Monday, December 28, 2009
I played with the Maxwell Street Revivalists at the Highway99 Blues Club on December 17th. We featured the music of the great Jimmy Reed during the gig, and really had a ball doing it! I think that I'm going to have to start doing "Take Out Some Insurance" and "Found Love" at my gigs now.
These guys are the real deal, and you should try to catch their next show at the Highway 99 on January 21st, when they will be featuring Seattle saxophonist and vocalist Dennis Ellis (The Crossroads Band) and the music of Howlin' Wolf.
Speaking of my gigs, Revivalists guitarist Greg Roberts and bassist Guy Quintino will be playing with me at the New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Pioneer Square on January 2nd. That's gonna be a good 'un too!
I'll see you at the nightclub!
Saturday, December 19, 2009
By Dennis "Zab" Zyvoloski
Salmon Bay Eagles Music Coordinator
Since I had only come onto the local blues music scene a mere ten or so years ago, I was also particularly interested in having Sheri fill me in about the beginnings of the blues at the “Slammin’” Bay Eagles, as I’ve heard it informally referred to. I took some notes and wrote up the following story, and she failed to correct me in time before I sent this out, so she had her chance to stop me. Anyhow, the following tale is how I reconstructed the conversations.
Back in 1988, David Duff was the president of the Salmon Bay Eagles. Dave had this idea that music would attract a younger crowd and that younger crowd would increase their membership. He was a fan of the Kevin Wallace Exchange Band, so he hired Kevin’s Band, as long as they would play Dave’s favorite song, “Loan Me A Dime.”
At that time, Jimi Jean Tuttle was a bartender at the Eagles, and she and her husband, drummer Kirk "KT" Tuttle, lived in an apartment next door to the club. Jimi Jean and Dave put together the concept of a jam with guitarist Kevin Wallace organizing and running it on Sunday nights.
The original Kevin Wallace Band consisted of Kevin on guitar, Raven Humphries on sax, Pete “The Beat” on drums, Jeff Davies on bass, Dr O. (aka Kevin O’Reilly) on keyboards, with Eddie Garr sometimes filling in on bass and Sam Pierce stopping in to crank out some stellar vocals. KT would sit in on drums when Pete (aka Gig Pig) would have other commitments. Raven would provide the PA system, because the club didn’t have one at that time.
Kevin and Raven ran this jam for about two years and it grew with a lot of our well-known musicians showing up to jam. At that time, there weren’t any other jams like this on a Sunday night. After two years of Raven dragging in his equipment into the club and packing it out every night, Jimi Jean and Sheri decided to look for ways to raise money for a house PA system. They started having special dinners, raffles, tip jars, etc. and raised enough money to buy the present system. It was a lot of work!
Shortly thereafter, Kevin had some conflicts that prevented him from playing every Sunday night. He started putting together replacement bands for the Sunday nights. That is how he got into trouble with the IRS. All the contracts were in his name, and the replacement bands would just cash the check at the bar. With the contracts in his name, the IRS assumed that it was all his income and they wanted their cut. As far as they were concerned, he owed them a lot of back taxes, which of course, he didn’t have. This was a hard lesson to learn. About this time, Dave retired as the Eagles President and Jimi took over booking the bands, since she knew all the musicians in the community. The music was then moved to Thursday nights, where it has remained for the next twenty years.
Like the majority of self-employed musicians, Kevin had no health insurance and rarely, if ever, went to the doctor. In December of 1999 Kevin passed away due to an easily remedied health condition. Kevin’s untimely passing was a great loss to the Blues community. There’s a memorial plaque on the wall next to the stage honoring Kevin and his efforts to promote the blues community. At this time, Sheri was the Vice President of the Blues Society and this incident prompted her to personally donate $500 to start off the Kevin Wallace Musician’s Relief Fund. She told me that she felt that no musician without money or insurance should ever be unable to see a doctor. This Musician’s Relief Fund is still in place with the Blues Society to this day.
After Kevin’s death, the band was forced to re-group, and Stan Eike joined to replace Kevin on guitar and vocals. The band was re-named by Jimi Jean as The All Stars, No Stripes Band, which by this time consisted of KT on drums, Howard Hooper on bass, Scotty Lind on guitar & vocals, Stan Eike on guitar & vocals, and Raven Humphres on sax.
As an aside, Sheri shared with me a humorous story from the earlier days when the club was without a PA:
“As I said earlier, Raven always hauled the PA into the club, but one night we had equipment problems, so we called a local sound person to bring in some gear. His name was Badger. Later on that evening we found out Eddie Garr wasn't able to play bass that night, so Stan Eike’s bass player filled in. His name was Rabbit. Of course when Raven and I showed up, we just looked at each other and said, “Let me see if we have this right…we have Raven on sax, Rabbit on bass, Badger is running sound, and we are at the Salmon Bay Eagles. We know we have a lot of party animals at the club, but we couldn't believe half of them were on stage!”
While I’m telling stories about the Blues & the Eagles, here’s one that musician and promoter, Bill Freckleton gave me:
“I was playing with Isaac Scott, John Stephan, and Paul Wager at the Salmon Bay Eagles 11 or years ago. We got there about 30 minutes before stage time. Isaac pulled up a table and laid his guitar on it. Just like a Marine, Isaac field striped his guitar like a gun. He unscrewed every nut and bolt he could. Around 8:30 pm Jimmie Jean asked Isaac what the heck he was doing. She looked at Isaac like he had lost his mind. She said he should be playing by now! Isaac was busy fumbling with his guitar. He looked up at her with a sheepish grin and a guitar pickup with a bunch of loose wires in his hand, and asked Jimmie Jean if she had a soldering gun? Luckily his friend, Monte Price, had one in his car. We finally started playing around 9:30.”
