Toronto Blues Society | » Loose Blues News – March 2019

Loose Blues News – March 2019

Published March 1, 2020 in Loose Blues News, News

Congratulations to the HOROJO Trio (pictured), Ottawa’s blues “supergroup” with Jamie Holmes (HO), Jeffrey Rogers (RO) and JW Jones (JO) who were selected as the best blues band at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis.  They were representing the Ottawa Blues Society. JW also took home the Gibson Guitar Award for Best Band Guitarist (and yes, he does get to keep that Gibson ES335). Hector Anchondo, from the Blues Society of Omaha, triumphed in the Solo/Duo Division as well as earning the Memphis Cigar Box Guitar Award as the Best Solo/Duo Guitarist. TBS representatives Sandra Bouza and Sean Pinchin showed Memphis (and the world) what Toronto has to offer and both report a great time while making valuable contacts in the U.S. and beyond. This year’s winners also underscore the international aspect of the IBC, with a Canadian band taking the big prize and runners up from Spain (Felix Slim) and Costa Rica (Jose Ramirez Band), both now based in the USA.

The 36th annual talent competition took place Jan. 28-Feb. 1, with more than 260 blues acts from around the world competing for top honours. Touted as the world’s largest gathering of blues professionals, it’s also a talent-scouting and networking opportunity for the blues industry, attracting labels, agents, festival directors and promoters from several continents. 

While the Challenge served as a centerpiece of IBC Week, The Blues Foundation also presented a varied lineup of unique events. This year’s recipients of the Foundation’s highly esteemed Keeping the Blues Alive Awards were celebrated at a special ceremony and another Canadian, musicologist Rob Bowman was recognized for his many years work in the blues world.

On Thursday, May 7, The Blues Foundation presents its other signature event, the Blues Music Awards. The 41st annual BMAs will be held at Memphis’ Cannon Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets and info at

Closer to Home: Blues guitarist Mike McDonald has been named this year’s winner of the Mel Brown Award. McDonald had hosted a weekly jam at Grossman’s Tavern on Spadina for 13 years and after moving to Kitchener in 1993 he headed for the weekly jam at Pop the Gator that was led by Mel Brown—the legendary soul-jazz-funk-blues fusion guitar master from Mississippi. McDonald became a fixture of the local music scene in K-W, he founded and led two CCR tribute bands—The Bayou Boys and Green River. He toured those bands back and forth across the country and when the Grand River Blues Society started a summer program to teach the blues to teens, McDonald volunteered to help. He’s been a mainstay of the Blues Camp ever since. About six years ago he founded the Rolling Stones tribute band The Beggars Banquet.

McDonald says he is surprised, happy, flattered and humbled by the honour. “Thank you, a pat-on-the-back is always a good thing, no matter how long you have been at it,” says McDonald. At 69, McDonald is on the waiting list for a kidney transplant. He needs dialysis twice a week. But he’s never missed Mike’s Monster Jam that he hosts every other Sunday at Rhapsody Barrel Bar. It has a loyal following. 

“We are tickled pink to have Mike accept this award,” says Rob Barkshire, president of the Kitchener Blues Festival. “It is a special award, named for a special guy.” 

Clinton’s Tavern, Victory Theatre, Paradise, Elmo News:  After an 87 year run it was reported that Clinton’s will pack it in as a Bloor Street watering hole.  Live music has been absent from their offerings for many years but the TBS made use of the space with numerous workshops and one epic Christmas Party that featured a full Big Daddy Kinsey band during the Serge Sloimovits years.  No news on the former burlesque house turned Rexall drugstore that began life as the Standard Theatre, but we look forward to 2020 news on the Victory Theatre as a live music supper club courtesy of promoter Rony Hitti.  The Paradise is screening a lot of film variety that includes music themes, as well as comedy, with live music showing up in the spring calendar featuring Steve Poltz, Nikki Yanofsky and William Prince.  Speculation on the Elmo continues but an extensive report from NOW’s Richard Trapunski put some clarity in place via an interview with owner Michael Wekerle.  The room is essentially ready to go and will see action before Canadian Music Week in May.  According to the report, City of  Toronto night mayor Michael Thompson took part in a Chinese Lunar New Year test run with the local community and other ‘friends and family’ occasions have been staged to work out the bugs in the two rooms that have seen over twenty million dollars in renovation investment.

