Friday, December 26, 2014

Little Sonny recalls Alberta Adams as 'a legend in Detroit'

Alberta Adams performing at the Southfield Public Library in 2011.
When harmonica player and singer Little Sonny moved to Detroit from Alabama in 1953, singer Alberta Adams was already a fixture on the Detroit blues music scene.
Adams, known as Detroit's Queen of the Blues, died on Christmas Day at the age of 97.
“I got to know her many, many years ago and I knew her very well,”  Little Sonny said. “She was always a nice, beautiful lady, and she always had nice things to say.”
Little Sonny, 82, remembers Adams as a popular performer at the Flame Show Bar and other Detroit blues clubs of that time.
“She was playing with all the big stars, Cab Calloway, T-Bone Walker and those guys,” Little Sonny recalled. “She did shows with all those big-timers. She had a long history in the blues and she is one of the last of our blues legends.
“She paid the dues. People like that helped set the path for people like me.”
Alberta Adams
Little Sonny’s sons -- musicians Aaron Willis Jr. and Anthony Willis -- performed with Adams on different shows, he said. According to Little Sonny, Adams excelled at performing old-time blues.
“She was doing blues back then that was not as modern as the blues I or John Lee Hooker were doing. In her day, she was doing blues like Ma Rainey, Bessie Smith and Sippie Wallace did. She was in that era and never came completely came out of that. She didn’t change with the trends and move into the modern era, but it worked for her.”
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, 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. Adams also recorded for the Chess, Savoy and Thelma (Gordy) labels.
Little Sonny
Adams was honored at a tribute event titled “To Alberta With Love” on March 2 at the Detroit Pub in Clinton Township.
Little Sonny recalled Adams as a wonderful person.

“Every time I met her, she had that nice smile. She was a beautiful lady. I’ve never seen her with a bad attitude. That’s something to say. She was never cocky. She was always pleasant and had a nice conversation for you. That’s what I loved about her.
“She was a very outspoken person and I loved her for that too. She was a natural and she wasn’t a flaky type person who thought she was so much more than anyone else. Give and receive, that’s the way she was.
“She played a big part in Detroit blues. I’m glad the Lord extended her to be here for a long career and to be able to continuously go, until the last minute almost.
“She was a legend in Detroit.”

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Blues at the library

Jimmy Alter (photo by Mike Klewicki)
There are plenty of young, talented blues musicians in Detroit, and you can see several as Jimmy Alter & Friends perform at the Southfield Public Library’s Jazz & Blues series program at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday.
The band includes four of Detroit’s top young blues guitarists – Jimmy Alter, Jason “J-Bone” Bone, Carlton Washington and Brendon Linsley, a guitar whiz only in his mid-teens.  All four are good friends – between them they play in many different bands and musical ventures, sometime together, sometimes separately. They’ll be backed by veterans Chris Rumel on bass and Dave Watson on drums.
General admission is $5, $3 for Friends of the Southfield Public Library members. There is no charge for children under 12.

The Southfield Public Library is in the Southfield Municipal Complex, 26300 Evergreen Road. For more information, call the Guest Services Desk at 248-796-4224.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Alberta Adams is still Detroit's' Queen of the Blues

Alberta Adams
Singer Alberta Adams, known as Detroit's Queen of the Blues, is featured in an interesting article by Metro Times music writer Brett Callwood, who recently sat down with Alberta and her manager, RJ Spangler, at her Detroit home.
Click here to read Callwood's article.
I have seen Alberta perform several times, most recently in 2011 at the Southfield Public Library. Although she was in her 90s and in a wheelchair, she put on a very entertaining show, exhibiting the vibrancy of a much younger person. My favorite moment from the evening was when she was performing an uptempo tune. She obviously thought people should be dancing, so she pointed to two people in the front of the audience and said "dance!". They most certainly did. Who could turn down a request from the queen?
Alberta Adams
Alberta was honored this spring at the Detroit Pub Music Room’s Sunday Steak & Blues Series. It was titled “To Alberta With Love.”
If you want to show her some love yourself, check out one of her fine albums recorded when she was in her 80s. 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" (2008), features collaborations with pianists Mark "Mr. B" Braun, Al Hill and the late Ann Rabson (Saffire). Thornetta Davis also appeared on the CD. Years earlier, Alberta also recorded for the Chess, Savoy and Thelma (Gordy) labels.   