O.K., just one more story about the club, this one is from Robert Sawyer:
“My wife, Carol, and I were at the Tractor for a John Hammond show, which was just John, doing his Solo gig. We were representing the Washington Blues Society and we helped John sell his CDs and such. I think Daddy Treetops opened for John that night. After his show we asked if John and his wife wanted to go up to the Eagles for the Thursday Nite Blues show and meet Jimi Jean, who had been running the Blues Night for about 12 years at that time. John Hammond and his wife both said yes, and away we went. Coming thru the door, I noted that Jimi didn't see us enter the club's front door, nor saw us take a table on the north wall across from the bar. John and I went to the bar to meet Jimi and get drinks. The Tractor was only a beer bar back then. I hid John behind me so Jimi couldn't see him, when Jimi came to the end of the bar where I was - I told her someone was here to thank her for the many years supporting the Blues and I stepped aside to expose John Hammond. BAM! It blew Jimi away! John thanked her (big hugs). The John Hogkin band was playing that night and during all the breaks John Hammond took a big interest in all the tunes the band was playing. Hammond was also telling stories and remembering shows they all had in common in the past- truly one of the great nights at the Eagles.”
I also got an email from David Brewer, which I suppose he didn’t think I’d include:
"Zab - I hear you’re looking for stories about the Eagles? Well I'd love to tell you about all of the biker parties and poker runs, all of the New Years bashes (Jimie always had me play New Years Eve when I was in town) and all of my birthday parties (I always have my birthday party there) as well as being on the regular Thurs night rotation. However I don't think I should reveal all the stories of debauchery, too many people might get in trouble. And truth be told, thanks to Jimie Jean’s bartending skills, I can't seem to remember them all that clearly. I'd just have to say that, over the years, The Eagles has become one of the local blue community's favorite places to hold court. It sure has for me. Let's hope it never ends. You’re doing a real good job, and Jimie would be proud of you."
I think that Brewer sums up a lot of people’s recollection of the past 20 years or so!
During the past two decades, we have had a virtual parade of the finest local talent, as well as some national blues acts that have crossed the modest stage of the Salmon Bay Eagles on Thursday evenings. In less than a minute I wrote down a dozen names of people and bands such as Little Bill & The Bluenotes, Mike Lynch and Nitelife, Duffy Bishop, Sweet Talkin’ Jones, Mark Dufresne, Mark Riley, David Brewer, Jack Cook, Paul Green, Chris Stevens, Mark Whitman, Tim Sherman, and many, many more that played the club during this period. Let’s figure this out…20 years times 52 weeks equals 1,040 Blue Thursdays! No wonder that, to this day, Blues musicians and bands continue to play the club as homage to the dedication of the club to this genre of American Roots Music.
New musicians to the area feel that they haven’t quite been accepted in the community until they have been hired to play a gig at this humble venue. The Washington Blues Society (check them out at (http://www.wablues.org/) has had a long standing, and close relationship with the Salmon Bay Eagles, off and on holding concerts, benefits as well as monthly membership and business meetings at the club. Due to its private club status, many people are reluctant to just walk in to hear the music and they feel that they have to be in the presence of an active member when they walk through that door. Not true! Anyone can walk through the door as a visitor and/or guest and enjoy the activities and events that occur in this all-ages venue! All visitors and guest need to check in with the bartender, who will orient them to the club and its activities. Due to this “Private club” status, the Salmon Bay Eagles has remained one of Seattle’s best kept secrets in the greater Seattle music scene. It’s a venue that the Blues community appreciates and, to a certain extent, reveres as the backbone of the Blues community, and certainly a major contributor in the history of the Blues community.
As one those who have been coming to the Blues nights going back a few year know, I have taken over booking the bands in 2009, due to the untimely loss of our friend Jimi Jean earlier this year. Jimi played a huge role in the Blues community and was the recipient of the 2008 Washington Blues Society Keeping the Blues Alive award. A plaque for Jimi Jean is being made and will soon be mounted on the wall next to the one for Kevin Wallace, hopefully, by the time you are reading this. Their memories will live as long as we keep the blues alive.
The only complaints I’ve heard at the club in regards to the music, is that sometimes someone says, “It’s too loud!” To which I can hear in my mind, David Brewer’s retort: “It’s not too loud…you’re too close!”
Come down any Thursday night, after 8pm, as I’ll be there and I would be glad to sign you in as my guest. In times such as these, those of us who value such things as music, art and community need to turn off the TV, get up off the couch, and go hear some live music! Check our website at http://www.salmonbayeagles.com/ and we are also on Facebook…heck, you can also call us at 206-783-7791 to see what’s going on at the club!
Long live the Blues!
The 20th Anniversary of Blue Thursdays at the Salmon Bay Eagles info:
Address: 5216 20th Avenue NW, Seattle (in Ballard)
Date: Sunday, January 17th, 2010
Time: 3:00 to 9:00 PM
This is a no cover, all ages event. Food will be available for purchase.
Monday, December 14, 2009
3. Robert Cray Band at Hibble & Hydes in Seattle
Saturday, December 05, 2009
The twins and I went down to the Pacific Place mall in downtown Seattle on "Black Friday" night to see Eric "Two Scoops" Moore and his band. Getting there was a total hassle because of the crowds of shoppers, and several streets in the area were closed for thousands of other folks who were apparently waiting to see a Christmas tree being lit up in the Westlake Center area.
