Thursday, January 26, 2006

Steal This Banner!

Use banner on your website and/or e-mail Signatures, just click banner for code! Help spread the Gospel of Bandana Blues, B&S Thank you!! Have Mercy!!

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Franklin's Armonica

Legend says it was originally invented by the priests of Atlantis, and that the secret of the glass armonica was lost when Atlantis disappeared beneath the sea — only to be re-invented by Benjamin Franklin.

In 1761, while living in England, Franklin heard a performer playing musical glasses. Franklin wrote: "He collected a number of glasses of different sizes, fixed them near each other on a table, and tuned them by putting into them water, more or less as each note required. The tones were brought out by passing his fingers round their brims."

Franklin was charmed by the music, but felt that there was a better way to create the same sound. He had a glassmaker create thirty-seven hemispheres made of glass, with each hemisphere being a different size and thickness to produce different pitches. Franklin ran an iron rod through a hole in the top of each hemisphere so that they could nest together from largest to smallest. He linked all of this to an apparatus like a spinning wheel, with a foot treadle that turned the rod, making the glass hemispheres rotate. Franklin moistened his fingers and held them against the rims of the glass hemispheres as they turned, producing a sound similar to the musical glasses. The glass hemispheres were color coded with paint to identify the notes.

Franklin mastered the instrument and took it to dinner parties and other gatherings to play for his friends and acquaintances. The instrument became popular and other performers started playing armonicas. In fact, it became so popular that thousands were built and sold, and one factory employed over a hundred people to build the instruments. Interestingly, many of the performers were women, which was somewhat unusual for the period. One of the musicians, Marianne Davies performed all over Europe and even gave lessons to the French queen Marie Antoinette.

Composers were also struck by the haunting sounds produced by Franklin's instrument. Mozart wrote two pieces for the armonica, including "Adagio and Rondo 617," and in 1815, Beethoven wrote a short melodrama where a narrator told a story while accompanied by armonica.

Some of the people who performed regularly on the armonica complained that the instrument was upsetting them emotionally. They said that the vibrations were entering their fingertips and causing mental anguish. There has been some conjecture that these conditions were caused by lead poisoning that the performers acquired from lead in the glass hemispheres of the instrument. Lead was a commonly used metal in the eighteenth century, so it is difficult to determine if these players' maladies came from the lead in the armonica or from other sources.

The popularity of the instrument faded early in the nineteenth century, but it is still played occasionally today.

Click here for a Mozart piece played on the Armonica. Perhaps Spinner will get one!

Saturday, January 21, 2006

You Want Sandy Taint!!!

Of course you listen to Bandana Blues, but have you checked out Beardo'salterego (one of many) Sandy Taint? go to to subscribe for about 5 minutes a week of rant and rave that just may jolt you out of the doledrums and make you scratch you head about things.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Da Boat part Deux

Wednesday on Da Boat

Not counting interviews, I only had contact with a few artists today. At the intimate Queens Lounge I enjoyed ACOUSTIC WORKSHOP:” Preserving Acoustic Classics w/ John Hammond", who was joined by Daniel “Slick” Ballinger (runner up at The IBC in 2004 and winner of The Albert King Award for most promising blues guitarist) for a delight and insight filled repartee between a most respectful Slick and obviously impressed veteran, John Hammond. A Q&A with the audience revealed some things missed in my interview with Hammond (coming soon to your Blueswax mailbox). His introduction of Bob Dylan to The New Hawks (soon to become The Band) at his My Way recording session in 1964 was a revelation. Mentioning some influential harp players, it was gratifying to hear Mark Wenner of The Nighthawks in the list.

As sunshine was at a premium up to this point I enjoyed 7.4 minutes of obligatory photosynthesis on the pool deck followed by a sumptuous Indonesian dinner of Nasi Goreng. Properly fueled, The Crow’s Nest was next. Although my least favorite venue due to the low ceiling, bad sightlines and, being as stated the highest point of the ship hence the rockin-est movement wise, it held some of the best moments all week. This night joined by Alan Howe, erstwhile Blueswax Photographer and guitarist for two time IBC finalists Mike Guldin and Rollin’&Tumblin’ and his purchase of duel triple shots of Wild Turkey, we watched Ana Popovic and Anthony Gomes get their sexually charged groove on jam-wise. The crowd went nuts.

