Issue 8-4 January 23, 2014

Cover photo by Bob Kieser© 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

 In This Issue  

Terry Mullins has our feature interview with Barrelhouse Chuck. It is a very thorough interview more than 3 times the length we usually run. Chuck’s musical history in Chicago is very rich and it is all in this story. He played with and learned from virtually every major Blues piano player for more than 40 years. 

We have six Blues music reviews for you. Steve Jones reviews a new CD of Christian Blues music called Dusty King James – Bound for Glory. Rainey Wetnight reviews a new CD by Tinsley Ellis. Rhys Williams reviews a new album from Daddy Long Legs. Mark Thompson reviews Just Magic: The Magic Slim Story DVD. John Mitchell reviews a new album from Roger Girke. Jim Kanavy reviews a new CD from The Halley DeVestern Band.

 We have the latest in Blues Society news from around the globe. All this and MORE! SCROLL DOWN!!!

 From The Editor’s Desk  

Hey Blues Fans,

It has been a rough week.

On Sunday night I tuned in online to the benefit show at Rosa’s Lounge in Chicago for the family of murdered Chicago Bluesman Eric “Guitar” Davis. It was a great show. The Chicago Blue community turned out in support. There were performances by Toronzo Cannon, Mike Wheeler Band, Sugar Blue, Deitra Farr, Billy Branch, Matthew Skoller, Jimmy Burns, Big James and others. Truly an amazing show of Blues talent.

We wanted to be there but the show was sold out, a good thing for the monies raised for the family. But it made me a bit depressed knowing we had lost such a great artist. If you are not familiar with Eric check his videos out on YouTube and see what a huge loss this was.

Then on Monday I had a skype video call with one of our senior writers, John Mitchell who resides in England. He gave me more bad new!

Texas Blues rocker Jeff Strahan passed away a couple weeks ago too. Jeff has been a big supporter of Blues Blast Magazine over the years and his ads have actually been running in the magazine until last week. (They are still running on our website.)

I had not gotten this sad news and was stunned to hear he died of complications of viral pneumonia soon after his last performance on New Years Eve. Jeff was trial lawyer but gave it up years ago to pursue a career in Blues music releasing an amazing 10 albums.

So today I ask you to help me out here. Go to these deceased Blues men’s websites. Just click their names above. Buy a CD! Help their family out. Their loved ones supported them in their Blues music quest and we are all part of the same Blues family. They could really use your help. Please do what you can!

Wishing you health, happiness and lots of Blues music!

Bob Kieser

 Blues Wanderings  


I made it out on a cold winter night Monday to catch a band from Lincoln, Nebraska playing at the Illinois Central Blues Club’s “Blue Monday” show in Springfield, IL

The band was Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers with Josh Hoyer lead Vocals and piano, Justin G. Jones drums, Benjamin Kushner guitar, Brian Morrow on bass,  Tommy Van Den Berg on trombone and Mike Dee on tenor sax (Not pictured). New CD Debut album, Josh Hoyer and The Shadowboxers was just released January 17th. They were on the way to compete in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis this week. These guys have a great band! I wish them the best of luck! Or as they say “Break A Leg” guys!

 Featured Blues review – 1 of 6  

Dusty King James – Bound for Glory

Full Armor Productions

11 tracks

Bound for Glory is an eclectic group of faith based musicians who are produced by Full Armor Productions. They are a production and retail business of what’s d I’d liken to be called “Christian Realists.” They are very realistic as they sell music, products videos and books. Here is how they describe their music, “This ain’t your mama’s Sunday school music! Southern rock with bluesy-jazz overtones. Real Christian music for real people. Probably unlike anything you’ve ever listened to, we promise, you’re gonna love it.”

But this is not just music for Christians; it is uplifting and cool and fun for everyone who loves the folksy blues with a bit of a Southern tang. It is available from them and from CD Baby and it talks about us, our society and life in general, a nice mix of blues and gospel. The Dusty King James project is Mark Bush, Glenn Kaiser, Johnny Neel, Russell Gulley, Mudcat (Daniel Dudek), Larry Howard, and Maz Mitrenko doing the vocals for a song or two and testifying to the Lord as their bare their souls in a very inspiring and fun CD. These guys have the horsepower and they delver some powerful performances.

So let’s get into it. Mark Bush begins with the title track. Johnny Neel starts us off with some nice organ and then Bush come in with a road weary and gravelly tone that grabs you. Joanna Cotton and Shelly Case on backing vocals are poignant and really do a slick job. The guitar work is grimy and gritty and cool, provided by Chris Anderson, Doug Jones, Gulley and Mitrenko. I heard this and was hooked. It is a superb introduction to the set and Is a fine original song about the dusty old bible by the bed that is being ignored but really shouldn’t be. Glenn Kaiser opens “Crossroads” with some slick guitar and then gives the old Robert Johnson song some new life. Just a trio of player but it is a wild and vibrant ride with a few added lyrics by Kaiser to spice things up and his guitar is really great! Mudcat follows with an original, “I Want to Be Ready” where he sings about preparing for when Jesus comes. It’s a very traditional gospel song, but Chad Mason on piano and Lil’ Joe Burton on trombone also take it a little bit to New Orleans. Nicely done! Russell Gulley cleans up the old “John the Revelator,” adds some lyrics and gives it a very country fried interpretation. Neel and Jones add some neat harp and the acoustic finger picking is sweet.

“Real Miracle Man” by Larry Howard follows. He growls out that he doesn’t need fortune tellers, mojo hands and other things of the occult because he’s got the savior of the whole wide world living inside of him. He testifies in a growling fashion as he picks out the tune in support of himself. Jimmy Nalls on dobro completes this tune. The old Woody Guthrie piece “This Train” gets a fresh coat of paint with Johnny Neel manning the engine. He gives a Greg Allman styled interpretation as he pounds out the organ and piano as he sings; he and Jones also team up on harp again. Another cool cut that builds into a frenetic finish! Kaiser rearranges “Since I Laid My Burden Down” and slowly and prayerfully goes through the lyrics. He really emotes and nails it and Nalls’ dobor once again completes things well.

“No Holds Barred” gives us a Gulley original. His delivery sort of reminds me of Watermelon Slim at times: authentic, homey, and country with a nice blues feel. The harp and guitars and he blend into a well done delivery as he battles the devil in song. We go back to bigger and electric with Mitrenko’s “The River.” It’s the big entourage again with organ, piano, and guitars. Maz’ vocals are equal to the rest of the fine deliveries and there are some grooving piano and guitar solos to boot. Neel returns with his own “Maybe Jesus.” Very churchy approach with just him singing and playing organ. He testifies here about how maybe Jesus can help him understand his life and tell him he loves him were others do not. The band closes with the full group doing another Mark Bush cut, “Still Got Time.” The group chants and screams behind Bush as he warns that sinners still have time. Primal, thumping good stuff!

So seven of the cuts come from the band members listed in the first track (along with Dennis Gulley on bass and Daryl Burgess on drums and was recorded for this CD together while the other four bring the lead artists and their bands into the mix and it is a fine one, indeed. This CD is just ten bucks on their web site with free shipping, so go buy it now. Jesus may or may not care if you do but you most certainly will once you get it and listen to 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.

 Featured Blues Interview – Barrelhouse Chuck  

There are several things that the average person might expect to find waiting on them at home after a long day’s work.

A good hot meal, the embrace of a loving spouse and perhaps the local news on TV are a few of those things.

However, Barrelhouse Chuck is by no means your average person, and upon his return home one evening, he found none of the above. Instead, he found a snoring and drunk Detroit Junior just inside the door on his fold-out couch.

