Hall Of Fame
Nominations and Guidelines
Each year the Sacramento Blues Society receives nominations of those people in the Sacramento area who have been either a Performer (musician/vocalist) or Non-Performer (supporter of the blues) for 20 or more years, who are deserving of recognition. The guidelines and selection process for the SBS Hall of Fame are available HERE. If you are interested in nominating someone, you may submit your nomination online (below), mail the printed form to our P.O. Box or hand it to a SBS board member.
All past inductees are listed below. If you’re ever in the Torch Club, check out our Wall of Fame with photos and perpetual plaque.
Deadlines for nominations will be forthcoming for the annual Inductee Ceremony (this year to be held in September.)
Hall of Fame Nominations
Richard “RW” Grigsby has a special relationship with Sacramento. He has moved here twice! In 1984 after a number of years of playing in Georgia bar bands, RW caught the blues bug when he took to the road with famed harmonica man Fingers Taylor from the Jimmy Buffet band. They toured from Jackson to New Orleans, Austin, Houston and Memphis. In 1988 Richard hooked up with Austin, TX accordion star Ponty Bone’s Squeezetones. At one of Ponty’s gigs, RW met Carlene Carter of the legendary Carter Family. He toured with her through the summer of 1990 behind her top ten single, “I Fell in Love”. A three year stint with Austin harp man Gary Primich touring North America led RW to Sacramento playing at the old Sam’s Hofbrau in 1993. RW (AKA Guitar Grady) joined Dallas guitarslinger and Black Top recording/touring artist Mike Morgan & The Crawl in late 1993, but in 1995, headed for Sacramento. RW joined up with Sacramento mainstays The Hucklebucks. In the late 90’s they were playing 15-20 gigs a month. The road called again though, this time with New Orleans #1 harp man Johnny Sansone. More tours and a move back down south to Alabama until 2006 –when he headed back to Sacramento and got a call from California harmonica ace Mark Hummel. They’ve been working together for over a decade now. As a member of Mark’s ambitious Harmonica Blowouts, RW has backed up almost every major blues harp player in the U.S. including James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite, Curtis Salgado, Billy Boy Arnold, Lazy Lester, Billy Branch, Mojo Buford, Willie Smith, Johnny Dyer, Rod Piazza, James Harman, Rick Estrin, Sugar Ray Norcia, RJ Mischo, Andy Santana and many more. Their 2013 CD, Remembering Little Walter was nominated for a Grammy and won two Blues Music Awards including Album Of The Year. The last several years, Mark’s project the Golden State-Lone Star Revue has been busy touring here in the states and overseas. Members have included Little Charlie Baty, Anson Funderburgh, Wes Starr, Mike Keller, Rusty Zinn, Mark Hummel–and of course, RW Grigsby, just nominated for the prestigious 2017 Blues Music Awards “BEST BASSIST.”
When RW is not on the road, he and wife Beth Reid-Grigsby( AKA Red) have Red’s Blues, formed six years ago. You can find them playing in northern California with Dave Earl on guitar, SBS Hall of Famer Tim Wilbur on drums, RW on bass/vocals and Beth on lead vocals and fronting the band. Sometimes you can even find RW laying down the bottom with another SBS HOFer, Ray “Catfish” Copeland.
Two highly regarded recent albums, Red’s Blues and You Knock Me Out feature stellar originals from these two–and many outstanding special guests including Rusty Zinn, Rick Estrin, Anson Funderburgh, Kyle Rowland, Rockin’ Johnny Burgin, Mark Hummel, Mike Keller, Jon Lawton, Steve Freund, John Cocuzzi and Sacramento’s Johnny “Guitar” Knox.
ANY bass player should go to school on Sacramento’s Artis “AJ” Joyce. In one jaw-dropping extended solo, he can seamlessly quote Cream’s Sunshine of Your Love” to Sly Stone’s “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” to “Mama’s Little Baby Loves Shortnin’ Bread” to Henry Mancini’s “Pink Panther” to the “Habanera“ from Bizet’s opera “Carmen.”
AJ is perhaps best-known for playing on Alligator Records releases by Charlie Musselwhite, beginning with the critically acclaimed Ace of Harps album in 1990, which marked the start of a new era for the legendary singer and harmonica player. Musselwhite was quoted as saying it was made by “the best band I’ve ever had.”
A big man with a big heart, he has toured North America and Europe, backing Musselwhite, Johnny Heartsman, Ron Thompson, Arbess Williams, Harvey Mandel, Little Milton, Sister Monica, Ron Hacker, Mick Martin, Leah Tysse, Alabama Mike and many more. He still makes it a point to come back home and volunteer to play numerous Northern California benefits. As he would say, PEACE!
Longtime Sacramento resident Frankie Lee (Jones) was born in Mart, Texas. As a child, he sang gospel music in church. In 1963, he signed a recording contact with Peacock Records. Billed as Little Frankie Lee, he released three singles, including “Taxi Blues”, a regional hit and his best-known song. After living with his friend Sonny Rhodes in Austin, Texas, Lee was recruited by Ike Turner to join the touring ensemble backing Ike & Tina Turner. Lee then settled in Houston and worked with other musicians, including Big Mama Thornton, Ted Taylor, Junior Parker and Joe Hinton.
Lee befriended Albert Collins during this period, and in 1965, they both relocated to California, with Lee singing in Collins’s band from that time until 1968. In 1971, Lee was signed to Elka Records, and his cousin, Johnny “Guitar” Watson, produced Lee’s tracks. In the late 1970s, Lee’s backing ensemble included the young Robert Cray. His firstalbum, The Ladies and the Babies, was released by HighTone Records in 1984. The All music journalist Thom Owens noted that “as one of the first albums on HighTone Records, the album helped set the stage for the numerous records and artists that teetered between soul and blues.
Flying Fish Records released Lee’s second album, Sooner or Later (1992), on which he was backed by Doug Newby and the Bluz Blasters, with a guest appearance by Lucky Peterson. Going Back Home (1994) was released by Blind Pig Records. Lee toured widely, playing at American music festivals and in Europe and Japan. Lee’s final album, Standing at the Crossorads, was released in 2006 by Blues Express. The album was produced by Dennis Walker, who had produced The Ladies and the Babies more than twenty years earlier. Lee settled in Sacramento and acted as a mentor to many local blues musicians, including Kevin Burton, Pete Phillis, Chris Frasier, Martin Holland, Joe Lev, Jim Voorhees, Bruce Bandura, Ridley Howe and Tim Brisson. He appeared at Mekarkey’s, Sam’s HoF Brau, Tootsie’s, the Palms Playhouse, the Torch Club, Mr. D’s, Boston’s, the Powerhouse Pub, the Sacramento Heritage Festival and the Sacramento Blues Festival, Lee died at the age of 73 at his Sacramento home.
A powerful vocalist and super-quick drummer, Jimmy Morello began playing drums at age 11 and formed his first band at 13. He fell in love with blues music after attending a blues revue concert in 1971 with Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker and Jimmy Reed. His Pittsburgh DJ friend introduced him to Louisiana Red who took a shine to Morello’s band Cold Steel. The began to work regular in Pittsburgh blues venues and hit the road playing Washington D.C. , Philadelphia, Boston areas.
Morello moved to Sacramento in 1980 and joined the Blue Flames with Ray ‘Catfish’ Copeland and Johnny Knox. Stayed with the Blue Flames from 1980-1988. Freelanced for several years with Bay Area and Sacramento Blues bands. Moved to Phoenix and played with Bill Tarsha’s Rocket 88’s from 1990-1993. In 1994 was signed with Rounder/Bullseye label with Pat Boyack and the Prowlers. Toured thru the US until 1997, when he returned to Northern California. Went on tour with Bob Margolin. The same year and got signed to JSP label out of England and put out 3 CD’s under his own name. Then he was hired by John Stedman at JSP to become A&R for the label. Produced 10 CD’s for various artists for JSP. During this time he was also touring Europe, Greece, Belgium and Switzerland and headlining festivals under his own name. He also had the pleasure of doing a Rounder/Bullseye Blues tour thru the US with Pat Boyack, Smokey Wilson and Smokin’ Joe Kubek. Here are some of the names of the great blues artists he has played with; Louisiana Red, Nappy Brown, Carey Bell, Pinetop Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Lazy Lester, Clarence Holliman and Carol Fran, Joe Houston, Big Jay McNeely, just to name a few.
