Issue 13-1 January 3 2019

Cover photo © 2018 Marilyn Stringer

 In This Issue 

Marty Gunther has our feature interview with Soul Blues legend, Frank Bey. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Hank Shreve Band, Johnny Rawls, Travis Bowlin, Connor Selby, Vincent Beaulne and Ford Maddox Ford.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

hankshreve band cd imageHank Shreve Band – Trouble

Boogie Boss Records

10 songs – 42 minutes

Eugene, Oregon, multi-instrumentalist and singer, Hank Shreve, is primarily known as a stellar harmonica player and fine singer. On his new album, Trouble, he also contributes lap steel, dobro, keys and percussion, as well as drums on three songs and guitar on two. It’s a relatively short album, with the 10 songs lasting less than three-quarters of an hour, but it’s a highly enjoyable slice of modern harmonica-led blues with a hint or two of the swamp blues of Louisiana and a dash of gospel.

Trouble appears to be something of a Shreve family effort. In addition to Hank’s efforts, Bill Shreve plays bass and sings backing vocals (as well as lead vocals on “Pain Called Love”, which he also wrote) in addition to engineering the tracks at Boogie Boss Records in Jasper, OR,, and Laurie Shreve provides backing vocals in addition to the album photography. Hank himself wrote or co-wrote (with Jillian Shreve) five of the album’s tracks and he also arranged “Writer’s Block Blues”. The other musicians on the album are guitarist Ken Luker (who also provides lead vocals on his own “Fly Like A Tiger”) and drummers GT Albright and Tim Seifert. Together, they create a fine gumbo of different moods, from the opening slide driven, hard-driving blues of the title track, the funky “Light Me Up”, the gritty shuffle of Jimmy Rogers’ “Who You Thinkin’ Of” (with a fine guitar solo from Luker) and the blues-rock-pop of “Pain Called Love”.

Shreve sings with a warm, full-throated roar, particularly on the grind of “Cry, Cry, Cry” and his harmonica playing is top class throughout. There are hints of Curtis Salgado in the clarity of his voice and the clear tone of his harp playing. But it isn’t all harmonica by any means. The boogie of James Monroe’s “Writer’s Block Blues” (credited to Monroe on this CD, while Monroe’s own Truth Be Known CD actually lists Shreve as the composer), for example, features some fine lap steel playing, while Luker turns in a series of finely melodic solos throughout the album, and Shreve’s piano solo on “Fly Like A Tiger” is a belter. Under it all, the rhythm section of Bill Shreve plus one of Hank, Albright and Siefert nail each groove.

One particularly appealing aspect of the album is the powerful backing and harmony vocals, which often lend an almost gospel edge to the songs. Whilst particularly obvious on something like the Blind Boys Of Alabama’s “Run On”, the backing vocals also add real punch to tracks like “Trouble” and “Pain Called Love”. Having said that, the set actually ends with the dreamy acoustic instrumental, “Take My Hand”, featuring strummed acoustic guitars, dobro and delicate harmonica – a fine way to end a very enjoyable album.

Shreve’s website really doesn’t provide a huge amount of information about the band, nor does the publicity material circulated with the review CD. His last CD, Loosen Up!, was favorably reviewed in Blues Blast Magazine in January 2016, however, and Trouble gets a similar thumbs up. Well worth investigating.

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.

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

johnny rawls cd imageJohnny Rawls – I’m Still Around

Third Street Cigar Records TSC 105

10 songs – 38 minutes

Johnny Rawls proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that both he and old-school soul blues are still as warm, vital and entertaining as they ever have been with this release. He claims it’s his finest work ever in an award-winning career that’s spanned 50 years and included almost as many recordings.

His first release on the Third Street Cigar imprint, one listen will prove it! It’s a Memphis-style pleaser from the jump – a surefire bet to draw major attention when next season’s award nominations come around.

A native of southern Mississippi – he grew up in Purvis and Gulfport – Rawls was already a star while still in high school. Possessing one of the richest, sweetest, most relaxed vocal deliveries on the planet, back then he was noticed more for his guitar skills, playing in support of Joe Tex, Little Johnny Taylor and Z.Z. Hill before becoming band leader for O.V. Wright, one of the greatest voices and songwriters the music genre has ever known.

Most familiar today for the hits “Nickel And A Nail” and “I’ve Been Searching,” Wright joined the big orchestra in the sky in 1979, but Rawls kept his band together. He made his recording debut as a leader in 1985, and his releases on Rooster Blues, JSP, Catfood and other imprints have gained recognition ever since, earning dozens of nominations and awards from Blues Blast, the Blues Music Association, Living Blues Magazine and others.

