TBT: Back on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise



There really is only one Bluescruise, y’all know that, right?



The Legendary Rhythm & Bluescruise run by Roger Nabor and the Legendary Krewe is that ‘life altering’ expedition on the high seas that qualifies as my (amongst others) most expensive habit – and it’s legal.


Our first cruise was January 2009, having heard about it on XM Bluesville (before the merger and demise of said station) and we have been repeat offenders as often as possible. Sometimes going on two a year, now in retirement (hah) we try to go once a year (and hope the IBC does not schedule opposite the cruise ever again).


So this year we went back on after a two year hiatus. With relocating to South Carolina and settling in we had booked for January but swapped out to go this October. Couple of reasons – to get a chance to see Allen Toussaint and our favorite band Jarekus Singleton. Not to mention The California Honeydrops, and Rick Estrin, ahh crap we wanted to see all the bands , but the two were the main event. We were deeply saddened by the death of Mr.Toussaint just this week, having just seen him and being able to hear him sit and chat with Bill Wax & Irma Thomas was priceless, we shall carry those moments with us forever. Thank you Bill, Roger & Krewe.


It’s not like you just see the musicians, you spend a week or more with the bands and get to know them. To hang informally with them and enjoy a certain closeness that one only gets in war time or in a commune (let’s hope y’all been to communes cause the other option pretty much sucks). It is truly unlike anything else out there.


20151024_153318_001When we first tripped to the cruise we were virgins in just about every sense of the word – when applied to the Blues Framily. Having been to only a few festivals and not really even started Blues411 we were much like the crush of virgins on the boat this October. Wide eyed, amazed, joyous and having one helluva time.


Yet there are many here among us who think that the ‘return offenders’ enjoy it more than the virgins. 20151024_160307-1How? Well it’s the joy of the holidays without family, ya know what I’m saying. Now there is the ‘crazy uncle’, and the semi-drunk auntie who like to kiss ya with that red lip stick, and a few of the other characters that you get in large gatherings but hell it’s one great party and everyone turns on their finest party self once on board.


So what we’ve done for ya here is to wrap up some 170 photos – pared down from the 2,400 taken (by Leslie) and hope to give ya a view as to what went on from our perspective. No we weren’t working, just enjoying the cruise and having a real good time, like everyone else.


Click here to get to Blues411SmugMug page, we chose to do it this way cos of the shear volume as facebook would be too cumbersome to deal with. Please take some time and enjoy them, our gift to you and hope that you will join us at some point in the future.


Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2015
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411

Interview: Vinny Marini Sits On Our Couch

butt-joinThe Blues Foundation has announced a new CEO, replacing Jay Sieleman starting in October 2015. The Foundation is in better shape than when jay took over, both financially and in popularity, that is a good thing, thanks Jay.

Ms. Barbara B. Newman now has the reigns, and what can we expect from her, where is her focus?
Well our 
guest has scooped her, and Paul Benjamin, for a live music on the couch session in two weeks. September 8th you will have the opportunity to listen, call in and otherwise add positive input into the show.
We want to thank Vinny Marini for taking some time to chat about what we can expect and he hopes that all of you turn out and participate in the event.

 So Vinny Marini, host of Music on the Couch, Musician’s You Should Know. I think you now need to add ‘And Other Affiliated Movers & Shakers’ to the title.
In the past you have had PR reps, producers, club owners and other music officials, now you go and scoop up the new CEO for the Blues Foundation, Barbara Ballin Newman.
How did you manage this?

VinnyVinny Marini: LOL, as they say, it was simple. I asked. About a month back I asked a member of the Board Of Directors if they would assist in making it happen. Then, once Paul Benjamin was announced as Chair, I reached out to him and made my proposal. He was interested, but we had to wait for Barbara to be approved by the board (I want to make it perfectly clear, I had no foreknowledge of Barbara’s selection by the committee). Last weekend in San Francisco, when the Board approved her, she was asked about appearing on the show and immediately said yes. Then it was just coming up with a date she and Paul could both accommodate.

