April 2019 Written By Bruce Williams
Been spending my Tuesday nights
with The JB Ritchie Blues Band, helping JB run the weekly jam at Cuda's
in Antioch. Same on the last Sunday of every month at Mac's On Slade in
Palatine. I've really enjoyed playing with these guys! Playing with JB
has also allowed me to revisit my Chicago electric blues roots, as he
does a lot of older material and lots of Muddy stuff.
With JB at Mac's On Slade March
Here's the whole band: Gunnar
Collins on bass-Buzz Kranz on vocs and harp-myself-Davis Levit on drums,
and of course JB
Buzz, crackin' wise....
Making noise on a Tuesday night at
Jammin' with "The Gun"....
I've had a few gigs with my band
over the last few months. Here we are at TR's Front Row in March. Fun
Jim Schroeder on bass, Tim
Williams on drums, me, and Bill Cornish on keys
Also gigging with King Robinson &
The Housewreckers here and there....always a musical adventure of the
At Humble Pub in March...
Feb 2019 Written By Bruce Williams
What a Winter so far! Seems we've
experienced just about every kind of storm, plus extreme low temps. In
spite of these crazy weather events, there has been a surprising number
of viewings of the house. No bites yet, but I'm hopeful the house will
sell before the end of Spring.
Frozen February '19....driving in
These last two months has the
whole family supporting our mother as she faces numerous medical
challenges. She's really been a tough cookie through all this, and we're
all hopeful she returns to her normal and full life soon.
Here she is in physical therapy
We had to celebrate her B-Day at
the physical therapy facility
Back in the hospital
Even though it seems like so long
ago, here's a few pics from Thanksgiving. Dan and Aimee hosted this year
for the first time. They did such a wonderful job hosting. Great food
and good times with all. Aimee and I played a little music, of course...
July2018 Written By Bruce Williams
I've been having fun playing spot
gigs here and there, hosting the jams for Marie Martens, and attending
the occasional jam. I always have a good time at Bender's, in Silver
Lake, WI. When I play there, the owner Mark Rogers usually sits in on
guitar and we make good blues music. Mark is an exceptional blues
guitarist, and really knows how to contribute to an ensemble.
At Bender's with Mark Rogers, John
Robinson, Sr., and Marty Willis. Pic by Dave Smith.
With Tommy, John, Ronnie 2X and
I always look forward to playing
with The Housewreckers, and we recently played at 210 Live in Highwood.
This is a great venue with a big stage, pro-sound, really good food and
they have an event almost every night of the week!
Here's the band in action!
Here I'm singing Long Distance
Still trying to sell the house,
and I hope it goes soon. In the meantime, enjoying the Summer. Dan and
Aimee get married in less than a month, and I'm really looking forward
I've been doing quite a bit of
recording, working on blues songs with a lyricist friend of mine. My
studio is in boxes and bins in my storage spaces, in anticipation of
moving, but I have enough gear here to make little demos. I have a
keyboard, a snare drum, hi-hat and a few cymbals, a bass, and of course
I do love creating and
recording.....it may be my favorite thing to do.....
Febraury 2018 Written By Bruce Williams
Put the house on the market, but
it was too late in the season to catch the majority of buyers. I'm sure
it will go as soon as Spring breaks, as that's when this property looks
Still reeling from the loss of my
longtime friend, Kirk Moulton. He lost a long and courageous battle with
cancer a few months ago. I was fortunate to see him a few times in the
hospital before he passed on. It was hard to see him in the condition he
was in, but he taught me so much about how to handle such a situation
with the way he carried himself throughout his fight. Kirk was a
practicing Buddhist, and it was apparent his religion and his spiritual
strength guided him along his final journey.
Tony Marshall and Kirk Moulton on
'Batson's Beach' in Glencoe, circa 1968
Life goes on, but things seem
different. There's a void. Many of us are at the age where our friends
are checking out, and any one of us could be next. That's life. And
I'll write more about Kirk and add
it to this page. He was a very special man who helped change and improve
people's lives, and he was loved by so many. There is much to be said.
Some gigs came up in December and
then a few weeks ago in February, so I put a band together and
rehearsed. It was cool 'getting the band together again', even though my
brother Dave has moved to Nevada and couldn't be a part of it. My only
outlet of this kind had been playing with King Robinson & The
Housewreckers, which I am grateful for.
Dave Harris setting up for the gig
Here's a pic Blanch Blacke took of
me at the gig at Toadstool Pub in Highwood...
In January, we had a big gathering
for my mom's 90th birthday. We rented a hall and invited her friends and
our relatives, who came from all over. It was a blast and it was great
to see how happy it made her. I was able to see some relatives from out
of town, people I rarely see, so it was very memorable.
My awesome mom!
October 2017 Written By Bruce Williams
October already....sheesh! I've
spent the Summer getting this old house ready to put on the market.
We've lived here for 37 years, making it no small task. Lots of junk to
get rid of and lots of work to do as far as improvements. We did the big
remodel in '15, but there were other parts of the house that required
Here's a few pics from all that
While I didn't gig out as much as
I used to this Summer, I still had some fun gigs and attended a few nice
jams, like this one run by Tom Bonnick:
Here's a pic from last weekend's
gig at Humble Pub in Highwood, where I played with The Nightcrawler's.
Getting down to the wire on the
house. A few more doors to replace inside, and then a list of small
tasks. It's been an adventure.
