Issue 13-52 December 27, 2019


 In This Issue 

This week is our year end review with links to all 51 of our featured Blues interviews from 2019. We also have new 6 Blues reviews for you this week including a box set of classic blues music from Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records plus new music from Dudley Taft, Smoky Greenwell, Catfish Keith, Jenny Wren & Her Borrowed Wings and Sparky Parker.

We have the latest in Blues society news. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!


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 2019 Year End Review 

Below are links to all 51 of our 2019 Featured Interviews. Click on the cover image to read the interview.

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageVarious Artists – Cadillac Baby’s Bea & Baby Records: The Definitive Collection

Earwig Music Company, Inc.

Disc 1 – 25 Tracks/73:59

Disc 2 – 27 Tracks/71:44

Disc 3 – 24 Tracks/72:11

Disc 4 – 25 Tracks/71:13

Born in Mississippi, Narvel Eatmon waited until he landed in Chicago to be transformed into Cadillac Baby, a hustler who worked as a radio disk jockey, songwriter, and club owner. Seeing opportunity in the multitude of blues musicians populating Chicago in the latter part of the 1940s, Cadillac Baby started a record label, helped out by a sister’s investment, and named after his wife, Bertha, nicknamed “Bea,” releasing their first record in 1959. It was primarily a blues label, although Eatmon was always searching for that elusive hit record, leading to titles in R&B, vocal group, teen ballads, and gospel genres.

While Chess Records was the dominate Chicago blues label, there were plenty of other smaller labels in the city that made an impact. Cobra Records, run by Eli Toscano, is known for classic titles from Otis Rush and material from the early stages of Magic Sam’s career. J.O.B. Records featured releases by J.B. Lenoir, Snooky Pryor, and piano great Sunnyland Slim. Bob Koester was just getting his distinguished Delmark Records label started while Vee-Jay Records had a string of hits with artists like John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, and the iconic sounds of Jimmy Reed. Bea & Baby Records never quite reached the heights of those acclaimed labels. But now, thanks to this magnificent box set from Michael Frank at Earwig Records, blues fans are able to get a deep appreciation for a label that documented some of the unsung members of the Chicago blues community in addition to giving several musicians their first taste of future stardom.

The box set consists of a hard cover booklet, with Eatmon feature on the cover, smiling in front of his store that sold groceries, candy for neighborhood children, and, of course, his latest records. The four discs are housed in tight pockets on the inside of the front and back covers. Each disc has a different colored Bea & Baby label at the center. The opposite pages have track listings for each disc. The 130 page booklet is divided into several sections. After the table of contents, there are two pages for each disc that list each track with known recording information including artist, band members, recording date and studio.

The next section features an in-depth interview that Jim O’Neal did with Cadillac Baby in 1971, that ran in Issue #6 of Living Blues magazine. The label owner chronicles his life story with enthusiasm and more than a little self-promotion, while playing a bit loose with the facts at several points. Following that, O’Neal takes thirty pages to expand on the interview, taking readers deeper into the history of the label as well as the owner’s various clubs and stores. Interspersed are vintage photos, ads from the Chicago Defender, and documents that detail the label’s business activity. Two photos, each spread over adjoining pages, show Cadillac Baby standing proudly next to a Cadillac, in front of his club. In the second one, he is joined by his wife and two daughters.

Noted blues writer and historian Bill Dahl takes over for fifty pages devoted to each artist appearing on the collection, along with a list of each track they are featured on. Dahl brings life to each artist, generating interest and respect for many musicians who spent little time in the spotlight, even in Chicago. For two tracks that lack any recording information, Dahl outlines the steps taken to try to identify the band and lead vocalist. The five gospel acts on the set are discussed in detail by Robert M. Marovich, editor-in-chief of the Journal of Gospel Music. Then producer Michael Robert Frank wraps things up with his heartfelt reflections and recollections on his relationship with Cadillac Baby and the legacy of the Bea & Baby label.

