Howards Club H

Howard’s set to get its Chicago blues mojo on

By DAVID DUPONT  BG Independent News When Joseph Morganfield was a 12-year-old, he’d go hear his father play the blues in local Chicago clubs. His father always closed the show with the tune, “Got My Mojo Workin’” and knew that was Joseph’s favorite song. So he’d call the youngster on stage, and being a kid the son would inevitably snatch away the microphone and scurry away. “He had a look that would bring me back,” Morganfield recalled in a recent telephone interview. His father was McKinley Morganfield, better known to the world as Muddy Waters, the guitarist who plugged in the raw blues from the Mississippi Delta and helped shape Chicago blues, and later ignite the rock revolution. Joseph Morganfield has taken “Mojo” as his stage name, and is now carrying on his father’s tradition. “Mojo” Morganfield with special guest Maurice Vaughn will perform at Howard’s Club H, Friday, March 29. Doors open at 8 p.m. Cover is $5.  The show is presented by the club and Third Street Cigar Records. Morganfield, Muddy Water’s youngest child, said his father wanted him to go into music. He taught him guitar, though Morganfield said he doesn’t have much aptitude for the instrument, and singing, which he did take to. But aside from those impromptu appearances at the end of his father’s sets, he didn’t pursue music when he was young. Instead he played basketball, and even earned a college scholarship. “He was not happy with that,” Morganfield said. “He was preparing me for it (music).” His father died when Morganfield was a senior in high school. Morganfield, 53, went on to have a family of his own — seven kids. He worked trimming trees to keep them away from power lines. His only stage was the shower, he said. Then three years ago with his kids grown, he decided to return to music.  “That desire was always with me,” he said.  “I didn’t want any regrets. At least I could say I tried doing it.” So he took some vocal lessons and got together a band and started working. He does allow that every now and then he can hear some similarities to his father’s voice. “He had a voice like a…


Joe Baker celebrates with Howard’s show a year after knockin’ on heaven’s door

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News A year ago musician Joe Baker was on “tour” — a tour of Northwest Ohio hospitals. A heart attack on Nov. 29, 2017, sent him first to Wood County Hospital, where he was told it was good he came as soon as he did, at the guidance of his wife, Peg. He headed to St. Vincent’s for surgery. That didn’t go well. He was transferred to Medical Center of Ohio. After an operation that lasted nine days, he didn’t wake up.  During the operation he had a stroke.“I lost all of December,” he said.  Baker, who has been active on the Bowling Green music scene since he came to Bowling Green State University in 1969, wondered about how much he’d lost. “I was concerned I wouldn’t get back,” he said. “I couldn’t walk. I couldn’t raise myself. Those were major hurdles.” On June 24, though, Baker was back on stage singing with his band at City Park. Now Saturday, Dec. 29, at 7 p.m. the Joe Baker Band will perform at Howard’s Club H in Bowling Green.  The concert is aptly titled Joe Baker’s Home for the Holidays Christmas Jam. His cognition and speech came back fairly quickly, he said. The neurologist told his wife that her husband had “the best kind of stroke.” While peripheral areas of the brain were affected, no major areas were wiped out. Baker got moving again. He still has problems lifting his right arm, so he can’t get it over the body of his acoustic guitar. He discovered he can get it over the body of his electric. Music, he said, has helped him recover. “Even just working this hand and giving it something to do,” he said of his right hand. “I can’t imagine not being able to play. So even if I could just play for myself it was a good thing.” His musician friends visited him while he was hospitalized, he said, though he was “in wonderland” and wasn’t sure where he was. Baker said he’d look out the window and see the awning, and think he was looking at a boat dock. When his friends would walk into his room, he thought they were…


