Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Devil is in The Details

Counting down. Counting down. I've spent the last few days updating the massive Tour Book I'll carry with me. Nearly 100 shows. Each venue gets checked for the basic information I'll need to get to it on time, load in, sound check, and do a show. Where am I staying? Do I have an updated media list? Contracts, printed maps, details, details... The Devil is in the details. Everybody gets a little note from me, a link to this website. Everything you might need is in the sidebar... Tonight I address envelopes and stuff tour posters in them. In between I'll busk the club district for a few hours. A little blood money to prime the gas tank. A little grease to get me out of here.

I can tell this is going to be a different sort of Blog than the previous ones. I've now played almost 1000 National Steel Blues Tour shows. Year nine of Canada's Biggest Little Blues Tour. And I do smaller tours in between. Hustling. Busking. I'm now more comfortable on the Tour than off. I mostly live in a big car. I like it. But I joined the musician's union in 1972, and I'm not getting any younger. I've had a few near death experiences over the years. Certainly I'm more reflective. Oh, yeah, the Devil would be in the details, wouldn't he? Welcome to the Vagabond Tour, 2014. Not young, not cute, and I don't sing harmony. Maybe tomorrow I'll tell you what I really think. It's gonna be a great ride across North America. Stick around as I turn the Tour Book pages.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bowling with Johnny Winter

I busked the gates of many a Johnny Winter show, and even opened a couple for him- but it was only in recent years that I got to meet him and hang out a bit. Back in the 1970's when I first went to visit Robert Pete Williams in Rosedale, LA, I noticed a little record player in the corner of the living room. It had one of those wire frame LP holders, with perhaps a dozen albums sitting in there- so I just had to go and snoop at what Robert Pete liked to listen to. Buck Owens, Buck Owens, Buck Owens... Johnny Winter, Johnny Winter! I asked him, "You listen to Johnny Winter?" He replied, "Yeah! I learn a lot of guitar from that guy! He's good!"

I had to wait over 30 years to pass that story on to Johnny, and I think it was worth the wait. All those years I just knew it would be meaningful and rewarding- and it was. "Robert Pete listened to my records?!" Later on Johnny's band came out to hear Big Dave McLean and I play the Times Changed club in Winnipeg, MB. Johnny had to call it an early night, but he sent word that he wanted one of those National Steel Blues Tour jackets.

For all his fame and success, Johnny lived a bluesman's life. Nobody lives hard on purpose, things just turn out that way. I hope I'm lucky enough to die after a show, on the blues highway, not surrounded by machines in a Grace Mission somewhere. He had a great band in recent years. I'm sure he was loved by many, and I hope he felt that comfort as he left this world.

Soon I'll crank it up and head on down Highway 61. Too loud, too tired, maybe a little bit too fast. When I see the broken neon in some of the broken little towns, maybe I'll be thinking about bowling with Johnny.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Count Down to the Road

Counting down. This Tour will be mobile in just less than a month. Time flies when you are having fun. It moves right quick when you are working hard, too! Booking is now pretty much done for the upcoming National Steel "Vagabond" Blues Tour. The closing end into Ontario is still a little ratty, but that's typical for my backyard territory. Once a few more early December spaces are filled, it will be edging on 100 shows. Ten provinces and about the same number of states. Maybe 40 thousand km. Of driving. That's a whole lotta miles. Tommy Johnson mostly worked local. If I could stand on my guitar and play it at the same time, maybe I would, too.

It's been a bugger to book this year as the majority of my Canadian emails no longer reach their destinations. Shaw and Telus, who together dominate western Canada deliver virtually nothing. I haven't found the work around yet, unless that's Facebook. I still don't like it, but it largely enabled me to book the west. As it is, fewer people have been visiting the Blog in recent years– preferring Facebook updates. I'll be doing these as well on both my personal and Artist pages, links to be found in the blog Sidebar. Meanwhile, if you are a Shaw customer, you might want to reconsider your relationship with a company that makes content decisions on your behalf. You probably won't get email from me.

On the home front, somebody ran into the front of my car this morning. And took off. I'm guessing that the overall damage is probably more than I've made in a whole summer of street singing in Toronto. Just like opening a vein in my arm and squirting blood down the sink. So, there sure won't be any new shoes again this year. Glasses, harmonicas, and PA gear still not replaced after the wreck nearly two years ago. Maybe that'll be all the bad luck I get for a while. I sure do need to fill all the dates now. I'll buy a lottery ticket every week or so and see what happens. Meanwhile, I hope lots of you buy tickets to my shows! Then perhaps I'll be back to this same point again by next year. The point I was at before the guy ran his truck into my car. Out in the morning to begin the restoration process...

Tour posters are in the works. I've held out to get some dates firmed in. By the time you read this, you can probably download them from the Links section of the blog Sidebar. First snail mail posters will go out this week. The schedule will also be found in the Sidebar. On August 5th the Tour will roll out of Toronto, across the top of the Great Lakes, a couple of prairie dates, and then a concert at the Salmon Arm Roots and Blues Festival. That's a big Festival! Check it out. I'll probably play to more people in a single day than in a whole year of touring. Next I hit the Canadian west coast for a couple of weeks. Labour Day I'm jamming through the Rockies to pick up Alberta and Saskatchewan shows until mid- September. Then I head south of the border. Libby Rae Watson will be on board for the American shows– we had a great time playing "in the round" last year on the Maritime portion of the Got Lucky Tour, so we are quite looking forward to doing it again.

Highlights of our deep southern dates include appearances at the Highway 61 Blues Festival in Greenville, MS, and the Sam Chatmon Festival in Hollandale, MS. Canadian dates quickly resume- a month of shows in the Maritimes, a week in Newfoundland, and then back into Ontario for late November, early December finishing shows.