Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Crossroads Blues Society Board and Membership Meeting
Friday, December 18, 2009 at Big Cities Lounge in
1. The meeting was called to order at 8:05 PM by President
3. Treasurer Al McNary reported $175 in the treasury with $100 to be added for Tee Shirt profits and $50 for Mandolin Madness Show profits. Of the total $325 available, $120 profit from the Thackery show is designated for future shows.
5. Mark noted the RAAC had met to discuss 2010 grant awards and we were hoping to continue to receive funding from the RAAC. He and Steve had prepared and submitted the grant proposal to the RAAC.
6. Crossroads did not win the Blues Foundation Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Best Organization but will try again next year.
7. Mark also described the BITS Program for the new members in attendance. New members were urged to attend programs and get involved.
8. A benefit concert needs to be held to fund Spring BITS. Bands will be scheduled to perform free of charge, profits from ticket sales, silent auction items and a 50-50 raffle will go to cover our BITS programs. We are targeting a show in late February or early March at the American Legion Hall in
9. Our Fall BITS with Joe Filisko and Eric Noden was very successful. Two programs at RESA MS of 450 students each were held the first day and shows at Spring Creek ES and Montessori Magnet ES had 340 and 450 in attendance respectively for a total of 1,690 students at all 4 shows. The evening show at Big Cities had several Montessori school teachers and a few area students attending with their parents and was quite successful, too.
10. We discussed Spring BITS needed to be looked at for scheduling but we still have time. Other scheduled shows at Big Cities include Kim Wilson with Billy Flynn and Barrelhouse Chuck on February 11th, Brian Lee on January 19th and Hamiliton Loomis on January 25th.
12. The last item of business was the tentative Byron Crossroads Blues Festival on July 24th in Byron on Second and Union Streets. The 8 bar and restaurant owners approached Crossroads to advise and assist them in setting this up. The current plan is to close off a cruciform shaped part of Second and Union Streets where they cross, with three access points. Fencing will be provided by Dach Fence. Crossroads will coordinate security for the event. The 8 bars and restaurants will provide beverages and food for the event; no outside food and beverage vendors will be brought in. 4 bands are to be scheduled to perform 90 minute sets at 4, 6, 8 and 10 PM. A stage and sound system will need to be brought in.
13. The meeting adjourned at 8:55 PM. The 6th Annual Crossroads Christmas Party and a performance by he Westside Andy/Mel Ford Band with Barrelhouse Chuck followed the meeting.
Monday, November 9, 2009
It’s once again time for Blues in the Schools (BITS) and Joe Filisko and Eric Noden will be returning to the Rockford area for another round of programs and events. They will be in town for two days, Wednesday November 18th and Thursday November 19th.
The first day will be two afternoon programs due to travel and other gigs. The sessions are at RESA Middle School at 1:30 PM and 2:30 PM respectively. That evening we will be hosting an evening show at Big Cities Lounge at 7:30 PM. The show is $7 in advance and for members, $10 at the door, and free for students accompanied by adults.
On Thursday they will be at Spring Creek Elementary School at 9 AM and Montessori Magnet School at 2 PM, both in Rockford. That evening we will hold both a harmonica and guitar lesson workshop. Joe will school those who sign up on blues harp while Eric will instruct attendees on blues guitar. This will be held at Katie’s Cup on 7th Street in Rockford at 7 PM. Lessons are $20 per person.
Joe Filsiko & Eric Noden’s first CD“Live” featured versions of early blues and roots songs by Sonny Terry, Daddy Stovepipe, Fred McDowell and the Gwen Foster. The CD’s success led to several European tours as well as festival and workshop appearances in the US. Their new release “I.C. Special” continues to draw on American music from the 1920’s & 30’s. All 15 tunes on “I.C. Special” were written by either Joe or Eric and each represents a different branch of American roots music. This new work brings Joe & Eric into a realm that embraces their influences while blending them together in unique ways. This fall the duo will be performing at the World Harmonica Festival in Trossingen, Germany as well as the Harmonicales festival in Condat, France. For more information on the two artists, visit: www.ericnoden.com/Filisko_Noden/bio.html.
Contact Steve Jones at 779-537-4006 for information, evening show tickets or to sign up for the workshops. We hope to see a lot of members at the show, workshops and, if you’d like, at the school programs!
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
BITS School Programs at 1:30 and 2:30 PM
RESA Middle School
Address: 1800 Ogilby Rd , Rockford , IL (near Klehm Arboretum).
Evening Show at 7:30 PM
Big Cities Lounge
$7 in advance and for members, $10 at door; tickets available at Big Cities or call steve Jones a4r 779-537-4006
Address: 905 E..State St., Rockford , IL
Thursday, November 19, 2009
BITS School Program 9:00 A.M. -10:00 A.M
Spring Creek Elementary School
Address: 5222 Spring Creek Road , Rockford , IL 61114
Lunch : TBD
BITS School Program 2:00 P.M. - 3:00 P.M
Montessori Magnet School
Address: 4704 N. Rockton rd, Rockford , IL 61103
Guitar adn Harmonica Workshop 7:00 – 8:00 PM
$20 per attendee- constact Steve Jones at 779-537-4006 to sign up
Address: 502 7th St , Rockford , IL 61104-1215
Tuesday, October 27, 2009
Nino's birthday. He's gonna be 74 and doesn't look a day over 69. Or something like that.
Nick Moss and the Fliptops in Rockford at Big Cities Lounge. It doesn't get any better than this, people! Be there early, get a good seat. It will be a packed house!
Sunday, October 18, 2009
2. Secretary reviewed minutes of 8/4/09 meeting.
3. Treasurer reported $1448 was in our checking account.
4. Blues Mandolin Madness was discussed. Rich DelGrosso, Billy Flynn and Gerry Hundt will perform at Big Cities on Sunday, December 6, 2009 at 7 PM. Tickets $10 in advance and $15 at door.
5. Keeping the Blues Alive Award nomination submitted. Awards given out at annual IBC Finals in Memphis in February.
6. BITS discussed for fall. Desire to use Eric Noden and Joe Filisko. 2 days, evening show and workshop as we did last time they were here.
7. Discussed BITS Fundraiser. Byron is a better location to raise funds. American Legion available most weekends, cost may be free to $100; if they do well at bar no coast. Need to pick date, get silent auction items. Have tickets for 50-50 raffle. Also need to get bands.