April 2017 Written By Bruce Williams
The Making of Magic Stew
Recorded at Highland Records in Round
Aimee Baisello-Violin & Viola
Brian Taylor-Flute & Alto Sax
Sophie Wolff Dangerfield-Flight
attendant voice on Air France intro
All songs written by Bruce Williams
All songs arranged by Williams,
Cornish, Harris, Merar
Making this album was a joy, on many
levels. The songs, Juniper and Downhill Dancer were songs I had
performed live with my band over the last few years. Air France, Big Cat
Purr and Carlos were songs I had written years earlier, and we
rearranged them for the album. Wooing The Blue, Ouballie Shuffle, Magic
Stew and Carmina were all written specifically for this album.
The album was recorded in my home
studio, which is quite small as it’s a bedroom. It’s so small that the
musicians have to find their way to their instruments, and then they’re
stuck there unless someone moves. Dave is stuck behind the drums unless
Paul moves to let him out, and Bill is stuck behind his keyboard unless
I let him out. It’s that tight. If there was an issue with a cable and I
have to swap it or if someone has to hit the bathroom, everyone has to
squeeze by or step out of the room to let the person by. It was somewhat
comical at times, being as we had over 20 sessions in the making of the
album. No one griped, and everyone made do. The sessions were not
without technical problems, and some of these weren’t uncovered until
after the fact, mostly the consequences of squeezing too much crap into
one little room.
On one of the songs, after a perfect
take by everyone, I noticed that the condenser mic under the snare drum
had fallen off its makeshift mount sometime during the take. It was too
good of a take to toss, so I cleaned up the track where the mic can be
heard dropping, then adjusted the level and EQ on that track to
compensate for being out of position. Funny, I don’t remember which song
it was now.
The songs were arranged by all of us.
We all added ideas to the songs, although on some of them we stuck
pretty close to what was on my original demo of the song. Even on those
though, little transitions have to be agreed upon, the bass line and
drum part has to be refined and altered to fit the arrangement, and our
individual parts had to develop and mesh. On other songs, we rearranged
what was on my demo, making for some of the most fun on the project. The
creativity in my studio was bursting at the seams, and we tried and
recorded different ideas during rehearsal to determine which would be
best for the song. The arrangement on Downhill Dancer comes to mind. I
had played this song in 3 different bands, so it was pretty well set as
far as an arrangement, but we decided to change it anyway. The result
illustrates how effective we were as a collaborating team. The song
sounds new and fresh, and we created that new ending which totally makes
the song, in my opinion.
The way I set up these sessions was
to accommodate a certain production process where important tracks are
added later. The goal during the initial recording session of a song is
to capture a perfect drum and bass part, knowing that the keys and
guitar tracks will be swapped out later. When I play my scratch guitar
part then, I am directing the band and trying to help the rhythm section
create a solid groove. Bill is on a similar wave length, laying down a
keyboard part that supports the ensemble, adding the parts that the
rhythm section needs to hit their cues. Later, after the take is
approved, Bill and I start working on the subsequent tracks. He does his
parts remotely, in his studio after I send him the files. We communicate
regularly during this part, so he’s aware of what I’m looking for, but
in his case I pretty much just let him go. The guy is such a whiz, and
it happens that I love his playing style and his ideas. Bill’s
contributions to this album were immense. Not only did he develop
beautiful keyboard parts, but along the way he managed to deceptively
cover up a few minor flaws in the parts that had already been recorded.
He smoothed out the bumps, so to speak. His solos are all impeccable,
the parts he dreamed up are brilliant, and working with him is such a
joy. In spite of his huge talent, he is a humble man, which is such an
admirable quality. I have to say that Bill was ‘the rock’ or ‘the
anchorman’ on these sessions. Whenever there is collaboration there is
bound to be controversy, and while Paul, Dave and I might go off on
tangents, Bill would be the one to settle us down with a comment like,
“Well, I like it both ways, but the second way carries the melody
better”….or something along those lines. Then we’d settle down and
record the track. His words carried a lot of weight, because everyone
there had tremendous respect for him as a musician.
Paul came to every rehearsal session
with lots of ideas. This is a guy who had done a huge amount of
recording and song construction, so his ideas were very welcome. He had
so many ideas, we had filter them and zero in on the best ones.
Consensus didn’t always come quickly, but in the end I know we made the
right choices. Paul would bring a different bass from his collection for
each song, it seemed. Not really, but it seemed that way. He knew that a
specific sound would be good for a certain song and he was playing
several different styles on the album, and the choice of instrument was
important. It made things a little more challenging during the mixing
process, but I like the distinctly different bass tones we have as Paul
goes from slap, to fretless and finger style bass playing. Paul has such
wonderful technique and knows just where to place his notes so they
properly form the pulse that the song needs. He and Dave worked hard on
getting the bass and drum parts in sync, and they both did their
homework in between sessions, so when it came time to record, they were
Dave Harris was especially impressive
throughout the sessions. Most of the pressure was on the drummer,
because if there’s a flub on bass or guitar, a quick punch-in solves it.
