Second Blues series a wrap

Jason Lee Hale (left) and Billy Jeter trade guitar licks and verses on the Grateful Dead's 'Mr. Charley.' (Special to The Commercial/Richard Ledbetter)
Jason Lee Hale (left) and Billy Jeter trade guitar licks and verses on the Grateful Dead's 'Mr. Charley.' (Special to The Commercial/Richard Ledbetter)

The second year of the Blues by Budweiser Concert Series sponsored by MK Distributors completed the 2023-24 lineup on Feb. 3.

The monthly event, hosted by the Port City Blues Society, convened at RJ's Grill & Bar, 128 S. Main St.

Due to some scheduling conflicts, Billy Jeter and Shine Eye Band filled the slot initially slated for the Chad Marshall Band.

"I think it's a fantastic asset to Pine Bluff," Jeter said of the concert series. "This series of blues acts is something that should happen in more Delta towns. This is a perfect example of 'If you build it they will come.' Even on a rainy night like we have this evening, people from all over the state show up for something they find pretty special."

Regarding his program for the night, Jeter explained its significance.

"Mine is not the same kind of blues folks may be accustomed to, but I like presenting some more unusual blues numbers by artists like Bob Dylan and the Grateful Dead. I enjoy putting it out there along with my own roots style blues originals. It's not the same old run-of-the-mill screaming guitar songs you may normally consider as blues," Jeter said.

The two-hour show included 22 numbers.

"I like having the opportunity with the songs I write to shine a light on my little corner of northern Jefferson County and all the great blues musicians who came out of the area around my hometown of Wabbaseka," he said.

Those blues performers include Bobby Rush, who just earned his third Grammy Award; Sippie Wallace, who wrote many of the songs Bonnie Raitt recorded early in her career; Queen Sylvia Embry, known for her song 'Let's Go Upstairs'; Larry "Totsy" Davis, composer of "Texas Flood"; along with other blues notables like Big Bill Broonzy, "Goosey" Willie Moore and "Taildragger" Jones.

The rotating roster of Shine Eye Band members included for the Feb. 3 show featured Jason Lee Hale on lead guitar, R.J. Looney on harmonica, Lynn Fitzgerald on bass and Pat Lindsey on drums.

Jeter introduced the band.

"We play mostly songs written by Jason Lee and myself," he said.

Jeter's numbers reflecting local culture and life growing up in Jefferson County included "Denim in the Dirt," a song written about inmates who died incustody at Cummins penitentiary. Another selection, "Buddy Roe," takes its title from a common moniker used by locals to refer to good old boys. "Unemployment Tree," was the fourth song on the program referencing a spot just across the highway from C&B Market in Wabbaseka, where day workers still gather in hopes of the opportunity to pick up temporary employment.

Jeter's composition, "Oh Elaine," laments the historic Elaine racial massacre of 1919. Other original offerings were "Labor Day Blues," "Hambone Stomp," "Midnight Train," "Rose's Shack" and "Sins of Me."

"I've been talking to some people with the highway department and I'm trying to figure out a way to get historic road markers up in those towns and communities like Sherrill, Wabbaseka and Altheimer to commemorate where these blues musicians came from," he said.

MK Distributors has just authorized another grant to see a third year of the Blues by Budweiser Series continue at RJ's into 2024-25. Port City Blues Society president Dave Sadler shared the recently completed lineup for the next 12 months. The concert series takes place on the first Saturday of each month with the notable exception of the upcoming March show. It is set for the second Saturday, March 9, and will feature the Chad Marshall Band.

The balance of the schedule includes:

April 6: Duwayne Burnside;

May 4: Tina Cossey Band;

June 1: Kent Burnside Band;

July 6: Ghost Town Blues Band;

August 3: Amanda Fish;

Sept. 7: Garry Burnside;

Oct. 5: Dirty Red and the Soul Shakers;

Nov. 2: Jerry McCoy and the Groove Diggers;

Dec. 7: Ben Brenner and Fonky Donkey;

Jan. 4: Trey Johnson and Jason Willmon;

Feb. 7: Charlotte Taylor and Gypsy Rain.

The Port City Blues Society also hosts a Wednesday night blues jam at RJ's that is an open mic venue for all comers to showcase their talents. Details: [email protected].

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