Musician’s Corner Feature – GUITAR FRENCHIE

Apr 25, 2023 | Musician's Corner, Trinity River Blues Society


“On a Sunday morning in July 2001, a 20-year-old Kevin “Frenchie” Sciou was sleeping
on the couch in the living room of an Arizona home when he was awakened by Waylon
Jennings and Jessi Colter singing “Storms Never Last.” Not on record, in the flesh, just
a few feet away, with Jessi on the grand piano! The parents of Frenchie’s then-front
man Shooter Jennings were gently stirring awake a house full of late-night partiers, and
then Jessi made breakfast for their guests. “It was surreal,” recalls Frenchie, who
describes posing for a photo while sitting on Buddy Holly’s 1958 Ariel Cyclone
motorcycle – a gift to Waylon from the Crickets on his 40th birthday. “Just two months
earlier, I had been in L.A. with a backpack and $200, answering ads for ‘guitar player
wanted.’” After a late-night jam session in L.A., Frenchie was approached by Shooter’s
drummer Lex Lipsitz, a native of Waco, Texas. Their hard-rock band Stargunn needed a
guitarist just like him, Lex told him, so Frenchie went down to their rehearsal space at
the corner of Hollywood and Vine to audition on the spot. “After about 15 minutes,
Shooter asked me where I lived, and I told him it was at a youth hostel a few blocks
away. He said, ‘Nah, you’re living with us at the band house from now on’ and they took
me down to get my stuff.” Things were happening fast for the hot-shot southpaw
guitarist from Nimes, France, who had funded his move to the States by selling his
Gibson Les Paul guitar. But you can’t really play the blues until you’ve paid some dues,
and for Frenchie that tab was not small. He’s slogged ahead through a
rough-and-tumble 20 years, from jamming with blues legend Lucky Peterson at a
French festival as a 17-year-old high school dropout, to playing for hire as he found his
place and formed his own band, to now: the sophomore release on Friday, March 13 of
“Praise” from his Frenchie’s Blues Destroyers duo with brother Pete Coatney on drums.
“I’ve always been a guitar player for hire, this was my trade,” says Frenchie, who earned
his nom de plume from Texas singer/songwriter Jack Ingram. “So to sing the songs I
wrote is a big thrill. But in the beginning I was a little hesitant.” It was Brother Pete, his
mate in Ingram’s touring band, who encouraged Frenchie’s move to front and center.
Brother Pete loved the tunes Frenchie had been writing on the road, so he booked the
first Blues Destroyers show at Adair’s Saloon in Dallas back in 2012. “I figured it could
go either way,” recalls Frenchie of that first show. “If it didn’t go over well, that could’ve
been the end of my aspiring singing career. But if the crowd dug it, we might have
something, you know? We haven’t stopped since.” The duo – whose “Destroyers” tag is
borne from their personal slant on Vintage Blues, British Invasion and Classic Rock –
put together a CD calling card to get more gigs. It was followed by “Love Is Blood,”
released November 9, 2018, and debuted at No. 2 on iTunes Blues charts. “I grew up
on all American music — Rock ’n’ Roll and Blues — but back when I was playing in
France I felt somewhat like a copycat,” Frenchie says. “But as soon as I landed in the
U.S. I felt at home because this was where the music I loved was born.” But there was a
continuous worry in the back of his mind. “When I played for Shooter the first time and
he asked me to be in Stargunn, I had to tell him that I had to get my legal situation
straightened out as I only had a tourist visa.” Waylon Jennings stepped in and wrote the
Immigration and Naturalization Services to vouch for Frenchie’s character and musical
ability, so the guitarist eventually got a work permit, which had to be renewed yearly at
first. (Waylon also wrote to Frenchie’s parents to assure them he was in good hands
and doing well.) After Stargunn broke up, Frenchie had to hustle gigs to keep his permit.
“There were some jobs I would’ve turned down, but I had to keep working constantly.
There was no down time.” A gig with an exploding Texas Country star, Wade Bowen,
brought Frenchie to Texas in 2003. Four years later, he replaced guitarist Chris
Masterson (Steve Earle) in Jack Ingram’s band and started writing his own songs on the
side. “Jack’s approach to songwriting was influential. I’d see him constantly toying with
song ideas, and he turned me onto folks like Townes Van Zandt and Guy Clark,”
Frenchie explains. “But Billy Joe Shaver is my all-time favorite. I knew about him
through the Waylon connection, and I’ve played with him a few times over the years.
Billy Joe said the hardest thing about finishing a song is that you don’t get to play
around with it anymore. I get that. It’s like a cat playing with a mouse before the kill.”
Although he’s played with many greats over the years, Frenchie says “the highlight of
my musical career was becoming a U.S. citizen” in August 2016. “I have followed an
uncommon path, never been married nor held a regular job, so becoming an American
citizen solely based on my musical merits was the greatest day of my life.” It was
something he’d dreamt of ever since he jumped onstage with Lucky Peterson back in
his home country and drew wild applause. “To play with an all-star American blues band
as a young French man and hold my own meant everything to me at the time. I knew
there and then that I had something.” America has inspired Kevin “Frenchie” Sciou to
follow his own path. From his humble beginnings to the sophomore release of his
Frenchie’s Blues Destroyers album “Praise”: He defiantly beat the odds in his pursuit of
the American Dream.”