Wednesday, December 31, 2008

2008 Wrap Up

I wrapped up 2008 pretty much the same way it started. I went to the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. Steve Freund was hosting the jam along with Robi Bean and Marc Carino. I arrived way late and missed the first set. I joined Scott Duncan, Marc Carino and a bunch of guys that I had never seen before. After two songs, Linda Martinez joined us and sang a couple of tunes. Mark Irwin was kind enough to let me use his very nice Masco amplifier.

The evening concluded with a couple of tunes by Junior Morrow. He was joined by Tumbleweed and East Bay Wes along with Marc Carino and Robi Bean.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Murphy's Law Jam

Everyone at home went to bed early, so I decided to head out to the Blues Jam at Murphy's Law. Johnny Cat and Mike Phillips were hosting the festivities along with June Core. For the past couple years, Johnny has performed and toured with the Terry Hanck Band. Two years ago, Mike Phillips began touring with the Charlie Musselwhite band.

June is a fabulous drummer. He is originally from Cleveland, Ohio. As a youth, he worked with Robert Jr Lockwood and Johnny Shines. He can be seen working with Charlie Musselwhite. Recently, he returned from a month long tour with John Nemeth.

It was a light night for jammers, so the members of the house band ended up performing quite a bit. I knew several members of the people hanging out, so it ended up being a good night filled with excellent music and the company of good friends, which was a nice way to spend some time during the holiday season.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Andy Santana & the West Coast Playboys

The past couple of weeks have been hectic. I decided to drop into the Poor House Bistro for a bit to see Andy Santana. Andy is a fabulous harmonica player, guitarist and singer. He's fronted a band called the West Coast Playboys for a long time. He's got some great tunes and he performs some very nice cover versions of songs that aren't heard very often. Joining Andy was Johnny Cat on guitar, Mike Phillips on bass and Butch Cousins on drums. It was a really cool evening of music.

One of the cool things about the Poor House Bistro is that it's a pretty casual atmosphere. It attracts a number of musicians, so you never know who will drop in. Jay Meduri, Marvin Greene, Big John Stokes and AC Myles played some guitar during the course of the evening. Johnny O, Aki Kumar and I played a little bit of harp. Johnny O was nice enough to allow us play through his Kinder Soulful amplifier.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I'm Moved In

Well, it took several weeks, but I am finally moved in and I took four years of blog postings with me from my previous site.

The main purpose of this blog is pretty simple. I attempt to document the various Blues related activities that I have going on.


First, I think there might be a few people that are interested in this stuff. Second, I am getting older and I thought I should write it down so I don't forget stuff.

What will you find here? A bunch of stuff. Mostly, it will be things that interest me like:
  • Information about the various blues shows I see.
  • Pimping my project of photographically documenting the blues scene in the San Francisco. This is a project that I have been working on since 2000.
  • I mess around as an amateur, part time blues harmonica player. From time to time, I will write a little bit about blues harmonica.
  • I've got some very cool and generous musician friends that put up with me shoving a camera in their face. Sometimes, I shoot video of their performances. That will get posted here, too.
  • I've also been called a Blues Nazi or purist, so I will write about recordings that I like. Don't expect to see read about Tommy Castro or Joe Bonnamassa here. It ain't gonna happen.
Watch for some other stuff as the dust settles.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Kim Wilson's Blues Review

I ended my 394 day boycott of Biscuits & Blues. I swore I would never set foot in that place again. I decided to change my mind when I heard Barrelhouse Chuck was coming to town as part of Kim Wilson's Blues Review.

The word on the street is that Kim Wilson was going to take the band that performed on the soundtrack of the movie Cadillac Records on a tour of the West Coast. That band included: Barrelhouse Chuck (piano), Billy Flynn (guitar), Richard Innes (drums) and Larry Taylor (bass). Joining them was Bay Area guitar talent, Rusty Zinn.

Barrelhouse Chuck, Billy Flynn, Richard Innes,
Kim Wilson, Rusty Zinn and Larry Taylor (l to r)

It was a fine evening filled with three hours of traditional postwar style Chicago Blues. I don't think I've ever seen so many harmonica players in one place before. I picked up one of Chuck's CD and had an opportunity to talk to one of the premier blues piano players alive. It was a really cool night.

It was almost marred by a near fatal accident on I-80. A pushing their disabled vehicle down the road was almost rear-ended by another vehicle traveling at a high rate of speed.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mojo Lounge Tuesday

The Tuesday night custom persists. I attended the World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge in fabulous Fremont, CA. Steve Freund was hosting the jam. Jimmy Mulleniux joined Marc Carino and Steve. The place was jumping. Notable guests included: Mark Hummel, Tumbleweed and Johnny Cat. It was a good night.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Blues Harp Players

Earlier today, I read another blog. It made me feel old. It was written by a harp player who listed a group of players that had an impact on him. He listed a group of modern day players, who were influenced by the true legends of the blues harmonica.

Anyway, here is my list. The people impacted me directly or through their recordings.
  • Big Walter Horton - I had started goofing around with the harmonica, shortly before Big Walter's death in 1981. I remember reading his obituary in the Chicago Sun Times. It stated that his passing represented that death of the last of the true blues harmonica giants. I picked up a copy of his Fine Cuts LP and was blown away by his monsterous tone. A few months later, I started hitting some of the blues clubs in Chicago and found a Blues scene that was thriving.
  • Little Walter - I was six when Little Walter Jacobs passed away. I remember reading about the importance of Little Walter in the book, Chicago Blues written by Mike Rowe. It didn't sink in until a few weeks later, I heard his legendary instrumental, Off The Wall. I was hooked.
  • Sonny Boy Williamson II - What more needs to be said about Sonny Boy Williamson II? His music was never overstated or understated. It was merely perfect. Fantastic tone, timing and technique. He was a prolific songwriter.
  • James Cotton - I lived in Chicago during the early and mid 80's. Whenever, James Cotton wasn't on the road, he was in Chicago. Some of the most incredible shows I ever saw were James Cotton shows. It didn't matter if the shows were with his band led by Michael Coleman or the special shows he did at Wise Fools Pub on Christmas day with Sammy Lawhorn, Pinetop Perkins, Calvin Jones and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. James Cotton is a fabulous harp player. He was also a very good singer.
  • Billy Branch - Billy Branch is one of the absolute baddest and most under-appreciated harp players that are currently active. He's appeared on hundreds of recordings for one very good reason. He's that damn good. I've seen Billy Branch more times than I can count. He's got the tone and the technique. He's not afraid to break new ground or take the blues harp in new directions blending R&B and Soul music in with traditional Blues. When the band starts playing that material, most harp players step off the stage, that's when Billy Branch begins to demonstrate his unique talents. Every time I see him, I learn something new.
  • Carey Bell - I've seen Carey Bell every time he appeared within 100 miles of home. I'll never forget the time he appeared at one of Mark Hummel's Harp Blowouts with a bunch of the current generation of harmonica heroes. They had been blowing their brains out for 90 minutes before Carey Bell walked on stage. He opened his set with a couple of chords that demonstrated his deep, rich tone and the crowd went nuts. He said more in 12 bars than all of the previous players did all night long.
  • Junior Wells - I had the opportunity to see Junior Wells on several occasions. The depth of his Blues playing run as deep as the Grand Canyon. He never seemed to have the respect of a lot of harp players, but he always had mine. Shortly after I moved to California, Junior was playing at JJ's in Mountain View. At the time, JJ's had three clubs. The horn section went to the wrong club and missed the first set and a half. Junior played some of the deepest Blues that I had ever heard. He blew some of the most amazing harp that I had ever heard. He was being backed by George Baze and Steve Ditzell. He sounded as good as the Hoodoo Man recordings. Amazing stuff.
  • Little Willie Anderson - He was probably one of the most underappreciated harp players in Chicago. He was a great stylist in the tradition of Little Walter. He had an excellent recording out on Earwig label. One of the coolest shows I ever saw was Little Willie Anderson and the Aces. They played three sets of songs true to the spirit and sound of Little Walter. I saw him several times. He was an excellent player. I quite a bit from him.
  • Sugar Blue - Sugar Blue was doing stuff 25 years ago that people are trying to do now. Of course, they give the man no credit. They don't cite him as an influence. When I lived in Chicago, he hosted the jam at the Kingston Mines. Very few harp players ever showed up to that jam. I think most people were intimidated by Blue's skills. He could play the low down traditional stuff and he could do his own thing. I learned a lot from him.
  • RJ Mischo - He's an incredible player. He has beautiful tone and technique. If it wasn't for RJ Mischo, I probably wouldn't be playing today. He got me motivated to play after a laying off for a long time. He gave me the opportunity to sit in with the best players on the west coast.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Steve Freund & Charles Wheal @ the Grand Dell Saloon.

