Friday, February 6, 2015

Postcards from  Memphis, January 2015.
All photos taken by B.J. Huchtemann, copyright 2015.
May not be reused without permission and photo credit. Above, Tad Pierson's 1955 Cadillac, the best way to see Memphis and have some one-of-a-kind experiences.
Below, the main studio at Royal Studios, Willie Mitchell's historic and still working studio that was the home of Hi Records, the place that Al Green and many notables recorded. It is still a working studio today. Thanks to Daniel Mitchell for inviting us in and giving us a personal tour.
We serendipitously ended up being invited in and given this amazing tour, thanks to Daniel flagging down his (and now our) friend and tour guide Tad Pierson as we rolled by in  his 1955 Cadillac.
Note the pockets built in so that the players can see each other but the sound is somewhat isolated. Charles Hodges, legendary session Hammond B3 man, on the big keyboard rig in the back. Legendary trumpet player Ben Cauley on the far right. Ben was an original member of the Bar Kays and was the only man to survive the plane crash that killed Otis Redding and the rest of the band. 

The instrumental players, a bunch of old session guys, were setting up at Royal to rehearse that day. They were working  under Boo Mitchell's direction to get the instrumentals down for their appearances at Sundance Film Festival backing some of the Memphis recording artists featured in the documentary film, Take Me To The River.  See

 The downstairs board that faces out into the studio.

HI Records sign behind the upstairs board.
Tad Pierson, Left, who drove us on his Cadillac tour and Daniel Mitchell, who so graciously invited us in
and showed us around his family's Royal Studios.
What a treat!

Daniel Mitchell, Right, with his cousin,
outside Royal Studios, Memphis.

Exterior, Royal Studios, including a mural of Willie Mitchell on the old doorway (Note the Royal in stone up above) and their recently installed historical marker.

 Tad stops to check a little rattle under the hood. Beautiful car, best tour guide of Memphis you could ask for.
Check out
To contact Tad Pierson, American Dream Safari Tours
901 527 8870
PO Box 3129, Memphis, Tenn.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Randy McAllister, Lil' Ed & Mike Garrett fundraiser, KBAs & IBCs

Memphis in the Meantime, Keeping the Blues Alive Awards and 2015 International Blues Challenge
See my column in the February monthly print issue of The Reader for one of my favorite stories from my time in Memphis. I visited the city during the third week of January. I was honored to receive the Keeping the Blues Alive award for Journalism from the Blues Foundation at a luncheon that featured 15 international recipients honored for their contributions to the blues in various behind-the-scenes categories. Everyone had a personal story of how the blues had impacted them and in many cases literally changed their lives. It was amazing to be part of this group of blues lovers honored for following their hearts.

Memphis is brimming in music history and Beale Street is overflowing with blues acts and blues fans during the International Blues Challenge (IBC). Blues artists come from around the world to be seen, heard and network in Memphis. The Keeping the Blues Alive awards are held in conjunction with the International Blues Challenge.

I was honored to be asked to judge the IBC finals along with fellow KBA winner, legendary producer Mike Vernon. Other judges with me in the Band category were musicians Zac Harmon, Karen Lovely and Liz Mandeville and Alligator Records' president Bruce Iglauer. Vernon was part of the solo/duo judging panel along with musicians Colin Linden, Hawkeye Herman, Andy Cohen and Earwig label president Michael Frank. Everyone was diligent in their judging duties and I can tell you it's a very difficult task. You can't help but be subjective even when you try your best to be objective. In the end, all that one judge can provide is their professional impressions of each act based on the judging criteria.

The judges score the artists on a point system that is set up by the Blues Foundation, including Vocal talent, Instrumental talent, Stage Presence, Originality and Blues Content. The Blues Content category is multiplied for each act and seems to be the area that is most subjective based on each judges' interpretation of what “the blues” consists of, though the Blues Foundation's own website notes that panels “will include members with varying opinions of Blues, covering the spectrum of Blues whenever possible, from the most traditional to soul/blues and rock/blues. Bands should pick material carefully.” See the full details on the judging criteria at

At the end of a seven-plus-hour day in which eight solo/duo acts and eight bands were scheduled to perform, the final judges' votes put Vicksburg, Mississippi, representative Eddie Cotton and his soul-blues band in first place. Hot guitarist Noah Wotherspoon from Cincinnati (representing the Dayton Blues Society) took second place with his trio and also took home the Gibson Guitarist award for best guitarist in the Band category (again determined by judges scoring on a pre-determined point system). Third place went to French band Nico Wayne Toussaint who advanced to the IBCs through the Southern California Blues Society's competition.

