ramblings on my mind

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

As I sit here working on the BluesNotes for the June issue, I recognize that today (May 14) marks the one year anniversary of the passing of BB King. Arguably BB was the most important bluesman of his generation, if not of all generations, right there alongside the likes of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, or Stevie Ray Vaughan — whomever your personal tastes may like. There is not a day that goes by that I do not think about BB. Nor is there a day that passes that I do not hear his music at least once on the radio or play it myself.

When I first started listening to the blues it was BB King who I first purchased. There were two discs which I bought almost at the same time. They are not unusual, I am sure that a lot of blues listeners cut their teeth on these recordings. Live at The Regal and Live at Cook County Jail. It may be strange as this was where I first discovered the blues, not through rock acts like Eric Clapton or The Rolling Stones. I love those guys, too, but it was BB King first. It led to others like Muddy and Elvin Bishop. And those albums that I purchased I could at the time recite each lyric, word for word.

Over the years I was able to see BB well over twenty times. I saw him in large venues and small. The same held true, perhaps maybe five or six times less for John Lee Hooker. But I never had the chance to meet either of these two heroes face to face. There was a number of occasions that it was supposed to happen with BB and at least one time with John Lee. But it seemed fate always stepped in one way or another and all good intentions by management and friends who were setting up the opportunity got sidetracked by others. But these missed chances never dispelled my love for his music.

I admit it grew harder to watch him the older he got and was no longer able to stand and play with his earlier fury. But it was still BB. This was a legend and it didn’t matter. I would give anything to be able to see him again. I will relive those memories and cherish the moments as I grow older.

It reminds me of my friend Hawkeye Herman as he tells younger students about his encounters with people like Lightnin’ Hopkins. Someone will always stop him and say, “You saw Lightnin’ Hopkins?!” I am sure that I will experience from younger generations in the future when they’ll say to me, “You saw BB King?” Or Muddy Waters, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Big Walter, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, Luther Allison or a vast number of so many others. And wait until I tell them, not only did I see them, but I had the chance to meet several, work directly with them at events like the Blues Music Awards or the Willamette Delta Showcase, and even made friendships with the likes of Hubert Sumlin, Robert Lockwood Jr, Gatemouth Brown . . .

And life still goes on. We reflect on those we have seen and those we’ve met. And just this past week, another good friend moves on to the hereafter as Candye Kane finally succumbed to her battle with cancer. Over the years I lost count of just how many times I had to see Candye on stage or elsewhere. She was a good friend who never missed the chance to say hello and sit and chat, even when she was feeling at her worst. Believe me, it doesn’t matter if it is BB King or Candye Kane, the feeling of loss is never easy. And I will never forget any of them.

Greg Johnson / CBA President

Every May for the past few years, I have been honored to be a key part of what is without doubt the biggest night in the blues world, the annual Blues Music Awards. Working as part of the stage management team means keeping the entire show rolling smoothly and on time. I take a lot of pride in doing this with my good friends Joe Whitmer and Paul Averwater. Unfortunately, my wallet said that I could not afford the trip this year and it left me a little heartbroken. Not only because I couldn’t work the event, but because there are so many close and personal friends that I will miss seeing who we only have the chance to do so once or twice a year.

Then, there are the musicians themselves. The nominees this year include so many close friends, locally and internationally. I want to congratulate our nominees from the Portland area, Lisa Mann, Curtis Salgado, Jimi Bott, Karen Lovely, and Mary Flower. I hope that you all take home the prize and would certainly like to be there to see it happen. And then there are the others who’ve become good friends over the years who are also nominated, like Doug MacLeod, Fiona Boyes, Brandon Santini, Rich Del Grosso, John Nemeth, Andy T & Nick Nixon, Jarekus Singleton, Sugaray Rayford, Patrick Rynn, Diunna Greenleaf, and too many others to name. Knowing that so many friends are up for the awards makes it doubly hard to miss the event.

But I look at it in a positive light. This is just a set-back. It does not mean that I will not be back. My heart is with everybody in Memphis and I will see you all the next time around.