The Crow’s Nest was followed by some hang time with the gregarious Biscuit Miller (Gomes bass man) and the spectacular Millie Jackson show at my favorite venue The Big Room, the multi-tiered Vista Lounge. A review of this show is not forth coming because decided I was having too much fun to take notes as the repartee by Millie even stunned MC Scrap Iron and her band. Not a show for the easily offended, let’s just state that she abruptly closed the show with a mellifluous sing song of, “F%ck You, F%ck You, F%ck You, F%ck You, F%ck Yoooou, as she strode off the stage in a very regal manner. It was one of the highlights of the week. WOW!!! The audience ate it up. Those of you in Dallas are very lucky to have her host a morning drive radio show. I can’t imagine.

Thursday in brief started by waking up to The Imperial Crowns DVD on the TV as my wake up time check (no watch, ever) and included more interviews, a conversation with Bob Margolin about sound problems with The Chicago Legends show he is involved with and part of a Robert Mugge film in the Queen’s Lounge. Another highlight, as I see this short report is getting lengthy; Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers braved the rain on the pool deck joined by special guest cruiser Tommy Castro on “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl”. Tommy also showed up later as a guest with his pal Jimmy Thackery at the late night jam on the Pool Deck that went till about 4 AM, actually an early night.

Heading back to a Mougli-less (MIA) cabin about 2 AM via my secret upper deck route that drops the elevator off down a hall at the side entrance of the Queen’s Lounge I was stopped in my tracks by an eerie sight. The darkened room was lit by only a white follow spot illuminating a vision in a body length white veil dancing seductively for a good number of people, most with video cameras. Dancing to an uber weird mariachi version of “Hey Jude” was Schmat. Cruisers will know who this guy is and hopefully there will be pix of him online somewhere. He is known as The World’s Last Free Man and if free means eccentric, the moniker fits. I could fill a page of just his costume descriptions. Nuff said.

Friday was spent going over notes and interviews amid a smattering of shows. The Electric Rod Thompson on The Pool Deck, Rod Piazza’s best set of the week in The Vista with special guest Jimmy Carpenter sitting in for most of the set. JC really fit the west coast swing style to a T. I sure wouldn’t mind seeing him as an addition on the next CD and perhaps occasional sideman on a tour. Kenny Neal and Billy Branch had the infamous “open fly” incident at The Queen’s Lounge and Anthony Gomes held down the Late Jam duties on the Pool Deck. Mitch Wood’s Club 88, held at the ship’s piano bar never started till after 2 AM and held sway over the night owls aboard. This night Tommy Castro rolled in about 5 AM after the jam and stayed till 7 AM. Whew!

Suffice to say my interview with Tommy Castro was delayed a few hours. Morning was delayed as quite a few people were green at the gills from the 12 foot chop, some of our crew included. As a blustery day made the movement of all Pool Deck festivities inside a necessity after John Hammond around 2 PM. Diunna Greenleaf and Blue Mercy were at the heavily swaying Vista Lounge with Bob Margolin filling in on bass. Diunna brought Slick Ballinger up to the stage with a story of Slick as a little kid showing up at her shows with the idea of becoming a real blues man. The tunes they did together were a very warm and fuzzy reunion. “Built For Comfort” with the sexual interplay between guitarist John “Del Toro” Richardson and Ms. Greenleaf was a highlight of the show along with the riveting “Do You Want Me To Stay”. MC Scrap Iron was caught whispering something to Bob at stage left and Dianna demanded to know what was said. Without missing a beat Scrap Iron declared,” I was asking for yo phone number!” Bobby Blue Bland, Ana, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Taj, and Whiskey Store with Tab Benoit and Jimmy Thackery were also observed in bits and pieces as I went venue to venue before settling in at The Sports Bar to watch the Broncos dismantle the Patriots with good pal Gene Fontana of the Diamond State Blues Society and a couple Bokma Oude Genever Martini’s complete with my own olives from home. Thanks to Francisco, bartender extraordinaire for the perfect tooni’s.

The night’s sleep was interrupted by some pretty violent boat movement, noticed by me for a moment or two before returning to a deep sleep. Room service breakfast, swift deployment of passengers to shore, Pittsburgh/Indy at the airport and home to my home cooked meal deprived wife and son in Philly.

