Greg 'Slim Lively' Johnson RIP March 15th 1959 - March 24th 2022. Rambling with the Angels

Greg “Slim Lively” Johnson R.I.P.

March 15, 1959-March 24, 2022


By Shelley Garrett


Portland’s music community is mourning the loss of one of its hardest working and most beloved family members.

Greg Johnson, 63, fought the good fight against cancer and a stroke for a long year with the strong support of his wife, Cherie, and the uplifting help of the blues community at large. One can only imagine how difficult it was for him to lose the power of speech with all his great memories locked up. But Greg’s was a life fully lived.

Greg is survived by Cherie, his mother, Pat, and many dear friends who will miss him terribly.

A dedicated music lover and devoted husband, Greg spent decades in service to the local and national blues community and encouraged countless musicians.

His legacy won’t soon be forgotten.

Some of Greg’s local and national accomplishments:

  • Board of Directors Cascade Blues Association 1998-2001
  • Cascade Blues Association President 2002-2021 (president emeritus 2022)
  • Muddy Awards Committee chair 1998-2020
  • Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation 2016.
  • Blues Music Awards (Memphis, Tenn.) stage manager for seven years
  • International Blues Challenge Orpheum Theater Stage Manager
  • Club 152 (at the IB) stage manager for 13 years
  • Muddy Award, George Paige “Back What You Believe In” (4)
  • Muddy Award “Lifetime Achievement”
  • Waterfront Blues Festival emcee
  • Blues historian and photographer
  • Blues Notes main contributor
  • Cascade Blues Association official photographer
  • Journey to Memphis co-founder and chair
  • I served on the board with Greg for the past several years and was struck by how calm he was, often under extreme vitriol. He listened to all opinions with respect. Greg’s love of the music and the people who make it guided him.  He was so proud of the local musicians who had made it out of our beloved little town! Greg valued their accomplishments and seemed truly humbled by the friendships he made through the CBA.

So many of the tributes posted on Facebook in the first few days mention his mentorship, guidance and support. Many of those comments, along with quotes from close friends, are at the end of this article. Visit the CBA website for updates at

Look for a comprehensive article in the Blues Notes print edition that will be handed out at the 2022 Waterfront Blues Festival.

For those wishing to commemorate Greg with stories, photos etc., please add them to the “RIP Comments Section”.

His wife Cherie announced that here will be a Celebration of Life for Greg — details and venue will be announced soon.

Quotes and Facebook Tributes

Cherie Facebook Announcement

I don’t know how to say this in an easy or any less painful way so I’m just going to say it. My beloved husband Greg Slim Lively Johnson passed away last night. I am so sad I & the world will be without him. Portland was so lucky to have him. 25 plus years on CBA board, & being CBA President, years of dedication in Memphis, historian, photographer & writer. Multiple award recipient and A Keeping The Blues alive award recipient in Memphis. Always full of commitment, passion & integrity. The legacy Greg created will be carried on.

Gregory Vincent “Slim Lively” Johnson

March 15th, 1959 -March 24th, 2022

You are life itself without boundaries.

Greg has suffered physically for a year with health complications cancer and massive stroke. The door has been opened & Greg passed through & now is not limited to his physical body or in any more pain or trauma. Greg was with his wife when he passed away.

Terry Currier

I can’t tell you what a loss this is to our community. Greg Johnson was a dedicated soul to the Blues community, which included the artists, the fans and others who donated their time because they loved this community. He was a music person, much like me, and that drove him to jump in years ago and help out. And his love for music was not limited to the blues. We shared music and artist likes over the years. He had also worked for a recorded music distributor here in Portland called Lieberman.

Greg would do whatever was needed to keep the Cascade Blues Association going as an organization. He championed the artists in the Northwest and especially in our state. He was always going ” Have you seen this artist yet?” or “You have to see this artist.” He was a dedicated individual because of the music and the people.

It’s been tough seeing what happened to him this past year. Something was taken away from him and from our community. there will always be evidence of what Greg made happen but now there is no Greg. It will be important to him that we all work together to keep this blues community and Cascade Blues Association alive.

This is a time we should all reflect on how Greg touched us and the community. I will miss him, not just for all he did, but because he was a great person and a great friend to me.

Chad Rupp

Twelve years ago, I started my first jam session at Hart Road Pizza. It was there that I met my friend Greg Slim Lively Johnson. At the time he was in a relationship with my friend Sue Eastman, living out in Beaverton, close to the gig. I met Sue at Hart Road while I was bartending and often served her and she and I surprised each other with a shared love for the Portland blues scene and all the players that we both knew so well. By that time, I had worked at Bojangles, and The Candlelight Room and we would go on for hours talking about those places and the great music that we had heard. Stories about those legendary venues and the personalities that worked them would fill the air for hours when we would hang out together at the bar. When I told her that I was starting a blues jam at Hart Road, she told me that she would bring her guy out to listen and before we knew it, there was Greg at every session, taking pics of us performing, getting us excited about finding more gigs, regaling us with stories of all of the people that he knew in blues and the history of the scene locally and nationally. He put me in personal contact with people that he felt I should be meeting and being involved with and a lot came of that. Greg would often hip me to music that he thought I would sound good doing and we would laugh about me playing “Cool Guitars” or “Trick Bag”. My bandmates and I didn’t know that we were standing with a such a giant friend of the blues. Over the years we found out. I learned about him passing today from an elder statesman in our community, Norman Sylvester. I can’t tell you how sad I am to have lost the best friend our blues scene has ever had. The man was of service, and I will miss him very much. Rest in peace, my friend. You deserve peace after all you’ve been through. Love and relief to your family and everyone who knew you.

Chad also shared this FB post from Greg from October 11,2012

As the night draws to a close at the Hart Road jam, it has been an incredible nearly two years. They do not realize what they are letting go. This jam has given them an identity that spread far beyond a neighborhood sports bar and pizza restaurant. Chad Rupp hosted one of the finest, best run blues jams in the region that attracted many of the best players not only on the West Side but from the West Coast. They will land elsewhere while Hart Road will once again fall into obscurity. Thanks for the fun times and farewell.

Mark Shark

A heartbreaking loss for all who knew Greg Slim Lively Johnson.

Kind, giving, selfless, capable…A leader with vision and humility.

We are all better for knowing him ~

May his cherished wife, family and friends find comfort in the

gift of his memory and gratitude for all that was shared.

Rest in love Greg

Robin Gibson

RIP, Greg “Slim Lively” Johnson. You will be sorely missed throughout the blues world.

Cherie Johnson, I am so sorry, I simply can’t find the words to express it. Know that I will help in any way I’m able. Greg was special to me, always giving respect to my limited efforts to be a good blues musician, taking several of the photos I ended up using for profile shots. He had a great eye.

Much love to you and comfort in your mourning. If there’s any way I can pay it back, please don’t hesitate to ask.