This album follows up Rawls’ pleasing 2017 release, Waiting For The Train, his soulful aural realization that, as someone in his late 60s who’s lost many friends his time is fleeting, too. The theme of I’m Still Around is much, much brighter. Recorded by Travis Gorman at Bigfoot Studios in Maumee, Ohio, it’s upbeat throughout. Johnny wrote all ten tunes here, and they’re brimming with life and attitude, which mirror his photo on the cover.

He’s backed here by The Third Street Cigar Blues Band: guitarists Larry “Entertainment” Gold and John McGhee, bassist Johnny “HiFi” Newmark, keyboard player Cadillac Dan Magers and drummer Scott Kretzer and The Toledo Horns – Rick Wolkins (trumpet) and Mark Lemle (saxophone) – all of whom combine to deliver the classic sound of Memphis, swinging steadily from the jump and never getting in Rawls’ way.

The opener, “Running Back To You,” is a silky smooth, medium-slow paced shuffle that finds the singer wanting to leave a lover, but her tears – and the good loving they enjoy when he returns — keep him coming back for more. It flows effortlessly into “What You Do To Me.” This time, Johnny can’t wait to get back home – basically for the same reason.

The ballad “Darling I Love You” keeps the message going with Rawls focusing on his luck and without any sexual overtones. But lovemaking returns to the front burner with “Back It Up On Me,” this time as Johnny spots a lady who drives him wild simply by the way she moves, and takes a backseat to romance in “Do-Do-Do-Do” as he realizes his good fortune each morning when he opens his eyes.

The title tune, “I’m Still Around,” is an autobiographical pat on the back in which Johnny states proudly that he’s overcome both doubters and misfortune, and he’s not going anywhere other than “Dancing Tonight,” which follows. Two more love songs — ballad “Holding On” and “Rock With Me Baby,” the fastest paced tune in the set – follow before Rawls takes you to church with “God Been Good To Me” to close.

Both Rawls and I’m Still Around are treasures. Available from Amazon, Israbox or direct from the artist himself (address above), this one’s both timeless and strongly recommended.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior Writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

travis bowlin cd imageTravis Bowlin – Secundus

Moonbeam Records

12 tracks / 43:01

Travis Bowlin is a singer, songwriter, and guitarist who grew up in the Midwest and he kicked off his career by singing in the honorable Cincinnati Boy Choir and performing the national anthem at Reds’ games. He picked up the guitar at the age of 15, and after high school started booking his own shows around the tri-state area of Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. Bowlin signed his first independent record deal in 2012, which led to his move to Nashville and adopting a grueling touring schedule, playing hundreds of gigs per year.

This summer Travis released a new album, Secundus, which is appropriate as this is his sophomore effort. It contains a dozen original songs that were written by the Bowlin and some of his bandmates, and it was recorded by Nathan Smith at Mainframe Studios Nashville, Tennessee. Joining Travis in the studio were Brian Mooney on bass, Daryl Johnson on drums, Kiran Gupta on the keys and organ, and Herb Aaron on harmonica, with Courtney Holder and Rikki Randall providing the backing vocals. This disc clocks in at a bit over 43 minutes, so none of the songs are terribly long, which makes them more radio-friendly.

This is a collection of blues rock tunes, and the listener will find that there is plenty of variety within this genre as Bowlin works the sounds of the past six decades into the mix. The disc kicks off with “Strange Vibes” which has a laid-back and funky Creedence Clearwater mojo. Right from the start it is obvious that Travis has a powerful and dynamic voice as well as a smooth touch on the electric guitar. He has a strong band backing him up too, and they lay down a heavy backline for “In the Worst Way.” This group shows a lot of maturity, and instead of trying to melt the listeners’ faces off they work together to focus more on creating melodies and transmitting emotions. That being said, they can rock out when necessary, such as with the driving roadhouse song, “Dancin’ with the Devil,” which has a steadily building tension throughout.

The band also brings on the melancholy with “All Over Again,” a slow blues rocker in which Travis channels the late blues guitar hero, Gary Moore, with an amazingly melodic lead guitar. There is also a neat modern interpretation of classic blues sounds with “Vicksburg Blues” which features an acoustic intro with some nice harp from Herb Aaron before it morphs into a slow tempo Chicago rocker. There is also one very likable tune that comes out of left field, as it brings together so many different elements. “Casuarina Sand” is the tale of a terribly dysfunctional relationship that is set to a 12-bar riff with jazz piano and funk influences, and the whole thing cuts off abruptly just short of three minutes leaving the listener to wonder just what could have been…

Even though this disc comes in at 43 minutes it feels like it ends too soon as it closes up with “I Can Let Go” with its lovely acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment, the heavy beat from Mooney and Johnson on “Record Shop,” and the standout track on the album, “Slow Cooker Man.” The latter allows Bowlin to cut loose on his guitar and wah pedal and push his voice to the limit. This grind showcases his best solo work on the album and Aaron does a fine job of working his harmonica into the mix. What a cool way to finish the set!

