Shawn Holt and the Teardrops at the 411 Club

Shawn Holt and the Teardrops

Review by Nick Hatzinikolis

If you are a true fan of the blues, and if you especially like Chicago blues, and if you were at the 411 Club on December 1, 2013 to see Shawn Holt and the Teardrops, you were not disappointed! From the first note of Shawn’s Starburst Gibson guitar, you know you were going to have a fun evening! Shawn is the son of the Great Morris Holt, “Magic Slim”, and it shows.  The intense energy and effort from the band made you appreciate all that Magic Slim had passed down to his son, who is the new leader and front man of the legendary Teardrops band.

We lost Magic Slim and mourned his passing in the spring of 2013, just before he was scheduled to play in Kalamazoo. You can easily see that Shawn picked up right where his legendary father left off. The band had that “groove” and “feel” as though they had been playing together for several years, even though they have not been all playing together for that long.

After the show I had a chance to talk to the band members to get their thoughts on how the blues is being received around the country, and to ask them for their views of Kalamazoo. Levis William (guitar, vocals) said openly that, “I hope to keep this going. When people see us play, don’t look at the age of the band but receive the music for what it is.  I (we) play like we may not be able to play tomorrow.”

When I asked Shawn about Kalamazoo and the people who came to the 411 Club to see him and the band play, he had a big wide grin and said “It was a fun night tonight! I appreciate everyone that came out to see us.  It took a them a little while to get up and dance , but when they did…oh man!”

Vernal Taylor and the rest of the band echoed the same thoughts on Kalamazoo, and wanted to give a special shout-out to the fans that showed up at the show, and a special thank you to everyone at the 411 Club for their exceptional hospitality!

Indeed, the Teardrops have had their share of heartbreak and loss this year. In addition to losing Magic Slim, they recently lost their road manager, and their drummer Brian Jones (BJ) was not with them at that time due to personal reasons.  Chris Biedron (bass) mentioned that they were all looking forward to the New Year.

In the words of Vernal Taylor (drums), “Shawn and the band have had the torch passed down to them, and they are here to keep it burning!”

Blues Lovers Have A Lot To Look Forward To At The 411 Club!

The good folks at the 411 Club are doing their best to keep West Michigan blues audiences from going crazy (or crazier) in this longest, coldest, and snowiest of winters by providing a fantastic lineup of blues shows in the weeks ahead. To quote KVBA president Ralph Yingling, “They are popping out shows like wildfire!”

Just look at the lineup below:

Tommy Castro opens the WRKR/Bud Blues Series at the State Theater that night (show starts at 8:00 pm). As anyone who’s heard Tommy knows, it’ll be a great show that’ll leave you wanting more, so head over to the 411 Club when Tommy leaves the stage to keep your blues high going. Crossroads the Resurrection will help you continue that blues high!

w/Gee-Daddy’s BIG Blues Review Featuring Martila Sanders and Big Boss Blues Band – 2/16/14
This is the third in the series of shows that benefit the Kalamazoo Blues Festival–all proceeds go to help put on the 2014 Festival. Doors open at 3:00 and music starts at 4:00. A great way to spend a snowy Sunday!

TAB BENOIT After Party w/ THE OUT OF FAVOR BOYS! – 2/21/14
Kalamazoo loves Tab! Any night with Tab is a good night, and the fact that he’s hitting the State Theatre on February 21 to continue the WRKR Blues Series is great news! It’s one of Kalamazoo’s worst-kept secrets that Tab’s fans can expect him to head over to the 411 Club after his show at the State to party with the Out of Favor Boys and all you happy folks. It’s the party of the winter!

JOE LOUIS WALKER CD Release Party  – 2/28/14

KVBA SUNDAY SERIES FUNDRAISER w/ The Steve Hilger Band and Seventh Son – 3/9/14

L’il Ed will bring a bit of Chicago to the State Theater that night, and then carry it over to the 411 Club, where his good friend JR Clark will help him rock the rest of the night–don’t miss it!

BIG BOSS BLUES – 3/21/14


THE KELLY RICHEY BAND Record Release Party – 5/23/14

Want to know more? Go to the articles on this website about the Sunday Series and the State Theater Blues Series, or visit the websites for the 411 Club and the State Theater. There is so much good live music in Kalamazoo–we are so lucky! Support live music–keep the blues alive!

