Issue 18-24 June 13, 2024


Cover photo © 2024 Joseph A. Rosen

 In This Issue 

Rev. Billy C. Wirtz has our feature interview with Rick Estrin. We have six Blues reviews for you this week including a book by Mark Hummel about life on the road plus new music from Toronzo Cannon, Mike Goudreau Band, The Reverend Shawn Amos, The Paddy Boy Zimmermann Band and Austin Jimmy Murphy. Scroll down and check it out!

 Featured Blues Review – 1 of 6 

imageMark Hummel – Big Road Blues: 12 Bars On I-80

Mountain Top Publishing LLC

322 pages Softcover Edition

If there is anyone out there pondering the future of their musical career, as in trying to decide if it makes sense to hit the road in search of a wider audience, you should definitely read this book. It will not teach you much about how to market yourself and your music, nor will it give you the insider secrets on writing a hit song. What you will get is an honest, no-frills glimpse at life on the road and the myriad assortment of issues that can be manifested any time you spend extended time traveling in tight spaces with other musicians.

Author Mark Hummel certainly can speak from experience, as he has been playing blues music for more than 50 years. A fine harmonica player and band leader, Hummel has thousands of miles under his belt from his travels domestically and across the European continent. His Blues Survivors bands have always featured some of the best blues musicians, particularly for his Blues Harmonica Blowout shows, which he has staged for over 30 years.

In the ‘Foreword,” author Lee Hildebrand shares several of his personal experiences with Hummel, including thoughts on one short tour he did as a member of the band. One telling story involved Big Joe Duskin, a Cincinnati piano player who was part of the tour. Duskin had been dealing with a number of major health issues, so everyone was quite concerned when it came time to leave for the next show, and Joe was nowhere to be found. Calls to his room went unanswered, as did knocks on his room’s door. Finally, just as the hotel manager was going to let Hummel into the room, the door opened and Duskin apologized for not answering, as he had been in the midst of praying.

Right from the jump, Hummel shares a woeful tale of a 2007 tour through Italy, which was fabulous, and on to Netherlands, where the band met the “Vulture,” who would be their manager for that portion of the tour. Hummel’s first impressions proved to be unfortunately accurate as the manager kept changing details of their contract, adding charges while trying to lower the band’s pay, in addition to having little sense of direction, a necessary skill for the person in charge of driving the band from gig to gig. It all came to a head the night a German club owner refused to pay the agreed-upon fee. Hummel refused to back down, and the police got involved, at which point Hummel learned that the club owner was notorious for that practice. Several nights later, the band pointed out to the Vulture that he was driving away from the cub without the trailer that contained all of their instruments and gear. What a way to make a living!

Several chapters cover Hummel’s introduction to the music plus his harmonica influences like Sonny Terry, and some of the older Bay area blues musicians that mentored him, including the singer-guitarist Haskell “Cool Papa” Sadler and the lap steel guitar player, Sonny Rhodes. One night the drummer for Rhodes leapt off the stage and got into a knock-down fight with a guy who was apparently dancing way to close to the drummer’s girlfriend.

Using first-hand experiences, Hummel lays out a saga of broken vehicles, low pay, unscrupulous club owners and promoters, band members with serious digestive issues, and others not up to the demands of the music, some of whom had radically inflated opinions of their own abilities that seldom were borne out on the bandstand. Readers will undoubtedly share Hummel’s anger at his recounting of the evening a promoter disrespected guitarist Eddie Taylor, who quickly announced he was walking out on the gig. After some verbal bantering, the promoter offered up a seemingly sincere apology wrapped around a string of bad luck seemingly torn from a country tearjerker. Once Taylor finished his performance, which got a fine response from the packed house, the promoter refused to pay even half of the agreed-upon amount, leaving the band to walk out in disgust.

If that life doesn’t seem exciting enough, the author details the joys of navigating through snow and ice storms, avoiding tornadoes, dealing with sound crews determined to turn everything up to 11, and the drummer who was offended by a remark, leading to him jumping out of the van as it headed on down the road, disappearing into the night. Women are another source of trouble but nothing like trying to blow harmonica while suffering from a bout of Bell’s Palsy. Hummel has to defend himself one night when a mentally off-balanced, would-be drummer attacks him on stage. And who can forget the one and only night’s stay at the motel featuring gay porn for free all night long!

