KVBA Photographer Dennis Tuttle Has Photo Published In Living Blues Magazine

Current Issue Features Joseph “Smokey” Holman and Tweed Funk 
Dennis Tuttle, the tall man with the camera and fedora, is a familiar sight to blues fans in the Kalamazoo area and south Michigan.
Dennis, who has been documenting the live blues scene for the KVBA for many years, has been praised from many sources for his work, and now finds himself receiving attention on a national level.  An image that Dennis captured at the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival, featuring Joseph “Smokey” Holman with band members J. D. Optekar and Nick Lang performing as Tweed Funk on July 12, 2014, appears in the most recent issue of Living Blues Magazine.

Dennis Tuttle

J. D. recently notified Dennis that his photo would be printed in the magazine, which will be appearing in bookstores and newsstands soon, as well as being available by subscription.  In addition to some nice recognition for Dennis, the publication of his photo brings national attention to Tweed Funk and to the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, which will return for its 22nd year on July 9, 10, and 11, 2015.
Congratulations, Dennis!  Nice job!

The Big Boss Gator Experience

By Lynn Headapohl

Once again, our blues fans brought an excited air to Shakespeare’s Lower Level in Kalamazoo for the second show in the Second Sunday Series, the KVBA’s fundraiser for the 2015 Blues Festival. Thank you every one of you for inspiring the bands to reciprocate that great blues feeling in the music they presented!

The opening band for the day was “The Gator Blues Band”, a tight three-piece outfit known for their open jam sessions around western Michigan. This band was fronted by vocalist and guitarist Jim Klein and supported by Tom Elliot expertly on bass and vocals. Brian Taber guided their rhythm with a crazy offbeat kick flip jazz style on drums. Unfortunately, this writer arrived toward the end of their show, but I can tell you that when I walked in, it was hot. The band was playing Jimi Hendricks, “Third Stone Form the Sun”. Then they moved to the Kenny Wayne Shepherd tune “Shame, Shame, Shame”, where guitarist Klein used his Suhr guitar to bring the song to life with a wonderful slide reverb twist.

Next, they brought up vocalist and harmonica player Joe Ferguson from Big Boss Blues to join them in a great R &B review consisting of the perfect blending of vocal harmonies on “What’s Goin’ On”, “Old Love”, and “The Way You Do the Things You Do’’. They closed with a full-out jam of “Drinkin’ Wine” that included a blistering harmonica solo from Ferguson.

Big Boss Blues then took over the stage with an explosion of sound worthy of its name with the first note. Big Boss Man Charlie Schantz commanded the most out of his beautiful Les Paul, and it did not fail him. He was flanked by Bill LaValley on his ’76 Precision bass, Eric Busch on drums, and vocalist Joe Ferguson on harp. Together, they brought us their powerful Memphis-bound IBC set, opening with “Treat Me Like a King”. Each player stretched out to show his extraordinary chops. LaValley moved deftly through the rhythmic changes as “young gun on drums” Eric Busch coasted through his jazzy, rock and blues edged chops. Then lead vocalist Joe Ferguson showcased his fine tenor R&B sound on “No Money”, transitioning to “Queen of the Midnight Bayou”, a song that had that wrenching “N’awlins” sound. On this tune, Eric’s tom work really brought out that deep bayou backbeat. The band moved through a funky little tune with plenty of vibrato and reverb before the Boss took us back in time with Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame”. Ferguson augmented our expectations of the song by making his harp sound like a saxophone. He then went on to sing Howlin’ Wolf’s “Who’s Been Talking”, playing his harp and teaming with Schantz who supplied him with fine fills that brought that smoky blues sound to life. Guitarist Schantz went on to deliver a nostalgic version of “Route 66” that truly captured the sound of the 1940’s composition first recorded by Nat King Cole.

Ferguson’s vocals shone on Robert Cray’s “Backdoor Slam”. Schantz’s Crybaby provided Wah pedal deluxe as the unit worked together, cookin’ the blues to a hot steamy boil with a perfect throb. They closed the set with “Take Me To Memphis”, a southern Blues with an “Ico Ico” beat wrapped into a funky bluesy romp.

One set and the crowd couldn’t help but see that guitarist Schantz was a master of the slide, wah, picking…you name it. He will make you a believer. Each player in the band makes the listener pay attention to his individual talents in their own right. They seemed to say, “Let me share my joy with you!”

