Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
MONTOYA, Coco(b 1951, Santa Monica CA) Blues guitarist, singer, bandleader. His working class parents had a large record collection. As a youngster, he enjoyed picking at the guitar, but he grew up playing drums in local rock bands. In 1969, Montoya saw Albert King opening a Creedence Clearwater Revival/ Iron Butterfly concert and was transformed. By the mid-1970s he was still playing drums in local rock bands, one of which played a Culver City bar on weekends. One Sunday, Albert Collins was booked to play a matinee there and the club owner gave Collins permission to use Montoya's drums. Montoya was not pleased, but Collins was apologetic; Montoya went to see the show and had the Albert King experience all over again.
A few months later, Albert desperately needed a drummer for a tour of the Northwest, and called Coco. During the tour, Albert taught him about the blues; he stayed with Collins for five years, and began doubling on guitar. Collins went out of his way to continue teaching the youngster, and they stayed close friends after Montoya left.
One night in the early 1980s, Montoya was jamming in a Los Angeles bar when John Mayall walked in. As a quick tribute, Montoya launched into All Your Love I Miss Loving. Impressed, Mayall left the club with a soundboard tape, and when needed a guitarist for the newly reformed Bluesbreakers, he called Coco Montoya. For ten years Montoya toured the world and recorded with Mayall, soaking up everything he could. Along with fellow Bluesbreaker guitarist Walter Trout, Montoya was a featured member of the band, and often opened shows.
By the early 1990s, Montoya was at another crossroads, feeling ready for a change. Collins had been diagnosed with cancer, and during a visit he told Montoya to move on and do his own thing. Montoya put a band together and hit the road. His debut album Gotta Mind To Travel '95 was first released on Silvertone in England, later in the USA on Blind Pig, and became a favorite with blues fans, radio programmers and critics. In 1996 he was nominated for four W. C. Handy Awards and won Best New Blues Artist. Ya Think I'd Know Better '96 on Blind Pig was followed by Just Let Go '97. Montoya's debut on Alligator, Suspicion 2000, was the best-selling of his career to date, followed by Can't Look Back 2002 and Dirty Deal 2007. Montoya averages over 200 tour dates a year, packing clubs, theaters and fesitvals around the world; he was also opening for and playing with Little Feat.