I was thinking the other day about the blues shows I have seen that have made the biggest impression on me over the years. Here is a (very) short list for you of those shows - feel free to add your favorites in the comments section, please.
1. Jimmy Rogers at the Fresh Air Tavern in Seattle
I had purchased a copy of Jimmy Rogers' Chess album Chicago Bound shortly after I separated from the Army in 1971, and that record blew my mind then just like it still does now. When I heard that Rogers was playing at the (long gone) Fresh Air Tavern located on Seattle's Capitol Hill, I had to be there.
Jimmy was playing with the Bob Riedy Band at this gig. At the time, pianist Riedy was very involved with booking and playing with many of the legendary Chicago blues artists, and this particular band was smokin' hot, playing all of Jimmy Rogers' tunes with great feeling. There were about 30 people in the club for this show, most of them playing pool. I wish that I could remember who all of the band members were, besides Riedy and drummer "Hubcap" Anderson, but I'm here to tell you that the band was nailing Rogers' stuff perfectly. This is the show that made me decide to try to learn to play the blues harp (for better or worse), and I still wonder today who the excellent white harp player was on that show.
By the way, the fine Seattle blues guitarist Eric Madis was playing in Chicago around the same time as Bob Riedy, and recalls playing with the late great Big Walter Horton during this area. Go ahead, ask him about it some time!
2. BB King at the Paramount Theatre in Seattle
Another early '70s show, the opening acts were a Seattle funk band and Lightning Hopkins (believe it or not!). I recall that that the funk band's bass player and drummer were recruited to play with Hopkins, and he spent a good portion of his set bitching on the mic at them about their musicianship. A miserable set for that rhythm section, for sure.
Hopkins' set was a drag, but BB King's show was a killer! Besides the great musicianship and professionalism on both BB's and the band's parts, I was particularly impressed at BB's extrordinary storytelling skills which he used to keep all of us fully involved in his show.
3. Robert Cray Band at Hibble & Hydes in Seattle
I believe that it was sometime the early '80s when my pal John Lee and I went to the Hibble & Hyde's nightclub in Seattle's Pioneer Square to see the Robert Cray Band. I have never seen a better Northwest band. The band included Cray on guitar and vocals, Curtis Salgado on harp and vocals, DK Stewart on piano and vocals, Richard Cousins on bass, and a drummer who's name escapes me now. That's a lineup that you won't see again soon, cuz!
This was a damn awesome band, and I'm glad that I had the chance to see them play. Fantastic musicianship, fantastic vocals, and a great soundman that had the PA system tuned up perfectly. It was obvious to me that something good was going to happen to these guys, and of course Robert Cray moved on to well deserved national recognition.
Those were the days, my friend!