But on another note: I often hear people bemoan that the blues scene is dwindling in Portland and our area. There are not as many venues as there once was. I want to call this out and state it is not precisely true. Sure, we may have lost some major venues that we liked to call home over the years. But don’t miss the fact that every time it seems one place closes another is there to pick up what was lost. In the past couple years alone we have seen new places like Billy’s Blues, Spud Monkeys, Area 52, the remodeled 45th Street Pub, and larger venues like Revolution Hall picking up touring acts along with the recent opening of The Rose Room which looks pretty promising, too.

I can also tell you that writing up all the shows coming through our area in the BluesNotes has gotten a lot more burdensome to accomplish (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). If you don’t believe me, look over the past few issues of the paper. It takes me a lot longer going through the venue schedules online than it once did. What used to seem like the load during the summer touring season seems to be going on year-long now.

It’s not even the end of spring yet, but look at who has come through the city and region to date this year alone: Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Gary Clark Jr, Sonny Landreth, Doug MacLeod, Janiva Magness, Dana Fuchs, Shemekia Copeland, Tinsley Ellis, Tommy Castro, Fiona Boyes, Sugaray Rayford, Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blowout. These are just a handful, yet my God, this is prime time blues featuring the best to be found anywhere. And we’re not even taking into consideration the talent we have living here that we can catch weekly.

So don’t tell me that the blues is fading around here. I have told everybody before, and I will continue to say it: we are spoiled. Portland is a blues haven, don’t take it for granted.

Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President

It truly continues to amaze me how extraordinary Portland can be when it comes to attracting some of the larger and high-profiled musicians to come through our area. Just looking at April alone sees blues giants like Bonnie Raitt, Janiva Magness, Robert Cray, and Gary Clark Jr all hitting town. And the summer looks to be shaping up, too.

But when it comes down to the bare facts of it all, it is still our local musicians that make Portland a world class blues city that rivals any place. The talent level on any given night is staggering and I have said it before, but it is all so clear, we are spoiled rotten with the artists who live here. How many places can you go and find regular weekly gigs led by people like Lloyd Jones, Kevin Selfe, Lisa Mann, Franco Paletta, John Mazzocco, Mitch Kashmar, Ed Neumann, Rae Gordon, Sonny Hess, and so many others? Then throw in the regular people showing up at those gigs to sit in such as Mark Shark, Randy Monroe, Karen Lovely, and the not too uncommon Curtis Salgado. I can tell you that any of these people and a lot more that we have right here are the envy of people living elsewhere.

Speaking of Curtis Salgado — are you ready for the new release he has coming out? Clips online that have already been made available look great. And he has a handful of shows coming up that you’ll want to get your tickets for early as he is going to sell out everywhere he plays. Watch for him doing CD release shows and more in April at The Lake Theater & Café, The Trails End, and two nights running at Jimmy Mak’s.

Of course, another major night you don’t want to miss is the annual Inner City Blues Festival. It’s all organized by a crack team led by Norman Sylvester and once again features some of the region’s best musicians. Plus it all benefits Healthcare for All Oregon. Check it out at The North Portland Eagles Lodge.

The Cascade Blues Association’s Journey To Memphis competition is coming up the first weekend in June, but if you plan on participating do not forget that the deadline for entry is April 6 at the monthly CBA meeting. We have so much talent enter every year and it just keeps getting better and the people in Memphis take notice of our acts closely.

We’re also looking for committed individuals who can bring their skills to the CBA Board of Directors. It is a bit of work, but it will make you feel good knowing that you’re helping to make a difference in the area’s music scene by volunteering. We need help in many different aspects, so speak to a Board Member to let us know how you may be willing to assist. We are fairly small right now, so we would like to see a few more people jump on board (no pun intended).

But remember, we have all those fantastic musicians living here and touring into our city. We can’t keep that happening if you don’t go out and see their shows. Pay the ticket price or admission. If there isn’t one, make sure you tip the performers and the venue staff. It’s how the venues and musicians survive. It’s not easy for them if they can’t get the gigs, so do your part to help out. We’ll all be better for it, emotionally, culturally and for those behind the music financially, too. Thanks all, see you in the clubs!

