Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings on My Mind August 2020

Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President 

It has been a strange long year with seemingly no end in sight at this point as to when we’ll be able to visit our favorite venues to enjoy live blues, or music of any kind for that matter. That is of course if these venues have been able to survive the lengthy shut-down period. Even as things slowly begin to open, not all of us are willing or brave enough to chance the possibility of exposure unknowingly. 

Where has the time gone? One minute it’s mid-March with stay at home orders being put in effect, the next thing you know four months have whizzed by usWe’ve all been craving to go out to hear live music, but for a few exceptions most of what we have had to rely on has been on the internet, with live online performances streamed over Facebook, YouTube and other outlets. Hardly a replacement from the sensation of witnessing it in person. 

The timing for the Journey to Memphis, Gorge Blues & Brews, Cider Fest, Waterfront Blues Festival, Cathedral Park Jazz Festival have come and gone. Other events that our members may travel to such as Chicago Blues Festival, New Orleans Jazz Fest, Blues Music Awards, Winthrop, Sisters, Sunbanks, Blues Bender were all cancelled long in advance. It’s not easy to be a live music fan in this time and age. 

This certainly hurts the CBA in a number of ways. With no meetings or large events that we participate in, it means next to no income other than memberships sold. As we all know this hit us first with the printing of the BluesNotes. It is hard to exist as a business when you’re putting out more money each month than what is coming in. Yes, there are still expenses we must take on; our storage unit for example. Fortunately, we gave up our office space a couple years ago. Our current position with the BluesNotes has cut back on editor and printing fees, and without being able to hold our monthly meetings we are not paying for sound currently. But we are hoping that this pandemic comes to an end regardless of expenses that will need to resume. We miss our members and the music. Our mission is based on supporting it and we’re trying to maintain that vision however we can. 

One of those positions we took on was to assist Portland Parks & Recreation. They had to cancel all musical events for the public throughout the summer, focusing more on feeding children who rely on school meals. To help with this and to provide a little entertainment and some income for musicians, we partnered to provide music for the children and their families during a number of their lunch distributions. Funds were provided partially by what we had planned on helping the Waterfront Blues Festival in presenting an act; and also through a GoFundMe program. CBA Member musicians submitted applications to be considered, and all that did should be able to perform. Individual slots were drawn at random during a live feed streamed on Facebook. And it doesn’t end there. Depending on funds raised, we may be able to work with the City with some evening performances for the public. But it all depends on what can be raised and the reopening phase that can be reached during the season. 

An issue that we may be facing once we’re able to return to our normal activities is the location of our monthly meetings. At this time, the possibility is there that The East Eagles Lodge may not be reopening. Seems like we’ve been through a lot of relocations over the past few years, and we will get through this as well if need be. If we do have to relocate, we want to continue in a spot that is centrally located and open to minors. Available nearby parking, food available and the room donated as part of a not-for-profit organization recognition. Please keep your eyes open and let us know if you know of anything that might suit us. 

But let’s focus on getting through this with our health and sanity first. Music will return and we’ll be back again. Just be safe out there everyone. Wear your masks and keep your social distancing. This won’t last forever, but if we continue to take the proper precautions, it’ll come quicker than not. 

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind July 2020

Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President 

Typically, we make a point not to bring politics into the organization’s stances, but this past month has brought about a divisiveness that we must address. The crimes committed by police in the name of law and order in Minneapolis and cities throughout our country recently and over the years reflect on us all. The Cascade Blues Association stands behind the Black Lives Matter movement and finds these violent actions reprehensible. We also understand that these occurrences are not just random actions as they happen far too often for our communities to feel comfortable with what we’re witnessing. And that includes within our own city and neighborhoods. We have seen these same shameful events happen here at times. It is not exclusive to one portion of our nation, it happens everywhere.  

The roots of the music we celebrate as an organization, the blues, originated in the black community. The music was a form of expression that often dealt with oppression, segregation, cruelty and unjust laws, solely because of the shade of one’s skin. We cannot appreciate the music without the knowledge of its origins. 

