Friday, December 29, 2006

Our final Blue Monday gig.

Highway 99 Blues Club - December 18, 2006

We (Harmonica Playboy & the Midnight Movers) hosted our final Blue Monday gig at the Highway 99 Blues Club on December 18th. This wrapped up a two year run at this gig for us. There several memorable nights during this period, but also many nights when we played to a practically empty house. A different band, consisting of members of the band Author Unknown, will be hosting the jam on Mondays starting in January.

We had a pretty good turnout this night, at least as far as the number of players that showed up. A lot of the regulars (such as Spoon Dickie, Bill Harper, and Chris Stevens) made an appearance, and we were treated to rare performances by harp players Kim Field, Mark Dufresne, Jeff Hertzog, and John Deely, vocalist Dana Luppinacci, plus guitarist Anthony Estrada.

Heres some gig photos for ya'll:

Harmonica Playboy & the Midnight Movers
Left to right: Steve Yonck, Kirk Tuttle, Mike Lynch, Tim Sherman, and Patty Mey (photo by Kim Field)

Kim Field and Tim Sherman

Mark Dufresne and Mike Lynch (photo by Patty Mey)

Chris Stevens and John Deely

Left to right: Dana Lupinacci, Mark Dufresne, and Tim Sherman

Left to right: Jeff Herzog, Anthony Estrada, and Spoon Dickie

Highway 99 sound guy Greg Thompson

Thanks to the Highway 99 for having us host the Blue monday gig, and thanks to the great staff for always making us feel welcome there. Hey, we'll see you at the nightclub!

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Godfather of Soul is dead - Long live the Godfather of Soul!!

James Brown - May 3, 1933 to December 25, 2006

Tall tales from Alaska - Pt. 2

Nitelife in Ketchikan, AK in the early '80s

Every time our band, Nitelife, returned to Ketchikan, we were always struck by the beauty of the place. A beautiful waterfront, mountains, totem poles, a large fishing fleet - but of course we didn't spend much time enjoying all (or any) of this splendor. We had a job to do, working in the belly of the Beast - the Shamrock Bar & Supper Club. I have written about some of our adventures in Ketchikan in a previous blog, so my goal here is to describe what happened with the band during subsequent visits.

Ketchikan waterfront

Winter scene - Ketchikan Creek

But first - you know, one of the nice things about publishing a blog is that you can never tell who might be reading it around the world, and who might contact you after reading it. It seems that some friends of "Terrible" Ted Herlinger saw this blog and sent him a link to it. Ted contacted me and told me that my story about the Ketchikan judge ordering him out of town was "...pure horseshit." So, I guess I'm gonna have to take that one back. Sorry about that Ted! I wish I could recall who told that story to me...

I should also point out that Nightlife was not the only Seattle blues band to visit Ketchikan during this period. Blue Lights also played in Ketchikan, and featured both pianist Sunnyland Slim and guitarist Hubert Sumlin during their visits. I believe that I will write a blog about this band in the not too distant future.

Shamrock Bar & Supper Club

Stuffed salmon - Shamrock Bar

After the first version of Nitelife burned out in Ketchikan, bassist John "The Savage" Lee, drummer Jim Becker, and I returned to Seattle. Jim moved on to become the first drummer for Seattle's Slamhound Hunters. John and I recruited drummer Ric "Mad Dog" Howell and guitarist Jack Cook from the Isaac Scott Band for our second trip to Ketchikan and the infamous Shamrock Bar & Supper Club in the summer of 1980. We played in the back of the club next to the ice machine from 10:00 PM to 3:00 AM six nights a week to a (usually) totally smashed crowd of revelers and the topless dancers working the fishermen and loggers. The band stayed in an apartment above the liquor warehouse next door to the bar, where we could hear the bar's jukebox blasting away from 4:00 PM until 5:00 AM. The entrance was in the back of the building, at the end of one of the world's most interesting alleys.

Entrance to the band crib

The party lights were still burning bright at the Shamrock during our second visit, and some of the members of the band partook heartily in the festivities. Sometimes too heartily, for sure, but we made it out of town safely, somehow. If I recall correctly, we played in Ketchikan for six weeks before making our escape back to Seattle. The Savage, having meet a future ex-girlfriend who returned to Seattle with him, declined to participate in any further expeditions north.

