Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Blues Jam @ Murphy's Law

Last night, I hit the Pro Blues Jam at Murphy's Law in Sunnyvale. It was a great time. Mike Phillips was celebrating his birthday. Johnny Cat was in the house, as was Dennis Dove. There were a bunch of impressive players and vocalists present. One particularly impressive singer was Lee Donald of LD & The Blues Crew.

LD is a vocalist and harmonica player that is schooled in the South Side Chicago tradition. It was fun to play tunes out of the Muddy Waters, Big Walter Horton and Ray Charles songbooks along with him, Johnny Cat and Artie Chavez. Other people in attendance were Sid Morris (whose performance I missed because I was running fashionably late), Scott Miller, Greg Greenspan, Ryan Cohen and a fabulous guitar player named Bobby G.

Later in the evening, I played a few more tunes with the house band, James Brown's "Sex Machine" and a Marvin Gaye tune. The title of that tune is escaping me. That was a load of fun. Dennis Dove is a great singer. He did a couple of really nice Tyrone Davis tunes. Excellent songs that you don't usually hear at a blues jam.

The club is nice. The bartenders are cool. The house band is excellent. Most of the people performing are very good. Sadly, there were a few people that I had hoped to see, but they weren't in attendance. Overall, it was a lot of fun and well worth the drive.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Review - Chicago Blues Jam DVD

Santa proved to be very kind once again this year. He dropped off a copy of the Chicago Blues Jam featuring Billy Branch and Keb Mo. It's a very cool DVD that was shot at Buddy Guy's Legends during the mid 90's. Keb Mo contributes a couple of very nice acoustic blues tunes, but the bulk of this disc and the really cool part one is the portion focused on Billy Branch.

The disc features some really cool performances and interview segments with Billy. The interviews are focused on his early years in Chicago. To most of the people familiar with Billy and his music, there isn't really much new stuff that was presented during the interview segments, but it was very cool to hear the story come from the man himself without edits.

The musical performances are really very cool. Billy, his singing and his incredible harmonica playing are front and center throughout the performance. It features one of the most powerful combinations of the Sons Of Blues. The members of the band include: Carl Weathersby (guitar), Melvin Smith (bass) and current SOB Mose Rutues (drums). Billy handles the majority of the vocal duties and Carl contributes a couple of nice tunes. For people familiar with the SOB's of this era, this disc provides a really nice trip down memory lane. For people new to Billy Branch and his music this DVD captures the aspects of live performance that studio CD's simply can not capture.

The production quality is good. The quality of the music in excellent. There are several other discs in the series. If this DVD is any indication, these are really worth picking up for lovers of Chicago Blues. It's available dirt cheap online from Amazon and it provides a really nice view into Billy and his music.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

TWIB - This Week In Blues

Tuesday, December 20th @ The Mojo Lounge

R.J. Mischo was still on hiatus in Mexico at the Blue Mamou. In his absence, the NC Blues Connection featuring Wild Bill Pruitt and Jesse Brown were holding down the fort with their special guest, Artie Chavez.

Jesse Brown is a fabulous singer. There were a whole host of guest artists in the house. It was a fun evening. There were several people in attendance that hadn't been down there in a while. Overall, the quality of the music was good with the exception of a horrible cover of "Play That Funky Music White Boy", which has no place in a blues jam, proving once again that some people have absolutely no taste.

The highlight of the evening was that I got to play a really bizarre version of "Play That Funky Music White Boy" with Don Yonder and Freddie Roulette.

Friday, December 23rd @ JJ's Blues Lounge

I had hoped to make it down to the Poor House Bistro to catch the exciting duo of Bob Welsh and Hans Bosse, but the weeks of procrastination finally caught up me. I was running late doing some last minute shopping and Christmas wrapping. Just as I was becoming resigned to watching some incredibly crappy two hour movie stretched into a three hour long debacle on Lifetime, I saw Stan Erhart's message reminding people that he was appearing at JJ's and that Cathy Lemons/Johnny Ace/Steve Freund would be there, too. I was out the door.

Fortunately, the traffic wasn't too bad. When I arrived, Stan had just begun a very nice set. I had never seen Stan with his band before. My awareness of his tasteful guitar playing has come at the Tuesday night Mojo Lounge blues jam.

I grabbed a table with Artie and Gail near the front of the club. Stan was settling into a group of very nicely done Albert King tunes. I really liked his cover of Laundromat Blues. His guitar playing was very soulful and the rhythm section was spot on. He followed that up with very good version of Oh, Pretty Woman. It was a very enjoyable set. I look forward to seeing him again.

The second set was also great. Cathy Lemons and Johnny Ace with Steve Freund and the human Rolex watch on drums, Robi Bean. It had been a long time, since the last time that I had seen Cathy Lemons and Johnny Ace. It was actually too long. She's a really good singer that always puts on an enjoyable show. Johnny Ace is an ball of human energy and an entertaining guy. He is constantly in motion, but never misses a beat. Steve sounded great as always. Seeing him back other singers is always a treat because he is such a great rhythm player. He always does an incredible job of filling holes but he leaves enough open space to allow his playing to breathe and sink in.

Unfortunately, I couldn't hang out to catch the last set with Sammy Varela. The only down side of the whole evening was one set for two bands made everything feel rushed. I guess it was in keeping with the holiday activities.

It was nice to get back to JJ's. The club has nice vibe. The new owner seems to be a pretty nice guy. I'll be returning, especially if they have more shows like Friday evening's performance.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Carol Fran @ Mojo Lounge

Carol Fran

Last night, I went down to the Mojo Lounge to catch the special Christmas concert featuring the one and only Carol Fran. The band had just started playing when I walked in.

I met up with a bunch of friends sitting at a table including: Robin Overton, Chris Brown, James Reed, Byrd Hale and Wendy Dewitt. Robin introduced me to Carol. She is a very sweet and very down to Earth lady.

The guitar player had recently relocated back to the Bay Area from New Orleans. He was playing a big hollow body Gibson guitar. He was great. His playing had a nice blues/jazz feel to it. It was very mellow and it really set the tone for the evening. His name was Larry Scala.

Rounding out the band was the majestic Kedar Roy thumping the big upright bass. He's one of the few guys like Willie Dixon that makes a huge bass look like a violin next to him. Andrew Griffin on drums. I had never seen him before. He was very good. These guys set a very nice rhythm and kept time better than a Stratum 1 clock. James "Loose" Reed playing added some very nice and mellow harp playing to the opening songs.

After a couple of tunes, Carol Fran stepped on stage. This was the first time that I had seen her. She put on a great show. The first couple of songs had a really funky feel to it. Her piano was amplified to the hilt and its sound was reminiscent of the Howlin' Wolf classic, "How Many More Years." It had a very cool sound to it, but it wasn't the right mood for the evening and it certainly didn't capture the Christmas spirit. Once that got fixed, she began an American music history lesson that won't soon be forgotten.

During the course of the evening, she played several Christmas tunes and a multitude of blues and jazz songs from the 1940's and 1950's. If someone shouted out the name of the song, she played it. It sort of didn't matter what it was. When some guy in the audience shouted out, "Sweet Home Chicago." A bunch of people grumbled and she began a Professor Longhair style tune.

When she began singing, "Come on, baby don't you wanna go..."

She blew several minds. That was the most non-standard, but very cool version of "Sweet Home Chicago" that I had heard in several years. She played and sang several Ray Charles songs.

I am really glad that I didn't miss this show. It was a very intimate performance.

Catching Up...

With the Christmas holiday and the end of the year rapidly approaching, it's been a busy few weeks. After the December 4th show at the Horseman's Club, I've been sort of laying low. I've been trying to fight off a cold. Here is a really brief summary.

Mojo Lounge Jam - 12/06/05

I caught R.J. Mischo's World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. It was a really fun night.

The lovely Lara Price made an appearance. She is a very good singer. She also played drums quite well. I played a couple of songs with R.J. and a few more tunes with a young guitar player named Shakey Jake.

At this point, I can't remember much more of that evening. Heck, it was almost two weeks ago. I can't be expected to remember too much, after the weekend that I had prior to this day.

R.J. Mischo @ Mojo Lounge - 12/10/05

This show was a lot of fun. It's nice to hear a whole show from Mr. Mischo. He's a rather unique guy. He is a rare type of harmonica player on the West Coast. While he can play that style of blues quite well, he can go an entire evening playing nothing but old school post war blues. He borrowed heavily from the songbooks of Big Walter Horton and Snooky Pryor, in addition to playing his own material from his most recent CD entitled, "He Came To Play!"

Making a surprise guest appearance from Los Angeles by way of Chicago was the infamous Cadillac Zack. He sat in on a couple of tunes and sounded great.

Mojo Lounge Jam - 12/13/05

Johnny Cat and Mike Phillips hosted the Tuesday night Blues jam. Johnny Cat and Mike Phillips opened the show with Dennis Dove playing the drums. The first set was great and it featured some fantastic covers of a few Tyrone Davis tunes.

It was a fun night. There were a lot of new faces that dropped in from the south bay. The most impressive performance of the evening came from J.C. Smith. He's a very good singer and tasteful guitar player.

Wednesday, December 7, 2005

It's All About The Lumps

Carl Weathersby & Magic Slim

Early Sunday afternoon, I hit the ground running. I was headed to the Horseman's Club in Sacramento to see a fabulous show with a lineup that would put most so-called Blues Festivals to shame. Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne, Phil Guy, Carl Weathersby and Magic Slim & the Teardrops. While enroute, I stopped to pick up Don Yonder to ensure that he received a proper education South Side-style.

We were cruising along the freeway traveling at a high rate of speed. We were making excellent time when we were passed by a big blue van with Illinois plates that was loaded to the rafters with musical equipment. This is now the second time that I've been passed on a California freeway by Magic Slim and the Teardrops. We followed them up to Sacramento and we continued on to the Horseman's Club.

When we arrived, I thought we were in the wrong place. It's a hall in a real rural setting. There was a sign that simply read, "Fest." There was a long line. The only indication that we were in the right place were some familiar faces in the crowd that made the two hour trek from the Bay Area to Sacramento for this show.

