UP THE BLUES
cigarette smoke hangs heavy in the air, like Los Angeles smog, and
the alcohol has people loose and easy. It's not a night for being
on the wagon, it's a night for shouting, screaming, singing and brawling.
The girls hit the dance floor, shaking and spinning, and the boys
from the Soulard Blues Band just keep on playing. There's not a foot
that isn't tapping in the place. Knees are slapped, tables are rapped
and cigars are waved to the beat of Art Dwyer's big old bass.
-----A weary waitress in slinky black
carries trays of drinks by the dozen, nodding at the women, showing
cleavage to the drunken men, bidding for tips and money for her cab
ride home. The owner of the Grizzly Bear bar sits at a back table,
tipping his cap to friends and strangers. He's seen it all before,
but it's never just another night. Puffing on endless cigarettes and
drinking his usual, he watches with pride and keeps his eye on the
-----A big, old, tabby cat hogs the entrance,
ignoring those who pass by and nonchalantly checking out those that
come inside. The bar is his, and he knows it. This is the blues, baby,
and it doesn't get any more real than this.
can't escape them in St. Louis. The blues drift on the smelly waters
great Mississippi, hum in the streets downtown and light up bars all
over the city.
-----The squeak from a trumpet, the deep
twang from a bass, and the wop-wop-wop of a drum kit ooze out from
St. Louis' nooks and crannies. Wrinkled black guys are treated like
pop stars. Fat white guys carrying trumpet cases are stopped in the
-----Music is the city's soul, its lifeblood.
The blues is sad, but it's just so good you can't help but feel uplifted.
You almost want to have your heart broken so you can feel the groove.
And it's not all that's a-rockin'.
But you'll always come back to the blues: on stereos, while sipping
coffee in cafes; from run-down flats, as musicians tune up and from
beat-up taxis darting around busy inner city streets; in hidden-away
bars in hidden-away corners; in dark clubs filled with sweat, smoke,
love and hormones; and in restaurants and cafes that live long after
by Kerry Williamson, Otago Daily Times
Tuesday, February 6, 2001
Kerry Williamson visited the United States as winner of the 2000
Bell Journalism Award for young Otago and Southland journalists. He
travelled to St. Louis with the help of Air New Zealand, which flies
to St. Louis through its Star Alliance, and was looked after by the
St. Louis Convention and Visitor's Commission.
"Thank you for taking the time to send me the newspaper article
on the Soulard Blues Band. I hope you enjoyed their music as much
as we do here in St.Louis. Thank you very much for inviting St. Louis
musicians to perform at your festival."
The letter written by Clarence Harmon, the
former mayor of St.Louis,
to the Director of Stuttgarter Bank, Dr. Wolfgang Hafele
IN THE NIGHT
It is not every band you run across that has a mission beyond just
steady giggin', but then again, as one of the longest-lasting acts
around - and with nine straight wins in the "Best Blues Band"
category in a popular local poll - the Soulard Blues Band is not just
As bassist and sole remaining founder Art Dwyer will tell you, "Our
mission always is just to leave things around a little better than
we found 'em." That ethic applies equally to song arrangements,
the mood of the audience and the entire musical scene in this city
that birthed such towering talents as Miles Davis, Johnny Johnson,
Henry Townsend, Oliver Sain and many more.
from all appearances, the mojo is working: the blues landscape
in St. Louis now is "better than it's ever been since we started
out, playing in the intersection of Menard and Geyer with absolutely
no cars or people coming by to cause us to have to move," Dwyer
says. He formed the Soulard Blues Band in 1978, "just a long-haired
guy in blue jeans and sandals," motivated in part by memories
of the St. Louis of his childhood, when clubs with names like Shalimar
and Oasis and the Peppermint Lounge and Sadie's Personality Bar jumped
with live music and people "dressed up looking flashy" any
night of the week, and fifty cents' cover got you in to Ike and Tina
Turner's set at the Club Imperial.
town has always been alive with world-class players in neighborhoods
all over the city," Dwyer says, and the rest of his band's
roster bears him out. Guitarist Tom Maloney,, guitarist Bob "Bumblebee"
Kamoske, trombonist John "Wolfman" Wolf and drummer Leroy
Wilson create music from both originals and standarts that manages
to let each player shine without sacrificing the song to overblown
solos. Indeed, that's one of the goals in group's frequent rehearsals,
says Dwyer:"We are in the business of supporting each other
in playing, to play in unison with each other." And in so doing,
blending seamlessly into the fabric of a city with a deep history
in the blues."
Amanda E. Doyle, Where Magazine
St. Louis, January 2003
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