Nitelife Ver. 2.0, leaving Ketchikan - Ric Howell, Mike Lynch, John Lee, and Jack Cook

The following summer we returned to the Shamrock for the last time, with bassist Doug Royce in tow. Doug, an actual trained musician who had worked in big bands years before, was playing with the Brian Butler band when I first met him (I worked with Doug again years later, in the Tom McFarland Band). We worked the same fun house shows, to an ever-changing cast of topless dancers, regulars, loggers, and fishermen (and women).

We did play outdoors at least once during this visit. Here are a couple of photos from that event - these were created at either a wedding or one of Terrible Ted's salmon/shark barbecue benefits, I'm not sure which, unfortunately.

Nitelife Ver. 3.0 - Ric Howell and Doug Royce

Nitelife Ver. 3.0 - Mike Lynch and Jack Cook

At the end of this final engagement at the 'Rock, the band split for Seattle. But not me - oh no, I decided to stay in Ketchikan to tend bar at the Shamrock and work as the foo-foo dancers' "house mother." This was a position where I was supposed to manage the dancers' schedule, but it was more like trying to herd a bunch of hungover, irritable cats.

Unknown country band at the Thunderbird.

I gave up on the house mother gig pretty quick, and tended bar at the Shamrock and at the Thunderbird out at the north end of town for the next 18 months. During this time lots of interesting stuff happened: I met the famous stripper Chesty Morgan (breast size: supposedly 33FF, but she told me that they were MMM), I was detained during a drug raid at the Shamrock (along with all of the other denizens of the deep in the place), I met a future ex-wife, lived in a float house, and developed an interest in high-powered handguns. Nitelife was reanimated in the late '80s for a brief run during the heyday of Seattle's Pioneer Square scene.

Click here for an interesting article about the life and death of the Shamrock Bar & Supper Club (aka: The Chapel by the Sea). Thanks and a tip o' the hat to Ted Herlinger for providing this link.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Musings from Mr. Solid

The Musical Motherland Tour – Pt. 2

By John Lee

John Lee and Nancy Rapp - Photo creatd by Jim Miller

I recently traveled with my better half, Nancy Rapp, to Memphis, TN, the Mississippi Delta, and to Helena, AR for The Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival and to personally check out all the best BBQ joints in the region. What follows is the continuation of my daily log of our trip:

Day 7- October 4, 2006

We had our last breakfast buffet at The Hampton Inn, West Memphis, AR, and hopped on I-55 and headed south. On the way we hit a major traffic jam just before we crossed into Tennessee and the exit onto Highway 61 to Clarksdale, MS. We were listening to WUMR-Fm 91.7, a University of Memphis jazz station and we caught the beginning of an interview with Sonny Turner, one of the original members of the great vocal group, The Platters. Sonny had great insights into the heyday of the group and the many knock-offs of The Platters that are gigging now. He said bringing legal action against the all the imposters is almost financially impossible. He was a character and very articulate in his answers to the questions about the group’s history. When the interviewer mentioned googling someone, Mr. Turner said somebody googled him the other day and he didn’t feel a thing!

We finally got thru the gridlock and onto Highway 61, then steered our ride into the Delta. We arrived in Clarksdale before noon. The first thing on our agenda was a visit to The Delta Blues Museum. The museum is housed in the old Clarksdale train depot at the corner of Delta Avenue and Blues Alley, right next door to actor Morgan Freeman’s juke joint, Ground Zero.

The Delta Museum is a must see for the blues fan. Some of the highlights were a portrait of B.B. King along with a vintage Gibson Lucille guitar, a display honoring Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) and W.C. Handy, a display with dissertations on two famous women of the blues, Bessie Smith and Big Mama Thornton. There were two kiosks, one with a discussion on the life and death of Robert Johnson and another on Son House and his historic importance with comments by Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters. There is a large portion of Muddy Waters cabin from nearby Stovall Plantation where Muddy Waters lived before he headed north to Chicago (Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Ike Turner and many others are from this fertile blues area). There is also an artistic rendering of John Lee Hooker by our own Phil Chestnut in the permanent collection at the museum. I really dug singer Denise LaSalle’s dress too. We had a funky good time.