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

March is a month that is extremely abundant with special events happening. There is no way possible to try to  make everything going on. Well, you could actually say the same thing almost every month with the number of local musicians out there every night at various venues. We live in a city that has far more blues music going on than most places in the country. We’re very fortunate that way. But this month there are two events happening that have meaning to me more than just a festival, jam or touring musician. They involve friends and organizations that I have been involved with myself for events myself.

The first without needing any reason that I highly recommend is A Life For Lynn. This benefit for Dave & Lynn Kahl is a massive all-star laden event to assist the pair in their day to day lives as they face the continued struggle of Lynn’s multiple sclerosis. I have been fortunate enough to work with the Multiple Sclerosis Society organizing three Blues For MS concerts. It is one of the events that I have been the most honored to have been involved with. I even mentioned it in my Keeping The Blues Alive Award speech in Memphis as something that I was most proud. The past two events I made a point of Dave Kahl being included, once as a performer and the second time to relate to the audience what it means to live with MS daily and how the MS Society helps.

Even if this was the only reason to attend A Life For Lynn it would be enough. But to me it is more personal. Dave and I have exchanged times of loss and questioning between ourselves and helped each other through. At a time when I questioned my value in what I was doing with the CBA and the blues community in general several years back and I thinking of walking away, it was Dave who convinced me otherwise. He told me what I was doing was valuable and that so many people appreciated it. Without his words I would have never continued. And it works both ways. With the death of Paul deLay Dave too questioned whether he desired to continue playing music. This concerned me because he offers way more than just a performer. He is an advocate and a voice of reason in the music community in Portland. I was contacted by Steve Clarke telling me that his wife Fiona Boyes was looking to move to Portland and if I knew of any bass players she might be able to hook up with. I saw this as a golden opportunity for Dave and though he was not sure if he wanted to do it, I convinced him to give it a shot. As everybody knows it developed into a regular position with Fiona with her band at the time and whenever she returns to town.

Imagine a scene without Dave Kahl. There would be no MyGigNet, there would be no voice in City Council meetings working to bring more attention to local musicians whether as a tourist attraction or the development of a music district. He may not have been around as a player to become Ty Curtis’ bassist either. He is a man of dreams with a huge heart open to everybody and he is always the first to offer his services to help a musician or a friend in need. Make it a point to return the favor and attend A Life For Lynn.

Another organization that I had a chance to work with not as directly as the MS Society was the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. Guitarist Thomas Quigley put together a couple benefit shows for the group and asked me if the CBA and myself would help out. The second of these took place at The Refectory with people like Kevin Selfe, Chad Rupp, Madman Sam, and guess who, Dave Kahl all taking part. It is such organizations that have made me that working to make these events happen is more than beneficial for many.

In March, at The Trails End Saloon there will be a concert to help raise funds for the Leukemia & Lymphona Society and their work at finding a cure for this form of cancer, called Give Cancer The Boot. It is another all-star affair that crosses genres and even includes touring Texan musician Randy McAllister. But what makes it even more special to me is that the show was created by good friends Rick & Shelley Layton, and they asked my girlfriend Cherie Robbins to produce the event through her Cherie’s Blues Highway. Rick and Shelley mean a lot to us as when we were between homes waiting for our new apartment to become available, they put us up in their own home and have become very close friends. Shelley is running a marathon for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, which this concert is also about bringing awareness, too. Please make this event another destination of choice this coming month.

What it all boils down to is that way too often benefits and festivals are put together because of health issues or social needs like homelessness. Whether it is A Life For Lynn, Give Cancer The Boot, the Waterfront Blues Festival, the Winter Blues Festival, the Inner City Blues Festival, or any other such happening, it is almost always the music community that comes together to make a difference. It is true. Music does have the means to heal, in more ways than one. I wish that such events were not necessary, but until a cure for all such issues and illnesses can be found, thank God for such kind hearts as we have in our musicians. Please do your part and help by attending.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson, CBA President

Though most of the happenings that have gone on in Memphis at the International Blues Challenge have already passed before this month, I thought it would be nice to recognize a couple things going on at the event involving the Cascade Blues Association.