My fellow KBA recipient Mike Vernon, noted for his early producing work with Eric Clapton and John Mayall's Bluesbreakers and Fleetwood Mac with Peter Green along with many classic blues artists, later expressed particular enthusiasm for Noah Wotherspoon. I'd say this makes Wotherspoon a real odds-on act to keep an eye on in the coming year.

The final solo/duo act was a curious no-show, so the IBCs only awarded first and second place in the solo/duo category. Since I was judging the bands, I was able to just sit back and enjoy the solo/duo acts. Winner Randy McQuay was definitely my favorite in this category. He performed representing the Cape Fear Blues Society and put on a musically diverse and engaging set that featured both a humorous singalong and a heart-felt ballad. When he won he literally kissed the stage floor. Second place in the solo/duo category went to Brian Keith Wallen representing the Dayton Blues Society. Wallen also played an excellent set. Ben Rice from the Ashland Blues Society took home the St. Blues Guitars' best guitarist award, after performing with Lucy Hammond.

Did I mention that all the finals acts played mere 20-minute sets with 10-minute turnarounds? The pressure is on when over 250 acts have been whittled down to sixteen in the finals. They have only 20 minutes to show what they can do and going overtime means losing points. Playing in Memphis' beautiful Orpheum Theatre definitely seemed to keep some of the bands I had seen sizzling the previous night in the clubs perform a little more subdued sets.

Blues Society of Omaha's representative Hector Anchondo Band made it through to the semi-finals, which means they survived the cut from some 250 acts down to about 50 acts. That's a big accomplishment. In the semi-finals round they drew a venue with several excellent bands, drew the final slot and played their best show of the week. They didn't make it on to the finals but they said they received lots of positive comments from fans and fellow musicians and achieved their goal of making it to the semi-finals. Being seen and heart and making the most of networking opportunities is definitely as important as what sort of points a band scores with judges.

I want to make note of Betty Fox and her band as an act I think is one to watch. Fox advanced to the finals from the venue that Anchondo played. She is the real-deal with a big, beautiful voice, dazzling star quality, plenty of heart and a band to match, particularly the dynamic Kid Royal on guitar. Fox represented Florida's Suncoast Blues Society. Keep an eye out for her. Look up her music at

Your next chance to see the Hector Anchondo Band here at home is Friday, Jan. 30, at The Slowdown as part of a benefit for Josh Lorimer, who is currently on the kidney transplant wait list. Anchondo performs along with a number of other local artists 730-midnight. See details at Follow Anchondo at The band has a new CD, Young Guns, released in December.

Randy McAllister Returns

The first show out of the gate this week is the wonderful Texas troubadour Randy McAllister and his crack band, throwing down a great mix of original roots sounds in the service of his fine songwriting. McAllister always puts on an entertaining show. Catch him at The 21st Saloon Thursday, Jan. 29, 6-9 p.m. Next week the 21st Saloon presents singer-guitarist Shannon Curfman Thursday, Feb. 5, 6-9 p.m. Curfman broke onto the scene a decade or so ago as a talented teen and is now back on the road as a bandleader.

Mike Garrett Fundraiser 
Lil' Ed & the Blues Imperials
 hit Lincoln's Zoo Bar Saturday, Jan. 31, 6-9 p.m. with special guest J.R. Clark filling in for Mike Garrett. Garrett, Ed's longtime second guitarist, suffered a heart attack Jan. 7 and had quintuple bypass surgery on Jan. 8 in a hospital near his suburban Chicago home. On Jan. 13 he was allowed to go home and he is working toward a full recovery. On Jan. 27 his wife Lisa wrote “Mike had some good news today, His home health nurse told him that he is progressing so well that she no longer needs to come to see him. On another bright note Mike is starting to feel well enough to play his favorite Gibson. He is chomping at the bit to get playing.” See for updates.

Donations are being gathered by the Zoo Bar and the Blues Society of Omaha. BSO donations will be collected at The 21st Saloon Thursday, Jan. 29, at the Randy McAllister show. The Zoo Bar hosts a “Bring your Chicken and Gravy, We’ll Have the Biscuits” pot luck Saturday, Jan. 31, starting at 4 p.m. where they will be collecting a free-will offering towards Garrett's recovery fund. The event name is a nod to one of Ed's most popular party songs, "Chicken, Gravy & Biscuits."  The Zoo Bar will raffle a three-month pass to the bar at $10 per ticket. Lil' Ed will draw the winner during his show. Scott Kirk at The 21st Saloon has offered to match the Zoo's gift and will raffle a three-month pass to The 21 Saloon at the Jan. 29 show. The donations will be combined into one gift from the Nebraska blues community to Garrett and his family. (Writer's Note: the combined donations totaled over $800, according to organizers.) 

