Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sonny Boy Terry Live @ IBC Houston Finals

Go to and click on Sonny Boy Terry @ IBC Dan Electros for their fine performance of his original, "Miss Ann's Playpen", recorded during the IBC finals at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar. Darned fine blues being played! I tried my darnest to embed the link and something wouldn't let me. Dunno what the heck is up with that, but just type in the youtube address and enjoy it.
UPDATE: NEVER MIND ALL THAT. HERE IT IS: (if it doesn't work, then do the preceding)

Friday, October 30, 2009

Blues For Food '09

If you ain't been to one of these, then you owe it to yourself to go and listen to some of the best musicians in Houston. This is the BEST food drive in town! I'll let the press release do the talking.


Here is the line up for our Umpteenth Annual Blues For Food Festival '09 at Shakespeare's Pub located at 14129 Memorial Drive, Houston, TX 77079. The official date is Sunday, November 15th, 2009. Music begins at 12 Noon and runs for 14 hours.

This holiday season’s honored guest artist is Excello recording artist, swamp blues legend Jimmy Louisiana Dotson. “Jimmy was always a big part of Blues For Food in it’s early days. He is unique blues performer and a Houston treasure. This a wonderful opportunity to pay our respects,“ say Blues For Food music director Sonny Boy Terry.

Any non-perishable food items and cash donations are accepted. There will also be raffles and a silent auction. All proceeds benefit the Houston Food Bank. A free Texas style BBQ plate comes to all those who donate. With 15 acts and numerous special guests, NEARLY FIFTY musicians and a total of one hundred volunteers are donating their time and energy to this great Houston tradition.


20 years running now with over 24 Blues For Food events under our belt (Blues for Food founder Big Roger Collins was doing them twice a year at first), Blues For Food, a precursor to the development of the Houston Blues Society, has set the bar for charities on the local Houston music scene raising close to 100 Thousand Dollars and 150 thousand pounds of food in it's long history.

Please visit or for continuous updates as more details develop. Feel free to pass the word and promote it within your social groups, businesses, organizations and/or church activities. For more information, call Sonny Boy Terry at

713.869.7746 or 713.822.0437.

Hosted by 2009 IBC Houston Regional Finals Champ Sonny Boy Terry. Masters of ceremonies and guest announcers 90.1 KPFT’s James “The Blueshound” Nagel, Nuri Nuri, Mr and Mrs Vee. As usual, we a have top drawer steller and diverse line-up of blues and roots artists

Steve the Chief - 12 Noon - 12:45PM

Brad Abshur Band - 1PM - 1:30PM

Don Kesee and the Bluesmasters - 1:45PM - 2:15PM

Erin James and her Bad Habits - 2:30PM - 3PM

James Reese Band - 3:15PM - 3:45PM

Mojofromopolis - 4PM - 4:30PM

Dave Nevling and the Blues Kats - 4:45PM - 5:15PM

John McVey and the Stumble - 5:30PM - 6PM

Texas Johnny Brown and the Quality Blues Band - 6:15PM - 6:45PM

Sonny Boy Terry - 7PM - 8:15PM

(W/Rich Delgrosso/Jimmy Louisiana Dotson sitting in on their set)

The Texas Destroyers featuring Doug Black - 8:30PM - 9PM

Snits Dog and Pony Show - 9:15PM - 9:45PM

Monday, October 26, 2009

Sonny Boy Terry Wins Regional IBC

Well, it's official. Sonny Boy Terry's blues band will represent Houston and its blues society by winning the finals of the regional International Blues Challenge held this past Sunday, October 25, 2009 at Dan Electro's Guitar Bar. I wasn't in attendance, but I expected that his band would do-the-do, get 'er done, pull out all the stops, and generally play the "Real" blues the way it's supposed to be played-- to the extent that the judges would have no choice but to send them boys on to Memphis. Now, I'm sure that The Clay Melton Band, Bourbon Street, and the Blues Mafia put up the good fight, and that they all went at it tooth and nail. I know that Sonny Boy and his band put everything they had into this competition, and that they wanted to win and have a chance to display their chops along with the best unsigned blues bands from around the world. I've never met anyone more dedication to the genre than Sonny Boy Terry and if his band doesn't whip the competition in January, then it will not be from a lack of effort. NOW GO GET 'EM GUYS.

