Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Barstool Bob CD Release Party March 1 at Big Cities

History will be made at Big Cities on March 1st. Barstool Bob Levis will release his first ever CD with him leading a band! This is an event not to be missed. This will be the first opportunity to purchase the CD, and you can be among the first to buy this monumental musical achievement and to listen to the artists live!

This is the first release for Big Paw Records whose logo is featured below. For those of you who have see our illustrious Society President Mark Thompson in a tank top, you will understand why this logo exists. Otherwise, you will have to ask him yourself. Mark and Bob produced the CD and it features a host of talent helping out on the recording.

Check out the official CD review inside this issue. CDs are $15 each and will be available at the party. Come on out for this show– you will not want to miss it! This is another Rockford first in the blues music world and you can be a part of the action. Special guest– Lonnie Brooks!

Bob Levis Interview by Dave Stine

I sat down with Bob Levis at Big Cities during the belated Crossroads Blues Society Christmas Party/meeting and Reverend Raven gig to talk with him about his upcoming CD, Barstool Blues.

At first Bob was a little hesitant to talk to me, since I’d recently become somewhat of the Simon Cowell of blues reviewing for newsletter. He said I was pretty “brutal” to Grady Champion, Charles Burton, and even Howlin’ Wolf. I told him, I just call ‘em as I see ‘em, but that he didn’t need to pre-worry. (NOTE: Wolf did call me from beyond the grave to ask “how many more years” was I gonna wreck his life!)

Anyway, about the CD. First, for those of you who don’t know--and I can’t imagine who you’d be--Bob was guitarist for both Lonnie Brooks and Otis Rush back in the day. You’ll see his name pop up on Cold Day in Hell, Live at Kingston Mines, and other albums that may be floating around library. He moved to Rockford a few years ago, and he hosts a Wednesday night blues jam at Big Cities as well as adding guitar to Ernie and The Po’Boys.

I asked Bob how the CD came about and he said some things happen; some things you make happen; and some things just seem to happen on their own. He is very thankful that all the various things DID come together at one time: a financial backer (Mark Thompson), some great players (see below), a studio (see below), and the opportunity to combine all these things. Locals should recognize all the players on the CD. Bob had been in Chicago when Steve Ditzell was with Koko Taylor and Junior Wells. They knew of each other but had never played together. Steve also transplanted to Rockford over 10 years ago. Hanging out at Big Cities allowed Bob to hook up with Steve and Dave Kaye and some of the other players on the CD. Bob doesn’t sing so put out the call to people like Steve, who he knew could help him with the project. His old friend Lonnie Brooks contributes a song, as does Larry Pendleton from Ernie and the Po’Boys. Big Jim Johnson, another local icon, sings and plays harp on the disc as well. The rhythm section is Dave Kaye and Marty Binder (mostly). I can’t even begin to mention with whom both of these men have played--the list is too long. Other players on the CD include Westside Andy and Jimmy Voegeli from the Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band, Teddy Lawrence from Johnny and the Boomers and Cross Eyed Cat, and Dave Wood from????

Bob warned me that the CD breaks no new ground: it’s just a blues album. He wanted a CD of blues played “the way it should be played” and nothing more. He picked people to play whose style he knew would fit with what he and Mark wanted to do. There were no band rehearsals, just various players in the studio, live, who he told to “play what you know.”

Bob and Mark used Miles Nieslen’s The Fuse studio and appreciated to care that Miles, and Chris French took with the project. (NOTE to Tricksters--dad Rick dropped by during the Lonnie Brooks recording.)

Mark Thompson acted as executive producer and Bob as producer. I don’t know what these titles mean, but I think that means Mark had the final say. Arrangements were simply talked out. Most songs were complete in 1 or 2 takes.

The gear head in me wanted to know what guitar(s) Bob used, but I already knew the answer. Although this isn’t an Otis Rush tribute, Bob relies heavily on his mentor’s tone, so he used his red Epiphone Riviera.

I told Bob that I am a HUGE Otis Rush fan, that I was familiar with most of the players, and really look forward to hearing the CD (I got a pre-release copy that night).

So, with no further adieu . . . see the review on http://crossroadsreviews.blogspot.com/2008/02/barstool-blues-reviewed-by-david-stine.html

Crossroads Blues Society News and Notes by Steve Jones

In addition to the Bob Levis CD release party on March 1, we have a lot of other stuff to report on. We are a busy club and things are happening every month.

