Issue 13-22 May 30, 2019

Cover photo © 2019 Mike Stephenson

 In This Issue 

Mike Stephenson has our feature interview with Blues legend Jimmi Mayes. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Christone “Kingfish” Ingram, Ted Drozdowski, Arnold Mitchem, Mitch Woods, Tommy Castro and the Painkillers and Tony and Joe.

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

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 2019 Blues Blast Music Awards – Save The Date 

The 2019 Blues Blast Music Award submissions have now ended. Nominees will be announced in June. Voting begins in July.

SAVE THE DATE – September 13, 2019 for the Blues Blast Music Awards at Tebala Event Center in Rockford, IL. More details of the 2019 BBMAs coming soon!

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 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

christone ingram cd imageChristone “Kingfish” Ingram – Kingfish

Alligator Records – 2019

12 tracks

Christone “Kingfish” Ingram just turned 20 years old and as a teenager he has taken the blues world by storm! This young man hails from Clarksdale, MS, and plays a modern yet authentic version of Delta blues. His raw and primal sound at his live shows grabs the listener and makes them take notice.

Ingram co-wrote 8 of the dozen tunes with producer Tom Hambridge. Hambridge wrote the other 4 songs and appears on drums and percussion on 11 of the 12 tracks. Also joining the young singer and guitar player are Rob McNelley on guitar, Tommy MacDonald on bass and Marty Sammon on keys. Kingfish also has a couple of great guests who appear here.

The album opens with a heavy groove in the cut “Outside of This Town.” Strident lead guitar and vocals are Kingfish’s trademark and they are quite evident here and throughout the CD. He sings with authority and his first guitar solo of the album midway through the song shows restraint and control. He returns for a somewhat grittier second solo which takes us home. Well done! Buddy Guy appears on “Fresh Out,” the second tune offered up here. Straight up Chicago-style blues here, with both the young and old master taking turns on the two guitar solos. Ingram plays some mean and very cool licks in the first solo while Buddy comes in and gives us his take on the cut with an edgier approach. Guy then takes the vocal lead to complete the cut. Kingfish has been touring with Guy and Buddy has helped make Kingfish a household name in the blues world as he tours with him. “It Ain’t Right” takes a power blues trio approach with Kingfish and drums and bass. He lays out more great guitar but never goes over the top, classy stuff. Kingfish goes acoustic for “Been Here Before.” He does a nice job on the acoustic work doing some pretty picking; the piano gets added for backing effects, too. Slow and savory stuff, showcasing another side of Kingfish.

“If You Love Me” adds Billy Branch on harp and Keb Mo on guitar with Kingfish. It’s a pretty little tune with a nice, clean boogie beat. Chris Black is on drums here. Ingram sings the lead and Branch blows some great harp. Mo plays electric guitar and it’s a sweet ride though this one. Things slow way down for “Love Ain’t My Favorite Word,” a classic slow blues with stingingly wicked guitar. A little B3 backs up the cut nicely as Kingfish testifies vocally and answers his vocal calls with his axe. A huge guitar solo is featured here, showcasing this young man’s abilities. “Listen” features Keb Mo on acoustic guitar and sharing in the vocals. A midtempo piece, Ingram starts the vocal lead and then Keb comes in. A soft and almost ethereal electric guitar solo is offered up. The two of them take us home as they spar beautifully on vocals. Mo returns on electric guitar for “Before I’m Old;” we get some more B3 here, too. MacDonald lays out a nice bass line for us and Kingfish gives us a well done set of vocals before his solo on guitar. He attacks the solo but never loses control or goes over the top, showing real growth here. The second solo is again cool and well done, too, on this pretty, slower paced cut.

Keb Mo again joins in on guitar for “Believe These Blues,” another great slower blues tune. Kingfish again sings and plays with authority on the cut. The second solo appears to be Keb laying down some sweet licks for us to enjoy. “Trouble” gets a bit of a rhumba sort of beat going with piano added as Kingfish delivers another cool track for us. An acoustic duo with Keb Mo on resonator and Kingfish on vocals is served up in “Hard Times.” Stripped down, acoustic and just very slick. Kingfish sings with confidence and Mo plays the groove here and also delivers a nice solo on the resonator. The CD concludes with “That’s Fine By Me,” a pretty, slow blues that shows this young man’s abilities once again. Kingfish sings like an old pro and answers his vocal calls with the occasional B.B. King-like guitar response. The piano adds to the ambiance of this slow blues and Sammon gives us a great solo to enjoy. Kingfish takes us to conclusion with his guitar to finish this great debut CD.

I’m not sure this is exactly what I expected. Many of the live shows and songs I’ve seen Kingfish do are really wild and have some over the top guitar here and there. The work here is much more restrained and yet is equally enjoyable (if not better). Perhaps it’s Hambridge’s influence, perhaps it’s the result of touring with Buddy Guy, or perhaps it’s just Kingfish growing up. The vocal and guitar work here is clean, precise and very well done. The guitar is restrained but effective. The solos are not overdone and showcase the skills of this fine young musician.

