Sunday, August 29, 2010

Pocono Blues Festival: Can't Wait Until Next Year...



I remember during the 1970’s I had a couple of albums by B.B. King and John Lee Hooker. In the 90’s I stumbled upon albums by Lucky Peterson and Robert Cray. And of course, as I mentioned before in this blog, I was fascinated with Jimi Hendrix, as much a blues musician as anyone with songs such as “Red House” and his version of Elmore James “Bleeding Heart.”
But I knew next to nothing about Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf or Buddy Guy. I had never heard of Luther Allison. And the only Robert Johnson I knew about was a guy I went to school with.
I didn’t seriously fall into blues until about 10 years ago. Two things turned me onto them. One was the radio and shows such as those hosted by Jim Mertz and Dan “Da Dutchman” Diefenderfer in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where I was living at the time and by Rick “da Gator” Bolling in Washington, D.C., my hometown, which I frequently visited then and where I live now.
The other was the Pocono Blues Festival, a three-day series of blues concerts held each at the end of July or the beginning of August at Jack Frost ski resort in the Pocono Mountains, Pennsylvania’s recreational Mecca.
Just finishing up its 19th year, the festival (check out the interview BBP did with founder Michael Cloeren) gives blues lovers an opportunity to hear nationally-known blues acts in an idyllic, almost storybook setting—a serene wooded enclave at the base of a hill, near a lake. Performers play on two stages at the bottom of ski slopes that serve as natural conduits of the sound. A large tent near the resort entrance provides a third stage.
To me, it has become a ritual, must-attend event. A month after each festival, I am thinking about next year’s. By May I am checking online for the line-up and by June I am ordering the tickets.
I can’t remember when I started attending; all I recall is that my first one ended with a “shootout” between guitar powerhouses Lonnie Brooks, Long John Hunter and Phillip Walker. I carry MTV-video type memories of performers I have seen since: Buddy Guy, “Zydeco Sweetheart” Rosie Ledet, Little Ed and the Blues Imperials (I saw them twice, I think), Mississippi-born guitarist Dave Riley, Louisiana-born bluesman Kenny Neal, taxicab-driver-turned-blues-musician Mem Shannon, guitar veteran Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones, New Orleans groundbreaker and rising star Trombone Shorty, the list goes on.
This year’s festival featured a performance I considered myself lucky to see given the age of the players: 97-year Pinetop Perkins on piano, 78-year-old Hubert Sumlin on guitar, 74-year-old Willie “Big Eyes” Smith on Harmonica and vocals, Bob Stroger on bass and 61-year-old Bob Margolin—the youngster of the group—on guitar. Sumlin played despite having to receive constant oxygen.
Typically the guests are so charged up on the music that many flock to nearby after-parties for more. In my opinion, the best of them is held at the Boulder View Tavern, a restaurant and bar located along the outskirts of the resort. I once saw Eddie Shaw give a show there that had everyone dancing. His bassist, Lafayette “Shorty” Gilbert, handed me his bass and let me play a couple of songs.
The parties, which require a $5 admission, are great also because musicians drifting in from the festival frequently sit in with the host for some memorable jams. Last year I saw singer Shemekia Copeland and guitarist Bernard Allison take the stage together.
You have to buy all food and drinks—even water—from vendors on site, and after a full day under the hot summer sun you can end up spending a lot of money. Even more if you have the same penchant for t-shirts and CDs as I do.
Still, a $34 ticket price for a full day of first class musicianship is not bad, especially when you consider that you'd pay many times more than that for a three-hour rock concert.
What speaks loudest for the Pocono festival are the musicians, many of whom seem to consider a gig there as a breakthrough moment in their careers.
Theodis Ealey’s (pictured above, the white-haired guy on his knees with his guitar in one hand and his hat in the other) pride at playing the 2010 festival was evident when he talked about how his hit song, “Stand up in it,” had brought him there.
“You’re on the map as far as all the other festivals go because other festivals look at festivals and this is a big festival, it’s gone on for quite a while,” said Bill Sims, Jr., who also played the 2010 festival. “So other festivals can say ‘oh he played there, so let’s get him here.’ And Mississippi Valley Festival is another one, and King Biscuit Festival, Chicago Blues Festival, San Francisco Blues Festival is another one, but yeah this is..well you look at the acts here. I’ve seen Kim Wilson and the Thunderbirds here today. I’m listening to Mavis Staples here. Come on.”