It is not all doom and gloom. Hummel also describes nights when the band was on fire, making joyful music that made it all worthwhile. Regular collaborators like guitarist Rusty Zinn and drummer June Core help ease the stress and pressure that Hummel endures as the band leader. There are enough of those moments to sustain Hummel’s passion for the music after all these years.

Spread throughout the book are illustrations of some of the musicians under discussion, created by the talented guitarist Franck Goldwasser, who shared experiences similar to Hummel’s. There is also 15 page section of B&W photos from various stages of Hummel’s life, including some pictures of musicians who helped mold his musical growth.

We should all be thankful for musicians like Mark Hummel, undeterred by whims of fate, still passionate about the music, ready and willing to hit the road yet again, fully aware of what could be waiting for them. The extent of their devotion is brought to life as Hummel proves to be a skillful storyteller, mixing many emotions while including doses of humor to lighten the mood. This one is recommended to anyone who wants a broader understanding of what goes on after the lights go down, and the road stretches out to the next show.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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 former 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!

 Featured Blues Review – 2 of 6 

imageToronzo Cannon – Shut Up & Play!

Alligator Records ALCD5020

12 songs – 53 minutes

There’s nobody in the blues deeper blue than Toronzo Cannon. After all, he spent a lifetime behind the wheel of a Chicago Transit Authority bus navigating the mean streets of the inner city. A deep thinker in addition to being an exceptionally gifted guitar slinger, he cuts like a knife here, delivering deep insights about love, family and life in general.

A ten-time Blues Music Award nominee, the native South Sider grew up a short walk from Theresa’s Lounge, where he spent hours standing outside the club, absorbing the sounds of Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, John Primer and others, all of whom cast an azure spell that helped turn him into the colossus he is today.

Forays into reggae and Jimi Hendrix-inspired rock followed before Cannon returned to the blues in his 20s and started working as a sideman for Tommy McCracklin, Wayne Baker Brooks, L.V. Banks and Joanna Connor, all the while piloting a bus full time by day to support his wife and daughter. The antithesis of the acerbic Ralph Kramden and a keen observer of his surroundings, he finally left the job after a 25-year run to devote his life to music once she was grown.

Toronzo’s been fronting his own band since 2001, and it simply smokes throughout this all-original set. The current lineup includes Cole DeGenova on keys, Brian Quinn on bass and Jason “Jroc” Edwards and Phillip “Dante” Burgess Jr. on drums. The only outside help comes from harp player Matthew Skoller who sits in on one cut. Produced in partnership with Alligator’s chief honcho, Bruce Iglauer, it was recorded and mixed at Joyride Studios by Blaise Barton.

A repetitive guitar hook opens “Can’t Fix the World” before it explodes into a number that deals with the hypocrisy and dishonesty of politicians who act like gods while Cannon admits all he can do is play his axe because he has no solution. DeGenova shines on the mid-tune solo. It gives way to the sweeping “I Hate Love,” which contains plenty of the biting six-string Toronzo’s fans adore and is delivered from the standpoint of someone who believes he’d be living a lie if he were in a commitment and dealing with all of the responsibilities, too.

The medium-paced shuffle, “Him,” comes with a heaping helping of South Side appeal as Toronzo finally realizes that his relationship troubles exist because his woman still hasn’t gotten over her former man. It’s time to let her go, he says, even though he’s still deeply in love, a fact driven home by the searing coda. The tempo and mood brighten somewhat as Cannon launches into the rapid-paced “Had to Go Through It to Get to It,” a handclap-driven pleaser with gospel appeal that stresses you have to cross the hurdles to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

“Something to Do Man” lopes out of the gate and describes a late-night call from a lady wanting a booty call from her go-to guy before things get quiet and intimate for the ballad, “Message to My Daughter,” in which Toronzo vows he’ll always be there despite having grown up in what’s now a broken family while the deep-blue “Unlovable” announces the importance of remaining affectionate and supportive when your partner’s going through difficult times. It flows into “Guilty,” which states that everyone’s accountable for everything they do.

The uptempo “Got Me by the Short Hairs” finds Cannon cornered two months after a one-night stand because the woman’s pregnant, and he’s still wondering if he’s the father after the baby’s born. Skoller’s on board for the barebones “My Woman Loves Me Too Much” before Toronzo serves up a warning to a nagging lady in “If I’m Always Wrong.” He closes with the title number, “Shut Up and Play,” a complaint about critics telling him to keep quiet and stick to his instrument instead of speaking his mind.

Toronzo Cannon has something to say. And, man, he can play. Chicago blues at its best!

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Mason, Ohio, 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.