8. Nino discussed his calendar for November and December. They will be added to Newsletter.
9. Windy City Blues Society held second round of their Blues Challenge at Buddy Guy’s Legends. David Stine was a judge. He reported on the event. Mark Thompson will judge the finals on November 15.
10. Second annual Illinois Blues Blast Music Awards show at Buddy Guy’s Legends on Thursday October 29th at 7 PM. Tickets $25 in advance.
11. October-November 2009 newsletter will feature interview with Gerry Hundt. Need to get reviews done.
12. Election of Officers and Board for 2009-2010 term held. Allison Johnson indicated she did not desire to serve as a board member. Steve Jones nominated Rick Davis to fill her spot on the board, seconded by Rick Hein. Passed unanimously by voice vote. Al McNary moved that the slate of officers for 2009 be:
Mark Thompson- President
Karl Dahlin- Vice President
Steve Jones- Secretary
Al McNary – Tresurer
Joe Poluyanskis, Rick Hein, David Stine, Rich Gordon and Rick Davis- Board Members
Seconded by David Stine. Passed unanimously by voice vote.
13. Karl Dahlin volunteered to scan and send our Constitution to the Board so they can review it.
14. Club likes tee shirts. Desire expressed for polo shirts, hooded sweat shirts and long sleeve tee shirts. Steve Jones will investigate. $265 profit on tee shirts so far.
15. Got 10 new members to sign up at Paramount Blues Fest in Grafton, WI.
16. Meeting closed at 9:10 PM.
Submitted by Steve Jones, Secreatary
Thursday, September 17, 2009
Saturday, August 8, 2009
The article features a summary of our club's activities submitted to Big City Blues by Club Secretary and Newsletter Editor Steve Jones and a great picture taken by member Rick Davis showing many of the society officers and board members with Robert Jr. and Sugar at the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival on the 4th of July.
The issue is also jam packed with great reports on summer festivals, great guitar players from Detroit and music reviews. You can find out how to subscribe or buy issues at: http://www.bigcitybluesmag.com/.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Sunday, June 28, 2009
Pictured are Priscilla Hernandez and her husband Jay Sieleman enjoying the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival.
SJ: We appreciate you doing this interview with us. I guess now that the Blues Music Awards are over that you and your staff can take bit of a breather while the summer festival season begins to rev up. Can you give us your impressions of this years awards and the event in general?
JS: I may be so close to the event that I am not the best judge, but certainly I was very happy with all the events beginning with the Blues Hall of Fame Induction to the Blues Music Awards to the events on and around Beale Street on Friday. The musicians and fans in attendance have universally hailed the 30th Blues Music Awards as the best ever. Some commentators who have not been here for awhile were in awe at how far we have progressed. I will accept their verdict!! They are talking about all aspects--the production, the music, the warmth of the vibe. It truly was something else this year. The nominees loved it.
SJ: The Blues Music Awards seem to grow every year. The last Foundation newsletter mentioned that the ceremony may have started to outgrow the current location. Are you looking at perhaps trying to find a larger location for the awards night?
JS: Recognizing there may be room for improvement is the first step. We will be talking with the folks at the Convention Center in the near future. It was the pre-party and silent auction that seemed too crowded, not the dinner set up in the ballroom. I have never seen that huge lobby so packed. It was not like that when we were last in there in 2007. The 2008 location in Tunica, MS was too small and it caused problems. I guess it is a good problem to have—growing numbers every year. This applies to both the International Blues Challenge and the Blues Music Awards. We have growing pains.
SJ: I believe that you have been with the Blues Foundation now for almost six years. How has the Foundation grown or changed in that time?
JS: Since taking the reins of the Foundation during a period of financial and administrative turmoil, we have engineered a pretty remarkable turnaround of the organization. Reducing staff and expenses, the Foundation was able to turn negative net incomes in 2002 and the first half of 2003 into a significant net income for 2004, allowing the organization to eliminate its 2002 and 2003 debts ($150,000). Today, we have invested in our technology and programming and still built a reserve of over $250,000 so The Blues Foundation will never again face the prospect of closing its doors and ending its programs. During this time, the Foundation has staged some of its best-attended and most highly-acclaimed Blues Music Awards and International Blues Challenges (2004-2009) and doubled individual memberships and affiliated blues societies (170). Each of these has contributed to a much-improved reputation both in the Blues world and the general public. BITS programming around the country is probably at its peak and we are helping musicians with medical expenses through the HART Fund.
SJ: I’m sure you get tired of being asked, but I must ask you what you have in store for the Blues Foundation. What things do you, your staff and the board have planned?
JS: In 2007, The Blues Foundation completed a building feasibility study and in 2009 hopes to begin the capital campaign that will lead to a permanent “home” in downtown Memphis that will serve as the international headquarters of Blues music, serving as office, tourist destination and educational center. This is a tough economic time for fundraising but the downturn offers some advantages too in terms of real estate, borrowing and construction costs. In order to make this happen, we will need the involvement of people who have money and can raise money. There are blues fans that fit this bill and we need them to step up and make this happen. To borrow a rather infamous quote from the 2008 presidential campaign “The fundamentals of The Blues Foundation are sound.” Now is the time for The Blues Foundation and the Blues community to take the next step—establish a Home of the Blues.
SJ: I always have to ask people in the industry about the phrase "keeping the blues alive." When I talked to Bruce Iglauer about this last year I alluded to the “blues industry” which I think he found to be a little amusing when one considers how small of a percentage of total music sales the blues accounts for. Whether or not the term “industry” is appropriate, how do you evaluate the state of blues music as a whole right now?
JS: I do not generally evaluate the state of the blues. I do not have the facts to make a macro assessment. I only have anecdotes and as a lawyer for almost 25 years, I take anecdotal evidence for what it is—one person’s story. I am not, however, a purveyor of gloom and doom. The business of The Blues
Foundation, perhaps, has never been better. The business of Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise, perhaps, has never been better. The number of Blues Festivals around the world has probably never been larger. The ability of a musician to make and market music has probably never been more in their own hands. As Doug MacLeod said at the 2008 Blues Music Awards “all things go in cycles.” Some parts of the blues world are up and others are down. Individual musicians and companies have their own perspective and they can speak for themselves, but the industry components that are down, I think are down across the musical landscape and not just in Blues. But that is impression, not fact. I am not aware that anyone in the industry actually undertakes to conduct “studies” of these issues, the way a business might.