Secundusis a solid effort from Travis Bowlin, and fans of blues rock with killer vocals should think about picking up a copy of this for their listening pleasure. If you want to catch his live show, keep an eye on Bowlin’s website for other upcoming shows, and you know there will be a bunch because this guy gets around. Also, there is a link there to Bowlin Box Instruments, and maybe you will be inspired to pick up one of Travis’ cool cigar box guitar creations!

Reviewer Rex Bartholomew is a Los Angeles-based writer and musician; his blog can be found at

 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

conner selby cd imageConnor Selby – Made Up My Mind

3Ms Music – 2018

8 tracks; 39 minutes

Connor Selby is a twenty year-old guitarist/vocalist from Essex, England, and this is his debut album. Connor handles all vocals and lead guitar, with Andy Corby on bass, Rob Shearer on drums, Robbie Noble on keys and Jon Getty on rhythm guitar. Connor wrote all eight songs here, two in collaboration with Andy. Connor’s vocals are surprisingly mature for such a young guy and his guitar playing brings memories of Dominos era Clapton (which is quite a compliment!). The playing mostly avoids the usual blues-rock trap of over-playing, making the disc a pleasant listen.

The title track opens proceedings with a throbbing bass line and light and airy keys over which the two guitars mesh well, Connor pulling out a striking solo towards the end. The lyrics deal with the usual issues of unrequited love and moving on from a relationship whereas “This Old World” details doom and gloom over a funky blues tune. “Help Me” has similarly dark lyrics about feeling desperate, begging for help, a tune with great keyboard work that lifts the chorus and a middle section with a touch of Prog Rock about it before Connor emerges to take another fleet-fingered solo. The pace drops for the soulful ballad “Tired Of Wasting My Time” with excellent electric piano, organ and subtle guitar fills, a fine tune with better than average lyrics.

A fast-paced rocker follows as Connor is determined to “See It Through” before he declares “You Hurt Me” – clearly his early love life has not been altogether smooth running. This was the pick of the album for this reviewer, another slower song with lyrics full of angst set against a good bass groove and Connor’s neat fills which give way to an excellent, restrained solo later in the track. “That’s Alright” begins well with Connor prominent from the start on another slower song in which he expresses his frustration at having wasted time “sitting idly by”. The bass is again a powerful influence on the pace of the song which also adds plenty of organ behind Connor’s solo which just about avoids falling into shredding at the end of the track. “Sure As The Sunrise” is the final track on this shortish album, another soulful ballad that progresses steadily for over four minutes before Connor embarks on an extended solo that does get a little over-indulgent.

It will be interesting to see where Connor goes from this promising debut. In the UK the siren call of loud blues-rock shredding is never far away but Connor has a smooth voice that suits more soulful material and, one suspects, a record collection that includes quite a lot of great soul music as well as blues and rock. He seems to have plenty of choices and I hope that he makes the right ones.

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 

Vincent Beaulne cd imageVincent Beaulne – The Voice Is Mine

Blues Del Records – 2018

11 tracks; 45 minutes

Vincent Beaulne is a musician and songwriter based in Montreal, Canada. He is a member of the Blues Delight blues band and also the artistic director of the Blues Camp within the Montreal International JazzFest. This CD is a departure as Vincent plays entirely acoustically, mainly in duo and trio settings. Vincent sings and plays all the guitars, mandolins and cigar boxes but also has guests joining in on a few tracks: Pat Loiselle and Shawn McPherson on harmonica, Ray Legere on violin and Sheila Hannigan on cello. Fellow Blues Delight members Marco Desagné and Gilles Schetagne add bass and drums and multi-instrumentalist Laurent Trudel adds harmonica, flute and violin. Vincent wrote nine of the songs, four in collaboration with Robert Langlois, and there are two traditional tunes.

There really is nowhere to hide on an acoustic album like this and Vincent’s warm voice and intricate guitar stylings are beautifully recorded and mixed (by Bernard Beringer and Guy Hébert). Opener “Under The Radar” has Pat Loiselle’s lonesome harp giving a nice blues feel before an emotional song “Rock In My Shoe” which Vincent had written for Bob Walsh who, sadly, died before he could record it. Vincent’s words form a suitable epitaph and the combination of mandolin and violin gives a sad grandeur to the song: “at the end of the day when the sun breaks down I will sing this song for you”. Nanette Workman adds vocals to the familiar “House Of The Rising Sun” before the moody “Night Rider” adds drums and ethereal flute that kept reminding me of Traffic! We then head back to the blues with “Look At What You Done” before a second traditional tune “Praying On The Ol’ Campground” gives Vincent the chance to show us his picking skills on a country-tinged instrumental.

