Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Thousand Stories in The Chicago City


I have played my fair share of clubs in Chicago, some nice, some not so nice and  I do hang out with a lot of real deal players whom tell me all sorts of stories. Recently I heard an alleged story about a Chicago blues artist that was run out of a blues club by his wife. It seems this artist bought his girlfriend to the gig thinking that his wife was not going to attend. Wrong!  During the first set his wife walked in. When this blues man saw his wife he quickly dropped his guitar to a loud amplified thunk and out the back door he ran. His wife ran after him toting a pistol while screaming his name and some other non writable phrases. I guess it was the firearm she yielded that spooked him and the rest of the patrons for that matter. Unlike other parts of the country (Memphis-Nighthawk) it is illegal to carry a gun in Chicago and mace for that matter. Maybe the city should rethink that policy. If everyone carried a gun and people knew everyone did, would that ease the shootings?  I mean if you pulled out a gun would you think twice about using it if you knew the guy you pulled it on could pull his quicker? A lot of Chicago blues artists still carry guns to this day. The people who lived long ago in the Wild West may have had it correct. I know that guns do not hurt people, but rather people do.  Chicago recently had a senseless death of a teenager committed by a thug yielding a two by four. For our foreign readers, that is a piece of lumber that is 2 inches by 4 inches by 8 feet long and is commonly used to build houses.  

I have witnessed many incidents in Chicago blues clubs over the years and some of them now seem unreal.  Around 1985 I played a north side bar with Smiling Bobby. This bar has been in operation since the 40’s.  It was a polka bar back during WWII. It was a small club so the band had to set-up right in front of the bathrooms. If you went to the bathroom everyone in the club knew it. Pretty strange to be playing “Help Me” when someone was in the can. Sometimes you could even hear the toilet flush if the band stopped playing at the right time. The bar stretched out in front of the band about 30 feet and ended about six feet from the front door. This one night I remember well.  At the end of the bar was a little guy quietly drinking beer, quietly until he finished the third.  After that third beer he started cussing at the top of his lungs. He was almost as loud as the band. The owner of this club asked him to leave and he refused. The guy told him the usual standard two word cuss phrase and it wasn’t “Let’s dance.” That really ticked off the owner so he picked the guy up and threw him out the front door. He literally threw him out. The guy landed in a heap on the concrete sidewalk. The crowd applauded and we continued our performance. About half an hour later the door burst open and there is the guy with a knife. He lunges at the owner’s throat, misses and cuts his cheek wide open. The guy then turns around and calmly walks out the door. The owner was not feeling any pain, because he drank alcohol like the rest of us.   He grabbed a bar towel to cover his face. He then walked calmly toward the bathroom like nothing had happened.  I knew that is were he was headed and in the time it took him to put the towel to his face and get to the bandstand I had turned off my amp, grabbed by case, put the guitar to bed and out the back door I went. I was done for the night.   Too much blood squirting for me to stick around.

Another incident occurred about six months later at the same club while I was outside packing up and it was a Friday night gig. I think it was around 2:00 am. I heard automobile tires squealing, car doors slamming and  then suddenly about five or six shots rang out.  After a brief silence the car doors slammed and the tires squealed again. I still wonder what happened that night. I know at least this much about that incident, it wasn’t the authorities, because after all was quiet the sirens started up in the distance and got louder as they approached the area. That was pretty scary folks. I found out later that there was a four square block area (about ½ a square mile) that was considered a safe zone. Outside that area it was gangland.  You had to travel about a mile through that area to get to the expressway.  Once you got to that expressway it was pretty much smooth sailing. Come to think of it I ran a lot of late night stoplights driving that last mile.    

Terrance Lape   AKA
Copyright 2009

Friday, October 23, 2009

Chicago to Memphis to Ground Zero Blues Club Clarksdale, Mississippi

Ground Zero Blues Club

Owners Morgan Freeman and Bill Luckett

I am sharing a trip I made to Clarksdale with my blues friends in the Chicagoland area as your contributing correspondent from Memphis. I hope you enjoy the visit.