It was well worth the four and a half hours in the car.

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne opened the show with a righteous band consisting of David "Hurricane" Hoerl (harmonica), Takezo (guitar), Paul Olguin (bass), and Rick Sankey (drums). This was a very nice, but very abbreviated set. Kenny tickled the ivories on several tunes and proved that he is one of the last members of the old school piano players. He also switched things around a bit on his keyboard making his instrument sound like an organ or a scat singer. It was very cool. Dave Hoerl blew some very fine harmonica. Takezo added a couple of very tasteful guitar solos.

After about 30 minutes, Phil Guy stepped onto the stage with a white Telecaster that he would torture for the next hour or so. He worked through a couple tunes out of the Z.Z. Hill songbook including, "Open House At My House" and "Someone Else Is Steppin' In". He tore into one classic Chicago Blues tune after another. He opened each tune with an extended guitar solo to set the tempo and groove of the song. The band just followed him along like soldiers into battle. The tone coming out of his guitar stung to the core like ice water on a tooth with an exposed nerve. It was a lesson in pure unfiltered Blues from Chicago's South Side. He closed out his set with a fantastic version of Buddy Guy's, "Stone Crazy".

During a brief break, Omar Shariff took to the keyboards and played a couple of nice Christmas Blues tunes. From the weather and the heat generated in the hall, you wouldn't have known it was the Christmas season. These tunes were a nice reminder that the holiday season is upon us.

It seemed like a good time to grab a beer and something to eat. Six bucks. What a great deal! The link was excellent and there were several choices of high quality libations to ensure proper hydration.

Next up was Carl Weathersby. He was backed by Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne and company. Takezo left the stage and Phil Guy played rhythm guitar. This was an excellent set. He tore through a bunch of classic Chicago Blues while mixing in a few Albert King and Howlin' Wolf songs. His guitar playing was tasteful and incredibly intense much like Albert King. Pure raw emotion and feeling is transferred from his fingertips through his guitar. Carl Weathersby is the present and future of the Blues. His set raised the bar to an almost incomprehensible level.

It was hot in the hall, so I headed outside during the break. I talked to Carl and Guitar Mac briefly. I got a couple of quick and dirty lessons on blues theory. Magic Slim overheard one of the conversations and they started shooting the breeze about old times in the clubs in Chicago about twenty years ago. They gave each other friendly crap. They talked about bluesmen past and present. They reminisced about guys like Lefty Dizz. It was something that I'll never forget.

Next up was Magic Slim & the Teardrops. What can someone say about Magic Slim that hasn't been said already? The guy is simply great. His Blues are very traditional and old school. His guitar tone is indescribable. It's very heavy and it leaves a long lasting impression. It's sort of like getting hit in the head with sledgehammer. When you experience it, you aren't going to forget it anytime soon and it's not likely to be like anything that you've ever felt before.

During one of his opening tunes, Carl Weathersby was watching Magic Slim with a great deal of admiration. He looks at me and said something like, "that guitar that Slim is playing is a Fender Jazzmaster. Most people feel that guitar was never capable of anything great. Those people never heard Magic Slim play it." Slim ripped through one shuffle after another. The intensity level just kept creeping up.

He asked Carl to join him on the stage and the intensity level broke the meter. The two of them traded solo after solo. They exchanged vocal duties each taking a verse or two in each song. They kept raising the bar and you could tell they were feeding off the energy of each other. At the end of the set, Carl said to Slim, "That was like old times, wasn't it Slim."

I stopped to talk with a few friends about the show before it was time to head further on up the road. For the third time this weekend I would say, "this may have been the best show that I've seen all year long."

Before leaving, I went outside to say good bye to Carl. As I was leaving, he walked up to Magic Slim and said, "Damn Slim! I haven't lumped that hard in years."

Slim responded, "I told you, man! It's all about the lumps."

Tuesday, December 6, 2005

Carl Weathersby @ The Boom Boom Room

Carl Weathersby

Saturday night, I took my lovely wife to the Boom Boom Room to see Carl Weathersby. The ad for the Boom Boom Room in the Guardian had him incorrectly billed as Albert King's guitarist from 1979 - 1982 and as the pianist in Willie Dixon's Big Three Trio in the 40's and 50's.

Outside the Boom Boom Room, I ran into Pork Pie Phillips. He and the Bay Area Blues Society rode picked up Carl from the airport. We talked outside for quite a while. When we walked into the Boom Boom Room, Carl saw us and immediately said, "Hey Joe, how come you never told me you play harmonica?" I asked him, "I don't. Who's telling you those stories?" He responded, "I rode over with some of your buddies." Liz had a good laugh at my expense, she said that I had a deer in the headlights look on my face.

For this show, Carl was being backed by the Bay Area Blues Society's Caravan of All Stars including: Ronnie Stewart (Guitar), Donnie Kountz (Drums), 'Funky' Rob Gordon (Keyboards) and Chuck Trujillo (Bass). Featured vocalists included: Wylie Trass and Pork Pie Phillips.

The Caravan of All Stars opened up the show with a couple of really cool R&B numbers featuring the voice of Wylie Trass. In the middle of the song, Carl walked on stage to play along with the band. Wylie Trass cut out after getting the dance floor filled to capacity. For the remainder of the set, it was pretty much all Carl Weathersby. He started off with a couple of up tempo numbers to keep the audience moving. He walked off the stage and took an extended solo walking the audience, playing the guitar behind his head, playing with his teeth never missing a note.

He slowed it way down playing a very wicked version of the Albert King classic, Sun Gone Down. During the course of this particular tune, he continually brought the volume down until he was playing acoustically. The room was silent, except for his guitar playing. You could hear a pin drop. It was very impressive. Other than Albert himself, Carl plays the most intense and true to form Albert King style guitar around.

During the fourth of fifth song, the sound coming from his amplifier stopped. All of a sudden the smell of electrical smoke could be smelled throughout the club. He burned up the house Mesa/Boogie combo. They continued along with Carl diplaying his very deep and soulful vocal style. The club staff wheeled in a Fender Twin and they were back in business.

He learned a great deal from Albert King and his influence is very apparent in his playing style. With the Bay Area Blues Society backing him, they tore through song after song with an incredible amount of intensity that words can't describe. He also did a very nice tribute to Howlin' Wolf. He also tossed in a couple of Tyrone Davis tunes.

They played two incredibly long sets of nothing but incredibly deep blues. Those who stuck it out until closing time saw one of the most incredible shows that I've seen in a long ass time.

When we were leaving, for the second time this weekend I would say, "this may have been the best show that I've seen all year long."

Monday, December 5, 2005

Magic Slim @ Biscuit & Blues

Magic Slim

It has been a very long weekend for me. It was a tremendous amount of fun. I am sort of sad to say this, but in a way I am glad it's over. I am dead tired, but it was really worth it. I guess I don't bounce back as well as I did in my younger days.

Friday night, I headed up to San Francisco to Biscuits and Blues to see Magic Slim and the Teardrops. The first time that I saw Magic Slim was in 1983. I've seen him more times than I can remember or count. There is a very simple reason. He always has an excellent band and he always puts on a great show. Friday night's festivities were no exception.

I took BART into the city. After a ten minute walk and dismissing about a dozen bums looking for spare change, I arrived at the club shortly before the show started. I took a seat at the bar.

It was a very good show. Slim really tore it up during the second set. He played several standard tunes and he also mixed in a handful of self-penned songs from his most recent CD. There is nobody quite like Magic Slim. He has his own inimitable and very unique style. He can take often heard songs and make them his own. They always come off sounding fresh. He is also a human jukebox. It seems like he knows about a million songs and he always plays at least one song that I've never heard him play before. I really dug hearing him cover Johnny Christian's, "(If You Got To) Love Somebody" and Little Milton's "The Blues Is Alright." I think he is virtually untouchable on those really slow blues tunes that drag like a long slow freight train pulling out of the railroad yard. His guitar solos have plenty of room to breathe and his razor sharp guitar playing slices a hole right into your soul. He's like the old school players that never really seem to hit a wrong note. It always seems to come out sounding absolutely perfect.

Before I knew it, the time flew by and the night was over.

For the first time this weekend I would say, "this may have been the best show that I've seen all year long."

Thursday, December 1, 2005

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 11/29 Edition

Freddie Roulette & Nick Moss

It was Tuesday night and time for another exciting edition of RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam hosted in the ballroom of the renowned Mojo Lounge in Fremont, CA. RJ was out of town and was unavailable to perform his hosting duties. In an American tradition, he outsourced the task to Nick Moss & The Flip Tops. Nick did an outstanding job. His band consists of some great musicians that are strong multi-instrumentalists. Nick Moss (guitar, harmonica, bass and vocals), Gerry Hundt (bass, mandolin, guitar and vocals), Piano Willie (piano and bass) and Bob Carter (drums).

Nick and his band opened the show with a fabulous version of Johnny Littlejohn's "Bloody Tears" and we were on the express train to Chicago. Nick spent a great deal of the first set playing slide guitar in a variety of styles demonstrating influences by Elmore James, Houng Dog Taylor, Muddy Waters and others.

Midway into the first set, Gerry Hundt picked up a mandolin and Nick picked up a harmonica. They played a couple of Johnny Young tunes that would have fit in really well on a 1960's Vanguard recording. Nick's harmonica playing was strong and displayed a nice Big Walter Horton influence with a big fat tone.

Afterwards, Piano Willie took a break. Gerry picked up a guitar and Nick played a few Hound Dog Taylor tunes that were simply breathtaking and were probably the highlight of the first set. After a few more songs...

There was a short musical break.

Nick called to the stage the first set of people to kick off the jam. Gerry Hundt played the guitar and sang a few songs with Felix Bannon (guitar), Wild Bill Pruitt (bass), Travis (drums) and me (harp). We played one tune together before Chip and Ray, the Sax Maniacs joined the stage for a couple of songs.

There was a short musical break.

