“Ya gotta live the blues before you play it” – Sunshine Sonny Payne 1925-2018

The Blues Foundation announced today the passing of “Sunshine” Sonny Payne, who had recently suffered a stroke. He was 92.

With permission from The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture, we share with you some great history of this phenomenal man’s accomplishments and contributions to the blues community: (1)

Payne was best known as a radio personality who hosted King Biscuit Time at KFFA 1360 in Helena, AR for over 50 years – broadcasting his love for the blues which in turn influenced millions of others throughout his career.

As a teen, he had worked for KFFA 1360 AM radio station in Helena. King Biscuit Flour had a commercial spot on that station and, once, Payne was asked to step in and read some copy over the air. This led to getting to read for some more commercials where he found he had a voice for radio.

At the same time, Payne began learning to play upright bass with a band, the Copeland Cowboys, who often played at the studio.

He joined the Army in 1942 WWII, and during some of that time, he sought out USO clubs where he could play and learn from some of the other musicians.

After getting out of the Army in 1948, Payne toured for a few years with Harry James and Ted Williams, among others. But by 1951, Payne became tired of road tours and went back to the radio station in Helena. He was hired on and began hosting the King Biscuit Time blues music radio program.

That show became the longest running blues radio program in the world and Payne the longest running blues show host.

Payne acquired the nickname “Sunshine” because of his attitude one day while assigned to host a live, remote-location, all-day broadcast in Marianna (Lee County) called “Marianna Calling.” It was a cold, miserable, rainy day, and Helena disc jockey Bill Fury “threw” the live broadcast over to Payne in Marianna. When Fury announced Payne’s name to switch the broadcast over to him, Payne did not answer right away. After Fury’s second attempt to rouse him, Payne grumpily returned the hail over the air, and Fury asked Payne, “What’s wrong with you?” “Nothing wrong with me,” Payne replied. “But it’s cold and rainy here, with ice and snow.” “Well, boy you’re just a ray of sunshine, aren’t you?” said Fury. The next morning, when Payne walked into the Helena station, everyone greeted him saying, “Hey, Sunshine.” It might not have stuck except that Robert Lockwood Jr. kept it going to get a rise out of Payne. ~ (directly quoted from:) The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture

Payne was the recipient of many awards during his career. He was an inductee of the Arkansas Tourism Hall of Fame and received the George Foster Peabody Award in 1992 for outstanding achievement in the field of radio and broadcast journalism.

From his perch in the studio at KFFA Radio 1360 in Helena, Arkansas, Sonny Payne ruled his corner of the blues airwaves for over 50 years. Governor Mike Beebe proclaimed Tuesday, May 13, 2014 “Sunshine” Sonny Payne Day in honor of the radio announcer’s 17,000th broadcast of “King Biscuit Time.” (re-printed here with permission from Arkansas The Natural State)

According to a 2014 article in Arkansas The Natural State, musical legends B.B. King and Levon Helm gave credit to Payne as being an influence in their music careers. Music legends Robert Plant and Elvis Costello were among the throngs of legendary musicians who visited with Payne on the set of “King Biscuit Time.”

He has twice received the Blues Foundation’s Keeping the Blues Alive Award and is the recipient of the Arkansas Broadcasters Association’s Pioneer Award. In 2010, he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame. On May 13, 2014, Governor Mike Beebe declared May 13 to be “Sunshine” Sonny Payne Day. He also received the 2015 Cecil Scaife Visionary Award, given annually to an individual whose work has helped others achieve careers in the music industry.

In today’s announcement, The Blues Foundation stated:

The Blues Foundation mourns the passing of Sonny Payne, who was a two-time Keeping the Blues Alive Award recipient and was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2010. He was the host of the legendary “King Biscuit Time” program on KFFA radio in Helena, Arkansas for over five decades. We join the rest of the blues world in sending condolences to his family.

