Kalamazoo Blues Challenge To Be Held Sunday, Sept. 21, at the 411 Club

Who went to Memphis last year?  Were you one of the lucky folks who braved the snow and cold to make it to Beale Street for one of the greatest gatherings of blues musicians in the world?  Well, guess what:  it’s happening again next year, and YOU have the chance to be there THIS Sunday, when the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association chooses the acts who will represent us on the stages at the 2015 International Blues Challenge.  This year, for the first time in several years, acts will compete in two categories:  solo-duo and band.  One act from each category will be sponsored by the KVBA at the IBC for the chance to play before eager fans, win fame and fortune, and, oh yeah, have a really great time!

Seventh Son Wins the 2013 Kalamazoo Blues Challenge

Join us this Sunday, Sept. 21 at The 411 Club for the 16th Annual Kalamazoo KVBA Blues Challenge!
  • Doors open at 2:00 p.m.; music starts at 3:00
  • Cost is $8.00
  • Great food, good drink, and cheerful service is always available at the 411 Club
Here’s the line-up:
3:00 – 3:30  Hunt & Gator:  Dave Hunt from Seventh Son and Dave Allemang from Crossroads, teaming up for a sound all their own.
3:45 – 4:15  Cleveland & Vandenberg:  Dave Cleveland, keyboardist extraordinaire from Seventh Son and Steve Vandenberg, well-known local guitar master, creating a mellow presence as a pair.
4:30 – 5:00  Kevin Nichols & Blue Tuesday, out of Jackson:  not only was Kev an IBC semi-finalist in this year’s IBC, but he’s been a semi-finalist since 2004 in two other bands.  Not to be missed!
5:15 – 5:45  Kathleen & The Bridge St. Band: outstanding Lansing vocalist Kathleen appears again this year with the Bridge St. Band, including Kalamazoo members Tim Brouhard and Angello Santelli.
6:00 – 6:30  The Steve Hilger Band: “electric blues” originals from Grand Rapids who rocked this year’s Kalamazoo Blues Fest.
6:45 – 7:15  The Jim Shaneberger Band:  singer/songwriter Jim Shaneberger and his powerhouse group, also appearing from Grand Rapids.
This will be an afternoon not to be missed!  Come early, stay late, and cheer on your favorites.  See you there!

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District Blues Double-bill just one of many blues happenings this weekend.

This Friday, August 15th, the District Square Summer Blues Series will be doing a special Blues Double Header Performance.

Taking the stage this week are local Blues favorites, Seventh Son followed by the Marci Linn Band.

Tickets are just $ 3 for KVBA members, and $ 5 for non-members. Doors open at 7:45, and Seventh Son will take the stage at 8 pm. Next weeks act: Grand Haven’s Vincent Hayes Closing the Series, August 26th with Joanne Shaw Taylor.

For other events happening, check out the blues calendar

Nick Moss In Kalamazoo

One of the outstanding membership benefits over the summer of 2014 has been, and continues to be, the reduced admission to the outdoors blues series at District Square. If you have not been to this outstanding venue located in the heart of the entertainment district, this week might be the time:

The District Square Summer Blues Series will be featuring on July 25th, 2014, Chicago’s 16 time Blues Music Award Nominee artist Nick Moss. The Nick Moss Band is well known in the national blues scene for his soulful R&B inspired Blues that features a kick of rock and roll that will make you want to own all of his 10 Blues records that he has recorded. Billboard.com says; “Moss class shines through, building into a showcase of his fluency on the six string.” When talking about Nick Moss’s most recent album, “Time Ain’t Free”…..”is nothing less than a powerful gumbo of Chicago soul, funk, blues, jam music and rock & roll.” – guitarworld.com

The Summer Blues Series is presented by Perry Harley Davidson and State Farm Insurance-Landon Kovacs Agency. Doors open at 7:45 p.m.at the District Square, behind the Wild Bull on 139 S. Edwards St., Downtown Kalamazoo. Tickets are just $ 8 for KVBA members, and $ 10 for non-members. Series passes are available for just $ 20.

Upcoming shows for the Blues Series includes: Gee Daddy Big Blues Review, Anthony Gomes, 7th Son/Marci Lynn Band, Vincent Hayes, and Joanne Shaw Taylor. You can get more information on the Blues Series at www.districtblues.com.

XXI … Quick Recap and what about XXII?

We’ve closed the books on the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival. We’re so grateful for your support on this huge endeavor. Terrific buzz among attendees about Brandon Santini, Wayne Baker Brooks, The Jimmys, Lionel Young Band, Tweed Funk, Marcia Ball, and of course the pre-rain finale featuring Coco Montoya, Tinsley Ellis and Albert Castiglia.