B411: Yeah my Mom always said, “you don’t know till ya ask”, a perfect example right here. 
This interaction between people sounds so much more like the blues world that we know, accessibility being the key and people helping people toward the same goal.
Yes, a cosmic polar shift from the previous times and leadership. I like it.
She has an impressive business background and her music base sounds equally impressive.

VM: Without rehashing her resume, I believe Barbara’s background in the non-profit and financial management world will advance the Blues Foundation, bringing new membership and spreading the word further than before, allowing the Blues to “Thrive” – to borrow your favorite word! Add to that a history of membership in other music organizations and concert production, and being Executive Director of a Synagogue with all the responsibilities that entails, yes, she is a selection I believe all members of the Blues Foundation should cheer.

  So what can we expect you to ask her? I mean is it gonna be a ‘friendly’ like in soccer, or softball interview or will you go into some serious issues that confront her and the genre as we move forward? Yes allowing for her newness I don’t expect her to be able to analyze and break down the entire scheme of the blues universe, but on the other hand I am sure she has some ideas and directions she is wanting to move to.

VM: My hope is that we can talk about her background more go beyond the press release for a better understanding of the woman and then discuss her thoughts for the future. Let’s not forget, Paul Benjamin, the new Chair, who has been involved with the Blues and the Blues Foundation for years is also going to be on The Couch that evening.
The Board is as responsible for the overall vision and direction of the Foundation. As you pointed out, Barbara will not have even begun her new position, which occurs on October 1
st. She will spend the month of September working with outgoing President/CEO Jay Sieleman (who will be my guest on my August 31st show, by the way – http://www.blogtalkradio.com/musiconthecouch/2015/09/01/jay-sieleman-jay-stoller-couch-kid-new-music-brad-wilson (http://goo.gl/I9Q5Vt ) getting up to speed.
Do I expect Barbara to be able to share her entire vision; I do not. But I will explore why she took the position and what she sees as the major items to tackle over the coming years, whether they be about the growth of the organization or the issues that the membership see as needing attention. There were 30 candidates interviewed for this position, the vetting process was rigorous, I am sure Barbara knows some of the issues she is going to face. She is a smart woman. As far as the interview itself, not ‘softball’ nor will it be a Democrat on Fox News.

 Sounds fair enough, remember you will be graded for this interview by everyone who listens and others so bring your ‘A’ game.  If I might be direct for a moment, there is a thread that I started on a Facebook Group that asked for thoughts on where the BF should go, and or ideas that the new leadership should consider. It has been well received with over 200 replies by artists and fans there are some solid questions and ideas there. That might be a spot to visit in preparation for her appearance.

VM: As you are aware, I have been a part of this thread. I will certainly be using some of the thoughts shared there during my talk with Barbara and Paul. There are some interesting ideas on the thread and some folks also pointed out some frustrations with The Blues Foundation that, I believe, need to be addressed moving forward. As always there are some personal gripes and those will be ignored as far as my research material is concerned. I also hope some of those who have expressed suggestions and frustrations will call in during the show.

You said you would be taking phone calls from listeners, this is great. Also emails if one cannot be there. I think this is what separates what you are doing from the others in the field.
 How do you plan on controlling the questions, since there is a chance of some potential volatility there?

500x500HIVM: First, thanks for pointing out that Music On The Couch is Live, Uncut & Uncensored. It has always been important to me to let my guests talk and not color their opinions by pre-recording and editing.

As far as controlling the phone calls, there is a delay that would allow me to dump a caller who becomes abusive. I expect anyone who takes the time to call in to be respectful to my guests, on any of my shows, particularly this one, and will certainly not tolerate abuse or volatility. So many people use the world Framily when speaking about our Blues World, and framilies do not always agree on things, but I believe that treating each other with respect will move us forward quicker than rudeness.

If someone cannot be there live, they can send their question or comment to vinnybond@musiconthecouch.com – The phone number for the show is 347-633-9400.