Five other highlights are the recordings that bring Cadillac Baby to life in all of his glory. The first one leads off the collection. It was recorded in the studio for the label’s lone long-playing album release, Colossal Blues. With an overdubbed audience, the impresario belts out a welcome to patrons of Cadillac Baby’s Show Lounge on Chicago’s south side, highlighting honored guests from radio, sports, and blues communities. The next clip, entitled The Legend of Cadillac Baby, is thirteen minutes of the owner spinning his delightful tale for a 1983 edition of Steve Cushing’s Blues Before Sunrise radio program. Another part of that interview follows up with Cadillac Bay telling the humorous tale of how pianist Detroit Junior (Emery Williams, Jr.) acquired his stage name, none to happy when he found his record on a local jukebox under a different name, as Cadillac Baby had failed to mention the switch, done in hopes of generating greater sales. The other three clips are from O’Neal’s interview, with the owner covering his entry into the record business, his foray into gospel music, and the piece that closes the set, with Cadillac Baby stating the principle that was the driving force throughout his career.

Under his leadership, the Bea & Baby label made a valiant attempt to capture the attention of record buyer, starting with the first release from pianist Eddie Boyd, who some years earlier had scored a major hit on J.O.B. with his classic, “Five Long Years”. Boyd and his band, with Robert Lockwood Jr. on guitar, did two originals, “I’m Commin’ Home” and “Thank You Baby,” with Ronald Wilson delivering strong tenor sax solos on both tracks. The second issue featured the T-Bone Walker inspired guitar work of singer L.C. McKinley. From there, the various releases are presented in sequential order, with Boyd featured on six more cuts on the first disc, including two that Cadillac Baby released with the Key Hole logo, adding backing vocals to both tracks. Eleven year-old Faith Taylor, backed by the Sweet Teens, uses her sweet voice to great effect on two cuts.

The disc also includes Detroit Junior’s “Money Tree,” his hit that caused the commotion over his name change. The label’s best selling record, “Trying To Make A Living” by singer Bobby Saxton, was cut at the end of an Earl Hooker session. Despite it’s popularity, Saxton never recorded again other than a duet for an obscure Chicago label. The flip side was Earl Hooker’s instrumental, “Dynamite,” showcasing the guitarist’s impressive abilities. Little Mac Simmons lead the band at Cadillac Baby’s lounge, singing and blowing plenty of harmonica. He appears on twelve tracks on the set, staring with the hearty shuffle, “Times Are Getting Tougher,” limiting himself to singing while Eddie King Milton adds a killer guitar break.

The second disc leads off with the first recordings by Hound Dog Taylor, doing two songs that became staples of his repertoire, “My Baby Is Coming Home” and “Take Five”. Sunny land Slim makes his first appearance with two easy-rolling tunes with more of Lockwood Jr.’s stellar guitar accompaniment. Another legendary figure, James Cotton, recorded two tracks in 1963, “One More Mile” and ”There Must Be A Panic On,” sticking to singing with his powerful voice, letting Little Mac fill in the harp parts. He returns the favor on two of Mac’s sides cut the same day, getting in a vibrant solo over the horn section on “I’m Your Fool”. The late singer Andre Williams, a notorious label-hopper with hits like “Bacon Fat” and “Jail Bait,” did two tracks for Cadillac Baby, including the fine ballad, “Please Give Me A Chance”. Other highlights include the fiery instrumental “Sampson” from a group lead by bass player Singing Sam Chatmon with the Lacy Gibson on guitar, and two tracks by guitarist Lee Jackson that will leave you wanting more.

