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
Review: Chicago Bob
By Tom Pallen
Chicago Bob and the Blues Squad delivered a spellbinding performance at Lucy’s, Chino Valley, showcasing their deep roots in the Chicago-style blues tradition. Led by Bob's soulful harmonica playing and emotive vocals, the band's sound is raw, passionate, and steeped in the blues.
The band's rhythm section - consisting of Gordon on bass and Conrad on drums - provides a solid foundation for the music to build upon. Gordon's rock-solid basslines and Conrad's dynamic drumming create a steady pulse that keeps the music moving forward, allowing the rest of the band to shine.
Pete's guitar playing is dynamic and intricate, providing a perfect complement to Bob's harmonica playing and vocals. His guitar adds an element of interplay and depth to the music, creating a sound that is both complex and deeply rooted in the Chicago blues tradition.
Sitting in tonight found Freddie Freeman, and his virtuosic keyboard playing was a standout feature of the band's sound. His use of call-and-response playing with Bob’s harmonica creates a dynamic interplay that is essential to the Chicago blues sound. His playing is both technically impressive and emotionally resonant, adding a layer of depth and complexity to the music.
Little Miss Chris’ vocals add a soulful and sultry layer to the band's sound, providing a perfect complement to Bob's vocals and harmonica playing. Her voice is powerful and emotive, adding a sense of passion and intensity to the music.
Together, Chicago Bob and the Blues Squad deliver a performance that is both timeless and contemporary, drawing on the rich history of the Chicago blues tradition while infusing their music with their own unique style and energy. With a lineup consisting of Bob on harmonica and vocals, Gordon on bass, Conrad on drums, Pete on guitar, Freeman on keys, and Little Miss Chris on vocals, the band is a force to be reckoned with in the world of blues music.
If you're a fan of the Chicago-style blues tradition or just great music in general, Chicago Bob and the Blues Squad are a band that you won't want to miss. With their raw and passionate sound, virtuosic playing, and soulful vocals, they are a true gem in the world of blues music.
NOLA - Blues and More
by Michael Dotson
When you look on a bottle of Tabasco pepper sauce, it says “So much more than hot.” This tag line implies that, with Tabasco, you get flavor that takes you beyond the experience of simply feeling heat on your palette. You get more than what you anticipate. The same can be said of a visit to New Orleans.
My wife, Diane, and I recently enjoyed a week in “NOLA” and I had been asked to share my experiences from the perspective of a Prescott Blues player. I happily agreed.
New Orleans is not just a destination to visit – it is a historic, musical, and culinary experience. The city is separated into 14 Districts, with the French Quarter, Marigny, Warehouse/Arts and Garden districts being the most popular for tourists.
This is a city of immense historical significance, from its founding in 1718, until today. The influence of the French is everywhere. We took a tour of Oak Alley, a slavery-era sugarcane Plantation and learned much about the challenges of life in the mid-1800s. For more recent history, we spent the better part of a day at the WWII Museum – a “must see” for anyone traveling to this great city! It has been ranked the number 1 attraction in New Orleans, makes us appreciate our US history even more, and is well worth the time spent. We also took an Airboat Swamp Tour, zipping around Louisiana swamps south of the city, and YES, gators are an integral part of the NOLA culture -- we saw plenty of them! A fan of history and/or architecture could have a field day taking in the many sights.
Food and Music
New Orleans is known worldwide for its cuisine and music, and the two are closely intertwined. If you’re a jazz aficionado, the Court Two Sisters features a weekend Brunch with live jazz and traditional Creole fare, and both are great. For Dixieland Jazz, it’s hard to beat a concert at historical Preservation Hall (just off Bourbon Street) followed by dinner at any one of the Cajun restaurants in that area. Speaking of Cajun, you can’t do better than experience Mulate’s, New Orleans’ original Cajun restaurant, in the Warehouse/Arts district. Here you’ll find traditional Cajun selections to go with spirited Zydeco music coming from the stage. For a terrific breakfast, there’s Mother’s at the edge of the French Quarter. It has been serving its line of customers since 1938 (expect a 20-minute wait, but certainly worth it). Another musical treat is at Café du Monde, where you can enjoy live jazz along with your café au lait and beignets (Cajun/French doughnuts). If fine dining is what you crave you must add a terrific restaurant called briquette, also located in the Warehouse/Arts district, to your plans. They feature exquisite food, great service, and wonderful desserts such as the “floating island” – their variation of a New Zealand “Pavlova” (a meringue with whipped cream and mixed berries). Your musical and food cravings will be met in New Orleans, but don’t go expecting to lose weight!
The Blues (on Frenchmen Street)
Many associate music in New Orleans with Bourbon Street, and there is a wealth of music there – mostly lively Dixieland Jazz. Just outside of the French Quarter in the Marigny District is Frenchman Street, where crowds go after dark to hear a variety of blues-based music. It is here where we caught up with my friend, harpist Johnny Mastro and his outstanding blues band “Mama’s Boys” featuring the very talented “Smokehouse” Brown on guitar. I had the opportunity to spend time and play with Johnny when we were here five years ago, and his band has only gotten better! When they are not touring Europe, they can frequently be found at Bamboula’s on Frenchmen Street.
Just off Frenchmen Street at the Balcony Music Club (BMC) we had the pleasure of listening to a fantastic harp and sax player named Smoky Greenwell and his blues band. Smoky had replaced Lee Oskar in the band “War”, and now fronts a terrific band playing their own style of traditional and boogie blues. As we wandered up Frenchmen Street, we stopped for dinner at the Three Muses and heard “Jug Band” blues (washboard, tuba, and guitars) – very fun and entertaining!