The black community has endured this demeaning hardship for more than 400 years in America. It is time for a change, and in order for that to happen everyone must take responsibility to see that change occur. Hatred and racism need to be eradicated. Enough is enough. We all need to stand together 


Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind 

Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President 

As our world continues to be on hold due to the pandemic, we watch over and over again as our dreams of nice summer weather with gatherings to enjoy music and friends disappear before our eyes. Here in Portland and throughout our region, summers are usually one long weekend after another with multiple choices to experience the music we love. Northwest festivals such as the Gorge Blues & Brews, Waterfront, Cathedral Park, Winthrop, Mount Baker, Sisters and others are all highly anticipated and prepared for months in advance. Street fairs, markets and house parties are usually in abundance. But one by one we watch as the cancellations are announced and accumulate. It’s hard. But the possibility of losing friends and musicians because of the contagious nature of this virus would be so much more so.  

We may end up losing some of the businesses we cherish. Without means to support themselves with income from their product, such as performances and food sales, and landlords who need their rent payments to make ends meet on their end as well, we will sadly see some gone forever. It hurts us all. 

The Cascade Blues Association sees most of our membership renewals during the summer months, most notably at festivals. That is also when we do most of our merchandise sales. And we normally have a number of advertisers come through to promote their events. The loss of income takes its toll, and we have already had to suspend printing the Blues Notes during this period due to expenses. We still have our monthly obligations to meet with bills, and the Board of Directors have not even been able to meet in person due to the stay-at-home orders and the limitations expected for social distancing. Our communications have been strictly by email and social media for the most part. The business end of the Cascade Blues Association has to continue even while things are shut down. It does make things tough, so hopefully the world will turn itself right side up again so everything can be addressed and we can return to promoting the music we all love and care deeply about.  

This time shall pass. It has to. This lost summer will eventually be a memory. But it will also make us hold the things that we may take for granted a little more closely. Music brought us all together and hopefully it will help us get through this hard period, too. 

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind - May 2020Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President

In this time of pandemic, like everybody else, I found myself confined to either home, or in my case also spending long hours at work, listening to a lot of music. Whether live online broadcasts from various musicians, including being able to see some old friends that I haven’t gotten a chance to catch up with in a number of years, or just simply listening to a lot of personally-owned recordings or sampling new music and artists, the time was available and I took the opportunity to give my ears some long-overdue treats.

This month we’re probably facing more of the same, with cancellations of so many events and stay at home orders. So I am going to try to give more time to new music reviews and the monthly list will probably extend past the regular ten we’ve been posting. And I also want to make a point of putting out a varied amount of blues approaches and styles, because it is not just the same old I IV V sounds, or Chicago, Texas, Delta, Hill Country, Blues-Rock or whatever.

As I said, watching online performances is a great way to catch the musicians we’ve been missing so much in live settings for the past few weeks. I got to see several people online who it has been way to long since crossing paths, like Richard Ray Farrell, Greg Nagy, Dave Muskett, Son Jack, Don Haupt and Dave Keller for instance. If you’re not familiar with them take a moment and check them out. Or if you see other names you’re not familiar with, look into them, too. You may be surprised. Of course, do not even hesitate to watch broadcasts from our local acts. And if you can afford to, as we know many of us are pretty much living on a shoestring, please give a little to their pay outlets, because as you know, no gigs, no income for a lot of musicians.

To help out with these efforts, since venues are closed, Shelley Garrett is collecting the broadcasts and posting them in place of our regular venue calendar. And she will post your pay outlets too.

If venues are open to take out food, help them out, too. Every little bit will help. And if you see new music that sounds interesting to you, go to Music Millennium’s website and see if they’re carrying what you’re after. Order it online and pick it up at their curbside service. Just because we’re stuck at home, doesn’t mean we can’t support these musicians and businesses.

We do have a small handful of events that we’ve included, including the Sunbanks Blues Festival. At the time of this writing, the events we included have not been cancelled. We recommend that you check with the venues to verify whether they will actually be happening. If we find out beforehand, we will post the cancellations on our Facebook page, and update our online calendar.