We visited the museum store to buy a few items and then we hit the street, and walked up and down Delta Ave. We stopped in at a very cool store called Cat Head -Delta Blues & Folk Art, Inc., which sells Blues CDs, DVDs, books, art, T-shirts, and post cards. This hip business is owned by Blues Revue writer, Roger Stolle. We picked up a few post cards and signed the guest book, and when I looked at the table with free flyers and publications, I noticed the October 2006 Bluesletter, the Washington Blues Society’s monthly magazine. I hadn’t seen that issue before Nancy and I left Seattle. There was to be a good sized article on the gig I was producing, The West Coast R&B Summit, a full page ad of the Summit gig poster designed by Phil Chesnut , and a review of the Crossroad Band’s CD. What a trip! Here we were 2000 miles from home in the Mississippi Delta, the cradle of the blues and I read about me and my partners work and our future show. I have to tell you, I got a big kick out of it.

Inside Cat head

Steve Cheseborough and Bob "The Mississippi Spoonman" Rowell

We hit the streets and headed to Ground Zero for some refreshments. As we walked in, we ran into George Henry, who had we met at Cat Head. George is from Atlanta GA and was in Clarksdale to shoot some photos of the show at Ground Zero that night, Jimmy Thackery and The Cate Brothers Those two groups were there to film a DVD and George was hired to shoot some stills. He invited us to sit at the bar and have a drink. I had my usual, sweet tea, and Nancy ordered a Greyhound. After a bit, George’s wife Lynn made an appearance and joined us for a drink. We listened to both Jimmy Thackery’s and The Cate Brothers’ sound check.

Shortly after, our thoughts turned to food. I had heard about a place not too far away called Hick’s that had a rep for great BBQ and outstanding tamales. The dining room wasn’t open, so we did the drive thru. George, Lynn, and I had rib tips, Nancy had catfish, and we got a dozen tamales on the side. We went back to Lynn and George’s room at Ground Zero to eat our food. The food was very good; the tamales were some of the best I’ve ever eaten. Their room was quite nice with hardwood floors. It looked like a very fine apartment with a full kitchen and a bedroom. A nice stay for sure, once the music died down. The Henry’s needed to get ready for the evening, so we told George and Lynn we would try to hook up with them in the morning. Then Nancy and I went to our room at The Comfort Inn on State Street. We rested and cleaned up some, then dressed for the evening. We stopped by a liquor store on State Street, and Nancy picked up a pint of Jack Daniels for the remainder of our trip. The word in Clarksdale and Helena is that you bring your own booze. The club charges you for a set-up. Now that’s a switch from what we’re used to at home. Ground Zero actually has a liquor license, which is rare for that neck of the woods.

That evening we went to a funky juke joint called Big Red’s. This club’s claim to fame appears to be that the bar is the home of Delta bluesman, Big Jack Johnson. This is a run down spot on Sunflower Avenue, just a few blocks from the Delta Blues Museum. We dug a guitar player that went by the name of, Lightnin’ Malcolm, backed by a drummer. I missed the drummer’s name. Malcolm is a white cat that sounded a lot like R. L. Burnside. I bought his CD and found out he was backed by Gary Burnside, R.L. Burnside’s youngest son on bass and Kenny Kimbrough the late, great Mississippi bluesman, Junior Kimbrough’s son on drums for the recording. The man can lay down a groove.

Lightnin' Malcom

After Malcolm took a break, we hit the streets and headed towards Ground Zero. We could hear the music clearly outside and chose not to pay the $20.00 cover charge. Both Jimmy Thackery and The Cate Brothers would be playing the Festival in Helena in a couple of days. We did run into Puddin’, who is a black man in his early ‘70s who hangs around Ground Zero. Nancy, George Henry, and I ran into him earlier at the club during our cocktail time. Puddin’ does card and dice tricks for tips or hustle. The guy is a first class character. We then went a few blocks down Delta Avenue where a group of locals and a cat from L.A. named David were hangin’ out on the street and drinking beer. We hung out and talked for over an hour and then we began to fade. We said our goodnights and walked back to our car, and then went back to our room for a much needed sleep.