To all the blues fans and musicians out there today who would like to check out some wonderful blues history, and appreciate one of the industry’s most iconic figures, you won’t regret taking a few minutes to have a listen:


(1) Full credit is also extended to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas History & Culture for their information contained within this article. The organization is a project of the Butler Center for Arkansas Studies at the Central Arkansas Library System in Little Rock, Arkansas with major funding provided by the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation and additional funding from the Department of Arkansas Heritage, the Arkansas General Assembly, the Arkansas Humanities Council, the Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism and the National Endowment for the Humanities as well as donations from individuals, foundations and organizations. Blues Insights extends its utmost gratitude to these entities and individuals which make it possible for stories of our rich history of American citizens to be told for the education and betterment of our society. 





Whatever You Do, Don’t Give Up

This is just a short post and a shout out to all of you out there who have been touched by depression or tragedy in your lives.

Here at Blues Insights, we know how the down and lowest times, when you feel like you are losing someone or when you’ve lost someone or you are facing what appear to be insurmountable problems (there are ALWAYS solutions) or other people are judging  you for living your life and you don’t feel good enough…how those times hurt, so badly.

Remember, your life does matter and there is hope ALWAYS.

We want to give out a link to a song that is being so generously share by the young blues band: Southern Avenue. Just go get this free download from their site: “Don’t Give Up” We are also going to share it here, right now:


Hey, you, yes…we are talking to YOU: Listen up…

You matter. You have a purpose.

More people love you than you think. In times of hardship, you may often underestimate how many people count on seeing you and interacting with you because you make their days better and brighter.

If you feel like you have no one right now, then remember that there is someone out there waiting for you to find them in the future. Yes, there is. You are here to make a difference for another person or many.

Your life is working out exactly as it is supposed to.

Did you make a mistake? EVERYONE makes mistakes. So don’t judge your insides by everyone else’s outsides. People who judge other people and point fingers at other for making mistakes have often made the most mistakes themselves.

Can you take a moment to write down your hopes for the future? Chances are you have already achieved some of those goals already – so give yourself credit for how far you have come.

Wherever you are and whatever you do: Don’t Give Up.










John McEuen Brings “Roots Music” to Knuckleheads with Matt Cartsonis

If there’s a worthwhile storyteller musician, then John McEuen has earned the right to be called one of the best. In an evening that was as much about narrative recollections from a few of his thousands of interactions with the best in the music business, McEuen’s wit and comedic timing charmed his dedicated fans Saturday, January 13, at Knuckleheads.

Opening for McEuen for a few songs was country artist and Kansas City-based Sara Morgan with Carl Butler. A rising star in her own right, Morgan gave the audience a tasty-treat, sprinkled with narrative about her own roots in music. Singer-songwriter Morgan is signed with River Delta Records. Plain Jane, her second LP is set to release January 26.

Kansas City based Sara Morgan performed Saturday, Jan. 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads, opening for John McEuen on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair


After Ms. Morgan, McEuen ambled out to the stage accompanied by the affable and perfectly-matched partner in musical legacy, Matt Cartsonis.

John McEuen and Matt Cartsonis performed Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City as part of McEuen’s Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn tour.

McEuen digressed with stories about his days with Nitty Gritty Dirt Band as well as stories about his buddy comedian (and fellow banjo player) Steve Martin. Rare nuggets, such as the story of how he came to work for singer Andy Williams, were met with appreciation from a crowd who also grew up listening to and watching The Andy Williams Show. It’s quite possible that there may be only a few people with whom John McEuen hasn’t worked in his 50-plus years as a professional musician.

Still as handsome as ever as a silver-haired, neatly-bearded 72-year-old, not only is his music versatility and mastery a part of his legacy – but as much so is his comedic expressions and the flash of a still-boyish ornery smile. Just because he’s a music sage doesn’t mean he had to take growing up all that seriously.

John McEuen, on his Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn Tour, played January 13, 2018, at Kansas City’s Knuckleheads Saloon. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Kansas City’s own Riverrock percussionist Daniel Smith was invited to bring his washboard setup on stage to join McEuen and Cartsonis. Smith said he and McEuen have been friends for decades since they met in the 1970s. It was all about the love for music.

John McEuen played a tune on his SmoothTalker guitar with his longtime friend, percussionist Dan Smith (of Kansas City’s band, Riverrock) on Saturday, January 13, 2018 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

McEuen’s recently released CD Roots Music: Made in Brooklyn is lushly populated with accompanying artists such that there is a long list on the front of the cover.  David Amram’s intro reads:

It is not often that  you have the opportunity to spend two twelve hour days recording and at the end of the day (which as become night time0 want to stay and do more. John McEuen’s album is an experience that all of us fortunate enough to participate in will cherish. Every musician played so beautifully – each take was a breathtaking experience.

