Monday, December 17, 2012

Larry McCray to headline at Anti-Freeze Blues Festival

Larry McCray

Singer Andre Williams has suffered a stroke and will not be able to perform at this year's Anti-Freeze Blues Festival on Jan. 5. Guitarist-singer Larry McCray will be substituting for Williams.
Ticket prices have been adjusted to $20.
The Anti-Freeze Blues Festival is a two-day event at the Magic Bag in Ferndale that benefits the Detroit Blues Society.
Performers on opening night (Jan. 4) include Savoy Brown featuring Kim Simmonds, Laith Al-Saadi and Pazman’s Super Session. Tickets are $25.
Eddie Burns (Blues photos by Don McGhee)
On Jan. 5, the lineup will include McCray, Jim McCarty and Jeff Grand, The Rootsologists featuring Laura Rain, and the Boa Constrictors.
For information, click

Funeral arrangements for Eddie Burns
Funeral arrangements have been announced for Detroit bluesman Eddie Burns, who died Dec. 12 at age 84.

 Visitation will be from 2-8:45 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 19, at Cantrell Funeral Home, 10400 Mack Ave. in Detroit. The funeral will held at 11 a.m. Thursday, Dec. 20, at Lemay Church of Christ, 2500 Lemay at Vernor in Detroit.

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Friday, December 14, 2012

Magness receives 5 Blues Music Awards nominations

Janiva Magness

Alligator Records artist Janiva Magness, a Michigan native, has been nominated for five 2013 Blues Music Awards, presented by The Blues Foundation.
Magness, a vocalist/songwriter who attended Mount Clemens High School while living with her grandparents, was nominated for the prestigious B.B. King Entertainer Of The Year award. She also received nominations for Album Of The Year and Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year for her recording “Stronger For It,” Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year, and Song Of The Year for “I Won’t Cry” (by Magness and Dave Darling) from “Stronger For It.”

Detroit native Bettye LaVette was also nominated for the Contemporary Blues Female Artist Of The Year award.

The 34rd Annual Blues Music Awards will be presented in Memphis on May 9, 2013 at the Cook Convention Center, and will be broadcast live in their entirety in Sirius XM's B.B. King's Bluesville.

To see a list of nominees, click on

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Eddie Burns dies at age 84

Eddie Burns

Harmonica player Little Sonny reports that his longtime friend, Eddie Burns, passed away Wednesday at the age of 84.
Burns, who was born Feb. 8, 1928 in Mississippi, was an outstanding  blues singer, harmonica player and guitarist who was active on the music scene for seven decades. Burns settled in Detroit in 1948 and was a member of John Lee Hooker’s band. He backed up Hooker on the recording “Real Folk Blues.” Burns also had several solo recordings of his own.
“Eddie Burns and Washboard Willie were the first guys who gave me a chance,” Little Sonny said. “They helped me become what I am.”
Little Sonny performed with Burns on his last show in 2008 at the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival at the Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts that also featured Bobby Rush and Otis Clay.
Burns was already ailing at that time, and Little Sonny was not sure it was a good idea, but, in retrospect, he’s glad he was able to perform with Burns at what turned out to be his friend’s last show.
“I did some of my first stuff with him and his last stuff was with me,” Little Sonny said. “It was a miracle how it worked out.”
Little Sonny described Burns as a “lost legend.”
“So many people don’t know who he is, but he was such a great artist.”
Funeral arrangements are pending.

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Bobby Murray opens for old friend Robert Cray

High school graduation can often provide memories that last a lifetime
For Ferndale blues guitarist Bobby Murray, it was a day that changed his life forever.
“It was June 9, 1971,” Murray said. “I remember the date, because it was my birthday and Albert Collins performed at our high school graduation. I turned 18, saw Albert Collins and graduated from high school. It just blew me away.”
Bobby Murray (Photo by Joe Ballor)
Also watching Collins at the ceremony at Lakes High School in Lakewood, Wash., was Murray’s classmate, singer-guitarist Robert Cray.
“I was sitting right next to Robert and our jaws just dropped,” Murray recalled. “I knew right then and there that was what I wanted to do. It changed Robert too. It was great because we were both able to continue a relationship with Albert until he passed away (in 1993).”
At the time, Murray, who opens for the Robert Cray Band at the Royal Oak Music Theatre Sunday, was in a blues-rock band with Cray called Steakface.
 “We were best pals and hung out every day after school,” Murray said. “We had band practice five days a week. Robert had Hendrix, Beck, Clapton, and those guys down pat by the time he was 15 or so. He was really a prodigy. But, you could almost sort of tell that there was a part of him that he was still searching for that he hadn’t found.
Bobby Murray and Robert Cray, circa 1970.
“Then, when he got the blues, you could see that it all just made sense. You could just tell. When he really got involved in the blues, the deep gospel-soul blues stuff, that was really his voice. … Seeing Albert Collins crystallized everything.”
After Steakface, Murray and Cray each played in other bands for a year or so before joining forces again in the blues/soul band Robert Cray and the Crayolas. The band enjoyed regional success in the Northwest, but Murray eventually left to travel to Los Angeles and pursue his own career.
“The position I play is kind of like a quarterback, and there was already a Hall of Famer (Cray) right here in the making. … He always encouraged me, and God knows I learned my share of licks from him. He really opened me up to some things about playing. ”
Murray worked with numerous blues artists including Frankie Lee, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, Percy Mayfield, Pee Wee Crayton, Otis Rush, and Lowell Fulson. He joined Collins’ band and, in 1988, was invited to be a member of Etta James’ backup group, the Roots Band. He performed with the legendary singer until her death earlier this year.
Murray played on two of James’ Grammy winning recordings and on B.B. King’s Grammy award winning album “Blues Summit,” where he again teamed up with Cray on the track “Playing With My Friends.”
He’s appeared on numerous television programs, including “The Tonight Show” and “Late Night with David Letterman,” and also performed live at the 1992 Summer Olympics and President Bill Clinton’s inaugural celebration. He received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Blues Society in 2011.
Murray and Cray, circa 2009. (Photo by Tim McBride)
Murray has recorded three solo albums and has another release planned in early 2013. At Sunday’s concert, he will release the album’s first single, “Finders Keepers.”
Cray, meanwhile, became a top recording artist, with a career that includes five Grammy awards. In 2011, Cray was inducted to the Blues Hall of Fame.
“I felt years before that that he was going to be a star,” Murray said. “He was just that talented and that gifted. The whole package was there.”
On Sunday, Murray and Cray will also be joined in the reunion by another former member of the Crayolas (and former Roots Band member), bassist Richard Cousins, who recently rejoined the Robert Cray Band. His tenure with the band began with its barnstorming regional origins in Oregon in 1974 and continued until 1991. Cray’s longtime keyboardist, Jim Pugh, is another longtime buddy. It was Pugh who put a good word in for Murray when he was being considered as guitarist for the Roots Band.
Murray and Cray still see each other occasionally.
“Not as often as I did when I toured with Etta, because we would bump into each other on the road a bit,” Murray said. “But, we’ve remained friends and keep in contact.”
He’s not sure if he will be invited to jam with Cray on Sunday.
“I know we will be hanging out … that’s for sure. I’ll get a chance to see him and get caught up a little bit. It will be a big treat.”

