Sunday, December 30, 2007

Blog this!

By David Brewer

Hey ya'll,

I'm back - three months was a long time on the road, but Europe, Scandinavia, Germany, and Poland were all Big Fun!

I sold a lot of CDs and made many new fans. Argentina will be the next tour for old man Brewer, but I refuse to go until next summer. So, I'll be out and about and around my home town to see some folks play, just see some friends, and generally run amuck.

So until I see you all, have a Merry Christmas and Happy New year...

And oblige.. Brewer

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Remembering Isaac Scott - Seattle's Big Time Bluesman

Isaac Scott - 1945 to 2001 (First American Records promo photo)

To the writers that contributed these pieces earlier this year - my apologies for the long delay in getting this stuff published, and my thanks for your contributions!

The first time that I saw Isaac, he was playing with Junior Earl and Twist Turner at the old Place Pigalle tavern/bucket of blood in Seattle's Pike Place Market in the mid '70s. I played with him several times after that, usually in impromptu pickup bands. I recall playing memorable gigs at the Ridge Tavern on First Avenue (the bald bouncer had the solar system tattooed on the top of his head), the G-Note out in the North End, and the Evergreen Tavern on Vashon Island.

I also saw Isaac play often with Northwest guitarists Tom McFarland and David Brewer during this period. Sometimes they would team up with The Iceman, Albert Collins, when he was in town for the loudest shows on the planet!

Two albums if Isaac's music were created during his brief stay with us - one on Seattle's First American Records ("Big Time Bluesman" - out of print), and one on the British Red Lightnin' label ("The Isaac Scott Band" - a live set, apparently still available).

The Isaac Scott stories that were created by several current and former Seattle musicians appear below. Enjoy!

Mike Lynch

Part 1- By Don “Jr. Earl” McNeff

I met Isaac at the Place Pigalle (aka: "the Pig") on a Saturday afternoon in the mid ‘70s. We had a gig there and he had come by to sit in. He sounded good. He was only about 23 then and I was about two or three years older. He was a big, good looking guy sporting a slick conk haircut. He had a part time job at the barber school, sweeping up, etc. He got free haircuts, which changed quickly from a conk (straightened to look like white hair), to a cavatis (shaved with a razor cut line around it), to a short afro, to jerry curls – all within a month or so!

I had been woodshedding on bass and wanted to step out in public. I booked a couple of gigs for us at the Pig and the Boulder Lounge as the Isaac Scott Trio with a very young Twist Turner on drums. We started rehearsing at Isaac’s sidekick Leroy’s apartment in the Central District. The repertoire was heavy on Freddie King instrumentals and Booker T. and the M.G.’s tunes. We also played tunes by Little Milton, Lighting Hopkins, and quite a number of gospel things.

The gospel vamps were called “raps” at that time. The black players I knew then called the standard blues changes in order of appearance (that is, 1-2-3) rather than the typical 1-4-5. We tuned our guitars to all open strings straight across, from E on down. This is a practice I do not recommend. However, when playing the pawnshop Japanese junk that we were using, the intonation up the neck was always questionable, so this practice had some limited merit. I had an old Silvertone guitar amp head and a homemade speaker box. It was ugly and didn’t sound very good when played loud. Isaac told me not to worry because nobody could tell the difference but musicians, and they weren’t gonna make us any money!

I lived on Capitol Hill and took the bus downtown to shop for groceries – fresh fish and vegetables at the Public Market. I would sometimes run into Isaac on the street. He’d have bloodshot eyes and a pint of liquor in his pocket. “I’m trying to burn out this bug I got,” he’d say. Looking back, I remember he was sick a lot for a guy in his ‘20s. He’d show up for gigs in a foul humor and just play rhythm and be uncommunicative. At the time I was unsympathetic. He wasn’t holding up his end, so I quit playing with him.

With the benefit of hindsight, I see Isaac as a victim of non-existent or at least indifferent medical care. Undiagnosed diabetes and hypertension, combined with his pathetic attempts at self-medication with alcohol created a tragic path. The same situation developed when I played with Elvin (L.V.) Parr. These men certainly deserved better treatment from me, and us as a society. I’m sorry.

The Gray Blues Band at the Place Pigalle. Left to right: Jerry Christie, Don McNeff, and Keith Duncan. Photo contributed by Mark Dalton.

Part 2 - By Twist Turner

I was Isaac’s original drummer in Seattle - a member of The Isaac Scott Trio, which consisted of myself on drums and Don (Jr. Earl) McNeff on bass. I had been working with Jr. Earl for sometime before that and was still too young to be in the clubs at that time. I remember Don telling me he had met this black guitarist who played like Freddie King, and that he wanted to do some gigs with him. I guess Don just went out and booked us some gigs because the next thing you know we were playing the Pig Alley, the Boulder, Smitty’s, and several other downtown night spots on a regular basis. At this time Isaac wasn’t really even singing, as I recall the only songs he sang were “Why am I treated so Bad” which had been a minor hit for the Staple Singers and the Edwin Hawkins classic “Oh Happy Day.” I still have a tape of Isaac’s first gig in Seattle here somewhere.

Isaac Scott at Twist Turner's house, mid '70s. Photo contributed by Twist Turner.

Jamming at Seattle record collector Bob West's houseboat on Lake Union. Left to right: Bob Beebe, Bob West, Isaac Scott, Mike Lynch, Jack Cook, Twist Turner, and Dave O'Bern (sp?). Photo contributed by Twist Turner.

Those days were a lot of fun, paying in bars was new to me, and most likely having come from a gospel background, new to Isaac as well. Pig Alley was one place in particular I have a lot of memories of. There was never a dull moment in this is club which was filled with an equal share of hippies, bikers, dope dealers, hookers, gays and lesbians, merchant seamen, mental patients, and politicians. You never knew what would happen there. Anything could and anything did happen there on a nightly basis.

Isaac and Twist Turner jamming at Twist's house. Photo contributed by Twist Turner.

More jamming. Left to right: David Brewer, Brian Butler, Twist turner, and Tony Thomas. Photo contributed by Twist Turner.

I remember one afternoon we were working there doing an early after-work set. There was an older black gentleman who possibly had had too much to drink in the club. He grabbed the mic from Isaac and started talking into it when Isaac wasn’t looking. Isaac firmly told him not to mess with his mic. A little while later he did it again, and Isaac warned him that if he touched his mic again he was gonna kick his ass. This time the warning was slightly stronger. Isaac loved to fight and apparently this guy, who must have been all of 120 pounds and in his mid '60s, didn’t have a clue that the 300 pound, 28 year-old Isaac meant business. Once again he grabbed the mic, and without saying a word Isaac turned around and punched him dead in the jaw. I actually saw the guy’s feet leave the ground a good eight inches, and he flew back, landing on his head. Without saying a word Isaac just went on to the next tune. It turns out that he actually broke the guys jaw that night.