The title track again adds harp to a strong lyric with a distinctly autobiographical feel and this excellent chorus: “Bound by an oath that was never sworn, I’ve been a searcher since the day I was born. I’ve never found a place where there’s no space and time”. “Anonymous” has cello and violin and is perhaps the track that is furthest away from the blues but that is compensated for by “Make It All Worthwhile” with the Delta feel of the cigar box, Sean’s harp and Vincent’s gentle lyrics: “it’s the voice of a lover, the sound of a river, it’s the song on the radio, that make it all worthwhile”. There is more slide on the appropriately titled solo performance of “Going Back To The Delta” before the album concludes with a lovely instrumental “Joe’s Guitar”, just Vincent and some gentle bass from Marco, a fine finale to a subtle and enjoyable 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.


 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

ford madox ford album imageFord Maddox Ford – This American Blues

Porterhouse Records

LP Format Blue vinyl

Side A – 6 Tracks

Side B – 5 Tracks

With the resurgence in recent years for recordings in the LP format, Blues Blast Magazine is now reviewing releases submitted for review in that format. Album reviews will comment on the music as well as the sonic aspects of the recording.

Fans of the cowpunk band Rank & File will recognize the names of Tony and Chip Kinman, two brothers who were founding members of that seminal band, following the break-up of their first band, the Dils, a punk rock project they led. There will several other bands over the years, including Cowboy Nation, once again mining country influences. The new band has Chip Kinman on guitar and lead vocals. His son, Dewey Peek, handles the lead guitar while Matt Littell on bass and S. Scott Aguero on drums form the formidable rhythm section. Tony Kinman succumbed to cancer in May, living long enough to produce this project. Chip Kinman and his son collaborated on writing ten of the songs.

As one might expect, given their previous work, this album comes at the blues with a harder edge that at times brings to mind the Clash, the Velvet Underground, or David Bowie and the Spiders From Mars era. “Before The Fall” utilizes a variation on the guitar riff from “Should I Stay Or Should I Go,” showcasing Peek’s considerable skills. Aguero lays down a relentless beat on “Images Of My Generation,” as the band tears into a pulsating update of sentiments once so eloquently expressed by the Who back in the day. Simmering shreds of guitar feedback introduce “Quicksand,” a brief bit of honest self-assessment.

Chip’s tenor voice lends a lighter note to the lyrics on “I Expect It”. But once Peek’s guitar takes over with a cutting tone, there is little doubt that he is really voicing the despair from fighting to be yourself. Adopting an anthem-like quality, “How Does Your Horn Sound Today” digs into paralyzing effect of losing hope, to the point that even God turns his back on you. The band really hits its stride on “Dark American Nights”. Once again, the band reaches back in time for references that encapsulate our nation’s current plight, offering,”Have you heard the news, there’s no rockin’ tonight. The kids are absolutely not alright”. Things don’t get any better on “I’m Haunted,” a ferocious, guitar-driven rave-up about standing there at the end, wondering what went wrong.

The band gets around to invoking their overt blues influences on “If That”s How You Feel,” steadily building the intensity as Kinman beseeches to make the most of a night together, peek’s guitar snarling and howling in the background along with some unaccredited harmonica blowing. “Promised” is taken at a more measured pace, masking the dark tale of betrayal that Kinman lays out to a swelling guitar accompaniment. “Immediate Nice (Don’t Shoot Andy)” takes listeners deep into the world of Andy Warhol over slashing guitar chords, a forceful bass line, and a raging rhythm. The lone cover injects some punk band energy and drive into Wilbert Harrison’s classic ‘Let’s Work Together,” raising one final hope that perhaps we can find our way to the promised land.

Well recorded and performed with plenty of swagger, this record is one that grows on you through repeated listens. It certainly isn’t your traditional blues album. The lyrical themes touch on the usual universal themes without getting too deep and obtuse. The guitar parts have a gritty bite and, thankfully, avoid the common trap of endless shredding. The Kinmans’ vision of the blues will surely resonate with those favor a contemporary form of the music that rocks with abandon. It also serves as a final, fitting tribute to Tony Kinman’s musical vision.

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying the sun and retirement. He is the 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 Interview – Frank Bey 

frank bey photo 1Frank Bey’s life has had more ups and downs than most folks could endure. Rapidly approaching his 73rd birthday, he’s riding the crest of success after the release of his first solo album in a decade and putting the finishing touches on a film documentary of his life. But there is a downside, too.

He remains patient and optimistic even though he’s currently enduring kidney dialysis three times a week in anticipation of securing a donor for his second kidney transplant in the past 15 years.

But listen to his deep baritone voice in conversation for a few seconds and you’d be astounded at how strong he sounds and how genuinely upbeat he feels. “I’m workin’ with it,” he says, his voice still hinting of his origin in Millen, a small town located between Augusta and Statesboro in the cotton fields of South Georgia.

