Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday PM

I'm sitting in a Motel 6 on the Virginia side of Bristol.

The Saints are squeaking through the playoff game with Minneapolis, and they've just scored.

Last night was one of the strangest of my life, and one I'll be thinking about for a long, long time.

That said, I'm awed by the outpouring of congrats, kudos and love from all of our friends and fans. So many people helped us get to Memphis that I would never be able to list all of them without help. But here's a partial list: All of our Zoo Bar supporters, the DC Blues Society, everyone who came out to all our fundraisers, the families of the bandmembers, fellow musicians, regular jammers and everyone in Memphis who befriended us. The guys who built my amps and rebuilt my harmonicas. The folks who gave us personal donations right out of their pockets. Everyone who had an ounce of confidence in us- I hope you're not disappointed.

I'm being general here, because I really don't want to leave anyone out. What a moving experience this has been.

Finally I want to thank everyone who has ever been in the Big Boy Little Band. I'm an extraordinarily lucky person, even if I don't seem to realize it.

Thank you, everyone.

Now we can get back to the real business of playing music.

Love to all,


The Finals

Again, no suspense. A mixed result: the band did not place in the top three, but our great guitar player, Matt Kelley, won the best guitarist prize. He received a custom Gibson ES 335 from Gibson and a brand spanking new amp. I could not be more proud.

As for the rest of the band, well, I guess we'll lick our wounds and head back to the Zoo Bar. It was an amazing experience, but I don't think I could ever put myself through it again, it was just too trying.

I can't wait to see Sue, the girls and the grandkids, so I'm very happy to be heading home.

Congrats to Matt Kelley!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Saturday AM

We made the finals! How's that for suspense?

Here's how we did it: the band played great, I wore a white suit and red shoes and a Nepalese prayer hat (as usual). We paced our set, spotlighted Matt's terrific guitar playing, and Robbie's perfect drumming, behaved ourselves and didn't spit on the floor. Steve played great and Connie wore one of those ridiculous outfits of hers that makes her look like a private detective's sexy receptionist from a Dashiell Hammett book.

Matt's family cheered and his Dad got the crowd to applaud after the solos. My oldest friends Jock, Bob and George came from DC and were there to remind me that I'm not so hot. Our number one supporter Chuck flew in from DC just to cheer us on.

So last night we sat in BB King's club and waited for the results. All of us. And when we heard our name we cheered, hugged each other and I cried like a baby. My friends let me be an asshole for about an hour, I drank too much wine and then went to bed.

And that's how we did it.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Friday AM

Last night we made our Memphis playing debut at the Blues Cafe on Beale. Ten bands, and we were the only quartet. All the rest were guitar- driven trios. Some were power trios in the au curant Joe Bonamassa style, and some were more traditional, with electric National resophonics and slide guitars.

At least two of the bands I heard were not good, but all the others were, in their way, very, very good. I wish I could say we won, but I'd be a liar. There was no way to tell.

Tonight, same venue, different start time, different judges.

Once again, I am torn between my love of just playing the blues and my latent competitive instincts, of which I am not proud. I guess deep inside I feel like there shouldn't be competition in music, and that if there is (and there is!), I should try to be above it. But even deeper, and even more ingrained is the desire to kick musical butt.

One thing was sure: we were definitely the best- dressed!

I ran into Bill Wax, the XM- Sirius blues deejay, who invited the band into the XM Studios when we return to DC. He wants to help us cut a CD. So, in a way, my main goal is accomplished whether we win or not.

There are a lot of good bands here. It's overwhelming. Fortunately I was never good at math, so I have no idea how the odds are stacked. But there are a lot of good bands and only a handful of mediocre bands. Whew!


Yesterday afternoon, I went with friends to the Stax Museum on McLemore Avenue. What a nice tonic to Beale Street! It's a beautiful little museum, a replica actually of the old Stax/ Volt recording studio, which was torn down in the '80's. They replicated the building across from the old one and made it into this museum.

The ghosts of great music haunt the place, in particular my idol Otis Redding. I took that spirit with me and channeled it into our set. Corny but true.

I have to remember what got me into this great music in the first place and how much I love it. Ultimately, that's all.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Thursday AM

Finally, some real information: The Big Boy Little Band is playing tonight and tomorrow at the Blues City Cafe on the corner of Beale and 2nd St, facing Beale.

We're on at 6PM tonight, first in the line-up, and 7:55PM tomorrow night, seventh in the line-up.

After we arrived last night, everyone took to Beale Street. For me, an honorary New Orleanian, the comparison to Bourbon Street was inevitable. The difference is that Bourbon, for all it's outdoor plumbing, strip bars and general degenerate filth is much more real than the sanitized sanctioning of a street that was known for vice and African- American music until the late '60's. Now  it's a quasi- Vegas- Disney- World tourist- driven creation, with pseudo- blues blasting from pseudo roadhouse storefronts. That's right: it's a quasi- pseudo place.

There are literally hundreds of blues musicians here. Years ago, my friend John Hostetter commented on going for auditions in Hollywood: "Ever walk into a room and everyone looks just like you?"

All the musicians wear stingy- brim hats and have lip goatees. They all wear modified '50's bowling shirts. They all have tattoos. Even I have a lip goatee! Aaaargh! We're in blues uniforms!

The other thing is that they all think they're going to win. The testerone level here is so through the roof that the chick singers have to shave.

This morning at breakfast a gentleman from Ottawa asked me if I were here to listen to music. He said his son was a drummer in the Ottawa entry. I said, no, I'm a player. "Really?" he said. As in, aren't you a little old for this kind of thing?

No. No, I'm not. At least not yet.

Later: Stax Museum!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wednesday AM

Don't stay in the Super 8 on Davey Crockett Blvd. It's overpriced and under accessorized. No little shampoo bottles or hair rinse. No little shower caps. For $68.00 I could use a little shoeshine cloth.

I had a shoot yesterday AM that hopefully went well, then Robbie and I jumped in the car and drove seven and a half hours to Davey Crockett Blvd. Did you know he was the king of the wild frontier?

Right now I'm waiting on Robbie (not a morning person) and contemplating the great breakfast I'll be having at Cracker Barrel. Then more driving.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Leaving Tomorrow for Memphis

So many folks have asked me to keep them informed about the Big Boy Little Band's trip to Memphis for the IBC that I decided to set up a temporary blog.

I hope to publish comments, pictures and impressions along the way.

BBL drummer extraordinaire Robbie Leebrick and myself, Bret Littlehales (AKA Big Boy Little), will leave tomorrow around two PM.

The band will reconnoiter Wednesday afternoon at the Holiday Inn Select on Union, two blocks from Beale Street in Memphis TN.