It really is a great CD and Kingfish Ingram really has grown up to become a superb bluesman. I recommend this one highly! Go get this one now and enjoy it!

Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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Reviewer Steve Jones is president of the Crossroads Blues Society and is a long standing blues lover. He is a retired Navy commander who served his entire career in nuclear submarines. In addition to working in his civilian career since 1996, he writes for and publishes the bi-monthly newsletter for Crossroads, chairs their music festival and works with their Blues In The Schools program. He resides in Byron, IL.

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

ted drozdowski cd imageTed Drozdowski – Coyote Motel

Dolly Sez Woof

10 songs/38 minutes

Ted Drozdowski is an abstract Bluesman. A disciple of RL Burnside, Jessie Mae Hemphill and Mighty Sam McClain, all of whom he had relationships with. But Drozdowski’s music in his former band Scissormen, his solo offerings and in this new incarnation Coyote Motel (both the name of the record and the new band) is not a tradition skewed nostalgia exercise. There is vibrant tightrope chances being taken and reckless sonic abandon. Music more akin to the experimental abstractions of Sonic Youth or Morphine but with those bands pop-wise sensibilities exchanged for a greasy Blues aesthetic.

Drozdowski cites polarized influences of Muddy Waters and Daniel Lanois, Lonnie Mack and Sonny Sharrock as touchstones for his music. This tension plays out on Coyote Motel, where locked in riffage and straight forward vocals sit nestled within atmospheric layers of guitar and ethereal background vocals. Bandmates Sean Zywick on bass and Kyra Curenton on drums are augmented by Laurie Hoffma on keyboards, Pete Pulkrabek on drums and Luella (Melissa Mathes) contributing those ethereal background vocals. The result of this relatively short list of collaborators is a concise and focused album with a clear unified vision and sound.

The basic sonic rubric of Coyote Motel is clean snappy drums and bass placed in a warm immediate room, reverb washed layers of ragged loosely distorted guitar and Drozdowski’s nasally plain spoken vocals. Many of the songs jump with an agitated punk rhythm. “Josh Gibson” is a 12-bar Blues, about an early African American trailblazer in baseball, with a hard minor rif that gives way to disorienting major IV and V chords. The ode to RL Burnside and Northern Mississippi, “Down in Chulahoma,” pummels with bombast and power chord abandon, far removed from the hypnotic endless boogie of that region but, in part due to the eccentric slide work, still somehow perfectly in step. “Jimmy Brown,” sounds like an outtake from a Black Flag record with pinch harmonics and breathless urgent vocals that perfectly deliver this confrontation to institutional racism.

Coyote Motel is not all urgency and adrenaline, some of the songs grind. Opener “Still Among the Living” is a slow thoughtful meditation on drug abuse and the costs of addiction. The spooky lament “My Friend” deals with Ted’s loss of friend Sam McClain with ascending heartrending finger picking. The “Fever” inspired “57 Flavors” is a cool swing about modern geopolitical problems. And most affecting is the cover of Bob Geddins’, by way of Stevie Ray Vaughan, “Tin Pan Alley.” Taking the 12 bar form and adding layers of guitar melody and harmony, Drozdowski reinterprets the slow Blues as orchestrated noise-rock.

Drozdowski is a slide guitarist. On previous recordings he has displayed fiery, mostly traditional, chops. Coyote Motel is a major step forward for this thoughtful and convention pushing artist. He has opened up his sonic palette, allowing more space and air into the recording production, making the music live in a space (in a room) instead of being immediately in the listener’s ear. He has also developed his playing to more fully embrace one of his influences, the free jazz pioneer guitarist Sonny Sharrock. Many solos (especially on “Down in Chulahoma” and “Trouble”) utilize chromatic flights of fancy and borderline a-tonal noise. Like all of the seemingly in-congruent elements of Coyote Motel, this works and fits perfectly.

The depth and layering of this record rewards multiple listens and endures as time goes on. Highly recommended for the listener who is searching for a new non-traditional real deal Blues experience.

Reviewer Bucky O’Hare is a Bluesman based in Boston who spreads his brand of blues and funk all over New England. Bucky has dedicated himself to experiencing the Blues and learning its history. As a writer, Bucky has been influenced by music critics and social commentators such as Angela Davis, Peter Guralnick, Eric Nisenson, Francis Davis and Henry Louis Gates Jr.

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 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

arnold mitchem cd imageArnold Mitchem – Drive


10 songs – 35 minutes

Over a near 30-year career, Arnold Mitchem has been a side man (he played bass in the proto-cowpunk LA band Wild Blue Yonder alongside Jeff Buckley and the Blasters’ wonderful Keith Wyatt, amongst others), a poet, the leader of the roots-Americana outfit, Bourgeois Gypsies, and a solo artist. Drive is his third solo album after the all-instrumental releases, Mojave Moon and Desert Dream, and is an enjoyable collection of fairly traditional blues-rock with a fair chunk of blues thrown into the mix.

