Loose Blues News

Musicians Take Note: If your band is ready for the big stage (“market-ready,” as they say), then there are a couple of career development opportunities you should consider:

The International Blues Challenge will take place on Beale Street in Memphis January 21-25, 2014. The TBS is holding a live performance competition (date and venue TBC) to determine which artists will be sanctioned by TBS to compete in Memphis. Two artists will be selected in the following categories to perform in front of industry professional judges: Band, Solo/duo, Youth (under 21).  If you are an artist who is market-ready and financially able to incur all costs and time associated with registering and travelling to Memphis to compete, please send an inquiry email to info@torontobluessociety.com. Info at https://blues.org/ibc/

Closer to home, The Ontario Council of Folk Festivals Conference (soon to be Folk Music Ontario) takes place October 17-20 at the Delta Meadowvale Resort and Conference Centre in Mississauga. The TBS will once again be presenting a showcase featuring market-ready blues artists. If you are an artist who is ready to be touring and performing at festivals, and can undertake the necessary registration, travel and accommodation costs, please send an inquiry email to info@torontobluessociety.com. ocff.ca

Blues Rules in Jazzland: It will come as no surprise to local blues fans that the first show to sell out at the Toronto Jazz Festival was Dr. John & Mavis Staples. Danny Marks was the MC at and started out by extolling the virtues of Mavis’ longstanding guitar player, Rick Holmstrom, who is the guitarists’ guitarist.  And the consummate pro, even though the airline lost his luggage (which included his pedals – he only carries two – an overdrive and a reverb (he doesn’t like the reverb on the reissued Fenders).  He even had to buy a suit at the Bay an hour before showtime but he looked as sharp as ever.

Mavis was having a few physical difficulties but she sang great and had the audience entranced.  Dr John was in great shape and positively chatty backstage, not the Dr. John we have encountered at previous Toronto Jazz appearances – and there have been many. Local musicologist Rob Bowman is Mavis Staple’s biggest fan and best friend in this town and he got a shout-out from the stage. He even delayed his trip to Europe where he is promoting his film on the life of Curtis Mayfield.

Dr. John figures prominently in a film on the life of Doc Pomus which premiered at the NXNE filmfest.  Dr John had not seen the film and was a little aghast when told there was a clip of his eulogy at Pomus’ funeral. He said, “geez I think I kinda messed that up”) In fact, it was a beautiful tribute in which he credits Doc Pomus for getting him off the junk. He said that he and Doc must have written a thousand songs together and he was grateful that Doc had more faith in him than he had in himself.

Next day, James Cotton was moving slow but gave a great performance at the Horseshoe Tavern as part of the jazzfest.  Not a lot of familiar harp players in the crowd but with a $42 ticket, some may have been a bit disinclined.  If they had just made their way to the club, they would have appreciated that the festival just removed their door-person towards the end of the show so any dedicated hanger-on got their fix of Cotton.  It should be noted that the festival shows at Nathan Phillips Square are also quite accessible to non-ticket holders, many of whom find a spot behind the tent with good sightlines (and good sound).

If there were not a lot of local harp players at the James Cotton Show, there was certainly no shortage of local organists the next night at the Shoe when Dr. Lonnie Smith, the guru of the Hammond B3 organ was in town. Spotted in the audience were Michael Fonfara, Bernie Senenski, Lou Pomanti, Jesse Whiteley and others

Blues Radio increasing coverage: Johnny Max’s Sunday Morning Soul radio show has moved online to www.bluesandrootsradio.com, the sister station of The HAZE FM. Blues and Roots Radio is based in the GTA in the musical community of Port Credit. As the name suggests, this is an all Blues & Roots Radio station playing Blues, Folk, Celtic, Soul and R&B 24/7. Sunday Morning Soul with Johnny Max brings you “The Finest Music You’ve Never Heard ! “ – brand new Blues, Roots, Soul and R&B (Sundays 11 – 1pm). Other Blues shows at BluesandRootsRadio include The Blues Train with Dave Watkins (from England)  with mainly new blues and roots artists from around the world (Sundays 8 – 9pm), At The Crossroads with Brant Zwicker , bringing a dozen songs from veteran Radio (Sundays 2 – 3pm) and The Blues Witness with Cindy McLeod, Calgary-based featuring the best in blues from across the continent and beyond, with a special focus on Canadian blues. (Saturday 7 – 8pm).  native NYer and former radio pirate (WRFI – Radio Free Ithaca), has been an avid radio broadcaster on both sides of the Atlantic since 1978. He came to Switzerland in the 1980s as a physics researcher at CERN.