SJ: The overall recording industry seems less focused on CDs and is offering more alternatives like DVDs, downloads and perhaps other new formats. How do you see the blues recording labels responding to this?
JS: I have no expertise in running a label. I do not get involved in telling others how to run their businesses. There are some rather massive changes going on in the record and live performance aspects of the music industry. The fact that it ain’t like it used to be is nothing new. Today is never like it used to be. Look at major companies and industries that we thought would never go out of style and they have. Law of the jungle and survival of the fittest and all that.
SJ: The economy is still way down. Some festivals have been cancelled, others have cut back in the quantity and/or the relative quality of artists, yet some new festivals have sprung up. How do you think that the blues industry has been impacted by the general economic conditions?
JS: I am sure they are impacted, but that is to be expected. People need to set priorities and adjust. But this too shall pass. And I do not believe listening to blues, whether live or recorded, is the first thing to go. Indeed, in tough times, people turn to the arts. Blues music is a relatively inexpensive entertainment form. This is related to my earlier answer about cycles and that some aspects of blues are doing relatively well. Eden Brent told me that in the Delta, they say what recession? What does she mean? There have always been tough economic times in the Delta. There have often been tough economic times in the Blues; indeed the music itself grew out of the toughest times. I have no doubt that Blues music will be around long after we are all gone. The music will be here. I do not know about the industry or economic model of a blues industry going forward. But that’s not the music, that is the music business.
SJ: The blues as a music form seems to remain somewhat the same yet it is also constantly evolving. Some of the music that spawned from the blues has come back to influence blues artists to incorporate those styles of music into their blues. Some purists complain about this but I kind of see it as a positive thing because it’s just a natural part of life. How do you see blues music evolving? (and as a follow on to that) In your opinion is that a positive or a negative thing?
JS: Adapt, migrate or die. That is what they say. And most importantly, let musicians do whatever they want to do. They are the artists, not me. I am just a “%$#@*! suit” after all.
SJ: Our Crossroads Blues Society is heavily focused into conducting Blues In The Schools (BITS) programs. We tend to support between 8 and 14 schools a year with blues music programs. Do you have any idea how many organizations are sponsoring BITS programs in the US and perhaps even abroad and what sorts of programs are they sponsoring?
JS: We do not have either qualitative or quantitative studies, but I know there are dozens and dozens and dozens. I know because I read about them in e-mails and monthly newsletters like your own. Your May-June issue heralded “Over 1200 Students Attend BITS Programs.” And it is happening abroad too. European festivals have American artists going into their schools in conjunction with festival appearances. Incredible. Blues societies, blues education organizations, individual teachers and musicians all present and produce BITS programming and most of them do what works for them. Generally, these are local initiatives done in the way that they believe works best for them. Most BITS programming has more in common with the entrepreneur, small business, mom and pop operations than the recently discredited too big to fail, national, one size fits all enterprises that are a cause of all this economic grief.
SJ: Fundraising is always a difficult task and I am sure the current economy raises the bar on the challenges for this. Are there any recommendations you can give Blues Societies about how to improve their fund raising efforts?
JS: Even after six years, I am not an expert on fundraising. I am much more comfortable with a “Field of Dreams” model. Build it and they will come. Make a product that people want and then you will have a chance to “earn” income from blues fans, or those that appreciate the arts or those that just want to do something. When I was able to speak with the founder of the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company about becoming a sponsor of the Blues Music Awards, he told me “but we don’t market or advertise” and I told him “I know. You spend all you money on hops.” That is my advice “spend your money on hops.” And don’t forget, you all are the custodians of this art form in your area, just like those in charge of the ballet or symphony. Take this responsibility seriously and continually strive to offer better and more product.
SJ: The International Blues Challenge (IBC) seems to be as popular as ever. Have you any good tips for sponsoring organizations that you would like to share with us?
JS: What is more important than a band getting to the IBC, where it has a 10% chance of making it the finals and a 1% chance of winning (solo/duo odds would be somewhat better), is what the IBC as an event can do for an affiliated blues society. The point is not only Memphis for one band, but about the dozen bands competing in several venues over several weeks and the fans the local competition brings out to those venues and how you use the competition to grow your audience.
Half tongue in cheek, tell your judges--more blues and less rock; more singing and less guitar and harp; more slow than fast; more promise and less past; more solo musicians and less “I can play without my band” and more originality in songwriting, more young than old.
SJ: Sounds like some sound advice. Can you get more into what you mean about what is in it for the affiliated blues society?
JS: We get people who call up and want their band to be in IBC. Or want to start a blues society to get their band in the IBC. If the IBC was about bands, we could just eliminate the requirement that the act must be sponsored by an affiliate. Or we could just let anyone one become an affiliate. We scrutinize applicants for affiliates now and have been for some years. The goal is functioning blues societies, not just another band coming to Memphis . We have enough acts. What we do not have is enough functioning and prop-
erly functioning societies that are promoting blues in their local area 52 weeks out of the year. Sending an act to the IBC is supposed to be the culmination of the local competition and just one of the things an affiliated society does throughout the year, not the only thing it does. That’s why we like to emphasize the IBC is a benefit affiliates, not the entrants. It gives the affiliate something to promote and rally around and build around. The Blues Foundation has ongoing relationships with its affiliates, not the acts those affiliates choose to send in any given year. A properly function-ing society breeds more music and more music breeds better music and in this way the local blues bands have a better shot when they get to the IBC.
SJ: I’d like to thank you for your time in talking with us about the Foundation and the blues in general. How is your summer personally shaping up from a music fan’s perspective?
JS: I will be in Cali , Colombia in late May for a bi-cultural exploration of the Blues, while Joe is at Eureka Springs , AR. Greenville , Leland and Indianola the first week in June. Joe and I will be at other festivals in June and July—have not sat down yet to map it out—before I head to Notodden , Norway for the 2nd European Blues Conference, that once again is being held under the auspices of The Blues Foundation. I am pretty sure Joe is headed to Wheeling , West Virginia . I am trying to figure out how I can attend my nephew’s wedding in Oelwein , Iowa while being in Aurora , IL for Blues on the Fox at the same time.
