues Band. We played cover versions of Tony Joe White ("Groupie Girl"), Chuck Berry ("Nadine") and ZZ Top ("Arrested Driving While Blind") and of course all kind of Chicago/Delta blues."
- "The next band was The Bottle Boys, then I started to pick also CCR tunes to our set list. And some country songs too."
- "After that I started a duo band with my bass player Jarmo Lampela. That was an acoustic style band, I played acoustic guitar and Jarmo played upright bass. We both sang, Jarmo singing the harmonies. That was mostly old blues and country stuff. Our duo was called "Crazy Chester and Willie Lester", it was really a good time music band."

Do you have any official recordings from those days? And how did it go on?

- "Unfortunately no recordings. Just good memories. It was on a Chester & Lester gig in 1987 that I met first time Ville "Lefty Willie" Leppänen. He played in a band called "Graveyard Band", because they all had been working in graveyards! Some months later Ville asked me if I would want to play with him as an acoustic duo. We started to practise for some gigs, and our duo got a name: ChesterVille. Our set included many Robert Johnson's blues classics (vocals by Ville) and many country songs (vocals by Kari). Some CCR stuff too! We did some gigs by ChesterVille also with a bass player (upright bass) and sometimes with a drummer too. ChesterVille performed also at the Kaustinen Folk Festival 1988 and 1989, representing the American folk and country music tradition."

Then it was time to establish Commotion?

- "Yes. I had a job in Norway in the winter 1988/1989 and I could not play in Finland. But I did play in country jam sessions in Norway, because country music is very popular in Norway. It was great fun! During this time Ville started his own band Third Avenue and after that he started Keystone Cops, which is still his main band. When I returned to Finland I was lucky to meet Mikko Huotari at a jam session at Live Music Club/Weeruska. We played together and soon noticed we are able to start a new country rocking band, we called it Commotion..."

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