First, we are sending a youth act for the first time this year with Justus Reece. The Youth Showcase at the IBC is truly an important event as it proves that this genre is not a dying art form. The young musicians who participate in this are very serious, otherwise they would not make the trip with the expense involved. It gives them a nice insight to how other people their own age are taking on the blues, letting them know that despite what a lot of their peers may think the blues really are cool. These artists will have the chance to participate in jams alongside not only other youth acts, but with the elder contestants and several of the well-established musicians who will be in town. Plus, how many blues artists wouldn’t like the opportunity to play on historic Beale Street?

For the second year in a row, several of the Northwest blues societies will be putting on a showcase featuring all of the performers competing in the IBC. This year those societies, aside from the CBA, include the Washington Blues Society, South Sound Blues Association and the White Rock Blues Society in British Columbia. Being held in Club 152 is a prime location, too. Everybody looking to pick up their passes at will call have to go through the room to get upstairs to where The Blues Foundation people are set up. That means that all going through that Wednesday are exposed to our northwest artists. Plus, it’s not just the competitors on hand performing, as established northwest musicians like Sammy Eubanks, Ben Rice and Dave Melyan all are taking part in this showcase, too.

For me personally, I will be working once again at multiple positions including venue coordinator and stage management at the finals in The Orpheum, with my girlfriend Cherie Robbins helping out this year.

And I must note, I am extremely honored and humbled that The Blues Foundation selected me this year as a recipient of the Keeping The Blues Alive Award, the highest honor giving recognition to non-performers in the blues world. To be one of fifteen recipients (nine individuals, two festivals, a radio station, a blues society, a venue and a record label) world-wide means a lot and it doesn’t escape me the importance of how those who made the nomination and decision feel about the work I have accomplished. My commitment to the CBA and other events that I have been involved with over the years has never been about recognition. It is about my love for the music and the musicians and has always been and always will be about my giving back as much as I can for the enjoyment that I have been provided for so many years by them. It is my aim to continue in doing so, whether as your CBA president or any other capacity that I take on. Thank you all for your belief in me over the years.

Ramblings On My Mind

Ramblings On My MindGreg Johnson / CBA President

As we roll into 2016, I want you to take a close look at the header on the front page of the BluesNotes. Right there where it says Volume 30. Yes, everybody, that is correct. The Cascade Blues Association will turn thirty-years-old this next year. And though it doesn’t occur until late in the year, let’s find reason to celebrate the fact the entire year long. Your board of directors will come up with ideas to help note this occasion, and I am certain that as we have in past anniversary dates we will have to put together a special event to truly mark this plateau.

There have been a lot of peaks and valleys throughout the existence of the CBA. More good than bad, but that is pretty much the nature of any business. And we are indeed a business. As the song goes, “The blues is our business and business is good!” We might see pitfalls with venues closing or the passing of a beloved musician every now and then. But Portland really does remain vital in the blues world. We have residing amongst us some of the finest musicians in the world, who keep popping up in award shows like the Blues Blast or Blues Music Awards. And despite losing a venue here and again, look at our calendar each month and compare it with most cities that have blues organizations and you’ll recognize that we have far more going on than a lot of places out there. A lot of that has to do with you, our members, who go out and support our artists and clubs.

Personally I have been a member of the CBA for most of those thirty years. I was approached by a friend involved with the creation of the group who asked me to join way back that first year. Unfortunately, I was working two jobs at the time and felt that I had little time to offer, but still attended meetings and events when the time would allow. I started getting more involved in the early 1990s and by the last few years of the decade was spending a great deal of more time around the organization, first writing articles for the BluesNotes, then under the suggestion of both then President Rick Hall and Vice President Val Davis made the plunge to join the board. It was during the tenth year celebration period when I did and taking on the President position myself a short few years later, found myself presiding over the fifteenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth and now looking at the thirtieth anniversaries. 2016 marks my fifteenth year as President, something that when I first took it on I felt that I didn’t have the time to sufficiently give. Former President Erroll Shervey told me that first year that now you’re in it you’ll never be able to give it up. Of course I laughed at the remark at the time, but oh my, here I am now and still in the position. No complaints mind you, it is a pleasure to be recognized with such a fine organization. And, of course, I really still don’t have the sufficient time, but I seem to be doing more and more every year. Go figure?