“I got home from a gig at about 5 a.m. and there was about 10 of these Jewel (grocery store) bags with the handles all taped together and he (Detroit Junior) was laying on my couch, passed out, with about seven or eight of my bottles of liquor sitting there and he had a bunch of butts in the ashtray,” laughed Chuck “And I said, ‘Yeah! I got him now.’ And he lived with me for a couple of months after that. He was homeless (at the time) and I took him in. My girlfriend had called me on the way to my gig that night and said, ‘Detroit called and wanted to know if it would be OK if he dropped some stuff by.’ And that’s what I find when I get home. But man, those were really great times.”

Most people might have balked at having Howlin’ Wolf’s former pianist living on their couch for a few months, but not Harvey Charles Goering – aka Barrelhouse Chuck. Instead of freaking out about such situations, he simply embraced and enjoyed them.

“Detroit Junior (Emery Williams) had a really unique gift. Almost no other Chicago blues piano player I have ever met has written so many different kinds of songs, with such great lyrics, like: “If I Hadn’t Been High,” “Call My Job,” Money Tree,” “Had to be a Miracle” and “Christmas Blues,”” said Chuck. “He could sing and play great rock-n-roll and R&B piano … he was more than just a blues player. And he was a great entertainer. I had to follow him at the piano night after night and it was difficult to follow him with he was done. He would crawl under the piano so all you could see were his hands!”

One would be hard-pressed to come up with many more alive-and-kicking purveyors of the authentic Chicago piano blues than Barrelhouse Chuck. That much is obvious from his recent nomination for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player of the Year award at the upcoming Blues Music Awards (BMA). Sure, to be fair, there are others that currently play Chicago piano blues, but none have lived it, breathed it, tasted it and experienced it like he has. And unlike a lot of the pack, he undertook his studies not from a textbook, but rather from a seat pulled right up next to the bandstand.

“I never really sat down with books or listened to records over and over and over to learn how to play. I never was good enough to copy records. But the key (to learning and then developing your own style) is you have to listen to the right guys,” he said. “When I figured out who the right guys were, then I learned to watch those guys live. I would look at their hands and fingers on the piano and I would try to steal one lick every night. I would get right up behind them on stage and watch them solo. One lick a night is what I would freeze in my mind and then walk away. But after that, you have to be able to put your own stamp on things.”

Since blowing into the WindyCity nearly 40 years ago, Chuck has surely stamped the Hell out of things. He’s played with and lent his enviable piano skills to a cavalcade of blues stars – past, present and probably future, too. Currently, he’s supporting his latest release with Kim Wilson’s Blues All-Stars, titled Driftin’ From Town to Town (The Sirens Records).

“I really want to thank Steven Dollins (The Sirens Records). He’s devoted his label to blues piano, boogie woogie, gospel and Hammond B3 organ music,” Chuck said. “Without his support, I wouldn’t have my music out there like I do. He believed in me and recorded me as a bandleader when no one else in Chicago would.”

Driftin’ From Town to Town was just nominated for a BMA in the Traditional Blues Album of the Year category.

“We recorded that album – knocked it out – in about four hours. It’s all one take. It’s just a really tight, fun CD. I have had the opportunity and privilege to play with almost all the legendary harp players – the living and contemporary, as well as the dead, except for Sonny Boy and Little Walter – and now I’m playing with the greatest of them all, Kim Wilson,” he said. “Kim Wilson has done more for my career, getting me out there nationally, putting me on Cadillac Records (2008 soundtrack to the movie about Chess Records), putting me on tour and playing things like the first inauguration for President Obama. And we did the Howlin’ for Hubert thing at the Apollo Theater with Clapton and Keith Richards and Billy Gibbons and James Cotton and all those great players; all that is through Kim Wilson. He is the greatest bandleader I’ve ever played with. And he’s just the nicest guy in the world, too. With Kim, there’s no setlist. We just go out there and wing it every night. He hollers out a key and I’ll just start playing. Some of the most fun times I’ve ever had is playing in this band. We’ve been playing and touring together for nine years.”

It’s for good reason that the band accompanying Chuck on Driftin’ From Town to Town is labeled as an ‘All-Star’ band.

“Oh my God, Richard Inness (drums) played in The Hollywood Fats Band and played with Little Richard when he was just a kid and let me tell you, he’s one of the greatest drummers I’ve played with in my life. He played with Otis Spann when he was just 16 and is the closest thing to Earl Palmer or Fred Below you will ever hear play the drums. And Larry ‘The Mole’ Taylor, he plays bass in this band and when he was a kid, he played with Jerry Lee Lewis. He was 15 and got to go over to Elvis’ house and have dinner with Elvis and Jerry Lee, twice. (Taylor also played for Canned Heat and was at both the Monterey Pop and Woodstock Music & Arts Festival with the band). And on guitar we’ve got Billy Flynn, who can play anything by anybody – he’s just the greatest and is so dead-on. We’ve played more than 30 sessions together. Then there’s Jeremy Johnson, a fantastic guitar player, and the greatest saxophone player on the planet – Sax Gordon. He takes a solo and it’s all over, man. It’s like a dream team. We just walk in the studio and knock out 24 songs in four hours, that’s how good those guys are.”

Chuck can be found locally playing a solo piano gig just about every Wednesday at Barrelhouse Flat, a club located on North Lincoln in Chicago (“All the old blues haunts are right down the street and it’s literally across from Alice’s, where Howlin’ Wolf used to play,” he said.) He’s also been spotted regularly on Monday nights at Katerina’s, where he plays with his favorite piano player and label mate, Erwin Helfer. Helfer also joins Chuck at Barrelhouse Flat a couple of times a month.

“I met him when I was 19 at the Cornell Lounge, which was the first gig that I had in Chicago. And back then, Erwin, who was about 40 at the time, sounded like an old man. He was playing Speckled Red and Jimmy Yancey. He took a liking to me and the way that I played and we’ve been best friends ever since. He can play “In a Sentimental Mood” (Duke Ellington) and leave tears in my eyes. He’s just so beloved in Chicago and even has a street named after him – Erwin Helfer Way. He’s really the oldest living blues piano player we have left here in the city. He still teaches piano out of his home … I love Erwin.”

Helfer, Pinetop Perkins, Detroit Junior and Chuck recorded 8 Hands on 88 keys (2003 The Sirens Records release) together. “What a fun time we had … a true classic session,” he said.

Scott Grube, another talented piano player and friend of Chuck’s also frequents Barrelhouse Flat every other Tuesday, truly making Chicago the epicenter for authentic piano blues. “He plays Roosevelt Sykes and can bang out many of the old classic blues pieces, some that even go back to the 1920s,” Chuck said.

Chuck’s musical tutelage came via an amazing who’s-who of the most legendary and influential piano players to ever walk this earth. Hall of Famers, Grammy Award winners and even some that were criminally under-rated on the national radar – Chuck picked up something from them all; cats like Pinetop Perkins, Sunnyland Slim, the afore-mentioned Detroit Junior, Blind John Davis and Little Brother Montgomery … to just barely scratch the surface. Put it this way – it’s highly unlikely that there’s been a piano player around the Chicagoland area for the last 40 years that Chuck has not shared the bandstand, or maybe even a nip out of the bottle, with. But his relationship with those iconic ivory-ticklers on the stage is just a small part of his story. Because as much pride as he takes in the lessons he learned, which is considerable, Chuck takes double that pride in the familial bonds he formed with those gentleman.

“I would go and drop my girl off at the Hancock (Center) and then I’d just go and spend the whole day at Little Brother Montgomery’s house. And eventually, I had the key to his house and even took care of him the last few years of his life,” he said. “And Big Moose Walker (who played with Earl Hooker), I used to play the left hand for him after he had a stroke. There were just so many people that were so important to me; so many that I considered to be my family.”

