Alt. Blues On Stage Logo

Eden Prairie man
trumpets local blues scene on the web

By Kim Johnson, Minnesota Sun Publications
(Published: Tuesday, April 28, 1998)
Visit the Sun Current Newspaper's web site at:

Ray Stiles was introduced to blues music while attending school at the University of Minnesota. "We went to see this band play and there was this crazy harmonica player jumping around the stage (Pat Hayes of the Lamont Cranston Blues Band 1971). I thought to myself, 'What kind of music is this?'"

At 49, the real estate appraiser from Eden Prairie now attends two or three blues shows a week and writes reviews for a monthly magazine, "Twin Cities Blues News." "Once you hear it, if it's something that you'll like, you'll know it," Stiles said.

Last June, he found another outlet for his passion for the blues -- the World Wide Web. Stiles got the idea for a blues website when his son began developing a web page of his own. Space in the magazine was limited, so Stiles thought this would be a way to distribute more information about the local blues scene and reach a broader audience. "It's a free service," Stiles said. "A guide to the blues in the Twin Cities, and I'm trying to be as comprehensive as I can."

"I started not knowing anything about the Internet or web pages. My first attempt was kind of cumbersome. But it's fun. I'm learning stuff about it all the time." "Blues on Stage," at started as a calendar, listing various performance dates for musicians across the Twin Cities. After researching other sites and books from the library, Stiles eventually started adding graphics and articles to the site. He has several hundred links to other blues sites on the web.

"What happened really is it took on a life of its own, evolving as it went along," Stiles said. "[The blues] is an interest that has become more visible with Internet access. I keep trying to find ways to make it look better and easier to use. So feedback is helpful." On every page of the site, Stiles has a hot link to his e-mail address,, allowing anyone who visits the site to send him ideas and suggestions.

The address also is a way for him to receive information from performers. Through e-mail, Stiles stays in touch with traveling musicians he has interviewed, and gets performance dates from those who are visiting the Twin Cities. "I'm getting more musicians and bands to submit their schedules," Stiles said, adding the site's popularity is growing with fans of the blues, receiving several hundred visits a week.

But despite its growing popularity, Stiles has no plans to turn his knowledge of the web into a full-time business. "I have four kids," he said with a laugh. "One's in college, the other three are coming up. No. This is just a hobby."

Equipment for Stiles' hobby consists of an IBM computer, a scanner and a small cassette recorder for interviewing musicians after shows. Photographers send him concert shots, other writers send him submissions -- all voluntarily. The only thing that costs money is the trademark on his website name and a nominal monthly fee for 20 megabytes of memory on the web.

Included in the website are calendars, reviews of live shows and compact discs, and feature articles and photos of blues musicians, alive and dead. "They've lived pretty tough lives, some of them," Stiles said. "It's fun to talk to them. They've got some interesting stories. "There's a lot of history there. Some of these guys are really flamboyant, but they're all connected through love of the music." The website's club calendar includes venues that regularly feature blues music -- including The Blue Saloon in St. Paul and Blues Alley in Minneapolis -- to clubs filling more play dates with blues musicians -- such as The Fine Line Music Cafe in Minneapolis. Between 20 and 24 clubs send him performance dates to be included on the website, Stiles said.

About the same number of bands send him information for the website's musicians calendar, which lists club dates for Johnny Lang, Taboo Blue, Mick Sterling and the Slim Hippos, to name a few. "The Twin Cities has a lot of good musicians," Stiles said, explaining that he usually spends about an hour a day updating the calendars. Towards the end of the month, the hobby becomes more time-consuming. In two days, Stiles spends eight to 10 hours adding articles, reviews and graphics to the site, putting last month's submissions in the archives.

"Blues is not just about sad music or a hard life," Stiles said. "It's an expression of feelings -- good or bad. It's a style of music, a rhythm. That's the main thing I've learned interviewing these guys."

This article is copyright © 1998 by Minnesota Sun Publications, all rights reserved.

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