Rolling with the Stones
By Mike Todhunter
Interesting things go through your mind as you get seriously into the back nine of life. It all comes back reflectively, the good and the bad, and in my case, it is all cushion and enhanced by the music I grew up with formatively as an adolescent in San Bernardino, Ca. It paved the way in taking a SoCal G.I. brat from a surf guitar enthusiast to a blues man, largely and thankfully, by the 1964 USA release of the Rolling Stones R&B LP, "England's Newest Hit Makers". It seized me like the voice of the Phantom of the Opera did Christine and held me in a protected sanctuary when there was little else to secure a troubled boy in search of comfort and stability.
Growing up as a service brat was not without its trying moments. Preparing to move, long road trips across America with the incessant back seat bickering with my younger brother and the ever present death to my ears when we were informed that Dad was going TDY ( Tour of Duty), followed like a shadow. It always came with a tearful good bye and later followed by a warm and cheerful hug upon his return. But as they say, "All good things must come to an end."
Worse than the cruelty of TDY was the word divorce. A loving father often absent was now permanently gone left with a mother that was ill-prepared to face the challenges of raising two boys as a working mom. No one asks for mental illness and alcoholism surely exacerbates a dark human condition, but all I understood at 14 was that others were screwing up my previous peaceful life. Angry, I got combative and in those days if a kid started acting-out, you would send them to live with a compassionate family member. Fortunately, I escaped without becoming another Menendez brother.
Enter an angel, my Aunt Grace. Arriving in Hyattsville, Md., she and my Uncle George opened the doors, gave me a temporary home, fed me, gave me responsibilities and directed me to their basement fully equipped with life's essentials- an AM radio and a phonograph. In 1966 with a suitcase full of clothes, my baseball glove and my designated security blanket, the LP, "England's Newest Hit Makers" by the Rolling Stones( copyright 1964), I was reborn. Upon its release the Stones became one of the biggest sellers- reaching #1 status in the UK for over 12 weeks. I could now chill to an R&B sound that has captivated me through the years- its contents paralleling much of my later life. As a bonus, 1966 was a great year for Bird fans. For a blues/baseball loving kid relegated to a basement in Md. with access to an AM radio, heaven was living and dying with every Baltimore Oriole broadcast. It was a very good year. The Orioles eventually beat the LA Dodgers( my second favorite team) in the Fall Classic 4 games to zero. My heros were the future Hall of Famers, Frank and Brooks Robinson, base klepto Luis Aparicio, swat sultan Boog Powell, and a host of diamond dandies.
With its 12 R&B cuts, I could, to quote the Beach Boys, revel "In My Room" and live vicariously through the Stones. Every song spoke to me. They began my R&B journey to the blues:
#1. "Not Fade Away"-Mick Jagger exposed the Mississippi saxophone to young ears.
#2. "Just Want To Make Love To You"-Willie Dixon's song was every adolescent's fantasy, unfortunately for my Victorian soul, I had no appreciation for his content. I just dug the music. Eventually we all catch up.
#3. "Honest I Do"- Written by Jimmy Reed with those famous words we all love to hear, "Please tell me you love me". Who can't relate to such a universal message?
#4. "Now I've Got a Witness"-an instrumental with a harp lead, Brian Jones and Keith Richards give us a preview of their guitar skills. Often ridiculed by critics for their lack of virtuosity, but like the postman- they deliver the goods. Somehow envy must play a part with these critiques because the Stones' longevity and their bank accounts speak otherwise.
#5."Little by Little"- Written by Phil Spector, it highlights Keith's riffs.
#6"I'm a King Bee"-Written by James Moore with strong sexual overtones, it leaves lust to the imagination with lyrics like: "Well, buzz awhile", "Sing it, Baby"; "I can buzz better, Baby, when your man is gone". I've heard many try to duplicate the original, including Muddy Waters and Slim Harpo, but no one sings it with Jagger's passion.
#7"Carol"- Written by Chuck Berry, it becomes my calling card with the aspiring lines "I'm going to learn to dance if it takes me night and day".; "I got my eyes on you baby cause you dance so good". Thanks to bogarting moves from teen dance shows like Casey Kasem, Dick Clark, Wolfman Jack and LA's Lloyd Thaxton, I finally got a limited game minus any verbal rapport. Years later after spending 25 years coaching hoops in the hood, I stole a few brother moves, but I still can't jump. I 1980, it all paid off- I got lucky and married Ginny.
#8."Tell Me"-An original Stones' composition about lost love and a broken heart. Jagger pleads, "Tell me you'll come back to me." Wouldn't we all like to forget that first broken heart and feeble attempts at teen love?
#9"Can I Get a Witness?"-Lyrically driven, "A woman's a man's best friend." (sorry, pooch), "Ain't that the way that it's suppose to be?"- not cruel acts of dispassion.
#10."You Can Make It If You Try". The bounce back boomerang message reminds us ," Don't run around being blue. You can make it ...". Message: Keep fishing. you may catch a tuna. These echos have served the generations well.
#11."Walking the Dog". Rufus Thomas's classic blues tune: "If you don't know how to do it, I'll show you how to walk the dog".Only the imagination limits what Rufus meant with these words.
#12."Route 66". Here begins my life journey. Raised as a teenager in San Bernardino (Berdoo), careered teaching and coaching there, afterwards spending 12 years in Idaho retirement, I currently find myself just south of America's historic highway- Route 66- in Dewey, AZ., my newfound paradise.
With few challenges Route 66 was king of the highways with the probable exception of Robert Johnson's fabled Hwy. 51 crossroads. Route 66 ran from Chicago to LA connecting major cities in the West and Southwest to greater Chicago before the interstate highway system was built during the Eisenhower years. It was the main commercial and travel hub and gave us the nostalgia that still exists on I-40 in local towns like Seligman and Williams. But Bobby Troup's song put it into public consciousness when he implored us all to, "Get your kicks on Route 66," "Get hip to this kind of trip," and " Take that California trip"- 2000 miles all the way! The Mama's and the Papa's also reminded us off "California Dreaming".
Gallop, NM., Flagstaff and Kingman, AZ, Barstow and San Bernardino, CA. to LA was our East-West artery- thanks to Troup, we were on the map. All these lored stopovers bring to mind good times. You have to love the Native-American culture in the Gallop area. Some of the greatest artisans in the world labor in the epicenter of art and ancient history. Acoma, Zuni, Hopi and Navajo cultures excel in craftsmanship and a short drive to Chaco Canyon and a visit to this World Heritage site will give you an immense appreciation for their Anasazi ancestors with its truly impressive Mesoamerian architecture. Flagstaff is a beautiful forested area and serves as a gateway to the greatest geological wonder in the world- the Grand Canyon. Native culture called it "Big Mind"- mentally imposing. Five minutes at the South Rim and you will become breathless contemplating eternity in its worldly form. No song can duplicate its esoteric, mind-numbing vastness. Even life's staunchest atheists would have to freeze under its mesmerizing presence- only the eyes can behold.
Today, Kingman, AZ. is noted as the southern gateway to Las Vegas. But when driving through you would be well advised to stop at the famed Kingman Turquoise Mines. Today almost all the turquoise from the USA comes from these mines. Many USA mines have closed due to foreign competition, but you cannot capture the essence of SW culture without acknowledging its beauty and the magic of its jewelers and lapidary artisans. Their work is prized all over the world.
