Issue 13-23 June 6, 2019

Cover photo © 2019 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Mark Thompson has our feature interview with Blues drummer June Core. We have 6 Blues reviews for you this week including new music from Ray Fuller and The Bluesrockers, Henry Townsend, L and M Rhythm Kings, Seth Walker, Burn the Batteau and Dana Gillespie.

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!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

ray fuller cd imageRay Fuller and The Bluesrockers – Pay The Price

Azuretone Records

14 Tracks/47:57

A true road warrior, Ray Fuller has been playing music professionally for the last forty-five years, mixing tours of one-nighters with frequent trips to far-flung gigs outside of the USA. With his slashing slide guitar style and solid backing from the Bluesrockers, Fuller’s music is exactly the right tonic when you want to hit the local roadhouse on a Saturday, looking for music that drives away that stress of a mundane work week.

There is little difference between the eight Fuller original tunes and six covers. The band is adept at creating a hard-edged, driving sound that is often irresistible. The opener, “Hoodoo Train,” teems with palpable energy as Fuller delves into the pleasures and mystery of a journey deep into Louisiana. The title track sports a solid foundation from drummer Tutu Jumper and long-time Bluesrocker Manny Manuel on bass. Fuller has a strong voice, and his years of experience have taught him to take his time,to let the story unfold at an unhurried pace.

Another highlight, “Mean And Evil Woman,” slows the pace way down on a familiar tale of a toxic, one-sided relationship. Doc Malone adds some anguished harp licks that are buried in the mix, particularly during his solo. “Bad Luck And Trouble” finds Fuller employing a slide tone that recalls the legendary Johnny Winter with a touch of J.B. Hutto. The lyrical content on tracks like “Peraline” and “Keep On Keepin’ On” consists of a string of platitudes, but it won’t matter once the band overwhelms you with their full-throttle, rocking attack. Malone is more prominently featured on “Devil Woman,” another gut-bucket blast of venom directed at a captivating enchantress.

An energetic cover of the familiar “Rollin’ And Tumblin’” has an arresting vocal turn from the leader, along with tightly drawn slide licks. “Mojo Hand,” a staple of Lightnin’ Hopkins repertoire, is done as a primal stomper. A lesser-known Chuck Berry tune, “I Will Not Let You Go,” will undoubtedly be a quick way to fill barroom dance floors. Fuller doesn’t pull any punches on Louisiana Red’s “Alabama Train,” as Malone gives his harp an extended workout. Two more standards finish off the disc – “My Father Was A Jockey’ and “Tore Up”. The former rolls along thanks to sharp interplay between Fuller and Malone, while the latter provides the guitarist one last chance to rock.

Typically considered an artist you need to hear live, Ray Fuller has channeled all of those years of hard-earned experience into a well-crafted studio release that neatly summarizes his lengthy career. His warm vocals, gritty guitar, and colorful songs encompass a lifetime of love, loss, and redemption, of the price paid, that will ring true on every listen.

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

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 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

henry townsend cd imageHenry Townsend – Mule

Omnivore Recordings

21 tracks (8 previously not released

Henry Townsend cut his teeth first recording with Columbia Records in 1929. Born in Shelby, Mississippi in 1909, he went to St. Louis in 1921 where he began playing guitar before taking up the piano. He recorded for Paramount Records and Blue Bird Records from 1931 to 1938. He was a standout vocalist but his piano and guitar accompaniment is what got him noticed. He recorded with Walter Davis, Big Joe Williams, Pinetop Sykes, Roosevelt Sykes, Sonny Boy Williamson and Robert Nighthawk.

Following a stint in the Army, he moved to Chicago to work with Nighthawk and Sonny Boy and began working with Little Walter, Othium Brown and Eddie Boyd. In 1947 he was back in St. Louis with Walter Davis and recorded with Bullet Records in 1949, Victor in 1952, Prestige Bluesville in the 1960’s and with Adelphi in the mid-70’s. Mule was recorded and released in 1980 on Nighthawk Records before becoming a Reggae label. Only 2 of the 13 originally released songs were written prior to the recording sessions; 11 were improvised in the studio due to his great skills as a musical improvisor.

