Friday, June 8, 2012

Duke Dawson family benefit Sunday

Duke Dawson  (Photo courtesy of Blues Photos by Don McGhee)
A benefit for the family of drummer Duke Dawson, who passed away recently at the age of 82, will be held from 4-8 p.m. Sunday, June 10 at the Hastings Street Ballroom, 15 E. Milwaukee, in Detroit (313-873-2955).
Donations will be taken at the door for the show that will feature performances by The Alligators, The Flying Crowbars featuring Erich Goebel and James Cloyd, and many special guests.
To see a previous post on Duke Dawson, click here.
McCarty Birthday Bash
Fans of blues guitar will want to catch Saturday’s “McCarty’s Official Birthday Bash” at Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills. Joining Jim McCarty and his band Mystery Train will be his “Guitar Army,” including Johnnie Bassett, Bobby Murray, Big Al Grebovic and Jeff Grand.
Tickets start at just $15.
For info, click

Magness in Ann Arbor
If you missed singer Janiva Magness at the Magic Bag in April, you’ll  soon have another chance to hear her perform songs from her excellent new Alligator Records CD, “Stronger For It.” Magness and her band will perform at The Ark in Ann Arbor on Saturday, July 7.
Tickets are $28 reserved, $21 general admission. For information, click
Also in Ann Arbor, Mike Brooks and Blueshouse/313 will perform at a CD release party for his new CD, “Mojo Hand,” on June 29 at Zal Gaz Grotto.  Cover is $10 and CDs are only $10 at the show.

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Johnnie Bassett still making it happen

Johnnie Bassett
Veteran musician releases new CD

When singer-guitarist Johnnie Bassett was getting ready to record the follow-up to his 2009 CD “The Gentleman Is Back,” he wasn’t sure how things would go.
There was no need to worry.
Bassett’s new Sly Dog Records release, ”I Can Make That Happen,” is one of the best of the 76-year-old’s lengthy career.
“I’m very pleased with it,” Bassett said during an interview at his Oak Park, Mich., home. “I wasn’t too happy going into it. It was up in the air what we were going to do, as far as material was concerned.”
The man known as the “Gentleman of the Blues” wondered what the band could do to top his last release. It only took a couple of rehearsals to answer that question.
“I felt it starting to come together,” Bassett said. “The guys were happy with the material we were putting together for it. It’s a little different. (There’s) a little more energy.”
”I Can Make That Happen” reunites Bassett with The Brothers Groove (keyboardist Chris Codish, bassist James Simonson and drummer Skeeto Valdez) and the Motor City Horns (saxophonist Keith Kaminski, trombonist John Rutherford, and trumpeters Bob Jensen and Mark Byerly), who played with him on his last recording and who regularly back him up at live shows.
“One advantage is they know your style, they know practically every note you’re going to do before you do it,” Bassett said. “It just jells together when you have worked with the guys over the years. You feel each other’s moves and solos. You do whatever it takes to complement what they are doing, and they do the same for you.
“It’s so much more comfortable, so much easier playing, and so much more fun. I love it and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
Special guests on the CD include trumpeter Dwight Adams, guitarists Brett Lucas and Jim “Moose” Brown, and singer Thornetta Davis, who performs a duet on the song “Teach Me To Love” that was written by Codish’s father, keyboardist Bob Codish.
“I’ve known Thornetta for a lot of years now, before she was even popular around town,” Bassett said. “She was still singing with the choir at church when I first met her.”
Davis first sang with Bassett during one of his gigs with his former band the Blues Insurgents at the east-side club Honest John’s.
“I’ve been backing her up ever since,” Bassett said. “She’s a great talent.”
The 11-song CD features nine originals, including Detroit-oriented tunes “Proud to be From Detroit” and “Motor City Blues,” as well as covers of Lowell Fulsom’s “Reconsider Baby” and Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me.”
Bassett has a criteria for choosing his cover tunes.
“It has to be somebody I like. I worked with Lowell Fulsom back in ’55 at a little honky tonk club in Richmond, Ind. I backed him up when I was playing with Joe Weaver and the Blue Notes. I got to meet him and that was one of his signature songs. He was a great guy and a genuine bluesman.
“Listening to him, I was in awe. I hadn’t really developed a style of my own then. I was just playing background as a side man.
“Solomon Burke is one of my all-time favorite balladeers and shouters. That man could sing and he could put it over.”
Bassett, who will turn 77 in October, still delivers the goods. The younger players who accompany him know he’s not a performer who is past his prime and relying only on his reputation.
“He hasn’t lost anything,” said Chris Codish, who first started jamming with Bassett 20 years ago. “He’s gotten better and better and is still at the top of his game. It’s exciting to play music with him, even after all this time. He’s a master of the blues.
“It’s his presence and the way he plays, his phrasing is absolutely amazing. His sense of melody and time has influenced my playing a lot and my approach to music.”
Bassett impresses his fellow musicians with his unique style and open tunings.
“Johnnie is great, he’s a living legend,” Simonson said. “Once you get past a certain level, you’re either playing with the real deal or you’re not. Johnnie is, absolutely, the real deal.
“He is an extraordinary player and I’m honored to play with him. He’s still fresh and still plays great.”
Bassett believes in the old saying “use it or lose it.”
“If you lose it, you may as well quit, ‘cause nobody is going to buy your stuff and nobody is going to want to listen to you.  So, I try to keep the same intensity and the same level of playing I’ve ever had.”
Likes others his age, Bassett has his share of aches and pains, but he never doubts his decision to continue performing.
“Especially when you walk in a club and everybody is glad to see you coming in. What can you say? You have to love it.
“Unless you are writing your own stuff and everybody else is recording your stuff, you’re not going to get rich. It’s a labor of love.
“Once you get on stage, you forget about it. It all goes away. I’d rather be doing this than anything else I know. It gives you so much joy just to see other people enjoying what you’re doing.  That’s what keeps me doing it.”

Bassett hoped to include a Jimi Hendrix tune on “I Can Make That Happen,” which would have been appropriate since a young Hendrix used to come to Bassett’s Sunday night open jams in Seattle in the ‘60s.
“I was going to do a tribute thing called ‘The Wind Cries Mary,’ ‘cause I knew Jimmy James (Hendrix) when he was a kid,” Bassett said. “But, the estate wouldn’t let us do it.
“It is what it is.”

Sly Dog Records has an option for a third CD, which Bassett hopes they will pick up.
He would like to record a CD of strictly instrumentals.
“I’d like to do my favorite ballads and jazz tunes that I like to play,” Bassett said.
He is also mulling the idea of recording a batch of instrumental Christmas tunes.
“That would be something different. Everybody sings Christmas songs. I just want to play ‘em, in my style and my way.”

A CD release party, featuring Bassett, The Brothers Groove and the Motor City Horns, will be held on Thursday, June 14 at Northern Lights Lounge, 660 W. Baltimore Ave, in Detroit. Call 313-873-1739 for information.

To send info to JB Blues, please email