Blue Notes

Blues Community Going To The Doghouse For Earl Gilliam

The Houston blues community will come together Sunday to pay homage to one of the godfathers of blues piano, Earl Gilliam. Gilliam, whose youth was spent in the company of giants like Albert Collins, Gatemouth Brown, Ivory Lee Simien, and Johnny Clyde Copeland, worked extensively with another Houston guitar legend, I.J. Gosey, as well as with his musical soul mate Joe "Guitar" Hughes until Hughes' passing in 2003.

Gilliam has suffered from lung problems the past few years and is currently in grave condition at an acute care facility ICU in Tomball. A resident of Tomball, the gentle pianist is famous in the blues community for his "doghouse jams."

Gilliam's "doghouse" is a large room near his house where he has hosted impromptu jam session barbeques for years, often announcing them, according to Dr. Roger Wood in his history of Houston blues Down In Houston, through a call to KPFT-FM, with the simple message "Earl is in the doghouse."

This, of course, was a code to let players and listeners alike know that the Gilliams were preparing barbecue and side dishes and that players and fans should get to Tomball and join the party. Gilliam and his piano were the centerpieces of these soirees.

According to numerous sources, Gilliam's backyard doghouse is as historically important as some clubs. Virtually all of the greats have shared an afternoon at Gilliam's doghouse at some point.

Sunday's jam includes Mojofromopolis and Jonn Richardson, and certainly numerous other players will be present to celebrate one of Houston's last first generation blues greats.

Earl Gilliam's Dog House is located at 24850 Troy St., Tomball, TX 77375, and the jam schedule is 2-9 p.m. According to organizers, they will be accepting donations in return for "plates of fabulous home-style food."

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William Michael Smith