Stay safe everybody, you are important to us and we want to see your smiling faces enjoying live music once everything comes back. In the meantime, listen and watch at home as much as you can.

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

by Greg Johnson,
Cascade Blues Association President

Making the decision to cancel our membership meeting for April was truly tough. In the 19 years that I have been president, we have only had to cancel twice before. Both of those dates were weather-related due to snow and/or ice making it dangerous to travel. There may have also been conflicts on dates where we just moved the meeting to make things work out. But never before have we had to deal with something like a pandemic and having the governor make the decision for all events of 250 or more people be cancelled. Though we have not had meetings come close to those numbers in some time, we felt that it was prudent that we also take the precaution to make certain everybody in attendance are safe. Please note that both acts scheduled for the April meetings were contacted in advance for their input whether to play for the April date or not. Both agreed to be rescheduled for a later meeting during the year. We are sorry for this occurrence and hopefully things will turn around so we do not see any further cancellations from not only ourselves, but the local venues and those musicians scheduled to play as well.

This does not by any means say not to attend events. There are plenty of local venues that do not have the room capacity to reach 250. But with that said, be your own decision maker. If you want to avoid crowds of any size, we’re not here to judge you. Nor should anybody else. Just follow the standard precautions to ensure your safety as we want to see you again.

Musicians and venues rely on you to make their living. Having events cancelled means a loss of income. And of course, many artists do not have health care insurance in the event that they do get sick. So, it’s a double-bladed sword for many of us to decide. But it is a choice to make on your own if you venture out or not for the time being.

Do not forget if you’re interested in participating in this year’s Journey to Memphis competition for a chance to travel to Memphis to be included in the International Blues Challenge, you must have your packages delivered to us by April 7. I have had a handful of acts state that they’re planning on joining in, but I am still waiting to see their applications show up. It always places me in a panic mode when so few show up before the deadline; but I also always see a deluge of packets show up at the last minute. Don’t miss out, you too can possibly be the next Johnny Wheels & The Swamp Donkeys or Ben Rice or Rae Gordon (just three of our acts from recent years to reach the IBC finals).

The Journey to Memphis is also a terrific way to be introduced to newer acts within our region with which you may not be familiar. There are many bands and solo artists to be discovered. We all have our favorites; that is something noted each year with the Muddy Awards. So many nominations received for the same acts over and over again, year after year. There is nothing wrong with that, as they’ve earned their spot for your attention. But take a chance. Go to a venue you may not know too well. Check out an act you don’t know. You just might discover somebody new that’ll earn that same recognition from you and you can help spread the word about someone everybody else should know about, too.

And if you’re planning on staying home during the current virus situation, here’s a thought. Go to a website like ReverbNation and fill in the search for artists, local, Portland,OR and blues. This will populate a listing of artists within our region and will give song samples and tour dates. Lots of new artists will be found. Though much of this site may be outdated, it still includes a good number of local artists to explore. Take the time to give them a listen. It’s just another avenue for exploring and discovering acts that just might draw your interest into finding more about them and to perhaps head out to their gigs when you’re ready.

Or just use one of your regular media outlets to listen to your favorites while you are social distancing yourself. Listen to the CDs you own from them, and if you don’t own it already, go to their websites and purchase it directly from them. That is certainly the option you should use first to ensure that a little bit of income is headed their way while gigs are being cancelled.

So many acts, so little time it seems. But remember to visit these venues, check out the acts, buy their music. As long as we continue doing this there will never be a shortage of talent for us to enjoy.

So many acts, so little time it seems. But remember to visit these venues, check out the acts, buy their music. As long as we continue doing this there will never be a shortage of talent for us to enjoy.

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind - February 2020The Cascade Blues Association has been involved sending bands to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis for twenty years. We have had a lot of success with acts participating over the years, many pushing forward to the semi-finals since they first began holding them, and seven acts who have moved forward to the finals stage. Johnny Wheels and The Swamp Donkeys were the latest to reach that plateau. Though they may have not finished as one of the top three winners, they were still one of only eight bands to make it to that level out of more than 200 competing. And that truly means that they were in fact winners.