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Monday, December 8, 2014

Laura Rain and the Caesars perform smokin' hot show at Boo's

Laura Rain and George Friend
A near capacity crowd thoroughly enjoyed what I describe as two “must sees” on Saturday night as Laura Rain and the Caesars performed a smokin’ hot show at the new Boo’s club inside Mr. B’s Pub in downtown Royal Oak.
Rain, singer and frontwoman for the group, is a dynamic performer best described as a force of nature. She boasts a powerful voice that is reminiscent of Aretha with a touch of Esther Phillips. And she delivers her vocals with a ferocity that reminded a companion of Janis Joplin. Rain, introduced as the “Cleopatra of the Blues,” was resplendent in a shimmery vintage gown. She has a great stage presence, oodles of sex appeal, boundless energy, and is a “must see” if you haven’t caught the group’s powerful mix of blues, R&B, funk and “modern, retro soul.”
Mark "Paz Man"  Pasman
Matching Rain in quality was guitarist George Friend, a talented and versatile axman who excels in both backup and solo roles. His playing can be subtle and tasteful, but he can rock out just as well.
Bassist Gwenyth Hayes and drummer Scott Veenstra provide a solid rhythm section.
Friend looked like he was having a blast on Saturday, not only when he was interacting with Rain, but also when Boo’s musical host, guitarist Mark “Paz Man” Pasman, joined the group for a half dozen selections.
Hearing these two fine guitarists trading licks was a treat indeed.
Boo’s, an intimate upscale blues club inside Mr. B’s in Royal Oak, is also a “must see.” The club has a cool vibe and lots of ambient energy, courtesy of the crowd inside Mr. B’s as well as the individuals who walk by on Main Street past the bank of windows behind the stage. The group’s dynamic sound produced lots of curious looks by those passing by.
Check out Laura Rain and the Caesars and their new CD, “Closer,” at Be sure to catch a live performance before they head out on tour again. Click here to see a photo gallery from Saturday's show.
Laura Rain and the Caesars
At Boo’s, you can order food from the menu that received an overhaul when former auto-executive-turned-chef Johnny Prep purchased Mr. B’s and renovated the business this summer.
Boo’s has an excellent sound system that is not overwhelming loud, despite the relatively small size of the club. Unlike many blues clubs, a reservation holds a table for you, so there’s no hassle finding a seat. The club does have a cover charge (usually $10) on the weekends, but it’s worth it to see top Detroit blues performers in such an intimate setting.
Boo’s has only been open since Nov. 15, but has already hosted many talented performers including Bobby Murray, longtime guitarist for Etta James; and singer Thornetta Davis, a Detroit favorite.
You can count on Boo’s always hosting the cream of the Detroit blues crop, since Pasman does the booking. He knows the Detroit scene as well as anyone, not only as a musician, but as the former host of the “Motor City Blues Project” radio show for over 25 years. It helps that the club owner is a fan of the music too.
This week, Robert Noll performs as part of the Thursday Front Porch series, Howard Glazer celebrates the release of his new recording “Looking in the Mirror” with a live show on Friday, and The Alligators come in Saturday.
Downtown Royal Oak has not had a venue for the blues since Memphis Smoke closed. Boo’s presents a new opportunity to enjoy the best of the Detroit blues scene in a safe, downtown environment.

Check it out as soon as you can.

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Boo's club brings blues to Royal Oak

Mark Pasman
The blues are coming to Royal Oak.
Boo’s, a new blues club inside Mr. B’s on Main Street in downtown Royal Oak, has a new performance space that will be hosted by a familiar face: blues musician and radio personality Mark "Pazman" Pasman. who hosted the “Motor City Blues Project” on WCSX-FM for 26 years before the station canceled the show in February.
Pazman will serve as Boo’s host and musical director, booking the acts for the 100-person capacity room. Pazman kicks things off Saturday, Nov. 15 with a free Pazman's Supersession show. 
Click here to see music writer Gary Graff's story about the new club.


The Southfield Public Library will feature Lady Sunshine and The X Band at the next Jazz & Blues @ Your Library performance at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Nov. 19.
The band is a two-time winner of the Detroit Blues Challenge; finished second at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., in 2005; made it to the IBC semifinals in 2013; and has twice been named best blues band in Washtenaw County by Current magazine.
General admission is $5 and there is no admission charge for children under 12.

Texas-born, Louisiana-raised pianist/vocalist/songwriter Marcia Ball celebrates the release of her new Alligator Records CD, "The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man," with a live performance on Nov. 22 at Callahan's Music Hall in Auburn Hills.
"The Tattooed Lady and the Alligator Man" is her sixth release for the label.  Four of her previous five releases received Grammy Award nominations. 
Ball received the 2012 Blues Music Award for the Pinetop Perkins Piano Player Of The Year. She has received 42 BMA nominations and has nine wins. She received a 2014 Living Blues Readers' Poll Award for Most
Outstanding Musician (keyboard) and has seven Living Blues Awards in all.