The band was set up in the lobby and was rocking the joint when we arrived. The band members included Two Scoops on piano and vocals, Hank Witherspoon on saxes and vocals, Guy Quintino on acoustic bass, and Cutts Peasley on drums. Two Scoops was his usual irrepressible self, and my boys got a kick out of it when he played their favorite song "Big Buffet."
This was a two hour show, but we split after the first set - the lobby was getting way too crowded, and there was no place to sit. Believe it or not, this was the first time for me to see the Two Scoops Combo, but I hope to see them again soon. On our way back to West Seattle, we drove through the Pioneer Square neighborhood, which looked like a ghost town compared to the downtown area. Not good, since this is the nightclub part of town!
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Tim Sherman and Charlene Kern - October 12th, 2009
Yep, Tim and Charlene Kern were married on October 12th, 2009 at the Schafer-Baillie mansion on Capitol Hill. The Reverend Dave Brown was the officiant.
Congratulations Tim and Charlene!
The Surf Monkeys will be performing with several of the sidemen that have worked with the band over the years, including yours truly on harp, guitarist Jack Cook, and saxophonists Brian Kent and Les Clinkingbeard. Chris Stevens tells me that there may be some surprise guests also. It's gonna be a good 'un - come on down and check it out!
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
As I mentioned in my most recent blog, I will be playing with the Maxwell Street Revival band on December 17th at the Highway 99 Blues Club as part of a tribute to the music of the great Jimmy Reed.
So give a brother a hand here, please, and suggest some of your favorite Jimmy Reed tunes that you might like to hear at this show. Here are some of the tunes that I'm considering:
Honest I Do
You Don't Have To Go
High And Lonesome
I Ain't Got You
Bright Lights, Big City
Down In Virginia
Hey, it's a start...come on now, lay some of your favorite Reed tunes on me for consideration. As they used to say in Chicago, vote soon and vote often.
Thanks, and see you at the nightclub!
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I dropped by the Highway 99 Blues Club last Thursday to check out Seattle's Maxwell Street Revivalists, and got to see a great show featuring the music of Robert Nighthawk. The core of the Revivalists features guitarist Greg Roberts, drummer David Hudson, and bassist Guy Quintino, and the band appears at the Highway 99 on the third Thursday of each month (as long as enough fans show up, of course).
Each show features different local artists backed up by the Revivalists performing the music of classic blues artists. So far, the band has featured the music of Magic Sam and Robert Nighthawk. I missed the first Magic Sam show, but was lucky enough to see the band perform the music of Robert Nighthawk with guest artists Mark Dufresne and guitarist Jack Cook. The band sounded awesome (a tip o' the hat here the the club's soundman, who was doing an excellent job), and I particularly enjoyed the band's takes on the tunes "Anna Lee" and "Bricks In My Pillow."
I will be playing with the band on Thursday, December 17th. We will be featuring the music of the great Jimmy Reed. We're gonna have a ball, so be there!
Friday, July 24, 2009
A memorial will be held for the late Jimie Jean Tuttle this Sunday (7/26) at the Salmon Bay Eagles club from 5:00 to 8:00 PM. The club is located at 5612 20th Avenue NW in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood. There will be a potluck dinner and music will be provided by Kid Porno & the Blues Nazis and many jammers (we hope!). Come on down and help celebrate Jimie Jean's life with us!
Friday, July 10, 2009
Tuesday, July 07, 2009
If you are in Seattle this Friday, I recommend that you drop into the Highway 99 Blues Club to see Tim Sherman's fourth annual West Coast Guitar Killers show.
The featured guitarists this time will be Tim Sherman (Tim Sherman Band and the Blues Orbiters), Brian Lee (Blues Orbiters), Chris Stevens (Chris Steven's Surf Monkeys), and Tom Boyle (Beckie Sue and her Big Rockin' Daddies. The swingin' rhythm section will include seasoned Seattle blues veterans Mark dalton (bass), Conrad Ormsby (drums), and Ron Weinstein (Hammond B-3). Oh yeah, I will be singing a couple of tunes with Mr. Boyle and Mr. Sherman also.
It should be a good 'un - see you there!
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Sunday, June 07, 2009
I just finished reading a great book by Seattle author Peter Blecha about the Seattle pop music scene, titled Sonic BOOM - The History of Northwest Rock, from "Louie Louie" to Smells Like Teen Spirit."
This is a great read, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the history of Northwest rock and roll. It's all in here, from Ray Charles' first recordings in Seattle to the rise of the teenage rock bands (including Dave Lewis, the Playboys, the Frantics, Little Bill and the Bluenotes, the Wailers, the Sonics, etc, etc.), to DJ Pat O'Day's commercial grip on the music scene, the hippie years, the wasteland '70s (hey, Brian Butler and Isaac Scott get a brief mention here!), and the development of the punk and "grunge" music scenes.
I read this book on my way to Montana today. Great stuff - I just wish that there were more photos!
Wednesday, June 03, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
All photos that appear in this blog were created by Dennis "Zab" Zyvoloski.
As many of you know, long time Seattle drummer Kirk "KT" Tuttle has been battling sever liver disease for some time now. As the disease has progressed he has gradually been forced to quit playing. However, thanks to the help of Seattle Bluesguy John Lee, who provided transportation for KT, Kirk was able to play a few tunes at a KT's Kicks gig that we put together recently at the Salmon Bay Eagles Club.
