Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ron Thompson Needs the Blues World's Help

Ron Thompson DSC01206
Originally uploaded by NoVARon
I have known about Ron Thompson from backing various down home bluesmen like School Boy Cleve for the Blues Connesseur label. He backed KC Douglas for a wonderful Arhoolie album and was part of the late John Lee Hooker's Coast to Coast band as well as a member of Mick Fleetwood's Blue Whale (I believe that is the name) with whom I saw him at Fleetwood's, in Alexandria in the 1990s.

This was taken dueing the 2006 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise where he displayed his own strong singing and playing (He is quite a pianist as well as guitarist). I have also enjoyed his excellent recordings which are available on

In any event, Ron recently sent out an email blast, Thursday February 26, to his fans including me:

"As you may have heard, Ron Thompson suffered a physical setback recently. But the good news is that he is on the mend!

On Thursday, February 19th, Ron was admitted to Saint Rose Hospital in Hayward with a severe case of pneumonia—so severe that the bacteria went into his bloodstream. Ron spent four days in the hospital, part of that time in ICU, but sprang back quickly, thanks to the excellent care of the Saint Rose medical team. Ron would like to thank Dr. Pat Hybarger (of Kaiser San Rafael), Dr. Anna Saenz of San Francisco, Dr. Ramiro Garcia, Peggy (sorry we don't know your last name!) and all the other St Rose nursing staff who basically saved his life.

Ron was released from the hospital on Sunday, February 22nd, and is expected to make a full recovery. He is taking a long overdue and well-needed recess from performing, but should be back in the saddle soon!

When times get tough, you know who your friends are, and Ron has so many wonderful friends! He needs each and every one at this time to help him cope with all this, including addressing a rather astonishing hospital bill and being able to make the rent payment while he's recuperating.

Angels from every part of California and also Colorado are jumping forward to help, as several fund-raising benefits are in the works already. If you would like to help, by offering your musical talents, your organizing skills, or providing items for auction/raffle—please get in touch with the contact(s) listed below.

If you would like to host your own benefit to help Ron through this financial crunch, just email or call Jackie McCort, Ron's business manager, at or 510.693.8277, so that we can add your event to the list and notify folks in your area.

A special bank account has been set up specifically for Ron's medical bills at Bank of America in Hayward CA . To make a donation, please send checks payable to:

“Ron Thompson, Account #0014-73814”
Bank of America
1200 “A” Street
Hayward CA 94544

We will be setting up a “one click” method for donations through Ron's website in the next few days. If you would prefer to contribute online, please check the website in a day or so."

The next day he emailed us to express his gratitude for the genrousity of his fans and freinds.

"Words cannot even express the gratitude that Ron has for the avalanche of love and support that is rolling in right now! It is unbelievable!!!!!!!!!!!!!! And then some. When the dust settles, Ron wants to acknowledge and give back to all of you WONDERFULLY GENEROUS people!"

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Memphis Gold has reason to celebrate

A few months ago he was featured in Blues & Rhythm and he is the cover story on Living Blues' current issue. But more importantly he has a new CD coming out, Gator Gon' Bitechu. And on Tuesday, March 3, 2009 8:00 pm, he is having a CD Release Show and Gibson Celebration at Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave, NW, Washington, DC.
Join Bill Wax, host of Sirius XM Radio's B.B. King's Bluesville for a special presentation of of a Classic Gibson Custom ES-335 Recognition Award to Memphis Gold! Special guest artist Robert Lighthouse will be on the bill for this night for an eve
ning sponsored by the DC Blues Society, Gibson Guitar, and Blues Alley. Shows are at 8PM and 10PM are $25.00 and tickets are available at
Memphis Gold will have copies of the new CD available (it will be available on cdbaby in late March) as well as copies of the Living Blues issue available for purchase, and he will be happy to autograph these items.

By the way, he has a new website,

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Saffire completes memorable run

Its been twenty-five years since the trio of Gaye Adegbalola, Ann Rabson and Earline Lewis first started performing around Fredericksburg, VA and Washington, D.C.. This writer remembers catching them for the first time at a DC Blues Society charity concert at Georgetown University and picking up their self-produced cassette, “Middle Age Blues,” mostly compiled from classic blues with a few originals, including “Middle Age Blues Boogie,” which became the trio’s theme song with its still memorable refrain “I want a young, young man.” Having the chance to see them on a regular basis in Washington I was delighted to find out they had signed with Alligator in 1989 I believe. Their debut Alligator disc, the eponymously titled “SAFFIRE - The Uppity Blues Women,” was a surprising, but well deserved, success.

