Mike ‘Dr Blue’ McKeon is a bluesman with a voice like a bear who has been singing and playing the blues for many years. Mike has agreed to write a diary to show us what a bluesman’s life is like, the venues he goes to, the characters he meets, his experiences.
He sends in chapters of his diary when he’s ready. Who knows what adventures he will have.
Chapter 6 – Back in Blighty
Listen to Chapter 6 :
We returned to the UK from Australia on the 27th March after an uneventful, if not exhausting flight. We arrived back in London with both guitars and all our luggage intact, (well done Quantas and Heathrow baggage handlers). We appeared to have brought the sunshine with us from Aus. Sadly the fine weather wasn’t to last, it now feels like it rained, pretty much for the next 4 weeks. We are now in the position of dealing with torrential rainfall whilst there is a hose pipe ban in place. A situation almost as potty as the habit of roping off dance halls in some southern states of the US in the 1950’s, to stop the races from integrating on the dance floor!
I returned home to confirmations from the Mary Port and Dundee Blues festivals, for me to play this summer. I am excited to have had these offers confirmed, which mean that the planned end to the Heaven Bound Tour will go with a bang. I was later to hear that in addition to Blues Trail gigs in town, I will now also be playing on the International Stage at the Dundee Blues Bonanza on Friday 29th June. I enjoy playing at the outdoor festivals, if the weather is good that will be the icing on the cake for the performers as well as the audience. Both booked appearances will require the use of a small P.A. My Band PA is too big for the smaller venues I will be playing in, so a trip to Music Village in Romford quickly sorts out that particular need. I now have the perfect set up for a small venue club/pub. I also have a flight case it can all fit in. As I will also be busking, the P.A. can share a flight case with my Roland busking amp, which will double as a stage monitor if needed. I just need to arrange for the plugs on my equipment to be safety checked. In addition I will need to confirm that I have Public Liability Insurance. My Musicians Union takes care of that, much cheaper than a separate policy. Increasingly, agencies and promoters want to see evidence of insurance. You certainly need it if you plan to apply for a busking licence in Australia.
Over the next couple of weeks there are trips to play at a few of my regular venues: Arch 1, Hot Hob Blues and the Coach and Horses Blues Jam. ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jlftrXfIxP8&feature=BFa&list=PLC3BBE3BC4BD548F1 ), I have a gig at St Harmonicas (with the band) and a couple of interesting sessions in Brighton, one at an iopen event and the other the Brighton Fringe Festival.
iopen, is an organization that I am a trustee of , it promotes spoken word performance. It is run by an old friend, the Brighton based Roy Hutchins. Roy used to perform on the alternative comedy circuit in the 80’s. He went onto work with Heathcott Williams, performing his poetry and longer pieces like Whale Nation. Roy was performing some of Heathcott Williams’ new poems in a show last year at the Edinburgh Festival. I spent time leafleting and promoting the show while I was there. iopen is a project that Roy has developed to promote poetry and spoken word. Sameena and I were invited to perform at one of the events he had organized. Sameena performed an extract from her show and I provided some music during the interval.
I performed a set in Ilford town centre as part of a food festival before heading off to the Brighton Fringe Festival. The Food Festival session was organized by my old musical buddies Chris Whyatt and Steve Collins who run a number of local events, including the Green Festival and the Redbridge Music Lounge.
I enjoyed the week in Brighton, I was there mainly to help promote Sameena’s show Tea With Terrorists. However I bumped into a friend I had made over in Australia, Nic Coppin. He asked me to do a 10 minute slot in his ‘Family Friendly Variety Show’ (no swearing and no smut!) called Huggers. The review (enclosed) in no way reflects the mayhem that ensued in the opening show, when four 4 year olds invaded the stage and took over the mic. Give me a lively, drunken crowd on a festival opening night any day, a lot less trouble than hyperactive small persons flash mob!
Review: Huggers (Brighton Fringe)
May 17th, 2012 by Shoshana.