KT played the first three tunes with the band and then the drum seat was taken over by veteran drummer Les Merrihew for the rest of the evening. KT sounded great as usual, and it was a real pleasure interacting musically with him again. Believe me, it's a real treat playing with this group of guys anytime!
For the record, KT's Kicks was formed by Kirk a few years ago, originally to play a gig at the Eagles while one of his sisters was in town. We continued playing at the Eagles occasionally over the years, and I can't think of any reason why we shouldn't continue.
Please keep a good thought for for our old friend and musical conspirator, Kirk Tuttle!
Thursday, May 07, 2009
All photos included in this blog were created by Dennis "Zab" Zyvoloski.
I moseyed on down to the Salmon Bay Eagles Club a few weeks ago to see the award winning Portland guitarist Robbie Laws' band. This was the Seattle version of Robbie's band, the one that usually plays at the Highway 99 Blues Club with an additional two horn players (I believe that that band is called the Robbie Laws Bigger Blues Band).
The band included Robbie on guitar and vocals, Charlene Grant on bass and vocals, Steve Sarkowsky on drums, Frank "Hot Rod" Holman on keyboards. There was an open invitation for Seattle musicians to sit in, but only a few showed up, including yours truly, guitarist Jack Cook, harp blower Jeff Hertzog, and 'bone player Mike Tooley.
The band sounded great, and I wish that I had made an earlier appearance to listen more. The fan turnout was pretty light, especially for an unusual show like this. Zab was asked me: "What in the heck do we need to do to get people in here?" I dunno know, but consider this:
1. There is never a cover at the Eagles - never.
2. The drinks are nuclear powered, and practically free compared to other joints.
3. You are always going to run into some of your other blues lovin' pals there.
Mike Tooly and Robbie Laws
Monday, April 13, 2009
Return to the Musical Mother Land Part II
By John Lee
My better half, Nancy Rapp, and I recently traveled to Memphis Tennessee, the Mississippi Delta and to the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (the King Biscuit Blues Festival) in Helena , Arkansas. Here’s what we did from my perspective:
Day 7, October 9th
Nancy and I had a breakfast of eggs, bacon, and orange juice then we left the Blues Traveler Inn and Indianola, Mississippi about 9 AM. We hopped on Highway 49 just a stone's throw from our digs and pointed our ride to the cool little town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. home town of John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, and Sam Cooke. Along the way, we went past many catfish farms and cotton fields. We also went by the infamous penitentiary, Parchman Farm. It did not look at all pleasant. We didn’t stop. I’ve heard that if you take photos of the prison, the authorities will track you down and confiscate your camera! We kept on truckin'.
We arrived in Clarksdale about 10:30 AM and went right to the Delta Blues Museum. Established in 1979, the museum is a cool and funky space located in an old train depot with an address of 1 Blues Alley Lane . The history of Delta blues is highlighted with an extensive exhibit of Muddy Waters that is literally housed in the old frame of the cabin Muddy lived in when he was a sharecropper at nearby Stovall’s Plantation . Son House, Robert Johnson, and John Lee Hooker are also featured. Seattle artist Phil Chestnut has a very cool portrait of John Lee Hooker at the museum. Dozens of other bues artists are also featured here, like harp master, Charlie Musselwhite and local legend guitarist Super Chikin. The Delta Blues Museum is a soulful space that all blues fans should check out!
As we were searching the gift shop we ran into Mae Smith, who I met two years ago. Mae has worked at the museum for 13 years and she told us all about the B.B. King Museum grand opening and the dynamite party afterward at The Club Ebony that featured B.B. King, Bobby Bland, and Robert Cray a few weeks earlier. Mae said it was a blast.
We said our goodbyes and hit the streets. We stopped in to the very cool , Cat Head Delta Blues & Folk Art shop owned by Roger Stolle, a featured writer at Blues Revue magazine. Cat Head has cool blues CD’s books, post cards, and top notch Delta art. The place is a trip. I always dig a cruise thru Cat Head! We were getting hungry. Nancy and I decided to eat at Hick’s Tamales and BBQ on State Street , five or six blocks from the blues museum. We ate at Hicks two years ago. I really dug their rib tips and tamales. As we were entering, we noticed our designated digs for our four night stay in Clarksdale , The EconoLodge was right across the street. Getting home for the stay would be easy. They wouldn’t have rib tips until tomorrow. We both had the ribs and we shared a six pack of tamales. Tamales also come in a dozen. Our rib dinners came with BBQ beans and coleslaw too. This is some very tasty eats for sure. Two thumbs up. Way up! Then we checked into our room and opted for a couple hours rest before we took in day one of the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival (AKA) The King Biscuit Blues Fest. The long time fest goers just call it the Biscuit!!
We were relaxing and I got up to look to see who was getting out of a car that pulled up in the parking area of the motel. It was a man that we saw in Memphis and also at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola , Mississippi . We had seen him on the trolley in Memphis and I asked him were he was from, and he said Paris , France . After seeing him at the B.B. King Museum and now in Clarksdale , I figured he was in the area to check out the blues fest. He went to the office to check in and Nancy and I prepared to head to Helena , Arkansas and check out day one of the third biggest blues festival in the United States . It was only a 30 mile drive and right across the Mississippi River from The Isle of Caprice Casino where Nancy and I had stayed when we did the Biscuit 2 years ago.