Cold Weather And Hot Blues In Memphis: IBC 2014

by Sue Weaver, KVBA Newsletter Editor

January 2014 was a month to remember for a lot of reasons, and most of them had to do with the weather.  As one “polar vortex” after another barreled down out of the north, much of the country staggered under the twin assaults of brutal cold and blanketing snow, and Kalamazoo was no exception.  Schools and businesses closed, plow drivers and tow trucks worked overtime, and most folks hunkered down inside and tried to ignore the mounting piles of white outside their windows.  But even as temperatures sank below zero, bringing all normal motion to a halt, there was feverish activity in some corners of the city as the brave members of Seventh Son and assorted KVBA personnel prepared to make the long trek south to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

Seventh Son On The Stage At The IBC

Memphis and the IBC!  What was inspiring these intrepid souls to drive, fly (or, in one case, take that southbound train) over six hundred miles in the dead of one of the worst winters in decades?  Well, first, of course, there was the IBC itself, the largest gathering of blues musicians in the world.  For 30 years the Blues Foundation has been mounting the great competition that, this year, brought over 200 acts from around the world (France!  The Phillipines!)  to compete in the many venues on and near Beale Street in hopes of winning the ultimate prize and being declared the best of the best, at the IBC at least.

Then, of course, there was Memphis, most notably Beale Street itself.  Beale Street, which has a long and storied history, was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1966 and was officially declared the Home of the Blues by an act of Congress in 1977.  It’s less than two miles long, but it’s packed with places to party, from the ironically named “New” Daisy Theater, a fairly decrepit edifice that is nonetheless newer than the “Old” Daisy across the street, to the Rum Boogie Cafe, a favorite with crowds who somehow manage to negotiate its narrow spiral iron staircase even in the fairly inebriated condition that’s normal on Beale Street.

Cold morning in Memphis

Add all that to the many other attractions in the vicinity, from the Stax Museum of Soul Music to the Ornamental Metal Museum to–lest we forget–Graceland, and our IBC-bound Kalamazoo contingent was eagerly anticipating a week of fun and frolic in the–and this is the last, but oh-so-important, reason we were heading to Memphis–sunny, somewhat warm(er) south.  Silly us.

According to a travel site for the city, the average high temperature in Memphis for January is 49 degrees F, while the average low temperature is just below freezing at 31.  This may not seem all that great, but when you’re coming from a place where the mercury has regularly been sinking below zero, we’d take it.  Past experience had taught many of us to hopefully anticipate the possibility of even warmer days, and nights when we could stroll the streets (a big part of the IBC fun takes place outside the clubs, as you wander along Beale Street, taking in the music and atmosphere and meeting friends old and new) without wearing arctic survival gear.  We were going to Memphis to warm our hearts with the blues, to be sure, but we hoped to extend just a bit of that warmth to our external selves.

Oh well.  As we found ourselves on Beale Street that first morning (Wednesday, January 22), one travel horror story topped another, as we shared the gruesome details of our trips over the stormy miles.  As the Seventh Son band members and friends gathered outside IBC Central at the New Daisy to gather important information about schedules and such, we found that we had arrived in a city gripped in a record-breaking cold snap.  At least the sun shone brilliantly upon us as we huddled in our layers of winter clothing, but it was an empty promise.  For most of the week daytime temperatures stayed in the teens and twenties, and except for the occasional celebrant like the guy who, presumably numbed by the adult beverages readily available everywhere, was seen frolicking between the clubs in shorts, most folks hurried up and down the famous cobblestones and ducked inside at the first opportunity.

At the Rum Boogie Cafe

Okay, okay, enough about the weather, what about the music?  Let me just say that there is more than enough music being played in Memphis during IBC week to satisfy the most jaded soul.  A favorite pastime at the IBC is arguing about what is, and isn’t, the blues, and which bands do, or don’t, meet those criteria.  The acts at the IBC run the gamut of blues-related styles, from the most guttural interpretation of the classic delta blues all the way to post-modern guitar-hero rock-infused exuberance, and everyone has a passionate opinion about all of it.  Each band has passed a selection process to get to the IBC in the first place, and the level of musical competence and enthusiasm tends to be very high.  ”You’re all winners just by being here” is the message at the IBC orientation meeting, and every act is out to prove that true.