Huggers, Laughing Horse @ The Quadrant, Brighton on 13th May 2012
Music, comedy and magic kept the kids entertained in this energetically informal and amusingly chaotic variety showcase. A rapid-fire format meant acts never overstayed their welcome, giving a little taster of each performer’s expertise. The show started with a clap-along blues guitar song which got the kids fired up, with lyrics modified to make them snigger.
On my return from Brighton I had an interview to record down in Teddington, at Dave Raven’s floating houseboat/studio. This was a double pleasure for me. 1st I was delighted to be asked to record some live tracks and an interview for Dave’s award – winning show ‘ The Raven and the Blues’ (Link below). 2nd, I love house boats, something about being on the water. I arrived and was immediately struck by the ambience and atmosphere of Taggs Island, situated as it is in the middle of the Thames. It reminded me of the house – boat community on the Dal Lake in Kashmir. I could see the lake from where we were staying in Kashmir when I took time out to write Heaven Bound.
I was greeted by Dave, who ushered me in, the kettle was already on (always a good sign). After a quick tour around the boat, and a moment spent feeding the ducks that were swimming around the stern looking expectant, we set up and got on with the interview. Dave is a radio veteran and a great pro. The session went very smoothly, single takes for the music tracks and a lot of laughter as we exchanged stories in between.
I reversed roles with Dave and conducted a quick interview myself for the Blues Archive. I didn’t want to miss the chance to hear more about this interesting man, another of the many passionate blues fan I have met on my travels this year.
Dave Raven Ravens Blues ( http://www.raven.dj/ )
From an Interview with Dave Raven recorded at his floating studio on the Thames on Monday 14th May 2012.
Dave has worked for 40 years in radio starting in 1971, with The Radio 1 Club for the BBC. Radio Newcastle (BBC) and Metro Commercial Radio followed in1973. Dave then left the UK to work abroad.
Dave said that he started out with the blues – “always blues when I could”, said Dave. He went onto work for British Forces Broadcasting Service (B.F.B.S) from 1976 to 1998. After his departure from B.F.B.S, Dave was approached by them and asked if he could record a Blues Show, he said yes and ‘ The Raven and the Blues’ was born.
In 2008 BFBS could no longer afford to pay for the show anymore, and it was then that the radio station TRE in Spain asked if they could have it? Bit by bit other stations have come on line, and now it goes out to three radio stations. “The podcast is the big one”, said Dave, which has 18.000 subscribers every week across the world. Most of them are in the USA, (about 9,000). The rest go out around the world, There is a large contingent in Australia for example. The subscribers get the show from iTunes every Friday evening. Dave went onto tell a couple of stories about his career.
The first was from Hong Kong in 1996 where BB King had gone to do a show, and he was already a good age by then. Dave was promised a meet and greet and a possible interview so he carried all his gear, thinking He’d only get 30 seconds of time with the maestro. BB King and Dave Hit it off from the start and BB spoke, in the end for about 20 minutes, Dave described how he could see all the other journalists waiting behind him waving hurry up! Dave ignored them all, tape running as BB King continued to share.
Dave described how the recorded live music component in The Raven and the Blues had first started. Originally Dave would invite musicians to record interviews, but not to play. A muso called CC Adcock had come over across to the UK from Louisiana, to do the Borderline Club in London. Dave was invited along to the Borderline to see the show and to meet CC. Now Dave invited CC to come (to the boat) on the following day, to record an interview. CC asked Dave if he would like him to play live, an offer Dave accepted. Dave admitted to rather enjoying CC’s show at the Borderline a little too much, i.e. to having a few too many drinks. The effect was that as the evening wore on, he lost track of exactly of how many people he had invited to join CC on the following day. In addition to CC, there was his dad, all the band and some hangers on. On the way back on the train he sobered up a little and realized, that he wouldn’t fit them all on the top deck of the boat (where he works and does his recordings). In the morning he set up all his equipment in the Car Port outside. Dave warned all the neighbours there was going to be some loud music. In the end he had about 50 people in the garden outside, the sun shone. It was a great success. Dave realized then, that he could record both an interview as well as the musicians performing live. Dave has been recording sessions this way, live ever since. If you go to Dave’s site you can listen to a huge catalogue of recordings.