Tevis Hodge

“I owe a lot to Greg but it’s not just me. The community at large owes a lot to Greg. He supported and loved more musicians than possibly anyone else I’ve ever known. He absolutely loved music and it showed. I personally know first-hand how much he loved to support young musicians as well. Musicians who are just getting their feet wet, and for me, his support was immeasurable and inspiring. Thank you, Greg! R.IP. Greg Johnson, you will be missed.”

Kivett Bednar

“He discovered so many young talents and supported their burgeoning careers. He was always looking after the tradition and the art, but the people in his community came first.”

Marty Henninger

I was gob-smacked and honored when Greg Johnson got the Cascade Blues Association to nominate my first CD “Are You In, Kid?” by Hifi Mojo, for Best Home-Produced Album in the IBC competition in 2011! But then, he was always doing nice things to support the blues artists in Portland! I’ll always remember his heart, his love of blues music and his generosity towards so many of us. His was a life well-lived and we will miss him dearly.

Jonn Del Toro Richardson

Till we meet again brother, Greg Slim Lively Johnson . I’ll miss seeing your smiling face and your embrace. So grateful you’re love passed our way, and proud to call you a brother. I know you’ll be moving bigger things there than you ever thought possible on this plain.

Keep on moving.

Kevin Selfe

So many thoughts, feelings, emotions when I found out about my dear friend Greg Slim Lively Johnson’s passing. First, my heartfelt condolences and love to his wife Cherie Johnson and all his family. We are all here for you.

Greg was a wonderful man with a passion for the blues and a gift for bringing the community together. He spent countless, unheralded hours building up the blues community, not only here, but around the country. From writing articles for the Blues Notes, reviewing new releases, checking out new bands and venues, being a stage manager at IBC venues, putting on benefit shows…. the list goes on and on. Most importantly he was a good man. A man who cared about people and their stories.

I met Greg the first week I moved to Portland back in January 2007. It was at the CBA meeting, and we became quick friends. We exchanged IBC stories, discovered we had many mutual friends, and talked about our favorite blues artists in the scene. He asked me to play a meeting and was just blown away how welcoming he was to me. From that day on, we became great friends. He would stop by my shows regularly and was just so supportive of me. And he wasn’t out and about just to be seen. He just genuinely loved the music.

Every time I’d see him, he’d give me a big bear hug and we’d just sit and chat about anything and everything. He truly was family. He’d always make sure to ask to introduce my set at the Waterfront Blues Festival. I was always so honored about that. There are so many things I could say and so many memories I have…just overwhelmed a bit at the moment.

Greg, I know I would not be the musician I am today without you and your support. I love you and am going to miss you so much my friend. I’ll be playing the blues for you.

Bob Ancheta

Greg gave this blues community something that cannot be measured, he was always ready to take care of business and was loved by so many. Cherie was his wife and caretaker and never gave up. Bless all of you as we mourn our great friend Greg.

Dave Kahl

When harmonica master, Paul deLay, passed away, I thought I was done with playing, that there really wasn’t anything more to say or do. I certainly acknowledged that I would probably continue to work but finding anything meaningful enough to let me actually enjoy it, while I was doing it, just didn’t seem realistic. However, Greg Slim Lively Johnson thought otherwise and he pushed back on the notion, pressing on the fact, as he saw it, that there were still opportunities, especially with this talented lady from Australia, Fiona Boyes, who he swore sounded like the reincarnation of Memphis Minnie. I mean he would not take no for an answer, so I relented and found out just how right he was.

One act of intent, by someone who cared enough to press a purposeful point — that you don’t determine when or if you hit your peak; there are other factors — opened a world where musical relevance didn’t just unfold; it has repeatedly imposed itself upon my life. It seems somewhat poetic that Greg would transition at this time, just as I prepare to wrap up the deepest, most diverse musical project I have ever known, with someone else who wouldn’t let me say no, who also holds Greg in highest regard, and who Greg insisted was another good fit for me, Ty Curtis. I only wish that you had stuck it out long enough that I could see your face when you heard it for the first time.

I miss you already, my friend.

Kim Field

A beautiful tribute to a man who gave so much of himself to support the music communities close to his heart…I have no doubt wherever Greg travelled he gave of himself, whatever was needed, because that was the kind of man he was. Love and healing Cherie, the Johnson Family and his many friends and fans around the world…Rest in love Greg. Blues on Beale Street Memoirs of the International Blues Challenge by Greg “Slim Lively” Johnson

Dean Mueller

It’s been heartwarming and heartbreaking to read all the fine tributes to Greg Johnson today. It’s been an honor and privilege to know you Greg and call you a friend for so many years. Thank you for your love and contribution to the music community and for the positive impact you have had on our lives. Rest easy brother, your struggle is over, and we are going to miss you dearly. Blessings, love, peace, and strength to dear Cherie and everyone he leaves behind.

Anni Piper/CBA Board

Today we mourn the passing of Greg ‘Slim Lively’ Johnson, President Emeritus of the Cascade Blues Association. His leadership was an inspiration to us all. Greg devoted more than twenty years of service to the CBA as President, photographer, writer, and historian. His generosity knew no limits when it came to the music and community that he loved. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we extend our deepest sympathy to Greg’s wife Cherie Johnson and the Johnson family. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.

Today we mourn the passing of Greg ‘Slim Lively’ Johnson, President Emeritus of the Cascade Blues Association. His leadership was an inspiration to us all. Greg devoted more than twenty years of service to the CBA as President, photographer, writer and historian. His generosity knew no limits when it came to the music and community that he loved. On behalf of the Board of Directors, we extend our deepest sympathy to Greg’s wife Cherie Johnson and the Johnson family. Our thoughts are with you during this difficult time.

George Stevenson

There would be no major ongoing CBA community nor blues music scene here if it was not for Greg Slim Lively Johnson‘s leadership, creativity, commitment & ability to humbly bring people together. Thank You Always Greg!

Mary Volm

A great friend, a kind spirit, and the foundation of our music community. I am heartbroken.

Dan Dalton

He will be missed

Impossible to replace Greg

Tracy Turner-Pain

Heaven just gained an Angel. Rest in everlasting peace Greg Slim Lively Johnson. We will never forget you.

At The Garages Satellite Pub

He is without a doubt an inspiration to all that had the opportunity to know him. His impressive knowledge of music, his gift to the music community, and his teamwork as the Cascade Blues Association President sure were magnificent. He will genuinely be missed. If ever there was a man that should be an angel this is the man!

