Jason Ricci, Here by Grace

Jason Ricci, Here by Grace

Jason Ricci, Here by Grace

Suncoast Blues Society presents an interview with Jason Ricci. The interview and story were written by Tom Bassano, and Suncoast sincerely thanks Tom for offering for publication this interview, and insights into Jason Ricci.

Jason Ricci’s talents are undeniable. Neither is his openness to his past, his troubles, and his exploration into all that life offers. Some of what follows will be an honest discussion, and some might find the material edgy. But much like Jason this piece is entertaining with little held back. Anyone who has seen Jason perform knows that he leaves it all on the stage; he does so here as well.

Jason Ricci, Here by Grace

Interview and story written by Tom Bassano

Jason Ricci, hailed as one of the greatest harmonica players ever, opens the curtains of his turbulent rise and fall from fame and rebirth as a living legend of Blues Harmonica.

At first glance, Jason’s appearance is everything but blues, with wild hair and eccentric clothing that can only be described as punk rock/hippie. But when his raspy voice hits the microphone it’s as if the mood of the entire world had just changed, and you suddenly relax into the rhythm of southern blues. Then Ricci pulls from the mic and buries his face in his hands.

As the first note pierces the air, you can see everyone perk up in their chairs, and as Jason dives into his first harmonica solo, even the band seems to be a part of the audience as they watch him with respect and admiration. Ricci hits note after note, sounding as if there are 5 harmonicas playing at once, even beat boxing, creating his own percussion accompaniment without missing a note. Everyone starts to yell and whistle, encouraging him to keep going. The crowd sounds like a revival sermon, with even some “amen”s being shouted. People are breaking into applause before he has even finished, multiple times

Ricci is like a maniac, feeding off the energy of the crowd, playing faster and more complex the louder they cheer. We can see the level of effort growing and you imagine he must be exhausted. You are wondering, “How long can he do this- will he fall off the stage?” He has got to pass out, but he shows no sign of deprivation as he designs a roller coaster of music and your jaw drops open as you watch like a child at a magic show wondering,  “How did he do that?” This is what it is like to watch Jason Ricci

I am Tom Bassano. I first saw Jason Ricci play at Terra Blue in New York City. Now, three years later, I am bringing him to Tampa Bay. I have never interviewed anyone before. I had originally thought to give the task of interviewing to someone who was accomplished in the field of writing, but I chose to do it myself because I wanted to dive deeper into Jason’s past and try to understand who he really is. I said, “Jason, I decided to interview and write the story myself.” Jason said “That’s cool, now just relax and we’ll talk and then you can take what you want from it. Ask me anything, nothing’s off the table – jail, addiction, homosexuality; I am an open book.”

TB: Well, let’s start off with the soft pitches and we will dive deeper as we go.

JR: Sounds good.

TB: You grew up in Maine, but somehow you ended up in the south being mentored by, and even living with, legends of the blues in your late teens and early 20s, like Pat Ramsey and David Jr. Kimbrough. How did a New England punk rocker find his way into the blues?

JR: It was the harmonica, the instrument itself. It was played in America by mostly black blues players and some white country singers, bluegrass, and folk. But if you are truly interested in the harmonica, you are going to be interested in the blues because of what those guys do with it. So, at first, I was attracted to the music. But then I listened to the lyrics and in what at first sounded old-timey in comparison to punk, I heard a similarity, and that similarity is sincerity.

There is a sincerity in both punk and blues that I could relate to. When I saw this, my mother brought me to acts such as James Cotton and Buckwheat Zydeco at a young age. Blues and punk are written more towards the arts and not so much for entertainment, unlike a lot of pop music. Today, I don’t try to play the blues. I just play music (he laughs) I play Jason Ricci. As a rule, I don’t think categorizing music is very creative and I don’t believe its marketable that way.

TB: What music were you listening to as a teenager and what has carried over to your playlist today?

JR: All of it – I didn’t grow out of any of it. For a while I did The Dead Kennedy’s, Pixies, Misfits, and 7 Seconds. Then at 17, 18, 19, I was blues and jazz in my 20s. I temporarily stopped listening to punk until I came out of the closet in my 30s. That’s when I went back to my roots and gave myself permission to be who I am. You see, I pretended to not like punk because it wasn’t in the culture. I wanted to be an authentic blues person so all I would listen to was Little Walter, B.B. King, Junior Wells, Sonny Boy Jr., and Freddy King.

TB: If I were to describe your performance to someone, I would say you were a mix of Janice Joplin, Steven Tyler, and Jerry Lee Lewis.

JR: Thank you, Janice is one of my biggest influences. My mom would put on videos of her when I was 13, 14 years old and I would say to this day that I have never seen a better performance. The way she ran the band and her vulnerability, the audience would be wondering if she was even capable of finishing the performance. She would miss notes and she was trying too hard to get them that it was better than had she hit them.