The performances were all memorable, and we moved along so smoothly that there was not time to relish the experience until trying to remember each tune we did when we thought about it late at night after all was over. It provided us all with vitamins for the soul.

I know this recording will be an inspiration for all younger tiger-songwriteres, musicians, composers and listeners to realize that it is possible today to create work of lasting value that is always musical, soulful and enjoyable. ~ David Amram, Beacon, NY

McEuen, well-known for his banjo and fiddle playing, also brought with him a gorgeous custom Smooth Talker guitar that in and of itself is worth seeing in action. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
John McEuen bends the strings on his banjo Saturday, January 13, 2018, while playing at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

There should be no hesitation for fans to jump on the chance to see McEuen’s tour in forward cities, which span the country from California to the Midwest, to Pennsylvania to Texas and Florida. The music, the narrative and the sheer happiness that comes from spending a couple of hours with this legendary artist are not only reminders of our youth but, for young artists, a reminder that their own musical legacies hold the promise to endure.

One more thing – be sure to reserve your copy of McEuen’s upcoming book. In the final manuscript stages at the moment, McEuen’s book The Life I’ve Picked: A Banjo Player’s Nitty Gritty Journey is set to release April 1, 2018. This volume is sure to be filled with a rich history of great anecdotes and uplifting stories.

And, just for the record, we all would have picked you, too, Mr. McEuen.



Knuckleheads Saloon in Kansas City Nominated for Award: Cast Your Vote!

Just a quick note about you getting to vote in a contest that allows the music lovers to have a say in who are your favorite musicians and venues.

Kansas City’s Knuckleheads Saloon has been nominated for Venue of the Year in The 5th Annual Ameripolitan Awards Productions 2018  (Ameripolitan is a non-profit organization that supports classic-styled country music.)

If you want a chance to participate, cast your vote for your favorite performers and support your favorite venue, then here’s the list and here’s where to vote.

For what it’s worth, my pitch on this particular contest is that I grew up listening to old style country music (and a ton of other types of music) and I have a deep respect for the genre and its roots. To me, it’s as ingrained as the church hymns I also grew up singing.

I also believe that music is like a big web and all things are connected. If you pluck one strand, it effects all the others. I don’t know about you but, for me, I enjoy exploring the many facets of our music heritage.

Thankfully, Knuckleheads embraces a wide range of genres, so there’s always something that appeals to a variety of musical tastes. The main focus is to have safe, fun places to get out away from the house, the television set and the pressures of life and enjoy a few hours of live music.

Knuckleheads – and I’m sure the other nominees as well – have worked hard to keep live music reachable and fun for all of us. If there’s ever a chance to say “thank you,” it’s when nominations come along that invite music lovers to come together and voice their support. Again, here’s where to vote.

Samantha Fish Rings In 2018 at Knuckleheads in Hometown KC

©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Wrapping up a grueling but fruitful concert tour for 2017, Samantha Fish came home to Kansas City to put on her last show of the year, packing a Knuckleheads Garage crowd willing to drop $90 a ticket for the evening, which included complimentary champagne and a balloon drop at midnight.

The show also included access to two other acts: the crowd-pleasing Atlantic Express gushing the best of the 60’s top hits (“My Girl”; “Chain of Fools”; “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough”) and The Belairs out of Columbia, MO, who can put a blues spin on any music genre.

Delynia Brown with Atlantic Express Band sings “Chain of Fools” Sunday night as the band performed on Knuckleheads indoor main stage for the New Years Eve party. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

It was a little tricky to move between simultaneous shows inside on Knuckleheads‘ main stage and the Garage but once I soaked up several irresistable performances by Atlantic Express, I moved over to the Garage to cozy up to some Belairs blues.

After watching the brothers for several songs, I made up my mind that there comes a time in your life where you appreciate a sharp-dressed man who can handle an axe.