The seventh of 12 children born to the Rev. Maggie Jordan — a popular gospel singer in South Georgia and one of the first women ordained as a minister in the region — Bey’s a true survivor in every sense of the word. He’s been based out of Philadelphia, Pa., for the better part of 60 years and has been entertaining audiences since he was age four in a career that’s included gospel, soul and blues. And despite his current situation, he has absolutely no plan to stop now.

Bey was still a toddler when his mother put him and his brother, Robert, together with two cousins to form The Rising Sons as a gospel quartet. “We were on with quite a few of the top groups – The Soul Stirrers, The Five Blind Boys Of Alabama and others,” he remembers, “the Abraham Brothers, The Harmonizing Four and Clara Ward, too.

“My mother was a big draw, and they’d book her to appear on those programs. We’d sing, too.”

Like the massive soul and blues extravaganzas of that era, the gospel lineup usually featured several acts each night. The Rising Sons would sing three or four songs in a set before giving up the stage. The remained together for the better part of a decade. Frank was 13 when the cousins moved away. They were replaced by a couple of Bey’s sisters, but the group disbanded shortly thereafter.

Like most youngsters of color in that era, Frank grew up in a home where everyone loved gospel, but everything else was forbidden. But Bey loved the deep soul music he heard on the radio.

“When I was old enough, I started sneaking out of the house and singin’ with The Untouchables,” he recalls. A group led by Robert Sharp, they had a big local following. “That’s how I first got into R&B.”

Bey got married at 17 and escaped from the Peach State and the Jim Crow laws of the ‘50s. He and his bride moved to the City Of Brotherly Love — primarily because there was no work back home.

“The girl I married, her brother owned a service station in Philadelphia,” Frank says, “and he said: ‘You come up, and I’ll give you a job. They even had an apartment for us.”

He wasn’t there before long he running into Gene Lawson, an acquaintance he’d made in Georgia because Lawson hailed from Waynesboro, a short drive from Frank’s hometown. At the time, Lawson was serving as Otis Redding’s publicity man, traveling with him to promote his concerts on the road.

“He recognized me right away,” Bey recalls. “We started talkin’, and he started tellin’ me that he was work for Otis. He said: ‘You still good with a car?’

“He remembered that when I was down there, I used to do doughnuts and stuff out in the field.

“I was like: ‘Yeah.’

“So he said: ‘Do you wanna do some travelin’? Otis Redding needs a driver.’” The other members of the Otis Redding Revue always traveled coast-to-coast in a bus, but the star of the show traveled ahead – either by plane or car.

“Well, I knew I could make a whole lot more money drivin’ for Otis than I could at the gas station – even though I made a lot more money there than I did in Millen,” Frank says. “I jumped at it.”

Even though the work was part-time, it was an offer he couldn’t refuse.

“I didn’t have to drive every day or every week,” Bey says. “Sometimes I’d have a week off, sometimes two or three days. He let me keep the car, too. I’d go and meet ‘em wherever they were and take off from there.

“I’d meet ‘em in Durham, N.C., and take him and Gene to Wilmington, then to Philadelphia to appear on Jerry Blavat’s TV show, then on to the Apollo in New York. Then they flew to Chicago. Later on, they’d call me and I’d meet ‘em in Ohio.”

During the down time, Bey returned to Philly and the gas station to lend his brother-in-law a hand.

frank bey photo 2“Otis was a sweet person,” Frank remembers. “I never heard him raise his voice.”

Still a singer at heart and still yearning to perform, Bey watch on from the wings as Sam and Dave, Joe Simon, Joe Tex, Gladys Knight And The Pips and others worked their magic to open the show.

“I was sayin’: ‘I can do that. I can do that!’” he laughs.

“When it was time for Otis to come, the energy in the room would just rise. It was electric. He had that big band called the Showstoppers at that time with five or six horns. And man, when they started cookin’ ‘Respect’…man! I watched him perform all the time.”

Bey occasionally got to kick off the festivities himself when the regular opening act was tardy. “It was an experience gettin’ up on stage and frontin’ that big band when I got the chance,” he says. “It put a star in my crown.

“Those were the days. We had good rooms to play had a lot of fun. Just like I do today: when I was on stage, I gave it all I got. I didn’t bring nothin’ home.”

There was some discussion of making a record, too.

“Gene was supposed to be my manager,” Bey recalls, “and he and Otis occasionally talked about how they were going to record me.”

Frank knew that Redding’s big break had come when Otis had been working as the driver for guitarist Johnny Jenkins. He served as a member of Jenkins’ band, The Pinetoppers, before stepping into the studio himself. But for Bey, the promises proved empty.

“They never could seem to get around to it,” Bey says.

He’d been driving for Redding for for two years, when Otis brought Nicky Murray, one of his singers and an occasional driver into the studio. Then and now, Frank believed himself to be a better singer – a case that’s pretty strong when you consider that Murray has left virtually no imprint in the music world.