TB: Who would you say influenced you?

JR: Janice was one of my biggest influences. I can tell you that Sean Costello’s live performance changed my life and watching Derek Trucks concentrate on a single note is like watching Buddha meditate.

TB: When you allowed yourself to listen to punk again, did that influence your music?

JR: That moment that I said, “You know what? I’m going to sleep with men.” That decision influenced everything that was repressed in me to come out. I’m just going to be me, and I don’t care how I’m perceived. As far as punk influence, you only need to go to my album, Done with the Devil, and you can hear my blues cover of “I Turned into a Martian”, a Misfits song. That’s some homework for you. (Jason laughs)

TB: When did you recognize your homosexuality?

JR: I recognized it on the school bus to kindergarten. I have always been attracted to men. I don’t have a choice of who I am attracted to, but I do have a choice of who I sleep with. It was easy for me in my teens, especially since I am a romantic and influenced by the heterosexual community. It was easy to have girlfriends. I didn’t have many, I had a girlfriend in high school and maybe slept with 11 girls my whole life, and for a musician that is not a lot. (Jason laughs) It’s low – I was obsessed with music, there was not much time for sex until I reached my 30s. I charged the first man I ever slept with, so I felt that exonerated me (Jason laughs again). That was a Lou Reed song:

“Little Joe never once gave it away/

Everyone had to pay and pay/

A hustle here and a hustle there/

New York City’s the place”

Later I fell in love with a guy – he moved away and broke my heart. I thought I was gay because the gay community said my attraction to women was just brainwashing from the conventional heterosexual society. I met a guy named Brady that I was going to be with for the rest of my life, and probably could have. I would have married him if it was legal at the time. He refused to acknowledge any bisexual thing that was going on, if I said a woman was sexy, he would say “You just want to be her”.

So, it took me a while to accept that I am attracted to both genders. I wasn’t going to say that I was attracted to both genders while I was in a long-term relationship. When I finally did, he said it was just me trying to hold onto some level of conventional American normalcy. I have slept with hundreds of men (Jason busts out laughing), maybe not hundreds, let’s take that out. I was with a lot of guys, like every night a different guy for like… (Jason pauses) wait a minute that is hundreds of guys (laughing hysterically). I can’t even come close to counting, I see people all over New Orleans that I have slept with. It’s a good thing I don’t go to Nashville very often anymore. I don’t regret it. Coming out as bisexual was the loneliest. If you’re straight, it’s great, everyone digs you and being gay you have the gay community and all the clubs. But when you come out as bi, chicks are like, “What do you mean you sleep with men?” And the gay community is like “Jason’s just trying to make more money.” Being bisexual is not as cool as being gay and it’s not as easy. I am attracted to women; I communicate better with men. I don’t know, I guess gender for me is irrelevant. I never considered Brady’s gender and I never considered Kate’s gender- my wife. Both were great.

TB: Okay Jason, I need to back you up a bit – you just glossed over prostitution like it was nothing!

JR: Oh, it didn’t last very long. I answered an ad in the paper that said, “Male sculpture models wanted” and I met a guy that was nice. It wasn’t like I was walking the streets; I wasn’t River Phoenix style – my own personal Basketball Diaries.

TB: Were you going through your addictions at the time?

JR: No, I was smoking a little weed… (Laughs) I was smoking a lot of weed.

TB: When did the drugs start to take over?

JR: Well, I went to treatment in 1997. I was 23. I left treatment after a few months and got a year and a day in a boot camp jail situation. I got out and went into a work release program and then probation. I stayed sober from 1998 to 2010. I was dealing with a lot of things when my band, The New Blood, broke up and my mental health was not good. I was placing my career, and material objects, and my physical appearance above my spiritual wellbeing. I had everything. A career, money, and I was in great shape; abs, the whole nine yards. But I wanted more, I wasn’t happy with it. Plus, I did not recognize severe bipolar syndrome. For about 4 years, I was staying up 2 or 3 days at a time. I became obsessed with the occult books. I was a member of O.T.O., a secret society – and I’m not saying there is anything wrong with that, there are plenty of people in O.T.O – but it’s classic bipolar behavior. I was dealing with forces I still till this day believe were demonic. You can chalk that up to bipolar or real life, I don’t care.

TB: In your mind?

JR: No, external. I full heartedly believe in GOD and the devil.

TB: Have you been able to escape?

JR: Yes, through GOD – but I don’t push it on people. So, after 2010, I started smoking crack and doing heroin. I had a French girlfriend, and we were sleeping with men together, then I was arrested and went to jail in Indiana for some big boy charges: assault on a police officer and burglary. (Jason pauses) I never touched him. I did a year and a day and never touched him. I did a plea bargain to avoid 12 years.

TB: What about the burglary?