Well, here begins the countdown to next year’s festival.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Marquise Knox: Wise Beyond His Years.....


The expression “Old man in a young man’s body,” certainly applies to Marquise Knox, who at 19 seems to have the depth of a bluesman three times his age or older.
The Granada, Mississippi native, who now lives in St. Louis, has caught the attention of the blues world’s elder statesmen.
He has jammed with Honeyboy Edwards, Homesick James and Louisiana Red. Eighty-one years his senior, the late St. Louis legend Henry Townsend once told him: “you date back to my day!” And Bobby Rush did a couple of shows with him.
He fell under powerhouse guitarist Michael Burks’ wing when Burks played on”Man Child,” Knox’s 2007 release.
Not uncommon for someone his age, Knox reportedly likes rap, but his commitment is to the blues and his deep vocals and precisely-timed guitar licks draw standing ovations, such as the one he received after a performance at this year’s Pocono Blues Festival.
One reason could be that blues is literally in Knox’s blood: He is cousin to two St. Louis heavyweights, harmonica giant Big George Brock and the late guitarist Bennie Smith.
BBP got to know Knox a little better during this brief interview:
BBP: You’re an amazing guitar player, where’d you learn to play like that?
Marquise Knox: I earned from my grandmother and my uncle.
BBP: Okay.
Knox: And from my grandmother’s brother Clifford.
BBP: Tell me a little about yourself, where you’re from…
Knox: I’m from Granada, Mississippi. I was born February 8, 1991. I’m 19 years old and I live in St. Louis now. The blues is what I want to do.
BBP: How old were you when you first picked up a guitar?
Knox: Eleven.
BBP: What drew you to it? What made you pick it up?
Knox: There was a guitar, layin’ around my house and my grandmother and my uncle knew how to play so I guess you could say it was in the family. Somebody was going to play the guitar, so I’m the one.
BBP: So do you write most of your own songs?
Knox: I did a few covers today but I’ve got a lot of my own too.
BBP: Tell me, you know I’ve noticed that you have a real good relationship with the bass player (Russell Sims). How long have you guys been playing together and do you guys work it out before performances.
Knox: We just do…Whatever we’re going to do we just do it on the spot. I don’t have a direct set if I want to do things I just do it.
BBP: who are some of your favorite guitar players, who are some of your influences?
Knox: I like BB King, Lightnin’ Hopkins and Muddy Waters.
BBP: You kind of moved toward the rock end a little bit. Do you like any rock guys?
Knox: Naw I’m just a bluesman. And R & B. Black music. I’m not no rock and roller.
BBP: I was curious, a lot of kids your age listen to the hip hop. To find a 19-year-old who listens to the blues, that’s kind of a rare thing. How do you explain that?
Knox: Well it was something that I wanted to do and I did it. I can rap a little bit but rap is not my style, I pursued the blues. And the guitar. I learned to play the guitar before I learned how to sing. So I think it all went hand-in-hand with one another.
BBP: Your friends ever give you a hard time for playing blues, which they might see as old folks’ music?
Knox: No, no. They like it.
BBP: Where have you been touring so far?
Knox: I’ve been over in Germany, Switzerland. We been in a few places.
BBP: How did the Europeans react to you?
Knox: They love it, they love it. I can’t understand what they say but they love it. (laughs)
BBP: Well this audience seemed to love it too I mean they stood up, they clapped. How did you feel about that?
Knox: If they didn’t do that then I didn’t do my job right.
BBP: What do you think of this blues festival?
Knox: Oh, it’s nice. I like it. I like the mountains. You get to see different things, meet different people different parts of the world, so I like it up here.
BBP: Now, if someone wanted to play as well as you what would you tell them to do?
Knox: Practice. Practice. That’s it. Practice. Learn it all. Try to. Whatever you want to do, learn it. It don’t hurt to try learning something else either.
BBP: How about the shortcuts? Any shortcuts?