We are working on the remainder of the Spring semester BITS programs. At press time we had no specifics, but look for the Spring to be all local acts supporting our programs. We have a lot of strong BITS acts in both Northern Illinois and Wisconsin, and we intend to use them! Stay tuned for more info.

Wednesday March 26th at Big Cities is a big night. We are sponsoring a show entitles “A Tribute to Little Walter.” Harp players Dennis Gruenling and Steve Guyger with guitar player Doug Deming will be featured that night starting early at 8 PM. Dennis is releasing a CD entitled “Just Keep Lovin” Him: A tribute to Little Walter” and this will be one of the stops on the CD release tour. It will be a great show so get there early to get a good seat!

We got some good press in the Rockford Register Star and Rock River Times for Pistol Pete’s BITS shows, but then a larger scale article in the RR Star came out on February 2nd as part of the Black History Month Celebration which was entitled “Blues Survival: Has modern music forgotten its roots?” by Edith Webster of the Register Star. Mark Thompson and Crossroads get quoted and mentioned in the well-done piece.

And lastly, the RAMI Awards! Don't forget to vote in the RAMI Awards - Crossroads is nominated in the Musical Outreach Organization category. It is free to vote and you can help our club get recognition that may elp us to get more funding and grants so we can do more to keep the blues alive. Check it out and vote at:

March and April will be busy months. Come on out and support the blues and

Presidents Corner by Mark Thompson

In January, The Crossroads Blues Society received confirmation that the Rockford Area Arts Council had awarded us a $1,000 grant to help fund our 2008 Blues in the Schools programs. The Arts Council has been supporting our efforts since we started BITS. We thank them once again for their confidence and support of our programs. Please consider signing up for an individual membership to the Arts Council. A one year membership starts at $25. They certainly deserve our support !!
We also want to thank several people who made recent donations of CDs to the Crossroads CD Library.
- member David Stine donated about ten discs from his personal collection, including several Duke Robillard discs
- Member Kevin Becker contributed 45 promo discs from Borders Books in Rockford. Most of these titles were not currently in the library. Kevin manages the store that has a Blues cd section that is #1 in sales in the company !!!
- Karen Howard of Charlotte's Web contributed several new releases from the Blind Pig label - Poppa Chubby, Webb Wilder live and Nappy Brown.

Thanks to their generosity, the library is chock full of great stuff for your listening pleasure !!

Remember that any current member can check out up to five CDs from the library at one time. The library is available at each Crossroads general membership meeting.

BITS Programs with Pistol Pete are Another Huge Success for Crossroads Blues Society!

On January 16th our Crossroads Blues Society presented Blues in the Schools (BITS) with Pistol Pete. We presented the program to about 620 students. Approximately 400 students at Nashold Elementary school attended and about 400 of them shook Pete’s hand or hugged him after the show. We also had about 120 music students at Lincoln Middle School attend the BITS program. The middle school students were into music and asked numerous questions, including, “What is your favorite color?”. For the record, purple is Pete's color of choice.

Pete did a fine job of performing and explaining the history of Blues and the value of getting an education. He also had to put up with Harmonica Joe on stage. It took little to no coaxing to get Joe up there; for those of you who know Joe this will not come as a surprise. Actually, Pete would probably had to forcibly restrain Joe from playing as it is believed that Joe arranged this as part of Pete’s agreement to work with us.

In all seriousness, Joe did a great job arranging the programs and escorting Pete around. It was also good to have other Society members attend the shows. Pat Reilly , Mark Thompson and Rick Hein attended at least one of the BITS programs. We would like to give a special thanks to Rick Hein for all his help with BITS.

Both the Rockford Register Star and Rock River Times showed up at Nashold School to cover Blues in the Schools programs. The Register Star article featured a picture of Pistol Pete, another of the students and a nice article about the program. The Rock River Times also featured the programs in a fine article with pictures.

At Lincoln MS, Joes’ granddaughter Aubrey got to be on stage with Pete and was also thanked by the Band Director for getting her Grandpa to bring BITS to Lincoln. A good time was had by all.

BITS trivia: Pete really likes the new Kentucky Fried Chicken hot wings.