Great Fuckin’ trip! Be there or be square.

Alan Howe sends some pix

Here are some PIx of the sensational Slick Ballinger and John Hammond from the cruise. e-mail Alan for your next photo shoot. Maybe a CD cover?

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wow, aftermath of Blues Cruise

It is like the cruise was a dream already. I will have an update on the last few days of the cruise tomorrow, the 18th. Those of you that are on the fence about shelling out the dough for this event need to jump in with both feet and your wallet. It is the shit.
I will try to get Alan Howe of Rollin' & Tumblin' fame (and Semi-official Blueswax Photographer) to weigh in as it was his maiden voyage AND I know he already put his deposit down on the next cruise.
Talk to you tomorrow!
Oh Yeah, don't forget to listen to Spinner fly solo this week on Bandana Blues. It smokes!



Wednesday, January 11, 2006

mid week floating blues

Random Thoughts from The Big Blues Boat


Weather seems to be the pervasive topic of conversation, what? It isn’t 90 degrees and removing the top three layers of your epidermis? Let it rain a little. Speaking of rain, Millie Jackson, seasick from her stint in The Vista Lounge earlier in the day took to the wind swept pool and kicked the weather’s ass live on XM radio. Her tear jerking heart pounding horn heavy finale? Let It Rain, of course. As Millie explained, she wanted the audience to believe she had “mystical powers”. She pointed to three corners of the compass challenging the clouds to dare rain on her, then looked behind the stage at one mean looking thunderhead and said,”Oh, Shit”. Her performance was magnificent and her band overpowered the elements for her.


The trip to shore at Montego Bay will remain a secret till someone else blows the whistle. Let’s just say Mougli and his crew reached supernova “Bob Marley” state in just a matter of moments while I got soaked, ………….. and then it rained, you feel me? I informed my spirit guide if he would have brokered a better deal for the jewelry he wouldn’t need to go back there to get his reward. I would have tipped him. As it stood I only had cab fare left to get me back to the boat.

Speaking of my return, on to the pool deck just in time for the resurging drum solos as Anthony Gomes put on a “for ladies only” vaudevillian act with some music thrown in. I hope he sticks to playing next time I see him this week. Serious guitar shredding going on this year, which brings me to Joe Bonamassa and his shred with substance approach in the Vista Lounge.

Highlights of that show found Joe mining the Jeff Beck Group’s catalog again, this time for a righteous version of “Don’t Know Much About love”. His show really never lets you take a deep breath as one song flows into another, then sometimes back again. Case in point, Blind faith’s “Had To Cry Today” which had the aforementioned obligatory drum solo (a very good one this time with extraordinary footwork), a drop in sonic pressure as Joe showed of some nice volume knob riding ( he even looked back at the band at one point and smilingly said, “I like that!”) and some YES riffing ala Steve Howe that us old heads still haven’t identified, but if you heard it you’d know it.

Whiskey Store with a melding of Thackery and Benoit bands took the stage next for tunes from The Whiskey store CD and some of Jimmy and Tab’s solo stuff. Their version of Tab’s “Nice and Warm” had one of the best solo’s I’ve heard from Jimmy on this trip. He gave the assembly a tip of his leopard spotted fez to acknowledge their applause.

Top that off with a jam session hosted by Rod And Honey Piazza that started around 1:30 AM in a rainstorm they promptly shoed away and you have a typical day in the life of a blues cruiser.

Beardo, your Blues pirate

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

The Big Blue boat

Blues Cruise Deux

Like Ali-Frazer and the Thrilla in Manila, I was back to duke it out with the blues Caribbean style, my second year covering it for Bluewax. Things turned nuts immediately as I found myself waiting for the shuttle at the Ft. Lauderdale Airport with members of The Ana Popovic Band. Nick (the keyboard man) and the boys were very sociable even after discovering I was the author of a less than glowing review of their bosses last Live CD. By the way, I discovered they were the band on said CD adding to my bemused discomfort.

