Saturday, May 10, 2008

Lew & Ned's Excellent Adventure at the BMAs

It had been several years since I had been to the Blues Foundation's Blues Music Awards ceremonies. The last time I went, it was held on Beale Street and they were called "The Handy's." Now the name has changed and the venue has changed as the awards were moved to the Grand Casino in Tunica, MS. I decided to head back to the show this year, accompanied by my friend and associate, Ned G. Gunn (he says the G stands for "Genius"). It's Blues' version of the Grammies, and the Blues stars were out in force.

The event began with a "pre-show" reception outside the event center at the Grand, and everybody who is somebody in Blues was there! Outside of that, Ned and I were there too.

Cameras were ready to capture Blues' biggest stars and legends! Ned started with the first one he saw: ME!!! (just kidding)

If you've ever been to the Chicago Blues Festival, the Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, or any of the bigger blues festivals, no doubt you've seen Bob Corritore, many times accompanied by his lovely girlfriend, Kim. Bob's a walking encyclopedia of the Blues, and a fantastic harp player himself. It was great to finally meet him.

All of the sudden it was as if I was looking in a mirror as I spotted my "twin:" Tab Benoit. Everybody says the only way they can tell us apart is that he's younger, better looking, more talented, a better guitar player, a better singer,a better songwriter, and has better hair.

An Englishman once described my voice as sounding like I smoked 4 packs a day and drank whiskey from the age of 4, while being repeatedly struck in the mouth with a baseball bat. I tried to tell my wife that I thought that was supposed to be a compliment.... Watermelon Slim also has a "unique" voice," so we have that in common, although I don't know if anyone ever accused him of having been hit with a baseball bat.

I asked the beautiful Denise LaSalle where her hubby "Super Wolf" was. "At home!" she said. I remember "Super Wolf" from my days in Jackson. He's the best, and Denise is too! Her music is rated "R" for REALLY GREAT! She's one of my favorites and we love her to death!

Steve Edmonson still remembers his trip to the Hot August Blues Festival, where the locals look good care of him and partner Jackie Payne. It was great to see Steve again, and meet his lovely wife.

Jr. Watson's one of my favorite guitar players. I love his style and I love his beard. If Bridget hadn't talked me into shaving. Mine might be this long by now! I would love to discuss guitar playing technique with Jr, if only I had one...

Two thirds of Saffire, "The Uppity Blues Women" were there! (Get well soon Ann! We missed you!). I love these gals. I asked Gaye and Andra if I could fill in temporarily and become the 1st male member of Saffire, but a quick check of my credentials unfortunately determined that I was not "uppity" enough.

I had heard of Eden Brent prior to the BMA, but had never met her. In addition to being a fantastic talent, she's also officially "a real hoot!" I told her I had been through her hometown of Greenville, MS several times, so I knew better than to mess with her! Her range of talents shows through as she can flash a lovely smile while grinding her heel on Ned's foot. All kidding aside, she's a breath of fresh air!

Time to head inside! Ned called Skee Pryor, Snooky's son, and let Willie "Big Eyes" Smith tell him what he was missing!!!

The stage set up inside the Grand Casino Event Center was great. I actually liked the move to Tunica as the shuttle buses tooks us from the nearby hotel, to the Event Center, and then back. The stage sported 2 Diamondvision screens and a great sound system. One of the coolest things about the BMAs is the mixing and matching and jamming of so many great artists. You don't see it very often, but you see it here every year.

I loved all the different combinations of musicians and singers, but probably my favorite was Jimmie Vaughan, Lou Ann Barton and Omar Dykes.

Later on, I ran into multiple BMA winner Bobby Rush, another of my favorites. I thought it would be really cool to let Bridget congratulate Bobby, and called her, then handed the phone to him. Of course, SHE thought she was talking to Ned and he was pulling her leg and said some things to Bobby which would have thrown a less-seasoned pro! Not Bobby though. Later, I "heard" my wife blushing through the phone, as I told her, "Yeah, that really was Bobby Rush, baby."

Ned told Bobby that he had stolen his shoes, and that Bobby's shoes were too tight on his feet. Bobby didn't miss a beat and said Ned shouldn't complain about things being too tight.

About this time, we started getting hungry, so it was decided Ned should use his devilish wiles to cast a love spell on the security lady in charge of guarding the door where the food was and charm her into letting us pass. We left hungry....