Brothers Dick and Dave Pruitt – who took on a 90 minute set Sunday night for the Knuckleheads’ New Years Eve concert – played everything from slide guitar blues to Johnny Cash.

..and they did so with a style that showed off what 30-year career musicians learn only from gigging all over the country for three decades

“From Austin to Boston” sums up the range these brothers bring to the stage – with Dick’s on-point range of vocals and bass guitar coupled with brother Dave’s gleeful command of lovingly-seasoned instruments that have clearly been distressed the old-fashioned way: by years of beating millions of notes through them.

If it’s the brothers’ style to bring a nod-to-the-sixites, sharp-dressed man look, they do so with the cool and confidence of the Rat Pack. But it’s their command of blues notes which permeates their music and their songs – whether soul, country, southern blues or rock -that satisfied the blues-discerning fans at Knuckleheads this New Years Eve.

Dave Pruitt performed with the Belairs Sunday, Dec. 31, 2017 for the New Year’s Eve event at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Bluesmen, The Belairs, entertained a NYE crowd at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights.

Just before 11 p.m., Ms. Fish came out on stage in a mini-dress that look audaciously like it was coated in glittering mermaid scales (fish…mermaid scales…get it?). The dazzling dress was complimented by knee-hugging black boots which covered what has become famously-known as a pair of the best gams in the music business. Her gorgeous shock of oversize blonde curls above the winged eyeliner and capacious smile finished off the allure to her fans to join her down to the floor – closer to her – in front of the stage for the next two and a half hours.

But everyone who comes to see Samantha knows the essence of her gifts lie in her mastery of and fearless attacks on the strings. While we love her presentation, we love her songwriting and delivery even more.

The show seemed to be a perfect wrap up to one of Samantha Fish’s best years ever as her Chills and Fever album made the New York Times best pop albums of the year list (at #22, alongside such names as Jay-Z, Taylor Swift) just six months before Rolling Stone named Samantha Fish as one of the “10 New Country Artists You Need to Know” in its November, 2017 issue. Perhaps best of all – to her fans – was coming home to Kansas City to let her hometown crowd share in her triumph and ring in an even better 2018.

Samantha Fish brought hometown fans a high energy show for NYE at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Samantha Fish performing “Somebody’s Always Trying” for a New Year’s Eve show at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2018 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights



Yonrico Scott quickly became a favorite with the NYE crowd as he brought his inate enthusiasm to the Knuckleheads performance with Samantha Fish. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights


Coyote Bill’s Blues Christmas at Westport Saloon

Naught shall keep the blues from its appointed rounds, apparently, so even though this past Monday was Christmas, it was still Coyote Bill’s Monday night Open Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. Plenty of local KC talent braved the 21 degree weather to show out and warm up a dedicated crowd of holiday revelers.

Among the musicians who came out were Koolaide and Miss Bea of Koolaide Exact Change Band – their first time at Westport Saloon – bringing good tidings of great vibes accompanied by John Paul Drum on harmonica. Will Hawkins stepped in on drums and Rick Symmonds on keys.

Blues Jam host William “Bill” Bartelt has had a version of Coyote Bill band for the past 10 years, he said, and has hosted the Coyote Bill Blues Jam at Westport Saloon for the past four years. The current lineup of Coyote Bill includes Bill, Patricio “Pato” Lazen, who joined the band about a year ago, and Kris Schnebelen, who joined in October, 2017, on drums.

Westport Saloon is a cozy, friendly place boasting “live, independent roots music” in the heart of Kansas City’s Westport. There’s a decent size dance floor, two bars and lots of live music variety.

The blues jam has been on Mondays since July but will go to Tuesday nights starting on February 27, 2018 at Westport Saloon. Here’s the upcoming full schedule of events at Westport Saloon.