For info, click

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Busy weekend for Jim McCarty

It is going to be a busy weekend for Jim McCarty.
The rock and blues guitarist and singer well known internationally for his work with groups such as Mitch Ryder and the Detroit Wheels, Cactus, and The Rockets, will host the Detroit Blues Society jam on Saturday at Shelly Kelly’s in Fraser; and then will be part of a Johnny Winter tribute on Sunday at Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills.
Jim McCarty
On Saturday, he’ll perform with his band Mystery Train, which includes his son Dylan McCarty on drums and bassist Marvin Conrad. Singer-guitarist Emmanuel Garza completes the lineup. He joined the band after the death of McCarty’s longtime musical partner Rick Stel in April.
McCarty’s roots with Garza are deep as well, going back to their days together in the Detroit Blues Band. That made the transition to a new lineup following Stel’s death a little easier.
“We’re a little more hardcore blues with Emmanuel, but the energy has stayed the same, which is the most important thing,” McCarty said. “Me and E know each other like the back of our hands. We work well together and have a lot of fun.”
McCarty has played Shelly Kelly’s before, years ago when it was the Erin Pub.
“It should be fun,” he said. “(Singer) Nikki James is going to be there and we’ll get her up on stage. It’s always a good time.”
McCarty and harmonica player-singer Jason Ricci will join Johnny Winter’s backup band for the tribute performance on Sunday.
“It’s going to be nice to see Jason,” McCarty said. “He was on my ‘McCarty and Friends’ CD, but I haven’t seen him in a few years.”
McCarty knew Johnny Winter for years.
“We had a few stories from the old days, some things you can’t put in print,” he said with a laugh. “In the old days, Johnny was a guitar slinger. He could fire it up.”
In late July, only two weeks after Winter’s death, McCarty went to see his Cactus bandmate, drummer Carmine Appice, perform with Vanilla Fudge in the Rock ‘n’ Blues Fest – A Tribute to Johnny Winter show at  DTE Energy Music Theatre. Also on the bill was the Edgar Winter Group, fronted by Johnny Winter’s younger brother Edgar.
“I joined them for a tribute to his brother at the end of the night,” McCarty said. “We did ‘Highway 61,’ ‘Rock ’n’ Roll Hootchie Coo’ and couple of other things.
“John is somebody I respected, so I have no problem paying my respects to a guy who was a great guitar player.”
Can’t make it to either show this weekend? McCarty will be back at Callahan’s on Nov. 29 with his friend, blues guitarist Sonny Moorman.
“Our first set is acoustic with my harp player, Kenny Welk,” McCarty said.  “People love it. Then, in our second set, we whip it.”

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Papa Lee and the Body Shop Blues

Clyde "Papa" Lee - BluesPhotos by Don Mc Ghee
Papa Lee and the Body Shop Blues will be the featured performers at the Southfield Public Library’s Jazz & Blues program on Sept. 17.
Band leader Clyde W. “Papa” Lee Sr. began playing drums when he was in middle school in Flint and he is still at it more than 60 years later. He traveled and recorded with the Detroit Emeralds in the 1970s and played the famous Club Paradise in Idlewild, Mich.
He’s played with John Lee Hooker, Bobo Jenkins, Washboard Willie, Chicago Pete and just about every well-known Detroit blues artist during the past 50 years, including Eddie Burns, Calvin Frazier, Willie D. Warren, Mr. Bo and Little Mac Collins, Uncle Jessie White, and the Butler Twins.
"Little Arthur" Anderson
The evening will feature “Little Arthur” Anderson on harp and vocals. Also joining Papa Lee will be guitarists Joe Mitchell and Nick Tabarias, and bassist Buster Wylie.
The band will perform at 6:30 p.m. in the Meeting Room of the Southfield Public Library, 26300 Evergreen Road. General admission is $5, $3 for Friends of the Southfield Public Library members. There is no admission charge for children under age 12.
Jazz & Blues is sponsored by the Friends of the Southfield Public Library and the Detroit Blues Society.
For more information, call the Guest Services Desk at 248-796-4224 or click

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Monday, September 8, 2014

Lady Sunshine and the X Band kick off Blues at the Elks series

The 2nd year of the Blues at the Elks series kicks off Tuesday, Sept. 9, with a performance by Lady Sunshine and the X Band.
Lady Sunshine was born on a plantation in West Helena, Ark., and grew up singing gospel music as a little girl. She moved to Ann Arbor in 1975 and began singing professionally.
The Sunshine Band came together in 1994 and made an immediate impact. The band, which has shared the stage with blues/R&B notables such as Koko Taylor, Bobby Rush, Little Milton, Roomful of Blues, War, Big Bill Morganfield, and many more, has garnered many awards.
The band is a two-time winner of the Detroit Blues Challenge; finished second at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tenn., in 2005; made it to the IBC semifinals in 2013; and has twice been named best blues band in Washtenaw County by Current magazine.
Janiva Magness
Lady Sunshine and the X Band will perform from 7-10 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 9, at the Plymouth-Ann Arbor Elks Lodge, 41700 Ann Arbor Road in Plymouth, a half mile west of I-275. Admission is $5. There will also be a cash bar and pizza.  For more information, call 734-453-1780 or click
Blues at the Elks is a co-production of the Plymouth-Ann Arbor Elks Lodge and the non-profit Detroit Blues Society.