As a part of that extended family, Chuck got the rare opportunity to hang out with those cats at the very spots where they created some invaluable works of art, art that is still treasured and held in high esteem to this very day.

“I used to take Little Brother to the Furniture Mart (on Lake Shore Drive in Chicago), where he had recorded “Vicksburg Blues” in 1929 and I’d take Hubert (Sumlin) to Chess Records and we’d be sitting out there at 2120 South Michigan drinking whiskey at 4 in the morning, listening to The Wolf,” he said. “He’d be telling me stories about how they used to hang out at the Blues Room down the street on the corner until they’d send for them (to go into the studio). I heard stories about guys waiting to record at the Furniture Mart and how they’d be passed out in the hallway and how you’d have to step over them to get in the studio. And Little Brother told me that he used to walk down Michigan Avenue with Fats Waller on one side and Louis Armstrong on the other … just some amazing, amazing stories. But I knew the histories about all those guys and I’d always ask questions. I’ve always been fascinated to learn about the guys that I admired from people that were really there.”

To most, names like Big Moose and Blind John and Little Brother are just words seen in history books about the blues or perhaps on the back of a CD case, but to Chuck, those names – and the men they belong to – are integral attachments to his very being. You can almost feel the core of his soul when he relates the stories that once filled every hour of his every day.

“I used to sit outside of Little Brother’s house at 3 a.m. and listen to his tapes and at 5 a.m. his light would pop on. I’d knock at the door when I saw his light was on and it would be slightly open and he’d have five hot dogs boiling madly on the stove,” he said. “He’d look at me and say, ‘I figured you’d be here.’ You know, sitting out in front of this man’s house, listening to his music and waiting for his light to come on … I was just in awe of him.”

Little Brother not only played the piano for Chuck, but he showed him the keys he could play in and even let Chuck record him.

“I must have over 100 hours of tapes of Little Brother. His two brothers – Tollie and Joe, along with his sister, Willie Bell Montgomery – would also come over and everyone would take turns playing piano,” he said. “Tollie taught Otis Spann and you could hear it in his playing. And Joe, who played a little like Fats Waller, played piano on sessions with J.B. Lenoir; Willie Bell played church hymns.”

Not only was Chuck in awe of Little Brother Montgomery, he was also in awe of Little Brother’s friends.

“I’d be over there and he’d say, ‘Lafayette Leake is coming over.’ Willie Dixon and Muddy Waters would drop by. And one day, Jay McShann was over there. And McShann was sitting there with a TV trey in front of him with a gallon of vodka on it. I walked over and said, ‘It’s an honor to meet you, sir.’ And he had a piece of pizza in his hand and was about to take a bite,” said Chuck. “Well, less than 20 seconds after I walked in, Brother said, ‘Jay, play Chuck a blues.’ And he tossed that pizza down on the TV tray and got up to go over to the piano. I said, ‘Hey, Jay, you can finish your pizza first.’ But he jumped up on that piano and played “Confessin’ the Blues.”

Chuck also managed to catch the eye of Big Walter Horton, which depending on the day, could be either a good thing or a bad thing.

“Well, he pulled a knife on me one time. But he used to give me the chord every time I saw him play and I must have saw him over 30 times. Didn’t matter if I was 100 feet from the bandstand or not. My friend was Little Joe Berson and Joe was his protégée, so I think Walter was just messing with Joe and would give me more attention than him,” laughed Chuck. “But for some reason, he liked me and would come up and give me the cord. He’d rub his whiskers on the side of my face and blow this freakin’ harp in my face until the top of my head went numb. But man, you talk about tone … you know, ‘No tone, stay at home.’”

Little Joe, Chuck and Big Walter would hang out at the Tokyo Hotel and one evening at B.L.U.E.S., they played a game of ‘which Walter is it?’ “Big Walter was standing next to me and we were listening to Little Walter on the jukebox. Walter says to me, ‘That’s me!’ I said, ‘Excuse, me, but isn’t that Little Walter?’ And he goes, ‘No! That’s me playing.’ So, I go, ‘Oh, OK.’ Then Big Walter said to me, ‘Aren’t you glad you can play?’”

It was his good buddy Little Joe Berson that stuck the ‘Barrelhouse’ tag onto the front of Chuck’s name.

“The first song I ever learned to play was “Barrelhouse Woman” (Leroy Carr) and I’ve played it twice a night, every night of my life since. It’s my favorite song, to this day,” he said. “And Little Joe Berson heard me playing and singing this song and he just started calling me Barrelhouse Chuck and it just stuck. I didn’t ask for it, he just called it and that was it.”

Berson was like a big brother and was the guy that Chuck first came to Chicago to play music with. “He was Jimmy Rogers’ harmonica player in Chicago. Joe had the harp mic passed to him from both of them (Big Walter and Jimmy Rogers) and when Joe was playing, you couldn’t tell the difference of who was playing,” Chuck said. “His tone could sound just like Big Walter or James Cotton or John Lee (Williamson, Sonny Boy I) or Rice Miller (Sonny Boy II). Joe died on Dec. 2, 1988 and it still hurts my heart to this day that he’s gone. I never really got over his passing.”

Sunnyland Slim was known as an enormous magnet for blues men and women – regardless of their instrument of choice – and he was also a regular visitor at Little Brother’s place.

“Every Friday, Sunnyland would come over and it would be just Sunnyland, Little Brother and myself for the first year of me going over there – just us three – and we’d hang out. Sunnyland would bring Brother fish every Friday,” he said. “And Sunnyland never once got mad because I liked Brother so much. It was funny, but he’d say to me behind Little Brother’s back, ‘You know, Brother can’t sing.’ And Brother would say to me behind Sunnyland’s back, ‘Well he’s good for the two or three songs he can play.’ And through Sunnyland, I met Memphis Slim and Eddie Boyd and got to play with 100 of the greatest blues artists at B.L.U.E.S. on Sunday nights. I played there with Big Smokey Smothers for three years; the Sunnyland Slim Band would follow us. But can you imagine all these guys when they’d get together? One night at a club you might have S. P. Leary, Fred Below, Floyd Jones, Sunnyland, Big Walter, Eddie Taylor, Hubert Sumlin, Willie Johnson, Johnny Little John, Henry Grey, Jimmy Walker and then you’d have Fuzz (Calvin Jones) or the great Bobby Anderson on bass. They’d get up and play and they’d sound just like they did on those Testament or on those Chess Records. And then, Slim would make me follow him on the piano. They just had the magic and to witness those guys up on the bandstand 30 years or so after those records were made was just amazing. That’s what really re-charged my batteries and inspired me.”

It was simply with the sole intention of meeting the great Sunnyland Slim that brought Chuck from Florida to Chicago back in 1979.

“I drove 24 hours straight from Gainesville to Chicago and opened up the door at B.L.U.E.S. and there sat Sunnyland. I said, ‘I just drove 24 hours to meet you.’ He goes, ‘How you doing, son? Come on in.’”

While that trip proved worthwhile since he got to meet and hang with his idol, and he also landed a gig at the Cornell Lounge in the process, the trip didn’t last as long as he may have preferred, when – as they are prone to do in the world of playing the blues – times got really tough for Chuck.

“Well, I got evicted from my hotel because I didn’t have any money and I worked for a guy and at the end of two weeks, he didn’t pay me. So I ran into some really hard times,” he said. “I was homeless and hungry in Chicago. I stayed up all night and then just walked around during the day … I literally did not have any money. Finally, I begged my dear mother to wire me $50 and I got out of Chicago. I tried my best to make it, but it was just too much.”

