Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Jim McCarty with The Millionaires

Just heard that legendary guitarist Jim McCarty is joining The Millionaires on Thursday at Callahan's Music Hall in Auburn Hills. McCarty has been a fixture on the Detroit rock-blues scene for decades, performing with Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Cactus, The Rockets, and his current band, Mystery Train. It should be a treat to see him perform in front of a 10-piece jump blues band. And tickets are only $5. For info, click

Live blues music in Detroit

Thornetta Davis
Looking for some good blues music to help bring in the new year?

On New Year's Eve, Mark "Pazman" Pasman heads an impressive lineup including Johnnie Bassett and Bobby Murray at  Callahan's Music Hall in Auburn Hills (see previous post).

Other great NYE choices include Mystery Train with guitarist Jim McCarty at The Blue Goose, 28911 Jefferson Ave. in St. Clair Shores (586-296-0950); and singer Thornetta Davis at The Harbor House, 440 Clinton St. in Detroit (313-967-9900).

Additional NYE options include RJ's Rhythm Rockers at Howell's Bar in Dearborn (313-565-6322),  the Carl Henry Band at The Treehouse in Taylor, and The Delta Five Blues Band at All That Jazz River Club in Detroit (313-331-1012).

If you're looking to lay down some licks to bring in 2011, check out the Open Blues Jam at Kellys Bar in Hamtown and the Full Tilt Boogie Blues Band Jam Session at Timber Wolf Tavern in Redford (313-937-1218).

There's plenty of blues leading up to the big party night too.

Tonight, catch Carl Henry at Sneakers Pub and Grill, 22628 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale.

On Thursday, enjoy the great jump blues and swing band The Millionaires at Callahan's Music Hall in Auburn Hills.

The fun continues in the new year.

On Saturday, Carl Henry performs a 1 p.m. show at Butcher's Inn, 1489 Winder St. in Detroit, and in the evening Champagne and The Motor City Blues Crew are at Bert’s, 2727 Russell St. in Detroit (313-567-2030).

On Sunday, Pete "Big Dog" Fetters performs a solo acoustic show at Dylan's Raw Bar, 15402 Mack Ave. in Grosse Pointe Park (313-884-6030).

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Blues Showcase

The 11th Annual Detroit Music Awards Blues Showcase starts at 8 p.m. Sunday at Memphis Smoke, 100 S. Main St. in Royal Oak. The fundraiser for the Detroit Music Awards will feature the music of Lester's Blues, The Boa Constrictors, the Greg Nagy Band, and The Alligators, who will perform a tribute to the late Steve Schwartz, guitarist for The Alligators who passed away recently. Billy Farris will fill in on guitar with the group. It's sure to be a great show. Donations will be accepted at the door.
Merry Christmas to blues fans around the world!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

'Almost Christmas'

Eastsiders may remember the late '60's-early 70's band the Delray Blues. In addition to the standard blues-rock band instrumentation, the Roseville-based Delray Blues also boasted a horn section and keyboards and played songs such as "Vehicle" by the Ides of March and "Sing a Simple Song" by Sly and the Family Stone. Bruce Cawthon was the lead singer.
The bass player from the group, John Groh, is now a songwriter who lives in California. This year, he's written a holiday song called "Almost Christmas." It's the kind of homespun tune that's great to listen to as you relax and maybe finish wrapping a few presents on Christmas Eve. Lots of pleasant imagery.
You can check out the song and download it for less than a buck at

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Win free tickets to Pazman's Rockin' Blues NYE 2011