Barstow means little to most folks, but to me it meant a winter's journey by bus with two teams an hour's drive through Cajon Pass all the time praying not to get snowed in or out. The crowds could be cruel and threatening , so it was always nice to get home, especially with a victory. San Bernardino was home.
San Bernardino was a wonderful place to grow up- nothing like it is today ( See Nick Johnson's U-Tube video on Berdoo). Norton AFB was under the Strategic Air Command and nearby March AFB in Riverside ( Military Airlift) provided a permanent infrastructure of employment with plenty of volunteerism, strong families and men who lived in duty, obligation, and honor. The education system was tops and recognized as such with endless opportunities to excel. Living was affordable and VA and FHA home loans were readily available to the credit worthy. Taxes were low and traffic was minimal. I could easily drive the highway from Berdoo to Newport Beach before the interstate was built. The stop-off at Harvey Carmichael's burger joint made the boogie board trip all the more worth it. The first McDonald's before Ray Kroc's buyout was on 13th and "E"- burgers, fries, shacks and soda, that was it -with orders and delivery at your car window. Dad only had one rule- you ate all of what you ordered, after all, weren't children starving in India? The Santa Fe RR depot was grand and acknowledged so by the USPO recently with a commemorative stamp. Valencia orange groves abound, so our moms served us fresh squeezed OJ for breakfast. The Santa Fe RR ran a Citrus Belt Loop through the Redlands, Highland, and East Highland to packing houses for pickup and delivery to market. There was little crime, just an occasional escape from Patton State Hospital- quickly apprehended. The city organized a Rendezvous 66 event that featured groups like the Tornados, a magnificent custom car show that consummated with drag races at the Fontana Speedway and an open-header competition blowout. Man, did we have fun!
Small businesses flourished on Highland Ave., Baseline and on "E" St.. But forget about cruising Whittier Blvd., "E" St. Berdoo was the happening place. As a rite of passage Friday and Saturday nights were all about local pageantry and misfits getting stupid. The entire length of "E" St. was bumper to bumper, people showing off their cars, talking trash, and trying to get a girl to give them the time of day. Gas wars existed throughout town and you ran on leaded gas. V-8's ruled the road and muscle cars were preferred. The cops were cool- no drugs then but if you were under age- having a beer was a real score. If you were pulled over you'd be read the riot act, asked to pour your beer out and sent home. Cool! Misfits never had it so good.
The National Orange Show was the biggest deal in the county. During its opening our teachers would nix the homework so we could attend. Cool! The center of activity throughout the year was the Swing Auditorium. It held concerts ( Steppenwolf, Jackson 5 and Diana Ross to name a few), rollar derby and closed circuit fights. The nearby stadium ran demolition derby and high school football. A little known fact that brings us full circle is that the Stones considered Swing Auditorium their home away from the UK. Hollywood had the Whiskey, San Francisco had the Fillmore, but Berdoo had the Swing. From 1964 to 1966, the Stones performed four times there before their adoring fans- 5,000 maniacs screaming every word to "Route 66" back at Charlie, Brian, Mick, Keith, and Bill. After the shows they admitted to being blown away. On June 5 and Oct. 31, 1964 and on May 15, 1965 and finally on July 24, 1966, the Swing was swinging! KMEN radio station 129 AM with MC, Huckleberry Chuck Clements, sponsored the events. KMEN was right next to my high school- a long tater from the ball field kept the station loose. The Byrds opened for the Stones in 1966.
Prior to the 60's cultural phenomenon of the British Invasion which saw the arrival of the Stones, the Beatles, Dave Clark 5, Kinks, Yardbirds, Animals ,Herman's Hermits, Dusty Springfield, Tom Jones, and others, SoCal teens were tripping with the surf sounds of Dick Dale, The Beach Boys, the Ventures, Tornados, and Jan and Dean. The surfer stomp was were it was at until things changed. R&B and blues seized the new day and sucked in teens like me. It was groovy, man.
It was Brian Jones' love for the blues ( he later drowned in his swimming pool most likely from the effects of drug abuse.) that guided Mick and Keith in the blue's direction. But in after years, Bill Wyman, the original Stones' base guitarist, that spread the history of the blues when he published his Blues Odyssey Collection ( 2020 Edsel Records)- a must for any collector. Fittingly, Bill privately recorded every Stone's concert and as an amateur photographer caught in real time vast reelage from the early decades. His anthology includes two historic CD's and an impressive DVD documentary that walks the viewer through his enormous blues library and unveils never before seen footage of blue's pioneers. A small sample:
1. Bessie Smith, " Lock and Keys"
2. Charles Patton, "Shake It and Break It(But Don't let It Fall, Mama")
3. Mississippi John Hurt, "Stack O' Lee"
4. "Half Pint" Jaxon, "Come On, Mama, Do That Dance"
5.Blind Willie Walker, " Searching the Desert For the Blues"
6.Casey Bill Weldon, "WPA Blues"
7.Walter "Cowboy" Washington, "Ice Pick Mama"
8."Blind Boy" Fuller, "Meat Shaking Mama"
9.Memphis Slim, "Beer Drinking Woman"- any many others included.
With his cockney accent, Bill acknowledges in his production his debt to the blue's men and women who helped him understand and appreciate its rich tapestry. As he lamented, " Blues is life and life is the blues- rooted in the courage and the will to survive". Songs were passed on by traveling musicians, minstrels and medicine shows.
As if my exile to Md. accompanied with my Stones LP didn't validate my personal relationship with their music enough, validation was reinforced again in 1980 when the fire department gave Ginny and I thirty minutes to prepare to evacuate for fear of a raging fire. All too often in the San Bernardino Forest foothills arsonists like to get their jollies lighting up the midnight skies. At times like this, you discover quickly your essential values. We grabbed our daughter Noelani, the cat , important papers, photo albums, and .... you guessed it, my Stones LP's. What more can you say?
Today Mick, Keith, and Ronnie Woods ( he also has a blues CD release) are the official members of the Stones. With Charlie Watts' recent death, Steve Jordon now tours along with Darryl Jones as unofficial members, as they still fill stadiums and defy Father Time. Mick is still the energizer bunny and pathologists are still waiting for Keith Richards to drop so they can sample his DNA to find what magical properties he inherited that has kept the Grim Reaper at bay from this chain-smoking, hard-living icon.
God bless the blue's artists and the Stones for all they've done in filling life's gaps, enriching our lives with the sounds of music, and helping us to love the life we have.
Whacked at the Windmill
Whacked at the Windmill
The neon lights of the Modelo sign reflected off rain-soaked streets as Detective Lola Parker stepped into the dimly lit watering hole. The muted buzz of conversations and the clinking of glasses filled the air, but beneath it all lingered an unsettling tension. The Windmill, a Blues joint in Prescott, was the latest crime scene in a string of murders that had the entire police force on edge.
Bartenders were being targeted. No rhyme or reason, just a twisted serial killer leaving a trail of bodies behind bars. Parker had seen her share of gruesome crimes, but this one struck a nerve. As she approached the bar, she caught the eye of the tearful owner, Marie, a gorgeous blond with a head for business.
"Detective Parker," she greeted, her voice heavy with a mix of grief and fear. "Another one, just like..." Parker nodded, her eyes scanning the crime scene. Behind the bar lay the lifeless body of the latest victim, Heather Lynn. Each murder had its unique signature, a calling card that taunted the detectives, yet connected the dots in an unsettling way.