Born in San Jose, California, Andy Santana’s interest in blues and soul had an auspicious start. At 12 years old, Andy’s teenaged babysitter listened to the local radio station. She also played 45 records of her two favorites, Bobby Bland and James Brown when the radio didn’t please her. One fateful day, she won a radio promotion– two tickets for an afternoon show featuring James Brown and the Famous Flames! Couldn’t ditch Andy, so they rode the crosstown bus to the San Jose Civic Auditorium. “All the women were going nuts. I’d never heard girls scream like that before.” What a phenomenon for a 12-year-old lad. “I was amazed by the energy and environment.”
On Andy’s 19th birthday a girlfriend Janet gave to him two harmonicas, saying “you need some music”.
Soon after while in San Francisco Golden Gate park, two life-changing moments occurred. While walking through the park he heard a young man (possibly Mark Hummel), playing. Andy asked him about a song he was playing—it was a Little Walter song. Andy scribbled it down on a matchbook cover. Later, that evening he walked past a North Beach club where Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee were booked. “I didn’t know a harmonica could sound like that,” Santana said. “I’d always looked at it as a toy. I had one but didn’t know one end from another. I was just blowing and drawing and making noise, not music. When I saw Sonny Terry, wow, I wanted to do that.”
Humbled by his deep appreciation for his early musical encounters with harmonica player Gary Smith, guitarist Junior Watson and guitarist/harmonica player Paul Durkett helped to mold his lifetime of playing. Andy always credits his musical friends as the reason for inspiration and direction.
With over 30 years experience fronting bands in Northern California, Andy and his band have backed, played and toured with blues legends guitarist Jimmy Rogers, guitarist Luther Tucker, drummer Al Duncan, bassist Dave Myers, guitarist Freddie Robinson (Abu Talib), singer Nappy Brown, saxophonist Joe Houston and singer/guitarist Earl King. Andy was also featured on harmonica with Bonnie Raitt at the Bay Area Music Awards. He has played many West Coast music festivals, also the Jazz and Heritage Festival in New Orleans, and has toured from Seattle to Belgium.
In 2015, Andy joined southern California’s Delta Groove Music as a recording artist and producer. His CD Watch Your Step was released worldwide to rave reviews. He co-produced and wrote most of Lady Of The Blues for blues star Miss Freddye of Pittsburgh, PA, who was nominated for two Blues Music Awards in 2017.
Andy’s band, the West Coast Playboys, consists of renowned northern California artists–Rusty Zinn, Mike Phillips, June Core, Greg Roberts, Kenny Marchese, and Larry Carr, depending on venue and location. These musicians form a world class blues band playing rhythm and roots music reminiscent of New Orleans, Chicago, and West Coast influences.
Bill Scholer is a native Californian, born in Concord, California in 1954. As a teenager, he was greatly influenced by Jimmy Page, Albert King, Mike Bloomfield, Steve Miller and many others. From that point on he worked to become a guitarist, making many trips on a Greyhound bus to San Francisco to see guitarists Albert King, Mike Bloomfield, Steve Miller and more.
Scholer came to Davis to work for the UCD Art Department as Graphic Technician in 1981, which led him to meet Mike Henderson. Henderson was a blues guitarist who was performing with Mike Bloomfield, Albert Collins and opening for Jerry Garcia. With the encouragement of Henderson, Bill started performing in Davis coffee shops and open mics.
Teaming up with harmonica player Jim Lewis this acoustic duo opened shows for Paul Butterfield and Rick Danko, Willie Dixon, James Cotton and John Lee Hooker at the Palms. Adding drums, bass, and sax, The Bill Scholer Blues Band started hitting the clubs. This initial version of the Bill Scholer Blues Band opened shows for Los Lobos, The Chambers Brothers and The Ventures and played the Sacramento Blues Festival.
As bands do after many years, Scholer formed a newer version of the Bill Scholer Blues Band, which once represented the Sacramento Blues Society at the Oakland Art Museum at a gathering of Northern California Blues Societies and toured the Ukraine (then part of the USSR as part of the Davis Sister City Project}. Scholer went on to form other bands that played in the old Sam’s Hof Brau, Fox and Goose and the Hogshead Brew Pub in Old Sac. Each of these bands had a mixture of stellar performers.
The band took another turn in the 90’s, coming together with other current HOF members along with many other notables. Scholer continued to expand his repertoire and even played zydeco music in the Mark St Mary Zydeco Blues Band.
In 2000 Scholer performed at the Crocker Art Museum with Robert Armstrong, Keith Cary and Jim Monroe for the exhibition The Art of the Resonator Guitar.
Teaching music has always been Bill’s passion; he was awarded the California Arts Council Artist in Residency grant to teach music within the California State Prison system before relocating to Japan in 2012, where he currently resides with his wife Karla.
Fred “Deacon” Baker
Fred “Deacon” Baker started his musical career early at the age of six singing gospel in the church choir and was singing solos by the age of 10. His first instrument of choice was the trumpet, which he played in high school and college marching bands. While in high school he taught himself harmonica and in college played in a jazz band that backed such notables as Doc Severinsen. His career in the Navy took him to various countries where he could expand upon his vocals and harp playing, eventually leading him back to the States, where he soon became a popular fixture, playing with Johnny Heartsman, Arbess Williams, and Omar Sharriff (all HOF members now), generally at Sam’s Hof Brau and the Torch Club. He has done studio work with Sly and the Family Stone and Sammy Hagar, television work out of Chico, CA on Channel 12, and even crossed the line playing country at the Opry Land Hotel and the Nashville Palace in Nashville.
Upon returning to Sacramento Deacon was encouraged by Ken Van Cromphaut (Obie Dee) to join his band the BluesExciters and when it folded, joined up with the Sacramento Blues Revue, with whom he continues to play to this day.
Ken (Obie Dee) Van Cromphaut
Ken (Obie Dee) Van Cromphaut has been a fixture on the West Coast music scene for more than forty years. With formal classical training, he had a love for Gospel and Blues music at an early age. He has also donned the composer hat and is a member of ASCAP as well as being a session musician and performing artist. As a guitarist, Obie Dee has crafted a crystalline guitar tone and screaming leads, and along with his raspy vocals, they have become his signature sound. His membership in some of the best known bands include The BluesExciters (founder), performed with Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers, The Grant Urias Band, Ro Harpo, the Slim Chance Band, Sleeper, Bone Jelly, and most recently the Zola Moon Band. In addition, Ken has been active in fund-raising events such as Loaves and Fishes, MDA Telethon, and the Multiple Sclerosis Society. He is a continuing member of the Sacramento Blues Society and the now-defunct Sierra Blues Society, where he once served on the Board of Directors.
Stan Powell started playing harmonica in the late 1970s, taking lessons from Little Charlie Baty. He began sitting in with bands in Sacramento, including Sacramento Hall of Fame members Little Charlie and Rick Estrin of the Nightcats, Ray “Catfish” Copeland, and Johnny Knox, who were each important early influences on his playing and gave him practical education on playing music. Stan continued to sit in with local bands and play at jam sessions while he lived in Arizona and southern California in the 1980s, and he had the opportunity to play with now well-known national artists like Bob Corritore, Janiva Magness, and the William Clarke band (then featuring Rick Holmstrom and Zach Zunis on guitars). Stan also played on his first recording with the Phoenix band, the Hoo Doo Kings.
Upon returning to Sacramento in 1991, Stan joined his first band, the Coolerators, which has since evolved into the current Midtown Creepers. The band has survived almost 25 years with original members Jerry McGuire and Stan Powell – while other personnel have changed, the band still includes a Nightcats alum and Hall of Fame member Liz Peel on bass, who Stan first met while taking lessons from Little Charlie. The Creepers have played at many of the notable Sacramento area clubs, including the Torch Club, Sam’s Hofbrau, the Stoney Inn, and the Sutterville Saloon (now the Powerhouse Pub), and put out their CD “All Over Town” that included a number of originals by the band.
