Today and tomorrow I'll be attending the 29th annual Long Beach Blues Festival. Sadly, this year I won't have my good Hawthorne High School friends Betty or Betsy joining me. Betty is down in San Diego moving her daughter into the dorms at San Diego State and Betsy was unable to make it our here from her home in Wilmington, NC. Last year, the 3 of us – along with Amy, my other HHS friend – had a great time at the festival.
Well this year I'm, ahh, "working" the LB Bluesfest. In fact, today I had the distinct honor and pleasure of speaking with the legendary John Mayall, known to many as the "Godfather of British Blues." John is partially responsible for furthering the careers of people like Eric Clapton as well as future members of bands such as the Rolling Stones and Fleetwood Mac, just to name two. I also spoke with slide guitar great Roy Rogers, who opened the entire day's festivities today. After Roy's set, I ducked backstage to his trailer to spend a few minutes talking about the blues, blues greats such as B.B. King, John Lee Hooker (Roy produced a couple of John Lee's albums) and Buddy Guy, and radio…good old free-form FM radio. The kind of radio where back in the day deejays played the music they wanted to play and radio fans like Roy and I got turned on to lots and lots of great music. Roy and I could have gone on for hours, but we wrapped after about 20 minutes, one of his band members snapped a quick photo of us, and I began to walk down the row of "artist trailers" where who should I see, standing all alone outside his trailer: JOHN MAYALL! I was not scheduled to speak with John until much later in the day – after his set, but I swear it was one of those things where it would have actually been rude if I'd walked past him without saying hello. So I did! I said hello, introduced myself and told him we'd be chatting later after his show. But, John Mayall, THE John Mayall, said to me, "Well, if you've got a few minutes right now, why don't we sit down and chat." After thanking him once, twice or 15 times, we walked right into his trailer and we began to talk. Again, with a guy like John Mayall, and with ALL of the people he's played with in his career, we could have talked for hours…days…weeks!! He shared great stories about old "Slowhand," about how he simply "rang Eric up" after he'd left The Yardbirds and asked if he'd be interested in joining his band, The Bluesbreakers, which of course Eric did. John talked about playing with all-time greats such as Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, B.B. King. He spoke about The Rolling Stones, Cream, Jimi Hendrix. I'll NEVER get tired of hearing rock and roll stories like that!! And here I am with John Mayall, sitting in a little trailer, talking about some of the biggest names in the history of the blues and rock and roll. Finally, I told him my own John Mayall story, about the time my sister Patty, brother and I flew into Chicago for a blues, baseball and beer weekend, got to our hotel, Patty called Buddy Guy's Legends blues club and asked who was playing that night. I'll never forget the moment she turned to me, while still on the phone, and simply said, "John Mayall." Of course I shouted back, "JOHN MAYALL? THE John Mayall?" We managed to sneak into the packed club and see the man himself play at Buddy Guy's blues club on the south side of Chicago! Man, we sure took care of the "Blues" part of our weekend in a hurry! What a night! And now, to think this was only day-one of the Long Beach Bluesfest. Tomorrow I'm going to get a chance to meet and speak with another living legend, this time Stax Records soul man Eddie "Knock On Wood" Floyd, a man who wrote some of the biggest hits in the history of soul music. Life is good!