Chuck moved to Seattle (and started a band called Blue Lights), then on to Alaska (where he ran off with a club owner’s daughter!) and then in 1982, made his way back to Chicago, this time to stay.

Something of a gifted musician from birth (he was the only student in his elementary school to score 100 on a musical aptitude test), Chuck first started out as a drummer, picking up the sticks at 5 years old.

Then, at age 9, fate, in the form of a Scholastic Book, stepped in.

“I saw this book with a picture of Muddy Waters on it and said, ‘Man, if I ever see a record by him, I’m gonna’ buy it.’ So I found a Muddy Waters 8-track, Brass & the Blues, and that’s when I first heard Otis Spann. And I heard that piano and said, ‘Man, listen to that. I wanna’ play piano.’ Later, the piano on “You Can’t Lose What You Never Had,” was what struck me.”

Spann has always been held in high regard – and rightfully so – when it comes to the best of the best Chicago blues piano players. But according to Chuck, sounding like the late, great Spann is another matter entirely.

“A lot of young guys today think that since Otis Spann is the greatest piano player, that they’ll try and sound just like him. But I got news for you; Spann played so well because he was really living a life of the blues,” he said. “He was such in the gutter; the poor guy was living in Muddy’s basement and didn’t have any money and had cancer and drank a lot. But that’s how a lot of those guys lived and that’s one reason they played the blues so well. The played the blues, they lived the blues and they died at an early age. If you want to play like Otis Spann, you’ve got to live like Otis Spann and I don’t recommend drinking and living like that. I loved the way that Otis played the blues. Because of him, I try to play today. Otis, along with Leroy Carr, is to me, two of the saddest players to ever play the blues. Those guys paid a price to play like that.”

Out of that heavy price came some seriously heavy music, too.

“When you hear “Vicksburg Blues” or “Chicago Breakdown” (Big Maceo) or “Marie” (Otis Spann), those great instrumentals, those guys are playing their asses off and I would get a little bit from all those songs,” Chuck said. “I wouldn’t try to play the whole song, I would just get a little bit and throw it into another song, you know?”

He didn’t really seriously start pounding out the piano until he was about 16, but once he started, Chuck started by playing the Chicago blues and that’s the style that he still favors to this very day. That style developed quickly too, because he was playing with the great Bo Diddley when he was a still-tender 17 years old.

“He (Bo Diddley) told me, ‘Chuck, you got that Chess sound.’ And it was huge to hear that from him. But I’ve always been a Chicago-styled piano player; I’ve not ventured out to play much New Orleans style piano. A lot of the New Orleans style of piano seems to be right on the beat … it is a different style,” he said. “The structure, timing and feel with Cuban rhumba is different between Chicago and New Orleans piano, but of course some of the influences do cross over. I love listening to Jelly Roll Morton, Fats Domino and Professor Longhair and watching them play on videos.”

It was back south in Gainesville that Chuck got his first real taste of some red-hot live piano playing, courtesy of Jim McKaba and the Tampa Fred Blues Band.

“Jim played blues piano with Little Joe Berson until the end of the 70s and he played with Muddy, Big Walter and Jimmy Rogers in Chicago. He plays piano, foot bass and B3 and he still lives in Jacksonville,” said Chuck. “Muddy would say, ‘Let me hear you, Pinetop’ and it would be Jim, because Muddy couldn’t see behind the upright. Jim’s on that level, he can play Jimmy Smith on the B3 … what a talent. They guy is just so gifted and a great, great Chicago blues-styled piano player and I love the way he can sing, too. He really made me want to get up and play. We’re still best friends and when I’m in Florida, I see him every chance I get. These days, his band is called Jim McKaba and the After Hours Band.”

Once he did make the decision to get up and play, it’s been full-steam ahead ever since.

“I’ve been a musician for about 50 years and have been playing blues piano for 40 and right from the get-go I’ve been trying to carry on the rich legacy of all these wonderful guys that I was fortunate enough to play with and to know,” he said. “Every night on the bandstand I do “Call my Job” and say this is a Detroit Junior song and I talk about Leroy Carr and Sunnyland Slim and about all these people that were huge icons in my life. And my mission in my life has been to play the music of the people that I used to play with. So a lot of the songs that I play now, I used to play with the guys that wrote the songs and recorded them back in the day.”

The cool thing about the way that Chuck presents that material is that while he’s obviously paying tribute to the giants that forged it, he also manages to put his own little spin on the tunes, keeping listeners on their toes.

“Well, for example, my version of “Call my Job” – since Detroit Junior played with Howlin’ Wolf, I take “Shake it Baby” from The Wolf and mix that with a Jimi Hendrix’ “Killing Floor” bass line and put it all into ‘Call my Job,” he said. “Detroit Junior played it more straight, more of a slow blues thing. But it’s nice to remember and honor those people that were always so nice to me.”

It seems like these days, the entire live music scene is just not as vibrant as it once was, with people opting to stay at home and listen to CDs or watch TV instead of enjoying the experience that only seeing musicians do their thing in the flesh and blood can provide. That also has a bearing on passing down musical tricks of the trade from one generation to the next.

“Today a lot of these kids don’t want to come down and hear people play like I used to do. People ask me if I teach. Well, first of all, if you want to learn from me, you should come down and hang out, buy some of my CDs and watch me play for awhile,” he said. “And then maybe I’ll help you out. But a lot of the young players coming up are mostly interested in playing blues/rock and that’s really not my thing. I never got away from the Chess sound. Anything on Chess Records is what I love. I’ve always been locked in a time zone with my music. I have almost every blues and rock-n-roll release that Chess/Checker Records ever made in my collection.”

Not that Chuck has anything against blues/rock, or for that matter, straight up rock-n-roll in general.

“I still love rock and grew up with it. Everybody knows one of my favorite guys in the whole world is Stevie Winwood. He can play 12 different instruments. I love all his stuff … Spencer Davis Group, Traffic, Blind Faith, his solo stuff. I know him and love him and have everything he ever did,” he said. “He took jazz, blues, folk, Irish and blended it all together in Traffic and it was the greatest thing. And I love Hendrix. I’m his biggest fan. But I don’t want to hear anybody else playing Hendrix. I want to hear him. And those two guys (Winwood and Hendrix) can just sing so unbelievable – I could never sing like that.”

One legend often cited by Winwood and Hendrix alike as a musical hero was the father of electric Chicago blues – Muddy Waters. And it turns out that as a young man, Chuck was also smitten with the power and presence of the man from Clarksdale, so much so that just as ‘Deadheads’ followed the Grateful Dead from town to town and show to show, Chuck did the same thing with Muddy. Just call him a ‘Mudhead.’

“Well, it was the greatest time of my life. I’d follow them around and wait for the van with Illinois plates to pull into the parking lot. Willie Smith or Pinetop would spot us, wave their hand and say, ‘Come on!’ We would walk in with them and get right backstage and see the show, and then the next morning, have breakfast with Muddy and Pinetop. Live at Mr. Kelly’s (Muddy Waters live album from 1971) was a great learning tool for me to learn Pinetop’s style of piano. I saw them (Muddy and Pinetop) live probably 25 times and each time I was lucky enough to be alone backstage with Muddy, right up until the announcer said, ‘Ladies and gentleman – star time.’ And then they’d call Muddy up,” he said. “And Pinetop was just as nice as anyone could be. I’d go see him when he was under house arrest and bring him cigarettes and Courvoisier and beer and hang out. He’d go, ‘You better bring me a half-pint of Courvoisier or I’ll beat ‘ya.’ I was just in Heaven. Muddy would walk me to my car and thank me for coming down to hear him play. But those guys were just so accessible. You could walk up to any of them and they were really nice guys. But that’s the difference between the blues guys and this newer generation of young kids that are million-sellers. Can you imagine walking up and trying to talk to some of them?”