Stan was also a member of Catfish and the Crawdaddies for about 15 years, reconnecting musically with Catfish Copeland. Stan participated in most of the band’s performances at the Sacramento Music Festival, and played on all three of the Crawdaddies’ CDs. Stan has also played with other northern California artists, including three CDs by west coast guitar wizard Kenny Blue Ray; Bobby Blues Ray’s recent “Blues Knight of the West Coast” CD; Julie and the Jukes and is currently playing original rock and roll music with Friday Night Band, having played on their first CD.
Tim Wilbur has been a first call drummer for an extensive list of Sacramento’s best musicians/bands and beyond, going back decades. It’s been said that Tim, a pro’s pro, has always been well prepared and on time for every musical assignment!
Wilbur was mentored by Ray Torres (Jimmy Reed, Freddie King, Delbert McClinton), played with Timothy Grass, co-founder, ’67-’70, a band featured in the legendary gigs in William Land Park, also Slo Loris, co-founder, ’69-‘70, horn band that gigged in the Sacramento Area/San Francisco Bay Area, opening for Tower Of Power, Savoy Brown, Boz Skaggs, Linda Tillery & The Loading Zone, Sons of Champlin, and Elvin Bishop. He also played many times in various bands with or backed the following folks: Mick Martin, Johnny Clarke, Gary Black, Johnny Nugget, Omar Sharriff, Marcus Rivers; Newell Burton (Electric Church), Craig Horton, Jimmy Z (Etta James, Rod Stewart), Roger Smith (Tower of Power), Guitar Shorty, RW Grigsby, and Steve Samuels.
Tim played in the Oldies Revue (Hughes Stadium, early ‘80s w/Johnny Heartsman), backed Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley, Mary Wells, the Coasters, the Drifters, Jewel Aiken, and Will Porter, in addition to playing many times at the Sacramento Blues Festival produced by the late Phil Givant in the 80’s; backed Chuck Berry there in 1992; and the Johnny Knox Trio with Jay Peterson at Sam’s Hof Brau, 1991-1992. 1995-2000 brought him into the Bill Scholer Blues Band; Kenny Blue Ray 2009-2012; Catfish and the Crawdaddies w/Ray Copeland 2012-2014; Red’s Blues, Sacramento Music Festival 2017 and The Hucklebucks 2010-present, plus the 2017 Sammies Hall of Fame.
(XX? – 2017)
Jay Peterson was the former bassist for Little Charlie and the Nightcats and unfortunately cancer took his life in May. Over the course of his music career, Jay worked with such notables as Chuck Berry, Otis Rush and Charlie Musselwhite and local luminaries like Johnny “Guitar” Knox and more recently, Kyle Rowland. Jay’s professionalism and showmanship were instrumental in taking Little Charlie and the Nightcats from working the local bar scene to being signed by Alligator records and touring the world. Jay fought and conquered some serious health issues and had really been thriving the past few years until the cancer got him.
Charlie Baty recalls “Jay Peterson has represented Sacramento around the whole world. Jay was there at the inception of the blues scene at Sam’s Hofbrau and backed Johnny Knox there for years. Jay lived here for large chunks of time twice in his life. There have been few people who have been as influential as Jay Peterson in the history of Sacramento blues.”
ANTHONY (TONY) MONTANINO’s first band he played with was The Sunland Blues Band with Steve Samuels, Nate Shiner, and Dave Frasier, playing together about six years. The Sunland Blues Band backed up Luther Tucker, Charlie Musselwhite, John Lee Hooker, Willy Dixon and local Bobby ‘Blues’ Ray many times and opened to a sold-out Boz Skaggs concert at UCD Freeborn Hall.
Tony started a blues band called Quickshake after that, which consisted of Ray Copeland, Jim Monroe, and Liz Peel. After a year the band hired Charles Baty, which evolved into Little Charlie and the Nitecats, and a few months later Rick Estrin was added.
Tony went on to play with Nate Shiner and the Nite Hawks for several years, which later became The Nate Shiner Band. With Nate Shiner, they backed up Big Mama Thornton at the Sacramento Blues Festival along with many others.
In addition to his music, Tony has been painting blues figures for over 25 years and has autographed paintings by Fats Domino and Charlie Musselwhite.
Tony also designed the first logo for the SBS, which was used on the first membership cards & t-shirts. He also did the designs for most of The Sacramento Blues Festival & Heritage Festival posters and t-shirts. Tony has created many fine paintings of blues & jazz musicians, as well as local landscapes.
Born in Sacramento, California, MARCEL SMITH has remained a steady influence on California’s music scene for over 30 years. In his childhood, Marcel was exposed to various genres of music that made an impact on him and would remain with him to this day. Marcel began singing as a young child singing in church.
In 1981, Marcel joined the newly formed gospel group the WD Brothers (eventually would be WD Gospel Singers) and would begin a musical journey that would afford him many opportunities in the ensuing years.
In 1986, Marcel joined local blues band the Soul Prophets with Robert Nakashima. This band would grow to be among some of the best blues/soul bands in Sacramento. In 1993 the Soul Prophets won a SAMMIE Best Blues Band award sharing the honor with veteran blues band Little Charlie and the Nightcats (with Rick Estrin).
Marcel would continue working with both WD Gospel Singers and the Soul Prophets, sometimes appearing at the same blues festivals or club venues. In 2010, “Big” Mike Balma pulled a show together of the Soul Prophets and featured Earl Thomas and Otis Clay.
In 2014, Marcel and the WD’s were honored with the Black Music Award (BMA) Music Icon Award and were inducted into the Sacramento Black Music Hall of Fame.
This is one amazing artist that needs to be heard.
HARVEY “GUITAR MAC” MACKNALLY is from Cotton Plant, Arkansas, but his music is pure Mississippi Delta Blues. He was introduced to playing the blues guitar at a very young age, learning the Delta style which is still alive and kicking in that region. He moved to the South Bay area in 1968 and settled in Sacramento, California. He has relentlessly pursued opportunities to perform and demonstrate this style of music to the masses and this drive takes him all over the world. He’s performed in Europe – all over France, Italy, England, Germany and Holland. In California he’s been playing his music since 1983 at the Sacramento Blues Festival until it’s end.
He has 14 CDs out on the worldwide market I-Tunes. He has also been graced with many prestigious awards, solidifying his mark in this industry: 1990 – Key to the City of Sacramento, CA by then Mayor Ann Rudin; 1991 – Blues DJ Of The Year – Bay area Blues Society; 2002 – Radio Producer Of The Decade – Access Sacramento; 2006 – West Coast Blues Hall of Fame – Blues Band Leader Of The Year; 2009 – West Coast Blues Hall Of Fame – Traditional Delta Style Blues Artist of the Year.
DOUG CRUMPACKER began his career in Blues by playing saxophone and harmonica around Northern California with Buddy Brown and the Hound Dogs in the early 1980’s.
Around 1990 Doug formed The Hucklebucks with Robert Sidwell on guitar, RW Grigsby on bass and the late Jeff Poncia, drums. The Hucklebucks were very popular and played approximately 200 dates a year during the post Stevie Ray Blues boom. They were Sacramento News and Review Sammie winners and have been a fixture at the Torch Club and the former Sacramento Dixie Land Jazz Jubilee when blues bands were introduced to the event in the early 1990’s. Doug’s band has backed up Nicky Hill, a young blues star on the rise and others.
In recent years Doug switched to playing guitar due to a dental injury. His current Hucklebucks lineup features 2013 Sacramento Blues HOF inductee Jim Monroe on piano. Doug is highly respected in the local blues community for his integrity and commitment to Traditional Blues.
DALE LYBERGER has lived in Davis and played bass in and around the Sacramento area since the early 1970’s. Dale’s first band was the Fourskins, a very popular band that often played the Oasis Ballroom and Crabshaw Corner every Thursday night to a packed house for more than five years in the 1970’s, followed by a stint with the very popular Redwing.