Knox: No I never took no shortcuts. All I did was pick up the guitar and start playing. It’s natural, I know. But some folks, I know everybody’s story different but if the good lord but with the guitar, I feel at home with the guitar so It’s natural.
BBP: How many hours a day did you practice when you were coming along?
Knox: I practiced during the night, I never did practice during the day, I played a little bit during the day, I did most of my learning at night.
BBP: Play for hours?
Knox: Yeah, I’d wake up in the middle of the night, play for a couple of minutes. Whatever comes up I try to figure it out on the guitar.
BBP: When you played in the middle of the night you didn’t wake your parents up?
Knox: No I played my guitar in bed, unplugged.
BBP: Where do you want to take your music?
Knox: All over the world, all over the world, or as far as I can. I don’t want to get too big. I want to get known.
BBP: This album you have out now, was there a certain theme that was behind it or something you’re trying to say with it?
Know: No, I just …that was something that I wanted to do too. So I did it. Nothing I do has a purpose. Cause it’s the blues. My natural.
BBP: how did you end up in St. Louis?
Knox: Family moved, so I had no choice but to come up there (laughs).
BBP: How does your family feel about this? Supportive?
Knox: Oh yeah, very supportive.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chick Willis: "The Blues is the Only Thing That's Going to Soothe Your Soul"



Chick Willis has always been known for exploring the good-natured, playful side of the blues.
Born in Cabiness, Georgia, Willis learned to sing in church as a youth and taught himself how to play guitar. During his late teens, he performed professionally at Atlanta’s old Royal Peacock Club, crossing paths with Jackie Wilson, the Five Royals, Ray Charles, Big Joe Turner, Nappy Brown, Sam Cooke and Jimmy Reed, among others.
Willis made his first recording, “You’re Mine,” for Ebb Records in 1956. He toured with his cousin, rhythm and blues player Chuck Willis during the 50’s until Chuck Willis’ death in 1958. He then worked with slide guitar legend Elmore James.
Willis then started fronting his own bands, developing a reputation as an entertaining and energetic bluesman who was not shy about delving into raucous humor. During the 1960’s he gigged with comedian Rudy Ray Moore, later known for the film character of “Dolemite.”
In 1972, he released what many consider to be his signature song, “Stoop Down Baby.” The song became a hit even though sexually-explicit lyrics kept it from receiving radio play.
During the 1980’s and early 1990’s, Willis made several albums for Inchiban records, starting with a 1985 tribute album to his cousin, Chuck. He continued to make albums for numerous labels afterwards. His latest, Hit & Run Blues, was released last year.
The 73-year-old Willis continues to perform publically. Beldon’s Blues Point caught up with him after he played the Pocono Blues Festival late last month:
BBP: So what are you up to these days?
Willis: Well, I’m playing everywhere right now. I just came back from the U.K. I was there, I did ten dates in five days, you know. I’ll go on home I’ll play around home for a couple of weeks, then I’m gone again.
BBP: Home’s Atlanta, right?
Willis: No, home is Forsyth, Georgia. That’s about 60 miles south of Atlanta. I’m a country boy, I live down in them woods.
BBP: You know what, I remember years ago I saw you in Atlanta—this is the third time I’ve seen you-- I saw you in Atlanta at a club called the..you go down in the basement.
Willis: Blues in the Alley.
BBP: Blues in the Alley. Yeah, that’s it.
Willis: Well I’ll be at Blind Willies next. In fact I’ll be there Saturday night.
BBP: Ok
Willis: Next Saturday night.
BBP: And I saw you in D.C. I guess about a couple of years ago at a place called the Westminister Church?
Willis: Oh Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! We had a good time over there! I was surprised they were having blues in church.
BBP: Yeah I was too. Tell me about some of the people you admired most when you were a young musician coming along.
Willis; Well some of the people I admired nobody knows them but me. One was my grandmother, she played the organ, the pedal organ—she played organ and sang in the church and my father was a harmonica player, but the people that was recording back then that I admired was Lightnin’ Hopkins…
BBP: What did you take from Lightnin’ Hopkins, who do you think taught you the most in terms of guitar, who do you reflect the most?