Mary Hope Cummings

I want to say something profound and loving to describe the heartbreak, find the right comforting words & the loss, but there is only sorrow. The rich music life, the community, the organization building, the commitment, the passion, the hard work, the vision! And watching him finally blossom & be so happy (finally! BIG smiles) when he met you, was impossible to miss. I have HUGE gratitude for all the joy I have experienced… we have ALL experienced through his dedicated work building this blues community and connecting us to the national scene. But I just cannot give voice to all that I (we) feel. Surely, it can never match what you are feelin. I wish you an ocean of love and courage, dear one. I want to thank you PROFOUNDLY on behalf of every person who has struggled through a medical catastrophe & had a special someone to care about them and FOR them. NO ONE has done that better than you have, Cherie! My heart is joining yours today, and for a long time to come. Blessings, dear one. Many, many courageous baby steps ahead, but you are showered in blessings & courage. Here, have my heart. Maybe a huge communal heart will help bear the pain a bit less heavily. AAHHH! John Prine was with him, too! PERFECT.

Tiger Wiese Jones

Sam and I are heart-broken, he gave it his best and he packed so much into his life doing the things that he loved best. I’m so grateful that you were able to meet and fall in love and marry. You were gifts to each other and what you shared you have within you for the rest of your life. He’s always with you, never not at your side. It was an honor to know him and to have had the privilege to spend time with him. My fave was in Memphis during the IBC and then once at the Waterfront, it was late, the bands were closed and the guys were taking things down and someone was playing funk. I danced and Greg tried to get a shot, but it was dark – we all laughed. I respected and admired Greg for all the volunteer work he did, how good he was at giving, just like you Cherie – two peas in a pod. Beautiful inside and out. My heart is with you. I’m here if you ever want to just talk or have someone to walk with it. Much love and hugs. I lit a candle a few days ago and then dreamed of him that night. He looked healthy and whole. He loved you with his entire being. I’m so very sorry.

Mike Moothart

Wow, a huge loss for our community. I can’t even count the amount of shows over the years where Greg was there either with his camera or the MC of the show. He was the MC at my cancer benefits.. I’ve known Greg Slim Lively Johnson for many years and. It’s hard to imagine any future shows without him. Cherie, I hope you are doing ok. Just remember how many people love you and Greg. The last year has been full of ups and downs and unknowns, but one thing is for sure we witnessed a beautiful love story. Greg will be missed but he will never be forgotten. Rest in peace my friend and soul brother.

Jason JT Thomas

My deepest condolences to Cherie Johnson and the whole family. Greg Johnson was an intregal part of our blues scene for as long as I have been in Portland. It was when we went to Memphis that I got to fully see Greg in his element. He knew everyone, and was clearly respected by the larger national blues community. I’ll miss his voice announcing in Memphis, and at the WBF stage. Rest in peace my man.

Clay Fuller

Cherie, you, and Greg have been in my daily thoughts for some time now. I was so hoping that St. Vincent’s and their doctors would cure Greg.

His dedication to promotion of the blues music and artists in Portland and country wide is responsible for the vibrant scene we have today. Greg did all the little things behind the scenes that are necessary to continually motivate the artists to hang there. We all owe him a huge debt of gratitude.

Thank you as I know Greg has been a very happy man ever since he met you.

Teri Briggs

Today has been a day of immense sadness because another friend and pillar in the music community, Greg Slim Lively Johnson, has passed away. With his beloved, Cherie Johnson, by his side, Greg fought cancer, stroke, and seizures but the toll was more than his body could continue to take and he is now gracing the stars, curating the best playlists to make them dance. The mark he left on the entire Blues community, the Cascade Blues Association, and IBC in Memphis will be felt forever.

Greg and Cherie shared a love that was beautiful to behold and I had the honor of capturing it behind the lens on their one year wedding anniversary. I will always treasure that memory and those pictures. Cherie, we hold you in our hearts and hope that it gives you some small measure of comfort. I am so sorry that Greg is no longer with you on this earthly plane but know he will be watching over you and wrapping you in his arms.

May you rest in comfort and peace, dear Greg, we will miss you.

Ed Pierce

Cherie, I am so saddened to hear of Greg’s passing. He always struck me as a person who selflessly tried to promote others. Our musical community was so fortunate to have him so consistently and tirelessly advocate for all of us. My thoughts are with you during this difficult time.

Sean Carney

One of my dearest friends Greg Johnson passed away today and my heart goes out to his wife Cherie Johnson who remained by his side and kept us all updated on Greg. Many a late night with Slim in Memphis along with a special group of people in my life during a special time of my life. Greg opened the door for my band and I to perform in Portland at The Waterfront Blues Festival and several other PNW venues. Greg loved his friends and would do anything to help accommodate trips, tours, or anything else we could dream up. Greg Slim Lively Johnson, I love you buddy.

Michael Hawkeye Herman

Greg was a dear & cherished friend. He truly made a huge difference in the lives of so many and to the music we love and share. We are heartbroken by his passing. His memory and good works will live on forever in the hearts and minds of his family and all those who had the great honor and pleasure of knowing him. We will miss him, his smile and laughter, his intelligence, his great good humor, his deep passion and support of the music and the artists who create it, his heartfelt compassion for others, and his dear friendship. RIP Greg “Slim Lively” Johnson

Barney Murnin

The Portland Music scene suffered a great loss, the Cascade Blues Association president Greg Slim Lively Johnson. Greg was good to me. Fond memories of making him smile at shows. I told him I loved playing for him, he knew his music. He knew when I was paying tribute to the greats. He really dug that roots blues music and helped propel it for many years. He loved us and we loved him. Greg gave me very kind words always with encouragement. Let me headline the CBA Christmas party, gave me a couple covers and inside stories in Blues Notes with amazing write-ups and pics. He let me tell my story and really loved our grimy, swamp stompin’ sound. Greg, you were a class act and really kept the blues scene thriving for many years! He looked out for us musicians. We all owe a ton to Greg. Please support his lovely wife Cherie Johnson in this time of need. We are all heavy-hearted with you Cherie. Greg is front row for some of the greats now. May God hold you in his palm until we meet again my friend. picture a 15-year-old kid wrapped up in trouble, just out from the detention center, doing community service to pay off my debt. I was assigned to the Oregon food bank where I ended up working the gate collecting cans for entrance at the Waterfront Blues Fest. I got blown away by searing guitar and raw power of music. The rest is as they say history. Music saved my life more than once. Where I would be without it is a scary thought. Thank you, Greg, for always keeping it in your heart. You gave me a world to live in and I will always appreciate you for that. Rest easy my friend.

Cathy Lemons

Losing some friends these days. Greg Slim Lively Johnson just passed who was president of the Cascade Blues Society out of Portland – 25 years he was at the helm. Greg was also a blues historian & photographer. He loved musicians and blues music. He would come out to see my band when we travelled to Portland. He really was a huge advocate of Ben Rice & Karen Lovely, and so many other blossoming artists. Condolences to Cherie Johnson who was always by his side and has really so supportive.

He will be missed. I do hope people can begin to understand the importance of local blues societies. It’s an important part of a much bigger picture- helping blues artists to thrive, gaining new and younger fans, creating festivals. Yes, there are some societies in name only that do very little, but Greg was a star. An example of how to be a president. He created local awards, ran a hot local IBC, and he was at every BMA and IBC event in Memphis and knew EVERYBODY. We will miss you Greg and honor your life.

Randy Yearout

R.I.P. Greg Slim Lively Johnson. You were a great guy and a huge inspiration to the Blues community here in Portland, the entire NW, and beyond. Tracey Fordice and I will miss you and remember you always. Our sincere condolences to Cherie Johnson and your family

Missi Hasting Baker

John and I are so sad to say goodbye to Greg Slim Lively Johnson today. Greg’s deep commitment to the blues and its musicians has been an inspiration and support. He believed in Mojo Holler when we first got started many years ago, and he understood our love for Mississippi Fred McDowell and that type of roots blues.

Later, he met Cherie Johnson and just blossomed into a true lovebird! Their relationship is inspirational, a true pair of soul mates. We married during the same summer, a second Summer of Love.

RIP, Greg. We will always love you and give thanks for the ways you treasured the blues.

Rich Layton

Although the band was deep into rehearsal last night, I happened to glance up at the clock at 9:10p. This morning brought the news that Greg Johnson left this world at exactly that time. Greg embodied the term “a pillar of the community,” as one whose commitment to the Cascade Blues Association strengthened the organization immeasurably. He lifted us all up with his enthusiasm for blues music, artists and events. He loved his wife Cherie with all his heart and soul. I am grateful for his generous support of my musical endeavors, letting me know that the CBA was a big tent with room for this Gulf Coast harp player. I will treasure his friendship until we meet again.

Lisa Mann

(from 2017)

A thrilling experience to perform 2 sets with such talented ladies and gents at the BMAs! I was worn out by the end of the day… So can you imagine what the CREW was feeling after the show? Big ups to Joe Whitmer, Greg Slim Lively Johnson, Paul Averwater, Jessica Willis, sound and light crew, and everyone else behind the scenes at the event. We musician types saw you busting your humps from rehearsal to soundcheck to show and in the days preceding, and we know you’re the reason this “best BMAs yet” (as many keep saying) went DOWN!

Joey Scruggs

Greg was ‘one of the good guys. Never seen him get mad or tell somebody off – he had more important things to do, like take pics or hang out with Cherie.

He was a one of a kind and will be sorely missed.

Rest In Peace, Greg.

Alan Hager

Cherie Johnson – I do believe that I can speak for the ‘Perfect Gentlemen’: We are each deeply saddened at the loss of Greg, and heavy hearted at the anguish that you, Greg’s mama, and the entire extended clan are feeling now.

Mary Volm

I will truly miss you Greg Slim Lively Johnson– a kind and loving friend and a fierce promoter of music in our community. My heart is with his loving wife Cherie Johnson and his mom Patricia Johnson. Rest In Peace my friend.

Ken deRouchie

Yesterday I lost a best friend. We all did. My dear friend Greg Johnson left this world last night and I’m really going to miss him. We shared so many memories. We went on trips to the coast, rail-riding, wine tasting, a gazillion shows to hear bands, restaurants, birthday parties, dinner parties, Christmas parties, cigar nights…. Greg was my brother from another mother. Thank you so much for your friendship, Greg, it meant the world to me. I am going to miss you deeply. You, my friend, made the world a better place by being in it.

Rae Gordon

Greg discovered so many young talents and supported their burgeoning careers. He was always looking after the tradition and the art, but the people in his community came first. Greg was like a big musical hug when I first started singing in Portland.  His appreciation of the blues scene and his passion for promoting the players in it was like one of those hugs that you feel long after it’s over.  I never felt like an outsider for long even when no one knew my name…because he did and it didn’t matter where you came from or what you knew or didn’t know, it only mattered that you had blues in your soul.  Thank you, Greg, for helping me live my best life by having had a part in it.

Susie Que-Brovquist

I just found out that a close friend, blues lover and really good, hardworking man-; which I had the pleasure of working with on the board of directors for the Cascade Blues Association in Portland, OR, Has passed. Greg Slim Lively Johnson you are loved and missed by many. My love, prayers and support goes out to his wife and soulmate Cherie Johnson. No one could have done more than she did in sickness and in health. Love you Cherie

Geoffrey Reece

He was a booster to so many, He made it possible for me and Justus to have a father son memory that will never be forgotten, thank You Mr. Greg Slim Lively Johnson

Beth Lucci

Love you so much Cherie. So sad to hear of Greg’s passing. So many fond and wonderful memories. So appreciate you being a part of Greg’s life. You are truly a precious gift to our community.

Jimmy Wong

Greg Johnson was passionate about keeping the Blues alive and he understood that goal involved keeping our youth engaged. He was so very helpful with all my questions about Timothy’s (James)applications to represent the CBA at the International Blues Challenge. Once we got to Memphis, he was again very helpful with showing us how to get the most out of being at IBC. He will truly be missed.

Valerie Davis

He kept steady and wholeheartedly believed in the promotion and preservation of the music.

Roger and Debby Espinor

Greg was a powerhouse in the blues community but was a close “cigar and scotch loving” friend. Our favorite times were with food and drink where we got to hear his many stories of the musicians he met at the history of the blues.  He was one of a kind and will be so missed.

Jennifer Moriarity Scheller

Truly appreciated his big heart, support, & strength. He will be truly missed.

Jamey Winchester

As he and I were walking down the street after a heated Board of Directors meeting…Greg said, “Everything we do should have one goal”. “Keeping the Blues alive?” I asked. He said, “OK 2 goals.. Keeping The Blues Alive with getting kids involved. And, we have got to re-establish some sort of Musician’s Trust/Relief fund with the Priority going for those who have given their life to the music.” I remember that walk. I can remember the cool evening and the smell of Hawthorne Blvd. And I remember looking up at him as he said, “To those who have given their life to the music…”, and said, “in that case, you should get entire amount!” “Wouldn’t that be nice?” Was his response as we laughed and went our own ways. I remember the walk with my friend. And he gave everything. I can’t ever remember him asking for anything. Not for himself, ever.

Ken Johnson

I always admired Greg’s ability to create a set list that he played at his job, and it wasn’t always the blues. He loved all genres of music he understood the power of music! I’d say rest in peace, but I know you’ll be busy making setlist in heaven.

Josh Makosky

Greg was a kind, passionate and fun soul, so excited and knowledgeable about music history and upcoming talent. His stories of journies and amazing shows were amazing and he was one of the single biggest supporters of Portland musicians I’ve ever known. Everything from his excellent eye for photography to his ability to excite an audience when he introduced people at a show…there will never be another Greg.

Tim Shaughnessy - April 3 1955 - June 12 2021

Tim Shaughnessy: April 3 1955-June 12 2021

By Dave Kahl

On Sunday, July 11th, one of the most poignant, touching tributes took place at the Wooden Shoe Tulip Farm near Woodburn; a celebration of the the life of Tim Shaughnessy: bass player, businessman, husband, father, and a friend to nearly everybody who met him. If you’re one of the few who didn’t know him by name, you probably knew him for his work with the Rose City Kings and Too Loose Zydeco Cajun Band. You might have even known him, indirectly, if you ever witnessed or participated in any event related to the Mysti Krewe of Nimbus (the annual Mardi Gras Ball, parades, parties, crawfish boils) or the Stumptown Soul Holiday Spectacular. If you did know Tim, then you knew that he was remarkably intelligent, organized, hardworking, passionate, and generous with his gifts.

Tim was one of the rare few who knew the importance of shared effort and how selfless acts could lead to much greater things. His knowledge and commitment to the benefits and business of CBD led to helping, literally, thousands of people, including some who might be considered erstwhile competitors. For Tim, the mission was the message. As was repeatedly mentioned by friends, he resisted the limelight, though, once on stage, he could be a ham; the important thing was that he was part of the band. Tim had a special way of playing the focus with humility and grace.

Tim’s impact was – is – so profound that it’s difficult not to make this personal, so now is as good a time as any to cross that line. My own relationship with Tim spanned several areas of mutual interest, though CBD and music held the strongest sway. When he asked me if I might cover bass duties for a Too Loose gig, I easily said yes because, well, it was Tim. My first experience with the band was at the Shaughnessy house, with Tim working on a project in the dining room, behind me, giving me pointers on each song as it was called. When I was asked to help send him off, I inadvertently found myself sitting in that same spot, impulsively turning to him, though now he was lying in bed, while we “rehearsed”, one more time. I had promised Tim that, whatever and whenever he might ask, I would maintain the position of being his placeholder; this time, I hoped for the miracle that would make it so. After all, Tim was the Unicorn, whose meaning includes the opening of infinite possibilities, the ability to see them and the wisdom to take advantage of them.

For 13 months, Tim fought against incredible odds, following an industrial accident, causing traumatic brain injury (TBI) and requiring a life flight that he was not expected to survive. The love and support he received from friends and family was proportionally Karmic and his return home was, to put it mildly, serendipitous. When, at last, the writing was on the wall, five days were given to his farewell party that included a veritable who’s who of musical talent, a testament to the man and his profound, positive impact on the world around him.

In her last post after the memorial. Tim’s widow, Julia, related how several friends told her about a dragonfly that circled the gathering, strongly present when guest speakers shared stories of Tim. A friend sent a text about the significance of the dragonfly:

In almost every part of the world, the Dragonfly symbolizes cut, transformation, adaptability, and self-realization. The change that is often referred to has its source in mental and emotional maturity and understanding the deeper meaning of life…”

Since we’ve already gone into more personal territory, it seems fitting that the words of others – musicians and band mates – will serve to drive home the point – that Tim Shaughnessy, a remarkably special person, has now us left a huge hole in our collective heart.


“I first met Tim when I was on the road with Rose City Kings in 2006. Right off the bat, he struck me as a really positive fella that was really easy to get along with. Soon thereafter, my relationship with Tim and Julia expanded as we started playing in the Too Loose Cajun and Zydeco band together. He was always someone who was interested in bringing people together, and he was always on the lookout for new and interesting ideas to pursue. For Jane-Clair and I, one of the most special collaborations with Tim was the Mysti Krewe of Nimbus, which has become like a family to so many of us up here in the Northwest. I consider myself to be grateful to be one of his friends. Tim, Julia, and the rest of that family are some of the best people that I have met since I moved up here.” – Steve Kerin

“Every gathering with Tim felt like the deliriously happy final scene from the film It’s A Wonderful Life.

With that big smile, anyone could tell his was, indeed, a wonderful life.” – Karen Lovely

“Without question or argument, uniquely the best of the best.” – Mark Bowden

“Tim Shaughnessy is one of those people that no one has ever said a bad word about. A real good egg, as they say.” – Lisa Mann

“He helped me fix up my first house, he taught me the right way to hang sheetrock and recycle good old straight-grain wood. Taught me how to stay positive against impossible odds. How to use Craigslist. He helped build Mississippi Studios. Helped me through a divorce. Played bass in my band. Tim is a perfect man, model husband and father. If we could all be just 1% more like Tim, the world would be a better place… I miss him, and it pains me that he’s gone.” – Jim Brunberg

“I can’t remember ever seeing Tim when he wasn’t on top of the world- no matter what he was doing. He was the embodiment of positive joy. My lasting image though, is of him on stage feet apart as if he was standing on a rolling ship with his bass in hand and a shit eating grin on his face as he did what he loved best- playing music. His absence jars me daily, but I feel his presence all around us.” – Robert “Lefty” Head

Tim was one of the first people I met in Portland through my Bay Area friend Jim Brunberg. At the time I was a pretty brash and forceful person. Tim showed through his example that “gentle” was a more powerful and sustainable way to do things. I will be forever indebted to him for that. Tim literally changed my life. Now it’s my turn to live that example as he did.” – Dan Berkery 

Johnny Moore

Johnny Moore

By John Taylor from quotes and notes from Ed Neumann, Joe McCarthy & Scott White

Portland has a little less swing in its step these days.

Johnny MooreDrummer Johnny Moore, whose sticks have struck up some of the best rhythms the city has heard in the past half-century or so is gone.

Moore, who grew up in Astoria and moved to Portland in 1979, died in June after a decade-long battle with cancer. He’d spent the past 10 years playing with the Jim Mesi band, but his legacy started long before then.

“The first time I played with Johnny Moore was 1972 at the White Eagle Saloon, with the Tom McFarland Blues Band,” recalled bassist Scott White, who went on to perform with Moore in more than 20 blues bands over the next 50 years – including Voodoo Garden, Lee Blake, Delta Haze and the Ed Neumann Trio. “Johnny Moore was a strong, funky, dynamic drummer that could swing,” White said in a written statement.

“Johnny’s feel on the drums made everything swing and the dancers loved it,” added Ed Neumann, who met Moore in 1999 when the drummer was holding down a day job in the shipyards.

Back then, Neumann said, his old friend Pat Pattee – “The Preacher” on KISN’s Radio Night Watch Show – would show up at Neumann’s shows and yell “Play some f***ing blues!”

Neumann finally told Pattee that he was interested in starting an R&B night.

“He brought me Johnny Moore, Al Hickie and Kenny Wild,” Neumann said.

The combination clicked.

“By the second week, we were standing room only every Tuesday night,” Neumann said.

Moore, whose father was a beloved doctor in Astoria, served in the U.S. Navy and moved to Eugene in the 1970s, according to his old friend Joe McCarthy. Moore played with several bands there, including the Schwebke Brothers Band, led by bassist Doc Schwebke.

After moving to Portland, Moore hooked up with the Sheldon Brothers Band, playing numerous gigs – including at the MGM in Reno, Nev.

He also did his share of hard labor, putting in many years as a welder and refitting steel ships on Swan Island. He did much of that work from a scaffold, suspended high above the ships’ decks.

Later, he put his welding skills to work blacksmithing and creating metal and porcelain artwork.

Half of Oregon, it seems, knew, worked with or least enjoyed listening to Johnny Moore.

“What a survivor,” Neumann said. “Ten years later and he was playing better than ever with the Jim Mesi Band.

“What a groove. I miss him so much.”

“Rest in peace, my friend,” White said.

Johnny passed in June.

Carlton Jackson 1961 – 2021

Carlton Jackson 1961 – 2021

By Dave Kahl

Carlton Jackson 1961 – 2021The shock waves that rippled through the Portland music community with the passing of Carlton Jackson, nearly a month ago (as of this writing), have yet to ebb. In fact, the impact has been felt across so many genres and aspects of musical performance and presentation that it’s hard to find any other loss nearing its equal. The closest this writer can conjure would place Carlton in the company of people like Janice Scroggins, Linda Hornbuckle, and Paul deLay. Like them, there wasn’t any endeavor he touched that didn’t profoundly touch countless others on countless levels. My own experiences with him, spanning decades, bands, venues, one-offs, and just hanging, tempt me to offer a more personal view of a master, whose interests and abilities would qualify him as a Renaissance Man. Suffice it to say that the best tribute comes from citing several other sources, including the man, himself.

The name of his blog, Drummer-at-Large, was also prominently emblazoned on his business card. It is also an archive, on quick investigation, of the depth and dimension of his interests and involvement. A member of the Oregon Music Hall of Fame, Carlton’s four decades of work speaks for itself; here’s a tiny sampling: Tom Grant, Dan Balmer, Lloyd Jones, Terry Robb, D.K. Stewart, Duffy Bishop, Robert Rude, David Ornette Cherry, Curtis Salgado, and, of course, his signature project, the Carlton Jackson-Dave Mills Big Band. The list of musical interests is even harder to distill, running the gamut, from internationally known artists Miles Davis and James Brown, Keith Moon, John Bonham, Eddie Harris, Frank Zappa, the Crusaders, and more, to locals, past and present, like Obo Addy, Janice Scroggins, Nancy King, Michael Bard, Gordon Lee, and on and on. Carlton’s passion for all things music was deep, disciplined, and voracious.

As host of the weekly radio show, “The Message”, on KMHD, Carlton explored themes of consciousness that had a distinctly African-American centric feel. Mention movies to him and the subject would open up to any number of specific films and some surprising genres: Sam Peckinpah, Spike Lee, John Woo, Blaxploitation, Stargate SG-1, and Family Guy cartoon series, among them. A consummate educator, he was an annually featured instructor at Mel Brown’s Drum Camp, as well as in public schools and universities. In fact, Carlton’s instinctive bent toward teaching was self-evident whenever he was on stage – if you paid attention – and his emphasis, if anything, was on the basics but he could guide with the flick of the wrist or the shortest phrase, opening doors of exploration and discovery, even for seasoned players. Academic interests certainly included educating younger players and audiences because, as he noted, age was causing attrition; for Carlton, this was a legacy issue. This activism extended to economic realities for musicians, as well as for other artists. An early proponent of designating venues as paying fair wages, a collaborative effort grew out of the American Federation of Musicians Local 99, the campaign known as Fair Trade Music.

In recent years, Carlton was integral to several bands, compilations, and developing venues, but it was his deep commitment to Lloyd Jones, in particular, that should be noted. Even in the wake of the pandemic, the push to support Jones’s latest recording, “Tennessee Run”, was strongly marked by one word that defined Mr. Jackson – preparation. Sadly, we will not be able to hear what was to come. The irony of how ill-prepared any of us were for the loss of this veritable icon of artistry, this master and friend, is not lost upon me, nor others, whose praise is abundantly evident.

NOTE: A celebration of Carlton and his life will be held on Sunday, August 22, 2021, HAS BEEN CANCELLED DUE TO COVID CONCERNS. Remembrances can be accessed through the archives of the Oregon Jazz Society, OPB, Oregon Music News, and Cruise Ship Drummer. Certainly, Facebook is full of countless more personal tributes, as well.

Gary Burford  Passes On

Gary Burford  Passes OnGary Burford, perhaps one of the best-loved members of the Salem and Oregon music community, passed away this past month after a long-term battle with cancer. He had worked with a number of the Northwest finest bands, including the Boyd Small Big Blues Band, The Terraplanes, the Bob Beck Band, as well as a leader of his own groups. He could often be found working with well-known artists such as Curtis Salgado, Terry Robb, Paul deLay, Lloyd Jones, Randy Flook, Dave Fleschner, and Jake Blair. The Salem-based newspaper The Statesman recognized Gary multiple times as the area’s Best Musician and Best Band, and the Cascade Blues Association had also nominated him for a Muddy Award as Best Regional Act.

Aside from being a performer, Gary could be found teaching guitar at Guitar Castle and working at Ranch Records. He was also a promoter and booking agent, bringing acts to Salem from throughout the Northwest and nationally for over 30 years.

Knowing that his life’s end was near, Gary began raising funds himself for his end of life needs. An all-star concert was held this past February that helped celebrate his life and achievements to help pay for his burial and other expenses.

Sheila Wilcoxson: A Remembrance and Celebration of Life

Sheila Wilcoxson: A Remembrance and Celebration of LifeFriends and fans of the late Sheila Wilcoxson, legendary Portland singer, are invited to join her family and many of Portland’s finest musicians for a remembrance and celebration of her life at the North Portland Fraternal Order of the Eagles on Wednesday, December 4 at 6:00 – 10:00 PM. Sheila joined the heavenly choir on October 1st of this year.

Snacks are planned and there is a no-host bar. Friends will be invited to share memories of Sheila and musicians are encouraged to take part in the last jam for Sheila, happening throughout the evening. No R.S.V.P. is necessary. The event is free of charge.

Sheila Wilcoxson: A Remembrance and Celebration of Life

Fraternal Order of the Eagles North Portland 7611 N Exeter Ave, Portland, OR 97203

Contact: Clark Salisbury

Sheila Wilcoxson: A Remembrance and Celebration of Life

Goodbye Shelia WilcoxsonBorn in Detroit where she began signing at the age of twelve, Sheila Wilcoxson moved to Portland in 1978. She formed the band Sheila & The Boogiemen which brought her high accolades in the city’s music community. Her next group Back Porch Blues continued that recognition as the group earned multiple awards, including a Crystal Award from the Portland Music Association and several Muddy Awards from the Cascade Blues Association earning her one of their first Hall of Fame inductions. In 1998, she was nominated by The Blues Foundation for Traditional Female Artist of the Year for her Burnside Records release “Backwater Blues.” Her powerful, multi-octave voice made her an unparalleled presence on every stage she stepped upon, with a loving and compassionate personality that stood heads and shoulders amongst the best.

Frankie Redding Jr

Frankie Redding JrFrankie “The Funkmaster” Redding Jr was a life-long resident of Portland and one of the community’s most beloved musicians. He began his professional career while still a student at Jefferson High School, working at Portland’s Original Cotton Club performing both on saxophone and keyboards. Over the years he worked with numerous local musicians and bands, including Billy Larkin, The Royallaires, Wine, Vanila Manila, City Lights, The Arnold Brothers, The Staple Brothers, Richard Day Reynolds, and the Norman Sylvester Band. He also did stints with national artists like Tyrone Davis, Etta James and Terry Evans. Though Frankie may have been soft-spoken, his playing spoke volumes and his ever-present smile endeared us all.

Madeleine Crawford

A celebration of life for Madeleine Crawford will be hosted by her sisters Sophia Gabaldon and Beck Lafollette on Sunday, May 12 (Mother’s Day) at The Milwaukie Community Center 10666 S. E. 42nd Avenue, Milwaukie, Oregon from 12:30 until 5:00 pm. There will be live music, a pot luck with lots of food, and a keg of beer. You may bring your own bottle as well.  There will also be a bounce house for the little ones. Pleas come and help us celebrate Madeleine’s life with her family and friends.


In Loving Memory of Jim Mesi

Jim Mesi passed away in early March. He was an icon of the Portland music scene, having played for more than fifty years at the very top level. Throughout his career in Portland, and for a short while in Seattle, Mesi inspired countless musicians. In tribute the Cascade Blues Association offers but a handful of memories from friends and peers. There will never be another Jim Mesi. The word “legend” is most fitting for this unique man — one of the most talented musicians not only in Portland or the Northwest, but among the very best to be found anywhere.

Lloyd Jones: The passing of legendary guitarist (and lifelong pal) Jim Mesi hit hard! His powerful brilliance and demolishing swagger still ring in my memory. From the shine on his shoes to the sparkle in his tone, there was great pride in every performance.

Jim’s list of fans included BB King, Billy Gibbons, John Hammond, and more. On my wall at home is a photo of Mr. Mesi bringing a smile to Les Paul’s face while sitting in together at a club in New York City. Who can say that!

Jim Mesi with Ed Neumann, Steve Bradley, Scott White, Johnnie Moore

Jim Mesi was the greatest guy to be in a band with. He only hit home runs. In the early years, Jim Mesi, Al Kuzens, myself and fellow band mate Paul deLay put together a freight train of a band called Brown Sugar. Blazing a trail for blues in the Northwest and building lifelong friendships. When Paul deLay passed, Jim came to me and said “Let’s put the ol’ band back together for Paul’s memorial concert at Portland’s Waterfront Blues Festival…but, you have to play drums!” Jimmy marched up on that stage with a little bitty Blues Jr. guitar amp, placed it on two milk crates and blew the top off that festival! We felt like kids again. Paul would have smiled. I sure did.”

Ed Neumann:  Having played with him the last 20 years he has ruined me and I will miss him every night, but I will continue to laugh at his SO very many jokes and quips. I am a very spoiled man.

Terry Currier: Jim Mesi’s contributions to the Oregon music scene was vast. From the late 60’s on he was known as one of the area’s best guitarists in the state. From early bands like Wrinkle and Brown Sugar (a band that would launch careers for other local musical heroes Paul deLay and Lloyd Jones), to his long time musical relationship with Steve Bradley playing a combo of rock and blues, the Paul deLay Band as well as his countless incarnations of the Jim Mesi Band, his guitar playing excelled. I often heard people state when other blues guitarists came to town “Why is Jim Mesi not as big as this artist? He’s definitely as good or better.” He was definitely a master of his instrument and I was definitely lucky to see him play so many times over the years.

Don Worth: I’ve know and respected Jim’s talent, and wardrobe, for almost 50 years. I will miss him and his wicked sense of humor. His passing will be the end of The Loser’s Club. I have years of great memories from those Tuesday “meetings.” RIP Jim.

Chris Carlson: I was gobsmacked the first time I heard Jim Mesi play the guitar. And every time after that. It wasn’t just the amazing bag of tricks that he had, it was the seemingly endless well of ideas. And that soul. And the humor. Man, that guys was funny.

I had the chance to buy a pedal steel from a buddy of mine, but I didn’t know anything about pedal steel. So I called the only steel player in town that I knew – Jim Mesi. I described the instrument to him, he said, “Buy if! I’ll show you how to play it.” I did and Jim taught me the fundamentals. I still owe him dinner for that.

Whether it was seeing him play or hanging out at a bar, Jim always made me laugh.


Paul Jones: Saying that Jimmy was Talented is a vast UNDERSTATEMENT. He was truly amazing as a musician and a friend. I was fortunate to have played music with him for 53 years. Never heard him play the same thing twice! He’s in my soul. I will always hear his laughter.

Mark Dufresne: Back in 1979 when I first came to the Pacific Northwest I would go down to Seattle from Bellingham where I was living and occasional meet up with local blues players trying to get my own thing going. I met a great Harp player named Kim Field (who now resides in Portland) who would sometimes make tapes of various musicians for me. One in particular was of Paul deLay that completely blew my mind. Just a live tape in a Portland haunt, probably Sac’s Front Ave. I had never heard quite anyone like Big Paul, (harp-wise, vocal-wise) The band arrangements were stellar. As much as Paul’s brilliance on this cheap tape (which I still have) the guitar playing was killing me. I asked Kim, who is this Monster. He was to the guitar what Paul was to the Harp. Unique, and recognizable every time you hear him. I played this tape to people for years and every time they would ask me about the Guitar master on there. I could only say his name was Jimmy something, an Italian  name I’d say. I caught them at Bumbershoot in Seattle in 82 with the great Dave Stewart now on keyboards. This was a special band. Few have equaled it anywhere. At the time Jimmy’s approach to the fretboard was amazing. A man who was his own thing but yet could play within the sometimes strict parameters of the roots music scene.

In Loving Memory of Jim Mesi

Paul deLay Band with BB King

After the demise of that version of the band, I figured Paul’s in trouble “How you gonna replace Mesi? Well, we know Peter Damman came in with new guys and the deLay band did some of their best Music. All of this gave me the opportunity to meet and befriend Jim Mesi for his brief stay in the Emerald City. At the time, I had a manager who was trying to get something going for me but did not want me doing standard club gigs. But anytime Jim had something going on he was always more than gracious to me, allowing me to sit in anytime , anywhere he was performing. I did several outdoor shows and having no real band, Jimmy was kind enough to help me put something together and we played some fun shows. Any type of blues, rockabilly,

R&B or even country sounds he handled with absolute confidence and unbelievable chops. I feel so blessed to do even a small portion of work with him. When Jim moved back to the Rose City he would often invite me down to hang and sit-in. He introduced me to Dave Kahl, Dickie Burns, Steve Bradley and a very dear friend, Mike Moothart. Actually I consider all the members of that Mesi unit as good friends. Of course they would always have me sit-in whether it be Portland or Seattle. I will be forever grateful for this.

