“If you guys came for the blues, you came to the right place!” announced Jeff “Papa J” Hudson at The Orange County Blues Society’s one-year “Anniversary Party and Blues Jam” on May 19, at the Main Street Restaurant in Yorba Linda, California. The event ran from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. and was founded by Orange County-based bluesman harpist/vocalist Jeff “Papa J” Hudson last April. It was created to give blues music and Orange County-based blues acts their own presence.
While harpist Hudson is not the type to boast or “blow his own horn” so to speak, in truth, he has worked diligently to pierce “the Orange Curtain” and promote the music he loves throughout the county. Hudson clarifies: “While the Los Angeles Blues Society, Southern California Blues Society and the others here in Southern California all do great work, most of the shows and events they put on are at venues either in L.A., Ventura, or Santa Barbara County. There are many great Blues players in the Orange County area and I thought it would be cool if we could have our ‘own’ voice, so to speak.”
For the past two decades Hudson has become one of the most important artists involved in the area’s blue scene as part of such acts as Blues Gone South and of course Papa J and Friends. Hudson’s organization is also frequently involved in the community supporting such organizations as The Orange County Food Bank and the Better Vision For Children Organization. “We do Blues In The Schools” he says describing a program in which they travel to various schools and educate children about blues music. “It’s fun!” he smiles.
Hudson even produced a bevy of big blues band events including The Muck Roots Blues Revue at the Muckenthaler Cultural Center in Fullerton; and the Real Blues Festival of Orange County 3. His genuine love of the genre has helped the organization has grow to garner the recognition of not only blues fans but numerous noteworthy blues musicians throughout the state as well.
The celebration began when Papa J and company took the stage to perform a number of fan favorites including a cover of the Sam Cooke-composed soul song “Bring It On Home To Me”, the tuneful travelin’ tune “Route 66” and an adaptation of T-Bone Walker’s “Stormy Monday”.
Early highlights included multi-instrumentalist Chris Whynaught singing lead on a cover of the Hawkins-Darnell minor-key blues piece “The Thrill Is Gone”. Even Hudson confessed that the chemistry between Whynaught and himself is both obvious and enjoyable.
The Mark Sells Band also appeared here initially opening with their version of Freddy King instrumental complete with New Blues Revolution’s frontman Bill Grisolia initially sitting in with them on keys. The award-winning band also performed some of their own songs including “Rock And A Hard Place”. The tuneful trio included: guitar showman Mark Sells on guitar and vocals, Richard Rodriguez on (McCartney-like) Hoffner bass and Eddie Mendoza on drums.
Crosscut Delux took the stage as well with their own fresh renditions of burning blues standards such as John Lee Hooker’s crossover cut “Boom Boom” and Willie Dixon’s “I Love The Life I Live”. Crosscut Delux includes Richard Hassebrock (guitar and vocals), Randy Hano (guitar and vocals), John Arnaldo (bass), Paul Crews (drums) and Bobby Cooper (harmonica).
The event even included a feminine touch as guest gal-with-a-guitar Peach popped in to play a few tunes including her take on Robert Johnson’s twelve-bar “Sweet Home Chicago” and a cool cover of Lieber and Stoller’s “Kansas City”. One of the regulars, Romeo Maxx (lead guitar and vocals) also appeared with his own blues-tinged take on Rod Stewart’s “Hot Legs”. Bassist Harry Rattelman took the mic on a fun, rough take of The Doors’ “Roadhouse Blues”. (OK, it’s a blues-rock song but who cares? This was a special occasion!)
Other artists doing their blues-bit included: Joe (guitar, bass and keys), Nick and Ron G. (drums), Bob (saxophone), Dave, Mike and Steve “Junkyard Dog” Artea (guitar), multi-instrumentalist Rene and the near ever-present keyboardist Joe Tripp who not only often provided some extra backbone but even incited others into an all-too brief instrumental version of John Lennon’s “Imagine” during a soundcheck and set-up. The spontaneity of these live oft’times impromptu performances is the meat of these jams.
The event closed with one final set featuring Papa J and pals. It included an adaptation of a Sonny Boy Williamson II and Elmore James song made famous by the Allman Brothers titled “One Way Out” as well as an encore of “Stormy Monday” This was an all too apt end-note to the festivity’s hours as the lovely Lissa and the other Main Street staff slowly began to clean the tables. After all, it would all too quickly be (gasp) Monday once more.
Nevertheless, despite the impending doom of a new work week, the celebration seemed to go off without a hitch. As Hudson exclaimed: “It was fun!” Truth to tell, this was the best OCBS jam yet and he now faces the difficult challenge of topping himself at the next jam session.
My name is Phoenix and . . . that’s the bottom line.