Willis: Well, the person who taught me most at guitar, listening to the guitar was Guitar Slim. Now Lightnin’ Hopkins taught me more about the audience, about taking your time and making sure that your audience understand what you’re saying, and singing songs that the audience can relate to.
BBP: Now that song “Stoop Down, “what does that mean?
Willis: (laughs) “Stoop Down” was a song that we originated years back when we were working on a sideshow on carnivals. We used to have a sideshow, all of the carnivals that used to come to town, they’d have a sideshow that only grown-ups could go to see, and it always was after twelve o’clock at night. So we used to use that song, as a come-on song so people would want to know what else you’re going to say when you get inside. So they would buy a ticket to come inside just to hear that song, see what else you’re going to say.
BBP: What else did you say?
Willis: OOOOO, we said a lot of stuff. A whole lot of stuff. I mean grown up stuff. I mean it wasn’t a song that you could do in the presence of adolescent kids, but it was a grown-up song. It was a song that you do after hours, after everybody had something to drink and everybody was feeling good and then you did that song and they really had a good time.
BBP: That song was kind of controversial I remember.
Willis: When I first put that song out they wouldn’t play it on the radio. But the radio’s playing it now because, hey listen to rap. So it’s no big thing. You know people just enjoy it, that’s all.
BBP: As a guitar player, what advice would you give to other guitar players out there on how to improve their technique, what to look for when they’re playing, what kinds of things to watch?
Willis: The first place, fall in love with your guitar. Once you fall in love with your guitar, your guitar will teach you things. So what you’ve really got to do, what you have to do if you’re going to be a guitar player that people are going to understand, you’ve got to make your guitar an extension of yourself. You got to make your guitar say what you want to say. You got to make your guitar feel out and get the people and make the people feel what the guitar is saying. You got to let the people understand what you’re playing, you know. And that’s the blues and I can’t tell anybody how to play anything else. So if you want to play rock or jazz or pop or whatever. When you play the blues your guitar needs to be a communication tool.
BBP: How do you do that. Does it just happen?
Willis: You reach down inside of yourself and you have to start telling a story in your mind and the story usually is an experience that you had yourself, whether it be a bad feeling, or whether it be a good feeling, you know, because blues is not all about bad, it’s not all about sad. Blues is about experiences. So if you had a good experience, you play a good experience song, you play a song that makes people happy. If you had a bad experience, then you play that kind of song. So whatever the song is you play in blues, somebody in your audience has had the same type of experience and can understand where you’re coming from.
BBP: You said you just came back from Europe, how are the European audiences when compared to the American audiences?
Willis: They love it. They love the blues and the blues is apparently new to the European people. I mean we’re perceived great over there so when you say blues, oh man, they love it. And most people in America love the blues. Even the young people. Now at the colleges and things, I’ve been to a lot of colleges and stuff and they understand the blues. The blues is the beginning, the blues is where all of the other music came from.
BBP: Can you tell me just a little bit about your background?
Willis: I was born way back in the woods in a little place called Cabiness, Georgia. They had two stores in town, and I was raised in the church environment. My grandfather, he was the head deacon.
We were just raised up in the country, where you plow the mules and you chop the cotton and you milk the cows and just really country life. And you went to church every Sunday. Only time you didn’t go to church, you had to be sick. If you were well you went to church if you were in my grandmother’s house.
BBP: Let me ask you something else, when you first picked up a guitar, what attracted you to it, what made you decide that you wanted to play?
Willis: Guitar Slim. I listened to Guitar Slim and I really wanted to play guitar and that’s how I started playing guitar. The first song I ever learned how to play though was “Honky-tonk.” The second song I learned how to play was Jimmy Reed, you know “What Are You Going to Do.” So I learned that. I just loved guitar.
BBP: And Guitar Slim, when did you first meet him?
Willis: Oh God, I met Guitar Slim back in 1954. I was on the road with my cousin, Chuck Willis and they was all on the show together, so I got a chance to meet Guitar Slim, Big Joe Turner, Faye Adams, Ruth Brown, Wynona Harris, Etta James, the Five Royals, the Midnighters, Hank Ballard, Otis Redding, James Brown. You name it, I played with them.