“Mule” was Townsend’s nickname in the 1920’s and 1930’s. He was discovered and rediscovered many times. This 1979 session was done to capture and showcase his skills; the 2018 Omnivore re-release adds 9 more tracks for us to enjoy. When asked who he’d like to accompany him on the album he immediately replied Yank Rachell, the great mandolin player. The songs were all remastered and sound pristine.

The CD opens with “Bad Luck Dice,” with the 50 year old Townsend in fine form. His vocals are down home and authentic. His piano playing is amazing. He solos through this and many of the cuts effortlessly. He is an amazing artist who needs to be part of every blues lovers collection. Rachell first joins him for track 3, “Things Have Changed.” Rachell is another amazing artist whose career spanned nearly 70 years. He was either 69 or 76 when this was recorded, depending which birth date of his is correct. Townsend switches to guitar on “Tears Come Rollin’ Down,” one of the prior written cuts. Vernell Townsend sings on this and “Can’t You See,” the other cut from before the session. She sings with authority and Townsend plays guitar and backs himself in superb fashion. I’m not sure if he’s a better guitar player or pianist; suffice it to say he excels at both. He joins his wife for a duet on the latter cut. “Dark Cloud Rising is the second cut with Rachell on mandolin. The two spar on piano on mandolin which makes for a sweet recording. The thirteen original tracks are superb.

The added tracks are more of the same goodness. “Broken Home Blues” brings in Rachell again as do “Going Back Baby” and “Since You’ve Come Back.” The two latter cuts have Rachell on guitar. He plays with skill and feeling. Most of the cuts feature Townsend on piano; I really like the contrast with the cuts of him on guitar and was happy to see the mix.

This is a fantastic re-release, considering the nice remastering, the superb musicianship and the added tracks. These are great cuts that featured a truly legendary blues craftsman showcasing what he was all about. Most highly recommended!

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 – 3 of 6 

l and m rhythm kings cd imageL and M Rhythm Kings – The Lower Level

Self Released

11 tracks

This is the debut CD of the L And M Rhythm Kings, a Massachusetts based band comprised of Larry Lusignan on guitar and vocals, Mark Longo on keys, and vocals, Michael “Squid” Rush on bass and backing vocals, and Glenn Rogers on drums. All of the songs are originals developed by the band.

Larry has fronted his own band for over 30 years and appeared on Ronnie Earl’s Father’s Day album. Earl returns the favor and appears here on two cuts. Roomful of Blues Chris Vachon produced the CD and appears on one cut on guitar. Joining in on percussion is John Loud on two tracks. Longo’s keys can also be heard with a variety of bands including The Boston Horns and Trick Bag. Rush on bass has a similar resume to Longo. Rogers tours nationally with Luther Guitar Jr. Johnson. These guys have been around and know the ropes of the blues, R&B, soul, jazz and rock business.

“Meadow Lounge” opens the set, a mellow and smooth jazzy sort of blues tune. The piano drives the tune as the boys play tightly. The guitar work is well done, but the piano here is just as much a standout despite the bigger guitar solo. “Without You” is a slower tune with a nice organ sol and even cooler guitar solo. The band chimes in together behind the vocal lead and it’s a nice little cut overall.

The title track is next, a mid tempo swing tune with a sweet groove, sort of Roomful of Blues Lite. The band responds to the vocal call on the choruses and things move along well. The piano gets the first solo then the guitar later chimes in, both good ones. “Tara Says So” is a midtempo swing instrumental with congas added. There’s even a bass solo amongst the solos, a cool little cut. Ronnie Earl plays lead guitar on “Big Wheeled Bonneville,” a slow and somber jazz and blues cut with a nice organ solo followed by a tasty guitar solo. “Smoke” also features the added percussion; it has a sort of Caribbean feel to it. The vocals feel a little strained but it flows OK.

Earl returns for “Cookin’ In Groveland,” a more up tempo jazzy instrumental with everyone getting a solo. Vachon gets the 2nd lead in “Inside Out.” A slow and thoughtful blues, it has the piano solo and then the guitar solos to appreciate back to back. “The Same 50” is a cut about getting stiffed with the same $50 since 1960. Here we get the piano solo, bass solo and guitar solo lined up in another mid-tempo swing tune.

