by Marty Spaulding
I unfortunately am the bearer of bad news this evening.
After many years of fun, music and camaraderie, it is time for us to turn the page.
We began the 411 with grand expectations and many great contacts in our little black blues book. As time has marched on, we have met some of those expectations, while others have been very elusive.
We have been, like most live music venues, fighting the shift in demographics. The live music crowd is getting older, going out less, and there has been a noticeable void in a younger audience to fill those seats.
We have been privileged to have had many of the monsters of the Blues on our stage over the years. Jeesh. Where do we start ?
Joe Louis Walker, Jimmy Johnson, E.C Scott, the late, great Magic Slim, Lurrie Bell, Carl Weathersby, Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials, Bobby Parker, Larry McCray, Eddie Shaw … dozens and dozens of the heavyweights … national touring bands … have been with us. many have become good friends of not just the staff, but many of the customers as well.
Regrets: We weren’t around earlier. I would have so loved to given stage to Junior Wells, Robert Ward, Phillip Walker, Eddie King … and so many others that left us earlier.
But let’s not forget the local and regional bands. I thought for sure we’d be hosting the Seventh Son 50th anniversary show (that’s next year … right ?)
As the tides flowed and ebbed, we reached out into other forms of music with varying degrees of success. But our heart has always remained at home with the blues.
And let’s not forget the 411 “family”, whose eccentric dysfunction begins right at ground zero with the OFB. Kalamazoo’s longest running continuous jam session has been resident at the 411 from the get-go.
We’ve had every horn blower and guitar stringer worth their salt come and visit us at some point over the years. Even Frankie Ballard has at times considered our stage his backyard. And let’s not forget our annual throwdowns with Tab Benoit and many other players after their State Theatre gigs. It was a special night when we got to see Pinetop Perkins sitting at the bar swapping lies with the regulars.
And we cannot understate the commitment that we have seen from the KVBA. Never before have I experienced such a DEDICATED bunch of people that stick to their guns in promoting a genre. To Ralph, Colleen, Sue, Dennis and so many others I can only say thank you, thank you, thank you. You have been right there in the trenches with us the whole way while you have been fighting many of the same demographic battles. It has not gone unnoticed.
Now, sadly the 1959 Hammond B-3 is headed for the mothballs.
But this is not “just” another bar closing. For me, it is a curve in the path of a voyage that I began the first time I saw BB King, live in person, and brought the man to the stage in a golf cart back about 1983. That’s a 30 year trip for me.
Detoured through 10 years, 520 radio shows, of broadcasting and netcasting the blues to everyone from Old Ruby in Battle Creek and AC Burroughs on the northside of Kzoo to people across the globe on the internet broadcast.
And all those years emceeing the Bud Blues shows at the State. Thank you, Kevin Brady.
Don’t for a second believe that this is easily done. It is the hardest thing I’ve done since I gave up the radio show back in 2000. There have been a few sleepless nights arriving at this decision.
But the math hasn’t been working in a while, and it’s time to go out on top of our game instead of waiting for the inevitable to overtake us like a train in the fog.
Our last “big time” show is October 11 when we are joined by our long time friend, bluesman Larry Garner.
OFB will continue the Thursday night jam session through the end of October.
Watch the schedule for other events that are pending.
Your patronage and friendships are worth every penny we’ve spent chasing the dream. But now it’s time to make those changes that life often tosses in our lap.
Thank you, my friends. I think many of you knew this was inevitable, today we just make it official.
Larry Garner will bring his Baton Rouge, LA-based road show to the 411 Club in Kalamazoo, MI, on Saturday, October 11. Local favorites The Out of Favor Boys will open the show, hitting the stage at around 7:30 pm. Doors will open at 7:00 pm. Advance tickets are $10, and $12 on the day of the show.
This will be the last show featuring a national blues headliner at the 411 Club, which recently announced plans to close at the end of October.
Larry is a real-deal bluesman who appeals both to blues traditionalists and to those who prefer a more contemporary sound.