Barrelhouse Solly led the next group of people with his fine vocals, harp and kazoo playing. Joining him was my twin brother by different mothers, Scott Miller (guitar), Ryan Eric (guitar), Sneaky Pete (bass), Donnie Kountz (drums) and the Sax Maniacs on horns. Solly took advantage of the horns and sang an old school Big Joe Turner tune utilizing the horn section to full effect and adding a trumpet-like solo using his homemade kazoo.

There was a short musical break.

Next up on stage was Nick Moss (bass and vocals), Stan Erhart (guitar and vocals), Don Yonder (guitar), Freddie Roulette (lap steel guitar) and Greg Greenspan (harp). These guys were joined by a variety of drummers including: E-Rock, Artie Chavez and another guy whose name I didn't get. This was a really nice set consisting of some great music. Throughout the set, Stan and Don traded some fabulous guitar licks. Greg provided some very sympathetic harp playing.

There was a short musical break.

The Flip Tops returned to the stage along with Freddie Roulette. Nick started the final set off with a very nice version of the Jimmy Rogers classic, That's All Right. The next tune up was simply awesome, Earl Hooker's Blue Guitar. Nick used a wah-wah pedal on this tune and it featured some incredible slide guitar playing by Nick and Freddie Roulette. This song was can only be described as jawdropping. The remainder of this set they did with Freddie Roulette was pure gold. That may have been the best that I've ever heard Freddie Roulette sound.

This concluded the evening's musical performances and another edition of RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge was nothing but a memory. For those of us that were present, at least, we have that. Those that weren't there just have this crummy report and the feelings of jealousy wishing that they had been there.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Weekend Activities

The Sheiks Of R&B

Saturday night, I went down to the Mojo Lounge and caught a set and a half of the Sheiks Of R&B. The Sheiks consist of Jerome Engelberts, J.B. Davis and Luke Piro. The put on a very enjoyable show consisting of some rather obscure blues and R&B tunes. They were joined by a pair of saxophone players from San Francisco, Ray and Skip.

Me @ The Bistro
Dave Walker Blues Jam @ The Bistro

Sunday, I dropped in on the Dave Walker Band at the Bistro. When I arrived, the jam was already underway. I stopped to talk to Scott "Phil Harmonica" Hickman outside. Greg Greenspan and Ryan Eric were already onstage with the band. After getting to see one song, they took a break. After the break, I played a few of tunes with Dave and his band. It was a good time.

"Thanks to Ryan Cohen for the photo.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Photos For October & November


Here are some photos from the Mojo Lounge during the month of October and November.

John Nemeth, Scott Duncan, Dick, Kid Andersen, Greg Greenspan, Tre', RJ Mischo, Kedar Roy, Dennis Briggs, Freddie Roulette, Aki, Bob Welsh, Gil Leon, Tom (from the Buzzy Dupree Blues Band), Ryan Eric, Felix Bannon, Arthur Daugherty, Gary Smith and Chris Brown.

The URL is: 2005: A Year in Progress.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 11/22

John Nemeth

Last night, it was time for another installment of RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam. RJ Mischo was absent on an evening's hiatus. Replacing him for the evening was the captivating John Nemeth.

I arrived early at the Mojo Lounge. It was sort of a weird vibe. There were a lot of new faces in the audience. Most of them were musician. Many of them appeared to 1980 rocker-type guys.

Joining John on stage for the first set of the evening was the powerhouse rhythm section of Marc Carino and Hans Bosse'. Noticably absent was the Norwegian Heartthrob, Chris "Kid" Andersen. Don Yonder displayed some excellent guitar work in his absence. After about six or seven great postwar Chicago-stlye blues made famous by Junior Wells, Jimmy Rogers, and Otis Rush, John called a pair of saxophone players to the stage named Chip (or Skip) and Ray for a couple of songs.

The band took a short break.

After the break, John began calling guests to the stage and the evening's festivities were in full swing. First up, were a fine guitarist and vocalist named Tre', guitarist Ryan Eric, bass player Wild Bill Pruitt and harp player Aki. I can't remember the drummer. It wouldn't be the first thing from the evening that I would forget. These guys played about four or five songs. The highlight of their set was a fine version of the Eddie Boyd classic, "Five Long Years."

The band took a short break.

The next set took a while to pull together. When he started calling names, it had super loud rock and roll written all over it. John called up legendary Bay Area rock jam hosts, Art and Rhonda, drummer E-Rock and a bass player that I had never seen before. I was getting ready to take a hearing break, when I heard John call my name. My expectations were really low, since I knew that these guys have been hosting rock jams for years. Let's just say that I had a really good time playing with these guys. Rhonda covered "You Can Have My Husband" and the Freddy King classic, "Goin' Down." Art sang the often done Jimi Hendrix hit, "Red House". Based on the audience reaction, it was very well received. It was a lot of fun.

John switched things around for the next band. He called up Kid Andersen, harp blower Greg Greenspan, bass player Carl Green and drummer Artie Chavez. John sang a couple of tunes with this band before calling up a female blues singer from Australia named Armelle. She sang a few tunes including Little Walter's "Mellow Down Easy" and "The Work Song".

The next band up consisted of guitar players Scott Duncan, Don Yonder, Carl Green and Artie Chavez. South Bay harp player Dick Smith joined the band for a couple of classic tunes.

Vocalist CC Cole sang a couple of very nice songs. Oakland Toby replaced Scott and Don on guitar. Freddie Roulette contributed some nice lap steel. James Reed came in a blew some harp demonstrating excellent tone. He stayed on to sing one with Kid Andersen joining for one final song.

This concluded another evening of mayhem and fun at World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

John Nemeth @ The Poor House Bistro

I caught the first set of John Nemeth's performance at the Poor House Bistro on Friday night. The band consisted of Bob Welsh (guitar), Mike Phillips (bass) and Hans Bosse' (drums). There was some big event going on at the Arena. The place was packed.

The first set was awesome. John sounded as excellent as he always does. His vocals were great. His deep toned harmonica playing accompanied his choice of material perfectly. The material ranged from classic 50's Chicago Blues to some of his own compositions.

I chatted briefly with Mr. Nemeth during the break. It had been a few months, since I last saw him. It was nice to catch up with him. He recently completed a tour of Mississippi and the deep South. He's been on the road quite a bit lately. According to his website, he should be around for the next couple of weeks. I hope to get the opportunity to check him out again.

He was kind enough to invite me to sit in, but I had to decline. My youngest daughters were getting kind of tired and creeped out by the group of people clad in black habits. If they had been nuns, it might not have been creepy. These folks were headed to the Depeche Mode concert at the Arena. The combination of unnaturally brightly colored hair along with dog collars proved to be a bit much for a pair of 4 year olds. We decided to cut out.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 11/15 Edition

Jesse Brown

Last night, I head down to the Mojo Lounge with the intention of having a beer and checking out R.J. Mischo's first set. The plan was to go home early and get to bed at a decent hour. Needless to say, things didn't go as planned and I ended up hanging out until the evening's music came to a conclusion.

I arrived a little bit late. RJ and the band were already going strong. The tables in front of the stage were crammed with people, so I grabbed a seat at the back of the bar. The house band for the evening was: Chris "Kid" Andersen, Marc Carino and Hans Bosse. Joining the band for the first set was guitarist, Kenny "Blue" Ray. RJ played a four or five tunes prior to turning over the bandstand to Kid Andersen and Kenny "Blue" Ray for a couple of really nice guitar instrumentals. The interplay between the two guitar players was really great. Classic postwar Texas-influenced blues.

The first guests called to the stage were Don Yonder and me. RJ sang a really nice Sonny Boy Williamson tune and a swamp-infused composition of his own. He asked singer, Jesse Brown to the stage. Jessie sang a superlative version of what was once called, ""Everyone's Favorite Bobby Bland Song"", "Stormy Monday". It was a fabulous time playing with these guys. It was a boatload of fun.

There was a short musical break.

RJ kicked off the second set with Kid Andersen and a student of Kenny "Blue" Ray's named, Matt. Matt displayed some fabulous guitar work on several tunes. Eventually, he swapped spots with Ryan Eric. RJ turned over the microphone to Phil Berkowitz of the High Rollers. Phil sang a great version of the Willie Mabon classic, "Poison Ivy" followed by a very nice version of the Big Walter Horton chestnut, "La Cucaracha", before concluding with a very obscure Muddy Waters tune, "Deep Down In My Heart." RJ rejoined the festivities and replaced all of the guitar players with two players that I hadn't seen before. After a few tunes,

There was a short musical break.

For the last set, RJ called the NC Blues Connection to the stage. This band consists of some fine artists including Jesse Brown, Wild Bill Pruitt and a couple of fabulous guitar players. They began the last set of music with an excellent version of the Temptations classic, "Papa Was A Rolling Stone", which was followed by the performance of the evening. The George Jackson classic made famous by the late Johnnie Taylor, "My Last Two Dollars." That song really showcased some excellent guitar work that isn't heard too often outside of the Deep South and the amazing vocals of Jesse Brown. They played a couple more tunes before:

There was a short musical break.

RJ asked the house band and Don Yonder back to the stage and turned over the stage to Arthur Daugherty of the Swamp Coolers. He performed a few tunes and displayed some excellent acoustic harmonica tone on several tunes, before transferring vocal and harmonica chores to Mr Mojo Madness,James Reed. The Mojo Man sang three love songs.

There was a short musical break.

Technically, the music and the evening of fun concluded. Afterward, I had the opportunity to briefly talk to Mr. Reed about the debut of his new website featuring an entire line of Mojo Madness merchandise which is just in time for the holidays.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Dave Walker's Blues Jam @ The Bistro

I had an interesting Sunday evening. I went to the blues jam at The Bistro in Hayward hosted by Dave Walker, except that Dave Walker wasn't there. The bar was almost pitch black. There were a couple of lights illuminated the bandstand and amplifiers were working, so someone was paying the electric bill.

