Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid

By John Lee

Last month when I was finishing my musings on public radio blues shows, my long time friend and “brother” Mark Thompson dropped by and laid on me a gift of the highest order: a CD of Soul/R&B singer James Carr’s complete Goldwax Records singles, 28 tunes in all. This is an example of soul singing at its best! From the classic of illicit love “The Dark End of the Street” (covered by Aretha Franklin) to The Bee-Gee’s “To Love Somebody," this man is as good as it gets!

The sorrowful ballad “These Ain’t Raindrops” reminds one of Otis Redding (these sides were recorded in Memphis) and the Soul/Gospel “Freedom Train” is a civil rights anthem that the record company was nervous about releasing, afraid of being political or promoting “propaganda”. It’s an up-tempo tune of hope and liberation. “Pouring Water on a Drowning Man” has always been one of my favorite gospel inspired ballads. It is the way a R&B ballad should be done! I could go on and on about James Carr and this incredible collection (The Complete Goldwax Records Singles - James Carr Kent/Soul cd 202). If you’re a fan of Soul-Blues this CD is for you. I hope you dig it as much as I do. James Carr passed away in 2001.

Speaking of great Soul/R&B singers, I would like to make mention of the passing of Wilson “Wicked” Pickett (March 18, 1941-Jan. 19, 2006). Wilson Pickett was a huge influence on me. When I was coming up in the mid-sixties he was all over the radio and every band played “Mustang Sally." Most bands didn’t do the song justice. Pickett’s version kicks ass!

I got a great CD of his greatest Atlantic Records sides. “Wilson Pickett’s Greatest Hits." Its 24 tunes from Pickett’s earliest hit “I Found A Love” (with The Falcons), his mega hits “Land Of 1,000 Dances," “In The Midnight Hour," and “Mustang Sally” to the pop covers of the early 70’s. It’s all good. Wilson Pickett had that gift (like Ray Charles) to take a sometimes average song and make it special. Pickett was a great shouter and he will be missed. Wilson Pickett was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

March Blues Birthdays

Ronnie Earl - March 10, 1953
Marcia Ball - March 20, 1949
Sue Foley - March 29, 1968
Eric Clapton - March 30, 1945
“Mississippi” John Hurt - March 8, 1892 (died 1966)
Sam “Lightnin” Hopkins - March 15, 1912 (died 1982)
Son House - March 21, 1902 (died 1988)
Otis Spann - March 21, 1930 (died 1970)
Rufus Thomas - March 26, 1917 (died 2001)
Leroy Carr - March 27, 1905 (died 1935)

Electric bassist John "Mr. Solid" Lee was born in Alaska and has been active in the Seattle blues scene for about 30 years. He currently plays with the Crossroads Band. Photo by Mike Coyote.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Blues Nachos

The recipe for this tasty blues treat comes to us from Seattle guitarist David Brewer (left, at his secret lair somewhere in the greater Seattle/Tacoma area). David is currently working on his strategy for world domination of the music industry after the release of his newest CD "Absolutely." That CD can be purchased at the CD Baby web site.


1. Before hitting the road after the gig, stop by the nearest convenience store and buy one of those single-serving boxes of corn flakes and a can of Cheeze Whiz.

2. Go to the men's room and open the box of corn flakes.

3. Squirt the Cheeze Whiz liberally over the corn flakes.

4. Heat the corn flakes/Cheeze Whiz combo for a couple of minutes under the hand dryer until the cheeze melts into the flakes.

5. Garnish with some canned jalapeno peppers. Enjoy with the 40 ounce beer of your choice.
Northwest Blues Quiz

By Uncle Ray Varner

1. Name Seattle's Big Time Bluesman.

2. Paul deLay, Jim Mesi, and Lloyd Jones started their careers in what Portland band?

3. Name the frontman for Eugene Oregon's seventies blues band, the Nighthawks.

4. Name the Tacoma drummer that was the first drummer in the Robert Cray Band.

5. What is Junior Earl's given name?

6. Name the longtime Seattle resident who wrote "Goin' Back to Oakland."

7. Who is the author of "Harmonicas, Harps, and Heavy Breathers?"

8. What Seattle drummer played with King Floyd?

9. Name the folk/blues guitarist and former owner of the Takomah record label that ended up living in a homeless shelter in Salem, Oregon.