I am hoping that 2016 is the beginning of yet greater things to come with the CBA, for instance, revitalizing our Blues in the Schools program. Bringing the attention of the blues, or any music for that matter, is vital in our school education system. We must not let it get away from us. But we need people who wish to handle the program. We can also use more people involved with our board of directors. At the moment there are only eight of us, and we cannot tackle everything we’d like with a small group. You do not have to be on the board for that matter to get involved. We are a volunteer organization and if you would like to assist in our programs but not be on the board we can surely use your help that way, too. Remember, the Cascade Blues Association belongs to everybody. And the more involved the stronger it can become. There is no elitist group that determines who belongs and who does not. You’re all welcome. And we intend on supporting everyone as well, musicians and venues alike. Nobody has the taste to like everything they hear, but that is okay, we’re not hear to judge one over another, our job is to let others decide what they like and to let them know where they can find it. That is why we have the BluesNotes Calendar and the Bandstand features, so you can let people know yourself. And it’s all free to use, just report your information to us by the 15th of each month and we’ll get it in there for you. Please let us work for you. It’s a win-win situation for all.

2016 is going to be a good year for the blues. Especially if we support everybody! Let’s make it happen and who knows, we just may be celebrating the beginning of another thirty years of the Cascade Blues Association. But I will tell you right now, I don’t intend to being around as your President thirty years from now. But I am enjoying it while it goes on.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

The past few years I have been asked by the Washington Blues Society to provide a list of the top ten recordings that I was most impressed with over the past year. And as I have done the past couple years I have shared that list with you here in my monthly column. So with that said, I will keep up the tradition.

First, I want to stress that my choices can be different from day to day. What I really like one day can switch around easily to other selections. My tastes are very eclectic. I am not a member of the so-called “blues police” who only believes that certain types of music qualify as blues. The selections I offer are also by no means in any particular order — see my first comment in this paragraph if you need any further explanation as to why there is no order. There are also a number of artists, both local and national, that could have appeared on this list given any other day. This holds especially true for people like Rae Gordon, Roseland Hunters, and various other local people missing here.

I do like the discs that are included and all find exceptional time in my car where I always have something spinning that I want to hear over and over and over. So, here we go.

My first choice just may very well be my favorite disc of the year and could easily be number one every time out. Doug MacLeod’s Exactly Like This. There is no better storyteller in the blues today. You usually see him perform solo and he carries everything across perfectly, but on this album he is joined again by Jimi Bott and  Denny Croy. Every release from Doug is over the top great, and this one may very well be the best yet. And it will go “exactly like this ….”

Anyone who really knows me can attest that I love Southern soul styled blues. And nobody in my mind does it better than Otis Clay. That’s probably why he has appeared on my list the past two years and is back again this time. Teaming with Billy Price, This Time For Real tugs at those heartstrings one more time and as I said in my review this is soul done right.

Another person who did it right was Wee Willie Walker with his debut disc for the Little Village Foundation, If Nothing Ever Changes. I can’t get enough of his vocals. Amazing, and as seen at the Waterfront Blues Festival this last July, teamed with Curtis Salgado on The Beatles’ “Help,” it sends a good tingling feeling throughout your entire body. And the song is included here.

Traditional blues on the national level was best identified by the Andy T – Nick Nixon Band. Three albums over the past three years and each of them is better than the previous one. What makes it even more sensational is that the quality does not diminish with them on stage and I have seen them many times over the past few years. Maybe the best, but obviously one of the best, traditional blues acts out there today.

Kevin Selfe’s latest Buy My Soul Back also delivers tremendous traditional values and his song writing grows stronger every time out. So glad to have him living in Portland and this recording may break him out big time nationally if he hasn’t already made that happen with his last disc. There is never a down moment when it comes to Kevin’s creativity.

