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Published: Sunday, 7/20/2008

Sky gray but mood lively at Toledo Blues Festival

BY LAURA BENNETT
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Saxophonist Gene Parker of the Gene Parker Quartet plays some blue notes during this year's blues festival downtown at Festival Park. In addition to music, the waterfront festival also features summer cuisine. Saxophonist Gene Parker of the Gene Parker Quartet plays some blue notes during this year's blues festival downtown at Festival Park. In addition to music, the waterfront festival also features summer cuisine.
JEREMY WADSWORTH / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

Ron "Crawdaddy" Crawford has music in his bones.

His voice is low and rhythmic. His laugh is as smooth and high as a saxophone riff. And when he sings, his whole body swivels and shakes and sways to the beat of the blues.

The weather was grim at the Toledo Blues Festival yesterday afternoon, but the mood was lively among the few blues enthusiasts gathered under tents and umbrellas.

"The rain couldn't keep us from coming. I like the blues because it's got that beat," said Mary Perkins of Toledo, shutting her eyes and tapping her foot to the music.

Mr. Crawford's band is called Crawdaddy and the Blues Connoisseurs, and his style, Mr. Crawford says, is "hot and rockin'."

The Toledo Blues Festival, held in Festival Park in downtown Toledo, was organized by Burgundy Skye Productions and the City of Toledo, with the help of several other community groups. The last Toledo Blues Festival was four years ago, and the organizers of this summer's event felt that the festival was an important tradition to revive.

"It was something that was missing," said Ed Feeny, a partner in Burgundy Skye Productions and one of the festival's promoters. "I think that anytime you get local musicians together and hear the talent that's in this town, that's a plus."

Cities such as Ann Arbor and Chicago hold annual music festivals that attract thousands of visitors.

Drummer Damen Cook of the Gene Parker Quartet plays some blue notes during this year's blues festival downtown at Festival Park. In addition to music, the waterfront festival also features summer cuisine. Drummer Damen Cook of the Gene Parker Quartet plays some blue notes during this year's blues festival downtown at Festival Park. In addition to music, the waterfront festival also features summer cuisine.
JEREMY WADSWORTH / THE BLADE Enlarge | Buy This Photo

"If other cities have it, why not us?" said Ms. Perkins.

On Friday evening alone, the event drew over 400 people.

Crawdaddy and the Blues Connoisseurs was one of 11 local bands selected to play at the festival.

On Friday, featured bands were Quickness, The Griswold Band, and Five Horse Johnson. Yesterday there were performances by the Gene Parker Quartet, Crawdaddy and the Blues Connoisseurs, Big Blues Bob and Thin Ice, High Country Ramblers, and the festival's biggest name, Shirley King - daughter of the legendary B.B. King.

Today, Tom Turner and Slow Burn, Chefs of Dixieland, and Voodoo Libido will perform.

"I didn't want to stick with strictly blues-blues; I wanted variety," said John Barile, the other promoter for the event, who selected the musicians for the festival.

His own band is the High Country Ramblers, which he calls "Cuban boogie woogie swamp stompin' Midwest country blues."

The waterfront festival also features a selection of summertime cuisine such as funnel cake, lemonade, and waffle fries.

The people gathered at Festival Park yesterday ranged from curious passers-by to ardent blues enthusiasts.

"Blues gives you a good feeling," said Lynn Massey of Toledo. "I can't stand hip hop and all this modern-day crap. It's nothing but noise."

Mr. Crawford - decked out in a white suit, slick white shoes, and a black and white fedora - was the picture of cool.

As a stream of low, fluid notes poured from an electric guitar, Mr. Crawford shook his hips and held the microphone close.

"I've been living the blues all my life, baby," he said.

Contact Laura Bennett at:

lbennett@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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