There’s an old saying about how behind every broke musician, there’s a good woman. In Chuck’s case, that would be his wife Betsy.

“I was so lucky to meet Betsy some 30 years ago. We met at U.S. Blues on Wells Street. I was playing, she walked in and it was love at first sight. She kept me alive after I had a heart attack … she got me a job, loved me and helped me when I was broke and down-and-out,” he said. “She’s met almost every blues artist I have ever known in Chicago. She helps me write some of my songs and is just about the sweetest lady you could wish for and is a lot of fun to be with. Everyone loves her – she’s the best.”

Fittingly enough, Chuck’s very first CD was titled Salute to Sunnyland. It featured S.P. Leary (his last recording session) as well as Harmonica Todd Levine, the great Calvin Jones, Hash Brown, Billy Flynn, Willie and Kenny Smith and John Carpenter.

“I tell you, Todd has helped me along the way through the years as much as anyone ever could. He paid for and arranged that session and has designed a lot of my posters and art work for my discs and has been a best friend,” said Chuck. “We still play gigs when we can get together.”

Chuck’s entry into the deep and rich world that he would eventually share with his mentors began more as a fan wanting to hang with his heroes than it did as a budding, young musician looking to learn a few licks.

“When I first met those guys, I didn’t tell them that I played piano. I just hung out … I was a fan. It took awhile for them to figure out I was a piano player. And then, one by one, I won their trust. I was going to move in with Blind John Davis after he got back from a trip to Europe and he was going to teach me. He had a thunder-like left hand. I loved and had all the early recordings he made with Sonny Boy, Dr. Clayton and Tampa Red. And I just couldn’t wait and told him that I would pick him up at the airport. Well, he died on his way to the airport in a cab, so I could have learned it all, but it just wasn’t to be. But all these guys, I would get to know them, drive them around, drink and party with them and then little by little they started to take me in. I was going to every single gig that I could and befriending these guys.”

In addition to being something akin to a walking Encyclopedia Britannica, with an amazing recall of dates, people and events all floating around his brain in a very impressive fashion, Chuck also has quite a physical collection of the history of the blues – a veritable blues museum full of exquisite memorabilia. He’s got the electric Wurlitzer that Sunnyland played on Maxwell Street; he’s got the microphone that Big Walter Horton blew through on Maxwell Street; he’s got Little Brother Montgomery’s PA, along with autographs, pictures, posters, articles of clothing, 78s, 45s … well, you get the picture.

“I never set out to be some historian or a guy that would preserve the music … I just ended up that way. When I got here (Chicago) I got in on the last of the last great Chicago blues piano players. Two year’s difference made all the difference in the world,” he said. “I mean, I got to see Big Walter and Lee Jackson a week before he was murdered. My favorite bands were Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy, Jimmy Reed and I got to work with nine or 10 members of those bands. Guys like Eddie Taylor and the great Jody Williams – who is still around – Hubert and all the Muddy Waters’ sideman. It was a great time when you could see all those guys that played with the icons. Guys like S.P. Leary, who I was lucky enough to have played 100 nights with, would say, ‘I’ve done it all; I’ve played for five Presidents. And now, I want you to have yours. I’ve lived my life and had mine, now I want you to have yours.’ He was like family to me and I went over to his house for 18 years. Those guys really, really wanted me to do well. Most of them were such nice guys and they’d do anything for you.”

Those ranks are even thinner today, due to the recent passing of a pianist that was not universally known outside of Chicago, but inside the city, he was hailed as an important piece of the blues – Aaron Moore.

“I just attended his funeral on the southside of Chicago. I can’t believe that he wasn’t more famous than he was. He was a really, really sweet and wonderful guy,” said Chuck. “The thing he did so well was just to play enough to leave open spaces and air … that Roosevelt Sykes style. And his singing was amazing. He had this great big, loud voice. The first time I heard him play was just incredible. He’s one of the last guys of that era from Sykes to Sunnyland to Memphis Slim. He just loved to play the piano. It’s really sad when you stop and think about just how many of our heroes are gone.”

The loss of those men that were at once his friends, idols and musical companions is what Chuck is most reflective about.

“Now they’re all gone … I mean, I went to see Sunnyland when he was in the hospital and I was with S. P. Leary when he died and I found Little Brother minutes after he was dead at the hospital … I was with him the night before, holding his hand when he said, ‘I’ll never get out of here alive.’ I mean, those experiences play into my music and into the feeling that I put into my music,” he said. “I saw those guys go from being healthy, strong men to the point where they were just so, so old and tired. They all kind of stayed about the same age for so long and then all of a sudden, they were bigger than life, you know? They were the mighty oaks in the forest. I still have tears come down my face when I hear “Vicksburg Blues.” It’s the voice that you really miss.”

Whether he was anointed, chosen, in the right place at the right time, or just on the right side of a fortuitous draw of the cards, it just seems right that Barrelhouse Chuck would somehow find his way to Chicago and carry on in the footsteps of those that inspired him to play the blues as a youngster.

“Well, locally, there just didn’t seem to be a whole lot of young piano players that were interested and learning the Chicago blues when I came up; there was just a few of us. There was Ken Saydak, Mr. B (from Michigan) and in later years, David Maxwell, Ann Rabson and Scott Grube, but I just seemed to be the guy to do this. I was just on a mission to do this from so long ago. I mean, I left home at 17. I went from Florida to Virginia … town to town to town …to Alaska to Seattle and to Chicago. It was just driven in me. I just knew that I had to get to the Windy City and meet all those guys.”

Visit Chuck’s website at:

Photos by Bob Kieser © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine

Interviewer Terry Mullins is a journalist and former record store owner whose personal taste in music is the sonic equivalent of Attention Deficit Disorder. Works by the Bee Gees, Captain Beefheart, Black Sabbath, Earth, Wind & Fire and Willie Nelson share equal space with Muddy Waters, The Staples Singers and R.L. Burnside in his compact disc collection. He’s also been known to spend time hanging out on the street corners of Clarksdale, Miss., eating copious amounts of barbecued delicacies while listening to the wonderful sounds of the blues.

 Featured Blues review – 2 of 6  

Tinsley Ellis – Midnight Blue

Heartfixer Music (BMI)

CD: 10 songs; 51:21 Minutes

Styles: Blues Rock, Blues Ballads

What do Blind Willie McTell, Big Maceo Merriweather, Sean Costello, and Tinsley Ellis have in common? They’re fantastic guitarists, prolific songwriters, and all from Atlanta! Three of the artists have passed away, but Ellis is still going strong after more than twenty years and ten albums. On his latest one, released this year, the shade of his music is “Midnight Blue.” It’s definitely more on the “rock” side of blues rock, with a few mellow ballads thrown in, but nevertheless engaging. Performing with him are Kevin McKendree on organs and pianos, Lynn Williams on drums and percussion, and Ted Pecchio on electric and acoustic bass. Due to his reputation, Ellis faces a wonderful dilemma: How will he top previous CDs? To be sure, his raucous energy packs as much of a punch as ever. It makes these three original songs big winners:

Track 04: “It’s Not Funny” – This New Orleans-inspired anthem proves that sometimes, the often-overlooked drums are more than a match for sizzling slide guitar. With a rollicking beat and catchy chorus, it’s sure to be on playlists everywhere: “Can’t live without, there ain’t no doubt, there ain’t nothing like that gal of mine. Flirtatious love, bodacious ‘cause ain’t no girl that’s half as fine.” Lynn Williams and Kevin McKendree strut their stuff in style, as well as our lead singer and guitarist. “It’s Not Funny” how danceable this track is, so grab a partner or play a hand jive if you don’t have one.