Detective Robert Crumb, Parker's partner, joined her at the crime scene. His eyes met hers, and without a word, they both understood the gravity of the situation.
"Same M.O. as the others?" Parker asked, her gaze fixed on the victim.
Crumb sighed. "No witnesses, no murder weapon, and the killer seems to vanish into thin air. It's like they're a ghost."
The Windmill, like the other crime scenes, held its secrets close. The patrons were a mix of working men and cowboys, all seemingly oblivious to the tragedy that had just unfolded in their midst. Parker knew they needed to break this cycle before the killer struck again.
As the detectives examined the crime scene, a chilling realization settled over Parker. The victims were from different walks of life, different neighborhoods, but they all shared the same profession – bartenders. It was a puzzle without an apparent solution, a maze of motives and hidden motives.
"We're dealing with someone who knows the nightlife, someone who moves effortlessly through the city," Parker mused, her mind racing to make sense of the chaos.
Crumb nodded. "We need to dig into the bars, the patrons, and find a connection. There's got to be something tying these murders together."
As they delved deeper into the investigation, the town's pulse quickened. The shadows seemed to whisper secrets, and every corner held the potential for a chilling revelation. The killer was out there, elusive and methodical, leaving a town on edge and detectives in pursuit of a faceless adversary.
In the heart of the darkness, Detectives Parker and Crumb vowed to bring an end to the deadly game that unfolded behind the bars of the city – before the next pour of a drink became a death sentence.
To be Continued…
The Big Easy Cruise
By Mike Todhunter
Like any committed music Epicurian mine is a constant search for new venues, artists and styles that hopefully lead to a, "It- doesn't -get-much-better-than-this" moment. So when Ginny and I discovered that the Big Blues Bender annually held in Las Vegas was lending its promotional name to the Starvista cruise people for the inaugural Big Easy Cruise, we jumped on it. Starting in Ft. Lauderdale with a two-day stop in NOLA and a cup of coffee in Cozumel before its return, the line-up sealed the deal.
In reviewing the line-up, the line-up seemed a perfect balance between popular contemporary blues and the happy dance and party sound that the Big Easy is known for. Blues performers included Jimmy Hall, Jimmy Carpenter, Mike Zito, Tab Benoit, Samantha Fish, Al "Lil Fats" Jackson, Irma Thomas, Johnny Sansone and Tedeschi and Trucks, NOLA illuminates, most of which I'd never heard, included Tuba Skinny, The Honey Swamp Band, Leo Nocentelli and the Meters, Cha Wa, John "Papa" Gros, John Boutte, The Tin Men, The Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Galactica and Rockin' Dopsie Jr. and the Zydeco Twisters. As I found out, this diverse line-up was literally music to my ears.
Such an eclectic group of performers reinforced my confusion concerning what constitutes the blues in all its manifestations. When I think of the blues old school comes to mind- Muddy, Howlin' Wolf, Elmore James, Jr. Wells and Buddy Guy, Little Walter, Sonny Boy, John Hurt, the three kings (Albert, BB, Freddy), John Lee Hooker- all in the pantheon of legends. But today what's passed as blues might include barrelhouse blues, Hill Country, southern R&B, blues rock, even forms of jazz, ragtime, soul, funk and swamp rock. Saying who's what is nearly mission impossible. Simply put, let it stand and enjoy music's creativity.
This stew of this Americana sound found its epicenter in the Mississippi Delta where at the mouth of the river in 1519 a Spanish explorer, Alvarez de Pineda, established a Spanish domain and ruled for some 40 years to be supplanted by the French in 1718. NOLA was now re-constituted by Philippi Duc D'Orleans and his overseers. By 1723 NOLA became the capital of what became known as French Louisiana until in 1803 President Thomas Jefferson bought the Louisiana Territory from Napolean for $15 million- America's westward expansion now on steroids. Louisiana's Creole culture planted the seeds for what is undoubtedly a musical legacy unmatched in world archives. We can all acknowledge and take pride in our roots and musical heritage.
It didn't take long to open my mind and ears to the fun that was to begin.The sailaway party kicked in and Rockin' Dopsie and his Zydeco Twisters unleased the energy that characterizes the Zydeco sound. Ginny's ancestral kinfolk from New France (they sailed down the Mississippi and established Acadian settlements) speak to her when she gets zydecosis and happy feet. It didn't take long. The party took a quantum leap when Rockin' Dopsie, who toured with James Brown, performed "Get On Up". Cruisers went into a frenzy- even the geezers got on-up. With his washboard attached like a medieval breastplate , Dopsie did a damn good JB imitation, ending with two consecutive jumping' splits! OUCH! The sailway party ended with the Dirty Dozen Brass Band and me feeling my funky self. Yes, we still have some moves left.
The second day highlight at sea was the John "Papa" Gros tribute to Dr. John," The Night Tripper". It doesn't get much better than Dr. John- AKA Malcolm John Rebennoch, Jr. In his famous words, "At the right place at the wrong time" and " At a bad place on a good time". Such is life. Here again Wikileaks lists Dr. John's genre as blues, jazz, soul, funk and R&B, blues rock... you figure.
The Big Easy T-shirt party followed, providing free rum and as they say, "Rum to make you dumb". Jimmy Hall's sax, the Bender Band, Johnny Sansone, Tuba Skinny and Samantha Fish finished the rum induced euphoria.
Day three found us arriving at the NOLA Eratos Terminal at 5pm on a day that Ginny refers to as "Disaster Day". The planned activity upon disembarkment saw half of all cruisers board eight custom buses for transport to Tipitina's ( the song was written by Prof. Longhair), NOLA's historic venue, for a 630pm Galactica show, to then board the buses again at 830pm to return to the Nieuw Amsterdam. The buses would then load the last half of cruisers to be transported to Tipitina's for a second show starting at 900pm. The second show ending at 1030pm, the buses were to then return to the ship and have everyone ready for the 1130pm Tedeschi-Tricks show- their only performance. The main stage venue could only accommodate half the attendees- so first come , first serve (pity the second Tipitina transports). Why not bring Galactica aboard the ship ,you say, for two showings? Much easier. Come to find out that in 2018 Galactica bought Tipitina's. I can't say what all this busing and transport cost but I know that when the Legendary Cruise folk booked a seasick-fearing Buddy Guy, they brought him aboard a docked boat for two electrifying shows. No one was shutout. Sweet deal for Galactica and Tipitina's though- a venue I would not recommend. There was absolutely zero seating- stand until you drop, not an unlikely scenario considering the mean age of the audience. It was Super Bowl loud pressed flesh-to-flesh. Who paid the fire department to look the other way? Forget safety and cleanliness standards in NOLA or Memphis. Ask for clean-up and you're libel to get the evil-eye. My shoes are still sticking to the floor a week later.
Day four we were on our own for a nostalgic return to NOLA and fond past memories. First stop was Cafe du Monde for our sugar high consisting of three beignets a piece with their mountain of powdered sugar, coffee with chicory (its a southern thing) and a hot chocolate. Thank the Lord we didn't sneeze on that pile of sugar. But before the beignets and after the taxi drop, we knew we had landed in the right place when we were greeted by a busker brass band- NOLA style. We were later disappointed to find that on Monday and Tuesday the House of Blues and Pat O'Brien's were closed- so I couldn't get my drink of choice- Pat O'Brien's infamous Hurricane. Traveling to NOLA and not having a Hurricane party is sacrilege- an act that might get you dropped off at the St. Louis Cemetery at midnight for a chance encounter with the night creatures or a late-night Marie Laveau sighting.