There were other nights where Isaac would get up on a tiny bar table and play, and one night the entire table fell to pieces under his weight. Isaac never missed a beat. There were nights where each set would be one long extended jam song, and if Isaac had to pee, no problem, he’d just take his 100 foot cord, walk into the bathroom and never miss a lick.

The Isaac Scott Band (1976). Left to right: Twist Turner, Isaac Scott, Kim Field, and Mark Dalton. Photo contributed by Twist Turner.

Isaac once told me this story about his daughter Angie. One day there was a knock on Isaac’s door. Isaac answered it to receive a package from the postman. While talking to the postman, Angie stuck her head out from behind Isaac’s legs where she had been hiding. The three year-old looked up at the postman and said, “My Daddy says you a booty pervert!" This was during the time when Isaac had her wearing a button on her hat, which read, “Help save the virgins of America, join the pussy posse."

Anyway I have a lot of fond memories of working with Isaac in the early days: the afternoon rehearsals at Tony Thomas' apartment in the Central area, rehearsing with Crazy Dave, Isaac’s friend from Reno in West Seattle, Uncle TC, Jerry Tanner, Tom McFarland, Jr. Earl, Mark Dalton, Kim Field, Eloise, and little Angie, who’s probably in her mid '30s now. I miss hanging out at the Capital hill apartmentt with the Hammond organ in the living room, listening to Isaac play some of the best organ I had ever heard.

After awhile Isaac changed - maybe it was jealousy, maybe insecurity, I dunno, but we went from being best friends to semi-speaking to each other in later years. I’d come by to see how he was doing and he’d walk right by me like I didn’t exist (actually not an uncommon thing in Seattle I’ve noticed). The last time I saw Isaac was in 2000. I was in town for my mother’s funeral. A friend talked me into going to see Isaac at one of the Pioneer Square clubs. He was just sitting up on stage stuck in his wheel chair, all alone looking very miserable. I hadn’t seen him in years so I decided to go up and say hello. Isaac was so rude and nasty to me that I just turned and walked away, left him sitting up there all by himself.

Isaac was a guy who had a lot of talent, but no people skills whatsoever. I remember in the early days people would come up to him in awe of his abilities, they would want to meet him and shake his hand. I’d hear them say, “Man you are the best guitarist I ever heard," and Isaac would respond with a rude “Fuck you!” turn his back, and walk away. I was sorry to hear of Isaac’s death but in a lot of ways I think he brought it on himself. Isaac knew from the get go that he had diabetes, that didn’t stop him from eating what ever he wanted, drinking like a fish, taking what ever drugs he could get his hands on, beating his girlfriends, etc. I’m not trying to be mean, I’m just telling it like it is. If he had followed his doctors orders and not been so stubborn (highly unlikely knowing Isaac) he might still be here with us today. All I know is we lost a great guitarist when we lost Isaac.

Part 3 - By David Brewer

1976 - Freddie King had just passed away, so I went to Issac's house to have a little wake. We jumped into his olive drab Dodge that was a former Bell Telephone car (it still had the outline of the bell on the door) and we took his daughter Angela, who was about three years-old at the time, along with us to pick up Isaac’s buddy, Buster. Then we went to the Safeway for stuff for gumbo and then to the liquor store. Angela ran straight to the Ten High and said, “Daddy, buy this one!” and points to the 100-proof bottle.

We went back to the crib and spent the rest of the night telling stories about Freddie, drinking, and stuffing our faces with Issac's award winning gumbo. At some point during the frolic I said we ought to do a gig to send him off right. From then on it was a brainstorming session focused on the where, what, and how. Isaac got hold of Jim Hamilton and asked him to put a show together, you know, a "Blues Review," if you will. We suggested the G-Note Tavern at 8301 Greenwood, and since my band Blueseye had been playing there on a regular basis on our own and with Albert Collins, the owners agreed.

The next thing we did was to gather a horde of headliners: Isaac, myself, Tom McFarland, Gary Cerutti, the Gray blues Band, Twist Turner, and, as Jim said "A sizable selection of super solid Seattle sidemen." The night of the gig came and the place was busting with about 400 people in a place that held 250! What a party! At the end it was Issac, me, and Tom, all blasting at full volume peeling the paint in memory of Freddie King. After that there were more Blues Review's at that club, one for COYOTE, the the legal team that worked with “sex workers” here and in San Francisco. Now that was fun - Isaac and me with our 100 foot cords carousing with the crowd playing in the middle off about 300 hookers with Isaac giving me that sly grin...

Isaac Scott and David Brewer. Photo contributed by Twist Turner.

That's just a couple of my memories of Isaac, but they are for sure good un’s....

Part 4 - By Brian Butler

Isaac asked me to join his band around 1978 or so. He lived pretty close to my place on Capitol Hill. I went to his apartment, knocked on the door and Isaac opened it. He had a 30-foot guitar cord in his hand that he bestowed on me like some kind of symbol of initiation. In reply to my questioning look he said, “It’s so we can go out in the crowd together”. What a way to start out! “Ok” I said, and took the offered cord.

Brian Butler at the Place Pigalle, mid '70s. Photo contributed by Brian Butler.

I kept the cord and used it for a few years, with and without Isaac. I don’t remember any dramatic occasions when we descended into the crowd together, the blues master and his skinny acolyte, but I do remember that the cord, due to it not being very supple, would not always extend to its full length. Sometimes I’d start heading out from the stage with a distant goal in mind, usually a good-looking girl or may a shot of tequila, only to find the cord had become a tangled mess and any further movement would only imperil equipment or people.

Isaac had a green car, a Dodge or the like, that had been owned by some kind of utility company; it had a faded emblem on the doors. Since I lived close, Isaac would give me a ride to the gigs. Here I was, playing with one of the main blues guys in Seattle, excited to be heading out for any gig, anywhere. Most nights Isaac would give me this long, sideways look, moan and say something like, “Man, I don’t feel like playing tonight”. I’d mutter something sympathetic, trying not to let his attitude affect my anticipation of playing. He always played great once we got to the gig.

The night I first I saw Isaac he was playing at the Place Pigalle. He had on a purple suit, his hair was straightened, he was playing a little guitar on which the finished was sanded off and which, riding on his belly, looked like a wooden plank with some strings and pickups attached. He was playing Freddy King style blues and was using that big right thumb of his to dig into the notes. He caught my attention.

Isaac would play long 20 to 40 minute songs, with long solos. A favorite device of his during that time was to change the key, maybe several times within a song. “We’re going up a half-step”, he would motion or say and at the start of the next bar we’d all adjust accordingly. One notable time Isaac played a couple sets of short, concise versions of Freddy and Albert King tunes; a pleasant break from the usual long improvisations that he favored. He was a great guitarist and great singer and it was an honor to be part of his musical world.

Part 5 - By Little Bill Englehart

When Isaac passed away so did Blues in Seattle. He was the REAL deal!!