Track 05: “See No Harm” – Nine times out of ten, blues songs about cheating are full of anger and regret. This is the proverbial tenth time, when our narrator has no qualms about it: “Most would think it’s wrong for us to carry on. I just don’t care; our love’s that strong. You may not think it’s true, but I see no harm in loving you.” This attitude may be poignant, but it got such literary legends as Anna Karenina and Madame Bovary in fatal trouble. “Stop by or take it all!” Ellis pleads in an ultimatum. What will be his lover’s answer? Only time will tell, and Tinsley leaves it up to listeners’ imaginations.

Track 10: “Kiss of Death” – The CD’s final number, like its title, has a pure blues hue. Rather than rip-snorting riffs, “Kiss of Death” possesses sensual, melodic chords. “Might as well drink gasoline,” our protagonist grumbles to an unwilling partner. “Loving you’s the kiss of death for me.” Devotees of Stevie Ray Vaughan and the Allman Brothers will wish this ballad was first instead of last, but there‘s a proverb about “saving the best….”

Without a doubt, Tinsley Ellis is a guitar monster, but he need not always roar. At times his instrumentation overwhelms his vocals, making it hard to understand and quote particular lyrics. Despite this, “Midnight Blue” might be blues fans’ new favorite color!

Reviewer Rainey Wetnight is a 34 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.

 Featured Blues review – 3 of 6  

Daddy Long Legs – The Devil’s In The Details

Busted Flat Records

11 songs – 39 minutes

The raw, jagged, overdriven guitar that fires up the eponymous opening track of this album is panned hard to the left channel. So when the rest of band kicks in after the fourth bar, the impact is all the greater. And it’s an impressive statement of intent. The song sits on a one chord vamp for the first three verses, increasingly building the tension before the delayed and yet somehow inevitable resolution. Chris “Junior” Malleck’s harmonica soars and swoops across the verses as Mike Elliot warns the listener that “Some people selling snake oil, yeah, they try the bait and switch. Beware the confidence man, don’t you fall for their tricks.”

Featuring Elliot on guitars and vocals, Malleck on harmonica, Steve Toms on bass, and Jeff Wagner on drums, Daddy Long Legs is a low-down, greasy, garage blues band from Waterloo, Ontario. The Devil’s In The Detail is their fifth CD and second for indie label Busted Flat Records. Featuring 11 self-written songs, the album was also produced by the band and recorded at The Sound Distillery in Kitchener, Ontario.

The band’s website proclaims that “This ain’t your grandma’s blues. This is Daddy Long Legs.” And I certainly can’t imagine my grandmother shaking a leg to their high energy songs. But while the band claims to be blazing a new trail for the blues, their music is actually closer to the blues-rock of Eric Sardinas, Johnny Winter or even The Black Keys, with Elliot’s raunchy guitar riffs the fulcrum around which the rest of the band rock.

It is probably fair to say that there isn’t anything particularly novel or different about Daddy Long Legs’ songs when compared to a host of other garage blues bands. Lyrically, the band mines the traditional seams of alcohol (“40 Hour Week”, “Half Pint” and “Get Drunk And Be Someone”), good love gone bad (“Your Love Is Killing Me”), male machismo (“Easy For Me”) and lifestyle warnings (“Borrowed Time” and “Dug My Own Grave”). What does set the band apart however is the energy and commitment with which they play.

The punk rockabilly of “Get Drunk And Be Someone” is especially enjoyable. And, as one might expect from a band with such strong garage roots, Daddy Long Legs is not a band to overdo things. They rattle through the 11 songs in only 39 minutes, and while Elliot and Malleck both get plenty of opportunities to take solos, they always keep them admirably short and punchy.

However while The Devil’s In The Detail certainly demonstrates Daddy Long Legs’ ability to play with power and drive, there isn’t a huge amount of subtlety or variety on display. The band is no doubt a great live act, but there is a feeling on this CD that everything was turned up to 11 and left there. Even the acoustic closer, “Dug My Own Grave”, has a curiously leaden feel to it. This may be partly due to the dense production, but it may also be deliberate because this approach no doubt works extremely well in a live setting. But as a general rule, albums tend to require a little more variety in order to retain the listener’s attention on repeated listening.

There are however many things to like about this album, which serves notice that Daddy Long Legs is a band of substance and verve. I would love to catch one of their live performances and, while this may not be the CD to launch the band internationally, it is certainly recommended for those who like their blues served loud, hard and rocking..

Reviewer Rhys Williams lives in Cambridge, England. He is married to an American, and speaks the language fluently, if with an accent.

 Featured Blues review – 4 of 6  

Just Magic: The Magic Slim Story DVD

Sagebrush Productions, Inc.

55 minute run time

Peter Carlson, founder of Sagebrush Productions, has been deeply involved in the clean-up and disposal of nuclear waste for several decades. He also feels a responsibility to do what he can to give something back to the world that he works so hard to preserve. Through Sagebrush, he has released a number of DVDs on blues musicians as well as another series that focuses on the Native American culture. Productions on Pinetop Perkins, Bobby Rush, and Son Seals have garnered critical acclaim in addition to Grammy and Blues Music Award nominations.

The latest documentary offers a closer look at Morris “Magic Slim” Holt, who passed away a year ago.Slim and his band, the Teardrops, were known for their driving sound that was steeped in the Chicago electric blues tradition. The DVD features short interview clips of Magic Slim reminiscing about growing up, working a cotton gin, and going to church with his mother every Sunday. He would always try to sit near the piano so he could learn from the woman who played for the church service. She began to teach Slim the basics of playing the piano and he was hooked. But an accident with saw blade, that he describes in detail, cost him the little finger on his right hand, thereby curtailing his future as a piano player.

But Slim had fallen under the spell of music, so like many others before him, he fashioned a guitar out of a piece of wood, a soda bottle and the wire from his brother’s broom. With encouragement from his father, he worked hard and was rewarded with a Stella acoustic guitar at Christmas. Soon he was learning from his friend Samuel“Magic Sam” Maghett, the two future blues legends sitting under a tree playing for each others sister. Slim headed to Chicago at age eighteen, where he quickly started soaking up all of the great blues music going on in the city. Unable to gain entrance in to most clubs due to his age, he eventually went back home to improve his guitar skills. He also began to teach his broth Douglas “Lee Baby” Holt how to play the drums and gave brother Nick instruction on playing the bass guitar.

From there, Slim relates stories about his return to Chicago, getting a regular weekly gig at Florence’s blues club, and how he managed to pick the guitar without any feeling in the tip of his index finger, due to the saw accident. Interspersed with Slim’s clips are comments from his sister, Lucinda Holt Brown plus brief remarks from Koko Taylor, Dr. John and Steven Seagal. Lonnie Brooks comments that Slim’s playing was real strong and raggedy, that you could feel the vibrations from his guitar. Another poignant clip finds Slim’s road manager, the late Michael Blakemore, stating that his uncle, Junior Wells, and Slim could be a pain in the ass at times but they played the blues the way it was meant to be played. There are also segments with Marty Salzman, Slim’s manager, who describes arranging tours for Slim that reached all parts of the globe, including one memorable tour in Brazil where Slim and the Teardrops held their own with the better-known artists on the tour.

Samples of Slim’s music play in the background for parts of the disc. Also included are four videos of live performances from various stages of Slim’s career. One captures him playing harp on the Brazil tour while another the 2001 Chicago Blues Fest finds him playing and singing unaccompanied. The final video shows the band’s fiery performance at the 24th W.C. Handy Awards show, just after Slim received the award for Blues Band of the Year from Little Milton and Toni Lynn Washington.