Eric Steckel puts the pedal to the metal when he plays the blues

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News If you’re a fan of bluesman Eric Steckel, you can thank his Uncle Dave. Steckel, who grew up in Pennsylvania, didn’t have instruments around this house. He did hear the soundtrack of his parents’ vinyl collection. His mother and father bonded over their taste for Deep Purple and the Allman Brothers. Then on a trip to visit his uncle and aunt in Stowe, Vermont, the family visited music store. Young Steckel lit up. “I completely changed. I was at home,” the now 28-year-old said in a telephone interview this week. So his uncle suggested he and Steckel’s dad split the cost of a Stratocaster for the youngster, a guitar he’s only recently retired. Three years later Speckel recorded his first blues record, music influenced by the records his parents spun around the house. Steckel hasn’t stopped playing or developing since then. He now calls his style blues metal, a term coined in jest, that has stuck, became a hashtag, and serves as an apt description for what listeners hear in his performances. Steckel will appear tonight (Friday, Sept. 14) at 9:30 p.m. Howard’s Club H. Cover is $5. He explained blues metal as a style derived from “my heroes,” the Kings of the blues — Albert, Freddie, and B.B. — with “a big massive sound, almost a heavy metal sonically.” He said it took him years and years of playing to find his own voice within the tradition. “It’s this natural beautiful thing that happens. Every night you’re developing.” Everyone he encounters, everything he hears, everything that comes out of his guitar “comes  together into this big pot stew, and that becomes your recipe.” He said as a young musician he got a lot advice from people who wanted him to stay true to the traditional blues sound. “I had this sound, this vision, in my head that wasn’t translating. At a certain point, I said I was going to throw out the rule book and find what I heard in my head. It took a  lot of trial and error, and I found it.” That was about six years ago. Steckel is buoyed by the sales of his most recent album “Polyphonic Prayer,”…


Kofi Baker to bring Cream Experience to Howard’s Club H

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Kofi Baker doesn’t play the music of Cream as a tribute to the 1960s super group. And he doesn’t play it because that’s what his father, Ginger Baker, the drummer with Cream and later Blind Faith, played it Baker, who’s been a drummer longer than he can remember, performs the music associated with Cream and Blind Faith because that’s the style that allows him to express who he is as a musician, freewheeling and genre defying. “The Cream stuff is all improvised,” Baker said in a recent telephone interview. “That’s why I like playing it.” Baker will bring his Cream Experience featuring guitarist Chris Shutters and bassist Frankie May to Howard’s Club H Friday, Aug. 24. The band starts a little after 9 p.m. “The music I play has nothing to do with my dad,” he said. “It’s a style I was brought up in, and I really like it.” (This interview was conducted in December before a Howard’s show that was cancelled.) The trio is not a “cover band” that listens to the records and tries to replicate them. They play the melodies of the songs, flipping their grooves as the mood suits them and then launch into their own exploration. “It’s been a challenge my whole life to play in a project that allows me the freedom to play differently every night.” Baker said. This band allows him to do just that. He launched the Cream Experience after hearing his father, Eric Clapton, and Jack Bruce, who died in 2014, during their 2005 reunion tour. This was the sound imbedded in his soul since infancy. His father was his primary teacher. Baker realized this was the sound that gave him the freedom he desired. “That’s why this is kind of the perfect thing. Why I’ve fallen into it and really enjoy it,” he said. “Every night it’s a completely different ball of wax. … It’s always different every night because we come to it with a different attitude.” Audience interaction can help shape those improvisations. If the band hits a groove, quotes the melody from another song, and the crowd cheers “then we may move into different things. It really depends on…


