Thursday, June 29, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid

By John Lee

To me, the 4th of July weekend usually means a good time spent at The Waterfront Blues Festival ( on the beautiful Willamette River in downtown Portland, Oregon. Not this year! In 2006 I’ll be checkin’ it out on line on KBOO-Fm 90.7 ( This year the line-up is funkified with many artists from New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. From opening night’s headliner Doctor John, to the final act on the 4th, the Soul Queen of New Orleans Irma Thomas (Irma will also sing the National Anthem just before the traditional fireworks display), this fest promises to be a funky good time. Check out the schedule on the Fest web site. The two stages that broadcast back and forth are the Miller Stage (MS) and the Credit Union Blues Stage (CU). The broadcast runs from Friday June 30th to Tuesday July 4th from 12:oo PM to 10:15 PM daily. I hope you dig it as much as I do!

If you have read my musings before you know that I’m a big fan of radio. There are two on-line radio shows that really knock me out. Blues Before Sunrise (, is broadcast out of Chicago Sunday mornings on WBEZ 91.5 FM (, midnight to 5:00 AM and 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM Saturday nights/Sunday mornings Pacific Time. Host Steve Cushing takes you on a varied trip from the 1920s to about 1970 featuring seminal recordings by the giants of the genre. A recent show had a segment of harmonica great “Little” Walter Jacobs as a sideman with many different blues artists like Floyd Jones and Otis Rush, not just the sessions with Muddy Waters. Sometimes I listen to the show on Alabama Public Radio ( Mr. Cushing always plays something I’ve never heard before. Now that’s sweet! Do yourself a favor and check out Blues Before Sunrise.

Beale Street Caravan ( is a Blues Foundation-produced weekly show of live recordings from clubs and festivals around America. Recent shows have featured the likes of Eddie Floyd, The Blind Boys of Alabama, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. The group I proudly belong to, The Crossroads Band, was the guest artist on a November 2005 show. It was a recording of the band's 2005 Waterfront Blues Festival set. The show also has some real hip features like the segment on songwriters called "SOS-Songwriters of Soul." Both Percy and Curtis Mayfield were highlighted on two shows not long ago. Unlike Blues Before Sunrise, Beale Street Caravan is pre-recorded and plays at different times on many different radio stations. Check out the shows “find a station” section on their web site to find a station and time that’s good for you. This great show is based out of Memphis.

I have a handful of internet radio stations I listen to from time to time. Next time in this space, I’ll lay them on you.


July Blues Birthdays

James Cotton - July 1, 1935
John Lee (yours truly!) - July 1, 1948
Joe Willie “Pinetop” Perkins - July 7, 1913
George “Buddy” Guy - July 30, 1936
Willie Dixon - July 1, 1915 (died 1992)
Louis Jordan - July 8, 1908 (died 1975)
“Champion” Jack Dupree - July 4, 10, or 23, 1908, 1909, or 1910 (died 1992)
Mike Bloomfield- July 28,1943 (died 1981)

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.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

A Concert for Curtis

by Phil Chesnut

Last Tuesday, bassman and promoter John Lee and myself were the guests of Curtis Salgado at a very special concert and benefit at the Theater of the Clouds, in Portland's Rose Garden. This event was a fundraiser to assist Curtis with the massive medical bills incurred while battling his recently diagnosed liver cancer. With the support of so many friends, fans and artists, the Concert for Curtis was a huge success. Proceeds not only came from tickets, but from a giant silent auction with some high dollar prizes that did very well. With the clout of this great blues city, and the help of so many, the benefit was truly worthy of this great bluesman. There have also been many other locally-based benefits for Curtis recently, including ones from Seattle, Eugene, Freemont, CA and Omaha, NE, showing how wide this master soulman's influence has spread.

I got to meet with Curtis for a short time before the show. He was in great spirits and was a bit taken aback by the huge support shown on this special night. Later, Curtis put on his usual masterful performance, demonstrating why he is truly one of the world's greatest soul singers. As a true showman, Curtis also demonstrated great courage and strength, considering his situation. In response, both fans and artists showed their love and support to a person who has done so much for both the music and the people.

