Rick Galusha's Pacific St. Blues and Americana

Since inception (1989), Pacific St. Blues & Americana strives to be a discerning voice helping roots fans sift through the mountains of music released every year. We are not for everyone; we want to engage active, critical listeners that hear beyond d'jour. Interviews include: Johnny Winter, Bill Wyman (Rolling Stones), Jerry Wexler, Tommy Shannon & Chris Layton, B.B. King, Dr. John, Robin Trower, Robben Ford, Mato Nanji, Joe Bonamassa, Harry Manx, Sue Foley, Marshall Chess, Billy Lee Riley, Charlie Louvin, Kim Richey, Radney Foster, Eric Johnson, David Clayton Thomas, Al Kooper, Phil Chen (Wired, Blow By Blow), Ian McLagan, Art Neville, Southside Johnny, Miami Steve Van Zant, Nils Lofgren, Bruce Iglauer, Charlie Musselwhite, Studebaker John, Chris Duarte, Smokin' Joe Kubeck, Hamilton Loomis, Peter Karp, Roomful of Blues, James Harman, Hadden Sayers, Malford Milligan, Melvin Taylor, Otis Taylor, Dave Alvin, Coco Montoya, Jimmy Thackery, Marsha Ball, Maria Muldaur, Shelby Lynne, Magic Dick & J. Geils, Lil' Milton, BuddyGuy, Aynsley Lister, Matt Schofield, Susan Tedeschi, Derek Trucks, Guy Clark, Joe Ely, James Cotton, Robin & Jesse Davey, Hugh Coltman (Hoax), Sean Kelly (Samples), John Entwistle (The Who), Mark Olson (Jayhawks), Walter Wolfman Washington, Anthony Gomes, Bob Malone, Chubby Carrier, Buckwheat Zydeco, Murali Coryell, David Jacob Strain, DeAnna Bogart, Michael Lee Firkins, Guy Davis, Jason Ricci, John Doe, Little Feat, Matt Woods, MikeZito, Peter Buffett, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Corky Siegel, Todd Park Mohr, Watermelon Slim, Magic Slim, Corey Harris,- - - - - - ------------------------Radio archives: http://www.kiwrblues.podomatic.com/. Playlists: http://www.omahablues.com/ Reviews featured in http://www.blueswax.com/. Email: KIWRblues@gmail.com Live online; Sundays 9 a.m. (-6 GMT) http://www.897theriver.com/

Friday, January 18, 2008

Blues makes a comeback to Omaha

Monday, June 07, 2004

Omaha's vibrant blues scene can be attributed to two primary factors; Larry Boemer’s Zoo Bar and a small group of fans in Omaha in the mid ‘90’s.

In 1971 Homer’s Music Stores, Alligator Records, and the Zoo Bar were all born. Larry Boemer’s willingness to forego wealth in order to preserve the blues art form is the stuff legends are made of. Boemer’s Zoo Bar planted the seeds for Omaha's love of the blues. While Larry has moved to Arkansas his family still plays a role in the Zoo Bars operation.

Much like Lincoln, through the ‘70’s, ‘80’s and into the ‘90’s Omaha's blues scene centered on a strong venue called the Howard Street Tavern. When landowner Mark Mercer turned warehouses into condos the original Howard Street Tavern was closed reportedly because of threats of noise/nuisance lawsuits by condo owners. (In a bizarre twist, the current resident of the old Howard Street Tavern paid back the community with a series of free blues-rock concerts this summer: it must have been karma.)

While the closure appeared to be a death keel it was actually a life preserver as a handful of seemingly independent activities came together; the Omaha Blues Society was b born under the leadership of President Greg Lindberg, local Blues writer BJ Hutchtemann began a weekly column, Terry O'Halloran (Murphy's Lounge) made a commitment to a weekly blues show called Six Bells Blues, the recording industry changed dramatically, and my radio program PS Blues moved from a low wattage late Monday night two hour show to a three hour Sunday morning program on a non-commercial 100,000 watt radio station giving the market two powerful blues radio programs; the other being Mike Jacob's Monday program on KIOS 91.5 fm.

With so many Omaha kids spending their college years in Lincoln, a love of the blues born in the Zoo Bar migrated back to Omaha and, since there is a larger population base, there were (are) numerous live venues for blues & roots in Omaha including; The 18th Amendment vis-a-vie Murphy's Lounge, The Music Box, The MACdome, Maggie McCalls, & of course McKenna’s. With a larger choice of venues there were bound to be more bands. This Zoo Bar/ college education basis coupled with Omaha's preexisting love of hard Midwestern rock (REO Speedwagon, BTO, Rush), and the absence of a bona fide African-American presence within the scene (either as performers or fans) has left a clear predilection of what we call “the blues” here in Omaha.
As the home recording industry changed local bands found recording albums an affordable option. And record they did. At Homer’s we made an early decision to carry all the local music we could get our hands on: it was a commitment that carried over to the radio program which, until election laws kicked in, PS Blues usually included two to three local cuts a week.
The first manifestation of this synthesis coming together was, for me, that Omaha became a launching pad for four kids off a South Dakota reservation, in a band called Indigenous, to become a national act and eventually get signed to an international label. Should he choose to, Lincoln's Kris Lager will benefit from Omaha's lust for blues rock and could be the next act to kick the dirt off his boots and head for the big city.

While he was alive Stevie Ray Vaughan single handily lifted the blues back into the national consciousness. Vaughn's ability to roust FM radio out of its post 1978 doldrums created a wave that younger blues act rode for ten years after his tragic death. When computer downloading began to scalp the music industry labels quickly began to cut back artist rosters and boutique labels; thus marketing dollars to build awareness for bands that sold under 750,000 albums disappeared along with, eventually, many of the bands. At the same time aggressive drinking and driving laws kicked in making it difficult for blues band to tour and for blues venues to make ends meet. Except for festivals, at the turn of the Century, the state of the blues was dismal.
While other free local events may have preceded them, Jeff & Sheri Davis’ five ‘Playing With Fire’ concert series has raised a new level of excitement in Omaha's blues scene. (SEE previous column 'Free Concerts') This summers free concert listings includes a five star Summer Arts Festival line-up (Dirty Dozen Brass Band, Blind Boys of Alabama, Corey Harris) and a free 25th Anniversary show by Greg Lindberg’s Absolutely Fresh Seafood which includes Chubby Carrier. Sadly this years Indigenous Jam will not take place but seven free concerts more than makes up for its absence.

Lastly, the success of Omaha's blues scene rests upon its fans. If music buffs vote with their dollars, the blues will continue to get voted into office in Our Town!

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