Elder Mountain man Corky Laing at a new stage in long career

Last December 23 music fans at Howard’s Club H helped Corky Laing celebrate his 70th birthday. What they were also witnessing, the veteran rock drummer said, was something more. “Basically I was born again.’ Magic happened on that stage. Laing was playing the music made famous by his former band Mountain. He was playing with a couple new musical collaborators, Chris Shutters on guitar and flute, and Mark Mikel, a multi-instrumentalist playing bass, on a stage that evokes everything a rock club should be. Laing felt revitalized. Corky Laing Plays Mountain returns to Howard’s Club H in downtown Bowling Green tonight (Saturday, June 9) at 9 p.m. The show comes as Laing is pulling together touring for 2018 through 2019 for the trio, which he said doesn’t really have a name yet. Corky Laing Plays Mountain is a place holder moniker. The trio has also kicked around the idea of calling itself Pompeii. That name is pulled from a little known release that Laing and singer Ian Hunter from Mott the Hoople recorded back in 1976-1978 with a rotating all-star cast. The recording was little known, subtitled “The Secret Sessions,” but when it was released on vinyl by Rouge Records it sold out both pressings. Even though harking back to the old days, Laing wanted it to reflect the present. So the vinyl included a computer card that allowed the purchaser to download four songs by Laing’s Toledo band, including the original “Knock Me Over.”. The trio started when Corky Laing needed a guitar player for a tour. Fellow drummer Kofi Baker recommended Shutters. Laing who has played with “the best of the best” – Eric Clapton and Dickey Betts appear on “Pompeii” – heard a “first division” musician in Shutters. Last year Shutters invited Laing to come visit him in Toledo, and Laing loved what he discovered – a vibrant music scene that had clubs rocking with music. Laing felt he needed a new bass player, so Shutters introduced him to the multitalented Mikel, formerly of the Pillbugs. The drummer was “blown away” by Mikel’s playing. Laing had his trio, and they made their debut in December at Howard’s. But that’s not all that’s occupying the veteran. He’s working…


CD relives memorable night that bluesman Luther Allison put Howard’s on the map

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Back before Howard’s was Howard’s Club H. Back when it was on the west side of North Main Street. Back when it served liquor, beer, wine, and sandwiches prepared upstairs, and it also served a lot of colorful characters, some of whom lived in the rooms out back. What it didn’t offer was live music. That is except for when a college professor assembled friends and guitars for an impromptu hootenanny singing folk songs, some with decidedly blue lyrics. When the Wood County District Public Library bought the property in the late 1960s as a site for its new facility, the bar was displaced across the street to the former Modern Heating storefront, and then to the room next door. For Charlie Davis the long-time manager this was an opportunity. Yes, the place that opened Feb. 14, 1973, was nicer. The floors were level for one thing. “It was supposed to be more of a club atmosphere instead of just a watering hole,” remembers Tom Lambert, who had worked at the bar since returning home from the Army. It also had room for live music. Davis had been wanting to host bands, especially blues bands, for a while, and now he had his chance. He started booking acts including J.B. Hutto, Willie Dixon, and Jimmy Dawkins, as well as locals including Diamond Reo (not the 1980s national act with a slightly different spelling). The music drew decent crowds until about 18 months later when Chicago bluesman Luther Allison came to town for a September weekend in 1974. Lambert was manning the sound booth. He brought along his reel-to-reel tape recorder and jerry-rigged a connection. He caught local history on tape. The first night’s crowd was modest, Lambert remembers. Allison came to party, and the room could hardly contain his energy. Davis remembers Allison getting up on the bar and walking down in true blues fashion, jangling the lights as he went. When he got to the end he didn’t stop. Trailing a long cord to keep his guitar plugged in, Allison headed out the door and ended up playing in the middle of Main Street. A night to remember. Lambert said that once word…


