The Fall of 2007 had a few blues events. There were several special occasions, and some exciting blues video news. There were some names in the news. Some of our musicians toured elsewhere, while others performed here. So let’s check out blues news in the last three months.
- SPECIAL HAPPENINGS
The Sacramento Heritage Festival, Inc. had three interesting shows this fall. Their outdoor October show featured The Legendary Rhythm and Blues Revue. This show was organized by Tommy Castro and his Band, and had some of the favorite acts from the highly popular Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Each artist performed a 30-minute set with Tommy’s band and then all got together for an exciting jam session. Evidently Tommy plans to tour with some of this group.
The Smokin’ Joe Kubek Band and B’nois King were special guests for this show, and played an exhilarating blues rock set, Texas-style. Deanna Bogart was impressive with her high-energy keyboard and sax playing. She and Keith Crossan, Tommy’s long-time sax player, also played some exciting duets. Magic Dick added his vocals and harmonica playing to the group. Ronnie Baker gave a mesmerizing performance of blues and rock with his vocals and guitar playing. Ron Thompson’s awesome slide guitar playing was a finishing touch when he joined the finale jam session.
For their November session, Bettye LaVette, Café R&B, and The W.D. Gospel Singers were featured. Proceeds from this and the October show were used to purchase $1,000 worth of musical instruments for one of the Sacramento high school music departments.
December’s theme was Chicago III. The Jeff Watson Band, a local group, opened the show and then backed Linsey Alexander, a Chicago guitarist and vocalist. Linsey had polished vocals and expressive guitar, and did a lot of walking through the audience playing blues shuffles. Big Time Sarah sang rough and raw vocals in her raunchy set. Magic Slim played unmatchable Chicago blues.
Birthdays are always special events. Sonny Rhodes celebrated his birthday in high style at two sold-out shows at Biscuits and Blues in San Francisco in November. As a surprise present, Kenny Neal backed Sonny on rhythm guitar, and even played some duets with Sonny on the lap steel guitar. Sonny looked sharp with his lavender hat, shirt, shoes, and glittery velvet jacket. When mention was made of Sonny’s age of 67, he played a version of “Evil” on his guitar and sang some growling vocals. It was an exciting night with two charismatic performers and a new excellent support band.
Another packed house celebrated Scorpio birthdays at a fairly new San Francisco venue called Velma’s, formerly the Blues & Jazz Club. Fillmore Slim, attired in black with a white derby hat, played. He was backed by saxist, ,Bobbie “Spider” Webb and an all-star band, including guitarist, Lacey Baker. Fillmore seemed to enjoy himself.
Francis Clay celebrated his 84th birthday at the temporary home of the Sweetwater, the Larkspur Cafe Theater, in Marin County. Unfortunately, this venue was too small for the 200 plus well-wishers. The venue is hard to find, has a seating capacity of maybe 50, and there’s no room to stand.
- A FIRST FOR THE BLUES
Producer, E.C. Scott, a local vocalist for 30 years, is excited about her new "blues video show." “The Juke Joint.” She says it is the “MTV of the blues.” It is a compilation of videos of blues performers which gives viewers a chance to see who they have been hearing. She can get one song from 8 musicians on a half-hour "blues video show.". This is a labor of love for her, but she has sponsors. The program is now airing on 15 community access television stations (CATS) across the nation. CATS is different than PBS (public broadcasting systems), but Scott says that “blues is where we’re at home,” on community access stations. Her goal is to be on TV with this show an hour a day.
She aired her first "blues video show" at Velma’s in December. She saluted Koko Taylor, and also featured Billy Branch, E.C. Scott, Magic Slim, Lonnie Mack, Smokin’ Joe Kubek with Bnois King, Taildragger, and Mississippi Heat.
For further information, contact www.ecsproductions.com.
- NAMES IN THE NEWS
Volker Strifler and his band came in first in the Monterey Bay Blues Festival (MBBF) Battle of the Bands Event held in November. That means that the band will represent the MBBF at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis in ‘February and will also have a main stage perfmance at the MBBF in June. Runners up were Pamela G. and Big Daddys of R&B. They will also play at the MBBF in June.