 Featured Blues Review – 3 of 6 

imageMike Goudreau Band – Just Wanna Have Fun

Independent Release

12 Tracks – 44 minutes

Mike was born in Newport, Vermont in 1965 to a French-Canadian father and an English mother and with a history of music in his family. He was subsequently raised in Stanstead, Quebec and explains that it was common for births in that small community occurred across the border in Vermont hospitals. He started playing the guitar at age 14 and now releases his 23rd album. His diverse interests and influences include The Beatles, Chuck Berry, The Rolling Stones, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash and later Albert King, Freddie King, and Stevie Ray Vaughan among others. His work varies from jazz to blues, noting that he gets bored playing in only one genre, but says “no matter what I play it has to swing”. Some of his albums feature songs performed solely in French.

He has been equally in demand to produce music for movies and television. Movies with his songs include Dark Waters and Samuel Jackson starrer The Banker. He has been heard on TV shows The Flash, Gotham, NCIS Los Angeles, Chicago PD, Let’s Make a Deal, Justified, and many others.  

In addition to Mike on guitar and vocals, the band consists of Dany Roy on tenor sax, trumpet and flute, Norman Lachapelle on bass, Richard Irwin on drums, Guy Belanger on harmonica, and Paul Shrofel on keyboards.

Mike composed all twelve original songs on the album and starts with the proclamation that I “Don’t Want to Go to Work”.  but notes that “the kids need new clothes, and the roof needs to get fixin'”, but ties into the album title noting that “I just wanna have fun”. Mike’s guitar rips through the song with Dany’s trumpet paralleling alongside. “Mr. Foolish”, is a 60’s style soul song with a jazzy trumpet and sax centerpiece. Mike then asks, “How Can I Change Your Mind” in a bit of rock and roll as he begs her “to please don’t go away / I thought we had a good thing going / but I came to realize it wasn’t love that you were showing/ I didn’t see it in your eyes/ Hear my plea, no one will love you like me”.

He says she “does not need a four-leaf clover” as “She Found Me”.  Guy’s harmonica is featured on “Can’t Quit You” as “your sweet love brings out the best in me”.  “Big Black Dog” is another rocker.

He then shifts to a jazz instrumental “Junk in the Trunk” with Dany’s bouncy flute leading the way into a smokey guitar solo. The jazz feel jumps back in time with “Happy Since You’ve Gone”, noting how things have changed for the better since she is gone. “Country Cabin Hideaway” adds Frank Young on some bouncy guitar with a slight New Orleans feel.

He then begs her to “Come Home Baby”, “I can’t stand the thought of losing you” and “all i can do is pray that you will come back to me some day” as Dany’s harmonica again slides along in the song. On “Au Revoir Not Goodbye”, he asks that she “send him a postcard when she gets there”. He closes with “Hoppin’ The Blues”, another jazz instrumental providing each of the players an opportunity to have a lead.

Mike’s strong vocals and punctuating guitar work are always pleasant. The horns are part of the dominant instruments on most songs on the album, so those who prefer non-driven horn music might want to avoid this album.

Writer John Sacksteder is a retired civil engineer in Louisville, Kentucky who has a lifelong love of music, particularly the blues. He is currently the Editor of the Kentuckiana Blues Society’s monthly newsletter.


 Featured Blues Review – 4 of 6 

imageThe Reverend Shawn Amos – Soul Brother No. 1

Immediate Family Records – 2024

10 tracks; 36 minutes

The Reverend Shawn Amos shows us a different side to his musical persona on this disc which is heavier and more soulful than some of his previous work. This time around Shawn wrote the lyrics but left the music to collaborators from within the band. Recording in L.A. with producer James Saez, he assembled a studio team of his regular guitarist Chris Roberts, keyboard player Dapo Torimoro, bassist Jerry ‘Wyzard’ Seay and drummer Steve Ferrone, plus a slew of guest artists: The McCrary Sisters contribute to three songs, vocalist Denise Carite is on most of the remaining tracks and horns (Scott Mayo on sax and Javier Gonzalez on trumpet) appear on two cuts. Others appearing include Brady Blade (drums), Leon Mobley (congas), Harrison Finks (keys), Noah Bellamy (guitar).

