Ok, how is it already nearly March 2018?
I swear it was just Christmas ... and then New Years Eve.
So that must mean i've been busy, (which i have), otherwise i would have noticed that 2018 came crashing in and hasn't stopped for breath yet ... So here's what's happened so far.
Ok first ... I've been booking into Farmers Markets to play in the LA area. I love going to Farmers Markets, and i love playing at them. In this world of corporate everything, i like knowing that i can walk around the local Farmers Market in the air and sun, at my own pace. I like buying real organic produce direct from the local farmer. I like seeing arts and crafts made by the people who are at the stand, talk to them about what they do, and have the chance to buy something direct. People are relaxed and happy at the market. They can get a coffee, something to eat, sit down, listen to some live music, dance (not just the kids!), and check out all the things on offer from the makers and growers.
Farmers Markets are the anti-mall !!!
Come see me playing live at these Farmers Markets in LA through 2018:
Playa Vista / Westchester / Marina Del Rey / Santa Monica / Beverly Hills
Yes, you can take a little bit of time to break away from your busy life to walk around outside in a friendly relaxed atmosphere, and hopefully buy your weekly groceries the healthiest way possible.
Healthy food direct from the source. Its the way forwards!
Secondly ... On February 9th i flew to Austin Texas and spent the evening at C-Boys with multi award winning blues singer supreme Janiva Magness. We were there checking out Jimmie Vaughan's trio, (which includes Mike Flannigan on B3 organ and George Rains on drums), before driving to Dallas where i would open a sold out show at the Kessler Theatre headlined by Jimmie's trio with Janiva as special guest.
The show was organised by Janiva and The Trinity River Blues Society (TRBS) to raise money for the HART Fund, which is the medical fund side of The Blues Foundation ... The HART Fund pays medical bills for blues musicians when they need help, and it was HART Fundraiser month.
(The night before there was a fund raiser in Phoenix which raised $10,000 for HART ... YES!)
I'm a big fan of Jimmie Vaughan!
I love the way he plays for so many reasons, so it was a VERY BIG DEAL to me.
Friday at C-Boys was low down and amazing ... The perfect way to get in the groove for sundays main event in Dallas.
Saturday we drive to Dallas, get settled, then have dinner with TRBS President Linda Burkhart.
Sunday comes ... Show day ... I'm nervous!
My head was reminding me that it was a sold out show, headlined by blues legend Jimmie Vaughan in his home town, with multi award winner Grammy Nominee Janiva Magness as the special guest.
Oh and the front row tables were taken up by VIP's such as Blues Foundation President & CEO
Barbara Newman ... AND none of these people had ever seen my solo show ... And actually this was the first time TJ & THE SUITCASE had been seen in Texas ... AND yes it was my job to get the crowd warmed up for the headliners ... And yes it would be me on my own opening the show ... on my own ... alone ... just me ... solo ... and an old suitcase and some harmonica's ... NO PRESSURE THEN !!!
Well, here's the very quick run through of sunday.
Arrive at the Kessler Theatre just before the local carnival style parade starts up, and the ice storms that had been running around Texas missed us. Its cold!
Look around The Kessler which is beautiful. The stage isn't too high, the room is great, the sound crew and theatre staff are wonderful.
Jimmie Vaughan's bus arrives, roadies start bringing in kit, we find the green room, Jimmie, Mike and George find the green room, we all meet, and everyone is really nice. I LOVE THAT.
Fast forward ... Sound check for headliners, then me. I'm done quick, everything is cool.
Thank you Kessler sound crew.
Back to green room ... Get changed into stage clothes ... Drink water ... Breathe!
Quick chat to the stage crew and MC Darrell 'DC' Chumley re the show running order.
Then i hear my name ... and i'm walking across the stage.
I start the first song .. three notes in on the harp (harp = harmonica) intro i realise the C harp i'm using is out of tune!
I did tune them all up, didnt i? Obviously i missed one ,,, The one i start the show with!