BBP: Which of them was the most fun to work with and which of them was the most problematic to work with?
Willis: Well, the hardest man I ever worked with and for was Elmore James. Now he was a nice guy but Elmore James didn’t allow anybody to do any soloing but him. He had you just play background. The most fun man I ever worked with was Guitar Slim and the easiest man I ever worked with was my cousin Chuck.
BBP: Did Guitar Slim actually sit you down and say…
Willis: On nonononono. I just bought his 78 records and his 45 records and I watched him. Cause we used to go on tours together so we’d be together for a month, you know, three weeks, and I would just watch him. I would watch him and see what he was doing. And he used to have like a 50-foot cord. He used to drag the cord behind him and walk through the audience. So nowadays you know we got wireless.”
BBP: I saw Guitar Shorty one time and he walked all the way down the block, I mean two blocks.
Willis: I have too, I’ve got on buses and stuff and everything. I’ve done all kinds of stuff. In fact in the UK, I played in a place that had escalators going up. I played up the escalators and back down the escalators.I had a crowd right behind me, they followed me up the escalator and followed me down. Had a great time.
BBP: Where do you think the blues are going?
Willis: The blues are going to be here. And the blues is back real strong. And the reason that the blues is back real strong is, because the whole world’s got the blues now. We have so many problems going on now and they have nothing to turn to but the blues. You know. The blues is the only thing that’s going to soothe your soul now.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"They Bring their A-Game......"

Here’s a portion of the interview we did with Michael Cloeren, founder and producer of the Pocono and Vermont Blues Festivals. Held July 23-25, the 19th Annual Pocono festival featured Mavis Staples, Johnny Rawls, Chick Willis, The Fabulous Thunderbirds and a Saturday night concert with Chicago blues legends Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, Bob Stroger and Bob Margolin. Scheduled for August 27-29, the Second Annual Vermont Blues Festival will offer performances by Trombone Shorty, Kenny Neal, Big James Montgomery, Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones, Joe Louis Walker, Johnny Winter and Ruthie Foster, among others. Information about the Vermont festival is available at www.vermontbluesfest.com.
We started by asking Cloeren about the focus and philosophy of the Pocono festival:
Cloeren: The Pocono Blues fest for 19 years, we really haven’t changed our focus. It’s bringing in to the Poconos, the best in national and international artists that need and deserve the recognition. Like this year, the booking philosophy is one third legendary artists like Mavis Staples, The Fabulous Thunderbirds or Pinetop Perkins, one third artists that rarely come this far, like Chick Willis and one-third artists even the experts might have heard about but never seen before. So that formula and …being real to the art form is the reason why people travel thirty states and ten countries to come here.
BBP: Now you’ve started another one in Vermont. What made you decide to do that and how’s that working out?
Cloeren: The company I work for owns eleven ski areas in the United States and one of the ski areas is in Mount Stone in Southern Vermont and the president of the company called me up to see if I’d be interested in bringing the blues up there. And it’s a perfect setting—two and a half hours from Boston, four hours from New York City—they’re starved for hip music up there. And using a similar formula maybe a couple of acts to play Vermont might not play here but 90% of it is a similar vibe.
BBP: How did this blues festival get started?
Cloeren: It was basically… I was lucky being….I’m 53 years old, so about 19 years ago I was 33. Growing up in Philly, I had the opportunity to see Albert King and John Lee Hooker and Johnny Copeland when I was young and I remember in 1975 and I was going to the Philadelphia Spectrum to see Eric Clapton and this guy named Muddy Waters showed up and that hit me like a hammer over a head. That was March 15, 1975, and I’ve been a blues nut ever since. Cause I figured if Eric Clapton likes the guy, he must be cool.
BBP: Was it hard getting it of the ground financially, I mean getting people interested?
