January / February 2007

by Maria BAINER

2006 has sped by, but there are still Fall blues items that happened.  There were special events, news items, visiting musicians, and CD releases to discuss, so here is the latest.


Francis Clay being serenaded by Ed Ivey at Clay's birthday party

The Sacramento Heritage Festival, Inc. kept their shows going. Their October show featured The Lee Boys, a Florida gospel group with bottleneck steel guitars, and Vasti Jackson, a veteran Mississippi guitarist and vocalist.

In November, they had Magic Slim, Joe Louis Walker, and Chris Cain perform.
Dorothy Hill, an avid blues lover, commented on this show. “This was an incredible day with an overflow audience on Thanksgiving weekend and just amazing performances...It is like a mini-festival which starts at 2 pm and goes on until usually 9 pm or so. I can’t say enough good things about the shows they put on.”
Check their website: http://www.sacheritagefest.com for their next show, February 11, 2007. Proceeds from these shows are given to a music education program in a Sacramento area pubic school.

The Rhythm & Blues All Stars  show happened, with hardly any publicity, at the classic Paramount  Theater in Oakland in October. It was a great show with an amazing lineup and a good crowd. As a plus factor, each group had their own band. Musicians were Marvin Sease, Denise LaSalle, Clarence Carter, Latimore, and Millie Jackson. Evidently Earl Jackson was the promoter.

Francis Clay, long-time drummer for Muddy Waters, celebrated his 83rd birthday at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco on November 5, 2006. It was a lovefest for him, well-attended by friends, fans, and musicians alike. There were at least 21 guest performers, and they all, plus all musicians attending, autographed a drum head, which was presented to Clay. Even Ed Ivey, booker for the club, did a special tribute serenade to Clay at the end of the evening, which was wonderful. Then there was the heartfelt tribute to Clay from Myrna Zialcita, the organizer for the show. She thanked Clay “for all the music you have brought to our planet, for the hearts you have made more joyful, and for all the love you have shared with all of us.”

Ernie Johnson, R&B Master Vocalist and Song Writer from Dallas, Texas and one-time Bay Area resident, was the star of the holiday celebration at the Sunday Blues ‘N Jazz Club in San Francisco in December.  He put on an entertaining, high energy, soulful show. He is thrilled to be indoctrinated into the CLEVELAND MUSIC HALL OF FAME in MARCH, 2007. For further information and/or booking, contact Stairway Entertainment, 1-214-330-0006.

Vocalist and long-time Bay Area resident, Curtis Lawson, is planning two important upcoming events. One is his Birthday Party on February 11, 2007 and the other is a Celebration of his 50th Year as a Vocalist. That event is scheduled for September 1, 2007.
Email: [email protected] for further information.


Several columns ago, I mentioned a new CD that vocalist, Monica Dupont, was working on. Some health issues have hindered her progress, but the CD is still in the works. It is two-thirds finished. I will keep you posted about it.

The 71-year-old vocalist and songwriter, Sugar Pie DeSanto, was featured in the September/October 2006 issue of the “Living Blues” magazine as one of the three classic women of soul. Soon after that a fire gutted their Oakland third-story apartment and killed her husband who was trying to put out the fire. Sugar Pie escaped with nothing but the clothes on her back. There were several benefits for her. She is known for her wide range of musical styles, including R&B, soul, jazz and funk, and her athletic, acrobatic stage manners.

There were far too many passings in the last three months. That list included Ruth Brown, Tina Mayfield, widow of Percy Mayfield, and on Christmas Day, James Brown and Bay Area’s own harmonica player, Red Archibald. There were several tributes to the first three in other publications. Red was a unique harp stylist and soulful singer, in addition to being  charismatic band leader and a great song writer of both music and lyrics. From 1970 through 1982, he played on the West Coast and throughout Canada. From 1977 through 1982, he was one of the busiest bands  in Northern California. He moved to Europe in 1982 and stayed there touring for nine years. He also worked as a sideman to Memphis Slim and Champion Jack Dupree. He returned to the states in the early 90s and continued performing. He battled several terminal, incurable illnesses for the last several years. He was 53 when he passed on. All these unique performers will be deeply missed.