Benefit for Hayden
Young Omahan Hayden Owen was seriously injured in November when he tried to climb up on a dresser and it fell on top of him along with a tube television. He is currently at the Madonna Rehab Hospital in Lincoln where he is relearning basic motor skills. Several local bands are joining forces at The Sydney Friday, Jan. 30, 9 p.m. to raise money to help with the Owen family's expenses. Performers include Matt Cox, The Willards, Jeremy Mercy and The Pink Flamingos. Admission is $5.

Davina at the Zoo
Hoodoo favorite Davina & The Vagabonds hit Lincoln's Zoo Bar next Wednesday, Feb. 4, 6-9 p.m. Davina and her horn-driven band play some of the most joyous jump and swing music around. They have been wowing crowds at major festivals in the U.S. and Europe. The band is touring in support of their latest disc, Sunshine, and will not be back in Nebraska until they have a 21st Saloon gig on March 26. See and head out to the Zoo to soak up some pure swingin' musical sunshine. (Writer's Note: Due to the inclement weather on Feb. 4, Davina & The Vagabonds postponed their Zoo Bar show until Wednesday, March 25.)
Hot Notes & Shadowboxers Finish Strong
Catch the Lil' Slim Blues Band featuring Shawn Holt at Lincoln's Zoo Bar Friday, Jan. 30, 9 p.m. The Bottletops have the 5-7 p.m. FAC slot.

Josh Hoyer & The Shadowboxers are at #2 on the Roots Music Report's Top 100 Soul Album Chart for 2014, behind Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings. See The band is currently on a southern and upper Midwest tour in support of their second disc, Living by The Minute (Silver Street Records) that is taking them from Texas and Louisisana to New Orleans, Florida and through Chicago. See

Friday, January 2, 2015

The Reader Goes Monthly!

This week The Reader moved from a weekly to a monthly print publication. Check out more on the transition here

The glossy-covered magazine will publish each month. Check out this month's one of two covers contributed by my friend Mike Machian as a new year's-themed, forward-looking visual inspiration. 

My contribution to the first monthly magazine is here
My last weekly print column is here

I will continue to have the weekly, event-oriented, coming-attractions coverage that you are used to finding in the weekly online version, posting each Wednesday by about noon.
Here's this week's first installment.

I'll also try to get busy keeping this page updated more frequently too.
Here's to a great and wonderful new year full of live music, soul and magic!  

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Sunday Roadhouse, Mike Jacobs' 20th Anniversary, Terri Ware Remembered and More

Dean Dobmeier’s and Gary Grobeck’s Sunday Roadhouse hosts Curtis McMurtry Sunday, Oct. 19, 5 p.m., at One Percent Production’s new Reverb Lounge, 6121 Military Avenue in Benson. Curtis McMurtry is the son of acclaimed Austin singer-songwriter-guitarist James McMurtry and the grandson of popular author Larry McMurtry. This is the youngest McMurtry’s Omaha debut. The Austin Chronicle says of Curtis and James McMurtry “their styles are different — Curtis is baroque folk, and James is gritty roadhouse rock” while noting that Curtis’ debut disc “Respectable Enemy signals a bright future for one of Texas' greatest cultural dynasties.” See and for more information.
The Sunday Roadhouse presents a return visit from James McMurtry Sunday, Nov. 16, 5 p.m. at The Waiting Room.

Blues In The Afternoon Celebrates 20 Years
A belated congratulations to Mike Jacobs who Monday, Oct. 6, celebrated 20 years of hosting his Monday “Blues in the Afternoon” program on KIOS, 91.5 FM. Jacobs has been Music Director at KIOS since 2002. “Blues in the Afternoon” can be heard Mondays 1-3 p.m. See

Music Matinees
The 21st Saloon presents Bernard Allison Thursday, Oct. 16, 6-9 p.m. Allison is the son of late guitar great and longtime local favorite Luther Allison. Guitar star Bobby Messano, an eight-time Grammy nominee and former musical director for Steve Winwood, plays Thursday, Oct. 23, 6-9 p.m.
Lincoln’s Zoo Bar has the honky-tonk and Bakersfield country of The Derailers on tap next Wednesday, Oct. 22, 6-9 p.m. See
Josh Hoyer’s Sons of 76 play The Zoo Thursday, Oct. 16, 6-9 p.m. The jumpin’ sounds of the Honeyboy Turner Band are up Friday, Oct. 17, 5-7 p.m. and The Tijuana Gigolos play a special show Saturday, Oct. 18, 4-6 p.m., at the Zoo.

