frenchie & brother pete
On a Sunday morning in July 2001, a 20-year-old Kevin “Frenchie” Sciou was sleeping on the couch in the living room of an Arizona home when he was awakened by Waylon Jennings and Jessi Colter singing “Storms Never Last.” Not on record, in the flesh, just a few feet away, with Jessi on the grand piano! The parents of Frenchie’s then-bandleader Shooter Jennings were gently stirring a house full of late-night partiers- and then Jessi made breakfast for their guests. “It was surreal,” says Frenchie, who also got to take a photo of himself sitting on Buddy Holly’s 1958 Ariel Cyclone motorcycle, which the Crickets had given to Waylon on his 40th birthday. “Just two months earlier, I was in L.A. with a backpack and two hundred bucks, answering ads for ‘guitar player wanted.’”
After a late night jam session in L.A., Frenchie was approached by Shooter’s drummer Lex Lipsitz, a native of Waco, Texas. Their hard rock band Stargunn needed a guitarist just like him, so Frenchie went down to their rehearsal space at the corner of Hollywood and Vine to audition on the spot. “After about 15 minutes, Shooter asked me where I lived and I told him it was at a youth hostel a few blocks away. He said, ‘Nah, you’re living with us at the band house from now on’ and they took me down to get my stuff.”
Things were happening fast for the hotshot southpaw guitarist from Nimes, France, who funded his move to the States by selling a Gibson Les Paul Custom guitar. But you can’t really play the blues until you’ve paid some dues and for Frenchie it’s been a rough and tumble 20 years from when he was a 17-year-old high school dropout jamming with blues legend Lucky Peterson at a French festival to the Nov. 9, 2018, release of Love Is Blood by his Frenchie’s Blues Destroyers duo with drummer Brother Pete Coatney.
“I’ve always been a guitar player for hire, this was my trade” says Frenchie, who got the nom de plume from singers who couldn’t always remember his name. “So to sing the songs I wrote is a big thrill. But in the beginning it was a little scary.” It was Brother Pete, his mate in Jack Ingram’s touring band, who encouraged Frenchie’s move to front and center. Brother Pete loved the tunes the guitarist had been writing on the road, so he booked the first Blues Destroyers show at Adair’s Saloon in Dallas in 2012. “I figured it could go either way,” says Frenchie. “If it didn’t go over well, that could’ve been the end of it. But if the crowd dug it, we might have something, you know? We haven’t stopped since.” The duo, whose “Destroyers” tag is borne from their personal slant on vintage blues, British Invasion and classic rock, put together a CD calling card to get more gigs. But they consider Love Is Blood, produced by Taylor Tatsch (Maren Morris) at his AudioStyles studio in Dripping Springs, Texas, as their true debut album.
“Being a two piece band shapes the way we approach the (roots rock) idiom,” says Brother Pete a native Texan, whose resume includes stints with Junior Brown and Billy Joe Shaver. On such originals as the T-Rex inspired lead-off track “Little Bit Crazy” and the road ode “Behind the Wheel,” FBD play off each other to deliver a swinging, snarling, bone-rattling sound that salutes melody with its Beatlesesque chord changes. Two-piece rock bands are not new, but the Blues Destroyers approach is distinctive.
“We are an example of two very differently raised yet very similar individuals,” says Brother Pete of Fort Worth, a man who grew up on Christian tradition, while the tattooed-up, wild French man is based out of Austin. “Our world views and our values may vary in certain circumstances, but we agree on most things.” Although there’s a significant age difference, they share a unified musical vision.
Credit the extensive record collection of Guy Sciou, a printer by trade, with giving his son Kevin an introduction to the ’60s bands — from the Animals and the Yardbirds, to the Doors, the Kinks, Humble Pie, Rolling Stones and many more — that are part of his musical DNA. One song in particular, “Black Cat Moan,” with it’s nine minutes of trickery and mastery by Jeff Beck, had Frenchie asking his folks for a guitar at age 12. By 13 he was playing local bars in Southern France.
“I grew up on American music — rock ’n’ roll and blues — but back when I was playing in France I felt somewhat like a copycat,” Frenchie says. “But as soon as I landed in the U.S. I felt at home, because this was where the music I loved was born.” But there was a continuous worry in the back of his mind. “When I played for Shooter the first time and he asked me to be in Stargunn, I had to tell him that I had to get my legal situation straightened out as I only had a tourist visa.” Waylon Jennings stepped in and wrote the Immigration and Naturalization Services to vouch for Frenchie’s character and musical ability, so the guitarist eventually got a work permit, which had to be renewed yearly at first. (Waylon also wrote to Frenchie’s parents to assure them he was in good hands and doing well.) After Stargunn broke up, Frenchie had to hustle gigs to keep his permit. “There were some jobs I would’ve turned down, but I had to keep working constantly. There was no down time.”
A gig with Wade Bowen brought Frenchie to Texas in 2003. Four years later, he replaced Chris Masterson in Jack Ingram’s band and started writing his own songs on the side. “Jack’s approach to songwriting was really influential. I’d see him constantly toying with song ideas and he turned me onto folks like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark. But Billy Joe Shaver is my all-time favorite. I knew about him through the Waylon connection and I’ve played with him a few times over the years. Billy Joe said the hardest thing about finishing a song is that you don’t get to play around with it anymore. I get that. It’s like a cat playing with a mouse before the kill.”
Although he’s played with many greats and co-founded the Redneck Social Club collective (co-writing Colt Ford’s hit “DWI: Dancing While Intoxicated” from the #1 country album Declaration of Independence) in Nashville, Frenchie says “the highlight of my musical career was becoming a U.S. citizen” in August of 2016. “I have followed an uncommon path, never been married nor held a regular job, so becoming an American citizen solely based on my musical merits was the greatest day of my life.” It was something he’d dreamt of ever since he jumped onstage with Lucky Peterson back in his home country and drew wild applause. “To play with an all-star American blues band as a young French man and hold my own meant everything to me at the time. I knew there and then I had something.” The next year when Lucky came through town, he remembered Frenchie and asked, “Did you bring your guitar?”
America has inspired Kevin “Frenchie” Sciou to follow his path. From his humble beginnings to today’s adventures, make no mistake … Frenchie’s Blues Destroyers is an all American band!