The Maple Blues Awards presentation - This was a great day for the blues in Toronto and had repercussions across the nation as a lot of talented people were recognized for decades and even lifetimes of dedication to the blues. My enjoyment was hampered by some kind of stomach flu so I was unable to partake of the delicious buffet that I had a part in arranging on behalf of the Blues Society (I kept needling Bistro owner Lothar Lang that some of these burly blues types would need something a little more substantial than the finger-foods usually presented for the jazzy set - I had a back door into the Bistro, literally, because I work for Downtown Jazz whose offices are directly upstairs).
Now that I'm back from my sick bed, I'm glad to share some of my happy (if slightly foggy) recollections. I hope this will be the start of some kind of semi-regular postings to the Maple-Blue list. I'll be gathering these ramblings on my website (as soon as I build one!) - think I'll call it "Colorblind Brian's Toronto Blues Diary" I expect to be performing more in '98 (hell if it's one gig a month it'll be more than last year).and may I mention my next gig:
**The Silver Dollar Room this Thursday, February 12 with Rod Phillips and Mike Fitzpatrick (mark your calendars).**
As I looked over the photos of the evening I was sorry that I didn't have the energy to circulate a bit more - I don't think there's ever been such an assemblage of Canadian blues celebrities under one roof (if someone had dropped the proverbial bomb on that place, etc, etc).
The ceremonies went smooth as silk with host John Dickie (my favourite line was "There's hundreds of dollars to be made playing this music."). I think Gary Kendall's acceptance speech was more talking than a year's worth of his stage patter and it was fascinating to follow his life journey from Thunder Bay to Toronto to the world (or at least to Florida). Maureen Brown also received a true hometown-hero ovation as did the ever-modest Chris Whiteley.
I had stepped out of the Bistro after the ceremonies and when I was walking back in, I was struck by an amazing voice. I asked Al Lerman if he knew who that was and he didn't know, but as I turned the corner I saw that it was John Ellison with Vann "Piano Man" Walls and several other winners & nominees who had kicked off the jam session. Tyler Yarema invited me to sit in on guitar (I did, after all, provide my trusty Vibrolux for the occasion) and I found myself launching into a blues shuffle with a stellar group including Al, Gary Kendall, Pat Carey, Chris Murphy and when I looked down at the drummer I saw more bare thigh than I've ever seen in my life in the person of the 6-foot Michele (formerly Bohdan) Hluszko in a severly slit evening dress. This was a first for me and for the entire blues world, I expect. John Dickie was singing and he knocked me out! Being a relative newcomer to the Toronto scene I had never heard Mondo Combo or any of his legendary groups and although I heard him singing on his radio show a few times, I never got the full blast effect - and here I was playing along (and he must have been wondering who the hell I was and how I got there). As the City-tv camera-guy swung into the room, Teddy Leonard of Fathead was invited up to play and I handed off the guitar to him and worked my way back into the crowd to start saying my goodbyes. What a night!