The blues community continues to rally around those in need. About 10 bands recently performed at Pho Cao Vietnamese Restaurant and Nightclub in Tempe to help Lenny Malik. Malik, known for his harmonica playing in the Phoenix area, is suffering from colon cancer. He was a truck driver for many years and one month after retiring was stricken with the disease.
Ray Ray Hinkle, frontman for Bluzone, was one of the key players in putting the fundraiser together. "The blues community in the Phoenix area supports each other," he says. "The blues community comes together like a family. The point is to help each other, and it's beautiful."
10 bands played for 12 hours. Those joining Bluzone to donate their time included Bob Corritore, Chuck "Chuckie Baby" Morris, Gypsy, Cajun Tom, Lotus, Los Pinekeye, Walking Cane Mark, Paul Cruize Blues Crew, Dok Washington and Chris Lopez.
"There was a lot of music and a lot of love," Hinkle says. "Lenny was overjoyed. It wasn't as much about the money as about the love; he was motivated to get back on his treatment." Hinkle said Malik has been coming to blues jams for the past five years.
"He's just a nice person who happens to be a good musician." Hinkle said Malik has finished his chemotherapy, but he doesn't know Malik's medical progress.
Music lovers may not think about a Vietnamese restaurant and blues music in the same breath, but there are jam sessions at Pho Cao every Tuesday and bands perform there on Friday and Saturday nights. "You can get good food at reasonable prices," Hinkle says. Bluzone has been performing in the Valley for 10 years; currently they perform periodically at Lucille's BBQ at Tempe Marketplace and Starters Bar and Grill in Tempe. Recently they've played at Gila River Casino and the Rhythm Room. Hinkle serves as the frontman and plays bass; he's joined by lead singer Uvon Brooks, drummer Timothy Robinson, and guitarist Chris Savaresse.
CD Pick of the Week: Michael Packer's great folksy blues album, I am the Blues, My Story is worth listening to as much for the stories as for the music. Packer was a drug addict, alcoholic, and criminal, but has been sober for more than 20 years. He credits the blues with saving his life--he says the blues is his life.
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He was in a band while he was on Rikers Island. The prison had race fights going on at the time, but because he was in the band he wasn't viewed as white, only a member of the band. He compares it to the jail scenes from The Blues Brothers.
His stories include his battles with drugs, alcohol and romance, but his best story involves Bob Dylan. Packer tailors his music after Bob Dylan and Paul Butterfield; back in the '60s, when Packer was drinking heavily, he ended up at the same bar in Greenwich Village as Dylan. One of Dylan's band members told him that everybody else was kissing up to Dylan, so he should call Dylan a nasty name.
Packer said at that time he would do whatever people told him. So, he went up to Dylan, slapped him on the back of his leather jacket and called him a nasty name. They got into a tussle and Packer was quickly tossed out of the bar. The next day, Packer went into another bar to start his drinking rounds at about 4 p.m. The only other people in the bar were Dylan and the bartender. Dylan asked what the previous day's namecalling was about.
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Packer explained and apologized. Dylan bought him a beer, and there was peace in the blues world for one night.