By Harvey Brindell
I arrived in Portland in July 2015 and by early August was working on putting my band together. I recruited a drummer and a bass player who were experienced players but, by their own admission, had little to no experience playing blues. When I said “I play Chicago blues” they both agreed that they also wanted to play that style, and after a few changes to the original line-up and the addition of a harmonica player, The Tablerockers are now booking gigs and playing regularly — and Chicago blues remains our niche.
I’ve spent years listening to, learning from, and going to see the practitioners of Chicago Blues, so imagine my surprise when a band member, club owners, and new friends told me they had to google “Chicago Blues” to understand exactly what I meant when I said “We play Chicago blues.” But allow me to digress slightly to add some meaning to all of this…
I arrived in Lincoln Nebraska in June 1985 after living in the Macon Georgia area for fifteen years. Now, little musical history: Macon was the home of Capricorn Records, which was both a recording studio and a record label and the Mecca for most southern rock bands. So when I arrived in Lincoln, I was steeped in southern rock and only knew Chicago blues from having listened to some blues records during the blues revival era in the sixties.
One night, after living in Lincoln for about a week, I was driving in my car and heard the guy on the radio announce: “This is live from The Zoo Bar, Magic Slim and The Teardrops.” I knew I had to find the place, so I did, and for the next thirty years I got to see some of the best Chicago blues a fan could ask for, many on multiple occasions.
In addition to Magic Slim and The Teardrops (when John Primer was still Slim’s sideman), I saw Junior Wells, with Buddy Guy on guitar, and of course Buddy bringing his own band to The Zoo. I also saw Phil Guy, Li’l Ed and The Blues Imperials, Luther Allison, Carey Bell, Lurrie Bell, Albert Collins, Charlie Musselwhite, Son Seals, Matt “Guitar” Murphy, Koko Taylor, Bernard Allison, Big Twist and The Mellow Fellows, along with many other acts.
To avoid sounding like a Chicago blues snob, the line-up at The Zoo Bar also regularly included many of the west coast and Texas blues practitioners like, Rod Piazza and The Flyers, William Clarke, Little Charlie and The Nightcats, Kim Wilson, Anson Funderburgh and The Rockets, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, and Chris Duarte. And yes, Portland’s own Curtis Salgado and Mitch Kashmar. Some of those bands, when they showed up, they were booked at the Zoo for a solid week.
I also had the opportunity to represent the Blues Society of Omaha as their photographer at The Chicago Blues Festival for twelve years. During those years I got to see many legendary blues performers including Pinetop Perkins, Willie Big Eyes Smith, Honeyboy Edwards, Lonnie Brooks, Eddie “The Chief” Clearwater, Billy Branch, Eddie C Campbell, Mojo Buford, Luther “Guitar Jr” Johnson, James Cotton, Johnny Winter, Little Arthur Duncan, Harmonica Hinds, Bob Stroger, Sam Lay, and on and on and on.
So if you don’t understand what I mean when I say “The Tablerockers are here and we play Chicago Blues” all you have to do is listen, it’s no idle assertion. I know of what I speak.
The current line-up of The Tablerockers includes: Harvey Brindell on guitar and vocals; Marty Presslar on harmonica and vocals; Sean Scheewe on drums; and Walter Guy on bass and vocals. For more information about The Tablerockers visit our website at: www.thetablerockers.com. To view some of Harvey Brindell’s photos from the Chicago Blues Festival visit: www.harveybrindell.com.