Coyote Bill; Blues Insights, Kansas City Blues, Westport Saloon, Peggy Stevinson Bair
Koolaide played at the Westport Saloon during the Coyote Bill’s Monday Blues Jam, Dec. 25, 2017. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
John Paul Drum played Monday, Dec. 25, 2017 during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Miss Bea, bassist with Koolaide Exact Change Band, played Monday, Dec. 25, 2017, during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Bassist Russell Niccum played Dec. 25, 2017 during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Rick Symmonds played keyboard Dec. 25, 2017 during the Coyote Bill Monday Blues Jam at Westport Saloon. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Mike Zito and Jeremiah Johnson Deliver a Red Bull Blues Show in Kansas City

Mike Zito, left, performed with Terry Dry Dec. 9 on bass at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

When Mike Zito puts on a concert, he only knows full throttle. When he came to Knuckleheads Dec. 9 with special guest Jeremiah Johnson Band, the energy couldn’t get any higher on a ride that lasted even longer. It felt like like doing shots of Red Bull.

With two bands each this good, either one could have packed a Knuckleheads stage house – each of them has before. Together, they sent Kansas City fans scrambling for tickets.

Zito showed off his star quality by goading an already hyped-up, on-their-feet crowd into staying for a pairing of both bands well-into a three-song encore. Sharing the stage with the already popular Johnson, was fine with Zito, who seems to thrive on choosing to play with the very best. After all, not only is Johnson an award-winner also but he brings Frank Bauer’s dipping, back-arching saxophone performance, the personable Benet Schaeffer on drums and seasoned bassist Tom Maloney keeping everybody on track.

And Zito’s band is one of the best anywhere with Terry Dry on bass and Matt Johnson on drums. Plus, they can all sing and are performers who carry an intuitive showmanship into Zito’s performances.

These two bands are clearly among the most audience-satisfying acts touring right now. They easily interact with and take charge of the audiences who clearly are pumped and energized by these performers. When Zito took his wireless guitar out into the audience, exposed as he was, the fans cleared the way and egged him on. Well, let me just show you Mike Zito untethered:

Wait. There’s more:

Are you listening Texas fans? Zito is coming your way in Port Arthur at Dylan’s with Scott McGill; Austin on Dec. 29 at Antone’s, then in Dallas, at The Kessler on Dec. 30 and a New Years Eve Party in Spring, TX at Dosey Doe.

After that, Zito is off to Germany for what looks to be a six-week tour which you can follow Mike Zito’s Event page.

In the Midwest and still want a taste of St. Louis blues?

Jeremiah Johnson Band is homing in on the St. Louis venues at Hammerstone’s on Dec. 21 and 28 and at Moonshine Blues Bar on Dec. 30th.

This is the fellas having a good time at Knuckleheads in Kansas City.


Mike Zito and Terry Dry performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights.
Jeremiah Johnson performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
St. Louis-born bluesman Jeremiah Johnson performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City.
Mike Zito, left, performed with Terry Dry Dec. 9 on bass at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Mike Zito and bassist Terry Dry brought plenty of enthusiasm to their Dec. 9 performance at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights.
Jeremiah Johnson and saxophonist Frank Bauer performed Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Saxophonist Frank Bauer performed with the Jeremiah Johnson Band Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Matt Johnson performed with Mike Zito Dec. 9 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Bassist Tom Maloney performed Dec. 9 with the Jeremiah Johnson Band at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights
Benet Schaeffer performed Dec. 9 with the Jeremiah Johnson Band at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair/Blues Insights

Mike Zito and Jeremiah Johnson: KC Fans Just Hit the Blues Jackpot

JeremiahJohson ©2017 BluesInsights Peggy Steviinson Bair

At the sold out show for Jeremiah Johnson this past summer, nobody left the packed Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads the entire performance as the St. Louis native blues home boy and his fiery saxophonist Frank Bauer, drummer Benet Schaeffer, and bassist Tom Maloney, solidified their hold on the Midwestern blues scene.

On another night this summer in the Knuckleheads venue, another St. Louis-born bluesman, Mike Zito similarly fired up a crowd on the outdoor stage opening for Tab Benoit – then, together with Tab Benoit. And, yes, (why do you even ask?) the crowd went wild.

But if putting both Johnson and Zito together on one ticket is winning a blues bash lottery, then you have a chance to cash in your prize this weekend:

Coming this Saturday, Dec. 9 is the Jeremiah Johnson Band and Mike Zito – yes – for one $15 ticket price at Knuckleheads.