The drum tracks had to be spot on. He came prepared for each session,
knowing that once he and Paul started refining their parts, the work he
had done at home might change. Dave’s biggest asset is his enthusiasm
and his love for music, but his own unique drumming style played right
into the vibe I was looking for on the songs. One of the cool things
about his playing is that his enthusiasm can be heard in his drum
tracks. He does these little bits that seem to ignite the music, or pump
it. I noticed when I was cleaning up the individual drum tracks that he
doesn’t overuse the toms, like many drummers do. Dave used restraint and
finesse across all the tracks, knowing that percussion would be added
I found Jhorber on BandMix, as was
the case with Bill. Yes, this musician’s referral service really works,
if you know how to screen out all the crap. The hand of fate was
certainly in play with Jhorber, as he was this young musician here in
the states for less than a year. He was born and raised in Venezuala,
and was a percussion prodigy. He started played in major orchestras when
he was only 8 years old. His command of the various percussion
instruments was amazing. It was like listening to a much older and more
experienced musician. His playing of the Venezuelan maracas is featured
on a few of the songs, as well. Jhorber developed most of the parts on
his own, and had them all mapped out before the sessions. If there were
any little flaws in the groove of a song, his parts smoothed everything
out and created a consistency across the entire album. The authenticity
of his parts was most impressive. He used traditional Latin rhythms and
overlaid them on the song, bringing new energy and a continuity that
wasn’t there before. When he came in to record the percussion parts, he
had them all written down and he had obviously practiced them
diligently. Almost all of his parts were recorded in one take. I feel so
lucky to have found this talented kid when I did, because he moved to
Texas right after recording was completed.
Steve Eisen played cabasa and conga
on a couple songs. Steve is known for being one of the busiest and best
reed players in Chicago, and he’s played on over 300 record albums, but
he’s also an excellent percussionist. Steve and I go way back, in fact I
think I first met him at one of the famous jams in the basement of the
house I lived in with Mark Hannon in the early 70’s. He was there with
Terry Dickerson, Billy Brimfield, Fred Anderson, Billy Ferrick and the
rest. I had called him initially to find out if he knew someone who
could help me with percussion tracks. This was before Jhorber entered
the picture. Steve told me he could do the percussion parts, so I had
him up to the studio and he added cabasa and conga to Air France and Big
Aimee Biasiello is a super talented
violist, who is also quite good on violin. Aimee and my son Dan have
been living together and are quite in love. He recently proposed, and
she accepted. She plays mostly classical music and has amazing
technique. Bill had laid down synth string parts on a few of the songs,
but I wanted them to sound authentic, so I brought in Aimee to record
several violin and viola tracks on top. It was very effective and gives
those songs an organic quality they lacked before. Aimee is a joy to
work with because she’s such a good and knowledgeable musician. She has
a great attitude and really impressed me in the studio as we worked out
the harmonies together and she efficiently laid her parts down.
Towards the end of the sessions, I
was debating on whether to have the guitar play the head on Ouballie
Shuffle, or perhaps a different instrument. I decided to bring in my old
bandmate, Brian Taylor. He is a US Navy musician and plays reeds and
some other instruments, and is a monster musician. One of my earlier
band iterations was comprised of all Navy guys, except me. They called
me ‘Chief’ and had fun with it. All these guys were super talented, Joel
Packer, Chris Pastin and Ed Williams being the other co-horts.
Originally, I thought I’d have Brian play the head on alto sax, but he
came up with the brilliant idea of using flute as the main instrument.
It really makes the song, and his solo is phenomenal. We used the alto
sax for a harmony part, complimenting the flute.
On the song, Magic Stew, we somehow
got sidetracked and the song came out way different than what I had in
mind. The dilemma was that I liked most of what we recorded, but I knew
the drum track and part of the bass track needed to be redone. So Dave
and Jhorber came back into the studio and laid down a new percussion and
drum section, and then Paul came back and redid part of his bass track.
I then completely removed the drums and percussion from certain sections
of the song, executing some post-recording arranging. In this case I
wanted to have dramatic dynamics, and this did the trick by allowing for
a buildup and adding tension to the song. By the time strings and
guitars were layered on, the change became transparent and the song was
transformed. I find it the most interesting song on the album.
The song Juniper was recorded on my
old DAW, and when it was time to mix, it was clear that the sound and
tone was different from the other songs recorded on the new DAW. Most of
it was probably due to the difference in pre-amps, from one DAW to the
other. It took a lot of work to make Juniper sound like the other songs.
This is another song that I did live, with a few different bands. I also
recorded it before with Joel Packer and Chris Pastin. That version was
pretty cool, too, with the Latin flavor and a tight groove. I still want
to release that version, it just needs something to make it different
from the album cut. Maybe I’ll have Brian play the head…
I went back and forth on the song
order for the album.
The origin of each song varies. I
wrote Juniper in the early 90’s and made a demo myself. It used
to be called, ‘June Experiment’. When I formed a band with the Navy guys
in 2007, we were performing the song live. Our version was more Latin
than my demo. We recorded it back then and it came out great. It was a
good step to precede the Juniper on this album, which has the Latin
flavor, but is a distinctly different arrangement. Bill’s piano part had
a lot to do with that, especially the bridge. The song was inspired by
my childhood travels in California, especially the trees.
Wooing The Blue was written
about midway through the sessions. By then I could see how the content
of the album was shaping up, and I wanted something a little different,
so I wrote this one. It has a bit of an R&B vibe, and is all about
dancing around and then finally playing with the blue note. Even though
the chorus chord progression is well used in music, it works in this
song as a release. Bill and I came up with that ending. I like how the
song changes and then drifts off into sparse riffing.