After that we decided to seek out lessons in how to charm women from the great Pinetop Perkins. Out of respect for Pinetop, we left when we realized we were scaring all his women away.

We were still hungry and would have settled for simply a baked potato. At that point, we ran into the beautiful Idaho potato expert Sheila Wax, who explained we'd never get anything close to as good as a real Idaho potato outside of Idaho. Dang...

I was wasting away. When the night began, I was the same size as Nick Moss, and only a few hours later, he dwarfed me.

It was time to seek out more guitar heroes. Jimmie Vaughan and I were both raised with brothers named Ray, who were musicians. Jimmie's brother, Stevie Ray, became fairly well known, while my brother Ray rose all the way to 4th chair trumpet in the Peabody High School Band.

One of my biggest thrills of the night was meeting one of my all-time favorite players: Derek O'Brien. He said, "Any friend of Snooky's is a friend of mine." As the night ended, we wound up on the same shuttle bus heading back to the hotel. It was a huge thrill to meet Derek, and especially to discover what a nice person he is, in addition to his great talent. I've met a lot of big stars over the years, and don't care for most of the big stars. Blues people are the exception for the most part. They're great people. The few who I am in awe of are those with a real talent and gift. He's one of the few.

Regrets? I had a few. I regret that I never caught up with XM Radio's Bill Wax to offer my personal heartfelt thanks, although I asked his lovely wife to pass along the sentiment. I regret that Candye Kane didn't win for Contemporary Female Blues Vocalist. I had voted for Candye. One of the reasons I went to the BMA's this year was to see Candye sing again. The good news is that her health is improving every day!

All in all, it was a wonderful night. It was great to meet my fellow Blues_L listers Amy, Deb and more. It was fantastic to see so much talent in one place, at one time, and meet a few of them for the first time, while reconnecting with others. I can't wait til next year!

The 2008 Blues Music Awards. The winners selected by the vote of the Blues Foundation's
members are.

1. DVD - Kenny Wayne Shepherd – 10 Days Out: Blues from the Backroads
2. Traditional Blues Male Artist - Hubert Sumlin
3. Traditional Blues Female Artist - Koko Taylor
4. Acoustic Artist - Bobby Rush
5. Acoustic Album Bobby Rush - Raw
6. Pinetop Perkins Piano Player - Honey Piazza
7. Instrumentalist-Guitar - Bob Margolin
8. Soul Blues Male Artist - Bobby Rush
9. Soul Blues Female Artist - Irma Thomas
10. Soul Blues Album - The Holmes Brothers – State of Grace
11. Historical Album - Epic/Legacy – Breakin’ It UP, Breakin’ it DOWN
12. Contemporary Blues Album - Tommy Castro - Painkiller
13. Contemporary Blues Female Artist - Bettye LaVette
14. Contemporary Blues Male Artist - Tab Benoit
15. Instrumentalist-Harmonica - Kim Wilson
16. Instrumentalist-Bass - Bob Stroger
17. Instrumentalist-Drums - Sam Lay
18. Instrumentalist-Horn - Deanna Bogart
19. Instrumentalist-Pedal Steel- Robert Randolph
20. Best New Artist Debut - Diunna Greenleaf & Blue Mercy
21. Song - “Gonna Buy Me a Mule” – Koko Taylor
22. Traditional Blues Album - Koko Taylor – Old School
23. Album - Watermelon Slim & the Workers – The Wheel Man
24. Band - Watermelon Slim & the Workers
25. B.B. King Entertainer - Tommy Castro


Anonymous said...

Cool report! I saw several of my favorites in your photos (Denise, Saffire, Tab, Eden for example). Thanks for sharing.

D. Desper
Blues Fan
Waynesboro, VA

Anonymous said...

Just ran across your great blog today, Lew - thanks! My husband and I have been big fans of yours for many years. We look for your shows and go every chance we get. We see you every year at Hot August Blues - (you and I share birthdays at that time of year - we shared birthday cake a few years back). Sorry we missed you last Friday at Fat Moe's but we understood you had to be called away.
Great photos of the BMA! We went down on Thursday to Clarksdale to Ground Zero and they had a celebration with Bill Wax as host. Saw some celebs there as well - it was great fun!
Glad to have found your blog. Keep up the good work!

Blues Fan
Melanie Stewart
Benton, KY