SJ: Wow! What a busy summer! It looks like it's over 250 miles from Oelwein to Aurora . Assuming the wedding is on a Saturday, the Friday night part of Blues on the Fox followed by a very long drive might work, but it would be tiring. The Chicago Blues fest is the week before that. Our Society has a lot of folks attend those two festivals. Our biggest turn out is for the Mississippi Valley in Davenport over the 4th of July. The Grafton WI blues festival is in mid-August this year and has grown in appeal. We also have a blues stage in Rockford as part of the "On The Waterfront" Labor Day weekend festival. It would be great to see you at one of those!
JS: And there is Prairie Dog Fest in Prairie Du Chien and Bluesmore in Cedar Rapids and several more downstate. You all are pretty centrally located. I have been to Chicago and Aurora but still have to make it to the others.
SJ: Well thank you again so much for your time! We appreciate your insights and what you have done with the Foundation!
Jay Sieleman Bio Facts
· A native Iowan and a graduate of the University of Iowa College of Law who practiced law for 25 years
· Served as a Provincial Legal Advisor as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Solomon Islands in 1983-85
· Began his involvement with the Blues Foundation in 1996 as a lifetime VIP member and then served on its Advisory Board from 1999 until his March 2003 appointment to his current position
· Assisted Blues Societies with nonprofit management and legal issues as an Advisory Board Member
· Served as a lead panelist at BluesFirst conventions in 2000 and 2002 and authored articles on Blues Societies as Nonprofit Organizations and ‘So You Want to Start a Blues Society’ that are featured on the Foundation website.
· His wife Priscilla Hernandez and he are huge blues fans; she is a tireless volunteer and the unofficial Blues Foundation hostess
Saturday, June 27, 2009
Friday, June 12, 2009
Arriving at the club, we were directed to a press table where we joined Bob Kieser, founder of the IllinoisBlues.com website. As Bob gave us the latest news in the blues world, the friendly staff at Legends came by with a seemingly endless supply of tasty treats including some delicious mini-crab cakes. Each of us took a moment to check out the silent auction items that included a framed photo of the late queen of the Blues, KoKo Taylor, and another package that include an original artwork featuring piano legend Pinetop Perkins. Both packages also included your choice of ten CDs from the Alligator Records catalog.
Radio personality Buzz Kilman and NBC5 entertainment reporter LeeAnn Trotter were the hosts for the show. The music started off with the Brother John Kattke Band featuring the leader on guitar and vocals backed by a three piece horn section and the great Marty Binder on drums. Kattke used his wah-wah pedal effectively on a couple of tunes and turned in a strong version of “I’ll Play the Blues For You.”
Next up was guitarist Vino Louden, a long-time member of KoKo Taylor’s band. Louden suffered life-threatening injuries in an auto accident a year ago. After being told he would never walk again or have the use of his left arm, Louden proudly took the stage for his first live appearance since the accident and proceeded to show the audience how wrong the doctors were. The highlight of his set was a moving cover of the bobby Blue Bland classic, “I’ll Take Care of You.” Kattke remained on stage and switched to keyboards for Louden’s set.
Each artist got to do a set of four of five songs. Matthew Skoller was next and started his portion of the show with a hot instrumental featuring his splendid harmonica work. Backed by Nick Moss on guitar, Skoller later did an emotional tribute to Junior Wells on “Hoodoo Man Blues.”
Following Skoller, the band did an instrumental that featured Nick’s inspired guitar playing that was one of the evening’s highlights. That was the set-up for the appearance of Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick fame. Brother John switched back to guitar and traded licks with Nielsen on powerful version of “Ain’t That A Shame”. Nielsen then asked if anyone wanted to come up and sing with the band on “I Want You to Want Me” A woman quickly volunteered and did a decent job on the vocal while Nielsen ripped off some monster power chords on his guitar.
The next highlight was a set featuring Pinetop Perkins, who was quite dapper in his suit and Fedora hat. Perkins may be 95 years old but he can still navigate a piano keyboard, which he aptly demonstrated on “Down in Mississippi.” Part of the way through his set he was joined by his former band mate Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on harmonica. Smith has developed into a fine harp player and his presence elevated the energy level on the stage. Perkins picked out a rolling boogie pattern on “Big Fat Mama” and traded vocals with Smith on “Got My Mojo Working”.
The band switched around a bit as Moss was joined by his regular drummer, Bob Carter, and his wife Kate on bass, with Brother John back at the keyboards. They did several tunes that gave Nick the space to showcase his prodigious talent as a guitar player. Another musical highlight occurred when Lurrie Bell added his guitar to the group. Lurrie took the lead vocal on “Don’t Lie to Me” as he and Moss took turns dazzling the audience with masterful fretwork. Willie Smith returned to the stage and added his harp to “I Got My Brand on You.” It was a treat to be able to hear Moss and Bell trade licks.
Billy Branch arrived at the club after playing the national anthem before the White Sox game. Branch stated that he only missed one note in his rendition. He led the band through several selections including an energetic “Eyesight to the Blind”, his harp playing as strong as ever. Branch then invited Tracee Adams to the stage for “Rock Me Baby” and her powerful voice woke the crowd up. Her performance injected plenty of sparks into the classic tune. The next special guest was singer Nellie “Tiger” Travis, who also dazzled the crowd with a rockin’ “Let the Good Times Roll”. Travis has a strong, expressive voice and knows how to win over an audience. Branch executed some intricate lines on his harp, at one point hitting and holding a note to great effect.
Michael McDermott was up next. This hometown boy is more of a rocker but he started his set with “In My Time of Dying” on acoustic guitar. Another song repeated the phrase “drunk again” and its’ dark nature made it a blues tune at least in spirit.
Then it was time to make the long trip back home. It was an exciting evening and the show certainly served as a tremendous start to the Chicago Blues Fest weekend. Thanks to Robin Clement of the K101 Agency for inviting us and arranging to get us on the press list. Also a big thank you goes out to The Recording Academy- Chicago Chapter- for staging an event featuring some of the best blues musicians in town. Make sure you look for ads for next year’s event and get an early start on the festivities.
Mark Thompson President - Crossroads Blues Society
(note- look below for photos of this great event!)