Opener “Revelation” has grungy guitar and finds Shawn revealing that the scales have fallen from his eyes. Some torrid harp adds to the harsh feel of the tune which keeps Shawn’s vocals back in the mix, giving a slightly ominous feel to the song. Shawn wants to talk about love in “Stone Cold Love” before a key song on the album, “What It Is To Be Black”, a big production number with choral vocals and the horns adding depth, Shawn discussing his own experiences of being a black man, definitely the key song here. The McCrary’s stay on board for “Back To The Beginning”, a slower, moodier tune with Shawn’s plaintive harp setting up a confessional song about finding oneself. “It’s All Gonna Change (For The Better)” is more uptempo with plenty of swirling organ and wah guitar, Shawn taking an optimistic view of the future.

James Brown famously referred to himself as “Soul Brother No. 1” but Shawn adopts the title here, taking the confident persona of JB over a funky beat with some horn jabs, making this both a personal statement and a tribute to JB. The laid back feel of “Circles” makes a good contrast before Shawn and the band rock out on “Hammer”. The sole cover here is Sly Stone’s “Don’t Call Me Nigger, Whitey”, plenty of wah guitar and Shawn’s harp and given an African feel from the hand percussion, the lyrics fitting well with the lyrical direction of Shawn’s songs here. The album closes on a gentler tune, “Things Will Be Fine” which features Shawn dueting with Denise Carite and offers a positive finale to the album.

Clearly a very personal album, this one should appeal to listeners who enjoy the funkier side of soul and R&B.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer 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 Interview – Rick Estrin 

imageRichard Saul Estrin was born October 5, 1949, in San Francisco, CA.

“My parents were square, nice people. I had an older sister who was kind of a beatnik, and of course this was San Francisco where it was a big deal.  Anyway, dad sold real estate, mom was a homemaker, and I also had a younger sister.”

The music mosquito bit him hard at an incredibly early age.

“My sister had a party downstairs in the house and her little girlfriends and guys came over, it must have been her birthday or something, they were playing all these records by Little Richard, Fats Domino, Elvis and Chuck Berry and I was just sitting on the step looking down in this room. I’m six years old and I’m checking out all the fine 12-year-old girls out there dancing and thinking that’s what I wanna do, I wanna be able to make people feel like that, you know”.

“So, when I was maybe 12, my sister was more like 17, she had these albums by Jimmy Reed, Big Bill Broonzy and Champion Jack Dupree, a bunch of cool stuff that was not the normal shit you heard on the radio, so I was hearing all that. I remember for my birthday I got this album called The Genius Sings the Blues by Ray Charles. I remember it was my 12th birthday and it was so great.”

Even at that age, the music connected, he was experiencing pre- teenage angst and as he says:

“I felt like Ray Charles understood me and what I was going thru even at that age.”

The music and the beatnik culture that produced it already held the promise of something cooler than a future in real estate. Along with that album, there was a defining event that would chart the future.

Dig: To enjoy or find meaning in something

“When I was about 10 years old, I went down to North Beach to where all the real beatniks were, and I brought a notebook with me. I interviewed these people man and I made a glossary of cool beatnik terminology.

That glossary would tell him that “to dig something” meant to really enjoy it.

There were other, less genteel references. He would learn that “having a monkey on the back” would not refer to owning a pet, but like Hipster comic Lenny Bruce, to having an addiction to heroin. Rick would learn more about that phrase all too soon. In the meantime, he brought his dictionary of hipness to Show and Tell:

“I took it to school and the teacher got mad at me for bringing it to show and tell. I didn’t know why but she was outraged that I would do it. She went and told the principal, they called my parents in, and my father, who I had an often-contentious relationship with, stood up for me. That was the coolest thing he ever did. He told the teacher: ‘Why would you want to discourage this kid from being curious and taking the initiative to do all this??’

“I’ll never forget it and I loved him for it.”

It would also prove to be a bright spot in a relationship that was becoming less and less amicable with frequent quarrels between the two of them, and then less than five years later, right after Rick turned fifteen, his father died.

image“I was devastated emotionally; I loved the guy even though we didn’t get along. I also felt guilty and relief and just a lot of confusion. I felt all fucked up and that’s when I started playing the harmonica. I tried to learn some of those songs on my sister’s Jimmy Reed records. Down the street from me there was like a house where a band lived and one of the guitar players owned the house. I would go down there; smoke weed and just get away from my family house. One night I was in there singing with this friend of mine and the guy whose house it was gave me a harmonica and told me:

‘You know you sound pretty good; why don’t you learn how to play this?’

“I walked into the other room; I decided I was going to learn how to figure out this instrument, from that day on, that’s been my focus.”

The Bay Area in the mid-sixties was a “Garden of Eden for young musicians.