Both performers were big winners at the Independent Blues Awards this year: Johnson for Best Independent Contemporary CD for “Blues Heart Attack” and Best Funk Song “Sun Shine Through” and Zito for Best Blues Rock Song: “Redbird”.

It’s about the music, yes, but it’s also about their incredible bands and both performers’ stage presence along with their incomparable abilities to lasso an audience not just with their talent but with their down-home genuineness. Okay, to boil it down: these guys actually really like their fans.

So, get out of the holiday doldrums, leave the world behind you and get transported inside the happy cocoon of Knuckleheads. Get your tickets via Knuckleheads directly as this is always the best ticket deal.

Here’s a visual taste of the shows from this summer:

Jeremiah Johnson ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
St. Louis bluesman Jeremiah Johnson brought his roadshow to Knuckleheads Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 in a sold out show in the Gospel Lounge.
Frank Bauer saxophonist Jeremiah Johnson ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Saxophonist Frank Bauer performed with Jeremiah Johnson Band Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 in the Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
Benet Shaeffer drummer Jeremiah Johnson ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Benet Shaeffer provided the beats for Jeremiah Johnson Band Friday, Aug. 4, 2017 during their performance in the Gospel Lounge at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. © 2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
Tom Maloney bassist Jeremiah Johnson ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Tom Maloney, bassist with the Jeremiah Johnson Band, responds to crowd applause for his solo during a performance Aug. 4, 2017 at Knuckleheads’ Gospel Lounge in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair
Mike Zito ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Mike Zito performed Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. Zito also joined Tab Benoit later in the evening for Benoit’s appearance on the same stage.
Mike Zito ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Mike Zito performed Friday, Aug. 11, 2017 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City, opening for Tab Benoit. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

Zito’s “Make Blues Not War” CD is also available in “vinyl delicious”.

But, wait, there’s MORE: An autographed Christmas Bundle is also available on his online store – six CDs including “Superman” “Americas Most Wanted” “Live from the Top” and more.

Southern Avenue: Young, Hip Blues – Served Hot on a Platter

A lot of people who love the blues know that Southern Avenue is a street in Memphis, TN.

But it’s also the name of a young blues band with a namesake debut album Southern Avenue.

Coming back for another run at Kansas City’s great roadhouse Knuckleheads Nov. 30, those who didn’t catch Southern Avenue the first time around this summer are going to get a second chance – which is a coup for the fans who recognize they are lucky enough to still get in to see this band’s star rise at a smaller venue.

The band quickly got snapped up by Concord Music Group’s Stax Record label where, among many other venerable artists, Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding and Elvis Presley have pressed recordings. Concord Group Music has produced and released Gregg Allman’s final album ‘Southern Blood’.

Just a refresher of Southern Avenue’s July 14, 2017 appearance:

Southern Avenue Band ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Vocalist Tierinii Jackson performed July 14, 2017 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City with the band Southern Avenue. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair – Blues Insights LLC

The band lit up the Knuckleheads outdoor stage Friday, July 14, 2017 – on a beautiful summer night in front of a standing room only, overflow blues crowd. Opening for the TUF (Trampled Under Foot) Reunion, sisters Tierinii (vocals) and Tikyra Jackson (drums) along with Israeli-born Ori Naftaly on guitar and keyboardist Jeremy Powell, coaxed the crowd into filling their cups with a fresh brew of youth-infused blues – a special blend of blues tones, youthful lyrics, gospel and Tierinii’s arousing delivery.

Ori Naftaly Southern Avenue ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Guitarist Ori Naftaly performed July 14, 2017 at Knuckleheads with the band Southern Avenue out of Memphis, TN. Knuckleheads is a famed roadhouse in Kansas City, MO. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair – Blues Insights LLC

Like a choir director stirring up a congregation, vocalist Tierinii kept up an unrelenting invitation to jump into a groove with an energetic lineup of original songs like “Don’t Give Up” and “Rumble” – all while heel-stepping, hip-gyrating and swinging her long, brilliant red locks. The band broke out in several solos by Powell, Naftaly and Tikyra, creating a bubbling cauldron of excitement inside the ever-more hyped up crowd.

