Lorna Bracken Baxter

Portland singer and diva Lorna Bracken Baxter keeps her family’s rich musical legacy alive

By John Rumler

Lorna Bracken BaxterFrom a very early age, vocalist Lorna Bracken Baxter knew that she was going to devote her life to singing and music. “It has always been in me, from the earliest times I could remember sitting at the piano with my dad at home.”

It’s been a sometimes bumpy road, but the Lorna Baxter Trio (Billy Hagen, guitar, Joey Aloia, bass) enjoyed a banner year in 2016, playing Lair Hill Bistro, Magnolia’s Corner, Maryhill Winery,  Solea’s, Mock Crest, Orenco Station Grill, Holiday Park, and numerous private parties, company events, and weddings.  Lorna looks forward to an even better year in 2017.

Her father, Warren Bracken, was one of Portland’s giants of both jazz and blues.  Few artists in Portland, or anywhere perhaps, have a music pedigree as impressive as Lorna, who, from the ages of 12 to 18, was the only child singing in an all adult church choir, the St. Rose Choir in Portland. At the time, in the early 1970’s there was a national campaign to “keep Christ in Christmas,” and after a nation-wide competition, the choir was selected as the winner and was nationally televised out of the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland.

When Lorna was growing up, her musical influences were numerous, including female artists such as Betty Carter, Carmen McRae, Cleo Laine, Dinah Washington, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Lena Horne, Nancy Wilson, Mahalia Jackson, Patsy Cline and local artist Nancy King.

“I loved how I could feel what they were singing,” Lorna says. “The pain, joy, the sexiness and I was drawn to the uniqueness of each of their voices.”

Her biggest musical influence though, is without any doubt her father. Born and raised in Paducah Kentucky, Mr. Bracken learned to play the ukulele and in the 1930’s he joined the Navy and became the conductor, bandleader and pianist of the US Navy Orchestra.  After receiving his honorable discharge, Bracken joined the Blanche Calloway (Cab Calloway’s older sister) Orchestra and a few years later, in the early 40’s, he joined Billy Eckstein’s orchestra as composer, arranger, and pianist.

When Eckstein began moving in a different direction after signing with MGM, he cut down his big band orchestra to a quintet and left Chicago for sunny California with a lineup of Al Killian -trumpet, Sonny Criss- alto sax, Wardell Gray-tenor sax, Shifty Henry – bass, Tim Kennedy -drums and Warren Bracken – piano.

In California, Bracken married Vivian Dandridge (Dorothy’s sister) although they later divorced. He moved up to Portland in the late 40’s, and formed his own scaled-down orchestra and became one of the city’s top performers/bandleaders known for his swinging jazz, bebop and blues.

Growing up in an environment where music was a way of life, Lorna engaged in many musical adventures. When she was still in her teens, she sang in a variety of backyard and basement bands and she also did back up singing for a studio recording for the Rude Boys.

In 1982 she moved to Canada, and lived for 14 years on Vancouver Island and in Halifax, Nova Scotia. “It certainly wasn’t a blues mecca, but there was an interesting folk influence there that came at me from a different angle and I got to really like it,” she says.

Lorna worked at a group home for troubled youth and enjoyed providing a stabilizing and understanding presence. “They were runaways, throwaways, abused kids from very bad situations,” she recalls. Lorna and all the staff took many psychology classes and attended numerous counseling workshops, which she says, was a valuable learning experience. “We all grew a lot and it helped us all in our own relationships and with our own families.”

When time allowed, Lorna sang backup for other musicians, recorded with folk artist Jason Guest, and then moved back to Oregon in 1996 when her father died unexpectedly of heart failure: he’d struggled for much of his life with his weight, topping 400 pounds but at the time of his death, he drastically lost weight and weighed less than half of that.

Though Lorna lived in Canada and her father lived in Portland, she visited often and the two talked frequently on the phone. “We were always close. My dad, even though music was his life, remained a pretty balanced person. He was a fabulous listener and he was a sports nut—baseball, basketball, football, boxing, you name it.”

1996 Lorna settled back into Portland focusing on work and her family. When the music bug bit her again, she started circulating in the blues and jazz community seeing various artists including Paul Delay, Janice Scroggins, Nancy King, Linda Hornbuckle, Norman Sylvester and Franco Paletta. She says of Franco, who she’s known since 1982,  “Franco was bringing his harmonica to different jam sessions when I first met him. I knew him when he was just starting out.”

Around 2000 Lorna started hitting the blues and jazz jams with more frequency.

Sitting in with Norman Sylvester and his band at the Coliseum Red Lion and Candelight lounge, Janice Scroggins and Linda Hornbuckle at Billy Reeds.

Ron Steen, the drummer in her dad’s band for many years, was a big help, as Lorna frequented the jams at Steen’s Coffeehouse. Steen later booked and performed with her at Wilfs in downtown Portland.

But Lorna’s asthma became more of a problem, especially with the late night gigs in smoked filled rooms and bars. She often stopped in a Jimmy Maks to see Mel Brown and at Jazz de Opus to see Nancy King, but when she got home, she had to air out her clothes in the garage, shower to get rid of the nicotine film on her skin, and deal with the asthma onset. “I knew I could never perform in clubs, breathing the smoke-filled air. I figured that might be the end of my singing.

But in 2009, smoking was banned in bars, breathing new life into Lorna’s singing career.  She met Dan Gray, an extraordinarily gifted guitarist who invited her to work with him on some original music and was the encouraging factor to her forming a band.  The following year she launched the Lorna B band which featured top notch musicians such as Brett Malmquist on guitar, Donny Osborne, who played with Mel Torme, on drums and a host of others including Johnny Ward and Adrian Baxter of the Cherry Poppin Daddies on saxophone.  She also invited her brother Phil Reid who played bass, to join her band.

Lorna continued pushing into new musical frontiers with Johnnie Corrie and David Burrow on drums and she nailed down steady gigs at the Beaterville Restaurant and the Gotham Tavern in North Portland. She also played private parties, company events, street fairs, and charity events for groups such as the Oregon Humane Society and local Vietnam Veteran groups.

In 2012, just when all the doors seemed to be opening up for Lorna, she was attacked and severely injured which still affects her today. The trauma caused a spinal leak, permanent memory impairment and left a ringing and hissing sensation in her ears.

She was told she’d never be able to sing at her full volume again, but Lorna didn’t give up. The Blue Monk put on a successful benefit concert event for her in 2012 which helped some financially and boosted her spirits. Although she was forced to go on permanent disability, Lorna stubbornly inched forward in her recovery. “I lost a lot of things, but thankful I could remember the blues and jazz. I am so grateful for that,” she says.

In April of 2019, OPB aired a film entitled Jazz Town which tells the story of Portland’s Blues and Jazz scene, featuring her father, Warren Bracken and many of the city’s musical legends. Lorna, with her trio consisting of guitarist Billy Hagen and bassist Joey Aloia, were invited to perform at the pre-screening where many of Portland’s finest senior musicians appeared, including Lloyd Allen who played in one of her dad’s early quartets.

Billy Hagen, who’s appeared on stage 3 times with Chuck Berry and was the lead guitarist for Mel Brown and Johnny Limbo and the Lugnuts, played often with the Lorna B Trio. “Lorna’s got a sweet, smooth voice, yet she can also belt it out and improvise really well. She also has a very advanced use of intervals.”

Ashbolt Stewart, one of the top drummers and bandleaders in Portland, has known Lorna for so long he says he can’t remember when they first met. “She’s been at this for a long time, we’re both old souls,” he says. “Lorna’s one of my favorite go-to gals.   She’s working really hard and getting around, she’s doing great.” Ashbolt said he loved playing with her band. “I love Lorna’s energy, optimism, and honesty. She never holds back.”

Now living outside of Eugene, Bobby Selover plays guitar, mandolin, banjo and pedal steel for Gumbo Groove, a jazzy bluegrass band that recently released its third CD. Selover played with the Lorna Baxter Trio in 2011 and 2012. “She’s a happy, bubbly person, very fun to be around as well as an excellent singer, performer, and entertainer,” he says. Selover describes her musical range as highly impressive. “It’s not just blues, but anything from Nina Simone to Billie Holiday to Miles Davis, to Gil Scott Herron. I talk to Lorna often on the phone and just the other day and I can’t wait to play with her again.”

Lorna and her band play regularly at Kimpton Hotel Vintage and at Orenco Station Grill.

For more information on Lorna and a full calendar listing, go to www.lornabsings.com

Journey To Memphis All-Stars

The Journey To Memphis is the Cascade Blues Association’s regional competition to select the acts that will represent our organization and region in next year’s International Blues Challenge (IBC) in Memphis, TN, held in early 2018. This year saw more than 260 acts converge on Beale Street to represent blues societies from around the world in band, solo/duo and youth showcase categories. And the Cascade Blues Association was represented extremely well as our band entry Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers came out in third place overall. A great achievement to say the least. The music industry is in full force during the IBC, searching for new talent and offering opportunities to win recognition and prizes that include major festival performances and more. But the only way an act may participate is to win a regional competition held by one of The Blues Foundation’s affiliated societies like the Cascade Blues Association.

The Journey To Memphis competition consists of two rounds. The opening round will be held on Friday, June 2 and Saturday, June 3 at The Vinyl Tap, 2099 SE Oak Grove Blvd. Acts will be selected by random drawing to fill the time slots during the event. Entries should keep both dates open until they know when they have been drawn for.  Acts are scored by a trio of judges selected for their backgrounds and knowledge of the blues. The highest scoring acts from each night of competition (up to four acts) will advance to the finals held at the Waterfront Blues Festival on July 4th.

Applications to participate in the competition will be accepted from now until Wednesday, April 5 at the Cascade Blues Association membership meeting. No late applications will be accepted. All eligible acts that meet our criteria as described below will be able to compete. The performance schedule for the competition is drawn at random.

Here’s what you need to do to enter:

  • Entry fee is $25.00
  • Each act must have at least one person in the band who is a member of the Cascade Blues Association.
  • Only acts located within the region of Oregon, Washington or Idaho are allowed to enter the Journey To Memphis.
  • Any act that has been nominated for or received a Blues Music Awards from The Blues Foundation are ineligible to compete.
  • Any act that has competed in the International Blues Challenge two consecutive years, regardless whether with the same society or as a solo/duo or band act, must sit out a year before being allowed to compete again.
  • Along with your $25.00 application fee, send an up-to-date band bio including names of all members, a 300 dpi photo of the band, full song samples of the band’s music (this may be used on a radio broadcast to promote the event), and we need to be made aware of any band member who may be under 21 years of age at the time of the competition so the venue is aware ahead of time for Oregon or Washington Liquor Commission laws.
  • We require that any act that moves forward in the competition must use the same band members that they won the rounds with. In other words, if you won with a certain bass player or drummer at the Waterfront Blues Festival, that bassist and drummer must be in your band to compete in Memphis. Exceptions will made in rare circumstances when not under control of the act, such as health issues.
  • We do not prevent acts competing with the Cascade Blues Association from doing so with other societies. All that we ask is that if you win another group’s competition before ours is held, or if you win ours before theirs, please remove yourself from further competitions to allow other acts the chance to win the right to go to Memphis.
The International Blues Challenge

Beale Street, Memphis, TN
January 30-February 4, 2017

By Jeff Levine

It’s great to be back in Portland, where the trees are green, the politics are blue and the living is healthy.  I had the chance to return to Memphis for the 2017 International Blues Challenge (IBC) as a fan and volunteer. Here’s my report.

The International Blues ChallengeThe IBC is a competition. This year featured 260 acts from 38 states and 14 countries. Each local blues organization selects and sends one band, one solo/ duo act to compete, and a youth act for the non-competitive showcase. But it is much more. It is a blues conference with workshops and classes to support the musicians. Picture a business conference with delegates from around the world wandering around with badges and rollaway bags. The difference is that the bags are guitar cases and cymbal bags and the convention center is Beale Street.

This Year’s Winners:
Band: Dawn Tyler Watson – Montreal Blues Society
Oregon Winner: Cascade Blues Association’s Rae Gordon and the Backseat Drivers win third place Band
Solo/ Duo: Al Hill – Nashville Blues Society
How it works:
The acts compete in a three-night elimination in the Beale Street clubs, scored by a panel of judges. Points are awarded for blues content, instrumental and vocal performance, originality and stage presence. Each act gets 25 minutes. Eight bands and eight solo/duo finalists compete in the historic Orpheum Theater on Saturday. Winners get a prize package, with valuable bookings in blues festivals. The 2017 competition was intense. The scores must have been razor close it took over an hour to calculate the winner.

This is an amazing event for blues fans.

Here are my 2017 highlights:

Representing Oregon
Oregon is a major player in the IBC. Oregon has not one, but two Societies. The Cascade Blues Association sent Rae Gordon and the Backseat Drivers as the band, David Pinsky as the solo/duo act and Timothy James and Ryan Stadler as the youth act. The Rainy Day Blues Society in Eugene sent the Hank Shreve Band. Rae Gordon goes on to win third place in the band competition. Mazel-tov (congratulations) Rae! As a fan, it was a joy to get to meet our wonderful musicians up close and personal and to cheer them on in the finals.

The Blues Foundation sponsors the IBC and volunteers run the events. I volunteered as a judge’s assistant in Alfred’s. The best part of volunteering was getting to meet the musicians and help with the all too short ten-minute sound check. I took it upon myself to bug the sound guy if the vocals were too low. (As a fan it is my pet peeve.) As the sole Oregon volunteer at Alfred’s, I got the honor of introducing the Hank Shreve Band. Hank’s dad was happy someone was there who knew how to pronounce Oregon.

260 Acts for One Low Admission Price
For blues lovers this is a smorgasbord of blues. Reasonable priced festival passes (sold for one night or for the week) allow admission into all of the events. The Beale Street venues have, big stages, great sound systems and wonderful, if not very healthy, food and drink choices. All on one closed street. It’s easy to hop around. With an estimated attendance of 3,000 per day the 18 participating clubs were full, but not crowded.

It’s an International Festival
Bands come from around the world, from Canada to Croatia. Dawn Tyler Watson from the Montreal Blues Society won the band competition. Israel’s SOBO made it to the finals as did Felix Smith from Hondarribia, Spain. As a fan you have the opportunity to hear and meet these wonderful artists that you might never get to hear locally.

The Showcases
The showcases are non-competitive shows to promote the blues artists. There was an International Showcase, a Northwest Showcase with our own Ben Rice hosted a Youth showcase and a Galaxie Records showcase. These events take place during the day; so you get band after band, day and night.

As blues fans we may forget the pain that inspired our favorite music. Many of our founding artists worked in the cotton fields around Memphis and came to Beale Street to cut loose on the weekends. In March 1968, Beale Street was badly damaged after the riots during the Memphis Garbage strike where protesters carried “I am A Man” signs and where Dr. Martin Luther King led the marchers. Dr. King and was later assassinated about a mile away in the Lorraine Hotel. Memphis and the surrounding area give you a chance to connect with music and social history.

The 34th Annual International Blues Challenge will be held January 16 – 20, 2018. Memphis is a long way from Portland, but it is easy to get around once you are there. Plan to stay for the week if you can. Take time to visit the historic sites including Sun and Stax Studios. Get a reserved seat for the Orpheum event and pace yourself with the food and drinks! Four nights on Beale Street is a lot for anyone.

If you are a band, get your entry in to the Cascade Blues Association by April 5 for the 2018 IBC! If you are a fan, plan to attend the local competition in June and the finals at the Waterfront Blues Festival. I hope to see you all there!

Jolie Clausen

By Laurie Morrisey

Jolie ClausenWho is that gal drumming that crazy beat? None other than the talented Jolie Clausen. Being a performer wasn’t exactly a plan for Jolie, it just sort of happened. “I never thought about growing up—I still don’t! I guess I just kept getting calls for gigs so I kept playing. I never sat down and thought, ‘Man, I’d really like to play some gigs.’ I was already doing that. I love performing and plan to do it forever!” she said.

She started playing with the Walla Walla Symphony when she was 14 and did all the musical theatre productions in town. She joined the Community College Jazz Band. “I also had a rock band then, we played at Frat parties at Whitman College.”

When discussing training, Jolie says she’s had both formal training and is partially self-taught. “I attended workshops in high school and studied privately on and off. I also studied with Mel Brown when I first moved to Portland. I graduated from the Mount Hood Community College music program. I still take lessons here and there from friends and drummers in town: Don Worth Jr., Ron Tuttle and Carlton Jackson. Reinhardt Melz, Brian Foxworth, Andy Gauthier and Cory Burden are other favorite local drummers who are always inspiring me and giving me tips of the trade.”

She plays with a variety of local bands which cover different genres of music. “When I play with Michelle DeCourcy and The Rocktarts its heavy rock, although we are currently working on some new originals that have a bit more of a southern swamp rock feel. With Bill Rhoades and the Party Kings and Queens we play traditional blues. With Malachi Graham it’s alt country.”

During the day Jolie works at a law firm downtown and has been doing that for about eight years. “It’s a great part-time gig that allows me to teach and play music. I teach private lessons at students’ homes and at Rhythm Traders here in Portland.”


When asked about musical influences, Jolie said, “What a big question?! When I sat behind a kit for the first time my teacher put headphones on me and cranked up “Misty Mountain Hop” by Led Zeppelin. I was so excited; I had never heard music like that before, so John Bonham definitely influenced me. I love all the jazz greats—Elvin Jones, Art Blakey, Roy Haynes… I also love Steve Gadd, Sly Dunbar, Fred Below, Levon Helm, Jim Keltner, Ginger Baker, Taylor Hawkins to Evelyn Glennie and Layne Redmond. Favorite drummers that I’ve met who just blew my mind—Billy Cobham, Gary Husband, Mark Schulman, Brian Blade, Gerald Heyward, and I recently met drummer and producer Butch Vig—What a cool guy?! They all have inspired me.


Jolie has performed on two CD’s: Broken Glass by Michelle DeCourcy and The Rocktarts (currently being played on Kink FM); and Silverado by Nervous Jenny Band. Additionally she’s working with songwriter Tom Holland in the next few months on a second Nervous Jenny album with producer Dean Baskerville. Malachi Graham Band and The Rocktarts have plans to get in the studio in 2017.


Jolie has performed with several different bands: Norman Sylvester, Robbie Laws, Michael Osborn, Duffy Bishop, Tracey Fordice, La Rhonda Steele, Janis Scroggins, AC Porter, Kevin Selfe, Freak Mountain Ramblers, Billy Kennedy, James Lowe Band, Al Perez Band, Tom Grant, Singing Christmas Tree, and Martha Davis from The Motels. She also opened for Peter Frampton and recently the Dandy Warhols.

Legendary blues harmonica player Bill Rhoades called her in 2013 and they’ve been working together ever since. “What a fun band with Katie Angel on bass plus Newell C. Briggs and Chuck Laiti on dueling guitars.”

”I’ve been working with singer and songwriter Michelle DeCourcy for about two and a half years now along with guitarist Steve Adams and Mick ‘Lord’ Ramsdell on bass. I’ve also been working with guitarist and songwriter Tom Holland with Nervous Jenny Band for about two years now. I work with Americana singer/songwriter Malachi Graham and long-time friend and local guitar picking badass Jamie Stillway on upright bass, with Erin Elliot on backing vocals.”

In Closing

“I am honored to be able to share a part of my musical life with the BluesNotes.” Keep an eye out for one of Jolie’s performances and experience her energy for yourself.

Thank You To Holiday Party Volunteers

The CBA would like to extend a huge thank you to the following individuals who volunteered their time to help us out at this year’s Holiday Party. The CBA greatly appreciates your time and efforts:

Ann McLaughlin
Beverly Jones
Bonita Davis
Bryan Olson
Carol Hamley
Cherie Robbins
Cheryl Jorgansen
Coila Ash
Jeff Hayes
Jeff Levine
Kathy Kiwala
Lucia Michaud
Priscilla Ditter
Richard LaChapelle
Ron Beed
Sandy Forst
Steve Broderick
Steve Jorgansen
Tom Rich

Born and raised in Coquille, OR, horn player Joe McCarthy moved to Portland in 1978 and brought his music to the masses. He recently answered some questions so our readers could learn more about him.

How long have you been performing professionally?

Since 1967 when I played a Farfisa through a Leslie and sang. That was with my first band, Fairfax. So, about 50 years.

Did you always want to perform professionally?

My first thoughts about a lifelong profession were to play trumpet, organ and to sing.

Do you have a day job?

I retired from the Operating Engineers Union in 2014 after 43 years operating tower cranes and mobile cranes. I quit playing music for 20 years beginning in 1982 to concentrate on my marriage, help with raising our three children and to do the vigorous bill-paying which parenting entails. My wife, Patti, was a stay at home mom. I hooked back up with my music career in 2002.

Who has influenced your music?

There was one AM radio station in our little hometown. My exposure to popular music stemmed from listening to KWRO before sunset every evening, when its license required it to go off the air.

My grandmother was an excellent stride-piano player raised in San Francisco. She played organ at our church for 40 plus years. Grandma sparked my first interest in actually playing music, sitting me down and teaching me a few tunes.

When I was 15 a neighbor lady gave me Dave Brubeck’s Take Five album which changed my life. Nothing like I had ever heard. She seemed to know I needed to listen to it.

Rock and roll captured my interest in high school, but my lifelong tastes always lead me to beautiful jazz and funky blues/soul. Chet Baker, Sly Stone, Donny Hathaway, Louis Armstrong, Art Tatum, etc. have been my influences.

How would you describe your music?

My own music is felt first. It becomes broken down into alpha numeric form secondly, if it survives, that is. More often than not it evaporates as quickly as it comes. I have always been the victim of intuition, as memorizing and left-brained labeling don’t come natural to me. When fooling around, my default is to play chords on piano while inventing melodies on trumpet. It’s nice ‘owning’ the piano player so to speak, as I can be confident he will move through space with me to the next chord—not judging me for my ‘clams’.

What instruments do you play?

Trumpet is my primary instrument—the one I play ‘out’ most often. Piano, though, with its linear connection to melodies and chords is my go-to instrument of choice when I am chilling, or being creative. Voice is another matter—the way one can be so creative, turning lyrics into music. I love to sing. But there is demand for trumpet—it’s what makes my phone ring. Everybody has a voice, and Portland is loaded with excellent piano players. Only a few of us care to put in the time required to have trumpet chops. It’s going to the gym every day. Probably a good thing, but darn it.

Did you have any formal training or self-taught?

My grandmother, Minnie, taught me my first tune on piano at age six. I can still play it, but can’t recall its name. The second tune she showed me was “Irish Washerwoman”. We were a very Irish family.

Mom took me to a couple of piano teachers. Mrs. Rover’s windowless studio was next to the hardware store where I sold chittum bark. She wore heavy wool coats on hot days. She didn’t want me upon noticing I did not stare at the sheet music. And I didn’t want her. So she referred Mom to Rosie Rash, another teacher. Rosie liked my playing, but didn’t feel like spending time with an independent. Same trouble: “Look at the MUSIC!” She gave me the boot, too.

In Jr. HS I began to learn trumpet, took private lessons and took to being a player. When I reached HS my band director occasionally drove me to U of O in Eugene (quite a distance from our town) in order to take lessons from Ira Lee, director of bands. I will always be grateful to Mr. Hedeen for that.

During my sophomore year I started a rock band. By graduation time (1969) we were used to getting out of school most Friday afternoons to make it to a gig in the Willamette Valley or the likes. I loved it. But, the war was on. High school graduates’ options were 1) go to Vietnam, or 2) enroll in college. Fairfax (my band) enrolled full-time at SWOCC, a 2-year community college in North Bend. Probably not what the draft board had in mind, though.

College was a dream come true. We had two Cadillacs, a Dodge, numerous friends and a ton of gigs, mostly around UO/OSU, on the coast, the Salem Armory, community buildings, grange halls, etc. We shared billing with some good bands of the era: the Grass Roots, Animals, Marilee Rush and the Turnabouts, the Wailers, the Zombies, etc. As a junior, I attended SOC in Ashland. Music majors have but one use for their diploma—being a band director. Not in a million years. As soon as my draft card number rendered me safe from the lottery I dropped out. To make ends meet I commercial fished, fell timber ran heavy equipment, etc. while continuing to play music.

What awards have you won?

In high school band I won local solo contests (trumpet), and went on to represent the south coast at “state” three years. Sophomore year I made it to fourth place. Then second place my junior year, and first place as a senior. Also, I won first-chair trumpet position auditioning for the 7-state honor band “All Northwest Band”. Being from a small town, I had never heard a symphonic band prior to our rehearsals, so being “inside” that amazing group when we performed at McArthur Court (U of O) was mind opening. I almost wanted to just listen instead of play.

What CD’s do you have out?

I played trumpet on a few albums in the 1970’s as sideman. A couple of bands from Idaho and one from Eugene. I have no records or CD’s of my own. Some artists who’s CDs I have arranged horns and/or played on more recently include: Paul DeLay, Duffy Bishop, Bonepickers, Michael Osborn, Jon Koonce, Barbara Healy, DK Stewart, Lisa Mann, “Tell Mama” Etta tribute, Rae Gordon, Dub Debrie, Franco Paletta, Kevin Selfe, Karen Lovely, Tracy Fortis, and Paul Jones.

Who have you played with?

The list is quite long: Johnny Moore; Jim Pepper; Sonny King; Floyd Dixon; Robert Cray; Peter Damman; Curtis Salgado; Scott Franklin; Dave Melyan; Jimi Bott; Dean Meuller; Doug Rowell; Paul Brainard; Chris Carlson; Allen Markel; Ed Pierce; Carlton Jackson; Lloyd Jones; Steve Kerin; Don Worth; Ed Neumann; Dave Fleschner; Larry Pindar; Chris Mercer; Bradley Ulrich; Pete Moss; Mark Shark; Fred Ingram; Ben Rice; Vyassa Dodson; Ken Brewer; Don Campbell; Jim Mesi; Reggie Houston; Bill Rhoades; Joseph Conrad; John Mazzocco; Franck Goldwasser; LaRhonda Steele; Duffy Bishop; Gary Meziere; Ellen Whyte; Ben Partain; David Vest; Jon Koonce; Calen Uhlig; Billy Stoops; Dover Weinberg; Cory Burden; Melissa Buchanan; Dan Fincher; Vinnie Bargas; Donald Shultz; Chris Miller; Dan Berkery; Terry Robb; Jim Miller; Louis Pain; Dain Ryan; Pat McDougall; Mary-Sue Tobin; David Lipkind; Mike Cross; Corby Simpson; Michael Allen Harrison; Margaret Linn; Greg Hyatt; Michael Mendenhall; Timmer Blakely; Brian Foxworth; Randy Yearout; Peter Boe; Gaddis Cavenah; Monti Amundson; Jeff Homan; Dave Aston; Danny O’Brien; Nico Wind; Scott White; Norman Sylvester; Jeff Evans; Linda Hornbuckle; Kelly Dunn; John Police; Ed Campy; Ed Couture; AC Porter; Brian Harris; Bruce Withycombe; Scott Van Schoick; Evan Shlaes; Bobby Torres; Kevin La Baron; Mark Bowden; Henry Cooper; Clark Salisbury; Gary Fountaine; Jim Wallace; Kris Deelane; Jeff Knudson; John Moak; Geoff Metts; Steve Bradley; Stan Bock; Patrick Lamb; Ben Medler; Devin Phillips; Tony Coleman; Bonnie Lee Bluestone; Alex Shakeri; Mark DuFresne; Rick Welter; Lloyd Allen; Rienhardt Melz; Damian Erskine; Jeff Minnick; Willy Barber; Phil Wagner; Robbie Laws; Christopher Worth; Nathan Olsen; Warren Rand; Michael Quimby; Gary Harris; Glen Holstrom; David Kahl; Lewi Longmire; Franco Paletta; Sweet Baby James; Jerry Zybach; Mel Solomon; John Pounds; Allyn Jackson; Lady Kat; Jim Solberg; I’m tired…

Your bandmembers—what instruments do they play?

My band, The Joe McCarthy Group, is a quartet formed in early 2016 to study and perform tunes across varying genres, primarily blues and jazz. The band: Joe McCarthy, trumpet/keys/vocals; Mark Shark, guitar/vocals; Scott White, upright and electric bass/vocals; and Fred Ingram, drums. Material is chosen based on its appeal to the group’s members. Folks will be exposed to music they may, or may not be familiar with when they catch one of our shows. The ‘book’ is continually growing, including numbers by Hoagie Carmichael, Leon Russell, Nat Cole, Grant Green, B. B. King, Louis Armstrong, Les McCann, Robben Ford, Kenny Burrell, Neil Larsen, Freddie Hubbard, Johnny Cash, Taj Mahal, Jim Pepper, Dan Hicks, Etta James and others.

Additional comments:

In the 1970’s my introduction to blues came through arranging horns for and playing with the Nighthawks, a Eugene band which included Curtis Salgado, Dave (DK) Stewart, David Olsen, Jim Cochran and Ritch Kesey. It was formative for me to also play shows with the “Crayhawks” and the Robert Cray Band once I moved to Portland. My role in the Portland music business is playing trumpet as a sideman, writing horn arrangements, recording and performing with various bands, but improvisation is what brings me the most satisfaction and excitement in music. Also, I can’t recall having more fun than singing harmony with Duffy Bishop on her CD, Find Your Way Home.

Joe can be seen about town and listening to him and his band is quite entertaining. Keep an eye out in the BluesNotes calendar for upcoming shows.

2023 Cascade Blues Association Holiday Party

CBA Holiday PartyThe annual CBA Holiday Party is set for Sunday, Dec. 11, at the Moose Lodge, 16411 NE Halsey, Portland, and it is open to everyone, so bring your family and friends and have some fun. The lodge members are really excited to share their place with us and are preparing a great menu for us to enjoy. Their more than reasonable prices for food and drinks may be your first holiday gift. For faster service, the best way to pay is always cash, but the lodge will accept credit cards. We will again set up a table for you to bring desert goodies to share. Another table will display silent auction items for you to bid on, and a CD raffle will be held after each band, so bring your Christmas shopping list. The Moose Lodge is a very family friendly space: pool and shuffleboard are free and you can play darts for a reasonable charge. CBA Members are free and all others pay only a $5.00 donation to attend this event

It’s the holidays, so please think of those less fortunate than you. Bring cans of food for the Oregon Food Bank as the lodge has barrels set up for us. The lodge also sponsors the Boys & Girls Club. It will have barrels to collect dog and cat food for the Troutdale Humane Society, so bring pet food!

We have great music planned for you: 12:00 – 1:00   Harvey Brindell & the Tablerockers; 1:15 – 2:15 Bottleneck Blues Band; 2:30 – 3:30 Suburban Slim Band; 3:45 – 4:45 Franco Paletta & the Stingers; 5:00 – 6:00 Karen Lovely & Ben Rice

Thank You To Holiday Party Volunteers

Beginning this month in BluesNotes, the Cascade Blues Association will recognize the dedicated volunteers who stepped up during the previous month to assist at our events.

The CBA would like to extend a huge thank you to the following individuals who volunteered their time to help us out at this year’s Muddy Awards. Your time and efforts are greatly appreciated:

Adam Carter
Carol Hamley
Cathy Merge-Martin
Rick Martin
Susan Johnson
Jon Pierce

The Cascade Blues Association’s 28th Annual Muddy Awards was held on Wednesday, November 2 at The Melody Ballroom to once again another full house of fans and musicians. Honoring those acts, performers, venues, events, recordings and performances who helped raise the bar on the Northwest’s blues scene over the past year in twenty-two categories.

Dave Kahl - "Paul deLay" Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dave Kahl – “Paul deLay” Lifetime Achievement Award.

Three artists were big winners taking home two awards each: Andy Stokes for the “Curtis Salgado” Male Vocalist and the “Lloyd Jones” R&B Act; the Ben Rice Band taking both the Contemporary and Traditional Blues Act awards; and Dave Kahl for the Bass award and the biggest honor of the night, the “Paul deLay” Lifetime Achievement.

Dave Kahl’s award noted not only his career as a bass player with a multitude of acts including the Paul deLay Band, Fiona Boyes & The Fortune Tellers, and the Ty Curtis Band, but also due to his tireless work to bring together the music community, seeking recognition from the City and means to make finding and connecting outlets for musicians through such efforts as MyGigNet.com.

The Back What You Believe In Award was presented to CBA Vice President Wendy Schumer. This award notes those in a non-musician role that has made an impact. Wendy’s tireless efforts with the BluesNotes, various CBA events such as the Muddy Awards, a monthly blues emailing and daily posting of events in our area are just a few of the things that she has made her mark with.

The top CDs of the year were awarded to Lisa Mann for the Northwest Album of the Year with Hard Times, Bad Decisions and the National Recording of the Year also stayed at home with Curtis Salgado taking the prize for The Beautiful Lowdown.

Mitch Kashmar was also recognized for the Harmonica Award for the third consecutive year, placing him into the Muddy Awards Hall of Fame.

The Muddy Awards always has terrific music on hand and as tradition goes, we present sets from our Journey To Memphis winners. Band winners Rae Gordon & The Backseat Drivers opened the night and solo/duo winner David Pinsky played a mid-awards set bringing surprise guest Ben Rice for a dual acoustic guitar performance.

Every year the night closes with a Muddy All Star Band made up of past and present Muddy Award nominees and recipients. This year’s band leader was Ken DeRouchie who was handed the reigns to put together a group for the night, and he came through big time. The All Stars included Arietta Ward, Ben Turner, Brian Harris, Chris Lay, Dave Fleschner, David Chachere, Doug Rowell, Edwin Coleman III, Jeff Knudson, Jimi Bott, Lisa Mann, Noah Bell, Pat McDougall, Pete Petersen, Peter Dammann, Peter Moss, Rae Gordon, Rob Busey, and Timmer Blakely.

A big thanks goes out to The Melody Ballroom, Affordable Trophies, JBL Sound, Big Screen Productions, Cedar House Media, Photographer Tony Kutter, the CBA Board of Directors and all the volunteers who helped make this event happen, and to our membership, without whom none of this could occur.

Please note that we are aware that there were problems with the online balloting that we began this year. It is a first effort and we knew that there would be glitches. Thanks to CBA webmaster Buko and Wendy Schumer for assisting those who needed an extra hand getting their votes entered. We will make improvements next year on the process. But when it was all said and done, we actually received more returns for the final ballot than we have averaged over the past five years.

2016 Cascade Blues Association Muddy Award Recipients

Contemporary Blues Act: Ben Rice Band

Traditional Blues Act: Ben Rice Band

“Lloyd Jones” R&B Act: Andy Stokes

New Act: Thunder Brothers

Regional Blues Act: Hank Shreve Band

“Curtis Salgado” Male Vocalist: Andy Stokes

“Duffy Bishop” Female Vocalist: LaRhonda Steele

Electric Guitar: Alan Hager

“Terry Robb” Acoustic Guitar: Mary Flower

Bass: Dave Kahl

Harmonica: Mitch Kashmar

Keyboards: Steve Kerin

“Jimi Bott” Drums: Brian Foxworth

Horns: Peter Moss

Venue: The Lake Theater & Café

“The Hurley Award”: Barry McKinley

NW Event of the Year: United By Music North America at The Hotel Rose

NW Recording: Lisa Mann – Hard Times, Bad Decisions

National Recording: Curtis Salgado – The Beautiful Lowdown

Performance of the Year: (Tie) Kevin Selfe Buy My Soul Back CD Release Party at The Bossanova Ballroom / Karen Lovely at the Waterfront Blues Festival

Back What You Believe In Award: Wendy Schumer

Lifetime Achievement: Dave Kahl

New Muddy Hall of Fame inductee: Mitch Kashmar

AC Porter

By Laurie Morrisey

AC Porter is quite the character. In addition to being a great musician, when asked where he was born and raised, he responded, “I was born under the third ring of Saturn at a planetarium in Stockholm. Wait, that’s where I was conceived. I was born down the road apiece, in Eugene. Been in PDX since 1990—back when it was still a super cool lil’ city.”

AC says his music has “lots of room for improv within simple chordal structures, all blues oriented, even the slightly jazzy stuff.” His advice to other musicians is to “play it with dynamics, emphasis on interplay with an ensemble of great musicians, and above everything else, try to play with as much passion and emotion as you can connect with—they can be quiet passions, aggressive, frustrated, sexy, poignant, wistful, whatever—but put yourself inside it as much as possible. Hard to put into words, but an aware audience can feel it when you do it—so can the players.”

AC Porter is known around town as one of the great guitar player—mainly electric. “I could live a thousand years and not learn everything there is to learn about it, that’s for sure. Vocals are a work in progress—much more ‘naked’ when it comes to the voice.” He is a self-taught musician, and also taught by the examples from many other artists and fellow musicians. He had two years of theory that gave him some basics.

AC describes himself as a semi-pro musician. “I’ve been getting ‘paid’ to play for about 30 to 35 years. I think I likely used the fact that I made a bit of side money with music to justify my guitar habit, back in the day—I’ve got that much more under control these days. Probably because I can’t afford it.”

AC also has a day job. “Ever since I was 16 I have worked various jobs, and have had a union job in a healthcare facility the past 16 years. Lab work. Nothing fancy, but keeps the wolves at bay. Like I said, it costs a lot to play the blues these days. And since I’m not a trust fund/legacy/fortunate son, and I haven’t met that magical nurse with a purse, I will continue to work, and gladly. It’s good for the soul (sometimes!)—helps to keep a semi-pro musician with dreams of self-delusional grandeur humble and grateful. Keeps all that clapping and validation of one’s art in perspective.”

“I’d like to think I just love to play, whether it is for money or fun is of little consequence. I’ve evolved on that over the years, and believe if you can play at a level that people come out to see you, you SHOULD get paid—however, and this is not earth-shattering news—players are still getting the same pay, often, as they were getting from the clubs back in the 80’s and 90’s. Which means, of course, that due to prices and inflation, most musicians I know have been moving backwards as far as financial reward. It costs a lot to play the blues anymore—ironically.”

But even though music may not be profitable, it has always been a part of AC’s life. “I was always drawn to music. I literally grew up in a radio station from about 2 to 10 years old—KASH 1600. The building was the closest entity or structure to the Lane County dump back then. Very isolated, actually. My grandparents owned the station, and let my mom and I live in a small apartment on the property. I remember lots of sheep out there, and filbert trees. I also recall bugging the DJ’s and borrowing records. A lot. It’s part of Alton Baker Park now. Long gone.”

