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.