Karen Lovely is another local artist who should be once again rising to the top with potential Blues Music Award nominations. Working with Tony Braunagel and collaborating with people like Alan Mirikitani, Dave Fleschner, and Curtis Salgado brought the whole package to the words behind the music and Karen is just the right person to deliver them. It was hard to ever think that she would rise above what was accomplished with Still The Rain, but I have to say that Ten Miles Of Bad Road has done just that. It was two years in the making and worth every minute.

Many people may not be familiar with Voo Davis, but this musician has a knack for very eclectic blues that can cover a wide spectrum of approaches and all of them are handled superbly. Midnight Mist can take you on a journey from the Delta to Chicago to the West Coast while throwing in some nice punches you’d expect from a jam band, all while maintaining something true and traditional. This may be one of the most surprising albums of the year and has seen substantial playtime in my car again and again.

Getting back towards traditional, no local musician offered more in my perception than James Clem. Not just with one album, but two that could both easily be included on this list. One featuring ukelele and the other traditional guitar. I love them both, but to be able to include other artists I selected Road’s Gettin’ Muddy for now. Very relaxing blues and perfect for driving, listening under the eaves on a rainy day, or anytime else for that matter.

But if you’re in the mood to party and you enjoy a bit of funk behind those tunes, Memphis-based Ghost Town Blues Band has the goods in Hard Road To Hoe. The slide guitar and cigar-box work by leader Matt Isbell is punctuated by horns, keys, and a grooving beat that has been described on their website as taking you from funky to funk-nasty. We need to see these guys make a visit to the Northwest for sure!

Closing out my top ten is an album that brought to me everything that I wanted to see from Ben Rice. Watching him progeress over the years to be one of the best musicians in our region has certainly been a pleasure and his talent seems to endlessly grow every year, too. This recording, Live @ The Purple Fox Loft, with his trio brings out his depth as a songwriter, musician and displays the ease he now has onstage talking to an audience and keeping their attention throughout with precise and extraordinary performances. I can hardly wait to see how much higher he will succeed as he’s well on his way already.

Coming up with lists like this is never easy, but I honestly have to say that each of these selections meant a lot to me over the last year. As I said, though, these are definitely by no means the only recordings that I could have chosen. And everybody may not be familiar with all of the artists. They’re all worth exploring though and I am always open to hearing other choices sent to me by you. I enjoy so many different musicians, blues and otherwise. The blues is by no means a dying genre, listening to any of these artists or others prove that every single day. Enjoy it all!

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

First thing I want to say this month is a very big thank you to everybody who set sail on the Cascade Blues Cruise this past month. You all helped raise some money for our Journey To Memphis representatives and had a chance to hear them all hopefully. We could not have asked for a better day either. A tremendous thank you so much to Rae Gordon for putting this event together for them again this year. Please keep your eyes open for further fundraising events, including one on November 8 at The Venetian Theatre in Hillsboro for our youth showcase act Justus Reece.

Of course, November also means the Muddy Awards. You’ll have another opportunity to catch our other Journey To Memphis winning acts Sister Mercy and Rogue Rage Duo performing at the event. It is always a grand affair and a lot of fun to attend the awards show, with lots of great music and many happy winners. I want to wish good luck to all of the nominees. But please be advised that it may be a little more difficult this year with parking, as the new pub has opened across the street from The Melody Ballroom. Hope to see you all there.

Last month was also a bit painful as The Lehrer, despite all their efforts to stay open, had to close their doors for good. Brad Lehrer tried to do his best at bringing live blues to the West Side of Portland where venues are not as available as other parts of town. But it is not an easy business to run. Just ask anyone who’s tried to do so. It is definitely a reminder that we need to continue to support all of the venues around town. It cannot be kept up by just a few, it is all of our responsibility if we want to see live music survive. And if you’re out at a club and they do not offer blues, drop a hint to them that it would be something that you’d like to see there. There are a lot of blues musicians in this city, and with venues closing it will be tougher to see them play and we certainly don’t want to lose them to moving to another town where they may feel opportunities are more prevalent.