The percussion is back for “Hot Coals” which is another instrumental. The organ is featured up front and then the guitar gets the nod for an extended solo which essentially takes up out. The set wraps up with “Closing Time” which has the feel of a lounge or bar tune where the piano player tells us it’s time to go home. About halfway through the guitar takes the lead and then the piano returns to close out the slow temped instrumental.

My only complaints are that the vocals seem a little dispassionate at times, which may come from the fact everything is a slow to mid tempo cut. I kept waiting for the band to break out in a hi tempo-ed, swinging cut that rocked out a bit and it never happened. The guys are good; they play tightly and together quite well but it could have used a little more variety in changing up the beat. They have that New England feel with a little jazz and swing and blues blended together and they all play their instruments excellently Getting the juices and blood flowing a couple of times would have helped a lot with the album. These guys can deliver the goods- I’d like to hear more from them!

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 – 4 of 6 

seth walker cd imageSeth Walker – Are You Open

10 songs, 33 minutes

Royal Potato Family, Feb 2019

I’ve been a big fan of Seth Walker for more than a decade now, since first hearing his 2007 CD, Seth Walker. Born in North Carolina in 1972 and currently based in Nashville, Walker is a gifted roots and blues singer/guitarist whose stylistic approach bridges blues, and jazz, Americana and soul, but with his own unique twist. After beginning the study of the cello at the ripe old age of 3 (his parents are both classically-trained musicians and proponents of the Suzuki method), Walker’s teen years found him gravitating toward the blues, listening to folks like B.B. King, Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker and others. He also has an interest in fine art, having studied it at East Carolina University. In fact, the cover of this collection features an interesting, impressionistic self-portrait by Walker.

Are You Open? is Walker’s tenth studio album, and it’s just filled with tasty, atmospheric groove, hypnotic bass lines, and some wonderfully understated guitar throughout!! Produced by Jano Rix of the Wood Brothers, this is, for me, his most satisfying effort yet, an impressive feat given how great his other albums have been. Feeling at times like an appealing mashup of Rick Holmstom’s Hydraulic Groove and Paul Simon’s Graceland, with more than a little 70s soul thrown in for good measure, Are You Open? finds Walker really hitting his stride as both a songwriter and performer. His time on the road – across the U.S. and throughout Europe, with a recent stop in Cuba – has clearly provided him with an expansive array of spices from which to choose, and, like an experienced chef, he’s assembled some tasty entrees for our listening pleasure.

Producer Jano Rix provided drums, percussion, keyboards and vocals. Myles Weeks contributed bass and background vocals, while Steve Mackey, Lindsay Greene, and Chris Wood also provided bass. Matt Glassmeyer added horns, Jon Paul Ruggieri added guitars and pedal steel, Ben Teters provided drums and vocals, Stefan Intelisano played keys and accordion, and Tommy Perkinson added background vocals.

My reference to Holmstrom’s Hydraulic Groove came well before I learned that Walker started these songs with a groove before working up the lyrics, somewhat counter to the way he has typically approached his songwriting. But it certainly makes perfect sense. These 10 tracks are dripping with infectious, soulful grooves and interesting rhythms, supported by tasty, understated performances by all concerned. Much of this collection was recorded at Walker’s home studio, providing him with the freedom to respond to inspiration as it came, without being hamstrung by outside engineers or studio fees. Half of the tracks are credited solely to Walker, while others have him collaborating with either Ben Teters, Gary Nicholson, Dave Pahanish, Oliver Wood, or Myles Weeks.

Some of these tracks, including the opener “Giving it All Away,” are built around a single chord vamp and strong bass line, allowing for some extended improvisation and wonderfully atmospheric instrumentation to be laid over the groove and to support Walker’s vocals.

“Inside” is another groove-heavy track, inspired by Walker’s recent visit to Havana, and originally sketched-out on his iPhone using a voice memo (glad to know that I’m not the only one who does that)! It’s got some great guitar work weaving in and out of a swirling organ, all of which provide a haunting foundation for Walker’s vocals. A really great track!

The bouncy, infectious reggae feel of “All I Need to Know” distinguishes itself from the rest of the album, while the sweet vulnerability and hopefulness of the stripped-down title track, “Are You Open,” showcase the simple, understated elegance of Walker’s skill as both a songwriter and vocalist.