Day 8 - October 5, 2006

We started the day with a breakfast buffet, but the Comfort Inn’s wasn’t quite as nice as the one we had at the Hampton Inn. But they did have a waffle machine! At breakfast we met two guys that were traveling together from Florida - a cat named John and a blues and jazz photographer, Jim Miller. We discovered they were also going to attend the Festival in Helena. We chatted for a bit and we found out they were two very funny guys and both big blues fans. We said we would probably see them at the Festival.

Then Nancy and I checked out of the motel. We went back to Clarksdale’s historic district near the Delta Blues Museum and Ground Zero. We stopped by the Riverside Hotel, the well known spot where many blues legends would stay when they were in Clarksdale. The owner, Frank Ratliff (everybody calls him Rat), gave us a guided tour. The Riverside was an African-American hospital before 1944. This was the hospital were Bessi Smith died after her car accident in 1937. We thanked Rat for his hospitality.

John Lee and Rat

The Bessie Smith Suite at the Riverside Motel

We looked around for George and Lynn Henry, but we didn’t see them. We went to Cat Head one more time and heard a really fine country blues guitar player by the name of Steve Cheseborough playing out front accompanied by a spoon player named Bob "The Mississippi Spoonman" Rowell . Besides being a fine musician, Steve is also a blues authority and book author. He compiled the book, “Blues Traveling- The Holy Sites of Delta Blues.” We used this fine book constantly on our entire trip. It is an invaluable tool for a trip to Memphis, the Mississippi Delta and Helena, Arkansas. We chatted with Steve and his friend, Taizz Medalia, a bit and Steve signed my Blues Traveling book with the inscription, “John Lee, Welcome to the Delta! Steve Cheseborough” They were heading to the Festival and we said we would surely see them there and vice-versa. They and spoon man John seemed to be real nice folk.

We went back to the Delta Blues Museum one last time to check out some gifts. Phil Chesnut had told me to say hello to May Smith, a women who worked there. She was in and I think she dug hearing from Phil by proxy. She was quite pleasant. We never did run into George and Lynn Henry again. Nancy and I both hope to see them again. It was time to get to our next room and then to The Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival. So we drove about 20 miles to Lula, Mississippi and checked in to our room at the Isle of Capri casino hotel. The Isle of Capri is the major sponsor of the blues festival. A casino in Mississippi to me means a big buffet, so we had more than our share of Delta Cookin’at the casino lunch buffet and we were ready to rock. We got back in our ride and drove just a few miles across the Mississippi River into Helena, AR and downtown where the music and festivities were taking place.

I had left my sport coat at The Comfort Inn in Clarksdale, so we were going to try and run down John and Jim from Florida. They were going to be staying at The Comfort Inn for the duration of the festival, so maybe they could bring it back to my sorry ass! It was so warm on the first leg of our trip I never wore it at all.

We dug a great set by east coast bluesman Joey Gilmore whose set was highlighted by a tune titled “The Ghosts of Mississippi.” Gilmore is a great guitar man whose style is both passionate and warm at the same time. I first heard Joey Gilmore online from The Waterfront Blues Fest in Portland OR this summer.

I looked over to the backstage area of the main stage and I saw Jim Miller. We chatted and he said John and he would bring my coat from the motel in Clarksdale when they showed up for the Fest the next day. Then Joey Gilmore stopped by to say hello to Jim - they knew each other from Florida. Jim introduced us and we exchanged pleasantries and the conversation turned to Joey’s gig the next night in the Carolinas somewhere. I not sure how far, but it had to be quite a haul. I wished Joey Gilmore continued luck and told Jim I would see him the next day.

I went back to my spot with Nancy and spotted the legendary blues DJ “Sunshine” Sonny Payne near where I talked with Jim Miller and Joey Gilmore. Sonny Payne is the very hip “King Biscuit Time” DJ. Sonny has been doing the show on a regular basis since 1951. He still does the show Monday thru Friday live from The Delta Cultural Center on Cherry Street in downtown Helena. I introduced myself and gave him a copy of The Crossroads Band CD, “I Want it Right Now”. I thanked him for taking the time to talk to me and for accepting the CD. Sonny said, “No. Thank you for what you do.” Sonny Paine is a very nice and gracious man.