Lunch was spent at the French Market where for $40 ( you heard it right) I ordered a crawfish Po' Boy and Ginny a baked potato with Andoille sausage. The historic eateries were a rip-off and judging by the number of crawfish tails on my Po' Boy, they are now on the endangered species list. For $40, I became the Po' Boy. Ginny's sausage did have the right kind of heat.
Further down the pedestrian walk, I scored big at the Louisiana Music Factory picking up some John Gros, Tin Men, Dwayne Burnside, Henry Gray, Little Walter, Tom Hambridge, Tab Benoit and some Jonathon "Boogie" Long CD's. The Tin Men trio combined uniquely a sousaphone, a guitar and Chaz's washboard with everything but the kitchen sink attached. If you've never heard a sousaphone carry the rhythm, you've missing out. Henry Gray, Howlin' Wolf's famed pianist, joined with the Cats (one of which was La.'s slide guitarist Sonny Landreth) for some barrelhouse blues. As Henry said ," The blues is a feeling and that's how I play." His band included a blues fiddle which sounded just like Little Walter's Mississippi saxophone. The Tab Benoit CD was an early recording when he actually played old school blues rather than his current preferred rocking' blues and the "Boogie" Long was proof that he's seriously climbing the blues latter. With such music available, I could have taken the whole store.
After our venture into the French Quarter and back aboard the boat, the good times kept rolling. A 4pm showing of Tuba Skinny proved to be my favorite show. A street band inspired by jazz, ragtime and blues music, you would have fallen in love with vocalist Erika Lewis and band director-carnet player, Shays Cohen. The eight piece ensemble lit us up with standards like: "Nobody's Business", "Kissing in the Dark", "It Hurts Me Too," and "When they ring Them Golden Bells".
Johnny Sansone was next and performed at a level I had never heard from him- playing his harp, the accordian, and sending a chill into the BB King's venue when he sang his hit and Blues Award winning Song of the Year for 2012, "The Lord is Waiting and the Devil Is Too".
Equally capable, Tab Benoit with his three piece band and his swamp thing long hair, went swamp when the Bayou Bad Boy jokingly said, "I'm feeling it. My hair is still growing, but the trees are dying. The hair looks like moss- gators won't eat me, they don't like moss". His version of "Night Train" left all understanding why he is one of the best bluesmen.
Day five opened with a piano bender interview conducted by Keith Opera, noted NOLA music historian, questioning four piano contemporaries with differing styles but at the conclusion collaborated on a Fats Domino tune to end an insightful discussion. The piano, only second to the trumpet in its NOLA musical popularity, was front stage and center. Joe Known , who played with Charles "Gatemouth" Brown and with Kenny Wayne Shepherd , joined Al "Lil' Fats" Jackson whose shows play tribute to Fats Domino, one of the founders of rock and roll. Also joining the keyboard cabal was Papa Gros and Red Young. All recalled the giants of the past- Prof. Longhair, Allan Toussaint, Art Neville, Fats, Joe Booker, Jelly Roll Morton and Dr. John. It was a fitting climax when four pianos concluded with a stirring rendition of Fats Domino tunes.
A few decks up, we sighted Mike Zito, founder of Gulf Coast Records. His life has not been easy and like many finds a way too carry on. He has battled through substance abuse and continues the life-long journey embracing recovery, but the recent lose of his wife coupled with every artist's nightmare- covid, would challenge the best of us. The opening tune for his set was the original, "A First Class Life". I found his optimism and the strength of his spiritual core uplifting and in his case a divine blessing. I can only hope that when my time to seek shelter from lose comes that I can face it with similar courage. We can learn and be touched by artists and their many universal messages. Thank you, Mike.
So much of music is personal- it dates us, inspire us, and can even save us when it comforts. Years ago as a poor college student with no girl and no money; and only books to numb my brain and still my body, I sought refuge in our college music library where I could rifle through the stacks of old 78rpm's- vinyls and alone in a small listening room forget everything. All for free! No home worries; no car worries- nothing but the blues. It was during these solitary but constructive moments that I made whole. Time changes all things, but what a world today! Having the chance to attend the Big Easy Cruise makes me grateful for this journey eased by with the help of great music and the artists, who knowing it or not, paved our way with their music and its celebration of life.
Battle of the Bands
By Mike Todhunter
For all you sophisticated cool cats and those out there that love their wine, this is not about you, but about a local can't miss establishment set in the boonies of Chino Valley ( home to AZ's Pronghorn ) that offers a backyard experience like few others. Amid the historic elms of Chino Valley and its unparalleled natural canopy that they provide, the Granite Creek Vineyards will feed your thirst for a good time when on Oct. 21 (gates open at 11am.) they will sponsor a battle of the bands as a fundraiser to support their philanthropic efforts to rescue cats and other critters that have been abandoned or disabled. Combining fun and a good cause- now how can you beat that?
Fate interceded when Ginny and I stumbled upon this local marvel with the help of our blues buddies, Les and Vicki, when they alerted us about a Muddbone bluesrocker's show on Sept. 30 prior to the recently scheduled Battle of the Bands on Oct. 21. Nestled under an umbrella of old-growth American Elms, like AZ's version of a lost Kincaid, the elms tucked in nicely with an A-Frame cabin, a red barn, and a wine shop- all colorfully and tastefully done. No strip-mall establishment here. And to beat the band (no pun intended) , upon leaving we were ceremoniously greeted by several free-roaming peacocks that mistook parking lot cars for nests. Perched there atop the cars, it was a glorious farewell to great inspired music, a relaxing afternoon and AZ flora at its best.
That day I ran into an old-timer by the name of Tom who gave me a brief and informative history of how these giant elms came to pass in Chino Valley. Tom said that when the railroad arrived in Chino Valley in 1887, the Prescott and AZ Central and then the Santa Fe Prescott and Phoenix Line, it looped from its main artery south to transport materials to nearby mining towns- Jerome and Prescott. Railroad authorities, ecologically-minded, long before it was vogue, according to Tom, planted the elms knowing how they would thrive when planted in our hot, dry climate-a perfect environment for trees destined for future family picnics. Chino Valley and Seligman became the benefactors of the railroad's foresight.
Chino Valley played a pre-eminent role in the development of AZ. Established in1864 as our first territorial government, military leader Lt. Ariel Whipple of the US Army Cavalry chose Chino Valley because it offered good water, firewood, and building timber. Citing Del Rio Springs as the source water of the Verde River, Whipple oversaw the construction of a 19-mile pipeline that brought water to residents of Prescott and its gold miners. Just north of Chino Valley and Del Rio Springs lies the town of Paulden and Hells Canyon where a railroad bridge was built across the canyon- currently near the home of the Drake Cement Plant.
Historically located, the Winey Cat Granite Creek Vineyards acknowledge our love for cats and like all the Lord's critters, we need to do good by them. For most, if you don't like dogs, you probably like cats. From the time of the ancient Egyptians cats have been attributed mystical qualities. Common lore says that if dropped they land on all fours; they have nine lives ( eight more than me); you can't herd them; they're good mousers and if you want love you will get a dog; if you want to give love, then you get a cat.
