February 12, 2009
- Kim and Amanda Wilson Take Wedding Vows on Blues Cruise! Congratulations to Kim and Amanda Wilson as they made it official with an impromptu wedding on last week's Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. After being together for over 8 years and having the intention of marriage for a long time now, they spontaneously decided to wed while on the cruise. The ceremony included a "Tuff Enuff" cake, complete with boxing gloves and a wedding song serenade by Dion. Many adoring fans and fellow musicians surrounded them. Here's to the lovely couple! To see wedding photos from this event, click here. Thanks to Roger Naber and Scott Burnett for providing these great photos. Kim Wilson will make an appearance with his All-Star Blues Band at the Rhythm Room on May 6, 2009.
- Bear Family to Release Complete Freddie King Box Sets: The Bear Family Record Label out of Germany is well known for its definitive reissues of vintage material which include some amazing box sets of complete works of Louis Jordan, Smiley Lewis, Fats Domino, Julia Lee, Piano Red, Bobby Mitchell, Nellie Lutcher, and most recently, Hank Ballard and The Midnighters. These sets are beautifully packaged, with great vintage photos and extensive accompanying booklets. Label chief Detlev Hoegen reports the following good news about a forthcoming Bear Family release: "Right now, we are working on the first of two CD box sets with Freddie King’s complete recorded legacy. It will contain all his studio recordings made for Federal/King, Cotillion, and Shelter, including unissued sides and previously unknown demos. Bill Dahl has written the accompanying book. A release date has not yet been set." Thank you, Detlev, for this good news, and for your great service in preserving the legacy of the blues.
- Freddie King on YouTube: With a new box set in the works, it seems appropriate to enjoy Freddie King’s great 1966 appearance on the Dallas-based TV show The Beat. Note that Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown is the bandleader of the backing group. Freddie performs “I'm Tore Down” (click here), “Have You Ever Loved A Woman” (click here) and “Hideaway” (click here)
- Little Walter Box Release Date Announced! The highly anticipated Complete Little Walter Box Set on the Hip-O Select label will be officially released on March 10th 2009. Little Walter was, of course, the man who, during the 1950s and 60s, rewrote the rule book for blues harmonica and explored an unmatched genius on the instrument. Additionally, he was a fine singer, and surrounded himself with the greatest musicians in Chicago blues, thus making simply brilliant and innovative recordings. The box was compiled with the loving and knowledgeable touch of Andy McKaie and Scott Dirks. It will contain some previously unreleased material, and a booklet with rare photos and extensive notes. As with most Hip-O Select issues, this will likely be a limited quantity release. Pre-orders are now available through Amazon by clicking here.
- Memphis Recap: It was great to get back to Memphis and be reunited with so many of our friends from The Blues Foundation. The International Blues Challenge is really an amazing gathering point as over 150 blues acts from all around the world compete. Blues societies will sponsor a competition in their community and a winner will advance to the Memphis finals and be allowed to compete in the IBC. Though this type of contest tends to push blues performances into the realm of a competitive sport event, it has also been a crucial tool in bringing new blood into this music and it has legitimately launched the careers of many talented artists who might have otherwise never been heard. In addition to hopeful bands competing for career advancement, there are all the industry people coming in support of the proceedings, who often took a role on the judging panels. Also during this week is the awards presentation for the KBA Awards. KBA stands for "Keeping The Blues Alive", and it recognizes folks who do their part to support and further this music. Add to that the various industry showcases that happened around the event as well as huge networking opportunities and you have a great blues gathering! I was there to perform with Chris James and Patrick Rynn, who were appearing at 2 industry showcases in support of their BMA-nominated CD, Stop And Think About It on the Earwig Music label. (By the way, this record was just listed as #30 by Living Blues in their Top 50 Blues Releases of 2008 and is now #1 on XM Satellite Radio's B.B. King's Bluesville "Picks To Click" for the week of February 12, 2009).
