Lamont Cranston Blues Band
New Year's Eve Blues Bash
@ The Grand Opera House, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, December 31, 1997
by G. Lee Laurent, T. Jo Jesme & T. Whitcomb


Ten...nine...eight... the fans are chanting in unison... seven...six...five... the aisles are dotted with noisemakers and party hats... move over Dick Clark, there's a new gig in town: Lamont Cranston! Look out Times Square of New York, here comes the Historic Grand Opera House of Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

Pat Hayes
New Years Eve, 12/31/97
Photo © 1997
All rights reserved
When the curtain rises, there isn't a fan in their seat as strains of 'Auld Lang Syne' are brought to life by the awesome sounds of the ever-famous Lamont Cranston Blues Band. Who would've thought a song we only hear once a year, could sound so hip! Without a pause, the riff takes us from the traditional Auld theme, to the classic blues we've all come to hear. With the crowd totally hyped, and the band ready to jam, somewhere from 'the shadows' of backstage, enters the highly energized Pat Hayes, who's lead singing and style take the place to a higher level.

The next few hours, seeming like minutes, were filled with blues at its best! The saxophones sizzled, the harmonica sang, guitars rocked and history was made. Who could believe this was the culmination of a night already filled with two other wonderful blues bands; Oshkosh's own Lil' Davy Max Band and Milwaukee's Reverend Raven & The Chain Smoking Altar Boys.

As all good stories begin, we had the main characters, consisting of a group of eight, who traditionally spent New Year's Eve with a quiet evening at home. We had the occasion (what better excuse to party than New Year's Eve?), and we had the main plot: no driving, lots of food and beverage, and a good time to be had. Now all we needed was the 'where' and the 'how'.

Rico Anderson, the band's manager can be blamed for the idea of the blues bash & bus trip. That idea included riding a bus to somewhere exotic, and hopes to catch a show. Would the bus be yellow, we wondered? Would it have black electrical tape over the school name? And, would the bus driver make us stay in our seats the whole way? Much to our surprise, a nothing but fabulous state-of-the-art charter tour bus pulled up, with anything but electrical tape on the side. A pleasant, professionally attired bus driver (Brian) popped out and said "Let me help you with your bags. We will be making a few stops, but you'll be happy to know there is a full lavatory in the back of the bus. Have a great time!"

The bus loaded up with 25 fans PLUS the whole band (except for Pat, which was disappointing). The five-plus hour scenic ride flew by, and provided just the right amount of time for us to get to know some of our fellow adventurers, and make a healthy dent in all of the snacks we brought along. (Did you know there's actually a guy named Clem, who's never missed a Lamont Cranston show? Of course, he was on the bus!) Some were even caught with a lime and salt in one hand and a tiny glass in the other. Wow, did they think to pack everything? We even watched a recently taped video of The Rolling Stones' "Bridges To Babylon" pay per view concert on the trip over. We all had a great time. The band is already planning the same for '98 and next year, we will fill one whole bus just with our group, so sign up early.

Larry Hayes
New Years Eve, 12/31/97
Photo © 1997
All rights reserved
We checked into the hotel, had a few hours to enjoy a leisurely dinner, and fueled ourselves for the big night ahead. Promptly, as scheduled, the bus (our limousine) arrives to transport us to the Opera House. Upon entering the theatre, we are greeted by ushers in white shirts and bow ties, who know all kinds of interesting history about the fully reconstructed late 1800's theatre. We were then led to our seats (the bus package included VIP seats in the 2nd & 3rd rows). It was haunting to think that this was where Houdini performed his great acts. (If Houdini really does come back as he predicted, this would be the place he would do it.)

It was a theatre like we had never seen before. Expansive ceilings with chandeliers glowing, purple velvet seats, and intricate architectural details begged for further examination. When the curtain rose, and the music began, people from the upper balconies to the front row seats moved to the blues all night long. Both the covered orchestra pit, and the spacious aisles, transformed into dance floors; and everyone knew they were in for a night of blues like never before.

Well into the two o'clock hour, Pat Hayes, backed up by the Lamont Cranston Blues Band, closed the night with a phenomenal harmonica performance; none other than their signature song "E Jam". It's obvious by the sparkle in his eye, and the smile on his face, that he lives for that moment; when the crowd comes to fully appreciate his talent and style, meant to be lived through the blues.

It was over too quick. A New Year's Eve to be remembered. Then it was back to the hotel, for some well-earned sleep. After breakfast and some Advil, we hopped on the bus. Each member of Lamont Cranston boarded to a rousing applause of appreciation for a show well done. We were not at all ready to leave our new-found treasure of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. It seemed the picture perfect town to us. The kind of town that makes you proud of where you're from, where they still love old buildings enough to refurbish, where they still love the arts enough to wear bow ties, and most of all, they still love good music enough to play the blues.

P.S. The Lamont Cranston Blues Band has already started planning a 2nd & 3rd annual New Year's Eve Blues Bash at the Grand Opera House for '98 and '99 (the millennium) - so make your plans early. Contact LC's manager Rico at (612) 477-6729 for details.

E-mail gif Ray Stiles at:

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Copyright © 1997 by Ray M. Stiles
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, or any information storage or retrieval system, without permission in writing from the author.