We all have our favorite cat stories and most likely a favorite cat. I speak with some experience because my mother was a cat lady- for good or bad, she loved her feline friends. Domestic or feral, she never saw a cat that she didn't like. She'd feed a stray before she's feed herself. If attacked and clawed, she'd play it off. But, to be sure, there were some real feline characters. Mickey, who was rescued from the Galveston hurricane flood waters, had no equilibrium but a great attitude. He'd standup teetering in 180-degrees all at once, take two or three steps and fall flat on his face or just kind of tip over. He'd get up and try again- same result all the time purring like an outboard motor. Tiger loved to eat- a gluttonous fat cat , for sure, and mother would never deny a cat kitty food so Tiger got big. The bigger he got, the more he'd purr. You could hear his motorboat rooms away stoking his boiler. He come up to you, plop down, and hang out until he got his proper attention- a true cool cat. Miles away just south of the Canadian border, Wayne ,the maple syrup farmer , and Ginny's West Chazy, NY cousin, tends over 1,000 maple trees. Pulling onto his farm you will pass his barn, a relic as old as the American Revolution and more frightening than Hitchcock's Birds , only this movie would be appropriately be called " The Cats". We quit counting the cat herd exiting the barn at a hundred, but like the Chinese army, they just kept coming at us. Wayne, an old-school bachelor, keeps them as mousers and doesn't feed them. You want to live in that barn, you have to earn your keep! Needless to say, you won't find a mouse from West Chazy to the Canadian border- 17 miles north.
Well, enough fun. The point of this rant is to encourage all music lovers to attend the Oct. 21 Battle of the Bands. Gates open at 11am. This fundraiser for the Bradshaw Mountain Wildlife Assn. promises to be a blast. Three talented local bands will compete for your enjoyment: Road One South led by Freddie Freeman, Brock Lacock's Muddbone, and Famous in Denmark. Forty dollars contributes to the cause, gets you a comfortable seat under the canopy of historic elms and with a short walk you can purchase your favorite beer or wine- all the time enjoying a beautiful AZ fall afternoon with full accompaniment.
Take the 89 north to Chino Valley, then exit right on "E" Perkinsville Rd. and then left on Road One "E". On the right side you will find 2515 N. Road One "E" and the Winey Cat Granite Creek Winery. Let's have fun!
Mike Goes on a Bender
By Mike Todhunter
At 72 and still growing, things aren't what they use to be, but I do like a good bender. Now we aren't talking your standardized frat house or sorority house bender, but one that a maturing geezer can hang with- a blues bender in Las Vegas advertised as the best blues festival in America. Arguably King Biscuit in Arkansas and the Bonnaroo Festival in Tennesse might disagree, but The Big Blues Bender held in the Westgate Hotel featured a premiere line-up from Sept. 7 through 10 at the house that Elvis built.
The four-day extravaganza included many blues heavyweights- Jimmy Vaughn (SRV's brother), Beth Hart, Mr. Sipp, Kingfish Ingram, Phoenix's Dennis Jones, Marquis Knox, Tab Benoit, Albert Castiglia and Mike Zito- The Blood Brothers, Samantha Fish, Keb' Mo’, John Primer, Bob Margolin (Muddy Waters band), Victor Wainwright and so many more luminaries. At a reasonable cost, you too can have the best kind of bender without even a hangover if you choose- a blues bender from 3:15pm Thursday to 3:00am Monday morning. Man! What a life!
This wasn't Ginny and my first blues bender. AJ Productions has put on The Big Blues Bender for several years. We first met AJ at the Waterfront Blues Fest in Portland in an elevator hustling his first bender in the true spirit of Barnum and Bailey- easy to see that success was the only option (In Nov. he embarks on his first Big Easy Blues Cruise from Ft. Lauderdale to NOLA to Cozumel- we'll be on it!). Like a visionary entrepreneur, he had hit on a public need and cashed in. The first Bender was held in a nice hotel, The Plaza, but in a seedy neighborhood- just across the street from Fremont Street, the closest location in LV to Zombieville. Once, leaving the Plaza for home in Idaho, Ginny and I received parting farewell courtesy of a drugged-out gal running against traffic coming our way- totally nude. Personally, I prefer a good panhandler fully dressed. I would have paid her to keep her clothes on. After a couple of years, the Bender was moved to the Hard Rock Hotel, until it was torn down. Shortly thereafter, it was moved to the Westgate- originally the International Hotel during Elvis' reign and later the Hilton (I sure do miss the Star Trek Experience). The Westgate was a good choice too because it's not a maze in search of its next victim, but still has four attractive venues- the Theater, the pool, the ballroom and the cabaret. Between Saturday and Sunday footballers, gamblers, and blues groupies, business is good.
What makes the Bender so convenient for us is the four-hour drive from Dewey to the Westgate. Not only is the drive timely, but it affords us the opportunity to connect with our AZ backyard- the topography and its rich SW history. Taking the 89 north through Chino Valley and surviving vertigo and the endless roundabouts, we soon entered the Kaibab National Forest, its beauty reminding me of AZ's version of Big Sky Country and its vast vistas. Go West, young man, on the I-40, that's now properly paved, (thanks to the infrastructure Gods), and exit on the 93 at Kingman. Taking the 93 north through the land that time forgot into Vegas, you will pass the famous Kingman Turquoise Mines that in 1973 supplied over one-half of all the world's jewelry needs and is today one of the few turquoise mines still open in the USA. This mine has been producing since 600 AD. A bit further north you will pass the historic town of Chloride' the oldest inhabited mining town, yielding silver, but today known for its rock-wall murals. The 93 takes you directly onto the I-515, exit Desert Inn Road, turn right on Paradise and you are at the Westgate where the real paradise exists, 4-days of blues heaven. Don't miss the chance to tour or exit at Hoover Dam on your way in. Built in Black Canyon on the Nev.-Az. border, constructed from 1931-36 during the Great Depression and dedicated by FDR , it stands as a symbol of American ingenuity and can-do spirit at a time when America actually built real infrastructure.(I couldn't help myself.)
Upon our arrival at the Westgate , we knew we had landed in music central when we were greeted by the statue of Elvis in the lobby. After an easy check-in two days prior to the start of the festivities, we spent that day chillin' and garnering energy for the blues marathon that was beginning shortly.
Day two found us exploring LV and walking the Strip to some of our nostalgic stops by way of the Tram just outside the Westgate doors and dropping us off at the MGM. From there we hoofed it to the Hard Rock Cafe to slurp Hurricanes made famous at Pat O'Brien's in NOLA. Some bad habits can't be broken. I added to my pin collection, a hobby picked up as a result of having everything a grown man can have and still wants more.
Next day, our rancher-blues buddies from our Pocatello days, Dave and Theresa, joined us for a pilgrimage to Margaritaville to have a Jambalaya lunch, a Bahama Mama and a Last Mango in Paris, all in eulogy to the passing of the good -time man, Jimmy Buffet. God bless his soul. RIP, Jimmy. Later that evening we had supper at the Bootlegger Italian Restaurant, the oldest in LV, frequented in its inception by Bugsy Segal , the Rat Pack any many other infamous Made Men. The food was delicious, the marinara sauce to die for- used metaphorically, of course.earlier that day we all caught the tram and walked to the Venetian Hotel. There Theresa, who is full- blooded Italian, and had never been to Venice got her chance Vegas-style. We did the next best thing-we took her to see the gondolas and the Bridge of Sighs on the Strip. I do think we also saw a mini -version of the Doge Palace as well. Returning to the lobby lounge, we found Leon Blue at the keyboards, all 80-sum years still tickling the ivories like a man half his age- a really nice guy that even talks to sometimes rude people like me. In the lounge, we also met Marquise Knox, a genuine top performer and front man with a superb mix of gospel, blues and authenticity. Our last blues cruise he led the final day swan-song party. Very accomplished.