Kim Danielson and I arrived in Memphis on Wednesday and checked into our hotel before heading to Sun Studio, where the Phoenix Blues Society's IBC contestant, The Mikel Lander/Meridith Moore Band, were recording some tracks. Mikel had invited me to play some harmonica as a special guest on one song. How great it was to be at such a historic recording studio where so many legendary greats have made groundbreaking music. It was an honor to be asked by the band to participate in such a special occasion on the eve of their competition. We enjoyed seeing studio chief James Lott, who we had met at Sun a few years earlier.
Thursday included a trip to Lansky’s - Clothier To The King, then meeting up with Chris and Patrick to double check the schedule for the week, then a nice meal at King's Palace, and on into the craziness of the IBCs. Each of Beale Street's numerous venues became a showcase for numerous bands who gave their best shot to advance in each performance. Bands would perform at the same venue on both Thursday and Friday, points would be added up from both nights, and the winner would advance to the Saturday finals. Among our stops was Club Superior to see Mikel and Meridith's great set (they would win their venue and advance to the finals). We enjoyed a number of bands and solo/duo acts, and ran into so many of our friends before calling it a night.
On Friday, I appeared with Chris James and Patrick Rynn at the Blind Raccoon Showcase at the Rum Boogie. Blind Raccoon is Betsie Brown's publicity company, and Betsie has been exceptionally successful at getting the word out on Chris and Patrick's fine CD. Though we have emailed and talked on the phone, it was my first time meeting Betsie face to face, and it was nice to be able to personally thank her for the spectacular job she has done. We had a great time performing in the upstairs room, which was away from the hustle and bustle of downstairs. Many of our friends stopped out specifically to see us, including Shemekia Copeland, John Hahn, Bill Wax, Art Tipaldi, Donovan Allen, Michael McClune, Jeffry Dyson, Michael Kinsman, "Blues Bobby" Weinberg, President of the South Florida Blues Society, Bob Kieser and Ann Caldwell from IllinoisBlues.com, Guitar Mikey, Pamela McMillan, Bill Stuve, Eric Steiner of the Washington Blues Society, Scott Allen of Vivid Pix, and others. Special thanks to my friend and fellow harmonica player Billy Gibson, who went out of his way to loan me his vintage Supro amp for this event, which really sounded great. Billy was performing downstairs with Dave Fields, David Hughes, and Super Chikan while we were playing upstairs. We hung out for a while to enjoy the showcase, and then Kim and I walked to the Peabody to have a great meal at Capriccio. We opted to get a night of sleep before an early morning attending the KBA brunch. Our dear friend Bob Margolin had invited us to sit in with his band at his 11pm gig at the Rum Boogie and though we were regretful not to attend, we knew we had to allot some energy for the rest of the trip. Chris and Patrick did perform that night, and per Bob's account, they "Tore it up".
Saturday morning brought us to the KBA brunch. I had received a KBA award 2 years ago for my radio show, so it was great to go and relive the joy of this honor through this year's recipients. Art Tipaldi and Jay Sieleman did a great job hosting these awards, and everyone's speeches were heartfelt and touching. The recipients are folks who really have devoted their lives to blues, and the message of their work connected with their humanity for a beautiful presentation. John Hahn, who won in the Manager category, deserves special mention for his clever speech filled with spot-on, deadpan humor. Thanks to my dear friend Randy Chortkoff of Delta Groove Productions (KBA recipient in the label category) for his kind reference to me in his speech. We were also touched by the speech of Marino Grande of the Italian publication Il Blues (which is Italian for "The Blues") who earnestly spoke of how he and his wife Luciana were so moved by this music that they started a publication to bring awareness to the Italian people. 25 years later, the magazine is still going strong. Italy was also represented by the Associazione Roots And Blues of Parma, Italy who won the International category of KBA. It was great to reconnect with my old friend Rob Hecko, The owner of B.L.U.E.S. on Halsted in Chicago, as he received his award for Blues Club. For a complete list of KBA recipients, click here.
