I was leaning, styling, relaxing, and reading good books at the tastefully appointed World Headquarters of the Jet City Blues Blog the other day when it dawned on me - 'tis is the season for awards to be dispensed by blues societies nationwide (just in time for the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, of course), so why not bestow our own awards on some of the local talent?
Well why not, indeed?! I figure we can get it just as right (or wrong) as the Washington Blues Society (WBS) does. Plus, we don't have to poll anyone to determine who the most popular musicians (or bands) are, so we can celebrate some of the excellent players that haven't appeared on the radar screen of the WBS voting membership over the years. It's all good!
All of the Outstanding Artists will receive a really cool looking certificate (suitable for framing!) from Jet City Blues thanking them for their contributions to the local music scene.
The envelopes, please!!
Outstanding Vocalist - Ron "Sweet Talkin' Jones" Ussery
I have had the pleasure of playing with Ron Ussery several times over the past couple of years with the KT's Kicks Band. Of course, he also fronted the Sweet Talkin' Jones Band during the '70s, '80s, and '90s. Ron is double trouble - a terrific tenor sax player, and a friggin' great singer! He's a real blue-eyed soul singer, which is sort of a rarity her in the Jet City. Ron currently appears accasionally with the KT's Kicks Band and with Sweet Talkin' Jones & the Muscletones. (Photo by Dennis Dudley)
Outstanding Blues Band - Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys
Outstanding Electric Guitarist - Chris Stevens
Chris Stevens is a very classy guitarist, who gets a beautiful sound out of his signature Gibson ES-175 guitar. How to describe his sound? Try this: Kenny Burrell + Freddy King + T-Bone Walker = Chris Stevens. Chris started playing on the Seattle blues scene around 1985, and over the years has worked with Steve Bailey's Blue Flames, the Screamin' Bluejays (with vocalist Mark Dufresne), and fronted his own bands, including the King-A-Lings, the Chris Stevens Band, and his current project, The Surf Monkeys. Believe it or not, Chris has never even been nominated for a WBS electric blues guitar award. (Photo by Ronda Lee)
Outstanding Electric Slide Guitarist - John Stephan
A native of Palmer, Alaska, John Stephan has been active on the Seattle blues scene since 1974. He played in my band Nitelife back in the day and worked for many years in the Isaac Scott Band. He also worked in the popular Afro-pop band Jeka Jo and in the Matinee Idols. He has been fronting the John Stephan Band for many years now, and plays wicked slide on his $40 Japanese electric guitar.
Outstanding Bass Guitarist - John "Mr. Solid" Lee
John Lee Began his music career as a rhythm guitarist in Alaska in 1965. He soon switched to the electric bass and was performing on tours with John Lee Hooker and Charlie Musslewhite by 1973. He started working on the Seattle blues scene in 1976, and since then has worked with Nitelife, Isaac Scott, the Slamhound Hunters, Stevie & the Blue Flames, his own bands King Strut, The Jive Bombers, and Smokestack Lightnin', and is currently holding down the bass and vocals duties in the smokin' Crossroads Band. John was nominated by the WBS for a best bass award during the organization's first year, but Kathy Hart's band mysteriously won almost all of the awards that year. (Photo by Zab)
Outstanding Drummer - David Hudson
David Hudson is Seattle's version of Fred Below. He swings like a sumbitch and it's always a pleasure to play with him. David was the engine that propelled the late, great Hudson Blues Band for years and is now playing with the Crossroads Band.
Outstanding Horn Player - Dennis Ellis
Dennis Ellis started playing blues with the Chris Cain Band in the '70s, then moved to Seattle where he played Pat "Guitar Slim" Chase's band for years. After Pat left town for El paso, Texas, his band recreated itself as the Crossroads Band, and Dennis has continued to perform with the various versions of the group over the years. He's a fine tenor sax and flute player, and can lay down some mighty convincing Kansas City-style vocals too! Dennis has also never been nominated for any WBS awards - and you know that ain't right. (Photo by Zab)
Outstanding Harmonica Player - Kurt Crandall
I have tried to get you people to go see Kurt Crandall, but you wouldn't listen. You could hear the frickin' crickets chirping between songs at their Tuesday night gigs at the Highway 99 Blues Club last year, for cryin' out loud! No matter - Kurt is a very good harp player (and singer) that recently moved to Seattle from Chicago, and he can play both the diatonic and the more difficult chromatic harps with equal facility and great tone. He has a new CD coming out shortly. Go see him play, I'm beggin' ya!! (Photo by Dennis Dudley)
Outstanding Keyboardist - Steve Flynn
Steve Flynn has been the go-to keyboardist guy around Seattle for as long as I can remember. A long-time member of Seattle's Jr. Cadillac, he has also done memorable work in the past with Nitelife, and the Brian Butler Band. He currently works and records with Alice Stuart & the Formerlys, and is also doing sideman work with the John Stephan Band and Jeff & the Jet City Fliers.
Outstanding Acoustic Guitarist - Mick Knight
Singer/guitarist Mick Knight is a native of the UK, and moved to Seattle in 2000, after a detour of a few years in New Zealand. He's an excellent country blues picker, knowledgable in many different styles, including bottleneck guitar.
Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys play it all - surf, swinging T-Bone Walker tunes, Freddie King instrumentals, James Bond movie themes, and Chris' own originals. Depending on the venue, the band may appear as a duo up to a five-piece group, including two tenor saxes. These guys have got it goin' on! (Photo by Ronda Lee)
So what's not to like? Long time Seattle harp blower/singer Kim field has put together a heavy hitting group with three lead singers, harmony backup vocals, and a rehearsed show that is pretty impressive. The Titans just released a new CD recorded live at the Highway 99 Blues Club. Check 'em out!
OK, one last Alaska native! Bassist/singer/songwriter Charlene Grant has been playing in Seattle since 1993. She has worked with many Seattle blues bands since then, including a four year gig with the late, great Isaac Scott. We think that she should have won a WBS songwriter award for her all original CD titled "That Would Be Me" that was released in 2004. Charlene has been playing with the Brian Butler Band lately and with The Robbie Laws Bigger Blues Band. (Photo by Tom Hunnewell)
Located in Shoreline, Grinders Hot Sands is a NY style hot sandwich (or grinder) joint that features live music, including blues, on the weekends. There's no dance floor, and the place is usually jammed with music fans that have come to listen to the music. What a concept! Bands love playing at this place.
Mark has been playing bass with everybody who's anybody in Seattle since the early '70s. He has been a keen observer of the local blues scene, and has written several articles for the WBS newsletter and for Jet City Blues. Mark currently plays with Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys. Thanks, Mark! (Photo by Phil Chesnut)