So, you get your schedule, you pick your poison, you pay for your pass or your wristband, you eat some barbecue to fortify yourself, and you head out on Wednesday night for the first night of the quarter-final competitions.  The KVBA’s IBC challenger, Seventh Son, was assigned the Hard Rock Cafe as its venue, and was the second act on the stage that night.  Kalamazoo family and friends crowded into the club (an apt description, as venues that are normally packed on IBC nights were rendered truly claustrophobic due to the huddled masses yearning to escape the frigid temps outside) to hear our boys deliver an outstanding set of their signature mix of classic and original blues and r & b.  It was pretty exciting, thrilling even!

However, an IBC set lasts a (very rigidly-defined) 25 minutes, so all too soon our boys were done, and we spread out looking for additional entertainment.  I personally found myself somewhat later seated at a front-row table (snagged with incredible luck and dexterity by KVBA Board member Colleen) at the Rum Boogie with several KVBA folks, happily enjoying the aforementioned wide variety of interpretations of the blues until well into the wee hours.  Such a night!

Stax Museum of American Soul Music

In the days ahead, the Kalamazoo contingent braved the weather (and it did help that the sun continued to shine, if not impart warmth) to spread out around the city and explore.  The Stax Museum of American Soul Music and the original Sun Records Studio offer truly amazing looks back into the history of some of the greatest music to come out of Memphis and the south, while the Ornamental Metal Museum, perched high on the bluffs over the Mississippi, the Memphis Museum of Art, the Belz Museum of Asian and Judaic Art, and other locales display wonderful things to admire, and opportunities to eat great barbecue and soul food, like the Rendezvous and the Four Ways Soul Food Restaurant, abound.  Some of us made a special stop at Xanadu Music and Books to visit with John Lowe, master craftsman of the Lowe-bow, a front-runner in the current wave of cigar-box guitars sweeping the blues scene.  On the last day a few of us made the 60-mile trip south to Clarksdale, Mississippi, home of the Delta Blues Museum and the Ground Zero Blues Club–more great history, more really heart- (and tummy-) warming food, and may I say, temperatures at long last above fifty–true cause for rejoicing.

Returning to Beale Street, Seventh Son performed late on Thursday evening, again winning over the crowd and pleasing its fans.  When the results of the two nights’ competition were announced, as it happened, our boys were among the majority of acts not selected to advance to the semi-finals, but we were so proud of them just the same.  IBC judges have a really Herculean task, sorting through and selecting winners from the overwhelming array of performers (and they are widely and regularly abused for their choices, as pretty much everybody has powerfully held opinions on who should and should not have been selected).  They make their choices, and the fact remains, there’s truth in the statement that just getting to the IBC makes an act a winner.  As other bands have observed in previous years, a huge part of the IBC experience is simply being there, where it’s all happening.  Meeting other musicians, hearing all the acts, networking and partying, and taking part in this great gathering of musical performers and fans is a reward in itself.  Okay, sure, it would be nice to win. But being there, cold, crowds, and hassles notwithstanding, is at least half the fun.  And I can say with confidence that fun was had by all.

In Clarksdale

As to who actually won, follow the link below.  Also, go look up the Blues Foundation to learn more about the organization that puts on all this mayhem, the acts that performed, and upcoming events.  And then, keep the blues alive by heading out to your local community to visit clubs in your area and enjoy the acts that appear there.  Plan to come to the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival on July 10-12 to hear this year’s IBC winner, as well as a fantastic lineup of local, regional, and national acts.  Watch this website for updates.  And above all, no matter what else you do, support live music and keep the blues alive!…


What a great week in Memphis! Lots more pictures to follow next week. Thanks t…See More


The KVBA Needs You: Become A Volunteer!

by Nancy King, KVBA Volunteer Coordinator

I am in the process of compiling a list of folks who are interested in becoming involved in volunteering at KVBA events.  It’s a great way to take part in blues events, meet your fellow music lovers, and help out the KVBA.

There are two main volunteer opportunities coming up:  the WRKR/Budweiser Blues Series at the State Theater (see the article about the upcoming Tommy Castro and Tab Benoit shows) and the Sunday Series fundraising shows at the 411 Club (see the article about the show planned for February 16).