I went to the Grand Dell Saloon in Campbell, CA. It's a pretty cool place. It's a great neighborhood bar. The neighborhood happens to be in an industrial park pretty close to the freeway. It is also the the home of BBQ & Blues in the San Jose/Campbell area.

Steve Freund was performing with Charles Wheal, Steve Wolf and Robi Bean. Charles and Steve Wolf were long time members of the Mark Hummel's Blues Survivors. Charles is a solid practitioner of Chicago Blues who taps into the songbooks of legendary artists such as: Jimmy Reed, BB King and Magic Sam. It was a great night of deep Chicago Blues in the postwar tradition.

During the last set, Steve asked me to join him on a few songs. Harp player Aki Kumar also played a few tunes. In the video below, I accompanied Steve and his band on a version of the Muddy Waters classic, "Got My Mojo Working."

Friday, December 5, 2008

This Week In Blues

Tuesday night - I hit the blues jam at the Mojo Lounge. Steve Freund was the host. He was joined by Marc Carino and Robi Bean. I sat in with them during the first set. Later in the evening, Mark Hummel dropped in and played a killer set with the host band.

Wednesday evening - Steve Freund was the featured band at the Redwood City Blues Jam. It was an evening filled with some pretty fine harp playing. During the first set, he was joined by Steve Kaufman. Steve Kaufman used to live in Chicago and played with Jimmy Walker, the legendary piano player. About 24 years ago, he relocated to San Francisco. He's a fine harp player and singer. He can be seen periodically sitting in with people at the Saloon in San Francisco.

I played a set with Scott Miller, Alan Oehler, Eric Hoyer, Norm Decarlo and a bass player named Mike.

Later in the evening, Mark Fenichel joined the house band for a few tunes. He was followed by Mark Hummel, who played a fabulous set with Steve Freund's trio.

Masco MA-17 Review

About a month or so ago, I took a one of my amps to amp repair guru Skip Simmons. Skip is well known for his refurbishing of old amplifiers and old PA heads. When I picked up my amp, he talked briefly. He handed me a box, asked me to take it home for a while, try out what is inside and let him know what I thought.

What was inside the box?

A Masco MA-17 PA head that has been refurbished to the original 1944 specifications. Skip had built up a few of them for Paul Oscher. He sent him a couple of modified heads and a stock one. The stock one was returned.

I took it to the jam at the Mojo Lounge and played through it. I plugged it into a 15" speaker that was in East Bay Wes's 1963 Vibroverb amp. It's amazing how loud 18 watts can be. It had a bottom end as fine as Jennifer Lopez. It sounded great.

A few weeks ago, I had a few spare hours in the evening. I plugged it into the pair of Weber 8" speakers in my Harpgear Double Trouble. I pulled out an old vintage JT-30 and started messing around. I cranked it up to the brink of feedback and cranked up the tone control. The sound was huge and vintage postwar 1950's Chicago Blues. I shot a little bit of video, but the camera could not capture the huge bottom that was pouring out of the Double Trouble's speakers.

A couple of days later, I decided to try the Masco with a pretty common microphone, a dynamic Shure 520DX aka the Green Bullet. I sounded pretty similar to the vintage Astatic microphone.

This amp is a definitely keeper, but I decided to postpone the purchase until the economic climate becomes a bit better. I do see one of these in my future when things stabilize.

November Update

I saw a lot of great music in November.
  • November 1 - Jimmy Dewrance was at the Poor House Bistro. Joining him were Steve Freund, Kedar Roy and Hans Bosse. It was a good night. Big John Stokes and I sat in on a couple of tunes.
  • November 4 - Steve Freund hosted the World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. I sat in with Steve, Marc Carino and June Core during the opening set. John Nemeth and Dmitry Gorodetsky (formerly with the Roomful of Blues) dropped in for a bit and sang a few tunes. They joined Steve Freund, June Core and me. I think Johnny Cat was there, too.
  • November 11 - Kenny "Blue" Ray was hosting the jam at the Mojo Lounge. I joined Johnny Cat, East Bay Wes, Ray Figueroa and Norm Decarlo for several tunes.
  • November 18 - Charles Wheal was hosting the jam at the Mojo Lounge. He called me up to play with him, Marc Carino and June Core during the last set. We were also joined by Junior Morrow for a few tunes. Dallas Breed joined us to close out the evening. It's always fun to jam with those guys.
  • November 19 - I stopped in to catch the School of the Blues All Star Band at the Redwood City Blues Jam. I had a great time jamming with several students from the School of the Blues.
  • November 24 - On this evening, I began a short vacation during Thanksgiving week. I headed to the jam at Murphy's Law in Sunnyvale. It had been far too long since I had seen the Pleasure Kings do their thing. I sat in with a couple of groups. The highlight of the night was playing a nice slow instrumental Blues with Scott Miller and Chris Brown.
  • November 25 - Jimmy Dewrance was hosting the jam at the Mojo Lounge. I jammed with Scott Duncan and several other guys that I hadn't met before. The final set with Johnny Cat, Aki Kumar, Eddie B and Hans Bosse was fantastic.
  • November 26 - Dennis Dove's South Bay Blues Reunion was the host band at the Redwood City Blues Jam. He was joined by a number of very talented people including: Kid Andersen, Johnny Cat, Mike Phillips and Bob Welsh. During ther second set, they were joined by Kenny "Blue" Ray and a singer from Sweden named Simon. They were kind enough to invite me up during their set which was caught on video.