The five piece band consisting of guitar, bass, drums, saxophone and key was playing blues, so I hung out for a bit. Of course, I showed up one song before the band decided to take a break. One of the keyboard players had brought a little dog into the bar. It was huddled under one of the bar stools shaking. That sort of thing seems like animal cruelty.

Guitarist Don Yonder showed up and sat in with the band. There was another harp player that I had never seen before. He connected some sort of pre-amp or amp simulator to the PA. He sounded pretty good, but I sort of felt sorry for him. It took him three songs to get dialed in and all he got was three songs. He didn't really get a chance to be heard.

The jam host asked him if I could use his setup. I felt sort of relieved as he exited the stage, he took his stuff. I plugged a microphone directly into the PA and I realized his sound challenge. Only one PA speaker was working. The bass player, Andrew G sang a tune. Don sang sang a very nice version of the Sonny Boy Williamson classic, "Help Me" and Andrew sang a Slim Harpo tune. About ten minutes later, it was in the book.

Hayward and The Bistro have kind of a weird vibe, but it was pretty fun. When the music was concluded, the bass player told me he liked what he could hear. He asked me to come back in a couple of weeks and bring an amplifier. I may be going back.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Steve Freund @ The Poor House Bistro

Last night, I headed down to the Poor House Bistro to catch Steve Freund and his fabulous band. Due to a traffic problem in Fremont, I arrived with two song left in the first set. I was lucky when I walked in a found a table close to the bandstand. The place was packed with musicians.

A partial roll call included: Steve Freund, Robi Bean, Scott Brenton, Kedar Roy, Jimmy Dewrance, Gil Leon, Bob Welsh, Hans Bosse, Suzy Tyler, Eddie Mac and Artie Chavez.

The Poor House Bistro has a really nice vibe going. During the breaks, the lack of an incredibly loud jukebox makes the environment conducive to conversation. The food is great and the drinks are cheap. Where else can you relive your early 20's drinking ultra-cheap pints of Pabst Blue Ribbon? For those not into cheap beers, they also have an excellent selection of other libations available at a nominal cost.

Enough of the commercial. During the breaks, I got to socialize with a number of people that I don't get to see too often.

I would have to say that Steve's band is probably one of the tightest units in the Bay Area. It's obvious that Steve, Robi Bean and Scott Brenton work togther quite often. They've play well off of each other. The addition of Kedar Roy propelled the rhythm section quite nicely.

Steve made several new fans last night. During the second set, he sang a real tear jerker called, "Let Me Down Easy." It was a very emotional and intense tune that melted the ice surrounding the coldest heart. For me, that may have been the musical highlight of a very awesome evening.

Suzy Tyler and Eddie Mac joined Steve on several numbers. I've had the good fortune to hear them on several occasions and last night's performance may have been the best yet. They were on and sounding fantastic. During the third set, Bob Welsh, Hans Bosse and I sat in on a few classic Chicago Blues tunes.

If you were there, you had a great time. If you weren't there, you missed a great time.

Monday, November 7, 2005

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 11/01 Edition

Last Tuesday night, I stopped by RJ Mischo's World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam hosted at the infamous Mojo Lounge.

It was a great evening. I arrived early and brought my little amp down there for a test run. RJ set it up front and center. After he got it all set up with his delay pedal, it sounded absolutely fabulous.

RJ shook up the normal mix by having some different faces on the bandstand at the beginning of the evening. Kenny "Blue" Ray, Kedar Roy and June Core rounded out the band. RJ started the evening's festivities with a couple of fabulous Little Walter-influenced instrumentals.

After a fabulous first set, RJ brought J.C. Smith up to the bandstand. He sang a few tunes before being joined onstage by Aki Kumar They really played well off of each other.

After that, the rest of the night was a blur to me. There were a zillion harmonica players and drummers in the house. RJ called me up and I played a tune with him and the guys. He brought up Stan Erhart and Norm Decarlo. Stan sang a very nice version of "Serves Me Right To Suffer."

James Reed of Mojo Madness did a couple of tunes. He called me up to join him. Once, we got some communication difficulties out of the way, we had some fun trading solos on a Howlin' Wolf number.

Maxx Cabello played a couple of tunes with Freddie Roulette. The Buzzy Dupree Band played three or four tunes before Arthur Daugherty closed out the evening with Kenny "Blue" Ray.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Photos From The Hurricane Katrina Benefit

Photos from Steve Freund's Hurricane Katrina benefit hosted at the Ivy Room are now available. The people that I caught in action were:

Rusty Zinn, Rick Estrin, Craig Horton, Kenny "Blue" Ray, Applejack Walroth, Kid Andersen, John Graham, Birdlegg, Jon Lawton, RJ Mischo and Misty Browning.

Photos are located at: 2005: A Year in Progress

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

My Ultra Cool Tweed Champ Build

5F1 Champ

Last year, I started playing the harmonica again. I had two little practice amps. A little solid state Yamaha amplifier that sounds kind of funky. That isn't funky in a good way. The second one is really old. The are two labels. One says Tower Corp. The other is an address label that reads:

Tower Corp
400 S. Peoria Street
Chicago, IL

That's an address that is about a mile straight north of the original Chicago's Maxwell Street Market. It is a really cool little amplifier with some potentially cool Blues history. When coupled to the right microphone, it's got a very cool sound to it. Due to it's age, it doesn't exactly scream reliable. Plus, it has a pair of 6V6 tubes. I haven't pulled the chassis to see how it is wired up, but I suspect it should be a lot louder than it is. I would guess that it should be 10 watt amp. It's still pretty loud for the house.

A few months back, Don Yonder loaned me his Pro Junior. It's a nice little amp, but it was really loud. Paint peeling loud. Too loud for the house. He then loaned me a nifty little 15 watt Vox solid state amp. That one had a very cool boxy sound to it. It was nice, but it was still really loud. When I returned the amp, there were a bunch of guitar players milling around. I asked about a small low powered amp. The consensus was that I should look for a Fender Champ. I played through a silverface one twenty years ago and I didn't like it very much, but I was told the tweed ones were really cool. I started looking at tweed Champs on ebay and just about had a stroke when I saw the prices. I started looking at Champ clones. While the prices were lower, they were still astronomical. After bidding and losing on a couple of Victoria 518's, I decided to stick with what I had.

I was talking to Steve Freund about amplifiers and he told me that I really wanted to stick with an amp that was wired point to point. He suggested that I build one. I started looking at Allen Amps. They had some incredibly cool stuff, but the prices were more than I wanted to pay and their amp kits looked really complicated. Considering that this was my first electronics project since I was 11, I decided that it was too complex.

After some googling, I came across some tweed Champ kits. I researched the these things to death and eventually decided to buy one. I eventually decided to buy a 5F1 Champ kit from Mike Marsh at Marsh Amps. The reason why I decided to go with the Marsh kit was pretty simple. Mike Marsh has gotten nothing, but glowing reviews from his customers and his kit provided a brief set of build instructions. Plus, when I contacted him about the order, he gave me some feedback on speaker selection.

The build went smoothly. I took my time and it worked the first time that I powered it up. It sounded fantastic. It had a nasty hum that I couldn't diagnose, so I shipped it off to Mike. He found the problem pretty quickly. I had an errant glob of solder in the wiring of the 6V6 which wasn't easily visible. While he had it, he added the virtual center tap. When the repaired chassis arrived, I installed it in a laquered cabinet along with a Weber AlNiCo Signature 8. It looks and sounds fantastic. The tone is simply amazing. It's incredible how big the sound is from such a small box.

I took it out on it's maiden voyage at RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. Unfortunately, RJ was test driving a nice little Kalamazoo Model 2, so the true test didn't happen for another week. The following week, Birdlegg was hosting the jam, so I brought the amp down there to test it out.

I brought an old low impedence Green Bullet. Due to the lower output of this particular microphone, I was able to crank the volume up to 11 before reaching the feedback threshold. It was loud enough to be heard in the back of the room without being run through the PA. It ran non-stop for a couple of hours without a problem. It had a really fantastic sound to it.

Needless to say, it was a really fun project and I am very happy with the results.

A Quick Update

Gary Smith

I haven't really been up to much during the past couple of weeks. Last Saturday, I caught Gary Smith at the Mojo Lounge. He put on a great show with Mike Phillips (bass) and Jimmy Mulleniux (drums). I can't remember the name of the guitar player. He was really good. Chris Brown (aka Chris Evans) played guitar on a few tunes.

The only other musical activities that I've participated in during the past couple of weeks has been RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge on Tuesday nights. This past week was pretty cool. I had the opportunity to play a couple of tunes with three fifths of the Buzzy Dupree Orchestra. They kept me guessing the chord changes on an original tune. By the time, it was all over I think I got it down. It was fun. Hopefully, I didn't stink it up too badly.

The previous week, RJ was on tour and the jam was hosted by Birdlegg. Birdlegg is an excellent entertainer. His harmonica playing is in the style of Sonny Boy Williamson II. He sings and plays through the same microphone. That means, if you don't plan on singing and you're a harmonica playing, you had better bring a microphone to plug into the PA. Since, I knew that Birdlegg would be hosting the jam, I used this as an opportunity to test out my recently completed project, my tweed Champ clone.

There were very few harmonica players that day and Birdlegg was being very generous. He let me play for over an hour with a variety of players including: Scott Duncan, Vance Ehlers, John Graham and Don Yonder. One of the highlights of the evening was the opportunity to share the stage with the legendary lap steel guitarist, Freddie Roulette. I wanted to get some time on the amp, plus I wanted to hear how it sounded, so I let one of the harp players, Jeff, from the Buzzy Dupree band play through the amp. More on the amplifier later...

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Phantoms Of The Barrelhouse @ The Mojo Lounge

Last night, I dropped by the Mojo Lounge to take in the show by the Phantoms Of The Barrelhouse featuring: Barrelhouse Solly, Phil Harmonica, Scott Miller, Vic Vicena and Kenny Gross. I showed up at about 9:30. The place was packed to the rafters with people drinking and dancing during the all day Blues-A-Thon. They were treated to a fabulous performance which exceeded by high expectations.