The festival was high energy for all three days, and those of you who may have been dissuaded from attending due to the erroneous dire weather predictions missed a heck of a show. While it did actually rain, the rain event did not occur until the final notes were shot out into the night sky by the guitar triumvirate “Mon-lis-lia.” After a brief halt in the action, Seventh Son regaled the crowd with a proper send off.

From preliminary feedback received, we are toying with two proper all-star jams next year, adjusting schedules to better accommodate band switch-overs, and how we might get more chairs on the festival site. Thanks again to all of you who braved the overly dramatic weather forecasts, our sponsors, our volunteers, and to the blues artists – past, present, and future – who keep the blues alive.

Thank you to our sponsors

The 2014 Blues Festival is in the books. Three days of grey skies, perfect temperatures and fantastic music.

We couldn’t do it without the small army of volunteers. We couldn’t do it without our members. And we couldn’t do it without all our festival sponsors.

They supported us. Please support them.

Thank you all!

Just off the wire!

We just got this in off the wire from the folks at District Square:

“The District Square Summer Blues Series presented by Perry Harley Davidson will be back on tap this Friday Night after it’s one week hiatus enjoying last weekends KVBA Blues Festival at the Arcadia Festival Site. This week the District Square will feature local favorite Crossroads Resurrection, from 8-11 pm. The Summer Blues Series still has 7 weeks remaining in a 14 week series that has been featuring some of the best in local, regional and national Blues talent. Next week, the series will feature award winning Nick Moss band out of Chicago. Tickets for this weeks show are just $ 3 for KVBA members, and $ 5 for non members. Also, series passes are available starting at just $20 [for KVBA members]. You can get more information at www.districtblues.com.”

Friday night lineup change

We learned late yesterday that Dana Fuchs wouldn’t be able to make it to our festival today because of a family health emergency. We know that a lot of people are going to be disappointed by this and we apologize. Mostly, though, we wish Dana the best and hope that everything is okay.

In the meantime, we worked very quickly and were very fortunate to find an excellent artist to take the 7 p.m. slot tonight. Wayne Baker Brooks will be joining us with his own exciting brand of Chicago blues. If you don’t know WBB, hold on to your hats. It’s going to be a great show.

Kalamazoo Blues Festival Starts Today

The entire line-up and schedule for this years festival is here! Make sure to check the Blues Fest tab above for complete information.

3-day passes are available at the festival site for $25 (includes admission to the all-star jam on Thursday)

Thursday July 10 – admission $5
Gates open at 4:30
5:00 – 5:50    Sneaky Pete Band
5:55 – 6:45    Big Trouble
6:50 – 7:40    Big Boss Blues Band
7:45 – 9:00    The Jimmys
9:05 – 10:35    Brandon Santini
10:30              All-star Blues Jam – (at The 411 Club/$5 cover)

Friday July 11 – admission $10
Gates open at 4:30 p.m.
5:00 – 5:55    Stan Budzynski & 3rd Degree
6:00 – 6:55    Steve Hilger Band
7:00 – 8:25    Wayne Baker Brooks
8:30 – 9:55    Lionel Young Band
10:00 – 11:30    Marcia Ball
11:35 – 12:30    Crossroads Resurrection

Saturday  July 12 – admission $12
Gates open at 11:30 a.m.
11:40 – 12:10    Too Left Feet
12:15 – 1:05    The Blues Shed
1:10 – 2:00    The Angelo Santelli Band
2:05 – 2:55    SWB
3:00 – 3:50    Fifi & The Dogs
3:55 – 4:45    Gee Daddy’s Big Blues Review
4:50 – 5:40    Out of Favor Boys
5:45 – 6:55    Tweed Funk
7:00 – 8:20    Albert Castiglia
8:25 – 9:55    Tinsley Ellis
10:00 – 11:30    Coco Montoya
11:35 – 12:30    Seventh Son

What’cha Gonna Do, Where You Gonna Go, For The Blues in the ‘Zoo?

Blues Music Venues in Kalamazoo and Surroundings

Twenty-one years:  that’s how long the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association has been bringing the best in the blues to the Kalamazoo Blues Festival stages, providing a unique opportunity to hear a selected group of local, regional and national acts gathered together in one place over three exciting days in July.  How cool is that?