Later that day was a performance at another industry showcase, this one hosted by Big City Blues Magazine. Big City Blues is run by Robert Jr. Whitall and his lovely wife Shirley Mae Owens, who are an integral part of the fabric of the blues scene. Their magazine occupies a unique niche, in that Robert and Shirley are constant travelers attending one great blues event after another. They approach the magazine as a reflection of their streetwise view of the blues world. This event was spectacular, and featured a wide array of major talent including Trampled Under Foot (last year's IBC winner), Preston Shannon, Joey Gilmore, Charles Otis, Billy Gibson, and many others. I was proud to perform at this event with Chris James and Patrick Rynn, and we played a number of selections from their album before calling up special guests Toronzo Cannon, Russ Green, and Shemekia Copeland. Thank you to my friend Deak Harp (who also performed a nice set at this event) for letting me use his fine amp at the show. Special thanks to venue co-owner Morgan Freeman, who stopped by to enjoy the bands. To see a flier for this event, click here. We were pleased to find out that Phoenix's Mikel Lander/Meridith Moore Band advanced to the finals, though they did not win. Congratulations to winner JP Soars & The Red Hots, and all the finalists and contestants who won just by advancing to the IBCs!
While in Memphis we saw so many friends and though I cannot remember everyone, here are a few:
Jean Guillermo of Blues sur Seine, Jostein Forsberg from Notodden Blues Festival, Amanda Gresham and her mom, Barbara Hammerman, Amy Brat, Dusty and Val Scott of Dusty Blues, Kyle Deibler (president of the Phoenix Blues Society), Steve Simon (of the St. John Blues Festival and Bluzapalooza), Charles and Lori Ragsdell, Zac Harmon, Jeffrey Willey of the Smokin' Torpedoes, Gary Vincent, Lon Mickelson of Twin City Blues, Joan McCarty of the Oklahoma Blues Society, Stacy Jeffries of the Kansas City Blues Society, Jürgen Lottmann, Gary Sellers, Kurt Swanson, Tallan Latz, Harold Tremblay of KFAI, Patrick Vining, Richard Rosenblatt of the Vizztone Label Group, Jeffry Dyson of the Blue Shoe Project, Eden Brent, Chuck Cotton, Mookie Brill, Derek Wheeler, Steve Hecht, Steve Howell, Jak "Sully" Sullivan, Tom "Slim" Louis, Deborah Dixon, Dave Fields, Crystal Crawford, Belinda Foster (Mack Arnold's manager), Julia Garlington, Stevie Dupree, Jay Sieleman, Priscilla Hernandez, Joe and Sara Whitmer from The Blues Foundation, Don "T-Bone" Erickson, David Hughes, Hugh Feeley, Fiona Boyes, Diunna Greenleaf, Hal Horowitz, Dick Waterman, Steve McBride, "AZ" Kenny Tsak from 56 Deluxe, Matt Hill, Greg Binns, Liz Sykes of the Ottawa Blues Society, Peter Maier, Charley Burch, Andre Mosqueda of KGGO, Karen McFarland of the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records, Michael Powers of Yellow Dog Records, Billy Thompson, Ricky Stevens, Dorothy Moore, David Z, Greg Johnson of the Cascade Blues Society, Rich DelGrosso, Mary Flower, Michael "Hawkeye" Herman, Cassie Taylor, Laura Wolf, and many others.
The next morning was an early flight back home and on Sunday night, I enjoyed hosting the 25-year anniversary of my radio show, Those Lowdown Blues on KJZZ 91.5, complete with great in studio live performances by Dave Riley. Thanks to all the listeners who called in to send their congratulations. In addition to our many listeners in Phoenix, I was surprised by a number of phone calls from other states and from Europe, from fans who hear the show via the internet. It is hard to believe that 25 years have gone by. I still find great joy each week sharing my favorite blues recordings on the radio. Thanks to KJZZ, and to the fans of Those Lowdown Blues for allowing me this honor! It was a great week!
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