Sunday, October 23, 2011

Helping a Friend of the Blues...

The event was held for a serious reason: raising money to help an ailing friend. But the music was pure entertainment: the type that the friend, Living Blues Magazine and Rooster Blues Records founder Jim O’Neal, loves.

A group of D.C. area musicians headed by singer/guitarist Memphis Gold gathered at Surf Club Live, arguably the closest venue the National Capital Area has to a juke joint, on October 20, 2011 to raise money for O’Neal, who is suffering from cancer. There will be at least two more around the country organized for O’Neal,CEO of Memphis Gold's current label, Stackhouse Records. Memphis said that another scheduled for November 3 at Buddy Guy’s Legends in Chicago will feature him and singer/guitarist Kenny Neal.

A band including Memphis Gold, veteran bluesman Bobby Parker and guitarist Robert Lighthouse played a 40-minute set that highlighted the Surf Club Live event. They played for an audience warmed up by guitarist Rick Blue Steele and his band; singer Ida Campbell; the D.L. Funk Band of Dunn Loring, Virginia; singer Stacy Brooks, singer Shirley Lewis; singer/guitarist David Cole; and singer Mary Shavers, who was backed by Bad Influence, a popular local blues band.
O'Neal founded Living Blues in Chicago in 1970. In 1980, he co-founded Rooster Blues, a label specializing in Mississippi Delta style music with releases from artists such as Lonnie Pitchford, Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes, Larry Davis, Carey Bell, Willie Cobbs, Magic Slim, Lonnie Shields and Eddy Clearwater. The label shut down in 1998 and was sold the following year, resuming operations under its new owner in 2000 when it marked its 20th anniversary by releasing Willie King's Freedom Creek and reissuing classic blues recordings.
O'Neal, who also co-edited the book, The Voice of the Blues: Classic Interviews from Living Blues Magazine, was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2002. The Living Blues website says he is receiving chemotherapy for lymph cancer, but that he does not have health insurance. Anyone wishing to contribute can mail checks to the Jim O'Neal Blues Fund, P.O. Box 10334, Kansas City, MO 64171. They can also make donations through PayPal to the account
Cole did his version of “Walking the Dog:”

A short time later, Bad Influence helped out Mary Shavers as she talked about "A Mean, Mean Man:"

Later, the highlight of the show: Bobby Parker, who once played in Bo Diddley's band(See our interview of Bobby Parker, posted in two parts on October 30, 2010 and November 2, 2010) together with Memphis Gold, who has just released a new CD "Pickin' In High Cotton:"

Also, if you're in the D.C. area on November 12, 2011, catch this year's College Park Blues Festival, an annual event held by the D.C. Blues Society. This year's festival features Guitarist Warner Williams; the D.C. Blues Society Band with singer Ayaba Bey; the Tom Newman Band; and Clarence "the Bluesman" Turner, who only a week ago won the D.C. Battle of the Bands and in January will represent the area at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. A $600 G&L Guitar will also be raffled.
I recently had a chance to talk to the 81-year-old Williams, who this summer recieved a National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts:

The show unfolds from 6-11:30 p.m. at the University of Maryland's Ritchie Coliseum, located at Route 1 and Rossborough Lane in College Park.

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