Schantz picked up his hollow body Gibson to begin the second set with Joe Ferguson singing a whole new funky registration of “Some Kind Of Wonderful”. Schantz then got his “Mojo Working” as slide guitar and harmonica danced to the simplicity of LaValley working the rhythms with drummer Eric Busch, who provided this band with a rich texture as they moved as a unit. The group played a Tyrone Davis tune before performing an original called “Wealthy Street”.  Next, they served up Willie Dixon’s “Seventh Son” and “No More Maggie”, a rollicking tune in which all the players had a little fun.

To close the show, the band was joined by Bobby Wilson who brought his Gibson 335 hollow body to treat the crowd.  The two guitarists worked out at length, trading slide riffs back and forth with the harp as the bass and drums rocked out a full version of “Statesboro Blues”, and then closed with “Roadhouse Blues”. All delivered a truly spectacular performance to bring another Sunday afternoon of smokin’ hot blues to an end.

And what an afternoon of blues it was!!

To find out more about the Big Boss Blues, go to Facebook:


To find out more about the Gator Blues,  go to Facebook:


Stan Budzynski, Martila Sanders and Gee-Q Play Shakespeare’s Lower Level, Sunday, February 8

Third Second Sunday Series Fundraiser Will Support The 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Festival

Stan Budzynski and 3rd Degree

Are you looking for a good way to warm up on one more cold, snowy winter Sunday? Of course you are! Plan to come to Shakespeare’s Lower Level in downtown Kalamazoo at 3:00 pm on February 8 to hear a pair of smokin’ hot blues bands at the third of four shows in the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association’s Second Sunday Series.

First up will be Lansing’s Stan Budzynski and 3rd Degree, taking the stage at 4:00 pm.  Featuring Stan Budzynski on guitar and vocals, Ron Bretz on bass and vocals, Dan Mead on drums, and Greg Hodge on keyboard and vocals, this seasoned group has been bringing its love of “Chicago Blues, Motown, Classic Rock, and all good music” to area stages since 1998.  If you’ve missed their performances at the Kalamazoo Blues Festival and other venues, now’s your chance to make up for it!

Martila Sanders

Next on the bill, at 6:00 pm, Martila Sanders and Gee-Q will fill your heart with excitement, kicking out a powerful sound reaching across multiple genres, including soul, R&B, classic rock, blues and an ever-growing list of powerful original material.  Band members Michael Gee (guitar and vocals), Bob Hunt (sax and synthophone), Jimi Tulk (drums and vocals), Mike Swartwood (bass), and of course lead singer extraordinaire Martila Sanders come together in a seamless unit that has to be heard to be believed.

The really great thing about this show is that, besides getting to hear great music and hang out with all your friends, both old and new, you get to support the 2015 Kalamazoo Blues Festival when you come down to the show.  The charge for all this fun is only $6.00 at the door, and every penny of it goes to help make the 22nd annual Blues Fest a reality.  Shakespeare’s has great food and drink, and you’re sure to have a good time.

So put the KVBA Sunday Series on your calendar for February 8!  Doors open at 3:00.  See you there!

Gregg Allman To Appear At The State Theater March 17

One of the best-known rock and blues voices to come out of the 1960’s is scheduled to take the stage at Kalamazoo’s State Theater on the evening of Tuesday, March 17 (that’s St. Patrick’s Day, for those of you who are looking for something really special to go with your green beer).  As a founding member of the one and only Allman Brothers Band and in his own storied solo career, Greg Allman has long been a gifted natural interpreter of the blues, his soulful and distinctive voice one of the defining sounds in the history of American music.

Allman, whose  2011 album Low Country Blues is a collection of classic blues songs produced by T Bone Burnett, will bring his signature sound to the State, offering a chance for long-time Allman Brothers fans, blues lovers, and everyone else to hear the man behind the legend.

Low Country Blues marks the legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Famer’s seventh solo recording and first in more than 13 years.  The album finds Allman putting his own stamp on songs by some of the blues giants whose work has long informed his own, from Muddy Waters and BB King to Buddy Guy and Magic Sam.  Named for the coastal Georgia region Allman calls home, Low Country Blues stands as a high water mark in an already remarkable body of work, rich with passion, verve, and the unerring confidence of a true survivor.

Allman’s instantly identifiable voice remains a wonder, wringing nuance and history from every lyric.  “I have an evolved throat,” he says.  “I think I’m a little more meticulous now.  I’m a real stickler for melody.  I used to think more about beat than I did about melody, but now I think about both of ‘em.  See, you’ve got to have beat, because first of all, you’ve got to feel something as well as hear it.  Both of those entities have to be really personified in my book.”