P.S.--Here's a link sent to me by a representative for the Blues Mafia for anyone wanting to know what they put down.
P.S.S--Here's a video of the same--

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


Travelled over to Houston's Big Easy Club Social and Pleasure Club last Sunday to support my buddy, Sonny Boy Terry (SBT) in his quest to represent Houston in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge (IBC)at the end of January. Each year, blues societies around the world select an unsigned blues artist to represent them at this premier event. Actually they choose a band and also a solo/duo act to send to the challenge. Each society schedules a series of competitions to narrow the field down to the best of the blues bunch. The past two weekends were set aside for two different groups of bands to sling it at the judges and blues enthusiasts. Two bands from seven in each group were selected to proceed. I'd toss out some of the parameters that the judges must adhere to here, but I'd probably muck it up, so go over to the IBC site or to the Houston Blues Society's and read 'em yourself. By the time I put in my appearance at The Big Easy, a band calling themselves the Blues Mafia and another named Bourbon Street had won their prelims the weekend before and were tap to head to Dan Electro's Guitar Bar for the finals (set for 2:30 pm, October 25).

So, the SBT band needed to beat out five other bands to be chosen as one of the two additional finalists. I'll just say (in my biased opinion) that it was no contest. They were simply the best blues band of the bunch--case closed. His band could easily call themselves a blues mafia. They came out dressed to the nines in dark suits with names like Sonny Boy and JZ and JD and Lenny from Pittsburgh. They followed five of the bands (selected by drawing lots), so I they knew what they faced by the time they hit the stage. TC and the Cannonballs followed them, and Sonny Boy's group knew that group of veterans. Not to diss any of the bands, because I enjoyed them all, and they all had something to offer. Brown and Swerve's vocalist sang strong covers of soul type blues, The Snake Charmers' tight red dressed female vocalist did the hoochie mama thang, The Clay Melton Band slung out Stevie Ray Vaughan/Hendrix style of fiery notes, TC and the Cannonballs torched the stage with a loud roadhouse rumble, and Jack Edery and Ultra Suede and the Texas Bluzecats added variety to the blues mix. BUT--Sonny Boy Terry's band just exists on a higher musical plateau that none of the other bands have reached yet, and I think they proved that very well. JZ chose the tastiest guitar notes of the evening to lay on the crowd, and no one plays drums better than JD, and Lenny stayed steady, drove the rhythm, and remained unflappable even as his bass amp crapped out on him. Sonny Boy chose three originals and a cover (which I guarantee no one else on the planet has covered) by the late Ashton Savoy. Let's just say that he boys nailed it, and the judges must have thought so also.

I figured that the well seasoned band, TC and the Cannonballs would join Sonny Boy as the other finalist, but the young pups took the other spot. I don't know how young members of the trio, The Clay Melton Band, are, but they do kick up a fuss with guitar fed through a Marshall stack by the Clay man. I know they pumped the crowd into a frenzy.

So, Sonny Boy will meet up with the young gun again and they'll match blues riffs with the Blues Mafia and Bourbon Street for a little Sunday afternoon showdown. Anyway--I'm pulling for SBT.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Birthday To Me (and Ricky Estrin)

I turned 58 on Friday without much fanfare. My wife was still in Corpus Christi attending CPS foster parent seminars, my son crawled out of bed with his mind on school and my birthday slipped his mind. My daughter called with discussion topics unrelated to the day I was born, and I had to jog her memory. I had already put the pedometer, that she sent me for the event, to task a week ago--so she actually offered her congratulations early. So, the house felt a bit emptier than it normally does on a Friday morning. I did go over to my mom's in the afternoon to eat the chocolate birthday cake that she had ordered from HEB and to accept her cash donation to my birthday fund.

I also sampled the Eric Clapton & Steve Winwood Live from Madison Square Garden DVD birthday present and really enjoyed watching these two guys perform with same passion that they had when they played together as 20 year olds--this time unenhanced by chemical assistance. Eddie C. Campbell's new Delmark release, Tear This World Up, played a part in my one man birthday celebration. Maybe I'll get back to these two worthy musical productions later, but right now I'll get on to the main event.