Rocker Corky Laing taps into fountain of youth at Howard’s show

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Rock drummer Corky Laing says he’s a “22 year old with 50 years of experience.” Celebrating his 70th birthday at Howard’s Club H Saturday night, he demonstrated the truth in the quip. Appearing with the new edition of Corky Laing Plays Mountain, the veteran drummer performed with the energy of the musician who joined Mountain 50 years ago. And his drumming had the verve, precision and a way of shaping the music that’s honed over decades behind a drum set. Yes, the music is 50 years old, but Saturday night it had the freshness and power of newly minted hits. For the older fans in the mixed aged group, they could have stepped back to the time when that record one fan carried to get autographed were brand new. Laing was joined on stage by two stalwarts of the Toledo rock scene, Mark Mikel, on bass, and Chris Shutters, on guitar and flute. All three took turns singing. They provided an additional jolt of energy earning the applause of the audience and the praise of the leader. More than praise really. He said he wants this to be his last band. Working with him reminds him of those days when he first joined Mountain. Toledo is going to become his second home, he promised. The trio commanded the stage like a working unit, with tightly executed riffs, and driving groove. Shutters’ solos were blistering, and exploratory. The band delivered the promised Mountain hits – “Mississippi Queen,” “For Yasgur’s Farm.” Traveling in the Dark,” “Sitting on a Rainbow” and more. After pounding out the opening numbers, Laing announced he’d be telling some stories. It was his birthday so he could do what he wanted. Not that anyone minded. He’s a skilled raconteur whether talking about the teenage lust that inspired the hit ”Mississippi Queen” or the story behind “Nantucket Sleighride,” not a seasonal song. Both are rooted in his time on Nantucket. He remembered being inspired during a power outage at a club to keep a young girl in a see-through skirt dancing. At the end of the night she went home with his friend, and he went home with the song. And “Sleighride,” inspired…


Toledo rockers helping Corky Laing move the Mountain

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Corky Laing will celebrate his birthday at Howard’s Club H Saturday night. The rock drummer known for his decades with Mountain, is turning turn 70.  That’s not how he looks at it though. “I’m 22 with 50 years of experience,” Laing said a few days before the gig. The show starts Saturday at 9 p.m. at the club at 210 N. Main St. That youthful feeling has much to do with his current bandmates, guitarist and vocalist Chris Shutters and multi-instrumentalist and producer Mark Mikel, on bass. They’ve convened at the un-rock hour of 10 a.m. at Mikel’s Maumee studio to put some work in on the Mountain songs as well as a couple originals they’re writing together. This is more than a one-off pick up band. The trio plans to head out on the road in 2018. The Howard’s show will be recorded for a CD and DVD release. Though booked as Corky Laing Plays Mountain, the veteran drummer sees this as a new beginning, maybe even with a new band name. “This is the genesis,” he said. This new venture is rooted in Toledo, where Mikel and Shutters cut their teeth and are still based. Laing likened his time in Mikel’s studio with how he felt when he first joined Mountain back in 1969. “I’m getting a lot of flashbacks.” Shutters is his link to Toledo. Laing heard the guitarist playing in New York with fellow drummer Kofi Baker’s Cream Experience band. “I was blown away by Chris’ playing and his voice,” Laing said. He offered him a job on his tour of Canada and the United States early last year. It was 25 shows in 30 days. Shutters proved his mettle on the grueling run. The repertoire is very guitar-centered, Laing said, and Shutters excelled. “I thought maybe we should take it somewhere else,” Laing said. “Let’s move it along.” Shutters recommended Mikel to fill out the group. Later this year, Laing decided he wanted to visit the guitarist’s neighborhood. They ended up jamming at the Durty Bird in Toledo and then at Howard’s Club H. “I was fuckin’ blown away,” Laing said about his introduction to the local scene. “I…


Classic Rock Christmas continues at Howard’s

From HOWARD’S CLUB H Howard’s Club H at 210 N. Main St. in Bowling Green is bringing some of classic rock’s greatest touring bands to NW Ohio in the coming year, and they are kicking off their renewed commitment to the “best in live music” with a new Classic Rock Christmas Series, December 8-23. December 8 and 9 saw Detroit native and international blues guitarist Michael Katon on stage for two shows, with Toledo’s own Shakin’ Shivers as the opening act. December 16, Local guitar virtuoso Chris Shutters headlines with the Chris Shutters Band. The group recorded their own special “Live at Howard’s” disc in the last month and will be playing a mix of original and popular rock and blues staples. And December 23, NW Ohio music fans can be part of music history when Corky Laing Plays Mountain, with Shutters and local music icon Mark Mikel, take the stage for a very special performance. Laing, the writer of the iconic 70’s hit Mississippi Queen, is the subject of a new documentary film, and the film crew will be at Howard’s to shoot footage. Plus, Gonzo Records will be recording a live album with Laing, Shutters, and Mikel at the December 23 performance, which is the “warm up” event for their 2018 World Tour. Corky Laing will also be celebrating his, “70 th year of having a pulse,” that night as well. “There is a great deal to promote, including a limited vinyl record release [on Rouge Records, a subsidiary of Jack White’s Third Man Records] in April, the LIVE CD and DVD, and my book release in March,” said Laing of his very busy upcoming year. Mikel and Shutters are included in the 2018 touring lineup. Steve Feehan and Tony Zmarzly bought Howard’s Club H, a landmark in the college town 30 minutes south of Toledo, two years ago, and have perfectly transitioned the Bowling Green staple into a live music mecca. Feehan and Zmarzly are both musicians and have updated everything from the sound production, with state of the art sound board and computerized stage lighting and scrim, to the stage itself. Where, to the relief of many long-time Howard’s fans, they removed the “pillars” that blocked…


