Estrin was born in San Francisco, California in 1949, and grew up following his own path. He discovered an entirely new lifestyle when, as a 10-year-old boy, he made his way to the tough Market Street area and befriended many of the neighborhood characters. He found another new world when his older sister gave him a copy of Ray Charles’ ‘The Genius Sings The Blues’ when he was aged 12. Albums from Jimmy Reed, Champion Jack Dupree, Mose Allison, Nina Simone and others soon followed. By the time he was a teenager, Estrin had completely identified with the urban, African-American culture surrounding him.
Rick Estrin got his first harmonica at age 15, and by the age of 18 was proficient enough to begin sitting in at black clubs around the city. He first jammed with blues master Lowell Fulson and almost immediately was hired to open five shows for R&B giant Z.Z. Hill.
He worked five nights a week for almost a year with Travis Phillips in a band fronted by famed pimp/bluesman Fillmore Slim (who was the centerpiece of the acclaimed Hughes Brothers documentary American Pimp). Phillips introduced Estrin to Rodger Collins, the man who would become Rick’s first real musical mentor, and who schooled Rick on the finer points of songwriting and show business.
Estrin moved to Chicago when he was 19 and worked with South Side bluesmen Johnny Young, Eddie Taylor, Sam Lay and Johnny Littlejohn before meeting and jamming with Muddy Waters, who told Rick, “You outta sight, boy! You got that sound, boy! You play like a man, boy!” In fact, Muddy wanted Estrin to go on the road with him, but due to nothing more than a missed phone call, it never happened. Rick eventually moved back to the Bay Area, met Charlie Baty and formed Little Charlie & The Nightcats.
For more than 30 years and nine albums, Rick fronted the band, featuring Baty’s one-of-a-kind guitar acrobatics. The band won international acclaim and toured the world repeatedly. They were nominated four times for the prestigious Blues Music Award for Band Of The Year.
With Charlie’s retirement in 2008, Rick rededicated himself to his craft. Hansen and Farrell wanted to keep the band going. Estrin knew the only way to replace Baty’s crazed and unique guitar style was to find someone with an equally insane and individual approach, and he knew that would be a tall order to fill.
As luck would have it, Kid Andersen, who had been working with another harp legend, Charlie Musselwhite, became available. “Kid’s a fearless nut on the guitar,” says Estrin. “He’s really the only guy who could fit in with us.”
With an unpredictable, no-holds-barred style that perfectly meshed with Estrin’s wildly imaginative original songs, the new band Rick Estrin & The Nightcats charged out of the gate in 2009 with Twisted. Living Blues said, “Outstanding…most definitely twisted- in the finest sense of the word.”