Blues at Hughs:  Hugh’s Room continues to bring some great blues to the city, having realized that there are still plenty of blues fans who are willing to pay a premium cover charge to see world class blues artists in an intimate showcase venue. On April 4, Hugh’s Room Live is doing something different – a full day of blues with world-renown guitarslinger Tinsley Ellis in the afternoon, and then local favourites Raoul and The Big Time for an evening show with a special “combo” price of $50 (+hst) for an all-day pass that includes $5 pints of Wellington, complimentary coffee and soft drinks and 25% off all food for both shows (Brunch will be served at 1pm). This offer is only available by calling the HRL Box Office, 416.533.5483. And if you were planning to see Jack de Keyzer on April 3, you can add-on Jack’s performance for a total of $70.00. A big blues week-end not to be missed.

If you love seeing your blues at Hugh’s, you’ll love their spring lineup full of heavy-hitters. Upcoming dates include: Paul James’ Tribute to Dylan on Saturday March 7, Tribute to Muddy & The Wolf on Thursday March 19, Ken Whiteley’s Gospel Brunch matinee and an evening concert w/Coco Montoya & Ronnie Baker Brooks on Sunday March 22, An Evening For Jack w/Paul Reddick on Thursday March 26, Jack de Keyzer on Friday April 3, a matinee with Tinsley Ellis and an evening show w/ Raoul & The Big Time on Sat. April 4, Paul Deslauriers & Annika Chambers on Wednesday April 15, Harpdog Brown on Friday April 17, Cootes Paradise on Saturday April 18, Lachy Doley on Tuesday April 28,  Sue Foley on Friday May 22, as well as David Rotundo on Saturday June 13th. Go to for the full calendar.

Erin Update:  Frequent contributor Erin McCallum has been absent from these pages and it’s due to ongoing health problems that have recently led to surgery and now a long, difficult recovery. After cancelling the final two shows of her recent tour, she underwent surgery which was successful, although more involved than originally anticipated. Recovery is intense, but she is hopeful to return to the stage as soon as possible (booking for May). She says, “thank you to the tribe of Blues friends and family who have reached out and shown their love and support – I’m working hard to be singing for you again soon!”

Raoul on Raoul Bhaneja will be starting a show on The first season is a five episode show called Raoul’s Blues, each episode two hours long playing blues music. It’s the first show of its kind on that station. It will be broadcast Wednesday mornings at 11 AM and repeated Sundays at 6 PM. There are five episodes in the first season.  Raoul says, “When Jazzcast approached me about doing a Blues focused show I was very interested but intimidated. Where do you start when you’ve played and listened to a genre your whole life? When Dani and Garvia said “It can be whatever you want!”, I really liked the idea of working almost more like a podcast than a two hour more traditional radio show. I could explore style, theme, genre in a way that was personal and meaningful to me… then take the listener along for a very intimate trip. I have met a lot of people in my journey through the music and the chance to feature some legends and unsung heroes in interviews now and again is also exciting. I hope folks enjoy the first season of Raoul’s Blues with hopefully more to come. It’s my small way to say thanks to for being there and to the Blues for a life of joy and learning.” 

GCJr goes Black: Gary Clark Jr. and the Black Keys have announced a 35-date tour of North America this summer. The run of dates kicks off in July and runs through September with a Toronto play (Budweiser Stage) on August 12. The Black Keys and Clark released their new albums Let’s Rock! and This Land, respectively, last year. Clark won three Grammys for the album: Best Rock Album, Best Rock Performance, and Best Contemporary Blues Album.

Remembering Jack: An Evening For Jack with Paul Reddick celebrates the life of Jack Sikorski who passed away in 2018. Jack, a huge fan of Paul Reddick, will be remembered at the Hugh’s Room Live fundraiser hosted by his partner Celia Chandler on March 26, with proceeds going to the Princess Margaret Cancer Foundation. It promises “great blues from Paul and his band, excellent a la carte dinner from the Hugh’s Room Live kitchen, some fun with a silent auction with items on offer to suit every taste and every pocketbook, and some words about the importance of cancer research.”

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