We arrived at the festival site at 5 PM. The fest began at noon, but Reba Russell, appearing at 5:30 PM was the first act of the day we really wanted to catch. Reba Russell is a blues shouter from Memphis , Tennessee. Ms. Russell belted out song after song, with power and energy, and a big dose of humor for a soulful 75 minute set. Up next were the country/ roots rock sound of Webb Wilder and the Beatnecks. They weren’t bad, but they just made me wish The Blasters were playing instead!
While the Beatnecks were still playing we went to check out the vendors of food and tee shirts and the like. That’s when we ran into my old friend Gary Sloan and his wife Sandy. I had just played three gigs in the Seattle area with Gary . Gary is a harp player that I played music with when I was in high school and off and on to the present day. With the Sloans' were Mike Elrod and his wife, Sara. Mike is Gary’s guitar man from Kansas City . Mike and his lovely wife were very nice and funny folks. We hung out for a bit and told them that they would be seeing us the rest of the weekend. Gary has been the MC at the Biscuit’s Houston Stackhouse/Robert Lockwood Jr. Stage for 14 years now. Mike Elrod was the number one stage hand. We would be spending a lot of time over the next two days at Gary’s spot. The fest's main stage is the only one operating on the first day.
John Lee and Gary "Alaska Slim" Sloan
Mike Elrod and Gary SloanWe said our goodbyes and headed back to the main stage. Then came the rock blues guitar of Tinsley Ellis. Tinsley Ellis has been around for awhile and put on an energetic set of guitar heavy boogie. I hadn’t eaten since early afternoon and realized I had a hunger going on. Two years ago at the Fest I noticed many people eating very large turkey legs and I tried one during this 2008 music gathering. It was smoked and tasty. The only thing that would have added a little boost would be a nice sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. We settled in for the last act of the day and I ran into Jeff Hayes, homeboy and drummer for the cool Seattle area group, Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin Daddies! We said our hellos and I found that he was there for the duration of the Fest and the gathering Sunday at the Hopson Plantation. We both agreed to talk again soon. We were bound to meet in a day or two for sure!
John Lee and Jeff Hayes
Day 8, October 10th
The Econo Lodge bed was comfy, and we both got a good night's rest. I went to the lobby to check out the complimentary breakfast, and found that there was less to offer than the Best Western in Indianola. I had an orange juice and I brought my tea from our room. (I bring a hot pot, cup, stevia, and a large selection of black tea, whenever I travel). I looked up, and lo and behold, John McElligott (aka Johnny Mack), who we ran into two years ago from Florida was staying at the motel and going to the blues fest. He told me he was here with Jim Mills, the music photographer again. Jim and John are both great guys and it’s good to know they're both on the festival prowl again. As John and I were talking, we meet a woman named Helen Thomas who was also visiting the blues fest. Helen lives on the East Coast and paints portraits of blues musicians. Helen had to go and she said she hoped to see us again. Nancy came to the lobby and John and she gave each other a big hello. Nancy wasn’t too thrilled with the breakfast fare either, so we decided we would stop and partake in the Isle of Capri Casino buffet on the way to the festival. We said goodbye to John after a short visit and went back to our room and packed up our supplies for a full day of music and fun.
We got to the Isle of Capri to late for breakfast and it was a half hour before the lunch buffet began, so we went in search of coffee and the like. We found a deli in the casino that served Starbucks coffee and the sign said they had chai tea. Yes on the coffee, but no chai! We were told they discontinued chai, because no one ever ordered it. I had a hot chocolate, Nancy had a drip coffee. When we did get to eat, it was good! They had pizza and tacos, but we stuck with the Delta cookin'. Pork chops, sausage, baked yams, mashed potatoes, turnip greens, and lima beans were some of the selections. Also a nice salad and fresh fruit bar. And don’t forget the ice cream sundae bar and a large number of pies to choose from. We wouldn’t need to eat at the festival until late.
As we left the Isle of Capri Casino and the Delta Cookin' buffet we tuned to KFFA 1360 AM on our radio dial and caught the last bit of the King Biscuit Time radio show hosted by Sunshine Sonny Payne. The show has been running since 1941, and for a long spell in the 1940s, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) played live on the show, for many years backed up by the venerable pianist Pinetop Perkins. Pinetop plays the Biscuit every year, and this year he is 95 years of age. The legendary Sonny Payne has hosted the show since 1951. He broadcasts the show live Monday thru Friday from the Delta Cultural Center in downtown Helena, Arkansas on Cherry Street right behind the main stage of the blues festival. This was the 15,570th broadcast of the show. When Nancy and I arrived at the festival, we took in the Delta Cultural Center . The Center is an inspiring and beautiful museum mostly honoring the music and musicians of Arkansas and Helena . Musicians like Johnny Cash, Louis Jordon, Conway Twitty, Levon Helm, Johnny Taylor, and Junior Parker are from Arkansas . The Delta Cultural Center was the seventh museum we visited on this trip.
After an hour or so at the Delta Cultural Center , we went to the Main stage to catch drummer Sam Carr and The Delta Jukes with Dave Riley. Sam Carr is the son of the legendary Robert Nighthawk and was the engine behind the famed Delta group, The Jelly Roll Kings with the late keyboardist-harmonica player Frank Frost and guitarist Big Jack Johnson. Sam Carr only played about a half hour because of age and ill health. Another drummer filled in for Sam and guitarist Dave Riley fronted the group to complete the set. Nancy and I saw Dave Riley two years ago at this same festival. Dave Riley is a truly fine guitar player and a solid singer who approaches all he does with tons of soul. Next up was the Chicago guitarist, Carl Weathersby. Mr. Weathersby is a very good player, steeped in the West Side style like Buddy Guy and Otis Rush.
