November, December

by Maria BAINER

It’s that time again to review the blues news from the extended San Francisco Bay Area for July through September, 2009. There was a lot of festival activity and some interesting news items. A good number of touring blues people entertained us and Bay Area musicians released  many new CD releases. Here are the blues scoops.


The Fourth of July, our Independence Day, started off with a bang-up lineup of performers at the Red, White and Blues Festival at Pleasaton,  east of Oakland. This is an annual event as part of the Alameda County Fair. It is one of the many events produced by the 23-year-old, Bay Area Blues Society (BABS), headed by the hard-working, musician and producer, Ronnie Stewart. The players included: Chick Willis; Blues Harmonica Explosion with Birdlegg, Kyle Rowland, and Bernie Hernandez; Caravan of Allstars; Zakiya Hooker; Twice As Good; J.C. Smith Blues Band; Bobby Young’s group; and Amy Lou’s Blues.

The next weekend, the BABS was at it again, producing the tenth annual  Hayward/Russell City Blues Festival in Hayward. Even though there isn’t much left of the adjacent town, Russell City, it was a town that rocked the blues by being one of the the first Bay Area places where there were blues events. The two-day event featured artists either from Texas or born in Texas. Among the twenty-two musicians were Phillip Walker, Tutu Jones, Nat Dove, Andrews Jr. Boy Jones, and Frankie Lee. Lee is back on a limited circuit after a bout with pancreatic cancer. For further information about the many events of BABS, check out their website at

Also in July, the fourth annual Redwood City Blues Festival was held on the peninsula, south of San Francisco. The one-day event’s headliner was Mighty Mike Schermer, who has since moved to Austin, Texas where he is Marcia Ball’s guitarist. Other artists were: Earl Thomas; Sid Morris and the Roadhouse Rockers; Gary Smith; Ms. Taylor P. Collins; The California Honey Drops; Bluestate; Russell Barber Band; South City Blues Band, and DeBraun Thomas.

The Sonoma Blues Festival was held in connection with the Sonoma County Fair, north of San Francisco, the first of August. Performers were:
Carolyn Wonderland, who sounds like Janice Joplin; Kenny Neal; Moreland and Arbuckle; Zora Young; John Alair; Bill Noteman and Volker Strifler.

Mitch Woods held his third annual Boogie Woogie BBQ and Piano Blowout  at Nicasio in Marin County. It featured some of his favorite pianists: Wendy DeWitt; Chris Seibert; Todd Morgan, an 18-year-old incarnation of Jerry Lee Lewis; and Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne.

The Labor Day Weekend, the first of September, had two musical events in Marin County and one in Oakland. The Sausalito Art Festival had blues entertainment on one of their three days. Mari Mack and Livin’ Like Kings; The Fabulous Thunderbirds with Kim Wilson; and Johnny Winter played some good music. Craig Horton, Henry Oden, Ron Thompson and Sonny Rhodes, who has now moved back to California, all performed at the Marin City Blues City Blues, Jazz, and Soul Party in the Park .  All four were named as Bay Area Blues Guitar Legends. BABS was in charge of the blues stage at the three-day Art and Soul Fest in Oakland. Each day had a blues theme: Roots of the Oakand Blues; Oakland Blues Reunion; and Oakland Rhythm and Blues.

The fourth annual Great American Blues and Barbeque Festival was again held in San Rafael in Marin County. Musical entertainment included Charlie Musselwhite, Sugar Pie DeSanto, Delta Wires, and J.C. Smith Band. Also in mid-September, at the 33rd annual Russian River Jazz and Blues Festival, Blues Day featured The Neville Brothers;  Dr. John; Legendary R&B Revue with Tommy Castro, Bernard Allison, Rick Estrin and Janiva Magness; Otis & Cassie Tayor; Delta Wires and Mofo Party Band.


Charlie Musselwhite is honored to have a current exhibit at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. It is called “Charlie Musselwhite, Son of Mississippi, Citizen of the World.” It chronicles his life in Mississippi, Memphis, Chicago and California with artifacts and memorabilia. R.J. Mischo has moved to Arkasas. Norton Buffalo had to cancel all future engagements since he recently discovered he has cancer. He is working with a healer before he has to have a western bout with radiology and chemotherapy. His website gives updated information on his condition. It is:
Good thoughts and wishes can be emailed to his fan club at:

Several Bay Area musicians won awards at the August Jus’ Blues Music Foundation ceremony in Memphis. Kenny Neal won the “Traditional Male Blues Song of the Year” for his “Let Life Flow” song. It was his seventh award for his musical composition. John Lee Hooker, Jr.  won the “Traditional Male Blues Artist” award. Bobbie Webb received the “Best Blues and Soul Radio Show” award. His show is at 89.5 FM at KPOO on Tuesday morning from 9-noon. It can be heard around the world at http://www.kpoo.com. Click on Hear Us.

The Golden Gate Blues Society (TGGBS). has  prepared and produced a series of programs geared to extend the concept of “Blues in the Schools” program for libraries in various Bay Area venues. These one-to two-hour sessions present “a myriad of classes and lectures about the rich and vital history of the blues in its many forms.” Initially, Henry Oden, a prominent Bay Area musician and educator, will be the instructor. TGGBS plans eventually to produce seminars, workshops, and music appreciation classes for adults. The TGBBS website is:


A lot of blues musicians visited the area. Some of them were:

Buckwheat Zydeco; Duke Robillard; Marcia Ball; Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King; Deacon Jones; Johnny Rawls; Paul Oscher; Michael Burks; Shari Puorto & Alastair Greene; Hamilton Loomis; Jason Ricci; Tinsley Ellis; Diddley Squat; Eric Lindell; Buddy Guy; Larry McCray; Savoy Brown; Bill Magee; Jay Gaunt; Leah Tysse; Mose Allison;  Terry Hanck; Sugaray; Rockin’ Jake; Watermelon Slim & The Workers; Rod Piazza & Mighty Flyers; Eric Sardinas & Big Motor; The Insomniacs; Joey Fender and Sweet Baby J’ai.


There were also quite a few CD releases.by Bay Area Musicians. Zakiya Hooker issued “Keep It Real,” on her Boogie With The Hook Records. Ms. Taylor P. Collins put out “Live At The Little Fox” on Hearon Records. Mike Benjamin released “Day to Day,” on Jukehouse Records. The first solo recording by June Core is called “Leave It All Behind.” The first album for Charles Wheal is “The Grassland.” He was the lead guitarist for Mark Hummel’s Band for ten years. “Guitars and Cars” is the name of Alvon Johnson’s new CD.

Sonny Rhodes’ new CD is “I’m Back Again.” The third studio album for LaVay Smith & Her Red Hot Skillet Lickers is “Miss Smith To You” on their own label, Far Note Records. Vocalist, Doni Harvey’s latest album is “Your Blues Ain’t Like My Blues” on the German Herman label. Alabama Mike has reeased “Day to Day” on Juke;house Records. Parts of it can be heard on
http://www.myspace.com/scottsilveria. “In It To Win It” on his LaQuanta Music label is the newest CD of Curtis Lawson. Tommy Castro’s first release on  Alligator Records is “Hard Beleiver.”

That wraps it up for this time. The quote for this issue is: “Blues is like therapy. It always gives good advice,” from the song, “What I Love About The Blues.”

----- by Maria Bainer, 2009

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