**I never asked my mother to take me to another concert again, figuring that when she turned down my first request, she always would. So, when the Monkees came to town, I just quietly suffered and let them come and go without a word, having to find satisfaction by watching their TV show, knowing they were far away and only to be near in a young girl’s fantasy. I do remember when my mother read the article in the local newspaper to me that revealed that the Monkees were a farce, and that during a concert, the tape they were lip-synching to, broke while they were performing. Boy, was I devastated to hear this, to the point I was actually angry at my mother for divulging this heartbreaking news to me. I didn’t want to know or hear this bubble bursting information! It hurt…and I now realized that with all the joy and happiness music brought me, it also caused deep pain. I think it was then that I decided that I shouldn’t become so emotionally involved with any particular band, or idolize a specific musician again. So, I didn’t. However, this didn’t stop me from continuing to follow, pursue and participate in my favorite activitiy of discovering new music, musicians, and places that would satisfy my appetite for this intense interest of mine. It did, though, keep me from actively participating in an activity that I could easily have fallen into – that of a groupie! The pain of childhood disappointment, as well as my Catholic upbringing kept me safe from any temptation to fall into the clutches of Groupiedom. Don’t get me wrong, I was up front and making eye contact with the musicians any chance I got, but I was more interested in their delivery of tunes, the command of their instruments, and the fascination of the whole concert scene. Yep, I was always in line for hours at Winterland (my concert hall of choice) in order to blast through the doors right when they opened and rush to the front of the stage. I have many a good (and not so good) memory of those crazy, hazy days of good ol’ Winterland. May it rest in peace. My concert viriginity was first, and finally, lost in 1973 when a friend invited me to go with her, her older brother and his friend. You bet I jumped on it! Now, when I say I lost my concert virginity, I do not mean that it was by either of the guys we went with, or anyone in the crowd (or bands, for that matter.) I just want to make that clear, not that it really matters. I had barely heard of the bands we went to see, New Riders of the Purple Sage, Jesse Colin Young, and Alice Stuart & Snake, but I didn’t care. I was up for the concert experience equally as much as the music. It ended up that, inexperienced and all, like a magnet we were pulled directly to the front of the stage…and I was instantly in Heaven! Of course, the mind-altering substances that our companions shared with us surely intensified the enjoyment of this new adventure. I still remember rocking out, holding on to the stage at times, and wondering why people in the audience kept annoyingly shouting out stuff to the bands in between songs. I wanted to tell them to shut up and leave them alone to entertain us, but being the timid newbie, I just kept quiet and tried to ignore them. It wasn’t until soon after, and after becoming a new fan of NRPS, that I realized that those non-such idiots were yelling out song requests! Now, who was the idiot? And, thankful that I didn’t snarl and bitch at them at the concert. What a fool I would’ve been!
Needless to say, this first concert experience of mine opened up the floodgates that till this day hasn’t been plugged. Once the music is in you, it never leaves! After that night, I became a collector of the weekly Winterland advertisements in the SF Chronicles Sunday Pink (Entertainment) section. I became a teenage expert in Winterland (and other local) concerts and was the one who informed friends who was coming to town. And then, we went – to the Fillmore, Great American Music Hall, Cow Palace, free concerts in Golden Gate Park, the County Fair Grounds, Days on the Green, and even to Great America Africa USA when it was still in the sleepy town of Belmont, Ca. and brought in local (and not so local) bands in their early days, such as Tower of Power, Santana, Malo, Elvin Bishop, Leon Russell, etc. A few times we hopped the fence to get in to those concerts for free. Little did we realize at the time that we were living through one of the greatest musical periods of history, but then again, who isn’t, I suppose?
We experienced, on more than one occasion, some of the biggest bands of our time – The Rolling Stones, the Who, Led Zeppelin, Grateful Dead, Traffic, Derek & the Dominos, Johnny Winter, Robin Trower, Fleetwood Mac, Joe Cocker, and the list goes on! The countless hours I spent in lines waiting (for tickets, and for entry,) driving to and from shows, and actively participating in the concerts experience, defines my teenage years. Many times I wished I was either a little older (nah, not really) or had an older sibling who was willing to bring me to earlier shows so that I could have experienced a Beatles, Doors, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin concert. But, unfortunately that wasn’t the case. I do have stories from others about such shows, as do many others out there, which can be shared some time if ever anyone reads and would like to. Which reminds me, there is a pretty cool site that I found that does this to some extent. Check it out at: (http://www.thrasherswheat.org/rns/winterland.htm) It’s by a guy named Chris Horn and is very nostalgic. If you were a Winterland junkie like me, you will love these stories!!