Drag takes the stage as local LBGTQ claims a club night for their own

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News With the band’s sound check completed, Howard’s co-owner Tony Zmarzly was on the stage at the club making sure the gear was pushed to the edges of the stage. He taped down a section of the carpet and checked for errant microphone cords. The crowd cleared the dance floor in front of the stage, and waited. Then Rosie D. Riveter appeared, all glitter and bitchy attitude. Drag was on stage at Howard’s Club, and it found a willing audience. The Rosie and Viv Show last Sunday was the first of three Queer Night drag and variety performances scheduled for the club. Organizer Gary Strain, a.k.a. Rosie, hopes this will continue and maybe even expand in 2018. The other shows are set for Nov. 26 and Dec. 10 at 8 p.m. she and Vivian Vendetta Sinclaire also will be part of the line up Saturday, Nov. 19, for the Leelah Alcorn Memorial Scholarship Benefit Show to raise scholarship money for transgender students at Bowling Green State University. The benefit starts at 3 p.m. and runs until closing time. The show Sunday marked a promising launch as Rosie and her co-hostess Vivian Vendetta Sinclaire commanded the stage with raucous, off-color humor and word play. They pulled the audience in. They even had a couple women come up to guess their bras sizes, to no avail. Then Nikki Cordy, the club’s barkeep, left her station, to nail it. Strain said when he’d approached Cordy about staging the drag show at the club, her response was “hell yeah.” So Rosie and Ms. Sinclaire and their special guests Rikki Sins and Deja D. Dellataro walked the walk to the sounds of Beyonce, Spice Girls, Lizzo, Stevie Nicks, Alanis Morisette, The Pointer Sisters, and Kelly Clarkson. The dance floor became a runway and as they strutted by on their way to the packed picnic tables in the rear, customers proffered dollar bills. One customer apologized to Rosie saying she’d forgotten to bring bills. “Oh, just give me your credit card.” Strain said that the idea for the queer night at Howard’s sprang from discussions among those in the LBGTQ+ community on campus. There’s already drag at Ziggy’s on Tuesday nights, but…


Arts beat: NRBQ right at home at Howard’s Club H

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Anyone who doubts that Howard’s Club H is having a revival as a music venue wasn’t at Saturday night’s NRBQ show. The venerable rock quartet was right at home in the stylish grit of the venerable club. And the sound system did justice to the band’s mix. NRBQ responded with 100 minutes of effervescent groove-based music delivered with a sly smile. The band opened with founder Terry Adams’ ”Rhythm Spell” and wrapped things up with Johnny Cash’s “Get Rhythm” as an encore. That was fitting because there was plenty of rhythm on display between the two. Whether they were sunny rock, the blues, or mambo, the beat was the thing throughout the night. The set bounced with little time between numbers from one highlight to another – the NRBG standard “Me and the Boys” or a rendition of Stevie Wonder’s “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” among them. The show had its odd turns, as when the Adams summoned drummer John Perrin from behind his set to sing a number, supposedly for a woman in the audience. He ambled to the front of the stage and consulted with bassist Casey McDonough and guitarist Scott Ligon about what to sing. Then they eased into Roger Miller’s hit “King of the Road.” Adams took his place behind the drum set, He treated those drums far gentler than he did his two keyboards, which he treated like percussion throughout the night, slapping, punching, and then executing flowing runs. That’s the secret of NRBQ. Why after 50 years and shifts in personnel – Adams is the only founder and long-time member – the band is something more than the best bar band in the country. The repertoire is true to the sounds you’d expect from a band planted in the 1960s – before it seems anyone on stage except Adams was born. The celebrates the pop music of that time and the various Americana sounds that inspired it. They’re not afraid to play a novelty tune like Adams’ “Yes I Have a Banana” from the new EP “Happy Talk” that responds to a novelty tune from the 1920s. Adams is a musical subversive. He brings the joyous…


