It was a truly EPIC talent extravaganza at Cadillac Zack’s Monday Night Blues Party at the Maui Sugar Mill in Tarzana. There was so much talent all on stage at one time. It was a music lover’s dream come true, and the fans were pouring in the door as the night rolled on.
The opening band was The Bad Jones, formerly known as Soul Pie, from the San Francisco Bay Area. They were sporting Golden State Worriers paraphernalia as the SF basketball team clinched the playoffs on the bar’s TV’s in the background while the Bad Jones rocked their bluesy tunes.
Shortly after the opening band concluded, the small Sugar Mill stage came alive again with so many blues legends it was hard to stay focused. On the guitars: musical director of the Conan O’Brien Show, Jimmy Vivino and blues royalty Duane Betts. On drums: Michael Leasure of the Walter Trout Band. On bass: Michael Be Holden formerly of the Buddy Miles Band. On harp: Jimmy Powers who has played with nearly everyone imaginable.
Just as the party was in full swing, “The Voice” finalist Laaith Al Saadi joined in and showed us why he killed it on the popular television show. Backed up by Johnny Stachela and Duane Betts on guitars, Michael Leasure on drums and local favorite Michael Be Holden on bass.
This was an unbelievable night at the Maui Sugar Mill. Cadillac Zack has once again proven why he is the best blues promoter in the Los Angeles area.
The best destination for music lovers on a Monday night is the Maui Sugar Mill in Tarzana featuring blues presented by Cadillac Zack. The intimate venue is a perfect joint to relax, have a couple of cocktails, watch sports in the background and listen to some top notch blues musicians jamming their hearts out.
The music generally begins around 8:00 pm and continues through the night often until after 1:00am. There is an opening band, and then the headliner comes out some time after 10:00. When they finish up, several local musicians pick up their instruments and jam together all night long.
Last Monday was a great combination of amazing horn players. The opening band was the BNO Blues Band and they rocked the house with their fun, traditional bluesy style. Next the crowd was wowed by Saxophone legend Terry Hanck. He entertained us with his incredible horn playing, vocal talent and smooth guitar.
For a fabulous place to unwind after a crazy Monday at work, make sure to hit up the Maui Sugar Mill and Cadillac Zack’s best blues!
(Los Angeles, CA) – On Tuesday May 17th, 2016, the 1st Annual Johnny Guitar Watson Heart for Music Foundation Celebration took place in downtown Los Angeles in the historic Los Angeles Theatre Center. The star-studded celebration was co-hosted by Glynn Turman (Love That Girl) and Kiki Shepard (Live at the Apollo).
On May 17, 1996, Johnny Guitar Watson collapsed on stage in Yokohama, Japan. He was playing his hit song, “Superman Lover.” He died of a heart attack while his friend, Frank Zappa, was by his side. Twenty years later, friends, family and fans gathered to celebrate his life.
This event was a long time passion of Johnny Guitar Watson’s daughter, Virginia Watson. It was an amazing night of blues, funk and legendary performers directed by Iona Morris and Musical Direction by guitarist Gemi Taylor. The show was written by David Ritz, the famous biographer who wrote about Ray Charles, Etta James, Smokey Robinson and Buddy Guy. David was the last person to interview Johnny Guitar Watson (known as Johnny G to his friends) and had many stories to tell about that interview.
The red carpet for the event was held in the lobby of the historic Los Angeles Theatre Center. Located in the heart of downtown, this historic building is a great place for an event. Many of the evenings performers and presenters walked the red carpet including Barbara Morrison, Doyle Bramhall II, Lenny Williams, Larry B Scott and David Ritz. There was a full house with around 500 people in attendance.
The musical performance in the main theater began with a video of Johnny Guitar Watson. Due to some audio difficulties, the video portion of the show was screened with no audio. This didn’t dampen peoples spirits at all because seeing Johnny on the screen reminded everyone why we were all there. Dolye Bramhall II kicked off the music by playing, “Ganster Of Love”, a blues staple of Johnny Guitar Watson’s. Doyle and his band handled this blues classic with a rich, full sound. The sound all evening was quite remarkable. Virginia Watson brought together many musicians and they played an amazing selection of blues, funk and soul.
The house band was the Master Phonk Band and Gemi Taylor did an outstanding job as the Musical Director and guitarist. A lot of the House Band came from Johnny Guitar Watson’s band from his five decades in professional performing.
Barabara Morrison came out second and sang, “Ain’t Gonna Hush”, another Johnny G classic from his blues years. Johnny Guitar Watson originally recorded this song in 1956 on the “Three Hours Past Midnight” album. Barbara Morrison is a legend in the Los Angeles blues scene. She did such a great job singing this blues song and the Master Phonk band did an incredible job. The horn line for the night included Chazy Green on saxophone, Michael Harris on trumpet and Steve Baxter on trombone. This horn line added a brilliant element to the night’s music that can be heard in the recordings that Johnny Guitar Watson made over fifty years ago.
Leaving blues and heading into a 1960’s pop direction, Martin Kembers from the British band, “Color Me Bad” came out and sang , “Mercy, Mercy, Mercy” with his son Ashley. This was a 1966 song written for Cannonball Adderly. The song went on to become a surprise hit on the soul charts. Martin and Ashley sounded great with a wide vocal range and youthful enthusiasm.
Doyle Bramhall returned to the stage with his band and sang, “Loving You”, a song from JGW’s funk years. Recorded in 1973, it featured a sort of rap intro and is considered a classic funk song. Doyle Bramhall II played an amazing solo on this one.
