The best way to get rid of the blues is to play some good blues and make it for the benefit of those in need. Many of the blues players in the Valley do just that. One example would be Bluesman Mike and the Blues Review Band, set to host the sixth annual Toy and Diaper Drive at the Rhythm Room on Sunday, December 8.
They join a list including Hans Olson, Nina Curry, George Bowman, Jay Morton, and Sir Harrison. Bluesman Mike asks those attending to bring either canned goods, diapers, or both. "We don't want your money," he says. "There is no admission charge."
The donated toys will go to the Salvation Army; the donated diapers will go to First Way Pregnancy Center. Representatives from both of those organizations will be present, so if anyone forgets diapers and canned goods they can donate funds for the causes.
"We wanted to give back to the community, and my wife Esther was working with First Way, so it came together," he says. "We always want to reach more people." His wife told him they were always running out of diapers, but they wanted to do a little more while they were at it. "We also want to make some kids' Christmas brighter by bringing them a toy."
The food and diaper drive started six years ago at Boogies in Tempe and later was held at McCools in Chandler before finding its way to the Rhythm Room.
A night earlier, on December 7, the Blues Review Band will be raising funds for victims of the typhoon in the Philippines. This fundraiser will get going at 6 p.m. at the Ken McDonald Golf Club in Tempe.
"We performed for a Philippine Christian group," Bluesman Mike says, "so they asked us to perform at this fundraiser." This fundraiser is hosted by the Philippine Nurses Association. A dinner comes with the $15 admission fee, but folks can donate as much money as they like.
Golfers can come early and play 18 holes for a $50 donation. For more information, telephone the Ken McDonald Golf Club at 480-350-5250.
Bluesman Mike and the Blues Review Band is one of the busier bands in the Valley, constantly booked at various venues and playing a mix of cover tunes and originals in a style that mixes Texas and Chicago blues.
"I call it a gumbo mix of blues," Bluesman Mike says. "We play Chicago blues with our own flavor. Our Texas blues is good for dance tunes."
He's been a fan of the blues himself since the first time he heard Otis Redding's voice; he's also been influenced by Solomon Burke, James Brown, Wilson Pickett, BB King, Junior Wells and Albert King as well as local musicians Pete Pearson and George Bowman.
The Blues Review Band includes Sugar Bear Lawrence on lead guitar, Bluesman Mike on bass, Bobby Nealy on keyboards and Steve Loecher on drums. They've already begun work on their next CD.
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Two other important gigs find the Blues Review Band at the Blue Adobe Grill in Scottsdale from December 6 and New Year's Eve at the Dubliner Irish Pub in Phoenix.