Hot off the IBC bandwagon and straight into Redwood City’s infamous Blues Jam at the Club Fox, came our third place (yes, third in the country!!) winners, Paula Harris and Blu Gruv to host the evenings show on February 8! It was an awesome celebration with Paula giving the audience a wonderful narrative, in between songs, about their experiences in Memphis. Oh, to have just been there with them! But, this was the next best thing! They entertained us thoroughly all evening long, and capped off the night with the sweet song, ‘Georgia On My Mind’ in honor of Paula’s hometown of Atlanta. Perfection…
Paula Harris & Blu Gruv @ Club Fox in Redwood City, California
After an exciting week in Memphis, and terrific correspondence from Al Diaz – drummer for Paula Harris & Blu Gruv – I am proud to post this last, and final excerpt. This talented band represented the Golden Gate Blues Society of San Francisco (http://www.tggbs.org/newsfests.cfm) in this national competition. We are very proud here and congratulate them for all their hard work…and a job well done!!
Here’s the last entry from Al:
“Well, after hearing the news that we made it to the finals, a strange thing happened. All the adrenaline and butterflies I expected were gone! I was surprisingly calm. On the other hand, the week of carousing and this damn cold, that I’ve never really shaken since last December, is back in full swing. Instead of hitting jams and staying out to network with other musicians, or celebrating, I went to bed. So much for being a rock star…
Saturday morning was just like the rest…a routine has set in…we head back to Cockadoos for coffee. My brother-in-law, John, pulls out a $10 at the same time I do. The waitress grabs John’s money, looks at me and says, “You paid yesterday”, and turns with a smile. Yep, it’s official, we’ve become “regulars”.
After grabbing some breakfast, we say our goodbyes to the in-laws, they’ve got a plane to catch. Unfortunately, they’re going to miss the finals.
Before I know it, it’s time to head to the Orpheum Theatre. The Finals start at 2:30 pm, but we’ve got a band orientation meeting there at 1:00. The Orpheum Theatre is a grand venue, with 3 levels of seating, ornate plaster, a grand lobby, and a huge stage. Looking around at pictures of past acts, I see all the greats, from Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers thru to modern times. Comedians, theatre productions, musicians, it’s rich in history, but a fully modern and current venue. For some, maybe it’s not such a big deal, but looking at that stage, the back line with top notch gear, the sound system, drum riser, and monitor mix engineer, I’m stoked! This is gonna be one helluva show! It’s at the other end of the spectrum from the local bars I’m used to playing.
But still, no butterflies. it’s like a surreal calm has taken over. We know the material cold. The band is tight. Paula’s singing is confident and amazing. It really doesn’t matter anymore if we win. Sure, I’d like to. But, I’ve seen some really good bands go home. We’ve gone from 119 bands in the Quarterfinals on Day 1 in Memphis to just 9 bands in the Finals. We were all winners!
We played our set, the crowd response was awesome! I had the time of my life playing drums for that 20 minutes, on that stage! When the votes came in, we finished 3rd. I’m sure it would have been very exciting to have won 1st place, but I can’t explain how little that even mattered. What an honor to have been able to participate in the IBC and meet so many wonderful musicians from all over the world, and to experience Memphis, with it’s proud musical heritage, as a musician. Like the saying goes, “No black, no white, just the blues”. So long Memphis!!”
~Al Diaz Drummer for ‘Paula Harris & Blu Gruv”
Here is some more GREAT news and information on the happenings in Memphis! It is so electric, so buzzing, so exciting, I can feel it through his words here in California! I so wish I was there to experience this with them, but with the way Al writes – his enthusiasm and humor – it’s the next best thing to being there!!!
GO AL! GO PAULA HARRIS AND BLU GRUV!!!
“Hi Nadine. Okay, we got some catching up to do…here goes:
**Thursday morning…we’re feeling pretty good about our first set last night. Broke the ice. Band was tight, but so is our budget…so we head across the street to Denny’s with a coupon. Today is gonna be a slow day…we hit a couple souvenir stores, but my feet are sore from walking and my head hurts from spending the last three nights in smokey bars…go figure.
Afternoon in the hotel went by real quick…headed back to the club at 5pm to get ready for Round 2 of the quarter finals. After tonight they pick 4 bands from each club to advance to the Semi-Finals. We’re relaxed, played well, but it didn’t have the same punch as our first night. Finished early tonight…it’s only 7:30, so we head out to check out the other clubs. There are literally over 20 bands playing within 2 blocks at the same time, with one after the other all night long!! After awhile, it really occurs to me that there are a lot of really good bands with great guitar players, or harp players, and horn sections, but after awhile they all sound the same. There’s not too many bands with a front singer that can belt it like Paula Harris!