Friday, October 31, 2008

The End of October

It's been far too long, since I wrote anything here. What can I say? I've been busy.

"October 29 - "I caught my friend Russell Barber at the Redwood City Blues Jam. It was a fantastic night. Russell put on a great show. There were some fabulous performers dropping in to perform like Kid Andersen and Little Jonny Lawton. I got called up and played with Kid Andersen and Scott Miller. It's needless to say, it was a great time.

"October 28 - "I dropped into the Poor House Bistro to catch John Nemeth and his band. He performed a bunch of material from his upcoming CD that will be released in January on the Blind Pig label. During the last set, John called up some guests which included Johnny Cat, Mike Phillips and me.

Now onto November...

Monday, October 27, 2008

It's Almost November

Not much time left in October. There are less than two shopping months left until Christmas. Here is the activity report for the past month.

"October 7" - Steve Freund hosted the World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. It was a very pleasant and mellow evening that I can't remember at this moment. The only thing I remember is that the music was excellent.

"October 8" -Terry Hanck was the host band at the Redwood City Blues Jam. It was their first Bay Area show in several months. It was great to see the guys. They sounded fantastic. Here is some video:

The Terry Hanck Band

"October 11" -Terry Hanck and his band performed three fantastic sets at the Mojo Lounge. This evening marked the return of Michael "Fly" Brooks. I had a great time jamming with Scott Miller who was in the midst of an Excello Records phase. He sang a couple of Lazy Lester numbers.

"October 14" - Papa Juke was hosting the jam at Ziggie's Saloon in Denver. Ziggie's Saloon is a historic Blues bar. Although, it's recently changed hands, it remains a pretty cool place. I was in the area on a business trip, so I thought I would drop in. Papa Juke was working on their show in preparation for the International Blues Challenge.

"October 15" - The Shuffletones were hosting a new Blues jam at Q's BBQ in Denver. This was a righteous jam. The house band is very tight with some really nice material. They called me up for a couple of sets. It was an excellent time. I'll be back there on future trips. I also met Mike Lynch hanging out. He's an excellent harp player from Seattle.

"October 18" - This show marked the return of King Arthur and the Round Table Rockers. It was their first appearance at the Mojo Lounge in several months.

"October 19" - The Sacramento Heritage Festival sponsored another great show at the Horseman's Club. Elmore James Jr, Eddie C Campbell and Ronnie Baker Brooks w/Joe Louis Walker were playing for a paltry $20. Elmore James Jr and Eddie C Campbell were backed by Cadillac Zack and his fine band from L.A. Those sets had a nice relaxed feel to them which fit in well with a lazy Sunday afternoon. The Elmore James Jr set had a nice Maxwell Street feel to it. Eddie C Campbell played some really nice Magic Sam styled stuff.

Ronnie Baker Brooks and Eddie C Campbell

Ronnie Baker Brooks has a super tight band with some very wonderful material. I had only seen him working with his father or sitting in with other people. He puts on a excellent show. Some of it was a little too "rock blues" for me, but he's one of the few guys that works that genre of music that can play Blues with fire, intensity and most importantly, soul. He mixes it up nicely. Joe Louis Walker did a few songs. He appeared to be under the weather, but he still sounded good. Eddie C Campbell joined them for a tune prior to closing out the day's festivities. It was a fabulous day.

"October 21" - Steve Freund hosted the World Famous Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. Jan Hagge came down and added some fabulous Hammond organ work to the house band consisting of Marc Carino and June Core.

"October 25" - Mighty Mike Schermer performed at the Mojo Lounge with an absolutely fabulous band. Mike has worked with a who's who of the West Coast Blues during the past decade or so. He's got some great material which spans almost every American musical genre, except Country. Although, I suspect he could play that too. He was kind enough to let me sit in during the last set.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Year Is Flying By!

It's already October. Some cool stuff happened in September.

"September 2" - Steve Freund hosted the World Famous Tuesday night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge.

"September 3" - I dropped into the Redwood City Blues Jam on the way to pick up a friend at the airport. Daniel Castro was the host. I caught his opening set. It was quite enjoyable.

"September 9" - Kenny "Blue" Ray hosted the World Famous Tuesday night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. The place was packed with a multitude of Blue Ray's students.

"September 10" - I went to see Steve Freund tear it up at the Redwood City Blues Jam. He was joined by the lovely Jan Fanucchi. Juce Garcia sat in with them. It made for an interesting evening.

"September 16" - Steve Freund hosted the World Famous Tuesday night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. It was a killer evening. If you're in the Bay Area, it's a show not to be missed.

"September 19" - Began a string of nights out that I am still attempting to recover from the lack of sleep. I caught Little Jonny and the Giants at the Poor House Bistro. I shot a bunch of video of Jon. He puts on a very righteous show, but the video shall speak for itself.

In this clip, he performs he Elmore James classic, "Talk To Me Baby." Little Jon Lawton (vocals/guitar), Marty Dotson (drums), Mark Fenichel (harmonica), Eddie B (bass) and Sid Morris (keyboards).

More videos can be seen here:

Later in the evening, Jon called Scott Miller and me to the stage for a couple of tunes.

After this show was over, everyone headed north to the Mojo Lounge to catch RJ Mischo's show, which was already in progress. He was joined by Kid Andersen, Kedar Roy and J Hansen. He put on a fantastic show. Half of the audience were musicians. He asked Frank Bey to join him for a few tunes and he blew the roof off of the place with some fine vocals. RJ also asked Jon Lawton to the stage for a few.

"September 20" - Saturday night, we returned to the scene of the previous night's crimes and caught RJ Mischo at the Mojo Lounge. I dragged my wife down there with several of her friends. We had a blast! There were several fantastic performers lurking in the audience like John Nemeth. By the time, the night was reaching it's conclusion, I was starting to run out of gas.

"September 21" - I spent Sunday evening on the coast. Don Yonders, East Bay Wes and I headed out to the Half Moon Bay Brewing Company. We saw RJ Mischo with a radically different band featuring Steve Freund, Kedar Roy and Marty Dotson. It was a very nice evening of straight Chicago Blues done the old fashioned way. RJ was kind enough to ask me up to play a couple of tunes. The Half Moon Bay Brewing Company is a cool venue to see music. The atmosphere is laid back. The beers are great. The food is excellent.

"September 23" - I rested on Monday. Tuesday night, Jimmy Dewrance was hosting the World Famous Tuesday night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. He was joined by Russell Barber, Eddie B and Hans Bosse. It was a pretty busy and crazy night.

"September 24" - RJ Mischo was hosting the Redwood City Blues Jam. He was joined by Steve Freund, Anthony Paule, Randy Bermudes and June Core. I shot a couple of video clips. First up, RJ performs the title track off of his most current CD, The King of a Mighty Good Time.

More videos can be seen here:

"September 26" - This was the final night of RJ Mischo's west coast trip. He was at the Poor House Bistro in San Jose. One of the cool things about seeing RJ is that he hires all sorts of different musicians which makes for a completely different show every time you see him. This was no exception. He had Kid Andersen, Mike Phillips and Hans Bosse with him.