Unfortunately, neither the accompanying media material nor Mitchem’s website provide a huge amount of information on Drive, other than that it was recorded at Trout Gulch Studio in Aptos and mixed at Mars Studio in Santa Cruz, produced by Mitchem and mastered by Monster Lab/Eric Broyhill. It is not obvious if Mitchem played all the instruments and provided all the voices himself or if other musicians were involved. He is however credited as the writer or co-writer of all 12 songs on the album.

The majority of the album sits at the rockier end of the blues-rock spectrum, but very much in the “traditional” blues-rock sense. Like the works of Tom Petty or Neil Young, these are songs are work equally well in a full band setting (as on Drive) or strummed on an acoustic guitar with a single singer. The first track, “Shout”, highlights Mitchem’s road worn, ragged voice over a funky rock two-chord verse leading to some nice interplay between voice and guitar. The descending bass line of “Chains” has hints of the distinctive riff behind “These Boots Are Made For Walking”. “No Time” is a mid-paced stomper based around an acoustic guitar that recalls the country rock of the likes of the Marshall Tucker Band. Indeed, several of the song structures and the catchy choruses recall that early 1970s era where country-rock was at its peak. The title track recalls Jim Stafford’s classic “Swamp Witch” while the single-note intro riff of “Right Amount Of Wrong” has echoes of the same time period.

This is an album however where the focus is on the song, not the soloist. Conspicuous by its absence is the overt virtuosity that can sometimes overshadow the actual songs on some releases. Indeed, there are surprisingly few solos on Drive, given that many of the songs are in that 1970s rock vein that often attracted over-long and over-wrought wailing from the guitarists of the era. “Chains” has a melodic wah-wah’ed guitar solo, and the grinding rock of “Turned On Me” also has a short repeated solo. The playing throughout may not be flashy, however, but it fits the music perfectly. Mitchem also has a tremendous raspy voice. His vocal performance on the gentle minor key “Grace” is particularly noteworthy, as is the delicate piano playing on that track.

Lyrically, Drive is an album of reinvention, re-birth and redemption, often involving physical relocation, reflecting Mitchem’s own personal situation when he wrote the songs. Overall, Drive is an entertaining album of road songs, perfectly crafted to accompany a long road trip. Definitely one to check out if you like well-written traditional blues-rock songs from the likes of Bob Segar.

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 – 4 of 6 

mitch woods cd imageMitch Woods – A Tip Of The Hat To Fats

Blind Pig – 2019

17 tracks; 51 minutes

Pianist and regular Blues Cruise piano bar host Mitch Woods is no stranger to New Orleans or to Jazzfest but in 2018 the festival organizers asked him to dedicate his show to the recently departed Fats Domino and Mitch responded with a show that incorporated several of Fats’ best known numbers. Mitch’s ‘Rocket 88’s’ for the occasion was a who’s-who of New Orleans players: John Fohl (Dr John) on guitar, Cornell Williams (Jon Cleary) on bass and Terence Higgins (Tab Benoit) on drums, plus a horn section of Roger Lewis (founder of the Dirty Dozen Brass Band) on baritone, Amadée Castenell and Brian ‘Breeze’ Cayolle on tenor (both veterans of Allen Toussaint’s band).

The show opens with Mitch’s “Solid Gold Cadillac” before the horns are featured on Wynonie Harris’ “Down Boy Down”. Mitch dedicates his tune “Mojo Mambo” to Professor Longhair and there can be fewer songs more typical of Louisiana than “Crawfishin” on which Mitch encourages the audience to make crawfish gestures.

Of course a live album will retain some of the spoken intros and it could be argued that there is a little too much of that here but, on the other hand, it helps to appreciate the timing of the festival so soon after Fats’ passing, well captured in Mitch’s remarks that introduce the Fats section of the show. “Blue Monday” starts us off, Dave Bartholomew’s famous tune well played by the band with an excellent horn arrangement; Mitch introduces the band either side of “Jambalaya” (with a storming bari solo by Roger) which is as frequently associated with Fats as it is with its author, Hank Williams, and surely no tune represents Fats’ legacy better than “Walking To New Orleans” with Mitch’s piano underpinning a relaxed version which also includes a superb tenor solo by Amadée.

After the Fats section Mitch concludes the show with two songs that show off his fine piano skills to the max: the tune that gives the band its name, Ike Turner’s “Rocket 88”, in a rocking, foot-tapping version, and a classic boogie-woogie tune, “The House Of Blue Lights”, originally by Don Raye and Freddie Slack but also covered by the Andrews Sisters.

Overall a fun CD with plenty to enjoy: a fine band with exciting horns, a nostalgic trip back through some Fats Domino hits and a typically exuberant performance by Mitch.