Downhill Dancer is another
song I did in a couple of my bands. The first time it was performed live
was with the Navy guys at The Vine in Grayslake in a trio format. I did
the song in 3 subsequent band iterations, including 4 piece. Downhill
Dancer remains pretty much the same, except Bill and Paul pushed for a
more jazz interpretation. I love it! Paul’s fretless bass beautiful on
this song. All the other instruments seem to ride on his bass part. Bill
and I came up with this ending too. It’s one of my favorite parts of the
album. I spent hours recording the little guitar bits in that ending and
more hours mixing it just right. Bill’s keys are perfect. The name of
this song came from a picture I saw hanging in the lounge at Wilmot
Mountain, where I had a weekly gig for awhile with George Lebongood. I
had just written the song and when I saw the picture, the name came to
me. The photo was of a pretty bikini clad skier coming down the
mountain. For some reason, my first thought was…Downhill Dancer. I wrote
the song on guitar, and I’m not sure what inspired it.
I wrote Ouballie Shuffle
during these sessions, too, after Wooing The Blue. The beat is based on
an African beat I dig. I wrote words to this song, too, thinking I’d
record a second version with vocals. Ouballie means old man in African
slang, and the song is about a wise old man that everyone mistakes for a
fool. The song takes place somewhere in Africa, I suppose. The song
revolves around this percussive rhythm guitar part I came up with, a
part I purposely played with a little ‘Stones’ vibe. I was pretty happy
with the song after we recorded it. The guitar was playing the head. At
the chorus I added a harmony guitar. Then I suddenly had a
brainstorm…what if I bring in Brian Taylor from the old band and have
him play the melody on sax? I sent him the recording and when we talked,
he suggested having flute as the lead instrument. We used alto sax for
the harmony. What a great idea! It makes the song. I added a little
delay to the flute to give it a distant feel.
Magic Stew, the title cut,
came to me pretty quickly one night when I was playing piano after one
of our recording sessions. I perfected the song over the next couple
weeks and played it for the band. Everyone dug it and we recorded it. In
spite of the afore mentioned production hiccups, it came out great. The
song pays homage to my musical childhood, which was full of classical
music thanks to my parents. The idea was to have different instruments
share the playing of the melody line, as is often the case with an
orchestral piece. Bill came up with the string parts, one section based
in part on a rhythm guitar part from my original demo. Aimee and I
worked out the harmonies when we added the real strings to Bill’s synth
Air France is another song
created from an old demo of mine called, ‘LA Drive’. The original demo
had a drum machine. It was written in the mid-nineties, and always was a
song I wanted to do properly in the studio with other musicians. It has
a simple melody and a cool groove. I’m not sure why I decided to add the
flight attendant voice as an intro, but it’s perfect. The song is about
travel and adventure, and of movement. I asked a few French speaking
friends of mine to do the vocal bit, but it just never panned out. I
then asked old pal Dave Grier to recommend someone. Dave has been in the
video production business for years, and I knew he would be able to hook
me up with the right talent. He referred me to Sophie, and she did a
Big Cat Purr is another song
created from an old demo of mine, written in the early nineties. When I
was younger, I listened to a lot of the old Hammond players, like Jack
McDuff, Charles Earland, Jimmie McGriff, Rhoda Scott and others. That’s
what’s really behind this song. I owned a Hammond A-100 for awhile, and
played it often, so I feel the instrument. I love it when the organ is
the lead instrument, playing the melody. It’s so 70’s/Booker T. Once I
met Bill and realized how gifted he was as a keyboardist, I had to
include this one on the album. I wrote it on keys, and used a drum
machine on the demo. The beat is one of those oddball rhythms derived
from developing sounds from a drum machine without consideration of what
a real drummer would play. The accent is on the 1-2 AND 3-4, and I
wanted to keep that when we recorded it with the band. Eisen accented
that beat further with his cabasa track. I really like the way the drum
and percussion tracks came out, as it gives the song a unique feel.
Bill’s keys are amazing, especially the way he interlaces the piano part
with the organ. I had trouble mixing this one, as the organ was so hot.
I had to EQ the signal to get it so it would blend with the rest of the
song. I’m sure Bill noticed the difference in tone, but I didn’t want to
use a limiter, so I opted for EQ’ing the mids back, just so I could
control the signal. Part of the problem was Bill provided stereo tracks
for the keys, when I should have asked for 2 mono tracks, allowing me to
control panning. I could have split them out, but was lazy. The song
Carmina was based on a jam
suggested by Greg, the original bass player on this project. The first
night we got together, he started playing this 1-4-6-5 progression and
we all jumped on it. It was a great little jam, so the next day I wrote
a melody to it and t became a song. The melody is based on my
interpretation of some of the opera singing I listened to as a kid,
attending my mom’s rehearsals with The San Jose Opera Company. The
cadence and lyrical nature of the melody is supposed to have that old
Italian feel, which spawned the name, “Carmina.”
Carlos is another old song of
mine from the archives, and it was always called Carlos. The name came
to me right after I wrote it, because it reminds me of Santana and that
kind of Latin music. This song, too, had a drum machine beat, with Dave
reinterpreting it on drums. I love what he and Paul came up with. They
didn’t stray too far from the original, and it serves the song well. We
collectively came up with the percussion break, and it turned into
something special with Paul’s suggestion that we use a Montuno beat
throughout that part.
It’s interesting to note that some of
my old musical influences can be heard here and there on this album. It
was totally unintentional, but I can hear a little of that ‘Traffic’
vibe on certain songs, due in part to Bill’s organ. Another group I dug
way back when was Tom Scott and the LA Express, and some of the
arrangements here remind me of their sound.