He had a few folks sit in like Frank Derose, Big John Stokes, Jimmy Dewrance and me. There was also a 13 year old girl that sat in. She had a huge voice. If we don't see this girl on American Idol in the future, I would be shocked.

Here is a video clip of them performing the Muddy Waters classic, "Forty Days and Forty Nights" at the Poor House Bistro.

"September 27" - I stopped on the way to Gilroy Gardens and caught the first set of the School of the Blues Summer Concert. I shot a some video of my friend, Rich Fell's first performance on bass.

"September 30" - Steve Freund hosted the World Famous Tuesday night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. I sat in with Steve, Marc Carino and June Core. It turned out to be a very interesting evening. Former Bay Area resident, Twist Turner dropped in for a visit. It was nice to see a familiar face from Chicago.

Monday, September 29, 2008

BrianP's 8" Speaker Review

Snagged this for future use. It was written by Brian Purdy of HarpGear Amps. I thought I would share it, if anyone else if remotely interested.

Some time back I was trying to decide which 8" speaker worked best for harp in a Champ style amp. It was between a Jensen P8R, Jensen C8R, Weber Alnico Signature Series 8" and a Weber 8A100. Over time I have accumulated all of them and thought I would post some of my opinions for anyone else trying to make that decision. It was amazing I couldn’t find any reviews on line which really compared these speakers for harp use. So here we go.

1. Jensen C8R ceramic 8" 4 ohm - This speaker was not as round and definately had an "edge" to it that was not very pleasing to my ear. It will give you that fat distorted sound if you overdrive the mic element but it wasn't the nice fat round dark tone that I like when I hear the amp honk. It just sounded a little harsh. I know there are people out there who like the harsh edgy sound of a ceramic so if that is your taste you will find it here. I do want to emphasize that this speaker is not so bad that I would find it unacceptable. It is just isn’t right for my taste. $21.79

2. Weber Alnico Signature Series 8" straight cone 4 ohm - This speaker has a good round tone but was a little bright. It does break up nicely when you overdrive the mic and still gives a nice clean sound also when you back off and are looking to just get a nice cleaner enjoyable sound. I like this speaker but for the price you can almost get the Jensen which does sound better and I believe is built a little better. $45.00

3. Weber Alnico 8A100 4 ohm straight cone - This speaker is definately well put together and has a nice sound. It will break up early and sounds good when pushed. It does compress well at loud settings like they claim and sounds very round and sweet. It is a little darker than the Signature Series 8" and definately more punchy than the Signature Series. $75.00

4. Jensen P8R Alnico 8" 4 ohm - This speaker exhibits a lot of the same qualities as the 8A100 speaker. The main differences to my ears are that this speaker seems to be darker with a little more bass response. It sounds very nice compressed and breaks up very well. It also gives you a great warm tone for when you don't want to push it too hard and want to have a nice warm round sound without the distortion. I really like this speaker and can definitely tell a difference between this one and the Signature series or the ceramic Jensen . For my money this is the winner. $46.49

Please note that this review is based on my ears and may not agree with everyone elses ears. I did go as far as to record all of them and listen carefully to the recording over and over until I was sure I could give an accurate review on them. I enjoy testing different equipment and don't mind having a few extra speakers around to play with or use when restoring or building another amp. I do want to say that there are definitely people out there who view the Webers as the only choice and anything else is of lower quality and not worthy of consideration. I have heard it so long I figured it must be so also until recently when I decided to give the other speakers a chance and test them out. I would say that as appearance and feel goes I can’t outwardly tell a difference in quality.

Add on as of 9/6/06

The WeberVST 8" Signature Series Alnico 4 ohm Straight Cone speakers when broken in are now one of my favorite speakers for a champ. The Jensen P8R is still a great speaker but with some time and love the Weber Signature Series Straight cone slightly has the edge to me. The Weber 8F100 ceramic speaker is an awesome speaker with great tone and honk. When I tell people that speaker is ceramic most people don't belive it until I show them. It has EXCELLENT tonal charateristics for harp. Another new addition to the review is the Weber 8A125-0 speaker. A great sounding alnico speaker that is very dark and breaks up superbly with more perceived volume probably because of the larger voice coil. I currently use an 8A125-0 in my personal HarpGear 2 and an 8F100 speaker in my personal HarpGear 1. In the 10" line I love the Weber 10A125-0 speaker over everything I have tried in that size and I am still testing 12" speakers and will give my thoughts on them when I make a thorough evaluation. Once again all these observations are my opinion backed by quite a few people who have listened with me. Not everyone will agree but I feel safe in making these suggestions. One more note. I generally aid the break in of my speakers now with fabric softener (scent free) which was recommended to me by Ted Weber of WeberVST. It helps to soften the cones and give them a rounder more broken in sound and it is totally safe. I spray the fabric softener onto the cone with the speaker sitting on its magnet and then use my fingers to spread the softener gently. I don't rub it in but gently move it so it puts a light, even coat on the speaker cone. I avoid getting much on the voice coil cover. I apply about 4 times and the speakers sound better in the long run. Please don't go overboard and try to put the softener on heavy. Do it a little at a time and please realize this is something you do at your own risk. I will add more to this as I do more testing. I still have more 8" speakers from other companies to test sitting here.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

It's September Already!

Damn! It's the end of August already! Time sure does fly by when you are having fun. I've been having fun, but it's also been a month filled with some sadness.

This month, Phil Guy and Little Arthur Duncan passed away. It's a pretty significant loss to the scene there. Both of those guys had been actively playing for well over 30 years. Little Arthur was one of the last harp players around with ties to the mid 50's scene.

Locally, drummer and guitar player Robert Leroy Jones (aka Lenord Silva) passed away on the 21st. He had been very active in the Bay Area music scene since the 1970's. He was a rock solid drummer and a really nice guy.

Now onto some more of the fun stuff.

"August 2nd" - Musically, the month started off pretty darn nice. I caught JT Ross, the Harmonica Boss at the Poor House Bistro. He was performing with Johnny Cat, Tim Wagar and Butch Cousins. He put on a helluva show. His sound is very reminiscent of William Clarke and George "Harmonica" Smith. He let me sit in on a couple of numbers. Here is a version of the Hound Dog Taylor classic, Give Me Back My Wig.

"August 5th" - I dropped into the World Famous Mojo Lounge Blues Jam hosted by Steve Freund. As always, this is a great jam with some very good players and it's hosted by one of the best Blues guitar players around. It was a blast playing with Steve Freund. I've got some videos of this to be added to youtube at some point.

"August 6th" - I was working in Menlo Park, so I decided to drop into the Redwood City Blues Jam and catch the opening set by the South City Blues Band. I signed up and played a couple of tunes with Russell Barber and Amy Lou. It's always fun jamming with them.

"August 9th" - I caught a very nice show by Kenny "Blue" Ray at the Mojo Lounge. Joining Kenny were Don Yonder, East Bay Wes, Eddie B, Aki Kumar and Artie Chavez. Kenny called me up to sit in during the final set.