Very cool indeed!  But that’s only three days!  What do you do when you’re looking for the blues the other 362 days in the year?  Why, you head out to one of the wonderful clubs, restaurants, and entertainment venues in Kalamazoo and surrounding parts of southwest Michigan to hear your favorite bands, including some of the very acts that have appeared, or will appear, at the Festival over the years.

From the names of clubs popular in years past—you remember Missias’ downtown, don’t you?  Club Soda?  and the grandfather of them all, Wonderful’s Funky Basement?—to the vanguard of blues venues in recent years, such as the 411 Club (long known as Kalamazoo’s Home of the Blues), the Union Cabaret and Grill, the Old Dog Tavern, and the State Theatre, host of the popular WRKR/Bud Blues Series, to recent entrants on the blues scene, such as O’Duffy’s Pub and District Square, the list of excellent places to experience the blues in all its wondrous variety is long and varied.

Many of these establishments provide support for the Kalamazoo Blues Festival in a number of ways, from direct sponsorship to providing publicity and hosting special events.  O’Duffy’s Pub in Kalamazoo, which hosts the popular “OFB Trio” and a variety of other acts on Wednesday and Thursday nights, has recently stepped up as a sponsor for the Festival, while the Union Cabaret and Grill has been a huge supporter for years, showcasing blues acts and coming in second only to the 411 Club as a financial sponsor.  The 411 Club, which will celebrate its 6th anniversary this year, has provided sponsorship from the beginning, as well as hosting the annual Kalamazoo Blues Challenge, regular Blues Community Meetings and other KVBA events, and the popular Sunday Series shows that raise funds for the festival.

There are so many places and ways to hear the blues in our region, including regular blues jams like the 411 Club’s OFB-hosted Thursday night jam (which has a long and varied history that began lo these many years ago at Wonderful’s), the Sunday night jam at the Old Dog, and another Sunday night jam at Planet Rock in Battle Creek, as well as Monday open mic night at the Livery in Benton Harbor.  There are the big stage shows featuring national acts, the largest of which is the State Theatre, which has seen blues giants like BB King and Johnny Winter cross its stage, while Bell’s Brewery and the 411 Club regularly host performers like Jorma Kaukkonen and Kelley Richey.  The Union offers a lively mix of blues and jazz acts, while Webster’s Lounge hosts blues on selected weekends.  There are smaller clubs like the Old Dog in Kalamazoo that introduce an eclectic variety of bands to their audiences, new venues like the Warehouse in Battle Creek, and recent entries on the blues scene, like Mike’s North Forty near Paw Paw, which has been featuring the Roxy Revival on Saturday nights.  And don’t forget the Summer Blues Series at the recently-opened District Square in downtown Kalamazoo!

Kalamazoo and the surrounding area of southwest Michigan is blessed with a great many excellent local blues acts, who can be heard at all of these venues and more, such as Bennucci’s in Kalamazoo, Pasche’s in Battle Creek, and the Black River Tavern in South Haven.  Range out a little further to Grand Rapids, Lansing, and Mishawaka, Indiana, and the list of blues venues becomes too long to detail.  Where else would it be so easy to support live music and keep the blues alive, not just during the three days of the festival, but all through the year?  We are fortunate indeed!

Marty Spaulding: The Man Behind The Music

When trying to come up with names of some of the foremost supporters of the blues in Southwest Michigan, Marty Spaulding’s name rises quickly to the top of the list.  

Originally from the Traverse City area (where he got bitten by the “blues bug” after an up-close-and-personal with BB King in the late 1970’s) , Marty migrated to southwest Michigan in 1989, settling in the small community of Three Rivers, where he soon became involved in the local political, business and music scenes.

One of his first endeavors was contacting Kalamazoo’s “new” rock station WRKR in the summer of 1990, and asking if they would be “interested” in a blues show. To his amazement, they called him back, AND hired him. Ed Sackley, the station’s owner, had gone to college in Chicago and found the idea worthy of support. Program Director Bill Martin gave it the high five, and the rest is history.

Soon the WRKR “Sunday Blues”, which Marty hosted for exactly 10 years .. from Labor Day weekend 1990 to Labor Day weekend 2000 .. was born. It was one of the first blues shows “netcast” on the internet, and had online listeners as far away as Sweden and Germany who would often email in requests.

He was soon knee-deep in promoting not just local venues, but also the blues scenes as far away as Chicago and Detroit, making regular pilgrimages to the legendary clubs of the era and meeting all of the artists, regional promoters and blues record label people that he could. They all either embraced him, or avoided him like the plague.

