Star Spangled Blues Gathering -- Sunday 1/16/2000 pt. 2 (long)

Thu Jan 20 19:53:02 EST 2000

The Star Spangled Blues Gathering
in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Dave's CC Club
Tallahassee, FL

Big Jack Johnson & the Oilers came on after Commander Cody.
Jack's sound is big and rhythmic like a locomotive. Delta
blues all the way with a dash of rock on top. As strong a
performance as Big Jack can put out I'm afraid he was a bit
overshadowed by the Commander's previous performance and the
Neal's show afterward. That's not to say he didn't have 'em
up and dancing. Another time slot just may have been better
for him.

Kenny & Raful Neal were billed for a Saturday time slot but
I guess they needed an extra day to gather up the rest of
the Neal family because it was a full blown family affair.
There were so many Neals around I lost track of names. The
whole band is Neals. Kenny played a song or two then turned
it over to a left handed brother for a tune, who then backed
up a sister for a couple of songs then backed another
brother on vocals before Kenny got back on stage and invited
up his father, Raful. Let me tell you, Raful is still going
strong. He only sang a couple of songs and played a little
harp but he was great! Kenny finished out the set with a
powerful version of "Blues Fallin' Down Like Rain" that had
the audience singing along.

The legendary Percy Sledge was next and the audience loved
him but his voice is not what it once was and his band,
though talented, acted like they really didn't care and were
just going through the motions. In fact his sax player was
snotty to the point of turning his back and mimicking
Percy's between songs routine. This was rude not only to
Percy but to everyone that saw him. Very unprofessional.
When he closed with "When a Man Loves a Woman" you could see
couples hugging and swaying together. It was mushy and
sentimental but, hey, that's what it's supposed to be.

By this point most of us who had been there working all
three days were worn out. I heard complaints of sore backs,
sore legs and strained vocal cords. I had all three. But for
most of us, it wasn't over yet.

There was an "After the Fest" show inside the club with
Johnny Rawls. During his first set he invited up Kenny Neal
to jam on a couple of songs. It was great! Very energetic.
After Kenny sat back down Johnny called up Charles Atkins
for a tune that surprised me. Charles was singing like an
evangelist on fire with tons of get down gospel feel. I'd
never seen him that fired up before.

The second set of the "After the Fest" show started out as
nothing but a jam with Johnnie Marshall on vocals and
guitar, local Joe "T-Bone" Karioth on guitar, and Big Jack
Johnson's bass player, Hooter, and Jack's drummer. It was a
bit sloppy until Johnny Rawls climbed back up on stage and
started giving direction. Then he called Cheryl Arena up to
accompany them on harp. When she got her turn she started
wailing on the harp. Rawls stepped back and cocked an eye.
Then, obviously impressed he said "Wait a minute, I that you
blowing that thing?" She just smiled. He said "Blow some
more, women don't blow like that!" He introduced the jammers
while his band came back up on stage and said "Give a big
round of applause for Ms. Cheryl from Mississippi on harp."
She yelled out "I'm from Boston." Rawls replied "You may be
from Boston but your heart's from Mississippi!"

I never cared much for the name "Star Spangled Blues
Gathering in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr." before.
It's too long and too unwieldy. It's superfluous and corny.
It's hard to work with in print on web pages and flyers. But
this weekend I came to realize that it's the perfect name.
It's "Star Spangled", full of talent. It's a "gathering" not
just a music festival. It's a place where different segments
of our community come together to enjoy each other as much
as the music. Black, white, young, old, rich and poor. They
were all there and all getting to know each other. I saw
more people hug each other in those three days than I've
seen in many years combined.

And it was in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Not just
because it is held on the weekend of the holiday in his name
but because his image was used on all of the promotional
material, his name was used in all of the advertising. His
famous "I Have a Dream ..." speech was read from the main
stage before the final act by volunteers from the audience.
All reminders of his legacy. But the biggest reminder was
the fact that we were all there together, black and white,
intermingled together enjoying the same music.

As I was leaving I told Dave "You have created a warm,
wonderful world here this weekend, I hate to leave it." I'm
trying to carry a piece of it with me in the real world.
It's hard to see sometimes but I know there's a better

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