I was originally going to ask one of
my artist friends to produce cover art, and I had made a few sketches of
some possible subjects. I was already set on the ‘Magic Stew’ album
title. I showed one of the sketches to Dave Harris, and he seemed to
like it. It reminded him of some of John Lennon’s art. It was a simple
pencil sketch I had done showing a big cooking pot full of the
instruments that were used on the album. A few weeks later, I decided to
paint the image myself. I hadn’t done much painting of late, and I
thought this project might help me get back into it. It was great fun
doing it, and I’m happy with the result. I ended up doing all the album
art, and I wrote the copy under the guidance of wordsmith Mike Landers,
who was very helpful.
My brother Dave was instrumental in
helping me figure out the best mix approach for the album. It took me
awhile to zero in on the sound I wanted, and this being my first big
project on the new software, it was daunting at first. I made many mixes
for Dave and eagerly awaited his feedback. I trusted his ears, and I
knew he knew what I was looking for since we had played together so much
over the years. Dave made many excellent suggestions throughout this
process, and I give him a lot of credit in terms of how Magic Stew came
out. He was especially helpful on the bass mixes, which presented many
challenges, and his feedback helped shape all the audio. I couldn’t have
done it without him!
I guess one of the accomplishments of
the production was making it sound like it wasn’t recorded in a tiny
bedroom studio. I wanted that intimate feel, as if the listener was
sitting at the back of a large room with the band on the other side. I
opened up the reverb only slightly, keeping the room small. My old
friend Bill Feil has been a recording engineer for as long as I can
remember, and helped me start my modest recording efforts in the late
60’s. I leaned on his expertise when it came to mastering, and used his
compression, EQ and limiter settings. He was always very thorough and
exact, and backed up all his recommendations with logical data. I tried
several other mastering approaches, too, but circled back to Bill’s
plan, which yielded the clean and punchy audio we have on the album.
Just before I finished the album my
old and dear friend Bobby Wolf died, very suddenly. It was shocking and
heartbreaking, to say the least. I have started a section for Bobby in
my ‘Memorial’ section here on the site. It seemed so appropriate to
dedicate Magic Stew to Bob. His is so in my music, as he was a major
influence on me, and we played together so much over the years. His big
heart and his musical genius will always be missed.
As I write this I have already
embarked on new projects, but Magic Stew will always be special to me.
This album is the result of a change I made in my approach to making
music a few years back. At the time, I still had a tendency to write
what was expected of me, rather than just letting what was inside come
out. I spent most of my musical career playing blues and R&B, so it
seemed like I was trying too hard to write within that genre. Just write
from the heart….simply let it out….It made a certain sense to write
blues songs because I had a blues band, after all. But then I decided to
collect all the corny instrumentals I had written over the years, all my
little demos with their simple melodies and funky rhythms, and use them
as the foundation of this new album. I would write the additional songs
needed along the way. I purposely stayed away from blues progressions
and jazz formats on this material and just let it become what it is.
October 2016 Written By Bruce Williams
It's so good to hear all the
positive comments about Magic Stew, and sales have been satisfactory. I
didn't expect sales to be that good as the album is kind of oddball
compared to what's out there. Digital sales is steady, though,
especially in the UK, Japan, Brazil, and here in the states. I continue
with promotional efforts, and hope to be releasing a video soon with one
of the songs.
Over the years, I've documented
some of my musical adventures and have decided to start publishing them
here. Here's one called, 'The Main Street Inn'....
The Main St. Inn
I remember at
the end we were keeping the place open with our Thursday night blues
jam. They were no longer paying their gas bill, and had propane heaters
set up to counter the Winter cold. The odor was awful, and it was clear
it was the beginning of the end for The Main Street Inn. What a great
In 1999, I
started looking for opportunities to play music live. I was active with
music in my home studio, and would still jam with Mark Hannon as well as
Betsy and the Boneshakers here and there, but it wasn’t enough. After
some scouting around, I stumbled onto an open mic jam at a little bar on
the Chain Of Lakes called, Wokini’s. The jam was run by Carter Hoyt, Jim
Roxworthy and John Linczmaier, among others. They were very friendly and
made me feel at home. Pretty soon, I was a regular, playing their
classic rock songs. Classic Rock wasn’t on my radar, but I knew this was
a good avenue for me to get my chops together, so I embraced it. Over
time I started singing my blues songs, and the jam hosts were very
supportive. I knew I was getting closer to my dream of forming my own
band. I was also thinking I could host my own jam, only I wanted it to
be a blues jam.
In 2001, I
finally started a band and secured a weekly open mic gig at Chico
Moran’s in Ingleside. That was the beginning of The Bruce Williams Blues
Orkestra, which started with Jeff Blum on drums, Sonny Sloan on bass,
Bobby Wolf on guitar and me singing and playing guitar. I was originally
going to do it as a trio, but in a last minute loss of confidence, I
called my old friend Bobby to help me out. I wasn’t sure if I could pull
of a three piece, and he basically came to my rescue. When Sonny started
having transportation trouble getting to the gig, I got Marty Willis to
This was a time
of musical development for me, as I hadn’t fronted a band since high
school, and my experience as a singer was limited. I slowly improved my
guitar playing and singing, and over time started feeling more confident
with my abilities. Bobby was the better lead guitarist, me the better
rhythm guitarist, so he did most of the soloing early on. As time went
on, I started asserting myself more on guitar, and soon we were both
ripping off guitar solos equally.