Keyboardist Jeremy Powell Southern Avenue ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Keyboardist Jeremy Powell performed July 14, 2017 with blues band Southern Avenue at Knuckleheads in Kansas City. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair – Blues Insights LLC
Tikyra Jackson Southern Avenues ©2017 Blues Insights Peggy Stevinson Bair
Tikyra Jackson performed with blues band Southern Avenue July 14, 2017 at Knuckleheads in Kansas City.

The set wrapped up with the wave-inducing “Don’t Give Up” that would have gotten the band elected to Congress if it had been a political rally. You can get a free download of the song if you sign up with your email here. If you don’t get anything else out of this article, I recommend getting that song. It has a great mantra that is at the heart of how Southern Avenue connects with their fans.

Let’s have a listen to Music City Roots‘ video of Southern Avenue’s “Don’t Give Up”:

Outside the Knuckleheads front entrance during the intermission (Trampled Under Foot Reunion was up next as the headliner), the newly-minted fans were able to snap up CDs of the Southern Avenue namesake debut record – also available on LP vinyl for those who like to take their music for a vintage spin on a platter.

Southern Avenue debut album available on vinyl or CD. Memphis, TN band on Stax Record label, a division of Concord Group Music.

The Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017 show opens at 7 p.m. with Quinn DeVeaux

Heather Newman “Burn Me Alive” – Dec. 1

I didn’t know what to think this past summer when this little pint-size pixie sidled up to the microphone on the stage one Wednesday night during the 2017 Levee Summer Blues Jam. Jam nights are pretty laid back…Newman, casually bespeckled – but even so, nothing could obscure those big eyes underneath. I thought right then, in fact, that she was reminiscent of one of Margaret Keane’s paintings – waif-like and barefooted. I squinted a bit wondering what this gal was doing in a blues jam.

But, then…something about how she wore that big ol’ bass like a comfortable accessory and how, with a smile and flick of her locks, the fellas around her took que and struck in. I quickly surmised I’d better pay attention: she wasn’t there to follow.

She was there to LEAD.

Sure ’nuff, after her step up to the mic, out came a big woman voice that boomed a whole lotta blues outta seemingly nowhere.

Yeah. Fool me once. Never again. Welcome to my first experience of Heather Newman.

I got a chance to catch up with her after her set and found her very down-home friendly. From Omaha originally, Newman has made Kansas City home recently but, clearly, she has that Midwestern approachability. I promised to catch her one of her professional appearances in the future and as luck would have it, the next time I got to connect with her was at Knuckleheads with her own band, The Heather Newman Band.

After waiting around for her to greet her fans before the show, Ms. Newman said she was excited because she had written a new song the day before and run the band through the new tune in less than a day to try it out this very next night. To understand this level of ability, one first has to know that, even though she is only 23 years old, she’s been performing since she was 10, so in Heather Newman years, she’s a seasoned pro.

With the debut of “Burn Me Alive”, it’s easy to see how she taken her raw talents to bolder levels.

Keith Ladd, Lee’s Summit, played guitar with The Heather Newman Band Nov. 16, 2017 at Knuckleheads. Ladd has opened for such bands as Molly Hatchet, The Romantics and Blackfoot. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair.
Ryan Matthew is a classically trained musician who played keys with The Heather Newman band on Nov. 16, 2017 at Knuckleheads. ©2017 Peggy Stevinson Bair

With Lee’s Summit’s Keith Ladd on guitar, classically trained Ryan Matthew on keys and Cole Dillingham (formerly with Amanda Fish band) on drums, Newman is clearly comfortable as a leader of the band (more like keeper of the band’s happiness.) Coaxing her guys through songs with smiles and attention, she never misses a beat while doing what it takes to make sure the sounds are on track. Talent builds talent and begets talent so Newman surrounding herself with such a worthy crew has clearly served to put her at the helm of a great sound at an opportune time in her career – and theirs.

Okay, I’ll stop yammering so you can have a listen to The Heather Newman Band

Coming up Dec. 1 at Knuckleheads, The Heather Newman Band will perform at the CD release party of their debut album: “Burn Me Alive” and if you click this link, you can pre-order the album and/or a tee-shirt with the band’s cool logo on it. Get your Heather Newman Band Knucklehead’s tickets


One more from Nov. 16 at Knuckleheads: “You Mean to Tell Me”