No problem TJ, just find a space in the music long enough to dump the harp, grab another one, and jump back into the song in perfect time so that the audience doesn't know what happened ... And you know people are filming it on their phones so you better do it asap.
I find the spot soon after that moment, say something appropriate, throw ( Yes THROW) the harp to my right, grab another C harp, say something else appropriate, then drop back in on time, and this harp sounds perfect ... PHEW ... The songs last note rings out as i hear the entire audience applaud and cheer ... Wow!
At 5 minutes before what i think is my finish time, as i finish a song, i ask for a time check from the MC.
The audience calls for more ...
Ok, yes, i can do one more quick song ... The audience applauds loudly ... I think 'Am i dreaming?'
As i start a fast short version of Little Walters 'It Aint Right' i scan the seating in front of the stage to see if i can jump down into the crowd when i do my solo at the end ... The room is packed right up to the stage ...
So NO is my answer.
As the last few bars ring out i notice a lady in the front row sitting next to Blues Foundation President Barbara Newman, and i know where i'm going ... I say 'thank you' over the mic ... The crowd applauds.
Standing now i move to my left and walk to the front of the stage while playing a harp solo, put my right foot up on the monitor for a few bars, and then drop to my knee's in front of Barbara's table ... This is how i pay my respects to people in the audience who i feel will appreciate something extra.
I'm heading back to my seat now, sit, then slam my feet onto the drum and tambourine pedals, and finish out the song ... I close my eyes ... The applause sounds loud ... I open my eyes and the audience are on their feet clapping wildly ... I stand up, bow, smile, and stop myself from crying ... Just.
The next bit is kind of a blur but i can remember lots of people trying to talk to me while i'm stripping down my kit, and the stage manager having to tell people to let me pack up so that the headliners can get on stage ... Everyone was very happy and kind.
Fast forward again ... Jimmie, Mike and George play a great first set ... The groove that this trio lay down is deep, and funky as an alley cat on heat.
Janiva Magness is called up by Jimmie ... Janiva leads the guys into the second part of the show and everyone sure knows why she has 7 Blues Music Awards, BB King Entertainer Of The Year Award, a Grammy Nomination and more ... Janiva Magness is my favourite modern day female blues singer for good reason ... She was fantastic.
And here's something i forgot to tell you ... Before the show Jimmie asked Janiva if she thought i would like to play with them all on her last song?
Hmm let me think about that for a moment ... OH HELL YES
So i get called up, and now i'm on stage with some of the heaviest hitters in the blues world!
We all lock in, and its a nice strong boogie ... I get a solo ... We finish.
Jimmie's trio play more songs ... There's an auction which includes the Fender Strat that Jimmie has been playing.
The last song finishes, the audience are on their feet ... Everyone is elated, and lots of people say how much they enjoyed my set, and the whole night ... I chat to lots of audience members, do an interview with DC for his show 'DCs Barside Jive', sign posters, and then pack everything up.
Music brings out the best in people ... Blues people are good people ... I hear stories, make new friends, talk about music, traveling and life.
Does life get better than this?
SO many different people said how much they enjoyed my set, including the staff at the Kessler Theatre, that it was very tough for me not too go and hide upstairs in the green room. It was overwhelming, and very humbling. When this happens i know i did my job. All i ever want to do is to do my job as well as i can on the day. This was a good day.
The night raised $12,000 for The HART Fund.
If you are a blues fan please consider joining THE BLUES FOUNDATION. (Google search it).
Many (Most!} professional blues musicians don't have medical insurance.
The HART Fund pays medical bills for blues musicians.
It is incredibly important to us, AND saves lives every year.
SO, that was a behind the scenes look at a very special event.
I'm now talking to Linda and some other movers and shakers at Trinity River Blues Society
about going back to Dallas to do a full length TJ & THE SUITCASE show later this year.
You can also find me at a Farmers Market in Los Angeles.
Or just send me an email if you would like to see me play somewhere near you and i'll do my best to make that happen.
I'm in this for life ... This is my life ... And life is for living ... See you out there my friends x