Mark "Pazman" Pasman
Maybe Pazman should call this one a “Super-duper-session.”
Musician Mark “Pazman” Pasman, whose Supersessions have been popular in the Detroit area for years, has assembled an impressive all-star lineup for his Rockin’ Blues NYE 2011 bash at Callahan’s Music Hall.
Musicians scheduled to perform include guitarists Johnnie Bassett, Bobby Murray (longtime guitarist for Etta James), and “Big Al” Grebovic of the Broken Arrow Blues Band.
“There’s a guitar army right there, plus my (Gibson) 335,” Pazman said. “That’s a lot of guitar. It’s going to be an amazing evening with the depth and breadth of talent.
“It’s always a blast to play with any of these cats on their own -- combine them and it will be Detroit blues ‘guitarmageddon.’”
Pazman is especially pleased that Detroit’s “Gentleman of the Blues” is on the bill.
“We all look at Johnnie Bassett as the professor,” said Pazman, who has hosted his "Motor City Blues Project" show on WCSX (94.7 FM) on Sunday evenings for 22 years. “Playing with him is like going to class. I never do a show with him without learning something really important.
“Most people in Detroit, outside the blues-interested folks, have no idea (what a talented performer he is). If he were based in Chicago or New York, perhaps, he would be a major, major talent. He’s an international name. Over in Europe, he headlines festivals in front of 20,000 people.
“I try to work with Johnnie whenever I can. If you hear him play, it’s like seeing B.B. King or Buddy Guy. He has that kind of gravitas, talent and swing.”
Also featured at the show will be Pazman’s former bandmate Paul Randolph, a singer-bassist who has been performing with German nu-jazz collective Jazzanova; singer-harpist Jimmy “Pickles” Nicholls, who has played with Pazman for about 15 years after they met when Pickles won an on-air harmonica contest; Mark LoDuca on keyboards; and drummer Skeeto Valdez (The Brothers Groove).
“Skeeto may be one of the best drummers in the world and I don’t say that lightly,” Pazman said. “He is phenomenal.”
As the new year starts, memories of 2010 remain strong. The show will be dedicated to Steve Schwartz, guitarist with The Alligators, who passed away at age 56 last week.
"You should have seen the room full of blubbering blues musicians at his funeral," Pazman said. "He really was a loved guy.
“David Krammer, singer with The Alligators, said, ‘Man, I knew people liked the band and liked Steve, but I got three or four thousand e-mails or postings on Facebook and my phone has been ringing off the hook. I’m blown away.
“I said to him, ‘Steve was a real mensch, a real great person, and it shows the power of music.’"
Tickets to the Rockin’ Blues NYE show are $30-$35. Callahan’s is at 2105 South Blvd. in Auburn Hills. For more information, call (248) 858-9508.
To win a pair of free tickets to Rockin’ Blues NYE, e-mail the answer to the following trivia question to: Be sure to put JB Blues in the subject line. 21-over please. The winner will be randomly selected from correct responses and will be notified on Friday, Dec. 24.
Question: Before he formed his Supersession band, Pazman was in a popular blues group named after a type of salamander. What is the name of the group?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Funeral arrangements for Steve Schwartz

The Detroit Blues Society has shared funeral arrangement information for Steve Schwartz, longtime guitarist for The Alligators, who passed away Wednesday.
The funeral will be held at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 19 at Ira Kaufman Chapel, 18325 W. Nine Mile Road, Southfield, MI 48075-4021 (248-569-0020). Rabbi David Nelson will officiate.
Interment will be at Adat Shalom Memorial Park, 29901 Middlebelt Road, Farmington Hills.
Sincere condolences go out to Steve's family and friends.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Steve Schwartz, guitarist with The Alligators, passes on

Steve Schwartz
Steve Schwartz, guitar player for the Detroit-based blues band The Alligators, passed away on Dec. 15 of undetermined causes at age 56. He played with The Alligators for 21 years and solidified what became their signature sound.
He was the loving husband of Joyce, the father of Julie and Michael, the proud grandpa of Maliana, Lilly, Joseph, and Lawrence, and brother to Bob Schwartz.
David Krammer, Schwartz's longtime bandmate, called Steve "an extremely talented and insightful musician."
"Steve was the closest of friends," Krammer said. "We spent endless hours over many years, driving all over the Midwest. All those overnight drives, sleepless nights, and crummy hotels help forge a very deep friendship. Steve treasured his family and his life. Most of what we ever talked about was our family, our kids.
"He was rarely sick, he never complained. He was the rock, the peacemaker, diplomate, and our biggest cheerleader. All he ever wanted out of life was to be with his family and play music.
"Those of us on this side have to find a way to carry on without our beloved friend and family member. God bless him."
Steve Allen, of the Detroit Blues Society, expressed condolences.
"Steve was the living embodiment of a bluesman," Allen said. "He was a walking encyclopedia of blues history and not only did he play it very well, he understood its meaning, its history, and its social significance.
"He was a wonderful human being, always caring for others and the first one to donate his time for the right cause. I was proud to have him as a musician colleague, but most of all I was proud to call him my friend."