Walker took a political left turn with the track, “No More Will I,” an openly critical response to the Trump presidency and the rise of right-wing extremism. It’s clearly a very personal tune, and demonstrates his unwillingness to remain silent – and, presumably complicit – in the face of rising extremism. This is just one more example of a trend I’ve seen over the last year or so, with artists feeling compelled to take a stand against intolerance. “I’d never really written a topical song like this before,” Walker told Billboard about the track, which he co-wrote with longtime collaborator Gary Nicholson. “But thinking about the landscape here, socially, it got to a breaking point for me. I could not stand idle watching this – just the fear-mongering and the blatant racism going on, right in our back yards. I just… looked at it going, ‘Man, this is actually happening…’ And our president’s rhetoric is setting a tone for all this.” I’m sure this will be off-putting to a portion of his audience, but I for one welcome the trend, remembering how, in the 60s and 70s, we actually appreciated it when our musical heroes were vocal against injustice.

Musically, “Hard Road” calls to mind “Under African Skies” from Paul Simon’s magnificent Graceland album, but while Walker may have taken inspiration from Simon, he’s clearly made his own statement here, and has done so very nicely.

“No Bird” is without a doubt the funkiest tune on this collection, and would not be at all out of place in a soul playlist from the 70s. The deliciously arrangement of acoustic guitar and bass that underpin “Something to Hold” tell us how, by letting go, we can find out what is truly meaningful in life.

“Underdog” has a jam-like spontaneity to it that feels as if it’s unfolding in real time, right in front of you.

The closing track,” Magnolia,” is another one that’s been pared-down to its bare essentials: acoustic guitar, vocal, and the addition of a lilting accordion to accompany the final verse.

All in all, “Are You Open” is a wonderful collection of well-written songs performed simply and with great sensitivity. Walker’s abilities as a composer and lyricist continue to grow, and his tasteful, understated playing is a perfect complement. The performances – and production – on this collection are top-notch. My only issue with this collection is that it simply ends too soon, leaving me wanting more! And that’s not a bad problem to have. And if you like what you hear on “Are You Open,” be sure to check out Seth Walker on YouTube, to see some live performances of these songs, as well as songs from his other 9 albums.

Reviewer Dave Orban is a technology marketer by day, musician/artist/educator by night. Since 1998, Orban has fronted The Mojo Gypsies, based in the greater Philadelphia area.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

burn the batteau cd imageBurn the Batteau – Fire and Gasoline

Self-Produced/Gorilla Puppy Records

CD: 10 Songs, 47:00 Minutes

Styles: Contemporary Electric Blues Rock, Debut Album, All Original Songs

With a band name like Burn the Batteau and a debut album title like Fire and Gasoline, listeners would expect nothing less than the most incendiary electric blues rock. In this case, ​they’d be flat-out right. Some may call this a hard rock album disguised as a blues album. Are they right? Depends on their personal preferences. Nevertheless, this CD’s volume and instrumentation are at stadium instead of studio levels. This take-no-prisoners trio from Halifax, Virginia presents ten original tracks, several of which are solid blues numbers (as in the one reviewed below). Others would make Alice Cooper and Jimi Hendrix proud, but not Muddy Waters fans. Also, it’s nigh-impossible to discern the lyrics or any vocal subtleties when the instruments overwhelm them. Something tells me that “B the B” (as named on the back cover of the CD jacket) isn’t a band that goes for subtlety. Leave that to the coffeehouse solo artists; these guys want to rock.

Their Facebook page contains several updates on future appearances and a few links to videos. Other than that, there’s almost no background information. An online article published by the Gazette-Virginian provided some relevant info about the band’s founding, expounding upon the relationship between lead man Donnie Beadles and his first cousin David Ellis Martin on bass, keys, and harp. Sammy Garcia plays drums. “The connection and the collaboration, which would become Burn the Batteau, took place late last year when Beadles took the stage with Martin, Mike Cole, Brad Thomasson and Adam Snow to perform at one of Halifax’s Friday Night Jams at the Halifax Farmer’s Market. Believing that there was musical chemistry during that show, the two continued to rehearse at Martin’s studio, and before long they were writing original songs, often in quick succession.”

The following song is a modified version of the album’s opener, “Jealous,” and it’s a goodie.