First, I'll explain using Ricky for Estrin's first name. I've always gone by Ricky for Richard and plenty of times that gets shortened to Rick. I just happened to hear crackerjack bassist, Ronnie James Webber, call Estrin by the name of Ricky at one point after he was invited to sit in with the Nightcats (more on that in a bit). It seemed to drop a few years from Rick's 60, hearing him called Ricky. I was once told that I should go my Richard, because Ricky seemed to be more juvenile. I'll take juvenile. Of course, when I watch Ricky Estrin, I think more in terms of juvenile delinquency, if he lived anywhere close to some the tales he sings about. So, the name Ricky fits the Bad Boy of the Blues persona just fine.

I'll back up a bit here and explain that I had ordered an online e-ticket from Dan Electro's Guitar Bar for the Rick Estrin and the Nightcats' show. My expectations were that the club would be extremely packed and getting an advanced ticket would be wise. My only reservation about the reservation was the possibility of stormy weather. Stormy weather + Houston traffic = nightmare. So, I sort of sat around listening to my new birthday music and the downpour on my rooftop, debating whether or not to weather the weather. By six o'clock the rain had slacked enough for me to make the dash to Houston.

I left early in order to make it by the time the doors opened at 8 and to find parking in the lot, which I knew would be limited. As I stood under the front porch awaiting entry with only five other folks, one of life's missed opportunities arose as a character stepped out from the club's door for a smoke. The thought crossed my mind that the shaggy looking, bearded fellow might just be the band's guitarist, Kid Andersen, but I just as quickly dismissed the thought. Once we got into the club and he picked up a Les Paul and started slinging out notes for the sound check, then I figured that I could have at least said hello to him outside. I did get the opportunity to meet local harp player, Larry Bernal, who was among the five waiting with me outside, along with his 7th grade son. Steve Schneider had mentioned Larry to me several times in the past and I always wondered about this guy who at one time had one of the only Sonny Junior III amplifiers ever made. So, I entered the club with Larry and his son and we took a front row table that also ended up being occupied by Steve, Carlos Ramirez, and Andy Edwards--all Houston harp guys. I really enjoyed their company. My good friend Sonny Boy Terry also showed up with his lovely wife, Jenny. Those two make such a beautiful couple; they are so proud of each other. So, I was in great company for a show featuring one of the world's greatest blues harp players.

If you are still reading this, I'll get to the birthday heading now. Somewhere (I can't remember where, maybe I dreamed it) I read that Rick Estrin's birthday was either on October eighth or on the ninth like mine. So, when Larry enticed him to our table saying that Scott Berberian said hello,(Scott's the wizard behind the Meteor harp amps and Larry has two of his Mini-Meats and is ordering the 15" speaker version), I wished Rick a happy birthday and he appreciated it and didn't deny it and I told him that I was celebrating my 58th with him and he appreciated it and said, "Man, I turned 60". Oh, and then he kicked ass all night long.

I used to carry a note pad with me back in the day when I seriously tried to get someone to publish my blues articles, but I'd rather just sit back and enjoy the show--what I'm saying is that I don't recall set list songs and such things as that. I'll tell you this, though. I meant to pack a camera, but didn't do that either. The Nightcats opened with a number that absolutely smoked the place and it would have been an encore tour de force for lesser bands. The smiles at our table indicated that, "It just don't get any better than this"--but it did and did and did. Rick turned Kid Andersen loose on that first number and he never did get him back in his cage--not that he had any intentions of doing that.

I say cage, because Kid Andersen is absolutely a wild man on guitar. I need to mention that once he donned his stage clothes and slicked back his long blond hair, this bearded Norwegian proved to be an excellent sidekick for Estrin's ultimate showmanship. Superman jumped from the phone booth. He wowed us! Yep, he really did and the room was filled with a bunch of Houston musicians eating up his tonal grooves--that varied immensely. He'd rock the billy awhile like Johnny Burnette, shoot out reverbed ladened staccato jabs, ride a slow down low down wave that washed out over the club, sling a few leg kicks to the air, pick with his teeth, and basically just do the do. Take Otis Rush, Magic Sam, Hubert Sumlin, Guitar Slim, and Junior Watson, roll them up and feed 'em a mushroom or two, and it might get close to describing what comes out of the Kid's amplifier. Once he gets rolling, it ain't no telling what notes will be firing out from the stage. I think back a few posts ago about Rick Estrin's Alligator Records release, Twisted, in which I described his instrumental Earthquake, as sounding quite like Freddy King on meth. He did that one (which Estrin said was a hit in Russia) and burned it down to the filter. Strange thing about it all, is that he showed immaculate restraint when called for and proved that he's a master at backing a harmonica player. Those types are rare. With all his guitar antics, though, there is still no way that Rick Estrin got upstaged at any point during the night. Estrin just reclaims his turf once the slinging is done and sometimes with one well placed harp note, blown with the finest tone known to man (or blues man) at least.