Cloeren: Well, the key back then was—back then there were about 40 events in our country, from a one-day fest to a four-day Chicago Blues Festival. Now there’s like 350 of them. So the key is back then—there’s a lot of blues societies that I network with—so that kind of was my start. I remember the first year we did about 1300 people each day, then each year it’s been kind of like a slow growth and now we do over the three days about 10,000 people. But they come as you know from far and wide, 30 states, ten countries, and the key is not to commercialize the music it’s not about commercialism and as much as I love BB King, and I do, and I love Al Green but I can’t afford them. The good thing is you pay everybody, you spread the love here. And you pay everybody fairly and the other philosophy I have is, they have to have a current CD—18 months, in the last 18 months. So not only do they make some money, but they also sell their CDs. That’s real important.
BBP: I see. So you’re saying –if BB King went two years without having a CD, would you book him?
Cloeren: Hell yeah, I’d book him (laughs). Hell yeah, I’d book him. But unfortunately what B.B. King gets—and he deserves every penny—is my budget for the whole weekend.
BBP: Now I know years ago you had Buddy Guy here. Was he hard to get?
Cloeren: At the time it wasn’t hard to get. And. Buddy did a good job but he didn’t bring in any more people than any of these other artists do.
BBP: Why do you think that was?
Cloeren: I think because people know Pocono is—you might not know who the act is but you know we’re not going to book a bad band. Show up, and you’ll be impressed. Like today. Who knew these artists before today, and it’s awesome.
BBP: Yeah, Roy Roberts, I never knew..
Cloeren: Soulful cat.
BBP: How do you find these people that not too many people have heard about?
Cloeren: I travel all over the world. And I dig them out.
BBP: So you go to blues festivals…
Cloeren: Yeah, blues festivals. I go to Europe, I go to Canada, and all over, blues festivals down south.
BBP: Do people actually tell you, “Go check this guy out.”
Cloeren: I’m so connected, I’m just so connected through the internet, friends that I’ve known for 20-some years, so it’s been a labor of love.
BBP: Has anyone not worked out. Have you ever hired somebody you hadn’t heard before and they just bombed?
Cloeren: Nineteen years, 380 national and international acts, I could probably count on like one hand the sets that were lackluster. But that’s just me.
BBP: Everyone comes here and pretty much shines.
Cloeren: Yeah, they bring their A-Game. They have to, or it will stick out like a sore thumb negatively.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

The von Trapp Family of Lower Merion Township


Guitarist David Coppa sometimes sees his family as Lower Merion Township's answer to the von Trapp family.
Like the Austrian family depicted in 1965’s “The Sound of Music,” the suburban Philadelphia family appears bound together by a common love of music.
Coppa’s father is a gifted classical piano player who also plays harmonica.His mother Mary was a professional harp player. Four of his sisters also play the harp, and two of them once performed with major orchestras. His brother Justin first played drums, then classical piano.
Coppa, 42, is carrying on the tradition, but in his own “rebel rock and roller way” as the guitarist for Scrapple, a trio that plays rock-oriented blues. “I’m not the schooled musician of the family but I’m out there doing it,” he said.
Known around the Philadelphia area since the early 1990’s, the group is re-energizing itself in the wake of the spring, 2010 release of “Make a Change,” its second album overall and its first in fifteen years. The new album marked the crest of a comeback that followed a near-hiatus of several years the group fell into after the 1995 release of “Storm,” its first album.
Scrapple, which also features David’s nephew, Pat, on bass and family friend Ray Williams on drums, has also been running the festival circuit.
"We've actually played a lot since David released that CD," said Pat Coppa. The group played the popular Briggs Farm blues festival in Nescopeck, Pennsylvania on July 10 of this year and the Mariposa Micro Brew and Blues Festival in Mariposa, California last year.
Mother to David and grandmother to Pat, Mary Coppa, who died in 2006, was the driving musical force behind the Coppa family. “Mary Coppa taught her children piano and harp,” recalled Pat. “They always loved music so there was always music in the house. She taught a lot of them to play music. It was definitely my grandmother. ”
Mary Coppa bought David a $35 Brazilian guitar when he was 12 or 13. He initially didn’t show much interest. “I kind of bagged it. I just put the guitar in my closet and every time I opened the closet over the next year, the first thing that would fall out is the guitar,” he said. ”It would just plop out on the floor.”
When he finally did pick it up, he found that playing it “just came so natural.”
“I was just really enjoying it. It was like, no more wrestling with it,” he said. ”Everything I did with it was exciting.”