In the late 1970’s Dale played with Little Charlie and the Nightcats and his focus shifted to Blues. Dale played with The Bill Scholar Blues Band through the 80’s and 90’s and Catfish and the Crawdaddies from 2000 through 2010. Dale performed at a number of Sacramento Blues Festivals, backing up Chuck Berry, Eric Burdon, Kenny “Blue” Ray, and Steve Samuels, to name just a few. Dale has also played with The Jeff Watson Band and Bob Mora and the Third Degree for many years. The past seven plus years has found Dale playing with The Hucklebucks.
Dale has been a first call guy for blues bass throughout the Sacramento area for 35 plus years.
Donna Proctor Smith
Donna Proctor Smith is a lifelong musician. At three years old, she demonstrated a fascination for music that was quickly embraced by her father, Vernon Proctor, a distinguished United States Air Force Band commander and later a Sacramento City College adjunct instructor. At age twelve, she began classical training on flute, then at 18, took up her father’s instrument, the bass.
Since the 1970s, Donna has been in demand. Her competent bass playing gained the attention of many headliners, including Blues legend Charles Brown, who offered her a position in his ensemble, Jimmy McCracklin, Floyd Dixon, BB King, Frankie Lee, John Mayall, Ray Charles and country player, Rodney Crowell. Their encouragement as well as her father’s is the guiding force behind her strive for excellence.
Most of Donna’s career as been with blues ensembles including stints with Blues Hall-of-Famer Mick Martin, Seattle Blues WC Handy winner Duffy Bishop, Gospel great Glenn Lane as well as in over 30 assorted regional bands.
Apart from the blues, Donna has performed with Native Music Grammy winner, Mary Youngblood, Grammy winner, Bob Cheevers, several folk/americana/classic rock bands, sang and played bass and flute in a duo for 10 years, was invited to play gospel in a church service and has recorded with a country band. She was a founding member of the Blues Rockers and played on Smith Martin and Shaw’s hit single, “Oh, the Road.”
Donna continues to vary her musical experiences. In 2015, she debuted as a lead lecturer for the Blues Society BITS program, and kept busy with the Lodi-based Esquires Blues Band along with several Sacramento bands. Eventually, she would like to return to performing classical flute.
Liz Peel Vanhouten
(?? – 2016)
Robert Sidwell’s career as a blues musician began in 1993 as a founding member of the Chrome Addicts along with Tommy Young, Ben Thompson and Brad Cross. In 1995 Robert was a founding member of the Hucklebucks along with Doug Crumpacker. (the band worked 200+ shows a year in nor-cal until 2001). From 2006-08 Robert worked with The Rusty Zinn Band. From 2008-10 found Robert in the popular Sacramento Valley country band Rowdy Kate. Just recently from 2010-14 Robert has been working with well known Bay Area artist Earl Thomas and the Blues Ambassadors.
Some other artist’s of note that Sid is working with currently include Mark Hummel and the Blues Survivors, Red’s Blues, the Kyle Rowland Band and his new project is the Switchblade Trio with Larry Carr and James Pace
Over the years Robert has shared the stage with a number of other prominent blues musicians including Rick Estrin, Charlie Baty, Steve Freund, Junior Watson, Ronnie James Weber, Nick Moss, Andy Santana, Terry Hanck, Johnny Knox, Bob Mora, Jim Monroe, Doug Crumpacker, June Core, Kedar Roy, Aaron Moreno, Mike Morgan, John Lawton and Aki Kumar.
Robert has been one of the best traditional blues guitarists in the northern area for over 20 years. He has also composed some fine instrumental pieces as well.
A true product of the Sacramento blues scene, guitarist Aaron King has been an ambassador for Sacramento blues around the world showcasing a style that owes as much to jazz guitarists like Herb Ellis and country guitarists like Hank Garland as it does to blues guitarists like Albert King and Albert Collins. Born and raised in Sacramento, King got his first lessons in blues from Sacramento Blues Hall of Famer Johnny “Guitar” Knox. He continued his blues guitar education under the mentorship of another Sacramento Blues Hall of Famer, Little Charle Baty, developing a style that would combine blues, jazz, and country guitar. From there he spent his formative years playing guitar for and recording with the late, great pianist Omar Shariff.
Playing with renowned Sacramento jump blues band The Chrome Addicts, King went on to win several Sacramento Area Music Awards (Sammies) including a Critic’s Choice Award for Outstanding Guitarist. After several national and international tours with the Chrome Addicts, he left the band to start his own group, Aaron King and the Imperials. In addition to playing with the Imperials he also toured with world-renowned boogie-woogie pianist Mitch Woods playing such prestigious festivals as the Montreal Jazz Festival and Umbria Jazz Festival.
In recent years, King has broadened his musical horizons through his association with highly respected Sacramento jazz bassist Harley White, Jr., blurring the lines between blues, jazz, funk, and even hip-hop in an effort to continue pushing the music forward in ways his predecessors did decades earlier with the electrification of blues- a radical notion at the time.
Derek’s interest in music began at the age of four or five years as a radio kid who heard Bill Monroe and the Texas Playboys, Leadbelly, and Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup doing their hits of the day. At age seven he wanted to be a musician and began listening to music differently than before. He played drums and slide trombone in high school and played the ‘bone in both the marching band and concert band in undergraduate school. He was also listening hard and regularly to the blues on WLAC in Nashville, TN. Playing in school and listening to the blues on radio and at many blues gigs in his former home town sealed his blues fate. Along the way, he added variety – following Miles Davis, Charlie Parker, Jimmy Smith, Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, lots of great Rhythm & Blues artists and countless other musicians.
Derek came to Sacramento in 1972 and his musical interest was strengthened when he joined forces with the founding group of the Sacramento Blues Society. He then served as President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Parliamentarian. He often was the Master of Ceremonies at SBS functions and states he has “provided my meager skills as a musician for a number of Blues Society benefits to aid in the advancement and presentation of the blues”.
Derek began a side career as a radio broadcaster in 1988, with strong emphasis on blues programming with a little jazz added. He spent 12 years at KUOP-FM at the University of the Pacific, in Stockton, hosting “Trackin’ the Blues” and regularly advising the listeners of Blues Society events and featured artists around town. He continued seven years more after the station was absorbed by Capitol Public Radio at KXJZ-FM in Sacramento, but lost his ability to promote the Blues Society and local musicians and shows while there. Derek moved his “Trackin’ the Blues to KVMR-FM in Nevada City, CA seven years ago.
Music has been the unifying thread in Joe’s life. It has been his full time career as an adult. And blues has been right at the center of it all.
His first blues memory is, from the age of 10 or 12, when his folk-singing parents brought home copy of a record on Folkways called “Blues with Big Bill Broonzy, Sonny Terry and Brownie McGee”. It featured the three bluesmen being interviewed by the incomparable Studs Terkel and songs from all of them. He remembers Big Bill said “blues is something you live” and Studs said “Charlie Parker said if you don’t live it, it won’t come out of your horn.” Joe didn’t know what “it” was but he wanted “it”, wanted to live “it.” Since then he has strived to be a real one, and says it’s up to his peers and listeners to determine if he has fulfilled his mission.
Since age 12, Joe had a long succession of teenage bands, first were surf bands with progressions just like blues. Joe says the Rolling Stones pointed his way to real blues. He was in his first “good band”, Buckwheat, right out of high school. It was definitely blues based, everything from Muddy Waters to Mose Allison.
The next 15 years found Joe playing in a succession of funk, rock and country cover bands and Nevada style show bands. In 1984 he got off the road and started playing with anyone that would allow him. This culminated in a nine year relationship with the newly formed Beer Dawgs with Bob Pearce.
Joe left the Beer Dawgs in 1995 and his blues pursuit began in earnest. He booked two ongoing blues jam house band gigs; two a week at the old Torch Club with Mr. Johnny Nugget and one a week in Nevada City with B.B. and the Blue Jays. Soon he was getting the blues repertoire under his belt. All this lead to a tour with the great Frankie Lee among many other blues gigs. He still plays full time, all sorts of American roots music, but with a strong emphasis on the blues.
He has shared stages and studios with many local and a few national blues stars, and have been teaching bass and guitar for 15 years. The past five years Joe has been passing on his love of the blues to the many students involved in our Blues in the Schools program through performances and workshops. He also serves as an artist in residence at Rosemont and West Campus High Schools, passing his skills and love of the blues on to another generation.