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 

tommy castro cd imageTommy Castro And The Painkillers – Killin’ It Live

Alligator Records – 2019

10 tracks; 56 minutes

An integral part of the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise and regular festival headliner, Tommy Castro is at the very top of the blues world. After reinventing his band a few years ago and dropping the horns that had been so much part of his signature sound, the new band has proved its worth on three studio albums. Tommy’s blend of blues, rock and soul always guarantees a good time and this album captures the quartet’s current live sound perfectly. Recorded at five different locations in California, Michigan, New York and Texas, The Painkillers deliver a retrospective of tunes from eight different albums. The band is Tommy on guitar and lead vocals, Randy McDonald on bass and backing vocals, Bowen Bowen on drums and Mike Emerson on keys. Eight of the songs here are originals plus two covers.

“Make It Back To Memphis” is a great starter with rocking piano before “Can’t Keep A Good Man Down”, title track of Tommy’s second album in 1997. Sleepy John Estes’ “Leaving Trunk” is given a funky treatment, very different to the recent Tedeschi Trucks version. Tommy gives us a “low down blues” called “Lose Lose”, a co-write with Joe Louis Walker from 2015’s Method To My Madness album; Tommy’s guitar here is great, well supported by Mike’s piano. After that a real roadhouse rocker is called for and “Calling San Francisco” fits the bill well, followed by a track that lives up to its title “Shakin’ The Hard Times Loose” as the band really rocks out. The CD is sensibly sequenced and after two rockers “Anytime Soon” gives us the chance to appreciate just how good a vocalist Tommy is on a melodic and delicate ballad.

Over a backdrop of organ licks Tommy leads the band into the funky “She Wanted To Give It To Me” which features plenty of his tough guitar work. “Two Hearts” is a typical TC song with a wonderfully catchy riff before the last tune, “Them Changes” (Buddy Miles’ tune famously covered by Hendrix on the Band Of Gypsys album) which offers short features for the hard-working rhythm section.

This long-awaited live album is simply a must-have for long-term fans and makes an ideal starting point for any late arrivals at the Tommy Castro party.

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 

tony and joe cd imageTony and Joe – Tin Can Tunes


CD: 9 Songs, 38:00 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Acoustic Blues, Debut Album

Humans crave novelty. They have ever since the dawn of time, progressing from ancient to postmodern forms of everything: tools, weapons, music, art. In the case of Tony Cuchetti and Joe Flip, the latter plays his signature “Hayburner” acoustic guitar, crafted from a vintage oil can. (More of these can be found and purchased on the Internet.) The effect is mellifluous and marvelous, reverberating with a haunting echo. Proof of this is found on every one of the tracks on Tony and Joe’s debut album, Tin Can Tunes – especially its opener, “Mess Around.” As if that weren’t enough of an incentive, Cuchetti’s vocals are clear and concise, with a touch of SRV’s country twang and Darius Rucker’s crooning. On seven original songs, one cover, and an excellent rendition of “Amazing Grace,” Tony and Joe take acoustic fans on a relaxing journey that bridges the gap between old and new, traditional and current blues. This CD’s only flaw is that a couple of numbers run too long, but if you like trance blues, they’re great.

According to Tony and Joe’s little corner of the Internet, both men have made their mark in the music scene. Let’s start with Mr. Flip: “Whether he is performing at popular venues around the Midwest, building custom…guitars, or teaching blues-for-kids programs, Joe’s dedication to music is without question. While performing 200+ shows per year, Joe is becoming a very popular act around the Midwest. His custom oil-can guitars, ‘Hayburners,’ have been sold all over the world and have been featured on FOX 9 News, Blues in Britain Magazine, CNET, and The Drive Magazine.” Mr. Cuchetti “has spent his life in and around music. He was born the eighth child of ten siblings in a very musical family. His family even traveled the country for fifteen years, performing as a…family act. It was through all of this that Tony gained his wide spectrum of musical tastes that would later help craft his own unique sound.”

Joining Tony (vocals, regular acoustic guitar, and percussion) and Joe (Hayburner guitar) is Indiara Sfair on harmonica for track nine.

These three original songs are la crème de la crème, at least according to yours truly.

Track 01: “Mess Around” – Move over, Jimi Hendrix. Joe Flip’s amazing acoustic abilities rival yours on psychedelic electric. Need evidence, folks? Revel in the intro and let your mind run wild. When Tony and Joe launch into a chugga-chugga rhythm, you won’t be able to keep from clapping or stomping along. “Mess Around” all you want; this song’s made for it.

Track 02: “Big River” – A country blues extravaganza, “Big River” is the most danceable, even though its subject – heartbreak – is an everlasting bummer. “Well, I taught the weeping willow how to cry,” reveals Tony, “and I showed the clouds how to cover up a clear blue sky. And the tears I cry for that woman are gonna flood you, Big River, and I’m gonna sit right here until I die.” Shakespeare couldn’t have done better if he’d been a bluesman instead of a playwright.

Track 08: “Lovin’ Biscuits” – Number eight’s as hot as rolls fresh from the oven, guaranteed to whet appetites. Hard-driving and blood-pumping, it’s delicious. Moreover, it nicely displays the contrast between Tony’s conventional acoustic guitar and Joe’s Hayburner.

