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2009 News June 20, 2019   

September 28, 1951 - October 30, 2009

Norton Buffalo By Randi Rossmann - Santa Rosa Press Democrat

Blues harmonica virtuoso Norton Buffalo died Friday following a brief battle with lung cancer.  Buffalo, 58, learned in September he had cancer and was attempting to beat the disease.  Friends learned he went into a coma Thursday night and then died Friday afternoon, said Bill Bowker, a longtime Sonoma County DJ and music promoter and longtime acquaintance of Buffalo's.

"He was really a master of the harmonica", said Bowker on Sunday.  "For years he was a mainstay of Sonoma County music scene here.  We all had hopes that he could beat it."  "He was just one of these wonderful characters we've had and been blessed with in Sonoma County", Bowker said.

Buffalo had been posting updates on his fight with the illness on his website, including information that the cancer was at an advanced stage and had spread to his brain.

Buffalo played rock for years with the Steve Miller Band in the 70s, but had the ability to play many genres, with an emphasis on blues, rock and honky tonk.  He toured this summer with Steve Miller and had many plans in the works when he learned he was sick, according to his website.

Buffalo and his family had lived in Glen Ellen until a few years ago when he moved to Paradise, near Chico.  "He was back in town so often.  He played with Roy Rogers often at the Mystic [in Petaluma].  We did see him often", said Bowker.

There will be a benefit held Sunday, November 22 at the Paradise Performing Arts Center featuring Carlos Reyes and Friends, Tom Rigney and Flambeau and Roy Rogers and the Delta Rhythm Kings.  Call Bill Anderson toll free 1-877-397-3363 (10am-4:30pm & 6pm-9pm) to order your tickets with a credit card, or you can call to reserve your tickets and send a check payable to PPAC to Bill Anderson, 6848U Skyway, Paradise, CA  95969.  Tickets for Norton's benefit will be $40 General Admission.  Tickets can either be mailed to you or held at Will Call.  Doors will open at 5:30pm, show starts at 6:30pm.

Tickets will also be available at Diamond W Western Wear in Chico, Country Touch, and Paradise Coin in Paradise, and at The Performing Arts Center starting next week.  PPAC's box office is open 11am-3pm Monday-Friday.

Paradise Performing Arts Center
777 Nunneley Road
P.O. Box 1124
Paradise, CA  95967
Office:  530.872.8454  |  Fax:  530.872.0809

Send thoughts and remembrances to Norton's wife:

Lisa Flores
5905 D Clark Road
Paradise, CA  95969

September 4, 2009

In April of 2008, the world lost a young, bright, talented musician named Sean Costello.  What you may not know is that Sean had been diagnosed with Type II Bipolar Disorder only a year before.  Unfortunately, bipolar disorder takes, on the average, 8-10 years to be diagnosed.  Since people who suffer with this disorder are challenged with cyclic depression and anxiety, as well as sleep disorders, they frequently self-medicate to function.  I can tell you that Sean did not want to die and that he was fighting hard to manage his disability.  Sean was my son and today I'm writing to you as a mother and as the founder of The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research.

First and foremost, Sean was a bluesman.  He gave his heart and soul to the only genre of music to which he would attach his name.  A study at Memphis State University determined that Blues musicians have a higher rate of depression than the general public.  Other research shows a strong correlation between bipolar disorder, creativity and social anxiety, and alcohol and substance abuse and its tragic sequelae are all too familiar to the musician community.  It is with this information and its imperatives that we have founded the organization in Sean's name.

We have been told that we are the only organization dedicated to the research and treatment of bipolar disorder in musicians and, as a result, have attracted the best and the brightest researchers in this field.  Through Sean's celebrity and the love of his fans and fellow musicians, we hope to improve research and educational outreach related to bipolar disorder and, eventually, to support implementation of outcome based interventions.

I have found the Blues world to be a special one and hope its collective compassion will help to conquer the thing that took Sean and others from its ranks prematurely.  Please visit our website to learn more about our mission, Sean's story and hear a collection of his music.  www.seancostellofund.org.