Over 45 years of performing have honed his distinctive voice into a “smoky, honey-thick, weathered growl”, that wraps around songs ranging from familiar Allman Brothers favorites to more recent selections, and the intimate setting of Kalamazoo’s unique entertainment venue will be the perfect place to appreciate it.

Tickets are $59.50, $49.50 and $39.50. Ticket presales are 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 29. Use the password “midnight.” Regular ticket sales begin 10 a.m. Jan. 30. Tickets can be purchased at www.ticketmaster.com, or in person at the State Theater box office.


It’s going to be a big weekend in Marshall on Friday, February 6, and Saturday, February 7, when a great lineup of local and area musicians will perform at the two-day celebration of blues and winter enjoyment.  Kicking off the festivities, the Duffield/Caron Project will be performing at the Franke Center for the Artsin the Lower Level from 9 to 11 PM on Friday, February 6 as part of the downtown Ice Wine and Blues event.  This will be a relaxed, laid-back, and seriously fun evening of music provided by Kalamazoo’s piano and vocal duo, featuring Tom Duffield on the keyboard and the wonderful singing talent of Lorraine Caron.  Refreshments will be available, and all your friends will be there.

Marshall Winter Blues Festival Poster

The excitement really kicks in the next night, Saturday, February 7, when Adrian Bagale, Kjell Croce, and Derek Smith, are set to perform in the lower level of the Franke Center from 5:00 to 6:00 pm, followed by popular Kalamazoo band Out of Favor Boys, who will play from 6:00 to 7:00 pm.  Special guest The Matt Besey Band will take the main stage at 7:00, with headliner Harper and Midwest Kind letting loose with their unique brand of high-powered blues, roots, and world music at 8:00.  It’s going to be a night to remember, so mark the Marshall Winter Blues Fest on your calendar, and get your tickets now!


One More Year At The IBC

The 31st Annual International Blues Challenge passed into history last night in Memphis, with Eddie Cotton, sponsored by the Vicksburg Blues Society, taking top honors in the Band Category and Brian Keith Wallen, representing the Dayton Blues Society, declared the winner in the Solo-Duo Category.  A detailed update on this year’s IBC, including a complete list of semi-finalists, finalists, and winners, is available on the Blues Foundation site.  Additional photos and details can be found by going to the Blues 411 site on Facebook.

Chris Canas, sponsored by the Detroit Blues Society, was the sole Michigan-based band to advance into the semi-finals, held Friday night, January 23.  The Jim Shaneberger Band and Hunt & Gator, representing the KVBA, and Big Boss Blues, sponsored by the Capital Area Blues Society, each made strong showings, delivering highly praised sets in the quarter-finals and, according to all reports, having a great time at the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world.

From the truly amazing abundance of music to be found on Beale Street and the surrounding area, to the plethora of restaurants such as the Flying Fish, Rendezvous, and Interstate Barbecue, to area attractions like the Ornamental Metal Museum, Stax Museum of Soul Music, and Morgan Freeman’s Ground Zero Blues Club in blue-history mecca Clarksdale, Mississippi, a trip to the IBC offers the opportunity to enjoy a great variety of entertainment, while rubbing elbows with hundreds of like-minded blues fans.  The KVBA congratulates the Jim Shaneberger Band and Hunt & Gator for their fine jobs in the competition, and encourages everyone to look forward to next year!


Day Two At The IBC

 Jim Shaneberger Band, Hunt & Gator Nail Their Second Sets; Awaiting Word From The Judges

Notes from Ralph Yingling, KVBA President, in attendance at the IBC:  “The vibe down here this year is a lot better than last, which can primarily be attributed to the weather.”  (For those of you who don’t remember, last year’s IBC  was a real challenge of freezing temps and icy winds, pretty much wiping out the usual street scene.)  “Last year’s polar vortex halted much of the spontaneity that is a hallmark of the IBC.  Lots more action this year on the part of attendees, folks in the streets, smiles, and so forth.  There continues to be an abundance of talents, varied styles, and the contributions from all quarters, young and old.  The blues really is alive for at least four more days!”

At this writing, we are awaiting word on whether any of our west Michigan bands have advanced to the semi-finals.  Preliminary reports are that no matter the decision of the judges, we can be justifiably proud of our musicians!

A few more photos from the scene:

West Michigan Hits The Stages At The IBC!

Tonight is the first night of competition at the International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis.  Ralph Yingling, KVBA president, is on the scene with Dennis Massingill of the KVBA Board of Directors, to watch as the KVBA contestants start their run for blues glory.  Hunt & Gator (Dave Hunt and Dave Allemang) are competing in the solo-duo category, while the Jim Shaneberger band is representing the KVBA in the band category.  Another Kalamazoo area band, Big Boss Blues, is also in town, sponsored by the Capital Area Blues Society (CABS) of Lansing.  Here are a few photos of places and events from the IBC!

