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Six hours, six blues bands

November 03, 2005|by KRISTIN WILSON

Tri-State blues musicians are finding that what's good for kids is good for the blues.

On Sunday, Nov. 6, six blues bands will convene at the Hagerstown Elks Lodge No. 378 on Robinwood Drive. They will all perform for a common cause: a better Christmas for underprivileged kids.

It is the third annual Blues for Tots benefit concert, kicking off at 2 p.m. All concertgoers must bring a donation of a new and unwrapped toy for the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve Toys for Tots program.

Steve Crescenze, the bass player with Acme Blues Company out of suburban Washington, D.C., says his band is excited to be part of the benefit concert.


"It's good publicity for us, but it's also for a good cause," he says. Throughout the region venues for blues bands are harder to come by than venues for contemporary or classic rock bands, Crescenze says. Therefore blues musicians are always happy to promote a new forum for their music.

Ronnie Ray, organizer of the event, says when he moved to the Hagerstown area he noticed the Toys for Tots program could use a boost. "I really wanted to do something with the music because this is midyear between the blues festival," he says. The concert "gives people something to do on a Sunday afternoon." His group, Ronnie Ray and the Coolers will also be performing Sunday.

Many local businesses and organizations are holding events to generate toy donations for the Washington County chapter of the Toys for Tots organization, says Robert McCulloch, chairman of the chapter.

"It just fills me up so much that people want to do something like this," he says of the Blues for Tots event.

The concert is an opportunity to enjoy a variety of "highly respected blues groups" in one location, Crescenze adds.

The concert will last from 2 to 8 p.m. with a different blues band taking the stage each hour. "At the end, whoever is still hanging around maybe we'll get a big jam session together," Ronnie Ray says.

Since the blues scene is relatively "close-knit," musicians enjoy playing together from time to time, Crescenze says.

"That's what's great about the blues - jamming is a big part of it. It's kind of a universal language among the blues players," he says.

Blues music and the blues scene have suffered from misconceptions about what the music is all about, musicians say. "Most people, when you say 'blues,' they think of slow-paced, down-and-out type blues," says David Carreon, lead guitarist and vocalist with the Baltimore-based blues band Automatic Slim. In reality there is much more to the genre that people are missing, Crescenze adds.

"It's music with a feeling," Crescenze says. "It's got to come from within. The lyrics are great. They are about the real basic things in life - love, not having enough money, trying to make it ... it comes from the soul." And that's music that anyone can relate to, he says.

Six blues bands will perform during the Blues for Tots benefit concert. They include Ronnie Ray and the Coolers, Automatic Slim, Blues on Board, Skyla Burrell Blues Band, Larry Boy Pratt and the Acme Blues Company.

New this year is a kids program before the concert. Slim Harrison will put on the program from 1:30 to 2 p.m., teaching kids about instruments and making music. The program will be "interactive," Ronnie Ray says. Slim Harrison "is going to do a kids program as a jug band where kids get to play instruments," he adds.

If you go ...

WHAT: 3rd annual Blues for Tots benefit concert

WHEN: 2 to 8 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 6

WHERE: Hagerstown Elks Lodge No. 378, 11036 Robinwood Drive

COST: A new, unwrapped toy is the admission price. A cash bar and food items also will be available.

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