In his final quote, Magic Slim states that he hopes to be remembered as a bluesman. He certainly was all that and much more. Kudos to Sagebrush for making this project available. It is a must-have for any of Magic Slim’s fans – or any fan of real blues music..

Reviewer Mark Thompson lives in Florida, where he is enjoying life without snow. He is a member of the Board of Directors for the Suncoast Blues Society and the past president of the Crossroads Blues Society of Northern Illinois. Music has been a huge part of his life for the past fifty years – just ask his wife!

 Featured Blues review – 5 of 6  

Roger Girke – Piece Of Work – A Collection

RG3 Records

9 tracks; 41 minutes

Roger Girke has been playing since the 1970’s and this is his fourth release under his own name. Based in Delaware, Roger plays mainly in the NE states with regular performances in Delaware, Maryland and Pennsylvania. A pleasant voice and clear guitar picking are the hallmarks of his style and this self-produced album shows off those talents on nine original songs. The other interesting feature is that the album blends four brand new tracks with samples from his other albums which date back to 2001, so this represents something of an anthology of his work, making it a great place to start for those unfamiliar with Roger’s work.

On the new material Roger is supported by Glenn Farracone on drums with husband and wife team Paul Klinefelter on bass and Terry Klinefelter on piano. On the one cut from his 2008 album a bigger sound is provided by Pete Kanaras on second guitar, Jim Orr on piano, Glenn Bickel on organ, Dave Ward on harp, Patrick Bickel on bass and David Rainey on drums. Three tracks come from a 2004 CD, one a solo acoustic piece, the other two featuring Ian Greaves on drums, Bennett Sykes on bass and Glenn Bickel on keys; one track adds a second guitarist, album engineer Joe LaSorte. Finally a cut from his first album in 2001 adds Wade Clark’s sax to the 2004 band. It is worth noting that both the 2004 and 2008 were recognised at the IBCs by making the final list of self-produced CDs and the sound quality throughout is excellent.

The four new cuts offer a good overview of Roger’s abilities. “I’ve Made Mistakes” is a solid slow blues with some fine guitar picking. This one is a trio performance but Terry Klinefelter’s piano is an integral part of the other three tracks. Album opener “I’m Crazy About My Baby” is a fun shuffle about a girl “…who never knows what she’s gonna say or do”. “Suitcase Of Memories” is a slower shuffle in which Roger reminisces but concludes that going forward is more important than looking back. “Cat’s Eye Tonight” starts slowly but gets up a head of steam as Roger invites us to a club called the Cat’s Eye which we are told “…got no food, only a few tables, might find a place to stand if you’re able. Loud blues all night long, we’re taking a ride, you can’t go wrong”. Sounds like the sort of night all blues fans should enjoy!

From 2008’s “Shake It” album we get “Thick As Thieves” which was clearly recorded live. The larger band gives a good account of itself on a number that resembles “Lonely Avenue” in terms of the churning rhythm, Roger’s thick guitar tones being ably supported by the harp and piano.

Three very different tracks are reprised from 2004’s “My Baby Loves That Stuff”. “September” is a solo piece with Roger doubling up on acoustic and slide dobro guitars. Roger’s excellent vocal delivers a strong song with emotive lyrics about a former relationship: “September memories make a melancholy man of me; reminds me of you and what we used to be.” “You’re Right, I’m Wrong” is an upbeat shuffle which opens with Roger’s crystal clear guitar ringing out, a style maintained in his strong solo. In contrast “Daddy” is a slow blues in which Roger’s guitar is well supported by the organ playing of Glenn Bickel. The track opens with a lengthy guitar statement before Roger’s plaintive vocal asks why his Dad had to leave, followed by a torrid solo – a very effective blues.

The 2001 cut sounds like another live cut, more of a jump style tune in “Take Your Funky Butt Home”. The interplay between the two guitars is good and Roger’s subsequent solo short but sweet. The piano supports really well throughout and gets a solo too though the sax stays mainly in the background.

Overall this is a very enjoyable collection which shows that Roger Girke is a talented player, singer and writer well worth checking out. Recommended..

Reviewer John Mitchell is a blues enthusiast based in the UK. He had a blast at this year’s Blues Blast Awards and is already planning his next trip stateside.

 Featured Blues review – 6 of 6  

The Halley DeVestern Band – Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho!

8 tracks; 37 minutes

Halley DeVestern is often compared to Janis Joplin and she did spend some time touring with Big Brother & The Holding Company singing Janis’ songs. But DeVestern is more than just a Janis clone. When she names her influences it it no surprise to find singers Aretha Frankin, James Brown, Al Green or ’70’s soul acts The Ojays, Ohio Players, and Earth Wind and Fire. Halley has slowly but surely been making her own mark in the greater New York City area and is now poised to break out nationally.

The band features seasoned professionals from a full range of musical styles. All the songs were written with bassist Tom Heinig who has played with Lamont Cranston band and Mill City Band. Guitarist David Patterson played with Shawn Mullins, and drummer Rich Kulsar spent time in Zen Tricksters, The Toasters and Mickey Dolenz band. Their experiences are eclectic to say the least and it makes their music an exotic gumbo.

The opening track “Muscle Memory” sets the tone of Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho! with a funky workout. DeVestern sounds a bit like Joplin but without the rasp. Her voice is more refined and doesn’t crack as she hits the higher notes, and the band is slick and tight. “Kangaroo Momma” has strange lyrics but it seems to be about finding comfort in a special place. I suppose I get it but with “When I need comfort and a place to crouch/I jump all up inside my mama’s pouch” it’s an uncomfortable metaphor for comfort.

“Money Ain’t Time” features simmering organ and impassioned vocals. DeVestern takes on rich fat cats, encouraging them to think about all the time they’ll be dead and what little good their money will do them in the afterlife. It could equally be about sacrificing time in your life for money; time that would be better spent making human connections and sharing yourself with others instead of chasing the payday at all costs. This song has been featured in the TV Show Dance Moms.

“American Pain” is a gospel tinged ballad that lyrically takes on economic inequality in the United States but also takes aim at those with the casino mentality, hoping to strike it rich by gambling. “Tore Up (From The Floor Up)” is bad disco at best. “Code 9” is about the texting indicator for change of subject when an authority figure has arrived. It’s another song with some bizarre lyrics but it is musically solid with extra funk added by the CNP Horns – Thomas Hutchings on sax, Indofunk Satish on Trumpet and Flugelhorn, and Matt MacDonald on trombone. Bassist Heinig creates a fat groove, guest keyboardist Mark Mancini stands out on electric piano and guitarist David Patterson cuts loose with stinging guitar lines.

The clearest message of any song on Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho! is found in “The Jesus I Know.” Halley admirably takes to task those who have twisted the story of Jesus to fit their own needs. The tune is an upbeat R&B Gospel tune, with big backing vocals and organ fills. The Jesus she knows had a dark complexion, cared about healing, fed the hungry, helped the blind to see, promised the world to the meek, and got lynched for telling the truth. Amen, Halley. Amen.

Yes, Halley DeVestern has a powerful voice. She has sung with Big Brother And The Holding Company, drawn comparisons to Janis Joplin, and garnered compliments from Bonnie Bramlett. Her lyrics may not always make perfect sense but they sound good and she sings with conviction. However, I can’t say I like this record. The songs are good, and the band is tight and plays well but I don’t like the style. Halley and her band have played on blues stages and made the local blues charts but these things do not make a band a blues band. To their credit, the band labels itself as Blues, Funk, and Rock. Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho! is New York City funk rock. It will get people moving in the clubs and I’m sure many blues fans would enjoy it, but if you’re looking for blues this is not your record. If you want some upbeat, funky grooves played on real instruments by talented human beings give Fabbo! Boffo! Smasho! a listen.