Track 06: “Jealous” (Delta Blues) – Possessing a cool, nonchalant vibe appropriate to live jam sessions, this mirror image of track one is the sharper, clearer reflection. Its message may be simple and its beat classic, but those are the two things that make it the best song on the CD. Stellar harp from Martin here, and guess what? We get to hear Donnie Beadles sing, and he’s not half-bad. His diction’s decent, and the emotion is spot on. Put it on repeat mode on your stereo.

Burn the Batteau’s debut album may have too much rock, but not too much Fire and Gasoline!

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 Blues Review – 6 of 6 

dana gillespie cd imageDana Gillespie Meets Al Cook and His Original Al Cook Band – Take It Off Slowly

Wolf Records

12 tracks

This is a CD of mostly erotic blues done by the European blues singer Dana Gillespie. She started her career in the London music scene in the early 60’s. Now 65 years young, Gillespie has recorded or appeared on over 60 records in here long career and here joins up with the Austrian based Al Cook Band. Al is on acoustic guitar and does some piano work. Charlie Lloyd does most of the piano here, Harry Hudson provides drums and percussion, Karin Daym is on the bass and Wayne Martine sits in on rhythm guitar for “Red Light.”

Gillespie wrote 5 of the cuts here and the other tunes ae all covers. Big Bill Broonzy’s “I want MY Hands on It” starts things off. Cook picks out some guitar and Gillespie growls out the vocals effectively. “No More Waiting” is an original, mixing well with the style and timber of the tunes. Gillespie tells us she’s not waiting for her man anymore because her new one knows what to do. Lilly Mae Kirkman’s “He’s Just My Size” is an old, dirty cut using biscuits and bread as references to make the song fun. Gillespie monas out the lead and the band accompanies her in an old-time style. “Eat Your Heart Out” is an original and the pace picks up here. The washboard gives us the percussion and guitar and piano help lead the charge with the simplistic yet effective lyrics. Up next is the title track, another slow and well done original blues. “Fck Blues” is a cut where Gillespie sings and tells us, “The only thing missing is you.” You can figure out the rest in this fun original tune.

Robert “Washboard Sam” Brown’s “Love Operation” follows. Cook picks out the lead guitar and the piano lays out the basic groove and also does some nice soloing. Gillespie maintains her growl and grit in her paced delivery. The band picks it up for “Red Light,” a fun jump blues piece from Mercy Dee Walton with a blue blues theme. Piano and guitar are featured again and it’s an interesting ride. Eubie Blake’s “My Handy Man” continues the erotic songs as Gillespie tells us all the things her man does in handy fashion. Lil Johnson’s “Press My Button, Ring My Bell” gets brought back for us in this lively cut. The last original is “He Cooks Up a Storm,” where Gillespie tells us of her kitchen man who flames her fires and provides his hot dog as needed. Things finish with an old Brownie McGhee tune, “Auto Mechanic Blues.” A host of auto related double entendres abound as Gillespie sings with her signature nasal tones.

The approach is straight up blues delivered in an old time style. The covers are well done and stay true to the original performances and the new tunes are done in the post war blues style. Gillespie’s vocals remain consistent in her gritty and nasally approach, giving the songs an authentic and old style feel. The band also plays as if they are from an old, American juke joint instead of being in Al Cook’s Blues Kitchen in Vienna, Austria. It’s fun, it’s not stuff you hear ever day and if’ you want to here some “blue” styled blues, then maybe this one’s for you!

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 Interview – June Core 

june core photo 1For most musicians, the story-line follows a similar course. First, they get exposed to music either by their parents, an older sibling, or a close relative. Once the seed has been planted, and with financial assistance from the parents, the next step involves getting the instrument of choice, possibly some lessons to get started, and plenty of listening to records for help in figuring things out. If the interest level continues to grow, eventually one looks to join a band to experience music-making on a collective level.

Drummer June Core did not follow the normal career trajectory. A late starter, he was a quick study who soon found himself backing two undeniable blues masters.

“I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. I started working a job when I was sixteen, saving the money so that I could buy a drum set the following year, then started playing. Soon I was doing gigs with an organ player named Eddie Baccus, a local legend who once was in Roland Kirk’s band. He would get two-man gigs for us. I really didn’t know what I was doing, but figured it out as we went along. Later I played with some bands around town”.

