Interview: Mick Kolassa

Interview: Mick Kolassa

Interview: Mick Kolassa

As with all of Mick’s albums, his generosity and love of the blues is exemplified by the fact that all proceeds from sales of his albums goes to help support the Blues Foundation’s HART fund, which helps blues artists and their families with medical and funeral expenses and Generation Blues, which helps fund young musicians under the age of 21 to attend blues music camps.

I recently caught up with Mick after he had been in Rockland, Maine, for the North Atlantic Blues Festival where he had been working with Midcoast Music Academy students for several days before they performed at the annual festival to ask him about his new release “I’m Just Getting Started.” As always, he proved to be a refreshing, dedicated warrior for the blues and a very talented artist.

BS:     As you know, I attended an acoustic performance of yours recently at the Heartwood Soundstage in Gainesville, Florida, with local favorite Paco. You guys blew the audience away with your synergy and held the audience in the palm of your hand with the interaction and storytelling. How does playing in an intimate venue like Heartwood compare to a large festival or club for the type of music that you play? Do you have a preference?

MK:       Two very different kinds of satisfaction!  In a small and intimate setting like Heartwood I try to have an actual conversation with the audience members, spending time talking about each song, so I’m sure they understand not just the song but often why I wrote it or decided to sing it. That’s hard to do from a festival stage. In a smaller setting you can have direct conversations with people without losing the rest, not so on a large stage. But the satisfaction, or adrenaline rush, you get when a large audience likes what you do is different, not better, or worse, just different. I think most performers would agree that the act of performing is a powerful drug, the feeling you get when an audience likes what you do is hard to match. Whether the audience is small or huge, if I can make them happy it makes me even happier!

BS:     Jeff Jensen produced and played guitar on your new release as well as previous ones. You guys seem to create magic together. How did that relationship come about?

MK:    Of the 12 albums I’ve done so far, Jeff has produced 10 and played on all but 1, so we’ve become quite a team.  I met Jeff when he was playing with Brandon Santini, they played at the Bluesberry Café in Clarksdale during the Juke Joint Festival. My brother-in-law and I were putting together a show in Spokane, where he lived, and thought that they would be a great addition to the show.  During that show one of the other acts invited me to sit in with them and when Brandon and Jeff played, they also invited me up, so I did a couple tunes with them. After that they would bring me on stage when I was at one of their shows. I started doing some of my original songs with them and Jeff said I should think about recording them, and things just grew from there. The partnership has been good for both of us because we have very different musical backgrounds that work well together.

BS:     You have been quoted as saying about your songs “I want to tell a story.” My favorite bluesmen tell a story with their songs. Lyrics and audience interaction play a huge role in that for the listener. At venues with loud guitars and loud talking audiences, is story telling possible. Do you adjust your set list accordingly?

MK:     I can usually get the stories in, even in a large venue I will set up each song, giving a little background or history. It’s honestly more difficult to do that in a loud bar than it is on a large stage. I think that one thing that helps is that I spend a lot of time on stage looking at the audience, not just playing or singing to them. I try to make eye contact so that the individual people feel that I’m singing to them – because I am!

BS:     On a personal note, we both have been impacted by great losses recently. Due to the pandemic, not only have the careers of our friends been impacted, but we both have lost spouses as well as numerous close friends. You also have relocated to Memphis after a lengthy residence in Mississippi. How are you coping with your loss? I certainly feel your pain but can’t express it like you can in your music.

MK:   It’s a struggle, for sure, and even though I knew that Molli was dying, and I was prepared intellectually but I sure wasn’t ready emotionally. My family and friends helped me amazingly but being able to work through the pain and questions in my songs really helped. I’ve always done that – my songwriting is often me just thinking and putting the thoughts into words. Because I have standards and “rules” for my songs I’ll often get creative with the story I lay down, but it works for me. Coming to terms with Molli’s alcoholism turned into the song “Baby’s Got Another Lover,” which is still my most streamed and downloaded song – the song was my way of working through it and understanding it. I wrote the song “Nothing Left to Lose” as a way to try to understand Robin William’s suicide. Of course, the last couple years have given me a lot to write about. 

But it isn’t just the bad things, I write happy songs and love songs, sometimes leaning back on my younger years when Molli and I first got together, but also writing to or about an imaginary muse who I can write about or to with very low risk.

BS:     On a lighter note, your new release “I’m Just Getting Started” is a sure winner with me but you also indicate more are in the works. Can you tease us a bit by telling us what we can look forward to?

