Saturday, May 31, was the annual harp blowout at Darwin's in Marietta and what a night it was! I always think that the difference between a good blues group and a great one is a talented harmonica player and the performers at the blowout were as good as it gets!
The lineup included local greats Donny Ray Simmond, Maurice Nazarro, Stoney Brooks, and Jeff Baker, with special guests Little Joe Hoegger and BMA winner Billy Gibson.
But first, Dry White Toast started things out with a jam, joined during the course of the jam by Cody Matlock and a great female harp player, Ana Howells, who just blew the place apart. Cody is a big favorite at Darwin's and the harnonica playing was just phenomenal. Dry White Toast's regular harp player is no slouch himself! By the time the big event started, everyone was warmed up, dancing and having a good time, and the place was absolutely packed. It was standing room only all night but no one was complaining. Every time I went to the bathroom during the evening I had to stop and hug another friend who just came in.
The Cazanovas backed all of the harp players and of course, Maurice Nazarro blew with the best of them. He is my favorite local harmonica player, in a very close duel with Carlos Capote, who wasn't there last night. Guitar player Danny V. Vinson deserves special notice and praise because he played from the very beginning in the jam with Dry White Toast and then backed everyone up with in his regular spot with The Cazanovas too, so he was playing more than anyone else and doing a marvelous job as always.
The first harmonica player up was Danny Ray Simmonds from Athens, who has been playing blues harp for years. He was followed by local legend Stoney Brooks, who plays regularly at Northside Tavern. Brooks was followed by Jeff Baker, a great player and owner of Bakos Studios where many of the local groups record.
Next up was a special guest, Little Joey Hoegger. Ken and I were stting next to him and his charming wife of just one week. It was a pleasure to make the acquaintance of the newlyweds. Then Hoegger took the stage and suddenly transformed into this whirlwind, doing an astonishing version of "Big Boss Man," and then continuing to deliver a dynamic set that was pure entertainment. What a delightful surprise he was.
After Hoegger, it was time for the headliner of the night, Billy Gibson won the BMA award for harmonica and it is easy to see why! Calling himself "Mr Natural," he was just that...casual, funny, and very, very good. He had a lot of the women up and dancing and everyone having fun.
It was a stellar lineup and a stellar night. I can't imagine a better show. We left after midnight and it was still going. They were just about to jam but this old girl couldn't stick around any longer.
Check out the slideshow to see some of the great performers in action.
Next year, make your reservations at Darwin's because this will be a show you do not want to miss!