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TRUE BLUE from Ellis Kell
July 1998

True Blue Salute…

Chances are you’ll be laying eyes on this installment of True Blue sometime after the last few blue notes have drifted out of Le Claire Park, rolled west for a bit and then on back south down the river towards St. Louis, Memphis and New Orleans. The Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is probably the nation’s (and world’s) biggest, all-volunteer blues event, and one that has earned the Blues Foundation's "Organization of the Year" award not once, but twice (1988 & 1993). The officers, board and various festival committee members of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society contribute many hours throughout the year to the chores of planning and producing the annual blues mega-event. Our special thanks also go out to all of the many volunteers who work to make the festival possible and to all the sponsors for their gracious support, most notably Riverboat Development Authority and The President Riverboat Casino for making headliner Los Lobos’ appearance at the fest possible.

While some may (and did in fact) argue that this particular headliner act (Los Lobos) was not their ideal choice for the blues fest, ‘True Blue Kudos’ of the month go to whoever had the initiative and vision to color outside of the lines. Diversity is healthy, and good music is just plain good music. What is static becomes stagnant - change is healthy, even in ‘yer blues.’ As MVBS President Karen McFarland stated in an earlier interview, “This committee is open to receiving any MVBS members who want to devote at least 10 months per year of their time to evaluating potential acts for the Blues Fest lineup. Our ultimate mission is to educate — even if the headliners we choose to bring in might not be the ones you would have chosen.”

This year marked the 14th annual return of the 100% volunteer festival to the banks of the Mississippi, and the event seems to be on firm footing again. Through a flood-forced move to higher ground (’93), two years on the ‘other side of the pond’ in Moline (‘94-’95), and a return to Davenport’s Le Claire Park (’96), the festival has weathered it’s share of storms and hard times. Any way you cut it, the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival is a survivor - and let he who has never volunteered lend the first hand. Please do whatever you can to help - and, if you appreciate and enjoy the Blues, by all means do something. And to those that already do, and have for so long - a True Blue thank you! For more information on how you can contribute to the blues society’s efforts, phone (319) 32-BLUES, or visit the MVBS web site at, where you can contact them via e-mail. For our friends to the west, you may also wish to visit the Central Iowa Blues Society web site at, to see what those fine folks are doing to help keep the blues alive.

Chicago’s Maxwell Street Earns ‘Reprieve’…

True Blue supports the Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition’s efforts to save the true blue home of the ‘Chicago Blues’ from the wrecking ball, and it looks as though the powers that be in Chicago have granted a stay of execution to the crumbling district on the city’s near south side. While jubilant over the announcement from the University of Chicago that Maxwell Street will be included in the development plans for expansion of the campus, coalition officials are keeping a watchful eye on just exactly what transpires from here on out. For more information on the coalition’s efforts and concerns about the future of Maxwell Street, visit the organization’s web site at

B. B. King’s Blues Music Festival & More…

The ‘Blues Boy’ from Memphis just keeps on rollin’ down the line, with an annual world tour schedule that would put most young bluesmen in the hospital with fatigue. The 7th annual B.B. King Blues Music Festival, featuring B.B. King, The Neville Brothers, Dr. John and Storyville, is set for 44 concerts from August 7 - September 27. Dr. John performed on the festival's first year, 1992, as well as in 1994. The Neville Brothers played on the 1996 version. Storyville marks its initial appearance, and features the former rhythm section of the late Stevie Ray Vaughan’s “Double Trouble.” Jonny Lang and Susan Tedeschi join the festivities on September 15 and will go on to finish out the tour. B. B. King’s Blues Music Festival ’98 is co-sponsored by House of Blues and Southern Comfort.

Earlier this year, B.B. King was named the official Ambassador of Music to represent the United States in the upcoming World Expo '98 in Lisbon, Portugal. Vice President Al Gore introduced King on June 14, the United States National Day, and as part of his official duties, B.B.King donated a live performance. It capped a day of special American events, including a formal ceremony with Portuguese and American officials and a major symposium on ocean policy issues with an all-star lineup of American and International experts. For more news about the King of the Blues, visit on the web.

True Blue New Releases:

  1. “Sweet Tooth,” Phillip Walker (Black Top Records) Recipe for “Sweet Tooth”: Blend in equal parts funk, West coast blues swing, and earthy Texas blues, stir with sharp, soulful vocals and heap of stinging blues licks from a master’s Gibson ES-335 and you’ve got it! Phillip Walker says, “Blues is a small world, but it’s forever. And I put all I can into it.” The proof is in the pudding. True Blue Track: “My Name Is Misery”…If you’re gonna make me choose, this one can’t lose!

  2. “New York State of Blues,” Michael Hill’s Blues Mob ( Alligator Records) Living Blues Magazine says “Here is the future of electric blues.” Michael Hill and his associates return with their second smoldering offering on the Alligator label. This is what can happen when stellar modern blues players and locked-up grooves are combined with a social consciousness and street smarts. If this is where the blues are heading, then we’re thrilled to be along for the ride. True Blue Track: “A Case of the Blues…molten slide, crisp, clean blues piano and power vocals = the live impact of Michael Hill’s Blues Mob.

  3. “Sweet & Swingin’,” Sugar Ray (Bullseye Blues & Jazz) Sugar Ray Norcia is without a doubt one of the premier harmonicats in the business, and the yield from his tenure with the phenomenal Roomful of Blues is a treasure. In his first outing since departing from the group, Sugar Ray dishes up a collection of classic blues swingers and ballads that he had longed to record for some time. From the classics of Big Walter Horton and Jimmy Rogers, to Percy Mayfield’s “Lost Mind,” Sugar Ray serves up the true blues like a sweet potato pie. The legendary Jordanaires lend their world-class background harmonies on two tracks. True Blue Track: “Lost Mind”…sweet, soulful delivery on blue silk.

True Blue X-tra…

Congrats and true blue kudos to Jason at 97X WXLP for a job well done on his new “X-tra Blues Hour” on Sunday mornings, following the station’s weekly broadcast of The House of Blues Radio Hour with Elwood Blues. Jason’s show aired for the first time on June 14th, and will regularly follow the House of Blues syndicated show at 10:00 a.m. on Sunday. That means you’ve now got two hours of solid blues from 9 - 11 a.m. from Elwood and Jason. The new show features a wide variety of blues, both classic and contemporary, as well as live interviews with QC area blues personalities and performers. Again, we tip our pork-pie’s to Jason and 97X for adding to their station’s allotment of blues programming. Every little bit helps, ‘ya know!

Further on up the road…

True Blue is always interested in hearing what blues artists you would like to see come to our area, and we’re always glad to pass it on to the folks who book the shows! E-mail us at, and make sure you also submit your entry for a chance to win a pair of tickets to see the Allman Brothers at the MARK on August 4th!

And, until we meet again at this crossroads…

Blues to ‘ya!

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