Greg Johnson / CBA President
Every May for the past few years, I have been honored to be a key part of what is without doubt the biggest night in the blues world, the annual Blues Music Awards. Working as part of the stage management team means keeping the entire show rolling smoothly and on time. I take a lot of pride in doing this with my good friends Joe Whitmer and Paul Averwater. Unfortunately, my wallet said that I could not afford the trip this year and it left me a little heartbroken. Not only because I couldn’t work the event, but because there are so many close and personal friends that I will miss seeing who we only have the chance to do so once or twice a year.
Then, there are the musicians themselves. The nominees this year include so many close friends, locally and internationally. I want to congratulate our nominees from the Portland area, Lisa Mann, Curtis Salgado, Jimi Bott, Karen Lovely, and Mary Flower. I hope that you all take home the prize and would certainly like to be there to see it happen. And then there are the others who’ve become good friends over the years who are also nominated, like Doug MacLeod, Fiona Boyes, Brandon Santini, Rich Del Grosso, John Nemeth, Andy T & Nick Nixon, Jarekus Singleton, Sugaray Rayford, Patrick Rynn, Diunna Greenleaf, and too many others to name. Knowing that so many friends are up for the awards makes it doubly hard to miss the event.
But I look at it in a positive light. This is just a set-back. It does not mean that I will not be back. My heart is with everybody in Memphis and I will see you all the next time around.
But on another note: I often hear people bemoan that the blues scene is dwindling in Portland and our area. There are not as many venues as there once was. I want to call this out and state it is not precisely true. Sure, we may have lost some major venues that we liked to call home over the years. But don’t miss the fact that every time it seems one place closes another is there to pick up what was lost. In the past couple years alone we have seen new places like Billy’s Blues, Spud Monkeys, Area 52, the remodeled 45th Street Pub, and larger venues like Revolution Hall picking up touring acts along with the recent opening of The Rose Room which looks pretty promising, too.
I can also tell you that writing up all the shows coming through our area in the BluesNotes has gotten a lot more burdensome to accomplish (and I don’t mean that in a negative way). If you don’t believe me, look over the past few issues of the paper. It takes me a lot longer going through the venue schedules online than it once did. What used to seem like the load during the summer touring season seems to be going on year-long now.
It’s not even the end of spring yet, but look at who has come through the city and region to date this year alone: Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, Gary Clark Jr, Sonny Landreth, Doug MacLeod, Janiva Magness, Dana Fuchs, Shemekia Copeland, Tinsley Ellis, Tommy Castro, Fiona Boyes, Sugaray Rayford, Mark Hummel’s Harmonica Blowout. These are just a handful, yet my God, this is prime time blues featuring the best to be found anywhere. And we’re not even taking into consideration the talent we have living here that we can catch weekly.
So don’t tell me that the blues is fading around here. I have told everybody before, and I will continue to say it: we are spoiled. Portland is a blues haven, don’t take it for granted.