Here’s something obscure and awesome: an hour-long TV special by The Blasters, recorded live in Chicago back in 1982, with guest appearances by Carl Perkins and Willie Dixon.

The Blasters were one of the best bands of the ’80s. They came out of the same scene as X, Los Lobos, and even Dwight Yoakam, but never quite broke big. They got tagged as rockabilly revivalists, which brothers Phil (vocals) and Dave Alvin (guitars) certainly had the slick haircuts to be, but their music had so much more going on than that. On their self-titled album (not their debut, though few have heard their actual first release, American Music), they blazed through ’50s rock ‘n’ roll, country, R&B, the blues, and stomping tunes that blended all those styles and more. Their rhythm section—pianist Gene Taylor, bassist John Bazz, and drummer Bill Bateman—swung as hard as they rocked, and saxophonists Steve Berlin (who also worked with Los Lobos and the Plugz) and Lee Allen (the man behind the R&B hit “Walkin’ With Mr. Lee,” which the band covered live) gave the arrangements punch. Over the course of three studio albums and a blazing live EP, the band made a serious attempt at keeping the heart of American music—what Dave Alvin summed up as “the Louisiana boogie and the Delta blues/We got country swing and rockabilly, too/We got jazz, country western, and Chicago blues/It’s the greatest music that you ever knew” in the song of the same name—alive in the mid ’80s. This broadcast shows just how great they were; if you haven’t heard them before now, the two-CD set Testament: The Complete Slash Recordings will be a revelation.

Phil Freeman

Set list:

Crazy Baby; This Is It; Border Radio; I’m Shakin’; Tag Along; Stop the Clock; Go, Go, Go; Blue Suede Shoes (with Carl Perkins); Honey Don’t (with Carl Perkins); Rock-a-Billy Fever (with Carl Perkins); American Music; Hollywood Bed; Built for Comfort (with Willie Dixon); I’m Ready (with Willie Dixon); Marie, Marie; So Long Baby Goodbye; Boppin’ the Blues (with Carl Perkins)

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