Blues Traveler have been one of the prime movers of the jam band revival. The group formed in Princeton, New Jersey in 1988 with rotund singer and harmonica virtuoso John Popper, guitarist Chan Kinchla, bassist Bobby Sheehan, and drummer Brendan Hill. After they were signed to A & M, their first two albums, Blues Traveler(1990) and Travelers & Thieves(1991) were released without much fanfare. However, 1993's Save His Soul cracked the Top 100, and, while 1994's Four at first looked to be a sales disappointment, the slow-building smash success of single "Runaround" eventually made it the group's biggest hit. Tragedy struck after the 1997 release of Straight On Till Morning, as Bobby Sheehan died of a drug overdose in 1999. He was eventually replaced by Tad Kinchla and keyboardist Ben Wilson. Also, around that time, Popper began having health problems due to his excess weight, but a 1999 angioplasty and gastric bypass surgery in 2000 brought him and his band back to health and a new direction. Blues Traveler bounced back with Bridge in 2001 and released Truth Be Told in 2003 and Bastardos! in 2005. While they have never equaled the success of Four, they have built a loyal fanbase, as well as a reputation for great live shows make them a favorite on the jam band circuit.
Even if you've only ever rocked out to one song by Blues Traveler, most likely "Runaround," you know that their appeal lies largely in John Popper's unique tenor voice and masterful harmonica playing. Their long sets, packed with extended solo-filled songs, have brought their blues rock to hundreds of thousands of jam band aficionados. They're not just heroes to the noodle-lovers, however. They've long allowed the free trade of their live music, not just in the traditional CD and tape formats, but also over the internet, making them pioneers in the field of digital music sharing. So the next time you download that Green Day bootleg, Punk Boy, thank a Blues Traveler fan.