To succeed, we do need your help.


Debbie Costello Smith

The Sean Costello Memorial Fund for Bipolar Research


January 15, 1950 - July 30, 2009

John Keith John Keith passed away Thursday morning of heart failure after a courageous and determined yearlong battle with cancer.  In recent weeks, John had been feeling well enough to schedule himself for a solo show, in addition to scheduling a gig with the Loose Gravel Blues Band, both for the month of August.  John's sudden and unexpected passing has shocked and saddened our Blues Community.

John's history with the music industry was vast and long.  John performed and recorded with bands in Los Angeles during the 1960s . Some of the numerous bands that John played with included The American Revolution, which was managed by Casey Kasem and produced by Mike Curb.  This band was designated as American International Pictures' (AIP) house band.  To read an interview with John discussing this period, click here.

John relocated to Central California in the 1970's, showcasing his guitar, bass playing and singing skills with the soul band The Charades of Tulare and with the Loose Gravel Blues Band of Visalia.  Over the years, John also shared his amazing talents with other bands including Six Above Zero, Stepsons of the Blues, the mardi gras band Fat Tuesday, the Beatlesque band Revolver, and The Grits.

A deep interest in the blues launched John on a solo career playing the San Joaquin Valley coffee house circuit in the late 1990s.  It was in this setting that he honed his skills and performed his highly accomplished mix of traditional fingerstyle Delta and Piedmont blues as well as contemporary blues.

John's musical accomplishments were many.  In recent years, John had released three solo CDs that included many original compositions, a CD with Loose Gravel Blues Band and another with his band Revolver.  John's talents extended to being a composer and an arranger; an accomplished bottleneck slide, acoustic, electric, resonator and bass guitarist; a piano and trombone player; and a soulful lead and background vocalist.

John's music and heart touched us all.  The Blues Community is extremely grateful to have known and experienced John Keith, the musician and the friend.  Our heartfelt sympathy is extended to John's wife Nona, their children, and their extended families.

Services are scheduled for Thursday, August 6, 10:00 AM at Visalia First Assembly Church, 3737 S. Akers St. (corner of Akers and Caldwell) in Visalia, CA.

For additional information, please contact Hal Kent at howlinhal@comcast.net or phone 559.280.8452

September 28, 1928 - June 3, 2009

Koko Taylor Grammy Award-winning blues legend Koko Taylor, 80, died on June 3, 2009 in her hometown of Chicago, IL, as a result of complications following her May 19 surgery to correct a gastrointestinal bleed.  On May 7, 2009, the critically acclaimed Taylor, known worldwide as the "Queen of the Blues," won her 29th Blues Music Award (for Traditional Female Blues Artist Of The Year), making her the recipient of more Blues Music Awards than any other artist.  In 2004 she received the NEA National Heritage Fellowship Award, which is among the highest honors given to an American artist.  Her most recent CD, 2007's Old School, was nominated for a Grammy (eight of her nine Alligator albums were Grammy-nominated).  She won a Grammy in 1984 for her guest appearance on the compilation album Blues Explosion on Atlantic.

Born Cora Walton on a sharecropper's farm just outside Memphis, TN, on September 28, 1928, Koko, nicknamed for her love of chocolate, fell in love with music at an early age.  Inspired by gospel music and WDIA blues disc jockeys B.B. King and Rufus Thomas, Taylor began belting the blues with her five brothers and sisters, accompanying themselves on their homemade instruments.  In 1952, Taylor and her soon-to-be-husband, the late Robert "Pops" Taylor, traveled to Chicago with nothing but, in Koko's words, "thirty-five cents and a box of Ritz Crackers."

In Chicago, "Pops" worked for a packing company, and Koko cleaned houses.  Together they frequented the city's blues clubs nightly.  Encouraged by her husband, Koko began to sit in with the city's top blues bands, and soon she was in demand as a guest artist.  One evening in 1962 Koko was approached by arranger/composer Willie Dixon.  Overwhelmed by Koko's performance, Dixon landed Koko a Chess Records recording contract, where he produced her several singles, two albums and penned her million-selling 1965 hit "Wang Dang Doodle," which would become Taylor's signature song.

