An Interview with Harvey Burgess, author of Reggae Night, Neon Prophet at the Chicago Bar
Full Name: Harvey Burgess
Where were you born? London, UK.
I am a Londoner and lived in Tucson between 2006 and 2012. I fell in love with this city the moment I set eyes on it and was inspired to write a book of short stories set here. That task took me four years and was a labor of love. It is now clear to me that the one thing lacking in my book was any mention of the Chicago Bar. I came to see Neon Prophet at the Chicago Bar two or three times and loved them, but never became a regular.
There is a “Tucson Thing,” in which connections between people do not suggest size degrees of speration but, as a friend of mine once said, one-and-a-half degrees. And so it is with places and organizations.Reggae Night by Harvey Burgess, Introduction
Have you ever played an instrument?
It is a source of great regret that I’ve never even had a music lesson. But it’s never too late. I plan to have some keyboard lessons
What brought you to Tucson, AZ?
My late father was a Royal Shakespeare Company actor and toured the USA in the 1980s, including Tucson. He fell in love with it and suggested that my wife and I give it a go. My wife is a nurse and got a job at St. Mary’s Hospital. We lived in Tucson between 2006 and 2012. I now visit every year and my brother, Andy Burgess, is a local artist and publisher. He published this book under his imprint: Dark Spring Press.
Do you remember your first live music show? If so, tell us about it.
I went to the Rialto Theater to see Michael Franti. The atmosphere was electric, Franti is a charismatic performer.
What is your favorite part about local live music?
It’s intimate and people are always super friendly and relaxed. Invariably, one strikes up a conversation with a stranger.
What is your most memorable moment while attending a Tucson Local Band show?
It has to be the launch of my first Tucson book in 2013, 12 short stories entitled: Tucson Tales: Bohemians, Bolsheviks, and Border Rats. I collaborated with my friends, the local band Combo Westside (who played jazz fusion-Bossanova). We rented out Solar Culture and alternated between songs and readings from the book. Over 100 people attended. it was a fantastic night.
What advice do you have for aspiring Tucson local musicians?
There is a generosity of spirit in Tucson and especially within the music community. Don’t be afraid to reach out to fellow musicians and venues if you need a helping hand.
If you could attend any live musical performance, past or present, who would it be?
I had to come back to London and was upset that I was going to miss The Wailers playing at The Rialto on 27 April.
What is your favorite Tucson local venue?
It has to be The Chicago Bar. I have a chapter on the bar in my new book. Plus, the Hop Street Lounge on 22nd and Kolb, where Neon Prophet plays every Thursday, is a lovely, intimate venue (and micro-brewery).
Who is one of your favorite Tucson local musicians?
Neon Prophet is my favorite band. I also like Rilen Out.
You recently wrote and published a book, Reggae Night. Can you tell us about it… What is the book about and why did you want to write this book?
My book is called: Reggae Night: Neon Prophet at the Chicago Bar. The book was the brainchild of my friend, Denny Graham, who is a longstanding fan of Neon Prophet. It is about two of Tucson’s most iconic and enduring institutions. Neon Prophet, the city’s leading reggae group, have been going for 38 years and they have been playing at the Chicago Bar since 1984. I am proud to have written a book that makes concrete a rich oral history and provides a lasting legacy for both the group and the venue.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
For those who have never been there, I suggest checking out the Chicago Bar, they have live music every night of the week. The crowd on Saturdays for Neon Prophet is the most diverse in Tucson.
This book is a celebration of two Old Pueblo institutions and the characters who have made them what they are today. Long live Neon Prophet. Long live the Chicago Bar.
In Reggae Night — Neon Prophet at the Chicago Bar, Harvey Burgess has compiled a rich and colorful history of Tucson’s premier reggae band and the iconic venue at which it has been playing for 37 years. He has concretized an oral history that was crying out to be told and provided a voice for the key players to share with the world their stories and what it is that makes Neon Prophet and the Chicago Bar special to them.