“We’re Looking Forward To The Music”: Hunt & Gator Head To The IBC

The 31st Annual International Blues Challenge (IBC) kicks off this Tuesday in Memphis, Tennessee, and by the time the stage lights go down for the last time on Saturday, 250 blues acts from all over the world will have taken their best shots at winning the top honors at the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world.  This fantastic gathering of performers has to be seen to be believed, as anyone who’s ever made the trek—fans and musicians alike—to the IBC can attest.

Hunt & Gator and Jim Shaneberger Band

Beginning in 2002, the competition was split into two different categories, separating solo-duo acts from full bands.  This year, for the second time in its fifteen-year history of sending competitors to the IBC, the KVBA is sponsoring a solo-duo act along with a band.  Hunt & Gator, an acoustic harp and guitar duo formed by Dave Hunt of Seventh Son and Dave Allemang of Crossroads, will join the Jim Shaneberger Band as representatives for the KVBA on the IBC stages.

Dave and Dave, who have approximately sixty years of history between them playing in blues bands around the region, got together about nine months ago to expand their musical visions and explore new directions for performing.  Dave Hunt, as the front man, lead singer, and harmonica player for Kalamazoo’s longest continually-performing blues band Seventh Son, had been interested for some time in branching out into a more intimate approach to performing, and he and Dave Allemang, lead guitar player for another Kalamazoo veteran band, Crossroads, proved to be an ideal fit.

Both Hunt & Gator have extensive histories of prior performances at the IBC with their bands, with Seventh Son appearing twice and Crossroads competing no less than five times.  Both have very fond memories of their experiences at the competition, and Dave Hunt cites the good time he had in Memphis last year as his inspiration for pressing ahead with the idea to form a duo act.

“I had so much fun last year (when Seventh Son competed for the second time),” says Hunt, “that I came back with the goal of going again as soon as possible.”  To do that, he needed to enter the KVBA Blues Challenge with a different group, and so the idea for Hunt & Gator was born.

Dave Allemang of Hunt & Gator

“I’ve been playing acoustically for years,” says Allemang, “and this project gives me a chance to take that further.”  He has good memories of playing in a duo approximately ten years ago with well-known local songstress Annette Taborn at the now-closed Wonderful’s Funky Basement.  Allemang, who also contributes vocals to the Hunt & Gator duo, is eager to see where this new format can take them.

“This isn’t strictly a blues act,” Dave Hunt notes, explaining that, while their IBC set will be firmly rooted in the blues, he and Dave Allemang are working up a repertoire consisting of a wide variety of other musical styles, including folk, country, jazz, and classic rock.

“It’s a lot of fun exploring what’s out there,” says Dave Allemang.  “We’re developing an eclectic song list, including originals.  Some of the most enjoyable songs for us to work on are turning out to be country numbers, because the harmonies are so rewarding.”

Dave Hunt of Hunt & Gator

Hunt & Gator do have a secret weapon, something that may well make them unique among the acts at this week’s IBC.  Dave Hunt, an experienced harmonica player with a large collection of harps of all types, has been playing for some time with a rare bass harmonica, which was given to him by his wife Barb Hunt, a well-known blues supporter who passed away in 2011.  “It’s kind of a gimmick instrument,” says Dave, and not something that’s usually seen in performance.  “I’m using it to give some of our songs a special sound, and I think it’s going to help us stand out in the crowd.”

The KVBA has sponsored a solo act at the IBC on two previous occasions, and interestingly enough, the same performer—Doug Beckman—was the winner both times.  Beckman won the KVBA competition in 2001, the last year that groups competed in a single category, and represented the KVBA in Memphis in 2002.  He traveled to the IBC again in 2010 and took the stage in the solo-duo category.

And in a related development (as they say on the news), a third Kalamazoo-area band is heading to Memphis this week as well.  Big Boss Blues will be representing the Capitol Area Blues Society in the search for adventure, blues glory, and just plain fun.

Charles Schantz and Bill LaValley of Big Boss Blues

The list of performers at the IBC is long, the talent level high, and the competition is fierce, but the experience is an exciting and rewarding one for all concerned.  Be sure to keep your eyes on this space in the upcoming days, as well as on the KVBA Facebook page and the Blues Foundation site, for updates on the IBC and on both Hunt & Gator and the Jim Shaneberger Band as they make their way through the week.  We wish them all the best!


