10th annual Blues Bash raises cash for League
Event at Parkview Mirro serves as fundraiser for group to help disabled
Blues fans are in for an eventful night that will also benefit those with disabilities.
The League, whose mission is to provide and promote opportunities that empower people with disabilities to achieve their potential, is hosting its annual Blues Bash on Saturday, Nov. 19, at Parkview Mirro Center.
Getting its start
Began in 2010 by now-retired ophthalmologist Dr. Jonathan Walker, the event began as the Blues & Soul Food Bash that recreated “the sights, sounds, and foods commonly experienced in the Chicago blues clubs of the 1950s.”
Over the years, acts have included The Blind Boys of Alabama, Toronzo Cannon, Nick Moss and the Flip Tops, and The Duke Robillard Band.
This year, Altered Five Blues Band out of Milwaukee will be the headliner with local musicians Rainee Perdue and The Accidental Blues Band also performing.
This will be the third time Perdue has performed at the fundraiser. As a blind artist, the show to benefit The League has special meaning.
“Organizations like that always need the funds,” Perdue said. “It’s not cheap what they have to do.”
The League began as an organization dedicated to helping the visually impaired, but its services have expanded over the years.
“In 1949, Helen Keller came here to raise money to help the blind,” The League President/CEO John Guingrich said. “While we now serve people of all disabilities, we have a long history of serving people with vision loss.”
Keller’s visit led to the formation of the Allen County League for the Blind, which is now known as The League. According to the organization’s annual report, it’s the state’s first Center for Independent Living which has since updated its mission to help people with any type of disability in 1991.
Third time’s a charm
Perdue had been a regular at open mics across town, but she said transportation has been tougher, leading to fewer outings. Still, music remains important to her.
“Music has been in my blood,” she said. “It’s hard to imagine a time when I wasn’t singing. I’ve played in different circles pretty much entire life.
“I play for the seniors a lot, and I’m always up for playing other places,” she said. “Open mics are good for networking with other musicians, and I love that.”
One musician she’s connected with is Monica Morris, lead singer for The Accidental Blues Band.
“I think it’s amazing to have her up front and center and representing,” Morris said of Perdue. “She will fit in that genre just fine.”
Perdue also thinks she will fit in, although she does not consider herself a traditional blues performer.
“Eclectic with a lot of soul,” she said of her music. “I’ve been influenced by a bunch of different flavors, but I fell in love with gospel and R&B in high school, so that soul infiltrates everything I do.
“It’s very different, because, genre-wise, I wouldn’t fully consider myself a bluesman, but I love and appreciate blues,” she said of the show. “It makes up a million genres. There’s a lot of the genre that wouldn’t exist without the blues. So, to me, it’s an honor, because I get to bring what I have to the table, but I can also honor that heritage that the blues have given us.”
Networking also played a role in The Accidental Blues Band being added to Blues Bash bill.
“My dear friend Alicia Pyle said, ‘You guys would be perfect for this,’” Morris said of popular local musician Pyle.
Having moved to the area six years ago, Morris has twice reached the semifinals of the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee, alongside Josie Lowder.
The Accidental Blues Band was formed just before the start of the pandemic, which threw a wrench in the works, but they’re back on the scene.
“Everything we play just accidentally turns into the blues,” she said of the band, which includes Andy Pauquette on guitar, Matt Schuler on bass, and Kevin Jackson on drums. “We could play ‘Mary Had a Little Lamb,’ and it would sound bluesy. It’s just kind of what happens when we all get together.”
Rounding out the night will be Altered Five Blues Band, which Blues Blast magazine noted “barrel-chested frontman Jeff Taylor possesses a smooth, warm-toned voice as monumental and undeniable as Howlin’ Wolf with the finish and flourish of B.B. King.”
Guitarist Jeff Schroedl has received acclaim, with Downbeat declaring he “reaches the high bar of mixed invention and fluidity.”
“Fueled by a rhythm section laying down the deepest grooves this side of the MGs, the five blues blasters hit the ground running 20 years ago and show no sign of easing up,” their bio says.
Altered Five have released four albums, beginning with 2014’s Cryin’ Mercy which was named Best Self-Released Album at the International Blues Challenge in 2015, while “Charmed and Dangerous” off their sophomore album of the same name was awarded Song of the Year at the Independent Music Awards and Wisconsin Music Awards in 2018.
Their 2019 record Ten Thousand reached No. 10 on Billboard’s Blues Chart, with Holler If You Hear Me being released in 2021.
In April, they released the single “Great Minds Drink Alike,” winning the blues category at the International Songwriting Competition.
“One of the best original blues bands in the city right now, and perhaps the country … . A burn-it-down live show,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported.