Arts DEVO: Au revoir, band leader

Butte County loses another member of its musical family

Alan Rigg. (Photo by Ken Pordes)
Jason Cassidy

Just before the CN&R print deadline, I got word about the passing of beloved local musician Alan Rigg. He died in the early morning of Feb. 25 at Enloe Medical Center. He was 69.

Rigg had been playing music in Butte County from the summer of 2005—when he moved here from New Orleans after losing his home to Hurricane Katrina (he also lost a home in Paradise to the Camp Fire in 2018)—all the way up to a Mardi Gras party gig at the Chico Elks Lodge on Feb. 18.

According to his friend, Melissa Schuster, Rigg was surrounded by friends, loved ones and his dog Tipitina, all gathered in his room singing songs to the end.

In 2019, I wrote a feature on Rigg for this paper. Here’s an updated version of the section summarizing his musical life:

Rigg started playing music when he was 6 years old. He was born in Kentucky and grew up in Indiana, where at age 14 he joined his first band, a regionally popular garage-rock outfit called The Weejuns. He moved around, touring the South with succession of groups—Cold Sweat, C.C. Express and a professional backup band called the Memphis All-Stars, which would provide musical accompaniment for touring performers—everyone from Little Anthony to Chuck Berry.

RIP Alan Rigg. (Photo by Ken Pordes)

In 1995, fulfilling a lifelong dream, he moved to music-rich New Orleans and became a fixture in the scene, performing everywhere from street corners to major clubs like Tipitina’s and House of Blues. A couple of fellow performers he met while playing on the streets of that city actually lured him out West in 2005. Michael Borland (aka Zack Dragon) and Pablo Diablo—of one-time Butte County Cajun-rock crew the Double Zero Band—invited their friend to Butte County to join them in the scene. Once fate stranded him here, Rigg got right to work.

He formed the Alan Rigg Trio—with him singing and playing keyboard and guitar—and began performing jazz whenever he could. As he established himself and started meeting other local musicians, the trio eventually grew into the Alan Rigg Band, featuring a large rotating crew of local ringers. The expanded cast helped Rigg beef up the jazzy sound, as he brought in elements of Zydeco, rock, funk and R&B to the band’s repertoire of covers and originals and making them regulars at restaurants, clubs and community events all over Butte County.

A memorial for Rigg is being planned for later in March.

An embarrassment of musical riches

Spring is still weeks away, but Chico has already sprung. The month of March is full of so many huge shows (Los Lobos! Old 97’s!) and a ridiculous number of rad-looking smaller ones (Tropa Magica, Charming Disaster, Amarok, Spirit Mother, Bart Budwig, Vicky Farewell). It’s almost daunting.

Two of the best musical developments come from maybe the two best local acts.

First, Surrogate has a new album called Space Mountain, and it’s streaming now on Spotify and Apple Music (with physical mediums planned for summer release). Fans of the tuneful rockers have heard all of the songs already as the band leaked each track as it was made over the past five years. It’s a bright, rockin’ collection filled with perfect melodies and great lyrics, and it might be this fanboy’s fave.

Also, troubadour extraordinaire, Jonathan Richman is playing a local gig! Two actually, an early (7 p.m.) and a late (9 p.m.) performance, March 14 at the Pageant Theatre. It’s a Valley Fever production and tix are available at

Jonathan Richman

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