Before I get into the most recent blues news, I have some of my own news. I will be taking a short break from this newsletter—but plan to resume with the April 8 issue. I normally don’t bore you with the mundane details of my personal life, but the events of the past six months have shattered my heart in a million pieces and shaken me to my core. In June 2021, I lost my oldest son to suicide, and then in rapid succession in December I lost my adorable Siamese (the Travelin’ Toot) and my dear husband, Michael. It has been a lot to handle. And no, I am not OK, but yes, I will eventually get there. The overwhelming love and support from family and friends, and the kindness of strangers has restored my faith in humanity and helped me through some pretty dark days.
REST IN PEACE
8.5.51–12.12.21 Michael McCann Murphy For almost 30 years––from Chicago and Lawrence, KS, to Phoenix and back to Chicago––we have been on a glorious adventure that abruptly ended Dec. 12 outside the Epiphany Center for the Arts. We had just left the Bears Watch Party featuring the Nick Moss Band with Curtis Salgado when Michael suffered a massive heart attack right outside the venue. He was 70.
It was a horrifying experience, but I will be eternally grateful that, right up until the very end, we were together having fun. We first met in high school in the 1960s on Chicago’s South Side at a party neither of us wanted to attend––and found our way back to each other almost 25 years later in our early 40s, each with two kids in tow.
In 1969, in the month before we departed for different universities, we went to Ravinia on Aug. 6 to see Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention for our birthdays (Aug. 5 and 7). We went our separate ways after freshman year in college after I said no to his marriage proposal. It seemed like the right answer at the time.
Fast forward to the 1990s. On our first date as so-called adults, I tested his limits by dragging him to see The Cramps, followed by Son Seals at Blues Etc. He passed the endurance test with flying colors. A few years later, he flew down to Florida to meet me with only a blender, margarita mix, tequila and shorts––and, on the beach at sunset, he asked me once again to marry him. That time I said yes. As he often reminded me, we could have been married 50 years if only I had accepted his first marriage proposal. If only….
When we moved back to Chicago in 2011 after 16 years away, Michael revived an early interest in photography to join me in pursuing my passion, promoting the local blues community with this newsletter and our photographs. As a former wedding photographer, he actually enjoyed “herding cats” to get some great side shots while I only cared about the performance shots. I did have to teach him a thing or two about the blues (yes, he had heard of Buddy Guy), but he was an enthusiastic learner and sidekick that never complained (OK, almost never) no matter how many nights I dragged him out to hear music or how many festivals I decided we had to attend. My older son, who always had a unique way of expressing himself, once told me, “You and Michael are old as F***, but you run around like teenagers.” Probably….
In retirement, he was an enthusiastic home chef, the “Cookie Man” for the local blues community when a birthday was being celebrated, a spinner of Irish fairy tales (aka slightly enhanced retellings of our adventures) and the keeper of the blues birthdays database for chicagoBLUESnews.
In an earlier life, he had been a DJ in Michigan, a TV producer in Canada, an advertising executive who mentored many young associates, a rock drummer and a fanatic Grateful Dead fan who also loved Tito Puente and Ginger Baker. He also was a loyal alumnus of Mt. Carmel High School in Chicago (Class of 1969) and Michigan State University (1973). In my life, he was my high school sweetheart, my almost constant companion, my soulmate, my biggest supporter, my photography sidekick, my dependable chauffeur when I lost interest in driving in Chicago and my beloved husband of 27 years.
In many ways, we were as different as night and day, but we respected those differences and both delighted in the road less traveled, no matter where we wandered. Like the much-repeated Dr. Seuss quote, “Sometimes you will never know the true value of a moment until it becomes a memory.” In the end, I just have one thing to say to my favorite husband: Thank you, Michael. You’ve left me with a lifetime of great memories. It was even better than I could have ever imagined.