The International Blues Challenge can be life-changing for acts who take advantage of their time and reaching the showcase in Memphis. The names that have moved on are many and include those who sit atop the blues world today: Susan Tedeschi, Tommy Castro, Fiona Boyes, Watermelon Slim, Albert Cummings, Danielle Nicole, Southern Avenue and the late Sean Costello and Michael Burks just to name a handful. And our own Lisa Mann, Karen Lovely, Ty Curtis and Ben Rice who have gone beyond to world-wide recognition.

We’re proud of everyone who has represented the Cascade Blues Association throughout the years, as well as our sister societies from throughout the Northwest. It may be a competition to bring everyone to Memphis, but it’s more a family of musicians and if you watch behind the scenes, it’s all about those friendships and bonds built to last a lifetime. Congratulations go out to Johnny Wheels and The Swamp Donkeys, but we’re just as proud of Louis Creed & The Geezer and Generation Headstrong because they gave their everything and brought attention to our region. Thank you all.

Back at hand we need to look at helping our local musicians and families, too. There are two fundraisers happening this coming month and we urge everybody to attend or to donate if possible. Fenix Sanders, another past International Blues Challenge participant for us, spent a lengthy period hospitalized after surgery, losing out on income from not being able to work. Larry McCoy, guitarist with Rich Layton and Tough Town, has experienced family crisis when his daughter was hospitalized for an extended time with a life threatening illness. Expenses are great as you can imagine. Please check out the dates for these events where multiple musicians will be helping out and bring some relief their way with your support.

This past month saw the release of the video recorded at the Bluesmania benefit for Steve Pringle. Perhaps one of the most heartfelt events to have taken place in our community of all time, this newly released DVD is something that should be picked up, not only for the amazing performances by so many giving their time recognizing Steve, but to help us remember the good behind us all in times of need. Whether you attended or not, this should be included in your music collection. But there were only 300 copies made, so do not hesitate. We had twenty copies at our last membership meeting, all but one sold out that night. We have obtained twenty more copies that we’ll have available at the March meeting. They’re also available at Music Millennium as long as they can keep them in stock. But once they’re gone, they’re gone. Don’t kick yourself and miss out.

In the meantime, get out to the clubs and support our local talent. There are quite a few touring acts also coming through our area this next month and beyond. Keep your eyes on the BluesNotes calendar to make sure that you’re in the know of what’s happening. And if you’ve let your membership lapse, it may just be time to renew, and share with your friends the idea of becoming members. We’d love to see as many of you blues and music fans help us support our scene. Thanks to you all.

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind - February 2020by Greg Johnson,
Cascade Blues Association President

I know it’s February and since I was a month behind last time getting out the top ten list of favorite CDs of 2019, let me do a touch more catching up. We have gone through another election to decide who will be behind the scenes of the Cascade Blues Association for this next year. Well, it’s not really an election when nobody is running against anyone else, but that’s the way things go at times. Thanks to all of those who stepped forward once again to do the necessary chores that keep this organization running. New this year will be Michael Todd taking on the role of membership secretary; definitely a job that takes a lot of work. Welcome aboard Michael, looking forward to working with you.

I also want to take a moment to acknowledge those board members who will not be with us this year. Working on the board takes time, and it doesn’t always work out with the lives we live in our regular day-to-day lives trying to balance between the two.

Katie Allard served this past year as our membership secretary and did a wonderful job in the role. She decided to step down due to time needed away from the CBA, but she will be helping Michael out getting organized and up to speed. Thank you Katie; going to miss you and you’re always welcome back anytime.

Jamey Winchester also needed to step away as his regular life needed more attention. Thank you Jamey for a bevy of achievements that you pushed forward, including the new look BluesNotes, the Blues Directory, pursuing advertising and working out our relationship with The Eagles for our new home. These will be long-lasting accomplishments. Thank you.