MK:    Sure, In August I will release an acoustic album entitled “They Call Me Uncle Mick.”  The only musical instrument that was plugged in was a vibraphone, which has an electric motor that rotates the baffles. It was wonderful knowing that there would be no pedals or effects. That album has some very old songs, one by Bo Carter and one by Hank Williams.  I was joined by some amazing people on the album, Watermelon Slim played and sang with me on a bluesy version of Woodstock, Bobby Rush played harmonica on an acoustic version of my song Wasted Youth, Doug McLeod played on 2 of my originals, and I was also joined by Chris Gill, Brad Webb and Alice Hasan.  The idea was to show the versatility of acoustic music.

That album will be followed by one I’m working on right now. Called “For The Feral Heart”, it’s a collection of love songs, some original, one very classic old standard and a couple well known rock songs that, when played slowly and a little mournful, are amazing paintings of love going off the tracks.

BS:    With the price of gasoline, lodging, and in general all expenses increasing, are more musicians foregoing tours and streaming live shows? With club owners and fans all affected by inflation, how are you and fellow musicians coping?

MK:    Right now, musicians are just trying to figure out what’s going on. While most of the festivals are back online many venues have closed and some have stopped booking touring acts, so routing a tour is tougher than ever before. As for streaming live shows, some have done it and a few with large and loyal fan bases have done OK, but it’s not the same as a live show. I know many musicians who haven’t jumped back in yet, making money some other way and trying to book tours for next year

BS:    Can you tell us about Endless Blues Records in Memphis and how that came about and your role in it?

MK:    Endless Blues Productions was the creation of my brother-in-law, Ted Todd, who passed away about 7 years ago. We put together several shows and were in the process of incorporating the business when he died. I decided to keep it going with the record label, starting with my own work, the album “149 Delta Avenue”. Once that was in place, I reached out to some friends to see if they would be interested in releasing their work on the label. Several said yes, in some cases they brought the finished product to me, and I helped them to release and promote the album and in other cases I financed it and sold the individual CDs to the artist. To date I have really held it to be with people I know well. We queued up four big releases, Tennessee Redemption, Tullie Brae, Eric Hughes, and Kern Pratt, just in time for Covid to shut things down and put the brakes on CD sales, the vast majority of which are sold at live shows. To top that off we lost Kern to Covid in 2020.

Since then, the album releases have been mine, Dexter Allen, and Chris Gill, and we have really had to manage that carefully. Fortunately, every release on the label has charted well and gained attention and some pretty good sales.

So far, my role has been to be pretty much every job. Anne Bello has come on board, initially to help with my own music but has expanded her work with all the artists on the label. Dexter Allen and Jeff Jensen are working with me to take things forward, and we have some cool projects in the works that could help us make up for 2020!

BS:     You recently worked with young blues artists at the North Atlantic Blues Festival in Maine as you have in the past. Can you tell us about that experience?

MK:   That was simply magic! When I played the North Atlantic Blues Festival in 2016 Paul Benjamin asked me if I’d like to spend a couple of hours with the students at the MidCoast Music Academy, where they have an intensive week-long blues camp to prepare the students to play a short set to open the second day of the festival. I was really impressed by the kids when they played.  Last year I went back to the festival because I had a few people from the label playing, and Paul asked if I’d like to stop by the academy for a couple of hours again. While there I brought up the idea of spending all or most of the week with them this year and they thought that was a good idea. It was so fulfilling to work with these young musicians, some were experienced and others just starting but all were enthusiastic. 

My main role was to supplement their training in music theory and some technical skills with educating them about the blues, the culture and history as well as the music, and to coach them as they worked though the songs.  I hope to go back next year and do it again.

BS:     I see that one of my favorite venues in your schedule for the fall is at “Camping With The Blues” in Brooksville, Florida. Any other appearances that fans should be alerted to?

MK:    Camping With The Blues is a great event.  I did it with my Taylor Made Blues Band in 2019 and loved it. I’ve been working with Dexter Allen to put some shows together so for Camping With The Blues Dexter’s band will back me up for my set (Dexter, who is an amazing blues artist, played bass and some guitar on my most recent album). Dexter will then do a set of his own great music later in the program. We will be playing together the week before at the Bradfordville Blues Club.

While we are looking for other opportunities, I’ll be doing some local shows in the Memphis area with different musicians and have a few solo shows and runs set up. I should be at Little Village in Pensacola in August, The Twisted Tail in Philadelphia, PA in late September, and a few other shows in that area. I’ll do a few shows in Clarksdale and plan to get to Michigan a couple times to do some shows. I’m still debating on whether to form a new band or not, we’ll just have to see what works out in that regard.

BS:     You were on the Board of Directors of the Blues Foundation when they raised money for the Blues Hall of Fame, and you also have been an advocate for helping save the historic Riverside Hotel in Clarksdale. Can you update us on the status of that project? I know that a GoFundMe account raised some funds to help it reopen.