“At one point, Eddie introduced me to Robert Jr. Lockwood, which lead to an offer to go on tour with Robert for a week at the Brass Rail in Buffalo, NY. I went over to Robert’s house so that he could give me 3-4 albums of his to learn from. I had never played blues before, and I didn’t think I would like the music. Sure enough, I didn’t care for the blues, but I wanted to get out of town and make some money. So off we went, me at eighteen years old with Lockwood and Johnny Shines”.

“After the first night at the club, the owner wanted to fire us because I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing! Robert asked the club owner to give us a chance to practice. He then said that we would play the next night and if the owner didn’t like our sound, he could pay us for one night and we would head home. The club owner agreed, so the next day the three of us set up in a little broom closet at the club, and they taught me five shuffle rhythms. They told me to pick the one that best fit what I was hearing and it will work out. Robert said, you will be able to play these beats for the rest of your life – and sure enough, he was right. What they showed me was easy. I picked it right up. That night we tore the place down! I could see how the beats fit the songs Robert & Johnny were playing. We kept the gig and finished out the week. That was my start as a blues drummer. Those beats have carried me this far. Robert was right – I still play those same five shuffles, although I have expounded on them with some minor variations”.

Lockwood had a reputation of being a tough taskmaster, but Core had a different experience.

“Robert heard that something was there, that I could play. He figured that I didn’t have the experience in playing their type of music. So he took a chance, and it worked. Robert could be tough. He was very outspoken and straight-forward, said what was on his mind. But they embraced me, treating me like I was their son. I was the kid compared to them at that point in their lives. And I didn’t like the blues in general. It was my parents music. But they showed me how to like the music. They had different styles. Robert was a bit more sophisticated. He could be funky, bluesy, jazzy, and would add other elements to his playing. Johnny played more old-school, with lots of finger picking. But Robert could do that as well. My favorite thing to hear was when they played together and sang, sounding like seven guitar players doing different parts. They were so versed in the style that Johnny did, it was amazing”.

During his tenure with Lockwood, Core got to meet and play with other legendary blues musicians.

“I was still a kid when I met James Cotton, B.B. King, and Willie Dixon. We did several shows where Willie played bass. I played my shuffles without doing anything wrong. On the break, he told me he could see what Robert and Johnny saw in me. Then he said, young man, let me show you something. He proceeded to teach me how to play with upright bass players. What to listen for, what to play when they do little slap runs, and other runs. Then he had me implement what he had shown me on the next set, specifically playing bass lines running up and down the neck while I did what he had told me to do behind his playing. We would be smiling at each other like crazy. And it all made sense”.

Core made it home feeling good, and with a pocket full of money. He got another call from Lockwood about a gig. He didn’t really want to do it, but the allure of more money in his pocket tipped the scales.

“I decided to do one more little tour and then move on from blues music. But the more I played with them, I really began to feel what the music was about and how I fit into all of it. So I kept doing one more tour, and another. All these years later, I am still doing that one more”.

Those early experiences helped solidify Core’s understanding of role of a blues drummer.

“My job is to keep time – and make it feel like it is suppose to feel. When I play a double shuffle, it should feel like a washing machine. It should be ch-chunk, ch-chunk, ch-chunk. I learned how each of those five different beats fits, like a straight swing beat. While I keep time, I also state chord changes or the bridge by adding drum fills or a pick-up to highlight the changes. Subsequently, with Robert & Johnny, it felt like we were having a conversation, that they were speaking to me. So when one of them would solo, I looked for little things I could do to help them get their message out. I wanted to be a real part of the music. Our bass player, Gene Schwartz, had a brother, Glenn, who was a fine guitar player – was in the band Pacific Gas and Electric, that had a hit with the song “Are You Ready”. Glenn taught Gene how to play bass, and Robert also showed Gene how to play blues bass. Robert didn’t really care for harmonica players, at least not in his band”.

For his first recording, Core was on the album, Hangin’ On, with Lockwood and Shines.

“That one was on Rounder Records, a 1980 release. It had Robert and Johnny on the cover pulling at a wishbone. The record did well. It ended up getting selected for a 1st National Blues Music Award (now Blues Music Award) in the Traditional Blues Album category. That is one of my favorite records, one I still listen to from time to time”

june core photo 2There was one missed opportunity for that album.