Getting squared away in the hotel and trying to grab a quick bite, I ran into the same guys at the hotel snack bar and joined them at their table. This all ties in just bear with me. Racing to the ballroom for the pleasure of seeing Albert Castiglia (as the t-shirt corrected, “That’s Cas-Steel-Ya Dammit”) rip into a set of relentless rock tinged blues in a ballroom that had all the acoustic splendor of a high school gymnasium. The performance was still great and followed by The Blues Disciples featuring Pat Ramsey (impeccable harmonica work) along with Dave Renson (stylistically evasive guitarist with 60’s overtones) continued the excellent first night vibe. Get to bed Beardo, you need to pace yourself.

Breakfast, and it’s those guys again. This time the boss lady shows up and informs me I had an “interesting perspective” on her CD in question. Taking it as a compliment I agreed and added it was an honest one, and typically American and that I couldn’t wait to hear her with the band live. We made a tentative arrangement to have a chat later in the week on “da boat”.

Boarding this year was a snap! A quick check of the cabin and off for a bite to eat, a Red Stripe and a few cell calls before the damn things become inoperable. Hellos to remembered cruisers and other friends and it was off to the cabin to get into our life jackets for the obligatory fire drill. It’s now time to get serious.

Simultaneously watching Anthony Gomes in the big room, watching the Steelers win, and drinking a martini as big as my head I started “working”. Here we go: I was shocked to see Gomes was so friggin’ tall and he shredded like a salad shooter on a more than acceptable version of Led Zep’s Heartbreaker”, thankfully no Purple Umbrella that I always thought ruined the end of the song. He immediately switched to more contemporary blues before all the purists left the room. A nice read of the crowd by young Mr. Gomes.

Hooking up by inter-room phone with old buddy Jimmy Thackery, I discovered he was sitting in with Deanna Bogart, subbing for her guitarist who fell ill. It turned into an engaging set with the interplay between the two consisted on key change hand signals, nods and knowing smiles as it fell together beautifully. Watching Jimmy’s bemused smile as he clearly was having a good time was a treat for me. Leaving before the set’s end to prepare for his own show after a energetic version of Bogart’s own,” Just a Girl In The Band” another Jimmy took his place, Former band mate and Driver, Jimmy Carpenter. Stepping up to the mike, Bogart stated that the following tune had five key changes and a verse he needed to take…. That was in Latin. Unflustered, he said,” Let’s go!” As is the case with the cruise, there is always something else going on. It was time to head to the very intimate Queen’s Lounge for John Hammond’s emotional solo blues and stories about going to Allan Freed shows as a kid, Robert Geddings tapping his cane on the stage when John started performing” My Time After While” as a Buddy guy song and saying, Excuse me, excuse me,” I wrote that song!”. He also told the story of his discovery of Robert Johnson on an old Folkways compilation, leading to his subsequent obsession with Johnson. It was his own personal crossroads. Nobody does it better than john Hammond. I left as he picked up his National and belted out “Jitterbug Swing” and headed for a typical tone laden Thackery Show buffeted by the near gale force winds of the pool deck stage outside.

The pro-jam started on the pool deck later with Ronnie Baker Brooks joined by Jelly Bean Johnson. The highlight was their searing version of Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”. The fierce expression of their bass man, Mr. Armstrong, matched his playing as he stalked the stage. I left after Billy branch joined them for some Chicago blues around, ah, um…. well it was before 3 AM. I heard from my cabin mate, Mougli that it went till after 4 AM! It broke up early. Well, it’s only the first night. I swung by Club 88 where Mitch Wood’s holds court every night after 2 AM at the piano bar for a little lounge vibe and sing-a-long.

Somewhere in there was a fantastic dinner in the opulent multi-leveled dining room. Round two, or is it three, Coming up! Stay tuned; we are heading for Jamaica, yah mon!

Your Blues Pirate,


Saturday, January 07, 2006

B&S T-Shirt!!!

I'm outta here for the blues cruise in about an hour... see ya'!! Look for updates here starting this Sunday!!
In the meantime, check out the logo for the new donation premium. If you are interested, they are VERY limited addition in lg, xl, xxl and xxxl.
Stake your claim to one by e-mailing me now! I'll return with details 1/15.

Call on the boat or leave a message with Gizmo Call me on Gizmo

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Bon Voyaa-geee!!


Just a couple more days till the big blue boat...The Blues Cruisewill be my home for the next week, but I'll try to post the goings on and some pix every day.

Check back often. I gotta get back to work.