MK:   The Riverside is a wonderful piece of American history and I urge people to check into it. The Ratliff family, which owns and runs the hotel, are dear people whom I’ve known for many years. When it looked like the hotel might not be able to keep going, because of Covid and some damage from an ice storm, several of us who love the place got together to start the GoFundMe campaign. Teeny Tucker and I wrote and recorded a song about the hotel, laying out the amazing history of the place and the need to keep it going. 

The campaign has been successful but what really made the difference is that the National Park Service has awarded a very large grant to help us rebuild it and keep it going.  We will still be raising money to preserve the place where Bessie Smith died and where Rock and Roll was born!

BS:     A young “Kingfish” is certainly exciting to watch, as are David Julia, Ben Levin, Veronica Lewis and so many other talented young artists. Care to reflect on the future of the blues? Working with Generation Blues, you have a rare opportunity to see what talent the future holds.

MK:   I’ve known Christone since he was about 8, and he simply amazed me from the beginning.  I’ve also been a supporter of the Pinetop Perkins Foundation and their work with young artists, many of whom I’ve got to know over the years. That’s how I got to know David Julia and Cole and Logan Layman, each of whom have played on one of my albums, as well as Dylan Salter and Grace Kuch, and so many more. I love their enthusiasm for the music that I love, and their talent blows me away. I’ll keep doing whatever I can to support young musicians who want to play the blues.

BS:       Thank you, Mick, for your sincere love, support, and dedication to the blues and your wicked sense of humor. You are an inspiration to me and to others and for that, I am grateful. Your support of the HART fund and Generation Blues during this rough economic period could not be more needed or appreciated. See you on the blues highway soon.


MIck Kokassa

“They Call Me Mud”

“They Call Me Mud”

“They Call Me Mud”

“They Call Me Mud”

by Monte Adkison aka “The Blues Stalker”

Some people are just born to sing the blues. Larry “Mud” Morganfield, the eldest son of legendary bluesman Muddy Waters certainly fits in that category. Although his parents divorced when he was young and his father had a hectic touring schedule, his dad’s talent and love of the blues was shared later in his life. He began playing drums that his father bought him every Christmas beginning at the age of seven. He is also skilled on bass guitar but his songwriting and vocals showcase his true legacy.

Mud began his professional music journey at age 50 after a career  as a truck driver and his father’s death in 1983. Beginning with club appearances in the Chicago area, it was his performance at the 2007 Chicago Blues Festival that launched his career to an expanded fan base. An indie release in 2008 “Mud Morganfield with the Dirty Aces Live” was followed by 2012 Severn Records “Son of the Seventh Son” produced by harmonica ace Bob Corritore. In 2014, “For Pops:  A Tribute to Muddy Waters” with the Fabulous Thunderbird’s Kim Wilson, won Best Traditional Blues Album in 2015 at the Blues Music Awards. His most recent release “They Call Me Mud” has 10/12 songs penned by Morganfield and a distinct soul feel with a substantial horn section. Mud has steadily developed his own style and groove.

Mud has the reputation of being one of the best dressed players on stage. Like the late Junior Wells and the old school Chicago bluesmen, he shows up in classy suits that show the audience that they are in for a special performance. No overalls or ripped Levi’s for this stage act. It is show time!

This time a year ago Mud was touring in India. Like all musicians today, their careers have been stonewalled by a cruel pandemic that has affected the entire music industry globally. Mud comes to Florida after months of isolation to play the Bradenton Blues Festival His concern for his ninety year old mother who lives with him is foremost. With the pandemic still raging we are indeed fortunate to have the opportunity to see Morganfield perform  from a safe social distance at an outdoor venue. As Mud’s friend, Jeff Malone, president of the Northeast Florida Blues Society and who also booked him for the Amelia Island Blues Festival (2010-2016) recently told me:  “His father Muddy Waters was the pioneer of that electric blues sound migrating up from the Delta and that same spirit is in the DNA of his oldest son, Mud Morganfield. You are in for a special treat. Close your eyes and just imagine the glory days of the Chicago Chess sound.”

And the Winner is…

And the Winner is…

And the Winner is…

And the Winner is…

By Blues Stalker (Monte Adkison)


Hector Anchondo always kept his eyes on the prize. Growing up on a Missouri farm, as a teen after high school his desire to play music called him and he hit the road. Taking his guitar to Omaha, he began to play and appreciate all genres of music. His passion and interest in the blues led him down the blues highway to Chicago where he brought those influences back to Omaha.

His dedication, talent, sacrifices, and determination finally resulted in recognition by winning numerous awards and the Nebraska State Blues Challenge. Representing the Omaha Blues Society in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) beginning in 2015, Hector competed three times placing first in 2020 in the solo/duo category as well as taking home the Memphis Cigar Box Award for best solo/duo guitarist.

