Legendary Blues maven Reba Russell belts out the Blues in a February 8, 2015 benefit for Joe Powell at Neil’s Music Room in Memphis TN. Russell batted cleanup after six other great bands did their part in the concert.
Great blues for one of the “good guys”
Late in 2010, blues enthusiast Joe Powell of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, hatched up an idea to sponsor a blues concert to benefit a friend who was stricken with cancer. The idea germinated a bit further to become a recurring series of concerts, each one of which would benefit a victim of cancer or another catastrophic illness. Powell and a crew of friends and sponsors, organized “Blues for a Cause, A Helping Hand,” put feet on the idea and held their first concert in March of 2011. The concerts continued and each one benefited another deserving person.
All the while, Powell is the consummate volunteer in the Blues community. He is a member of the Blues Foundation, and participates in volunteer capacities in the Blues Music Awards, The International Blues Challenge and the legendary King Biscuit Blues Festival at Helena, Arkansas.
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Back to the Blues
Fast forward to late 2014. Powell was diagnosed with cancer. He started chemo treatments which are no walk in the park. The shoe was now on the other foot. A group of Blues musicians in Memphis took notice and organized a benefit Blues event for Joe Powell, February 8, 2015 at Neil’s Music Room in Memphis. The event lasted from 2:00 p.m. through 8:00 p.m. In that time, seven great bands held forth with their finest. It was a great event with great music and an appreciative and generous crowd.
Eric Hughes is a multifaceted performer. Here he is playing the original Blues genre. The best way I can describe this sound is that I am sitting on the front steps of an unpainted shotgun house on a gravel road in the Mississippi Delta, listening to Eric play on the porch while sitting on a cane-bottomed chair. He has the sound down to a fine art. He is equally at home with the Blues “harp.”
Amylee Pettis has a thousand watt smile to go with her sultry, real-blues voice. She can belt it out while her husband Lance Pettis accompanies her on the guitar. Pettis, a natural musician, puts his heart and soul into every chord he strums and every note he sings. You can “hear the sweat.” The pair make Blues magic together.
Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms pounds the ivories as part of the Wampus Cats, one of the most experienced Blues bands in Memphis. The musicians in this band have been there done that, and their Blues music speaks volumes for what they’ve done and where they’ve been.
The drummer for the Wampus Cats bangs it out!
The drummer eyeballs the bass player who eyeballs the guitarist and camera.
One more of “Nighthawk,” always with the hat. In the spring and summer it magically changes to “Panama.” Think Sharp Dressed Man. Nighthawk is equally at home with the Blues “Harp.”
Joe Powell, the honoree, and Reba Russell ham it up for a phone photographer and I steal the setup.
Jack Rowell, Jr,. leader of the Royal Blues Band sings and plays the Blues. He’s been at it a while. A glimpse of his facebook page shows Rowell in his early teens already wailing away in a band.
Jack Rowell, Jr., and the Royal Blues Band. Jack and this group are always involved in anything worthwhile on the music scene in Memphis. They are an experienced band. A couple of the guys were playing about the same time the Mayflower first made landfall.
My friend Leo Goff, world-class bass player and blues performer. He plays with a number of bands and is always in demand for his great blues talent, knowledge and sense of humor.
Don McMinn a Memphis musical veteran. Many will remember his role as the “house band” at the famous “Rum Boogie” bar on Beale Street. He was great then and better now.
Two legends wail the blues. Don McMinn and Leo Goff.
Reba Russell, Wayne Russell, and Lance Pettis are “into it.” Reba’s emotional outpouring of the Blues rattles your bones and shakes your soul.
Reba, Wayne and Lance. Their last number and closing piece for the event was a highly respectable version of a Jimmy Thackery favorite.
Folks, this event was living proof that Blues musicians are regular people who just happen to be the genuine messengers of one our nation’s only original art forms. And unless you are a “real person,” you ain’t gonna do the “real blues.” These people got their respective acts together in more ways than one to help a friend. On top of everything else, I can personally attest to Joe Powell being one of the good guys. His children are my grandchildren.
Thanks for looking.
Weekly Grist for the Eyes and Mind
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