 To see a video of The Alligators performing live, click here.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Kim Wilson's Blues All-Stars

Kim Wilson
If you’re into the history of the blues, you’ll want to check out Kim Wilson’s Blues All-Stars on Thursday at Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd in Auburn Hills.
Wilson, 59, is a native Detroiter who is best known as a founding member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, along with guitarist Jimmie Vaughan. The singer-harmonica player-songwriter received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Blues Society in 2009.
Wilson has played and jammed with many blues legends, including John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
A highlight of his solo career was his 2001 recording “Smokin’ Joint,” which earned Grammy and W.C. Handy nominations.
At Callahan’s, Wilson will be backed by a stellar collection of blues all-stars. Here’s a list of the band members and some of the artists they have performed with:
Bassist Larry Taylor (Canned Heat, Jerry Lee Lewis, John Mayall & The Bluesbreakers, The Monkees, Tom Waits), drummer Richard Innes (Hollywood Fats Band, Buddy Guy, Rod Piazza, Kid Ramos, Junior Watson and Lynwood Slim), guitarist Billy Flynn (Jimmy Dawkins, Mighty Joe Young, Luther Allison, Pinetop Perkins), guitarist Little Frank (Lazy Lester, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Hubert Sumlin), pianist Barrelhouse Chuck (Sunnyland Slim, Blind John Davis, Jimmy Rogers, Eddie Taylor, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy).
Wilson and the band were nominated for a 2010 Grammy for their work on the "Cadillac Records" soundtrack, which spent 48 weeks at the top of Billboard’s Blues Albums chart.
Tickets for the show are $25 and $35. For information, click or call (248) 858-9508.
If you can’t make the show at Callahan’s Thursday, Wilson and the band will be performing Friday with The Bluescasters at Guy Hollerin’s in Ann Arbor. Call (734) 769-9800.

Other top blues shows in the Detroit area this week:

Tonight, catch Carl Henry at Sneakers Pub and Grill,  22628 Woodward Ave. in Ferndale.

On Friday, The Broken Arrow Blues Band will be at Nancy Whiskey's Pub, 2644 Harrison, Detroit (313-962-4247); the Carl Henry Band will be at The Treehouse, 12213 Telegraph Road, Taylor; Motor City Josh rocks The Blue Goose in St. Clair Shores (586-296-0950); the The Delta Five Blues Band will be at All That Jazz River Club, 8900 E. Jefferson, Detroit (313-331-1012); and The David Gerald Band performs at the Knights of Columbus, 4391 Larkins, Detroit (313-843-5233).

On Saturday, catch the Howling Diablos with General Cluster Funk at Callahan’s;
Detroit’s “Queen of the Blues” Alberta Adams with RJ's Rhythm Rockers at Cliff Bell's, 2030 Park Ave.,  Detroit  (313-961-2543), big SHORTY at the Cadieux CafĂ©, 4300 Cadieux, Detroit;  The Black Cat Blues Band Holiday Party at Johnny G’s, 27 Walnut,  Mount Clemens  (586-469-8388) and Motor City Josh is back at The Blue Goose.