My favorite Isaac story happened when I was playing at the Mint (in Seattle's Public Market) in the late 70's. He was a regular guest and we became friends. As you may know Isaac had a bit of a sick dark side. He would get a real kick out of calling me a "crip" in front of people and then have me call him the "N" word. It would break him up and, I'm sure, make everyone around us very uncomfortable.

Anyway, as time went on I got tired of it and told him we weren't doing it anymore. Well you know Isaac had to run it into the ground. One night I was coming out of the Mint and he and Tony Thomas were out on the sidewalk. He starts right up with the crip thing. I told him if he didn't stop I was going to shoot him. He just laughed and kept on. At the time I had a starter pistol in my car. I grabbed it and pointed at him. He, of course, laughed. Said I didn't have the balls to shoot. So I shot it up in the air. With all the buildings around it sounded like a cannon going off. He and Tony started running down 1st Avenue with Isaac calling me a crazy motherf****r. I kept shooting 'till they rounded the corner.

The next day he went into the Mint and told the owner that I had tried to kill him. I never told him it was a starter pistol. I'm sure it kept him thinking that I was a little close to the edge.

Isaac Scott and bassist Tony Thomas. Photo contributed by Twist Turner.

Part 6 - By Mark Dalton

The Isaac Scott Band was playing one night in the mid-70's at the Nitelite Lounge (in the Moore Hotel, where it still is). The band at that time was, in addition to Isaac on guitar and vocals, me on bass, my then-brother-in-law Jay Cloidt on Hammond organ, Little Steve Patterson (later AKA Twist Turner of Chicago Blues fame) on drums, and Big Jerry Tanner on baritone sax. A couple of tunes from this very night can be heard on Isaac's first album on England's Red Lightnin' label.

We made it through a night of good music, played to a few kids and some elderly alcoholics holding down the bar, and the bartender was supposed to pay us. This guy was kind of a stocky, blond fellow in his early 20's, and he decided he'd stiff us on the pay. He offered us a few bucks gas money out of the till, and told us he hadn't done enough business to justify paying the paltry amount (probably $150 bucks) that we were hired to play for. This was not a good idea back in those days. Not getting paid made Isaac mad, and Isaac had a short fuse back then.

The argument started to escalate, and Big Jerry said quietly, "I'm gonna run to my car." He came back in a minute with his .357 Magnum in a paper bag - just in case the bartender thought he was some kind of gangster with a weapon behind the bar. Little Steve was also packing that night, a .25 automatic he always kept in his trap case. As it happened, no firepower was needed - Isaac and the blond bartender got nose to nose in the middle of the bar, and then, quick as lighting, the bartender was stretched out on the floor, out cold, nose bleeding. For a big man, Isaac could move really fast when he got mad, as many people who tried his patience in the clubs found out.

A friend of the bartender who'd come by to catch a ride home went and got some ice cubes for the guy's head, and we packed up the stuff and hauled the organ out. As we were putting the last of the equipment in the van, a pickup truck pulled up alongside, and the bartender and friend glared at us from inside. Big Jerry stuck his hand in the paper bag, just in case, but the bartender just rolled down the window a little and hollered "you'll never work in this town again! " as they squealed away as fast as they could go. We laughed - "Ha! You'll never work in this town again! Get a new script, bozo!"

We were back playing in the Market the following weekend - but we never did go back to the Nitelite... Gigs there obviously just didn't pay!

Part 7 - By
Steve Bailey

I did spend a lot of time with Isaac, and in some ways I think I understand him a little better now than I did then. I was really proud to be in the band, and we started to have some success at various times--at least things were offered that I was really disappointed that we didn't get to do.

I'm not sure why Isaac chose to stay here in Seattle so much, and I think that was the cause of a lot of his frustration. No matter what anybody says, the crowds for music in this town are the most restrained, least responsive of any place I've ever been. I went through hundreds of hours of old live tapes that I have of the band searching for new material to release on my new album, and one thing really struck me about some of the nights--and I had forgotten this--Isaac was pouring out his heart to the crowds, but was getting almost nothing back. He was certainly a very sensitive person in some ways, and I think this wore him down over the years. That and health issues changed his approach to playing a lot.

I will never forget the long rides in my van to Montana, Oregon, or some other out of the way place and his crazy sense of humor. With Ric Howell and Tony Thomas pushing him on, it was really something to remember. It was honestly the most fun I have ever had. One thing I'd like to add is that Isaac taught me so much about people and life. I grew up being told that college degrees and books were knowledge. Isaac didn't have a lot of that kind of knowledge, but he could size up people quickly--he would say, "Bailey, don't trust that hardhead," or something like that, and he was always right. I learned a lot from that.

Part 8 - By Uncle Ray Varner

So I was up to my elbows in the triple dip sink at the Owl Cafe about one o'clock in the morning. Isaac was fifteen minutes into one of his epic slow blues. There were fifteen people in the joint, including one drunk fisherman eating at the edge of my mind.

I heard Isaac's guitar go BRAAAANNNG! I stood up and saw Isaac walking away from the bar. He tossed his Telecaster on the stage and walked into the men's room. I went around the high backed couch at the end of the bar, where Wendy, Isaac's girlfriend, was sitting. On the floor was the Dutch Harbor pirate writhing around in his own blood where Isaac had smacked him with his Tele. I broomed the deckhand out onto Ballard Avenue. Lights out!

Isaac Scott and Leslie "Stardrums" Milton at the Jolly Roger Roadhouse in Seattle (mid '80s). Photo contributed by Leslie Milton.

Isaac Scott and Leslie Milton in Seattle, 1994. Photo contributed by Leslie Milton.

Part 9 - By John Stephan

I worked with Isaac Scott for 8 years, from 1975 to 1998. In 1985, Isaac was living at my house. One morning I was outside with my morning coffee, thinking about the strange dream I'd had about my neighbor, Bill White. Isaac then walked out and said "Johnny, I had the strangest dream that the TV news said that Bill White had died. " We both knew another Bill White, who was in the same high school class as my neighbor.

I told Isaac my dream was in a dark cool place where a faceless hooded figure showed me the front page news; "Bill White Dies." Isaac said "You look out for white Bill White, (my neighbor, who was also part Native American), and I'll try to find Indian Bill White." He came back later and said " I found Indian Bill White and told him to watch his shit." A couple of hours later my neighbor, Bill White, rode up on his motorcycle, back from a trip to California. I told him I'd had a bad dream and he should be careful. He said, "Don't worry, Johnny, I'll be alright."

The next morning my other neighbor, Janis, told me the that morning news said our neighbor Bill White, had been killed on his motorcycle last night by a drunken driver a few blocks from home. Indian Bill White later said that after Isaac warned him, he bought a gallon of wine, and went home and watched TV....

PS: Indian Bill White played the part of the bartender on the TV series, Northern Exposure. he recently moved back to our 'hood, White Center.