The band played an ultra-long extended first set. I was floored when the first set ran for a little over a record two hours. Barrelhouse Solly, Phil Harmonica and Scott Miller all traded off vocal duties and each of them were in fine form. Barrelhouse Solly reminded the audience to lock up their women when he was in town. Unfortunately, one couple didn't heed the warning, but more on that later.

It must be said that the Phantoms Of The Barrelhouse are a very hearing friendly band. A couple of people mentioned that the lower volume levels made for a much more enjoyable listening time than some of the earlier rock-infused performances.

Scott Miller's guitar work was very impressive. He's a very good Blues guitar player. Phil Harmonica, or whatever name he's using these days, was sounding very good. His harp playing was very powerful. His tone was very heavy and classic. Barrelhouse Solly was the same as he always is. Great! His fabulous vocal stylists are reminiscent of an era that is long gone. Vic and Kenny didn't miss a beat.

During the second set, a few guests dropped by to perform a few numbers with the band. Gino Bambino played some fantastic harp playing on a couple of songs. I was asked to sit in on a couple of tunes. Gino Baronelli dropped by to add a third guitar to the mix.

Near the end of the set and during one of Barrelhouse Solly songs, a couple couldn't stand the hypnotic and apparently very sensual music the Phantoms were laying down. The removed the tip jar from the stool on the dance floor. The woman sat down and her male companion proceeded to gyrate and rub up against her in a very non-subtle way.

If you get a chance to see these gentleman, they are well worth it. The Phantoms Of The Barrelhouse provide their audience with excellent music that can be danced to in ways that violate moral turptitude laws.

RJ Mischo @ The Poor House Bistro

Yesterday, I went down to the Poor House Bistro with the family in tow to see the prolific and captivating, RJ Mischo and his fine band consisting of: Kid Andersen, Vance Ehlers and Hans Bosse. RJ was in fine form as he ripped through a bunch of his own material from his recently released CD entitled, "He Came To Play!" He mixed in some classic songs from the books of JB Hutto, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter and Big Walter Horton. RJ is one of those rare musicians that is true to the tradition, while adding a bit of himself to his performances which make them unique and spell binding.

Rick Estrin said it best, RJ has the prettiest tone around. Plus, he really knows his way around those ten holes. When you add in the electrifying guitar playing of Kid Andersen and the rock solid groove laid down by Vance and Hans, it made for a great evening of music. RJ was also kind enough to ask me to play on a couple of Elmore James tunes. That was a great deal of fun!

It was great to see a bunch of familiar faces and to meet some new people. We should probably all say a prayer for BJ as my kids adopted her into our family for the evening. I fear she may be scarred for life. It was great to see the fabulous Robin O and the lovely Miss Heidi.

Demonstrating that the Poor House is a family friendly environment, there were a multitude of kids in the audience. While I was walking to the bar, I found a little girl's hair bow on the ground. I walked up to a group of four young boys and asked them, if it belonged to them. Their eyes got as big as dinner plates before yelling the obvious, "Hair bows are for girls! We are not girls!"

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Hurricane Katrina Benefit

Applejack Walroth

Monday night, I headed up to the Ivy Room in Albany. Steve Freund was hosting a benefit for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. I arrived fashionably late.

When I arrived, I noticed that the place was packed to capacity. There were a lot of familiar faces in attendence. Mark Hummel was on stage. It was so crowded that I couldn't make my way to that side of the bar, so I hung out where I was. I talked with some people that I hadn't seen in a while.

After Mark Hummel finished up a crowd pleasing set, Jackie Payne & Steve Edmonson Band stepped on stage. I had seen these guys when they were a part of the the Dynatones, but was my first time seeing this band. They were very impressive and had a excellent horn section. The horn section was what really caught my attention before Jackie Payne started singing. It was a really nice change of pace as most of the bands that I've seen recently have been four or five piece ensembles.

Next up: Craig Horton, Rick Estrin and Rusty Zinn. This set was pure Blues straight from Chicago. These three guys traded off singing. Craig Horton is a throwback to a time almost gone. His guitar work and singing sounds like it's straight out of a bar on the South Side of Chicago. Rick Estrin played some great Sonny Boy Williamson-influenced harmonica and demonstrated excellent chromatic playing. He led a couple of mid-tempo tunes that were fantastic. It had been a while since I had last seen Rusty Zinn. The last few times that I've seen him, he has changing his look so much that I wouldn't have recognized him. When he started playing, it was pretty obvious who was playing.

Next up: Applejack Walroth, Steve Freund, and Kenny "Blue" Ray. Applejack sang three or four tunes. He performs every Sunday afternoon with Blues Power at The Saloon in San Francisco. He's a very good singer and harmonica player. He dates back to 1960's Chicago and worked with Elvin Bishop.

Next up: Birdlegg and the Tight Fit Blues Band featuring John Graham, Patty Hammond and a drummer that I didn't recognize. They were joined by Kid Andersen. They played several songs and Birdlegg worked his ass off. There isn't much more that I can write about him, that I haven't already written. He's a great entertainer and very cool.

Next up: Daniel Castro and Kenny "Blue" Ray. I headed outside for a bit. It was pretty hot in the bar with all of the people present. These guys were really good, but very loud. Loud enough to be heard outside, so I hung out until they were done.

Next up: RJ Mischo, Kid Andersen, Jon Lawton and Bob Welsh. RJ, Kid and Jon each did a song or two. Kid Andersen played an Otis Rush-style number that knocked the ball out of the park.

Next up: The lovely Misty Browning sang a few numbers. I had seen her at the Mojo Lounge a few times. She played acoustic guitar and displayed her magnificent singing voice.

At this point, it was about 1:00am and I had to get up early the next day for work. I headed out as Steve Freund and his band were getting back on stage with Rontu Karr.

One last thing: Robi Bean and Randy Bermudes backed almost every band. They were onstage most of the night and were rock solid as usual. They were probably the performers of the evening.

It was a really long night, but I've been to Blues Festivals with lineups no where near as good as what was presented at the Ivy Room. It will certainly be a memorable night and it was for a worthy cause.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Blues Fest Weekend Report

Lynwood Slim

Yesterday marked the beginning of a very busy week and the conclusion of a very busy weekend.

Friday afternoon, I caught the kickoff event of the San Francisco Blues Festival, the West Coast Harmonica Jump featuring: RJ Mischo, John Nemeth, Birdlegg and Lynwood Slim. Backing these guys was a band that knows how to back harmonica players, the current Charlie Musselwhite Band fresh off the road and sounding great. Kid Andersen, Randy Bermudes and June Core.

John Nemeth kicked off the festivities to a crowd which continued to grow in size and stuck around until the last note was played. He began the afternoon's performance with a really nice version of the BB King classic, Sweet Sixteen. After his performance, Birdlegg kept the crowd on their feet with one of his electrifying performances including walking out in the crowd using a wireless microphone. When he left the stage, people were screaming for an encore. The requests came to an abrupt halt when RJ Mischo started playing some excellent post war Chicago Blues. Lynwood Slim kept the groove going, but brought things straight back to the West Coast with some excellent chromatic harp playing that invoked the memory of George Smith.

Overall, the weather was fabulous. It was a warm and sunny day. The music was great. It was a perfect way to spend the day.

There was a lot of great music happening Friday night. I got sort of a late start on the evening, so I thought why mess with success. The West Coast Harmonica Jump was happening at the Mojo Lounge, so I decided to head down there for a while. Vance Ehlers had replaced Randy Bermudes on the bass for the evening performance. John Graham played some fantastic slide guitar during Birdlegg's performances. Lynwood Slim played the flute on a couple of numbers. The place was packed. It was a really fun evening.

Saturday, I took things easy. I don't bounce back as well as I used to.

James Cotton

Sunday morning, I took the family to the Great Meadow at Fort Mason in San Francisco to take in the San Francisco Blues Festival. We got stuck in a traffic jam at the Bay Bridge toll plaza. Once we got off the bridge, the traffic gods were smiling on us. Almost every traffic signal was green. We made it from the Bay Bridge exit to Fort Mason in less than ten minutes.

When we walked into the park, Steve Freund was going up on stage joined by Ken Saydak, Harlan Terson and Marty Binder. Ken sang a couple of tunes before bringing Dave Specter to the stage. Steve sang a few songs off of his Delmark releases and played a couple of nice instrumentals off of there most recent CD before bringing Shirley Johnson to the stage. It had been about ten years since the last time that I saw Shirley Johnson perform. Her powerful voice has improved like a fine wine. It was really unfortunate that she only sang two songs. She was great!

After she walked off the stage, I was disappointed that I hadn't gone to see the Delmark Blues Revue the previous night at Biscuits and Blues, but then I remembered that I don't bounce back as well as I used to.

Next up were the Campbell Brothers followed by the North Mississippi All Stars. Mavis Staples was up next. For the next two hours, I felt like I had been transported to a festival somewhere in the deep South. The music was filled with energy and great.

The Fabulous Thunderbirds were celebrating their thirtieth anniversary. Prior to the festival, I had seen almost every member in the group. However, it was the first time that I had seen this band. They weren't my favorite band of the day, but they were really enjoyable. I liked how Kim Wilson would lead the band into a slow blues with a very hypnotic quality and then Nick Curran would come up and smack the audience upside the head with a really high energy number. Overall, their set was pretty cool.

The final set of the afternoon was billed as The Legends of the Chicago Blues. Bay Area artist, Ron Thompson joined Bob Stroger and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. He sang a few tunes, before turning over the microphone to Bob Stroger. The groove got real nice and laid back in keeping with the lazy Sunday afternoon. Willie Smith sang a few numbers before introducing Hubert Sumlin. He sounded really good. You certainly couldn't tell that he had been ill in the past year. After a couple of great Howlin' Wolf tunes, James Cotton joined the band. He immediately tore into a couple of his classic instrumentals, How Long Can A Fool Go Wrong and Cotton Boogie. He proved once again that he is one of the best blues harmonica players of all time. Elvin Bishop and Kim Wilson came on stage. Kim Wilson sang a tune and traded harmonica solos with James Cotton. When he left, Willie Smith sang Got My Mojo Working and Charlie Musselwhite walked on stage and exchanged soloes with James Cotton. They finished up the evening with an extended version of Sweet Home Chicago before everyone called it a wrap.