“I was gettin’ perturbed,” Frank says. In his eyes, all they wanted to do was keep him behind the wheel, singing occasionally. Without a record of his own, he got no respect. In fact, even when he did get the chance to sing, he wasn’t paid for it. He was paid to drive.

The final blow for Bey came when Otis recorded Arthur Conley, who was a superstar in his own right in the late ‘60s and early ‘70s with hits that included “Sweet Soul Music.” He also wrote “Day-O,” a monster hit for Harry Belafonte.

“I knew they were gonna keep talkin’, but they ain’t gonna do nothin’,” Bey says.

He left Otis soon afterward and joined up with keyboard player Arthur Jenkins. A jazz and R&B band leader, in his golden years, Jenkins worked with John Lennon, Bob Marley, Chaka Kahn and others.

“His band was the Incredible Saxons,” Frank remembers. “They had a girl workin’ with ‘em, and got me as a male artist – a female singer and a male singer. We did separate shows, and then, at the end, duets. It was formal. We were wearin’ tuxedos and everything.

“We’d spend as many as four months at a time in Montreal. We spent so much time in Canada that I got an apartment just outside of Montreal. Even though I still had a place in Philly, it made sense because I wouldn’t have to be payin’ hotel bills and I’d have everything I needed.”

When he split from Jenkins, Bey returned to Pennsylvania and formed The Modern Mixers – a name derived from the fact that the group included two white members, something still rare in the early stages of integration. He still spent quite a bit of time north of the border because he used a Montreal-based booking agent.

“Back then it was easy to work five nights a week,” he says. “In Nova Scotia, you worked seven and did a Saturday matinee.”

frank bey photo 3In Montreal, he’d formed a friendship with the all-girl group Honey And The Bees and their backing band, The Interpretations, discovering that they too were from Philadelphia. On off nights, they’d often go to watch each other perform.

As time passed, both the Mixers and Honey And The Bees disbanded. Several members of The Interpretations relocated to Camden, N.J., a few miles away on the other bank of the Delaware River, and reformed as a radical funk group, The Moorish Vanguard.

“They were looking for a vocalist, and I joined ‘em,” Bey says.

It proved to be another bittersweet relationship that eventually was destroyed by one of the most important showmen of all-time.

“But all we were doin’ was rehearsin’,” he says.

The band called for a meeting and, after a vote, Frank was elected their manager and booking agent, something he’d done in the past. Through his diligence, they toured up and down the East Coast and Canada. But things fell apart after they decided to record in a studio in Augusta, Ga.

“We cut a song called ‘The Sunshine Of Your Love,’” Bey recalls. It exists today as a 45 on the Contry Eastern Music label.

The trouble began when James Brown entered the building – he often recorded there himself – to talk business with the owner.

“He listened to our song, and he was excited,” Frank says. “He offered to take it up to Polydor Records, and they jumped on it. But we didn’t hear from James for at least four months. The studio guy had told us we had a deal, and we was waitin’ to hear what the deal was.”

Totally unaware of what was happening, Polydor released the song on their own imprint, retitling it “Sitting In The Sunshine Of Your Love” and giving Brown production credit even though he’d never been involved.

The band was in the midst of a Florida tour when all hell broke loose.

“We’re drivin’ in our motorhome and the song came on the radio,” Frank says. “And still I can’t get ahold of Brown. I called his office and they told me he was out of town making a movie, The James Brown Story.

“The band actually thought that Brown and I had conspired against them.”

They spent that night in a motel in Jasper, Fla. When Bey awoke the next morning, he was alone. They’d basically stranding him at the side of the road.

“I didn’t even know they’d left,” he says today. “I had to cancel about three months’ worth of work.

“I found out later that they’d gone back to Philadelphia. I borrowed money for a bus ticket and went to get the motorhome. We needed to make payments on it and our equipment, and all of the notes were in my name.

“It was parked in front of the guitar player’s house when I got there, but I had keys. When they left me behind, all of my stuff was in it. I kept it about a month before taking it and the equipment to Atlanta, where I sold it at an auction – just for enough money to pay off the loans.”

The experience left such a bad taste that Bey left the music business for 17 years.

He briefly drove a Yellow Cab before taking a job with a drummer turned carpenter he’d played with in Montreal. “He said: ‘I heard what happened,’ Bey recalls. “’But if you come and help me, I’ll show you how to do stuff and you won’t be broke no more the rest of your life.’”

Bey learned the tricks of the trade from him, eventually moving on to build homes with someone else after the drummer’s drug problems proved too much to handle. Then, when things slowed down, bought his own truck and became a contractor himself. He also worked in Washington, D.C., for a while insulating airplane hangars, often working 100 feet off the ground.