We were there
about four months when one Thursday night we arrived to find Chico’s
locked and the lights off. We were all standing in the parking lot
wondering what to do, a band all fired up and ready to go with no place
to play. Jeff said, “I know a place where they might let us set up and
play, The Main Street Inn in Round Lake Park.” So we got back in our
vehicles and headed over there. Sure enough, they allowed us to set up
and play, and even gave us free drinks as a form of payment. Thus would
begin a two year run at this rather unique establishment. We never went
back to Chico’s. The owner, who ran the place, was a stone drunk. We
knew about it because he’d get so blasted he could hardly pour drinks.
He had a female bartender from Ireland who was sweet as could be, but
you couldn’t understand a word she was saying because he accent was so
thick. Her name evades me, but without her, Tom would have been sunk.
Eventually, people stopped going to Chico Moran’s, plus the surrounding
neighborhood didn’t like having a bar in a residential area. They closed
down about a year after we departed.
The Main Street
Inn was housed in a large Quonset hut on Rt. 134, with a huge stage and
a room roughly 150’ X 175’. I brought in my PA, my Leslie speaker and
other gear, and was able to leave it in the room behind the stage for
safekeeping. I was still working at Leo Burnett during the day, and had
access to color printers, so I started an ad campaign using posters,
e-mail and flyers. Back then I was one of the first to market gigs in
this manner, so it proved effective, and the jam began to populate
quickly. I made a point of taking pictures of the jams, developing them
quickly, and then having the pix on hand for the next jam. The pictures
became a popular little novelty, and I used these images in the
comfortable place for the jammers was important to me, so I brought a
keyboard from home and hooked it up to the Leslie, in an attempt to lure
in some keyboard players. I figured they might show up if they knew they
didn’t have to lug a rig. I tried to make sure that each jammer was
allowed sufficient time to play, regardless of their abilities, and I
paired musicians in a manner where they would sound the best.
continued to improve, and soon there musicians coming from far and wide
to attend our jam. My band was starting to sound real good by this time,
and I started landing gigs throughout the area. Our repertoire was made
up from the songs that shaped me as a musician, with many coming from my
experiences with the late and great Mark Hannon. ‘Unchain My Heart’, ‘Chickenhead’,
’Sick & Tired’, ‘Watermelon Man’, ‘Jug Eyes’, ‘I’ve Been Working’ and
several others are all ‘Hannon songs’. For Bobby and I, this was a
tribute for our fallen friend, as we had both spent a lot of years
playing with Hannon, and loved the guy.
One of the main
reasons I started my band was because after Mark Hannon died, I felt
this tremendous urge to “pick up the torch” and attempt to do what he
did, which was to play a unique kind of blues. Mark Hannon had a wide
knowledge of many various musical forms, and was attracted to songs that
weren’t considered ‘straight blues’. He delved into old rock & roll,
R&B, funky jazz and even pop, and I hoped to continue that tradition.
That quality would distinguish us from other blues bands out there, and
helped us land more gigs, as club owners were sometimes reluctant to go
with just blues. At eating establishments, I would prop up the jazzier
and softer examples of our music, and design mellow sets around the
At The Main
Street Inn, every Thursday night became a huge party, with pot smoking
and coke snorting in the big room behind the stage, not to mention the
occasional couple sneaking back there to bang it. As the crowds
increased I negotiated a better fee for the band and secured regular
Saturday night gigs there, too. I met many new musician friends during
this time, some coming from far away, having heard good things about the
jam. It was a fun era, albeit a time of major drinking and hangovers.
I had a
fantastic boss at Leo Burnett, Mr. Jim Mikol. He knew I was jammin’ on
Thursday nights, and was cool with me coming in a little late on Friday
mornings, and didn’t schedule any meetings with me until later in the
day. He knew my real passion was music, and since my contributions at
the agency were substantial, he cut me a lot of slack. In 2000, I had
been at Leo Burnett less than a year when Hannon’s cancer relapsed, and
Jim let me spend a lot of work hours promoting the ‘Blues Power’
fundraiser I spearheaded. Cool boss!
Over time it
became clear that The Main Street Inn was slowly declining. There were
issues with the owners resulting in unpaid bills, they frequently ran
out of supplies, and they were hiring sub-par bands on the weekends. Our
Thursday night jam continued to pull decently, and we did well on our
Saturday nights, but that wasn’t enough to keep the place afloat.
bartender kept on pouring, and Tommy would keep on showing off his
talent of running full speed towards the pool table with a drink in his
hand, sliding…then ducking at the last minute and popping out on the
other side. Then the cold weather came that year, and we showed up one
night to a freezing club. We bitched and Tommy brought out these ghastly
propane heaters. The exhaust stunk and was full of carbon monoxide. It
was horrible. I started looking for a new home for the jam because it
was clear this locale was about to die. And it did. The Quonset hut is
now an auto service center.
I ended up
working out a real good deal at Austin’s in Libertyville for a Wednesday
night blues jam, and it became the biggest jam in Lake County. It was
closer to the highway, so we were drawing known musicians from Chicago
and Milwaukee. But that’s another story.
I've been doing
a hodge-podge of tasks since I released the album, including
transferring old 1/2 track masters to digital.
had broken the studio drums down
after I finished the album so I'd have more space to do other things,
but I set them up again in preparation of starting some new recording
Other than that
I've been getting ready for Winter, putting the boats away and attending
to the electric motors, etc.
