by Joel Lively
The week of! Our champagne wishes and caviar dreams come to fruition this Friday, August 6 at the Best of the East Bay Party.
Rounding out our Band Spotlights are two final entries. The first of which honors an historic East Bay town called Russell City, synonymous with Bay Area and West Coast Blues. Russell City was our inspiration for the entire Blues Pavilion at this year's party, and we are so excited to feature the Russell City Memorial Blues Band which is made up of alumni artists who performed in the clubs of Russell City.
A genesis of the Bay Area Blues Society, the Russell City Memorial Blues Band embodies the history of East Bay blues. Check their official info below, it is an excellent read. Do not miss this band at the party on Friday.
The Bay Area Blues Society formed the Russell City Memorial Blues Band with alumni artists who performed in the clubs of Russell City as a time capsule of what type of performance you would experience during the 1940s, 50s and early 60s. These artists annually perform as a part of the Hayward Russell City Blues Festival to take you back to the time when West Coast Blues was created. The depth of music and the musicians who played in Russell City are of such great magnitude that you will insist the historians include Russell City with Oakland and Los Angeles as the birthplace of West Coast Blues.
West Coast Blues Hall of Fame Inductee, Jasper Evans and Bobby Webb took a young Fillmore Slim with them to Russell City as their vocalist to perform at Miss Al’s Place and the Country Club. Fillmore was recently inducted into the West Coast Blues Hall of Fame. Jimmy Mamou brought a young 17 year old, Billy Dunn, to meet the late great Big Mama Thorton. Big Mama hired Billy to play keyboard in her band, which was his first paid gig. Billy currently performs with his own band, Bluesway. Born in Russell City, Big Cat Tolefree says, “When I was a little kid I would sneak out of my house and go down to the blues clubs to listen to Billy Dunn and L.C. Good Rockin’ Robinson”. Big Cat currently tours with his own band The Hypnotics. Curtis Lawson performed at Miss Al’s Place and the Country Club in Russell City with Johnny Fuller. Curtis & Johnny were some of the early blues artists who honed their skills in Russell City.
Big Bob Deance, whose first paid gig was in Russell City, will perform as lead guitar for the Russell City Memorial Blues Band. Big Bob performed with Little Stanley & the Five Brooks, the first R&B band to play in the clubs of Russell City. As a teenager, Henry Oden played bass with L.C. Good Rockin’ Robinson, who helped to start many music careers in the Russell City Clubs. Henry went on to play with the many top blues artists in the country and is currently performing with Craig Horton and Joe Lewis Walker. Carl Green played saxophone as a member of Little Stanley & the Five Brooks, the first R&B band to perform in the clubs of Russell City. Carl is currently the music director for the Caravan of Allstars and tours with the Jackie Payne Band. Gino Landers played saxophone with L.C. Good Rockin’ Robinson and Johnny Hartsman in Russell City. Gino currently performs with the Brummels and in his church. David “Stix” Boyette will play the drums to complete this band and was trained by L.C. Good Rockin’ Robinson when he was just a youngster in Russell City. Stix is an internationally renowned drummer who has played with Marvin Gaye and Patty LaBelle to name a few. Enjoy your Russell City experience.