In the mid-‘70s, when interest rates soared to 17 per cent and brought construction to a halt, he took over ownership of a fish market when the original proprietors wanted out. “I became pretty good at cleanin’ and cuttin’,” he says.

frank bey photo 4He’d been off the road for ten years when the opportunity for another business fell into his lap. He jumped at the chance when someone else offered to sell him a failing bar/restaurant that was situated near Philadelphia’s transportation hub. He closed it for a couple of months to remodel and upgrade the staff, but business boomed when he relaunched it with servers donning dressing tuxedos and white clothes on the tables.

Previously the home of a rough drug crowd who’d hung out all day playing the video games that sat at the front, they turned tail immediately when they took a look at the renovations and absence of Pac-Man, Donkey Kong and other time-wasters.

Soon, the entire neighborhood followed suit. That’s when the landlord kept raising the rent – and when Bey started hiring bands on the weekends.

But he wasn’t happy.

Even though it was the musical era of The Sound Of Philadelphia, the majority of the bands that produced it were based elsewhere. The only groups he could find delivered smooth jazz.

“They weren’t playin’ the kind of music I wanted to hear,” Bey says. “When people worked all week and came in on the weekend, they didn’t come to hear smooth jazz. They wanted to hear some foot-stompin’ R&B.

“I couldn’t find a good band so I started one myself. I handpicked guys from different groups and had ‘em back me up. That’s how I came back to music.”

Soon, he was fielding offers to play at Warmdaddy’s and other blues joints scattered across town.

Bey returned to the stage fulltime after realizing he’d literally been working around the clock, buying fish at the docks early in the morning for the seafood store, opening the bar when it opened at 11 a.m. and then closing the restaurant late at night.

But what really mattered was the realization that he’d been drinking non-stop for seven years straight.

“I said: ‘I got to get outta here,’” he remembers. “I did. I closed the place down.”

For the next four years, he sang out at least three nights a week 52 weeks. He also worked Saturdays at a hotel on the Jersey Shore after winning over a receptive audience at the Cape May Blues Festival.

He recorded his first solo album, Steppin’ Out, on MAG Records, mixing deep soul and blues, in 1998, but started suffering severe kidney problems about the time it was released. Although received well by critics, he was too ill to promote it.

The timing was unfortunate because, about the same time, he met a disc jockey from Northern California while gigging at Warmdaddy’s. The man was insistent that he come West for a tour. Waylaid by dialysis, an eventual transplant and a lengthy recovery, Frank was sidelined for years. But throughout the ordeal, the deejay continued to call.

Finally regaining his strength, Bey returned to action in 2006. He released a solo album, Blues In The Pocket, fronting Swing City Blues Band, his regular ensemble, on the Jeffhouse imprint a year later.

Frank was finally healthy enough to travel, and the enlisted Bay Area guitarist Anthony Paule – whose credits include work with Boz Scaggs, Charlie Musselwhite, Mark Hummel and Maria Muldaur — to back him for a West Coast run.

Their tour quickly took the blues world by storm. Bey’s career peaked as a result. His relationship with Paule produced three stellar CDs on Blue Dot. Recorded live at Biscuits & Blues in San Francisco, 2012’s You Don’t Know Nothing featured Bey backed by Paule’s seven-piece orchestra. The follow-up, 2013’s Soul For Your Blues, was equally impressive. Both albums were nominated for Blues Music Award soul-blue album of the year.

They toured internationally in 2014 and released Not Going Away a year later before parting company. The separation occurred, Frank says, partially because the focus changed with each subsequent release. The first album was billed as Frank Bey With The Anthony Paule Band, the second as Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band, the third simply the Bey-Paule Band.

In Bey’s eyes, going from featured artist to simply becoming a band member was wrong, especially because he was never consulted. He only learned about the changes after the discs were in distribution.

frank bey photo 5More recently, Frank’s being working out of Philadelphia with his regular group, and he’s been working on a documentary film – entitled Ask Me How I Feel — that details his life story. Written, directed and filmed by cinematographer Marie Hinson.

Funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign, it’s currently in the final stages of production after filming in Philadelphia, at the Blues Music Awards in Memphis, at Ocean Way Studios in Nashville and on a mountaintop in Switzerland.

Bey’s triumphant return as a solo artist – his 2018 CD Back In Business on the Nola Blue label — began on that mountaintop. It was there that he met Grammy-winning songwriter/producer Tom Hambridge for the first time.

“I was in Baden,” Bey says, “and I didn’t even know who Tom was. All I heard was that he had produced the last five CDs on Buddy Guy and that he wanted to make a record with me. I was like: ‘Okay…we’re gettin’ with the big boys then!’

“He had me come down to Nashville. I spent two days just talkin’ to him about my life, and he wrote songs based on it. He was sayin’: ‘You’ve been out for a while. Let’s get back to the studio and start recordin’.’