The Carl Weathersby Band
There was a twenty minute break before Pinetop Perkins played on the main stage, so we went to the Houston Stackhouse/Robert Lockwood Jr. stage to check on the Sloan’s and the Elrod’s and told them we were going to catch Pinetop and then come and hang out the rest of the evening at the smaller stage (there is a third stage down the way, the Emerging Artists stage, but we never did make it there.) Pinetop Perkins is a great piano player who played with Sonny Boy Williamson 2 ( Rice Miller) on the King Biscuit Flower radio show in the late 1940s and with the legendary Muddy Waters in the 1970s and early '80s. Pinetop was very lucid for 95 years of age and played a very nice set back by Bob Margolin on guitar, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on drums and the great Chicago bass man Bob Stroger. Half way thru the set Calvin “Fuzz” Jones sat in on bass. Bob Margolin, Willie Smith, Calvin Jones, and Pinetop were all in Muddy Waters last great band, and after Muddy’s death performed as the Legendary Blues Band for many years.
Pinetop Perkins - Photo by Kim Welsh
On our way to the Robert Lockwood stage, we ran into Jeff Hayes again. We talked for a minute and then hustled over to catch harp master Arthur Williams. Gary Sloan introduced me to Arthur Williams, a harmonica player originally from Tunica, Mississippi . Mister Williams now lives in St. Louis, Missouri . He was recently featured as a musician in the John Sayles film, Honeydripper. Arthur Williams is a fine harp man and a very expressive singer. His one hour and ten minute set was a joy to behold!
Arthur Williams - Photo by Kim Welsh
The Sloans' brought their motor home to the festival and parked it about 200 feet from the stage and set up a table and chairs under an awning. Gary’s wife Sandy is a sweetheart and earlier in the day had a crock pot of BBQ meatballs going. She offered me a meal of meatballs and a baked potato that she had cooked in their home on wheels microwave. Just what the doctor ordered. Mmm good! Then Nancy and I caught a high energy set by Willie King and The Liberators from Alabama . Willie King brings a soulful and party attitude to his singing and guitar playing. His excellent band followed suit! We could have caught some more music, but we decided to catch some shut-eye. The heat was taking its toll on us Northwesterners! We said goodnight to Gary, Sandy, Sara, and Mike, then pointed our ride back to our digs in Clarksdale , Mississippi .
Day 9, October 11th
We went to downtown Clarksdale early to see what happens on a Saturday. We visited the Saturday Market, with people selling pickles, jam and the like. We ran into Jeff Hayes one more time. Jeff, Nancy and I chatted a bit, then Nancy and I went in search of some tasty grub. We ended up at Sarah’s Kitchen, a block over from where the Saturday Market took place. Sarah serves plate lunches and soul food Thursday thru Saturday during lunch hours and dinner on some weekend nights. Two years ago, my homeys Becki Sue and her Big Rockin Daddies! and the Paul deLay Band rocked Sarah’s for one night at blues festival time. It is a small and intimate juke that would be a soulful spot to hear some good blues.
We ran into the artist I had met at The EconoLodge, Helen Thomas. She and her husband were in the same space Nancy and I were - they wanted breakfast! I talked to Sarah and she said if we wanted a breakfast, she would make us one. It was a very good meal. It consisted of scrambled eggs, grits, bacon, a sausage patty, and toast. Just what the doctor ordered. Helen and her husband are nice folks and we had good food and good conversation to fuel the start of our day. The Thomas’ were leaving town and heading home. We said our goodbyes, and Nancy and I cruised the streets of old Clarksdale one more time. We ended up at the Hambone Gallery, an art gallery run by, Stan Street , a Florida transplant who is a very nice painter of Delta art and a blues harp man to boot. We chatted with Stan for a bit about what it’s like to live in Clarksdale and he told us he is friends with Jeff Hayes and that he would be at Hopson tomorrow for the Pinetop homecoming. Stan is a nice guy and I can’t wait to hear him blow the harp.
We said our goodbyes and climbed back in our ride. As we were going back to our room, we stopped at a grocery store called Save-A-Lot . It brings back memories of the retail store on The Simpson’s, Try and Save. We picked up some yogurts, bananas and a six pack of Hershey candy bars. We went back to our room and put the food in the refrigerator. Yeah, all the food went in the refrigerator. Mississippi has many bugs. We freshened up and got back in our car. We got on highway 61 and tuned into radio station WROX AM 1450. They play a mix of '60s and '70s soul and pop. On Saturday nights they play blues. Early “The Soul Man” Wright, the first African-American disc jockey in the South and Mississippi worked at the station starting in 1947. The likes of Ike Turner, Robert Nighthawk, and Sonny Boy Williamson 2 performed live on WROX. The station today also simulcasts on 92.1FM.
We got to the festival site about 3 PM and I headed over to the Delta Cultural Center to use the restroom, where I saw Bobby Rush. Bobby Rush, if you are not aware, is the legendary singer, harmonica player, and possibly the genre's most dynamic entertainer, who has had a career that has spanned fifty years. Nancy and I had just seen Mr. Rush at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle , in late July. When I told him that I saw his show that summer, he gave me a big ole bear hug. I told him he picked me out of the crowd, saying I looked like a panty sniffer (Bobby always uses somebody with this premise as an addition to his show.) After revealing this information, Bobby Rush gave me another intense bear hug. Damn he’s strong! He had to run, so we said our goodbyes and I told him I would see one of his shows later in the day. Bobby Rush was slated to perform with his full review on the main stage, as the final act of 2008 Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, but he was also to appear at The Robert Lockwood Jr. stage with his pared down setting (a guitar player and Bobby singing, playing harp and guitar) Bobby Rush received the 2008 Blues Award for best CD with this line-up, the album titled “Raw.”