JR: I robbed a woman’s house and stole guitars. A pretty shitty crime for a musician. I didn’t really know her. I met her once and knew she wouldn’t be home and robbed her to get crack and heroin. When I got out, I met my wife. Her mother worked in the jail – she introduced us.

TB: (Choking) What?! You have got to be kidding me. (Laughing in disbelief)

JR: Well, you don’t know my wife’s mother (Jason laughs, as if remembering a sweet moment). She is AMAZING. She’s a prison advocate. She was hired by Amnesty International to go into the Bloomington, Indiana Jail to police the guards  who were stun gunning their prisoners to death. That job evolved throughout the years for her to advocate for prisoners to get their GED’s, glasses, and medications, simple things that they need. She started an organization called “New Leaf New Life” that takes long-term prisoners who have lost their homes, wives, loved ones and felon’s incapable of being employed in many places. She puts them in a position to be repositioned. She doesn’t judge people by their past actions. She’s not Christian but that’s a very Christian thing to do. Because we are not broken, but circumstances may cause people to behave in ways that are outside of their true nature. She saw that I had this life before jail. When I got out, she had dinner with me a few times, as a friend of course. She told me about her daughter, who at the time was trying to get harmonica lessons for a friend of hers who had been in a car accident and could no longer play her original instrument.

TB: That is bizarre, I would never imagine a relationship developing that way.

JR: It gets weirder, my mother-in-law is a descendant of the Karnoffskys, who gave Louis Armstrong the money for his first cornet. Louis may have never become the legend if not for that cornet, as he had an incident that led him into a juvenile detention center for a year, where he homed in on his skills. Louis spoke fluent Yiddish and wore the star of David on his neck till his death in honor of the Karnoffsky’s.

Editor’s note: In a bit of irony, on August 30, 2021, while this interview was being prepared Hurricane Ida destroyed Karnoffsky’s – what was a registered historical landmark

 

I have survived and am actively healing through GOD’s grace. I don’t mean my career because I worked hard for that, but for my life. I’m talking about the fact that I shot more dope than Sean Costello, and I don’t know why I’m still here. I don’t think I’m favored, that’s part of grace. Grace basically means through no doing of our own, we are still here. All my hard work and my career in the long run, where will it really get me? My goal is, can I remain stoic in the face of adversity? In other words, how stable can I be regardless of my circumstances? Can I not let my circumstances dictate my behavior and how I have a natural tendency, like most anybody else, to turn to food, sex, drugs, and alcohol, even too much TV. But that’s something I try not to do.

TB: So, you have an addictive personality beyond just drugs?

JR: Yeah, a lot of that stems from trauma. I had a traumatic upbringing. It’s not too hard to dig and find that my father Joseph Ricci was all over 60 Minutes, Geraldo Rivera, mafia websites. My mother did multiple stents in hospitals, a couple of them long term more than a couple months. I was raised by the neighbors, people thought I had money because of my father, and they thought I got that money because my father killed people. I did not have access to that money because my mother was not present. She was bipolar and dealing with her own demons. Her parents were horrific. So, working too much is just a classic symptom of trauma as well as it is reinforced heavily by American culture. The harder you work, the better you are – workaholic. Don’t get me wrong though, I am a huge fan of America, I love living here.

TB: The addiction is a large part of how you became who you are. Without the work addiction you may not have become Jason Ricci, one of the greatest harmonica players.

JR: Absolutely, I lean heavily on the manic side. I am the opposite of attention disorder. I can focus on one thing for a few days and be productive until I become agitated by sleep deprivation. I would say highly productive. But I don’t allow it to go there anymore. I take medication. It took 10 years to find the right medication. I take an antipsychotic and a sleep aid. That allows me to get manic in the daytime and then it cuts it off so I can sleep, and it takes longer for me to get manic, like 2 or 3 hours. I just exhibit an overly enthusiastic person for a few hours. I am still manic, but I accept it, I like being a little manic. Every bipolar person likes being manic. Everyone around me has the right to tell me when I’m manic. I don’t always like it, but I listen, or I must explain why I’m not. (Jason laughs hysterically).

TB: Does the blues bring you to those dark places? Is it hard to do that while recovering?

JR: No, I think the blues has always been my lily. It’s like I made a mistake and I hope I learn from this. That’s the theme. It doesn’t always provide a spiritual solution. (Jason laughs)

TB: Do you find it hard to play in clubs as a recovering addict?

JR: Never, never. Because I don’t use drugs and alcohol like people in clubs do. That includes cocaine. I am not doing a line in the bathroom. I barricade myself in a room with furniture and mattresses, I smoke crack and shoot dope while watching porn for 4 or 5 days straight. Watching people drink in public is not the way I would like to, so it’s just not tempting. If they were smoking crack or shooting cocaine after the gig is over and I had a bad day, I don’t feel connected to GOD and I have not done anything to feel connected to GOD, I am in danger.

