Saturday, February 14, 1998

Who Paid You To Give Me The Blues?

Tomorrow I go to the tape duplicator to get a bunch more cassettes of “Who Paid You to Give Me the Blues?”. I gave a copy (plus a video) to exactly one promoter and I’ve got three festival dates out of it. I knew I was in the big time when we played the Dollar last February and it cost me money. I had to dip in to the tape sales just to pay the musicians. And even at that, it was less than what I promised them.

Here I am listening to Muddy Waters sing “I’m ready” and writing out the words. I think in the blues circles of Toronto any 50-year old bluesman would be expected to know the words to every single Willie Dixon song. But I guess that’s why I haven’t had a chance to play around on the blues circuit. I just don’t have that repertoire of blues standards that everybody knows.

I’m going to publish these updates on my website (since I don’t have a lot else to put up there). This is my first letter in a long time so I’ll use it to chronicle my recent adventures in Toronto. Colorblind’s Toronto Blues Diary. There’s been so much going on that I forget to write, but here’s a good place to start.

Thursday, February 12, 1998

Installment #2 of Colorblind Brian's Toronto Blues Diary

Thanks to the great response to my first post last week, I am following up with a second report from the front lines. What a week it's been for the blues! Tonight is my gig at the Silver Dollar (to get *that* out of the way) but ever since the Maple Blues Awards last Monday we've had a flurry of blues activity, some focused on the Folk Alliance Conference in Memphis and lots in town too. Even a little controversy, but I won't get into that.

For this gig I will be joined by Rod Phillips and Mike Fitzpatrick, two very soulful musicians - both of whom were featured on the cassette of seven original tunes that I will be offering for sale at the Dollar (if I get them from the duplicator on time). If this message is addressed to you tell them you're on my e-mail guest list.

(There's a rumor that it's all a carefully orchestrated media hijack by Derek Andrews and Eddy B and so far they've gained more ink for the blues from mainstream media than even the wildly successful Maple Blues Awards could generate.) And that's all I'm going to say about that. What I want to know is: "Eddy, I guess it would be out of the question to get those prints of me..." Seriously, I don't think Eddy could bring himself to say anything less than friendly about me. He gave me my first solo gig in Toronto when he was booking Rowers. And he had me on his show playing live for an entire hour

The lighhearted commentary expressed here is not necessarily shared by the more serious people at the Toronto Blues Society, du Maurier Downtown Jazz or anybody else that I work for. If you would like your e-mail address removed from this list reply accordingly

The Silver Dollar Room

Well now I know I've made it to the blues big time. I'm playing a Thursday night in the same room where I've watched my guitar heroes like Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson and Duke Robillard.

Three clues that I've arrived at the "big-time":

- When I spill coke on my hand, I get handed a towel by Rocky the sound gal and a wet nap from Roy who's does the video.

- A drunk female patron climbs up on the stage and starts dancing

- The drunk female patron has to be removed from the stage by the bartender when she starts rubbing her breast against my hand in the middle of a guitar solo.

Big Time, here I come!

Monday, February 2, 1998

The first Maple Blues Awards

The Maple Blues Awards presentation - This was a great day for the blues in Toronto and had repercussions across the nation as a lot of talented people were recognized for decades and even lifetimes of dedication to the blues. My enjoyment was hampered by some kind of stomach flu so I was unable to partake of the delicious buffet that I had a part in arranging on behalf of the Blues Society (I kept needling Bistro owner Lothar Lang that some of these burly blues types would need something a little more substantial than the finger-foods usually presented for the jazzy set - I had a back door into the Bistro, literally, because I work for Downtown Jazz whose offices are directly upstairs).

Now that I'm back from my sick bed, I'm glad to share some of my happy (if slightly foggy) recollections. I hope this will be the start of some kind of semi-regular postings to the Maple-Blue list. I'll be gathering these ramblings on my website (as soon as I build one!) - think I'll call it "Colorblind Brian's Toronto Blues Diary" I expect to be performing more in '98 (hell if it's one gig a month it'll be more than last year).and may I mention my next gig:
**The Silver Dollar Room this Thursday, February 12 with Rod Phillips and Mike Fitzpatrick (mark your calendars).**

As I looked over the photos of the evening I was sorry that I didn't have the energy to circulate a bit more - I don't think there's ever been such an assemblage of Canadian blues celebrities under one roof (if someone had dropped the proverbial bomb on that place, etc, etc).

The ceremonies went smooth as silk with host John Dickie (my favourite line was "There's hundreds of dollars to be made playing this music."). I think Gary Kendall's acceptance speech was more talking than a year's worth of his stage patter and it was fascinating to follow his life journey from Thunder Bay to Toronto to the world (or at least to Florida). Maureen Brown also received a true hometown-hero ovation as did the ever-modest Chris Whiteley.

I had stepped out of the Bistro after the ceremonies and when I was walking back in, I was struck by an amazing voice. I asked Al Lerman if he knew who that was and he didn't know, but as I turned the corner I saw that it was John Ellison with Vann "Piano Man" Walls and several other winners & nominees who had kicked off the jam session. Tyler Yarema invited me to sit in on guitar (I did, after all, provide my trusty Vibrolux for the occasion) and I found myself launching into a blues shuffle with a stellar group including Al, Gary Kendall, Pat Carey, Chris Murphy and when I looked down at the drummer I saw more bare thigh than I've ever seen in my life in the person of the 6-foot Michele (formerly Bohdan) Hluszko in a severly slit evening dress. This was a first for me and for the entire blues world, I expect. John Dickie was singing and he knocked me out! Being a relative newcomer to the Toronto scene I had never heard Mondo Combo or any of his legendary groups and although I heard him singing on his radio show a few times, I never got the full blast effect - and here I was playing along (and he must have been wondering who the hell I was and how I got there). As the City-tv camera-guy swung into the room, Teddy Leonard of Fathead was invited up to play and I handed off the guitar to him and worked my way back into the crowd to start saying my goodbyes. What a night!