Blues In Ann Arbor
The Ark in Ann Arbor has an impressive lineup of blues artists performing in the next eight weeks.
Standout singer Janiva Magness, a Michigan native who attended Mount Clemens High School while living with her grandparents, is the recipient of many top blues music awards. She’ll be at The Ark on Sept. 19.
Other blues artists headed to The Ark include singer-songwriter Laith Al-Saadi (Sept. 21), roots music performer George Bedard (Oct. 10), Shari Kane and Dave Steele with Brooks Williams (Oct. 16), and folk-blues singer and songwriter Chris Smither (Oct. 31).
For information, click

To send info to JB Blues, please email


Sunday, August 3, 2014

‘Girls of Summer’ blues fest

Thornetta Davis
It could take weeks to see all of Detroit's top female blues artists perform at various clubs and concert halls.
Today, the Detroit Blues Society is presenting the opportunity to catch them all at one venue on one show.
The “Girls of Summer” Blues Fest, which runs from 2-10 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 3 at the Hastings Street Ballroom & Tangent Gallery, 715 E. Milwaukee Ave., will feature 10 of Detroit’s most dazzling blues divas, including Thornetta Davis, Tosha Owens and the GTO Band, Laura Rain and the Caesars, Kathleen Murray and the Groove Council, Heather Jones, Jennifer Westwood, Nikki Pearse and Cannonball Underground, Marley and Spoonful, and Sandy Mulligan and the Gypsies.
These performers will also compete in a “Pretty Outfit Contest,” with the winner receiving a $100 prize.
Alberta Adams, “Detroit’s Queen of the Blues,” will be on hand to celebrate her 97th birthday. There will also be a “Babes and Blooms” print show, and a garden barbeque presented by Side Car Detroit and Captain Kool Ice Cream.
Admission is $15 at the door with all proceeds benefiting the Detroit Blues Society. All artists are donating their talent. Free lighted and secure parking as well as a cash bar will be available.
For more information, click

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Monday, July 7, 2014

Doug Deming returns

Doug Deming
Fans of Doug Deming will be happy to note that he is back in town and performing with his band the Jewel Tones from 7-10 p.m. Tuesday at the Plymouth Elks Lodge 41700 Ann Arbor Road .
Deming is an east side Detroit native who now hails from Florida’s Gulf Coast.
A talented singer, guitarist and songwriter, Deming first made his mark on the local Detroit music scene in the early 1990s. He spent much of the following years backing many of the day’s top touring blues artists, including Fabulous Thunderbirds front man Kim Wilson, Louisiana swamp bluesman Lazy Lester, harp man Gary Primich, Chicago greats Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones and A.C. Reed, and Detroit’s own Queen of the Blues, Alberta Adams.
Deming is equally adept at performing traditional blues, West Coast and Texas swing, early rock, country and roots music.
Deming is paired with acclaimed harp man and touring partner Dennis Gruenling.
Admission is $5. The Lodge features pizza and a cash bar. Call 734-453-1780 for further information.
For more on Doug Deming, click

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Alligators at the Plymouth Elks Club

Wailin' Dale and Dave Krammer 
The Alligators have been playing blues in Detroit and throughout the Midwest for 30 years.
Lead vocalist Dave Krammer and harmonica player Wailin’ Dale started the band in 1984, The band also includes Frankie Lee on bass (joined in 2007), Jon Johnson on drums (joined 2008), and Nick Tabarias, guitar (joined 2012).
You can see them tonight (June 10) from 7-10 p.m. at the Plymouth-Ann Arbor Elks Club, 41700 Ann Arbor Road in Plymouth.
The band made their recording debut in 1994 with “Gimme Some Skin.” They have recorded four successful and highly acclaimed CDs to date. 

Blues Fest scheduled
The Elks will also be the site of a blues festival on Sunday, Aug. 17. 
On the bill are Carl Henry, The Boa Constrictors, The Greg Nagy Band, RJ’s Kansas City Six and Thornetta Davis and her band.
Gates will open at 12:30 p.m. and music begins at 1:30 p.m..  The donation is $10 for adults and $5 for those under the age 12.  Food and beverages will be available for sale. Plan on bringing a lawn chair and enjoying the music.
Mark your calendars.