About 2am, wake up and check for news. It’s official, we made it to the Semi Finals…!!!
**Friday Morning….text messages buzzing….Facebook’s lit up. Paula’s manager relays a message…mandatory band meeting at 1pm. Shit, we got tickets to Graceland at noon. I call and move our tour to 10am. No time to spare, wake up the wife, call over to her sister’s room, me and my brother-in-law head down the street for our morning coffee from ‘Cockadoos.’ There’s a homeless guy on the park bench who recognized me from the day before…I gave my change to his “rival” across the street yesterday…so I had to tell him I was cleaned out. Today, he was ready for me. “Good morning Sir. Would you happen to have any change for me today?”. What can I say, even the “bums” here have southern manners!
Anyway, we catch our bus for Graceland. Great tour, actually the house is much more humble than I expected. Oh sure, it had Elvis’ taste, which was a combination of the 50’s and 70’s. The “Jungle Room” had green shag carpet on the floor and ceiling. But what blows you away is the hall of gold and platinum records…It’s like the walls had sequins on them!
Back at the hotel, I meet up with the band to go through tonight’s set. Want to clean up a few breaks, intros, and arrangements. It’s getting serious now. Lots of good bands already going home. Afternoon passes quickly.
We head over to the ‘Superior Bar’ around 5pm for our Semi Final round. It’s Friday night, Beale Street is buzzing! The locals are coming out in masses! The club is packed! We’re up against some good bands. The adrenaline was pumping. It’s not a good thing to play so amped up. I’m just trying to calm myself down so I don’t push the tempo.
But when we started the first song, something happened, we just clicked into the pocket and stayed there. Maybe it was the fact that the bass amp was next to the drums tonight, and I could hear Joey, but whatever it was, that shit was tighter than it’s ever been. We all felt it. And the crowd reacted to Paula like never before. She was trying to keep from crying during the set. We left the stage with a standing ovation. But it ain’t over yet…
After the bands finished, it took over an hour for the judges to compile the scores from all the clubs…but then the announcement came…from the Superior Bar…advancing to the finals…Miss Paula Harris!! Woooohoooo…we all went nuts!! We made it to the Finals! Tomorrow we’re playing at the Orpheum Theatre, top 9 of over 120 bands…each representing their respective home Blues Society from all over the world. We had to beat out 12 bands to earn our spot to represent The Golden Gate Blues Society. it’s starting to sink in…we got a shot at winning this thing…but really, I’m just kinda numb. -Al”
“Wednesday morning – Found our way to Cockadoos. Okay, well barely morning…it was before noon anyway. But, finally found a good cup of coffee and a great menu. I skipped breakfast and went for the Catfish Po’ boy…that was THE BEST sandwich of any kind that I’ve had in a long while. Anyway, it turned out to be the place to meet up with Paula Harris and her husband Michael, Marty and Susan from The Golden Gate Blues Society, and others from the SF Bay Area. And they serve espresso and latte’s!! OMG, I am SUCH a Californian! Definitely going back.
Anyway, it’s time to register, so we’re heading down to Beale Street to sign-in. We hook-up with Joey Fabian (bass), Terry Hiatt (guitar), and Doug McKeehan (keys), so it’s a good sign, the band is all here and all the instruments arrived in one piece. We got our passes and program. Playing at Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street (http://rumboogie.com/) for our first two rounds of the quarter-finals. Between solo-duos and bands, there are over 200 acts in the IBC, all gonna be on Beale Street within two blocks of each other…trucks are loading in back-line gear and the bars are getting food/booze deliveries… The vibe is just like when you’re setting up to play a big party…preparations under way…the party hasn’t started, but it’s definitely in the air!
We head on back to the hotel…it’s not the same place we left a couple hours before. The lobby is full of musicians from all over the world…okay…Canada. But there was one band we saw from Finland. Anyway, the tables and counters are filling up with fliers, buttons and newsletters from all over the place. Everyone that arrived the day before appears to be wandering around looking for a good cup of coffee and a place to eat. (Been there!)
Now for a little back-story. Remember that Tuesday night jam at Kudzu’s? Well, we had a blast, met a lot of great local musicians. They invited us to follow them over to Beale Street, where the jam was going to continue at The Tap Room. So, we called a cab and went there. No problem. But, shortly after we got there, the drummer from the Kudzu’s jam, Brian, showed up and, very nicely, mentioned that we forgot to pay our tab! He was laughing about it, said they knew we didn’t do it on purpose, but that Martin, the bartender, would appreciate it if we dropped by there to settle up tomorrow. Well, tomorrow is today, so we walked back to Kudzu’s to pay up, with a nice tip mind you. Nice long walk, sort of a cross between exercise and penance.