Of course, we’re grateful for all of our board members and the work that they do. Show them that they’re appreciated with a pat on the back and a thank you for their hard work.

With that said, we can always use more help on our board and with volunteers. The more people we have, the easier the tasks we take on will be. If you have an interest in fund-raising, grant-writing, membership drives, writing for the BluesNotes, seeking advertising, or simply helping us out at various events such as the Waterfront Blues Festival merchandise booth, let us know. We’re not going to turn you away, as our members and volunteers are our life-blood. If you love the local blues scene and want to give a hand in seeing it succeed through support and promotion, this is the place for you.

If you’re unable to be a part of our board or as a volunteer, you can still help us by telling all your friends about the Cascade Blues Association. Get them to become members. The more members, the more friends we have, and means even more fun celebrating our blues community.

One last word, thank you to all of the people who put together fundraising events for our Journey To Memphis winners helping them make their trips to the International Blues Challenge, with huge shout outs to Rae Gordon and Malena Masterson for multiple showcases. They also could not be done without our volunteers and donations both in cash and items used as auction/raffle items. Thank you everyone!!

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind January 2020by Greg Johnson, CBA President

Usually I run this column in December, but following the passing of Steve Pringle I decided to wait for this month to list my choices for favorite albums of the year. This is by no means the say all end all listing of what others may deem the best recordings of the year. But they’re all good and worth the time to check out. I know they each found significant play time for me. They are also in no specific order, as what may be my top choice today may find one of the others surpass it the next. Just all depends on my mood of the day. But it should not be any surprise either that half of the choices are all local musicians. It was just that type of year.

Terry Robb - Confessin’ My DuesTerry Robb – Confessin’ My Dues: This album finds Terry once again at the top of his game, delivering stunning and concise guitar work. That alone is reason to include the disc, but throw in the rhythm section of Dave Captein and Gary Hobbs, with second guitar from Adam Scramstad, and you have a combo that rivals the very best found anywhere. I have always felt that if they toured as a group, they’d be in high demand everywhere. And the songs from the album are pure magical, too.

Rich Layton & Tough Town – Salvation Road: The musical hiatus taken by Rich Layton for medical reasons only justified the quality of songwriting he was able to compile during that time. The band took those songs laying to disc this amazing recording that hits its mark on every single track. Memorable tales all, some autobiographical, but all downright fun that brings their Gulf Coast sound out at its fullest power.

The Lloyd Jones Struggle - Full ForceLloyd Jones Struggle – Full Force: This album may have only been released locally, and was recorded nearly twenty-five years ago, but it is a time capsule of the band in one of its finest incarnations. The inclusion of Bob “Housewine” Rodin and Glenn Holstrom, who have both since passed on, along with Rudy Draco, Reinhardt Melz, Victor Little and Bobby Torres found them tearing up the venue in the hottest of performances. Throw in their head man Lloyd Jones on guitar, vocals and insanely great songwriting and this is one not to miss. Should’ve been released nationwide to share with everybody!

Mary FlowerMary Flower – Living With The Blues Again: Mary always brings out the very best in acoustic guitar, whether fingerpicking or slide, no matter what genre she approaches be it blues, ragtime, Americana or whatever else she pursues. One of the absolute best acoustic musicians world-wide, her recordings have always stood out. But throw her in the mix with the Little Village Foundation stable of artists and she shines brightly while backed by the likes of Kid Andersen, Jim Pugh, Aki Kumar, Suzy Thompson and The Sons of the Soul Revivers. It doesn’t get much better than that.

Rae Gordon Band - Wrong Kind Of Love - Self ReleasedRae Gordon Band – Wrong Kind Of Love: This may be the most recent release on this list, but it belongs right amongst the best of the year. Rae has never sounded better or more sure of herself. That’s saying a lot because I never felt that she would surpass the excellence of her previous album, Better Than I Was. But she has, and every one of the people in the band is mixed so well that their individual sounds make this album one not to be missed. Outstanding playing by all, with tremendous songwriting and production.