Jan moved to Sacramento from Portland, OR in March, 1984 and worked for a law firm where one of the lawyers was a singer in a Blues band. He told her about the Sacramento Blues Festival in the fall and invited her to attend. She did and became a huge fan of the Blues.
The following year, Jan contacted Phil Givant and became one of his devoted volunteers, continuing to volunteer at the Blues Festival each year until its end in 1993. Charles Washington was leading the volunteers at the time and explained to Jan about the Sacramento Blues Society; she joined the Society and continued her volunteering for many of its events thru the years. She expanded her knowledge and love of the Blues, going to other shows and volunteering, and becoming acquainted with the local Blues bands and clubs.
Jan started contributing reviews of Blues festivals and other Blues shows for the SBS newsletter “Blue Notes” in 1994, later adding calendar information for events in the region. She has contributed many articles to it over time. In 2010, Jan became co-editor and continues in that function – working tirelessly to produce a blues newsletter the SBS can showcase.
She first became a SBS Board member in 2000 and 2001 as Secretary, all while undergoing treatments for Breast Cancer! At the time, there were only 4 Board members and no other volunteers. Jan then became President, starting weekly jams at a local club with all local bands, giving away cassettes/CDs to newly joining members, and with the good graces of Willie Brown, built up the membership and interest level for the SBS.
Mike Balma had been producing Blues shows that Jan attended, and when he started the series of Heritage Festival concerts, she joined his staff & continued to volunteer at most of his events for several years. She was one of the volunteer coordinators for Mike at his shows in the Camp Pollack area.
When Jan left the SBS Board in 2003, she learned that the Sierra Blues Society, which encompassed a large area in the foothills around Sacramento, was in need of Board members to keep it a viable organization. She stayed on their Board for three years, but gravitated back to the Sacramento Blues Society to help them, becoming a Board member once again in 2011 as Parliamentarian, leading to Vice President and eventually President in 2013. During this time, she also solicited and arranged raffle prizes at events (which contribute to the general fund for SBS), served on various committees and volunteered in different capacities.
Jan has given the Blues Community the gift of her leadership skills, knowledge of Blues history, friendly relationships with well-known blues artists, charm, skill, and friendliness.
Marshal began his singing career at an early age, singing for cookies in Shreveport, LA at the local market where his mother shopped. At about age 3, he learned “When the Swallows Come Back to Capistrano” from the radio, and sang it over and over as his mother shopped. The shopkeeper was delighted in this small child singing about Capistrano and rewarded him with a cookie. As he requested a cookie every time he went into the shop, the shopkeeper would gather the shoppers and have Marshall sing before he got the cookie. At about 15, he set his sights on a classical career and took vocal lessons to compete in contests.
Somewhere along the way, he discovered the blues, and the classical dreams no longer existed. He also began playing the guitar. Enlisting in the Air Force at 18, he sang with The Continentals which performed in the “Tops in Blue” show. After his service, he formed a duo and sang in the Los Angeles area.
Marshall relocated from the Los Angeles area to Sacramento in the late 1980’s, and got involved in the local music scene while employed by the State of California. Although he had a “day job” his evenings were filled with music. In 1999, he formed the group Marshal Law. This was a very popular local band that represented the Sacramento Blues Society at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN in 2000.
Marshal retired from his day job in 2001 and added more music to his life by attending jams and taking invitations to be a guest vocalist. In 2004 he joined, and is still with, the Sacramento Blues Review. When the band Marshal Law disbanded in 2005 he formed a new band, Smoked Sugar. Two years later he formed a blues trio called Mixed Drinks. The Sacramento Blues Revue was nominated for the SAMMIES in the Blues category in 2008, and they brought home the award. Marshall is proud of his vocal participation with the group and of this local recognition.
Patrick Balcom aka ‘Ratatat’ Pat
Born and raised in Sacramento, California, Patrick started out with pots and pans but eventually got a snare drum and learned to read music from Mike Lawson. Pat’s father’s radio station job gave him access to the vinyl record vaults at KRAK and KCTC, so Pat began listening to every kind of music under the sun down at the radio stations and would take home recordings to learn on the drums. This allowed him to play with any style band due to his repertoire. In his teen years Pat wrote and played original music with The Azari Project (w/Leo Bootz), Blind Man’s Treat (w/Paul Relvas), Landfall and The Jinx.
Pat was in The Rhythm Method (w/Dave Garity) a 50’s and 60’s band in the late 1980’s, which took him to Sam’s Hof Brau that had blues seven nights a week. This is where Pat saw for the first time Johnny Heartsman, Arbess Williams, Johnny “Guitar” Knox, Gene Chambers, Lena Mosley, Big John Evans, Jimmy Smith, Mark Hummel, Rick Estrin and Omar (Sharriff) The Magnificent. Many of these musicians are in the SBS’ Hall of Fame.
In 1991 Arbess started her own band with Pat as her drummer. She loved his drumming but couldn’t remember his name, so someone said it’s Pat, like Ratatat, and that’s how he’s been known since. ‘Ratatat’ Pat began working with and recording albums with his mentors Arbess Williams, Johnny Heartsman, Omar Sharriff and Johnny “Guitar” Knox.
‘Ratatat’ is also well known in the Rock and Roll world; a life-long study of New Orleans roots music keeps this “Bluesman” playing Jazz, Cajon, Zydeco, Rock, Country and the Blues all around Northern California. Pat has played and recorded with a plethora of well-known blues musicians, always keeping the rhythm going. He can be seen in many blues bands in this area.
Born in Sacramento and raised in West Sacramento, Lew started playing professionally at an early age and by age 22 was on his own. In the mid-seventies, he did some stints in Los Angeles and then returned to Sacramento. Around 1989, Pat Balcom and Lew formed the Luminators and started playing at Sam’s Hof Brau and the Torch Club. Around the same time, they became Arbess Williams’ (HOF Inductee) back-up band and recorded her first CD. They also recorded with Omar Sharriff (HOF inductee) and contributed to the Sacramento Blues CDs.
Lew and Pat soon became one of the most popular bands in town and were able to record CDs of their own material. The Sacramento News and Review nominated the CD “Bright Idea” for Best CD of 1993. That same year, Lew was nominated for a Sammie for Best Blues Guitarist and The Luminators won for Best Blues Band. In 2009, he and his good friend Jimmy Pailer were selected to represent the Sacramento Blues Society in Memphis at the International Blues Competition. For the past several years, they both have been instructor/lecturer for the SBS’ Blues In The Schools program. Lew has played weekly at the Torch Club for 20 years and continues to entertain there.
California born and raised, James Monroe learned to play piano by listening to such stalwarts as Johnnie Johnson (Chuck Berry’s piano player), the great Otis Spann, Floyd Dixon, Professor Longhair and others who would influence his playing. Although Jim has taken some music lessons over the years, he is primarily self-taught.
The Nate Shiner Blues Band was one of the leading blues groups in town in the late 60’s, early 70’s and Jim would play with Nate’s band for many years. He also learned quite a bit about playing the blues from Steve Samuels (HOF Inductee), performing in Steve’s band during the late seventies. Jim was an original member of Little Charlie and the Night Cats in the mid-seventies; during the early eighties Jim started his own group, the Bluescasters.
Throughout Jim’s musical career he has backed some big name blues artists: Big Mama Thornton, Charlie Musselwhite, Luther Tucker, Lowell Fulson, Norton Buffalo and others at festivals and clubs. Jim also toured with the great blues pianist Floyd Dixon in the late seventies, as his bass player. Jim was also on tracks for the two blues CDs that recorded local performers in the Sacramento area. In 1991, he performed for a couple of years with Mark Hummel, then joined the Craig Horton band around 2003, playing in his band for years, followed by a tour with Joe Louis Walker in 2007.
Jim continues to play with Craig Horton at festivals as well as with local bands, such as Ray ‘Catfish’ Copeland (HOF inductee) and his band The Crawdaddies.