He remembers: “Oh man, there were all these places in San Francisco like the Fillmore and the Avalon ballroom, and they had these shows with the Grateful Dead and Muddy Waters for the Quicksilver Messenger Service and Big Mama Thornton. I got to see all those people and I stayed focused.”

He recalls the names, the places, and the twists and turns back then.

“I got to see all those people and I was putting in hours and hours on the harmonica, just trying to learn, you know. I had quit school and was just playing all the time. When my father died, I started cutting school. When I was about 15 I went back for about a month, then they suspended me for cutting school so I just said:

‘Well fuck it, I’m not going.’

“I went to 10th grade for about a month but that was it”.

“I was into that whole San Francisco scene for a few minutes but then I started getting heavy into Blues. I started going to ghetto bars and nightclubs and sitting in with bands and things. I played all day, every day. I wasn’t that good but good enough to impress people that never seen a white guy do it.”

“So, I was going out and sitting in at all these ghetto clubs. I would still go to the hippie ballrooms while simultaneously getting into harder drugs. I became an intermittent opiate enthusiast. I did that for about eight or nine years. Anyway, I was just going out and sitting in, I loved the scene. When I was eighteen, Lowell Fulson (famous Blues artist) had a new record out on the radio called Blues Pain.

“I went to see him at a club in Hunters Point, in San Francisco.  Me and my friend were the only white guys there, so we sort of stuck out, but I had a couple of drinks and my friend asked me if I felt like playing? This was not some little ghetto bar; it was a really nice club. They had a house band that would play for dancers, it was kind of like a throwback to vaudeville days. Before the band played, they had a guy named Iron Jaw Wilson who would pick up chairs with his teeth!! Anyway, my friend asked Emmett Kennedy who owned the club if I could sit in with Lowell and he said: “Absolutely not,” but then Lowell said, “Oh no, let him sit in.” They were kind of laughing at me you know. Anyway, I got up there and started playing and after about halfway into one verse the place fell out and they were laughing, but laughing in a different kind of way, so after that Emmitt gave me a gig. He booked me for like 3 weeks. I was young and excited; it was great!”

“It was like somebody who just tossed me into the deep end of the pool, you know.”  Around that same time, young Mr. Estrin became friends with Soul singer, performer and songwriter Rodger Collins and world-famous pimp and recording artist Fillmore Slim.

imageHe remembers: “It was a great college education, we would just sit in the car maybe drink mostly, I would just listen to everybody talk about the music business, gossiping all kinds of stuff and it was just great. I felt lucky as hell.  Slim got a gig five nights a week at a place called the Playpen. It was only four blocks from where I was living at the time, and I got to be in the band. I wouldn’t plan all this stuff because it wasn’t appropriate, but I got to be around these people, they were my friends and it was just the greatest education in the world, man oh man.

April 4. 1968

“Before Doctor King got killed everything was OK but then after that everything changed. I could still go places, but you could just feel the vibe had changed, you know.”

Chicago Bound

“So, I’m still playing with Filmore Slim down at the Playpen, and I met this guy who is also just learning to play the harmonica. I met him at a record store where he was working. We were both looking at Blues records, and we became good friends. His name was Jerry Portnoy. Neither of us could play much back then, but we were both way into it.”

(Authors’ note: Portnoy would later play with Muddy Waters for several years.)

“So, the gig at the Playpen ran out, my girlfriend at the time got sick of me and some of my habits, and Jerry went back to Chicago where he was from.

“He started mailing me postcards saying:

“Man, you got to come out here, this is the best. So I said: “OK I can go to Chicago, I’ll kick the dope and I did. I started going out to the clubs and one night in particular, Jerry and I went to Teresa’s. I played and really upset the house; it was great. There were all kinds of musicians there, me and Jerry ended up riding around with Billy Boy Arnold and Louis Myers talking and telling stories about Little Walter and the Blues life in general. It was just so cool, and I started doing gigs. I was at Teresa’s one night and Cary Bell was there at the time. He was in Muddy Waters band, and invited me to come over to their gig the following weekend and sit in.

“Carey said: ‘If Muddy likes you, you can have the gig cause I’m gonna quit.’”

The young Californian went to the gig that night, but it wasn’t till the following night that Muddy would invite him up onstage to play on the classic Long Distance Call.”

The band went on break, Jerry and Rick were hanging out when Muddy Waters called him over. Muddy began shaking his finger at the starstruck Mr. Estrin and told him:

“You got that sound, you are outtasight boy. That’s my sound, I know when I hear my sound”.