I also have to apologize that I may have missed a number of recordings that should be reviewed. So many great new albums and so little time to be able to write about each and every one that has come out. Just our local artists alone have been releasing some of the best material I have heard from anywhere as of late. I highly suggest that you check them out, and to just note a few: The Sportin’ Lifers, Karen Lovely, Rae Gordon, Tracey Fordice & The 8 Balls, Big Al Carter, Kevin Selfe, King Louie & LaRhonda Steele. These are but a few of many. Pick up a copy or two or three — this helps support our artists, too. And you’ll be able to enjoy them whenever you like.

Hope to catch you at the Muddy Awards or in the clubs. Always good blues to be found throughout Portland and the region.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson, CBA President

Where is 2015 going? This year has been flying by so fast. Summer festival season has passed us by and we’re getting closer to the end of the year. So with that noted, I want to remind you of two important things. Muddy Awards and Cascade Blues Association officer elections.

First of all, the Muddy Awards. By the time you receive this copy of the BluesNotes you should have found your final Muddy Award ballot in the mail. That is as long as you’re a member. Non-members are not permitted to vote, so make sure you turn your ballot in to make your selections count. Don’t turn it in; then don’t complain.

Over the past couple months I have received and purchased a significant number of new CDs from local musicians. This is outstanding seeing so much new material. They have included (but not limited to) releases from people like Kevin Selfe, Karen Lovely, Mary Flower, Tracey Fordice & The 8 Balls, The Sportin’ Lifers, Hank Shreve, King Louie & LaRhonda Steele and The Roseland Hunters. I bring this up while discussing the Muddy Awards because many of the new releases came out after the August 31 deadline for nominations and aren’t eligible for this year. But, those recordings that did come out beyond the date should not be forgotten when ballots come up next year. This happens so often. I hope that when you filled out your ballots your focus was not only on what has occurred within the last few months, that you think back to what went on all year long. And this does not only apply to recordings, but performances and events as well.

The other item at hand is the upcoming CBA Board of Directors Officer positions. This is extremely important and I hope that people consider running for these roles. But, and I want to stress this, these are not merely positions by name alone. They carry commitment, time and work. Not everything can be fun and games, we are running a business. Don’t get me wrong, we do have our share of fun. But we also require that if you take on a role that you are involved. There is only one board meeting a month, we expect you to be there consistently. We are staffed by volunteers, but the officers are elected by our members who have certain expectations that we keep the CBA viable. All board members should be attending our monthly membership meetings and events that the CBA host, but we know that is not always possible each and every time. But the officers and the board are the face of the organization and our members look for your assistance, whether it is receiving your membership card or being able to answer questions about where they can pick up a copy of the BluesNotes or who is performing at a meeting. It may not seem like much, but if the work is not kept up to date, we fall behind and then the entire board takes the hit of not appearing like a functioning unit. Believe me, that is the last thing we want to come across as.

You can submit your intent to run for an officer position by sending a note via email to CascadeBluesStaff@gmail.com or by mail to Cascade Blues Association, PO Box 6566, Portland, Oregon 97228-6566. Positions include President, Vice President, Treasurer, Secretary and Membership Secretary. Please, if you do consider running, especially for Treasurer or Membership Secretary, we request that you have some background in finances and spread sheets. This is your Cascade Blues Association, so be active if you can and make your choices for the right people to run our blues society.

One last note on a more personal basis. We can also use writers to assist with the BluesNotes. I have noted this before, but we really do need your help. At this time I am personally writing the majority of the paper, with editor Laurie Morrisey taking on the feature article most months. What this does, for me especially, is cause a lot of time consumption and stress to make sure everything is reported, written and submitted on time. Believe me it is tough. I do have a full time job, a private life and would like to attend events that you’re going to yourself each and every mid-month. But it takes at least a couple weeks to prepare everything and I can use the help. Please let us know if you can offer that type of help.