Hailing from St. Louis, Missouri, Jimmy played the Reno circuit between St. Louis and Reno before coming to Sacramento in 1989. His musical style is deeply rooted from Delta Blues, International Blues, and Rock and Roll, but as most blues musicians feel, Jimmy says blues is always incorporated into all his music.
Jimmy has played in a variety of local groups such as Funkengruven, and with Lew Fratis, Bruce Spencer, Stacie Eakes, Mick Martin, Arbess Williams, and many others. He went on to form his own group known as Jimmy Pailer and The Bad Boys, later forming The Prophets. Jimmy has had the opportunity to work with many musical greats such as Walter Trout, Tommy Castro, Chuck Berry, Bobby Vega, Leon Russell, Rare Earth, and Richie Hayward.
In 2009, he and Lew Fratis were selected to represent the Sacramento Blues Society in Memphis at the International Blues Competition. Jimmy has dedicated his time and talent in working with the Sacramento Blues Society’s “Blues in the Schools Program” by volunteering at the inner city schools to perform, educate, and teach students about the Blues. Jimmy has also served as emcee for charity shows at the Torch Club. He continues to perform every Thursday night at the San Juan Club and can also be seen most Friday nights at the Torch Club, along with Lew Fratis.
Nate ‘Snakeboy’ Shiner
Born in Shiner, Texas, his family moved when he was young from Texas to Sacramento and he began playing alto sax and singing pop tunes.
Nate formed his own band, first becoming Good Time Lovin’ and then Tombstone Pillbox, eventually evolving into the Nate Shiner Blues Band (NSBB). In 1968, the group was asked to open for a touring blues act. The act was the legendary Muddy Waters Blues Band. This event led Nate to a life-long love of the blues and the nickname “Snakeboy” after Muddy’s guitarist Luther “Georgia Boy” “Snake” Johnson.
In the late 1970’s, the NSBB became the Sunland Blues Band; many of these players became HOF inductees. For ten years, Nate worked for Phil Givant (HOF inductee) and the Sacramento Blues Festival performing with his own band or backing others. He also produced videos of the festival using the equipment of Sacramento Public Access television.
Nate and a partner also opened The Grinding Stone (now Luna’s) on 16th Street and featured Steve Samuels, Johnny Knox and Mike Andrews as some of the acts who played there. The Grinding Stone featured some of the best artists in Sacramento at its monthly art shows and musicians from the Fifth String came in for Thursday night jam sessions. Nate also found time to do a blues radio show for KYDS public radio, started by the founders of KVMR in Nevada City. Rick Estrin, among others, played live at the station.
In 1984, Nate joined forces with vocalist/guitarist G.G. Amos and for the next ten years they toured as a duo and sometimes with a full band. After ten years, the duo split and GG formed GG and the Magic Band, touring extensively in the U.S. Nate joined as vocalist and played harmonica, lap slide guitar and keyboards. Nate and GG also coproduced the CD “Gots Ta Go”. Nate has an impressive discography too numerous to mention here.
After five years, Nate returned to his blues roots with his group The Straight Ahead Blues Trio with drummer and long-time friend Tony Montanino and bassist Nick Doud, whose mother, Cathy “Detroit” Rae he soon fell in love with and married. Nate and Cathy currently reside in Texas and perform as the Snakeboy Shiners, with Cathy on drums and percussion.
(1929 – 2012)
For more than 40 years, Al Arnett was the bass player of choice and an important part of the rhythm section which built the Sacramento blues scene.
Born in Georgia and raised in Cleveland, Al started playing guitar professionally in 1947, wearing a fake beard and mustache to disguise his age. In 1960, he switched to bass guitar and, as an Air Force serviceman, played in bands composed of the best military musicians. During his overseas tours, he worked bases in France and Japan, often playing 6-7 nights a week. In Japan, he met and worked with guitarist Gene Chambers (later to become a Sacramento resident and Sacramento Blues Hall of Famer) and they backed visiting stars, including Lou Rawls and Sam and Dave.
In 1972, he moved to Sacramento and, along with Gene Chambers and drummer Marshall “Soulman” Jones formed the core rhythm section for multiple Sacramento bands. Al typically worked in two or thee bands at a time for many years, some which endured for more than 20 years. Al played with the Dave Bonds Rhythm & Blues Band (considered for several years the top Sacramento band), the Blues Express, Blues Ambassadors, Soul of the Blues (Glenn Lane’s band), Nate Shiner Big Blues Revue, Bits and Pieces and many others. Al also led Everyday People, another solid, long-time Sacramento blues band.
Al played most of the Sacramento Blues Festivals and many of the Sacramento Heritage Festivals in multiple bands. He’s backed Little Milton, Lowell Fulson, Jimmy McCracklin, Roy Brown and countless other local and national blues luminaries. He also recorded with the Blues Ambassadors, Glenn Lane, Arbess Williams, Johnny Heartsman and Omar Sharriff.
Al is best-known as the bass player that “everybody wants to play with”.
Ray “Catfish” Copeland
Born and raised in California, Ray Copeland moved to Sacramento in 1967 and began playing guitar, where he soon met up with a local group of musicians called the Sunland Blues Band. Their Guitarist Steve Samuels helped Ray get going with some blues ba-sics.
In 1976, Ray formed a band called Quick-shake, where he met blues harmonica ace and guitarist Little Charlie Baty, who taught Ray all the correct chord forms for backing Charlie’s harmonica. Charles joined the band and the name soon changed to Little Charlie and the Nightcats. During the late 70´s Ray played with The Nate Shiner Blues Band and then got an opportunity through local blues promoter Phil Givant to go on tour with blues piano legend Floyd Dixon, followed by a short stint as guitar player for Mark St. Mary. In 1980 Ray was introduced to musician Johnny “Guitar” Knox (Hall of Fame inductee) and the band called The Blue Flames was formed. The Blue Flames performed in the area until 1999, even though Ray had left in 1985. During the next 10 years Ray managed a Tower Re-cords store in Sacramento and played occasionally at the Sacramento Blues Festival and a few local es-tablishments. Ray has performed on stage with blues notables Big Momma Thornton, Luther Tucker, Elvin Bishop, William Clark, Rod Piazza, Little Joe Blue, Buddy Ace, Johnny Heartsman, Little Charlie Baty, Rick Estrin, (Hall of Fame Inductees) Kenny “Blue” Ray and many other great musicians.
Catfish and the Crawdaddies formed in 1995 and play a wide range of blues including Chicago, Texas, New Orleans, and West Coast styles, in addition to some old school Rock´n´Roll. They have been a popular attraction at the Sacramento Jazz Jubilee for the last 15 years and played several years at the world famous “Saloon” in San Francisco. Catfish and the Crawdaddies have released three self-produced recordings, for which they have received high reviews and numerous awards.
Marshall “Soulman” Jones
For more than 30 years, Marshall Jones was the drummer of choice and an important part of the rhythm section which built the Sacramento blues scene. Born in Natchitoches, Louisiana, Marshall started drumming to accompany the country music he heard as a kid. After moving to Oakland in 1995, he met Johnny Heartsman (HOF inductee), his next door neighbor, and started playing blues. He began his professional career in 1959-60 with Johnny’s band and developed his skills in Bay Area nightclubs, backing visiting national artists and jamming.
In the ‘70s, he moved to Sacramento and met harmonica player Johnny Ayers, who introduced him to Dave Bonds, Al Arnett and Gene Chambers (HOF inductee). Together, they first formed the Dave Bonds Rhythm & Blues Band, which was the most popular Sacramento band at the time. They played the Sacramento Blues Festival and backed many visiting musicians, including Little Milton. After Bonds found religion and moved to Los Angeles, Al, Gene and Marshall stuck together and formed the core rhythm section for multiple Sacramento blues bands that have endured for more than 20years. He was the leader of The Blues Express and The Blues Ambassadors throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s and played with many other local bands such as Nate Shiner’s Big Blues Revue.
Marshall played most of the Sacramento Blues Festivals and many of the Sacramento Heritage Festivals. He also recorded with the Blues Ambassadors and Glenn Lane.