This will happen two weeks from today – Tuesday, September 8 at 9:00pm CDT. Do you have a link to go to for the live show?
Anything else we can look forward to from you? since we got ya pinned dwon here.

VM: The link for the Live Stream on Tuesday September 8th will be:
http://www.blogtalkradio.com/musiconthecouch/2015/09/09/presidentceo-barbara-newman-chair-paul-benjamin-from-the-blues-foundation (http://goo.gl/WfiyuD).

If you can’t listen Live, the show will be archived along with all my other shows at http://www.musiconthecouch.com/#!internet-radio/cfa5.

Of course, I am gearing up for my IBC Shows. Three preview shows this year and then the Live Shows from fuBAR on the second floor of The Rum Boogie Café during The IBC Week. 7 Shows, one on Tuesday evening and then two a day, Wednesday, Thursday & Friday, and everyone who is in Memphis are invited to come up and visit. My page is already up at http://www.musiconthecouch.com/#!2016-ibc/cusc – you can find the schedule of shows and more there.

If you are reading this and you won your local challenge, please send me an email at 2016ibc@musiconthecouch.com and include the name of your society and which category you are representing Band, Solo/Duo, Youth Showcase and even Best Self-Produced CD.

Thank you Chefjimi for allowing me to share all this news with your incredible fan base… As you stated above “people helping people toward the same goal” – the key to keeping the Blues Alive AND Thriving! Have fun in Europe, have room in your luggage for me?

B411: Ahh no sorry, need room for MC outfits and shoes. Thanks for stopping by on our couch, break a leg.

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2015
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Provided by guest

Friday’s Festival Preview: The Pennsylvania Blues Fest

It’s festival time thru much of the nation, and as always, we like to spotlight those outstanding festivals and folks who IMG_1718_1810_edited-1Awork so hard to bring you the mot outstanding Blues music events around town. 
The Pennsylvania Blues Festival is in it’s 24th year, and this year has moved to a new fan friendly location. Read more as we chat with Michael Cloeren about what’s in store for the folks this year . . .

Blues411: Michael, it’s great to talk with you again, it’s been a while. We’re looking ahead to the Pennsylvania Blues Festival on July 24, 25 and 26th. Congratulations on celebrating 24 years of Blues in the Poconos! After 4 years at Blue Mountain, you’ve moved the festival to Split Rock Resort in Lake Harmony, PA. Tell me about this new location.
Michael Cloeren: Thank You, we all keep pretty busy in the Blues.. Twenty-four consecutive years of real deal blues in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania is something that myself and our staff are very proud of!

The Location is 2 miles from the original site (Big Boulder Ski Area) at Split Rock Resort-They host The Pennsylvania Wine Festival (1991 to the present) there for 25 consecutive years, so the festival layout is ideal for outdoor events with a concert size stage facing up the ski slope (sounds familiar?) and a 9000 square foot performance tent stage positioned at another location with plenty of food and non-food vendors in a shady grove between the stages.

Blues411: Hmm, lemme think, ahh, Bluestock. Let me say, I know when we went to Blue Mountain, lodging was IMG_3571always a little bit of a challenge. What are the hotels like at Split Rock Resort and are there other hotels that are close by? Will you still have a camping area?
MC: Split Rock Resort has a few hundred units on site either at The Galleria or The Split Rock Lodge all within walking distance of the festival grounds. Plus within a five mile radius of the site there are 12 hotels-all this info is on our new website pabluesfestival.com. There is no on site camping at this venue BUT there are 5 campgrounds within a 20 minute drive also at pabluesfestival.com

Blues411: Sounds quite a bit more ‘accommodating’. I know you’re always fine-tuning things at your festival. What are you doing different this year vs last year?
MC: This year the Friday Night, Saturday Night & Sunday Morning Brunch Showcases are going to be located inside a spacious ballroom a few hundred yards from the festival grounds. This venue has major room for growth and the local businesses are ecstatic to have the event back in the area after a four year absence!

