How about the music? The crowd is relatively small as we sit down in the middle of a number that has us hand clapping and swaying in our chairs. The woman next to me is keeping rhythm with an orange (fruit) shaker. The Golden Swans break into "The Battle
Hymn of the Republic." Interesting song penned by the poet Julia Ward Howe as she woke up from a dream. It seems she heard "John Browns Body" that day and it inspired the words to the song that went on to become the anthem for the Union during the Civil War. She sold the song to the Atlantic Monthly for $4.00. The crowd is increasing now and responding nicely to this Gospel music, clapping in time to "Castaway For Life," "Somebody Feel What I'm Feeling," and "Step By Step I'll Make It Home One Day." The Swans cry out, "let me hear you say Yeah!" The response comes back at them. "Yea!"
Glory, Glory Alleluia, I'm a believer! At 12:10 p.m. the Golden Swans closed with "Somebody Touched Me." For my money, it's hard to observe and take part in a more moving music venue than Black Gospel. The Golden Swans are: Bobby Thomas (bass and vocals), Leonard Knight (lead guitar), Ron Collier (rhythm guitar / vocals), Charles Johnson (vocals), Artie Byrd (vocals), Billy Barnes (vocals), James Martin (vocals / manager) and 15 year old Albert Knight (drummer). I met Albert's mother backstage and she said with a great deal of pride that he has been playing since he was six years old. This was an awesome way to start our day of music. Thanks, Swans.
We shifted to the smaller, second stage for an on time start with Mick Sterling and the Stud Brother Horns. I have a lot of respect for this man and what he has done with the 'Heart and Soul' fund raiser. Before the band took the stage we had a chance to chat with keyboard man Mark Licktieg about who he/we thought were the real Soul / R&B singers. Names like Sam Cooke, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Sam and Dave and of course, my main man, Ray Charles came up. It's cool to stand backstage and watch the crowd reaction to "Why Do I Fall In Love With You," "I Am The Rock," Sam and Dave's
"Hold On, I'm Coming" and the classic "Smack Dab In The Middle."
The crowd is wired and I'm dancing with my wife as I see Sandy Drag and Cody Evien from the WDIO TV (ABC) News Team prepare to shoot some coverage. As I talked to Cyndee Parsons (the director of media relations) I look up to see Mick atop the massive speakers, shouting / singing and working this crowd into a frenzy. He descends after the song and moves on to a more sober note, the passing of three local musicians...Rick, Doug and Jasmine with the moving, "Will You Remember My Name." The band is Bobby (drummer), Billy (bass), Stevie (guitar), Donnie (keyboards), Mark (keyboards), Pat (sax), Jeff (sax), Larry (trumpet), Jersey Joe (trumpet), and Mick. This group Rocks with Soul!
One of the surprise acts of the weekend was Toronto, Canada native Philip Sayce. If you were here last year you saw Sayce light up the crowd when he played in Jeff Healey's band. More rock guitar than blues, Sayce is a very visual performer, jumping up and down, walking from one end of the stage to the other, sitting on the front of the stage, standing up by the drummer, he was in constant motion and very intent on his performance. And his guitar playing had an electrifying affect on the audience who was up cheering for much of his performance.
Candye Kane's set on the next stage was also a very "visual" performance. A former strip tease dancer, Kane was decked out it a garish pink dress with all the trimmings. But don't let her looks and politics fool you, she is one dynamic singer with her music coming mainly from the west coast swing vein.
I stopped in the Electric Fetus and ran into Mr. Bass Man him self - Steve York. Steve's got quite a background. Listen to this - Steve has played with Marianne Faithful...Dr. John...Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley just to name a few. He is now with Big John Dickerson. Nice guy to talk to with a lot of stories to pass on. Then back to the festival and observing the maze of people floating between the food and souvenir tents and back to the music area. There really are quite a few excellent vantage points to check out the music. I'm getting more comfortable with the change now.
Marcia Ball on the main stage at 4:25 p.m. and what a trip this leggy, '98
Handy Award winner is to watch. Her Boogie - roadhouse - New Orleans piano style
of R&B and Blues is almost unreal. She opens (vocals only) with the Gary US Bonds' "New Orleans." Next, she seats herself with legs just a bouncing and fingers flying across the keyboards - Marcia cuts through "Red Beans And Rice," "Just Kiss Me Baby," "Hey Big Shot" and "Craw Fishing." The entire crowd is on their feet now and Marcia owns this gig. Off the stage and back on with a three song encore-"All Night Long," Professor Longhair's "Going Down To New Orleans" and closing with the Huey Piano Smith / Frankie Ford "Sea Cruise." WOW! Marcia is so dynamic that I almost forgot to mention that a powerful band backs this lady. The band is Brad Andrew (sax), Pat Boyack (guitar), Don Bennett (Bass), and Chris Hunter (drums). You need to get hold of the new CD - Presumed Innocent and listen for yourself.