A story I did from interviews of them for the DC Blues Society newsletter was the basis for first major story on them that appeared in one of the early issues of “Blues Revue.” Along the way, Earline Lewis departed to be replaced by Andra Faye who in addition to bass, also displayed a multi-instrumental talent on mandolin, guitar, fiddle and more. In the ensuing years they have performed countless times as well as continued to teach at blues workshop programs, mentoring a large number of modern acoustic blues acts. From the Washington DC and Tidewater, VA area such groups as BluesWorks and MSG the Acoustic Trio mine traditional blues along with adding contemporary originals rooted in traditional sources. Undoubtedly the novelty of a trio of mature women performing acoustic blues itself was a source of appeal among a variety of audiences that went beyond the usual audience for Alligator’s house-rocking electric blues bands. But their longevity is evidence that their music had so much more substance than what may have been an initial novelty to some.

“Havin’ the Last Word,”is their eighth album of new recordings for Alligator (this does not include the excellent compilation “Deluxe Edition”) and first since 2001’s “Ain’t Gonna Hush.” The title refers to the fact that this is the trio’s swan song together with the ensuing performances to be among their final regular ones together. Each will continue the solo careers they have each been engaged in the past several years. Unlike their previous albums, there is only one classic blues revived here, “Kitchen Man,” and the rest are fresh tunes composed by the three along with others by EG Kight, and others. The opening song, Carla Daruda’s “Going Down to the River” has all three trading verses about going to the river and wash their troubles away with Ann holding the bottom together like Blind John Davis before Andra Faye takes a crisp mandolin solo. Its followed by Gina DeLuca’s “Nothin’ in My House,” where Gaye delivers the sassy lyrics about let them say what they will, “if I want to honky tonk all night ... what do I care, I ain’t got nothing in their house,” with Ann adding a rollicking solo. Ann revives “Kitchen Man” from the pen of Andy Razaf and Edna Pinkard,” with a stately piano and Andra Faye’s complimentary mandolin. EG Kight & Tom Horner contributed “Somebody’s Gotta Give,” a song that Andra Faye belts out (and one can imagine easily being translated into a band format by Andra and her band The Mighty Good Man).

Other highlights include Bald Headed Blues,” an original by Gaye where she addresses consequences of chemotherapy and dancing with life and not death. Andra Faye adds fiddle to Ann’s not completely reflective “Since You’ve Been Gone,”while her own “Blue Lullaby” has a country flavor. EG Kight and Tom Horner collaborated with Ann for “Travelin’ at the Speed of Love,” a celebratory boogie with Andra Faye’s fiddle adding a nice counterpoint to her jaunty piano. Gaye’s “I Can Do Bad All By Myself,” has a nice guitar solo from Ann while Gaye sings about how bad things have gone “so she needs to take a payday loan,” but she does not need anyone else’s help. Andra Faye is playful in celebrates her body on having “Too Much Butt,” while Gaye’s “Bald Eagle,” is a lustful celebration of female sexuality with spirited mandolin and piano in the backing. Deanna Bogart’s “I’m Growing Older,” an humorous about the inevitable as Andra Faye is quite comfortable about aging like fine wine and becoming a wilder woman. The album concludes with another Ann Rabson collaboration with Kight and Horner, “The Bad Times,” with echoes of “Drown in My Own Tears,” in its melody, noting that we have had bad and sad times, but held on to faith and through it all these times these words of wisdom that “bad times make the good times better, bad times make our love strong … good times will be here before long.”

Saffire has provided many with some real good music over a quarter of a century that has given us good times to get past the bad and sad times. It is a cliche that all good things must come to an end, and while the musical partnership of Saffire - the Uppity Blues Women may be ending, their musical legacy is firmly established and will be enjoyed for many more years just as each of the members will establish more of their own legacy. Like Jim Brown leaving professional football, “Havin’ the Last Word,” has Saffire ending their run while still performing at the highest level.

(This review was originally published in Jazz & Blues Report # 313 which you can download at www,

Snooks Eaglin at 2007 JazzFest Day 2-299

JazzFest 07 Day 2-299
Originally uploaded by NoVARon
I have become jaded over the years, but few acts could continually astonish me as much as the late Snooks Eaglin who passed away this year at the age of 72 in New Orleans. While he recorded with Smiley Lewis and on his own for Imperial as a R&B musician, folklorist Harry Oster recorded him as a blind street singer that misled many as to the extent of his talents. He reemerged with some performances and recordings with Professor Longhair as well as a Scandinavian recording that paired him with New Orleans musicians including pianist Ellis Marsalis. Called the human jukebox, he could play thousands of tunes and always brought something new. I saw him only a handful of times, but he was one act I would not miss if I could help it. JazzFest can bring national touring acts, but these acts are a dime a dozen. Who will they bring in that can replace Snooks. No one. RIP Snooks. Your music will continue to astonish us every time we play it.