TB: So, your addiction is self-medicating?

JR: Yeah, there is nothing fun about it, the way I use. I remember coming back from a run and numerous parties that I had saying “Did you have fun?”, and that’s just a stupid question. It was just business at that point, there was nothing fun about what I was doing.

TB: What would wake you up out of that?

JR: GOD.

TB: So, you are laying on the ground and GOD wakes you?

JR: Not in the beginning. Normally it was an ambulance and a cop car that would interrupt it, two years ago, not quite two years ago, I will be two years sober November 20th. The last two years have been wonderful, completely different from when I was sober for 12 years and the time for 4 years. This is a totally different world where I am full of gratitude, and I recognize all the things that have happened to me and the rotten things I have done are all nothing but tools for me to help other people who may feel they are beyond forgiveness that may have done the same things as me or even worse.

I can use going to jail, breaking into someone’s house, and stealing guitars, prostitution, I can use what I did or what has happened to me to hopefully help others. Before you called, I was on the phone with a lady from Massachusetts that was fighting alcoholism, trying to find her resources to get better. It’s the most important thing I can do trying to give back.

You can see Jason Ricci on October 2nd featuring JP Soars and the Red Hots in Safety Harbor on the Bassano Cheesecake stage on 507 Main Street during the Safety Harbor Autumn Music Festival.

 

 

Latest “Hurricane” Advisory

Latest “Hurricane” Advisory

Latest “Hurricane” Advisory

Latest “Hurricane” Advisory

By Monte Adkison aka “The Blues Stalker”

My relationship with Roger “Hurricane” Wilson goes back about 25 years. I first heard Roger play guitar at a local pub that a friend owned who held live music shows on Sunday afternoons for musicians traveling back from gigs in South Florida. In fact, Roger is responsible for my pen name, “the Blues Stalker.”  I had seen Roger play in Florida one of those Sunday afternoons. The next day I was on my way to Oxford, Mississippi, to engage in a Florida Humanities Council scholarship to study the history of blues music at ‘Ole Miss. I spent the night with my sister in Atlanta and we went to a coffee house in Marietta and Roger was playing there. The next evening I was in Oxford and he was playing at a venue on the square there and I showed up to hear him.  So, in 3 days in 3 different states, we collided. On the third day, he asked me jokingly (?)  “Are you stalking me?”

Months later, when I had begun writing for the Suncoast Blues Society’s newsletter Twelve Bar Rag (1997) I told a colleague that I needed a pen name to write under. I had also told him the story of seeing Roger and him accusing me of “stalking” me. So my friend suggested, “how about the Blues Stalker?”  That is how the moniker was claimed and over the years Roger and I have become blues buddies colliding on the blues highway frequently. Roger was also at the organizational meeting of the Suncoast Blues Society to offer advice and has always been a big supporter of the Suncoast Blues Society.

Roger has over 40 years’ experience in broadcasting, television and radio, in addition to being an accomplished songwriter, guitar instructor and musician. Inspired by an Allman Brothers performance in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park, he started playing guitar professionally in 1972. He taught guitar lessons at his own studio from 1973-1985. In 1986 he worked for CNN for a decade and then went on the road in 1996. In 1997 he started his own record label BlueStorm Records. (www.BluestormRecords.com) With over 25 CDs to his credit and many years of touring playing festivals and clubs, Roger still teaches guitar lessons on the internet, teaches Blues in the Schools sessions, judges the International Blues Challenge, continues to write music and record, and tours in his recreational vehicle.

Roger has developed quite a following of fans at RV resorts and campgrounds when he takes his music skills on the road to share with others. With over a half century of experience in the music and entertainment industry, his journey was finally penned in his autobiography “Hurricane” published in 2016.

BS:         Roger, in your opinion, what are the best and the worst trends that you have observed in your fifty years in the music business?

RW:       I really appreciate the technology available now for recording, promoting, and distributing music ourselves that gives us total control over our bodies of work. After all of the time I was on the road, working on my own music at home and doing everything from there is very enjoyable and much more productive.

After doing two hundred or so dates a year on the road for a long time, it seems I am reaching more people worldwide than ever before. A big negative is how inconsiderate, rude, and clueless so many audiences are these days. With as much that is out there today, it seems that no one is listening most of the time. Music is  supposed to be listened to and not talked over. There is nothing wrong with dancing and having a good time, but for the singer/songwriter/performer to actually engage and be listened to as opposed to just being heard, the artist has to be selective and choose his or her own audience. 

BS:         You have been a judge at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis. What advice would you give artists competing for the first time?

RW:       Just present your material as you would at a regular gig. What I mean by that is do what you do. Don’t try to be something you aren’t, or try to throw an act together just for the IBC. As judges, we can see right through that. An example would be having seen numerous musicians come in as a duo, with one playing guitar accompanied by a saxophone player. It most always never works. Muddy Waters once said if you will just be yourself, they will love you.