To send an item to Joe Ballor for JB Blues, please e-mail

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

'Going Back to Our Roots'

Luther "Badman" Keith
Big City Rhythm & Blues magazine has scheduled its Christmas party, “Going Back to Our Roots,” for 4 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 19 at Kelly’s Bar, 2403 Holbrook in Hamtramck (313-872-0387). The party’s sure to be a wang, dang doodle with musical director Bob Monteleone leading an impressive list of talented artists, including The Stumbling Mice, Dave Edwards (from The Look), Luther “Badman” Keith, Laith Al-Saadi, Johnnie Bassett, Chris Canas, Vincent Hayes and other members of Big City Rhythm & Blues Orchestra.
The event will be more than just big fun as Robert Jr. and Sugar attempt to fill up their Airstream with donated canned goods for the food pantry at St. Florian Church (313-871-2778).

Friday, December 10, 2010

Detroit Blues Society helps Toys For Tots, continues headstone project

The graves of Uncle Jessie White and Louis "Mr. Bo" Collins at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit have headstones thanks to the Detroit Blues Society.

Mike Boulan, president of the Detroit Blues Society, relaxes in the control room of the No Cover recording studio in Oak Park.
The Detroit Blues Society has always been an active organization. Whether it’s an organized fundraiser -- such as supplying headstones for the graves of late Detroit bluesmen -- or simply providing support to local and national touring musicians, the DBS is a proactive group.
At Saturday’s monthly meeting and jam, “Blues and Toys For Girls and Boys,” at Callahan’s Music Hall, the DBS hopes to raise money and toys for the U.S. Marine Corps Toys For Tots Foundation. Anyone who donates $10 cash or a new, unwrapped toy worth $10 or more will receive a free blues music CD of their choice.
“We’ve partnered with them in the past,” said Mike Boulan, DBS president. “We’ll gather up whatever toys and money are donated, put them in a big basket and present it to the Marines.”
The group was formed in 1985 as The Detroit Country and Classic Blues Society to provide an opportunity to jam with local and touring musicians. In 1992, it was renamed the Detroit Blues Society with a goal to increase public awareness of blues music in Detroit.
Through the years, the jamming has remained an important component. One of Detroit’s top blues bands hosts each month’s meeting and performs an hour-long set. An open jam follows, with some of Detroit’s top talent often participating.
This month’s jam session will be hosted by singer-guitarist Robert Penn and his band, which has been prominent in the Detroit blues scene for years.
“We’re not just a preservationist-type society,” Boulan said.  “We encourage everyone to come down, bring their instruments, and perform.”
The society recently completed a fund-raising project to place headstones on the graves of Uncle Jessie White and Louis “Mr. Bo” Collins at Forest Lawn Cemetery in Detroit.  Uncle Jessie, who was prominent in keeping the blues alive in Detroit during some down times, died in 2008. Mr. Bo, who performed in the style of B.B. King, passed away in 1995.
“(They) were cut from a different cloth than today’s people,” Boulan said. “You just can’t meet a nicer person on the face of this planet than either of these gentlemen.”
The DBS has also placed headstones on the graves of Son House, the Butler Twins (Clarence and Curtis Butler) and Calvin Frazier.
“Some of these people were personal friends of mine, and elder statesmen of the blues, that lived into their later years … and didn’t have a lot to show for it because they were bluesmen their whole lives and it’s not a lucrative field,” Boulan said. “Sometimes, they ended up in ummarked graves.
“Wolfgang Spider, one of our board members, took it upon himself to put a stone on a grave, which kicked this whole thing off. In the course of doing that, he started to become aware of how many of his personal friends were lying in unmarked graves and it really became much more of a pressing issue and something that we’re going to remain focused on for a long time to come, because we think this is a wrong that we can right.”

The DBS Holiday Meeting and Jam starts at 9 p.m. Saturday at Callahan’s Music Hall, 2105 South Blvd. (just east of Opdyke), Auburn Hills.  The public is welcome and admission is free. For information, call (248) 858-9508 or click For information on the Detroit Blues Society, click

To see a video of Mike Boulan discussing the DBS headstone project, click here.