After Chess Records was sold, Taylor found a home with the Chicago's Alligator Records in 1975 and released the Grammy-nominated I Got What It Takes.  She recorded eight more albums for Alligator between 1978 and 2007, received seven more Grammy nominations and made numerous guest appearances on various albums and tribute recordings.  Koko appeared in the films Wild At Heart, Mercury Rising and Blues Brothers 2000.  She performed on Late Night With David Letterman, Late Night With Conan O'Brien, CBS-TV's This Morning, National Public Radio's All Things Considered, CBS-TV's Early Edition, and numerous regional television programs.

Over the course of her 40-plus-year career, Taylor received every award the blues world has to offer.  On March 3, 1993, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley honored Taylor with a "Legend Of The Year" Award and declared "Koko Taylor Day" throughout Chicago.  In 1997, she was inducted into the Blues Foundation's Hall of Fame.  A year later, Chicago Magazine named her "Chicagoan Of The Year" and, in 1999, Taylor received the Blues Foundation's Lifetime Achievement Award.  In 2009 Taylor performed in Washington, D.C. at The Kennedy Center Honors honoring Morgan Freeman.

Koko Taylor was one of very few women who found success in the male-dominated blues world.  She took her music from the tiny clubs of Chicago's South Side to concert halls and major festivals all over the world.  She shared stages with every major blues star, including Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, B.B. King, Junior Wells and Buddy Guy as well as rock icons Robert Plant and Jimmy Page.

Taylor's final performance was on May 7, 2009 in Memphis at the Blues Music Awards, where she sang "Wang Dang Doodle" after receiving her award for Traditional Blues Female Artist Of The Year.

Survivors include Taylor's husband Hays Harris, daughter Joyce Threatt, son-in-law Lee Threatt, grandchildren Lee, Jr. and Wendy, and three great-grandchildren.


April 17, 2009 is the offical date of incorporation for the Napa Solano Blues Society
Contact:  Sean M. McGroarty at 916.204.9800 or sean@myifp.com

Rod and Honey Piazza "We wanted to fill the musical gap between Sacramento and the Bay Area", explained Sean McGroarty, co-founder and president of the newly formed organization.  "There are lots of us blues musicians and fans in the area that struggle having to drive to the Sacramento or to San Francisco to play or listen to the blues.  It's just time we did something about that", said McGroarty.

The NSBS (Napa Solano Blues Society) was organized by three long time Vacaville residents:  Matt Taynton, owner of the Tweed Hut Music Store in Vacaville and the official address for the NSBS; Shauna Manina, Community Relations Coordinator for the Vacaville Reporter; and Sean McGroarty, Information Technology Consultant.

All three of them are heavily involved in the local music scene.  Taynton is the leader of The Matty T Band, a favorite rock/blues band in Vacaville.  Manina is in charge of the entertainment for the annual tree lighting, as well as all the music at the Fiesta Days events.  McGroarty is the founding member of The Used Blues Band, a popular Vacaville dance blues band.

The NSBS charter is to help preserve blues music as an indigenous American art form, to promote blues musicians and establishments that host blues music in the area and to teach kids in the schools about blues music as well as provide much needed musical instruments to the school music programs.

The NSBS has already started the process to become an affiliate member of the Blues Foundation which boasts over 165 affiliate blues society members around the world.  The Blues Foundation is best known for The Blues Music Awards, The Blues Hall of Fame, The International Blues Challenge and the BITS program (Blues in the School).

We wanted to form a society that embraced the many different styles of blues music that are out there", noted Matt Taynton.  "There is rock blues, Chicago blues, delta blues, country blues, jazz blues and many other styles of blues that we want to promote", he added.

"It's exciting to be able to provide tangible results through an organization like this by purchasing musical instruments for students in our area with the proceeds we received", stated Manina.  "While we are based in Vacaville, we are looking to gain supporters in all of Napa and Solano counties as part of the blues revolution.  We will also be holding a regional Battle of the Bands competition, sending the winner to Memphis to compete against the other blues society semi-finalists from around the world."