BS:         For the gear heads, what is your favorite ax? What other gear are you partial to?

RW:       My onstage gear is quite simple. For my electric sets, I played Les Paul’s for many years, but settled on Fender Strat’s since the sound was more versatile in my trio situation, which has been the norm for me since the late 50’s. LOL. A minimal effects board consisting of two Boss Delays, one set long and one short, a Boss Chorus pedal, an Ibanez Tube Screamer, and a Dunlop Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal, are more than enough for what I need. As far as amps, I’ve endorsed Peavey amps since the mid 90’s, but a Fender Deluxe has proved time and time again that it can take a licking and keep on ticking. For my acoustic sets, Taylor Guitars have been very good to me with an endorsement deal since 2003. I have a 700, a GS, and a T5, and I do utilize a TC Helicon harmonizer and a Boss RC 2 looper to keep things interesting and fun.

BS:    You participate in Blues in the Schools programs and have recorded several CDs with high school jazz bands. Can you tell us about that experience?

RW:       I simply started out going into classrooms simply trying to let kids know there was life before rap and to pull their pants up. Once they heard the music and some of the stories, they were hooked. It is a shame that the arts have suffered in U.S. education for such a long time. Hats off to organizations, teachers, and administrators that think out of the box by getting it and trying to rally against the ignorance of the constant testers and bean counters.

BS:         You often perform at the Rentiesville Dusk ‘Til Dawn Blues Festival and were inducted into the Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame in 2015. For those unfamiliar with that festival, tell us about it.

RW:    The festival was founded in 1990 by legendary Oklahoma Bluesman, D.C. Minner, along with his wife, Selby. My first appearance there was in 2003, and I have been back every year since simply because it is the real deal. I was able to get involved with nearby Checotah High School to work with the band director. That led to a number of years performing with the high school band at the blues festival. The Oklahoma Blues Hall of Fame had been created there early on, and since they had created a division for folks that worked in the state, but weren’t native to it, there were a number of us that were formally inducted. It was a real honor. The festival was virtual in 2020, but will be back in person over Labor Day Weekend 2021. All information can be found at: http://dcminnerblues.com/    

BS:         Your latest CD, “Live at the Time Out Pub” was actually recorded in 2010 and is charting and receiving acclaim globally. Tell us about the venue and why you chose to recently release it.

RW:    My plan was to release it much earlier, but I got sidetracked with other projects along the way, as well as touring. While recording my sets every night on the road, this one really stood out. The band, Harry Werner on bass, and Scott Stump on drums, who I referred to as The Pennsylvania Railroad, along with the crowd, really locked in that night. The Time Out Pub in Rockland, Maine hosted road acts every Monday night for many years. It was presented by Paul Benjamin, founder of the North Atlantic Blues Festival, who gave many acts a gig on a Monday night as opposed to having to suffer through another empty weeknight on the road with their tongues hanging out. The Time Out Pub closed as a result of Covid 19,  as many venues did, so it was obvious that it was the right time to preserve something else that was now gone.

BS:         With regards to technology—the current options of Vinyl, YouTube, streaming services, CDs, etc. are constantly evolving and challenging for the consumer as well as the artists. You utilize AirPlay Direct to get your music played all over the world. Can you share your thoughts on how artists can best get their music to the people most effectively at this time- particularly during pandemic and post-pandemic times with so many venues closed down.

RW:    For me, I just keep writing, recording, releasing music, and putting it out. If folks like it, that’s even better.

 I’ve always played music for me because it was fun, not really caring if anyone was listening or not. That was my approach as a little kid, since I didn’t know any better. As I aged and saw how music transcends geographical, ethnic, and racial barriers, how could I not want to keep on doing it! To answer the question, this goes back to my statement about so many (not all) people not listening in live situations. For musicians, the stage is where you keep your chops up. For others, it’s that fix of the applause that they can’t live without. I suppose I was guilty of that for a time, but somewhere along the way, that addiction left… thankfully! With the internet and digital distribution by way of many devices, and music being so portable that it can be taken anywhere, I think most people are more apt to actually listen. As far as vinyl, I still have a wall of shelves full, but you have to be sitting in one place, probably at home to experience it. Nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but in my case, if I play a vinyl record,  I’m usually transferring it to digital from a USB turntable. Just as well, the digital formats don’t melt in your vehicle when the temperature exceeds one hundred degrees. I’m speaking from experience.   

BS:         You travel self-contained in your own recreational vehicle/camper. I know that you have a following of fans at many campgrounds that you use and did I see where you are having an ‘RV tour in the fall where fans can follow you? What a clever idea. Tell us more.

