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.”
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.
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
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!
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.
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!
27 Years With Kalamazoo’s Oldest Continually-Performing Blues Band
The myth of the seventh son, one of the classic themes in blues folklore, holds that the seventh son of a seventh son is given or possesses special powers; that he is preordained to be a maker of things, a healer, lucky or a devil. Blues great Willie Dixon wrote the well-known song about the magical seventh son that, since being released as a single by Willie Mabon on Chess Recordsin 1955, has been recorded and performed countless times by performers as diverse as Johnny Rivers, John Mellencamp, Mose Allison and, of course, Willie Dixon.
Perhaps some or all of that was in the minds of Dave Hunt, Doug Beckman, and Steve Kovach when they got together and began practicing in 1986, creating the band that played its first paying gig in February of 1987 (at the now long-defunct Park West Pub), and has been performing steadily ever since. While there have been a few personnel changes over the years (far fewer than in most groups), Seventh Son has remained on the scene as a well-respected musical presence, while playing a seminal role in the formation of the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association and the first Kalamazoo Blues Festivals, over twenty years ago. And as if that weren’t enough, the (appropriately enough) seven-piece band has represented the KVBA as a competitor at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, most recently in January of this year. In many ways, the history of Seventh Son is bound up with the history of the blues in Kalamazoo.
Seventh Son founder Dave Hunt (vocals, harmonica) had been playing locally with Black Cat Bone when he met newcomers to the music scene Doug Beckman (keyboard, slide guitar) and Steve Kovach (drums). The band came together with Mike Espy on guitar and Dave Homer on bass, and played several gigs around town before Patrick Banks replaced Dave Homer. When Mike Espy left the band in the late 1980’s, Arnold Langley (later well-known and loved as Dr. Bones) stepped in on guitar for close to a year before Mike Waldron (now based in Nashville, Mike has been playing with Lee Ann Womack for some time) came on board. Mike, too, was with the band for about a year, leaving in 1990 to be replaced by Scott Matteson, Seventh Son’s smoking guitar man to this day.
Dave Cleveland, who still rocks the keyboards with the band, took over from Doug Beckman in 1990, although Beckman frequently sits in for a set on slide in his signature Delta blues style. Brendon Frank took a turn on bass for a few years before Bill Hughes came on board in 2008, where he remains today. The final shape of the band came together in 1992 with the addition of a horn section, consisting originally of John Foster on trumpet and Dave Sheens on saxophone, with the current lineup of John Blissard and Todd Jones (both on saxophone) since 1994.
The list of clubs the band played back in the day reads like a history of blues venues in Kalamazoo and the surrounding region: Missias’, Club Soda, the Kozy Inn, Carlos Murphy’s, Wonderful’s, the Lamplighter, the Comfort Inn in Plainwell, the Rosebud in Grand Haven, the State Theater, the Silver Bullet, and others too numerous to mention, many of which have long ago left the scene. Dave Hunt was a founding member of the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association and served as president for a time, as well as acting as a driving force in the creation of the Kalamazoo Blues Festival, while Doug Beckman sat for a term on the KVBA Board of Directors. Doug was also, with Mike Irelan, the KVBA’s Blues in the Schools team for close to twenty years. Seventh Son has appeared on the Festival stages many times over the years, as well as appearing at the IBC in 2006 and 2014.
We are truly fortunate in southwest Michigan to have such a vibrant blues community, with so many talented artists, a thriving blues festival, and countless opportunities to hear live music and keep this great American art form alive. Seventh Son has been on the scene for most of it, and continues to play today. Be sure to catch them on Saturday, July 12, when they wrap up the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival and close out one more great celebration of the blues in style!
The 2014 KVBA Boogie Woogie Bob Peters Music Scholarship has been awarded to Luke Swoboda, of Plainwell High School. Luke, who was chosen from a number of talented and highly qualified applicants, was pleasantly surprised to receive the news that he had been named the second winner of the new award jointly created by the family of Bob Peters and the Kalamazoo Valley Blues Association.
Luke has been playing the trumpet since sixth grade, but it was an inspiring section leader who led him to dedicate himself to performing with the school’s marching band throughout his high school career. “That’s when I started to love it,” says Luke, who went on to step into the role of section leader himself in his last two years of school. Luke, who also played with the concert, jazz, and pep bands as well as performing in solo and ensemble arrangements, was named best section leader for marching band in his senior year.
“Music inspired me to set goals and strive to reach them,” Luke notes. ”It helped me to gain habits of hard work and discipline that will be applicable to the rest of my life.” That drive and discipline resulted in Luke’s being awarded the John Philip Sousa Award, which recognizes outstanding dedication and superior musicianship in a high school student. Called “the pinnacle of achievement in a high school band program”, the award has become a nationwide symbol of excellence in musical achievement. Luke, who was nominated for the award by his band director, carries on the tradition started by his father, who was also a recipient of the Sousa Award at Plainwell.
The KVBA Boogie-Woogie Bob Peters Music Scholarship was established in 2013 by the family of “Boogie-Woogie” Bob Peters, a well-known and talented keyboardist, guitar player, and music historian, who passed away in March of 2010. Peters, a popular figure on the local music scene for many years, was dedicated to using music to communicate and connect with others on many levels, leaving behind a legacy of music and relationships that has been kept alive by his family and friends. Martie Peters, Bob’s wife, and his sister TJ and brother Mike, teamed up with the KVBA to create and fund the scholarship, which is awarded to an area high school student based on his or her school and community involvement in music.
“Bob was incredibly passionate about music,” says Martie Peters. “The scholarship is a way of keeping Bob alive in our hearts and minds, and passing along some of his passion to others with similar passion. It means so much to me to know that through this scholarship we’re helping to keep Bob’s memory alive in the hearts and minds of so many people.”
“The things I’ve learned through my musical experience will stay with me,” says Luke, who plans to study engineering at Western Michigan University, possibly with an eye toward designing high-tech prosthetics. ”Where can you go that you don’t hear music? I know I’ll always have this in my life.”
Luke will be formally presented with the KVBA award at 6:00 pm on Friday, July 11, at the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival, at the Arcadia Festival Site in downtown Kalamazoo. Be sure to be there to help cheer him on!
by Mike Irelan
If you liked Selwyn Birchwood at last year’s Kalamazoo Blues Festival, you will be very happy with his new Alligator Records release, “Don’t Call No Ambulance”. It is a showcase for what we saw live on the festival stage in 2013, featuring 12 songs all written and performed by Selwyn, with sax, bass and drums backing him. Joe Louis Walker, among others, sits in and adds to the mix.
I really like the song “ Brown Paper Bag”. The CD covers many styles of blues, so there is a little something for everybody. The liner notes say it best: the album “captures the thrill of Selwyn’s live shows”, “embracing an eclectic mix of sounds and styles: ballads, traditional blues, funk and rootsy swamp rock”.
“Don’t Call No Ambulance” will be available June 9th. Alligator was kind enough to send me a promo, which you will be hearing on Bluespower!