Rocky Adcock, recipient of last year's Sylvester Weaver Award, had a few more stories left to tell from our interview last month. Back in 1963, when he was playing bass with the Aztecs, he had a chance to back up Jerry Lee Lewis. The `Killer" had a four-night stand at the Colonial Inn near Iroquois Park. The band got a tape of Lewis' rock-a-billy songs to learn and practice. Adcock said, "that wasn't all too hard, for all the bands were doing this type of music." This was during the post-scandal and pre-country music period of Lewis's career, when he kept a low profile, but he was wild at the gig, playing with his feet and telling the band tales in the dressing room.
Adcock also backed up Chuck Berry in 1986 for a private show for Briggs & Stratton. Tony Ratterman played piano and Steve Hoth was the drummer for this brief gig, which lasted only thirty-five minutes. Berry received $35,000 for a performance that was disappointing. That was also the year Berry was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
We talked about the first Garvin Gate Blues Festival in October 1988. The Festival was conceived by Scott Mullins, Ken Pyle, Curtis Marlatt, Sue O'Neil and Rocky and they got the support of the Garvin Gate Neighborhood Association and the Kentuckiana (KYANA) Blues Society, which was just getting started. The Festival was a one-day affair, confined to Garvin Place and the Rudyard Kipling. The rains came and it was nearly a wash-out, with very low attendance. Most of the bands that played that first year and long gone.
Adcock recalled that the Hord Brothers, John, Jim and Larry, had the Hord House R&B Band there. He said "John was absolutely fantastic as a slide guitar player. He would take his slide off this finger and play down in the very hinky-tinky registers and still get a slide sound, while still moving up and down the neck." He thinks that Jim and John are living in Florida now.
The second Festival in 1989 got better promotion and attendance. That was the year that Rocky and Scott Mullins gave the first KBS Sylvester Weaver Award to Henry Woodruff. Rocky "believes that one of the biggest pluses of the Garvin Gate Festivals was [that] they promoted racial tolerance. It was the perfect opportunity for black to meet white on an occasional basis and size each other up. It was where the West End met Central Louisville. But later it changed when it moved uptown. They put a fence around the Festival and it became a barrier." With Howard Rosenberg back in Louisville, there are ideas floating around to get the Festival back to Garvin Gate again this fall, if a major sponsor can be lined up,.
Adcock's compassion for others shows with his regular visits to see Bob Rosenthal during Rosenthal's long recovery from serious spinal problems. He said that "Bob and Winston Hardy are the two most honest people I know."
Sam Plays Santa
Sam Meyers was the guest of Lamont Gillispie just before Christmas. Gillispie picked up Meyers, who had just flown in from Texas, at the airport and they went to the studio to record five tracks with the 100 Proof Blues Band, for what will be Gillispie's first, long-overdue recording. Gillispie is planning to overdub horns and keyboards, with a goal of having the CD ready by Derby. The plan is to have a big release party at Churchill's Blues Bar for the Derby crowd.
Early the next morning, Gillispie was going to let Meyers sleep while the band did a sound check at the Public Radio Partnership studio for a "Live Lunch" broadcast on WFPK. Meyers would have none of it, as he wanted to be with "his boys." The studio seating was packed for the lunch and many folks were turned away.
The main jams occurred on Friday and Saturday night at Churchill's, where Lamont Gillispie and the 100 Proof Blues Band is the house band. WDRB's Dick Irby was there Friday to do a live broadcast for Fox 41's Evening News. I was there Saturday and arrived just as Sam and Lamont were getting out of the car. Lamont had a firm grip on Meyers, saying "Anson Funderburgh would never forgive me if Sam slipped in these icy walks."
Inside, there was a table reserved for Meyers in front of the stage, where he sat with his back to the band. He moves and speaks very slowly and deliberately, due to his limited vision, but his motions are very graceful for a man of his large size. When he ascends the stage (with assistance), his presence is felt immediately throughout the room. Whether he is speaking or singing, his deep, resonant voice cuts through the smoke and into your soul. He wore a new black strap for his harmonicas that stretched across his belly, with the initials "SJM" in bold white letters.
During his first set, Meyers joked with the crowd, saying he "was going to get laid and invited every one to come and see." Actually, it was going to be in his home town, Jackson, Mississippi, on January 6, when they will be setting a stone dedicated to him.
The band was really hot that winter's night, with Gillispie giving his mentor the chance to stretch out on long sets. Guitarist Mark Stein was a perfect fit, with the straight-to-the-core licks playing off Meyer's harp solos. Bassist Byron Davies kept a tight temp with his aggressive style. Andy Brown is the "new kid" in the band, having played drums with Gillispie for just a few months. Gillispie said that he is hoping to go out on tour this summer and promote his new CD, now that his health has improved.
Churchill's Blue Bar and Grill, 3605 Taylor Blvd (just around the corner from the racetrack) is a friendly and devoted crowd of working class folks who really enjoy the blues and Lamont Gillispie and the 100 Proof Blues Band. I always enjoy going there.