Rick wasn’t ready for what happened next.  Muddy paused and simply said:

“You play like a man, boy.”

Rick’s voice still rises an octave when he tells me: “Man, I was levitating.”

imageUnfortunately, plans changed, the job didn’t materialize just then, and the next two years found him playing with various Chicago artists, but none of that mattered. Muddy had given him a blessing that few artists would ever attain, and the course was set for good this time. He would never again hear Long Distance Call without remembering that night.

Although he did not play with Muddy himself, Rick was able to play with other great Blues legends who would serve as additional mentors and teachers. He mentions the time that he spent working with guitarist Johnny Littlejohn as being particularly memorable.

Recalling those times, he says: “Johnny was the greatest; he was just so soulful, man oh man, it was so much fun, it was more than that. Everybody loved him, I remember one night when T-Bone Walker sat in with us…on piano!! Johnny was a real Blues man.”


Back in the early 70s, Disco was all the rage, and Blues was still found in the back bins of records stores, next to Folk and International favorites. Meanwhile, Rick Estrin had found his way back to the west coast, playing music, struggling financially and with the Monkey. Guitarist Charlie Baty was living in Sacramento and called about doing some playing. Rick was not in good health and wasn’t particularly interested in doing anything that didn’t involve immediate funds and/or dope. However, Baty told Rick that he had obtained a bootleg copy of “Don’t Have to Hunt No More” by Little Walter. At that time there were only six actual copies known to exist. It worked, they talked, and all went well, but as Rick puts it “I had other priorities. He and the Monkey went back to Chicago and then came back to the city by the bay. He happened to run into an old musician friend one day in front of the Methadone clinic and ended up going to see Luther Tucker at a club that night. They ran into Charlie who offered Rick a spot in a new band he was forming.

“I was mad at myself because I felt like I was wasting my life, so I called him back and he said to come on over to Sacramento.”

Two bus trips later, the author of A Ten-year-olds Guide to Hipness found a couch courtesy of another musician and started playing with Charlie full time.

Right from the start, they connected. Blues wasn’t all that popular back then, but there were a lot of places to play. Biker bars, servicemen’s clubs.

“We were raggedy back then, but little by little we started getting better. I also started getting my shit together. I transferred to the Methadone program up there, this town was a lot slower that San Francisco and that was just what I needed back then. I felt good, I felt like my brain was coming back. I started being able to implement some of those writing lessons I had learned from Rodger Collins. We started getting pretty popular and then there was a whole scene developing. Robert Cray came down and hooked us up with some gigs in Oregon.”

Rick had played music with some of the best musicians on the planet, but when he began playing with Charlie, it just felt different.

“Charlie was an exciting guitar player; we would just always kill it man. It made me feel like I needed to really get it tighter so I could with him. I wanted to separate us from the pack so right away, I started dressing. We did songs that no one else did. Songs like the original Shopping for Clothes by Boogaloo and His Gallant Crew. And Right Around the Corner, by the Five Royales.

He was succeeding in his own life as well. He kicked dope, and all systems were on “Go.”

There was one afternoon, that he remembers vividly:

“We were onstage at the Gilroy Garlic Festival. I was standing by the side of the bandstand, wearing the suit that I had bought, and I was waiting to go on. Little Charlie was playing the first song. It was one of those great instrumentals. Anyway, he was just playing and he just sounded so f-cking good. I was just looking at him up there, seeing how the audience was completely into it and how they were feeling. I was just so proud to be associated with that man and I just felt like ‘Well we got something here, we really got something.’”

imageAlligator Shoes and Alligator Records

“I just started writing songs and we ended up recording our first album.  Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records called and said:  ‘Please don’t sign with anybody else. I’d like to come out there and give you guys a listen.’ That was in 1986; he came out and saw us and then ended up signing us. He wanted to produce it for us, so we recorded a different record, but it was basically the same songs. We called it All The Way Crazy.”

“Charlie was an unusual guy. He could be a little bit of a challenge to get along with, especially early on.  After a while, being on the road could get stressful. I sure loved that guy and I know he loved me too, in his own way. We knew we had a good thing going and when we got mad at each other, we would be mad and then we hit the bandstand and took out all that anger and that emotion on our instruments and then at some point, you acknowledge that it’s just bullshit and everything’s going to be OK.

