Sonny Boy Terry has produced excellent blues harp shows for almost as long as I've known him. He's put together harp rumbles and blues blasts sporadically over the past couple of decades and has always pulled in the best danged blues harp talent in the state, and plenty from elsewhere too. Last year he ramrodded his first harmonica festival, that included an instructional clinic, so successfully that the second annual event became a must-do. He tweaked and fine-tuned his model from last year to produce a stupendous show that topped last year's, which I thought would be pretty danged difficult to achieve. Keep in mind that what is posted here is from memory, I found it difficult to sit and write anything while my jaw dropped all night. True. I'm going to run out of superlatives quickly, so if I repeat a few, forgive me.
The afternoon kicked off with the master demonstrating and instructing how to get a harmonica to play the blues for the beginner to the instrument. He covered things such as the difference in playing straight melody in first position on such tunes as Ol' Suzanna and coaxing the wailing blue notes from the harp in cross harp or second position. He stressed the importance of getting that single note and getting it to bend down or up in order to get the blues going on. In his laid back personable style he demonstrated the blues scale on the harmonica the importance of working it into the grooves and keeping a groove witht he music. He had the entire assemblage of sixty or so blowing Muddy Waters "I'm A Man" by the end.
|Sonny Boy listens close to an attendee.|
|Ronnie Shellist does some one on one.|
|Stephen Schneider demos a mic.|
After a short break after watching the Pocket Full of Soul harmonica documentary, Sonny Boy Terry rounded up his rhythm section of Brian Scardino (drums), Lenny Fatigati (bass), and Holland K. Smith (guitar) for the jam session. These three guys were amazing all night. Except for a break during Texas Johnny Boy's set, these guys backed everyone up all afternoon long and night until the 1 am quitting time. They never missed a beat, regardless of who was calling out what number, and things kicked off with the jam intended to get the clinic participants off their butts and onto the stage to blow the blues. Attendees were given a preview of the kick butt blues harmonica that would follow for the evening with Sonny Boy setting the tone by blasting out his signature sound with the band. From there, the jammers lined up to form what he called a "conga line" and two players at a time stepped on stage, grabbed a harp mic, and joined band's groove with whatever notes they could conjour. Shellist and Sonny Boy highly encouraged participation from everyone, regardless the level of their expertise and play with a real blues band. All levels of expertise did hit the stage and all received a warm welcome and a warm round of applause, whether they squawked out the notes or hit the tone right. Plenty of smiles lit up Dan Electro's room and a big fun vibe permeated the premises.
|The jammers did some jamming.|
|Heather Korb introduces "Third Ward Blues".|
|Texas Johnny Boy kicks the showcase in gear.|
Holland K. Smith kicked butt with a scorching set of blues standards. Sonny Boy had roped him into coming down from his Dallas homebase and the man played impressive blues guitar all night long, but really rocked the joint on his own set, where he was allowed to share his vocal chops with us also. He absolutely scorched "Black Cat Bone", both vocally and with his strings, and how appropriate to thrown down a tune from one of Houston's lengendary bluesmen, Hop Wilson. Smith plays stone cold, solid Texas blues guitar, not blues rock, BLUES guitar. The stuff Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins, Joe Hughes, T-Bone, and Freddy King threw around. Loved his energetic set. He also allowed Lenny to sing one. The bassman surprised me with vocal prowess on a jump number. I can see frontman in his future at some point.
|Holland K. Smith lights up the crowd.|
|Lenny Fatigati sings the blues.|
Don't know what can be said about Tommy DarDar that hasn't been said, but since some of y'all ain't heard it said--the man is a Texas treasure. Best known around his Houston stomping grounds, he's one of those talents that should be better known way beyond the Texas Gulf Coast. DarDar does the blues that inner bred with the Louisiana swamp and comes out jumping and jiving with its own viberation. He's got a ruff tuff voice that fits the music like a welder's glove and swings it hard. When he hits the stage, its party time from "Big Mamou" to "Let The Good Times Roll", and buddy, they did roll while he held court. His harp playing doesn't evoke Chicago as much as it does the Gulf Coast and it's there to support his songs, not eclipse them. He'd swing up some rapid runs up toward the higher end of the harp and finish them off with some deeply drawn low notes, reverberating the ceiling fan above him. Don't know if they call him Big Daddy Gumbo any longer, but it fits his style. I do know that we were calling him "Good Time Tommy" Saturday night.
|Tommy DarDar loves that "Big Mamou".|
|Ronnie Shellist has his rooster crowing.|
|A little friendly head cutting going down.|
|Greg Izor's blowing it fat and nasty.|
|Sonny Boy wraps up the showcase.|