Overall, it was another great festival weekend.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Gary Primich @ The Mojo Lounge

Gary Primich

Last night, I caught Austin-based harp player Gary Primich down at the Mojo Lounge. He put on a great show consisting of some very nice originals along with some dusty old chestnuts from the 1950's that I hadn't heard in a very long time including some Billy Boy Arnold and Clarence Garlow tunes. It was a very cool show.

Gary Primich is a fantastic harp player. His playing is very versatile and true to the memory of Sonny Boy Williamson II, Little Walter, Billy Boy Arnold and a multitude of others. His guitarist, Jeremy Johnson, is also very good. He is a native of Minneapolis and has toured with R.J. Mischo. Teenage heartthrob and guitar wizard, Kid Andersen and June Core sat in for a few numbers and really tore things up. Blues harmonica master and accomplished vocalist, Phil Berkowitz" was celebrating his 40th birthday. He and Dennis Carelli each sat in for a number.

I ran into several people at the show. The President and CEO of Mountain Top Productions was present. He mentioned that the work on the Blues Harp Meltdown - Vol 3. is progressing quite nicely. This CD was recorded at Moe's Alley in 2004 and contains stellar performances from: Carey Bell, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Lazy Lester, Cephas & Wiggins, Mark Hummel and Steve Freund.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 09/13 Edition

Freddie Roulette

Last night, I was planning on heading up to the Ivy Room to see Steve Freund. I was too blasted tired to make the drive up to Albany. I decided to go to the Mojo Lounge to catch the first set of R.J. Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam and then head home. The plan didn't quite work out.

When I arrived, I ran into RJ and Don Yonder talking in the parking lot. RJ mentioned that lap steel guitarist extraordinaire, Freddie Roulette was going to be playing. He sounded fantastic. I ended up staying most of the night.

The band for the evening consisted of RJ, Freddie Roulette, Kenny "Blue" Ray, Marc Carino and June Core.

It was a pretty busy night for harmonica players. There must have been about a dozen in the audience. Junior Morrow stopped in near the end of the evening and sang a few tunes. The highlight of the evening was listening to Junior sing the Albert King classic, I'll Play The Blues For You and hearing Freddie Roulette play a phenomenal Albert King-style solo on his steel guitar.

That was really cool!

Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Birdlegg's World Famous Blues Jam - 9/06 Edition

Tuesday night, R.J. Mischo was on vacation. In his absence, Birdlegg was hosting the World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge.

It was a really fun evening. The band for the evening included: Birdlegg, John Graham, Vance Ehlers and Norm Decarlo. There were a multitude of guests including: Mark Hummel, Little Junior Crudup, Arthur Daugherty, Don Yonder, Jerome Engelberts, Ryan Eric, E-Rock, me and many more.

I had the opportunity to play a few songs with Little Junior Crudup, Don Yonder, Ryan, Vance Ehlers and a drummer named Tom. It was a good time. Junior sang a couple of really nice slow tunes before finishing up with Turn On Your Love Light. It's always a blast to be on the stage with him. He's an excellent singer and entertainer.

Saturday, September 3, 2005

Gary Smith & Kid Andersen @ The Poor House Bistro

Friday night, I got home from work a little early. After watching the news coverage of Hurricane Katrina, I decided that I needed to get out for a bit. I dragged my family down to the Poor House Bistro in San Jose. Gary Smith and Kid Andersen were playing. Hans Bosse and some bass player that I've never met rounded out the band. We arrived during the first set. The place was packed.

It seems like whenever Gary Smith plays anywhere in the Bay Area, harmonica players come out like cockroaches in the middle of the night. There were a bunch of them in the audience. During the second set, Gary brought a couple of them up to perform. Jimmy Dewrance and Gil deLeon played some very fine blues harmonica.

Anyway, the music was great. It was good to see Kid Andersen back after a summer of touring with Charlie Musselwhite. The owner of the Poor House Bistro is planning a big fund raising event for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. See their website for details.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Photos For August

Lara Price

Since I started the new job, I haven't have much time to update my web site, but I have been taking pictures. I just finished adding photos for the months of June and July. Here is a list:
  • 08/13 - RJ Mischo, Vance Ehlers, Bob Welsh and Hans Bosse @ the San Jose Jazz Festival
  • 08/13 - Lara Price @ the San Jose Jazz Festival
  • 08/14 - Nick Moss, Piano Willie, Gerry Hundt and Bob Welsh @ the San Jose Jazz Festival
  • 08/14 - Ron Thompson @ the San Jose Jazz Festival
  • 08/18 - Bo Diddley @ the San Mateo County Fair

The URL is: 2005: A Year in Progress.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Birdlegg & The Tight Fit Blues Band


Friday night, I dropped by the Mojo Lounge for a couple of beers and to catch the first set of Birdlegg and the Tight Fit Blues Band. Birdlegg is an old school entertainer. There aren't many guys like him anymore. He is constantly in movement. If he isn't singing or blowing the harp, he is dancing around on or off the stage. Regardless of the size of the audience, he looks like having a great time. He works his ass off whether there are two or two hundred people in attendance.

His harp style is very different than most West Coast harmonica players. While most West Coast harmonica players are trying to recapture the amplified style and magic of Little Walter or George Smith, there is nobody quite like Birdlegg. He plays a very downhome style that is heavily influenced by Sonny Boy Williamson II. During the first set, he covered some great classic tunes including Sonny Boy's, Don't Start Me To Talkin' and Help Me. He also covered the classic Chick Willis tune, Stoop Down Baby... Let Your Daddy See.

Throughout the course of the first set, people kept walking in that ensured an interesting evening. Shortly before taking a break, Birdlegg recognized Wylie Trass and Little Willie John Jr were present and would be performing during the next set. Unfortunately for me, the clock on the wall said it was time to go and I couldn't stick around.

The Tight Fit Blues Band consisted of John Graham, Patty Hammond, Willie Jordan and a keyboard player I didn't recognize.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Bo Diddley @ the San Mateo County Fair

Bo Diddley

[b]Bo Diddley[/b] is one bad mother.....

Bo Diddley can only be described as amazing! At 76 years old, he's still sharp as a razor blade and puts on a tremendous show. The first time that I saw Bo Diddley perform live was in 1986 at the third annual Chicago Blues Festival. It was an amazing show. Almost 20 years later, he's as great as he ever was. The only indication that age has caught up with him is that he now performs seated. This is due to a bad disc in his back from carrying around that huge custom guitar stuffed with electronics for the past 50 years.

After 50 years in the business, he deserves to take a seat. He's been touring with the same band for a number of years now and they are super tight. It seems like they have learned to expect the unexpected and they anticipate what he is going do next.

The first thought of seeing a living legend performing at the county fair is that the sound is going to stink. That was not the case this year! According to one of the concession people, San Mateo pumped over $3M into the sound and lighting system. It was great!

The place went nuts when the band started playing the intro to Bo Diddley and he walked out on stage. The sound was loud, but as clear as Lake Tahoe. The lighting was great. It was a worthy venue for a person that helped define the sound of past 50 years of American music. For the next two hours, he played a number of his hits from the 1950's like: Bo Diddley, Crackin' Up, I'm A Man, and Hey Bo Diddley! He also mixed in some newer material including a couple of rap numbers before finishing off the evening with Roadrunner.

It was an incredible evening! To paraphrase Dr Rene Belloq in the Raider's Of The Lost Ark,

We are merely passing through history, Bo Diddley is history.

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 08/16 Edition

RJ Mischo hosts one of the best Blues jams that I've ever attended. It is also one of the busiest. This past Tuesday's edition was a great one. Keeping in the tradition of you never know who is going to show up, the rumor on the street was that Nick Moss and the Flip Tops would be backing RJ must have spread like a wildfire in dried grass. When I arrived at the Mojo Lounge, the place was jam packed with enough professional musicians to create a pretty mean Blues festival.

The band consisted of RJ, Gerry Hundt, Piano Willie, Wes Starr and Vance Ehlers. The first set was great and very laid back. Everyone was seated, except for Vance playing the upright bass. It had a very classic front porch feel to it. About half way into the first set, Gerry Hundt set his guitar down and started playing the mandolin.

You would have needed a scorecard to keep track of everyone that was onstage. While I was writing this, I tried to remember everyone that performed, but it wasn't possible. Here is what I can remember:
  • RJ Mischo, Gerry Hundt, Piano Willie, Wes Starr and Vance Ehlers
  • RJ Mischo, Marvin Greene, Piano Willie, Wes Starr and Vance Ehlers
  • Junior Crudup, RJ Mischo, Marvin Greene, Piano Willie, Wes Starr and Vance Ehlers
  • John Nemeth, Marvin Greene, Sid Morris, Norm Decarlo and Vance Ehlers
  • Randy Peretta, Vince Caminiti and a bunch of guys that I've never seen before.
  • Southside Slim, Vince Caminiti, E-Rock, an unknown harp player and Vance Ehlers
  • Southside Slim, E-Rock, Vance Ehlers, Glenn Mandelkern, Don Yonder and me.
  • RJ Mischo, Gerry Hundt, Glenn Mandelkern, Don Yonder, Wild Bill Pruitt and me.
  • Mark Hummel (harp/vocals), Gerry Hundt (guitar), Don Yonder, Bob Welsh, Wes Starr and Wild Bill Pruitt
  • Mark Hummel (guitar), Gerry Hundt (harp/vocals), Bob Welsh, Wes Starr and Wild Bill Pruitt

There was a-whole-nother set, but I can't remember everyone else that played.

Here is a list of everyone that I saw in the place and I am likely missing some names.