It's 6:10 p.m. when the 1999-2000 W.C. Handy Award winning band of the year - Rod Piazza And The Mighty Flyers take the stage. Rod's was dressed in his gold Shark Skin suit. I missed the titles of the first couple tunes but the first one was off his new CD - Beyond The Source. The Bo Diddley classic "Pretty Thing" was song three...YES...It would make Mr. McDaniel proud. Rod makes the statement "you can't have a Blues Festival without some boogie piano" and Honey and the drummer take off. If you have ever witnessed Honey Piazza turned loose on the piano...I don't have to write a word. The Mighty Flyers are Honey Piazza (piano), Rick 'LA Holmes' Holmstrom (guitar), Bill Stuve (bass), Steve Mugalian (drums) and Rod (Harp and vocals ). Rod asks "are there any blues lovers out there?" and after the response "yes" he breaks into a slow blues. Rod does his crowd walk as usual and everyone is really digging what's happening here. Honey even does a little 'Jerry Lee' foot action on the piano. The Mighty Flyers are a clean blues band and deserve every award they receive.
Another nice touch this year was the presentation of a well deserved award to Blues Revue Magazine. This award acknowledges ten years of support of the Bayfront Blues Festival. I talked to the two recipients Erin Waugh and Ted Martin back at their tent and I need to mention what great representatives these two are for this excellent blues publication.
Ike Turner is the closing act on the main stage. Blues fans, what do I say? Well, here goes...I'm convinced that the roots music, rock and roll, rhythm and blues, and the Soul music I treasure today are, in great part, attributed to the early participation of Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame inductee Ike Turner. He is credited with being a talent scout and
arranger (have you ever witnessed a pre - 'Proud Mary' Ike and Tina Turner revue?) and we all know about the 'Rocket 88' (first Rock and Roll record?) story. I came to Duluth just to shake Ike's hand.
After Marcia Ball's set I hung out back stage and met most of Ike's band including Seth Blumberg (guitar), Kevin Cooper (bass), Ernest Lane (piano), Bobby Holloway (sax), Paul Smith (keyboard), Jeorge Taylor (B sax) and Doyle Sanders (trumpet). I need to say just how nice these guys are and how they took time to talk and how, when Ike arrived in the Stretch Limo, I was introduced to and received that handshake from the man him-self.
Photo © 2001 by Ray Stiles
Show time and no press backstage, Hum...The band takes the stage styled out in cream colored suits, cuts into an R&B review number and brings to mind the old days when the players all dressed alike and their every move was choreographed...way cool. Out struts the 69 year old Turner, takes a seat at the piano and announces, "we are here to do a good show for you, hope you enjoy it." Ike plays a cut off the new CD Here and now, a Louis Jordan "Caldonia," the sweet "Mercy, Mercy, Mercy" and what a trip to see the man do "Rocket 88." Still...something is missing. What is it? Ike picks up the guitar now and goes into a blues number, tries a country western and then another cut off the new CD. The somewhat light Sunday night crowd is starting to thin when Ike introduces Audry Madison and the whole show turns into an Ike and Tina Turner Revue wanna be..."River Deep, Mountain High," "The Only One," "Nutbush City Limits" and as we are exiting "Proud Mary" escorted us to the parking lot.
Questions: Ike was more than cordial during the performance and Ike needs good press right? Why no photo coverage? Ike can stand on his own. Why the Ike and Tina Revue? Audry Madison is a great singer in her own right. Why not feature her on her on own merit? Was something missing? Fans, you be the judge. As for me... I'm still thrilled to see Ike Turner and I hope he gets / keeps it together.
Great Festival...Marcia Ball, Honey Piazza and Ike Turner pounding on those 88's all in one day - Yeaks!
Bayfront Blues Festival 2001:
Bayfront Festival Park 2001 by Michael Evan
Bayfront Blues Festival 2001 Day One by Rich Benson
Bayfront Blues Festival 2001 Day Two by Terry Marshall
Bayfront Blues Festival 2001 Day Three by Al Rohweder
Chair Marker Pictures
This review is copyright © 2001 by Al Rohweder, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved. Copy, duplication or download prohibited without written permission. For permission to use this review please send an E-mail to Ray Stiles.