"August 12th" - Mojo Lounge Blues Jam hosted by Kenny "Blue" Ray. Good times, good times. If I remember correctly, I played with Kenny "Blue" Ray, Eddie B and Norm Decarlo.

"August 15th" - Caught a killer show by Steve Freund and Charles Wheal at Cafe Van Kleef in Oakland. This was absolutely fantastic at one of the cooler venues in the Bay Area. Joining them was Steve Wolf and Robi Bean. It was an excellent show! I'm going back to this place!

"August 16th" - The very next day, I went to the Poor House Bistro and saw Jan Fanucchi & Friends. Her friends were Steve Freund, Walter Jebe, Burton Winn & Robi Bean. It was a good show.

"August 22th" - Started out the evening by dropping into the Poor House Bistro with the family. We had a nice dinner and saw an excellent set by Mighty Mike Schermer. We dropped off the kids and caught another fine show by Steve Freund & Jan Fanucchi at the Mojo Lounge.

"August 5th" - I played a fun show with Don Yonders and Eat Bay Wes at Babe's Place in Livermore. It's a pretty fun place to hang out and a great place to people watch.

"August 26th" - Jimmy Dewrance hosted the Mojo Lounge Blues Jam. It was a crazy night and everyone in attendance had a good time.

"August 29th" - I dropped into the Poor House Bistro to see Swingshift. They are a rock solid band featuring some of the Bay Area's best players. I sat in on a couple of tunes and had a blast. Afterward, I headed to Murphy's Law and saw Gary Smith blowing some fine harp. He was joined by one of my favorite guitar players in the area, Little Jonny Lawton. Charlie Musselwhite band members, Mike Phillips and June Core rounded out a World Class rhythm section.

"August 30th" - I went back to the Poor House Bistro to see John Nemeth. The place was packed with private parties. There was no place to hang out and see the band. We hung out for a bit hoping that a table would clear out, but it never happened. It was great to see John, Bob Welsh, Marty Dotson and Kedar Roy.

It rounded out a really great month of August!

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Week In Review

It's been a couple of interesting weeks.

Last week, I was in Denver on a business trip. I was planning on dropping in a Dan Treanor's blues jam at the Boulder Outlook. Unfortunately, the information on their website was inaccurate. I got there and there were a few people hanging around eating pizza. I left.

I headed to a blues jam at Ziggie's Saloon in Denver hosted by Papa Juke. I hung out and played with a pretty righteous group. We played for about an hour. I also jammed with a harp player and microphone tech named Chris Richards.

On Wednesday, I stopped into the D Note in Arvada to jam with the Clamdaddy's. I hung out for a while. Since I had to work early the next day, I couldn't hang out until the end. It was a good time.

Thursday afternoon, I headed back home.

Saturday night, I went to the Mojo Lounge to see Steve Freund. He put on a great show!

Tuesday night, I dropped into the Mojo Lounge for the blues jam. Steve was hosting the jam. It was a crazy night that also marked the return of the infamous Don Yonders.

It was a fun filled week.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Jon Lawton at the Mojo Lounge

The second installment in the series of Bay Area Blues performances features a visit from Jon Lawton as a guest of Steve Freund at the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam.

Jon's been playing the guitar for almost 40 years. He relocated from Omaha, Nebraska to California a little over two decades ago. He's been a fixture on the Blues scene out here ever since. This past Tuesday, he dropped into the Mojo Lounge to visit and perform with his long time friend, Steve Freund.

Steve is a very cordial host. When he hosts the Blues jam at the Mojo Lounge, it's a free clinic in the Blues idiom. Steve opens up the jam by performing a fabulous first set often inviting some of his very talented friends to join him.

The first entry in the trio of Blues performances is a fantastic version of the Lowell Fulson classic, Hung Down Head. This version features a fine band including: Steve Freund (vocals/guitar), Jon Lawton (guitar), Tim Wagar (bass) and Jimmy Mulleniux (drums).

In the second installment of the video trio, Steve turns over the microphone to Jon. He starts off his segment with a fine cersion of the Jimmy Reed classic, Going Upside Your Head.

In the final entry, Jon leads a fabulous version of the Big Mac classic, Rough Dried Woman.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Some Forgotten Stuff

It's been a couple of busy weeks for me, I saw a few things that I forgot to write about.

First up, James Cotton at Yoshi's in Oakland. It was an incredible performance. The band sounded great. James Cotton sounded fabulous. The sound system is excellent and managed by professionals. The audience was super respectful. They allowed Mr Cotton and his fine band to perform to the best of their abilities.

It was great to see Blues return to Yoshi's. That weekend saw a CD release party for Kenny Neal. Other than Mark Hummel's Harp Blowouts, there hasn't been much Blues performed at Yoshi's since Jimmy Rogers passed away in 1997.

Second, I went to the Alameda County Fair in Pleasanton, CA. I saw the Terry Hanck Band. They put on three very enjoyable sets. Terry's band is fantastic. They are super performers and instrumentalist's. Terry Hanck's an excellent singer. It was a great way to spend an evening.

Third, this past Tuesday, I went to the Mojo Lounge to experience the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam hosted by Kenny "Blue" Ray. He was joined by Steve Edmonson. Steve is an excellent guitar player. He can be seen working with Jackie Payne. It was a fun night. Here is some video featuring:

This video features Kenny "Blue" Ray (guitar - left), Steve Edmonson (guitar - right), Ray Figueroa (bass), Norm Decarlo (drums) and me (harp) performing the Howlin' Wolf classic, "I Didn't Know."

This is it until I write about this past Saturday's extravaganza at the Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival and the Poor House Bistro. I'll get to that in a couple of days after I get the photos uploaded.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Birdlegg at the Mojo Lounge

Lately, this blog has become an activity report detailing my activities. It has become about where I go, who I see perform, etc, etc, etc... It has become a little bit stale.

So, I decided to shake things up a bit.

Since, I frequently have a video camera with me. I've decided to capture a few tunes and write a little report to accompany the video.

Here is the first installment in a series of at least one. There may be more, so check back in the future.

This past Tuesday, Birdlegg dropped into the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge. For those readers unfamiliar with Birdlegg, he is a fine singer, songwriter, harp player and entertainer. In my opinion, he is one of those performers that is due greater recognition than he receives.

This entry of Joe's Blues Blog will chronicle this evenings captivating set by the Oakland Blues performer.

On this particular evening, he was joined by Stave Gannon and Steve Freund on the guitars. Randy Bermudes was on the bass and Robi Bean on the drums.

They opened a three song set with a tune entitled Maria. Let's take a listen...

One of the favorite tunes of Dina, the lovely and talented bartender on Tuesday evenings, is the classic Walkin' The Dog. As seen in the next video, Dina (joined by the infamous Double G) got up to dance a bit. During the middle of the tune, Birdlegg takes advantage of an opportunity to have some fun with everyone's favorite bartender.

For those people unaccustomed to the harsh realities of life in the poorer section of some American cities, Birdlegg provides an education on those realities in the next and final video. He and the band perform the excellent tune, San Pablo Avenue.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Harpgear Double Trouble

"I wrote this for Rick Davis' Blues Harp Amps blog and thought I would keep a copy here for posterity."