DJ Sonny Payne

King Biscuit flour warehouse

We caught some more music next to the levy at the main stage, the highlight being “Jumpin” Johnny Sansone, an accordion and harmonica player from New Orleans. Then we went back across the Mississippi River to our room to rest up for another day of festival and good times.

Day 9 - October 6, 2006

Our day began with a walk through the casino to the breakfast buffet. This little walk made me thankful that I don’t gamble or smoke! The food was outstanding, with grits, an omelet bar, and a section with six or seven different variations on pork. The fresh squeezed orange juice was a real treat! Filled up for the day, we hopped on the casino shuttle to the Festival. It’s a nice service that leaves The Isle of Capri every half hour and drops you off one block from Cherry Street.

I ran into John from Florida and he and Jim had brought my sport coat from The Comfort Inn in Clarksdale. Nancy and I headed to the Houston Stackhouse/Robert Jr. Lockwood Stage where my old musical partner Gary Sloan was the master of ceremonies. Gary has been doing that gig for nine years now. Gary and I go back to my early days when we had Alaska’s first blues band, Proof. He wasn’t surprised to see me; he knew I would be at the Fest. I hadn’t see Sloan in about 15 years, so there were hellos and hugs for a minute or two. Nancy and I also got to meet Gary’s wife Sandy. We chatted for a spell and then we headed over to The Delta Cultural Center to catch Sonny Paine doing the King Biscuit Time radio show. Sonny has been doing this show regularly since November 1951. When the show was over, we took a self guided tour of the center.

This is a great place to check out. There is one permanent exhibit called “Delta Sounds,” stories about musicians with Arkansas roots like Sonny Boy Williamson II, Louis Jordan, Robert Jr. Lockwood, James Cotton, Robert Nighthawk, Albert King, and country stars like Johnny Cash, Conway Twitty, and Charlie Rich. There is also a section on the area’s gospel roots called “Tell It! Sing It! Shout It!” There is also an exhibit that runs until April 2007 called “Main Street of the Blues.” One of the highlights of that section was the red suit and the red and white patent leather shoes that the late, great Sam Myers wore at his performance at the 2005 festival.

Then we went back to the main stage, where we caught legendary Delta drummer Sam Carr and the Delta Jukes with Dave Riley, Northwest powerhouse Paul Delay, and Pinetop Perkins with Bob Margolin and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Pinetop is in his nineties and still plays extremely well. I was coming back from a refreshment run (limeade) when I heard someone call my name. Damed if it wasn’t my homeys, Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin’ Daddies! After more hugs and hellos, I told them Nancy and I would see them play the Fest the following night. Tom Boyle and Becki Sue stopped by and said hello to Nancy, but they had a full slate and had to split pronto!

Nancy and I went back to Gary’s stage to hang out and see Dave Riley and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. Dave Riley is a young guitar-slinger from the Delta who can play and sing up a storm. He seems to be a solid fixture around the Clarksdale and Helena area. We had seen him earlier with The Delta Jukes. Willie “Big Eyes” Smith fronted his own band on harmonica. I don’t know where I’ve been, but I didn’t realize Willie played the harp. And play it he does. He’s one of the most soulful cats on the instrument I’ve ever heard. What a treat! We ran into Steve Cheseborough and Taizz Medalia one more time and found out they would be playing at a spot a couple blocks away the next day. We said we would drop on by. Nancy and I said our goodnights to them and the Sloans, then walked two short blocks and caught a shuttle back to the casino and our room.

Day 10 - October 7

We woke and showered, then headed to the breakfast buffet. This was the last day of the Fest and the next day we would be heading home. We chose to drive to the Fest and we had no trouble finding a good parking spot. We headed to the Houston Stackhouse Acoustic Stage (at night, when the more electric acts take over it becomes The Robert Lockwood Jr. Heritage Stage). Gary and Sandy were there and we told them we wanted to check out Watermelon Slim and the Workers. They wanted to see them also, so they said they would possibly see Nancy and me at the main stage. While we were diggin’ on Slim and the Workers, we saw our friend Lindy Linderman. Lindy lives in New Orleans in the winter, but rents a room right across the street from us in Seattle for the summers from his friend and ours, Marsha Herivel. We talked for a bit and he wanted to check out some more festivities, as he had only been in Helena for about an hour! We said we would check him at Steve and Taizz’s street gig later in the day.

