Case of the singer saved by popularity

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WHEN three-time Grammy nominee Peter Case, who performs at the String Jam Club next Saturday, suffered a near fatal heart scare two years ago, he was left with a huge problem.

The American had no medical insurance and faced a six-figure bill after a double bypass operation.

But the popularity of the songwriter was exemplified by fans and friends organising benefit gigs across California, Texas and Tennessee.

Performers at the shows included Loudon Wainwright III, Dave Alvin, Richard Thompson, Joe Henry and Van Dyke Parks.

“My fans and friends really bailed me out and came through for me, helping with my medical bills,” said Peter at the time. “I have a lot to be thankful for.”

Two years on, and Case’s workload defies a 57-year-old with previous cardiac problems.

He arrives in Galashiels as part of a European tour, with dates in the US pencilled in throughout June on his return.

Originally from Buffalo, New York, he left the east coast in 1974 to travel west to California – “as far as you can get without a passport”.

After a spell as a street singer in San Francisco, he became a member of the Nerves, a punk band who opened for the Ramones. Their song Hanging on the Telephone was covered by Blondie.

Peter’s next band, the Plimsouls, were formed in 1980 in Los Angeles.

The band proved popular within California’s biggest city, and enjoyed a hit with A Million Miles Away which featured on the soundtrack of the romantic comedy film Valley Girl, starring Nicolas Cage.

But it is Peter’s solo career that has proven to be more enduring.

He is a rocker turned acoustic guitar player and critics say his style inspired a host of musicians to pursue an alternative-Americana sound, including Ryan Adams.

He earned his first Grammy nomination in 1986 after his first solo album release and he has recorded a further 10 solo records.

In 2001, he was nominated for a Grammy again, this time for his work as producer of a tribute album to the influential country blues singer Mississippi John Hurt, which featured Lucinda Williams, Steve Earle and Beck.

Then in 2007, 21 years after his first selection, Case was again up for a Grammy for his record Let Us Now Praise Sleepy John.

That record was widely praised and named as his best work, and one critic wrote: “His stark lyrics about time and distance and yearning are riveting and memorable and haunting.”

Last year, he released Wig! described by the Independent as “a great album of raw, roaring rhythm-and-blues rockers.”

Meanwhile, a collection of rarely heard demos and live performances is due to go on sale later this year.

His own songs have been covered by the indie rock group The Goo Goo Dolls – who also hail from Buffalo – as well as Robert Earl Keen, Flamin’ Groovies, Marshall Crenshaw and Four Men and a Dog.

Tickets are £9 for Peter Case’s gig at the Salmon Inn, Galashiels – doors open at 7.15pm. Phone 01896 752577 to buy tickets.