During this time he also operated several businesses, including Main Street Music, a music and instrument store, for 5 years in the mid 1990’s in downtown Three Rivers. He also served on the Three Rivers Human Rights Commission (HRC) and then as a Three Rivers City Commissioner for several years in the 1990s.  Those positions gave him an opportunity to meld music and policy, and soon the Three Rivers “HarmonyFest” was born.

Marty Spaulding with Carl Weathersby at the 411 Club

Arranged in less than 30 days with less than $2000 in funding (mostly his own), the first  TR HarmonyFest was headlined by a personal favorite (and long time friend afterward) Morris “Magic Slim” Holt.  The next year, the Kalamazoo Blues Festival was born.

Marty soon found himself being asked to join the national nominating committee for the prestigious “W.C. Handy Blues Awards” (now known as the “Blues Music Awards (BMAs), a position he held for almost 20 years before becoming a member of a smaller sub-committee.  The “blues conduit” was being laid.

It wasn’t long before he collaborated with others, including Kalamazoo State Theatre manager Kevin Brady, Wonderful’s manager Tom “Turk” Machin, and other blues venue operators (and the KVBA through Larry Bevins and many others) to bring the blues to prominent stages here.

The Kalamazoo State Theatre “Budweiser Blues series” is just the tip of the iceberg of  those collaborations, and the list of blues artists who have played the HarmonyFest, the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, The Kalamazoo State Theatre and Wonderful’s blues club because of these collaborations is a “who’s who” of the period:

Albert Collins; BB King; Jimmy Dawkins; Li’l Ed;  Lonnie Brooks; Carey Bell; Larry McCray; Alberta Adams; Koko Taylor; Jimmy Johnson; Magic Slim; Tab Benoit; Luther Allison; Jimmy Rogers; Tommy Castro; Son Seals; and dozens, or hundreds, more.

Marty also became personally active in promoting the careers of several artists during the mid and late 1990s, personally arranging three Midwest tours for the late Black Top label artist Bobby Parker, and “finding gigs” in the area for artists including Robert “Smokey” Wilson, Phillip Walker, “Long” John Hunter, and many more.

Also in the later part of the 90’s, with the co-operation of WRKR, the Kalamazoo Blues Festival was actually broadcast LIVE on both the radio station, reaching 100 miles away, and the internet, reaching the entire planet, for several years in a row.

Marty, now owner and manager of the popular Paisano’s Ristorante in downtown Three Rivers, continued booking artists into the new millennium. He’s especially proud of his association with the great blues and soul guitarist Robert Ward. Robert had been an early member of the Wilson Pickett road band, and was later a session musician for the legendary Motown Records (“Thelma” label as a solo artist), and later a member of the “Ohio Untouchables”, which morphed into the 1970s funk/soul band the “Ohio Players”.

Robert is “that guitar” on many unaccredited tracks from the Temptations, Undisputed Truth (“Smiling Faces”) and others on Motown. He enjoyed a second wave of popularity after disappearing from the music scene for almost 20 years after Motown left Detroit for LA in 1973.  In the early 90’s, after his career had found a resurgence because of his recent recordings for the New Orleans based “Black Top” records, Robert appointed Marty his manager after the two had become friends at a show in Minneapolis.

He then came to the area for two tours with local musicians as “his band” (he didn’t really have one and seldom toured) and performed in Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids, Angola IN, St Joe MI, Three Rivers, Lansing and Buddy Guy’s “Legends” in Chicago.  (Ask Jim Beebe, Greg Orr, Mike Curtis, Brian Shetterly or Greg Rokiciak about Robert Ward. I’ll bet they smile.)  Marty also negotiated the contract for Ward’s final recording, “New Role Soul”, which was released by Chicago-based Delmark Records in 2000.

Marty, who in his other life has been the General Manager of Title Check LLC since 1990, relocated to Kalamazoo in the early 2000’s, where he opened the Metro Diner and Nightclub in 2003.  On Labor Day weekend, 2008, Marty stepped up to fill a large void in the Kalamazoo live blues scene by opening the 411 Club, a very popular gathering place for blues and music fans that has seen the best in national, regional, and local blues acts appear on its stages since its opening weekend, when EC Scott and Magic Slim and the Teardrops played to packed houses.

Marty and the 411 Club have been some of the foremost supporters of the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association, offering members’ benefits as well as hosting KVBA fundraising and social events.  The 411 Club has also been one of the principal sponsors of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival and KVBA programs and activities.

In summary, suffice it to say that, without the presence of Marty Spaulding, a great many performers and acts would have never appeared in our area, a great many of the KVBA’s needs would have gone unfilled, and our whole music scene would have been so much poorer.  Hats off to Marty, the Man Behind The Music!

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