Jimmy was a one of a kind  individual. A lot of us would try to do our best Mesi impressions complete with the cigarette and quick turn of the head as only Jimmy could do. What a thrill to have a musician of this caliber encourage and let you take part in some of his excursions. I loved his Surf stuff with Bradley. He played with one of the most fearless attacks on his instrument of anyone I have ever known. To know the Italian Chainsaw was to love him. I shall miss him dearly an as a friend and as musician who had a lasting impact on me and many, many others.

With Love, RIP Jim Mesi,

Brown Sugar

Terry Robb: I had the great honor to know Jim Mesi. He was not just a fantastic guitarist, but a great musician. I was a huge fan from when I first heard him in 1971. Later, we became friends and we had a lot of laughs together. It was always really special to play with him. I can’t say enough about what it meant to receive a compliment from him. No one played like him and no one was like him — a true original. We would always laugh about how independently of each other when we were kids, not knowing each other. We would both go to Gateway Music to stare at the Gibson SG they had in the window. He and the late Buddy Fite were the most inspiring guitarists you could ever hope to see. It is overwhelming how much I will miss him.

Bob Lyon: This is tough . . . what I remember can’t be printed . . .

Duffy Bishop: Jim Mesi was a mesmerizing master of the guitar, with a persona far larger than life. He was a truly unique character, a sharp funny man who could crack you up one second and then wow you with his brilliant playing the next. Mesi had natural spot on timing in his humor and this vast musical ability.

Jim Mesi Band – photo by Jim Dorothy

The anticipation he’d instill, seeing him drive up in of his cool classic cars, hop out dressed to the nines in audacious, colorful garb and footwear, and then pop the trunk of the long car to reveal even more sleek, stylish suits, more fancy pointed Italian shoes, and many cases filled with flashy, personalized, killer guitars. He could have had his own TV show, and we all would have tuned in not to miss it!

I count myself among the very fortunate to have gotten to play music with Jim. None of us whoever met him and heard him play will ever forget him

Nico Wind Cordova: I was a skinny wisp of a kid in 1974 or so when I first met Jim Mesi.  I had the determination of a pit bull to become nothing other than a full-blooded musician at that time.   I used to go to this place called Sac’s Front Avenue; it was one of the hottest venues for the emerging Portland blues scene.  Sac’s hosted and promoted local and regional bands.  It was here where I would be exposed to the artists that would blaze the trail for what we now consider to be the royalty of the Portland music scene.

One of my favorite bands of all time was Brown Sugar; its core members were Paul deLay, Jim Mesi and Lloyd Jones, and I went to see them whenever I could.  My friend, John Henderson, aka Westside Johnny, a harmonica student of Paul’s, prompted me to ask Paul deLay if I could sit in and sing a song with him and his band.  Paul took a quick up-and-down look at me, raised one eyebrow, and pretty much blew me off.  But Jim encouraged Paul to let me do a song.  He was pretty vocal about it, advising, “Everyone started somewhere – even you, Paul.”  The next thing I know, I’m standing up on the stage with all these guys looking at me, my knees shaking so hard I can hardly stand up.  Jim directed me:  “Okay, kid.  This is it!  What are we doing and what key is it in?”  I managed to spit out, “‘Little Red Rooster’, by Big Mama Thornton, in the key of G.”  Jim raised an eyebrow at Paul, and it was on!  After it was done, Jim said, “Let’s give a hand to the little kid with the giant voice.”  I’ve never forgotten Jim’s raising me up like that; later on down the road, he would continue to give me opportunities that helped sculpt me as an artist.

After touring with my own bands for decades, I came back home to re-introduce myself.  Again, there was Mesi and his bandmates, inviting me into the light (along with a lot of other mainstage bands that included Curtis Salgado, Bobby Torres, DK Stewart, Norman Sylvester, and many others).

Jim Mesi with Seth Cordova and Nico Wind Cordova

I met my husband, Seth Cordova, eighteen years ago at the Candlelight Cafe and Bar. Seth had been on tour with Jim Mesi as a second guitar player; it was one of Seth’s greatest opportunities when Jim took him under his wing.

Seth had met Jim through a family friend, Pat Pattee and his wife, Carmen.  Pat was the first KISN Portland radio DJ back in the 50s.  At the time, he was working as a DJ for The Crossing in Vancouver, Washington.  Mesi liked to hang out with Pat because he had one of the largest music record collections in the region, especially blues recordings.  Pat was known for opening his home to aspiring young musicians like Seth to give them an opportunity to listen to the real stuff.  After one of these sessions, Jim told Seth he should come down the Denny’s Music Store, and he’d give Seth some guitar lessons.  Seth didn’t think Jim was serious, so he didn’t show up; a few months later, Seth ran into Jim and Jim said, “Where the X!#&!* were you?  I waited for you!”  Needless to say, Seth showed up the following week, on time and ready to learn that Jim Mesi was a “no BS kinda guy.”

In 1995, Jim informed Seth, “I’m doing another USO tour, so get your stuff together, get a passport, and let’s go!  Seth was working for Bob McDonald at Blaze Jose’s, one of the places where Jim held The Losers’ Club meetings.  Bob was gracious enough to give Seth the time off so he could go on tour with his mentor.

Years later, after the loss of Jim’s son, Christopher, Jim asked Seth to move into his home.   Seth lived with Jim for a year or so while he grieved; part of Jim’s healing included focusing on teaching Seth to play guitar.

When Seth and I started the Free Rein Band, it was The Jim Mesi Band that spring-boarded it.  Jim agreed to join our first gig as Free Rein at the Candlelight, the last week it was open before getting bulldozed.  We played our hearts out, and that would set the bar high for our future as a band.

In 2016, I began work on a project designed to acknowledge and inform Portland music lovers about the legacy Portland’s talents (like Salgado, deLay, Fountaine, Whyte, Ross, Steele and others) had left them through the years.  Nico’s Road Dog Tales ‘n Jam featured a number of these well-known musicians, including Jim Mesi, in an hour-long interview on stage followed by sometimes hours of a jam with each interviewee and our Free Rein Band.  It is only appropriate that I release the Jim Mesi episode of Road Dog Tales as the pilot for our mini-documentary series that honors and preserves the legacy of our treasured icon, friend, and mentor, The Italian Chainsaw – Jim Mesi.