Like so many talented artists, he has been patiently waiting to share his love of the music and demonstrate his skills in this post-pandemic period. He is ready to hit the road again and show why Hector Anchondo is a blues survivor and a fan favorite. As hurricane season is finally coming to an end in Florida, this is one you will welcome in his upcoming tour.

2020 International Blues Challenge

BS: As a veteran participant and the most recent winner of the International Blues Challenge, what advice could you give to future participants?

HA: The advice I’d give is be yourself and don’t worry too much about what others think. Some will like it, and some won’t, no matter the path you choose so why not just be yourself and truly find the ones that like you for you? You always sound better being yourself and you have a more authentic sound. Also, make sure you read the rules front to back and get plenty of metronome practice in.

BS: You represented the Omaha Blues Society in Memphis at the IBC. How important do you think blues societies are today in the music industry and what suggestions would you give them to be more relevant?

HA: Blues Societies are so important in the music industry, if it were not for them it’d be so much harder to get anywhere with your music and touring. Not only do they offer help with booking, but also setting up shows and extra gigs if needed and that can really save an entire tour. Blues Societies also connect artists with an entire network of Blues fans out there.

The Blues wouldn’t be what it is today without them. I can’t offer any suggestions to Blues Societies other than to make sure you’re on all the social media sites.

In the Market for Blues

BS: In 2015 you created your own local blues festival, In the Market for Blues, in Omaha. That festival has expanded each year to recently over 40 local, regional, and national acts at multiple venues. Can you tell us how that came about and due to current circumstances, when do you think it will happen again?

HA: That came about after my first year playing in the IBC, it was 2015 and walking down Beale Street I couldn’t help but think how the cobble stone streets and the buildings reminded me so much of the Old Market in Omaha, NE. I thought, Omaha’s Old Market would be perfect for a Blues festival and what better way to create a Beale Street, or Bourbon Street music experience right in Omaha?

The scene fit perfect. I brought the idea to Emily Cox of E3 Music Management and she loved the idea, so we worked together to make it a reality. Now it’s made possible by the Blues Society of Omaha and E3 Entertainment as well as all the wonderful sponsors. We’re hoping to get it started back up in 2021 but we will have to watch how things look at the time. It’s an honor to work with everyone and they deserve all the credit for all the hard work they do.


BS: Hector, your deep interest in the blues drew you to Chicago to learn and observe from the tradition of the old blues masters. Can you tell us about that experience and how it affected your music?

HA: That was a really great experience for me and my playing, it really got me out of my shell and help me discover more of who I am and what my sound is. I mostly observed and tried to soak it in as much as possible.

I played in jams with Mary Lane and Rockin’ Johnny and sometimes Johnny would get me up for a few songs at his shows too. Thankful for that. The person that played the biggest role in my Chicago music experience was my bassist Todd Fackler. He’d play bass for Tail Dragger at Legends and Todd would get me into the shows.

It was there I really got to soak up with the pros were doing. If Todd had not got me in on the guest list, I wouldn’t have never been able to afford to go. I also got to catch shows at Kingston Mines and lived in walking distance from Rosa’s Lounge. I learned a lot about music, myself, and life while I was out there.

Recordings and Gear

BS: Your chart-topping 2017 release, “Roll the Dice” was a real boost to your recognition on the national and international blues scene. Can you tell us what you are working on now to follow that up? Is a solo album a possibility?

HA: I’m working on my solo album now and I’m hoping for a release early next year. I have been wanting to do an acoustic solo album for a long time and with everything that’s happened this year and winning the IBC solo/duo category, it feels like the right time. So be on the lookout for the new album early next year.

BS: You are an endorsee of Delaney Guitars. For the gear heads out there, tell us about the custom axe that Mike Delaney created for you.

HA: To have Delaney Guitars endorse me is an honor and something I’m proud of, it was a big step forward in my career. My latest guitar is a Delaney Sonata, it is a beautiful guitar and I love it play it. It has a Mahogany body and a Birdseye Maple top. Delaney humbucker pickups and it is set up with a split coil feature so that I can get humbucker sound or a single coil sound. I love the versatility.


BS: Please introduce us to the Hector Anchondo touring Band…

HA: The one other full-time member of the band is Khayman Winfield, he’s been touring with me for seven years and has really hung in there. I’m thankful for his dedication and I don’t know how I’d do it without him. It’s been a lot of years since that I have had a full-time bassist.

BS: Speaking of touring, you are about to embark on a month-long tour of Florida. I know that Suncoast Blues Society fans are excited about your show scheduled for the Blue Rooster in Sarasota.

HA: I’m excited to get down to Florida and play for a while. We’re going to be living there for the winter and looking forward to meeting folks and playing as much music as I can while I’m down there. I’m also looking forward to the Blue Rooster show.