RW: That was an opportunity that surfaced as a result of my wonderful wife, Jolie, understanding how much I was touring, to purchase a motorhome back in 1998 for me to travel and carry a band in. As the band opportunities became more difficult to maintain travel-wise, I elected to utilize different rhythm sections in different parts of the country and abroad. In searching for the best option for travel, downsizing to a van and a pull behind trailer was a suitable alternative. As my solo situation proved to be more economical and less stressful, RV resorts were a pleasant change from the usual run of the mill roadhouse to an audience that would never see or hear me otherwise. And I could hang out and enjoy the facilities and scenery for a few days as well.

BS:    Other than Duane, what artists that have passed do you miss performing the most?

RW:    The legendary Roy Buchanan was a close friend and mentor to me. I met him in the 70’s while doing an interview with him, and we became close friends. So many greats were ever so supportive such as Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, who I actually toured and recorded a live CD with. Many such as Hubert Sumlin, Little Milton, Willie King, Big Jack Johnson, James and Lucky Peterson, and Robert Jr. Lockwood, among others, were all very gracious in telling me personally to stay the course and “Don’t Quit!”

BS:         How can fans obtain your music, book, and your schedule? By the way, yes, I will be stalking you!

RW:    Folks can order the book and also get a FREE MP3 on the home page at www.HurricaneWilson.com. We’re always looking for new subscribers on my Youtube Channel @RogerWilsonGuitar.

I’m also at Facebook @HurricaneWilson, Twitter @RogerHurricaneW, and Instagram@RogerHurricaneWilsonGuitar. The record company website is www.BluestormRecords.com.

 

 

 

And we have a winner!!!

And we have a winner!!!

And we have a winner!!!

And we have a winner!!!

Your Suncoast Blues Society is proud to announce the winner of their 2021 regional blues challenge…

Memphis Lightning Band consisting of Lightning Thiboutot, Red Thiboutot Sr. and Stephen Jeremia. “Lightning” will now represent the Suncoast in the 37th edition of The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge! This event will be held January 18 through the 22nd, 2022 along Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee.

What an exciting day it was – even though we got off to a late start (some of which we had no control over), the 4 bands that participated put on a great show and the audience appeared to be having a wonderful time.

After drawing for the performance order for the 25-minute sets, Randy Stephens & The Groove Makers started the show, and set the tone with a fine set of original blues music. It is always tough to go first during these competitions. But Randy and the band delivered the goods and set a high bar for the rest of the afternoon.

Following was the eventual winner, Memphis Lighting Band. To say this set was high energy is an understatement. The band presented a set of original material, punctuated with storytelling and a performance that kept the crowd engaged and enthused. The band left the stage receiving much applause.

Veterans of this competition, Memphis Rub Band put on a fine performance of original material. Including songs previously not heard by the many MRB fans in attendance. Arguably this band was never better than they were on July 25th and on another day might have won the competition with their score.

Finally, JSanti & The Gamblin’ Shame took the stage with the largest group of musicians of the day. The ensemble included a group of singers who contributed memorable vocal harmonies. While falling short in the scoring this band showed promise for future competitions.

Approximately 300 faithful blues lovers attended and showed their support. On veteran IBC Challenge performer commented this might have been the largest IBC challenge crowd they had seen. And thanks to the attendees, we were able to raise funds to provide financial assistance to our winning band for their trip to Memphis in January.

Believe it or not, putting on an event like that is a huge amount of work! Your Board has been working on this for the past 7 months, especially our Treasurer and Suncoast Blues News editor, Scott Morris!

Many other people to thank…

Our 5 judges: Mark Thompson, Mark Goodman, Rick Lewis, Velma Glover and Jose Ramirez.

Nicole Wanvig for single-handedly putting together the Silent Auction. Steve Wanvig for being the event timekeeper.

Bill Hubbard, who was not able to attend, but put in many hours on our planning committee.

And to my fellow Suncoast Blues Society Board members: Cheryl Spradling for along with myself work hard at the door taking care of the large walk-up crowd; and Jesse and Pat Smoot who took care merchandise and memberships.

Special thank you to Josh Rowand and his ‘Pitbulls’ (Deny Rowand and Richie Corricelli) who worked their butts off setting up the stage and then tearing it all down afterwards. The sound in the room was awesome!  And put on a show of their own while the Board tabulated the judges scores.

Josh Rowand and The Pitbull of Blues Band hosted a great jam. This band knows how to host a jam party! Including in the “musical mayhem” were 2021 Suncoast Blues Society IBC Youth Showcase representative Trey Wanvig, whose wonderful gold-top Gibson was the envy of some musicians; his playing the same for others! “Detroit” Michael Hepner added keyboards to the “Pitbulls” and was joined onstage by “Lightning”. The guitar work between the area’s “young guns” of Lightning and Trey – this might have been the first time they played together. Let us hope it is not the last! Wow!

