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TRUE BLUE from Ellis Kell
June 1998

True (‘Ol) Blue Eyes…
1915 - 1998

This installment of True Blue is dedicated to ‘Ol Blue Eyes himself, Frank Sinatra, Chairman of the Board. ‘From here to eternity’ he will reign as ‘The Voice,’ and we are forever grateful for the man and his music. For each and every year he graced us with his song, it was a very good year. Rest in peace, Mr. Sinatra.

  • Remembering Frank (

    True Blue Sounds In and Around These River Towns…

    Things a really poppin’ here in the ‘ol Mississippi River Valley, as the major music festivals and live venues gear up for the summer. Moline’s Riverfest is just around the corner on June 24 - 27. The main stage line-up for Fri., June 26 will find local favorites Mr. Whoopie rockin’ into the night with feature performers 38 Special. The main stage fires up again on Sat., June 27 with area rockers Strange Neighbors, followed by the red-hot blues and boogie of The Lamont Cranston Band (who just recently added former Jonny Lang band guitarist Ted Larsen to their roster), and erupts with the classic power rock of the original ‘American Band,’ Grand Funk Railroad.

    You heard it right…Grand Funk Railroad, America’s original rock trio of Mark, Don and Mel, are back with all the classics, from ”Are You Ready“ to the perennial rock anthem ”I’m Your Captain/Closer to Home.“ The band originally reunited for a tour in 1996, and their live show was captured on the 1997 double-CD release ”Bosnia,“ a mega-concert event to benefit the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The tour goes on, and GFR continues to deliver their raw, rough and ready brand of footstompin’ music. QC drummer Jeff Clark attended the ’96 Thunderfest appearance of GFR in Dubuque, and assures me that the ‘American Band’ hasn’t lost a thing. J.C. says GFR comes out hard and fast, and sounding better than ever. Not bad after a 25 year break, eh? As a matter of fact, GFR celebrates its 30th anniversary this year. GFR was the most commercially successful heavy metal band from 1970 - 1976, sold over 20 million albums, broke the Beatles ticket sales record for Shea Stadium, and was the first group to be awarded ten consecutive platinum LP’s.

    Riverfest features attractions all along the Ben Butterworth Parkway in Moline, including a wide variety of food vendors, displays and a carnival midway. The mainstage area is also located on the parkway, in the John Deere Tech Center area, and admission to the Fri. and Sat. concerts is only $1 per person each night. For more information on the web about headliners GFR, visit, and for complete online information and schedule for Riverfest ’98 activities go to on the web.

    The true blue pride and joy of festivals here in the heartland, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, rolls into Davenport’s LeClaire Park on July 2, 3 and 4, and will feature headliner Los Lobos on the Saturday evening card. The Mississippi Valley Blues Society, in association with Vibration Nation and RCR Internet Design, have put up a brand-spankin’ new web presence at, with all the juicy details of this year’s event. This year’s festival will also welcome Son Seals, Tyrone Davis, Marcia Ball, Irma Thomas, Tracy Nelson, Raymond Myles, and Jay McShann, along with Iowa Blues Challenge winners Fat Package, local winners Shane Johnson’s Blue Train, and much, much more. Advance tickets are available online, and the appearance of headliners Los Lobos is made possible in part by the good folks at the President Riverboat Casino, Davenport, Iowa. More information on this year’s Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is also available by phoning (319) 32-BLUES, or by e-mailing the blues society at

    ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ from Rock Island Brewing Company gave me the inside track on what’s brewin’ for the RIBCO stages in the near future. Besides the usual top shelf talent RIBCO continues to bring in, they are really pumped up for Gumbo Ya Ya - Mardi Gras in the District on June 5 & 6. This year’s talent features the Louisiana wildman himself, Doug Kershaw on June 5, and Gumbo Ya Ya favorite Roddie Romero will perform shows on both June 5 & 6. Long-time Quad Cities rock favorites Burnt McMelba Toast perform their good-bye show on June 12, The Jungle Dogs return on June 13, and ‘Nice Guy Eddie’ says stay tuned for a real special ‘blast from the past’ on towards the end of the month.

    True Blue welcomes the Quad Cities two newest venues for live blues and soul healin’ music, Sydney’s Restaurant and Bar in Moline, and Joe’s Club in Davenport. Sydney’s has presented live blues and houserockin’ bands for the last three months, and in June will feature The New Complexion Band (June 6th), Shane Johnson’s Blue Train (June 13th), Mojo Risin (June 20th), and Gypsy Blue (June 27th). The room is just the right fit for the blues, the folks at Sydney’s give ‘ya a warm welcome back every time, and their Portabella Mushroom Melt sandwich is the true blue soul food choice for June! Sydney’s is located at 425 - 15th Street in downtown Moline, and all live bands start at 10 p.m. Cover charge is minimal.