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Mark Thompson and vocalist Tracee Adams
Rick Nielsen from Cheap Trick on stage
Willie Big Eyes Smith with his harp joins Pinetop Perkins
Thursday, May 21, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Driving to Survive
Jimmy Thackery talks about cool guitars, surf music, life on the road, dog biscuits, Assassins and plenty of other great stuff!
Interviewed by Mark Thompson at Blues on Grand in Des Moines, Iowa on Wednesday, July 26, 2001
MT: I was reviewing the notes from your disc with David Raitt...
Jimmy Thackery: What a blast that was!
MT: It mentioned that he inspired you when he gave you a Buddy Guy album.
JT: Well, it wasn't so much that he inspired me because I already knew who Buddy Guy was. The thing is we were in boarding school and out in the middle of the country someplace in Maryland. There was no way to go to a record store when you're in boarding school. I had a Led Zepplin album and a Steppenwolf album and that was as close as I could get. I knew there were things missing, a lot of them. I knew who Buddy was because I had already had a blues band and had already been experimenting with Buddy and Jr. Wells and all that kind of stuff. David's sister, Bonnie, was dating Dick Waterman, who managed Buddy, so he had all that stuff. David was a couple of doors down from me at the school, so I was able to get close to that stuff.
MT: So you were already playing then?
JT: In boarding school, I remember it real well. I had converted my bunk. I had two amplifiers, a Silvertone Twin Twelve and an Ampeg, on either end of my bed. I played my record player through that and I could plug my guitar in and play along with the record. It was preposterous! Definitely loud. David had a band with a couple of other guys from the school. They would very kindly let me come in and sit in and play, fumble around and try to learn stuff. It was very educational. There was a free period after lunch and we actually all got some sort of high school credit for jammin' our butts off for an hour. It was a Quaker school and it was supposed to be liberal. Of course, it was nothing close to that.
MT: How old were you when you started playing?
JT: I started fooling around with piano at about eleven. I was picking up my favorite tunes by the time I was twelve, getting pretty good. My parents decided it was time for piano lessons, which I just despised. They made me play all that crap I didn't want to play. It didn't take long to realize I wasn't going to get any girls playing the piano. Then at thirteen, I went to a 7th grade dance. There was this great rock band made up of seniors that had Fender guitars and amps. Girls were screaming their heads off and the veins were popping out of their necks as the band was doing Little Richard songs and stuff like that. And all the 7th grade girls that I was trying to get close to were all just swooning at these guys! I went, ok, that's what I want to do. It wasn't necessarily a musical experience, it was a hormonal experience. Once I got the guitar in my hand I began to realize that this is the deal. Then I started hearing the music that made me say what is that noise and how can I make it. I have to learn how to make this noise. Then it was all over.
MT: You mentioned Buddy Guy and Jr. Wells - were there any other people that influenced you early on?
JT: Man, everybody in the world influenced me. At two years old, I was sitting at my father's work bench and he was playing Chopin. I started to cry. My father looked at me and said what in the world is the matter. I said. Daddy, it's so sad! He went. Oh God! Bye, bye, doctorate, you know. There was always music in my house. My mother was real into pop music, she was a musician. My father was listening to classics, my mother to pop music and older music. I basically didn't have a chance, it was around me all the time. The first thing that you do when you pick up an electric guitar in the early 60's was you start playing surf music. What else? It's easy, it goes twang.
MT: So that's where "Apache" came from. (a surf tune that is a staple of Jimmy's live show and is on his Drive to Survive CD)
JT: Sure, that's a salute to my original roots. That's probably where "Sinner Street" came from, the title cut of the last album. I just decided I would write a surf tune, or spy tune 01 whatever you want to call it. I remember being really turned on by the theme from "The Man From U.N.C.L.E" and "Peter Gunn". They were blues riffs basically, they were just real twangy blues riffs. That stuff just got me going. So it just sort of a logical progression. Eventually you just to acknowledge what got you turned on in the first place after you've gone through this whole other gambit of musical styles. Where did it really come from? For me, a lot of it was TV themes. I was born in '53. We were TV kids. TV themes were the most accessible music of all at that point. All the way up to "Mission Impossible", that stuff made a difference for some reason.
MT: I was listening to you with the Nighthawks and you've been playing with the Drivers for some time, starting in 1992 but in between I hadn't heard much about you for a while.
JT: I was playing with this big band called The Assassins that was impossible to move around anywhere. It was a six piece band that would expand from time to time to a thirteen piece band. We had a lot of horns. So it became difficult to move them around. It became so difficult that I decided to go to the trio format. No harmonicas, no nothin'. Just me and a bass player and a drummer. Everything got real rosy all of a sudden. There was just Moe, Larry and Curly. We get along well and it just made more sense.
MT: From listening to you over the years, I know that you have and continue to do a lot of different Hendrix tunes.
JT: Hendrix was certainly a big influence because there I was playing "Gloria" and surf music and Rolling Stone songs that were all written by blues guys we'd never heard of but we were pretty into them. And some Beatles songs but not very many. And along comes this guy who gets fired off the tour with The Monkees in England and his first date in the states is in Washington D.C. I happened to be walking by the place one night with a buddy of mine. He said let's go in here. I said we couldn't go in, we were only fifteen. He said they had a place downstairs where kids can go. It was like a Fillmore thing with the bubbled lights and the black lights. I had never seen anything like that. On comes this black guy dressed in feather boas and psychedelic pants and starts doing back flips. Suddenly I went “Oh, I see, this is all about show business". This is not just get up there and play your guitar, this is something entirely different. Things just really weren't the same after that.
MT: You mentioned The Assassins. Is there anything on the David Raitt CD that's at all similar to what you were doing with that band?
JT: Yeah. Actually the Assassins did more funk and R&B kind of stuff. We did very little blues, per se. That kind of format was real comfortable for me. It wasn't out of my realm at all. I knew that the Raitt CD was going to have horns on it and B-3's, back-up singing. So we approached the lead and rhythm tracks with that in mind. The trick about that stuff is leave a lot of holes. If you're a hundred miles an hour all over the place, there's no place for the horns to go.
MT: I have several recordings where you are a guest guitar player. On every one, you sound like you but you're a little different. You're making adjustments?