Membership has its privileges, too!  Individual membership is only $50 per year and includes free or discounted admission to several NSBS hosted events each year as well as weekly email updates on where and when to see live blues music in the area.  There will also be a monthly newsletter with articles and blues news.

Band membership is $75 per year and includes all the above benefits plus a listing on the website as a referral service to connect them with those looking to hire bands and a link to the band's website, MySpace and/or Facebook.  Business memberships are $100 per year and include web advertising, discounts on hiring NSBS bands, as well as event advertising.

Blues music is on the rise locally and nationally.  One need only listen to the music of commericals, TV show theme songs and the music offerings at bars and clubs to hear the familiar sounds of harmonica and 12 bar blues guitar riffs.  Pepperbellys in Fairfield, a popular comedy club, has had some of the largest crowds when bringing in blues bands like Tommy Castro.  WinesStyles in downtown Vacaville has seen their business skyrocket on Saturday nights by bringing in local blues bands to entertain guests.

The NSBS is planning to host free "open mic" blues jams outdoors each Sunday in May in Town Square in downtown Vacaville from noon to 3 pm.  "The blues jams allow would be blues artists to share the stage with more experienced blues performers and that's when the magic of the blues takes place for listeners and performers alike", noted McGroarty.  McGroarty's band will be hosting several of these weekly events along with the Matty T Band.  A sound system, drums and bass amplifier will be available for those wishing to join in on the music.  "All people need to bring is their instruments, a guiltar amplifier and their voices to sit in with the host band.  We have a sign-up list and match different groupings of players together and fill in where needed."

"It is amazing how many very talented musicians we have in this area", states Manina, who knows talent, as she has been responsible for organizing the entertainment for the Fiesta Days and other events for years.

The first event for the NSBS is scheduled for May 30th outdoors at the Tweed Hut Music Store in Vacaville.  The headline band will be national blues artist and local favorite Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers.  Rod has not played in the area for several years and is releasing a brand new CD in May along with a new signature hamonica line from Hering.  Also scheduled are The Used Blues Band, The Matty T Band and The Fast 4's.  There will be vendor booths providing beer, BBQ, cigars and more.  Tickets are $15 and are available at the Tweed Hut Music Store or by calling 707.447.5515.  As an added bonus, anyone who joins that Napa Solano Blues Society at any level will receive a free ticket to the concert!

Rod Piazza & The Mighty Flyers
The Used Blues Band
The Matty T Band
The Fast 4's
Saturday, May 30, 2009 from 12 noon to 6 pm
Tweed Hut Music Store
1021 Hume Way #H
Vacaville, CA  95687
$15 General Admission
707.447.5515 for tickets and information

July 4, 1930 - March 4, 2009

John Cephas Steve Hecht of Piedmont Talent reports that Piedmont blues legend John Cephas (AKA "Bowling Green" John Cephas) passed away at his home of natural causes.  He was 78.  He had retired from music recently due to illness.  John Cephas was born July 4, 1930, in the Foggy Bottom area of Washington, D.C. in a musical and religious family.  He picked up the guitar at an early age, and learned gospel from his family and blues from some of the records available to him.  He mastered a gentle finger picking style that has become known as the Piedmont style of blues guitar.  He first worked was as a gospel artist touring with the Capital Harmonizers.

In the early 1970s, he was heard by pianist Big Chief Ellis and hired Cephas to play guitar in his band.  Cephas appears as a sideman on Ellis's beautiful album on the Trix label.  It was in Ellis's band that Cephas met a young harmonica player by the name of Phil Wiggins.  This meeting would become an enduring and highly celebrated partnership.  The duo of Cephas and Wiggins has made numerous great records on labels such as L+R, Flying Fish, Evidence, Bullseye Blues, Alligator, and Chesky.  In 1989 John Cephas won a prestigious National Heritage Fellowship with The National Endowment for the Arts.