10. Name the Louisiana bass player who puked in the parking lot of the Jolly Roger on the Roger's closing night. Hint: He formerly played with Fernest and the Thunders.

Bonus. What sixties rock/blues guitar icon (now deceased) played and lived in Eugene, Oregon for many years? Hint: The Sunflower.

Note: A Harmonica Playboy & the Midnight Movers CD will be sent to the first reader that can answer the ten questions above.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Comment moderation, Pt. 2

Here's how comment moderation works on Blogger - When a comment is posted it is sent via e-mail to the blog owner, where it can be either published or rejected. So comments won't appear on the Jet City Blues blog until I can review them. I usually check my e-mail two or three times a day, so it shouldn't take too long for comments to get published. Thanks for your patience!

Sunday, February 19, 2006

The Hudson Blues Band
The Salmon Bay Eagles Club – Seattle, WA
February 9, 2005

I wandered down to the Eagles Club a couple of weeks ago to see the Hudson Blues Band. I don’t remember the last time I saw the Eagles so full of fans and musicians. This was the first time that I had seen the band with their regular lineup in a while: Mike Wylde (harp/vocals), David Hudson (drums), Guy Quintino (bass), Steve Yonck (guitar) and Eric Daw (guitar).

The Hudson Blues Band

The band was sounding good and they pretty much had the dance floor full for most every tune. I dig this band’s rhythm section; David and Guy are sort of Seattle’s Fred Below and Dave Meyers. Guy was playing electric bass at this gig, but he is also a very good acoustic bass player. I used to kid David about how quiet he used to play, but he has punched up his sound quite a bit lately and he and Guy swing like mad.

Eric Daw (left) joined the band recently and I think that this is a good thing – he is a tasty Telecaster player that adds depth to the band’s sound, and he and Steve are adept at playing parts that are complimentary and never sound the same. That’s how we harp players like it!

Front man Mike Wylde (below) did a great job of entertaining the crowd and was blowing some fine harp through a tower of tone that consisted of old Silvertone and Harmony amps (hey Mike, where can I find one of those electric blue suit coats?).

Mike and the band were very generous about letting people sit in, including me and Dave Prez, plus some of the folks from the Broomdust Band also. I had to leave about 11:30, but I’m sure that more cats probably sat in after I left.

Good stuff! The next time these guys are in your neighborhood, turn off the TV and go see ‘em. And tell them that the Playboy sent you.

The Salmon Bay Eagles (206-783-7791) is located at 5216 20th Avenue in Seattle's Ballard neighborhood.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Weird Gig No. 3 - The Aryan Nation & Monkopotomus

By Polly O'Keary

These Weird Gig tales were written by NW bassist/singer/songwriter Polly O'Keary (left). She fronts the band Polly O'Keary & the Rhythm Method, appearing soon at a nightclub near you.

Wanna Play a Party?

I started out in Eastern Washington when I was 17, and that region at that time was not noted for its hip embrace of diversity. I had a black drummer back then, a great guy named Dave Bell. We were doing an outdoor festival in a park in Omak and after our set a biker with a long black braid came up and said, "You guys are great!" It’s those pats on the back that keep me going, so I decided I liked him. I soon changed my mind.

"Hey, you guys want to play a party? I can you get you $500!" Great! But I'll never know what the guy was thinking as he went on: "It’s an Aryan Nations get together, you guys will have a great time, there’s a barbeque, all you can eat, and a keg, free beer…" I just stood there, unable to find words.

The Short Career of "Monkopotomus"

The mother of all weird gigs was a pickup gig I played when I was still working with Colonel up north in a band called Colonel and Doubleshot. I was gigging my way through college and I was always broke, so I’d do pick-up work with just about anybody, so long as they played blues.