JT: Well, sure. You're trying to make adjustments to their styles. I'd like to think that I could hire myself out as a gunslinger. Be myself, but also help make the album what the artist wants it to be. Part of that is through doing some producing on my own, you get to learn how to keep your style but sort of chameleon it a little bit, to modify whatever their approach to their music is so that it fits in with their genre. We're different out here. We're all the same but we're all different. We're all riding around in Ford vans and driving too much. We just finished a string of dates with Debbie Davies. She's been riding in the truck with us for a couple of days. It's so funny to get somebody who's donethe same circuits you have, you have so many things in common. We just keep laughing about it. " You mean that happens to you to!"
MT: I saw you in Aurora and you did a great show. Later that day, you played with Anson Funderburgh and the Rockets with Sam Meyers. I thought you really notched the energy up when you sat in with them.
JT: Well, that's nice to hear. Anson is a very dear friend and probably one of the nicest guys I know in show business. One of those very rare people that never has a cross word to say about anybody and is always welcoming you with open arms. There's never a question - if you're in the house, you've got a guitar and a spot on his stage. And likewise. We have a lot of fun together.
MT: It was really apparent. You two seem to be challenging each other a little bit.
JT: I don't know that you'd call it challenging. I'd say that you were feeding off each other and trying to make the other guy play a little better. Some people used to call it headcutting. I call just call it friendly competition. You put in that extra person that's a good player and everybody's going to rally around that. They're all going to say, oh wow, we get to step out a little bit here.
MT: How many dates do you play in a year?
JT: I lost count. I have been spending a little more time at home, which has been nice because it's better for the creative process. We did about 300 nights a year for a long time. Two or three years ago I began to realize I've never had a life. I've been on the road since I was 18 or 19. If I don't start living a little bit and spending some time at home and doing other things. I'm painting again, which is something I haven't done in thirty years. My wife and I opened a restaurant where we live in Arkansas. That's another neat diversion that's a lot of fun. I'm starting to have some other diversions in my life that have nothing to do with playing music on the road. I got this particular band together about three years ago and the band has been so high that you end up being out there just slogging away at it. I can't take the time that I was taking two years ago when the band was in the process of finishing up one level and starting another, I took a great deal of time off to reflect and think where I was going to go next. Once these guys came on, hell, you make hay while the sun shines. We're back to working pretty hard again. I don't know how dates a year it is but it's a lot.
MT: Where's your restaurant?
JT: It's back in my hometown of Eureka Springs, Arkansas. It's called the Blues Dog Cafe and it's named after my dear dog, Luther, who's named after my dear friend Luther Allison. It's a late night cafe in a town full of vampires. We sell really great food – way much more of a notch above the local bar food. It's much more eclectic. We've got some very good chefs. My wife is one of the principal chefs and she's one of the creative counselors there. We sell a full line of doggie products. See, I always wanted a restaurant and she always wanted a pet store. So we just combined the two. You can buy collars and leashes. The chili and the salad all come in dog bowls. Sandwiches are served on Frisbees so that you can take them home to your dog. We got doggie t-shirts and our own doggie biscuit line. It's wacky! Bluesdog.com
MT: That's a really different approach.
JT: We're having a ball. It's a lot of fun. It's giving me yet again another diversion. Sometimes it's just the best medicine to be able to not think about this stuff all the time. When you're doing 300 nights a year, it's all you think about.
MT: What are your thoughts on the quality of blues clubs around the country these days and your assessment of the whole business?
JT: The economy has dictated that a lot of the larger rooms which we love to play in are all closing. I mean, there's nothing better than playing a 500 seat club - just big enough to move around, with a good sound system - and putting on a show that we would do at a festival or concert. Smaller places are still thriving, but my theory is that once those medium-sized places start going down, it tends to break down the natural progression. It becomes harder for bands that are starting out to then make that leap from small clubs to medium, to the concert stage. There are so many great blues clubs in this country that are run by people who aren't in it to make money - because there's none to be made. Instead, they do it because they love the musicians and audiences. Bless their hearts - otherwise we'd all be out of a job! Somebody recently said to me that they'd hate to be a newcomer because there'd be no place to go. If you've been established for 25 years or more, you're probably doing O.K. - but a whole section of this business is dropping away simply because the overhead on large clubs is impossible to meet. A lot of these rooms try to put in blues two nights a week, then reggae, or rap and all that... that's the kiss of death. You know that and I know that. You can't be all things to all people in this business, or it goes to hell.
MT: Unless you're The House of Blues...
JT: I guess they're doing fine, but 9 times out of 10, you go in those lands of places and there's nobody there.
MT: Do you have any outside projects that you're working on?
JT: Yes, several. Somebody is getting a bunch of blues artists together for each of them to do a Beatles song. I'm not sure how or if that's going to work. There's also a tribute to Fred McDowell that's underway. I'm not really in a position to do anything until my contract with Blind Pig is up, (this September), so these are all on the back-burner. I'm keeping all of my options open, and am not going to nail myself down right now - just want to get a feel for where I can go. I've been getting a lot of inquiries about doing session work, lately - much of it for people who are getting their foot in the door. That makes me happy because there's the potential for doing a lot of different projects - (more eclectic, outside of my box). But I'll also continue my own...
The only thing I like better than performing live is working in the studio. It's one of my all-time passions, and when it works it works great. You're able to watch everything build, like doing a painting. The two are very similar: you put down the background, or rhythm, then over that the form, or overdubs.
MT: Labels like Telarc, who weren't really known for doing blues, have now been getting into it - and with artists that I found surprising, like Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson. Any possibilities with a label like that?
JT: There's possibilities for all kinds of things, but they haven’t talked to me. We're spreading out all of the papers and looking to see where it will take us. But there are others who have contacted me, too. Let's just wait and see who has the bigger brass ring!
MT: Well, Free Agency works in sports...
JT: It can be a good thing - it's a peaceful feeling to have.
MT: You control your own destiny.
JT: (Laughs.) At least until you sign that contract! It's a little like being married for a long time, then being single for a year or two before getting remarried again. At least for awhile, you have options.
MT: You mentioned stretching outward as a musician. On your Switching Gears disc, the second track was zydeco. When some friends of mine heard that...
JT: ...they went 'huh??
MT: But I thought it was great!