Kenny Neal’s health has improved and he will be out touring again soon. Kenny has signed with Blind Pig Records. His first album since 2005 will be called, "Let Life Flow" and will be out later in 2008. Kenny says about his new recording, " I've been waiting a long time for a record company to say, 'Make a record that you feel good about..' Blind Pig Records gave me that opportunity...My new CD is coming straight from my heart."
There were a few local nominees for the Blues Foundation Blues Music Awards in May, 2008. That included Mark Hummel, harmonica instrumentalist; Sista Monica Parker, soul blues female artist; and Jackie Payne, soul blues male artist.
Charlie Musselwhite has also become a writer. He had an interesting, lengthy article published in “Living Blues Magazine,” #193, December, 2007, about his memories of Chicago and Big Walter Horton.
- OUR TOURING MUSICIANS
Some of our musicians toured out of the area. Mitch Woods spent a month in Asia this Fall, including Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Thailand. J.C. Smith played some gigs in Latvia with a Latvian band and friends. Charlie Musselwhite spent seven weeks touring with Mavis Staples, the North Mississippi All Stars and Joe Krown. Krown used to play keyboards with Gatemouth Brown. Mavis told Charlie that her dad, Pops Staples, learned guitar from Charley Patton at Dockers Plantation in Mississippi. So it is a small wonder that their group sounded so bluesy.
- PERFORMERS ENTERTAIN IN BAY AREA
The entertaining visitor list included: Papa Chubby; Phil Berkowitz & Louis’ Blues; Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express; Laurie Morvan; Karen Maguire; Marble Tones; Insomniacs; Curtis Salgado; Kim Wilson; JJ Grey and his band, Mofro; Guitar Shorty; Lee Rocker; John Nemeth; Rose City Kings; Delgado Brothers; Billy C, Farlow & Rich Kirch Blues Review; David Jacobs; Lara Price; Eric Sardinas; Gary Smith; Lil’ Charlie & The Night Cats; Bobby Warren, and Margie Baker.
Two visitors were of special interest. Vocalist, Frank Bey, made his first trip to California from Philadelphia. He was equally comfortable with blues and soul music and had a gritty, gospel overlay with his vocals. He was backed by a local band, including the excellent guitarist, Anthony Paule. Bey traveled with the Otis Redding Review in the sixties, formed his own band, and left the music business in 1977. It was nearly twenty years until he returned to perform. He was popular in both venues that he performed in out here.
The truly legendary harmonica player, James Cotton, also played to packed houses in two venues in the Bay Area. Cotton has made a living with his blues since he was a teenager.He played in the Muddy Waters band, among other groups. He remains a dynamic frontman after more than 40 years of leading his own band. Even though he can’t sing anymore, due to a past illness, he can still play the heck out of his harp. No wonder he’s known as “Superharp.”
- EVENTS FOR YOUR CALENDAR
Producer, harp player and vocalist, Mark Hummel will have his annual Harmonica Blowout Show the end of January and first of February. This all starts on January 24, 2008 and ends on February 1, 2008. During this time the show will be eight gigs in six venues. Check out his website, www.markhummel.com for more details. The event will be discussed in my next column.
The International Blues Challenge, the world’s largest gathering of Blues bands, will be January 31 February 2, 2008 in Memphis, Tennessee. For more information, go to www.blues.org.
The Monterey Bay Blues Festival (MBBF) will be June 27-29, 2008 in Monterey, California. Their lineup should be announced on January 15, 2008. Their website is: www.montereyblues.com.
The San Francisco Blues Festival will be September 26-28,2008. Their website is www.sfblues.com.
The two Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruises are accepting prebookings now, since they are both apt to be sold out. The Pacific Cruise is October 5-12, 2008 and sails to Mazatlan, La Paz, & Cabo San Lucas from San Diego, Ca. The Eastern Caribbean Cruise is January 24-31, 2009 and goes to Dominca, Tortola & Samana, and Dominican Republic from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. These are the world’s only fully chartered blues cruises. The website is:
www.bluescruise.com. Their phone number is 1-816-653-7979.
That wraps it up for now. More in three months. I’ll leave you with these comments from my Swedish friend, Bjorn. “I liked rock ‘n roll, but when I heard a Muddy Waters record, it grabbed me deeper and I felt it in all my bones.” So let’s hope blues grabs you more than ever in the new year!!!!
----- Maria Bainer
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