Many blues clubs have come and gone in Louisville: the Bluebird, the Cherokee Pub, Fat Cats, Uncle Pleasant's, Big Heavy's and the Pleasure Inn. For the number of talented, active blues band around Louisville, there is currently a shortage of venues to perform in.
This situation was a big concern for Steve Ferguson, when he spoke at our last Kyana Blues Society meeting. Without the clubs, our local blues scene could become nonexistent in a few years, according to Steve. Steve conceived "Operation Blues Assault" to make the public aware of what must happen to rejuvenate interest in the blues.
For three consecutive Wednesdays, beginning on November 13, the Air Devils Inn hosted some of the top bands in the city. The Mudcat Blues Band, the Accused, Sue O'Neil and the Blues Hounds, the Little Dippers and, of course, Ferguson's Midwest Creole Ensemble all donated their talents for this worthy cause. When I entered the Inn on opening night, the place was full of musicians and blues fans, all enjoying themselves and the music. I thought how pleased Dan Shockley, the late owner of Air Devils, would have been with such an event. His brother was there to compliment Jim Rosen on his harpsmanship after the Mudcats finished the opening set.
When the Blueshounds came on next, Steve joined Sue O'Neil to add his flamboyant guitar licks to her performance. The Little Dippers were up next, and for my money, Rick Mason is the best when it comes to straight ahead Chicago-style blues guitar.
There were still more bands waiting to play as the midnight hour was approaching and I left with the good feeling there were going to be two more nights of this assault on the soul. The spontaneity and the good vibes of the evening recalled the old Tuesday night jam sessions at the Rudyard Kipling during the late '80s. Each month a local band would be the host for the first set and then other musicians would sign up for a turn on the bandstand. Steve would frequently show up, wearing his stovepipe hat. It was at these jams that young John Hawkins got his moniker "Screamin'."
The blues jam tradition continues today at Zena's Cafe each Sunday evening, starting at 8:30 p.m. The Blues Syndicate is the house band and Foree Wells is usually there to do a few vocals and play keyboards. Down Main Street at Stevie Ray's Blues Bar, local, regional and, occasionally, national blues acts play each Wednesday through Saturday nights, beginning at the reasonable hour of 7:30 p.m. Unfortunately, at the Backstage Cafe, the blues have become an exception to their standard fare of college rock.
The blues clubs are the trenches, where our local blues will thrive or die and Steve's ambitious assault should give the scene a shot in the arm. The goal is to keep the momentum going after these concerts are over.