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Jeff Maylin: Detroit, three decades and 12 bars

Jeff Maylin
Jeff Maylin
J. Maylin

The blues in Detroit grew up in the 1940s on Hastings Street with the well known bluesman, John Lee Hooker. Over the next few decades, men like Uncle Jessie White, Willie D. Warren and the Butler Twins defined the Detroit Blues style. Detroit Blues is different from Chicago or Delta Blues, the pocket is wider. Often it is phrased in 12 1/2 to 13 1/2 bars instead of the standard 12, and it has a pulse and accents that are gritty and full of emotion.

Standing out of Detroit's Blues Ranks, is the honorable Jeff Maylin. Jeff enjoys playing blues guitar and when he approaches the artistic end of playing the guitar he tries to engage the audience. Jeff refuses to let the art form of the Blues die.

Some of his influences include Willie D. Warren. Bo-Bo Jenkins, Phil Guy, Eddie Kirkland and Lightening Hopkins. Jeff considers the blues as a beautiful, passionate expression. Also, that the world should feel the Blues, and Jeff is but a vessel carrying the message of Detroit Blues.

In 1967, Jeff began his adventure into the world of the Blues. At the age of 18, Jeff met Big Mama Thorton in Long Beach, California. Big Mama told Jeff: ”. . .it doesn't matter what color you are Jeff, if you have ever felt pain you can play the blues.” Jeff met Junior Wells, a well known harmonica player, and Junior put his arms around Jeff like a father and told him: ”. . .Jeff, look at me, you're a bluesman, you're somebody, don't ever forget that.”  

This qualified Jeff in many regards and helped him across the color barriers surrounding so much of the music. As a white player, often, the older Black players would look to Jeff with admiration. Jeff and the others, knew that they were part of something around Detroit at the time. Jeff stated: ”We all knew that the blues was not the most popular music, but it is the most passionate.”

In the 1970s, Jeff was playing with Bo-Bo Jenkins at Bo-Bo's studio, Big Star on Linwood and Livernois. Other players that surrounded Jeff were Johnny Yard Dog Jones and Glemmy Durrell. Jeff even managed to scare up a gig at the Bamboo Lounge on 12th street. One of the bigger gigs Jeff played was the Highland Park Blues Festival which was precursor to The Detroit Blues Festival.

The Blues was gaining momentum around Detroit. There were venues for the blues popping up all over the city from the 1980s to 2000. The Soup Kitchen downtown, The Attic in Hamtramk, Alvin's in the Cass Corridor. Moby Dick's on the west side in Dearborn and then Memphis Smoke in Royal Oak. As the music nationally gained recognition behind Stevie Ray Vaughn, in Detroit, it was kept alive by people like Ron Oster, who owned the magazine the Blues Review, Radio personality the Famous Coachman and DJ Jay Butler.

Jeff says of his style: “(I'm) trying to talk to God with the guitar, try to feel that energy of light, tuning into the notes as a springboard for an emotional universe, so I can express emotion through the guitar and so people can feel it in their hearts.”

Jeff has most recently played Memphis Smoke in Royal Oak. Tentatively, an upcoming venue in Ferndale may be the next chance you can catch him. On the web, you may see clips of him (Jeff Maylin) on You Tube, Vimeo and the band's website: Jeff also has a Facebook, so friend him! Look to see Jeff tear down the house at a local venue soon.