“Charlie passed away in 2020 but he left the band in 08. Now we have a Little Charlie scholarship at Cal State University in Sacramento. He was just tired of the road; he was tired and he thought he wanted to just kind of hang out here and play jazz in restaurants. What he found out pretty quickly, I remember he told me: ‘You don’t know what it’s like; you do a few gigs like that, then all of a sudden, you’re playing these restaurants for locals and they just kind of ignore you; they just carry on talking, I don’t know if he regretted it. I think the way we changed the business model, he might have stuck with us, but we used to work man like 225 nights a year, maybe even 300, we worked a lot; we were gone all the time.”

The Serendipity Swingers

“Charlie was a special guy and I never got tired of hearing him play. When he said he wanted to leave, I accepted it. I thought maybe I could be like a low budget Chuck Berry and play with pick up bands.

One day Kid Anderson called me about some whole other thing, and I told him about Charlie leaving the band. I thought he was still playing with “Charlie Musselwhite, but he had just left that band. I asked him if he’d like to maybe play together because I knew that he would fit. In his own way, he was like Charlie, he didn’t’ give a Fuck about what people thought about his playing, he would play anything that he wanted and make something out of it.”

It was indeed the perfect fit; the new band began touring and never looked back.

These Days

It’s still there. “It” being the sound and energy he felt so many years and so many gigs ago with Charlie in Sacramento. Rick’s love for the music and the players he works with these days is just as intense and heartfelt as it ever was.

“I never knew how things were supposed to run out to begin with, know what I mean? I just do my thing and I’m so glad to be a part of it. I’m glad I’m old, but I’m digging it and i wanna stick around as long as I can. I appreciate it more than ever. This band is so good, and we get along offstage as well. We have an enjoyable time just hanging out in airports. There’s no petty bullshit and you can feel it in the performances. Everything just feels right.”

imageThe Hits Keep Coming

The songwriting lessons that he learned from Roger Collins and the others back in Oakland have borne fruit again and again over the years. The new album The Hits Keep on Coming on Alligator Records continues in this tradition. There is (to my ears) a Percy Mayfield vibe and sophistication not often found in modern Blues music. Rick admits:

“There’s a common thread that kind of runs through it.” However, in the hands of Kid Anderson and the rest of the players, that thread never becomes monotonous or predictable.  Not only are the songs well done, but the production and engineering by the Kid makes for a thorough professional sound and presentation.

Great Blues writing has always featured a heavy dose of irony and a resignation to reality; there are several songs in this collection that feature just that.  A couple of the best examples:

Somewhere Else: Starts off nice but turns a sharp corner.

The Circus is Still in Town: Brings back our old friend the monkey.

Whatever Happened to Dobie Strange:  A spoken narrative portrait of road life and encounters with friends and fans over the few years.

There’s even a Leonard Cohen tune on here, Rick admits that covering the song was a bit of a shock, but once again The Kid made it work. They must be doing something right; the album went straight to Number One on the Billboard Blues chart in its first week of release.

Monkey Business

There was a time when it looked like the monkey would be riding Rick’s back forever, but a trip to Sacramento and the chance to play with Charlie Baty changed all of that.

Since then, it’s been a heck of a ride and won’t be ending anytime soon, if the young author of that Hipster dictionary has his way.

There have been many great moments. You get the feeling there will be many more great moments to come.

In his own words, ”I joke about the fact that it keeps me out of the labor pool and all that. But I love this life. I love the music, and I love the musicians.

“I just love all of it.”

Writer Rev. Billy C. Wirtz is a performing artist, teacher and radio personality and recovering addict. He is a former Special ED Teacher and Pro wrestling manager. The Rev is the author of two books and numerous articles on music and culture. He lives in Florida with his wife and a houseful of animals.

 Featured Blues Review – 5 of 6 

imageThe Paddy Boy Zimmermann Band

Paddy Guitar Music

9 songs – 46 minutes

The pandemic was hard on musicians and commoners alike around the world, and guitarist Paddy Boy Zimmermann – a veteran session player and teacher in Mönchengladbach, Germany – was eager to keep up his chops and jam. He called two friends, and together they produced sounds they liked so much and had so much fun together that this blues rock ensemble took shape and tracks for this debut album took form.

A studio musician and artist for decades, Zimmermann regularly works in with German harp virtuoso and award winner Chris Kramer when not playing in the duo Rob Collins & Paddy Boy. He’s joined here by bassist Rupi Schwartzberger, whose credits include work with the Weather Girls and Black Fröös, one of the seminal groups in the national folk scene, and Jan Wienstroer, the drummer for songwriter Wolf Maahn and TV’s Harald Schmidt Show Band on what’s Germany’s equivalent to the David Letterman Show.