Okay, enough of my soap box. Get out there this month and attend as much live music as you can. You know the drill: pay the cover, tip the band, buy food and drinks ….. and most of all, have fun, because that is what going to music is supposed to be all about.

ramblings201306BNGreg Johnson / CBA President

This sure has been wild summer with so many great artists playing around town and throughout the Northwest. My girlfriend (and booking agent/promoter herself) Cherie Robbins have been making so many trips to various venues and festivals, and while we’re doing this we are also attempting to bring along a merchandise table of Cascade Blues Association products with us. This is nothing new for CBA volunteers, but it is something that has not happened as much the past few years as it did previously and we want to start that tradition rolling again.

Since early spring we have been regularly showing up at places in town like Jimmy Mak’s and The Lake Theater & Café when acts falling into the blues realm, especially touring acts show up. We have also done a number of festivals like the Gorge Blues Festival in Stevenson, Kalama Music Festival and Bronze, Blues & Brews in Joseph, Oregon. We also recently made the trip to the Ilwaco Blues & Seafood Festival, but this was more of a vacation trip for us. Along the way there are so many people who have been so kind to us, from allowing us to show up at the last minute to giving lodging and meals while we are there, which is way more than we ever expected or would have asked for. Thank you big time to people like Dean Mueller at The Lake, Jimmy Makarounis, Mike & Wendy Ingraham at The Birk, Pete Poulson in Kalama, Jeri Davis-Paletta for hooking us up with several events and, Clint Carter in Ilwaco. These people are the best at supporting the Cascade Blues Association and letting us get our presence seen. I also have to throw a huge thanks out to fellow board members Merry Larsen and Jon Pierce, along with former board member Jody Gunn, for being there to assist in carrying supplies, setting up and watching over the table for us when available at several of the events.

The one problem with making some commitments so far in advance,though, is it prevents you from being everywhere that you want to be. That was the case while we were in Joseph. We so wanted to be at the benefit for Alyssa Lily, but could not make it back in time. But we did do as much as we could to help promote this event to spread the word in advance. Big time blessings to all involved, from the musicians to the volunteers to the Trails End to the people who donated items for the auction and especially Tracy Turner-Pain & Soul Sisters, Inc. You’re all angels for your kindness!

I also want to thank everybody who came out to The Lehrer on Sunday, August 16, for the first fundraiser for our Journey To Memphis winners Sister Mercy. A great afternoon of music with Rich Layton and Tevis Hodge, Jr. helping out. Please come out and support our IBC acts as often as you can! Sorry we did not have anything make it into the BluesNotes regarding this show, but as mentioned in my column last month, we were not even sure if The Lehrer would be open beyond the end of the month.

Speaking of The Lehrer, there is nothing in my heart that I enjoy more than being able to retract my comments about their imminent closing in last month’s column. It is through the music community that they are still open, and hopefully can remain going. The aid of musicians Ken DeRouchie, John Mazzocco, and Dave Kahl putting together a huge fundraiser for the venue happening after the BluesNotes deadline was huge!  And a group of acts helping out for this event. They know the importance of keeping all venues alive, because frankly when they close, that is less opportunity for them to work. The Knuckleheads, The Strange Tones, Ken DeRouchie Band, Lisa Mann, Lloyd Jones, Karen Lovely, Dover Weinberg, LaRhonda Steele, and Arietta Ward all stepped forward and I am sure others stopped by to lend their support, too. Please attend events at all of the venues, pay cover when called for, tip the bands, buy food and beverages while there …. Just keep the clubs in business. It will make everybody more happy!

Last word from me for this month. Support our IBC acts. Buy tickets for the Cascade Blues Cruise happening on The Portland Spirit on October 3. Thanks to Rae Gordon for putting this all together to raise money for all three of our acts heading to Memphis: Sister Mercy, Rogue Rage Duo, and Justus Reece. Throw in Karen Lovely and Rae both performing along on the ship with all three acts and it will be an amazing day. This cruise set up by Rae last year pretty much raised most of all the money her band needed to get to IBC through flying, lodging, and food. Let’s make this one be profitable for the 2016 entries! I’ll be there for sure, and you know this will sell out! Get your tickets now!