Day 3 started out with high expectations with an opportunity to hear the Blues Beatles only to find that some things need to be left alone. You can blues-up the Beatles all you want, but the originals can't be touched. Let's call it music heresy, subject to time in prison. Jimmy Vaughn followed and my flashbacks to the days of the Fabulous Thunderbirds were getting the best of me. Jimmy's up there in age and it showed in his vocals, but to hear one of the last living blues icons made for good memories. In his heyday, Jimmy and his brother Stevie Ray left the blues world with some amazing music that will live through the ages. Jimmy, joined by the Texas Horns (Baritone and alto sax, trumpet) and stand-up bass filled the theater.
Following Jimmy's theater act we tried our luck, never knowing what to expect to the cabaret, where Marquise blew the place down with tunes like "Walking the Dog", filled with double entendres, earthly nuance and gospel messaging- balancing it all in revue type fashion. Liza Minnelli couldn't have played the cabaret any better. It was here that we met Prescott folk, Dennis and Marcia, on Hometown "T" day. Ginny saw her mirror image, Marcia, wearing a Windsock T. Who would have thunk it? Surprises continued as we left the cabaret when we saw the Adonis Swamp Thing, Tab Benoit, in the lounge chain- smoking Cubano stogies, liberally sipping some strange Mr. Hyde concoction- ladies draped all over him in a feeding frenzy. With his shoulder-length curly hair, four-day stubble and Hollywood good looks, it's hard to believe that this once clean-cut Cajan altar boy, pre-covid, was a leading environmental advocate for preserving the bayou wetlands. The only endangered species in that lounge during Benoit's presence were the ladies that didn't cop a feel. The guy is magic- a helluva guitarist and drummer as well.
The pool venue opened the next day and like any Pieces worth his zodiac, I was in my element. After a healthy dip we trekked to the Victor Wainwright led piano Bender featuring Dave Keyes (Is this his real name?), Red Young, and Leon Blue. It was mostly talk, but informative. Bored, we hit the High-Noon Pro-Am Jam once more at the cabaret. There the talent reminded me of our Sunday jams at the Windsock- so much talent that couldn't give up their day job. One of the jammers was Blair Robertson who spoke of Dr. Bob and his friendship with Big Daddy D. The man was a gas-funny and loving every moment- playing some Bo Diddley, Lightning Hopkins, Chuck Berry and joined by a cadre of blues people. Joining Blair were people from all over America- Kathy from Hotlanta played the flute and keyboards, the Mountain Man Chris Avery on the lead guitar, Alabama Otis on the Yamaha, Sandy Haley from Detroit on the piano, John Bull from Montgomery and the boys from NC did a great "Chapel Hill Boogie". Shortly thereafter we returned to the pool to hear the Grateful Blues, another spin-off that didn't quite make it, but you will be pleased to note that the boomer Deadheads are still on that one song groove. Pot is legal in Nevada and there is no shortage of herb.
Our blues marathon ended on high-note (not that kind) with the Blood Brothers, Mike Zito and Albert Castiglia, doing their version of dueling guitar riffs and impressive they were, but that's rock, baby, not the blues. Owning and producing for Gulf Coast Records they've promoted the blues and though I'm a big Zito fan, I'd be remiss to suggest otherwise. There's a lot of that going around. Following up the Blood Brothers was Samantha Fish with Jesse Dayton. She's gone to the top of the list in my opinion - so innovative, eclectic and always seeming to improve her voice and guitar. Dressed in black leather tights and stiletto pumps- how can you go wrong: good music and big screen visuals? Southern Hospitality finished that evening with Victor Wainwright on the keyboards, Damon Fowler and JP Soars - all headliners in their own right.
Many top bluesmen filled the 4-day line-up to name a few: Alastair Greene (recently produced a CD with Orphan Jon), Corey Duplechin, Ana Popovic, Selwyn Birchwood, Kenny Neal and more. The only drawback to the Big Blues Bender is that it is impossible to see it all- so pick your euphoria.
All you blues folks out there, consider the Bender for next year early Sept. and book early because tix go fast- room and festival are one price. I met old friends and made new ones there. Ginny and I had a grand time and so would you. Long live the blues! Sunday 2pm jams at the Windsock. Be there or be square.
Big Daddy D
Review: Big Daddy D and the Dynamites featuring Betty Jo Vachon
By Tom Pallen
Big Daddy D and the Dynamites featuring Betty Jo Vachon put on an electrifying show that left the audience in awe. With an ensemble of incredibly talented musicians, this performance was a memorable journey through the blues genre.
Dr. Bob Sellani on drums set the tone right from the beginning with a captivating opening act. His drumming was nothing short of spectacular and it was evident that he brought a wealth of experience to the stage. And the way he ripped open "Hip Shake" was simply mind-blowing, and it instantly drew the crowd into the groove.
Scott Jeffy on bass provided a rock solid and groovy foundation for the band. His basslines were tight, and he effortlessly held the rhythm section together, allowing the other musicians to shine.
Darryl Porras (aka Big Daddy D), with his soulful vocals and mesmerizing guitar skills, showcased the heart and soul of the blues. His performance of "Nasty Habits" was filled with emotion, and his guitar solos were nothing short of breathtaking.
But it was Betty Jo Vachon who stole the show with her incredible voice. Her rendition of "Chain of Blues" was one of many highlights of the evening. Her powerful vocals resonated throughout the venue, leaving the audience in awe of her talent and stage presence. She brought a unique energy to the stage that was truly unforgettable.
The chemistry between the band members was palpable, and their synergy on stage was a testament to their years of experience and dedication to the blues. Each member brought their A-game, and it was evident that they were in their element.
This show was undoubtedly one for the books and a testament to why the Windsock is in the Blues Hall of Fame. Big Daddy D and the Dynamites featuring Betty Jo Vachon delivered a performance that was unparalleled. It was a night filled with soulful blues, incredible musicianship, and a whole lot of heart. If you ever have the chance to see them, don't miss it – it's an experience you won't forget.
Phoenix Rising and the Blues
Phoenix Rising and the Blues by Mike Todhunter
While enjoying the July 23 blues jam at the Windsock and thoroughly enjoying the camaraderie of that afternoon, I reflected on the upcoming Windsock induction into the NAZBA Blues Hall of Fame to take place on Aug. 13 from 2-6pm. That afternoon only reaffirmed why the Windsock truly is worthy of the distinction of being a Hall of Famer. The lounge aside, it is the blues performers themselves that have made the Windsock the place to be.
Led by Scott O'Neill's house band , the Sunday jams never disappoint. The talent ensemble, includes the likes of blues locals- Dennis Herrera, Dr. Bob, Chicago Bob, Taul Paul, Mary McKee, the Kelley’s, Mike Dotson, and so many others of equal talent. Some of these performers should be appropriated HOF status. The blues reputation of the Windsock attracts performers from outside our community and fans as well. On several occasions I have met folks who have come in from Phoenix to take in the blues referred by word of mouth. It's not uncommon to see the dance floor on fire, the audience fully feeling the vibe.