First Show in Second Sunday Blues Series Delights!

Second show scheduled for Sunday, January 11, with Gator Blues and Big Boss Blues Band.

by Lynn Headapohl

On a sunny afternoon in December, the Barrelhouse Catts brought their rich co-mingling of R&B, rock &  blues to Shakespeare’s Pub in Kalamazoo to open the new season of the Second Sunday Blues Series, a fundraiser for the KVBA. Led by songstress Ms. Donna, accompanied by Clark Whitemyer on guitar, Russell “Tazz” Bullen on 5 string bass, Patrick Mohr on harmonicas and vocals, and powered by Kevin “Chief” Griffin on drums, this group truly pleased this afternoon’s crowd.

The Barrelhouse Catts

The band, which has been together for approximately 4 years, recently added Whitemyer on guitar and Griffin on drums. Ms. Donna opened the set, showcasing her powerhouse vocals on the tune “Evil”. Next, Patrick demonstrated his skillful chops on harp and sang “You Don’t Have to Go”. Ms. Donna followed with her version of the Etta James classic, “Damn Your Eyes”, while both Clark on guitar and Tazz on bass delivered tasteful solos to augment her exquisite vocal. They didn’t stop there. The band went on to deliver choice renderings of Dinah Washington’s “Blowtop Blues”, upbeat “My Babe” and a tremendous performance of Eric Clapton’s “Old Love”. The “Chief” on the drums, emulating the beating of a broken heart, accentuated the moving guitar solo performed by Clark on his Gibson standard to support the soulful lyrics. This performance can be seen on YouTube. Turn it up!! They closed the set with the hard driving hit, “May I Have a Talk with You”, and they weren’t done yet.

Second time around is always so sweet. The group started with harp player Patrick delivering a scorching version of Jonnie Lange’s “Déjà Voo Doo”. Then, they hit that hard drop-down barrelhouse sound on “My Babe’s Been Steppin’” with Ms. Donna’s vocal dipping down low and soaring up to her masterful solid highs. Her insightful delivery of the beautiful “Did I Forget To Say I Love You” brought a tear to the eye. Tazz provided a solo befitting this sensual tune on his 5 string Yamaha BB Bass. Next, after a tasteful trip with Rockin’ Blue  “I Don’t Need No Doctor”, Ms. Donna took us on a smooth ride with “Storm Monday” before Patrick partnered with Clark playing slide on his Gibson flying V and tore it up with “Had Enough of the Blues” before moving to “Ain’t No Midnight Train”.  They closed with a high energy blues jam and finally concluded with a rousing original by Tazz entitled “Zilch”. All and all, a great note to leave this happy blues crowd on.

Kev Nichols and Blue Tuesday

The second half of the afternoon was not to disappoint with crowd favorite Kevin Nichols and Blue Tuesday. Unfortunately for Kevin, his fellow guitarist, Tony Riske, had endured a home fire the previous night and was not able to perform. Even without the layering of the exquisite trade between solos, Kevin managed to entertain the blues crowd with his hard-driving, albeit sensitive, renderings of many of his blues classics with his Fender Telecaster.

Backed by Heather Cryderman Kulaga on 6 string bass and Rex Hambone holding down the groove on tubs, Kevin brought us the blues with tunes like “Bringin’ Home the Blues”, “On the Stage” and “Preaching ‘Bout The Blues”. Once again, he made us believers with “No Kind of Angel” and “Shame Shame”. He brought us “Blues in Technicolor”, with his sensitive blues proclaiming his love for his wife, accentuated by the Jaco Pastorius style in the growl of Heather’s 6 string bass. He took us travelin’ with “Going Down To Memphis” and rounded out his offerings with a tribute to Bob Dylan, serving up a crazy version of “All Along the Watchtower”. After treating us with the southern blues rock tune “Whipping Post”, he closed the day with a righteous version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”. It was a great close to a beautiful Sunday of soul-stirring blues.

Thank you for your continued support to all those that attended this great event.  If you are anything like this writer, I can’t wait for the next show in the Second Sunday Blues Series, scheduled for this Sunday, January 11, from 3:00–8:00 pm. We are looking forward to bringing some hot blues to heat up this January cold with The Gator Blues Trio and The Big Boss Blues Band. It should be a great time! Hope to see you there, dancing up a storm and beating the winter cold.

For more info on the Barrelhouse Catts, you can find them on Facebook.

For more info on Kevin Nichols and Blue Tuesday,  go to kevinnichols.com.

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