International Blues Challenge Semifinalists Tony and Joe play some spectacular Tin Can Tunes!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 39 year old female Blues fan. She brings the perspective of a younger blues fan to reviews. A child of 1980s music, she was strongly influenced by her father’s blues music collection.

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 Featured Interview – Jimmi Mayes 

This Interview took place in Clinton, Mississippi in 2018. Many thanks go to Peggy Brown of Hit The Road Entertainment and to Carol and Ron Marble of Mississippi Delta Blues, Inc. for all of their help and support.

jimmi mayes photo 1“It all started in Jackson, Mississippi where I was born, and playing the drums in the high school band, and I was fortunate enough to get jobs as a child playing in the juke joints. A real juke joint is when they start when it gets dark and they play until daylight and back then you didn’t have shots of whiskey, everybody had half a pint. It started with a three piece band, and when I joined they didn’t have bass, they had two guitars and one was tuned down, that’s the phrase they used. I played with those guys and I picked up the blues shuffle. The main guy I played with back then was Jacob Moore and he was like number one guitar player in Jackson at that time, back in the sixties, and he left and went on tour with the World Caribbean Fair. They had a band and a singing group called The 5 Pennies and Jacob went on the road with them and got sick, but that’s where I started out from. Jacob Moore put me with Duke Huddleston, who had a dance band, and in that band were school teachers. Jimmy King that ran the Subway Lounge was the singer and there was the band director for Jackson State in the band, so I was surrounded by all these guys and I was still a kid. I had a walk-in scholarship with Jackson State because I was practicing with the Jackson State band. My director was named Mr. Holly, who was Sherrill Holly’s, the sax player who plays with Dorothy Moore, father, and he had a motto that you had to learn how to read your instrument. So I got a chance of a scholarship from Jackson State and also with Tennessee State, but I couldn’t wait to get to Chicago. I couldn’t wait to get out of high school, and I said to myself, as soon as I get out I’m leaving, so I walked away from both of those scholarships but I would encourage kids now to get an education first before you jump off into this music field, because it’s rough out here.”

“I got to Chicago in 1960 and I went around to a few clubs but they wouldn’t let me in because at the time you had to be twenty one, so my mother knew a precinct captain and he knew the world famous Red Saunders, so Red would let me up under his wing and when all the guys found out that Red had took me under his wing I started getting jobs as a drummer. I was playing in this club called The Blue Flame and this guy with a big afro used to come in and sit in all the time and it was the great Sam Lay, who was Little Walter’s drummer at the time. So Sam would come every weekend when Walter wasn’t working. This one night Sam came into the club all in a hurry and asked me if I wanted to play with Little Walter because he was going with Howlin’ Wolf, so I agreed to that and Sam took me to Little Walter’s house. Walter stayed in his bedroom but eventually came out with his silk stuff on and gave me a look over and saw I was a kid and he asked me if I could play blues and I said I did and he gave me some drumsticks and asked me to play a shuffle on his coffee table. So when I did that, he gave me an album and told me to go home and learn the songs and he would call me when he was going to pick me up. Just like that I had a job with Little Walter and I stayed with him almost a year. By me playing with Little Walter I was able to meet all these guys that were in his band, like Robert Junior Lockwood, Pinetop Perkins and my favorite was Earl Hooker, I just loved him. I also met Dave and Louis Myers and all of these guys. Dave and Louis used to be in Walter’s band before Junior Wells took them over. Fred Below was my teacher and Sam Lay and, lately, Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith, before he passed. When I first started to play with Little Walter all these blues cats didn’t know my name, they just called me Junior because Walter told everyone I was his son so they didn’t worry about me being a kid.”

“After Walter, I went back with some local guys in Chicago and one night I went to the Regal Theatre in Chicago and they had a show there every week, and this guy from The Drifters and one from the Shirelles asked me if I wanted to go backstage, which I did, and they said that this guy Tommy Hunt needed a drummer and that he had just left The Flamingos and he had a record called ‘Human’. He had never heard me play or anything and he gave me a job and I went home and told my mother and father and told them I was going to New York. My father didn’t want me to go but my mother was ok with it and that was the beginning of a different career for me. So I went from being Little Walter’s son to Tommy Hunt’s brother. I was Jimmy Hunt when we got to New York. Tommy didn’t know how to drive so I was spoilt as I was Tommy Hunt’s brother and I was driving a brand new Riviera and living in New York. It didn’t get any better than that, but I wasn’t making much money. So that was the beginning of the New York trip and with playing with Tommy I met so many people like Smokey Robinson And The Miracles, The Shirelles, Martha And The Vandellas, The Supremes, Patti Labelle And The Bluebells, The Contours, just everybody. We played seven days a week, five shows a day, so everybody got to be like family. This was a package tour. I was with Tommy for a year.”

