Things to Do in Fort Wayne and Beyond

Troolee Dangerous Blues Revue

Mark Hunter

Whatzup Features Writer

Published July 3, 2003

Heads Up! This article is 19 years old.

The card he handed me said “Troolie Dangerous Enterprizes, Nicholas M. Crickmore at your service.”

We were sitting at a corner table at Kaghann’s Korner, the truck stop at Interstate 69 and U.S. 6, north of Fort Wayne. Crickmore and his lovely wife, Sarah, had just zoomed up the highway at 90 miles per hour on his Harley. Crickmore, bass player for the Troolee Dangerous Blues Revue and whatzup columnist, was explaining the origins of the card and the name of the band.

It seems Crickmore, or Big Nick as he is known, took offense at the rude behavior of a higher ranking employee of a trucking company in El Paso, Texas he worked for some years ago. The man had told Crickmore to buzz off, only he didn’t use the word “buzz.” Crickmore asked for an apology. The man demurred and repeated the offense. Crickmore let fly with a roundhouse and decked the guy. Broke his jaw.

“He deserved it,” Crickmore said.

Crickmore didn’t get fired. When he called the dispatcher from Texarkana 14 hours later, she said “Nick, you are truly dangerous.” The phrase stuck and after a few minor spelling alterations, Troolee Dangerous became Crickmore’s trademark.

Crickmore described the incident with the calm deliberateness of a man at ease with himself, a man who knows who he is and what he wants.

And what Crickmore wants is to play and promote blues music. And with bandmates Tom Colvin on guitar, Jeff Nebro on percussion and Jimmy Rossington on harmonica, that’s just what Crickmore is doing.

Troolee Dangerous Blues Revue evolved from a chance meeting between Crickmore and Colvin in the early 1990s. Crickmore had recently returned from Florida, where he had worked as a bouncer and all-around go-to-guy at a bar in the swamps where southern rock bands played seven nights a week. Crickmore said he really enjoyed the music but wasn’t sure what to call it. When he met Colvin he learned the music he was hearing was the blues.

“I went to Tom [who owns Speaker Workshop on Harrison St. in Fort Wayne] to buy one speaker for this bass amp I had,” he said. “I ended up buying 60.”

Colvin and Crickmore talked about their love of the blues and later went to see Johnny Winter in Chicago.

Colvin and Skip Calvin had already started the Fort Wayne Blues Society, and Crickmore quickly became a member. Part of the goal of the FWBS was to help players of all skill levels hone their chops through weekly jam sessions. It was at these sessions that Crickmore started playing bass again. He said he’d wanted to play bass since he was a kid and took an old Martin six-string and turned it into a four-string bass.

“That was when I was in high school in ’65. I ended up smashing it against a tree, which ended my music career for 25 years.”

Around the time Crickmore began getting more involved with FWBS, Nebro started coming to the jams at Colvin’s urging, Crickmore said.

Crickmore recalls the blues scene in Fort Wayne at that time, in the mid-90s, as thriving. “Six or seven years ago everywhere you went someone was playing the blues. But I think people got burned out.”

Jim Gebhart’s Hot Spot opened in 1997 as the one true blues bar in town and started bringing in national acts and hosting blues jams regularly. But then something happened, Crickmore said. People got burnt out on the blues, music preferences changed. Jimmy G’s Hot Spot fell victim to those changes and closed.

“I was there when Jimmy was on the phone with (blues guitarist) Larry Garner and told him the Hot Sport was closing. That was the first I’d heard of it. Jimmy was talking to Larry, and all of a sudden he just smiled and hung up the phone. Jimmy said Larry was so shocked he couldn’t speak. He just hung up.”

Despite the closing of the Hot Spot, and maybe because of it, Crickmore seems all the more determined to keep blues music in the spotlight. And he’s in a good position to do that. The Troolee Dangerous Blues Revue hit the ground running in February of 2002. As an entity TDBR had existed for a few years as a trio of sorts, but had played exclusively as part of the blues society jams. When the Lima, Ohio Blues Society, which Colvin and Crickmore help get started, announced a contest, Crickmore and company signed up.

“That’s when Jimmy Rossington joined us. He’s a great harmonica player and frontman. We called him a week before the blues challenge. He fit right in.

“We were the last band to play. We played two originals and two covers. We opened with ‘St. James Infirmary.’ When we finished some guy way in the back just said ‘Oh my god.’ We were up against some serious competition.”

There were 13 judges awarding 10 points each. Out of a possible 130 points, TDBR got 103.7, enough to win top prize. The second place band got 103 points.

“We went over there just to hear ourselves in public and we won. I was flabbergasted.”

Before the Lima challenge TDBR had been writing stuff for a CD. But after winning, they found little time for their recording project. In February of this year, they won a Whammy as best new performer. At the party, Colvin, a little surprised by all the hoopla, said of the CD, “we haven’t done anything with it. We haven’t had time. We’re a band.”

Well, they found the time, between the ever-increasing gigs for corporate parties, cycle festivals, bars and private affairs. They’ve played Charlie Noble’s Key Palace Theater, at Skip’s in Angola and on the deck at whatzup World Headquarters. Tentatively called It Ain’t About the Money and recorded at Tempel Recording Studio, the CD should be ready for release sometime soon, Crickmore said.

The one regret Crickmore has is not playing at the Hot Spot on the last night for local talent. Crickmore said he has been careful not to get “pushy with my friends who are club owners. When Jim offered us a date, I didn’t know it was the last night for local talent. We couldn’t play because Jimmy (Rossington) already had a gig scheduled.”

The future looks good for the guys in dark glasses. With a summer full of parties and festivals, Crickmore, Colvin, Nebro and Rossington will be troolee busy.

Before we left Kaghann’s Korner, Crickmore took his card and turned the “I” in Troolie into an “E.” “I got 3,500 of these,” he said.

“And that’s not my phone number anymore.”

But that’s another story.

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