Expect the unexpected when NRBQ plays Howard’s Club H, founder Terry Adams promises

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Back in 1966, a teenage Terry Adams used to push his piano into the bedroom and jam with brother, Donn, and a few other musical friends. A half century later Adams is still pushing his keyboards across the country playing concert halls, clubs, and bars with that band born in the outskirts of Louisville. NRBQ – originally for New Rhythm and Blues Quintet, and then Quartet – purveyors of off-kilter, off-beat pop rock is heading to Howard’s Club H, Saturday, Oct. 28, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets are $20. Click to purchase. A few home recordings mark the launch of a band that has persisted over the years, reaching music lovers ears in concerts, recordings, and the soundtrack of “The Simpsons,” where their loving irreverence was a perfect fit. In a recent telephone interview, Adams said “you don’t want to lose the reason you got into it.” “Music affected me when I was a young guy. Listening to it gave me something I couldn’t get anywhere else. It showed me the world, gave me insight into living. You can have times when you need a true friend and the music really reaches you. It’s there for you.” He started “messing around” on piano around sixth grade. “I didn’t know I was going to be a musician. I just loved listening to it, and slowly I realized I was making it myself, and I never turned back.” At the beginning during those bedroom sessions, “we just started playing music. Whatever we wanted. Different guys would stop by, and we realized we kind of had something.” Louisville, he said, didn’t seem to them to have much of a music scene. They had to seek out the sounds. Back then, he said, music lovers thought nothing of liking The Beatles and Sun Ra. That openness has remained. The band’s originals and covers run the range ofAmerican music from classic country to surf pop, and everything between and way out beyond the fringe. Adams is a jujitsu master of the keyboard. He makes his home at the intersection of Little Richard and jazz icon Thelonious Monk. Given this year is the 100th anniversary of Monk’s birth, Adams said he…


New WBGU-TV show captures sound, atmosphere of Howard’s Club H

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Dive is a moniker that Howard’s Club H wears proudly. While owners Steve Feehan and Tony Zmarzly have made a number of cosmetic improvements to the Bowling Green establishment, the essential gritty rock ‘n’ roll essence of the place remains. Joe Goodman, of WBGU-TV, recognized that spirit as soon as he came in. The graffiti, the concrete floors and the smell of well-aged beer, he said, “reminded me of all the places I loved in New York City that I was missing. … It’s where real rock is born. This is where people cut their teeth.” So the television producer started thinking about how he could share this place viewers. Working with bands and the owners, he brought in a crew to film. The result is “Live at Howard’s.” As the posters declare “the dive comes alive on WBGU-TV” on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 11 p.m., and in that time slot every week for the next nine. The shows will then be rebroadcast early Friday, Saturday, and Sunday at 3 a.m. The show’s premiere will be celebrated with a party at the club where the first episode will be shown. Goodman said the aim is for “Live at Howard’s” to be “a little manic, energetic” in keeping with the vibe of the gritty club. The aim is to feature up-and-coming bands both local and regional with a mix true to the club’s usual lineups. The first show features Howard’s regulars Tree No Leaves. The band headlined a show last December, when the first taping was done. Technical difficulties marred some of the taping. When Feehan heard about it, he came in to make sure that wasn’t repeated. He wanted to show to fly. He’s impressed with Goodman’s work on the project. “This guy really has a vision for it.” The episodes were all produced locally by the WBGU-TV staff and Bowling Green State University students. Goodman said “Live at Howard’s” is meant to harken back to the late night programming he found on public TV that introduced him a new alternative bands. That’s a role public TV should play again. For Feehan, having the local PBS affiliate take notice of the venue affirms his and…