During my discussions with Bob Telford who is the chairman and musical coordinator of the Dundee Blues Bonanza, I have started to reflect how many of the blues festivals are run by musical enthusiasts who dedicate huge effort and energy to ensure that both performers and blues lovers can get together to share their passion for the music we all love. I have added the following piece, which comes from the official Dundee Blues Bonanza Web Site:
‘The Dundee Blues Bonanza (DBB) is a free blues music festival held over 3 days, which is unique to the City of Dundee. It takes place in over 30 city centre venues, all within easy walking distance of each other. Pioneered and successfully developed over the last 17 years by a voluntary committee, the DBB has been nurtured from modest beginnings to its present level, which includes a very healthy International element. Along with our own massive UK complement, many International acts and fans keep coming back to enjoy the friendly and enthusiastic atmosphere around the city during the Bonanza weekend.
Dundee is now called the Blues Capital of Scotland, and some have claimed it is the biggest free music festival in Europe. It has been estimated that approximately 12,000 people descend on the City of Discovery to partake in what the Lord Provost has called “The Bonanza Buzz”
This event does a great deal to enhance Dundee’s reputation and standing around the Globe, and has established it firmly on the International Music Scene. The report from the Daily Telegraph below gives an insight into what the Bonanza is all about’.
Dundee Evening Telegraph 16th January 2004
“You would have been hard pushed to find somebody to predict this 10 years ago, but Dundee’s Blues Bonanza is now approaching the end of its first decade as Britain’s biggest free blues/roots festival! The now-famous extravaganza of live blues, boogie, rock and roots music is seemingly set in stone in the city’s summer calendar, …….It wasn’t always the case, having been launched by local blues fans worried about the demise of the Dundee Jazz Festival, featuring only nine bands in six venues in one afternoon. Thanks to a combination of sheer perseverance and hard work, copious amounts of goodwill and an outstandingly -fine feel good factor, the festival has gone from strength to strength, and now attracts around 10,000 music fans to more than 120 live performances in 30 city centre venues.”
Dundee Evening Telegraph 16th January 2004
From the pen of Bob Telford:
Over the last 5-6 years the committee has worked tirelessly to maintain a promotional kickstart event on Friday evening with International acts, who bring a higher profile and have helped to establish Dundee firmly on the World music stage. Following in the footsteps of Mrs Margaret Johnstone whom John Mayall called the ‘Blues pioneer of the north’, the DBB is dedicated to preserve and promote the heritage of the Blues.
Mrs Johnston who formed Blues Junction in the early 60s, promoted Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Spann, J Boy Bonnar and many other home-grown acts in Scotland. Her inspiration and Vision will never be forgotten.
DBB has managed to bring to Dundee International artists of the calibre of Lil Jimmy Reed from Alabama (friend of Slim Harpo), Mud Morganfield (eldest son of Muddy Waters), Robert Penn (Detroit), Jimmy Thomas of Ike and Tina Turner fame, World renowned Guitarist Otis Grand and Guy Davis who played Robert Johnson in a stage production in New York.
Bob Telford 2012
It is a sad fact that in the current economic climate, that a number of blues festivals have had to be cancelled, due to a lack of funding from local authorities and other funding agencies. Many of us in the music world of aware that in this Olympic year that the sporting festivities have attracted a lot of resources. I heard a story that Glastonbury wasn’t running in part because the nations mobile toilets have all been booked for use on or near the Olympic sites! Here’s hoping that things improve next year.
‘Remember, If it ain’t the truth, it ain’t the blues’
Jammers at Arch 1
Rob Clark Proprietor of Arch 1 Club
House Band at Hot Hob Blues
© Copyright Mike ‘Dr Blue’ McKeon for British Blues Archive