The KVBA sets up a table at the State Theatre during the Blues Series shows where raffle tickets, KVBA memberships, and merchandise is sold.  We are looking for volunteers to man the tables to greet interested folks and give information about the KVBA and upcoming events and sell KVBA merchandise and memberships.

The dates we need volunteers at the State are February 14 and 21, March 14, and April 21.  See the article posted on this website on January 11 for the full lineup of performers on those dates.

The dates for the Sunday Series shows held at the 411 Club are February 16 and  March 9, 2014.  We need people who want to help with selling merchandise, memberships, raffles, and ticket sales at the door.

If interested, please email me (king-nancy or call 269-342-5733. Indicate which venue and the date/s that you would like to volunteer.  Please include your contact information.   And don’t forget:  in just a few short months we’ll be looking for volunteers for the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival–that’s an opportunity not to be missed!  Keep your eye on this space for information as the time gets closer.

Thanks for your help!

Nancy J King, Volunteer Coordinator

Gee-Daddy Blues Review, Big Boss Band Sunday, February 16

Kalamazoo’s 411 Club To Host Third KVBA Fundraiser To Benefit The 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival

Calling all blues lovers!  Make plans now to escape the snow and come to the 411 Club, at 411 N. Westnedge Ave. in Kalamazoo, on the afternoon of Sunday, February 16, to enjoy the exceptional music stylings of a pair of great bands and support the 21st Annual Kalamazoo Blues Festival at the same time.

Gee-Daddy’s BIG Blues Review Featuring Martila Sanders and Big Boss Blues Band will play for your listening enjoyment, while the friendly and helpful staff at the 411 Club will provide you with the best in food and drink.  KVBA members will be on hand to provide newcomers information about the KVBA and this year’s festival, offer the chance to become a member of the KVBA, and welcome one and all.  KVBA merchandise will be available for sale as well.

The 411 Club opens its doors at 3 p.m., with Gee Daddy appearing at 4:00, and Big Boss following at 6:00.  The charge at the door is only $6.00, and every bit of that goes to support the 2014 Kalamazoo Blues Festival.

Don’t forget to mark your calendars for the final show in the series on Sunday, March 9, when the Steve Hilger Band and Seventh Son, who recently represented the KVBA at the 2014 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, will appear.  See you at the club!




Celebrate Valentine’s Day With Tommy Castro At The State Theater

Tab Benoit and Tommy Malone To Appear February 21st

Veteran blues guitarist Tommy Castro will appear with his stripped-down, fired-up new band The Painkillers on Friday, February 14, in the first of the WRKR/Bud Blues Series at Kalamazoo’s State Theater.

Tommy, a perpetual favorite with local blues lovers, first picked up a guitar at age 10. He came under the spell of Eric Clapton, Elvin Bishop, Mike Bloomfield and other blues rock players early on, later falling in love with the blues guitar work of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy, Elmore James and singers like Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett and James Brown.   His searing guitar work and signature style have brought him numerous awards for performance and albums, and led to collaborations with B.B. King and many other greats of the blues.   You won’t want to miss this show!  Grab a date, or head down to the State on your own, and make your Valentine’s Day one to remember.

And don’t forget:  Tommy’s show is only the beginning!  There are three more shows in the series, so put them on your calendar–plan to get your series passes today!

February 21st – Delta Blues with Tab Benoit and Tommy Malone’s Two Man Band

March 14th – Windy City Blues featuring  Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials and  Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater

April 11th – Ladies Night featuring  Sharrie Williams  and Sena Ehrhardt

All shows are Friday nights at 8:00 pm.

Q-it-Up will be in the lobby at the State serving its amazing fire-grilled fare at each event as usual.


Get all four shows for only $60!  Series passes are available through February 14, and are only $60 with a State Theatre VIP Card, KVBA Card or WRKR Card–a maximum savings of $20.00.

Series Pass: January 7th through February 14th – $60

Individual Shows: $18 General Admission, $16 with a State Theatre VIP Card, KVBA Card or WRKR Card, $20 Day of Show

WRKR and State Theatre VIP Discounts available before Day of Show at the State Theatre Box Office Only.  

Limit 2 discount tickets per card.  Discounts not available Day of Show.

KVBA Member Bands To Play Gumbo Cookoff March 2

Big Boss Blues Band, 33rd Street Band, Out of Favor Boys to Play at Fundraising Event

 The annual Gumbo Cook-off will return to the Entertainment District for its ninth installment in early March.