And now that my
mom isn't driving anymore, I've really been enjoying my time with her as
I help her with her shopping and other errands. We talk about everything
from A to Z, and we both laugh a lot. I am blessed.
July 2016 Written By Bruce Williams
Seems like it took forever, but I
am proud to announce the release of my new album, Magic Stew. This was
by far the most complex recording project I had ever taken on, and I
have to admit I was overwhelmed at times. My main role was that of
composer/arranger/guitar player, but I had to keep the producer hat and
the engineer hat on at all times. The project was difficult due to
scheduling the sessions, because the musicians on this album are really
good, which means they are busy all the time. That's one of the reasons
it took so long to get all the songs recorded. I was also challenged by
having to record some instruments I hadn't recorded before...viola,
violin, flute, and some of the percussion instruments Jhorber used. On
top of it all, I had started the project on a Roland recording platform,
but then upgraded to a new and more complete DAW after having recorded 2
of the songs for the album. It had been a crash course as far as
learning the new DAW, but by the time we had recorded that last song, I
had it down. After I mixed everything, I decided to master the album
myself. I wanted to figure out how to do it on the new DAW, because of
all the cool mastering tools available. I also didn't want to spend any
more money on this project. The mastering part took a lot longer than it
should have, but I'm very pleased with the results.
Working with Bill Cornish on keys,
Dave Harris on drums, Paul Merar on bass, Jhorber Orta on percussion,
Steve Eisen on percussion, Aimee Biasiello on violin and viola & Brian
Taylor on reeds, has been an honor and a pleasure. All of these
musicians are standouts in their own right. Bill Cornish is a prolific
writer and has released several albums of his own (www.billcornish.com),
Dave Harris has done his share of recording and is also one of the most
in-demand drummers in the area, Paul Merar has a long list of recording
credits and musical accomplishments. Jhorber hails from Venezuela and is
a true master of percussion. Steve Eisen has played on something like
300 music albums, although usually on a reed instrument. I was lucky
enough to get him to add conga and cabasa on a couple of songs. Aimee is
a wonder on her instrument, is so easy to work with, and she has those
keen musical instincts making collaboration a breeze. Brian Taylor used
to be in my band a few years ago, in arguably the best band I ever
fronted. He's an amazing reed man and also plays a few other
instruments. I found him in the US Navy music program, of all places,
where he still works today.
I have a pretty long list of
projects I want to do now that this one is a wrap, but I will take a
moment to enjoy this accomplishment. Magic Stew is a quality product and
a testament to that special bond between musicians, and the power of
Special thanks to my big brother
Dave for keeping me sane during the mixing process. He had great
suggestions and it was good to get the perspective of another musician,
and someone who's ears I trust.
I had re-connected with recording
engineer Bill Feil during the production of this album, and I learned a
lot from him which helped me a lot on the technical side.
Housewrecker's bandmate Mike
Landers was also very supportive and helpful during the making of this
Wife Mary has to be praised for
putting up with the musicians coming over to use the studio, for
listening to me play the same song over and over again while mixing, and
for listening to my BS the entire time.
I thank you all!
In other news, I lost my old and
dear friend, Bobby Wolf. Very sad, and I sure didn't see this one
coming. A beautiful memorial was held for him at House Of Blues, and I
had the honor of being a part of that.
I will reluctantly add Bobby to my
memorial page soon. It will be a large section because he was a large
part of my life. He was a friend and a generous musical mentor. He will
be missed by so many.
I played a fun gig with The
Housewrecker's at a private party in Bristol, WI recently. Lots of fun
and good music!
Also recently, I bought a little
gig amp, a Fender Blues Jr. It's pretty cool. Doesn't sound as good as a
larger amp, but it's not bad. Mainly, it's small and light!
Finally, take a look at this pic
of old friend Tim Foreman, now living in Florida. The Old Man And The
Sea comes to mind....
February 2016 Written By Bruce Williams
I've been meaning to update! Here
I re-did a few guitar tracks on
the album a month or so ago.
The album is now pretty much done.
I've been in mastering mode the last few weeks, tweaking this...tweaking
that. It's good to constantly hear how it sounds on different output
systems, because they are so varied and different. It's like the
difference between a computer speaker system and a car
stereo...completely different animals. If you throw in the little
portable speakers for hand held devices and then phones, it gets pretty
crazy. My challenge is to have it sound good wherever it's played.
Each time I listen on a different
stereo system, I take detailed notes...helps me keep it all straight...
The artwork for the album is done
as well, here's the cover...
It's almost time to manufacture
this album and get it out there. Stay tuned for details!
The family celebrated my mom's
88th birthday recently. She's doing great.
Last week we were with some old
and dear friends...
What's country life without your
dog getting skunked? Here's Tyson on the way to the groomer after
getting skunked in the face.
The groomer did a great job and he
came home later and amazingly, got skunked in the face again after dark.
This time I made the mixture (Thanks, Liz!) and put him in the tub and
washed him. It worked well, but the house still has that lingering skunk
odor. It's slowly going away.
How do you make a cake dessert,
including frosting, in under 30 minutes? Learn how to make a 'microwave
mug cake!' Then you too can gain 15 pounds over the Winter months, as I
Or how about a bread pudding? Top
it with your favorite decadent sauce, like a vanilla sauce with nut
pieces, or a whipped cream...