After Slim and the Workers were finished with their set, we checked out Larry Garner, a guitar player from Baton Rouge. That cat can really play, as soulful as it gets. We soon where jumping from place to place, we saw the legendary Robert Jr. Lockwood (Robert Lockwood passed away a little over a month after his Arkansas Blues Fest performance on Nov. 21st) and he sounded great! We also caught Robert “Wolfman” Belfour. To me he sounds like a mix of John Lee Hooker and R.L. Burnside. He’s the real deal. We then headed over a couple of blocks and caught Steve Chesborough and Taizz Medalia. Steve was singing and playing top-notch country blues guitar with Taizz adding lead and back-up vocals. We saw Lindy Linderman, then we went back over to the Heritage stage and caught one of the finest guitar players working the circuit today, “Texas” Johnny Brown. This cat was on fire, jumping back and forth between Texas swing and soul blues.

This day, like the day before, we ate local. Let me explain. All along Cherry Street the vendors connected with the festival hawk their wares. One street over the locals set up shop and cook ribs, chicken, white beans and the like. It’s down- home and tasty. One day we both had pulled pork and the next I had BBQ chicken and Nancy had beans and corn bread. The local folk were friendly and make us feel at home. Most of them provided table and chairs.

My motto at the Festival - eat with the locals!

Then it was time to check out Becki Sue and Her Big Rockin’ Daddies at The Emerging Artist stage. Becki and the Daddies were pumped and put on a great show. They had the crowd jumpin’ and jivin.’ We stopped by The Robert Lockwood stage and said our goodbyes to Gary and Sandy Sloan. Then we went back to the main stage to get ready for the headliner, The Fabulous Thunderbirds.

Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin' Daddies

Nancy and I were sitting on the steps going up to the levee when Lindy Linderman some how found us again. He had heard an announcement that Nancy Rapp from Seattle had won a poster through a drawing. Lindy figured there couldn’t be but one Nancy Rapp from Seattle. We thanked him and said our goodbyes, and Nancy went to the festival store on Cherry Street, not far from the Main Stage. Nancy made it back before the T-Birds began their set. She won a festival poster, signed by the artists. A very nice poster I might add! The T-Birds were rockin’ but not long before they were to finish, we started to head back to our ride. We ran into Tom Boyle and Becki Sue. We talked for a bit, then said our goodbyes and told them we would see them back on the block. The Fabulous Thunderbirds played as we went back to our car. We drove over the Mississippi River for the last time. The next morning we had to drive to the Memphis, TN airport and work our way back to Seattle. We had one hell of a time on this trip.

Day 11 - October 8, 2006

We awoke early, (we had a 12:30pm flight ) cleaned up and departed our digs at the Isle of Capri. We decided not to partake in the buffet. We decided to have some BBQ at the airport instead. We had seen a few BBQ joints in the airport when we arrived there eleven days ago. We drove up Highway 61, to the Memphis airport, about an hours drive, and returned our car to Hertz, then caught their shuttle to the terminal. We checked our bags and went on a search for some grub. We found a Corky’s BBQ. We heard that Corky’s was the real deal, and it was true. This was a great meal to leave Memphis on. I had ribs and Nancy had pulled pork, and as usual we shared.

We flew to Minneapolis, MN to catch our connecting flight back to Seattle. While we were waiting we met a couple from San Francisco who had been at the Festival. We had enough time to have a drink together then we caught our separate planes. While the flight to Seattle was waiting to take off, I heard “What are you guys doing here?” It was my long time friend Isis. She was our flight attendant for our trip back home. It was great to see her! What a way to get back home!

We can’t wait to do the musical motherland tour again. Like I said, this was about as much fun as you can have with your clothes on!

I would like to wish everyone happy holidays and all the best for the New Year. I would like to thank Mike Lynch for maintaining The Jet City Blues blog and for being such a fine editor.
Next year I will change the name of this column to “In The Pocket With Mister Solid.” I have a lot of cool stuff to talk about in 2007. Peace! Catch you on the rebound.

