We were reeling from an incredible show from Johnny on Sunday night and then he came into B1 Monday and told blues stories and sketched out his musical trajectory for us. It was truly a magical couple of days!
Johnny's dad was a big band and jump sax player, so Johnny had a sax in his hands at age 8. As he tells it, his dad was intensely focused on tone and phrasing and instilled that in his son, even though he eventually found himself more drawn to the sound of the harmonica than the sax.
The other thing his parents exposed him to was a tired old juke box full of blues 45s in the basement. This is where Sansone first heard the likes of Jimmy Reed, Sonny Boy, Little Walter and John Lee Hooker. He told the funny story of figuring out he needed a harp amp, so he rigged a little microphone into the jukebox and blew on that. It was cool, but not very portable. Friends he was playing with always had to come to his house!
At 13, his dad took him to see a Two Generations of Brubeck show and Johnny was surprised to see that his dad knew the Brubecks well enough that they ended up backstage afterwards. Peter Madcat Ruth was on that gig with the younger Brubeck and Johnny grilled him and got a lot of harp information from him.
It's clear Johnny has a long list of musical friends and influences - he told Junior Wells stories and talked about how Howlin' Wolf influenced him as a singer. He also spoke passionately about the city of New Orleans as an influence on his music. He was drawn to the city for its melting pot of musical types - Cajun, Dixieland, Zydeco, jazz. And he appreciates that the city has always nurtured its own. It is, as he says, the cradle of American music.
We had a fabulous night enjoying Johnny's sense of humor and storytelling and are glad to count him as a B1 Friend! Thanks for coming, Johnny!
Chicago Blues Harp Bash #6!!!
The Sixth Annual Chicago Blues Harp Bash was amazing!!!
Zoe Savage, Tall Paul Sabel, Scott Dirks and Grant Kessler warmed up the sold-out crowd and our headliner, Johnny Sansone from New Orleans put on a rocking, ripping, powerful show. Something tells us the staid Szold Hall at the Old Town School has never seen anything like it!
Johnny was a genuine guy and crowd pleaser, weaving witty lines and self-deprecating humor into his set and totally winning over the audience. He sang with power and honesty and blew some terrific harp. He wove blues standards among his originals, playing some killer first position, lots of chromatic, and he probably knew he would be an enormous hit by calling his hero Jim Liban up near the end. The two of them totally blew the roof off the place - multiple standing ovations, a roaring crowd and a deafening call for an encore.
This is a show people will not soon forget!
photos: Highway RickEy
A terrific event of this size takes tons of effort from lots of people. We're extremely grateful the B1 community steps up in every way imaginable to ensure the success of the Bash year after year.
Huge thanks go out to:
Alisa and Nick at the Old Town School
Building and maintaining the Chicago Blues Harp Bash website:
Beautiful poster design:
Marianna Delinck Manley
VIP Shuttle Service:
Cool artist sketches:
Green Room Food and Drink:
Ginny Morin and Paul Nelson
Bob and Sherri Kunze
Jim and Barb Lucas
Stepping up with strong Facebook support to spread the word:
The incredible band, The Chicago Blue Aces:
Shoji Naito, guitar and bandleader
Mike Scharf, bass
Mark Fornek, drums
Helping the band prepare for Johnny's songs by learning to sing and blow harp on them for rehearsal were:
Corporate Kirk Manley
Mr. G's Thoughts For Free!!!
B1 buddy and harp player Mr. G was in the house Sunday night and was moved enough by the Bash to write up a review. Read how Mr. G sizes up the show.
Legends Sharing the Stage!!!
Our resident sketch artist Andy Willis had a front row seat for the great Sansone/Liban performance Sunday night and brings us this cool sketch:
- Joe announced the prizes for his end of year contest. Get your CD in by end of December that shows what you are capable of and you could win! Third Prize, one high performance Marine Band Deluxe; Second Prize, two high performance Crossover harps; First Prize, three high performance Crossover harps!