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I've Got A Mind To Ramble
Even Germantown Gets The Blues
In less than three months, a blues festival came out of the blue and landed at the intersection of Burnett Avenue and Hickory Street in the heart of Germantown. While St. Elizabeth Catholic Church may be the spiritual core of this close knit community, Check's Café and Zeppelin Café are the social hubs on opposite corners.
Having a blues festival in his neighborhood has been the dream of Lamont Gillispie for many years. Lamont and his band, 100 Proof Blues, have been hosting a blues jam upstairs in the Zeppelin Café every Thursday at 9 p.m. since May 13. Its reputation has grown to be the best jam in town, attracting several other harmonica players whom Lamont has been mentoring.
Tim Cain, the owner of Zeppelin's, and John Murrow with Check's Café immediately bought into the idea of co-sponsoring the event. The weekend of August 13 and 14 was selected and the details quickly fell into place with the guidance of Gary Sampson, the KBS President. Tim and his son Nick, who manages the Zeppelin, worked on obtaining the stage, street permits, security and the beer sales. Since it is easier to get approval to close a street if you have an event that is raising money for a charity, it was decided that one dollar from every beer sold at the festival would go to MERF. When the last drop of brew was consumed, MERF received over $1,200. The sound was set up by Dana Roy with DMR Music, who is considering releasing a CD of the event. You must have tee shirts for the festival, so Tim suggested a design with the image of Lamont. Lamont's son, Jimmy, worked up the sketch with his dad's unmistakable likeness. The shirts sold out during the second day.
Selecting and booking the talent was left to Lamont, Gary and the KBS Board. Lamont knew Governor Davis & the Blues Ambassadors from his past gigs at the Slippery Noodle in Indianapolis. Davis got this early exposure to the blues as a teenager in Chicago going to the Regal Theater and helping at Walter's Corner, a West Side club where many of the blues legends played. With Davis selected to headline Friday night, Nick Stump was an excellent choice to close out Saturday. Stump had played guitar with the Metropolitan Blues All Stars during the Eighties and has recently begun performing again. Lamont wanted to help Stump's comeback.
After a briefly delayed start due to the rain on Friday, The Germantown-Schnitzelburg Blues Festival became a reality. As I approached the intersection from several blocks away, I heard the sounds of One Shot Johnny. Randy Colvin's falsetto voice and stinging guitar backed by his solid rhythm section got the festival off to a good start. The Saints followed with Bruce Lively fronting the band on vocals. This band of veteran musicians has been laying down their brand of Chicago electric and Memphis soul blues for thirty years. It was good to see them performing in front of a good crowd.
Davis opened his set with his signature song, "I Am The Governor," to make it very clear who he was. He proclaimed, "I'm going to make the blues a national holiday." After he quickly warmed up the crowd, he announced his three rules: 1. Have a good time, 2. dance and 3. "If you can't dance, fake it." "Party With The Blues" got the sedentary crowd on their feet. This four-way stop intersection went from a sit-in to a dance-in for the blues. Later in his set Davis played "Moonshine Whiskey" on a mandolin that once belonged to Indianapolis legend Yank Rachell. Steve Robbins provided some strong guitar solos. Davis satisfied everyone with a ninety minute nonstop set of blues injected with soul, R&B and rock influences. The first day came to an end with Davis' encore of "I Got My MoJo Working."
Saturday also had a rain delay which played havoc on the amps for the King Bees' set. They performed several songs from their recent excellent CD, Love Hasn't Killed Me Yet. Lamont and 100 Proof Blues followed. Lamont invited several of the harp players who have been sitting in at the Zeppelin for a brief jam. They included Rick Cain (King Bees), Denny Thornberry, Brick Marlin and Danny Hord. This impressive lineup was almost too much for the sound system when they played together. Lamont said later that he would like to do the harmonica showdown again next year but with each musician taking turns.
Finally it was time for the Nick Stump Blues All Stars, which included bassist Rick Baldwin from the original Metropolitan Blues All Stars. Nick sang many songs from the Metro days, including "Messin' with Your Hootchie Coo," "She's Good To Me," "Hillbilly Nation" and "Jelly Roll Baker." When everything wound down, it was a happy crowd that didn't want to leave. There was mingling in the streets like Main St. used to be. While Tim Cain and Lamont were watching the festival from the Zeppelin Cafe, an older patron came up and said, "Brother, you pulled one off tonight. I've been here for sixty years and have never seen this many people."
This festival will become an annual event, only next year it will be the first weekend in August so it won't compete with the St. Joseph Children's Home Picnic.
Ladies Night Out At Garvin Gate
Speaking of festivals, the Garvin gate Blues Festival will be October 8 and 9 at its usual location on Oak St. and Garvin Place. Friday will open with The Stella-Vees making their third appearance at the Gate. The dynamic duo of Moreland & Arbuckle will take you back to the Mississippi roots with Moreland's primitive and resonator guitars plus Arbuckle's wailing harp. Super Chikan will headline the evening with his Delta blues, straight from Clarksdale.
Saturday will carry the theme of Divas and Dames throughout the day, with all the bands featuring strong women vocalists. This local, regional and national line-up includes the Bryant-Stevens Band, Robbie Bartlett, Walnut Street Blues Band, Susan O'Neill & Blue Seville, Cheryl Renee with Them Bones and closer Deitra Farr. Farr is a Chicago blues woman who has spent a lot of time recently in Europe. Her thirty-five years in show business was given a boost when she was the lead singer for West Side Heat during the early and mid Nineties. In 1995, she appeared with that band at the Gate. She will be bringing guitarist Billy Flynn, who also played in West Side Heat. Before Farr's set, a tribute will be paid to the late George Unseld for his many years of financial support of the festival while he was Metro Councilman. We all hope that the next permanent councilperson for this district will continue assisting Louisville's oldest and best blues festival. I will fill you in on the festival's highlights next month.
Following Garvin Gate, there will be the second annual Ricky Mason Memorial on Sunday, October 10 at Stevie Ray's. A guitar donated by The Guitar Emporium will be given away to a worthy musician. The music is being finalized but may include the Stray Cats Blues Band, Bryant-Stevens Band, The Tony Tkac Band (Paul's brother) and some surprises.