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Monday, June 9, 2014

Another gem from Little Sonny

Ever since he moved to Detroit from his native Alabama in 1953, singer-harmonica player Little Sonny has been among Detroit’s elite blues performers. The man who got his start with Washboard Willie and His Super Suds of Rhythm, and who was friends and performed with late blues luminaries such as John Lee Hooker and Eddie Burns, is 81 now, still spry, but no longer touring.
Little Sonny feels he still has one more album in him. Until that happens, we have another gem to enjoy.
Little Sonny’s “The Best Love I Ever Had” (Glynn Record Company), originally released in Japan in 1995, has recently been released to the U.S. market.
The CD features Little Sonny’s trademark blues that blend in a bit of funk and Southern soul. Recorded when he was in his early 60s, the CD finds Little Sonny in fine vocal form, especially on the title track “The Best Love I Ever Had,” where he pleads to be “used” by his woman with a strong voice reminiscent of great Stax/Volt artists such as Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett. This is no surprise, as Little Sonny recorded a trio of albums (“New King of the Blues Harmonica,” “Black & Blue” and “Hard Goin’ Up”) for Stax or subsidiary labels. Still, Little Sonny’s vibrato laced voice is unique.
A funky harp riff kicks off “The End of Your Rope,” in which Little Sonny tells his woman “if I give you enough rope, I’m sure you’ll hang yourself.” It is one of several songs on the recording, including “When Love Begins Friendship Ends” (featuring Don Whyte on soulful tenor sax) and “Love Mechanic,” that demonstrate Little Sonny’s prowess as a songwriter and ability to turn a clever phrase.
Little Sonny wrote seven of the 10 songs on the album, including “Watching the Peoples” that advises you to “watch the people and not what they say.”
Donny Hathaway’s Latin jazz flavored instrumental “The Ghetto” gets a funky treatment here. Two other instrumentals, “Jam” and “Harmonica Funk Blues,” were penned by Little Sonny’s sons Aaron Willis Jr. and Anthony Willis, who perform on guitar and bass, respectively. These songs provide an opportunity for Little Sonny and his sons to stretch out and display their considerable chops. Guitar work by Aaron Jr. (The Dramatics, Bobby Womack) is also featured on “I’ll Never Trust You Again,” while Anthony sets the pace on bass on “Outer Funk.”
Little Sonny’s band on this CD also included keyboard player Rudy Robinson, well known as a performer and arranger for many soul stars until his death in 2002 at age 61, and Dwayne “Butch” Lomax and Curtis Sharp on drums.
Little Sonny is a perfectionist and this studio album, released as a tribute to his late wife Maggie Willis, demonstrates his considerable prowess as a musician, songwriter and arranger.
It also provides an opportunity to check out Little Sonny’s funky, soulful blues on a recording that is receiving long overdue exposure to a wider audience.

To order the CD “The Best Love I Ever Had,” mail a money order for $15 (includes shipping and handling) to Glynn Enterprises, 18648 Fleming, Detroit, MI 48234-1309.

To read more on Little Sonny, click here.

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Rick Stel memorial concert scheduled

Rick Stel (Photo by Wolfgang Spider)
A tribute to blues musician Rick (Stel) Salansky has been scheduled from 6 p.m. to midnight on Sunday, May 4, at the Blue Goose Inn, 28911 Jefferson Ave., in St. Clair Shores. Stel passed away on April 8 at age 60.
The evening will open with sets by the Rick Stel Project,  the Yazoo Brothers, and Jim McCarty and Mystery Train. There will be other special guests and a jam session.
Members of the Rick Stel Project -- keyboardist Mark LoDuca, bassist Jef Reynolds and drummer Dave Marcaccio -- will be joined by guitarist Paul Carey and the Wicked Horns four-piece horn section.
Stel's brother Dale will perform with the Yazoo Brothers, one of Rick's early bands. Noted guitarist Jim McCarty, who played with Stel for 20 years, will lead the Mystery Train band.
"When we found out Rick wasn't going to be with us much longer, we decided we would do a musical memorial or tribute," Marcaccio said. "Rick was all about the music, that's what he loved most. I can't imagine we wouldn't do something like this for him.
"It's going to be real strange to do this thing this weekend because he won't be there. It will be like, 'Where's Rick?' But, he will be there in spirit."
According to Marcaccio, Stel's son Eric approached the band about a tribute concert.
"Everyone wanted to be a part of this," Marcaccio said. "It's a collaborative effort."
There's no admission charge. A bucket will be passed to benefit the Detroit Blues Society.
"That's another thing Eric wanted to do," Marcaccio said, "to help keep the blues and music alive in this area."