Bobby Rush - Photo by Kim WelshAs I stepped into the Delta Cultural Center , I spotted a smiling couple near the door and I mentioned that I just ran into Bobby Rush. I introduced myself. They introduced themselves in return. Kim Welch and Brian Epstein seemed like great folks. They were from New Orleans . We talked about the fest, New Orleans music, and the like for a moment. I told them I was heading to the Houston Stackhouse stage to check out Satan and Adam. They said they were heading that way and would see me later. Satan and Adam became legendary playing the streets of Harlem in New York for well over a decade. Adam Gussow is a world class harmonica player I met when he was in Seattle to speak at the EMP (Experience Music Project) in April of 2007. He sat in with The Crossroads Band at the Highway 99 Blues Club. He dug the band and someone laid our CD “I Want It Right Now” on him and Mr. Gussow eventually used it as a good example of material to learn from for his online harp lessons. Adam and I chatted for a bit, but Satan and his driver were running late, coming from Nashville , Tennesse, so Gary Sloan and Mike Elrod filled in for 20 to 30 minutes. Their short set was very good and more than filled the void. When Satan and Adam, along with a drummer got going, it was cool. Intense and impassioned country blues.
Satan and AdamGary Sloan introduced me to bass man Bob Stroger who has been one of my favorite bass players for many years. Bob played what seemed like forever with Jimmie Rogers, the guitar player with Muddy Water's early bands and writer of the classic Chicago Blues tune, “Walking By Myself”. Bob Stroger is one of a handful of go-to guys on the Chicago Blues scene!
Bob Stroger - Photo by Kim WelshI ran into Hubert Sumlin, Howlin Wolf’s legendary guitar player, who The Crossroads Band backed up at the Mt. Baker Blues Festival in 2004. Hubert is one hell of a guy and a total pleasure to be around. We reminisced and hung out a bit while Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and his band with Bob Stroger played a fine set. Big Eyes is very well known as the great drummer who for many years backed up Muddy Waters, but Mr. Smith is an incredible harp player and a soulful vocalist too. Catching his band is pure pleasure! I got to meet Mister Satan, whose real name is Sterling Magee for a minute also.
John Lee and Hubert Sumlin
Willie "Big Eyes" Smith - Photo by Kim Welsh
Next up was, for me the much anticipated juke joint duo Cedric Burnside & Lightnin’ Malcolm. Nancy and I had seen Lightnin’ Malcolm when we were in the Delta two years ago. He is a fine guitar player and expressive singer. Cedric Burnside is a crackerjack drummer and grandson of the late, great guitar man R.L. Burnside. They laid down a hard and loud boogie for the full one hr and ten minutes. Dancers joined them on stage and everyone had a hell of a time. If you get a chance to catch these guys, don’t pass it up. The title of their latest CD I think sums them up - “Two Man Wreaking Crew.”
Nancy and I were both done for the day. We said goodbye to Gary, Sandy, Mike and Sara. We thanked the Sloans' for their hospitality, and I told Gary I would see him next summer when we would play a number of gigs in the Seattle area. This will be the third year in a row. It seems to be becoming an annual event. We walked the four blocks to our car and pointed our Camry toward our digs in Clarksdale . We tuned our radio to WROX which was in the midst of their Saturday night blues programming. A fitting end to our Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival weekend, and what a weekend it was! For a minute we had trouble finding our motel. It was no longer an EconoLodge. The sign had been changed, and now our motel was an America’s Best Value Inn & Suites. With any luck they would upgrade the breakfast buffet, but probably the sign would be the only thing that really changed!
Day 10, October 12
The last night while we were at the blues festival, The Delta Cinema in Clarksdale hosted a free screening of the documentary, "M for Mississippi- A Road Trip Through the Birth Place of the Blues" film highlighting many of the delta blues musicians still plying their craft in Mississippi. Big City Blues Magazine said this about "M for Mississippi" : “For fans of that real deal, rough and ragged Mississippi Delta blues, it doesn’t get much better than this.” Jeff Konkel of Broke and Hungry Records and Roger Stolle, writer for Blues Revue magazine, owner Cat Head and producer of the annual Juke Joint Festival produced this cool film.
We woke early and had some yogurts and bananas that we bought at Save-A-Lot and we went to the lobby and ran into Johnny Mack. Many of the musicians who were featured in the film "M for Mississippi" had played at the premier or at events around Clarksdale the previous night. This day, a number of them where going to be performing in front of Cat Head at 9 AM. Johnny asked if he could ride with us to downtown and the early morning music. No problem, so John went to get ready. Jim Mills showed up and showed us some great photos he took recently of Hubert Sumlin and guitarist Michael Burks. Jim had a bite to eat and said he was going to catch some more sleep, so Nancy and I grabbed John and went to Cathead.