We are happy to be back home in Prescott, and thoroughly enjoyed our NOLA excursion. Our trip to the “Crescent City” (yet another name for New Orleans) was a packed week, filled with everything we had hoped for – and so much more!
By John Johnson
It was a little over 6 years ago when Tony Mansour's life was altered dramatically. The 58-year-old Prescott Valley resident is now back to doing one of the things he loves most – playing the guitar – with some adjusted mechanics that accommodate his present situation.
Mansour had the exhaust manifold on his car changed out in March 2017, but he said the re-wiring wasn't done properly by the mechanic. One night shortly thereafter he was traveling down Highway 69 between Humboldt and Mayer about midnight when his engine caught fire.
He pulled off into the desert and the blaze immediately spread to brush that the vehicle came into contact with. He ran to the highway to try to flag down a passing motorist for assistance, but that vehicle struck him while traveling approximately 70 mph.
He suffered 22 broken bones and spent the next couple of months hospitalized, plus another in a nursing home. He eventually underwent six surgical procedures.
He incurred severe nerve damage in his right arm, which required tendon transfers to regain minimal use of the figners. His right wrist had to be fused into a straight position. The tricep and the muscle in his forearm no longer work, forcing him to rely on the deltoid and bicep to strum the guitar. That's the reason he now plays primarily with an upstroke.
He progressively relearned to play despite the reduced function and has been back in action for about a year, sitting in with several bands and performing at local jams.
"It's something that's made me change directions musically," he said recently. "Now I rely on softer music and singing myself. And for some reason, everybody wants me to play the blues.
"Most of the bands I've played with (prior to the accident) did classic rock and cover stuff. The blues is fun because I know music theory and the 1-4-5 (chord progression) and I get to create my own leads and pretty much improvise on the solos. I know some riffs I can throw in there."
Mansour has two adult daughters, both living in Cottonwood, along with three grandchildren. He does some cleaning work for local businesses and also receives disability payments.
He's played guitar since he was 13 and had a band for several years prior to the accident. Since returning to the stage, he's played with Hit Squad 17, Lucy Hill, the Billy Reno Band and Lisa Mitts. He's recently become a regular performer for the Last Call Blues Band, an opportunity that stemmed from playing in jams at the Attic.
He's also focused on some solo stuff and plans to record a CD.
He said his first post-accident gig with Lisa Mitts in 2022 was a signficant milestone for him.
"It was pretty emotional," he said. "I thanked everybody and shed a couple of tears.
"It has been a long time."
By Michael Dotson
Like so many who have moved to Prescott from other cities, the decision for my wife and I to choose this area as our “final” destination had been the result of many factors. Once we (and our 10 U-Haul UBoxes) arrived last July, the laborious process of unboxing and settling in began.
While preparing for this “transplantation,” I gave considerable thought about how I might transition musically. My day job running an overseas Drone company had provided me sufficient time to devote to my love of the blues. As an active member of the Orange County Blues Society, I had the opportunity to play in numerous bands and participate in the many jams available throughout Orange and Los Angeles counties. It was there that I made many friends, some of whom now reside in Prescott. Those transplanted friends quickly found their own bands to be a part of, and reported back that there was a considerable amount of musical work to be had. For some reason though, discussions regarding blues jams within the area never came up!
During the time immediately after the move, I began focusing on acoustic guitar, thinking I would probably end up going solo at smaller venues. It was seven months before I even considered returning to electric guitar and the blues I love. I had heard from one of my local friends that there was a vibrant Blues “scene” in Prescott which surpassed what we had in Orange County or LA. I had to know more!
After deciding to get “back to work” and jump into the Prescott blues jams at the Attic and Windsock, I’m happy to report that the blues in the area is alive and well. As a player, the level of talented musicians at these establishments is simply thrilling!
Where else can 10 people get on stage at the same time (many having never met each other), entertain the audience without stepping on each other’s musical feet, and make great music? There are terrific players throughout, be it guitar, bass, harp, keys, drums, sax, trumpet, trombone, and (yes) flute! While it is exciting to have the chance to play, it is even more so to listen to these fine musicians interact with each other for the entertainment of the audience. I look forward to these jams because there is always something new to hear!
As venues for these jams, both the Attic and Windsock deserve more than a mention. I have had the pleasure of meeting both owners and believe they would agree that providing blues music to the people of this area is more than a worthwhile business strategy. The crowds are enthusiastic fans of the blues, love to dance, and are thirsty! The host bands at each location also know how to structure a successful jam – which is not as easy as it may seem! Coordinating how to pair musicians is a thankless task, but they accomplish this in a friendly and professional way. The same could not always be said of some of the California jams where egos and personalities could get in the way of presenting quality music to an audience.
We have found our new life here and have discovered that the “spirit of the Blues” in this part of Arizona is well-represented by the friendly, talented, enthusiastic, and deserving people who give so much of themselves to entertain others. When you attend one (or more) of these local jams, you can be sure of leaving with a smile, knowing that the players you listen to are giving you everything they’ve got in a highly creative environment. The essence of a successful “jam” is to be able to take many different parts and make them sound whole. There is not a better way to spend an afternoon or evening listening to quality music than enjoying the improvisation (jam) of fine musicians entertaining you for free. For us, now living in Prescott, our transition (and transplantation) has been very successful. God Bless the 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/