Reviewer Jim Kanavy is the greatest guitar player in his house. He has been reviewing albums in his head for 30 years and in print since 2008, and is deeply committed to keeping the blues alive and thriving. For more information visit

 Blues Society News  

 Send your Blues Society’s BIG news or Press Release about your not-for-profit event with the subject line “Blues Society News” to:

Maximum of 175 words in a Text or MS Word document format.

Mississippi Valley Blues Society – Davenport, IA

On Wednesday February 19th MVBS presents Anni Piper with Brent Johnson and the Call-up. Anni hails from Australia and began playing guitar at the age of 12. She now lays down the groove on bass. Her sultry vocals are reminiscent of Susan Tedeschi. Brent Johnson is out on his own after 10 plus years as part of Bryan Lee’s Blues Power Band! Show is at Martini’s on the Rock, 4619 34th St. Rock Island IL, Showtime is 7pm, Cover is 7 for members and 10 for non-members! Info at

DC Blues Society – Washington, DC

Join the DC Blues Society for a dance party with live music on February 15, 2014 from 8pm-12:30am (American Legion Post 268, 11225 Fern Street, Wheaton MD 20902.) Tickets are $13 in advance ( or $15 at the door. Jesi Terrell and The Love Mechanic Band will keep you warm and toasty as you dance to their blues-heavy R&B sound! Jesi Terrell brings her sultry sound to Wheaton to extend your Valentine’s celebration for one more day! Said David Whiteis of the Chicago Reader, “she can break into a ferocious, full-bodied wail, invoking the combination of lust and aggression that’s so basic to the blues…Terrell has always had a knack for conveying the sensuality of the blues”. Jesi is a seasoned Chicago music scene veteran who has opened for B.B. King and Eric Clapton. Last fall, Jesi and her tight band brought down the house at the 2013 DC Blues Society Battle of the Bands. Check out this exuberant and exciting performer! For more info visit

Crossroads Blues Society – Byron, Illinois

On Saturday, February 15th the Alex Wilson Band is Crossroads’ second band served up along with some great food and beverages at the Hope and Anchor English Pub in Loves Park, IL. The club is at 504 N Second Street. $5 cover and an 8 PM start.

Tuesday, February 18th is our first show at Mary’s Place on 602 N Madison Street in Rockford. Brent Johnson and the Call Up will be joined by Australia’s Anni Piper! Brent is out on his own after 10 plus years as part of Bryan Lee’s Blues Power Band! Cover is $10 and we stat early- 7 PM!

Saturday, March 8th is back to the Hope and Anchor with guitar virtuoso Bobby Messano and his great band. $5 cover, 8 PM start.

Crossroads Blues Society is proud to present the second annual Field of Blues Festival on Saturday, June 28th at Rockford Aviators Stadium in Loves Park.

Alex Wilson Band is opening beginning his set at noon. Next up is an international act, Italian blues and singing sensation Linda Valori at 2 PM along with super guitar player Luca Giordano and our own Barstool Bob Blues Band with Bob Levis on guitar, Al Terrano on bass, Link Leary on drums and Don Collins on harmonica.

The Jimmy’s will bring their swinging blues at 4 PM. At 6 PM, the ever cool Doug Deming and Dennis Gruenling will take the stage with the Jewel Tones.

At 8 PM our headliners will be…well, we can’t tell you yet! We will let you know soon!
Between acts we will feature local acoustic blues man Dan Phelps. 10 hours of music from noon to 10 PM (we close at 10:30 PM). Tickets will once again only be $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Check us out at or call festival chairman Steve Jones at 779-537-4006 for more information!

The Central Iowa Blues Society –  Des Moines, IA

Saturday, February 8th the Central Iowa Blues Society welcomes 10 acts on 6 different stages. This multi-band event will culminate with an After Hours Jam in Des Moines Downtown Marriott. Bands performing include Jeffco, Chad Elliott & Bomita Crowe, Rock Island Rollers, Josh Hoyer & The Shadow Boxers, Annie Mack, Katy Guillen & The Girls, Bob Pace and national touring artists Nikki Hill, Chris O’Leary Band and John Nemeth.

Wristbands for the event are only $15.00 in advance and will give you admission to all of the Ballrooms on the 2nd and 3rd floors, as well as Rock River Lounge on the 2nd floor. Tickets are available online at now.

The Illinois Central Blues Club – Springfield, IL

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

Jan. 27 – Robert Sampson & The Gumbo Band, Feb. 3 – South Side Jonny and Kicked to the Curb, Feb. 10 – The Dave Lumsden Factor, Feb. 17 – Anni Piper with Brent Johnson and the Call-up, Feb. 24 – Alex Jenkins & The Bombers,

Also on Feb. 9 there will be a special Blue Sunday with John Nemeth, Casey’s Pub in Springfielde, IL.

Questions regarding this press release can be directed to Michael Rapier, President of ICBC, at at 217-899-9422, or contact Greg Langdon, Live Events Chair, at or by visiting

Live Blues Calendar

YOU can submit your Blues performances for FREE at:

Performance dates were submitted by Musicians, Club Owners, Blues Societies and Blues festivals. is not responsible for errors or omissions.

CLICK HERE – for the Latest Complete Blues Calendar on our website at:

or click a state to see Blues shows by State

Alabama  Alaska  Arizona  Arkansas  California  Colorado  Connecticut  Delaware  D.C.  Florida  Georgia 
Hawaii  Idaho  Illinois  Indiana  Iowa  Kansas  Kentucky  Louisiana  Maine  Maryland  Massachusetts  Michigan  Minnesota  Mississippi  Missouri  Montana  Nebraska  Nevada  New Hampshire  New Jersey
New Mexico  New York  North Carolina  North Dakota  Ohio  Oklahoma  Oregon  Pennsylvania  Rhode Island  South Carolina  South Dakota   Tennessee  Texas  Utah  Vermont  Virginia  Washington  West Virginia  Wisconsin  Wyoming   Other Countries
Performance dates submitted by Musicians, Clubs, Blues Societies and Blues festivals. is not responsible for errors or omissions.

 Advertise With Blues Blast Magazine

Get the Blues word OUT!

Festivals – Blues Blast Magazine &‘s website are great ways to promote ANY Blues event or product. In fact we believe we just might have THE best Blues advertising vehicle anywhere to promote YOUR Blues event! Blues

CD’s – For less than the cost of one small ad in a newspaper, you can advertise your shows, new CD or any Blues product. A great way to get the Blues word out! Blues fans WANT to know about your Blues event of product. Call (309) 267-4425 or email: for a confidential quote today!  FOR DETAILS AND INFO ON ADVERTISING – CLICK HERE

Blues Blast Magazine covers Blues all over!

We also offer effective advertising for Festivals and Club Owners, Recording Companies and Performers. Put your Blues advertisement on our homepage at: either as a sponsored event or as a featured event, product, recording or merchandise.  We get 55,000 visitors and 3,000,000 hits A MONTH on our website! More than 26,000 Blues Fans, Musicians, Recording Companies, Club Owners, Blues Societies and Festival Promoters in all 50 states and in more than 90 countries read the Blues Blast magazine each week. You can feature your event or product in the largest FREE internet Blues magazine delivered right to your inbox each week.

Contact us Today at

Blues Blast Magazine
P.O. Box 721 Pekin, Illinois 61555     © 2014 Blues Blast Magazine 309 267-4425 

Please follow and like us: