Houston and the Blues
Online readers comment on "Old School," by William Michael Smith and Chris Gray, September 1:
Tip your musicians: Viva the Houston blues scene, the Houston Blues Society, KPFT, the Press, local club owners and patrons who support the blues and live music in Houston. Essentially any night, be it at a blues jam or show, you can hear authentic, world-class, evocative music up close and personal for nothing or close to it. By the way, it's okay to tip!
In your bones: Big applause for this wonderful story, but it's long overdue, considering that we've lost so many Houston blues artists in the last few years. I especially miss Joe "Guitar" Hughes.
There's so much soul, struggle and history that goes into this music (guess that's why they call it the blues), yet it's taken for granted by 98 percent of Houston. On the other hand, a brighter side sees many Europeans and Asians ending up at The Big Easy, due to these artists talking up the Houston blues scene while touring, and specifically the one club that's nurtured it for 15 years.
I hope the younger generation of Houston will give the blues a try for a night or two. Once you get it, it's contagious and never leaves you. It moves your bones and connects your soul to our past.
Houston's tops: One reason the blues artists and audiences are thinning out is because there are more musical genres and subgenres than in the previous century. Hip-hop is the prevalent music of choice for young urban artists and markets where the blues used to stand. Boomers lace their songs with postmodern blues, funk and delta, while diversity and specialization in roots music is finding new niche markets.
Houston's music scene is equally diversified and well populated, especially if you include the approximate area from Galveston north to Conroe, east to Anahuac and west to Sealy. Plenty of paying venues, and an exploration will yield young and old bands of all races playing blues, rock, rap, soul, funk, rockabilly, roots country, zydeco and all sorts of alternative mashups that show the confluence of the Texas-Louisiana Gulf Coast. All this considered, few cities in the world can match H-Town as a source for blues-based popular music, hip-hop and American roots music.
More to mention: Without seeming ungrateful for the coverage of Houston's blues scene, I have to comment. It would have been nice to have invited Earl Gilliam, I.J. Gosey and Big Walter "The Thunderbird" Price to at least have had the honor to sit in the group picture. While a tip-o-the-hat was given to Big Walter's playing style, nothing was mentioned of the singular and tireless talents of recently retired I.J. Gosey and Earl Gilliam.
Gilliam was playing up a storm until his lungs gave out but can still play circles around any blues organist, not to mention all the middle-aged and young blues players he's mentored over the years. Gosey had the longest-standing regular blues gig (first at C. Davis BBQ, then The Ponderosa and, lastly, at Gino's) until he had a stroke (most probably onstage), and his clean style never wavered. Special events are still being held in their honor. They're retired but not gone, for God's sake, and still very much a living inspiration to many players and devout fans who make it out to honor them.
There are other omissions from "the old guard": Sparetime Murray, Curly Cormier, Ardis Turner, Carol Fran, Barbara Lynn and several others. Not to mention many "next generation" players who keep the scene alive: Steve Krase and The In-Crowd, Little Terry Rogers, Jonn Richardson, Rich DelGrosso, Curtis King, Luther and the Healers, Fred Arceneaux, Mike Stone, Evelyn Rubio, TC and the Cannonballs, Teri Greene, Blues rockers like John McVey and Mark May, the xylophone maniac Cinco Calderon, to name just a few. Also, Sonny Boy Terry plays old school blues. These are but a few. But they deserve mention, to be sure.
Not their bag: I don't think Eric Demmer nor Sonny Boy Terry could ever be placed in a "blues rock" bag. Sonny Boy was a founder of the blues society and played in Joe "Guitar" Hughes's band. Eric Demmer blew his horn with Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. They've paid their blues dues.
Great article! The Houston blues scene was such an important part of my life when I lived in Houston in the '80s and '90s. The Road Kings used to play with Johnny Guitar Brown, Grady Gaines, Milton Hopkins and many, many others at Rory Miggins's Local Charm Club on Telephone Road and Etta's Lounge. The East Side blues scene of Austin and the old Deep Ellum scene in Dallas never had anything on the Houston blues scene, which has always been one of the best in the country. I still listen to KPFT 90.1 Nuri Nuri blues show online on Sundays when I can. Houston should be so proud of this legendary heritage.
Brown blues: I appreciate this article, thanks. You made some great points and did your research. I just want to point out that, maybe especially in Houston, the blues is not simply black or white, it is also brown. There are numerous Latino/Mexican-American blues musicians helping to keep the blues alive and gigging here on a regular basis, including me. I do hope our rich blues scene continues to thrive. I have great hopes that it will, and that we'll always remember our teachers in the blues that you profile here. Thanks again, y'all!
Online readers comment on "The Restaurant Gentrification of Lower Westheimer: A Long Time Coming," Eating...Our Words blog, by Katharine Shilcutt, August 30:
The more things change: As a lifelong resident of Houston and a 30-year resident of the Montrose area, I do not think it has taken Da Marco, Hugo's, Indika and the current crop of high-end restaurants to be a determinative factor of whether or not Montrose has been gentrified. My goodness, Montrose has been in the gentrification mood since I was a wee lad in junior high school.
Montrose, in particular Westheimer from Shepherd to Brazos, has not been undergoing a new wave of gentrification. It has just been under a continuous period of repurposing of spaces as tastes change in food, clothing and architecture, for almost 45 years.
Perhaps what might be a more interesting story for an "alternative" newspaper would be an investigative article into why, for all of this gentrification, the Montrose area still looks as shabby as it did before? With all of the traffic and commerce that has long taken place on Westheimer, why can't the city keep it a safe and passable street?
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MIXING IT UP
"Desert Couscous" [by Katharine Shilcutt, September 8] incorrectly stated that Casablanca Couscous & Grill owner Outmane Yanouri is married to the Indonesian woman who cooks at his restaurant. In fact, his business partner Rasheed Hmoumou is married to her.
The Houston Press regrets the error.