The first two cuts on Disc 3 have a holiday theme, as Jackson lays down a spirited vocal on “The Christmas Song,” with the flip side being Clyde Lasley running down the sordid tale when “Santa Came Home Drunk”. Little Mac and Sunnyland Slim return with multiple tracks. Simmons impresses with an energetic “Mother-In-Law Blues” and a cover of “I’m Your Hoochie Cootchie Man,” backed by Sunnyland Slim plus Hubert Sumlin and Eddie Taylor on guitar. That duo also backs up Sunnyland on “House Rock,” a tune that certainly lives up to the title, one of five tracks from the piano man. Arelean Brown sings with a gritty edge on her two tracks, backed by Scotty & the Rib Tips, with the slow blues “I Love My Man” hitting the spot. Homesick James Williamson unleashes his slide guitar on three cuts, backed by Sunnyland Slim and Willie Williams on drums. The trio creates quite a stir on the rocking instrumental, “Homesick Sunnyland Special”. Andrew “Blueblood” McMahon served a long stretch as Howlin’ Wolf’s bass player before heading out on his own. His four tracks feature an all-star line-up with Sunnyland, Little Mac, Sumlin and Taylor on guitar, Williams on drums, and Odie Campbell on bass, letting Blueblood focus on his vocals, with “Lost In The Jungle” being a strong effort.

The last disc keeps the blues rolling with two tracks with Williams handling the lead vocals with his rough style while Fred Below takes over behind the drums and Carey Bell peppers the track with some fine harp blowing. There was speculation that the two songs attributed to the Unknown Blues Band were actually by Roosevelt Sykes, but further research failed to find consensus. Then the project takes a huge leap into the world of hip-hop, with two cuts by 3D (Richard Davenport), a seventeen year-old rapper the Cadillac Baby and Frank thought had great potential. The tracks represent a giant leap forward in production values for the label, sounding revolutionary compared to previous songs. The cuts still sound fresh today, twenty years after they were recorded. It was also the last project that Cadillac Baby worked on prior to his passing in 1991. The set’s notes explain the reasons why this detour ultimately proved to be an ill-fated approach that Frank quickly abandoned.

After three spoken word skits that might feature Clyde Lasley, the direction shifts again to the acoustic blues of Sleepy John Estes on guitar and Hammie Nixon on vocal and harmonica. Their down-home style offers another sharp departure from the electric Chicago blues sound, which may account for the tracks being un-issued until now. The last half of Disc 4 features five gospel groups, spanning the soaring vocal harmonies of the Gloryaires to the exciting lead singing of Eddie Dean and Johnny Crawford backed by the Biblical Aires. The Norfolk Singers started out singing in the acapella style, but aided instrumental backing by the time they cut their tracks for Cadillac Baby. Later recording for Peacock Records, one of the premier gospel labels, the Pilgrim Harmonizers were skilled at singing for salvation, as witnessed by the simmering emotions generated on “Over The Hill”. An ordained minister who once played guitar on a Mahalia Jackson session, Samuel Patterson is a sturdy vocalist, but his two performances lack the depth of the four groups that precede him. All of the gospel tracks were issued on Miss Records, another one of Cadillac Baby’s imprints.

Every aspect of this project reflects the hard work, respect, and love that Michael Frank invested in bringing this comprehensive summary of the Bea & Baby label to fruition. Spread over a hundred tracks, the historic legacy of the label is revealed note by note, all made possible by Narvel “Cadillac Baby” Eatmon, a man who lived by the motto, ”Blues is my soul”. This collection is a must-have for any serious blues listener – and may become the standard for how to do a deluxe box set!

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the past President of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and a member of the Board of Directors for the Blues Foundation. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!


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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageDudley Taft – Simple Life

www.dudleytaft.com

American Blues Artist Group

12 songs time – 47:35

Midwesterner Dudley Taft is a straight ahead guitar rocker with all strings blazing. Power trio guitar rock with multiple overlaid guitar parts. From the looks of him on the cover with cowboy hat and long beard you could be led to believe this music would be s**t kickin’ Texas blues-rock or some such. There is the occasional lull in the storm until the guys come charging back full blast. Dudley’s voice is serviceable to the music. Three different drummers and two different bass players are employed at different times.