You can only imagine the thrill that Ginny and I got on July 23 when, near the jam's end, a local legend who had been MIA since just before the cover lockdown showed up with his guitar on steroids- metaphorically catching lightning in a bottle. Those that stayed until the jam's conclusion were treated to the re-emergence of Muddbone after its long hiatus.
In Sept. 2019, a few months prior to the lockdown, after closing two escrows and moving from Idaho to Dewey, Ginny and I began our inevitable search for good live music. It didn't take long to find Freddie Freeman (currently with Road One South) and sole performer on his terrific CD, ("Captive of Love") and at PV's now closed "Sidekicks", we discovered Muddbone featuring Brock Lacock. OMG! With Brock's rocking' voice and his flaming guitar work, we thought that we had stumbled on a ZZ Top/ Ted nugget rocking' blues reincarnation.
Scoring three Muddbone CD's- "Twister Blues", "Rev It Up", and simply "Muddbone", I now had at my beckoned call music that would help me get through the dog days of lockdown and inconvenience of social isolation. Songs like "Back to the Blues", "The River", "Good Thing", "Worn Out Shoes", "The Edge", "Honey Bee", and "Snake Eyes" , just to name a few of my favorites- all capturing Brock's powerful rocking' blues thunderbolts.
But then, like so many other musicians, he disappeared from public view to our loss. Everyone reacted differently to the lockdown, its unintended consequences politically, economically and socially were like a personal and national walk through a dark alley blind and not knowing where this pandemic would take us. For some, this time for reflection, for creative and innovative endeavors and for more family time proved to be an unforeseen time of fortune- an ironic blessing. For others, especially musicians familiar with the weekend gig, it was a time of misfortune and lost income. Fans who regularly let off steam and the occasional Weekend Warrior felt the social distancing so unbecoming of the human species. Some boomers dusted off their guitars relegated for decades in their closets and became a part of the blues renaissance that we see today in Prescott.
The trials and tribulations that Brock and fellow musicians went through can only be speculated on, but after Sunday's show, Brock while tightening his belt loops, confided that he had lost weight and missed the shows pre-empted by covid.
Blues giants like Bobby Bland, BB King, Willie Dixon and Buddy Guy have often been questioned about what are the blues? Growing out of the rich farm land of the Mississippi Delta, the cotton fields tended by sharecroppers through a long humid summer, the blues were cast upon the musical world. More than life's labor define the evolution of our souls and transforms us into unique individual beings. Life itself can be the blues. When a man with a family loses his job and can't pay the rent, he has the blues. When the kids can't have new school clothes or decent food, they have the blues. When your man or woman leave you and have done you wrong, you have the blues. The death of a loved one is surely the blues. Psychologists have confirmed that the greatest grief lies in having to bury a child, worse than divorce. This kind of grief causes some to question the Lord's divinity- this too is the blues. Life on the Mississippi Delta during its period of Southern segregation and the Klan's reign of terror was too the blues. Passion often comes through suffering and what emerges is a universality found in the blues that touches the human spirit like only music can. (Not that I would ever wish another pandemic on anyone as a means to acquire passion.)
Sundays, traditionally a day of rest or an opportunity for music catharsis became a competing clash of interests post- Reconstruction. Church goers celebrated life through the gospel, while others sought the sanctity of the juke joint which to those ecclesiastically inclined played the devil's music. Surely it must be because it competed and kept people from Sunday service. The heart of the community felt this schism.
The blues greats always felt that to play the blues, you had to feel the blues. Brock and other blues performers lived through a difficult time and persevered. They felt the blues through the lockdown and like the Egyptian mythological legend of the Phoenix and the Native-American legend of the Thunderbird, they found renewal and newfound purpose. Just as the seasonal floods enriched the Nile Valley and the thunderbolts announced and preclude the life-giving monsoons of the Southwest, the lifting of the lockdown watered our blues scene and restored the land as it once was. The Windsock has indeed benefited from this awakening and established itself with the help of our blues jammers as a primo venue worthy of HOF status.
Celebrate Windsock’s Aug. 13 HOF induction. Acknowledge the Brock Lacock’s of this world and let's all do our part to keep the blues alive and well. There is no better place in this world than our Prescott area home, its blues scene and its friendly folk.
Hey: Mike Dotson
Dotson Having Fun Playing As A Free Agent
By John Johnson
The blues scene in the Prescott area has certainly been bolstered by transplants from Southern California. Guitarist Mike Dotson is yet another one of those.
The stocky 71-year-old with the flowing gray hair who's become a fixture at local jams over the past several months was born and raised in Phoenix, then relocated to SoCal in the mid 1970s. After a career in the electronics industry that took him to points all over the world, he and wife Diane purchased a place in the Quailwood development in Dewey about a year ago.
They're happy to be back in his native state, but at a much higher elevation than his former home city.
"My wife didn't want to live in Phoenix," he said. "She's allergic to 125 degrees.
"I've gotten to experience what shoveling snow is like for the first time in my life and now I know why people have heart attacks doing it. But other than that, this place has more to offer than most people realize."
He began his musical journey at age 12, inspired by artists such as Simon and Garfunkel. He worked in a record store and sold stereo equipment while playing in bands as a teenager, which became the foundation for his career in the electronics field. His final position prior to retirement consisted of running an Asian company that produces drones.
There was a 10-year period when he was obsessed with golf (which began as an effort to help an ailing in-law), but otherwise he continued to play guitar during his time in California. About a decade ago, he attended an after-party at the National Association of Music Merchants show in Anaheim and got a chance to play with Christian rock legend and harmonica virtuoso Darrell Mansfield.
"It hooked me," he said. "It was time for me to go back. Golf went by the wayside and I got serious about (the guitar) again."
He either joined or formed a number of bands over the ensuing years, the most prominent of which was Willie and the Road Tramps featuring the Dirty Horns. The drummer in that outfit remains one of his best friends.
"It became kind of a vanity project for the drummer, but for me, I just wanted to see how dynamic it could be," he said. "I just wanted to have an enormous amount of fun with it. There's nothing quite like a band with a horn section that goes out trying to destroy anything in its path."
They opened for some big-name acts at the esteemed Coach House in San Juan Capistrano, including renowned guitarists Dickie Betts, Coco Montoya and Albert Lee, the Atlanta Rhythm Section and the Motels.
"I just had a gas of a time," he said.
He does a fair amount of singing, but that's not his passion.
"I sing out of necessity," he said. "With that, I've learned that there's certain things you do and certain things you never do in a jam. For instance, you never try to teach a song (to the other musicians) when you're on stage. That's a perfect way to guarantee a train wreck.
"The worst experience I ever had on stage, I tried to teach a one-chord John Lee Hooker song. It was a disaster."
About 5 years ago, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer that was borderline stage 4. He went through 2 1/2 months of radiation and three years of chemotherapy and is now cancer-free. Just prior to that ordeal, he'd concluded a difficult divorce.
He said the cancer treatment was horrible, but there was some good stuff that came out of that period as well. For example, on the day he got his diagnosis, he gave his phone number to a lady who was a regular at one of the jams he played.