Among other accolades:
Larry Garner and The Boogaloo Blues Band won the 5th Annual International Blues Challenge back in 1988, and has toured extensively since. Larry is a five-time Blues Music Award nominee, once for Most Promising Artist, and four times for Contemporary Male Blues Artist.
Larry was inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame in 2002. The BBC honored Larry as its Bluesman of the Year, and Larry was honored as Blues Songwriter of the Year three times. Larry was twice named Bluesman of the Year Award by Real Blues Magazine.
What others are saying:
“Larry Garner is perhaps the most talented blues songwriter alive today, one of the top five bluesmen on the planet.”- Real Blues
“Garner’s mellifluous lead guitar chops are akin to B.B. King’s and are relatively free from rock influences … Extremely musical and imminently listenable blues that should bring the name Larry Garner to a large audience.”- Blues Revue
“If you haven’t discovered the blues brilliance of Larry Garner, then you should jump on this bandwagon. These are blues for today, good to the last note stuff.”- Big City Blues
“Larry’s an undiscovered treasure lurking in the bayous. “Dr.Blues” himself thinks that you should give him a spin. It’s superior blues!”- Backyard Blues, Long Island Blues Society
“Is Larry Garner the best songwriter in blues today? Yes, easily.”- West Coast Blues Review
“In a decade when veterans and youngbloods alike rely too heavily on overdone standards and cover material, Garner churns out clever, challenging, uncompromising and thoroughly contemporary songs.”- Living Blues
This will be your last chance to hear one of the great artists of the blues at the 411 Club, long known as “Kalamazoo’s Home of the Blues”. Be sure to make it there to hear Larry and to celebrate more than six years of great blues at the 411!
by Mark Patrick
The King Biscuit Festival is held in early October in the town of Helena, Arkansas. (This year’s dates are October 8-11.) This unassuming locale is historically important, as it features the first bridge across the mighty Mississippi River south of Memphis, and all of the attendant economic power this once entailed. It is also located directly across the river from the Mississippi Delta region that fostered so much of the music we call the Blues.
Helena is the home of the longest-running blues radio show in the country, “King Biscuit Time”, broadcast by KFFA from its location right behind the festival’s main stage on Cherry Street. Sonny Boy Williamson was once a DJ at the station that long ago helped to crystalize blues music in the area. Muddy Waters and BB King would come home from the fields every day just to listen to the King Biscuit Hour, according to Jim O’Neal, editor of Living Blues Magazine. I’m thinking Elvis Presley was listening in, as well, don’t you? During the festival you can sit in the audience, watching and listening to Sonny Payne interview folks, feature live music, and spin the blues, all while you’re rubbernecking to glance over at Anson Funderburgh, Sugar Blue, James Cotton, and so many others.
But what is it about the Biscuit itself? It is a unique combination of free and paid festivals held at the same time in the same place. The paid festival features a permanent bandstand whose audience sits on the side of a gently sprawling levee, from the top of which you can see the Big Muddy. Starting Wednesday with a blues jam dedicated to Michael Burks, this festival stretches over four days, ending late Saturday night. During those four days you’ll be treated to great acts, polite people, and a really good time.
You might see Kenny Neal do a crowd walk or maybe wonder what he’s doing holding that bullfrog as he makes his way to the top of the levee to give it a downhill path back to the water. Maybe you’ll see Hamilton Loomis during his set climb the pillars holding the stage cover up, plug into the guitar-shaped neon Budweiser sign that has a real guitar behind it, tune up, and play that!
Excellent band follows excellent band. But… the free festival has five more stages stretching all of the way down Cherry Street, and showcases some of the most revered bluesman around, great national and regional acts, and some of those up-and-coming acts that you can tell your friends that you saw when “nobody else” knew ‘em. Cherry Street, closed to vehicle traffic, is decked out with booths and buskers running for blocks. It really reminds me of Christmas time, and it’s the best example I’ve found of everyone getting along as they should be.