Various Artists – Battle Of The Bands, Chicago Vs Oakland: You’re not going to find me selecting an album by various artists too often, but this compilation put together by Twist Turner has captured the very essence of soulful blues and guitar work, featuring overlooked artists from two of the epicenters of the blues. This is one that demands to be played repeatedly, and with me it has been, very rarely straying from my listening pleasure since it was released.

Sugaray Rayford - Somebody Save Me - Forty Below RecordsSugaray Rayford – Somebody Save Me: Sugaray has a personality that’s bigger than life itself; and a voice to match. With this recording he has taken ten original numbers and thrown all of that personality and energy fully into a soulful delivery that is both intense and captivating. All that animation you see from him on stage comes across here on every number. The best he’s done yet, and I don’t expect him to slow down anytime soon.

Tennesse Redemption (self titled): From the time that Jeff Jensen moved to Memphis and met up with Brandon Santini, you just knew that these two were destined to work together. They have fed off one another for years, so it was only fitting that they put out an album where they co-share the spotlight. Their music feeds off from one another taking it on a ride we all want to share. Sizzling guitar and blazing harmonica; they’re simply on fire!

Cash Box Kings – Hail To The Kings!: This is a band that has proven itself as one of the exemplary blues acts working in Chicago for decades. Their music is always first class, but this album paying tribute to the great blues musicians of the city’s past leads the charge to prove that Chicago is still the true home of the blues. Vocalist Oscar Wilson, harp player Joe Nosek, guitarist Billy Flynn, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith on drums and everyone else involved make this indispensable and a must own for any lover of traditional blues.

Jimmie Vaughan - Baby, Please Come Home - Last Music CompanyJimmie Vaughan – Baby Please Come Home: The master of old school, non-flash guitar playing offers some of the most tasteful versions of his favorite songs from favorite artists of the past. Vaughan brings nice renditions from greats like Gatemouth Brown, T-Bone Walker, Jimmy Reed, Etta James and more. It proves that some of the best comes from the past, and it’s all handled in the purest of fashion here.

Of course when putting together such a list, there’s always going to be some that you wish had been included. As I said, they can change day by day at the simplest whim of the time. Therefore check out people like Southern Avenue, Rosie Flores, Brandon Santini, Johnny Rawls, Mavis Staples, Rory Gallagher and others that found my time absorbing their latest discs of this past year. They’re all worth exploring.

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind December 2019by Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President

These past couple months are just too hard to place my mind around. Too many friends have left this world. But the passing of Steve Pringle was more than that. He may have entertained us and introduced us to new artists on the radio, but he was so much more than just another voice on air. He brought fun behind his work. He was a true believer of the genre and listening to him you just couldn’t deny that fact. When you were spending time with him in person, there was no change in his demeanor. Everybody was his friend and he would quite often greet you with a hug. Said and done, Steve was born to the blues. He bled blues and he spent his life teaching us that we wanted to love this music, too.

The morning that he left us put a large hole in many of our hearts. Many did not want to leave their homes. The heartache and mourning was too much to take it out to public. There was a fundraiser for our Journey To Memphis acts to help them travel to Memphis for the International Blues Challenge. I stepped onto that stage that day and relayed the news about Steve. Many who were not aware were stricken. But I informed them, grieve as you feel, don’t let it sit inside. But know that Steve loved the blues and this event was something that he would’ve been all over given the opportunity. He was an advocate for our local musicians and this was just the type of event that would make him proud, as did our homegrown artists. I sat on air with him multiple times to promote the Journey To Memphis and the Muddy Awards; he was always available to help promote these CBA events.

It’s hard to fathom that we will not be crossing paths any more in this world. He earned a “George Page” Back What You Believe In Muddy Award last year; fitting as it was named after another DJ with a heart much like his own, and who has also left us too soon. That award was recognizing the hard work Steve had done on radio, setting up the Waterfront Blues Radio and all the hard work he put in behind the scenes at the Waterfront itself, scheduling emcees, doing those himself, and whatever else needed to be taken care of. This year he was up for the Lifetime Achievement Award and absolutely a person who fit the mold of this honor. The CBA Board decided to follow the wishes of our members and present the award to both Frankie Redding and Steve. One of the biggest advocates for this was fellow nominee for the award Louis Pain. We made the choice and gave them both the award. It was the right thing to do.