In 1996, Cephas and Wiggins won the W. C. Handy Award for the Best Traditional Album of the Year, and were also named Blues Entertainers of the Year.  In 1988, Cephas received a Washington, D.C. , Mayor's Arts Award.  Just last week, he was awarded the Library Of Virginia's 2009 African-American Trailblazers in Virginia History award.

Cephas was also the founder of the Washington, D.C. Blues Society, and served on the Executive Committee Of The National Council For the Traditional Arts.  A sweet, unassuming man with a rich voice and phenomenal, yet understated guitar ability, John takes with him his true representation of the Southeastern blues tradition.

February 25, 2009

As you may have heard, Ron Thompson suffered a physical setback recently.  But the good news is that he is on the mend!

On Thursday, February 19th, Ron was admitted to St. Rose Hospital in Hayward with a severe case of pneumonia so severe that the bacteria went into his bloodstream.  Ron spent four days in the hospital, part of that time in ICU, but sprang back quickly thanks to the excellent care of the St. Rose medical team.  Ron would like to thank Dr. Pat Hybarger of Kaiser San Rafael, Dr. Anna Saenz of San Francisco, Dr. Ramiro Garcia, Peggy (sorry we don't know your last name!) and all the other St. Rose nursing staff who basically saved his life.

Ron was released from the hospital on Sunday, February 22nd, and is expected to make a full recovery.  He is taking a long overdue and well needed recess from performing, but should be back in the saddle soon!

When times get tough, you know who your friends are, and Ron has so many wonderful friends!  He needs each and every one at this time to help him cope with all this, including addressing a rather astonishing hospital bill and being able to make the rent payment while he's recuperating.

Angels from every part of California and also Colorado are jumping forward to help, as several fund-raising benefits are in the works already.
If you would like to help by offering your musical talents, your organizing skills, or providing items for auction/raffle, please get in touch with the contacts listed below.

If you would like to host your own benefit to help Ron through this financial crunch, just email or call Jackie McCort, Ron's business manager, at jackie@rtblues.com or 510.693.8277, so that we can add your event to the list and notify folks in your area.

A special bank account has been set up specifically for Ron's medical bills at Bank of America in Hayward, CA.  To make a donation, please send checks payable to:

Ron Thompson, Account #0014-73814
Bank of America
1200 "A" Street
Hayward, CA  94544

We will be setting up a "one click" method for donations through Ron's website in the next few days.  If you would prefer to contribute online, please check the website in a day or so.

All donations are tax deductible.  Please note:  This account is specifically set up for donations to help Ron defray expenses associated with his hospitalization.  All other business transactions will be handled separately as before.

Ron would really like to thank everyone for their love and encouragement during this difficult time.  He is overwhelmed by your kindness and real grassroots support.  Ron is honored to have the backing of such a fine fan base and artist community.


Saturday, February 28
9 PM
JJ's Blues
3439 Stevens Creek Blvd.
San Jose, CA

Ron's good buddy, drummer and sometimes Resistor, Dave Sandoval, is bringing his band, The Prowlers, in for an evening of hot music and hat passing for Ron!  Dave is totally open to musicians wishing to sit in.  You can contact him at:
Dave Sandoval at zogdrummer@yahoo.com or 408.497.3731

Sunday, March 1
2-7 PM
Crossroads and the Central Valley Blues Society
3315 N. Cedar Ave.
Fresno, CA  93726
$10 donation at the door

Stepping up to the plate to help are the Mofo Party Band, Rudy Parris Band, Deja Blues with Jeff Hallock, Mercury Blues Band, Coleman Head, Lucky Lopez, Roger Gonzales, Rod Fowler, Beverly "Baby Bee" Green, Danny Camarena, and many more local blues musicians.  Ron will not be able to attend, unfortunately.  Doctor's orders!

The CVBS is hoping to have a raffle as well, so if you know anyone who can donate items for the raffle, tell them to just bring whatever they have with them on Sunday or this Thursday (February 26th).  Ideas are:  restaurant gift cards, electronic items, CD's, service gift certificates, etc.