Opening the show was the Curtis Salgado Band, with a 5 piece horn section and 4 piece choir, the band showed off their huge sound. Curtis and his crew certainly set the high spirited, soulful mood for the night. Following this great soul set came the familiar blues of Little Charlie & the Nightcats. Fronted by guitarist Charley Baty and vocalist/harpman Rick Estrin, the band continued the essence of things to come. A loud MTV rock band named Everclear played next, which gave me a chance to mingle in the halls, catching up with old Portland friends and checking out the many auction items.

John Belushi's widow, Judith, took the stage next with some heartfelt stories of two friends who came together and how they forever influenced the blues. Following these tales of the REAL Blues Brothers, came for me the highlight of the night - Taj Mahal and the Phantom Blues Band. Flying in from Europe to perform at this benefit, Taj and band put on a superb performance to the delight of the multitude.

Next to perform was Curtis' old bandmate Robert Cray. Cray demonstrated his own blues based pop music that has made him popular with more than just blues fans. Following Cray came Northwest rock icon Steve Miller and his band. After performing a few Steve Miller gems, Curtis came out to finish this long set. This Miller/Salgado set was truly magical and worth the price of admission by itself.

If that wasn't enough, Cray came back out, along with various other band members, to create one killer all-star jam that lasted way later than the planned time. Although it was only a Tuesday, no one seemed to care.

Although Curtis still has a tough row to hoe, he can rest assured that he is a man who is greatly loved and appreciated by thousands. At every performance I've ever seen of Curtis', he always took the time to make the point about love and respect towards each other. After my experience at this special event, his healing words and insight carry more weight than ever.

Phil Chesnut is an award winning photographer and keen observer of the Northwest blues scene. All of the photographs that appear in this article were created by Phil.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid

By John Lee

The “Concert for Curtis” at the Rose Quarter in Portland, Oregon on June 13th, from my viewpoint, looked to be a huge success. Instead of an on stage introduction with an over-sized check, we were given a face-to-face meeting and photo-op with Curtis Salgado himself. There were also benefit organizers from Fremont, California, Sand Point, Idaho, and Eugene, Oregon. The Omaha Blues Society also sent a check for $4,900.00.

Phil Chesnut, the artist and photographer who designed the Seattle benefit poster, was there and got lots of great shots of the face-to-face and of the great show that followed. Curtis said he understood I was a player. I told him I was, that I played with The Crossroads Band and Steve Bailey. Curtis told me Steve showed him lots of things on the harp and that Steve was “one hell of a harmonica player.” This I knew! Curtis is also one hell of a harmonica player!

The Curtis Salgado Band took the stage first and Curtis belted out a great set of rock and blues laced R&B (real R&B) highlighted by the O.V. Wright ballad “Born All Over.” The Curtis Salgado Band included a five piece horn section and four backup singers. Next up was Little Charlie and the Nightcats, with a spirited set that included one of my favorites, “My Next Ex-Wife.”

Then it was time for a trip to the lobby to check out the silent auction. I ran into Tom Boyle and Becki Sue of the Big Rockin’ Daddies. I hadn’t seen those two since December and we had a lot to catch up on; so much so that I missed Everclear’s set. Time flies when your havin’ fun!

Then Judy Belushi, John Belushi’s widow, talked about Curtis’ influence on John Belushi and The Blues Brothers (The Blues Brothers first album is dedicated to Curtis). Then came the set I think was top flight - Taj Mahal and The Phantom Blues Band. This is one of, if not the finest band, in the land. They ran the gamut from “Paint My Mailbox Blue” to Otis Redding's “Mr. Pitiful”. If you get a chance don’t miss Taj and The Phantom Blues Band - they are worth the trip.

The Robert Cray Band laid down some of the smooth pop-blues that has become his trademark. A very good four piece group, all great players. Steve Miller came on, backed by Curtis on harp and vocals, with Curtis’ band. It was a rousing set that had the crowd of about 5,000 on their feet. The concert came to a close with a huge jam with all most all the musicians taking part. A good time was had by all. Some fine music was laid down and money was raised to benefit Curtis in his fight with liver cancer. Please keep Curtis in your thoughts and prayers! Curtis is a good man and one hell of a musician!