The vocal is echoed on the some what hard pop rock of “Give Me A Song”, a paen to true love. Thundering tom-toms are the lead in to this romp. Most of the songs follow the same pattern of a heavy guitar assault with an assortment of riffs. A close comparison would be to Foghat, Wishbone Ash and others of a similar stripe.

The sole cover song here is Warren Haynes’ slow burning “If Heartaches Were Nickels” with a textured and blues inspired guitar approach. The main riff to “Pouring Down” easily falls into the realm of the British band Free “Never Fade” is a slower heavy tune with a brief middle interlude. The closer “Back To You” is a virtual guitar frenzy.

This music is a throwback to the heady guitar band days of the seventies. The powerful rhythm sections hold everything down while Dudley’s guitars cut a mighty swath through the ether. The guitar tones are clear and crisp. Well crafted production values are at work here. The lyrical content is par for the course. The joys of loud, wild guitar fueled rip roaring rock are here to be relived. Dudley’s music is sure to get your engine revved up.

Reviewer Greg “Bluesdog” Szalony hails from the New Jersey Delta.



 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

iageSmoky Greenwell – Blues And The Power Of Peace

www.smokygreenwellmusic.com

Greenwell Records

12 songs – 61 minutes

New Orleans big gun, Smoky Greenwell, has been releasing albums under his own name since 1993, but Blues And The Power Of Peace is his first since 2016’s South Louisiana Blues. Recorded in both New Orleans and Nashville, the album comprises seven self-composed or co-written songs and four nicely chosen covers.

Greenwell of course provides vocals and harmonica throughout but also adds his top drawer saxophone to Junior Walker’s “Hot Cha” (curiously credited to Slim Harpo on the CD sleeve) and Claude & The Hightones’ 1962 gem, “High Sailing”. For both tracks, as well as Slim Harpo’s “I Need Money (Keep Your Alibis)” and Lazy Lester’s “I’m A Lover (Not A Fighter)”, Greenwell is backed by New Orleans musicians Jack Kolb on guitar, David Hyde on bass and Bob Burke on drums, with all of whom he has played for more than a decade. For the remaining tracks, his band comprises Nashville stalwarts Johnny Neel on keyboards and vocals, Dennis Gulley on bass, Chris Anderson and John Conley on guitars, Daryl Burgess on drums and Melissa Alesi on vocals.

The album contains two versions of “Common Ground”, which bookend the release, opening with a five minute radio edit and ending with an eight and a half minute extended version. It is a testament to the quality of the musicians that a one-chord stomp can hold the listener’s attention throughout the song. Lyrically, Greenwell’s plea for humans to find common ground and to reject hate connects to his political messages in other tracks. The upbeat rock and roll of “Get Out And Vote” encourages listeners to partake in their civic duties, while “Slow Moving Coup” warns of the seemingly inexorable loss of individual rights through attacks on the press and voter suppression. In contrast, “The Power Of Peace” offers an uplifting message of hope over some lovely piano by Neel and glorious weeping slide guitar from Conley. This song is the only non-blues song on the album (hence the album’s title).

While Greenwell’s swooping harmonica is the primary solo instrument on Blues And The Power Of Peace, all the musicians add subtle yet telling touches. “Low Blues For The Blues” features great swampy guitar from Conley and organ from Neel. The massed gospel-style backing vocals on “The Way Out Is In” perfectly complement Anderson’s gorgeous slide guitar. Anderson also produces a great solo on the self-explanatory instrumental “Flat Tire Blues”. Burke and Hyde perfectly capture the gently irresistible drive of “I’m A Lover (Not A Fighter)”.

The New Orleans tracks were recorded at Audiophile Studios in the French Quarter, while the Nashville tracks were recorded at Johnny Neel’s Straight Up Sound studio.

Blues And The Power Of Peace is a very enjoyable album of modern harmonica-led blues, played with real authority and warmth. There is a lot to enjoy on this release.