Lead singer of the legendary 1970’s soul band Tower of Power, Lenny Williams, came out and sang, “Dont Change Horses in the Middle of a Stream.” His singing style is rich and from the heart. Lenny Williams’ style has influenced modern R&B and Hip Hop artists.
Next, Lamont Dozier sang “The Lone Ranger” with the Master Phonk House Band. Lamont is the songwriter and producer known for creating the Motown Sound. He wrote songs for and produced The Four Tops, The Supremes and The Isley Brothers. This was an amazing rendition and The Master Phonk Band along with Lamont provided a world class performance.
Crystal Penni sang,”I Wanna Ta-Ta Ya Baby” This was a great performance. Gemi Taylor, as Musical Director and guitar player did such a great job of laying back to let the singers perform and then playing amazing guitar solos that had a Johnny Guitar Watson feel.
Neo-soul songwriter, Mishell Ndegeocello, sang JGW’s, “Ain’t That a Bitch”, which was the highlight tune of Act 1. Her performance with the Master Phonk Band seemed to capture the humor, the expertise and soul of Johnny Guitar Watson. Hip Hop legend Yo Yo came out next to perform JGW’s song, “Telephone Bill”. Hip Hop and rap owe so much to Johnny Guitar Watson’s sound and beats. “Telephone Bill” is a spoken-word tune that is considered the beginning of rap. David Ritz says that JGW said that he had “Invented rap.” Drummer Emry Thomas is really not paid anything for the samples that modern rappers like Jay-Z and Kanye West use in 2016. Emery was Johnny Guitar Watson’s drummer in the 1970s for hits like “Superman Lover”, “Ain’t That A Bitch” and many other hits. When“Ain’t That a Bitch” went Gold, the second stage of Johnny Guitar Watson’s career began.
The Intermission provided a chance for musicians, celebrities and fans to mingle and discuss JGW’s music. While munching on fried chicken and pickled okra, I struck up a conversation with “Sticks”, the drummer for T-Bone Walker. It was such an honor to meet a Blues superstar like Sticks at the Johnny Guitar Watson event. There was an exhibit of artifacts from Johnny Guitar Watson’s collection including guitars, jumpsuits from the 1970s, his passports and many other items. It gave a glimpse into the life of John Watson.
Act Two of the Heart for Music Foundation Celebration was pure Jonny G funk. Lenny William’s from “Tower of Power” came out with singer Kim Yarbrough and sang “Love Jones.” The Master Phonk Band was well suited to play Johnny G’s funk tunes and the horn line was top notch. Rudy Copeland, who is the second voice on many Johnny Guitar Watson recordings, sang “Superman Lover.” Rudy told me later that this is his favorite Johnny Guitar Watson song.
Virginia Watson sang “A Real Mother For Ya.” Virginia did such an amazing job putting the night together. She took a moment to introduce Johnny’s grandchildren and spoke about Johnny and his life. Virginia said that Johnny G once said, “I’m not going to die and if I do, I’ll be on stage and it won’t matter.” Johnny G touched so many people’s lives. The Master Phonk Band and Virginia have such a treasure trove of stories and songs to share with the world.
Emry Thomas, known as ET, performed “Virginia’s Pretty Funky” and “Dejon’s Delight” with poet Azmera Hammouri. The Ben Allen Dance Crew danced and added a youthful element to the music. Writer David Ritz came out and spoke about his last interview with Johnny Guitar Watson in 1996. David has a unique view of blues musicians and his writing ability is just amazing. Larry B Scott, known for his acting in movies like “Revenge of The Nerds” and “Karate Kid” talked about Johhny G recording in his studio in the Valley. Johnny G had a connection with so many people.
At the end of Act Two, Angela Gibbs presented her mother, Marla Gibbs, with the first Johnny Guitar Watson Heart 4 Music Humanitarian Award. Marla has been an actress, comedian, entertainer and producer for over 50 years. She’s received seven NAACP Awards. Both Johnny G and Marla Gibbs have careers that span five decades. Marla was gracious as she received her award and many people wanted to speak to Marla after the show.
The First Annual Johnny Guitar Watson Heart 4 Music event produced by Virgina Watson, was an incredible night of music, stories and emotions from the people that knew and worked with Johnny Guitar Watson. This show would make a great Broadway musical or touring show. I’m looking forward to the Second Annual event.
Cadillac Zack and the Maui Sugar Mill give blues lovers everywhere a place to wind down and rock out to some of the most spectacular blues musicians alive. Every Monday night starting at 8:00 pm the liquor flows as the the music begins. This Monday was no exception.
The night started with the incredible vocal talent of the Celso Salim Blues Band. They played old classics as well as some new and exciting renditions of blues favorites.
As the crowd warmed up and the night began to jam, the Delta Hurricane, Larry McCray took the stage and blew us all away. His insane guitar talent and smoky vocals brought the room to its feet. Dancing and singing and swaying along to one of the countries finest Blues artists.
Playing along side the Michigan Master were Rena Beavers on drums, Jeff Paris on keyboard and Michael B Holden on bass. And if that wasn’t a big enough treat, we were then blown away as guitar legend Joey Delgado jumped on stage and took on McCray in an incredible dueling guitar showcase that was out of this world.
Mondays have a bad wrap for being the most dreaded day of the week, but Cadillac Zack and the Maui Sugar Mill Saloon have changed the face of Monday. Blues lovers from all over southern California can’t wait to get through the weekend to enjoy the best night of the week – Monday Night Blues in Tarzana.