December Blues Birthdays

Robben Ford - December 16, 1951
Lonnie Brooks - December 18, 1933
Joe Louis Walker - December 25, 1949
Bo Diddley - December 30, 1926
Odetta - December 31, 1930
Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) - December 5, 1899 (died 1965)
Jr. Wells - December 9, 1934 (died 1996)
Paul Butterfield - December 17, 1942 (died 1987)
Pee Wee Crayton - December 18, 1914 (died 1985)
Pettie Wheatstraw - December 21, 1902 (died 1941)

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.

Note: All photos that appear in this blog were created by Nancy Rapp, except where noted.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Man, you shoulda been there...

Blue Monday - November 11th

The eight or ten people (not counting the handful of jammers) that attended the Blue Monday jam at the Highway 99 Blues Club last Monday were treated to a rare appearance by blues harp maestro and singer Mark Dufresne. Mark recently moved back to Seattle after working for several years as lead singer of Rhode Island's Roomful Of Blues.

Mark played several songs with the Midnight Movers during our first set, then returned to play again during the last set. He was joined Seattle guitar aces Chris Stevens, Eric Daw (filling in for Steve Yonck) and Tim Sherman. Whoo hoo - nice set! Man, it was good to see Lonesome Jerome on the stage again.

Mark Dufresne and Tim Sherman

Left to right: Mark Dufresne, Chris Stevens, Kirk Tuttle, and Tim Sherman

Like I said - you shoulda been there folks!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

2006 West Coast Guitar Killers Showcase

Highway 99 Blues Club - November 24th

It looked to me like Tim Sherman's annual blues guitar showcase that occured at the Highway 99 last month was a big hit again this year. The joint was full of Blues guitar fans and the dance floor was pretty much full all night.

The featured guitarists this year were Tim "Stoop Down" Sherman, Tom "T-Boy" Boyle, David Brewer, and Chris Stevens. The backup band that Tim hired for this gig included some of the finest blues cats in Seattle, including Ron "Deacon" Weinstein on the Hammond B-3, Kirk "Spiderman" Tuttle on drums, and Mark "Tall Cool One" Dalton on electric bass. These guys did a fine job of effortlessly backing up all of the guitarists, all of whom have pretty different styles - Tim with his swinging BB King-style chops and tone, Tom with his stinging Stratocaster riffs, David roaring in a more blues/rock vein, and Chris mixing it up with jazzy swing and reverb-soaked surf tunes.

One unusual thing happened to me during David Brewer's set. During the first portion of this set, he played a couple of tunes solo on his electric guitar while sitting down, something I've never seen him do before. I was chatting with a friend near a full table at this time and we were asked to keep it down, because the the people at the table couldn't hear David's music. My friend an I agreed that that had to be a first at any David Brewer gig!

Tom brought up singer Becki Sue to do a couple tunes during his set, and the crowd dug her, as usual. You go, girl!

Mark Dalton and Tim Sherman

Ron Weinstein

Kirk Tuttle and Mark Dalton

Tom Boyle

Tom Boyle and Becki Sue

David Brewer

Chris Stevens

It was really nice to see a Seattle club packed with so many Blues fans for a change. And hey, Tim - thanks for letting me sit in on "Alimony Blues" during your set!

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Double bill at the Highway 99 Blues club.

Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys and Harmonica Playboy & the Midnight Movers

November 17th, 2006

We played a double bill with Chris Stevens' Surf Monkeys at Seattle's Highway 99 Blues Club on Friday, November 17th. You don't see local bands playing at the Highway 99 on weekends very often, mainly because its difficult to draw much of a crowd, especially compared to out of town acts. So, we figured we'd try a double bill with two local acts, just like we used to do at the old Owl Cafe back in the day.

Friday night can be the slower night of the weekend at this club, and this Friday was somewhat disappointing - we only had 77 fans pay a cover, while the club has been drawing about 100 paying fans on Friday lately. Things were looking pretty good until about 11:30 PM, when the crowd started heading home.

