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Ricky Blue's Other Life
Ricky Blue
Ricky Blue
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is a Montreal-based humorist, singer, and writer. He and partner George Bowser are the famous Bowser and Blue comedy act. Here's his bio from their Bowser and Blue website.

Ricky Blue was born in Liverpool, England, but raised in Maine, New Jersey, and Toronto. He has an MA in English from Concordia University. He has been involved in bands and media music in Montreal for over twenty years. In 1981 he won an international 'Clio' award for excellence in advertising.

He once appeared on television naked.

His life had no real meaning, however, until he began to play with Bowser and Blue. Rick plays guitar, mandolin, and harmonica, and sings in a rather pleasant baritone when George will let him.

His columns are archived here

Posted 06.01.06

RICKY BLUE

The Blues at Pete's

If you have ever been to Smoked Meat Pete's on Ile Perrot, on Montreal's West Island, you know that Pete is a blues fan. He always has blues music playing in his restaurant and even has live blues bands on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday.

He has asked me many times to sit in on harmonica but I have always felt a bit shy. You see, Pete plays harmonica and no stage is big enough for two harmonica players.

The blues was born where Highway 61 meets Highway 49 on the big flat plain of the Mississippi Delta, in the State of Mississippi. The Crossroads, as it is known, is where Robert Johnson (King of the Delta Blues) is said to have sold his soul to the devil in exchange for knowledge of the blues.

It is a rather unexceptional intersection today. You can only tell its historical importance by a marker of two crossed guitars proclaiming 'The Crossroads,' and an occasional tourist posing in front of it having a picture taken.

It is just outside the town of Clarksdale, Mississippi. So in downtown Clarksdale there is a blues bar called Ground Zero where only the most authentic Delta Blues is allowed.

I was there last month visiting a friend who lived an hour away in Memphis. We walked in one evening and caught a couple of sets by a young bluesman named Slick Ballinger. He played a hypnotic roadhouse blues that filled the dance floor. But I was more interested in hearing his harmonica sideman, Blind Mississippi Morris.

Born in Clarksdale and blind since age four, Morris is as real as they get, recently rated one of the ten best harmonica players in the world by Bluzharp magazine. He played a chunky style of rhythm all through Slick's singing and took a turn at a ripping solo every now and then. And with so much feeling: the kind of harmonica playing I really like.

You see, if I could have my way, I would be doing what Morris was doing: sitting there every night, playing harmonica in a Blues band. But Morris is a single man. His needs are small. He's not raising a family in the West Island of Montreal.

After the second set, I was invited to sit in. I was nervous. To step onto a stage and perform the Blues in this hallowed hall would not be easy. These people can spot a faker a mile away. Would I be able to deliver real blues? Morris handed me his Green Bullet microphone and wished me luck.

Leading off with a version of Slim Harpo's I'm A King Bee I had a great time jumping up and down and sucking and blowing. So much so, that after the number Morris slapped me on the hand and told me he loved my playing.

He then said the kindest thing of all: "Let's do another one."

At that moment I knew I had passed the test. I chunked away as Morris sang Elmore James' Dust My Broom in a gleeful shouting style.

Yes, I have now traveled to the Eden of the Blues and held my own with an authentic practitioner. Do I sound proud? I am. And now I think I'm finally ready to play with Smoked Meat Pete, at our own crossroads: where Highway 20 meets Perrot Boulevard.

And I won't have to sell my soul. Just eat a smoked meat.

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