Already familiar with one another after having frequently gigged together, the trio formed an immediate bond and Zimmermann, whose heroes include Jimi Hendrix, Rory Gallagher and the Rolling Stones, started writing originals – something he hadn’t done for 15 years.

The material here was recorded in different styles within the blues-rock spectrum in 2022 and 2023 in sessions at multiple locations, including Paddy’s home studio. It was produced by Zimmermann and mixed by Martin Meinschäfer (Layla Zoe, Kai Strauss) at Megaphon Studios in Arnsburg.

The opener, the ballad “From Your Blood,” kicks off in a whisper before exploding in intensity before modulating to allow Zimmermann space to launch into introspective lyrics, something that transpires throughout the song. He wonders whether he’s misunderstood or simply acting awkwardly because he’s being blamed for things he can’t control. “Brick Wall Boogie,” meanwhile, drives steadily throughout as it complains about the lack of communication in a relationship.

A brief guitar solo opens “Spaghetti in the Night,” which immediately evolves into a medium-slow shuffle with six-string accents and flourishes as it yearns for a decent meal after a hard day’s labor and an impossible trip back home. The band shifts to acoustic for “Alive Shuffle,” the celebration of surviving in troubled times, before the balls-to-the-walls rocker, “Scrambled Eggs,” describes waking up to an aching back and recalling the suggestion of a lady that eggs would relieve his pain – something that was confirmed by a doctor that morning.

The plaintive acoustic ballad, “Way Too Soon,” deals with the pandemic, finding Paddy reflecting on the falling rain and coming to terms that some folks “have to leave even though they’ve taken care of themselves.” It flows into “Streets,” which finds Zimmermann alternating between slide and fingerpicking while singing about walking through a neighborhood and wondering, finding it in disrepair and wondering what happened.

Paddy picked up a guitar for the first time after discovering the Rolling Stones. And he celebrates the first meeting of Mick Jagger and Keith Richards on a railroad platform in Dartford, England, in 1961 with “Platform Two” before the ballad “Green Boots” is delivered from the standpoint of someone suffering from dementia to close. Sadly, Zimmermann’s father suffered from the condition before passing a decade ago.

There’s plenty of struggle and pain buried in these tunes, sure. But all of the material is interesting, and Paddy’s play comes with bite throughout. And despite the accompanying warning to play this one loud, this definitely doesn’t deliver an unrelenting wall of sound. Even if you’re not a fan of blues-rock, you’ll probably find something to like with this one.

Blues Blast Magazine Senior writer Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life. Now based out of Mason, Ohio, 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.

 Featured Blues Review – 6 of 6 

imageAustin Jimmy Murphy – Blues Salad Part Two – The Avocado Sessions – Raw Fingerpicking And Slide Guitar

self release

12 songs time – 35:13

Here is Austin Jimmy Murphy’s latest endeavor, Part Two, that is almost completely him and acoustic guitar. I reviewed Part One that featured a band. The El Pasoan is adept at fingerpicking and slide guitar. For me his vocalizing strikes me as rather dry. I tend to focus on the intricate guitaring. All compositions are by his hand.

“The Train Song” is one that was recorded when is young and his vocal was replaced by his grown up voice. Bass and snare drum were also added to his twelve-string acoustic. The vocal and guitar sprint along at a nice pace. He muses on sexual obsession on “Rip Them Chains”, a song helped along rhythmically by bass and snare drum once again. “Strollin’ Blues” is a mellow but short acoustic guitar instrumental.

More upbeat picking with “My Baby Gone And Left Me”. “Hello” is a jaunty feel good tune. Another toe-tapper is “My Baby Lives So Far From Me”. “Went Walkin’ With My Baby” is a bawdy electric guitar ditty. Stark slide guitar permeates the haunting “Killin’ Blues”. A tale of lost friends, “South Side of Blue”, renders a similar somber mood. A lonesome harmonica squall ends the song on an appropriate note. Named after his wife, “Margarita” is another lovely instrumental.

His acumen on fingerpicked electric guitar is aptly displayed on “Worried Blues”. Electric slide sends things off with the downer of “Almost Took My Life”.

There is much to enjoy here from Jimmy’s guitar skills, even if his voice is a bit of an acquired taste. He manages to channel the essence of the blues vibe without being a copycat. Damn, the guy can surely pick the begeezus out of his guitars.

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

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