I'm a Blues Fan First. . .
Elwood: "It's 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes, it's dark... and we're wearing sunglasses."
Jake: "Hit it!"
Elwood: "We're on a mission from God."
- The Blues Brothers (1980)
Sometimes in life, things happen that are just meant to be. You feel in your gut that what you are doing has purpose and meaning. Take for instance my path to becoming an artist manager:
Years ago I fell in love with the blues. I went from listening to the Rolling Stones, Supertramp and Pink Floyd to figuring out who this Muddy Waters was and then Slim Harpo and Howlin' Wolf and. . well if you're a blues fan you get it. For me it started with the saxophone I'll admit. Hence the fascination with Supertramp etc. For others who enjoyed the same music it might have been the guitar or who knows, the vocals. I always connected with the sax.
One day I was walking down Columbia Street in New Westminster, BC and I saw an alto sax in the window of a pawn shop. There was no question, or thought, I just went in and bought it. It was meant to be. I learned a little and then I played often. Living in an apartment at the time, it didn't always go over too well. So I learned to schedule my practices mid-day when most of the others in my complex were at work. I got to a point where I could jam a little. As I explored the music more I migrated to the blues without even knowing it really.
Years later on another gut-felt whim I bought a 10 hole diatonic harmonica in the key of A and started to play along to some of the tunes I was listening to. I eventually figured out that I needed a bunch of different keys and now I can't count how many harps I have. For a while in those early harp-playing days, I was still a little focused on rock - things like Bring It On Home - the Led Zepplin version. At the time I didn't even know it was a Sonny Boy Williamson original.
Eventually my friend Tim and I joined the Weekend Warrior program down at Tom Lee Music. We got some great coaching from this cat named Phil Bell. After the coaching period was over it was time to perform live at the Yale. Yes, the Yale! The old Yale when it was still the home of the Blues in Vancouver. Sure it was a Tuesday night and only a showcase before the real band came on. But the whole thing was inspirational really and it set me on the path to having my own band. And yes, it was another of those feels-absolutely-right moments.
That's really where the blues hit me. Phil was talking about these tunes and artists I'd never heard of. The bass player wanted to do Killin' Floor by Howlin' Wolf. It didn't work it's way into our set but man I was hooked!
Fast forward a few years and yes, I have a jam band with players who love to play and we do so every Tuesday night in a full-stage studio-like environment. It's for the love of the music not a career. We explore different genres but I am always pointing at vintage blues. We've been playing together for years now and it is a great collective that I am happy to be part of.
During this time I've grown as a harp player and much of that I owe to my client and friend Harpdog Brown. You see, my garage-band had posted a few tunes to Reverbnation back when we were thinking of gigging more often. Harpdog heard it and by coincidence he was having some amp work done by my friend Maurice who runs our studio. What are the odds? One thing lead to another and I started taking lessons from the Dog. Those days were as much a lesson in blues history as they were about learning more harp vocablulary. I got to know Dog pretty well through that time. I was really excited to get to my weekly lesson and learn more about the blues - and take away a few new licks if I was lucky. And yes, it was another natural thing.
Today, I still love the saxophone but it was a little hard to play while driving in the car between appointments and traveling with my day job. The harmonica was a natural fit. I could work out some of the songs I was interested in while driving around and in my spare time - and yes - keep my day job. Then with some focussed practice I could add the cupping and deeper bends and play them with a little more confidence. I'm a blues fan. Some say blues fan-atic. But the more I dig into it the more I learn. It's about all I listen to and I love the journey and discovery.
A number of years ago I decided to start my own mission. "Hit it!". That's right. . .Artist Manager for the one and only Harpdog Brown. My job? Ease the burden of the business side and make it profitable so that he can focus on creating more awesome blues! As a blues fan first, I win on both sides of that equation. Based on the success of his 2014 album What It Is, and the continued success of Travelin' with the Blues, the future looks very bright indeed. You should check it out! It's meant to be.