JT: The thing about our fans is that they expect a certain thing when one of my records come out, a certain approach or genre. When I wrote that song for Chubby (Carrier), I never had any intentions of performing it myself. I spent months and months trying to track him down to give it to him - but we never managed to cross paths - it seemed as if our agents had
us at opposite ends of the world! When it came to doing Switching Gears, I thought I might as well record the damn thing, and have him play on it.
MT: Well, I enjoyed it.
JT: I did, too - it was a lot of fun to do in the studio, and Chubby sounded great. We've since had big laughs about the whole thing.
MT: The Drivers have had three different bass players, and yet your drummer. Mark Stutso, has been there all along. What is it about the two of you that makes it such a good combination?
JT: I'm not so sure, except that we've become like brothers over the years. Also, I've always been a 'guitar player's drummer' and he's been a 'drummer's guitar player'! There's often been a certain radar between myself and a drummer. I've had that with (Pete) Ragusa in the Nighthawks and with Dave Palomar in the Assassins, too. Once you've found a drummer who knows what you're going to do before you do it, man, you stick with it. Mark also has a fabulous singing voice and his tempos are always exactly right - he's the one drummer I've found that can count-off a song in exactly the same tempo every night of the year. When you hire a guy like that, you don't let him go-no matter how much money he owes you!
MT: I'll be sure to mention that to him...
JT: ...he'll get a laugh out of it - trust me!
MT: You talked a little bit about how great the band is now. It certainly was a plus, getting Ken Faltinson (bass) from Luther Allison's last band.
JT: Oh yeah, and besides that he's an excellent keyboard player.
MT: I didn't know that.
JT: He did all of the keyboards on the last album, and since Jimmy (Carpenter) plays baritone and tenor sax, I basically have the option to have a 6-piece band. Kenny and Jimmy are good writers, Mark is a great singer...so there's a lot of creative energy going on here. It's no longer just centered around me.
MT: I saw you early on when Jimmy was first starting with the band - he seemed a bit shy.
JT: I'll grant that! He wasn't sure where he was going to go, but I kept trying to encourage him, ("Go out there and knock 'em dead!") and to provide opportunities. The record company wanted a 'guitar hero record' but fortunately my producer, Jim Gaines, was very sympathetic and told them - 'look, he's got this fabulous new player and he's trying to feature him'. It was a fight, but we modified a few things and got all of this great sax stuff in there. Over the last three years we've gotten dynamic - people comment on how great it's been to watch us work together - so I was right in the first place! When you start listening to record companies and guys who've never played an instrument in their lives who think they know what sells...screw that, man! I get up in front of people every night and I know what turns them on. You find out what they want and you deliver. If you deliver it on a disc, they're going to buy it. But those guys have a 'reverse marketing' concept: packaging, looks, 'you've got to lose 60 Ibs.' - it's crap! They may think they know what sells, but what you're doing is selling to the people who want to hear this band.
MT: You've never struck me as somebody that would do anything other than what you wanted to do.
JT: I try to compromise to a certain extent. I've never been in the record selling business, only making them. I have to conclude that those guys probably know more about how to market something, but there's a point where you do have to be true to the people that are paying to come and see you. They're the ones to really count on in the long run – not some record exec. It won't be long before they are out of the loop, anyway, since the internet is going to make such jobs obsolete - and the retailers, too.
MT: I think a lot of people classify your music as blues / rock.
JT: For lack of a better term.
MT: Does that help or hurt in the marketplace?
JT: I don't really give a damn. Some would like to pigeonhole it all, but the fact is I just write music. I've been a blues player from the git-go but it has pushed the envelope at times. But if that's what you want to hear, then I'm willing to say 'yeah, we're a blues band'. The Nighthawks weren't really a blues band - we played a lot of soul, Memphis soul, Motown, rock-n-roll...all lands of stuff. Maybe we all came from that, and it's how we got together, but we went in very different directions. It's the same with this band. We may be in Blues Revue, Blues Access, Living Blues, and you can find our CD's in the blues section at Tower Records but whatever you want to call it, I don't give a shit. The people that come to see us know what it us, and aren't going to bother to describe it.
MT: I have to ask you about the quote that was on Jonny Lang's CD from you – there seems to be some people in the blues community that are upset about all these younger players...
JT: Ah, that's bullshit! That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. You know I wouldn't be here now if Muddy Waters hadn't done the same for me. He encouraged me, so did James Cotton and Otis Rush. They knew that somebody had to carry the torch. And they knew that young black guys weren't doing it, although some were...but hey, they're all dying. John Lee Hooker just died, Muddy's gone, and God help him but B.B. is probably around the comer...who in the hell are these people going to write about when that generation is gone?
It's not about black and white but about older and younger. I've been beating in the trenches for thirty years and the one thing I would say to these kids is 'get your own style'. Quit being Stevie. They need to get that message. We all had a hero that we emulated when we were coming up - for me it was Buddy (Guy) and Otis, and I wanted to sound just like them. All these lads, their first access to this music was Stevie. He was just this explosion on the scene. So, they embraced him and didn't bother to listen to or care about anything else. My advice is to go and listen to all of the ones that Stevie got it from. Then you can synthesize your own style; carry the torch.
Bless their hearts, I think it's wonderful. When I was eighteen years old, I couldn't play my way out of a paper bag! Of course, we didn't have as much access to music back then. We had to steal records, then slow them down to 16 rpm to pick out the licks. Now, they can stop a video to see what the fingers are doing. That's a big difference. No wonder there's all these little prodigies. (So, you can't get into Jonny Lang's dressing room and he used to beg you to jam with him.. .well, get over it!)
MT: I know you play festivals and you're out there, you hear a lot of folks. Is there anyone that you feel deserves more attention than what they seem to be getting?
JT: Hayden Sayers by a long shot. That guy's a ripsnorter - one of those real blues roots types that's not playing anything like that. Instead, he's playing accessible, young people's rock-n-roll that's blues based. In my mind, he's really got something. Baby Jason and the Stankers - there's another one. He's doing better than Hayden is and I don't know why. They're both great singers, players, and songwriters - energetic, young, and good-looking... they're thin and all that crap...
MT: I don't like them already.
JT: They're just bad ass players; really creative and two nice guys who could use a lot more recognition. And there are a million others out there, like Josh Smith. There's another kid that is fabulous on guitar and nobody is paying any attention to him. Once again, it comes back to - where do they play? If they haven't had the record deal for fifteen or twenty years,
they're land of lost. Nobody is taking chances any more except those that are already proven.