Mark Stenzler’s radio show out of Berne, Switzerland, Blues Zeppelin, has always had a lot of Canadian Content and will now be part of the program offerings on Blues & Roots Radio.  Blues Zeppelin airs on Sunday afternoons from 15h00- 17h00 CET on Radio RaBe in Bern, Mark is a native New Yorker and former radio pirate (WRFI – Radio Free Ithaca), and has been an avid radio broadcaster on both sides of the Atlantic since 1978. He came to Switzerland in the 1980s as a physics researcher at CERN. Contact: blueszeppelin@rabe.ch

Bluesmusicmagazine has been promoting the blues for years through print and digital magazines, a weekly blues newsletter, artist showcase, a website and now they have a new online radio station, MojoWax Radio. They are also trying to raise subscribers for their publication, and write: “We are asking for your support as we venture towards the future with hope in our hearts, that we can help create more exposure for the music we all enjoy so it continues to grow and thrive.” www.bluesmusicmagazine.com/category/mojowax-radio/

Bob Koester celebrates 60 Years in Blues: This month marked a very special anniversary in the blues world. It was 60 years ago that Bob Koester recorded and released his first album, by a vintage jazz group from St. Louis called Sammy Gardner and the Fabulous Windy City Six. Thus began the amazing legacy of Delmark (then Delmar) Records. Junior Wells’ Hoodoo Man Blues, Magic Sam’s West Side Soul, Robert Jr. Lockwood’s Steady Rollin’ Man, J.B. Hutto’s Hawk Squat, Jimmy Dawkins’ Fastfingers, Otis Rush’s Cold Day In Hell, and Big Joe Williams’ Blues on Highway 49 all were recorded by Bob Koester. And this is just one part of his musical legacy. Koester has released over 500 records, over 300 of them jazz albums, owned the Jazz Record Mart in Chicago, employed and mentored a who’s who of future blues label owners and scholars (Jim O’Neal, Bruce Iglauer, Michael Frank, Peter Aschoff). He even gavegogo the seed money to start Living Blues magazine. At age 81 Koester is still going as strong as ever with new releases on Tail Dragger, Arthur Crudup, and Lurrie Bell out now. Hats off to you, Bob…and thanks!

Six-time Grammy Award winner and 2012 Kennedy Center Honoree Buddy Guy will release his new studio album Rhythm & Blues on July 29th on RCA Records.  The follow-up to his 2010 Grammy Award winning album Living Proof, this double-disc masterpiece features first time studio collaborations with A-list artists Kid Rock, Keith Urban, Gary Clark, Jr., Beth Hart and Aerosmith members Steven Tyler, Joe Perry and Brad Whitford. The Rhythm disc includes rhythm and blues-style blues with deep grooves, such as the Junior Wells’ 1960 hit “Messin With The Kid” featuring Kid Rock, the touching “One Day Away” with Keith Urban, and “What You’re Gonna Do About Me,” a rousing duet with Beth Hart. Guy rounds out the disc with “Best In Town,” “Whiskey Ghost,” Guitar Slim’s “Well I Done Got Over It” and more. The Blues disc taps into the genre’s rich history with “Meet Me In Chicago,” “I Could Die Happy,” “Never Gonna Change” and “All That Makes Me Happy Is The Blues.” Aerosmith’s Tyler, Perry and Whitford contribute to the musical lesson with “Evil Twin” while Gary Clark, Jr. joins Guy on “Blues Don’t Care.” There’s a bit of Canadian Content, too. David Gogo is thrilled to have a song he co-wrote appear on the album. Gogo’s contribution is a track titled “Never Gonna Change” which he co-wrote with the producer of Rhythm & Blues, Tom Hambridge. Guy’s album is a scheduled for release on July 30th on RCA Records.

Living Blues Award Nominees announced: Voting for the Living Blues Awards is open until Monday, July 15, 2013. Instructions: Vote for one choice only in each category. In the categories for recordings, only albums with a 2012 release date are eligible. All ballots must include a valid e-mail address. Go to www.livingblues.com/ and click on “vote.”

RIP Bobby “Blue” Bland: Bobby “Blue” Bland, who delighted Toronto audiences with regular appearances in our town, died Sunday of complications from an ongoing illness. He was 83. Bland was known as the “the Sinatra of the blues” and heavily influenced by Nat King Cole, often recording with lavish arrangements to accompany his smooth vocals. He even openly imitated Frank Sinatra on the “Two Steps From the Blues” album cover, standing in front of a building with a coat thrown over his shoulder. From working as B.B. King’s valet and chauffer he sang his way into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992.

Born in Rosemark, Tenn., he moved to nearby Memphis as a teenager and, as the hall of fame noted, was “second in stature only to B.B. King as a product of Memphis’ Beale Street blues scene.”

After a stint in the Army, he recorded with Sam Phillips at Sun Records in the early 1950s with little to show for it. It wasn’t until later that decade Bland began to find success.

He scored his first No. 1 on the R&B charts with “Further On Up the Road” in 1957. Then, beginning with “I’ll Take Care of You” in early 1960, Bland released a dozen R&B hits in a row. That string included “Turn On Your Love Light” in 1961.

His “I Pity the Fool” in 1961 was recorded by many rock bands, including David Bowie and Eric Clapton, who has made “Further On Up the Road” part of his repertoire.