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
"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 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 www.mnblues.com 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, email@example.com, 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
"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
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
"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.
Visit the Sun Current Newspaper's web site at: http://www.mnsun.com
E-mail Ray Stiles at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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