About four years ago, I started playing the harp again after laying off for a number of years. Living in the San Francisco Bay Area, there are a lot of harp players. There are almost as many Blues jams. I started hitting a few of them. I was able to try out a lot of different amplifiers.

In the past two years, I've owned several amps. Each of them had their own good and bad points. Tonally, I didn't have any issue with any of them. The main challenge that I had was finding a balance of volume and portability. Some amps were not loud enough. Others were too loud and not very portable. I found a good balance by picking up a Harpgear Double Trouble.

It's a killer amp that packs a surprising punch and is extremely versatile. It has a lot of great tones available in a nicely sized package. It's a righteous balance of portability, tone, volume and feedback resistance.

Portability - This amp is about as wide as a tweed Champ and about almost two feet tall. In the standard configuration, it features two 8" Weber Alnico speakers that are mounted vertically in the cabinet. I am going to guess it weighs less than twenty five pounds. It easily fits in the passenger seat of an average car. One can easily carry the amp in one hand and a suitcase full of harps in the other hand.

Tone - The tone control is incredibly useful. Leave it turned off and you'll get a nicely distorted tone. Turn it up and the tone cleans up nicely. You can dial in as much high end as you wish. The higher the tone control is set, the better the amp punches through the mix. It's a very useful control.

Volume - This amp has two 6V6 power tubes delivering 18 of the loudest and most useful watts around. In the stock configuration, it gets pretty darn loud. It is much louder than a Pro Junior or a Blues Junior. It isn't quite as loud as a tweed Bassman, but it can be very loud. It sits very comfortably on a chair. It's been played in some really loud places. I haven't been in a situation where I or the audience couldn't hear it.

Feedback Resistance - Battling feedback is a problem for most people playing amplified harmonica. One of the nicest features of the Harpgear Double Trouble is very feedback resistant. Feedback doesn't usually set in until the amp is close to the end of the sweep of the volume control. Depending on the microphone, it can be as high as 8 on the volume control. (Which is very loud.) Rarely, have I ever needed to turn it up that loud.

How Does It Sound? - This amplifier sounds good with every microphone I own.

A few months ago, some of the people on the Weber Harp BBS were posting sound clips of their amps on youtube. I contributed a couple of this amp with a couple of different microphones.

The first clip is a Shure 545 dynamic microphone plugged into input #1, volume at 6, tone on 10. Hohner Big River Harp key of A.

In the second clip, I am using an older MC-151 equipped Hohner Blues Blaster plugged into input #1, volume at 8, tone on 0. Hohner Big River Harp key of C.

Finally, another nice feature of the Harpgear Double Trouble is that it doesn't cost as much as a house payment or an annual IRA contribution.

Friday, June 20, 2008

The Week In Review

I've had a really busy week!

Kenny Neal

Last Sunday, East Bay Wes and I rolled up to Sacramento. We dropped into the show at the Horseman's Club to see: Kenny Neal, Rick Estrin & The Nightcats, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. It was hot in Sacramento. As one would expect, it was a really solid show and an incredible entertainment value @ a mere $20. I shot 347 photos. I will post some of them on my much neglected web site.

On Tuesday, I headed off to Colorado for a few days.

After checking on the Internet, I was bummed out. I almost always miss out on some cool shows by a week. This trip was no exception to the rule. I missed Delores Scott by four days.

On the first and third Tuesday evenings of every month, Dan Treanor hosts a very cool blues jam at the Boulder Outlook Hotel in Boulder.

Dan is a really nice guy and excellent harp player. He fronts a fine blues band. I walked in during the middle of the first set and who do I see on stage singing with the band?

Delores Scott. I had the opportunity to talk to her briefly. She's a really sweet lady and a very good singer.

After they finished up their set, he started up the jam. Dan was kind enough to let me sit in with his band for a few numbers. It was a lot of fun. Dan invited me back. Overall, it's a pretty friendly jam and the people are pretty cool.

A couple of guys were shooting video of the evening with an impressive array of equipment. When I asked them what they were planning on doing with the video they shot, they acted like I was interrogating them and wouldn't answer my questions.

Wednesday night, I headed to Arvada, Colorado. I stopped by a really nice restaurant called the D Note. They had some great looking food and a nice selection of local microbrews. Since, I had a late lunch, I had a couple of beers.

They have an early blues jam hosted by a band called The Clam Daddys. I hung out for a bit before being asked if I wanted to join the band on stage. It's a pretty funky down home, almost acoustic style jam. It was a lot of fun to play there. Tommy and Moses are both a couple of nice guys. We played several songs together. They invited me back and told them I was welcome to join them anytime.

I got back home late last night and was dead tired.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Mark Hummel @ The Redwood City Blues Jam

Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors hosted the Redwood City Blues Jam. Mark was joined by Rusty Zinn. They did a really nice opening set that included a tribute to the late Bo Diddley.

After they concluded, the jam began. A couple of groups of folks got up and did their thing. There were a ton of harp players, few singers and guitar players. Vince, the jam master, probably had some challenging moments getting everyone on stage.

During the second set, the Bo Diddley theme continued on. The first video is a very nice version of the Little Walter classic, Roller Coaster. Bo Diddley played guitar on the original version of the tune.

Later in the set, Mark and the guys were joined by Alvon Johnson. They performed the Bo Diddley hit, I'm A Man.

After this set, there were a couple more groups of jammers. I got up with Vince Caminiti, Bart Shea and Scott Malcolm. It was the first time that I had the chance to play with Bart. He's a solid vocalist. I had to get up early for work the next day so I couldn't stick around until the bitter end.

Overall, it was a really good night.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Remembering Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley @ the Alameda County Fair

July 2004

Today is a sad day in American musical history.

The legendary Bo Diddley passed away. Bo Diddley has been around since I can remember. The first time I ever saw him was probably around 1972. He appeared on the ABC TV show In Concert. It was a really memorable show for me. I remember talking to my Dad about him and he told me he was one of the pioneers of Rock and Roll Music in the 1950's and that he was one of the only people that played a square guitar.His performance left an impression on an eleven year old kid.

It was a number of years before I heard of him again. In the early 1980's, I was in college. It was when I came into contact with Chicago Blues. When I started learning more about the history of the music, you couldn't help but learn about the contribution of Bo Diddley. I became re-acquainted with him through his recordings for Chess Records.

The first time that I ever saw him was at the 1986 Chicago Blues Festival in Grant Park. He was scheduled to appear and be reunited with Billy Boy Arnold. It was an incredible day of music.

Along with Bo Diddley was:
  • Willie Dixon‚Äôs Big Three
  • Otis Rush
  • Memphis Slim w/ Matt ‚ÄúGuitar Murphy
  • Bo Diddley and
  • Chuck Berry

Back in those days, it was a great lineup. Looking back on it, it was an amazing assembly of talent that simply boggles the mind. I'll never forget Bo Diddley's perfomance that day. It was fabulous.

After that day, I saw him almost every chance I got.