Click to see previous blog posts:

Detroit blues world mourns passing of Rick Stel

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Save Detroit Benefit Show

Paul Miles has the "Spirit of Detroit."
Blues musician Paul Miles knows that no one person can solve the problems Detroit is experiencing. But, he also knows that great things can result from small beginnings.
Miles presents the "Save Detroit Benefit Show" at 7 p.m. Sunday, April 20 at NextWave Media Lab, 950 Stephenson Highway in Troy.
“We want to make an effort to lift Detroit up, socially, and focus on what we are able to do and go ahead and remedy and fix,” Miles said.
“The show we’re doing is like tossing a pebble into a pond here and starting the wave of compassion. There are lots of organizations and people doing positive things in Detroit, and if what we’re doing encourages people to go up and do something in their own realm, then we’re doing our job.”
Paul Miles
Featured artists at the benefit show will be singer-songwriter and storyteller Michael on Fire, country music singer Julianne Ankley, blues musician Carl Henry, and singer-songwriter Michelle Held. Miles, a singer-songwriter and guitarist, will also perform and will serve as co-master of ceremonies with musician Emily Rogers.
“I wanted a nice mix featuring different people and different sounds,” Miles said. “Julianne was happy to jump on board, Michelle is a newcomer who is doing a lot of good things here in the folk acoustic style, and Carl, who is nominated as the best acoustic artist at the Detroit Music Awards and represented Detroit in Memphis (at the International Blues Challenge), has always been a community minded person and contributed to many projects in the past.”
Miles is especially pleased that Michael on Fire is on the bill.
Michael on Fire (Photo by Greg Sadler)
“Michael has toured more than any of us, collectively, and he’s generally out of town and doesn’t do that many shows here. He has performed with Stephen Stills and lots of other people you would know and is an award winning songwriter.”
Donations will be accepted at the door.
Money raised at the event will be donated to the general fund of the City Of Detroit. Available at the event will be copies of the song "Save Detroit" with all proceeds going to the City of Detroit. Each artist is donating his or her time for this event.
“We’re doing it to raise the social consciousness of what is going on in Detroit,” Miles said. “We’re not getting into the politics of who is doing what, or where the money is going. Our intention is to highlight what people are going to go ahead and do.”
For information on the concert, or if you are unable to attend but would like to make a donation, click
Blues at the library
The Jazz and Blues Series at the Southfield Public Library continues at 6:30 p.m. tonight (April 16) with a performance by Jo Serrapere, John Devine and Friends.
Serrapere’s music blends elements of modern and traditional folk music, old-time and electric blues, roots rock, garage surf, swing, and alt-country. Devine, trained as a classical guitarist, developed a love of traditional blue styles of the 1920s and ‘30s.
Admission is $5, with a discount for Friends of the Southfield Public Library members. Admission is free for children under age 12.

Detroit Blues Society jam
The Blue Cat Band hosts the Detroit Blues Society Monthly Meeting and Jam on Saturday, April 19, at the Sky Box Sports Grill in Highland Township.
After a set by the host band, jammers take over the stage and there is always a lot of local talent on display.
There’s no cover charge.

Smokin’ Saturday blues
This Saturday, the annual Carrick Guitars for Kids concert comes to Callahan’s Music Hall in Auburn Hills.
A fantastic lineup, including the Bobby Murray Band, Peter “Madcat” Ruth and his Madcat Midnight Blues Journey, Drew Nelson, School of Rock Rochester, Chris Degnore, and Erica Mourad, will perform.
Tickets are $15 general admission, $25 for preferred seating. All proceeds from ticket sales go directly to purchasing guitars for children. Click for ticket information.

Also on Saturday, fans of the J. Geils Band will enjoy the tribute band Raputa at the Packard Grill in Shelby Township. They promise to "blow your face out!." Click for info.

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Bandmate recalls Rick Stel as 'a source of inspiration'; memorial service set

Rick Stel (Photo by Wolfgang Spider)
Bassist Jef Reynolds has been friends with singer-guitarist Rick (Stel) Salansky for 30 years or so, starting when they were part of a network of friends from Utica, Mich. that were in their 20s and “all about the music.”
Stel’s death from cancer at age 60 on Tuesday prompted lots of calls and messages to Reynolds, who played with Stel for years in the Rick Stel Project band.
“(The list) is a mile long, you hear from everybody,” Reynolds said Wednesday. “You know how it is when you’re longtime buddies and friends. When you hear about it, you say ‘damn!’ There have been long discussions and lots of reflection. Rick and I have gotten really close the last 7 or 8 years.”
Reynolds and his Rick Stel Project bandmates – keyboardist Mark LoDuca and drummer Dave Marcaccio – expect to be involved in a memorial tribute to Stel at a yet to be specified date.
“Rick’s son Eric (Salansky) said he would like for us to be involved when we do a tribute,” Reynolds said.   “Everybody in our network is in the same generation and we all have the same friends. A lot of us are in the Detroit Blues Society.
“We’’ll try to find the most common thread, maybe at a Detroit Blues Society function, or maybe at Callahan’s (Music Hall) where Rick played with us, with Jim McCarty’s Mystery Train, or sometimes with The Millionaires (swing band).”
Reynolds is working on completing production of a video of the Rick Stel Project performing at a festival last fall.
“Rick did a lot of music in town, but there’s not too much of this type of high quality documentation,” Reynolds said. “It looks pretty nice, he’s happy and he’s playing really good guitar.”
Reynolds described Stel as “a fun man to work with.”
“As far as his music, he was really a source of inspiration to all of us,” Reynolds said. “A lot of the music he wrote was based upon his life experiences. He was divorced, but he would write about it in a humorous way. He wrote songs called ‘My Wife Don’t Cook’ and ‘Chasin’ Women Blues.’ There was some remorse, but he would make fun of himself and write tongue in cheek. That endeared him to all of us who played with him.”
Reynolds, a retired engineer from Chrysler, had another bond with Stel, who was still working as a design engineer for GM. Marcaccio is a car guy too.
“I would characterize him as a roll up your sleeves type of guy, a blue collar guy,” Reynolds said. “He was pragmatic and hardworking. A lot of us came from the same culture from cars.
“We’re all buddies from that different side of life. We do the car thing during the day and come out at night and play the blues.”
According to Reynolds, Stel was the type of person everyone could relate to.
“He was kind of a Walt Whitman type, a plain spoken and poetic person.”