"It was the woman I'm married to now," he said. "She basically saved my life. Music brought us together and it keeps us together."
He may eventually become a member of another band – or he might not. For now, he's having a lot of fun with the jams.
"I really don't have any interest in building another band," he said. "The only caveat to that would be if I came across a singer who was a real diamond in the rough. If it happens, it happens, but I'm content to just keep jamming.
"As long as I can get up on stage and play music that people find entertaining, that's fine with me. I've made my money and I don't have to dig into a tip jar in order to have lunch tomorrow."
And check this out:
Review: Road 1 South
Road One South Returns to the Iconic Windsock with a Soul-Stirring Blues Performance
By Tom Pallen
Road One South, the renowned blues band, made a triumphant return to the iconic Windsock, grabbing the audience with their soulful melodies and impeccable musicianship. Led by the charismatic frontman Freddie Freeman, the band delivered a mesmerizing performance that showcased their collective talent and deep-rooted love for the blues genre. With John Wurtz's electrifying guitar, Steve Rivera's grooving bass, Dwight D'Evelyn's pulsating drums, Ofer Harel's captivating percussion, and Jay Schermer's soulful harmonica, Road One South proved once again why they are a force to be reckoned with in the blues scene.
From the moment Road One South took the stage, the energy in the room was palpable. Opening with a foot-stomping blues number, Freeman's powerful vocals immediately commanded attention. His expressive voice, reminiscent of the blues greats of the past, effortlessly conveyed the emotions embedded within each song. Freeman's skills on the keyboard were equally impressive, adding depth and texture to the band's sound.
Wurtz's guitar work was nothing short of extraordinary. His mastery of the instrument was evident as he effortlessly transitioned between searing solos and delicate, nuanced melodies. Wurtz's passion for the blues shone through every note, leaving the audience captivated and craving more.
Rivera's bass provided a solid foundation for the band's sound, creating a rich and resonant groove that kept the audience swaying throughout the night. His impeccable sense of timing and ability to lock in with D'Evelyn's dynamic drumming created a rhythm section that was tight and powerful.
Speaking of D'Evelyn, his drumming skills were a highlight of the performance. From thunderous beats to intricate fills, D'Evelyn showcased his versatility and mastery of his instrument. His infectious energy was contagious, driving the band forward and keeping the audience on their feet.
Harel's percussion added a layer of flavor to Road One South's sound. His expertly placed rhythms enhanced the overall groove and added an element of spontaneity to the performance. Harel's chemistry with the rest of the band was evident, creating a cohesive and tight-knit musical unit.
Last but not least, Schermer's harmonica playing added a soulful and authentic blues touch to the band's sound. His ability to breathe life into each note and evoke a range of emotions was remarkable. Schermer's harmonica solos were a true highlight of the evening, drawing cheers and applause from the audience.
Road One South's return to the Windsock was an unforgettable night of blues music at its finest. Freddie Freeman and his bandmates delivered a stellar performance that showcased their exceptional talent and genuine love for the genre. Their tight-knit musicianship, powerful vocals, electrifying guitar work, grooving rhythm section, captivating percussion, and soulful harmonica made for a truly memorable experience. Road One South's dedication to the blues shines through in every note, making them a must-see for any fan of the genre. With their remarkable performance at the Windsock, Road One South solidified their place as one of the top blues bands around.
Review: Dennis Herrera
Captivating Blues Mastery: Dennis Herrera Blues Band
By Tom Pallen
The Dennis Herrera Blues Band is a soul-stirring ensemble that delivers a mesmerizing blend of blues with their unique musical chops. Led by the charismatic frontman Dennis Herrera, whose versatile skills as a vocalist and guitarist take center stage, the band also features John Warmouth on drums, Carl Dahlgren on keys, and Frank Marbut on bass. Together, they create a captivating blues experience that leaves the audience begging for more.
One of the standout features of the Dennis Herrera Blues Band is their ability to seamlessly fuse traditional blues elements with contemporary influences, resulting in a sound that is both timeless and refreshing. Their performances exude raw passion and authenticity, paying homage to the blues masters of the past while injecting their own modern twists.
Dennis Herrera's talent as a vocalist is off the chart. His voice carries the weight and raw emotion required to convey the depth of blues music. From gritty, soulful ballads, (think Whisky and Women), to high-energy, foot-stomping anthems (Sittin’ Here Waitin’), Herrera's vocal range and expressive delivery grab the listener, drawing them into the heart of each song.
The band's rhythm section, with John Warmouth on drums and Frank (Bama) Marbut on bass, lays down a rock-solid foundation that moves the music forward with infectious energy. Warmouth's drumming skills are dynamic and precise, providing the backbone for the band's grooves, while Bama’s driving bass lines add depth and richness to the overall sound. In the pocket every time.
Carl Dahlgren's contributions on keys add a layer of soulful texture to the band's sound. His skillful playing effortlessly weaves in and out of the music, adding expressive solos and heartful embellishments that enhance the emotional impact of each song.
One of the highlights of the Dennis Herrera Blues Band's live performances is their ability to create an immersive atmosphere. Their stage presence is magnetic, and they have a natural ability to connect with the audience, ensuring that everyone in the room becomes part of the musical experience. It's evident that they love what they do, and their passion for the blues is contagious.
And then the stray cat rolled in, with his exotic harmonica case that signaled his talent, his haunting fills, and his raw expression of the Blues. Garry Segal, epic harp player.
In conclusion, the Dennis Herrera Blues Band is an immensely talented group of musicians who have mastered the art of blues performance. With Dennis Herrera's soulful vocals, the tight-knit rhythm section of John Warmouth and Frank Marbut, and the textured contributions of Carl Dahlgren on keys, they create an unforgettable blues experience that leaves audiences craving for more. Their ability to balance tradition with innovation sets them apart, and their live shows are nothing short of captivating. If you have the chance to witness the Dennis Herrera Blues Band in action, be prepared to be taken on an exhilarating musical journey that will leave you wanting to dive deeper and deeper into our world: BLUES
CHICAGO BOB AND THE BLUES SQUAD
CROS CHARLES MAC
DIRTY RED AND THE SOUL SHAKERS
MOTHER ROAD TRIO
ROAD ONE SOUTH
POPPY HARPMAN AND THE STORM
SCOTT O'NEAL BAND
S E WILLIS
10/12 CLUB, CLARKDALE
AD ASTRA BREWING COMPANY
BACK ALLEY WINE BAR
BLUES BREWS AND BBQ, FLAGSTAFF
CHARLY'S PUB, FLAGSTAFF
CREEKSIDE LODGE AND CABINS
FOUNDING FATHERS COLLECTIVE
GRANITE CREEK WINERY
OAKMONT GRILL, SEDONA
ROUTE 66 PLAZA, WINSLOW
SOUND BITES GRILL, SEDONA
THUMB BUTTE DISTILLERY
Northern Arizona Blues Alliance https://nazba.com/home-page
The Blues Foundation http://blues.org
The HART Foundation https://blues.org/hart-fund/
Daryl Weisser Photography http://darylweisserphotos.com
PV Music http://prescottvalleymusic.com
Mercy Guitar and the Fiddle Doctor http://www.thefiddledoctor.com
World's Best Cosmo Recipe https://youtu.be/7OmkFqy0-9I
Grey Dog Guitars https://www.graydogguitars.com/