MT: My last question - how did you end up getting your guitar back?
JT: Well, it was stolen near Kansas City and fortunately I have many, many fans and friends there. They took it upon themselves to do a 'Get Jimmy's Guitar Back!' campaign. They went on the internet, made posters, and canvassed every pawn shop, music store, crack house, etc. in the whole area. Turns out the fool that had stolen the thing walked right
into the music store that provided our PA for the show that night in K. City! They'd seen me play a hundred times on that guitar. So basically they asked for and got it back.
It's wild - that story was all over the world, it was amazing. That's when I began to realize how powerful a medium the internet is. It affected me directly in a positive way; I began to realize that it can be used for some good!
MT: And it certainly helped me to arrange that interview with Jimmy last July at the Blues on Grand club in Des Moines, Iowa!
Thank you to Jimmy Thackery for sitting down with me and being so generous with his time. Also, a huge thank you to Jimmy Carpenter, sax player and road manager for the Drivers, for a prompt response to my e-mail request for the interview and for making all of the arrangements. Be sure to catch Jimmy and the Drivers in November, when they will be playing at Buddy Guy's Legends and Luther's Blues in Madison.
Harlem Middle School was rocking to the beat of the blues on Tuesday morning in Loves Park. The staff and principal John Cusimano came out in force with virtually the entire student body of about 300 seventh and eighth graders to listen to Glenn and Andy. We have visited several of the elementary schools in the past in the Loves Park area, so many of these student may not have been newcomers to BITS. Everyone there seemed to have a rocking good time.
Rock Cut Elementary School, also in Loves Park and part of the Harlem School District, was host to the afternoon session and about 300 first through sixth graders attended the program. Principal Jean Akright and her staff seemed to also enjoy the show, with the performers taking them from roots music to rock and roll. The Rockford Register Star also attended this program and covered the performance with a great article in their Wednesday, April 22nd and on-line editions. Thanks go out to them for their coverage!
Eastland Middle School is in Shannon, Illinois, just west of Forreston and south of Freeport. Principal Darcy Feltmeyer and her staff were gracious hosts; the students ranged from third to eighth grade and numbered over 300 in attendance for the BITS program. The kids were quite good singers and beat keepers. This Carroll County school serves Carroll, Ogle, and Stephenson County students in the vicinities of Lanark and Shannon. The blues were quite alive out there in Shannon!
The final session on Wednesday afternoon was in Pearl City, to the west of Freeport and south of Lena in Stephenson County. The large facility contains all three levels of schools (elementary, middle and high school); while the entire elementary school was in attendance, we got several classes of middle and high school students who also came in for the session. There were about 350 students at this show, ranging form pre-K to sixth grade along with many middle and high school grade students. Principal Chris Wallace and all the staff and students thoroughly enjoyed the program! All in attendance were attentive and very into the music.
In addition to the four school programs, Davis and Linderman performed along with the Basement Blues Band at the Just Goods Listening Room on 7th Street in Rockford on Tuesday evening. The Basement Blues Band features Bob Schmidt on drums, Steve "Spider" Leigh on guitar, and Rich Gordon on bass. Their acoustic set was outstanding and was capped off with an acapella sea chanty. Glenn and Andy followed with a great set of their own, and then the Basement Blues Band joined them for a jam session at the end. About $200 was taken in by the Society at the show to help with BITS costs. Thanks to all who planned, ran and attended this great show!
Also in attendance at the show and for the Wednesday programs was Amanda Huskinson, a doctoral student from the UK’s Nottingham University. She is working on her thesis, "Blues, Identity and Place: Blues in the Schools Programs in the United States". She is in the States for a year to research and study the topic and found out about us from our website. We were excited to be able to accommodate her and look forward to becoming part of her important work. She will be attending many of this summer’s blues festivals and we hope to cross paths with her again!
Glenn Davis and Westside Andy did a great job with the students at each school. Their material was age appropriate and kept the students attentive and actively involved. Our thanks go out to them for their support of our program!
We now have had over 20,000 students attend our BITS programs since their inception in 2002. The Crossroads Blues Society is proud to have reached this milestone and will continue to attempt to grow and expand these programs as funding allows. It takes a significant amount of money to run these programs. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Rockford Area Arts Council which receives support from the City of Rockford, the Illinois Arts Council, and its members. They are one of our long time sponsors for these programs whom we dearly thank for their continued support! Membership dues and other fund raising also go to support our BITS efforts. Our costs to plan and conduct these programs remains at about a dollar per student who has attended, which is a great bargain in any periods’ dollar value measure.
We are negotiating with Saffire, The Uppity Blues Women, to get them to conduct a day of BITS for us. If successful, we plan to have Ann Rabson, Gaye Adegbalola and Andra Faye each conduct BITS programs individually in two schools (an AM and PM session each), and then join forces to present an evening performance for the public. We are teaming with Charlotte’s Web for the Performing Arts in this effort. We are currently scheduled to attempt this in late September, so stay tuned for up to date information on this event in the making. We will also be holding a Blues in the Schools fundraiser this summer, so watch out for information on that event, too!
Friday, February 20, 2009
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Sud's O'Hanahan's Irish Pub
435 E Grand Ave, Beloit, WI 53511
Map It: http://maps.yahoo.com/map?q1=435%2BE%2BGrand%2BAve%20Beloit%20WI%20US&mag=5&lat=&lon=&ard=1#mvt=m&lat=42.499775&lon=-89.03483&mag=5&zoom=14&q1=435%2520E%2520Grand%2520Ave%2520Beloit%2520WI%2520US&gid1=16770360
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Cover charge is only $5- a great deal! The music will be hot and you will not want to miss this show. Mark and Steve crossed paths last with the boys in the band at the Illinois Blues Music Awards at Buddy Guy's in Chicago and have been in touch with the band to get them to Rockford. Another cancellation was our good luck. Check them out on Myspace at: http://www.myspace.com/thekilbornalleybluesband "The Kilborn Alley Blues Band was formed in 2000 when Andy Duncanson was still in high school, and Chris Breen and Josh Stimmel were barely out. Within a few months Joe Asselin, from Maine, signed on, and in 2005 Ed O'Hara