True Blue
from Ellis Kell
Argus/Dispatch blues columnist

November/December 2007

View from a Line Boat on the Mississippi...

I had the opportunity recently to travel upriver for a few days with my wife Kristi, onboard the Alter Barge line boat “Phyllis”. This was a dream come true - a dream I’d had since I was a young river rat, fishing along the riverbank in Sunset Park – watching those big barges go by in the night.
It’s a whole different world out there on the river, and both space and time take on new dimensions. Crew hours are six hours on, and six hours off – for thirty day stints. You get to know everyone pretty quick, and the captain and crew of the Phyllis couldn’t have been more congenial hosts to us two river rookies.

America’s consummate riverboat minstrel, the late and great John Hartford, actually was the one who inspired me to realize my dream of riding a riverboat someday. His songs ran through my mind as we passed through LeClaire, Port Byron, Clinton, Fulton, Savanna and Sabula, on our way upriver – at an average of 4.9 mph. We made it all the way to Guttenberg, Iowa, where the bluffs virtually exploded in oranges and reds. It’s a trip we will never, ever forget, and there will always be a yearning to jump back onboard – whenever we see one of those big line boats pass through our stretch of the river. Our sincere thanks again to all the folks at Alter Barge Line, and the captain and crew of the "Phyllis".

A Journey Through The Blues: The Son Seals Story…

This is a must have for any true blues fan of the late Son Seals. This is the only authorized video biography the Chicago bluesman, and it traces his career from his birth in Arkansas, to Chicago, and onto to blues stages all over the world. The film includes interviews with Alligator Records founder and president Bruce Iglauer, Koko Taylor, Steven Seagal, Dr. John, and Lonnie Brooks, and Son Seals himself. Of course, the several live performances included on the DVD may speak the best of the influence of Son Seals. This film is hosted by blues documentary producer and longtime friend of Son Seals, Peter Carlson. Son Seals fans will relish the performance footage and interviews with the legendary bluesman through this fine documentary piece, and no doubt some new fans will come to the fold as well.


“Another Saturday Morning” Ellis Hooks (Evidence Music) Ellis hooks weaves the traditions of southern soul and blues into fifteen new tracks that sooth and satisfy. Produced by Nashville's multi-talented Jon Tiven, who also contributes guitar, sitar, piano, Hammond organ, sax, percussion and harmonica (whew!), this new collection from Ellis Hooks is the best showcase of the artist to date. For more online, visit:

"Ricky Gene Hall & The Goods" (self-titled, on Yard Dawg Records) Ricky Gene Hall (lead vocals and guitar) formed RGH & The Goods in the summer of 2007, along with bassist Tom Martin and drummer Rocky Evans. This is a journey back to the roots for Hall, following stints as a support musician for country stars like Crystal Gayle, Moe Bandy, Billy “Crash” Craddock, Shelly West, and David Frizzell - just to name a few. These tracks take Hall and the Goods back to the roots blues that started it all. Outstanding musicianship makes it all shine anew. For more online, visit:

Always Live in the Redstone Room at RME...

Dec. 2nd - 1st Sunday Jam - Join musicians from throughout the region in the Redstone Room on the first Sunday of the month from 6-9pm, as they gather to celebrate the music, trade licks, and improvise on various styles and genres. This is not an open mic night, and players will want to be accomplished and experienced enough to participate in this session. RME staff musicians will host this monthly jam and will call up players who sign up to participate each evening. Admission is only $2, and the jam starts at 6 pm. For more information,

Dec. 15th - Devon Allman's Honeytribe - Road-tested and loaded for bear, Devon Allman's Allman's voice is reminiscent of his father, Gregg. His vocal and guitar stylings have been nurtured and developed since his early teens in St. Louis. Devon Allman & Honeytribe have been on the road since October of 2005, and have shared the stage with The Disco Biscuits, Gov't Mule, Tesla, Little Feat, Cheap Trick, The Allman Bros. Band, and Gregg Allman and Friends. Doors open at 8pm, show starts at 9pm, and tickets are $10 each. For more information, visit

Further on up the road...

That's all she wrote for now, and with that we want to wish you all the best for a true blue new year. Until we meet again at this crossroads, peace, love & blessings to all, and...

Blues to 'ya!

Local musician Ellis Kell writes about blues music both local and national in ‘True Blue’, each month in the Entertainment section of The Dispatch and The Rock Island Argus. He is also Director of Programming & Education for River Music Experience, a not-for-profit center dedicated to preservation, education and celebration of American Roots music, and hosts ‘Currents at the Crossroads’ music segment of WQPT’s Life & Times.

Local events heading

  Today is Wednesday, Oct. 1, the 274th day of 2014. There are 91 days left in the year.

1864 -- 150 years ago: It is rumored in the streets that the 13 negroes sent to Quincy on the Moline quota were refused. We think this must be a mistake.
1889 -- 125 years ago: Harvey McKenna, of Detroit, billiard player matched to play Wizard Schafer in New York in January for the world championship, was a professional friend and manager, Billy Catton in Rock Island.
1914 -- 100 years ago: Levi Cralle, former Rock Island county sheriff, had come from his farm near Mitchell, S.D. to visit friends in the city.
1939 -- 75 years ago: Work is being rushed on the new high school building in Orion to replace the one destroyed by fire last winter. Classes are being held in churches.
1964 -- 50 years ago: Rehearsals for the 84th season of the Handel Oratorio Society chorus will begin at 7:30 p.m. Monday on the stage of Centennial Hall, Augustana College.
1989 -- 25 years ago: The Rock Island City Council's plan announced this week to have the federal government vacate Valley Homes public housing and move residents to Arsenal Courts to reduce density may not be feasible.

(More History)