“I left Tommy and I hung around New York for a while and I didn’t have nothing to do, so this girl came and got me and told me that Marvin Gaye was looking for me. So Marvin had me play a week with him at Small’s Paradise but he lied to me, as he said he was going to give me a regular job and he had his road manager pay me and he flew back to Detroit. I kept calling Motown in Detroit until I realized that he wasn’t going to hire me. Strange as it may seem I ended up with Motown anyway. Martha And The Vandellas needed a drummer and I ran into her in New York and she asked me if I wanted to go to Harvard, Connecticut with her. When we got there I had played behind Martha so I was watching the show and this man walked up to the side of me and started talking and said he liked my style and asked me if they paid good money at Motown and he said that he pays his guys $300 a week, so I wanted to know who this guy is. After a while I discovered it was Roy Orbison so I was standing there talking to him and didn’t even know it. He was so friendly and not acting like a star or nothing. On the way back to New York Martha said we were going to Pittsburgh and the next thing I knew I was on the Motown Revue bus. So I got a chance to be part of that revue and Motown history. I was part of the Choker Campbell Band and it was an eighteen piece orchestra and then different acts would go out at different times and any given review it could be Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson And The Miracles, The Contours, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes and all these people were like family, and out of all of the acts David Ruffin asked me to sit with him on the bus and then I became part of Motown. When I was on the bus, all the women would be in the front and all the guys would be in the back, shooting dice, playing cards and having fun. We were all on the tour bus and sometimes they would send out two tour buses, depending on how many acts they had out there. Berry’s sister she would pick out who was going to go where and she would line up the acts and call everybody and tell you what time you were going to be picked up. At first it was Choker Campbell supporting these acts and then as the acts had bigger hit records they started having their own rhythm section. On the return trip to New York we were at the Brooklyn Fox Theatre and everybody was there on that show. Smokey Robinson was headliner and the likes of Gerry And The Pacemakers, just about everybody. It was a Murray The K, the disc jockey, show and that is when I met Bernard Purdie, one of the greatest drummers in the world, and we got to be tight. I just met him again in Memphis recently. The Brooklyn Fox was such a large place that Murray The K had to have two drummers, so you had Earl Palmer and Bernard Purdie and Earl would decide what acts he was going to play with and Bernard would decide what acts he was going to play with, and when Martha started practicing Bernard said he was going to play with me and that made me feel good. I did ten days playing with him. This was in the mid sixties”

jimmi mayes photo 2“Then after the Motown thing I moved back to New York and started back with Joey Dee and that was my second time I was with him and he had that record ‘Peppermint Twist’. Joey needed a drummer and also a guitar player, as the guitar player had left. He asked me to find him a guitar player and I went all over New York and I run into Johnny Starr and told him I needed a guitar player real bad and he said that he had this guitar player that was playing with the Isley Brothers and he is not happy. His name was Maurice James Hendrix so I went to the hotel to see this guy and I explained to him that Joey Dee wanted a guitar player and Joey sent his nephew to pick us up and Joey got Jimi Hendrix to play some different stuff and what got Jimi the job with Joey was he could play Curtis Mayfield stuff. So he got the job and then he changed his name to Jimi James and then when he went overseas he used his real name. So that is how I met Jimi Hendrix, by me introducing him to Joey Dee and The Starliters and that introduced him to a whole new world because playing with a white group was a whole new world for me as well. Prior to that I had been with the brothers and the sisters. We saved Jimi’s life one night too; we were in Boston at a club owned by the mafia and Jimi kept fooling with this girl and everybody was saying that she was going with one of the owners. So after about the fourth night they sent word to us that this hothead was going to kill the guitar player, so we headed to New York. Back then you could shoot someone and get away with it if it was mafia controlled. When I was in New York I was with this agency and I backed up Ruby And The Romantics and Patti LaBelle and for a couple of weeks we backed up Little Anthony And The Imperials, they could really sing”

“The next step for me after Joey Dee was I formed my own band and I had a hit record out called ‘Drums For Sale’ in 1965 on Jubilee Records and that was a big label at the time and the flip side was a blues called ‘Pluckin’. The name of my band was Jimmi Mayes And The Soul Breed. Every time you had a big record that got in the charts there was this big record store in New York called The Colony and they would try and get the artists in there and I made it there and that meant you were on the move. So I thought I was on my way with that record and my auntie called me one day from New Orleans as she had heard that record there. One day this man called me and he had this TV show in San Francisco every Saturday and he had me on a set of drums and pantomime that we had drums for sale, so I knew I was on my way to being a star but it didn’t happen, but that record did make a lot of noise.”

“After being in New York and playing different places I was so proud that I got a chance to play with my hero, who was Frankie Lymon. He did that ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’ number. He started using my band to play behind him. After that this guy called me and asked me if I wanted to go to Mexico City. So we had a six month contract in Mexico City in 1970 and it lasted for two years. I did two movies and I did a scene in one movie and the second movie called ‘Fine De Fiesta’, I produced and arranged all the songs. I also recorded for CBS International so we had a hit record and we were voted number one group in Mexico City at that time and I received an honorary degree from The University Of America In Mexico City. They stopped the show one night and brought the certificate and awarded it to me. So after being in Mexico City for two years I had a choice of going back to New York, going to California, or going to Chicago. I came back home to Chicago after seven years in New York and two years in Mexico. I came back to Chicago in 1972.”