Curtis’ fight is just beginning and this is a very expensive undertaking! You can help by making a donation to the “Curtis Salgado Fund” and sending your check or money order to: US Bank 2550 NW 188th Avenue, Hillsboro, Or 97124

I would once again like to thank everyone who made the Seattle benefit a success especially Ed Maloney and The Highway 99 Blues Club. Thanks one and all!! Our final total was $3,715.00.

June Blues Birthdays

In this space for the June Blues Birthdays earlier this month I made a large omission - Seattle’s Big Time Bluesman Issac Scott’s birthday, June 11, 1945. The big man left us too soon. He died in November 2001. I miss him.


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.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Down at the nightclub...

I had the unusual opportunity last week to play some music plus go out and hear some bands, so that's what I did. Here's what I observed during my travels around the Jet City.


Pianist Annieville Blues (left, with yours truly) was kind enough to hire me to play on her regular duo gig at Bad Albert's Tap and Grill in olde Ballard. Annieville told me that she has been playing this gig for ten years now (yikes!) with constantly rotating guests such as guitarist Brian Butler, Jack Cook, Mark Whitman, and blues harpist Paul Green. She also plays occasionally with a full band that features A-list Seattle blues musicians.

I must admit that the duo format is something that I struggle with, but we had fun playing straight ahead blues and some Louisiana style second line stuff. The club was practically empty (so what's new?) until about a half an hour into the last set when Annieville's CD posse finally showed up. I dig these guys - they appreciate the music, and are good tippers too. Thanks for the gig, Annieville!


I dropped by the Corner Inn on Friday night to see the Chris Stevens Band. Chris had invited me earlier to sit in, so I played the last set with them. This is a terrific band that can play everything from Freddie King to the Ventures to T-Bone Walker tunes and everything in between. Sometimes the band features one or two sax players, but this night the band was a quartet, featuring Brian Butler on second guitar and vocals. The band sounded great, as usual, even though they were playing to a practically empty house by the end of the night. Chris also appears occasionally at the Blue Monday jam at the Highway 99 Blues Club, where his set is always considered a blues guitar seminar.

The Chris Stevens Band, left to right: Brian Butler, Alan Isaacson, Mark Dalton, and Chris Stevens - The Corner Inn


Saturday night I visited two clubs, including the New Orleans Creole Restaurant and the Highway 99 Blues Club.

A ten-piece soul/disco/funk band called Soul Vaccination from Portland, Oregon was playing at the New Orleans. This band had the stage packed - the instrumentation included guitar, bass, drums, keys, two singers, and four horns (tenor sax, tenor/bari sax/flute, and two trumpets). During the set that I watched they played a pretty well known (but seldom heard) selection of Tower Of Power tunes, disco numbers, and ballads. But no James Brown stuff, dang it!

Soul Vaccination - New Orleans Creole Restaurant

Man, this band rocks with that horn section blasting away! This is the kind of group that I see occasionally at large tradeshow parties - just about the only kind of gig that can pay this many musicians decently. The club was about three-quarters full, with lots of folks doing (or trying to do, anyway) the Electric Slide on one disco number.

You know, I wish the New Orleans would fly a couple of decent PA speakers above the stage. Currently, the speakers sit on opposite corners of the stage, so one is typically pointed at the bar, and the other at the restaurant. You can't really hear both speakers no matter where you sit in the club.

Left to right: Harold Brown, Rockin' Jake (harp), and Lee Oskar (harp) - Highway 99 Blues Club

Rockin' Jake, a four piece band from New Orleans was holding court at the Highway 99 Blues Club. Fronted by Rockin' Jake himself on harp and vocals, I heard the band do a couple of blues tunes and then Jake invited former War band members Harold Brown and Lee Oskar to join the band on stage.