Steve Arvey joined the jam and our “singing judge” Velma Glover came onstage and showed why with Sugar and Spice she made the final stage at an earlier IBC in Memphis. A surprise guest, former NFL great, 3-time Super Bowl winner with the Oakland Raiders and now a Bluesman Henry Lawrence joined Velma in a smoking version of Steppin’ Out.

And of course, thanks to all of you – the best Blues fans in Florida! – for your continued support through your membership, buying our merchandise, and attending our events!

Next up… Suncoast Blues Society Annual Beach Bash on August 29th at the Sunset Beach Lions Club.

See you there – Terri

 

2021 Suncoast Blues Challenge

2021 Suncoast Blues Challenge

2021 Suncoast Blues Challenge

Hello Suncoast Blues Society Members & Supporters
Just in case you haven’t yet heard (lol), this Sunday, July 25th, your Suncoast Blues Society will hold their regional Suncoast Blues Challenge to determine what band to send to Memphis for the 37th International Blues Challenge in January.

The event will take place at 10th Street Live, 1330 US Hwy 301, Palmetto.
There is also a restaurant, El Sombrero, so food and drinks (full bar) will be available.

We are excited to announce the 4 bands that will be performing:

  • JSanti & Gamblin’ Shame
  • Memphis Lightning
  • Memphis Rub Band
  • Randy Stephens & The Groove Makers

Performance slots will be drawn on the day of the competition so plan to arrive early and get a good seat, or you may bring your own chair. Show starts at 2pm – doors open at noon.

Advance ticket sales are still available for $10 at suncoastblues.org/shop or $15 at the door.
There will also be a raffle and silent auction so bring your cash and/or credit cards!
Income from the show goes to support the winning band’s travel expenses to Memphis.

We have 5 highly qualified judges:

Mark Thompson – Former President of Suncoast Blues Society and writer/reviewer for several blues publications.

Jose Ramirez – Delmark Recording artist, Blues Music Award Nominee in 2021, and 2nd place IBC winner in 2020.

Mark Goodman – photographer; received 2008 Grammy for “City That Care Forgot”-Dr. John & The Lower Nine. Been judging in Memphis since 2007.

Rick Lewis – a long time blues lover since seeing Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1983, as well as a professional concert photographer specializing in the Blues Music Genre. This is his 3rd time being a judge for the Suncoast Blues Society IBC.

Velma Glover – 2017 IBC Winner, Velma “Spice” Glover, is a home grown, born into the Blues, singer/songwriter/producer, and performer. Spice is the daughter of the late local Blues Chanteuse, Loretta Glover, and without a doubt carries a bloodline of the Blues within her veins.
________________________________________

 

You are going to want to stay till the end – whenever that might be – for an after-competition show by Josh Rowand and The Pitbull of Blues Band, including surprise guests, while the judges score sheets are tallied.

Josh is no stranger to the IBC. Having placed third in the 2020 competition, the band successfully made it to the final stage at The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis. They know what it takes to make it “All The Way TO Memphis”.

So come on out and join us for a fun and unique day of blues music – we guarantee you will more than get your money’s worth!

Thank you again for supporting live music!
Madame Pres – Terri

And now, let’s meet our contestants!


JSanti & The Gamblin’ Shame

Having been displaced from NYC due to the Covid-19 pandemic, JSanti (John Santiago) moved to Sarasota, FL. Upon doing so, he was invited to a jam session at the “Experimental Farm Road Compound” where music and humans of a like-mind communicated and connected. Upon this meeting, J met Andrew LeachMiranda Becker, Sabrina McClenithanZeena Brown and Sean Adam Walsh.  Soon after, he would meet Marcus James, also displaced from NYC.

After having played some music with Experimental Farm Road, he was introduced to Clint Justesen, of Wild Horses. The magnetic and resonant energy between these people led them to enter the 2021 Suncoast Blues Challenge, where they will perform their very first show, showcasing JSanti’s original music, with much more to come from the group’s diverse gathering of songwriters

Memphis Lightning 


Known for our Explosive Stage Show, and High Energy Roots, Blues and Rock n Roll! Memphis Lightning was born out of tradition with a pedigree second to none. Having the chance to learn from some of the best, Memphis Lightning are the real deal. Their energetic performances will bring you back to the days when the Juke Joints were rockin’ and the Blues was King. Featuring Lightnin’ on Guitar, he is backed by his father Big Red and Lil’ Stevie!So bring a friend and get struck by Lightning!!!

Memphis Rub Band

Memphis Rub is a 4-piece blues-rock band from the Sarasota/Bradenton area of Florida, performing a blend of blues, rock, funk and R&B.

