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Jammin' to the blues: Rudy & The Bluefish are regulars at Western Maryland Blues Fest

May 26, 2013|By CRYSTAL SCHELLE | crystal.schelle@herald-mail.com
  • Tom Borum, leader of the local blues band Rudy & The Bluefish, performs recently at Casey's Restaurant & Lounge in Greencastle, Pa.
By Joe Crocetta/Staff Photographer

When he was in college, Tom Borum, 62, of Hagerstown was completing an independent study on the history of rock ’n’ roll when he got the chance to meet legendary blues artist B.B. King.

Borum, who was about 20 years old at the time, said King offered the aspiring musician a few words of advice.

“B.B. said to me, ‘I don’t try to play fast, but I try to put the most feeling into each note,’” Borum recalled.

Borum, who fronts the local blues band Rudy & the Bluefish, took those words to heart.

“That’s been my mantra ever since,” he said before getting ready for a local gig.
Since 1998, Borum and the rest of the band — Van Showe on trumpet, flugelhorn, vocals; Ragan Potts on drums, vocals; and Spencer Leckliter on bass, vocals — will make their regular appearance Friday night at the Western Maryland Blues Fest.

“We were actually inspired to get a band together by the blues events (in Hagerstown) in the late 1990s,” he said.

This year’s appearance marks the band’s sixth appearance during the Western Maryland Blues Fest’s 18 years. They’ll be joined this year onstage with special guests Shane O’Neill of Blues in the Attic on harp and vocals and Mike Lushbaugh of The Cruisers on saxophone and vocals.

“The festival is really nice because it brings a lot of people into the music who maybe aren’t familiar enough with the blues as well as people from out of town,” Borum said. “It gives us more exposure. We also get the opportunity to meet a lot of performers from across the country and around the world.”

And after the Blues Fest on Friday and Saturday nights, the band heads to Hempen Hill BBQ in the North End in Hagerstown for the 14th annual Bluefish Blues Fest AllStar Jam. The jam isn’t a Blues Fest-sponsored event.

“My motto is that the blues isn’t the blues without a little jamming,” Borum said.

Borum said over the years they’ve invited blues artist from the festival to join them.

Blues legend Ronnie Earle was one of the Blues Fest artists who joined Borum on stage.

“(Earle) came out to Hempen Hill and played about four or five songs,” he said. “So that’s sorta like you’re an amateur golfer and you play with Arnold Palmer. He came out and played and we held our own. He enjoyed it. We enjoyed it.”

Elvis Presley was Borum’s earliest musical inspiration.

“When I was 5 years old, my mother took me to see Elvis Presley on the back of a flatbed truck and it got me excited,” he said. “I tried to play guitar after that  and couldn't figure it out so I broke it over a table like Elvis did in ‘Jailhouse Rock.’”
He decided to try the guitar again at age 14, just as The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were invading the American airways.

“I’ve been playing it ever since,” Borum said, who also plays harmonica, keyboards, drums and bass.

Borum is a regular feature in the Tri-State musical scene. He plays Thursday nights with the AllStar Band at Crazy Horse Steakhouse and Saloon in Hagerstown, where some of the band’s members also join him. He also hosts a blues jam called Blues in the Attic on certain Sundays at Casey’s Restaurant and Lounge in Greencastle, Pa.
With all his appearances, blues is where it is for Borum.

“I liked rock ’n’ roll when it came out and I still play rock ’n’ roll,” he said. “Muddy Waters once said ‘Blues had a baby and they called it rock ’n’ roll.’ And all the music I liked in rock  ’n’ roll had blues roots and I just kind of went back to the blues roots and try to stick true to that.”

As for those who might have a preconceived notion about blues music, Borum would like to change their mind by encouraging them to come out to the Blues Fest.

“Some people just think blues is just slow, depressing music and it’s not. Blues is a way to get rid of a bad feeling. It’s a way to make you feel good. And there’s a lot of variety of blues, and I think every body who goes to Blues Fest, whether they listen to blues all the time or not always has a good time. It’s a great event because it attracts people of all ages and backgrounds, and they all seem to enjoy the camaraderie of being together and being at the event.”


If you go ...

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What: Rudy & the Bluefish
When: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Friday, May 31
Where: City Center Parking Lot, North Potomac Street, downtown Hagerstown.
Cost: $20 in advance and $25 at the gate. $7 children 6 to 12 years old. Free for children 5 and younger. Gates open at 4 p.m. ID required.

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What: 14th annual Bluefish Blues Fest AllStar Jam
When: 8:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. Friday, May 31, and Saturday, June 1
Where: Hempen Hill BBQ, 13208 Fountainhead Plaza, Hagerstown
Contact: 301-797-4455

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