2005-04-01 The Record Bergen County, N.J.

WHO: Garland Jeffreys.

WHAT: Rock.

WHEN: 8 p.m. April 9.

WHERE: B.B. King’s, 237 W. 42nd St., Manhattan. (212) 997-4144.

HOW MUCH: $27.50.

Garland Jeffreys deserves better; it’s really that simple.

Aficionados, critics and fellow musicians sing his praises at every opportunity, but to this day Jeffreys remains an overlooked treasure, a rock veteran who never quite hit the big time, a guy who missed stepping into the spotlight by an inch here and an inch there. His songs, powered by his potent voice and master guitar picking, have made him as large an influence on others – Bruce Springsteen included – as Motown’s luminaries and Bob Dylan were on him. His songs, from “Wild in the Streets” to “Why-O,” “Matador” to “Don’t Call Me Buckwheat,” “Christine” to “Ghost Writer,” span from straight rockers to romantic odes, autobiographical reflections to anti-racism polemics.

Jeffreys, however, refuses to grouse.

“I don’t spend a lot of time focusing on what happened or didn’t happen,” the 60-year-old says by telephone from the New York City apartment he shares with his wife and daughter. “I have a couple of friends who do a lot of focusing on that kind of thing, and I tell them they’re wasting their time and they’re in the past and they’re victims of their own crap. What happens in the music industry or in the arts or in business or in the world in general is that things don’t always happen the way you want them to happen. They just don’t. I’m not the only artist who’s had this experience.

“I have a career,” he adds. “I have a great career in Europe. I’ve got devoted fans here, too. Some people don’t have anything. Some people who are very, very talented don’t have the career or the audience they should have. At my age, though, if you’re hindered by what didn’t happen, you’re really in trouble.”

Considering his popularity abroad, no one would begrudge Jeffreys if ever he packed his bags and crossed the pond. Fortunately, that’s not in the cards. “I’ve thought about moving to Europe a million times, and in light of 9/11 and the potential for more it’s become more attractive,” he says. “My largest market is Germany and my second largest is France. … But I am such a New Yorker. I enjoy the European world. I had the great opportunity, at 19, of living in Europe for a year as a student. I’ve been back there many, many, many times, but there’s nothing, for me, like living and playing in New York City.”

Besides, right now, things are looking up for Jeffreys in the States. He’s signed a record deal with Universal Music that will yield his first album released here since 1992. Actually, expect two CDs sometime this year – a definitive retrospective CD package with a few new cuts, as well as a disk full of fresh tunes. Meanwhile, though he plans to tour far more extensively when the CDs drop, he’ll jump onstage at B.B. King’s on April 9 for a one-night stand.

“That’ll be me with the Coney Island Playboys,” he says. “It’s actually Playboys and Playgirls. We’re an eight-piece band. We’ll be playing a couple of new songs that we’ll test the waters with and have some fun with.”

Jeffreys, as noted, is 60. But that’s young, he says. He’s still got the energy and the will to rock.

“I’ve rediscovered a very powerful enthusiasm for performing and for music, within myself,” he says. “It’s a personal renaissance, you could say. My commitment to what I do seems to be very clear – it’s to play and tour and record until John Lee Hooker calls me, as I like to say.”

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