The Isaac Scott Band at the Jolly Roger Roadhouse in Seattle (1983). Left to right: Paul Wager, Dick Powell, Isaac Scott, and John Stephan. Bassist Tony Thomas is standing behind Isaac.

Part 10 - By Charlene Grant

What surprised me most about Isaac Scott was that he had a great sense of humor. This side of Isaac was not revealed to me initially - it took a while to get to know him.

I was hired by Isaac to play bass in his band after I first arrived in Seattle in 1993 and, I must say, I was a little intimidated by the bluesman. Isaac’s demeanor was down to business and very much like his playing...intense. Being the new kid on the block, I really wanted this gig to work out. But my attempts to engage Isaac in friendly get-to-know-ya conversation didn’t seem to go over. So I thought, “Well, I was hired to play, not talk”. During one of the band breaks, I mentioned my perception of Isaac to Paul Wager (drums). He just laughed and said, "You should see Isaac when he's sitting around the living room. He's a completely different person!”

After I had been in the band for over a year, I was invited to a Sunday dinner at The Big Guy's house. After Isaac's Blues Chicken, it was story time. Between Isaac and guitarist John Stephan's quick wit match, it wasn’t long before we were all laughing hysterically. Everyone else had heard the stories before but no one could resist the animated delivery and interjections. Isaac was warm, relaxed and really funny.

Several years later I published a web site for Isaac and I wanted to do something different. I thought it would be great to offer Isaac's fans something that was exclusive to the inner band circle. I called Isaac’s friend Mark Crossman, who had been recording The Isaac Scott Band live, and he was up for a blues story session. I was concerned about trying to stage this type of spontaneous thing so I brought my good friend, John Lee, along to egg Isaac on (you’ll hear John laughing in the background). The session turned out great and the stories are fantastic. I’m so glad that we have them now!

Isaac Scott Blues Story Gonna Get My Money
More stories at

Part 11 - By Monte Price

Thanks so much for inviting me to contibute to your piece on our brother Isaac Scott. I hope I can relate something that your readers will enjoy.

From the time I met Isaac in the mid-1980s at the Occidental Beach Club in the Square until his departure we were fast friends, associates and partners in crime like none other. Isaac knew my passion for Blues music and brought me records and tapes to listen to when he'd take the bus from downtown to my place in West Seattle on Sunday. He'd bring big grocery bags of food so he could cook in my kitchen as his place downtown didn't have cooking privileges. One weekend he came up on the back porch all excited - he had bought "buffalo fish" at the Market and was set to "greez", as it is commonly known. He set to whipping up his deep fried delicacy amid a haze of libations and loud Blues blistering from the Klipschorns in my living room, and our fish-fry was legendary.

When I moved from that place two years later, there was still the distinct patina of "buffalo fish" coating every surface of that kitchen's walls, floor, and ceiling. One evening Isaac called me asking if I'd go with him over to Vashon Island in my pickup. He offered to pay for the ferry, so off we shuffled to the Fauntleroy dock. Seems Isaac's friend Wilson wanted to start making home brew and needed to clear space from his Vashon garage for this endeavor. A large chunk of space in this garage was occupied by a vintage condition Hammond C-3 organ (just like the B-3, but the 'church' cabinet), and our benefactor just wanted it out of his garage!

Somehow, we managed to get this beast and the included Leslie speaker up into my truck. We got back to the mainland very late, so we didn't make plans to move it until the next day when Tony Thomas, Steve Bailey, Todd Zimberg and I congregated in front of the house there on Phinney in Fremont around the corner from the Buckaroo Tavern (you know the place!) and contemplated the move from the curb at the sidewalk up about 8 stair treads to park this pig on the ground floor of the house! Bear in mind that the Hammond 'C' cabinet was much heavier than the 'B' model as these church models were to be like an anchor to their congregation and were intended never to be moved. We strained and swore and humped and groaned, and one painful step at a time the big Hammond found its new home. As we limped down the steps to leave, Tony said "If I didn't love that big motherf****r so much, I wouldn't never have done that!" Amen, Tony.

It paid off, though. For weeks Isaac played inspired Hammond that few of the full-time Hammond players around could match. Every record he played was Jimmy Smith, Booker T, Billy Preston, and Bill Doggett. On a bright Sunday afternoon some time later, I felt the windows of the house zanging from the sound pressure level of the screaming wide-open Leslie cranking Isaac's awe-inspiring gospel-tinged tirade to the entire neighborhood. Passers-by were stopping for long awe-struck moments of pure Isaac. Nobody called the cops.

Isaac at the Hammond organ. Photo contributed by Monte Price.

On another weekend at the same West Seattle house, Isaac came by on an evening when my son Russell was on his 'every other weekend' visit. The Bluesman was packing some new plank-of-the-moment, and regaled my impressionable seven-year-old with just about every lick he knew, having dimed all the controls on my Music Man RD410. I worried for a moment about my little man's ears and brain cells, but he was totally fascinated not just by what he was hearing, but what he was seeing. Watching up close while Isaac cranked and wrung some quasi-satanic Blues meltdown from 6 strings on a slab of wood was a damned impressive show. When Russell was getting ready for bed that night after Isaac left, he asked me if that was "magic" when Isaac played like that. You know the punchline.....

The Isaac Scott Band at Seattle's Bumbershoot Festival in 1989. Left to right: Isaac Scott, Homer Leon, Lonnie Williams, Mark Dalton, and Tom Mc Farland. Photo contributed by Monte Price.

The Isaac Scott Band, possibly at an office complex lunch concert in the late '80s. Left to right: Tony Thomas, Jim Plano, Isaac Scott, Dan Abernathy, and Lonnie Williams. Photo contributed by Monte Price.

Part 12 - By John Lee

I had come to Seattle in the summer of 1975 fresh off a summer tour of Alaska with John Lee Hooker. I had moved to the Capitol Hill neighborhood and was determined to leave the great white north behind for good.

I dropped in to a weekend show with Issac Scott and Tom McFarland at Mother's Tavern. I had never met or seen Issac or Tom play before that night. Issac's guitar playing completely knocked me out and Tom was right there with Issac. I would get to know both guitar greats more the following year and the years to come.

I went to Hawaii for the winter and stayed with my friend Jerry Hite and his family. We played ping pong, watched films, listened to blues and R&B tapes and drank Primo beer. Having worn out my welcome and ready to give the Seattle blues a true go, I headed back to the Pacific Northwest .

Before I landed a gig with the band Nightlife, fronted by harp player and vocalist Mike Lynch, I played numerous jobs with Issac Scott. One was quite memorable. We were to open for my old buddy John Lee Hooker at Hibble & Hyde’s in Pioneer Square. The group consisted of Issac on guitar, Gerald Gibson on tenor sax, and me on bass. To this day I can’t remember who the drummer was! We played a great set, but in the middle of the proceedings my glasses slipped down on the end of my nose. Instead of helping me out of this uncomfortable moment, Gerald Gibson pulled my glasses down further. Gerald was a great player but a little unstable.

