Rich MacPherson, a/k/a “Filthy Rich”
Rich has played on stages from Maine to Florida, including The House of Blues in Boston, The Stanhope House in New Jersey and Manny’s Car Wash and Chicago B.L.U.E.S. in New York City. He’s shared the stage with blues greats including; Homesick James, William Clarke, Snooky Pryor, Little Sammy Davis, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Pinetop Perkins, Bobbie Blue Bland, Jimmy Dawkins, Honeyboy Edwards, James Cotton and Big Jack Johnson. He and the Poor Boys are featured on a live recording by Homesick James.
“What am I doing playing music popular 40 years ago?” asks MacPherson. “I think it just feels comfortable to me and it’s the sound I like. It’s still a form you can put yourself into and express yourself. I like the stories it tells. It’s still relevant to me and to everybody.” That may be true, but it’s Rich’s style and talent that keeps audiences coming back to hear Filthy Rich and the Poor Boys. Rather than pounding away at listeners, as many of today’s musicians tend to do, Rich understands that good musicianship and restraint are essential. “If it gets too loud, it can kill the creativity,” he says.
Rich is at home entertaining audiences of all ages and frequently leaves the stage to get up close and personal. Whether delighting a group of young women with his titillating guitar antics, or encouraging a group of small children to strum his guitar during a song, Rich adapts his performance to be in tune with his audience.
Off stage Rich MacPherson is a quiet man of few words, but put a guitar in his hands, and strap yourself in. If you’ve never heard him play, you’re in for a treat. “Hey, “nuf said,” says Filthy Rich. “Give us a listen. We know you’ll be satisfied.”
Ken Nerbak, a/k/a “Big Boy Kenny”
Bassist Ken Nerbak, a/k/a “Big Boy Kenny,” grew up in Bayonne, NJ where as a youngster, his musical career began playing the accordion (polka anyone?). Ken recalls his late mother was a fan of Country/Western music and encouraged him to play the bass. “I never knew if she was serious, because back then the only bass available was a big old upright wooden dog house.” He wanted no part of that!
During his early teen years, Ken was listening to some of the greats in Blues Roots music on WNJR AM radio out of Newark, NJ. This is where his passion and foundation for the blues was born. The strong rhythms, story lines and soulful lyrics strengthened his commitment to someday play this form of music.
During a three-year hitch in the U.S. Army Signal Corp and 82nd Airborne, Ken learned his first three guitar chords from a Tennessee soldier and was forever hooked on string instruments. He played guitar in a few “garage” bands where he developed his sense of rhythm. He was even lucky enough to sit in with the late, great Roy Buchanan who was playing with some friends at Dick Lee’s, a blues club in the Camden, New Jersey area. While playing rhythm guitar with a local Bayonne country blues band at a club in Elizabeth, NJ, the late great Les Paul was in the audience and was invited on stage to do a few tunes with the band. It was an experience that Ken never forgot. He was so nervous that he could hardly stand up to play with such a musical giant on stage!
Life moved on. Marriage, college and a career in the jewelry business took Ken away from music. His two sons followed him in the music field by earning degrees in music from Berklee College in Boston. They live in Vermont and are accomplished musicians who can play every style of music imaginable. Ken finally reemerged and took his music seriously enough to study theory privately for six years. His instructor introduced him to the big band sound of the 30s & 40s and invited him to join “Swing Time,” a sixteen-piece band where he spent seven years playing electric bass. Many of the arrangement were blues-based compositions and arrangements, particularly the Duke Ellington and Sammy Nestico pieces. “This was the best training I ever received,” says Ken.
Longing for club work, Ken took over the bass duties with “Wreckless Abandon” and later moved on to “Roadside Louie and the Dusters” and the “Johnny Charles Band.” Appearances with great blues artists such as Homesick James, James Cotton, Bobby “Blue” Bland, Honey Boy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins, Jimmy Dawkins, Magic Slim and the Teardrops, David Maxwell, “Snooky” Pryor, Big Jack Johnson, Steve Freund, Bernie Allison, Ms. Shirley Lewis (“The Queen of the Boston Blues”) and Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson gave Ken the opportunity to sharpen his skills.
Ken always toyed with the idea of learning to play acoustic/upright bass but says, “I was intimidated by the challenge of mastering a fretless instrument.” But when the opportunity arose in 1995 to purchase a 1953 Kay, Ken decided that maybe his mother was right, that it was time to make the leap of faith and learn to play the “bull bass.” Today Ken can be heard on electric bass and upright. His love of the blues and the pure joy he experiences playing for an audience are obvious every time he takes the stage with “Filthy Rich and the Poor Boys.” Their latest CD “Keep It Simple” contains 12 original tunes all written by bandleader Rich MacPherson. The band members also appear on “Live at the Stanhope House” backing up the late great Homesick James (cousin of Elmore James) at the iconic Stanhope House in Stanhope, NJ.
David Sang, a/k/a “Blind Dave”
David Sang grew up on Long Island, New York listening to music and learning how to play drums at an early age. Blues became his musical choice of direction. Prior to playing with "Filthy Rich," David was drumming with various bands in swamp houses throughout the tri-state area. David started playing and became a founding member of Filthy Rich and the Poor Boys around 1990. He knew he had found a musical partner in Rich when on their first gig, Rich and David knocked back a shot of whiskey, Rich stepped to the microphone and greeted the audience by saying "hey you X!X@?!XX."
David has had the honor of drumming for Snooky Pryor, Homesick James, Honeyboy Edwards, Steve Guyger, Little Sammy Davis, Jimmy Dawkins, Pinetop Perkins and Jimmie Lee Robinson and has appeared on the bill with many other great musicians.
Says David; "Executing a greasy, seamless, dynamic groove and maintaining a sensitive approach to backing up the bandleader is what is important to me musically. My goal is to always focus on trying to make the bandleader and band sound great."
David continues to enjoy playing his deep blues with Filthy Rich and the Poor Boys.