I returned to the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival solo (my wife got bluesed out after seven hours of sold blues the previous day). The first thing I did upon arriving there was ordering up a Cajun breakfast to take with me to enjoy at my spot right in front of the Blues Stage. I got a hot link, jambalaya, crawfish etoufée, red beans and dirty rice, plus plenty of napkins and I was good to go.
I knew my brother John, his wife Sabrina and one of their sons, my nephew Dalton, were planning to come to the festival that day, so I kept my eyes open for them. If I was more hep to cell phone use I would have figured out sooner that keeping my cell phone on would probably have been a good idea.
The first act up was Smokin’ Joe Kubek (see above) and Bnois King.
Known for their electric musical fireworks, they were eager to show what they could do performing an acoustic set. At this point I have to mention I screwed up in my reportage yesterday. It was Smokin’ Joe and Bnois who played that incredibly bluesy version of Beatle George Harrison‘s “Don’t Bother Me” — not Andy T and Nick Nixon. My bad (but now corrected on both pages).
They were joined by Bob Corritore (pictured above), Big Pete and Delta Groove’s headmaster, Randy Chortkoff.
Nathan James & The Rhythm Scratchers played the second set. Note Nathan’s guitar; its body is a converted washboard, which Nathan used during his solos to add a nice, scratchy percussive effect.
The Mannish Boys came on after Nathan James. These guys are all top L. A. session musicians with a shared passion for the blues. Their regular lead singer, Finis Tasby was at home recovering from a stroke and listening to the show being broadcast live on his radio.
Filling in for Finis were a number of talented singers, including (Robert Cray and Santana band member) Curtis Salgado (pictured above).
Kevin Selfe joined The Mannish Boys, as did Ike Turner‘s post-Tina wife, Audrey Turner.
It was at about this time my brother, sister-in-law and nephew showed up. I gave them a quick layout of the food venues. Dalton was in heaven, sampling all sorts of Cajun and BBQ tasty treats. He was recently legal as far as alcohol was concerned, so he happily purchased his own beer there. Dalton really got excited when he discovered the hot pepper booth. They had plants for sale as well as an assortment of very hot salsas, with their habanero salsas being the mildest on hand! The ghost pepper salsa heat ( way hotter than habaneros) was insignificant when compered to the off-the-charts dragon pepper heat. There were free samples, so I tried one of the dragon pepper salsas. Hotter ‘n’ Hell, but with a great flavor.
Rick Estrin & The Nightcats returned to perform a proper set.
They were red hot on Sunday. Estrin blazed on harp and vocals; Kid Anderson‘s guitar work was nothing short of amazing. Their rock solid rhythm section really drove those two to new heights.
While the headliner for that day, Janiva Magness, was performing the last set, I was over at the Delta Groove booth, buying Rick Estrin and Kid Anderson CDs. I got all of The Nightcats to sign them but Rick Estrin was nowhere in sight. I spotted Monster Mike Welch over near the entrance to the Artists Area (a private section for the performers to relax) and we talked for awhile. Estrin was nowhere to be seen. Had he already left?
I needed to leave myself. I packed up my gear and wandered over to the Artists Area one more time. I spotted Rick Estrin in his beautiful white suit chatting with some folks — but there was no way for me to get inside that private area.
I finally prevailed upon Kid Anderson to speak to Rick on my behalf. Kid very kindly obliged, retrieved Rick and I got my CDs signed. I got into a great conversation with Rick. I showed him my book and he immediately became engaged in it, searching through the pages to see if all of his favorites were included. He made note of a few that weren’t and jotted down my e-mail address so that he could send me their names.
We talked about songwriting. I mentioned one of my favorite blues songwriters, the Poet of the Blues, Percy Mayfield. Rick lit up.
“Percy was so important to me and my career,” Rick began. “I was down and out at the time and considering giving it all up. I had written a song, though, that I thought would be perfect for a specific performer. I tracked the guy down to a Bay Area club, buttonholed him and sang my song to him a capella. A second voice joined in with a beautiful harmony. It was Percy Mayfield.”
“Say, man,” said Percy. “That’s a beautiful song you’ve written there.”
“It was the first encouragement I had ever received for my songwriting — and it was coming from the great songwriter himself, Percy Mayfield!”
“We got into conversation and Percy asked me to tour with him.”
“Not to play,” Percy said. “Just to hang out together. I like you, man.”
“I toured with Percy and he became my mentor. I learned so much from him. He was a really beautiful human being.”
I signed a copy of Legends of the Blues and gave it to Rick as a gift. My time with Mr. Estrin was an incredible cap to a great weekend.