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Big Muddy 2003 gallery

Review by Paul Fields (The Blue Jazzman)    photos by STLBlues

The day started out with the skies and prospects for the first day of the festival looking rather dark and me thinking of one of my favorite Robert Cray songs ("The Forecast Calls For Rain"). But, we lucked out. No rain. In fact, by the time the sun was ready to turn in, the weatherman's call of a high of 73°F was way off. The last day of August will definitely be a dog day and our normal Labor Day heat and humidity will be along for the ride. The crowd was decent but tenuous early in the afternoon. But, after it was obvious the bad weather was yesterday's news, the crowds swelled - just in time too (we'll get to that later).
It's always good to see old friends and a blues festival is a great opportunity to visit with out-of-town blues lovers and entertainers. And, the Big Muddy brings them in from far and near - one regular visitor rides his motorcycle in from Tucson, Arizona, annually, just spend three days soaking up St Louis blues and then heads back. Folks, that love for the blues, especially our St Louis blues.

Next week you'll be enjoying the sounds of a number of St Louis (and surrounding area) bands new to the show - I collected a handful of CDs today and there's two more days to go!! A lot of musicians don't even know about internet radio yet - that's even more true for the vast majority of blues fans. "Oh, you mean I can listen to your show while I'm using my computer?" Well, as you might have guessed, that's music to the Blue Jazzman's ears because I can tell them all about the show - after all, they asked, right?
Some groups/artists you hear on the show regularly included Soulard Blues Band, Patti & The Hitmen, Mr. Arthur Williams (my nominee for best entertainer in the Midwest), Oliver Sain & The St Louis R&B All Stars, Brian Curran and Leroy Jodie Pierson. There were a number of groups I've never caught before or just didn't have their music: Big Babe Martin & Chump Change, Alvin Jett & Hired Help, Crying Shame, and a new, as yet, unrecorded group, Workin' Blues, amongst too many others to list. We'll start featuring Chump Change and Hired Help on Wednesday.
Workin' Blues, using standard four-piece instrumentation with solid musicianship at all positions, definitely has a bright future as a party band and, very possibly, a solid recording group too, once they work past covers and develop some original material. Their lead singer is also a professional stand-up comedian and the band weaves hilarious, ribald humor into their blues for an excellent show. The addition of some original songs with the classic double-entendre blues lyrics, updated for modern listeners, should guarantee them critical and commercial success. (I caught them at one of the night spots participating as a festival sponsor after the evening's acts.)

The highlight of the day was the twenty, or so, minutes I spent with Robert Jr Lockwood (Robert Johnson's stepson)- with nobody, I mean nobody, interrupting us. But, imagine how many people are constantly asking Mr Lockwood about Robert Johnson. So, I intentionally never brought up Johnson. Instead, we talked about Robert's long journey from Helena, Arkansas, through Memphis, later St Louis and finally to Chicago where he became a blues icon known and revered all over the globe, not just for his ties to Robert Johnson but for his unique mastery of combining the old Delta blues with the Chicago electric blues AND staying relevant after almost 70 years in the blues business.
We also chatted about his efforts in recent years with upcoming blues artists and icons of rock-and-roll. For instance, we talked briefly about his new CD featuring Keith Richards and Eric Clapton. Obviously, I would've loved sitting there all night. But, Security told us they had to get ready for the next act (Oliver Sain) and I thanked Mr Lockwood for his time. And, he was most appreciative of the CD I gave him of the "Up From The Delta" hour we played on Thursday, paying tribute to Mr Lockwood, Hubert Sumlin and others. (Mr Sumlin gets his copy tomorrow when he appears with Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin, Carey Bell and Willie 'Big Eyes' Smith.)
Another high point was a brief audience with my own favorite, local blues DJ, Papa Ray (Tom Ray) who does the 4-to-7 Monday drive-time blues show on a huge community radio station here in St Louis. He's also a rather accomplished blues harpist and owns one the largest independent record stores in the Midwest (Vintage Vinyl). As I've mentioned in the past, the major record labels & radio corporations want to ignore internet radio completely - they'd like to just wish us out of existence. So, working with Papa Ray will certainly help expand our playlist. (Indies needn't worry, though. "Every Day I Have The Blues" is and always will be solidly in your camp and playing your blues, no matter how many major label CDs we acquire.)

A lot of the day was spent passing out postcards provided by Live365 to recruit new listeners. So, I didn't get to hear as much blues as I wanted. I had to keep reminding myself I was there to work, if you can call it that. Meeting blues lovers with the potential of becoming loyal listeners isn't exactly what most folks would call "a job", after all. And, making new friends who share a love for the blues ain't a bad way to spend the day at all.
I was passing by the Vintage Vinyl booth and saw a couple browsing through the blues albums Papa Ray thoughtfully brought down to sell - at a deep discount - at the Festival. [The out-of-towners really appreciate this since they often don't have a good blues CD source]. I offered them a promo piece and got to chatting with them.

Folks, it's a very small world. Turns out the husband's brother has a Wednesday C&W album hour on KHBL in Hannibal, Missouri. Of course, KHBL was the first traditional radio station to notice and invite us to broadcast. In a city of two million at a festival with anticipated attendance in six figures, what's the likelihood of something like this happening? And, yes, I bought my Powerball lottery ticket earlier (haven't yet checked the numbers, though).
Have to run. Tomorrow's another Big Muddy Blues Festival day and the first act at 4 P.M. will come soon enough. (Remember, I'm still cutting and pasting highlights of previous shows to make the Labor Day weekend encores fun for those who can't "bluesify" and have to be at home or work, as well as our overseas listeners who don't get a three-day weekend like we do in America and Canada).

Sleep? Maybe next week. You won't mind if one show next week (after we play music from the Festival) is an encore show, will you, so the Blue Jazzman can get some rest?
Day 2
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