“Bob Dylan wanted to produce an album with Robert, who agreed as long as Shines was involved too. We did a month long tour in California. It was my first time out west. Dylan would send scouts to some of our shows, to listen to the band and give Dylan feedback on whether he should record Robert and Johnny – or just Robert with the band. The scouts liked the band but weren’t keen about recording Johnny for the project. At the end of the tour, Robert met with Dylan at our hotel. Robert ended up declining Dylan’s offer since Johnny wouldn’t be included. That was the lead up to the Hangin’ On album. It turned out to be a great album. I’m sure there aren’t a lot of people who turned down Bob Dylan. But that was the way Robert handled things. It was going to be his way or no way at all. He was steadfast in his beliefs”.

Core also was supposed to do a tour with Lockwood in Japan. Lockwood was doing the tour with the Aces – Louis and Dave Myers plus Fred Below on drums. Below was having health issues, but rallied in time to do the tour. A recording of one of the shows on that tour was released as the Blues Live In Japan album, a favorite in Lockwood’s discography. Core played with Lockwood for nine years, with Shines being involved most of that period. Growing tired of living in Cleveland, he finally decided to load up his stuff and drum kit on a Greyhound bus, headed back to California.

“It was a scary move, but I did it. There was nothing lined up. I just wanted to get out of Cleveland. When I told Robert I was moving, he gave me a couple of phone numbers for several harp players he knew, Mark Hummel, Bird Hale, and Gary Smith. I got a hotel room in downtown San Jose and started going to the clubs to meet people. There was no problem meeting musicians, but when I told them that Robert Jr. Lockwood had told me to look them up, that I play drums and am looking for work, most of them were surprised, wondering if I was joking about knowing Robert. I was shocked that they didn’t take me seriously, since I had played with Robert, plus he was like a father to me. So, I moved on to whatever I could find. One thing lead to another, and I’m still here”.

“I had work, but not enough to sustain myself. So my savings was running out. Word was getting around about my playing, and it was positive stuff. One day, out of the blue, Mark Hummel called me to ask if I could sit-in with his band, as he might need a drummer down the road. I went up to San Francisco to their gig at the Saloon club and sat in. It seemed to go well. I heard Hummel talking to his bass player, Tim Wagar, asking Tim what he thought. Tim said hire him, don’t think about it, hire him right now! That was when I started playing with Mark”.

The stint with Hummel lasted about two and a half years. The work was steady, allowing Core to finally move out of the hotel into his own apartment. When he wasn’t playing with Hummel, Core did gigs with the West Coast Playboys, featuring Andy Santana on harmonica and Mike Schermer on guitar. That band morphed into a band called the Soul Drivers, that played traditional and modern blues, plus funk and soul, becoming a very popular local act.

“I stopped playing with Hummel, and was full-time in the Soul Drivers. But I was still getting calls to play with other people. One call was from singer LaVern Baker, who had several R&B hits back in the day. I would work two week engagements with her in San Francisco or Berkeley. I loved learning to play those songs, because I was still figuring out how to make things fit from my perspective for my job as the drummer. Then I met Angela Strehli. I brought the Soul Drivers along. We toured with her and did one recording, Deja Blue. Things were growing from there”.

During this time, Core had the pleasure of working with a pair of outstanding artists.

“I had the opportunity to play with singer Carol Fran and guitarist Clarence Hollimon. “ That was a fabulous, enlightening gig to get. I wasn’t part of a band. They wanted me to back their shows whenever they came out here. Talk about two consummate professionals! They were great artists in their own right. But together, I don’t have words for it, just something miraculous. They read each other so well musically, being husband and wife, and Clarence was an outstanding guitar player. He taught me rhythms to play, so if he was playing a rock”n”roll guitar rhythm, then I could a shuffle underneath it. Or vice versa, if he played a shuffle, I could lay down a rocking beat. It was all part of learning how everything fits together”.

Next up was an offer to join Little Charlie & the Nightcats. Core made sure that he took full advantage of that opportunity, playing shows around the world on a regular basis.

“I was with them for about five and a half years. Those were great times, and made all of the work I had done after arriving in California worth the effort. I have so much respect for Charlie Baty, Rick Estrin, and the guys. They are so talented! It was an amazing experience. There is a wealth of knowledge between Charlie and Rick about the music in general”.

