Opinion: Happy Birthday Blues411 & Thanks To All Y’all

It was September 7, 2010 that fetus-like Blues411,com posed the question “What are the blues anyway?” It’s answer was a very interesting release by Spencer Bohren, a splendid musician who has covered a lot of ground as a musician, and educator. I still think it works today as much as it did then.

It was a quiet start, a few took notice, others (and more) could care less about what I thought. The second article held more sway and was an act of serendipity in a true sense of the word. ‘In Our Collective Thoughts was about Robin Rogers. It was not an easy write, but it was something that had to be done. Urged on by Janiva Magness it appeared on September 11, 2010 and I look at that as a major point in my decision to keep going forward with the site.

Shortly thereafter, September 20, 2010 I was thrilled to be able to chat up Rock ‘n Blues legend George Thorogood. In what remains one of my favorite interviews George and I almost forgot to talk about music as our common love of baseball set the stage for great analogies and side steps.

We ended the month with a super deep talk with Ms. Karen Lovely. She had just released her second album (is that vinyl?) ‘Still The Rain’ and we spoke about childhood, hurt, love, children and the path that life takes.

Pretty decent for a first month of officially documented work.

Back to the future if we may. Tomorrow (September 7th) begins the fourth anniversary of the birth of Blues411. Never in my wildest dreams would I dare to think that it would be all this AND a bag of chips!
From working with SiriusXM Bluesville, and being in their studio and with them on air at the BMA’s, to making so many friends who are genuine and kind – artists and fans alike – who share the passion and fever that possessed me for this music.

There is a depth of support and (dare I say) love that exists in this community and being a native New Yorker I was skeptical at first, well was I wrong. The relationships that I have developed with folks around the world has made me one of the happiest folks I know. Y’all keep telling me I got a great smile, well hell yeh I do, I am that blessed that it can’t help but show.

The 'eyes' of Blues411

The ‘eyes’ of Blues411

I do not do this alone, first off there is my wife and best friend, Leslie. Who encouraged and supported me from before Day1. I had been toying with the idea of this for some time and had several incarnations and assignments before branching out on my own. She stood by me and still does, even though she is now retired and is reigning over me and keeping me in line a tad more than usual, but it’s all good.

The artists are wonderful. They open up to some of my odd or difficult questions. They think and respond with real feelings and at times emotions. My interview with Zac Harmon was a landmark for me and an eye opener for many as we spoke of things that normally do not get passed the gated doors of the inner sanctum or back rooms of the music industry. My interview with a, then, not very well known one man band, Ben Prestage, who excited me with the content and imagery inside his song writing.

Folks related to the blues world, not necessarily musicians but those who work along the side lines, Vinny Marini, Bill Wax, Tony Colter – these on air personalities who allow me to share their stage with them, thanks to each of you. Betsie Brown, Frank Roszak, Mark Pucci and many other kind souls who work the media end and supply the music to me so I can let get you the new word on the street.

The festival folks who strive to put on stage for us all the very best of national and local talent. Eric Larsen at the Chenango Blues Festival, my first festival and always will be my favorite, and Michael Cloeren of the PA Blues fest for allowing me to be part of their team. A special thanks to Earl Thomas for asking me to be MC for his ‘Raise The Roof Concert’ in California, and the artists who performed that day. Yes, Roger Nabor for bringing his dream, the Bluescruise to us all so that we may share in it. That was a critical jumping off point for me as I saw and interacted with so many on my first cruise that I knew that I had to spread the good word.

Allow me to take it back a step – to the indie artists, Lucy Hammond, Amy Hart, Mia Vermillion, The Port City Prophets and countless more who toil night and day to make their music their way and deserve our attention and support.

To our fans and friends, Martin Goettsch, Marcia Adams, Wendy Schumer, Pete Enright and all of you who tell me to keep going to stay the course, and support me and what I do. You pass out buttons, you comment on posts you turn me on to your fav bands – we are all in this together. I am but the conduit and you all are the energy. My extra set of eyes, and ears.

I just looked at the stats for this past month August 2013. Over 11k visitors to the site for the month! Holy spam blockers batman, that’s an amazing number. That plus all the fun on Facebook that we all have together helps me keep on keeping on. It also spurs me to make it all even better, I will strive to do so because everyone ‘deserves’ the very best from each of us, and by giving our best to each other we can make us all better.

Sorry for the ramble, I sit here amazed and humbled by the overwhelming success of this little web site that could and this week has been one of reflection, re-purposing and relaxing when I can. Drinks at the pool, a Friday tradition!

Look for changes, all for the better I hope, for continuity, for new ways to help everyone reach the common goal – to keep the Blues alive & thriving.

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2013
Where Blues Thrive

Opinion: Palpable FOMS Revisited, Bluescruise Mania at Peak Season.

Palpable

\ˈpal-pə-bəl\, adjective
14th century Middle English, from Late Latin palpabilis, from Latin palpare to stroke, caress, feel

It surely does - hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

It surely does – hold on tight and enjoy the ride!

That is one true word, for what is going on in the Bluescruise Framily, as we draw down to the final week before embarkation from Fort Lauderdale to the islands of the sunny and warm Caribbean. I say these words as I am torn between tending to the work in front of me, or repeatedly going over the schedule of events, or re-checking our stack of luggage to be sure the toga in tucked away (along with the wig for ‘Soul Blues/Wig Night’ night).