    Joe’s Club (formerly L.A.’s), is located at 1509 Harrison Street, Davenport, and is dedicated to bringing top blues names in to a top shelf blues setting. Joe McLemore has run the barber shop on the hilltop in Davenport for going on 30 years, but knows what a good blues room is and needs to be. Along with wife Shirley and Joe, along with help from daughter Kimberly, are doing it up right with in-house system and pro sound for the bigger shows, some of which include upcoming appearances by Miss Denise La Salle (June 4), The Blue Fins (June 19), Lattimore (June 21), and a very special after-fest show with Jazz Express on Thursday of Bluesfest week (July 2). Additional plans for performances at Joe’s during the Bluesfest weekend are in the works at this writing. Joe and Shirley are also looking for area blues musicians to host and participate in Thursday and/or Sunday jam sessions, and would appreciate it if those interested would phone (319) 322-9111 (Tues. through Sat.).

    True Blue New Hot Picks…

    We’ll be keepin’ it short and sweet this month, ‘cause there’s just too much hot blues and good music for the soul in the air. Here’s our ‘hot picks’ for June…get ‘em while there hot, and while the boss is out to lunch!
    1. ”High Fidelity,“ Lamont Cranston Band (Atomic Theory Records) Hot new houserockin’ from Elwood’s own favorites! Don’t miss these folks at Riverfest on June 27th. True Blue Track: ”Country Farm“…no-nonsense houserockin’!

    2. ”Slide Time,“ Joanna Connor (Blind Pig Records) It’s always good to hear this lady come back with a fresh collection, and this one finds Ms. Connor playing as hot and passionate as ever. This lady of the blues is a survivor, and it shows in the True Blue Track: ”Free Free Woman“ - aint no doubt about it…get out of the lady’s way, boys!

    3. ”Goin’ to Brownsville,“ Sleepy John Estes (Testament Records) Hats off once again to the fine folks at Testament Records for bringing yet another legendary figure’s music back to light on CD. Sleepy John was born to sing, moan and cry the blues in January of 1899. A contemporary back in Tennessee with Hammie Nixon and Yank Rachell, Sleepy John passed on in 1977, but 20+ unissued recordings from 1962 will live on forever through this classic collection of real deal blues. True Blue Tracks: Yep, every one ‘em is ‘required listening’ for True Blues 101.

    4. ”Blues After Sunset,“ Henry Butler (Black Top Records) Barrelhouse piano stylings don’t come any sweeter than this, ladies and gentlemen. Henry Butler, along with Snooks Eaglin on guitar and Mark Kazanoff on harmonica, lays down the rollin’ piano blues like no one else. True Blue Track: ”Blue Moments“ - this one was real tough to call, but I’m a sucker for a sweet, sad and blue piano ballad every time, and I just keep comin’ back for more.

    5. ”Turn The Heat Up,“ Shemekia Copeland (Alligator Records) This young lady of the blues serves it up pipin’ hot from the heart and soul of it all, and her late papa Johnny Clyde Copeland is no doubt smilin’ down with pride from up above. This lady doesn’t need to strive to be the ‘next anybody,’ just herself - a nineteen year old true blue wonder! She sings with a power and voice way beyond her years, as you will hear on the True Blue Track: ”My Turn Baby“ - I give up, baby! I swear I didn’t mean no harm!

    6. ”Lover’s Plea,“ W. C. Clark (Blacktop Records) Sweet, true blue music for the soul from the legendary Austin bluesman. This collection features cameos from the cream of the Austin crop, including ex-SRValumni Tommy Shannon and Chris Layton, Derek O’Brien, Mark Kazanoff, and the signature true blue guitar stylings and searing vocals of Mr. W. C. Clark. True Blue Track: ”Everywhere I Go“ - These blues are headin’ on down the road, and you best get out of the way!

    7. ”Black Tornado,“ Magic Slim & The Teardrops (Blind Pig Records) This showcases the consummate Chicago bluesman at his best, though nothing will ever substitute for seeing Magic Slim & The Teardrops live in a true blue Chicago bar like the Checkerboard Lounge, Kingston Mines, B.L.U.E.S. or Blue Chicago. Lean, mean guitar work and deep, soulful vocals are all in a days work for Magic Slim, a Chicago blues staple. True Blue Track: ”Playin’ With My Mind“ - Magic Slim is dishin’ up some of that same old true blue spirit here that dear ‘ol Albert Collins used to serve up every night! ‘Ya just can’t beat them blues.

    True Blue Destinations on the Web:

    True Blue Salute for June:

    This month’s salute from True Blue goes out to all the bands who recently competed in the Iowa Blues Challenge, as co-presented by the Central Iowa Blues Society and Mississippi Valley Blues Society. If you give it all the best that is in you, and play the blues from your heart and soul (not from your head) - you’ll always come out a winner. Congratulations to everyone who participated, to the state-wide winners in Fat Package (who will soon be on their way to Memphis), and to our own local winners in Shane Johnson’s Blue Train.

    Speakin’ of trains, I gotta run and catch one myself. So, until we meet again at this crossroads…

    Blues to ‘ya!

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