When I first heard of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise I was listening to XM 74 Bluesville (yeh before the merger). I found the XM site more knowledgeable and played a more well-rounded soundscape of the blues. So one day I hear Bill Wax talking to Roger Nabor about this cruise that you can take that puts a ‘backstage pass’ in everyone’s hand. You cruise for a week and hang out with artists, play with them in jams if you wish, and it sounded like it might be too good to be true. It was all that and more.
Fast forward to now, this will be my 7th Bluescruise and I still get antsy and over excited as the day draws near. This is the last West Coast cruise for the forseeable future, so I asked some of the ‘repeat offenders’ about their recollections regarding their initiation into the framily that is the bluescruise nation. Partly because it is always interesting to hear what other people experienced and also to provide the ‘virgins’ a small guide to what they are about to experience.
One of the most repeated expressions that I have heard has been ‘life changing’ – being a jaded, native New Yorker I never quite got that – till I made it to the boat. It did change my life in so many ways that I am still experiencing the effects from the cruise. It introduced me to a whole new type of person – true music lovers, both artists and fans. The artists were so thrilled to be on a boat for seven days and bring their families (including children) and actually not have to travel from gig to gig. A big added attraction was that they could be with fellow artists in a comfortable and very creative atmosphere where they could jam with, watch and work with outside of the normal situations that exist for them. Oh yeh not to mention a boat load of fans, old and new who would become fans for life in most cases. Growing up there was always a barrier, real or imagined, between artist and fan, and I could not believe that I was on this boat and sitting on the deck across from me was Dion DiMucci, or that I would be jamming on stage with Tab Benoit playing the drums and the Roomful of Blues Band next to me ! It was like a fantasy camp except better.
But that’s only part of my story, more on that later. Let’s look at some of the insights from other cruisers as they looked back on that fateful first cruise and hpw it seemed to change their lives.
Wendy Schumer said ”It changed my life – all for the better. It opened my eyes to a community that exists within the music experience – my FRAMILY”.
Pat Dilling seemed to second many of the comments, ‘I have to agree with all those folks that the Blues Cruise changed our lives. We hang with a whole lotta new people and we go to new places, both on the cruise and off. We have seen so many great artists and have seen true legends of the blues, some who are no longer with us, but we got to see, hear and meet them! Kate and I approach the cruise differently, she’s more of a daytime evening person and I’m more of a 20 hours a day person. There are so many things to like about the blues cruise you almost can’t describe them all, because you keep thinking of more!
As it is a charter, this is not your regular cruise by any means. The boat is filled with 2,000 or so like-minded folk, who are about to become the best friends you never knew you had. As referenced by Wendy & Pat, a most rewarding aspect of being a cruiser is the connections for life that you acquire. Go to almost any festival (US, Canada. Europe) and you will see and meet people with cruiser gear on who have been on cruises also. Some of them have ben on the same cruise you were on but for some reason you have never met. Yet there is the instant connection when you realize the sharing of that mutual experience.
This also applies to the performers who recognize the cruise flags flying outdoors at festivals, or the fans wearing clothing from the cruise. There is instant recognition, as they acknowledge the mutual connection and often will chat with you, make stage announcements saying hi to the cruiser framily in the audiance and so on. Add to that the opportunites to be in a comfortable environment where artist and fan can share mutual experiences such as having dinner together, share an adult beverage, or go snorkelling in the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean or Pacific Oceans.
The above sentiment was expressed so succintly by Kaley McAnlis Mish who said “ I’ve always liked cruises, but Rodney Mish would be bored within 5 minutes of getting on the ship. He’s NEVER bored on the Blues Cruise. He LOVES it & I love to be with him when he’s happy. Win…win.”
But that doesn’t mean that you don’t hit the beaches while there. Usually there is a blues festival planned on one of the stops with artists from the boat as well as some local talent. Warm water, sandy beaches, cool music – it’s hard to beat that combo. And as with most cruises there are the ‘theme nights’, but with the Blues cruise twist. Day of the Dead, Legendary Gear, Soul Blues Night and more where a surprising number of crusiers break out their finest alternative reality garb and promenade around the boat. This is followed by a Parade on the main deck and ship-wide voting for best outifts from each theme which is tallied at end of cruise and awards are handed out.
One major side effect from the seven days of music (well eight if you count the pre-cruise party put on by the local blues society) and fun is the ‘perma-grin’.
As Jim Campbell aptly states, “Yes we all have developed Perma-Grin! My life was forever changed after my first cruise in 2007, with Framily all over the U.S. now including Canada and Norway!