By the time we got there, a crowd of 50 to 75 people had gathered to catch Robert “Wolfman” Belfour and a drummer. Robert Belfour reminds me a lot of early John Lee Hooker. RL Boyce was lowdown blues at it best. A cat named Red was cooking BBQ with all the trimmings, but I wasn’t up for BBQ for breakfast. I met and chatted with Guitar Mac from Sacramento , California who played the fest, but we missed him. I met a harp player who goes by the title of Harmonica Bean. What a character. An even bigger character was Teddy, the proprietor of Teddy’s Juke Joint in Zachary, Louisiana . Teddy’s brochure says: "We play the best Louisiana blues along with good food and drink." We left Cathead with the blues and BBQ smoke still filling the air and walked down Delta Avenue.
We stopped into a very cool CD store called Blues Source.com, looked around, and then we came to the conclusion we could use something a little more substantial than yogurt and a banana, so we went right next door to the Delta Amusement Café. The Delta Amusement Café serves lunch and a legitimate breakfast. There was a 45 minute wait, so we hit the streets and went to The Ground Zero Blues Club. Their Sunday brunch was in full swing, but we decided to get some fried chicken for lunch. We went to Popeye’s which was not far from our room. I love that chicken. We went back to our digs and freshened up, then went just down Highway 49 to Hopson Plantation and the Shack Up Inn for the Pinetop Perkins homecoming.
The Shack Up Inn
In the Commissary one group who’s name I didn’t catch was just finishing up. Next was the Willie “Big Eyes” Smith band. These guys are tough. Soon they were joined by the Delta legend, guitarist Super Chiken. Mr. Chikin is a solid player and expressive singer who really seems to enjoy playing music. Guitar man Bob Margolin joined the festivities and the music went into high gear. Good stuff! They were followed by the Hiser Brothers, Jacob and Kane. Their band was a cool mix of roots, blues and jazz. One of the brothers plays a killer violin. They were joined mid set by the Memphis singer and harmonic player Billy Gibson. Billy Gibson helped set the energy level a notch or two higher. They were cookin'.
The Willie "Big Eyes" Smith Band
Then we saw Kim Welch and Brian Epstein from New Orleans . They joined us in the balcony that ran along most of the wall to the right of the stage. As the Hiser Brothers were finishing up, the four of us went outside. Kim showed us all around grounds. As we were checkin out one of the shacks from the outside, a young lady came out of one of the units and told us to look around, and not to mind her boy friend who was passed out on a bed in the living room. Very cool digs. Each of the shacks and the rooms at the Gin Mill have televisions but when you turn it on you only get a satellite radio blues station. We walked thru a cotton field and then went back near the Commissary and hung out near where Pinetop Perkins was selling his CD’s and DVD’s. We ran into Jeff Hayes, got to say hello to Pinetop, saw Stan Street and his wife, ran into the writer Mickeal Timm again, and met people from all over the world. What a party. We hated to go but we had a very early flight we had to catch out of Memphis the next morning. We said our goodbyes to Kim, Brian and the whole scene at Hopson. What a cool thing. I’m so glad we were able to attend.
We needed something light for dinner, so we stopped at Wendy’s. It has been ages since either Nancy or I had eaten at Wendy’s. We both remember that besides burgers that they had a salad bar. The salad bar was no more, but they had a large selection of specialty salads. To our surprise it was fresh and quite good. We were only about two minutes from our room and when we got back we packed and got a good nights rest.
Day 11, October 13
We had a 4 AM wake up call. We showered and I made us both tea. We packed the car and caught Highway 61, and drove 75 miles to Memphis and the Memphis airport. We turned in our rental car and caught the shuttle provided by Hertz to the terminal. We made good time and we finished the yogurts and bananas we brought from Clarksdale . We went through security and they busted me with a can of Barq root beer in my bag. Damn! 20 cents worth of product confiscated. When we got to our gate we met a very nice couple from Canada that had come to Memphis to do the Elvis thing. They did Graceland and the like.
Our flight to Minneapolis was good and when we changed planes, we stopped at Chili’s right near our gate to head back to Seattle and picked up a large Southwestern chicken salad. On our flight home we shared the salad and I gave Nancy a card I picked up from Cathead. October 13th is my sweeties' birthday and I got her a B.B. King postcard with a birthday greeting and explained that I would buy her a dinner of her liking soon after we get back home. We got to Sea-Tac and caught the shuttle to downtown, then the 358 bus to our house in the north end. We had one hell of a time and it was good to be home, but I miss the land of the Delta blues a little bit every day. I always feel like I’m home when I’m there.
Quote of the Month
"When Robert Johnson got through playing, all our mouths was open. He sold his soul to the devil to get to play like that!" - Son House, Delta blues legend.
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Here are some photos from a recording session set up by Seattle singer Dana Lupinacci in January at Fastback Studios in North Seattle. It was a pleasure playing with Dana and the other guys that Dana invited to the session, including aces Mark Dalton (bass), Conrad Ormsby (drums), and Tim Sherman (guitar).
We recorded several tunes, including an original written by Dana and Charlene Grant. I was impressed by the professionalism of the studio staff - owner Mark Naron and his guys are very friendly and knowledgeable, and were able to help us get the tracks recorded with a minimum of fuss. Can't wait to hear the finished recordings!
Note: All photos created by the Blues Boss.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
Here's a nice selection of posters from blues shows in both Seattle and Portland that span the years from late '70s to 2007. My thanks to John Marshall and Isis Thor, who contributed most of these posters (those contributed by John Lee and Phil Chesnut are the exceptions). I have identified a couple of the artists only - if anyone can identify any of the others, I would appreciate it. I suspect that John Marshall and Kim Field created several of these blasts from the past.
My apologies for the large size of so many of the files. Click on any poster for a larger view.