Sunday, July 3, Bandshell Print
Music - Feature Stories
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Tuesday, 28 June 2005 18:00
The Soul Searchers – 2 p.m. The Des Moines Register calls them “the band that’s obviously meant to play the blues.” Since the early ’90s, the Soul Searchers have done just that for fans across Iowa. Traditional blues with healthy doses of rockabilly and swing have made them the hardest working blues band in Des Moines.

Band Members have “sat in” with Pinetop Perkins, Lynwood Slim, Curtis Salgado, Rick Holmstrom, and R.J. Mischo. They’ve been on Des Moines area TV and radio stations and have opened for such blues greats as Anson Funderburgh, Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, James Harman, and Duke Robillard.

Arkansas native Malcolm Wells, the band’s frontman, plays a hard-edged harp reminiscent of Little Walter and Kim Wilson. It’s the perfect match for his sassy vocal style – some call it hollerin’ – which is best heard on the band’s cut-loose version of Jerry McCain’s “Tip on in.”

Guitarist Scott “Tone” Eggleston plays a vintage Silvertone and ’62 Strat through a Fender black-face tube-powered amp. Other than the vibrato pedal, there are no tricks, gimmicks, gizmos, or other nonsense, just plain old down-home blues guitar.

Whether Erich Gaukel’s slapping the doghouse or laying down a soulful groove on the electric bass, he keeps the bottom moving. He’s played with Scary Toast, Baggage Claim, The Steam Boars, The UNI Jazz Band, and ZoZoe.

Mark Grimm’s drum style hugs the road like a ’66 Impala. His fat, unmistakable sound is that big, warm V8 sound that’s a perfect fit for The Soul Searchers’ old-school way of playing the blues. Mark has played with the Drake University Jazz Band, the Accidental Sisters, and The Creek Dwellers.

Joey Gilmore – 4 p.m.

Joey Gilmore was born in Ocala, Florida, as Joshua Gilmore Jr. He moved to south Florida in the ’60s and has been there ever since. Gilmore found his niche playing behind all the great soul, blues, and R&B stars that passed through town, as well as leading his own successful bands and recording along the way. Now established as a south Florida favorite, Gilmore has proven that he’s one of south Florida’s best soul-blues singers while wringing blue notes out of his guitar.

Joey’s versatility on the guitar has earned him the title of blues master. His music is varied and contemporary, and encompasses blues, rhythm and blues, calypso, jazz, reggae, and pop.

Joey’s energetic and distinctive guitar style and tenor/baritone voice are well-known and respected internationally. He has performed in south Florida’s hottest clubs, including O’Hara’s, Satchmo’s, Evangeline, and of course the legendary Musicians Exchange Café. Joey has shared the stage with top recording artists James Brown, Etta James, Bobby Bland, Little Milton, and Johnny Taylor.

– Phil Koehlhoeffer

Sharrie Williams – 6 p.m.

Mrs. Sharrie Williams has a voice to be reckoned with. Raised in the projects but deeply rooted in gospel, Sharrie began singing at the age of twelve with the Greater Williams Temple church choir. Sharrie sings the blues because she lived the blues. Poverty-stricken and contending with mental and physical problems and drug abuse, most people would say: What’s the use? Homeless, battered, and even beating death as a motherless child, the blues is what Sharrie knows best. By God’s grace she made it out alive and is on the rise.

Sharrie has a powerful voice, with a range that can reach and rattle the castle tower one minute, while soothing the soul of a crying child the next. She possesses an unaffected nature, which gives her grace and sensibility that pays homage to a great female artist of rock and blues without ever being imitative. In short, Sharrie Williams is the real deal, a true original. She brings you in, by singing her insides out. Hearing her is a pure delight, but seeing her perform will make you a believer. Sharrie has a warm and radiant stage presence that takes hold of you and captures your imagination and captivates your senses. The sound of her voice is compelling, and it promises redemption. With every note she makes you cry, laugh, and dance. She can wake up the dead! I guess one would call her the voice of an emotional cocktail.

Sharrie emerges as a humble but strong individual, a talented songstress who stands on her own. Having lived the blues, she sings to inspire people not to let the blues get the best of them. Make way for the Princess of the Blues!

– Amanda Coulter

Phillip Walker – 8 p.m.

Phil was born February 11, 1937, in Welsh, Louisiana. He was the seventh of 12 brothers and sisters. His parents were just 13 and 14 years old when they married. They provided for their family as best they could by sharecropping. When Phil was eight years old, the family moved to Port Arthur, Texas. With this move Phil’s dialect picked up a Texas sound mixed with the French, Creole, and Indian influence he already had. (His mother was full-blood Cherokee.) By age 12, Phil’s schooling was all but through due to his father’s failing health.

Luckily, Phil’s musically-inclined aunts and uncles were frequent guests. Among them was his second cousin, Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. Phil wanted a guitar so badly that he made his first one out of a cigar box and the fine wire of a window screen. Between the farm work and learning his craft, Phil would only get five hours of sleep per night.

The year was now 1953, and Phil met zydeco giant Clifton Chenier in a local bar. It was Clifton who bought him his first real guitar. Not only did he get him a guitar, but he offered to take Phil on the road with him. This of course was against the better judgment of his father, who called the guitar a “starvation box.” Luckily for us, Phil prevailed! And here it is 50 years later, and he is still touring.

By 1955, Phil had played with such notables as Little Richard and Etta James. He finally formed his own band, called Blue Eagle Band, to tour with Fats Domino and Little Richard. In 1973, Phil recorded his first solo LP on Hugh Hefner’s short lived Playboy label.

– John Downard

Ike Turner & the Kings of Rhythm – 10 p.m.

To me, the heart of the blues is Clarksdale, Mississippi, and that was the birthplace of Ike Turner on November 5, 1931. Learning piano at age five and starting his musical career at age 11, it is no wonder that Ike accompanied Robert Nighthawk and Sonny Boy Williamson. He played piano on Jackie Brenston’s “Rocket 88,” which is considered one of the first rock-and-roll records. Ike then learned how to play guitar and was a session player for Otis Rush, Howlin’ Wolf, and Elmore James.

Ike became a talent scout in the ’50s for Modern Records. He moved to East St. Louis in 1954 and became a well-known figure on the rhythm and blues scene. This is where he met Anna Mae Bullock, later known as Tina Turner. (My original thought was to not include Tina in this biography, but she was too much a part of Ike’s life for that.) Together they were members of The Rhythm Kings and responsible for hits songs such as “Poor Fool” and “Tra La La La La.” The group quickly became known as the Ike & Tina Turner Revue.

Ike and Tina were married, illegally as it turned out, and, as we all know, their relationship was a stormy one. Still, they enjoyed huge success with “The Midnight Special” and the song we still hear and sing often, “Proud Mary.”

Tina worked up her nerve and left Ike. He was later arrested for drugs and battery. But he did turn his life around. He recorded two solo albums and in 1988 wrote a book entitled Taking Back My Life. Ike continues to perform at the House of Blues and many blues and rhythm-and-blues fests across the nation. His band presents a high-energy show in the good old-fashioned tradition, with lots of horns and pretty girls.

Ike was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and received a Grammy nomination for Best Traditional Blues Album in 2002 and W.C. Handy nominations that same year. He became a Walk of Fame Star in St. Louis in 2002.

In reading about Ike I learned that his motto is “A man with courage is a majority.” He has applied this to his own life, overcoming well-publicized problems that would have defeated a lesser man. We have to admire him for that. And we’ll love his show!

Katherine Griffen
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