PHOTOS (Clockwise from top left): Michael and I, circa 1969; Michael as an adult; the famous cookie (even the cookie seems to have a smirk); and Michael with our beloved Siamese, Tootie. A FINAL NOTE As he always wanted, Michael will be buried next to his beloved grandmother in Lansing, MI. There will be a Celebration of Life sometime later this year in Chicago (most likely in late spring), open to all who would like to attend or have a memory to share. Date/Location TBD. There also will be a Happy Hour Jan. 20 in Phoenix in Michael's honor. If you are in the area and want to attend, email me for more info. ++++++++++++ OTHER GOODBYES
Since the last newsletter, we also said goodbye to: Bruce Bromberg
Grammy award-winning blues record producer; after a lengthy battle with Alzheimer's
Alfonso Eugene "Doc" Dockery, 68
Local Waukegan musician and actor, entertainer and entrepreneur NOTE: A Celebration of His Life Memorial Service will be Held at 3pm, Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022, at the Bradshaw & Range Funeral Home, 2513 W. Dugdale Road, Waukegan, IL. OBIT
Wanda Young, 78
Lead singer of the Marvelettes; of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
Leonard Nelson Hubbard (aka Hub), 62
Bassist for The Roots (1992–2007); after a long battle with blood cancer
Joe Simon, 85
R&B singer who won a Grammy for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for The Chokin' Kind
Stonewall Jackson, 85
American country music singer and musician; due to complications of vascular dementia
Michael Nesmith, 78 12.30.42–12.10.21
Songwriter, actor, producer and novelist best known as a member of The Monkees; of natural causes
Garth Dennis, 72
Jamaican musician and founder of Black Uhuru; of unknown causes
Curtis Brown, 95
Father of local guitarist, Tony C. Brown, who is a former member of Low-reen and the Maxwell St. Market Blues Band
THINKING OUT LOUD
WAY BEHIND SCHEDULE. This is usually the issue that I look back at the last year and we pick our favorite photos and remember those who have left us. I will get to that together at some point, but right now I would rather NOT look back. Just trying to stay positive.
HERE WE GO AGAIN. At press time, both the International Blues Challenge, which was scheduled to be held January 18–22 in Memphis, has been postponed along with the Grammy Awards, which was going to be held Jan. 31 in Los Angeles. And, in Chicago, both Epiphany Center for the Arts and Hey Nonny are closed for most of the month of January. You know why. I kinda expect more closings so call first before you venture out. Please stay safe.
THIS WAS A NO-BRAINER. Congratulations to FitzGerald's and current owner Will Duncan, who received one of the Keeping the Blues Alive awards for 2022 from The Blues Foundation. Duncan has continued––and improved upon––the house that Bill FitzGerald built back in 1981.
TOO MUCH FUN. Before COVID turned the world upside down, I was looking at this fest in San Diego that looked like too much fun.The good news is that, after a two-year break, Gator by the Bayis back on. The Louisiana-inspired four-day music and food fest will be held May 5–8 at Spanish Landing Park in San Diego.
GOOD IDEA. Liz Mandeville has joined the roster of Blues Pros Talent and Peach Music Group (I think they are the same company). Liz is in fine company with this group. Congrats!
NEW LEADER.Judith Black has been named the new president and CEO of The Blues Foundation in Memphis. She took the reins on Jan. 1, succeeding Patty Wilson Aden. LEARN MORE
In the beginning of December, Michael and I photographed two birthday parties and went to two different venues to see Curtis Salgado while he was in town playing with Nick Moss. Nick Moss and Curtis Salgado together are magic.
DEC 8 @ The Water Hole Hazel Thomas 65th Birthday Bash PHOTOS
DEC 8 @ Reggie's The Nick Moss Band with Curtis Salgado PHOTOS
DEC 9 @ Rewired Pizza Heather Falduto's Birthday Jam with Rob Moore PHOTOS
DEC 12 @ Epiphany Center for the Arts
Bears Watch Party The Nick Moss Band with Curtis Salgado PHOTOS
Bernard Allison | Highs and Lows RELEASE DATE: 2.25.22 (Ruf)
Jools Holland | Pianola. PIANO & FRIENDS RELEASE DATE: 10.6.21 (Arts Music)
Katie Henry | On My Way RELEASE DATE: 1.28.22 (Ruf)
Keb' Mo' | Good to Be... RELEASE DATE: 1.28.22 (Rounder)
Jose Ramirez | Major League Blues RELEASE DATE: 3.4.22 (Delmark)
Luther "Guitar Junior" Johnson | Once in a Blue Moon RELEASE DATE: 10.9.21 (CD Baby) This is a live recording from a bar in Florida
The next chicagoBLUESnews:
FRIDAY, APR 8 2022 (Mails on THURS, APR 7)
Know about a gig I don't?Give me a heads-up.
Updates to the calendar are made regularly––not just once a month and includes shows in nearby states and festivals all over the map that just look fun to me.
BE FULLY VAXXED AND GO HEAR LIVE MUSIC!
Right now I have no great ideas about where to go to see live music except these two options:
SAT, JAN 22 @ 7PM Erwin Helfer's 86th Birthday Celebration with special guests John Brumbach, Katherine Davis, Skinny Williams, Pastor Donald Gay, Elsa Harris and more
Old Town School of Folk Music, Szold Hall
BUDDY GUY'S JANUARY RESIDENCE AT LEGENDS
If you have never seen Buddy, don't miss one of these shows. Or, if you just love Buddy, pick a few dates. GET TICKETS
Please use the ONLINE CALENDAR for other ideas––but be sure to check before you go that the venue is still open in these crazy times.
As mentioned above, both Hey Nonny (until Jan. 28, 2022) and Epiphany Center for the Arts (until Jan. 27, 2022) have temporarily closed.