Seriously, how can one actually decide on which show to see. Yeh, the artists are scheduled over the seven days and at each of the five venues. But how do you choose between Zydeco master Terrance Simien at the Showroom at Sea main stage, or The Otis Taylor Band on the Pool Deck?

Always THE thing to do. Set your alarm, have a roving knocker wake ya, or just stay up, but be there.

This conundrum is especially acute for the virgin cruiser. I recall my very first year getting on the shuttle bus to the ‘dam boat’ with my little list all sorted by venue, time, artist feeling very much in control and confident that I got this bull by the horns. Suddenly someone asked if they could see my list, and they immediately pronounced me a virgin. BUSTED! Some good natured chiding and loving advice that as good as my ‘list’ was that once I was on the ship it would be pretty useless. They were so right. There is so much going on, where do we stay, what shall we see, do we get off the boat, why is this cruise different from any other cruise, who are all these crazy people and will I fit in? There is a ‘sunrise party’ and Virgin party, Returnee Party, the Facebook/Chatboard/Sail Away Party, ahh yeh really. Ya won’t know half of what’s going on till you are on the boat and start schmoozing with all of us.

What we have here is truly an international family gathering, a tribe of non-affiliated, non-related, non-members who are brought together by their love of the Blues. We will be blessed to have ‘The Vikings’ on board for this cruise – look out for these folks, they party like Vikings and are some of the nicest peeps ya ever wanna meet, but beware the CAN PARTY. There are also the world-traveling Aussie contingent, who usually win the award for farthest travel to get to cruise, unless someone comes from Mars, and sometimes it sure feels/looks like that has occurred..

FOMS

/’fah-ahms\, noun, acronym
22nd century Cruiserism, Fear Of Missing Something

With so much to do, Wendy has given us a great assist for keeping track.

With so much to do, Wendy has given us a great assist for keeping track.

I do not know who first wrote this word down but it is one of the most appropriate words in the world of Bluescruisin’. I saw it first on the old Bluescruise chat-board, yes before the days of FaceBook. It was from a mysterious cat named ‘Lester Leaps In‘ as he had been known to appear out of nowhere and into a topic discussion offering sagely advice to all. This is a very real state of being, the fear of missing something, and it is a condition that just has to be dealt with.

The solution is such -
There is no way you can see or hear everything that is going on, nor can you be everywhere you want to be (you are not a VISA card). This January (like next week) there will be approximately 20+ bands/performers scheduled to appear throughout the week. This is not counting the spontaneous jams that occur on the ship, many of which happen at the Piano Bar (and usually after 2:00 AM). OK, it’s impossible, there are indoor and outdoor venues, pick one, if it doesn’t float your boat switch you will have another chance to see the act elsewhere during the week. Be happy with where you are enjoy the moment and know that it was the best there was.

Oh yeh, these 20+ or so acts are just the main acts, the names, the performers the pros – - – then there are the amateurs. The amount of talent on the dam boat is unparalleled – many of these players are top quality players who just happen to be doctors, writers, railroad engineers, chefs, and domestic gods/goddesses. Do not miss the Pro-Am jams, swing by and at any moment you may see some seriously good music being put down by your cruise brethren. A great aspect of these jams is that often the ‘pros’ will show up to just ‘play’. Entire horn sections have been know to join in with the ammies, and at one amazing point from a few January’s ago, ‘Junior’ from the ‘dam boat’ showed up with his Steel Drum. I won’t even tell you how good that was. Please make an effort to stop by maybe once each day/night to see what is going on at these jams that are hosted by some of your fellow cruisers, hey ya never know !

Sleep

Folks take their costumes seriously here, enjoy each parade.

Folks take their costumes seriously here, enjoy each parade.

As the late great Warren Zevon sorta said ……sleep when your dead….It is overrated, get it when you can, or need to. If you pass out on the Pool Deck someone will throw a cover over you to make sure you don’t catch a chill.

The Bluescruise will be departing Ft. Lauderdale on Sunday, January 20 to the Caribbean, you can learn more by going to www.bluescruise.com. Oh yeh if ya can’t make it you can watch us leave Fort Lauderdale here: http://portevergladeswebcam.com/

Until next time,
Love, Peace & Chicken Grease

chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2013
Where Blues Thrives
Photos: Blues411

Photo Gallery: Friday’s Child is Slow on the Uptake (BMA’s day after)

After a superior show at convention center, we struggled to get straight on Friday.  Dedication of Mississippi Blues Trail Marker was a nice start, then off to Gus’s for fried Chicken Breakfast.

cc. twoletters show was really interesting and good, as she and Roddy Barnes provided “carol burnett/lily tomlin’ styled perfromances to blues music. A quick stop at Rum Boogie for Vizztone artists showcase and off to the ballgame, then some Eddie Turner & Dennis Jones, followed by dinner and back to hotel.

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Until next time,

Love, Peace & Chicken Grease
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2012
photos: Leslie K. Joseph, Blues411

Fast Approaching the 17th LRBC October Cruise, Let’s Go Bluesin’

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
    (SonicBids Winner)
  • 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
chefjimi
©Blues411.com 2011
photos: Leslie K. Joseph. LRBC