Come to think of it, all of his shows were fabulous. Bo Diddley never failed to deliver every time that I saw him. I can't remember him ever having a bad performance.

In 2000, I caught him at the Fountain Blues Festival in San Jose, CA. I shot about 200 photos of him that day. I remember him pointing at one of the other photographers and told him to stop taking photos. At the end of the song, he pointed at the guy and said, "That guy needs to stop taking my photo. I don't want those pictures showing up on the Internet."

For a number of years, he performed at a variety of County Fairs in Northern California. I went to every one of those shows.

Bo Diddley @ the San Mateo County Fair

August 2005

He appeared at the San Mateo County Fair. It was an indoor performance. The lighting was fabulous. The three million dollar sound system was awe-inspiring. I captured one of my favorite photos ever. It may not be the best photo that I've ever taken, but it is one of my favorites. I can still hear that fantastic version of Roadrunner that capped off an incredible show.

It seems cliche to say he was a Rock and Roll icon and that his contribution to the history of American music is immeasurable. He's going to be missed.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Steve Freund @ JJs Blues Lounge

Saturday night, I caught an excellent show at JJ's Blues Lounge and caught an excellent performance by Steve Freund. Steve was joined by a very special guest, Jan Fanucchi. She sang several very nice tunes throughout the course of the evening. During the last set, he was invited Johnny Cat to the stage for a couple of tunes. It was a really nice evening of music.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

California Blues Festival

Bobbie Webb

On Memorial Day, I headed down to beautiful Golden Gate Park in San Francisco. Golden Gate Park is the home to a multitude of homeless derelicts. It is also the home of the California Blues Festival. This year was the 14th or 16th annual festival.

This year had featured several of the same performers that appear on an annual basis like Bobbie Webb and Fillmore Slim. This year, Willie G, Pat Wilder and Tia Carroll were added to the bill.

One thing that never changes is that there were way too many performers to get onstage in the five hours of the festival. I arrived at about 1:30pm. Bobbie Webb was in the midst of a nice set featuring some fantastic Junior Walker instrumentals.

There is always a surprise act. This year, the Kelly Richey Band from Cincinnati made a surprise appearance. Thankfully, it was an abbreviated performance. It wasn't a performance that moved me.

I ran into some longtime friends that I hadn't seen in a while.

At about 3:30pm, we realized that there were still five acts to perform. Fillmore Slim delivered a solid performance. Willie G did a short set and sounded great. There was a female singer that sang a couple that I had never seen previously. Unfortunately, I didn't get her name. Tia Carroll did a nice version of Matchbox Blues. The show wrapped up with a nice tune by a singer named McKinley.

The show wrapped up about ten minutes late. Overall, it was a good day featuring good music and good friends.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Hummel and Freund at the Mojo Lounge

Mark Hummel & Steve Freund

Mark Hummel dropped into the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the Mojo Lounge hosted by Steve Freund. Mark joined Steve midway through the first set and played some killer tunes. (See above and see more of the evening's festivities on my youtube channel.).

The place was jam packed last night. There was a group of people from Norway. There were a bunch of local folks that dropped in including:

Gil DeLeon, Eddie B, Russell Barber, Don Yonders, Esat Bay Wes, Double G, Scott Miller, Scott Duncan, Cornelius, Mark Hummel, Mick Kilgos, Jon Lawton, Wendy Dewitt, Jimmy Johnson, Earl Smith, Beth Kohnen and a whole bunch more people that I'm forgetting.

Steve proved that he is a very capable juggler. I think he got
everyone up that stuck around.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Metro Fountain Blues Festival

This past weekend, I went to the Metro Fountain Blues Festival to catch Koko Taylor and the Blues Machine. When I arrived Sonny Landreth was doing his thing which was not my thing. I ran into a few friends and talked some trash before Koko Taylor took the stage.

As one might expect, she put on a fabulous show. In fact, it was probably the best set of music that I have seen this year. After an awesome set, she was given an achievement award by the city of San Jose.

Afterward, while the sound crew was setting up for Robert Cray's set, it was announced that Mr Cray was only allowing photos during the first song of his show. I stuck around during the first tune and shot some photos. After the second song, I left.

Photos of Koko Taylor, the members of the Blues Machine and Robert Cray can be found here:

2008: The Bay Area Blues Scene - A Year In Progress.

Mojo Lounge Blues Jam

This past Tuesday night, Kenny "Blue" Ray hosted the Mojo Lounge blues jam. It was a really cool evening. Lots of great performers showed up including: Johnny Cat, Junior Morrow and Kid Andersen.

I captured the some video of one of Junior Morrow's fine performances. This one features Junior (vocal/guitar) leading an very talented group through the ZZ Hill classic, "I'm A Bluesman". Joining Junior is Kid Andersen (guitar), Kenny "Blue" Ray (guitar), Tumbleweed (harp), Ray Figueroa (bass) and Norm Decarlo (drums).

Unfortunately, the lighting the bars isn't really conducive to videography, but the quality of the performances outweigh the quality of the lighting.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Little Junior Crudup and the Mojo Lounge Jam

It's been a while since I've been here. This past Tuesday, the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam at the The Mojo Lounge was hosted by Steve Freund. The rhythm section on this fine evening was anchored by two of the most solid guys around Marc Carino and Robi Bean.

It's a fun place to hang out. Not only does this place attract some good local talent, you never know who is going to drop in for a visit. The past several weeks, one of the most entertaining singers in the Bay Area dropped by for a visit, Little Junior Crudup.

Little Junior is a dynamic singer. He writes some really cool tunes that represent today's society. He's also related the the legendary Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup.

This video clip was captured on April 29, 2008 at the Mojo Lounge and captures Little Junior in fine form performing an original tune called 30 Pieces of Silver. He is joined by: Steve Freund (guitar), Marc Carino (bass) and Jimmy Mulleniux (drums).

Friday, April 25, 2008

Blues Harp Recordings

Recently, I was asked about some of my favorite harmonica players and some of their recordings. I thought I would compile a list of about twenty easily accessible CD's by several of the true legends of the Blues Harp.

  • Carey Bell - Deep Down - This one is the finest Carey Bell recording ever captured. It features a fabulous band from the 90's with some amazing guitar playing by Lurrie Bell and Carl Weathersby.
  • Billy Branch - Blues Keep Following Me Around - Fabulous recording with a killer band, some kick ass original songs and excellent harp playing that only Billy Branch can put down. He's on over 100 recordings for a reason. He's won Grammy and Handy awards for a reason. He's toured the world countless times for a reason. He was Willie Dixon's harp player for a reason. The reason is that he is a damn fine harp player.
  • Big Leon Brooks - Let's Go To Town - Big Leon was off the scene for a number of years. This was his first and only recording. If he had a layer of ring rust after laying off for a number of years, it wasn't evident here. A killer 80's era Chicago band that featured several legends.
  • James Cotton - Live From Chicago - Mr Superharp Himself - Cotton with his 80's kick ass touring band.
  • James Cotton - Take Me Back - Cotton in a traditional post war Chicago setting with members of the legendary Theresa's house band including the incredible Sammy Lawhorn.
  • Big Walter Horton - Can't Keep Loving Her - Classic Big Walter material with a great band.
  • Big Walter Horton - Little Boy Blue - Jawdropping Big Walter recording with Ronnie Earl.
  • George Smith - The Modern Masters - Harmonica Ace - It's George Smith, duh.
  • Junior Wells - Blues Hit Big Town - The classic 50's recordings of Junior Wells with kick ass harp.
  • Junior Wells - Hoodoo Man Blues - The classic 60's performances with Buddy Guy.
  • Snooky Pryor - Snooky Pryor - The missing link between John Lee Williamson and Little Walter. He might have been the first guy to playing amplified while cupping a microphone.
  • John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson - anything he did is great. - He revolutionized the harp during the 30's and 40's.
  • Sugar Blue - Code Blue - A harp playing wild man. He's an amazing player. He's influential on a multitude of modern day speed players, except he does it all with colossal tone. He does all of the stuff that the current crop of "revolutionary" players do with one huge exception. Sugar Blue was doing it 20 years ago and he's been moving it forward.