He started to play seriously the summer after his eighth grade year. Chuck Berry became an inspiration, and a bootleg album he purchased while in the ninth grade turned him onto Jimi Hendrix. He also started listening to blues shows on the radio.
Eventually he and three friends—a bassist, a guitarist and a drummer—formed a blues/rock band, naming it “Blusion.”
“We were always the outcast band because we were playing 60’s music,” he said. “We were doing pretty well because we were playing stuff like Stevie Ray and Hendrix as opposed to stuff from the Cars and Devo.”
When the bass player left to join a new band, Coppa told the other guitarist “one of us has to play bass and it’s not going to be me.”
“So he got the hint,” he said.
Blusion dissolved after six or seven years and in 1991 Coppa formed Scrapple.

Already an accomplished guitarist, Pat Coppa was having doubts about a plan to attend college when his uncle approached him about playing bass for the new group.
“Pat told me, ‘look, I don’t know if I’m going to make it with the school thing,”
David Coppa recalled.
”I said ‘Pat if I buy you a bass would you learn to play it and he said ‘I don’t know.’ He called a couple of weeks later and said ‘I’ll take that bass.
Williams, 47,who overcame blindness to actively pursue music, met the Coppa family over 30 years ago while he was playing in a jazz band with Bill McCann, a blind trumpeter who dated and later married Coppa's sister Mary Ann, herself a harp player.
“They’re so much fun to be around,” said Williams, who from time-to-time would tune the family piano. “They’re crazy when they all get together. There’s a bunch of them and they just like kidding around and being funny and crazy.”
Williams started to connect musically with David Coppa during the guitarist's senior year in high school.“I would go over his house, we would just hang out and write stuff and come up with different recordings of things that he wrote, just as demos. Once he decided to start Scrapple he asked me if I wanted to do it and I said ‘sure,’” Williams said.
The group played its first gig at the Barbary, a Philly bar known for its pirate ship-style d├ęcor. David Coppa described it as a dive with great food and an excellent PA system. “It had an old linoleum floor where you could spill your beer,” he said.
The gig “was with two other bands and we made 16 bucks,” David Coppa said. The money was split three ways, “but I got the extra buck," he quipped.



The Barbary became sort of a headquarters to Scrapple as the group played regular gigs there and hosted a weekly blues jam. “We used to have a really big biker following,” David Coppa said. “There’d be like 20-30 Harleys parked outside there, not at the weekly jam we did but whenever we had a regularly monthly gig there, there were all kinds of Harleys.”
The group went on to perform in other places around the Philadelphia-Delaware Valley area, sometimes playing four nights a week.
During this time, Pat Coppa, who had started with little experience on the bass, began to show promise on the instrument. “When Pat started Pat couldn’t play bass for anything and I told him ‘Pat, you can’t play bass,’ “Williams recalled. “But between Dave and myself coaching him, and him practicing and everything, he’s really become a very good bass player.”
“Storm” was recorded by an engineer who came out to see the group and wanted to make a CD. “He footed the whole bill for the record,” David Coppa said.
But the high from the record was short-lived. “My experience is that bands record a disc and then they disappear,” Coppa said. “They don’t do it intentionally but it happens. Basically we played for another six months and then we fizzled out.”
David Coppa settled into a marriage and his bandmates went on to other musical ventures. But the end of his marriage about four years later brought music back in his life.The band re-formed and went on to record the CD.
Band Manager Dave Lach, who sponsored the CD, believes it will make getting gigs that much easier. "It just may take some time,” he said.
Lach, who sponsored the new album, first met the group in 2004 at a gig it played in Media, a Philly suburb. “The first gig I booked David was a solo gig at the old Vincent’s in West Chester, PA where they supplied the rhythm section and the band played for tips,” Lach said. ”It was the last time he played for tips but the tip jar was full at the end of the night and after I gazed at the audience that night I was convinced he was the real deal.”
David Coppa is proud of the new album, on which 12 out of 13 songs are original .
Still, he wants the band to treat it as a beginning, and not again get swept up by the feeling of accomplishment that comes from recording a CD.
“Really what should be happening is that it should be an incentive for us to work harder,” he said.