(?? – 2014)
Known as one of Sacramento’s best blues guitarists/ v o c a l i s t s , St e v e Samuels was an important contributor to Sacramento’s reputation as a blues town. Born without a left hand, his arm ended just below the elbow. Nevertheless, he utilized it like a one fingered wrist and picked a right hander’s guitar by holding it upside down and backwards.
Steve grew up in Sacramento, started playing guitar at 17, discovered B.B.King and the blues at 19 and was a professional by age 20. In the late.60’s, Steve played guitar for Sacramento’s legendary blues band of exceptional local players, The Sunland Blues Band. In 1969, he sat in with The Muddy Waters’ Band for a gig in Berkeley and was invited back for Muddy’s gigs the next two days. In 1970, he started his own band, The Steve Samuels Blues Revue, and played regularly at many Sacramento area clubs, including Tootsie’s, Vangari’s, Melarkey’s and the Torch Club. He played nearly all of the Sacramento Blues Festivals as either a leader or sideman and his band was featured seven times from 1979-1989.
Steve has released two excellent LPs. In 1985, he recorded On The Corner Of Blues And Swing, backed by former members of the Mighty Flyers Band, along with William Clarke, pianist David Fraser, his brother Andrew Samuels (of Sacramento country-rock band Redwing) and special guest, Sacramento vocalist Bobby “Blues” Ray. He wrote two of the cuts. In 1994, he recorded Saturday Night Blues, which also included David Fraser and William Clarke. He also backed Bobby “Blues” Ray on “Your Friends” which appears on the Sacramento Blues compilation CD.
Torch Club / Texeira Family
The Torch Club was one of the first bars in Sacra-mento, established in 1934, the year prohibi-tion ended. Frank Texeira bought it in 1969, when it was origi-nally called The Tumble Inn. It had an upstairs sporting bar where pa-trons would place their bets on horse racing and the fights, and “ladies of the evening” were waiting for those who won. When the “fallen doves” didn’t have any busi-ness, they would come downstairs & sing torch songs at the piano located there. Thus it became known as “The Torch” although it is not known when the name officially changed.
There were also live jazz and lingerie shows held there, as well as a competitive art show that became so popular it was televised on the local TV stations. Frank was a gam-bler and fight manager who died in 1980 in Del Mar, where he had gone to retire. The slogan “known from Maine to Spain” became recognized in association with the Torch Club, which is attributed to the late Frank Texeira.
Looking at the display cases and pictures on the walls at the Torch, one can realize the sense of what was past. Ron moved the club in1982 from its original location at 8th & L Street forsaking the last “watering hole for politicians” who took an easy stroll from dinner at Frank Fat’s to drinks at the Torch Club. It was at this time people came to the Torch Club partly for the jukebox that was known for its 45 records in addition to the socializing over drinks. Over the years, music was gradually added, first by a live DJ, and eventually bands, notably The Beer Dawgs, by Ronnie Texeira, Ron’s son. That’s when Sam’s Hof Brau on J Street closed and there weren’t any other blues clubs around.
Marina Texeira, daughter of Ron, soon joined her father and brother and was instrumental in bringing in nationally known blues acts every day of the week. Their dad Ron passed away in May 2009. Since then, Marina has hosted various musical events for non-profit organizations and benefits at the Torch Club, always caring for the Blues Family at large. This club has continued to keep its jovial charm but has evolved into more than just a bar but also a community treasure. It is now going into its 12th year at the current location on 15th Street between I and J Streets.
Raised in Alabama, Lena grew up singing gospel in her grandmother’s church. She moved to Sacramento with her family in 1966. In 1976, Gene Chambers heard Lena sing and encouraged her to sing the blues, taking her around town and introducing her to such influences as Johnny Heartsman, Arbess Williams, Johnny Knox and Mick Martin.
Lena performed regularly for many years with local bands before forming her own band, Lena Mosley and The Badd Shoes Blues Band,” When Mike Balma decided to record a CD entitled “The Sacramento Blues,” it featured 10 local blues bands that included Lena’s. All the groups on the recording then toured from Sacramento to Tahoe, San Francisco, Redding, stopping at many of the surrounding cities. The Rhythm and Blues Magazine interviewed and featured an article on Lena’s participation in the tour and the CD.
Lena’s performance with the Sacramento Blues Society events span many years, performing at Christmas parties, fund raisers, jam sessions and the Blues In The School program. Lena also brought the “Blues” to the CSUS Student Body, and her band regularly performed at the Sacramento Blues Festival during the many years that Phil Givant was the producer, leading to being asked by the Jazz Jubilee to perform on subsequent occasions.
In 2006, Lena joined “The Sacramento Blues Revue,” an eight person band, as the only female vocalist. Recently the group received a SAMMIE (Sacramento Area Music Award) for the “Best Blues Band,” recognizing the band as a prominent local act.
“Big Mike” Balma
For more than 20 years, Mike Balma has contributed to Sacramento blues as a promoter and producer of blues festivals, concerts and shows and as an owner and producer of recordings by Sacramento blues musicians.
Mike volunteered for the Sacramento Blues Festival beginning in the 1980’s, eventually becoming a member of the executive staff, then went on to become President of the Sacramento Blues Society in 1992. Under his leadership with the SBS, there were 5 Blues in the Park concert series as well as the release of Sacramento Blues, a compilation CD of 16 Sacramento blues artists.
Mike is perhaps best known as the co-director of the Sacramento Heritage Festival, which was produced from 1994 to 2002 and sometimes drew over 10,000 attendees and featured many genres of music as an art form. From 1997 to 2011, Mike presented over 50 shows of multiple-themed acts in various venues, primarily the Sacramento Horsemen’s Association.
Several benefit concerts were held to generate funds for musicians and their families and thousands of dollars-worth of musical instruments were donated to a variety of Sacramento area school music programs.
During the past 20 years, Mike also produced blues programming for other Sacramento area musical programs, including the Rocklin Jubilee, Rainbow Festival, several SPCA Festivals, the Sacramento Downtown Concert Series and the Sacramento SAMMIES.
Omar Sharriff “aka” David Alexander Elam
(1938 – 2012)
Omar was born David Alexander Elam in Shreveport, Louisiana and was raised in Marshall, Texas migrating to California in 1957 and settling in the Bay Area in the mid-60s. He recorded 3 LPs in 1968, 1972-73 and in 1975 he was rated the 3rd best piano player in the world by Contemporary Keyboard magazine (behind Ray Charles and Mose Allison).
After the rise of disco and changing to his Muslim name, Omar saw his gigs limited and he sank into obscurity. He relocated to the Fresno area during the 1980’s and despite his distant location, Omar frequently gigged in Sacramento throughout the 80’s at Melarkeys, the Torch Club and the Palms Playhouse in Davis and was the house band for extended stays at Sam’s Hof Brau. In 1992, he moved to Sacramento and for the next 20 years had numerous appearances at Fulton’s Prime Rib and Jazzman’s in Old Sacramento.
Omar appeared at all the major national blues festivals, including many times at San Francisco. He appeared at every Sacramento Blues Festival from 1976-1993 and every Sacramento Heritage Festival held from 1994-2005. Omar also toured nationally and internationally.
Omar’s repertoire includes over 5000 songs and dozens of outstanding, edgy original compositions, many of which involve uncomfortable subjects and brutally honest lyrics. While in Sacramento, Omar recorded 3 CDs for the Have Mercy Label and his songs also appear on both Sacramento Blues compilation CDs. In 1993, his song “House Built By The Blues” was nominated for a Handy award and Sacramento Bee music critic David Barton called it “one of the best songs of any kind to come from a local songwriter” and Omar “one of the country’s best songwriters.”
In 2011, Omar returned to live as a honored musician in his hometown of Marshall, Texas at the request of the mayor, who declared the town “The Boogie Woogie Capital” upon Omar’s return.
Charlie Baty was born in Birmingham, Alabama in 1953 and started playing harmonica during his high school days in Millbrae, California. While attending UC Berkeley in the early 1970’s, he picked up some harp pointers from Rick Estrin, who was already a veteran on the Bay Area Blues scene. After graduation, Charlie moved to Sacramento to land a job in state government. On the side, he formed Little Charlie and the Nightcats in 1975, named in deference to Little Walter’s first band. Charlie held down the harp position and began to explore the guitar.