I know that this is a family-friendly publication, but I am going to say this anyway. Fuck cancer! You continue to take away too many people who mean so much to me and others. Steve was a long time friend of both myself and my wife Cherie; as he was with so many. He attended our wedding. I had him emcee the CBA’s 30th anniversary concert. We shared emcee duties at the Jim Mesi Memorial Concert, never knowing that we would be holding one for him so soon. I am going to miss you Steve, your laughter and jokes and the information you shared about musicians that we need to check out. Farewell my friend, you have left a tremendous void in our music community that will never be seen the likes of again. With love buddy!!

Ramblings On My Mind-March 2021

Ramblings On My Mind November 2019by Greg Johnson, Cascade Blues Association President

The past month has really hit hard and brought a lot into perspective on how precious life can be and how we need to recognize the musicians and people who truly mean something in our lives. We lost two fan favorites and good friends of our local blues community recently. Both shall be greatly missed.

Frankie Redding had been a part of the Portland music scene for decades. He worked with multiple acts since his high school days, playing saxophone and keyboards. Over the past couple decades his health was not always the best, receiving a kidney transplant donated by former CBA Board Member Jan Bisconer that extended his life. Yet Frankie never displayed anything but a huge smile while standing on stage. His role as the “Funk Master” was to bring happiness and excitement to those he played for and he did that in abundance. His smile brought smiles in return. And I know that whenever I think of Frankie even now he brings a smile to me.

Sheila Wilcoxson had a voice and stage presence that you could not deny. Though I worked at the Good Samaritan campus for many years and often ran into her in the halls as she worked in the lab there, we would always acknowledge one another in passing, but never had much of a chance to get to know the other better — except for one weekend in Memphis.

In 1998 Sheila had been nominated for a WC Handy Award (now known as the Blues Music Awards) as Traditional Female Artist of the Year. We spent some time while in Memphis together, going on a riverboat cruise where she danced in front of the stage to Smokey Wilson and hanging out at the post-award jam at the Hard Rock Café after the awards themselves.

During the jam, Sheila said to me, “This is so much fun, I’d sure like to be part of this.” Hearing that I excused myself and found my friend Pat Mitchell, one of the directors of The Blues Foundation at the time. I asked her how we might be able to get Sheila onto the stage. She told me to go backstage and speak with Sid Selvidge who was putting the musicians into the mix. So I asked Sid if it was possible to have Sheila perform and he told me to have her come back and he’d get her up right after the next set.

Well, the set that was going on at that moment had the house on fire as Bonnie Raitt and John Mooney threw down an epic slide battle between themselves. I thought how was Sheila going to follow this? She was introduced for the next set and she casually walked out onto the stage alone. I could see in the faces of many in the crowd who were unfamiliar with her the look of questioning of what was going to happen. Sheila walked to the center of the stage and started to sing Son House’s “John The Revelator” a cappella. I watched as the audience’s jaws dropped as her powerful voice filled the room. The crowd went nuts with applause and Sid was grabbing people like Monster Mike Welch and Ron Levy to head out onto the stage to back her up for another song. It filled my heart to help make that happen for her and left me with a memory that will be with me for life.

Nothing in this world sucks more than death and losing our friends. As I write this it has been made public that longtime radio host, Waterfront Blues Festival lead and somebody I consider a good friend Steve Pringle has stage four cancer. Steve has always been there for not only the Cascade Blues Association but the blues community altogether. I was welcomed onto his shows at KMHD and KINK several times to promote our events and just to shoot the breeze. There are a handful of people who have given back to our community in abundance and Steve is one of them. Love you brother, wishing nothing but only the best for you.

Please plan on attending the benefit concert for Steve Pringle at the Roseland on Sunday, November 24. There is no greater cause than giving back to one who has given so much.