“That’s where the title comes from.”

A true old-school soul-blues pleaser throughout, the opening title cut basically details Frank’s early life and puts their initial meeting to song. The rollicking tune that follows – “Gun Toting Preacher” — is based on Bey’s description of his older brother. “He was a minister and had just died,” Frank recalls. “But he always carried a gun all his life.

“And then I told him the story about the motorhome. That’s where ‘Take It Back To Georgia’ came from.”

Other biographical material follows, interspersed with a single cover written by Mighty Sam McClain and four other originals penned by two of Frank’s bandmates, guitarist Jeff Monjack and the late Kevin Frieson.

“I was fascinated how Tom could write songs like that,” Bey says. “I’ve been livin’ it – and I couldn’t write it! We had a great relationship doin’ it. Tom Hambridge is a beautiful, beautiful person.”

Frank’s been away from the stage since debuting the album at a CD release party in West Chester, Pa., last September. He’s taking the winter off, but plans to return to the stage in March. He and his band are currently working up songs for their next album.

Meanwhile, he’s spending three days a week at a kidney dialysis center as he awaits a second transplant. He’s currently on the donor list at two hospitals, and remains eternally grateful for his loyal fan following and what folks have done to help keep food on his table and a roof over his head.

“I feel like I’m the most luckiest person in the world,” he says. “I couldn’t believe the amount of money they raised and sent to me, and I didn’t know a thing about it.

“That really touches you. That goes deep!”

Check out Frank’s music at and take a peek at his documentary And if you or someone you’d know is interested in donating a kidney, visit the “special appeal” page on his music website.

Blues Blast Magazine’s senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Charlotte, N.C., his first experience with live music came at the feet of the first generation of blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A former member of the Chicago blues community, he’s a professional journalist and blues harmonica player who co-founded the Nucklebusters, one of the hardest working bands in South Florida.

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Chillicothe Public Library District – Chillicothe,IL

Legendary blues artist John Primer and the Real Deal Blues Band will present “The Blues According to John Primer,” a high-energy Chicago blues show, at 2:00 p.m. Sunday, February 10, at Chillicothe Public Library, 430 N. Bradley Ave., Chillicothe, IL 61523. The concert is free (donations appreciated). Attendees are encouraged to stay for a post-concert talk and Q&A with Primer about his musical life and experiences.

John Primer is a legend among blues artists: a two-time Grammy nominee, he helped to build the sound and style of Chicago blues over his decades-long career with his strong traditionalist blues phrasing, seasoned rhythm and blues vocals, and lightning-fast slide guitar techniques. Having played or recorded with a “Who’s Who” of blues greats, Primer’s personal accolades, including a Lifetime Achievement Award, reflect his countless contributions to the history of Chicago blues.

For more information, please visit or call 309-274-2719.

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society – Champaign,IL

Prairie Crossroads Blues Society continues holding two Blues Jams each month. Thanks to Pipa’s Pub, 604 S. Country Fair Dr. in Champaign for hosting these jams held the 2nd Sunday of each month from 4 to 7 pm and the 4th Wednesday of each month from 7 to 10 pm. The host band plays the 1st set and then it’s open to all the jammers in the house.

On Sunday January 13the Jenkins Brothers will host. Alex and Benny Jenkins won the Solo/Duo Challenge at the Windy City Blues Fest this summer and are headed to Memphis in January to compete in the International Blues Challenge. This is also a fundraiser for the Jenkins Brothers.

In February the Blues Deacons will host and Sunday March 10, we welcome back Robert Kimbrough Sr. Robert is the youngest son of Junior Kimbrough and put on an amazing show at the 2018 Prairie Crossroads Blues Fest. Bring your instrument. For more info visit:

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is pleased to announce its January Blues Bash on 6 January, 2019. The show will feature our International Blues Challenge band competition winners, the Chris Clifton Band, and the Solo/Duo winner, Jake HaldenVang, who will represent us at the IBC in Memphis.

Doors are at 7:00; music from 8:00 to 10:00, followed by an open blues jam. Admission is free to members with valid cards, and only $5.00 to others. The show will be at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205.

We continue to collect non-perishable food and household items for Loaves and Fishes. 1 can? I can!

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

The Illinois Central Blues Club has announced the line-up of talent for Blue Monday live performances held every Monday night at the Alamo, 115 North Fifth, Springfield, IL from 8:00pm to midnight. Additional information on any performer listed below is available upon request.

Jan 7 – Chris Camp and His Blues Ambassadors, Jan14 – Dave Weld & The Imperial Flames, Jan 21 – The Groove Daddies, Jan 28 – Billy Galt & the Blues Deacons, Feb 2 – David Lumsden, Feb 18 – Emily Burgess, Feb 25 – The Rockin’ Jake Band, March 3 – The Nick Schnebelen Band For more information visit

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