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.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

R.J. Mischo's Blues-O-Rama

Little Junior Crudup

This past Saturday night (June 25) the Mojo Lounge celebrated their second anniversary by presenting a Blues extravaganza that rivaled many blues festivals. The first band of the evening was the Willie G Blues Revue. I arrived during the middle of their second set. When I walked in Don Yonder was singing a very nice version of Sonny Boy Williamson's, Help Me. After Don finished up, he brought Pork Pie Phillips. Pork Pie is an excellent singer and he ripped through a couple of great tunes. As is customary, shortly after I arrived, the band took a break.

During the break, I ran into friends and met several members of the Yahoo! Bay Area Blues Group. After a short break, the band started up again with the great Willie G. He sang a couple of fabulous tunes before inviting the Blue Eyed Queen of Soul, C.C. Cole to the stage. She tore through a couple of soul-soaked tunes and returned the microphone to Willie G. He concluded the first show of the evening by getting everyone up on the dance floor for a fantastic version of James Brown's Sex Machine.

The second show of the evening started shortly afterward and it was a very tough act to follow. R.J. Mischo presented his Blues-O-Rama. It was an epic journey of Blues history starting from the deep South, traveling North to Chicago and ending up on the West Coast. He kicked off the show with an excellent rendition of The Creeper. A couple of songs into the first set, he tore the cover off the ball with a fabulous George Smith chromatic harmonica instrumental. That tune alone was well worth the admission fee. The members of the Red Hot Band included: Justin McCarthy, Marcus Carino and Hans Bosse.

After a couple of songs, R.J. brought up his first guest of the evening. Little Junior Crudup. Junior is an old school entertainer. His family is deeply schooled in the blues tradition. HIs uncle was the legendary Big Boy Crudup. Junior doesn't need to rely on his family history. His singing proves that he is one bad ass Blues singer. After singing three numbers that tore the house down to it's foundation, Junior stepped down and turned the stage over to Steve Gannon and Craig Horton.

Craig Horton is a fantastic singer and guitar player. He grew up in Arkansas and made the trek to Chicago prior to settling in Oakland. He has performed with such blues legends as Chuck Berry, Sam Cooke, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy and Freddie King. He sang some excellent tunes from both of his fine CD's on Bad Daddy Records.

The second set followed the same type of format, but R.J. brought up some additional guests artists. Sid Morris joined the band and tickled the ivories for the second set. R.J. also brought Screamin' Ian up to the stage and he blew an excellent harp solo that was reminiscent of Big Walter Horton. He had a full rich tone that really complemented Craig Horton's excellent vocals.

For the last few numbers, R.J. had a couple of regulars from his Tuesday night jam join the band. Don Yonder and me. One additional new face belonged to a blues singer from New York named Blue Rice. He sang a pretty nice rendition of Down Home Blues. He also sang "everybody's favorite Bobby Bland song," Stormy Monday Blues. For the evening's closing tune, Dennis Briggs sang the old Junior Parker chestnut, "Next Time You See Me." Overall, it was a great eight or nine hours of Blues.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Some Great Blues Links

This past week, I've spent some time checking out the wealth of Chicago Blues history that is depicted on Barrelhouse Chuck Goering's great website. Barrelhouse Chuck is an old school blues piano man that was schooled by some of the greatest Bluesmen to have lived. There are photos of the true piano legends of the Blues like Little Brother Montgomery, Sunnyland Slim, Pinetop Perkins, Lovie Lee, Detroit Junior, Erwin Helfer and Blind John Davis.

There are also photos of Louis and Dave Myers, Fred Below, Little Smokey Smothers, Big Smokey Smothers, Floyd Jones, Willie Kent, Big Voice Odom, Little Willie Anderson and too many other people to mention. This is probably one of the best photo excursions on the web from a guy that has been there since the late 70's and early 80's.

Here is the URL: Barrelhouse Chuck's Story in Pictures.

Another great photo site worth mentioning is Bob Corritore's Web Site. Bob is the owner of the finest Blues club in Phoenix, AZ, the historic The Rhythm Room. He is also a very talented harp player and record producter. He has also produced a couple of truly historic albums by two of Chicago's finest harmonica players, Big Leon Brooks and Little Willie Anderson. Additionally, he produced a truly fabulous album called Low Blows: An Anthology Of Chicago Harmonica Blues. This CD featured incredible performances by: Big Walter Horton, Good Rockin' Charles, Big Leon Brooks, Guitar Red, Easy Baby, Mojo Buford, Big John Wrencher and Big Wheeler. This may be the first anthology of blues harmonica geniuses ever produced.

Bob has some absolutely incredible photos from his days back in Chicago on the web.

Here is a link: Bob Corritore Photos

Both of these sites feature way too much stuff to list. If you are reading this and haven't checked it out, you really should. Be warned, it could take several hours to check out these sites. This is Blues history.

Sunday, June 5, 2005

Last Week In Review

Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne

Friday night, I caught Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne and Hurricane Hoerl with the Steve Freund Band down at JJ's Blues Lounge. It was an awesome show. I talked to someone that was present at both shows and they said the one at JJ's was even better than the one at Biscuits.

I had the dates transposed and almost missed it. I thought that they were at JJ's on Saturday. I was really glad that I checked. You just don't see blues piano played like that too much anymore. Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne was simply incredible. Hurricane Hoerl was sounding great and he sang an excellent version of the rarely heard Junior Wells chestnut, Thing's That I Would Do. There are very few living guitarists that can support a piano player like Steve Freund and he was spot on all night long. Robi Bean and Tim Wagar just laid down one fabulous groove after another. Sid Morris came down and sat in for a few numbers. It was amazing!

Tuesday night, I went down to the Mojo Lounge. That was a good night, too. RJ Mischo and Little Junior Crudup came down and sat in for a few numbers that rocked the house down to it's foundation. There were some new faces down there that I hadn't seen before. Someone was videotaping a portion of the evening's festivities, so one can expect that it will be released by some Japanese company in the near future.

Additionally, I got a call from the fine folks at Mountain Top Productions this week. The cover art (featuring some of my photos) for the third installment in the Blues Harp Meltdown series is being worked on. You can expect this two disc set in only the finest of stores where music is sold relatively soon. This one contains performances by: Steve Freund, Mark Hummel, John Cephas and Phil Wiggins, Lazy Lester, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Carey Bell. While visiting with the fine folks at Mountain Top Productions, I had the opportunity to play through several vintage microphones through a very nice reissue '59 Fender Bassman LTD. The sound was simply amazing when mated to an old Astatic crystal biscuit.

This past week was a pretty interesting week blues-wise.