IMG_1374_4663_edited-1Blues411: That really does make it easier to deal with weather incursions, for everyone involved, cool. So, do you have any bands that are playing for the first time at your festival?
MC: Yes – we have 8 Bands performing for the first time, which means almost half of the bands have never performed in the Poconos before! The new bands are:

  1. Dwayne Dopsie
  2. Selwyn Birchwood
  3. Sugar Ray & The Bluetones
  4. The Highway QC’s
  5. Vaneese Thomas
  6. Victor Wainwright
  7. The Peterson Brothers
  8. Alvin Youngblood Hart

Blues411: Holy shake the chandeliers Batman, those bands in themselves are top of the line. I see that you still have 2 stages. On Saturday night, Shemekia Copeland is playing opposite Dwayne Dopsie & the Zydeco Hellraisers. Then on Sunday, LiL’ Ed & The Blues Imperials are playing opposite Victor Wainwright & The Wild Roots. Wow! How’s a person supposed to choose which band to go see?
MC: The goal of any good programmer is to make tough choices for the guests – with Shemekia and Lil Ed playing 90 minute sets on the main stage and the tent acts playing 60 minutes, there is time to catch all of the acts but you have to plan ahead!

IMG_8395_3883Blues411: That’s a great way to allow folks to catch some of each set, cool. Who’s going to be the surprise band this year? Do you have anybody who you think will absolutely slay everyone? Anyone you can’t wait to watch from back stage and see the audience just turn into Jell-O?
MC: There are several events that should “slay” people.

MC: There are several events that should “slay” people.

1)The Saturday Night Showcase-9:45pm to 1:30am is truly a once in a lifetime event-The last time all of Johnny Copeland’s band members were all on stage together was June of 1997(Johnny passed 7/3/97). We will have up to 12 band members on stage with Shemekia Copeland singing her dads great songs–an event not to be missed. Tickets are $10 in advance!

2) The Highway QC’s are opening the main stage Sunday at 1 PM. They’re a Traditional Gospel group at its best, and have a Blind Boys of Alabama vibe.

3) Shemekia’s set Saturday night will be very emotional. Lake Harmony is her second home and The Festival is presenting Johnny Copeland a Lifetime Achievement Award to the Copeland Family prior to Shemekia’s Set. Tears will be rolling down my face for sure!

Blues411: The Gospel opening on Sunday has always been amazing, I want to thank you allowing a self-appointed sinner like me to bring these great artists to the stage in such an awesome event. Thanks Michael! Blues411 will be at the Pennsylvania Blues Festival taking and posting pictures, so be sure to follow us on Facebook. Everyone should “Like” The PA Blues Festival on Facebook. And for up to date information, visit their web site at pabluesfestival.com.

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2015
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411

Too Slim Sits a Spell . . .

One of the fun things about doing live sit down interviews with artists is where it goes. Like this one with Too Slim, where we sat and talked about his illness and recovery, and what it meant as an artist to be out of work so long and all of that. But in the middle of all this we hit the nugget.  I had wanted to talk about ‘Anthology how an artist compiles the music for such a release. While not quite a best of, it was a double CD with new stuff as well as vaulted material.
That led to marketing and sales and turned out to be a very interesting and illuminating discussion on the current state of the genre and music in general.
So sit back and enjoy as we magically transport to the middle of a long conversation . . .

Too Slim AnthologyB411: Speaking of releases, your last one, Anthology, I thought that was a great idea. So many of these reflective or collections are mediocre things that people put out. Like the B tracks. But this seemed to be the perfect retrospective for your fans. It took me a bit to find you and get into you. But also for people who don’t know you, it was a great thing to do. How did you choose some of your earlier work as opposed to newer material?
Tim: I thought about it, we relocated to a different part of the country (Seattle to Nashville). I have a lot of CDs out. You go to a gig and you have 6 or 7 of them for sale. You’re at a new place and no one’s ever heard of you. And of course you want to sell them the latest one. I’m very proud of Blue Heart. It got nominated for Blues Rock album of them year, and other awards. Number 3 on billboard blues chart.