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England, where he plays blues guitar when not holding down a day job as a technology lawyer or running around after his children. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.


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 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageCatfish Keith – Catfish Crawl

Fish Tail Records – 2019

13 tracks; 57 minutes

www.catfishkeith.com

Catfish Keith’s last album Reefer Hound was the winner of the 2019 Blues Blast award for Acoustic Album of the Year. On that disc Keith revisited songs he had recorded before, assembled round the theme of marijuana, but on this new one, his eighteenth album, he delivers new recordings culled from blues performers of yesteryear plus a few original tunes. Keith wrote four of these tunes and the material covers quite a range of styles – Country, Delta Blues, Mississippi Hill Country, Gospel, even island music. As usual Keith plays solo acoustic, using a total of nine different guitars which are helpfully detailed for the guitar enthusiasts out there. Highlights include Keith duet with himself (vocally and on guitars) on The Carter Family’s “Dixie Darling”, the sprightly version of Big Bill Broonzy’s “Willie Mae” and “Turn Your Money Green”, a 1928 song from Furry Lewis which sounds like it might have provided the inspiration for some of Dylan’s classics, as well as an early use of the ‘diving duck’ verse.

The two ‘island’ pieces are a pre-war Bahamian tune by The Nassau String Band, “Bella Mina”, and an instrumental romp through “By The Waters Of The Minnetonka”, originally recorded by Jim & Bob, The Genial Hawaiians. The originals include the title cut “Catfish Crawl” which has some amusingly risqué lyrics and “Memphis Morning Train” which is a homage to Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup and also includes an anecdote from Honeyboy Edwards that Keith recalled and set to poetry. “Little Pal Of Mine” is a jaunty original inspired by the Rev. Robert Wilkins and “Don’t You Call Me Crazy” is a driving piece played on a 12-string guitar.

Catfish Keith tours constantly and is a regular visitor to Europe and the UK. Fans will know what to expect from this album and are bound to enjoy it; those not familiar with his music and who enjoy acoustic blues played in the traditional style may want to investigate this album.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.


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 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageJenny Wren & Her Borrowed Wings – The Girl On The Bike (Are You The Girl On The Bike?)

Creature Records – 2019

11 tracks; 46 minutes

www.jennywrenandherborrowedwings.com

This is the third CD release from this Essex, UK acoustic trio and it continues in the vein of the previous releases – all original music which combines jazz and folk elements with blues; the band call their music ‘acoustic rhythm and blues’ and it’s a good description. The band has established a strong reputation with their live shows, especially in Europe, and has a monthly residency at Ain’t Nothin’ But in London, arguably the closest to a juke joint you can find in the UK. From the very start of their career the band was determined to play all the music themselves on their primary instruments, no guests, no overdubs. Jenny Trilsbach handles lead vocals and double bass, Ben Fisher is on resophonic guitar and B/Vs, Ben Gallon on acoustic guitar and B/Vs. Ben G contributes five songs, Jenny four and Ben F two.

Opener ‘Balls Mad’ finds Jenny singing about a broken relationship over some great acoustic blues while ‘Showtime’ has a slinky rhythm set up by Jenny’s languid bass lines. ‘The Dirty Disease’ has the sort of broken rhythms that make you think of French artists like Georges Brassens, a feeling reinforced by the guitar interplay mid-tune. ‘So Much More’ features Jenny’s bass and vocals, the guitars only coming in after the first verse, a quiet song with lyrics that hint at a woman in trouble. The title track has the bass again to the fore and more enigmatic lyrics, this time seemingly influenced by an early start to the day.