In Memoriam: Terri Ware
It is with great sadness that we learned that Terri Ware of Ware House Productions passed away Oct. 11 of advanced lung cancer. For nearly 20 years, Terri helped manage the top-flight production house whose clients include everyone from local agencies and bands to Snoop Dog and Lady Gaga. Their 2012 work with Gaga won them a Grammy nomination. The Reader's deepest sympathies go out to Tom Ware, their daughter Rachel and Terri's family and many friends.

Hot Notes
Local singer-songwriter Mitch Gettman has a CD release event at The Reverb Lounge Friday, Oct. 17, 9 p.m. Brad Hoshaw & The Seven Deadlies also perform. See
Honeyboy Turner Band gigs at Havana Garage Saturday, Oct. 18, 9 p.m.
McKenna’s auction is Sunday, Oct. 19, 11 a.m., at the restaurant. See for details.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Music 101: Show Up

This Week's Column is online. Tonight: Friday Night Venue 51 Reopens for Michael Campbell and Melissa Greener's show. See (A Mick's reunion of sorts! And Venue 51's swan song.)
Friday night Jackie Allen also has a CD release party at The Side Door Lounge (jazz

The AMAZING ERIC TAYLOR is at Jerome Brich's Folkhouse Concert Series Saturday night. 7:30 start $20 suggested donation. Storyteller, emotion-weaver, wonderful guitarist... spellbinding.

For more on Eric Taylor see RSVP at

Samantha Fish impressed the hell out of me at her last performance here. She plays The Hive Saturday night, 9 p.m.

McKenna's has some BluesEd bands featured tonight and blues-rocker Scott Elison Saturday night.
The Nebraska Folk & Roots Festival is going on in the Railyard in Lincoln tonight and Saturday night. See

Eric Taylor -- A Do Not Miss Show Saturday night
For more on Eric Taylor see

Eric's song for his friend Bill Morrissey

Music 101: Show Up

The Zoo Bar 41st Anniversary street festival went off in fine form with great talents onstage and excellent attendance for the outdoor shows. If you went, don’t wait another year to come back. Whether it is Lincoln’s Zoo Bar or other local venues of your choice, get out and support live music venues and musicians. The Zoo Bar has lasted for 41 years not because booking roots music is a moneymaker. It’s not. Successful venues and staff remain dedicated to the music through the long haul.
If you looked at the profit-loss columns for any local roots music venue you would probably see more nights when the bar takes a loss on bringing in music.
And if you are a musician you are likely struggling even more. A good band has probably gotten regional gigs by having a booking agent, maybe a manager and probably a publicist. All those professionals add to the band’s potential success, but they also get cost money.  If the band is on a recognizable label, the label provides support and distribution, but the label also takes a cut.

Music Needs You
So, if you are a fan of live music make a commitment to up your game a little, go to a couple more shows than you might originally have planned. One local fan I know will stop at a venue and give them cover charge money even when he can’t attend.
The Zoo has had some pretty thin weeknight attendance lately, even though many shows start at 6 p.m. In Omaha, McKenna’s has tried hard to add more regional touring bands and struggled to get any audience support.
Venue 51 has closed its doors after trying to operate as a music venue and bar.
Your support matters, more than you may realize.

Hot Notes
Venue 51 reopens for one last show Friday, July 18, featuring Nashville’s self-proclaimed folk-crooner Melissa Greener plus Michael Campbell, Pat Gehrman, Logan Krug and Scott Severin. Cover is $5. See
Eric Taylor is a stellar songwriter, storyteller and musician who was part of the Houston scene with artists like Townes Van Zandt. Taylor continues to collaborate with longtime friends like Lyle Lovett. Taylor plays Jerome Brich’s FolkHouse series Saturday, July 19. See RSVP at
Samantha Fish’s powerful, guitar-driven blues is at The Hive Saturday, July 19, 9 p.m.
Blues-rocker Scott Ellison is scheduled at McKenna’s Saturday, July 19, 8 p.m.
K.C.’s Nace Brothers hit The 21st Saloon Thursday, July 17, 6 p.m