I got a call one Wednesday from a friend that worked at Manna Music in Bellingham, saying that some drummer had been in that day looking for pick-up musicians to fill in at a gig in Blaine. I thought that was weird, a drummer with no other players whatsoever, but whatever. I called the guy. He said he was traveling through from LA, where he’d played with just about everybody including David Bowie.

He needed a guitar player and a bass player to do a gig at a club that was just getting started with music. He promised $100 a player. I was broke, so I called Colonel and we agreed to meet the guy at his hotel the following night to talk about the gig. When we got there the room smelled absolutely horrid. Between the guy’s feet and the god-awful malodorous hound he had, the air was barely breathable. We stayed just long enough to pencil out a set list on the back of an envelope, mostly Stevie Ray Vaughn stuff and standards. We figured we had enough material to do the gig and agreed to meet the following night at the club.

Right before the gig the next night, the guy called to ask if I’d pick up his rented drum set at Manna Music. Now irritated, I swung by to load the stuff, only to find it hadn’t been paid for yet. I told them I’d bring the guy’s money the next day and headed north. I got there and loaded in at seven for a nine o’clock gig. The drummer was there and extremely tense. "This band’s name is Monkopotomus," he said. "It's a cross between a monkey and a hippopotomus. Cool, huh? Now, what’s your band’s name?" "Colonel and Doubleshot," I replied, non-plussed. "Not tonight, it isn’t" he said. "Its Monkopotomus. Now what's your band's name?" I could see I wasn't going to get out of it."Monkopotomus, whatever, Jesus," I said.

Colonel was going to be there soon, and he is well known for his temper. I started to have a bad feeling. Colonel showed up a few minutes later. Once we’d set up, the drummer announced to us that we were going to play a song every fifteen minutes until the start time, an hour and a half away. I said I didn’t think that was a good idea, given that we barely had enough material to get through the night as it was, and went to the bar for a much-needed brew. The man then got on the microphone and started doing what he thought was stand-up comedy. He tried to get everybody to chant "Monkopotomus" to no avail, then started razzing the local high school basketball team.

About then, the clubowner drew Colonel into his office. A moment later, Colonel came out and pulled me aside. "The club owner said we’re not getting paid," he said. "She said this guy came in a week ago, asked if he could do a gig here, said he’d promote it, and said we’d take a dollar a head for everyone who shows up." I looked around. There was no way this club could hold 300 people even if this guy was a promoter like Bill Graham. But we decided to see the gig through, mostly because neither of us had ever walked out on a gig in our lives, which was a point of pride. Also, someone was going to have to pay for the drum rental.

At that point the guy came over and demanded again that we play a song to "warm up the crowd," which at that point was four old guys in ball caps, drinking Miller Lite at the bar and pointedly ignoring us. We grimly said we could use a sound check and struggled through an old Bonnie Raitt tune while the guy’s tempo wandered all over the map. We still got a nice round of applause. In light of the horror of what the audience had just heard, I wondered if any applause I’d ever gotten in my life had meant anything.

I went and hid in the women’s bathroom, where I thought I’d be safe. The drummer barged in after me, begging that we play every fifteen minutes. I snapped. "Man, I don’t know where you came from, but I suggest you let us do this the way we do it, God damn it. Now get out of the bathroom." He relented, went back to the mike and started in on the stand-up attempt again while I sat down by Colonel and desperately chugged a second beer."Shut up!" someone yelled. He gave up, plopped down at my table, put his hand on my leg and asked me to give him a ride to his hotel room to "get something." "Listen, fucker, get your hand off her leg," Colonel said. "Sorry, dude," the drummer said, holding up his hands.

I figured the only way to defuse the situation was to start playing so no one could talk. It was only eight, but no way was this gig going to last till midnight anyway. We walked up to the stage. "Hey, can we not play any fast shuffles?" said the drummer. Well, that was half the set list gone. "And I promised somebody we’d start out with ZZ Top," the guy continued. "I only know one ZZ Top tune and it’s a fast shuffle," I replied. "Take your pick, ZZ Top or no fast shuffles." "No fast shuffles," the drummer decided. This was the guy who the day before said he could play any tune Stevie Ray Vaughn had ever recorded.