Rick’s Stel’s passing prompted lots of comments on social media, many from the top musicians in Detroit, a tribute to his talent. Here are a few excerpts.
“You were a true blues man who will be missed by many. Thank you for all the great years of music!” – Dylan McCarty
“Rick Stel was as kind as he was talented - a truly sweet soul and I am proud to call Rick my friend.” – Bobby Murray 
“I didn’t know him well, but every time you saw him he put a smile on your face. And that my friends is the greatest legacy perhaps we can hope for.” – Carl Henry
“A strong & swinging blues guitarist, a fine singer, he was also a talented blues piano man. ... He was a damn good person beyond his musical abilities. A major loss in our community.” – RJ Spangler
“He was a hell of musician and a fine, soulful singer who was a VERY important part of our music scene here, for many years." – Erich Goebel
"Rick was an excellent guitar player and a multi-talented musician. He was a class act and had ZERO ego. He will surely be missed."  Steve Allen

To see a previous blog post with comments from Jim McCarty about Rick Stel, click here.

A memorial gathering for Rick (Stel) Salansky will be from 4-9 p.m. Friday, April 11 at Lee-Ellena Funeral Home, 46530 Romeo Plank, Macomb Township. A service is planned at 7:30 p.m. For information, click

To send info to JB Blues, please email

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Detroit blues world mourns passing of Rick Stel

Jim McCarty, center, with Rick Stel,  2nd from right.
Guitarist Jim McCarty has had many musical cohorts over his legendary career, but none of his collaborations lasted longer than his partnership with singer-guitarist Rick Stel, who passed away this morning at age 60 from cancer.
“What makes it heartbreaking is that he was a guy who never abused himself,” McCarty said. “He never used drugs or alcohol. I don’t think he even smoked. It makes you wonder why?”
McCarty and Stel first played together in the Detroit Blues Band when Stel took over for bassist Billy Landless. Their musical collaboration took a big step forward when McCarty formed his group Mystery Train.
“Memphis Smoke wanted me to put together a band as the house band,” McCarty recalled.
Stel moved over to his main instrument, guitar, and was the main singer in the band. The two guitarists instantly clicked, according to McCarty.
“He was terrific. We always had that understanding. It either fits or it don’t. It has to be there. I’m not sure it’s something you can work on. We had it right out of the gate.
“Rick came from the jazzy blues and I was doing more of the blues rock thing, but I listen to jazz at home more than anything else, so we had a deep bond with that.
“Over the years, things would get fine tuned and it just became second nature. I knew what he was going to do before he did it.”
McCarty described Stel as a “good guy, a straight ahead guy.”
“You could always count on him. He was always on time and always did the job.”
The interplay between Stel and McCarty was featured on the 2013 recording “Jim McCarty & Mystery Train Live.”
“I’m really glad that CD is there,” McCarty said.
“Twenty years is the longest I’ve played with anybody, even (drummer Johnny ”Bee”)  Badanjek. That’s a lot of notes. It’s a real drag.”

To see a blog post with comments by Jef Reynolds of the Rick Stel Project, click here.