The second our set was complete, Issac pulled Gerald into the back room that doubled as the break area. While Issac and Gerald were having a little talk, my old Alaskan buddy John Stephan and I were having a little conversation with the Hook not far from the break room door. After a few minutes had passed, Gerald came running by us, then an empty bottle of Jack Daniels came flying by, followed by the 300-pound Issac Scott dressed in a canary yellow suit and doing what can only be described as hauling ass. Everyone in the area looked on in total amazement. John Lee Hooker was the only one to say anything, one simple phrase: “Them niggers are crazy!”

The big man could be a hard ass, but he would stick up for you if he thought you were being wronged. That is more than you can say for a lot of people.

This photo was created by Jef Jaison at the Isaac Scott wake held at the tractor Tavern in Seattle on December 1st, 2001. These are musicians (with the exception of Annieville Blues) that played at one time or another in the Isaac Scott Band over the years. Photo contributed by Monte Price.

Standing, from left to right: Norm Bellas, Bill Freckleton, Bill Bowden, Paul Wager, Jim Plano, Daddy Treetops, Annieville Blues, Bruce Ransome, Monte Price, Charlene Grant, John Keskey, David Brewer, and Richard Evans,

Kneeling, from left to right: Raven Humphries, John Stephan, Ric Howell, John Lee, Steve Bailey, and Mikal Rollins.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

You should go see these guys...really, you should.

Kurt Crandall and True Story have been playing at the Highway 99 Blues Club on Tuesdays for a couple of months now, mostly to an empty house. I know that getting out during the week is hard, but friends, these guys are worth the trip!

Kurt, a fine harp player and singer, has assembled some real Seattle blues veterans for the True Story band, including Tim Sherman on guitar, Patty May on bass, and the swingmaster David Hudson on drums. The band plays a lot of original tunes, including my favorite, "Pets Ain't People," about nutty pet owners. Check out the cool "Pink Panther" vamp at the end of this song.

I see that the band is going to be playing at forthcoming benefit for the Hudson Blues Band (to help finance their trip to Memphis next year) this month, so some folks will finally get to see them play. Check out their web page for the band's schedule, and then go see 'em. Tell them the Playboy sent ya.

Kurt Crandall and Tim Sherman

Kurt Crandall & True Story - left to right: Tim Sherman, Kurt Crandall, Patty Mey, and David Hudson

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Raven's 7th Annual Jam For Cans

By Phil Chesnut

Last Thursday, Puget Sound's vast list of blues talent again showed their generosity by donating their time and talents to the legendary local blues benefit, Jam For Cans, helping to make it another huge success. Featuring over 30 of the area's top note benders playing to a standing room only crowd, this annual blues marathon demonstrated once more why this event annually wins the WBS Best Event BB Award.

Supported by a blues savvy multitude of fans and their contagious spirit of giving, this year's Jam For Cans certainly surpassed all expectations. Thanks to the hard work of Sheri and Raven Humphres, who annually invest a great deal of time, energy and their own money to ensure a first class show. Naturally Raven's chores for JFC are on the musical end, however the daunting task of promotion and sponsorship is all carried on Sheri's shoulders. A true PR ace, who's promotion skills are easily equal to Raven's sax talent, Sheri's chores begin about 8 months before the next jam. The perfect Yin to the perfect Yang. Thanks to Sheri and Raven, this benefit of the blues has long reached a level that few others will ever approach, because this rare, invitational jam not only celebrates the spirit of the music but the spirit of giving as well and that through our beloved music, we have the opportunity to truly help those that are less fortunate.

Of course an event of this magnitude deserves an equally top-notch host/venue, with Seattle's favorite juke joint, the Highway 99 Blues Club being the perfect fit. The Highway 99's bosses, Ed and Steve have not only been more than eager to help support this worthy cause, they've gone out of their way to accommodate not only the giant list of musicians, but the uncommonly large and thirsty crowd as well. Thanks in large part to the outstanding staff at the Highway 99, every thing seemed to be running smoothly.

Also running smoothly was Raven's stage. Legendary for running the hardest, one day, mainstage of the year, Raven masterfully assembles a half dozen sets and always finding the best players to compliment each other in his notoriously horn fat, instant ensembles. Quickly segueing between various sets and making sure that everyone gets to bust a lick, unlike his incompetent artist, Raven leaves no one out.

Filling all of the other gaps and needs of a major event like this is our own venerable, Washington Blues Society and their fantastic volunteers. A great addition as partner or sponsor for any blues based program, the WBS has long showed it's value and experience at any blues event.

The blues was born a century ago, through a dedication for the music and with a spirit of faith, hope and charity. It's nice to see that this spirit and dedication is still alive and that this essence of the blues, via Jam For Cans, has once more come full circle.

Patty Allen and Raven


Paul Green

Tim Sherman and Mark Dufresne

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

Tim Sherman, Nick Vigarino, and NW Harvest rep
Note: All photos in this article were created by Phil Chesnut.
In the Pocket with Mr. Solid

By John Lee

The Top Ten Record Labels of Blues, R&B, and Soul

I have many times thought about which American record labels have had the greatest influence on the Blues, Rhythm and Blues and Soul music of the post World War Two era. I’m going to lay on you my opinion of which labels are the most important, along with some of the dynamic and important artists each one brought to the party!

1. Chess Records - This Chicago label is possibly the most important of them all. Two artists that made their greatest sides for Chess, and helped influence American music to a very large degree are Muddy Waters and Chuck Berry. Chess was also home to many of the finest blues and R&B recording artists of the 1950’s and 1960’s. Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter Jacobs, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), and Bo Diddley all made their finest recordings for Chess Records. Buddy Guy, Elmore James, John Lee Hooker, and many others made excellent records for Chess. For a great overview of the blues and rhythm and blues sides check out the "Chess Blues" and the "Chess Rhythm and Roll" box sets. They both are a stone groove!

2. Atlantic Records in New York City launched into stardom two of the greatest artists of R&B and Soul, Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles. They also had a roster of music giants like Ruth Brown, Wilson Pickett, The Drifters, The Coasters, Ben E. King, The Clovers, Joe Tex and Solomon Burke to name just some of the greats in the east coast labels stable. Check out the "Atlantic Rhythm and Blues 1947-1974" box set. There are eight CD’s, and 203 selections in all. It’s a weekend dance party for sure!

3. Stax Records in Memphis , Tennessee is celebrating 50 years in 2007. With a roster that includes Otis Redding, The Staple Singers, Eddie Floyd, William Bell, Rufus Thomas, Carla Thomas, Booker T. and the MG’s, Sam and Dave, Albert King and the superstar Issac Hayes. This southern soul label helped change pop music for the best. With a great group of in house studio musicians, Booker T. and the MG’s ( Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Donald “Duck” Dunn and Al Jackson), along with the Memphis Horns and great songwriters like David Porter, Issac Hayes, and William Bell, Stax produced some of the finest music America had to offer in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Check out the Stax box sets or the two CD 50th anniversary set. You will dig them for sure. Stax has resurrected the label with the great Issac Hayes as the first artist on the “new school” version of Stax.