Gail Hyams Burlingame seconds that emotion, “Yes, It’s a constant smile. I didn’t have these dimples until the Blues Cruise. I remember thinking on my 1st cruise…Can I last 1 week on a ship?? It’s the kind of experience you don’t want to end!
Marta Mantzouranis adds “we had the time of our lives and it’s been going on ever since. I was in awe and beaming with happiness that I could actually go see all these acts in one week and have a vacation at the same time. wooohoooo! ”
Let us not forget that it is first about the music, everything else comes from that. So who will be on this cruise ?
- Bobby “Blue” Bland
- Bobby Womack
- Elvin Bishop w/ Special Guest Mickey Thomas
- Big Head Todd & The Monsters “Big Head Blues Club”
- Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue w/ Tommy Castro Band, Curtis Salgado, Deanna Bogart & Bernard Allison
- Charlie Musselwhite
- Tab Benoit
- Delta Guitar Slingers w/ Michael Burks Band, Vasti Jackson & Sherman Robertson
- Tommy Castro
- Ruthie Foster Quintet
- Jimmy Thackery & The Drivers w/ JP Soars & Hydraulic Horns
- Billy Branch & The Sons Of Blues
- Deanna Bogart Band
- Chubby Carrier & The Bayou Swamp Band
- Otis Taylor
- Gaye Adegbalola
- Cedric Burnside Project
- “Girls With Guitars” Samantha Fish, Cassie Taylor, Dani Wilde
- Eden Brent
- Leon Blue
- Scottie “Bones” Miller
- Steve Willis
- Lionel Young Band
(2011 IBC Winner)
- Laurie Morvan Band
- Randy Oxford
that’s a damn good line-up. Imagine what it would cost to see these acts at a festival or individually, be sure to include gas, food, lodging and all that stuff and ya know what – the cruise comes up as an economical alternative. Plus you don’t have to drink and drive…think about it, if ya fall asleep on the pool deck someone will put a blanket over you.
So to be on this boat with artists of this caliber and friends who are like-minded and giving is truly an incredible experience, one that I would recommend to any Blues fan to try. They sell out very quickly and with that being said, they do maintain a wait list – get on it. The next cruise is set for January 2012 departing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida (sold out/wait list). A new venue for the October 2012, Puerto Rico has been added (replacing the San Diego voyage). Get over to their web site http://bluescruise.com/ and see what fun times are awaiting you.
Earlier I made reference to life changing and all that – well being on the Bluescruise it allowed me to confront my writing demons, and as with all weights/burdens - once you let them go they don’t weigh anything at all. There are many other folks who have re-discovered or unearthed some activity related to the cruise and the music that has been buried or stored away in the closet for years. These talents are now seeing the light of day and are being shared with the community and beyond. I have an interesting story here and would like to share it with you. It is from Dee Wallace, veteran crusier who has experienced the ups and downs and life changing effects of the cruise….
“I took a lot of art classes in school – got interested in photography in 1981 on my first trip to Scotland and England. In 2006 I went on my first Blues Cruise and a new world opened up for me – that was the beginning of my wonderful life in the Blues community. In 2008 I lost most of the money I had in the market crash – this while I was on that October Blues Cruise…I had to get something going for real… finally last year I felt I was ready to sell my wares and here I am today working the necklace and earring biz. I got inspired by the colorful skulls and peace symbols I found – that coupled with 2 particular cruiser themes for this 2011 cruise – I Put a Spell on You and Harry Hippie – I got into skull and peace sign necklaces and then earrings….I have sold quite a few skull necklaces here at home to folks who celebrate Dia de los Muertos – one fellow even commissioned a ROSARY with skulls and onyx!!! That was really trippy to make – and he LOVES it. Pretty cool!”
So from Dee re-discovering her love and abilities in art, to Gail playing bass, and Leslie using photography to tell her stories with pictures, the list goes on. There are many more like these out there and all you have to do is ask.
So this Friday I will be flying out to San Diego, setting sail on Sunday for a week of music and fun with a grand bunch of blues lovers, who have grown to know each other over the years and readily take new members into the framily.
This is all accomplished with the ten Legendary Laws:
1. Once a blues cruiser, always a Blues Cruiser
2. Your backstage pass is in hand
3. Dance like nobody’s watching
4. A tequila sunrise is not just a drink
5. What happens on the ship stays on that ship
6. If this cabin’s rockin’ don’t come a knockin’
7. Ain’t no family like a bluesin framily.
8. Sleep when you get home
9. “Lick it before you stick it” – Denise LaSalle
10. Bring your virgin friends and have a friend for life!
Thank you Captain Roger and crew for making all this possible.
Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
photos: Leslie K. Joseph. LRBC