Taking a stroll, you might catch someone like Blues Music Award Winner Watermelon Slim, just setting up on the sidewalk to entertain as a busker. Or you might catch a rising luminary like Samantha Fish with her friends, stopping to catch a couple of Slim’s songs. Maybe you’ll be fortunate to catch Liz Mandeville or Marquise Knox on a corner sidewalk, plying their trade with verve. You’ll always find music and good cheer coming from the booth for Big City Rhythm and Blues magazine. Deak Harp and Dirk Wissbaum are two of their “regulars” who annually add their brands of the blues to the free sample magazines handed out by Sugar Mae and Robert Jr.. Down the street, Quicksand Martin sets up a backline in front of his store, and it seems there’s always a jam going on there, day and night. Robert Belfour, Tyrannosaurus Chicken, Billy Gibson, Little Jimmy Reed: the blues is there and thriving.
The other side of the levee features the Helena Firefighters’ campsite called Tent City. Many people will stay at the Isle of Capri casino, located just over the river on the Mississippi side, as it has a shuttle and most of the musicians quarter there. An added perk, new for the upcoming 2014 festival will be a free shuttle to Helena residences and local accommodations. You can find accommodations around Helena, but also ranging from just north in Tunica’s massive casino complex to just south in Clarksdale where there is more late night blues entertainment and so much to do!
Helena’s firefighters provide a safe, close camping experience for tents and RVs alike. No electricity, because during the Mississippi’s annual flood stage, this flat camp ground can be 30 or more feet underwater. But they provide inexpensive ice, firewood, and the best cold showers I’ve ever experienced! In the past, Michael Burks would hold court there while he camped and provide advice to young bluesmen like the Peterson Brothers. You might stumble upon another of Michael’s protege’s, Marquise Knox, jamming at a campfire, providing his old soul blues as you sit there wondering how can he still only be 23?
Maybe you’ll be wondering “That sounds like a tuba” as the master grant writer, Heidi Knockenhauer, puts her stamp of approval on the festivities. Then here comes Blue, carrying his mysterious jug of blue antifreeze. When he offers you a sip, you indulge, because though you may not know what’s in it, you do know it’s a Biscuit tradition and an honor to be included. And don’t forget the Spoonman with his artfully crafted Bluesware.
The Biscuit finally ends, but it is well known that your holiday is not over. On Sunday you’ll find that these same people all make the 30 minute drive to Clarksdale, deeper into the heart of the Blues Motherland. The CatHead Music Festival, the Rock and Blues Museum with delightful emcee Marc Taylor, and a long stop at Deak Harp’s Harp Emporium precede the afternoon’s main festivity: the two stages with bands and an all-day jam at the Hopson Plantation. Pinetop Perkins was once employed here in his youth, and today it is the home of the infamous Shack Up Inn. It’s a simply fantastic way to top off your great vacation to the Biscuit. People come from nearby states and some not so near, traveling from places as far-flung as Belgium, Germany, New Hampshire, and really everywhere. They try their darndest to make it the next year, too. “What is it” about the Biscuit can be written about, but it can’t really be explained. It has to be experienced. See you there!
Sunday afternoon a little piece of blues heaven smiled down on the blues faithful gathered at The 411 Club in Kalamazoo. After the dust settled and the ballots were counted KVBA is happy to announce that Hunt & Gator (Dave Hunt and Dave Allemang) will represent us at the solo/duo act challenge in Memphis this coming January.
Facing very strong competition, The Jim Shaneberger Band ultimately was the choice of the panel of judges – they will represent us at the band challenge at the International Blues Challenge (the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world).
Kev Nichols & Blue Tuesday and Cleveland & Vandenberg came in very, very close second place in their respective categories. Rounding out the field were Kathleen & The Bridge Street Band and The Steve Hilger Band. As you might be able to guess there was big blues love all afternoon! Thanks to our acts for taking part, our judges for doing what they do, and to The 411 Club for opening their doors – and, of course, to the blues faithful who supported the blues challenge and live music. We’re so lucky to have all of you.
- 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
Get this added to your own personal Facebook events
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
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.
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.
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!
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.”