Blues-Rocker,Tommy Castro, will be honored twice by his home town of San Francisco.  The mayor of the City, Gavin Newsom, has proclaimed October 14 as “Tommy Castro Day,” in recognition of his efforts in support of various community projects as well as his musical achievements. Secondly, since Tommy played 7 nights a week in North Beach, an area of the City, when he first started his band 15 years ago, the North Beach Chamber of  Commerce will honor him too. His image will be painted on a building-wide mural at the intersection of Broadway and Columbus Streets.


Mark Hummel will host his annual Harmonica Blowout Show, starting the first weekend in January. He and his guest artists will perform ten shows in seven venues up and down California. For further information, check out his website, http://www.markhummel.com . Read my next column for more details.

Word is out that John Goddard will close his famous rock ‘n’ roll plus record store, Village Music, which has been a hip institution in Mill Valley for a half century, the end of September. John began working in the store in 1957, when he was 13. He took over the business in 1968, and built it into a shop that is revered among rock and rare and vintage vinyl record collectors. Most all the walls and ceilings are full of  invaluable autographed posters and memorabilia, giving it an exciting museum feeling. Let’s hope that all this material will be valued and preserved. John cites rising rents, among other factors, for his decision to close.


We are always so fortunate to have so many touring musicians to entertain us. This time the list included:

B.B. King, Mavis Staples, Henry Butler,  Chick Willis, Taj Mahal, Sonny Rhodes, Earl Thomas, Johnny Dyer, Ron Thompson, Chicago All Stars (with Eddie Shaw, Nellie “Tiger” Travis, Michael Wheeler, Dan Shaw); John “Broadway” Tucker,  Volker Strifler, Marcia Ball, James Cotton Band with Hubert Sumlin; Eric Lindell, Blues Mix (British Band); Zac Harmon, John Nemeth, Toni Lynn Washington, Jr. Watson, Papa Chubby, Jackie Greene, Lara Price, John Lee Hooker Jr., Rose City Kings, and Candye Kane.


Blue Rock’It Records released two CDs, which are distributed by Blind Pig Records. They are: Volker Striflker Band: The Dance Goes On; and The Ford Blues Band w/ Robben Ford & Chris Cain: The Butterfield/Bloomfield Concert.

Eugene Huggins, harpist and vocalist and Chris Goddard, guitarist, a refreshing acoustic duo, have a new CD called “Troubled Times,” on the Saloon Recordings label. Fillmore Slim ‘s CD is called, “Hey, Little Brother,” on the Mountain Top Label. It has lots of guest artists, including Joe Louis Walker, Rusty Zinn, and Bobbie Webb. He feels it is the best one he ever did. He has a message for kids to put down their guns in one song.
Tommy Castro’s latest CD is  “Painkiller,” which is available online at: http://www.tommycastro.com.

The talented and versatile Ron Thompson has a new CD coming out mid-January. It is called “Resonator,” and is a totally solo album. Ron recorded eleven originals and two other tunes on a Dobro guitar, sang vocals, played the mandolin, harmonica, and piano and then mixed them together!!!! Talk about talent!! For more information, consult Ron’s website at http://www.rtblues.com.

Ernie Johnson’s latest CD is “The Best of Ernie Johnson.” His latest DVD is “Live in Dallas @ The Manhattan Club.” Contact Stairway Entertainment, 1-214-330-0006 for more details, or write 2535 Club Terrace Dr., Dallas, Texas 75227. There is a reissue-4CD box set out on John Lee Hooker, on the Shout Label. It is entitled “Hooker,” and covers tunes from the beginning of his career in the late 40s through rock  star duets that fueled his latter-era comeback. There are 84 tracks on four discs on this CD.

A new growing website group, CDMojo, is open for business. It is sponsored by the BluesWax and FolkWax groups that own the “Blues Revue” Magazine and send free news online each week. They say it is “the best place to buy all the best folk, blues, and roots CDs!” The website is: http://www.cdmojo.com.

That wraps up another year. Here’s wishing you good blues, good health, good cheer, and a VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

>>>>> Maria Bainer

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