(Editor’s note: Suncoast Blues Society is sponsoring Hector Anchondo at the Hideaway Café in St. Petersburg. For tickets


BS: The pandemic has financially impacted Artists. How have you personally compensated by the loss of touring dates and gigs?

HA: I tried to drop my expenses as low as I possibly could with having a family to take care of. We moved full time in an RV to try to ride out the economic downturn. I have also been playing online shows and still playing in person shows when I can.

I try to be as safe as possible while playing and try to take every gig I can. I teach online guitar lessons too. It has been very hard to make ends meet but we’re getting through it one day at a time and thankful that I can still play some to earn a living, or at least for right now, just get by.


BS: Can fans follow you on Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, or Facebook?

HA: Yes, they can, and I welcome everyone to check out all the social media sites





Thank you, Hector. You are truly an inspiration for all those struggling artists who are attempting to survive doing what you love during these uncertain times. Best of luck to you!







by Monte Adkison aka “The Blues Stalker”


When I first interviewed Costa Rican guitarist Jose Ramirez about eighteen months ago, he was in the middle of a European tour. Since that time, his life has been a whirlwind of career changing events and accomplishments.

After moving from Florida to Washington, D.C., and forming his own band, they were sponsored by the D.C.Blues Society to compete in the 2020 International Blues Challenge and won second place and embarked on a heavy touring schedule in the United States. His long-standing desire to release a debut album of original music came to fruition with Here I Come recorded at Wire Studios in Austin, Texas and produced by Anson Funderburgh.

Jose recently relocated back to Florida and released Here I Come officially on May 29. The first week after release has seen his debut disc catapult to the top spots on major U.S. and Florida Blues music charts and recently also in the U.K.  The viral pandemic postponed a third European and Canadian tour booked for the summer. Jose is rescheduling the tour to promote the new album. As the title song says, get ready because “Here I Come!”


International Blues Challenge

BS:          Wowza! What a difference a year makes. Fresh off your second European tour in 2019, you moved to Washington, D.C., formed your own band and the D.C. Blues Society sponsored you in the 2020 International Blues Challenge. There in Memphis, you competed against 230 bands from all over the world and received second place. How did this validate your sacrifices to pursue your dream as a blues musician?

JR: Going to Memphis and competing against 230 of the best blues bands in the world really validates a long time of hard work and sacrifice. I had no expectations about the competition but once we got there and we figured out how rough the competition was, we just did our best and hoped for the best as well. It comes to show that the band had been working hard for quite some time.

Also, it really shows that it was a great band mixed with seasoned musicians and great people. We worked on my songs. We came to the competition with original music, my compositions, and that helped a lot.  Things started to look up right after the competition and even though the pandemic has affected tours a lot the competition has given me a status it might have taken years for me to accomplish. Taking second place in this competition really helped to elevate my profile in the blues industry.

Anson Funderburgh


BS:          How and where did you connect with Anson Funderburgh and make the decision for him to produce your debut album? Working with Anson, Jim Pugh (Robert Cray keyboardist) and the Texas Horns had to be an amazing experience.

JR:          I met Anson the first time about 3 or 4 years ago, when I first came to America, when I met you and everybody here in Tampa. Anson was touring through the Tampa area because he was playing the Bradenton Blues Festival and he did a show at Aces, when Aces was still up and running, and I wanted to go and see him. It was my first time seeing him live but I already knew about him. He has always been one of my favorite guitar players ever. That night I got there, and I introduced myself and he and the guys decided they wanted to call me up on the stage and do a few songs with them and that is how the friendship started.

We stayed in touch all these years and last year we decided to sit down and have a formal meeting in Memphis, Tennessee. We met there around October of last year and we decided we wanted to work together. Anson seemed interested in my original songs and he thought it was a good choice to work together. So, we made it happen.

This past December, December 2019, I was still living in D.C., so I drove down to Austin and spent 10 days in the studio working in the studio with Anson as a producer.  What an honor to have my favorite Texas guitar player producing my album and playing on a couple of tracks. It was great to have Jim Pugh with his experience with Robert Cray, and of course the Texas horns who had played with Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin at some point. It was special as well to have Nate Rowe on bass and Wes Starr on drums and to have Stuart Sullivan the sound engineer to do all the sound and the mixing. Stuart has Grammy Awards for work that he did for Jimmie Vaughan and Willie Nelson—so a Grammy Award engineer.

It was amazing to work with the crew that Anson put together for me for my original songs and it’s showing right now on charts all over the world. This album is a serious production and we are all excited and proud.

Deep Down in Florida


BS:          After a successful time living in D.C. with a great band there, why was the decision made to relocate back to Florida?

