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Published: Friday, 7/23/2004

Everybody sings the blues

BY DAVID YONKE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Johnny Yard Dog Jones was a late bloomer when it comes to

the blues.

The Detroit-based singer, guitarist, and harmonica player, who

will be featured tomorrow at the 2004 Toledo Blues Festival, was 56

years old when he won the W.C. Handy Award for best new blues

singer for Ain t Gonna Worry, on the Earwig Music label.

Among the other national blues artists slated to perform at

the festival are Savoy Brown with Kim Simmonds, Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones with Fingers Taylor and Eddie Kirkland, Rob Stone and the CNotes, and Dennis Binder.

Jones, who was born on a cotton plantation in Arkansas in 1941,

grew up in East St. Louis, Ill., where his mother refused to let him

play anything but gospel music.

I had to practice in coal sheds. My mother didn t allow it in the

house because she was a Christian, Jones recently recalled.

He played the guitar in church, then soaked up the blues in the

evenings, starting at age 13, by sitting outside the nightclubs of

East St. Louis. Harmonica legend Little Walter Jacobs liked the way

the young musician sang and encouraged Jones by giving him a

Marine Band harmonica.

At 18, Jones moved to Chicago, where he continued to play

gospel music, and later moved to Detroit in 1971 where he worked

as a welder and played the blues with such Motown blues greats

as Eddie Burns, Uncle Jesse White, and Willie D. Warren.

The blues festival s headline act, Savoy Brown, was in the vanguard

of the British blues movement of the 1960s, having formed in London

in 1966. The group, featuring Simmonds on guitar, earned raves

when it accompanied American blues legend John Lee Hooker on

his 1967 British tour. That led to concert tours with such blues-rock icons as Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, Led Zeppelin, and Cream.

Savoy Brown s fi rst major release was 1969 s Shakedown,

and the group followed it with its signature disc, the millionselling

Street Corner Talking in 1971. The group released two discs this year on the Panache label, a live album, You Should Have Been There!, recorded in Vancouver in February, 2003, and its 32nd and most recent album, Struck by Lightning.

The current lineup features Simmonds on guitar and vocals, David Malachowski on guitar, Gerry Sorentino on bass, and Dennis Cotton on drums.

Kirkland, a singer-guitarist who was born on the island of Jamaica and reared in Alabama, now calls Detroit home. His latest disc, Democrat Blues, was released by Toledo s Blue

Suit Records and features Dave Snaker Ray on guitars, Calvin

Fuzzy Samuels on bass, and Andre Wright on drums. A second bonus disc features six songs from Kirkland s 1998 sessions

for Blue Suit s Hastings Street Grease album spotlighting

Detroit blues artists.

Kirkland has toured and performed with John Lee Hooker, King Curtis, Steve Cropper, and Johnny Johnson, and has recorded for the JSP, Telarc, and Deluge labels.

He ll join Deming, part of the Detroit blues youth movement,

and Fingers Taylor, former harmonica player with Jimmy

Buffett s Coral Reefer Band.

Blues pianist Binder hails from Rosedale, Miss., in the heart of

the Delta. Born in 1928, he spent many hours listening to his mother

sing in church in a gospel trio with two of her sisters. His parents

also used to take their son to the juke joints, where he became

interested in playing piano.

Binder recorded for two legendary music labels, Chess

Records in Chicago and Sun Records in Memphis, and producer

Sam Phillips had Binder accompany Ike Turner on his

songs I Miss You So, Nobody Want Me, and You Got Me Way

Down Here.

He went on to perform with such blues stars as T-Bone Walker,

Lowell Fulson, Freddie King, and Junior Wells, but he quit the blues

in 1980 to concentrate on gospel music. In 1995, Binder was coaxed

out of retirement by renowned blues producer Jim O Neal.

Joining Binder and Jones for a Chicago Blues Review will be fellow Earwig recording artists Rob Stone and the C-Notes, a modern blues quartet whose style harks back to the vintage

Chicago blues of the 1950s.

Toledo s Ron Crawdaddy Crawford and the Blues Connoisseurs

will open the festival at 2 p.m., followed by the Teeny Tucker

Blues Band out of Columbus.

The 2004 Toledo Blues Festival takes place from 2 to 10 p.m.

tomorrow in Promenade Park along the Maumee River downtown.

Admission to the festival, produced by CitiFest, Inc., is $5.

Information: 419-249-5018 or www.citifest.org.

Contact David Yonke at: dyonke@theblade.com or 419-724-6154.



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