This week we venture south from Memphis down old 61 Highway (a topic of the famous Mississippi Fred McDowell song) to play at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, Mississippi. This place is a converted cotton grading building and warehouse where samples of cotton from growers were assembled and graded upstairs by holding them up to a skylight in the roof. Now the upstairs area is furnished with nice apartments which are available for rent. It is known as the Delta Cotton Company apartments and here's the link:

The downstairs area is a big juke joint replete with rustic delta food and furnishings and graffiti on every surface of the place. It is a warm, inviting place to play the blues.

The club is owned by famous actor Morgan Freeman and my old friend Bill Luckett, who is a fine attorney. I believe Bill is running for Governor of the state. He is an exceptionally friendly man who is often to be seen in the club with his wife on Saturday evenings, greeting folks and tripping the light fantastic on the old dance floor.

Jumping James Cunningham and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

After about an hour and a half ride through the verdant Mississippi delta, my brother and I arrived at the club and met our friend Walt, the club's superb sound engineer. We loaded in the gear and checked the sound as patrons arrived. This club, which I have played many times, most always has a good crowd of friendly blues fans and weekend revelers.

Eric Hughes and Leo Goff

On this night the Eric Hughes band was joined by my longtime friend Leo Goff, who is one of the few true geniuses I have been fortunate to meet in this lifetime. Among other accomplishments, Leo, known as the "freight train of pain" holds 5 land speed records, has lectured at MIT, worked for NASA, and spent a good part of last week rebuilding a 1959 Maserati engine in his shop. Not only is he a great bassist, but he can also rebuild your Ferrari for you or engineer some stuff to take you to the moon and beyond. Leo is currently being talked into building me a three wheeled motorcycle using eight feet tall airplane tires which I will drive down Beale Street on Wednesday bike nights.

Memphis Mike Forrest on his '68 Stratocaster

Ground Zero stage loaded with gear

The Leo Goff Signature Model bass by Barker

Leo is endorsed by the Barker bass company who makes his signature Leo Goff upright electric bass. It sounds tremendous and he plays it with a ferocious fluidity of manual dexterity.

Leo's inlaid signature

Eric Hughes on stage

James Cunningham on the drums

The Eric Hughes band took the stage, playing an assortment of original tunes and some classic old blues. The rollicking crowd danced, drank and ate from a menu of southern delights such as catfish and fried green tomatoes. This club is always fun. If you can't attend their shows they have them available as a live worldwide streaming feed to your computer. This month they will have Super Chiken, my old friend and band mate Butch Mudbone, more old friends Earl the Pearl and the Peoples of the Blues( I have been one of the "Peoples" many nights), and my buddy Blind Mississippi Morris who was seen in last week's blog. Also my friends in the fine Jimbo Mathus band will be appearing at the club and a fine blues jam is hosted there every Wednesday night.

Ground Zero is the crux of the blues happenings in this part of the delta. The live feed is available at:

Mike Forrest and Leo Goff

Dancers hit the floor before the set begins

Eric Hughes blows a tune on harmonica

Eric Hughes Band(photo by Jay Moore)

author, brother Jeff Tooms, Mike Forrest(photo by Jay Moore)

Razor Blade sits in for a couple of numbers(photo by Jay Moore)

During our last set our friend, Clarksdale blues man, Razor Blade sat in with the band for a couple of numbers. Razor has a great voice, is a local favorite and a sharp dresser. It capped off a great night of blues, dancing and a club full of friendly folks. Tourists from all over the world come to Ground Zero to experience some legitimate juke joint atmosphere and they are always welcomed with open arms by the friendly down home folks of the delta.

Eric Hughes(photo by Belinda Moore)

We were delighted to see our old friends Jay and Belinda Moore and we missed seeing our buddy Brian LaPrade who was down with a back injury. Get well, Brian! You could not ask for more genuine kind friends than these folks and they have become like members of my family.