AC Porter says his musical influences include his dad, who was a jazz trombonist. “He named me after his favorite bone player, Curtis Fuller (the C in AC), and although he split when I was too young to remember him, he left behind some great jazz records—Coltrane, Miles, Monk, Ornette—and I listened to those cats and many other ‘discoveries’ I searched for—especially in high school, where I was surrounded by SERIOUS young, talented jazz players—many who would go on to thriving careers in playing and teaching at prestigious places. I was very lucky to be in that environment, as I didn’t have the skills, chops, or discipline, but I was definitely influenced by those co-students. Thank you, Matt Cooper! (Pianist extraordinaire). I still buy and listen to a fair amount of jazz from the 40’s on.”

“More conventionally, I was into Led Zep, Santana, Hendrix, Jeff Beck—- add the uniqueness of two of my fave artists of all, Zappa and Tom Waits, and that’s the early days of AC’s influences.”

“Then, about 21 or 22, I started hitting blues jams, and Bill Rhoades, Curtis Salgado, Lloyd Jones, Jimmy Cochran, Jim Wallace were all blowing this youngblood’s mind at Eugene blues haunts like Taylor’s and Max’s. Wallace and Rhoades really turned my head onto the real deal blues stuff, and I was a goner from the 80’s on. Got pretty heavy into The Kings, especially Albert and BB, Hollywood Fats, SRV and bro Jimmie, Albert Collins, and Magic Sam—you know the deal. A little late to the party, but I stayed for the duration!”


“Awards—best thing about them? A symbol of validation and recognition. But I struggle with the concept of them as well—I mean it’s impossible to quantify someone’s music or art as being the ‘best’, right? As Muddy himself said, ‘You can never be the best musician—you can only be a good one.’ That sums it up for me.”

“Now, having said my piece on that conundrum, I am the proud recipient of two awards from members of the CBA over the years—both for Best New/Reformed Act—one when I was with Bill Rhoades and the Partykings (shout out to his kings and queens he has playing with him these days) and one in 2011 for The Livewires—very nice. We were nominated this year for Best Traditional Act, and it went to that awesome guy Ben Rice, and deservedly so.”

“But the nomination I value most, was the year the CBA included me in the category for electric guitar. I was surrounded by players I absolutely love and look up to—Robbie Laws, Suburban Slim, and Jim Mesi that year—that was a gigantic honor, as a guitarist.”


AC doesn’t have any CD’s out, but he’s on a track or two of Norman Moody’s Moody Waters. “If, and it’s kind of a big ‘if’ at this point, I do a CD, I’d like it to be mostly live, with warts and all. A lot of blues albums these days, to MY ears, sound a bit too canned and ‘carefully crafted’ to the point that it strips away the soulful vibe that I absolutely am in love with on older recordings, even with their imperfections and ‘bad’ notes on occasion. Now, if I can have somebody make it sound like Mule Variations (Tom Waits) or Wicked Grin (John Hammond—produced by Tom Waits—see a trend? Lol) —then I’d be in heaven. Otherwise, I’ll let the live shows be those ‘moments in time’ that they were meant to be. Plus, I need to get off my butt and write more worthy tunes.”

AC Porter has played with a long list of local blues musicians. “It’s blues, so pretty much everybody that can lay claim to being a blues player in Portland. But pretty long ‘history’ with Bill Rhoades, definitely Jim Wallace, Stu Kinzel and Lynnann Hyde.”

He said he’s shared the stage with an abundance of local players. “It’s truly RIDICULOUS how much talent is right here. I’ve played with Whit Draper, both Johnny Moore’s, Jim Mesi, Timmer Blakely, John Neish, Duffy and Chris, Rick Welter, Kevin Selfe, Paul DeLay, Norman Sylvester, Doug Rowell, Big Monti, Lloyd Jones, Curtis Salgado, Don Schultz, Allen Markel, Dave, Kahl, Peter Dammann Jimi Bott, Suburban Slim, Jolie Clausen, Jeff Strawbridge, Katie Angel, Mitch Kashmar, Lisa Mann, Rae Gordon, Ashbolt Stewart…See? It’s getting kinda long in the listing department. I could go on for two more paragraphs, locally.”

“Also, I have sat in with Little Charlie Baty (The Nightcats) on numerous occasions over the years. One of my favorites, and memories I’ll cherish until dementia sets in. And Junior Watson (Well, he watched while I played his incredible gear with his bandmates…at least he was smiling.) Those two can put a lump in any normal guitarist’s throat, I’ll tell you that.”


“I’m super lucky to be surrounded in my lil’ ol’ band by stellar musicians who ‘get’ it, when it comes to playing blues, and really LIKE blues, not just using it as a means to a musical or economic end. I’ve played with guys like Whit Draper, who I think is the absolute most underrated roots/blues/swing guitarist in Portland. And as humble as anyone could ask for. Just outstanding talent and a great human. Timmer Blakely, who’s been playing almost every Tuesday night with us for a while—busy man, with multiple bands and one nighters—easy to hear why—great ears, and sensitive to what’s going on around him like few I’ve played with. John Moore—it just ain’t the Livewires without his crushing shuffle and enthusiasm EVERY time we play. On many Tuesdays at the Blue Diamond, Dennis Lusk will join us on keys, as well, which adds a different dimension to the ‘edge’ of the band.”

In Closing

In all his words, the line that may sum it up, “I’m a lucky guy when it comes to music around here.” No, Portland blues fans are the lucky ones.