“Rick is a great songwriter and Charllie is a monster guitar player. We would do a wide variety of music, featuring Rick’s original tunes. But we would also do a lot of Charlie Christian stuff – sometimes just me, Charlie, and Ronnie James Weber on bass. We would do plenty of really cool jazz and jazz swing material. Little Charlie really brings it every time. He has such a love for the music, it is infectious.. That whole time was a whirlwind of great fun and outstanding music”.

With the band touring so much, it was hard to have a normal home life. Things finally reached the point where Core knew he needed a break. He hated to leave such a great gig.

june core photo 3”We were gone so much! I was buying things and putting then in my apartment. The next day, we would hit the road again. Then, when I got home, I’d open the door and see all this stuff sitting there. I’d be thinking, where did all of this stuff come from? I just didn’t remember buying things, because we were working so much. I wondered if maybe someone had broken in, but that was crazy because why would someone break in to put more stuff in, rather than take stuff out. So I knew it was time for a change”.

Core kept busy doing some local gigs and short tours for artists like saxophonist Terry Hanck. Then the next opportunity presented itself, with a call from Charlie Musselwhite.

“Charlie was a favorite of mine, so I took the gig. It has been fifteen years, and I am still enjoying it to the fullest. There is a big difference between his style and what Rick and Charlie played. That is one thing that keeps me interested, keeps me learning and passionate about what I do. Everyone has a different style. The music certainly feels different in each band that I have been blessed to play with. I have been fortunate to learn to shade things, or step up as needed, by playing such a wide variety of styles”.

Currently, Core is using a vintage set of champagne sparkled Gretsch Round Badge kit.

“It is my favorite because I can tune them differently depending on the style of music I am playing to get what I need. If a song calls for a particular sound, and we are recording at Greaseland Studios, I can dig into Kid Andersen’s collection of drums to find one with that particular sound. For cymbals, I have a whole set Zildjian vintage reissues plus some actual vintage models. When I am on tour, I have a set of Dream cymbals that are great all-around models. Finally, I have a set of Craviotto cymbals, that Johnny Craviotto made for me before he passed away. He used to make drums for DW- the Drum Workshop. They have a big sound”.

Core has released a disc under his own name entitled Rhythm & Blues, which features many of his friends including Musselwhite, Schermer, Estrin, Little Charlie, Chris Cain, Kid Andersen, Jim Pugh, Terry Hanck, and Rusty Zinn. With only one non-original track, the disc also highlights Core’s talent as a songwriter.

”I figured it was time for me to step up, to be one of the big boys. Many of my friends were gracious enough to come record with me. It shows the different sides of my musical interests. I couldn’t wait to get Chris Cain and Little Charlie together. I only wish I had more knowledge on how to best use the two of them together. I love the different attitudes they bring. And guitarist Little Jon Lawton is one of my unsung heroes. I wanted to do a track with just the two of us. It was my attempt to take things to the vein when I was playing with Johnny Shines. That was big fun”.

“The disc goes all over, as it is my first attempts at writing. The title track has me with four harmonica players. I didn’t have a thought process on that one, except that everything has rhythm. The harmonica has always been associated with blues, the drum is always about rhythm. I thought it was unassumingly perfect, and very interesting, at least in my own mind. Something fun and different. A song Charlie Musselwhite plays on, “Were You There,” which takes me back to my beginnings. When Robert, Johnny, and I would play on riverboats and trains, I got to hear all of their stories they would tell about life before I got into the business”.

“And there is a gospel song, because I grew up with gospel music in church. Hopefully I will never put out a CD that won’t have at least one gospel song on it. It is all the stuff I love”.

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

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The Sacramento Blues Society – Sacramento, CA

The Sacramento Blues Society is proud to present a SUMMER SOUL-STICE PARTY with Wee Willie Walker w/special guest, Terrie Odabi and the Anthony Paule Soul Orchestra 8:00 p.m., Saturday, June 22nd at the Harris Center, 10 College Parkway, Folsom, California. For tickets: (916)-608-6888

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 10 – The Painkillers, June 17 – Bridget Kelly Band, June 24 – The 44’s, July 1 – Eddie Turner, July 8 – Skyla Burrell Band, July 15 – John Clifton Blues Band, July 22 Scott Ellison Band.

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. 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:

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