Getting ready to pack up the show and head for Memphis(photo by Jay Moore)

Photo by Belinda Moore

Ground Zero is the real deal. It is located next to the Delta blues Museum and the area has several old time real juke joints. If you are a lover of the blues and want to see where it all came from, visit Clarksdale. The food, music and friendly folks will make you glad you came. Just don't linger at the crossroads and let a guy named Old Scratch tune your guitar and hand it back to you.

If you can find a way to get there, the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival is the undisputed destination of choice for true blues fans from around the globe.

Here's a link:

©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

L V Banks at Bill's Blues Bar Evanston

Bill's Blues Bar is one of those clubs that has seen a lot of different players. Anybody who is anybody in the Chicago Blues scene has played there at one time or another. It is another shotgun type bar with a bar along one side and tables on the other. The stage is just inside the building street side. with a huge storefront window. I played there this past Friday with my friend L V Banks. L V has played the joint so many times he can't remember how many, but he told me when I asked, "A bunch." I have written about L v in previous posts for the American Blues Blog.

His regular drummer Brian called me late Tuesday and asked if I could play. I never miss an oppurtunity to play bass for one of Chiacgo's legendary blues men. When L V saw me walk in a huge smile came upon his face. He likes the way I play bass. L V is a lumpty lump type blues guy.

I arrived at 8:00 pm for a 8:30 start. There was a group ahead of us called Neither/Nor. I sat at the bar, mid section, ordered a coke and decided to listen. I could not figure out what they were playing. I guess I am not at the intellectual level to understand their kind of music. A woman sitting next to me told me they are filling up a musical space. Filling up a space yes but with music no. Noise yes, music no. The best I can say is if they were playing Avant Garde Jazz then that is what they were doing. I can't critique Avante Garde Jazz, for that matter I do not think anyone is capable of that job. I once met a free form jazz artist named Hal Russell. Hal played vibraphone at a Cajun restaurant I frequented back in the mid eighties. He invited my wife and I to a free concert  that was held in the attic of a house he rented.  The concert utilized various types of instruments including garbage can lids.  That was my first introduction into free form Jazz and my last. Hal actually made a living at it. I guess some people like that kind of music.

The band stopped promptly at 8:30. By the time they were off the stage we did not play until 9:15.   LV Banks is a blues man that has paid his dues and it really bugs me when fans walk up and demand that he play other artist's music . Play some BB King, Elmore James this guy asked.
I don't think fans request BB to play L V's music.  We played a solid hour set and then took a 20 minute break.  after the break we played about 20 more minutes and then called it a night.   Bill's Blues Bar is an anchor in the Chicago land blues scene and should be made an historical Land mark.  I  had a really great time at Bill's Blues Bar and you will also.

That's the end of the Bill's Blues Bar story.  I have a humorous piece I'd like to share

"What Is A Blues Man?"

A bluesman has to live up a dusty dirt road and must get up early in the morning or at least everything important in his life happens then. A real blues man is at least fifty years old and never, ever has any money. He will always ask if he can hold a twenty. He gives a spiel about how he will pay you back on the first which by the way never arrives. He will always have enough money to buy a beer, some cognac, and cigarettes.  Real bluesmen have at least ten kids by six different women. You can recognize those women because they are the ones in the parking lot of the venue he is currently performing in and they are also the ones spontaneously brawling in that same lot.  You can spot a true blues man because he is always in a hurry. He is constantly looking over his shoulder to see if his new or old wife is chasing him. She always is and with a gun. He knows that at any moment it may be his last. Why not enjoy it while he can?   A  Blues man spends his entire adult life like a gypsy or Bedouin. His whole life is about the road. He’d spend a night in that town then another in that town and on and on.  Like a sailor with a girl in every port, he has his share of overnight accommodations and as a result of his shenanigans he has children running around and chasing him. They all claim he is their father. He of course would deny each and every one. He allows some to get close, but only if they have the potential of becoming his future side men. He uses them and hopes they will understand when he pockets the money he was supposed to pay them. It’s a lot cheaper that way and equals more money in his pocket. His excuse for not paying these kin sidemen is that the van needs brakes.  Funny every time he uses those brakes he has to down shift.    


Terrance Lape
Look for my Cd at*
Photos by Kathy Crnich

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I first met Twist Turner way back in the early eighties. Bobby introduced me to him while we were on break. Twist is a drummer who has played with an extensive list of artists,  including thirty Grammy nominees and an estimated 15 WC Handy award winners.  
Twist grew up in the northwest in particular Seattle, Washington. The blues artist that launched his career was the great Isaac Scott. Isaac passed away in 2001 from complications of Diabetes.
He carried the blues banner for the city of Seattle for many years.
Twist headed for Chicago in 1975. During the late 70’s twist landed a gig With Hubert Sumlin and played with him for almost 10 years. He also played at Theresa’s Lounge steadily for two years with Jr. Wells’ band.  He did a spell with Buddy Guy’s band also during this time period. He jokes that it is easier to name people he has not worked with than the ones he has.
He worked ten years straight six days a week with no holiday pay folks. Twist has paid his blues dues and it shows with his current music.

Twist is currently a songwriter and record producer with a focus on his own music. His music is primarily Rhythm and Blues very reminiscent of Tyrone Davis, Jackie Wilson, but it does not stop there.  He utilizes great horn lines with very nice Hammond B-3 accents.  If you listen close enough you realize that Twist is truly a great songwriter and the years of musical knowledge he has accumulated shows.

I was at an auction about two months ago and purchased about 50 old blues 78’s.  I had to dust off an old stereo set-up that played 78’s.  I hooked it all up and started to go through the records. Those 78’s are from the golden age of blues namely 1948-1953 and there are some great artists Little Walter, Jimmy Reed and the like.  I finished them and decided to pull out the 33 1/3 LP’s next. I looked through the stacks and found “Listen To The Blues”. When I first met Twist he sold that album.  I played it and after wards I called Twist.  He was working on an amp project. We talked a little about Smilin Bobby and I inquired if he’d mind if I did a story about him. He said yes as long as I did not mention the album. He is not happy with it. I’m sorry Twist, but that LP is a time capsule and  a very fine rendition of what was happening in the blues scene. Although it never had much acclaim and never made it to a gold record status, it is worth ten times its weight in that precious metal. Thanks Twist!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Chicago Blues News: JImi Hendrix

I was looking through youtube just the other day when I came across Voodoo Chile by Jimi Hendrix. It was a version that he performed in Atlanta in 1969 or 1970. I watched it and had to remind myself to breathe.  The video is almost 40 years old and that song has stood the test of time. Hendrix is the original songwriter and the best performer of it.   There are a couple of other very great versions such as Stevie Ray Vaughn, Kenny Wayne Sheppard and, John Mayer.


 Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and, Yngwie Malmsteen covered it together and wow that version is a killer.

The problem with modern versions is that they are technological superior to what Hendrix did. Hendrix used a very primitive set-up compared to today. He utilized two 100 watt Marshall Amplifiers, four, four 12” cabinets and an array of five pedals. His actual rig can be found here.

Jimi played in a pre-computer age. They did have computers, but they were too large to lug from gig to gig. In 1969 we sent a man to the moon with less computing power than a hand held calculator. Today there are home computer set-up’s that can record multiple tracks of music. I recorded bass lines in Chicago, emailed them to Indianapolis and the engineer inserted them into the song he was working on. Very cool way to record. Click and paste is wonderful. I recorded a 45 back in 1964 and it was recorded direct to disc. You made a mistake; you threw the disc out and started again. You had to rehearse to get it down.

Jimi’s sound on Voodoo Child is raw and that rawness is what makes his version the best. The intensity he played with was a direct reflection of the turbulent times. Those that lived through the sixties and still remember it know what I’m talking about. In 1968 the Democratic Convention took place in Chicago. Mayor Daley (the father not the current mayor who is the son) was determined not to have anti Vietnam protesters during that convention. The police beat a lot of heads as well as the protestors.

The next year saw the continuance of the Vietnam War.  Every night Walter Cronkite would report the body count on the nightly news for the previous day. It was very depressing.

I believe that those turbulent times lead Jimi to play one of the best tunes ever. Jimi was the first one to utilize the technique of feedback from a guitar and in order to do this he had to set the amps on 11. If you watch the reaction on people’s faces in Hendrix’s old videos you will see the astonishment.  They had never heard anything like it before he came along. Take a look at these videos and then judge them for yourself.


Holly Thee Maxwell is "Thee Original Black Blonde Bombshell"

"Smiling Bobby', my blues mentor, introduced me to Holly a number of years ago. I was immediately stricken with her performance abilities. When she picks up a mike, the cord is a fuse, because she explodes on stage.  Offstage Holly is a warm and truly wonderful person. She is a pleasure to be around.

About six months ago I ran into her at my ex-favorite club and I will not mention its name because it has changed hands and now is a sports bar. Holly was escorted by the late Manuel Arrington.  Manuel was dubbed “Entertainer of The Year” a long time ago and it stuck. Sadly Manuel passed away last April and with his passing the Chicago Blues community lost a great artist and a friend.
Holly has been involved with the Chicago music scene since the early sixties, except for a side journey to California which included a gig as the replacement for Tina Turner. She was a back-up singer for Tina up until Tina left.  She started singing at five years old and that first performance netted her ten bucks. It seems that many artists got their start singing in the church.

Holly is a very versatile performer who has dabbled in soul, blues, opera and she tells me her next venture is into country rock. I personally think she is one of the best blues performers ever. She also can be quite bawdy at times and her audiences love it, including me!

The list of people that she has performed with or opened for is quite extensive and include;

Ike Turner - Back–up and lead vocals
Jimmy Smith - Lead vocals
Captain and Tennillle – Back-up Vocals
Reynaldo Rey - Opening act
Red Foxx - Opening act
Slappy White - Opening act
Jack MacDuff - Vocals
Charlie Earland – Vocals
Red Holloway – Vocals
Authur Prysock - Opening act
Holly Thee Maxwell especially loves performing for European audiences and has told me “They have a deep appreciation for entertainers.”
Holly's songwriting approach is this,
“My approach is purely from THEE subconscious it is in my head all ready...something will trigger it off to come out on paper within 15 minutes or less...if it takes any longer it goes in THEE garbage.”

Her early influences were Shirley Temple, Mae West, Marian Anderson, Josephine Baker and Dinah Shore. For you youngsters they are some of the greatest entertainers that have performed. Mae West was way ahead of her time as Josephine Baker was.

Holly is an extraordinary performer who has played Worldwide, from France to Australia and Australia contained the largest audience she has performed for. That performance was with Ike Turner.

If you keep your eyes and ears open and you frequent the Chicago scene sooner or later you will run into Holly Thee Maxwell and you’ll be glad you did. 

She has a CD entitled “Holly Thee Maxwell....Thee Black Blonde Bombshell”
Recorded "LIVE" at THEE Maxwell Cafe' Paris, France

It can be ordered from Holly direct @ 
Leave Name, address Phone number and she will work out how to make payment. (ask her to autograph it also.)
She also has some 45's videos that can be found on

Gatorman   Thanks to hampton-Photos for the video

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Chicago Blues News: Nick Galik Band Via Peotone

I first met Nick Galik through a mutual friend who just happens to be the president of the Chicago Blues Society, David. He told me you gotta hear this kid. I think Nick was 15 when I first did. I thought just another kid Guitar player. How can someone so young play the blues?  Nick is not a parrot like so many other kid players but rather the opposite.

