Sugar Ray Norcia!!!
On the heels of an incredible Chicago Blues Harp Bash (more on that below), B1 welcomed Sugar Ray Norcia to class this week and we had a terrific time!
Sugar Ray started by talking about the musical family he comes from - his mom an accomplished jazz singer, his dad a middle school music teacher and auther of the book The Voice, and his brother played in bands as well. It was a touching moment when he described his dad being a harp player - not a blues player, but a folksong and melody player and entertainer. He remembers him doing songs like the Wreck of the 97 and it was so cool to have Sugar Ray launch into the song, singing and playing in honor of his father!
For the fans of Big Walter Horton in the room it was a treat to hear Ray tell so many Horton stories from his days touring with him and awesome to have him play a bunch of Horton tunes with our friend Harlan Terson sitting in on bass. Harlan was on Horton's last tour! Here's a short Walter story: When he got tired on a set, he'd say to the band, "Give me half a beat. Don't give me a whole beat or it's gonna deaden me!" This was his twisted English way of asking for a slow blues!
Ray answered questions and addressed topics like songwriting and staying successful as a musician. On this last topic he said you need:
- stubbornness - in his case, playing music beats building houses which he as grudgingly done at times to fill in the gaps financially
- strong constitution for life on the road
- a supportive wife
Thanks for your warmth, kindness and music Sugar Ray - it was an evening we will not soon forget!
Chicago Blues Harp Bash #5 A Huge Success!!!
Our fifth Bash was Sunday at SPACE in Evanston and it was an incredible night of music, harmonica and special guests!
Highway RickEy, Tim Spahn, Dave Waldman, Billy Flynn and Corporate Kirk Manley did a terrific job laying down beautiful and inspiring blues playing and singing! The house was packed and they were putting on a show, all in a great lead-up to our headliner, Sugar Ray Norcia!
Sugar Ray made it clear he is a monster harp player, singer and entertainer, putting on a set that worked through classic blues and had the audience clamoring for a couple encores!
Special thanks to all the additional musicians and vocalists who shared the stage and made the night memorable:
Shoji Naito played guitar on the Highway RickEy set and also jumped in when Billy Flynn played harp. Oscar Wilson from the Cash Box Kings sang some for Billy Flynn; Ardella Williams (Jazz Gillum's daughter!) and Willie Buck sang with Dave Waldman and Kirk had two guests join him: the legendary Erwin Helfer played piano with him and the not-so-legendary Grant Kessler played second harp on one tune.
Thanks also to the amazing backing band that makes this all possible - the Grammy-winning Billy Flynn band featuring Billy Flynn on guitar, Mike Flynn on bass and Steve Bass on drums.
We couldn't put on such a terrific show without the help and support of a fantastic music venue. Thanks to Dave Specter and Jake from SPACE for making this all possible and giving the Chicago Blues Harp Bash a home these past few years! We love it there!
The audience was amazing and supportive - thanks to all in attendance and especially to our esteemed musician friends who turned out: Peter Madcat Ruth and Big Joe Manfra, Martin Lange, Buzz Krantz, Big Jim Themelis, Eric Noden and many more!
Lastly a shout out to our "support staff" who make it all happen: Jaime Viehweg who builds and maintains our Chicago Blues Harp Bash website; Bone who pushes ticket sales; Mrs. Filisko who pushes product sales at the Bash; Mrs. Corporate, Marianna Delinck Manley, who puts together a terrific Bash poster for us every year; Andy Willis who puts amazing caricatures of the performers down on paper; and Grant Kessler, operator of the Subaru Shuttle Service.
And never forget to thank your rehearsal band - thanks to the B1 Blues Band for ongoing musical support, inspiration and education: Shoji Naito, Highway RickEy, Al Taylor and Grant Kessler.
Another great Bash - see ya next year!
- Announcing the next class recital - December 15 at the Harlem Avenue Lounge. Begin working on your material now and as Joe says, he wants to hear your performance repertoire. Play pieces you perform well.
So you got yourself a copy of the new disc Evening and want to play along? Joe shares the harps Sugar Ray is playing on each track (if not noted, second position):
- A 1st, D 2nd/A 1st, D 2nd
- no harp
- no harp
- A 3rd
- G 3rd
- Grant Kessler, B1 Blues Crew