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Behind The Cover: Houston's Old-Schoolers Define The Blues

Rocks Off sent reporter Matthew Keever to last week's "Old School" cover shoot at The Big Easy. His assignment was to talk to as many musicians as he could, and have them finish the sentence "Blues is..."

Video by Francisco Montes

Little Joe Washington: "The blues is music. Music is blues. Your experiences, whatever. Blues, just like classical or ballroom dancing, is music. Like jazz, you don't know what you're going to play when you play the blues. The blues is music."

Blues With a Feeling (L-R): Jackie Gray, Don Kesee, George Brown (top row); Eugene Moody, Trudy Lynn, Milton Hopkins, Gilbert Labba (middle row); Pops Stewart, Little Joe Washington, Texas Johnny Brown, Pee Wee Stephens
Blues With a Feeling (L-R): Jackie Gray, Don Kesee, George Brown (top row); Eugene Moody, Trudy Lynn, Milton Hopkins, Gilbert Labba (middle row); Pops Stewart, Little Joe Washington, Texas Johnny Brown, Pee Wee Stephens
Matthew Keever

Gilbert Labba: The blues, to me, is the real deal; it's real music. And I love it. Me and Don Kesee, we've been playing the blues together for 42 years. We're the blues masters. We've been doing this since we were kids, and we won't try to play nothing but the blues. I started playing bass with [Don] in the first part of the '60s, and I played bass with him until about '71. Then I started playing drums, and I've been playing drums ever since.

Don Kesee: The blues... It's my life. I've been doing this since I was nine years old, and it's a part of me.

Behind The Cover: Houston's Old-Schoolers Define The Blues
Cover photo by Sherman Hatton

George Brown: The blues are continuous life, I feel. As long as you have the spirit to do it, you'll be here a while.

Texas Johnny Brown: The blues are life. Life and survival, because that's where I've been all my life. I'm having a hard time surviving, because financially it's not doing anything for me. Publicly, I enjoy it; it's a part of me. I love the artistry, and that's the enjoyment I get from me. But it's hard trials and it's tribulations, too. You can so easily get put in the slot of just being there, so I try to move at all times. I love it, and I'm going to keep trying at it.

Milton Hopkins: The blues... Well, right now, I try to make a living playing the blues. Which is hard. The blues are about hard times or good times, but mostly hard times. And if you're a musician like myself, I enjoy expressing myself through my instrument. And that's it.


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