Anyway, the music fans that did show up were treated to some great music, and a lot of them voted with their feet, keeping the dance floor pretty much full for most of the night. We really enjoyed playing with Chris Stevens' band - they are a class act, and featured Les Klinkingbeard and Brian Kent, two of Seattle's finest sax players. Please go out and see this band - they are well worth the effort!

Our thanks go out to all of the fans that showed up for this show, and to the Highway 99 Blues Club for hosting it. Here's a photo of the musicians that played the gig:

Back row, left to right: Kirk Tuttle, Mark Dalton, Mike Lynch, and Alan Isaacson

Front row, left to right: Brian Kent, Patty Mey, Les Klinkingbeard, Steve Yonck, Chris Stevens, and Tim Sherman

Note: The photo in this article was created by Tom Hunnewell.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

The Fourth Annual Superharp Showcase

The New Orleans Crole Restaurant, Seattle - October 6th & 7th

Sheesh, I can't believe its taken me so long to publish a review of this show that occured almost two months ago, for cripes sakes! My apologies to all of the performers and fans for taking my sweet time with this...

I took a little different approach to this year's show, hiring a couple of young gun Seattle harp players (Sheldon Ziro and Bubba "The Unreal" McCoy), plus two players from Portland (Johnny Ward and LynnAnn Hyde). All players were backed up by the mighty Midnight Movers, including Kirk "KT" Tuttle on drums, Patty "Mighty Mite" Mey on electric bass, and Tim "Stoop Down" Sherman and Steve The Kid" Yonck on guitars. The Midnight Movers did their usual sterling job - they had never even met some of the harp players until showtime, but you never would have guessed it from the sympathetic backup they consistantly provided for all of the artists.

Lesson learned - If I do any more of these shows, I believe that I will limit them to one night only. This year we saw the same pattern as the last three years - about a three quarters-full house on Friday night, and a very good full house on Saturday night (nothing like the mob scene at last year's show, though!). It's probably unrealistic to expect Seattle Blues fans to turn out in force two nights in a row these days, and there are a lot of musicians to pay at these shows.

I played the first set both nights, and received the usual fan adoration that happens at all of my gigs (oh yeah, baby!). Sheldon Ziro played a mess of amplified and acoustic harp on the second set Friday night. Is it just me, or is Sheldon one of the fastest improving harp player/vocalists on the Seattle scene? Dave Prez, Seattle's Little Walter specialist (and one of my favorite players), rocked the third set, and Portland's Johnnie Ward wrapped up the show with some memorable no-nonsense diatonic and chromatic harp playing that had the house rockin', brothers and sisters!

I must admit, though, that Saturday night was the killer for this show. After my first set, Bubba "The Unreal" McCoy (left - photo by Stephanie McCoy) played and sang a righteous set of down home blues. Bubba plays with Seattle's Broomdust Blues Band, and he's been threatening to visit us at the Blue Monday gig at the Highway 99 Blues Club for a while now (hey Bubba, where you been, man?).

Next up was Brian Lee, frontman for Seattle's Blues Orbiters. Brian is a super talented guy that sings, and plays harp, lead guitar and slide guitar. If you haven't seen his band, I don't know what you're waiting for! Brian blew up a storm on the harp, plus played some finger lickin' good slide guitar with the band too.

Finally, Portalnd's LynnAnn Hyde played the final set on Saturday, with her husband, Stu Kinzel, sitting in on guitar. We heard a ton of positive comments about LynnAnn's great harp playing, super fat tone, and terrific vocals. And hubby Stu was "floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee" on the guitar too - thanks Stu! Check out these guys in the Kinzel & Hyde Band the next time you're down in the Rose City.

Here's a few more photos from the show:
Brian Lee (photo by Phil Chesnut)

LynnAnn Hyde and Stu Kinzel (photo by Phil Chesnut)

Kirk Tuttle, LynnAnn Hyde, Bubba McCoy, and Brian Lee (Photo by Tom Hunnewell)

Brian Lee, Mike Lynch, Bubba McCoy, and Stephanie McCoy (photo by Phil Chesnut)

As usual, our thanks go out to the owner of the New Orleans Creole Restaurant, Gaye Anderson, and her staff for helping to make this a great event. See you next year!

Note: The poster that appears in this article was created by Phil Chesnut.