By Ken Wallis, Blues & Roots Radio
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Well now that I’m a seasoned blogger for Blues and Roots Radio, having posted a grand total of one blog, I’m now ready to roll up my sleeves and get down to some serious work.
I’ll be highlighting Hamilton and the Niagara Peninsula. Why you may ask? Cause I grew up in St. Catharines and now I live in Hamilton. Nah that’s only a partial reason. The main reason is because there’s a bucket load of blues going on in this area. But we’ll jump around the country like a blues-loving kangaroo. But that’ll have to wait a week or two cause we got some great stuff going on.
So here I am in Hamilton, Ontario. This city has become a fertile ground for blues music. This rich history of the blues was developed by a legacy of Canada’s best blues players including Jackie Washington, Brian Griffith, King Biscuit Boy, Sonny Del Rio, Rita Chiarelli, Jack de Keyzer, Harrison Kennedy, Andre Bisson, The Smoke Wagon Blues Band, Trickbag, and Steve Strongman to name a few.
And a blast from the past is giving me the blues goosebumps
Oh my, my pulse is pulsating. There’s a new cd release of Richard Newell, aka King Biscuit Boy, entitled the Lost Session 1981. The tapes were discovered after a renovation at Grant Avenue Studios in Hamilton and lovingly restored by co-producers, Darcy Hepner and Georgie Fab. In order to restore the quality of the tapes, they had to be baked in an oven. Then they had one pass to transfer it. Thank goodness it worked.
The cd features a horn section, the one and only time Richard put together such a band. Darcy Hepner was called upon to orchestrate the horn sections, and he played sax on many of the songs. And there’s no doubt this is serious stuff when Richard exclaims “Hey everybody Mr Biscuit’s in town”
Richard Newell, aka King Biscuit Boy, was born in Hamilton, Ontario. Legend has it, confirmed by Georgie Fab, that he got his start in music by stealing his first harmonica from a joke shop near his home on the Hamilton Mountain
King Biscuit Boy was Ronnie Hawkins's backing band. Newell's stage name, given to him by Ronnie was taken from the King Biscuit Time, an early American blues broadcast. After one LP and several U.S. appearances, Hawkins fired the entire band in early 1970 . The members, including Richard, formed their own band, which they named Crowbar. Newell recorded an album with Crowbar, then embarked on a solo career, frequently returning to play with Crowbar and other Canadian legends like Jack de Keyzer.
King Biscuit Boy was the first Canadian blues artist to chart on the Billboard Hot 100 in the U.S. As much as he played guitar and sang, it was his harmonica playing that attracted legions of fans. The man could blow a harp like few others and amazingly he was self-taught.
Seven solo albums followed, along with two Juno nominations. Newell fought repeated battles with alcohol abuse throughout his life and the stories of his partying are part of the legend of King Biscuit Boy. He played hard and lived hard.
His last album in early 2003 was a collaboration with saxophonist Sonny Del-Rio, a former Crowbar bandmate and long-standing friend, entitled Two Hound Blues
After his death, the first annual "Blues with a Feeling" benefit show was launched. The show was successful and "The Friends of Richard Newell" have held one every year since, with the money raised going to a music scholarship fund at Mohawk College in Hamilton, Ontario. Facebook
Canal Bank Shuffle News
The City of Thorold, under the guidance of its Canada 150 committee, has teamed up with the Canal Bank Shuffle Blues Festival Committee and turned Canada Day into a 3-day musical celebration!
Blues on the Battlefield will run in the Battle of Beaverdams Park, Sunday July 2 and Monday July 3. There will be a $5 a day admission charge to the Blues Festival portion of the weekend. It will augment the Canada Day Celebrations running in the park on Saturday July 1.
Thorold will be the first Canadian town to host two blues festivals in one year! ( at least as far as we know). Appearing over the 3 days will be the Jennie Thai Band, Selwyn Birchwood, and David Rotuno.
Food trucks will be on site all weekend. And of course there’s the obligatory beer tent an
it all happens rain or shine with tents provided.
But of course, the Canal Bank Shuffle folks never rest on their laurels. The Ghost Town Blues Band returns to Thorold on July 14th on their way to headlining the Mont Tremblant Blues Festival. This high-energy band is a must see.
Rock the Park 4 Jesse and All Murdered Victims
A very special event is happening in Freelton , organized by Mary Kovacs, who’s brother Jesse was murdered in 2011.
I’ve been fortunate this past month to catch two live performances by Angel Forrest and they were knockouts. She’s Canada’s premiere vocalist who’s won the female blues vocalist of the year at the Maple Blues Awards. Not once. Not twice. Not thrice (is that a real word?) But 4 times. In a row. Is that a four-peat?
You have to see/hear her in a live performance. If it’s with a full electric band or an acoustic trio, you won’t believe your ears.
She can belt out the blues with passion and a voice that reaches to the skies. When you attend an Angel Concert expect your hairs to stand up on end. She sings, swirls and dances her way into your heart and soul. You can’t help but be a fan of Angel.
She’s going on tour soon. You can catch her across Canada, in the U.S. and even in France
T.B.S. Talent Search Winner
A quick shout out to Dan McKinnon, winner of the Toronto Blues Society’s Talent Search. We always knew he was As Sharp As Possible.
Much More to Come Next Week!