Contact JB Blues via e-mail at

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

'Christmas Collection' and 'X-Mas in Jail'

Tired of hearing “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer” or “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” yet? It doesn’t take me too long to tire of hearing the holiday favorites that radio seems to continuously pump out starting in early November.
That’s one of the reasons I thoroughly enjoy some solid blues to get me in the Christmas mood.
My favorite holiday blues CD is 1992’s “Christmas Collection” by Alligator Records. It starts strong with a rockin’ “Merry, Merry Christmas” by the late, great Koko Taylor. You certainly won’t hear the folksy “Christmas Time in the Country” by Kenny Neal on commercial radio. There are a few traditional tunes on the CD – such as Elvin Bishop’s “The Little Drummer Boy” and Charlie Musselwhite’s “Silent Night” – but they have their own unique spins on the tunes. Other artists featured on the recording include Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials, Katie Webster, William Clarke, Tinsley Ellis, Charles Brown, Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks, Little Charlie & The Nightcats, Saffire – The Uppity Blues Women, and Gatemouth Brown.
Alligator’s other holiday release is 2003’s “Genuine Houserockin’ Christmas,” featuring, among many others, Carey Bell, Shemekia Copeland, Cephus & Wiggins, The Holmes Brothers, and Marcia Ball.
For a gritty Detroit take on the holiday, check out the Howling Diablos’ 2008 EP release “X-Mas in Jail” on indie label Funky D Records. Tino and the boys deliver their unique funky takes on “Back Door Santa” and “Another Christmas Story (Ten Below Zero),” as well as two versions of the title track, a studio “felony mix” and a raucous live recording.
When you’re done listening, you’ll know what it’s like to be “locked down in Jackson, spending Christmas in jail.”
What’s your favorite Christmas blues recording?

Monday, December 6, 2010

Easy does it

There are some guitarists who seem to want to impress you with the difficulty of the leads they are playing. Texas guitarist Smokin' Joe Kubek, who held court with musical partner Bnois King in front of a SRO crowd at Callahan's Saturday, is quite the opposite. Whether playing slide,single-note leads or intricate rhythm to back up King's leads, Kubek makes it look totally effortless. Very impressive. Kubek and King have been together for over 20 years and it is evident in their live show. There's little wasted time and they work extremely well together, blending two different styles into a whole that surpasses the individual parts.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

'Have Blues Will Travel'

Bnois King and Smokin' Joe Kubek
Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King stop at Callahan's Music Hall Saturday as part of their tour supporting their fine new Alligator Records' release "Have Blues Will Travel." Ann Arbor's Lester Hambone Brown opens.

I talked by telephone with Smokin' Joe recently during his tour stop in Nashville. He and Bnois King are known for their solid one-two punch of Lone Star blues-rock and the onstage chemistry they have developed from a collaboration of over 20 years.

Like many musicians, Smokin' Joe can't wait to go on the road, and then, when on the road, looks forward to going home to Texas.

"I love being on stage," he said. "I get a lot of gratitude being on stage. It’s a total privilege. Not many people have their dream come true and I’m fortunate to have mine come true."

For a complete report on Smokin' Joe Kubek and Bnois King, click here.

To contact Joe Ballor regarding items in JB Blues, e-mail

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Alberta Adams: Detroit's Queen of the Blues

Vocalist Alberta Adams, Detroit's longtime Queen of the Blues, performs a free concert at 2 p.m. Sunday at the Oak Park Public Library, 14200 Oak Park Blvd. (248- 691-7480). She'll be joined by the RJ Spangler Trio (drummer RJ Spangler, guitarist Ralph Tope and organist Duncan McMillan).

Adams began her career as a dancer in the 1940s, but soon switched to singing, touring with big name musicians such as Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, T-Bone Walker and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson.

Her solo career enjoyed a resurgence starting in the 1990s with her association with manager/musician RJ Spangler. She recorded two CDs for the now defunct Cannonball Records label and then moved to Detroit-based Eastlawn Records. Her third record with Eastlawn, "Detroit Is My Home," features collaborations with pianists Mark "Mr. B" Braun, Al Hill (Bette LaVette) and Ann Rabson (Saffire). Alberta has also recorded for the Chess, Savoy and Thelma (Gordy) labels.

Despite her advanced age, Alberta continues to tour. Check out her performance Sunday at the Oak Park Library and pick up one of her CDs. She's a true original.