RJ Mischo, Little Junior Crudup, John Nemeth, Southside Slim from LA, Mark Hummel, Gerry Hundt, Lisa, Piano Willie, Bob Welsh, Sid Morris, Glenn Mandelkern, Marvin Greene, Don Yonder, Vince Caminiti, Russell Barber, Johnny Reyes, Chris Brown, Ryan Eric, Randy Peretta, Toby, Vance Ehlers, Mike Phillips, Wild Bill Pruitt, Eddie B, Wes, E-Rock, Norm DeCarlo, Screamin' Ian, Barrelhouse Solly, James Reed, Arthur Daugherty, Greg Greenspan, Jeff Ballard, a couple of new guys and me.

The music was great all night long. It was cool to play with Southside Slim. He's an excellent singer. His guitar playing was very intense and powerful. He took control of the stage. It was really fun playing with him.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Weekend Report

R.J. Mischo

Man, what a great weekend!

Steve Freund @ The Mojo Lounge

The weekend started off on a really high note. Friday night, Steve Freund was playing in Fremont at the Mojo Lounge. Steve is a slice of Chicago that has been transported to the West Coast. He is true to the tradition of the greats that came before him. Steve is true bluesman.

He's a very deep player and a human jukebox. It isn't uncommon to hear him mix in tunes from the Bluebird-era artists like Tampa Red and Big Bill Broonzy. He'll also toss in some material from more contemporary artists like Paul Butterfield or Peter Green. During the course of his shows, the listener will travel through the history of 20th Century blues.

Steve's band consists of some of the best players in the Bay Area. Scott Brenton provides some very good rhythm guitar work and delivers some razor sharp guitar work that cut to the bone. His guitar playing just keeps getting better and better. He is also a very nasty harp player. He's got phenomenal tone and a style that is reminiscent of Big Walter Horton.

Burton Winn and Robi Bean put in place a fabulous groove and keep time like a Rolex watch. Robi had a nasty case of the flu. By the time it was said and done at the Mojo, he and Burton had played for over eight hours. If they were tired or sick, it didn't show. They looked like they were having a great time and the music was fantastic.

There was nothing being played but the finest in blues. In addition to several of Steve's original tunes, he mixed in some material from Little Milton, Detroit Junior and Albert King.

In the third set, he invited me to play a few songs with his band. That was a real treat for me. It's always a good time to play with Steve and his band. He's a very gracious host and I really appreciate the opportunity.

RJ Mischo @ The San Jose Jazz Festival

After Friday night's festivities, I had a rough time getting out of bed. Fortunately, the opening of the San Jose Jazz Festival didn't start until 1:00pm. RJ Mischo and his Red Hot Band were the opening act in Blues Alley at the San Jose Jazz Festival.

RJ's band consisted of Bob Welsh, Vance Ehlers and Hans Bosse. Since, I've been seeing these guys so much in more intimate club settings, it was sort of weird seeing them on the big stage. They started off the set with some very mellow numbers of gradually built up the level of intensityas their set progressed. They finished off their great set with Snooky Pryor's Pitch a Boogie Woogie.

By the end of their set, it was really crowded. There were a lot of people dancing and milling around. They sold a bunch of CD's. By the end of the show, there were none left.

Lunch @ The Poor House Bistro

The family and I cut out to grab some non-festival type grub. We walked over to the Poor House Bistro for some great Cajun food and dirt cheap beers. We talked to the owner for a bit. He's a really nice guy. It's a nice place run by some nice peoplethat serves some great food! It's worth checking out. They've got live Blues on the patio on Friday evenings. They also have music at other times. Check their web site for details.

Lara Price @ The San Jose Jazz Festival

After a fine lunch, we caught the tail end of Lara Price and Laura Chavez's performance. The music was good. Lara Price is a good singer with a deep voice. There were a ton of people on the street and near the stage. It was really hot with all of the energy being dissipated by the crowd of dancers, so I snapped a few photos and decided to get out of the crowd. As we were leaving, I saw a woman passed out on the side of the street. After reporting it to the authorities, I disappeared into the crowd.

Nick Moss @ The San Jose Jazz Festival

Nick Moss & The Flip Tops started off the festivities on Sunday afternoon. From the first note to the final one, all I could say was "Dayum!" The sounds were pure Chicago influenced by departed legends such as Muddy Waters and modern day legends like Magic Slim and the Teardrops. It was just one high energy tune after the next. It was pure Chicago.

The amount of versatility in that band is nothing short of amazing. Piano Willie sang a few numbers, played the piano and switched over to the bass for a bit. Gerry Hundt started out playing the bass before playing the harp and guitar. Bob Welsh, who had playing the previous day with R.J. Mischo, sat in on bass for a few tunes.

Between this set and Steve Freund's great show on Friday night, I was feeling really homesick for Chicago.

Ron Thompson @ The San Jose Jazz Festival

During the break, we wandered around the festival grounds and let the kids tear up the festival grounds. We made it back to Blues Alley just as Ron Thompson and the Resistors were starting up a smokin' hot set. The crowd got to be too big. There was no place to sit or stand with a decent view of the stage, so we cut out as he was winding up one of his very high energy performances.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Mike's Auto Body

Back when I was living in Chicago, I went to a regular jam at a local 50's bar which had been converted from an auto body shop, hence the name, Mike's Auto Body. The bandleader was a great guitar player named Mark Wydra. He has worked with a long list of folks including: Eddy Clearwater, Floyd McDaniel and Dave Specter. He was a great guy that introduced me to a bunch of cool people.

Anyway, they lost the jam night gig and were replaced with a white leather jumpsuit wearing Elvis impersonator one man band. I got there kind of late and the place was almost empty.

Just as I was leaving another regular showed up. He was a younger guy named Al Rowe. He was the leader of a band called The Al Rowe Experience and he was a great Hendrix impersonator. He dressed and played the part perfectly. He played a left handed Stratocaster strung right handed and everything. He was the winner of a national Jimi Hendrix competition.

Mike, the owner, introduced the two of us to the Elvis impersonator. He asked us to play a few numbers with him. We just sort of looked at each other and said, "Okay, what the hell. Why not?"

The stage was about eight feet off the ground and built atop a bunch of classic car parts. We played slow Muddy Waters tune. I think it was "Nineteen Years Old" and then Slim Harpo's, "I'm a King Bee." On stage was an Elvis impersonating one man band, a Hendrix impersonator and me playing the harp. I wish I had that on video.

They closed their doors about a month later and converted the place back to a body shop.

Tuesday, August 9, 2005

Remembering Detroit Junior

Emery "Detroit Junior" Williams, Jr., died in his Chicago home on August 9, 2005 of heart failure.

Detroit Junior was an awesome guy. Back when I lived in Chicago, he was a fixture on the Blues scene. He was one of those rare guys that when he walked in a room you could sense that he was someone special simply by his presence. When he sat down to play and sing, it confirmed his star quality. He was all over Chicago in the 80's. If he wasn't at one of his own shows, he was sitting in everywhere. He loved the music and it showed in every one of his performances.

I never met him until the mid 90's, when he came to Chicago and performed for two weeks at Blues on B in San Mateo with Shirley Johnson. He was one of the nicest and most approachable guys on the Blues scene that I ever met. I went to every one of those shows. Despite the fact that he was on kidney dialysis which sapped his seemingly boundless energy, he still managed to put everything into his music.

The last time I saw him was in Chicago in 1996 at the Chicago Blues Festival. He was walking down Jackson Blvd heading toward the city. It must have been a 100 degrees outside and it was incredibly humid. It was miserable. I can't imagine how he must have felt. People suffering from kidney failure typically don't sweat. He was exhausted. He was wearing a dark red suit and a black hat. He stood out in the crowd as always. His attire was a stark contrast to the crowd of festival attendees dressed in T-shirts and shorts. When I said hello, he stopped and talked with me for a bit in the hot afternoon sun. When he left, he was slowly walking across the bridge over the Illinois Central tracks and he disappeared into the crowd.

He was a prolific songwriter that combined humor with real world experience. He is certainly one of the last great postwar piano players. He was a great entertainer and a really nice person.

Thursday, August 4, 2005

New Toy Acquisition

Creative Labs MuVo2

My wife finally decided that I should move out of the dark ages of vinyl LP's and CD's and into the 21st Century.

Recently, Fry's Electronics was running a special on the Creative Labs MuVo2 MP3 player. As far as microdrive MP3 players go, this thing was dirt cheap at $129. To make it an even sweeter deal, Creative Labs offered a $30 rebate to bring the price down to a mere $99. For a hundred bucks (plus state sales tax of 8.25%), I ended up with a pretty cool MP3 player with 4.0 GB hard drive capacity. While it might not be as cool looking as an iPod Mini or the Creative Labs Zen Micro, it's over a hundred bucks less and having an extra hundred bucks in the pocket is pretty damn cool!

The nice thing about this player is that it appears as a USB flash drive to most computer systems. That means I can connect it to my Linux box at home and easily move files to the player by dragging and dropping them into place. Recently, I set up a method to automatically capture and archive MP3 webcasts to disk using some open source tools and some simple shell scripts. I can listen to radio shows like the Byrd of Paradise's [b]Blues With Feeling[/b] or Steve Cushing's Blues Before Sunrise when it is convenient.

Last night, I loaded about 900 songs and a few three hour radio programs to this thing. This included most postwar 50's Chicago Blues worth listening to including a great deal of the Chess Records catalog. It's only about 75% full.

This has enabled a whole new way of listening to music for me. Life is good!

Wednesday, August 3, 2005

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 07/26 Edition

It was a cool night at the Mojo Lounge. In addition to lovely ladies like: Robin, Christine and Julie, there were a plethora of guests. I'm not sure that I can remember all of them, but I'll give it a shot.

RJ Mischo, Bob Welsh, Marcus Carino and June Core were the house band for the evening. Featured guests during the course of the evening were:

Vocals: Miss Amy Lou
Guitars: Chris Evans Brown, Steve Kirby, Bree, Scott Miller, Gino Baronelli, Oakland Toby and his buddy Nikolas. There were a couple of new guitar players that I hadn't seen before and I didn't get their names.
Keys: Glenn Mandelkern
Bass: JD Bartman,
Drums: Luke Piro, Dawon and E-Rock
Harp: Harmonica Hutch, "Double G" Greg Greenspan, Arthur Daugherty and me.