4. Motown Records brought black soul music deep into the American mainstream and made superstars out of Diana Ross and The Supremes, Smokey Robinson, The Temptations, The Four Tops, Stevie Wonder, The Jackson 5, and Marvin Gaye to name some of the biggest stars. John Lennon of The Beatles called Smokey Robinson America’s greatest poet. This Detroit record company changed pop music in the U.S. for sure. Check out "Hitsville USA -The Motown Singles Collection 1959-1971" box set for 104 of Motown’s greatest sides!

5. King Records, located in Cincinnati , Ohio . One name tells of this record company’s importance: James Brown! Besides the Godfather of Soul, King had Roy Brown, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters, Little Willie John, Wynonie Harris, and Freddie King to name a few. This label started out in the late 1940’s as a country label, but soon became a top flight purveyor of hard edged R&B. Do your self a favor and pick-up "The King R&B Box Set." It’s a mighty good time. I know you’ll dig it!

6. Specialty Records based in Los Angeles . This great R&B label produced Little Richard's best recordings that were made in New Orleans , with some of the finest musicians of the 1950’s (like drummer Earl Palmer). The record company also made top-notch recordings with Larry Williams, whose songs "Slow Down," "Bad Boy," and "Dizzy Miss Lizzy" were covered by the Beatles. Specialty’s roster also included dynamic recordings by Jimmy Liggins, Joe Liggins, Roy Milton, Don and Dewey, and the master blues lyricist, Percy Mayfield, to name a few. Sam Cooke did his first recordings on Specialty with the gospel group, The Soul Stirrers. Lou Rawls was also featured on the label with the Chosen Gospel Singers. Before the Meters and the Neville Brothers, Art Neville did some fine tunes for Specialty. Check out the five disk boxed set, "The Specialty Story." It is a must for the honkin’ R&B fan.

7. Sun Records out of Memphis, Tennessee. Before Elvis, Johnny Cash, Carl Perkins, and Jerry Lee Lewis, owner Sam Phillips recorded the likes of B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Milton, James Cotton, Junior Parker, Rufus Thomas, and Ike Turner. Many of these artists were recorded at Sun Studios, but the recordings were leased to other labels. "Rocket 88" by Jackie Brenston and the His Delta Cats (essentially Ike Turner’s group) was turned over to Chess records. Many consider Rocket 88 to be the first Rock and Roll song. After many of the Sun Studio recordings became solid sellers for other labels, Sam Phillips began to press records on his own Sun Records label, sold Elvis’s contract, and then he pushed along the career of Jerry Lee Lewis. The Sun Studio is still active today, with the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Ringo Starr and the Stray Cats recording tunes there recently. Check out the three disc box set of classic Sun studio material titled "The Sun Records Collection."

8. Hi Records, in Memphis again! Producer Willie Mitchell brought the world great soul and rhythm and blues recordings from the likes of Al Green, Ann Peebles, Syl Johnson and Otis Clay. Al Green had hit after hit for the label. Hi began with Bill Black’s Combo and saxman Ace Cannon instrumentals. Hi Records then moved into the realm of deep R&B and Soul. Very similar in its structure as its Memphis brother, Stax, with a great studio nucleus comprised of Teenie Hodges on guitar, brother Charles on organ, and brother bassist LeRoy and drummer Howard Grimes simply called Hi Rhythm. This stuff is sweet soul music at its best! Check out the three disc set Hi Times, "The Hi Records R&B Years." This set is a great overview of the Hi Records story.

9. Vee Jay Records in Chicago. Jimmy Reed had numerous hits on Vee Jay. John Lee Hooker recorded some very influential sides here. The Spaniels, Jerry Butler, early Gladys Knight and the Pips, Gene Chandler, and Elmore James are just some of the great R&B artists that graced this Midwest label. Check out the three disc boxed set, "Vee Jay 40 Years of Classis Hits 1953- 1993!"

Jimmy Reed

10. Swing Time Records, based in Los Angeles is the dark horse on my list. This fine, but short-lived label was the first record home for Ray Charles in 1950. Lowell Fulson, Jimmy Witherspoon, Big Joe Turner, Charles Brown, and others made great sides for Swing Time. Check out the two disc boxed set, "The Swing Time Records Story: R&B, Blues & Gospel 1946-1952. "

There were other important record labels that helped spread the R&B gospel, like Mercury and Okeh to name two. The order I listed the record companies is in no way meant to make one labels significance more important than another. This list is most definitely one person’s opinion and should not to be etched in stone, but blues, R&B, and soul are all meat from the same bone!

At a later date I’ll talk about early blues music and the labels that were the most important and influential. Until then, keep the faith and always stay on the good foot!

"Dreams to Remember- The Legacy Of Otis Redding" DVD

John Firman (aka Johnny Nocturne) sent me a very cool DVD about the life and music of the late, great Otis Redding. John Firman, my cohort in the group The 3J’s, sent this nice film along to me because he knows how much I dig Otis Redding! Interspersed with interviews and performance film clips, the DVD gives a great insight into what made up Otis Redding the artist and Otis Redding, the man.

The film has extensive interviews with Otis’ wife, Zelma Redding (who also produced the DVD), Stax records founder Jim Stewart, daughter Korla Redding Andrews, Memphis Horns trumpet player Wayne Jackson, and long time collaborator and guitarist Steve Cropper. These interviews really convey Otis Redding’s great humanity, drive, energy, and artistry. There are forty minutes of interviews in all. A few interviews with Otis himself are also included, one being conducted by Dick Clark on American Bandstand.

The DVD also includes sixteen performances throughout Europe and America . Some of the performance clips are on television shows like Where the Action Is, Hollywood A Go-Go, and The Beat. These clips use lip-synch, and Otis doesn’t appear to be very comfortable with this TV approach. The live clips in Europe and at the Monterey Pop Festival with The Stax/Volt Review show him with microphone in hand and at his soulful best.

It has been forty years since Otis Redding’s death in an airplane crash at the young age of 26. He was just reaching his creative peak when he was taken from us. I am sure he would have gotten better had he been given “Just One More Day.” I know you will dig "Dreams to Remember- The Legacy of Otis Redding."

Quote of the Month

R&B stands for Rhythm and Blues. When John Firmin (Johnny Nocturne), saxophonist and leader of The Johnny Nocturne Band, and also a member of The David Bromberg Band and the 3J’s refers to the category known as modern R&B, he says “ I understand the rhythm part, but were in the hell is the blues?” Amen brother!

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.

Monday, October 15, 2007

This just in...

Another Seattle jam session bites the dust. This just in from guitarist John Stephan:

"The John Stephan Band will no longer host the Monday jam at The Mainstage. Many thanks to all the fine musicians and audience who've attended this event since June 2007."

