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Bobby Rush - Bernard Allison
@ Tarpon Springs, FL - Oct. 10-11, 1998
by Gloria Pierce
Pure Star Power: Bobby Rush - Bernard Allison
"Blues on the Bayou"

I could follow Bobby Rush around for days, months, maybe even years and never stop learning about life, music, caring, and people. He is forever studying what he is about, what we are about and how to make us look at ourselves and SMILE. He puts so much humor into what we sometimes take so seriously. Bobby is a serious man though. He cares about people as well as his truth to his music and performance. He devotes much of his free time to helping and serving others.

On November 9th at the House of Blues in Los Angeles, Bobby Rush will receive the Blues Foundation's second annual "BB King Blues Hero" Award during the Lifetime Achievement Awards Ceremony. And on top of that, US Congressman Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, put into the Congressional Record a stirring tribute in honor and acknowledgement of Bobby Rush's contributions to the music industry and community.

Ok, back to Saturday night in Tarpon Springs - I just couldn't help myself - praising Bobby Rush just comes so easy - he is so much to so many - oops there I go again.

I was going to write on one of the Bobbyisms - "Booga Bear." What is it? But I decided after actually doing my own little official/unofficial survey amongst some fans and musicians that the idea of innuendo is better left to the imagination. Still I wonder what Bobby's brother, Larry Ellis - also in the music management business - meant as he said to me when I asked him - What is Booga Bear? "Come on over here ... Let me show you the Booga Bear." Larry was sporting a button that read "Damn I'm Good." With much laughter, I just left it at that.

Bobby leaves all to the imagination or does he! His shows point out the sexual comedy of both men and women. The women in the audience love to see Bobby's incredible sexiness, his energy, and his references to human foibles, while the dancers certainly keep the men entranced. We have to laugh over and over as we see bits of ourselves, of our lives, of our own comedies in his stories of love, pain, sexual escapades and double entendres.

Enter Bernard

While Bobby's show is about us - our loves, our mishaps - Bobby is about what is right. He grew up in the music business along with Luther Allison. And although on stage the style was different - the level of entertainment is not. Sunday night, Bernard Allison, Luther's son, put on one hell of a show. I was able to spend several hours talking to Bernard after the show. We spoke also of Bobby and his dad. Bernard remarked that they were both from the same place "inside." They cared deeply for people. They believed in many of the same things and they were friends for over 40 years. In fact Bobby gave Bernard one of his songs for his exciting new Ruf Records release, "Times Are Changing".

I felt like I already knew Bernard. Having had been very good friends with his brother Luther T., having had been what I call more fanatical than the average fan of his dad's - it just seemed like I already knew him. But I didn't. Yes I had met him briefly a few times last May during the Handy Awards in Memphis. But I never really got to talk to him nor never heard him play with his own band or his own music. This was a sensational treat. His voice strikes a bit of an eerie chord with me - very similar in sound to his dad.

Standing in front of the stage was an awesome experience. I was almost frozen in space. A few times when I would close my eyes, I could drift off into another time and hear Luther. It wasn't that they played so much the same, it was just the incredible sound of the voice. Bernard is as he claims - the next generation - and definitely his own person. He combines enormous talent, charisma, production and arrangement skills that far surpass most bands I see and puts it into a total package that surely will win over each and every audience who sees and hears him. He is definitely the future.

His sound combines the past with all the excitement of the present and the future - funk, jazz, blues and maybe just a little something indescribable yet - Bernard's exquisite touch of original production. He believes in putting on a show and getting the audience to feel what is happening. There are no lags in the performance - it flows all the way through. That has always been a mark of a professional who works at his craft, delivers it to the fullest and believes in what he does with all his heart. All of this becomes a new unique form - BA's Blues. His father is surely smiling down on all of us as Bernard steps up to the plate and wins our hearts.

As Bobby left Tarpon Springs on Saturday night, he told me several times to be sure to tell Bernard the next day that "He loves him." I did and the sentiment back was the same.

This review is copyright 1998 by Gloria Pierce, all rights reserved.

Mailbox E-mail Ray Stiles at: mnblues@aol.com

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