Most of the night's set came from the aforementioned CD or the one right before it called On The Harp Side, with a few chestnuts from his Little Charlie albums. I could run down each and every one of those, but I'm not. Let's just say that if you have those two CDs, then you have a good idea of what the Nightcats laid on us last Friday night. He did throw down an outstanding version Little Walter's Off The Wall, just in case us harp players thought that we were somebody. He nailed it down wonderfully, blowing through a digital reverb pedal and analog delay fed into his Harp King amp with 6x10" speakers. Got some kind of wall of sound going--which he also kicked in when he whipped out his chromatic harp. He prefaced a few of his witty, humorous songs with a humorous tale as how the idea entered his cranium. Those snippets were priceless. He had us all eating out of his hand.

Of course, if you've seen a Little Charlie and the Nightcats show, then you know what a cool cat daddy Rick Estrin is, which no one in show business comes close to matching, and few can match his blues harp skills. The difference now is that Rick leads the Nightcats and he puts his harp in his mouth a whole lot more often and proves that point song after song. You've also seen him put the whole harp in his mouth (like a cigar) during a Sonny Boy Williamson II number and he pulled that trick out for us, too. He amazes me with just how solid his acoustic intonation is when he's emulating this master.

These are Rick's Nightcats. J Hansen impressed every harp player in the club with his knack for driving what Rick wanted driven on drums. My buddy, Sonny Boy Terry said that he wished that every drummer in town could witness how a drummer should back a harp player by listening to Hansen. He proved quite the witty lyricist and singer himself when he took the mic to sing the double entendre, I'm Taking Out My In-laws. Lorenzo Farrell slapped the standup bass and locked stepped with Hansen all night. Seems that they spent some time together in the past and both have a little jazz in their resume. Rick gave them a bit of time to showcase themselves a time or two during the night. Great rhythm section duo dudes. Farrell even slid over to the keyboards to add a bit of spice to the stage sound. The last set he slid over there and stayed awhile for an unexpected treat. Ronnie James Webber was in the house and Rick brought him to the stage to plunk the Fender electric bass. Ronnie James played with the Nightcats for about a decade and with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and with Mark Hummel and recently with the Mannish Boys and, and, and...Let's just say that he knows how the blues is suppose to go and he knows how to go about doing it really well. I enjoyed watching him pick the bottom out of things. It was a real treat watching him work. He seemed to really get off on a low down harp instrumental that he claimed that someone named Greg requested. Estrin sucked the song for all that it was worth.

Of course, that brings me back to the Nightcats' guitarist. He's just plays the best guitar that I've heard in a long, long time and he co-produced the Alligator release with Estrin, so he knows his way around the sound board. His last employer was Charlie Musselwhite (he's plays on the Delta Hardware release, so that seals the deal for his credentials as the real deal. Charlie don't hire no slouches on the six string. I've heard his work previously from what he laid down on John Nemeth's and RJ Mischo's last recordings, but nothing prepared me for the what he kicked out live and in person. He's a phenom! I'm heading to CD Baby to pick up his own Greaseland.

Rick Estrin has himself one hell of a band and I feel privileged to have witnessed them perform their magic. It's the Estrinman, though, that makes the whole engine work and he has definitely mastered the master of ceremonies better than a carnival barker, and did I mention that he plays some of the best blues harp in the land?

Bottom line--this was the best birthday gift that I've ever given myself. Great night! Great band! Great company! Get over to Rick's site and get yourself a Nightcat fix. Anyway--'nuff for now.