We got ready to play "Sweet Home Alabama." Just as Colonel counted it, the guy shouted "ZZ Top," and started flailing away at his cymbals. Colonel put down his guitar and leaned over the drums. The whites of his eyes were visible all the way around. "Don’t ever do that again," he said. "If you do, I’m going to walk right out of here, right now." The guy put his sticks down and nearly broke down and sobbed. "Alright, okay," he said. "There’s 300 people coming. I’ll do whatever you say. Please don’t go." "I’m not kidding, I’ll split, and you can tell everybody what a dick you are," Colonel continued, gathering steam. I nervously eyed the gear, half of which I owned.

"You sit there and shut up," I said to the drummer. "And you, Colonel, don’t say a word to him. Nobody talk to nobody. Let’s just play a god damn tune. You want ZZ Top, it’s a fast shuffle. You want ZZ Top? Just nod your head." He nodded. I called "Tush" and counted it in. He came in too fast, immediately slowed down, and started hitting his cymbals so hard the air off the ride moved all the hair on my arms three feet away, then crashed to a halt. Colonel put his guitar down again and spun around. "Look, you fuck…" "I’m sorry!" he wailed. "I told you I can’t play fast shuffles! Let’s play something else! There’s 300 people coming! I paid a hundred dollars for the posters!" I set my bass down and shut off the PA in the nick of time before the obscenities Colonel began to utter got picked up on the mikes.

It was clear Monkopotomus had played its last note. "I’ll sue you!" the drummer said. "I’ll sue you, motherfuckers! For breach of contract!" "I’ll kick your ass," said Colonel. "I’ll do it right now." The guy, who had a good six inches on Colonel, fled for the door. "I’m calling the cops!" he bellowed and vanished. Meanwhile, word of our plight, including the cost of the drum rental, had circulated among the 10 or so people there. They formed a line and started pressing money into our hands. "You guys were good," they said. "Sorry it didn’t work out." We gratefully accepted the donations and split. I brought the drums back to Manna Music the next day and told the story to the horrified delight of the staff. They didn’t charge us for the rental. We counted the donations. $300. We made more than we would have had the gig gone well.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Comment Moderation

I will not allow any further anonymous slagging of people associated with the local blues scene to be posted on the Jet City blog. If you feel that you've got to vent against someone here, but are unwilling to take responsibility for your comments, then your comments will not appear on this blog. There are other blogs available that appreciate this type of behaviour - go there if you must, I'm sure that your traffic will be appreciated.

Mike Lynch

Friday, February 10, 2006

The Man Behind the Curtain speaks!

By Steve Sarkowsky

When blues musicians get together in the Jet City, there is occasionally much bitching about the current state of the club scene. The voice always missing from this discussion is the club owner's. Well, no more! Steve Sarkowsky (below), the Man Behind the Curtain at Seattle's Highway 99 Blues Club, gives us his perspective on this issue here.

I am the founder, investor and house drummer of the Highway 99 Blues Club. I do all he booking, marketing, ads and such for the club. I have been a working musician (yes, drummers are that!) for many years, and have played/recorded with a long list of bands and continue to enjoy music as much as ever. I am currently playing with the Highway 99 All-Stars and also with Portland's Robbie Laws in his Bigger Blues Band. My reason for writing this article is to shine some light on the nightclub business by speaking from the club/booking perspective. Maybe this will provide some insight, inspiration, or just some direction for artists and bands that continue to complain about (not) getting work. Here then are my thoughts...

Have you been to the club you are trying to get a gig in? Do you know that they book the type of music that you play? Have you gone into the club and met the staff, supported other acts, introduced yourself, had some food, and dropped off your promo package? Are you being realistic about your chances of being booked into the venue? Do your homework; spend some time and figure out what the club does and why you should be a part of it.