In May 1976, Rick asked Charlie for work and moved to Sacramento. For about two years, their double harp attack was prominent but Charlie continued to woodshed, studying Christian recordings and honing his skills. He quickly became a guitar wizard and left the harp licks to Rick.
Charlie is known for his acrobatic finger picking prowess and mastery of many musical styles, including jump, swing, surf, rockabilly, jazz and slow, gutbucket blues. He is considered among the very few best blues guitarists in the modern era and has been the namesake of the band that made Sacramento famous in the blues world.
Rick Estrin grew up in San Francisco and started playing harmonica in 1965 at age 16. After dropping out of high school, he roamed the streets near clubs in black neighborhoods soaking up the sounds inside and practicing his harp. His first professional job was opening, as sort of a white novelty act in a black band, at a Hunter’s Point bar. Soon he met bluesman Rodger Collins, who influenced him to develop an energetic stage routine.
In 1976, he moved to Sacramento and hooked up with Charlie Baty and his band, “Little Charlie & the Nightcats.” For a decade they gigged all over the Sacramento and Bay Area, playing clubs like Melarkey’s, Tootsie’s, Vangari’s and the Sacramento Blues Festival. In 1986, the band sent a tape to Alligator Records which immediately launched them into a non-stop touring routine that was to last 30 years. They released nine CDs and became Sacramento’s best-known contribution to the blues world, headlining festivals all over the world. Rick’s witty original tune, “My Next Ex-Wife” won the 1993 Blues Music Award for Song of the Year. After Charlie’s retirement, Rick formed Rick Estrin and the Nightcats, which continues to tour regularly, issue exciting music and represent Sacramento.
In the blues world, Rick is famous for his sharpdressed man look, his wry and thoughtful original songwriting, his unique harp tone reminiscent of the masters, and his soulful vocals.
(?? – 2002)
PHIL GIVANT was one of the seminal figures in Sacramento blues history and over a lifetime earned a national reputation as a blues expert. He was a mathematics professor at American River College for 41 years and a “blues professor” for nearly that long, teaching countless numbers of blues fans through his radio shows and festival productions from the mid-1970’s until his passing in 2002.
Phil was a co-founder of the Sacramento Blues Society in 1979. It is said the first meeting was in the living room of his Carmichael home. Phil cofounded the Sacramento Blues Festival in 1976, one of the few major blues festivals in the nation at that time. He produced the annual festivals from 1976 to 1993.
Johnny “GUITAR” Knox
(1950 – 2016)
Born in Oakland, California in 1950, Johnny was the oldest child in a family led by Jack Knox, a local guitarist and former radio personality who had broadcast from his home as a teenager in the 1 9 4 0 ’ s . His dad encouraged him to learn music and he got his first guitar at the age of 14. Johnny moved to Sacramento to play the blues and while watching and playing with Little Charlie Baty and Rick Estrin, he started honing his skills in harmonica accompaniment. This prompted them to head down to Moon Studio to record their new 45’s. With Little Charlie and the Nightcats backing him in the studio, Johnny recorded the Muddy Waters classic “Honey Bee”, as well as Freddie King’s “Tore Down”, which Johnny re-released as a CD in 2010. Like many of his peers from that era, Johnny was no stranger to substance abuse issues, and went through a long spell where he would hit the streets daily with his guitar for his daily hustle. Through local musician Ray “Catfish” Copeland, Johnny met Mike Balma, local blues promoter/producer, at the Chicago Blues Fest ‘91, who soon booked studio time for a record. With a mix of solo tracks as well as additional tracks with backing by upright bassist Greg Roberts, Rick Estrin on harmonica, and Copeland on guitar, the record was released as “Johnny Guitar Knox, Hoboin’,” and won an award in Denmark!
Local guitarist Kenny Marchese sums it up nicely when he says “Johnny gave his help and support to the Sacramento blues scene by teaching and encouraging the younger players, and Sacramento has returned the favor by helping Johnny recover what he had tossed.”
MICK MARTIN has played blues harmonica professionally since 1968 and, since 1983, led “Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers.” Mick was an original co-founder of the Sacramento Blues Society, but had to rescind his presence due to conflicts of interest. He performed at Carnegie Hall for the nationally-broadcast “Blues in Jazz” concert with mentor Jimmy Smith, Jimmy Witherspoon, Grover Washington Jr., Carrie Smith and Mark Whitfield in 1994.
Mick shared the “Best West Coast Blues Harmonica Player” nod with Mark Hummel in 2001. Mick Martin and the Blues Rockers have won the Sacramento Area Music Award (a.k.a. the SAMMIES) for “Best Blues Band” three times, thus entitling them to a place in the SAMMIES Hall of Fame.
Mick has been producing and hosting the Blues for over 20 years, beginning with “The KZAP Blues Show” in August of 1989. He joined the staff of KXJZ in July 1991 to create “Mick Martin’s Blues Party,” currently heard on Saturdays from 1-5 p.m. Mick also serves as clinician for SBS Blues in the Schools program.
(1937 – 1996)
A multi-talented musician, Johnny Heartsman was proficient in playing a variety of instruments and sang with a rich, mellow voice. He is instantly recognizable by the way he used the volume control on his guitar to make his trademark moan. Born in San Fernando, California in 1937, Johnny started making records when he was 16 years old for Bob Geddins in Oakland in the 1950’s.
Johnny played many instruments: the cello (his first instrument in high school), guitar, bass, piano and keyboards, organ, and blues flute. He was well respected while he toured in Europe and Japan.
He wrote, published, and recorded mostly his own music. His first hit was “Johnny’s House Party parts 1 and 2” in 1957. He has worked with Lowell Fulson, Tiny Powell, Al King, Joe Simon, Etta James, Jimmy McCracklin and many others. He received the Big Bill Broonzy award from the Academy of Jazz in France in 1990 for his album “Sacramento” which he recorded in Germany for CrossCut Records. Other albums (cds) include “Music of My Heart“, “The Touch” recorded at Alligator Records, and “Shine On” and “Still Shinin” recorded for Big Mike Balma in Sacramento. He also recorded albums with a group in Germany called Blues Company. He has influenced other musicians like Robert Cray and Joe Louis Walker. Johnny continued to be a versatile performer up to his death in Sacramento, CA in 1996.
(1936 – 2008)
Gene Chambers was a longtime Sacramento blues musician, teacher and mentor had always cared deeply about the blues scene and blues musicians around our area.
He was born in September 1936 in a small town called Coffeyville, Kansas. He started playing blues with his first guitar in the Air Force while being stationed in Japan. From that time on, his love for playing the blues never ceased. He was in the off-duty legendry band called The House Rockers and the Sensations throughout his duty in Japan, traveling to many Airforce bases and entertaining servicemen and their families. After almost a decade stay in Japan, he returned to the US to Austin, Texas. Here he played with locally well known Joe Valentines Band until his retirement from the USAF. After settling in Sacramento, he formed The Bits and Pieces Band where he continued playing the blues. He truly enjoyed playing the blues while sharing his talents and expertise with young blues musicians in Sacramento area and helping to promote the Sacramento Blues Society.
Gene passed away in January, 2008 but his deep love of blues echoes today as seen in the Gene Chambers Musicians Crisis Fund which was established to help continue his deep concern and love for fellow blues musicians in a time of need.
Arbess has been singing since she was 15 years old and is still singing the blues today to inspire people from every way of life. Arbess started singing in her church in San Diego in her childhood, and then went on to singing the blues which she calls “deep down thing”. She sang at Tahoe while she had a barber job and also sang with Johnny Heartsman for quite a while “learning a lot” from him. Together they recorded, “I Just Want to Party All Night” for Mercy Me! Records. Her backup band for many years was a group from Sacramento known as The Luminators (Lew Fratis, Dave Garrity & Pat Balcom).
Today “blues diva” Arbess is continuing to sing and “make a connection with people of all ages and backgrounds. Arbess states, “Blues was created here. It’s real American music —it’s spiritual and I like to sing to a mixture of people. Blues music is a universal language, and I like to have a little bit for everybody. (By Kimiko Chambers From Living Blues Magazine, No. 114, April 1994)