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Mark Whitman benefit at the Highway 99 Blues Club

A benefit for long-time Seattle R & B guitarist and singer Mark Whitman will be held at the Highway 99 Blues Club on Sunday, October 7th. Showtime is 6:00 PM and the suggested donation is $5.00 at the door. A raffle will also be conducted throughout the night.

The benefit will help to defray the costs of Mark's recent hospitalization and ongoing physical therapy sessions.

This show will be hosted by Justin Kausal-Hayes, who also hosts the Blue Monday jam session at the Highway 99. The show format will be an invitation-only jam session, and the house band will consist of Chris Leighton, Lisa Ramaglia, Scotty Harris, Rolf larson, and Jeremy Kidder. A partial list of guest artists includes: Rod Cook, Paul Green, Eric "Two Scoops" Moore, Alice Stuart, Lee Oskar, Tim Turner, Hank Yanda, Doug McGrew, Kimball Conant, Scott Lind, Roger Enders, Bill Blackstone, Billy Shew, Sammy Eubanks, Eric Daw, and John Keski.

This show should be a good 'un! Drop in at the club and contribute to a worthy cause!

Mark Whitman - photo by Phil Chesnut

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Seattle Rhythm & Blues Festival

By John Lee

On October 5th and 6th 2007, the Mainstage Comedy and Music Club (formerly Chicago’s), located in the heart of Seattle’s Queen Anne neighborhood, brings together a showcase of Seattle talent rarely seen in this day and age. Phyllis Talley, Josephine Howell, Paul Richardson, The Red Hotz (aka The Red Hot Blues Sisters), The John Stephan Band, and The Crossroads Band, adds up to soulful and funky good time with something for everyone.

Friday October 5th features Josephine Howell, Paul Richardson, and vocalist Phyllis Talley. Josephine Howell is a renowned actress who was recently featured in Intiman Theater’s productions of “To Kill a Mocking Bird” and “Black Nativity.” She is also a singer of the highest caliber. Josephine is unrivaled in the gospel and jazz styles. This lady can really chirp. Paul Richardson has been a mainstay in Seattle soul music for many years. Mr. Richardson is one of the finest keyboard players anywhere, and always astounds with his consummate musicianship.

Saturday October 6th features The Red Hotz, 2006 nominee of the Washington Blues Society for Best Band. Fronted by the powerful and soulful vocals of Suze Sims and the razor sharp guitar of Teri Ann Wilson, the Red Hotz are always a crowd pleaser and keep the audience rockin’ at every stop along the way. They are a groove, no doubt. John Stephan is an excellent guitar player and a great songwriter, who spent many years with the legendary Issac Scott’s band. John and his group of journeyman pros give it their all at every performance.

The Red Hotz

John Stephan Band

The Crossroads Band

Closing out The Seattle Rhythm and Blues Festival will be The Crossroads Band, winners of the BB Award for Best Band from The Washington Blues Society in 2005. Nationally renowned artist, photographer, and writer Phil Chesnut sums up Crossroads up very well, “The members of this veteran five piece band all carry long pedigrees from other top Seattle bands of the past, finally culminating into this superb blues ensemble.”

A portion of the proceeds will go to Tipitina’s Foundation to assist New Orleans musicians cope with life after Hurricane Katrina. The proceeds will be given to Tipitina’s Music Office Co-op to help create business development and job skills training.

Come on down to the Mainstage October 5th and 6th for some great music, tasty food, top-notch libations, and to benefit a worthy cause. It will be a funky good time for sure!

When: Friday and Saturday, October 5th and 6th 8:30pm
Where: The Mainstage Comedy and Music Club
315 1st Ave North
Seattle , Wa . 98109
Phone: 206-217-3700
Cover: $12.00 each night or $20.00 both nights

Monday, September 17, 2007

KT's Tube Amp Repair

Got an old tube guitar amp in the closet (garage/attic/basement) that quit working a few years ago? How about that favorite amp that is sounding kind of lifeless these days?

Well friends, our old friend (and great blues drummer) Kirk "KT" Tutttle can help! KT started his amp repair business about a year ago, and has brought many tube amps back to life since then. Some of the amps I've seen in his shop included a vintage Ampeg B-12, a tweed Fender Tremolux (sweet!), a brown Fender Concert (double sweet!!), and my old '62 Fender Princeton.

If you've got an amp that needs some work, contact KT at 206-478-0983, or via e-mail at His shop is located in Seattle's north end just off of Aurora. Tell 'em the Playboy sent ya!

The Mad Scientist at his secret laboratory somewhere in north Seattle.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Titans of Tone begin work on a new live recording.

Kim Field & the mighty Titans of Tone began work on a live CD project at the Highway 99 Blues Club in Seattle on August 30th. The club's dressing room was crammed with recording equipment for the event, and there was a good turnout of fans that made a lot of noise in support of the band between songs.

Recording equipment in the dressing room.

Kim Field & the Mighty Titans of Tone. Left to right: Steve Yonck, Billy Spaulding, Kim Field, Brady Millard-Kish, and Eric Daw. Photo by Phil Chesnut.

Billy Spaulding and Les "Wild Child" White. Les is the bassist for Becki Sue & Her Big Rockin' Daddies!

Kevin Walsh, Steve Yonck, and Dana Pellegrini

Rumor has it that the band will record again at the Highway 99 on Thursday, September 27th. Mosey on down to the nightclub that night and add your voice to the CD, and I'll see you there!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Blog this!

By David Brewer

Well I'm back from Japan and it was great!! I had the best time, and now I'm on my way to Germany, Poland, etc..

I was just reading John Lee's latest blog. I was touring with Albert Collins at the time of the show he mentions. We were on our way to play the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver, B.C., and we were added on to the bill. It was so cool to meet Howlin Wolf...Coco Montoya was Albert's drummer at the time, and my ex-brother-in-law "Boom" (now with Pearl Jam) was on B-3 (plus me on guitar, of course). I'd love to get my hands on a copy of that poster, John.

Anyway, I'm on my way again soon and I should be back home sometime in October. Then I'm off to Nashville to back up my daughter Rachel. I may stop over in North Carolina and see Roberta Penn.

By the way, my friend Darin Wade's father was murdered up on Crown Hill, on 90th and 14th. I just heard about it on the news the day I got back. They're trying to find out who did it, so if anybody knows anything, call Crime Stoppers.

And oblige..Brewer...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In the Pocket with Mr. Solid

By John Lee

Going way back with Gary Sloan

I’ve known Gary Sloan since I was in high school in Anchorage, Alaska. In 1965 he fronted a rock and roll band called The Outlaws and I was either in The Breakers, a surf and rock and roll band, or groups The Better Sex or The Who Nose. I hadn’t become a bass player yet. I played rhythm guitar, tambourine, maracas and sang back-up vocals.