JR:          The pandemic influenced my decision to move back to Florida. My shows scheduled in D.C cancelled, and I do have some family and friends here in the Tampa Bay area. it just seemed right. I wanted to move closer to a place where I would know more people, given the actual circumstances of the pandemic. That was the main reason. I already knew a good number of musicians here and I do have a good following and fan base in Tampa Bay, so it seemed like a good decision and the right time to relocate to the Tampa Bay area.

Here I Come


BS:          The official release of your debut disc Here I Come came on May 29 and has received excellent reviews from all over Florida, U.S., and the world. All but two cuts are original compositions. You managed to really capture a soulful side of the blues which is difficult for most artists. What was the inspiration behind Here I Come?

JR:          It is just a large list of personal experiences that I have lived through since I was a kid basically. I have been writing all these songs for all this time and arranging them and rearranging them and fixing lyrics and stuff like this for all this time. It just felt like it was the right time to put them all together and have someone like Anson work on them and really shape them up and he took them to different level completely. The inspiration, it is just really the absorbing all those years of experiences and stories and it is just a very personal and intimate album.

BS:          I have always been a fan of your guitar work but because of this new material I am impressed by your talent as a songwriter. As a very accomplished bilingual speaker, I have always been curious, do you think in Spanish and then translate to English or do the lyrics just come naturally for you in English?

JR:          When I’m writing songs like blues songs I never think in Spanish because I’ve never really worked on blues in Spanish, not even in Costa Rica when I started when as a teenager I was writing songs and playing in my country. I never sing in Spanish, so it just comes to me naturally in English although English is not my first language. When I am writing a blues song, I just hear the rhymes that I hear when listening to songs by B.B. King or John Lee Hooker. My lyrics come naturally in English.

Join the Band


BS:          Due to your move back to Florida, you had to find new bandmates. Please introduce us to your new band.

JR:          The two guys on drums and keyboards—it is an interesting story because I met these two guys – they are brothers. I met them this past January at the IBC in Memphis while we were competing. They were representing the Kansas City Blues Society with their band, young guys but very soulful and experienced and we stayed in touch. We became friends while we were sharing the same quarter final venue and we started to talk.

When the pandemic hit and I started making plans to move down to Florida, they actually reached out and said “Jose, we actually have family in Florida so if you are moving to Florida we might be interested in relocating.” I said, “that’s awesome, we need a drummer and a keyboard player, and I’ve already seen you guys perform at the IBC.” Their names are Andre Reyes, Jr., and Antonio Reyes.  I am currently talking to bass players to fill that position in the band as dates are rapidly filling up. (Note: after this interview Jose hired Kansas City bass player Kenny Watson, Jr).

BS:          Talk about the blues…..just as you had booked a full summer and fall tour of Europe, Canada and the U.S. to promote your new release, the viral pandemic shut down venues and countries and resulted in cancellations and postponements. Are you currently rescheduling Europe and when can we expect touring to begin again to promote your new release?

JR:          I now have a booking agency behind me after all these years booking myself. And this came because of winning second place in the IBC. It gave me a good amount of exposure and now I am working with Road Dog Booking Agency. We are working together to try and reschedule some of those dates, if possible, for the remainder of the 2020. We are also trying to reschedule the whole tour for 2021, the American tour and the European tour. It’s gonna take patience because the clubs don’t really know what’s going on and they don’t know when they are going to be able to reopen so it’s taken quite some time for me and my booking agent to really figure it out, but we are working really hard to make it happen.


Virtual CD Release Party


BS:          You just had a virtual CD release party and performance on Can’t Stop the Blues Facebook page live. Care to give a shoutout to Karen Gottheimer and Crafton Barnes for providing a virtual “venue” for blues artists to perform and receive some compensation because of canceled concerts worldwide? It was an excellent performance by you.

JR:          It was great being a part of Can’t Stop the Blues and I would like to thank Karen, Samantha, and Crafton for having me. We have been trying to put together a date for me since the pandemic hit almost two months ago but I was in the process of moving from D.C. down to Tampa so we could not make it work. It took some time, but I think that it was worth it. I had a great time recording the show for Can’t Stop the Blues and the audience seemed to really enjoy it. It was special.


Life’s Simple Treasures


BS:          I have visited your native country many times and felt that it is truly paradise and love the Costa Rican pace of living and the philosophy of pura vida. Do you get homesick, especially now with the lockdowns in travel and current turmoil in the United States?  Are you able to put those feelings into your music? I know that you have recently written a song about the pandemic, After All This Time. Can you tell us about that?

JR:          That’s something that never goes away when your family is in our native country. It’s a feeling that you never lose, and, in some ways, I always want to be back. I always want to be in touch with my family and visit as much as possible, especially during times when a global pandemic hits and things get more sensitive. Now, with things going on with the racial situation here in the states, it makes me think a lot about back home. Because I come from a country where we do not have these kinds of issues. So, it is really complicated but I do talk to my family every day and I stay in touch with them. As soon as the pandemic is over, I plan on visiting, of course.

