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The Bluesdusters, John O. Nelson, left, and Leonard Griffie

Blues

Dusters gather local all-stars for CD release party

Leonard Griffie and John O. Nelson and their band, the BluesDusters, will play at Alex&

s on Friday at 10 p.m. A CD release party will be held at the Standing Stone Brewery on Aug. 27 at 9:30 p.m.

All the people who will play the shows in Ashland are notable musicians who live here in the Valley, including:

&

149; Michael Vannice (keyboards) toured and recorded with Robert Cray and Lowell Fulsom.

&

149; Tom Stamper (drums) was, at one time, the percussionist for the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and has founded many successful local jazz and blues acts.

&

149; John Trujillo (bass) toured and recorded with many Southern California R B and rock bands. Since moving to Grants Pass, he is one of the most sought-after, and busiest, musicians around.

The CD project has an endorsement on the front cover by Solomon Burke, a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee and one of the most revered soul singers of all time.

Grif (Leonard Griffie) began his music career as a Southern California teen. The son of a lifelong professional guitarist, he took to the instrument as if born to play. While still in high school, he belonged to a professionally managed, hard-working, regularly gigging rock band and was playing in nightclubs long before he was actually old enough to be on the premises. In fact, while playing in the house band of a Pasadena nightclub at age 19, a special stage was constructed to allow the under-aged guitarist to perform. A glass wall faced the audience but the stage itself was technically outside the liquor serving area. The arrangement was a bit odd, but allowed the club to keep its popular house band.

— — — John Trujillo

— — — Tom Stamper

— — — — —

Though the Los Angeles area nightclubs mostly required him to play the popular rock music of the day, Grif&

s guitar was always pure blues with a little jazz mixed in. An early interest in blues rockers like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix and Johnny Winter led him to seek out their influences. After years of studying and absorbing the music of favorites like Freddie, Albert and B.B. King &

as well as Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, Albert Collins and literally dozens more &

Grif has developed two unique voices: One comes from his mouth, and the other from his guitar. Both an extension of his soul.

With the exception of a short stint with a progressive jazz band, Grif continued to work in cover bands throughout the &

70s. Beginning in the &

80s, he began to perform more of the many original compositions he&

d been writing for two decades. Grif has now performed his original compositions everywhere from tiny nightclubs to concert stages; and usually by the third verse, the audience is singing along.

Grif has joined forces with Johnny O. Nelson to form BluesDusters, and together they&

ve created one of the new millennium&

s great new blues and roots CDs.

Born and raised in the &

Windy City,&

John O. Nelson was exposed to the musical melting pot that filled the airwaves of that Midwestern city. Piano lessons, singing in boys&

choir at church and years on the trumpet in school orchestra honed his ability to recognize and create quality sounds. Blues, soul, R B, country, folk and rock &

n&

roll shared early influence and they all managed to find their way into teenage jam sessions.

Leaving Chicago for good in his late teens, John&

s 20th birthday found him in Boulder, Colo., where, over the next 10 years, he fronted or shared leadership in numerous incarnations of R B-based bands that played all the regional venues, including Tulagi&

s, The Blue Note, Freddy&

s Lounge, The Little Bear and Shannon&

s. Local entertainment reviews frequently recognized the distinctive, bluesy vocals put out by &

Johnny O.&

(as he was known then), when his bands were the featured act, as well as the opening act for national touring artists. These shows often ended in jam sessions with such legends as Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Johnny Shines, James Cotton, John Hammond Jr. and Elvin Bishop. One gig took the band to Kansas City&

s Beaux Arts Festival, where they performed with Texas blues master Mance Lipscomb and the flower-power rockers, Love.

All along, Nelson developed a love and flair for composing songs in many genres, but always with country/R B roots. (He received the &

Best Song of the Year&

award in an A M Records-sponsored competition for the Denver area.) A promising opportunity developed in Los Angeles and John moved West to pursue his dream. What seemed foolproof eventually floundered but, while still living in L.A., he found himself commuting to Colorado to record an album for Next Coast Records. With distribution promised by A M, and the gold record-producing skills of Jim Mason, Johnny O.&

s American roots sound was tailored in an attempt to appeal to a more mainstream, &

commercial&

audience.

With Los Angeles seeming to offer little more than smog and traffic, John left for the open spaces of Oregon, where he continued to write songs and perform in regional venues.

A chance meeting with the legendary King Solomon Burke at the Portland Waterfront Blues Festival developed into onstage musical magic during Solomon&

s gospel set on Sunday. Since that time, Nelson has performed, on occasion, as a backing and featured vocalist with Burke&

s &

Soul&

s Alive Orchestra.&

One of the shows was at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles as the opening act for The Rolling Stones.

John is now one-half of the driving force behind BluesDusters and continues to work on his solo studio project for Solomon Burke&

s The One production company.