In ‘Hard Blues’ Jenny is feeling bad, even suicidal at times, her angst offset by some really lovely guitar work. ‘Devil’s Paw’ is a cautionary tale of Mum’s warnings to a young girl growing up. ‘I’m Gone’ is another very bluesy tune with some great slide playing. The mood does not get any brighter on ‘44 Years’: “Here I lay, wasted away, 44 years waiting for my dying day. Now I’m leaving, no grieving, it’s just the end” but the gentle country blues of ‘Get Where It Goes’ is more positive as Jenny sings of the camaraderie of heading out on the road to a gig: “Keep on moving, don’t look back. We’ll be up early, out on the road. We’ll move together and we’ll get where it goes.”

This band plays some delightful music and deserves the success it is having in Europe. Fans of well played acoustic music should check them out. The album is available from the band’s website.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.


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 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageSparky Parker – In the Dark

Self-Release – 2019

10 tracks; 41 minutes

www.sparkyparker.com

Eric ‘Sparky’ Parker is a guitarist/vocalist from Houston, Texas, and this is his second album with his trio: Phillip Lock on bass and Kevin Berry on drums, with keys added to seven of the ten tracks by William Gorman. The album was recorded and mixed by Rock Romano whose work is often heard on Connor Ray releases. Sparky wrote seven of the songs, alongside covers of songs written by or made famous by The Stones, Bobby Bland and Slim Harpo.

The Texas blues-rock feel is particularly evident on “This Old Thing” which shows the influence of SRV but Sparky shows us a range of styles with “8 Days In The Doghouse”, an early highlight with its bouncing beat, solid bass and ringing country-tinged guitar, while the title track finds Sparky playing the core riff on slide. “Games” uses the tune of Guitar Slim’s “The Things I Used To Do” to good effect and Sparky plays excellently here in restrained style, another winner. The pace drops for “Sleepy Town” as Sparky double-tracks his rather distorted solo over his own rhythm work before “Good Man” returns to the loping Texas feel as Sparky promotes his best features to a potential lover. The short instrumental “Escape To Quintana” rounds off the originals with some fast-paced surf style guitar.

The three covers include an energetic run through Slim Harpo’s “Shake Your Hips” which closes the album, bookending the disc with high energy performances after opener “In The Dark”. The other covers stay close to the originals: “Treat A Dog” is always good to hear and whilst few get close to Bobby Bland’s classic version it’s a song that works for most artists and that is true for Sparky too, affording listeners the opportunity to compare his version with Mike Zito’s on his 2018 album First Class Life; The Stones’ “Dead Flowers” returns Sparky to the country side of things (though when covering the Stones it might be wise to spell Mick’s name correctly!).

Sparky has a very pleasant voice which allows all the lyrics to be understood easily, plays guitar without undue excess and in a range of styles and writes most of his material, making this a pretty listenable album.

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK who enjoys a wide variety of blues and roots music, especially anything in the ‘soul/blues’ category. Favorites include contemporary artists such as Curtis Salgado, Tad Robinson, Albert Castiglia and Doug Deming and classic artists including Bobby Bland, Howling Wolf and the three ‘Kings’. He gets over to the States as often as he can to see live blues.


 

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Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaugn, IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society presents our IBC fundraiser for The Smokers Blues Band Sunday January 12 at Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign. They’re heading to Memphis later in January as Central Illinois representatives to compete in the Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge. Bring your instrument and join in the fun. For more info visit: http://prairiecrossroadsblues.org

Crossroads Blues Society – Rockford, IL

Crossroads Blues Society has many shows coming up in the Rockford, IL area. The monthly shows at the Hope and Anchor in Loves Park continue $5 cover, 8 to 11:30 PM: Sat Jan 11th – Brandon Santini. Lyran Society, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM No Cover  Fri Jan 3rd – Dave Weld and the Imperial Flames. Mary’s Place, Rockford, IL, 7 to 10 PM, $10 admission – Wed Jan 15th – Tas Cru

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances and other shows held at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 7:00pm to 11:00pm. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.  December 30 – James Armstrong, Jan 6 – Billy Galt & the Blues Deacons, Jan 13 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band, Jan 20 – Tas Cru & His Band Of Tortured Souls, Jan 27 – The Groove Daddies.


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