Talent plus hard work equals success
Cray not only sings and plays guitar (he’s the only axeman in his band), but writes music too.
He wrote all the songs on his new release, “Nothin But Love” (Mascot Records).
“He’s really musical,” Murray said. “I’ve seen him pick up a violin for the first time and get music out of it. He got behind a set of drums and could play it.”
Cray played bass in an uncredited role in the house party band Otis Day and the Knights in the movie “Animal House.”
“He has such a great ear and a wonderful touch. He was the guy in the band who would figure out the songs and we would learn them from Robert. He has such a great ear.”
Murray remembers how Cray worked hard to utilize his considerable talent.
“I remember the work ethic even in high school. We rehearsed five days a week, and if we needed to do an extra one, we would. It was just a given. That was pretty good learning point for me too.
“Of course, it rains a lot up in Washington state too.”

Bobby Murray and Friends
Backing Murray up on Sunday will be a revue of talented Motor City musicians: vocalists Lenny Watkins and Tom Hogarth, guitarist Mark “Pazman” Pasman, bassist/vocalist Dave Uricek, keyboardist/vocalist Mark Thibodeau, and drummer Renell Gonsalves.

The Robert Cray Band and special guest Bobby Murray and Friends perform an all-ages show at 7 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 2, at Royal Oak Music Theatre, 318 W. Fourth St., Royal Oak. Tickets are $35-$45.  Call 248-399-2980 or visit

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Callahan's celebrates fifth anniversary

Things have come full circle for Callahan’s Music Hall as the Auburn Hills venue celebrates its fifth anniversary.

On Wednesday night, Nov. 21, The Reefermen will perform at a release party for their new vinyl album "Sunday Morning Smoke." It was five years ago, on Thanksgiving Eve 2007, when James Wailin, Bobby East and the boys performed on Callahan’s opening night.
“We weren’t even sure if we could do music, because music was not done on that side of town,” owner Mike Callahan said. “We hired The Reefermen, and they were a logical choice because they were the best band in the area, and still are. It just morphed from that night.”
When Mike and his partner Dan Callahan opened the club in what had been a Ponderosa restaurant in the 1970s, they decided to make music the focal point of the venue.  With a huge stage, excellent sightlines, great sound by engineer Peter Jay, and a small-club feel, the 200-seat venue has developed into the best place to hear live blues in Detroit.
“We decided if we were going to do music, we were going to do it right,” Callahan said. “The only thing we’re really about is the music. That’s where the magic is.”
They started by booking top-tier local acts. After a month or so, they took a risk and booked their first national performer, Chris Duarte. A long string of top-notch talent -- including Johnny Winter. Jimmy Thackery, Coco Montoya, and many, many more -- have performed at Callahan’s over the last five years.
“We grew up going to Sully’s, the Soup Kitchen, George and Harry’s, and Sisko’s,” Callahan said. “Blues was the music we knew and understood. Blues fell in and became our niche.”
The venue has hosted somewhere in the range of 800 shows.
“We’re very thankful,” Callahan said. “Hopefully, we’ve become one of the better rooms in Detroit for music, and regionally too. People fly hundreds of miles to come to a show. It’s weird, we are better known outside of Detroit than in Detroit.”
Tommy Castro and the Painkillers are at Callahan's, 2105 South Blvd., on Friday, Nov. 23. On Saturday, Nov. 24, it is a "De-troit Holiday Bash" with the Howling Diablos, Infatuations and Names Unlisted.
For information and advance tickets, click

To send info to JB Blues, please email