You know how it is, you can download CDs now. I figured that some of the old CDs, you don’t keep a big stock of them and we’re an independent label. Some of the older ones, I’m not going to order them until I have to. Plus I had some new songs, but our daughter had been in an accident last March and that was a serious thing. And she was in the hospital for a long time and she was living with us and we had to take care of her. That kind of put a hold on things for us. Then I had cancer. It wasn’t a good year for us.

The thinking about putting out Anthology was people were asking us if we had a greatest hits CD. Not that we had any hits.

IMG_6001B411: Well, you did. (Laughing)
Tim: At least the best of!
B411: You can do it with a smile on your face “Greatest hits”!
Tim: The greatest hits that I think should have been! Anyway, I started thinking about it at the end of 2013. I put these little play lists together that I thought would be good. I was on Birdside Records in the 90’s and they sold the catalog to a larger conglomerate – Allegro Media. When they bought the catalog, I had the option of buying it myself, but they made all these promises about they were going to re-generate the label and re-release new albums and put money in the catalog. Then, after they promised all that, they didn’t do a damn thing.

I regret letting those releases go without buying them. I should have just bought the masters myself. I’ve always had Underworld Records. My first couple of albums are all on Underworld Records. Then starting in 2003 with “Tales of Sin & Redemption”, I have the rights to all those albums. I didn’t want to go back further than that since I didn’t want to have to deal with those people.

So we’re talking about the last 10 or 12 years. As I said, I wanted to record some new songs. So I recorded some new songs to add to the Anthology and also included some music off my solo/acoustic albums. It’s hard to pick which ones you want to put on it. I kept changing the list. Then I thought, well let’s just a double CD. I did one Rock and Blues CD and one kind of a mellower one.

B411: Yeah, that was great!
Tim: So then I had to decide what to cut out. I think I came up with a good representation of my music.

B411: I enjoyed the songs that I was familiar with. But some of your acoustic work was pretty outstanding also! And, I must say, ‘Little Gun Motel’ is a seriously great kick-ass song.
Tim: With the new songs, I collaborated with Tom Hambridge. ‘Little Gun Motel’ was a song that Tom presented to me that he had written with Jim Suhler. I thought that was a great song. I can use this one! It’s right up my alley.
B411: That thing rocked!
Tim: It’s a fun up tempo rocker.

B411: We wound up playing that a lot on our radio chart and show. It was something new and we try to feature new music on our show. It’s the anthology album, but we wanted our listeners to hear some of your new material too. We wanted the general public to see that you’re still vital. Wow. That’s a frightening term! You’re not just sitting back on your ass playing your old stuff.
Tim: I know what you mean. In today’s world, being vital is putting out something every three months.

B411: I know, and that’s crazy!
Tim: You have to rethink the whole CD/Album thing because realistically the younger kids don’t even buy CDs. Our CDs get in stores, but we don’t have the budget for advertising like record labels or bigger labels.

B411: It’s almost like its back to the 50’s and 60’s where it was a singles market.
Tim: Right!
B411: In a strange sort of way. But they’re digital singles.
Tim: And it’s hard to come up with the money. Then you have to have songs to keep in front of the public. In the old days – 10 or 15 years ago – you put out a CD and it has shelf-life. Because people would friend you here. Or you go on a tour and meet a bunch of new fans. Now, people just go and see what’s on their phone every day.

