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I've Got A Mind To Ramble
KBS 24th Anniversary Celebration
The Kentuckiana Blues Society's (KBS) 24th Anniversary Celebration will take place on Saturday, November 17 at the Vernon Club at 1575 Story Ave, in the basement of the Vernon Lanes bowling alley in the Butchertown neighborhood. This marks the fifth year in a row that the KBS has held their annual party at the Vernon. Founded in 1988, the KBS was incorporated by the state of Kentucky in 1989 and recognized as a 501(c) (3) non-profit organization. The first anniversary show was held at Bellarmine College in conjunction with Kentucky Homefront. The show included Byther Smith and the Night Riders, H. Bomb Ferguson, Henry and the Noisemakers and the Mudcat Blues Band. Chicago bluesman Smith recently turned 80 and still plays guitar in the Windy City. Ferguson has been described as "crossing the vocal style of blues shouter Joe Turner, the unbridled showmanship of Little Richard and the head gear of a well-aged Rick James." He passed away in 2006. Henry Woodruff of Henry and the Noisemakers was from Louisville and the first recipient of the annual KBS Sylvester Weaver Award. Da Mudcats are still going strong after more than 25 years of playing the blues in the Kentuckiana area. Most years the blues society would hire the winner of its local band competition to perform at the annual general membership meeting and show but there have been some other highlights along the way. The 5th anniversary celebration was held at Willie's Place at the corner of Preston and Oak streets. That show was headlined by Mississippi piano player, Pinetop Perkins. Perkins was backed by Louisville's own Foree Wells and the Walnut Street Blues Band. The tenth anniversary show at Stevie Ray's featured soul singer E.C. Scott. KBS co-founder and board member Keith Clements told me Scott made a dramatic entrance at the club, singing her first song while walking through the front door.
After I became president of the KBS in 2005, we made the decision to do something special for the 20th anniversary show in 2008. Attendance at our birthday parties had started to wane and we wanted to get more members to come out for the annual celebration. The show has always been free for KBS members, one of the benefits of membership, and we hope to keep it that way. KBS board member Les Reynolds recommended the Vernon Club. Dale McCall had just purchased the 100-year-old bowling alley and event hall from the Catholic Church and was starting to book events there. That first show at the Vernon featured The Beat Daddys from Nashville, Tennessee and Miss Lissa and Co. from Columbus, Ohio. Larry Grisham of The Beat Daddys was born in southern Indiana and raised in Muhlenberg County, Kentucky, so he is well-known in these parts. I'll never forget seeing the towering Grisham on stage playing his guitar while bowling balls rolled passed by his head. They've since enclosed the wire baskets of the Vernon Lanes, which is really kind of a shame. It made the show for me. Melissa Young of Miss Lissa is a fiery, petite redhead who can belt it out with the best of them. That first show was a big success drawing 200 blues lovers to the Vernon.
Several KBS members have told me our next anniversary show in 2009 was the best yet. JonBoy Slim, winner of our solo/duo contest for that year, opened the show. He has a relaxed, laid-back approach to the blues that makes you feel like you're sitting on a dock in the summertime with your toes in a cool pond of water. JonBoy was followed by Josh Garrett and the Bottomline from Houma, LA. Garrett plays an intoxicating mix of blues, funk and Zydeco that gets the crowd on its feet. But the hands down highlight of the night was our headliner Jimmy Hall. Hall gained his fame as the vocalist for the band Wet Willie and hasn't slowed down since. He was nominated for a Grammy award in 1986 while working with Jeff Beck and produced some noticeable recordings with Tommy Castro, Delbert McClinton and Louisville native Greg Martin of the Kentucky Headhunters. Martin had been tipped off, by the blues society of course, that Jimmy Hall was our headliner and surprised him at the show. Josh Garrett and the band backed them up and the result was a barn-burner. A lot of it is still a blur to me but at one point I remember Jimmy Hall walking off the stage while playing his saxophone. He proceeded to march around the room with a line of women behind him. That night, he was the Pied Piper of Louisville. I think they would have followed him all the way back to Nashville. We've built on that momentum and attracted 300-plus people to the Vernon every year since. The show in 2010 featured our solo/duo winners Jimi V and Screamin' John, the Stray Cat Blues Band and Shaun Murphy, former lead singer for Little Feat. Last year was another great show with solo/duo winner Jimmy Davis, band winner Little T&A and the raw vocals of Cee Cee James.
Long Tall Deb
The headliner for this year's show is Long Tall Deb from Columbus, Ohio. The band is led by statuesque vocalist Deb Landolt, who is originally from El Paso, Texas. They play a self-described form of "swampy, gut-bucket soul blues." In 2010 the band released its debut album, Diamonds on the Desert Floor. That recording contains all original music and was nominated by the Blues, Jazz and Folk Music Society of the Mid-Ohio Valley for the Blues Foundation's Best Self-Produced CD contest. More than 100 CDs were submitted to the contest and theirs made it to the top five. The CD has been getting a lot of airplay across the U.S. and abroad, and is frequently featured on the Sirius/XM satellite show "B.B. King's Bluesville." The band is putting the finishing touches on their second CD, Raise Your Hands, and we hope they will have copies available at the KBS party. Long Tall Deb will take the stage at 9:30 pm.
Gordon Bonham Blues Band
Gordon Bonham brings together a mix of styles ranging from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago blues, from big Texas shuffles to West Coast swing. Bonham played for several years on the road before settling in Indianapolis, Indiana. He has performed with several blues greats including Bo Diddley, Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Billy Boy Arnold and the "Ice Cream Man" John Brim. In 1995 he played with Pinetop Perkins and Robert Lockwood, Jr. at the grand opening of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. He also played off and on for ten years with the late Indianapolis blues mandolin man James "Yank" Rachell. Bonham was a founding member of the critically acclaimed band Cooler Kings before starting the Gordon Bonham Blues Band. Their CD Low Down and Blue was chosen as one of the Top Ten Releases of 1999 by the Indianapolis Star. He's played two European tours and continues to host a blues jam at the world famous Slippery Noodle Inn and appears every Monday with Indy's favorite all-star band Soul Bus. The Gordon Bonham Blues Band will take the stage at 7:45 pm.
Joe DeBow and Danny Henderson
Louisville musicians Joe DeBow and Danny Henderson won the KBS solo/duo contest earlier this year. They will represent the Kentucky Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge next February in Memphis. The duo will be the opening act for the night at 6:30 pm.
The Vernon Club will have blues music until 11:30 pm that night and food available from the Frankfort Avenue Beer Depot. We are confident this will be another great show hosted by the KBS but are not content to rest on our laurels. We are already working on next year's 25th anniversary show and hope to do something very special. As always, you can find out more about the KBS online at http://kbsblues.org/. Check us out sometime and we hope to see you November 17 at the Vernon.