I guess that Lee Oskar has been living in the Seattle area for a while now, and has played at several local venues during that time, but this was the first time that I actually saw and heard him play. The band played a long funky instrumental jam with both Rockin' Jake and Lee Oskar both blowing harp. Oskar sounded quite good, but had some difficulties with feedback while playing through the house PA system. After Oskar left the stage, Harold Brown played a tune with the band, and was swinging hard. know what? What they say is true - "Live music is best!"

Monday, June 05, 2006

Seattle Curtis Salgado Benefit Photos - Pt. 3

OK folks, here's the final round of photos from the Curtis Salgado benefit. Thanks again to everyone that contributed their pics. Enjoy!

Charlene Grant and Mike Lynch - Photo by Mike Syverson

Steve Bailey - Photo by the Blues Boss

Highway 99 Blues Club soundman Greg Thompson - Photo by Jack Cook

Bill Lovey, John Rockwell, and Jeff Herzog (Jeff & the Jet City Flyers) - Photo by Phil Chesnut

Dennis Ellis and Steve Bailey (Crossroads Band) - Photo by Phil Chesnut

Steve Yonck, David Hudson, Mike Wilde, Guy Quintino, and Eric Daw (Hudson Blues Band) - Photo by Phil Chesnut

Dan Newton, John Rockwell, and John Lee (Crossroads Band) - Photo by Phil Chesnut

Jeff Herzog - Photo by Phil Chesnut

Saturday, June 03, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid

By John Lee

I was prepared to do a completely different piece in this space until I got involved putting together the Curtis Salgado Benefit that occured on May 28th at The Highway 99 Blues Club.

From the time I talked to Mike Lynch at Blue Monday on May 8th, to the last note of the benefit, it was a lesson in grassroots mobilization! I asked a core of my long time friends if they would be interested in doing a benefit for Curtis Salgado to help him with the expenses that come with the treatment of liver cancer. One and all said YES! Then more people came forward saying they wanted to help and be involved. Now it was my job to find room for all the talented and good people that wanted to help.

It turned out to be what amounted to a one day blues festival, with 24 musicians (8 harmonica men) in all. The caliber of the music was high and everyone had a great time. We had no print media help and relied on e-mail lists and public service announcements from select public and community radio music shows like All Blues on KPLU 88.5 FM in Tacoma and The Night Shift with Dave Samson on KBCS 91.3 FM, located on the campus of Bellevue Community College.

The show and benefit brought in $3,665.00. The silent auction provided $674.00 of this amount. The Highway 99 Blues Club gave $431.00, most of that from 50% of food sales. I think this was a damn good showing for a mostly underground event! I would like to thank everyone who helped put this together and to all who came and gave, and enjoyed the festivities. Thank you one and all. Thank you so much!!

On Tuesday, after I deposited the cash and checks in the “Curtis Salgado Fund” (Monday was a holiday, the banks were closed), I called Shane Tappendorf, Curtis’ manager, to tell him the totals. After he thanked me, Shane asked if I would be their guest at The Concert for Curtis in Portland, Oregon on June 13th. I was totally knocked out with the kind and generous offer. The show is a monster. Dig the lineup: The Curtis Salgado Band (Curtis is able to perform while he receives treatments) with special guests Steve Miller, Robert Cray, Taj Mahal, Everclear, the Phantom Blues Band, and Little Charlie and the Nightcats. Wow, it’s gonna be one hell of a show!! Shane says they are going to introduce me to the audience for the contribution of the Seattle benefit. I will wish them the best from us all.

For concert tickets on June 13th phone 877-789-7673 or go online at For donations, make checks out to “ Curtis Salgado Fund “ and take to any US Bank. Or send checks to: US Bank 2550 NW 188th Avenue, Hillsboro, OR 97124.

I will tell you all about my trip to the Rose City not long after I get back.


June Blues Birthdays

David “Honeyboy” Edwards - June 28, 1915
John Stephan - June 29, 1948
“Memphis Minnie” McCoy - June 3, 1897 (died 1973)
Jimmy Rogers - June 3, 1924 (died 1997)
Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett - June 10, 1910 (died 1976)
“St. Louis Jimmy” Oden - June 26, 1903 (died 1977)

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.