Yes, I recently wrote a song inspired by current events, talking about the pandemic and we have all learned in this time that we have no idea. We have been taking a lot of things for granted in our lives; seeing how the world is struggling and seeing all the suffering we are going through and just misery. I wanted to write a song that could bring some hope to blues fans all over the world.  I hope to record After All This Time and hopefully it will be on my next EP or next album.

The Future


BS:          Besides getting back out there with a new band and promoting your new release, what perhaps can we expect to see or hear in the future? Any projects in the works?

JR:          It is difficult to say because we musicians depend on clubs and club owners and buyers. So, at this point my focus is to promote the release of my new album Here I Come as much as I can, via internet, social media, and my website, As soon as clubs start reopening, I will work very hard with my booking agent so we can start rescheduling the U.S. tour, the European tour, and hopefully our first tour to Canada as well. I keep constantly writing new songs, and I am excited to be putting together my new band as well.

Fans in Florida will want to mark their calendars for a Florida CD release party On October 3rd featuring special guest Anson Funderburgh at the Palladium Theatre in Saint Petersburg. Anson will also be joining me on October 10 at the King Biscuit Blues Festival on October 10.   I will be performing at the Camping with the Blues Festival on October 17 in Brooksville, Florida,

BS:          How can fans acquire your music and connect with you on social media? Website?

JR:          My new album is on many digital platforms. But I want to direct everyone to my website because if they purchase the album straight from my website, they will be directly supporting me as an artist. If people purchase the album there, I will make sure they get an autographed copy and receive an 8-page booklet. These bonuses are not available if they buy online from another site. I also have a Facebook and Instagram page.


Welcome back Jose. You have arrived!


For more information on artists and topics mentioned within this interview please click the link

Jose Ramirez web site

Jose Ramirez Facebook

Jose Ramirez Instagram

Anson Funderburgh website

Jim Pugh

The Texas Horns

Can’t Stop the Blues Facebook

Palladium Theatre St. Petersburg FL

Camping with the Blues

King Biscuit Blues Festival




Big Al and the Heavyweights Interview

Big Al and the Heavyweights Interview

Big Al and the Heavyweights Interview

Big Al and the Heavyweights
By Blues Stalker

Blues Artist Al Lauro

Al Lauro was born and grew up in the Crescent City and as a percussionist. Al’s musical influences include the rhythms and grooves that only a city like New Orleans can produce. Al spend his early years touring in Europe and the United States as the drummer for David Allan Coe where he shared the stage with many of the greats in the outlaw country music scene.

In 1993 he fortuitously met guitarist Warren Haynes and discovered their mutual love of blues and Southern rock. In 1996 they formed the Unknown Blues Band with Rick Gergen and opened for many stellar acts in Nashville as well as performing at festivals throughout the U.S. Warren went on to play with the Allman Brothers Band and Gov’t Mule and Al founded Big Al and the Heavyweights.

The recently toured Florida hitting all the major venues promoting their 7th CD entitled World Full of Trouble featuring guitarists Bob Margolin and John Lisi, and harmonica ace and former Heavyweight band member Jason Ricci. Their set list includes a mixture of zydeco, blues, funk, rock, with something to please everyone. Gumbo Heads should be ready to party another quarter century with these guys once the virus clears.  Get ready to boogie!

David Allan Coe

BS:  Al, what was it like to tour back in the 80’s with David Allan Coe?

AL: It was a BLAST! A rolling circus full of drugs, sex, and Outlaw Country!  I could write a great book. I appeared on Austin City Limits, The Grand Old Opry and numerous TV shows with him. We toured all over Europe in 1983. David was then based in Big Key, FL. This is near Key West which was then still full of hippies and smugglers (not so many t-shirt shops). David did a free street concert there and we backed up his special guests Greg Allman and Bertie Higgins. David is one of the most underrated true country artist and songwriters. Hopefully one day he will be in the Country Music Hall of Fame


Warren Haynes

BS: How did you meet Warren Haynes and discover your mutual musical tastes?

AL: We met in Baton Rouge. David’s then girlfriend Meme Broussard’s family was from Gonzales, LA. She and David were there to spend Christmas with her family. David had shows scheduled on Christmas Eve and Christmas night. Wendel Atkins band was from Texas and they were David’s backing band. They wanted to be home during Christmas, so they left in the middle of the night before the shows. David had to put a band together.

Meanwhile, Meme and I had a mutual friend Harold Mator who drove one of David’s semi-trucks. Mator called me and said David needed a drummer and would I be interested so I auditioned and joined up. I was wondering who the guitar player was going to be and they said he is flying in from Asheville, NC and that was Warren Haynes!