The band features “Hurricane” Gary Drouin (guitar), Scott Matzke (bass/vocals), “Barefoot” Dan Ryan (keyboards), and David Wells (drums). In 2016 Gary and Scott decided to form a band and name it after the city that calls itself the “Home of the Blues”, the “Birthplace of Rock ‘n Roll” and the “Cradle of American Music”. Dan was next to join the band and David came on board in 2019. The Memphis Rub Band performs at a variety of venues and festivals up and down the Suncoast, putting their spin on tunes by musicians such as Delbert McClinton, Tommy Castro, Ace Moreland, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, and others. The band also writes and performs original music. In 2018 Memphis Rub released their first album, “Taste”, and songs from the album have been played on area radio stations including WMNF and WSLR.

Randy Stephens & the Groove Makers

Performing in Sarasota County for 10 years now RSGM plays regularly in and around the southwest area. Randy’s Groove Makers have had the pleasure opening for many acts over the years to include Albert Castiglia, Pat Travers, Larry McCray, and Biscuit MIller & the MIx.

Randy Stephens has a new original album coming out with ‘Devil in the Details’ on Sony Records to be released September 2021. The Groove Makers have evolved from a Power Trio into a mighty quartet with award winning guitarist Randy Stephens at the helm, guitar/vocals, “Detroit” Mike Michael Hepner on piano/keys for the late Brian Lee, Jessie Stephens on bass guitar, and Mark Richards on drums.

 

 

 

Cigar Box Guitar Workshop Music Compound, July 10, 2011

Cigar Box Guitar Workshop Music Compound, July 10, 2011

Cigar Box Guitar Workshop Music Compound, July 10, 2011

Cigar Box Guitar Workshop Music Compound, July 10, 2011

On Saturday July 10th Suncoast Blues Society (SBS) and Music Compound hosted a workshop to educate youth on cigar box guitars.

10 young members of our community received free guitar kits which they put together and took home as theirs to keep.

During the last Giving Challenge donors to Suncoast Blues Society had the option to direct their funding for specific purposes. One was to purchase cigar box guitar kits and provide them along with  instruction to youth in the community. With the generosity of our donors Suncoast Blues Society worked with CB Gitty, who provided pricing that allowed SBS to include additional students in the workshop.

Judging by the smiles on the faces of the youth and the parents and volunteers in attendance, the event was a success. Each student completed their guitar and after fine tuning by instructor Steve Arvey, joined in on a guitar and drum jam that was led by local bassist Joe Bruno, who brought and demonstrated his custom-built cigar box bass guitar.

Suncoast Blues society extends thanks to Jenny Townsend, founder of Music Compound. Jenny generously provided the space to host the workshop and without her this event might not have been possible. Assisting Steve at the workshop were Bill Hubbard – whose long hours of prepping the kits for Saturday will forever be remembered and appreciated; Edward Eannarino staffed one of the tables and brought completed cigar box guitars for the youth to play. Coordinating and assisting from Suncoast Blues Society was Scott Morris.

Thanks again to the donors that made this possible. As Music Compound is fond of saying – you rock!

50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Music Alligator Records – Disk 3

50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Music Alligator Records – Disk 3

50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Music Alligator Records – Disk 3

50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Music

Alligator Records – Disk 3

The final disk of this recording is the most modern of the three, and therefore many of the songs on the disk may already be within your collection.

Marsha Ball and her piano return us to New Orleans with the aptly named “Party Town”.  Keeping the party going is the wonderful slide guitar work of Lil’ Ed Williams and his Blues Imperials. “What You See Is What You Get” is representative of the 30 plus years of rollicking Chicago Blues that Ed has brought to the world and rightfully belongs in this collection.

Billy Branch & The Sons of Blues with “Blue and Lonesome”. Contribute Chicago blues to the collection. Various songs from current Alligator talent follow with selections from

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Curtis Salgado, and Selwyn Birchwood.

Recently the Blues Foundation announced the 2021 Blues Music Awards. – Alligator artists Shemekia Copeland took home 3 awards, including Entertainer of The Year; “Kingfish” took home two awards; two more for Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite’s 100 Years of Blues. Their “Midnight Hour Blues” is included on this collection. And Rick Estrin & The Nightcats won Band of The Year and appear on the CD with “I’m Running”.

The Cash Box Kings present “Ain’t No Fun”; blues rockers Tommy Castro & The Painkillers are trying to “Make It Back To Memphis” (aren’t we all!) in a live recorded version. Coco Montoya reminds us that “We Didn’t Think About That” when ending a relationship. Tinsley Ellis, the amazing Chris Cain, and Guitar Shorty also contribute recent songs.

Closing the recording is Toronzo Cannon with “Chicago Way”. Appropriately so, as for 50 years the Chicago way, no the world-wide way, for producing house rocking blues music has been demonstrated by Alligator Records. Thank you, Bruce Iglauer, for the “Bruce Iglauer Way” and for “50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Music”.

You can read the review from disk one of this recording at Suncoast Blues Society, and disk two here.

Thank you for reading this three-part review.

To purchase “50 Years of Genuine Houserockin’ Music” or recordings from Alligator artists visit Alligator Records.

 

  • Scott Morris