“The biggest thing I did in Chicago was to play behind another hero, Jimmy Reed. He needed a band and King Edward and Nolan Struck turned the gig down to play with him, so I took the gig and I had a great guitar player that everybody loved and his name was Lacy Gibson, and I had Jimmy Pryor on bass and Jimi ‘Prime Time’ Smith, he was in the band because his mother was Jimmy Reed’s girlfriend at the time. We did the Ann Arbor blues and jazz festival when Ray Charles was the headliner. We did the 1973 festival with Jimmy Reed and he was so well received because he had been away for some years. In Michigan we did the High Chaparral and we did a gig in Detroit, all with Jimmy. Right after that Jimmy took off and we went our separate ways and we kept moving. In Chicago I also had a regular job backing Gerald Sims, he did a lot of recording sessions at Chess Records. After that I had my own band, Jimmi Mayes And The Mill Street Depo. I named that band after the train station in Jackson on Capitol and Mill. We went all over the country touring and we had a record out on Bang And Shot Records out of Atlanta, Georgia, called ‘Social Security Number’ and it made a little noise and after that the group broke up and I was then still in Chicago doing nothing for a few years. At that time I was disgusted with music. Then I got lucky. This man called me and asked me if I wanted to go to Des Moines, Iowa with him, but I had to go to New York as this promoter had used me three years in a row on Jimi Hendrix’s birthday. He would fly me to New York to do a show which was making a thing out of Jimi’s birthday. When I got back the guy had waited on me and that was Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith and that turned my whole career around. Willie gave me the job because he said I could play like him, as he was famous for his shuffle. So I played with Willie and in that band we backed up Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin. I did that for three years, 2009, 2010 and 2011. Bob Stroger was in there and we had Little Frank on guitar and Willie had groomed him from when he was a kid. Willie was on harp. Everything was going great, Willie and Pinetop got a Grammy, so when you get a Grammy your money goes up. We were going to go to Panama City but Pinetop passed away and a few months later Honeyboy Edwards passed, and we had done some things with him, then Willie passed and then Hubert. That was some of the last of the great bluesmen and when they passed a whole era of blues music went with them.”

“When I was in Chicago that second time I played with Little Bobby Neely. He was a well known sax player and I knew Lonnie Brooks and Jimmy Johnson when they were playing the Chicago clubs and McKinley Mitchell called me to say he was coming back to Chicago and he wanted a band and I stayed with him right up to when he died. I was his bandleader and I helped him record his last record ‘All Of A Sudden’ and ‘Need To See You’. He was a real nice guy and King Edward was his main guitar player. I did one song for Vee Jay Records in Chicago with a singing group called The Sheppards and I did a session with this keyboard player and drummer called Bobby ‘Top Hat’ Davis for One-derful Records. He put me on the drums and he played the keyboards. It was produced by Andre Williams and he is my buddy and, just after I moved to Jackson, Wolf Records put out a CD and one of the songs on there, ‘Something About You I Like’, was written by him and my brother. Some of the clubs I played when in Chicago were The Blue Flame, the world famous Place Lounge and I helped start it off and I owned a piece of it at one time. I played Club Arden on 63rd and Dorchester, and that’s where McKinley Mitchell used to sing, and I had the band. On the corner of 63rd and Dorchester was the Cool Club and they had jazz, and close by was Club 13 where Lacy Gibson and his band played blues and jazz. There were clubs everywhere back then. Across the street was the World Famous Scott Brothers Band and all of this was in one block. That was Walter and Howard Scott and I knew them when the whole family moved from Indiana and came to Chicago, and one of my favorite entertainers was Buddy Scott. He could really play and he had this record called ‘Have You Ever Seen A One Eyed Woman Cry’. I used to hang out with these guys and if you went into a club where Buddy was playing he would call you up on the stage right away. I played one night with Junior Wells and I got the chance to play with James Cotton also. Chicago had so much music back then, there was the Tivoli Hotel and the Tivoli Theatre and I got the chance to see Pearl Bailey and Louis Milton and Jackie Wilson all on one show, and that was on 63rd and Cottage and down the street on 47th and South Park was the Regal Theatre, and that’s where I played with Tommy Hunt and Martha And The Vandellas. I played with Alvin Cash who had ‘Twine Time’ and I met the group The Five Du-Tones.”

jimmi mayes photo 3“I have been so fortunate and I give thanks to the Lord. I have played blues, rock, the twist, r&b, Motown and church music. I sat in with my church band when I was in Chicago if the drummer was late. Maceo Woods was in the church The New Tabernacle on 48th and Prairie and he had a hit record out on Vee Jay Records, ‘Amazing Grace’. I played with some jazz bands as well but none to speak of. When I was coming up you had to play everything if you wanted a job. Folks may want to hear ‘Misty’ or they may want to hear ‘What’d I Say’ so you had to mix it up.”

