The Blues Is Alive & Well - And Young - At Big Easy Monthly Jam
In this week's cover story, "Old School," Rocks Off Sr. and Lonesome Onry and Mean highlight some of the personalities that have kept Houston's traditional blues scene strong even as the music's popularity has waned in all but a few other major cities (and Europe).
Photos by Jason Wolter Tha Lady D
Houston's appetite for blues remains ravenous, though, and as Rocks Off has previously reported, one of the major reasons is the no-cover jams sponsored by the Houston Blues Society. Held at The Big Easy on the last Thursday of every month, lately the HBS jams have been growing to mob-scene proportions. This past Thursday proved no exception, as dancers thronged the floor and tipplers kept the bartenders scrambling until the wee hours.
But by any usual standard, this one was special.
The host for the event was Lady D, backed by Society board member Dr. Rick Patt's band. Lady D belts out the old-school blues, many with a warning to men who might be fooling around or treating their women wrong, such as "Better Off Alone," her answer-song to B.B. King's classic "The Thrill Is Gone."
She kick-started the evening perfectly. The event had been designated as "Diva Night," and Lady D. certainly set the tone for the numerous ladies who took the opportunity to strut their stuff in their finest evening outfits.
Lady D was followed on the stage by a special performance in honor of Big Easy owner Tom McLendon's birthday. Billing themselves as the "Blues Babes" (above), six HBS members took the stage to serenade McLendon with a "special" choreographed version of George Thorogood's "Bad To The Bone." The topper was a birthday cake with the message "Bad To The Bone"; it's doubtful that the stage at the Big E has ever seen such shimmying and shaking in its 17-plus-year life.
And then it really got serious. Texas Johnny Brown, the dean of Houston blues, took the stage with young Eric Hoovestol and Rebecca Laird, the two high-school seniors who are the winners of the Blues Society's Jimmy "T-99" Nelson scholarships for 2011. Each young guitar-slinger received $1,000 to use toward any class or workshop that furthers their talent.
The proof is always in the pudding, and the two youngsters strapped on their Stratocasters and went to work like pros. After a quick warm-up number to loosen their fingers, Brown jumped onstage with his red Les Paul and tore into his classic "There Goes The Blues." It was another of those chillbumps moments to see the 65-year gap between the ages of Brown and the kids as they laid down the law like they'd been doing it for a lifetime.
Rebecca Laird and Texas Johnny Brown