To contact JB Blues, please email

Monday, March 31, 2014

Dream session becomes 'Real' for Laith Al-Saadi

Laith Al-Saadi records at Ocean Way Studio. (Photo by Barry Holmes)
Every musician has envisioned a dream session, where he jams with his all-time favorites.
For blues musician Laith Al-Saadi, his dream became a reality when he recorded his new EP “Real” in Los Angeles.
Producer Jeffrey Weber saw the Ann Arbor native performing at an L.A. club and was impressed by Al-Saadi’s songwriting and performing talent.
“He said he wanted to do a record with me,” said Al-Saadi, who performs Friday at the Magic Bag in Ferndale. “I got done with the gig at 2 a.m. and had to leave at 5 a.m. to fly back to Michigan. When I got back that morning, I already had an email and two phone messages from him, so I knew he was serious.”
Weber suggested recording the session live to two track and Al-Saadi loved the plan.
“I was excited by that idea and totally up for it. There’s not enough music recorded without a net these days. I asked him ‘who can I ask to be on the record?’ and he said to ask whoever I wanted, and that the worst they can say is no.”
Al-Saadi ended up with a backup band of legendary session musicians.
Bassist Lee Sklar has performed on over 2,000 recordings, and has worked with James Taylor, Jackson Browne, Neil Diamond, Hall & Oates, and Linda Ronstadt.
Drummer Jim Keltner has worked with John Lennon, Ringo Starr, Carly Simon, Barbra Streisand, and the Traveling Wilburys. He played on Joe Cocker’s “Mad Dogs & Englishmen” and George Harrison’s “The Concert for Bangladesh.”
Organist Larry Goldings has worked with many jazz artists and pop musicians including Tracy Chapman, Walter Becker, Leon Russell, John Mayer and Norah Jones.
The horn section included jazz saxophonist Tom Scott, who has recorded with such diverse artists as George Harrison, The Grateful Dead, Barbra Streisand, Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, the Beach Boys, Pink Floyd, Whitney Houston, and Frank Sinatra.
Baritone saxophonist Brandon Fields, trombonist Nick Lane, and trumpeter Lee Thornburg also have impressive credentials.
“I didn’t go to the Paul McCartney level, but I picked the studio cats whose records I love, and everyone said yes,” Al-Saadi said.
Al-Saadi’s parents did not listen to rock ‘n’ roll music in their home. His mother preferred classical and spiritual music and his father, who is Iraqi, listened to Arabic music. Laith was exposed to classic rock ‘n’ roll by two older sisters.
“I started listening more when I started playing guitar and discovering music on my own,” he said. “I learned more about the individual performers, and these guys played on so many records I loved.”
Knowing he only had one day to work with these great artists in famous Ocean Way Studios in Hollywood put pressure on the 36-year-old singer-guitarist.
“It was really exciting and scary at the same time,” Al-Saadi said. “Knowing these guys so well, I was not worried about their ability to get it, but it was still intimidating because they had never heard my music before.”
According to Al-Saadi, the first take was the initial time the musicians heard the song. Most cuts were finalized between 2-6 takes, he said. There was no mixing, editing or overdubbing.
“It was a really fun, interesting experience and the guys had a blast. They don’t get to record like that often enough.
“In the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s, it was normal to cut a song several times in order to get a good take. The improvisational nature of blues and jazz was an influence on the record as well. I really wanted to capture the music of the moment and the right treatment captured the right vibes for the tunes.”
Weber was impressed.
“Laith is the real deal,” Weber said in a release. “He has jaw-dropping technique and an evocative vocal character that captures the unbridled passion of his lyrics. He made a believer out of every one of us.”
The session was scheduled for four songs, but the group ended up knocking out six — five originals and a cover of The Band’s “Ophelia,” as a tribute to the late Levon Helm.
“I’ve always been a huge fan of The Band,” Al-Saadi said. “Levon Helm passed away in 2012. I wanted to dedicate the album to his memory and the song ‘Ophelia’ is a fitting tribute.”
Jimmy Vivino, best known as the leader of the house band for late night talk show host Conan O’Brien, played resophonic guitar on “Real.”
“Jimmy Vivino was so generous,” Al-Saadi said. “The producer asked him to rearrange his schedule to record one song that I needed resophonic guitar on called ‘Complete Disgrace.’ (Vivino) said, ‘If Laith wants anything else, I’ll do it for free,’ and he ended up playing on the whole record.”
Vivino, who is scheduled to perform with The Beatles tribute band The Fab Faux on Saturday at the Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor, will join Al-Saadi for the concert at the Magic Bag on Friday. Also performing will be bassist David Stearns and drummer Mark Damian.
The Magic Bag show is sure to revive memories of the “dream” recording session for Al-Saadi.
“It was intimidating, but I was in ‘go mode’ all day,” Al-Saadi said. “We had so short a time and I knew the recording was on the line. They were consummate professionals and incredibly nice.
“It was so much fun to make. I love it as a testament to that moment in time.”

Like many musicians, Al-Saadi started playing as a teenager, learning to play guitar so he could accompany himself on tunes by The Beatles.
It only took about 6 months before he started playing the blues.
“It always has appealed to me,” he said. “It’s the visceral and emotional quality of it.
“I always gravitated to Ray Charles and Louie Armstrong and a lot of musicians with a blues influence, before I really got into the blues. It is one of the most expressive musical forms out there in this country and the common denominator for all types of music I like – jazz, rock ‘n’ roll, R&B, bluesgrass and most forms of American roots music.”

For more on Laith Al-Saadi, click

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