RJ assembled the following bands throughout the course of the night. This is where my memory starts getting fuzzy. I've had a really long day. I know that I'm missing at least one here and Glenn was in and out throughout the course of the night. He may have played with each of these bands.

#1: RJ, Bob Welsh, Marcus Carino and June Core.
#2: Bob Welsh, Harmonica Hutch, Chris Brown, Marcus Carino and June Core.
#3: Steve Kirby, Scott Miller, Miss Amy Lou, JD Bartman and Luke Piro.
#4: Steve Kirby, RJ, Bree, Bob Welsh (on bass) and E-Rock.
#5: Bob Welsh, Double G (vocals), RJ, Marcus Carino and Dawon
#6: Oakland Toby, his buddy Nikolas, Marcus Carino and Dawon
#7: Missed this one.
#8: Bob Welsh, Arthur, Gino, Marcus Carino, June Core and me.
#9: Bob Welsh, RJ, Gino, Marcus Carino, June Core and me.

Overall, it was a pretty cool night.

Monday, August 1, 2005

The Weekend Report

RJ Mischo @ the Poor House Bistro

Friday night, I took the family to the Poor House Bistro near downtown San Jose. The Poor House Bistro is a converted Victorian style home which features music on the patio on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday afternoons. The Cajun-style food is reasonably priced and very good.

RJ was performing with Marvin Greene and the Chavez brothers. The first set was extremely laid back which fit perfectly with the lazy Friday afternoon atmosphere. There were several musicians in attendence including drummer extraordinaire, Jimmy Mulleniux and guitarist Johnny Reyes. RJ announced that there would be several guests druing the second set. Unfortunately, I couldn't stick around to watch it.

Andy Santana @ The Mojo Lounge

Saturday night, I caught Andy Santana & The West Coast Playboys at the Mojo Lounge. The band featured: Andy Santana (vocals, harp & guitar), Palo Alto Slim (guitar), Mike Phillips (bass) and Joey Ventitelli (drums). They put on an excellent show. Andy Santana is an excellent harp player, top notch guitarist and singer. P.A. Slim provided some excellent guitar work in a very postwar Chicago vein. Mike Phillips and Joey V provided a rock solid groove from beginning to end. If you get the chance to see them, jump on it. They are worth seeing.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

RJ Mischo's World Famous Blues Jam - 07/19 Edition

Greg Greenspan

My sister and her family were in from out of town. I wasn't planning on going out. After they split, the night was dwindling, but still relatively young so I headed down to the Mojo Lounge for a bit. The music was well underway when I arrived. RJ had already called a couple of folks up to the stage. Jerome Engleberts from Nightmare On Bourbon Street and a keyboard player, Glenn Mandelkern.

The house band for the evening was RJ, Kenny "Blue" Ray, Marc Carino and Marty Dodson. After a couple of songs, RJ brought up Arthur Daugherty. Arthur is a good singer and a very good harp player. Arthur laid down a couple of Lazy Lester tunes and a Muddy Waters tune with Kenny "Blue" Ray demonstrating some excellent guitar work.

Little Junior Crudup was called up for a few tunes. RJ was gracious enough to ask me to join them. How could I say no? Little Junior sang the Otis Rush classic, "I Can't Quit You, Baby" and Bobby Bland's, "Turn On Your Lovelight." In the middle of the first tune, Mark Hummel walked in. After Junior Crudup left the stage to a great deal of applause, RJ came up and did a great version of "Mother-In-Law" Blues.

There was a short break.

The second set began with the vocal debut of Double G, Greg Greenspan. He was performing with Don Yonder, Luke Piro, Marc Carino, Glenn and Lilly Dubois. Double G let loose on a couple of Junior Wells classics. RJ called up Mark Hummel and Kenny "Blue" Ray to replace Greg and Don. Hummel played a fantastic version of a Sonny Boy Williamson tune. (The title is escaping my fading memory at the moment.) He also whipped out a chromatic harp and blew a fabulous version of Little Walter's "Blue and Lonesome."

It was time for a change in guitarists. Blue Ray and Lilly left the stage to be replaced by Mark Hummel and Ryan Eric. Mark Hummel plays some very nice, classic postwar 50's style Chicago Blues on the guitar. Harpman and retired school teacher, David Mandell sang a self penned blues that he wrote for a bunch of sixth graders. He was given a standing ovation by the crowd. He played a short instrumental before leaving the stage.

RJ switched the band around again. Scott Duncan and Bree replaced Mark Hummel and Ryan. Luke Piro tagged out and the electrify E-Rock tagged in. RJ led the band for a couple of rock-n-roll tunes. Bree blew the roof off the place with a fabulous Chuck Berry-influenced guitar solo.

RJ brought up James "Loose" Reed from Mojo Madness for a few tunes. Scott sang a few tunes and then James sang a few. Alvin Draper was in the house and he sang and played a few tunes. James came down. RJ got back up.

It was getting late. I had to get up early in the morning, so I split.

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Photos for June & July

Kid Andersen & Charlie Musselwhite

Since I started the new job, I haven't have much time to update my web site, but I have been taking pictures. I just finished adding photos for the months of June and July. Here is a list:The URL is: 2005: A Year in Progress.

Tuesday, July 5, 2005

This Week - Part Two

Saturday night, the family and I caught a very non-Blues related act at the Alameda County Fair. Former American Idol contestant, Diana DeGarmo was performing. She put on a pretty good show. Her dancers were a little on the hokey side, but it was fun. She's a cute kid with a ton of energy and an amazing voice.

Sunday afternoon, I went to the blues jam at The Bistro in Hayward hosted by The Phantoms Of The Barrelhouse. The band consisted of:
  • Barrelhouse Solly - guitar/harp
  • Phil Harmonica - harp
  • Scott Miller - guitar
  • bassist Vic Vicena and
  • Kenny Gross on drums

There were quite a few people stopping by to sit in including: Greg Greenspan, Dave Walker, Jersey Jim Nestor from One More Mile,, Don Yonder, James "Loose" Reed, Linda Martinez and myself. It was a great time and it is definitely worth checking out on the first Sunday of every month.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

This Week - Part One

Monday, I went to the Alameda County Fair to check out Charlie Musselwhite & Elvin Bishop. Prior to Monday, I was not a big Elvin Bishop fan, but the show on Monday changed my opinion. I'm still not a huge fan, but the performance was very good. I would definitely go and see him again. Not a lot of blues, but the music was quite enjoyable. His tone was simply amazing. The sound was good. Overall, his performance was very good.

It was exactly the opposite of the Charlie Musselwhite show. Prior to Monday, I wasn't a huge Charlie Musselwhite fan. I always thought he was a great harmonica player, but I was never really moved by any of his recordings that I had heard. I really went to see his band. His performance changed my opinion. He's very impressive. He's sporting some really great tone and he played some very cool old tunes and mixed in some other stuff to keep it fresh. His band was excellent. What can you say about Kid Andersen, June Core and Randy Bermudez that hasn't already been said? They are great. It was really unfortunate that the sound totally sucked for the Charlie Musselwhite sets. The fairgrounds ought to can that soundman. He finally got it right on the last song of the second show. It was an excellent show. I would definitely go to see him again.

Tuesday night, I dropped into the Mojo Lounge for about an hour or so. The place was buzzing about some tunes that RJ and Mark Hummel had played together. RJ had Bob Welsh, Mike Phillips and Hans Bosse making up the house band for the evening. Arthur Daugherty played a few Lazy Lester and Sonny Boy Williamson tunes. Scott Hickman got up and played a couple of Big Walter tunes before the band took a break. Scott Miller had a couple of very nice guitar solos. After the break, RJ called me up. I played a tune with him and the members of the Buzzy Dupree Orchestra. At that point, I had to bail. The alarm clock would be going off in five short hours.

Q & A with Joe

Many people ask me, "Joe, why do you seem to have disdain for many harmonica players, when you yourself are a harmonica player?"

The easy answer is that many people that play the harmonica are extremely annoying to those around them and they play and all of the wrong times.

Last night, I saw the human embodiment of every trait that I loathe in a harmonica player.

  1. They play while sitting the audience while other people are on stage performing. The band was on the stage. There was another harmonica player up there playing his ass off, while some moron was sitting at a table playing along with the band. Of course, he was totally out of key and playing a very high pitched harmonica. It's almost always been something that they has to be special ordered like a Hi-G dog whistle. Unfortunately, it isn't high pitched enough that only dogs can hear it. Everyone within distances typically covered by a restraining order could hear him whining on that damn harp. Nothing annoys me more than this.
  2. This is a sub-point to point 1. They park their lazy ass carcass next to the best looking girls in the bar, so when you are scoping out the ladies you can't help but see them in the midst of their little performance. They sit there, trying to chat up the ladies and saying stuff like, "Hey baby, check this out. I can play that." before they begin another alcohol fueled harmonica solo. Of course, some poor sap is onstage playing.
  3. Another sub-point to point 1. You can't escape them. Ever. You go to the men's room they are in there playing to take advantage of the tile walls and the echo, so they can sound more like a classic Excello recording. You go outside for a breath of fresh air, they are out there attempting to blow their brains out, but they never seem to succeed.
  4. They rush the stage and attempt to wrestle the microphone away from whoever is up there playing. This basically says two things. First, they think that the person that is playing sucks. Second, they think that they can do a better job. In most of these instance, neither is usually true, but you can't tell the person that. They won't listen, because they are busy playing away.
  5. They are running around all night long like a damn lunatic, playing that blasted harmonica and then when they finally get their big opportunity to get on stage and play with a good band, they run for the door like the building is on fire.
  6. Finally, poor grooming and personal hygiene.

Why does this happen? Who the hell knows. I suspect it is because harmonicas are cheap. I don't remember who said it, but the basic idea is that the first harmonica someone purchases should cost several hundred dollars to weed out those kind of people.