You have a CD now - big deal...everyone does! Make sure that it is a good product; if you have to defend it, don't bother. Bad CD's = no gig. Want to send a copy? Great, label it and make sure that Mott the Hoople’s greatest hits have been erased! Most importantly, is this actually you and your band? If what you send is not what you are going to bring, that is no good. Clubs want truth in advertising.

Does your family come to your gigs? Do you know and willingly embrace the art of promoting your band? Let's face it, when the club is empty it is always the band's fault, but when the club is full, it is because of the club. Truth be told, it is a little of both. If you don't promote your gig at the club you won't be back. Be progressive; take advantage of technology and develop your audience. It's shocking, but clubs don't really like having no one show up for your gigs.

The Clever Factor – Or, why is that band working and we're not? Do ya have it? Good promo, nice merchandise, strong CD's, cool giveaways (SWAG), and a show....that's right kids, you gotta entertain the troops. How do you and the band look? Is the set list the same since '84? Do you just call some players up that day and get together and jam? Who is actually in the band? Will they be on the gig? Do they know your material, or is it gonna be shuffles in G all night?

Show you the money? Show me the money! Stop bitchin' about the money today being the same as 15 years ago. You’re right and you're wrong. It is the same because you have not raised the bar on what you do. Good bands get good money. If you have fans come to your shows then you and the venue can prosper. You want the same money as a 25 year veteran of the Chicago blues scene who is on a label and tours every spring and summer? Guess again. You want the kind of money that a band that is rehearsed, consistent, entertaining, does those things previously mentioned here and works at getting better as a band? No problem. Work at your craft, love the music, cherish the time you get to perform and the people that play with you. Appreciate the gift of your musical talent, challenge yourself to be creative and to strive to improve. It will make a difference.

Some final thoughts: Remember, if there were not places that presented live music, you would have nowhere to play. Clubs are at best a risky, expensive, potentially life altering experience. They require your support as a musician and as a patron. It means a lot to a club when the musicians hang out there on their off nights. We are in the entertainment business. Each time a person visits our club, we have to try to make sure that they have a memorable experience - the service, the food, the drinks, the staff, the atmosphere, and of course the music. We are doing our part, don't let us down. Bring your best or stay at home. Music is its own universe. It needs to be fed, supported, and thrilled every day. Will you…just do it?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid

By John Lee

I’m a big fan of radio. When I was growing up in Alaska we didn’t have TV and radio was our main source of entertainment. I still prefer using my ears.

In Western Washington we are blessed with great public and community radio stations, many with blues shows. Here are some:

All Blues on KPLU 88.5 fm (6 pm-12 am) on Saturday and Sunday (www.kplu.org).

Fridays on KBCS 91.3fm there are two blues shows: The Nightshift with Dave Samson, (7-9 pm) and from 9-11 pm, Night-Train (www.kbcs.fm).

KEXP 90.3 fm has Preaching The Blues on Sundays (9 am-12 pm). Also, The Roadhouse with Greg Vandy (6-9pm) on Wednesdays is a great roots music show, and Fridays (6-9pm) is a good time with the rockabilly show Shake The Shack (www.kexp.org).

Thursdays KSER 90.7 fm out of Everett has three blues shows: Clancy’s Bar and Grill (8-10 pm), Blues Odyssey (10 pm-12 am) with 2005 “BB” award winner Leslie Fleury, and Pacific Blues (12-2 am) (www.kser.org).

KSVR 91.7 in Mt. Vernon has a blues show Thursdays (8-10pm) with Mojo Mike (www.ksvr.org).

Check it out. Half the fun of radio is to be surprised at what tunes they play.

Next time in this space I’ll be reviewing the recent re-release of the great R&B/Soul singer James Carr’s Goldwax sides. This cat could really chirp!

February Blues Birthdays

Sam Meyers - February 19, 1936
Johnny Winter - February 23, 1944
Magic Sam (Sam Maghett) - February 2, 1937 (died 1969)
Johnny "Guitar" Watson - February 3, 1935 (died 1996)

Electric bassist John "Mr. Solid" Lee was born in Alaska and has been active in the Seattle blues scene for about 30 years. He currently plays with the Crossroads Band. Photo by Mike Coyote.