Okay, so it’s Wednesday afternoon and 4pm arrives way too soon. Time to get dressed, grab my gear, and head down to the Rum Boogie Cafe to check-in for our first round. We don’t play until after 9pm, but we gotta be there before 5pm…kind of a long wait, but hey, we stake out a couple tables and settle in. I’m too nervous to eat. I have a Red Bull and club soda. After that kicked-in, I was like, OK, 3 hours for this to wear off. Note to self: don’t drink Red Bull before you play. Hey, I’m getting old, there’s all kinds of supplements to help me stay up…I mean awake! 9pm is when my body thinks I should be in bed. Turns out I don’t need any help…adrenaline works wonders. We sat through 7 bands before it was our turn to take the stage…we’re number 8 out of 11 bands in just the one club…there are 19 clubs hosting the IBC…the party has begun!!
Anyway, there are some good bands here. And some are great bands. Every band is here to represent their respective Blues Society. In our case, The Golden Gate Blues Society from the SF Bay Area. (http://www.tggbs.org/ibc.cfm) The point is, there are no bad bands. It’s not easy to stand-out in this crowd, but I got tell you, Paula Harris has the “it” factor. Joey and I locked tight, Terry screamed on guitar, and Doug layed down some nice key runs to give Paula the platform she needed to shine. We brought the house down. So, Round 1 ended with us feeling pretty good. But, the bands after us were damn good too. I think we got a good at being one of the four bands from our club that will advance to the Semi Finals on Friday, but we won’t know for sure until after Round 2 on Thursday night.”
PAULA HARRIS AND BLU GRUV @ The Pioneer Saloon in Woodside, California 1/29/12
The International Blues Competition is on! Since I wasn’t able to attend this exciting event, and my pal Al is there in person, and is competing in it, he has agreed to keep me updated on his adventures! He arrived two days ago and here is his first report:
“Woke up early, went for a walk, in search of a decent cup of coffee. There’s a Starbuck’s on every corner in other cities, but NOT in downtown Memphis!
Went back to the hotel empty handed. Gathered ourselves together and headed down the street to grab some breakfast. Frequently approached by harmless, homeless people. But it’s diffferent here – instead of sitting on the pavement with their hands out, they will walk alongside and sing you a tune or strike up a conversation. So, this one guy hears us trying to decide which way to go and recommends a cafe down on Beale Street. Feeling the need to impart more culinary clues, he recommends the Rendezvous (http://www.hogsfly.com/TheRestaurant.php) for BBQ. So happens, that’s the place our cab driver mentioned, but we didn’t know where it was. So our new friend backs us up a few steps and points to a nearby alley…half way up, there it is. Turns out, it’s practically across the street from the hotel. So, this is when the hand came out, he and his quiet friend were looking for $8 to get breakfast. Tipped him a $10 and we both went our separate ways happier for having run into each other. But, like I said, we were looking for breakfast, not BBQ, so we turned our direction to Beale Street. Found a great little cafe…had a BBQ omelette.
Later that day, took a cab down the street to Sun Studio. Took the studio tour, which was great, but the real adventure started after we decided to walk back to the hotel along Monroe Street. We look up and see a big neon guitar neck sticking out of a building, so it looks promising. We stumbled onto to the home of St. Blues Guitar Workshop, a local manufacturer of custom electric guitars and basses. Owners are real nice, very welcoming, ended up hanging out and visiting for quite awhile. We head on down the road past a lot of vacant run-down buildings. We can see the hotel in the skyline 3-4 blocks ahead, no big deal, but not a soul in sight on this street. We walk past a beat-up old building with a bar & grill called Kudzus (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Kudzus-Bar-Grill/122460351100634). We stopped, thought twice about stopping, but hey, it’s starting to rain a little bit, so we go in for a beer. Turns out, it’s lovable shit hole! My kinda place! The folks are nice and glad we stopped…they watched us walk past and were kinda surprised we turned around and came inside. Anyway, it’s Tuesday…and Tuesday night is Jam Night. Apparently, this is where the local “Beale Street Musicians” come on their off night to have a jam. So we down our beer, head back to the hotel for a spell, grab some INCREDIBLE BBQ ribs at the Rendezvous for dinner, and find our way back to KUDZUS for the jam. We played, jammed and partied with some great musicians, complete with the “Plantation All Stars” horn section. The jam closed down at 11:00…everyone was heading over to The Tap Room on Beale Street. So, of course, we called a cab and followed them. The next jam was jumping until after 1am where we stumbled home. What a day!!”