Late in 1965, Gary and I, along with Pete Nolfi on electric bass, Dean Forbes on lead guitar, and Mike Caporale on drums, started what would become Alaska’s first blues band, Proof. After high school graduation in 1967, I left Alaska and went to California where I pretended to go to college. It turned into a year of street education in San Francisco’s Bay area seeing The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Charlie Musselwhite, James Cotton’s great band with Luther Tucker on guitar, The Electric Flag with Mike Bloomfield and many of other groups like Cream, the Jimi Hendrix Experience, and Big Brother and the Holding Co. with Janis Joplin. Hey, I would hang around The Fillmore smoking cigarettes with Luther Tucker and Butterfield’s guitar player, Elvin Bishop and talking the blues. I once got drunk with Janis Joplin on Southern Comfort. I also met George Harrison one afternoon on Haight Street. This was the summer of 1967 to late spring 1968. The scene was being overrun with crystal-meth and the battles between the cops and the Black Panthers made the Bay area something of a war zone, so I went back to Anchorage.

I hooked back up with Gary Sloan on harp and vocals, Roger Crosta on drums, and a guitar phenom named Rufus Reid. We called ourselves Proof again. I was playing bass full time now. We got a house gig at a place called The Electric Eye. The Eye was a hang out for hippies and bikers. The bikers were real scooter trash, not the weekend Harley crowd that seems so common today. They called themselves the Brother’s Motorcycle Club. I was given an honorary membership. The Brother’s later became the Hell’s Angels. This was a wild scene and a summary of what I lived thru at that time could fill a book, but that’s for another time.

We had become a bonafide blues band. This gig lasted about a year, then Gary and I parted ways when I went to upstate New York with Lindy and Larry Raines in the fall of 1969. I went back to Alaska in 1970 and did a stint playing folk-rock with Gary, Lindy Raines, Steve Tyler and Gordy Canyon. In 1973 Gary brought John Lee Hooker and Charlie Musselwhite to Alaska and we toured and I got to play bass on both tours. He brought Hooker back in 1975, we toured Alaska again. Later that summer I split for Seattle. I came back to Alaska in the summer of 1981 and played Anchorage, Fairbanks, and a few other spots I don’t recall. We also recorded the Southside Blues album. Those were the last gigs we played together until July 2007.

Gary is living in Arkansas now. Every summer he gigs all around Alaska with assorted friends including Lindy and Larry Raines. He took a week break from the northern exposure and came to play a few gigs in the Seattle area about mid-July 2007. My buddy in the 3J’s, John Stephan, hooked Sloan up with gigs at The Central Club in Kirkland, Washington and at Seattle’s Salmon Bay Eagles. Sloan was more than adequately supported by John Stephan on guitar (John Stephan played with a band called The Blue Chip Stock on the Anchorage scene when Gary and I had the first version of Proof) and his band’s rhythm section of Trev Cutler’s solid drumming and Tom Roesch’s funky and “in the pocket” bass work. Tom is one of my favorite bass players on any scene!

Then for two nights, the Crossroads Band rhythm section of John Rockwell on drums and yours truly joined Gary Sloan (left) and John Stephan for a Friday night show at Pioneer Square’s New Orleans and the next night for a private party in Seattle. Gary is a fine showman, good vocalist, and blues harp man. He also writes some cool songs. A number of his tunes are damn funny, like "Main Squeeze," "Screamin’Skull" (one of Gary’s nicknames when we were coming up) and the tongue in cheek, "Shirt," with the back-up shout “His ex hates that shirt”. Gary has a double CD, "Blues/The Twilight Sloan" out now and has also re-released the "Southside Blues" album to CD. Yours truly plays on 11 tracks on this recording from 1981. I had a great time playing with Gary again, and he has the private party booked again next year. We will be adding some club dates for mid-July 2008. Stay tuned! It will be a natural ball. The summer of 2008 isn’t that far away!

The Seattle Blues Review-August 31, 1975

I had come to Seattle to scout a place to live and check out the local scene. The end of August 1975 I witnessed a great blues show at Sick’s Stadium in Seattle’s Rainer Valley neighborhood. The line-up was a blues fan’s dream: Howlin’ Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Aces, Straights and Shuffles with Kim Wilson (before The Fabulous Thunderbirds), Margie Evans, sometimes singer with The Johnny Otis Show, and the great Albert Collins as an added attraction.

I had toured Alaska that summer with John Lee Hooker, but I had never seen Howlin’Wolf, Albert Collins, or Margie Evans. Kim Wilson was just starting out, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds were a few years away.

Howlin’ Wolf was not well and as I found out much later, he was on kidney dialysis. The Wolf was still a very large presence and despite his failing health we all knew we were in the company of greatness! John Lee Hooker was his usual tough self. Albert Collins was unbelievable, strutting the stage like a man possessed. He was one of the most badass guitar men of all time. Kim Wilson showed why he would become a rising star in the blues revival. Margie Evans had a real sweet set of pipes and cooked up a nice set of jump and slow blues tunes.

At some point I somehow worked my way back stage and John Lee Hooker saw and greeted me. He knew I had never met the Wolf and he took me to where the man born Chester Burnett was sitting. When the introduction was done, Howlin’ Wolf said, “Any friend of the Hook, is a friend of mine.” What a moment! Where was a camera when I needed one!

The Wolf would only play one more big show in Chicago, November 1975. Howlin’ Wolf would pass on January 8th, 1976. Albert Collins passed away in 1993, and John Lee Hooker boogied on until 2001. Margie Evans is still living, but I have no idea if she’s still performing. Kim Wilson is still fronting The T-Birds and doing solo projects. He is still spreading the blues gospel around the world.

I feel blessed to have been at Sicks Stadium on that overcast August Seattle day in 1975. The Wolf, the Hook and Albert Collins were all legendary blues artists, and to see them together was a total thrill. These great musicians will never be forgotten. Play on brothers!

Peg Jackson-August 8, 1946 to July 23, 2007

My dear friend, Peg Jackson, passed away July 23, 2007. Peg and I became friends when I worked at The Café on the Terrace in Mountlake, Washington. Peg was a regular at the café. She and I would talk about everything under the sun. Music, films, books, and politics were among some of the many things we would discuss. Peg was very sharp and had a splendid personality. She was a tireless worker for Tour De Terrace, Mountlake Terrace’s Seafair related festival that takes place at the end of July every year. She made it possible for me to perform music at the festival one year, and I have played there a number of years since. She was a marvelous person and I will miss her. R.I.P Peg.

Quote of the Month:

Dewey Phillips was a wild, hip talkin’ white disc jockey in Memphis, Tennesse, who, in 1949 on his “Red, Hot, and Blue” radio show played black Rhythm and Blues to a white audience for the first time. He also was the first DJ to play Elvis Presley’s debut 45 recording of "That’s All Right Mama/Blue Moon of Kentucky" in 1954.

Mr. Phillips always had a cool saying or phrase for the radio listener. One of my favorites was: “Hey Mabel, get up off the turntable, your too old to be going around with musicians.”

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.