One of Oregon’s most recognizable blues performers, Curtis Salgado and his band played this powerful set at OPB last week for a studio audience.

Curtis Salgado is a blues icon in Oregon, with a 40+ year career in the music, long stints with the Robert Cray Band, fronting Roomful of Blues, and his bands The Nighthawks, and Curtis Salgado & The Stilettos. Growing up in Eugene, Salgado began playing music on the guitar, but fell in love with the sound of blues harmonica and changed course. When he inherited a small amount of money for education, his parents used it to pay for vocal lessons. Above all it’s his huge voice and soulful performing that most blues fans have come to know.

In 1977, Salgado met actor/comedian John Belushi in Eugene while Belushi was filming Animal House, and Belushi later created a harmonica-playing character, inspired at least in part by his friendship with Salgado. The Belushi/Dan Akroyd film and record The Blues Brothers turned a new generation of fans to the blues. (To hear Curtis Salgado talk about his relationship with John Belushi and The Blues Brothers, click the bonus interview cut in the audio player below.)

Salgado suffered serious health problems in 2006, with liver and lung cancer, and learned he needed a liver transplant. Without health insurance to pay for a procedure expected to cost half a million dollars, he turned to friends to help raise the money. A series of fundraising events with the support of fans and musicians across the country helped make the life-saving procedure possible.

Update 6/29/12: In a press release this afternoon, Salgado’s record label announced a recurrence of lung cancer and surgery scheduled for July 18. For people wishing to make a donation towards his expenses, a fund has been set up to accept them.

His record Clean Getaway marked his return to the scene in 2008. He won the 2010 Blues Music Award for Soul Blues Artist of the Year. He’s called his new record, Soul Shot, the best record he’s ever made.

You can hear Curtis Salgado and his band performing at the Waterfront Blues Festival starting at 8:45pm on the 4th of July, at Tom McCall Waterfront Park.

Curtis Salgado at OPB, 6-19-12

Recorded by Steven Kray, with technical assistance from Randy Layton and Jonathan Newsome

Video production: Jarratt Taylor, with Ifanyi Bell, Michael Bendixen, and Luis Giraldo

Photos: Nathan Quigley