Most important, through spending countless hours on the bus together listening to music, Warren and I discovered a mutual love for roots music especially blues, southern rock, and soul. We had both moved to Nashville so we formed a band the Unknown Blues Band and we performed when David would take some time off from the road.

Big Al and The Heavyweights

BS: Who currently makes up the Heavyweights when touring?

AL: Currently, Wayne Lohr who has been with me for 10 plus years and is in the Louisiana Music Hall of Fame plays keys.  Mark Parsons on Bass guitar, and Marcel Anton on guitar. Sometimes my long-time friend and harmonica player, “Roguie” Ray Lamontagne (Ray Lamontagne’s Dad) joins us on the road. It is hard to make money as a 5-piece band so unfortunately; I do not always have a harp player.

BS: Not too many bands have a drummer as a band leader. You perform with many exceptionally talented guitar and harp players who are front and center in talent and ego and command a lot of attention. Is that ever a problem for you as a bandleader?

AL:Not really. I am blunt and make sure everyone understands their role. We are a band FIRST!

Above all, we are not about one guy and his ego so one guy does not make or break Big Al & the Heavyweights. I have has blessed to play with some incredible harp players.  Roguie Ray who I mentioned before who is in his seventies and he will still play with me. Harmonica Red who also played with David Allan Coe and is freaking amazingly talented. He is on several of my CDs including Nothin’ But Good Lovin which Bruce Iglauer, president of Alligator Records, produced for me.

Presently, Red now lives in Kentucky. William Howse from Nashville one of my favorites. Of course, my long-time friend and a guy who has been in the band twice the incredible Jason Ricci. I am so proud of him.

Blues Touring Florida

BS:  You recently toured Florida before the music scene shut down due to the corona virus. I was fortunate enough to see you perform at Skipper’s. Care to share your thoughts and memories of that last touring adventure? Let us pray that those venues that have been loyal supporters of live music for years can survive this economic fiasco.

AL: Well I have been playing Skipper’s for over 10 years. The late great Rock Bottom got me in there. Tom White the owner of Skipper’s has been a supporter of the band and a forever friend. We just played there with Unknown Hinson.

It was a great Florida tour, as always. We played the Villages for the first time. Marcia and Mark are great hosts and it is an incredible gig. We also played The Barrel House in Ft Myers for the first time and for my great friend Vince at the Double Roads in Jupiter. We had a tour coming that way the 2nd week of May, but that did not happen. I have never been home this long, and I am so ready to get back on the road. That is what we LOVE and what we DO. I do not get how they can just shut it all down.

World Full of Trouble

BS:The title of your latest release, World Full of Trouble now seems very prophetic. Your home, New Orleans, is a city that thrives on its music and entertainment as well as its culinary reputation and eating establishments. What is it like now living there and how are artists such as yourself coping and surviving?

AL:It is like a ghost town. Like Florida, all the restaurants and bars shut down and lots of people are out of work. I keep hearing about this virus all over ‘Nola but it’s actually confined to a certain very unfortunate segment of the population. It is obviously very contagious especially to the elderly and those with preexisting health conditions. I live 60 miles North of ‘Nola in Hammond, LA. I work on the side for a storage container company and have now for many years. Consequently, old guys like me must have health insurance plus I am a single parent with a 16 yr. old son. I am not coping well at all. I am very restless, but I farm and raise chickens, so it keeps me occupied.

Keeping the Blues Alive

BS:  When this pandemic is all over, life as well as the music scene will certainly change. Any thoughts of what may emerge as a result?

AL: Jesus, hopefully people will not be scared to get out and there will be some venues left. I mean how long can these places hang on. I think people will realize and hopefully appreciate life much more because you can see how quick they can take it all away from us. Pretty freaking scary to me. Do not even get me going.

BS:  How can we as fans best help keep alive the music we love?

AL: Come to live music shows, support the venues, bands, buy a CD, T-shirt, put something in the tip bucket, tip the bartenders and waitresses. Do not complain about a 5-dollar cover. People spend 5 dollars eating at McDonalds or in a Walmart, but heaven forbid a venue is charging 5 dollars to see a band. Pay it and smile!

BS: In isolation, can you tell us what you have been working on? Have you taken this opportunity to write new material?

AL: Yes. Specifically, we have been working on songs for a new CD that Luther Dickinson from the North Mississippi Allstars will be producing for us. Always something to look forward to in the Heavyweight World!

Thanks, Al, for touring in Florida and sharing your talents with us. Wishing you and your band the best and hope to see you back on the road soon.


For more information on artists and venues mentioned within this interview please click the link

Big Al and The Heavyweights

Video: Big Al – Key to The Highway

David Allan Coe

Warren Haynes

Jason Ricci

Skipper’s Smokehouse