B411: You and I both probably went to the record store to see what’s out there.
Tim: You’d flip thru all the records or you’d read something in the blues news or newspapers.
B411: Or hear from a friend, but that is pretty much gone. But it is still there, it can happen on social media, but it has to be organic. By that I mean, via ‘the people’, but yes it still can happen via record labels, or promoters, but one has to have a very good bullschitt detector.
Actually just the other day I had a conversation with someone who asked who am I really excited about these days…so it does happen in ‘real-life’…but of course we were out at an event and had social interaction – that might be the key.
B411: It does seem like it’s getting harder for the small independent artists to reach the audience. I’ve seen lately that music promoters and PR guys are taking it a step further. They’re getting involved in Facebook and twitter and all of that with their artists. You don’t have the time to do that. It’s almost getting to the point where you do need a separate arm to do that stuff. It does cost money, but they seem to be doing a pretty good job of getting that out there.
Tim: Then you do it yourself. I don’t mind going on Facebook. And I love the interaction with the fans. You can be personal. To truly market and promote in today’s environment, you need someone who really knows that stuff. A lot of the younger people really know how to work that stuff.
B411: It’s not just sticking a post on Facebook and hoping it works. You need to have content to connect with your audience.
Tim: It’s always changing. That’s the attention span part of that. Remember My Space?
B411: Yes, I do!
Tim: What’s the next MySpace? Or I had a guy telling me how Google+ was going to eclipse Facebook just a year ago. He was telling me that I needed to have a Google+ account. Then I started doing that. But then there’s not much happening there. Then you can post on Instagram and have it post at the same time on Facebook. Then you have the hash tag. That’s the big new thing. Then you have twitter. I’m trying to figure out twitter at the moment.
B411: At least we don’t have to worry about LinkedIn too much.

IMG_6034B411: You band has been together for quite a long time. Is that good or bad?
Tim: There is an evolutionary process with having a band that long. Most bands change band members from time to time. I was lucky for 16 or so years where I had the same guys in my band.

B411: That’s epic!
Tim: Then you burn out. Things change and you get a new guy in the band and he adds a new dynamic.
B411: Yeah, I saw Jimmy Thackery, when Mark Bumgarner was out ill. Thackery grabbed Rick Knapp, who used to play with Walter Trout before Walter got ill. This guy was knowledgeable, he adds all this stuff to the mix, and that’s got to be great for you as the lead man.
Tim: You get a new prospective and you get new input from your new band members. They play a different way or they have a certain talent that is different from the other person. So it influences your music and what your write. Plus as a song writer, you have to continually evolve and think of new angles for the music. So you don’t just put out the same sounding stuff. You don’t want people to say that it just sounds like their old records. Some people like that, but…

IMG_6051B411: I’ve found that people are comfortable with what they know.
Tim: There have been bands that I really, really like, then for some reason the next one you don’t really like.
B411: Of course.

Tim: And then other people like ‘that one’ the best! (Laughing)
B411: It’s what you’re going thru as the artist at that time. And maybe they’re going thru the same thing. But maybe that doesn’t relate to me right now. I don’t want to hear love songs. I don’t want to hear that. I want something to kick ass with.

Tim: I think music is memories for people. If they bought one of their records at a particular time in life, then they haves really good memories. I get people telling me that one of my older albums is their favorite album because of this… Or I got married at your gig. But as a musician and a song writer you have to evolve because it’s part of the process. I like the difference influences. You can mix blues. I’m a huge fan of traditional blues. I listen to Lightening Hopkins, Muddy Walters, Howlin’ Wolf. It’s all in there. I also listen to bands like Drive-By Truckers and I listen to Led Zeppelin, John Hiatt, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, B.B. King and Freddie King.

B411: They all have an influence on what you do.
Tim: It works its way into your fabric.
B411: The tapestry of what we are as individuals and that extends itself into ‘us’ as a community.
Thank you Too Slim. You can find all things Too Slim at the web site http://www.tooslim.org/. Including his latest tour stops. Be sure to get out and support this cat, he has made great strides coming back from cancer and the related difficulties.

IMG_6059I just saw him in Atlanta and he was as fresh and entertaining as ever.
You can also see some cool pics of the boys when they played at Darwins, in Atlanta. Was their second or third gig since Tim has come back on the road, he was in top form and a fun night was had by everyone. http://blues411.smugmug.com/Music-Pictures/Too-Slim-The-Taildraggers/


Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
©Blues411.com 2015
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411