Fred Kaplan is best-remembered in blues history as a member of the immortal Hollywood Fats Band, but even more so, he belongs on the pedestal of Angeleno blues pioneers.
He was drawn to the ivories at age three, and performed his first recital when he was seven. While working for his father's furniture store, one of his father's customers sold him discarded records at a nickel apiece from his juke box-servicing business. Records like T-Bone Walker, Big Joe Turner, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, and Little Richard opened new frontiers and whetted Kaplan's appetite to learn more.
To meet blues greats, Kaplan swept floors at the Golden Bear and during his time off, hung around the Ash Grove, meeting Buddy Guy, Muddy Waters, and the like. But Kaplan's most profound experience came from befriending Lloyd Glenn. One of Kaplan's favorite memories was playing some unreleased tapes to Art Tatum and Glenn. Glenn got up and played all the material, verbatim, then continued with a personal jazz set. Through Al Blake, Kaplan met Fats, playing first as the Headhunters, which then evolved into the Hollywood Fats Band. They recorded one self-titled album, later retitled Rock This House when reissued on Blacktop and broke up in the early '80s. Sadly, the band nearly re-formed but ended with Fat's abrupt death in 1986.
During the dry years, Kaplan worked occasional gigs, some of which included prominent figures like William Clarke. In 1997, Kim Wilson of the Fabulous Thunderbirds formed Blue Collar Music, devoted to recording and promoting stylists steeped in early blues. Kaplan was tapped as vice president and recorded his solo, Signifyin', then supported Blake's Blue Collar debut of Mr. Blake's Blues. ~ Char Ham, Rovi