Here's a hard one to find, but it's worth finding, if you dig tough Chicago blues harp.
  • Little Mac Simmons - High & Lonesome - This CD is a mix of some really tough amplified and acoustic harmonica playing with a traditional band.

Now onto the really big guns from the 1950's Chicago scene.

  • Muddy Waters - pick up a best of CD on MCA/Chess - Muddy recorded during the 1950's with Little Walter and James Cotton. The sessions with Little Walter are the essential Muddy Waters recordings from the Chess era. The recordings with James Cotton are awesome, too.
  • Little Walter - pick up a couple of CD's on MCA/Chess (be sure to avoid duplication of songs) - If I need to expand on this, you're greener than a pool table and twice as square.
  • Howlin' Wolf - pick up a best of CD on MCA/Chess - The Wolf was a fabulous harp player with absolutely huge, huge tone.
  • Jimmy Reed - pick up one of best of CD's - Jimmy Reed was a great harp player. He mostly played in a rack, but his tone and execution were beautiful.
  • Rice Miller "Sonny Boy" Williamson - pick up a best of CD on MCA/Chess - Sonny Boy II's Trumpet recordings where stellar. His Chess recordings were absolute perfection. Many of the guys backing Little Walter provided fabulous support for Sonny Boy.
This ought to get you started.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What Have I Been Up To?

Lately, I've been laying low and haven't been going out very often. I am fighting off a cold. I've been hanging out at the World Famous Tuesday Night Blues Jam[TM"> at the Mojo Lounge on Tuesday nights.

Here's a brief excerpt of a previous entry that I wrote up and never finished fro the week of February 04, 2008.

February 5, 2008 - I went down to the Mojo Lounge to attend the World Famous Blues Jam. There was a pretty good turn out. Lots of new players were in the house. Here is some video from the fabulous opening set with Steve Freund, Randy Bermudes and June Core. While I was sitting there, I was thinking, we are really blessed to have some amazing talent in the area. Many of these folks are very generous with their time.

I haven't been shooting much in the way of photos, but did manage to fill up a memory card with some video of the opening set by Steve Freund, Randy Bermudes and June Core lay down a very nice version of the classic, I Wonder Why.

February 6, 2008 - I was out in Livermore so I decided to drop in for a visit at Babe's Place. I met up with East Bay Wes, Mark Irwin, Steve Ahola and a couple of other folks. It was a fun night. There were some good players and a couple of really good Blues singers sitting in. If you're out in the Tri-Valley area, this is an interesting place to visit on alternating Wednesday nights.

2008: The Bay Area Blues Scene in Review

I haven't written much here lately, but it seems like a good time to get caught up. I'll start off with a photo entry.

I started up my annual Bay Area Blues in Review photo gallery. The photos are in the usual place:

Who have I captured this year?

Some of the usual suspects, plus some photos of new faces belonging to people that I hadn't seen before.

January 23, 2008 - I visited the Redwood City Blues Jam. It was hosted by Steve Freund and his Trio. Steve had several guests join him during the course of the evening including Jan Fanucchi, Johnny Blues Boyd and myself.

Sadly, I forgot to charge my camera battery and only caught some photos of Johnny Blues Boyd, Steve Freund & Burton Winn.

January 13, 2008 - I headed down to the Mojo Lounge in Fremont. I caught the Red Archibald Tribute show. It was a day long musical extravaganza that commemorated the life and music of Red Archibald.

Some of the people that I caught in action included:

Delta Wires (including Ernie Pinata and Richard Healy), JC Smith, Rene Solis, Taylor P Collins, Suzy Tyler, Tumbleweed, Jimmy Dewrance, Raymond Victor, Diane Dutra, Rick Kellogg and Andrew Beal

January 11, 2008 - Photo from the Poor House Bistro of Kid Andersen and Sid Morris sitting in with Charles Wheal and his fine band.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

2007: The Bay Area Blues In Review

I was several months behind in updating my photo gallery for 2007, but the rain allowed me to get caught up.

Here is a link to the 2007: The Bay Area Blues In Review

Here is a list of people whose images I captured in 2007:

Linsey Alexander, Amy Lou, Kid Andersen, Ariyo, Russell Barber, Barrelhouse Solly, Robi Bean, Lurrie Bell. Randy Bermudes, Big Time Sarah, Birdlegg, Billy Branch, Dennis Briggs, Marc Carino, Daniel Castro, Johnny Cat, Nick Charles, Artie Chavez, Chris Cobb, June Core, Butch Cousins, Big Bob Deance, Norm Decarlo, Jimmy Dewrance, Marty Dodson, Double G, Dennis Dove, Scott Duncan, East Bay Wes, Steve Edmonson, Ray Figueroa, Carol Fran, Steve Freund, Steve Gannon, Juce Garcia, John Graham, Carl Green, Jan Hagge, Terry Hanck, J Hansen, Greg Heumann, Dorothy Hill, Craig Horton, Mark Hummel, Ruben Johnson, Gino Landry, Jon Lawton, Lil' Wolf, Doug Logan, Magic Slim, Jon McDonald, Carolyn McNabb, Chris Millar, Sahar Miller, Scott Miller, Sid Morris, AC Myles, Kenny Neal, John Nemeth, Oakland Sam, Henry Oden, Nick Otis, Jackie Payne, Ella Pennewell, Pinetop Perkins, John Peterson, Mike Phillips, John Primer, Kedar Roy, Screamin' Iain, Sista Monica, JC Smith, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Smoke, Eddie Shaw, Vaan Shaw, Bill Singletary, Ronnie Stewart, Matthew Stubbs, Tail Dragger, Terrible Tom, Jimmy Thackery, Eldridge "Big Cat" Tolefree, Nellie "Tiger" Travis, Suzy Tyler, Tim Wagar, Jeff Watson, Junior Watson, Teddy "Bluesmaster" Watson, Joe Louis Walker, Carl Weathersby, Bobbie Webb, Bob Welsh, Charles Wheal, Pat Wilder, Steve Wolf, Xymphoni, Don Yonders and Rusty Zinn

That's All Folks!