“When I was in Chicago I also used to hang out with other drummers such as Jimmy Tillman, Ray ‘Killer’ Allison., and he made me mad as he could play drums so good, I knew Fred Below and I knew Odie Payne, who I met through Red Saunders. I met so many people over the years.”

“I have been working with Carol and Ron Marble here in Jackson recently and they have said that they are going to get me as a front man and get my name known as a singer, as everybody has known me as a drummer. So they helped put together my new album ‘My Whole Life’s A Shuffle’ on Mississippi Delta Blues Records. I moved back to Jackson the later part of 2015 and been here since. I moved here from Chicago. I was in and out of Chicago and Jackson as my mother lived here and I would hang out here for various amounts of time. I’ve been playing at times at Blue Monday, at Hal & Mal’s here in Jackson. I was in Houston, Texas, recording with the B.B. King band called The Original Legends Of The Blues and I got a call to say my mother was sick so I came back to Jackson immediately and stayed with her for four months until she passed and after that I thought there was no reason for me to go back to Chicago, as there wasn’t much happening for me there.”

“I also have a book out on me titled ‘Sideman To The Stars’ and people have been telling me to do this for years. So I started on the book but I didn’t know what I was doing. I started dictating the book and several publishing companies showed an interest but they told me it needed a total rewrite. A friend of mine in Chicago sent the book to her friend who used to be the president of the Rock & Roll museum in Cleveland. So we sent the manuscript to him and he sent it back and said there is good potential but don’t make it all about Jimi Hendrix. He said make it more about your experience with the blues musicians. So after that I met this lady Vickie Speek and we talked about it and she said we needed to start over with the book and that took nearly two years. Every Tuesday and Thursday we would talk and she would tape the conversation. She would then work on the conversation and then let me listen to it. She just stopped her life for the book and after the manuscript was finished we sent it out and somebody suggested we send it to the University Press Of Mississippi, which we did and they turned it down, and then they called back and said a professor in Tennessee wanted to read it. I’m not sure who he was, but after that they decided to go ahead and publish, and the rest is history. We were going to call the book ‘The Turning Point’ but I thought the current title was better and the publishing company came up with ‘The Amazing Jimmi Mayes’. The book came out in 2014 but it didn’t start moving until 2015.”

Find out more about Jimmi Mayes by visiting his website:

Interviewer Mike Stephenson is a UK based blues journalist and photographer who has been a blues fan all his life. He has written articles on and interviewed blues artists and reviewed blues events in Europe and the US primarily for Blues & Rhythm but also for other blues publications.

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Grand County Blues Society – Winter Park, CO

Grand County Blues Society presents the 17th Annual Blues from the Top Music Festival, at Hideaway Park in downtown Winter Park (78821 US Hwy 40, Winter Park, CO) Saturday, June 29 and Sunday, June 30. Gates open at 10am each day. This year’s 2-day lineup features Lucinda Williams, The Allman Betts Band, Robert Randolph & The Family Band, Samantha Fish Band, Danielle Nicole Band, Selwyn Birchwood, Tinsley Ellis, John Nemeth & The Blue Dreamers, Jimmy Vivino + The Kate Moss 3, and a major artist to be announced in early June. Tickets/Info:

Friends of the Blues – Kankakee, IL

Shows start at 7 pm, and are open to the public. Food and Beverages available at all Friends of the Blues shows. June 4 – Ben Levin (piano) w/ Aron Levin, Marty Binder, and Chris Bernhardt – Kankakee Valley Boat Club, July 16 – John Clifton Band – Manteno Sportsmen’s Club, July 30 – Frank Bang – Bradley Bourbonnais Sportsmen’s Club, August 3 – The Nouveaux Honkies – Inside Out – Gilman IL, August 15 – Albert Castiglia – The Longbranch – L’Erable IL, November 6 – Mike Morgan & The Crawl – Kankakee Valley Boat Club. More Info at:

The Charlotte Blues Society – Charlotte, NC

The Charlotte Blues Society is pleased to announce that our June Blues Bash will feature Chris O’Leary Band. Their 5th CD “7 minutes Late” is on the American Showplace Label. Now on tour to support the release of the new album. The show will be held Sunday, June 2nd, at the Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, NC 28205. Admission is free for members with valid cards and $5 to everyone else. A limited number of reserved seats/tables will be available online through the website, for $10 each. Doors at 7:00; music at 8:00. It will be a great evening of music!

We continue to collect non-perishable food and household items for our charity partner, Loaves and Fishes. It’s our goal to collect one ton of donations this year to help stamp out hunger in Charlotte. Cash donations are also welcome. 1 Can? I Can! More info at

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.   June 3 – Chris Ruest – Eve Monsees & Mike Buck, June 10 – Guitar Shorty, June 12 – OddsLane CD Release Party 6:00 PM, June 17 – The Bridgett Kelly Band, June 24 – The 44’s.

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