For more information: Don Heflin at donmu6man@sbcglobal.net

(Our prayers go out to Don's lovely wife, Susan, who had surgery this week . It is amazing that despite all this, Don is also organizing Sunday's event for Ron!  Thanks also go out to Bob Pierce -- proprietor of Crossroads, the Central Valley Blues Society, all the musicians, and the entire "Thursday Night Stress Relief Party" gang!

Friday, March 13
8 PM
The Bistro
1001 B Street
Hayward, CA
$10 cover! (and the Bistro NEVER charges! a first!)

The Houston Jones Band is dedicating their night at The Bistro to Ron's medical payments.  If you don't already know about HJ, you should!  They are "high octane Americana" and tear the house down wherever they play.  They are also super nice people....and well, that's rather evident!  The Bistro is tiny, so come down early and grab a seat!

Sunday, March 22
6-10 PM
All Star Pro Jam
Boulder Outlook Hotel
800 28th Street
Boulder, CO  80303
$10 donation at the door

Auction items are just coming in, but include:  Four 2-day passes to Blues From the Top (June 27 & 27, Winter Park, CO); four passes to the Greeley Blues Jam (June 13); and drum roll please!!! One week at a private, 400-year-old "Villetta" in the Cannereggio Sestiero in Venice, Italy (this is a live item), owned by author and Art Historian, Dr. Toni Sepeda.  This includes a signed copy of her lastest literary offering, Brunetti's Venice:  Walks Through the Novels.

Line-up to be announced, but the jam is being headed by 2008 IBC Solo Winner, Lionel Young.  The Outook's jams are FAMOUS!  Ron will be playing at the Outlook that week.  Expect to see him at the jam too!

For more information:  Honey Bee Sepeda at honey.sepeda@gmail.com

Special thanks to Gary Guesnier, Honey Bee, Dan King (Ambassador of Cool and proprietor of the Outlook), Jill Watkins, Lionel Young, and John Lee Hooker, Jr.

Sunday, March 29
4-8 PM
Poor House Bistro
91 South Autumn Street
San Jose, CA  95110

Line-up to be announced soon!

For more information:  Dave Sandoval at zogdrummer@yahoo.com

Major gratitude to Jay Meduri, Poor House Proprietor, Dave Sandoval, and the Amazing Gracie Mae!

Saturday, April 11
Time TBA
The Torch Club and the Sierra Blues Society
904 15th Street
Sacramento, CA  95814

The line-up is still under construction and will be announced soon.  Prizes for a drawing are needed!

For more information:  Thom Meyers at 530.268.9166 or thom_myers@sbbmail.com

Big thanks to Marina Texeira, who generously offered the use of the World Famous Torch Club for this event, and to Mick Martin, Thom Meyers, Donna Walker, Teresa Schiling, Wanda of the Mountains, Norman Shaw, and the Sierra Blues Society.

Saturday, April 25
3-8 PM
The Mojo Lounge
3714 Peralta Blvd.
Fremont, CA  94536

Musical talent is being rounded up and we will have complete information soon.


For more information:  Larry Catlin at 510.943.7865 or llarcat@yahoo.com

Our condolences to Dennis Briggs, owner of the Mojo Lounge, who lost his beautiful wife, Coralee, on February 5th.  Despite this tragedy, Dennis amazingly raised his hand immediately when he found out about Ron and said, "We are definitely doing a benefit for Ron at the Mojo!  Maybe two!"  Thank you Dennis, and also thanks to Larry Catlin, who organized Coralee's Celebration of Life and who is partnering with Dennis for Ron's Mojo benefit.

February 7, 2009
The Blues Foundation

Name Representing
1st Place - JP Sours & The Red Hots South Florida Blues Society
2nd Place - Ty Curtis Band Cascade Blues Association
3rd Place - Monkey Junk Ottawa Blues Society
Solo / Duet
Name Representing
1st Place - Little Joe McLerran Blues Society Of Tulsa
2nd Place - Alphonso & Richard Crossroads Blues Society of MS
Best Self Produced CD
Hollerin'! by Nathan James & Ben Hernandez Blues Lovers United Of San Diego


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