Bobby G brings taste of Delta blues to Howard’s

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Robert Gray first got hooked on the blues listening to sound standing outside the juke joint in his native Winterville, Mississippi. He and his friends didn’t have the money to get in so they absorbed the sounds that wafted from the homespun club. “We just loved what was going on,” he said, “so we would try to sing, just walking down the road singing. That’s when I first got it.” That was years before Robert Gray began Bobby G, the blues singer. Bobby G, now 73, will perform Saturday, July 15, at 7 p.m. at Howard’s Club H in downtown Bowling Green with Curtis Grant Jr. and the Midnight Rockers. Cover charge is $5. Bobby G will also perform Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Black Swamp Arts Festival. The performance celebrates the release of “Still Sanding” on Third Street Cigar Records. This is the bluesman’s first full-length album, and it’s giving the world – it’s charting in Italy, Australia, and elsewhere – its first taste of Bobby G. John Henry, a local blues impesario said, the bluesman is “a treasure.” Because Gray stayed around home, raised two children with his wife, and didn’t go out on the road and experience the hardships and bad habits that so often entails, “he’s well preserved.” His voice is clear, with a sweet high range, though he can growl when the tune demands it. That’s all on display on “Still Standing,” a set of originals written by Johnny Rawls. Before all this could transpire and he could take that love of the blues to the stage, he needed a change of location. Growing up in Mississippi, Gray said, it was like time stood still. You did what your parents did who were doing what their parents did. “I remember being a young guy, about 13 or 14, and I was out in the cotton fields and as far as I could look was cotton,” he said. “Looked like the cotton went up to the sky, and the sky came down to the cotton, and I was thinking: ‘Lord, is there anything else for me?’” He’d been in those fields since he was 6 and putting cotton into his…


Music rings out up & down BG’s Main Street

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Music brought people together in downtown Bowling Green Friday night. On South Main Street more than 100 people gathered at Grounds for Thought for “Singing for Our Lives: Empowering the People through Song” a protest song singalong led by three of the four members of the Grande Royale Ukulelists of the Black Swamp. A couple blocks north more than 100 people celebrated the ageless power of rock ‘n’ roll with The Welders, who for more than 30 years have been staging a spring break show at Howard’s Club H. Mary Jane Saunders, co-pastor of the First Presbyterian Church, opened “Singing for Our Lives” at Grounds by explaining her rationale for suggesting the event. Many are feeling stressed and uncomfortable in the current political climate, she said. That’s been expressed in several rallies, most held in the green space next to the Presbyterian Church.             The sing-along of classic songs was offered as an occasion “to have fun together” while not forgetting the cause that has united so many in the community. “Music has the power to empower and to energize us,” she said. Pop music historian Ken Bielen gave a brief introduction to protest music, much of it by simply quoting memorable lines. He recalled that it was gospel singer Mahalia Jackson who urged Martin Luther King Jr. to deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech. “When people get together in the right combination, history is made.” He then recalled Country Joe McDonald’s admonition to the throngs at Woodstock singing along to “I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ to Die Rag.” “I don’t know how you expect the stop the war when you can’t sing any better than that.” And at first the singing at the Grounds event was, let’s say,  dutiful. But humor, another unifier, helped pull everyone in. After singing the Holly Near song that gave the event its title, Jason Wells-Jensen joked about the setting of the microphone, saying all short people were the same height to him. At which point bandmate Anne Kidder, started singing “we are tall and short, together” with the audience spontaneously picking up the tune and continuing even after Kidder had stopped…