The Gumbo Cook-off, organized by Bill Sarkozy to benefit Ministry with Community, will be held from noon to 7 p.m. Sunday, March 2, at 139 S. Edwards St. in downtown Kalamazoo. Almost 30 chefs from around the area will compete for best gumbo.

There will also be live music, a raw bar, celebrity oyster shucking and lots of gumbo.

Admission for the Gumbo Cook-off is $20 in advance, or $25 at the door.

Here is the schedule of events:

When: Sunday, March 2nd, 2014, 12-7pm
Where: The Entertainment District (Wild Bull and Monaco Bay) 139 S. Edwards St, Downtown Kalamazoo (map)
Cost: $20 in advance or $25 at the door, includes unlimited tastings, Low Country Boil & Raw Bar
Why: All proceeds benefit Ministry with Community

Timeline of Events:

12:00 PM: Doors open to the public
12:30 PM: Low Country Boil & Raw Bar Opens
Big Boss Blues Band (Wild Bull Stage) / 33rd Street Band (Monaco Bay Stage)
1:00 PM: Celebrity Oyster Shuckers at Monaco Bay
3:00 PM: Gumbo Tasting begins
3:30 PM: Out of Favor Boys (Wild Bull Stage) / Kris Hitchcock & Small Town Son (Monaco Bay Stage)
6:00 PM: Winning Chef Announced
8:00 PM: Last Call


For more information, call 269-217-3455 or go to

Gee-Daddy, Big Trouble, Crossroads Play Timber Ridge Event February 14-15

Blues And Brew-Ski Winter Fun!

Looking for a new way to have fun in the middle of this long, cold, very snowy winter?  Come on out to Timber Ridge Ski Area on Friday, February 14 and Saturday, February 15 to enjoy some of the best that Michigan has to offer:  craft beer and local blues.  Three KVBA member bands, Gee-Daddy’s BIG Blues Review Featuring Martila Sanders, Big Trouble, and Crossroads the Resurrection, along with Bob the Band, will perform at the two-day event.

Michigan craft beers will be featured, with several breweries presenting their best brews for your tasting enjoyment.  A new Bell’s Beer will be featured on Friday, Feb. 14–Happy Valentine’s Day!

The festivities run from 6:00 pm to 10:00 pm Friday night, and begin at noon on Saturday.  The performance schedule for the two days is:

Friday 2/14/14   6:00 pm:   Gee-Daddy’s BIG Blues Review Featuring Martila Sanders

Saturday 2/15/14   Noon:  Bob the Band

3:00:   Big Trouble

6:00:   Crossroads the Resurrection

Good music, great beer, and fun in the snow–it must be February in Michigan!  See you there!


Make Your Voice Heard: Take The Blues Survey

Online Blues Survey – Researching The Relevance of The Blues 

You know, these days everyone and his or her cousin has an opinion on the blues, and what it should or shouldn’t be. So here is a great opportunity to get your voice heard about the meaning and relevance of this historic music form in these digital and modern times.

A good friend is conducting this as work on their PhD thesis, might be a book…might be earth shattering. Might even be a keen insight into the minds of blues fans around the world.

So, if you are a fan of the blues, you can help us all find out more about what it is that makes the blues unique.

A  good friend of mine is conducting research around the relevance of the blues in the 21st century. You can help by following the link below and taking the online survey.

Afterwards, please share with friends, who also might be blues fans. This survey will run through February so get on it and spread the word.

Blues Survey

Thanks for your help,

Larry McCray To Headline Winter Blues Festival At The Franke Center In Marshall, February 8

Franke Center’s 4th Annual Winter Blues Festival



Held each year, the popular Winter Blues Festival returns for its fourth year with another sizzling lineup featuring Larry McCray.

The McCray style of blues is broadly appealing as his bold, brawny, often dazzling guitar lines are matched with confident, soul-drenched vocals; it’s that appeal that has drawn attention worldwide. He is undoubtedly up there with the very best bluesmen alive today. McCray is one of a handful of talented young blues performers leading the genre across boundaries and into the new century. McCray’s savage blues-rock guitar and warm, soulful vocals have drawn attention worldwide. McCray’s hard work paid off when he became the first artist signed by Virgin Records’ blues division.

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