There is something inherently found in a person's life experience that an artist taps into in order to do his art. It takes some artists years and years to find the soul and the passion to express those experiences in their chosen media. That is not the case with Nick. This young man plays with a fire and an obsession seldom seen and heard. He is a blues/jazz/rock artist that can go far if he just puts the spotlight on the blues genre. 

Like Nick, I first started early (15) and the band I played in tried to cover everything from CW to Blues. What a waste of time that was, although it did teach me about working in a group. Nick keep going with that great SRV, Buddy Guy type sound. Give People a groove that they can move with and you will go far, very far. 

It is really cool to have a group that is so tight that they can stop a song, count off 13 beats and pick it back up all together. Great musicianship and it impresses the other musician, yours truly included. In order to grab and hold an audience set that groove and stay there. The audience will love you for it.   Nick please don’t get me wrong I do love to listen to your jazz fusion style of playing. Readers know my motto "Blues me or lose me", but I listen to you and know that you are truly one of the great upcoming guitarists that really shines when you play the blues.  

Nick Galik is 17 year old guitar slinger that started at the ripe old age of 13. He is Kankakee and Will counties best kept secret. This young man handles a guitar like none other in his age bracket. Johnny Lang was just about the same age as Nick when he started to play, but I think Nick has a lot more to offer than Mr. Lang can ever hope for.

I sat down with Nick at a local tavern before his scheduled start (8 PM) for the first “Beatz in the Streets” Concert that the city of Peotone has organized.  He hit the stage with his band at exactly eight. The first chord rang out and man oh man it was good. Unfortunately it rained on and off all day long and he could only get in two songs.  During the later part of the second song it literally poured, but not to worry my friends I have seen him on other occasions and I have enough info.

The first artist he remembers listening to was the “Who”, probably his dad’s record or CD. The first song he says he learned how to play was Buddy Guy’s “Mary Had a Little Lamb”.  I have heard him play that tune numerous times and I think Mr. Buddy Guy would smile at his version and Buddy, Nick would like to meet you. Just email me and I’ll set it up.

Another of Nicks' favorite guitar players is Derek Truks. Nick  made the comment that he plays limited slide and would like to learn some more slide techniques. I have heard Nick play slide and that is what I truly like about him, he is a very humble person. He is an excellent slide player. He rehearses 5-6 hours a day and it really shows.

Nick co-writes with his band mates and they have some very impressive tunes. “Breakfast in the Key of A” is a funky number that progresses into a hooky vocal part that is quite catchy. Nice job on that one guys. Nick and the band have a great cover with John Mayer’s “I Don’t Need No Doctor” It is an excellent version that I really love. “Seems to Me” has quite a Latin flair and about 2 ½ minutes in Nick takes off. That guitar work on this one song is what Nick does best and I’m confident any true blues fan will have to agree. “New Illusion” is another great song and contains some really killer guitar work and that includes all the guitars.

If any of the Chicago Blues Clubs would like to book him his number is below. Doc your staff at Kingston Mines should take a look at him. He could be a great Chicago Blues Artist if given a chance.  He is perfectly capable of blowing the doors off at the next Chicago Blues Fest. There is another Chicago blues club that comes to mind and that is the House of Blues. I really do not know why they call it House of Blues, because there is not much blues played there. It has more Indie music than anything.  

Nick can pack a house. When he plays all his relatives come out, like Aunts, Uncles, sisters, brothers and even his Grandfather. Nick’s grandfather has been to every show that Nick has performed and is very proud of what his grandson has accomplished. Mark my words Nick is destined to be a major player in the years to come.

Nick’s band mates are quite accomplished players in their own rights, but it is a two way street. They all complement each other. Gary Laster on bass is really outstanding and he and Matt White lay down a real tight groove. Mike Christakos rounds out the group with his very solid rhythm guitar work and backup vocals.  You guys stick it out and I think great things are ahead.

For info on the Nick Galik Band call (815) 592-8226