Getting the pedal board ready for
gig with Housewrecker's Saturday night at Abel's. Turned out to be a bad
idea, as one of the cables was shorting. It worked fine at home, but
when I got there and plugged it in...nothing. Fuck pedals.
My intention was to come up with
sounds unlike what the other two guitarists on the set might put forth,
making for less redundancy in the overall tone of the guitars. I ended
up playing very sparse bits, or little semi-muted plunky parts as much
as possible, which I love. It was fun. I always have fun playing with
the Housewrecker guys.
Here's a shot from the gig...
LtoR: Mike Landers, Rob Sulski,
John Linczmaier, Marty Willis, Me and Ronnie 2X
Chris Buck was scheduled to play
drums, but fell ill, so luckily Johnny was available and filled in
admirably. The special bonus was that he brought Dawn, so we got to hear
her sing. And she got a selfie with me!
Half of Johnny, Marty, myself and
Eric VanDuyne, a masterful guitarist...no, that's not his 'guitar
Nice to play out live...it's been
Stay tuned about the album
release, and enjoy the onset of Spring!
October2015 Written By Bruce Williams
Went boating with Rob, lost my
footing and grabbed the steering wheel for support. Of course, the wheel
turned and as I was falling back I bent my little finger back quite far.
Far enough that it fractured the bone just below my knuckle there in 2
places. Ouch! I was pretty pissed that it happened right in the middle
of me finishing assorted little guitar bits on the tracks for the album.
On one of the songs where I needed to re-do the head, I had the
outstanding idea of bringing in my old friend Brian Taylor to play
reeds. He recently moved back to the area, and will be coming by the
studio next week to do just that. The rest of the parts I can play, plus
it's healing fast.
So I figured maybe I'll go camping
for a few days. I can get by babying my left hand. I needed to get away
anyway, and I have been longing to experience a less disturbed nature
than what we have around here, so I decided to head into northern
Wisconsin...to the woods. I picked the Indian Mounds Campground on Lake
Tomahawk, a Wisconsin State Park. The campsites in the park are very
secluded and set far aprt, but it didn't matter because I was the only
I grabbed the best
site there. I had seen it on a campground map at home. I set my tent up
just a few yards from shore.
I was able to keep my boat right
there on the beach, which was convenient...
That first night I made a beef
stew. I simmered it for a few hours.
Food just tastes better when one
is camping! I sat there facing the lake and enjoyed the view as I
supped. It was delightful...
Yeah, there was a guitar in that
last pic, but I couldn't play much with 3 fingers. I did manage a little
slide with the slide worn on my 3rd finger, awkward....but I didn't
care. No one could hear but me and Bigfoot.
The views from my little spot were
The warmth of the fire was really
needed. as tempuratures dropped down into the low 30's at night...brrrrr
Bacon smells so good, cooking in
The perfect camping breakfast...
It was so quiet at night....there
was no sound of cars, or voices, nothing except maybe the sound of an
animal walking around. It was a little spooky at times....
Didn't have much luck fishing, but
I didn't care. It was so pretty out on the lake, and it is a huge lake.
It was a great little 3 days in
the woods. On the way back, I stopped at a few spots along the Wisconsin
River and took a few casts. I also took 'the long way home', so I could
go through the little towns.
When I look back on my little solo
get-a-way, I'll remember sights like this....
In September, our old and dear friend
Mike Platt came out from Colorado for a visit. Good to see him!
August 2015 Written By Bruce Williams
Well, the sessions for the album
are pretty much over, except for some string parts I'm adding to a few
of the songs. Aimee Biasiello, a very talented professional violist who
happens to be the GF of my youngest son Dan, is helping me with this.
She overdubs multiple parts using violin and viola and it sounds friggin'
awesome! I'm also in the midst of re-doing a few of the guitar bits on
the album. I've already started mixing the songs, and I'm really happy
with the results. Hopefully, I can finish this thing and release it very
Son Dan helped me rebuild the pier
a few weeks ago. Couldn't have done it without him....in fact, he did
most of the work.
Speaking of kids, here's oldest
son Rob taking his bike out for a test drive after doing some repairs on
June 2015 Written By Bruce Williams
Getting closer to the finish line
on the album! We're recording some percussion tracks right now, and I
have to do a few guitar bits, but that's it. Then it's mixing and
editing. The tracks are really good and I'm really excited about this
I've always been so fortunate in
finding the right musicians to help me record my songs. I recently met
Jhorber Orta, a very talented young Venezuelan musician, who is doing an
amazing job with the percussion on the album. He's very knowledgeable
and adept in all the Latin rhythms and more, and can play a myriad of
Here he is at work in my studio...
Caught a nice bass on Father's
Day, and had a great family day. I caught this one on a top-water frog.
He really pounced on the lure and put up a terrific fight.
April 2015 Written By Bruce Williams
We had a great recording session
last night, as we laid down takes for "Wooing The Blue", an instrumental
I wrote a month or so ago. The title refers to how the melody encounters
the blue notes in the song. As I reflect on our session, I can't help
but marvel at the musicianship of these 3 guys I'm working with. Dave
Harris executed an amazing African influenced drum track, and Paul Merar
laid down a super cool bass line to form the perfect groove for this
song. As always, Bill Cornish continually comes up with these brilliant
keyboard tracks that emphasize and support the song melody. It's the
ideal scenario for music-making!
One more song and this album is
done. It's been an amazing musical adventure.
I played with King Robinson this
last Saturday in Grayslake....a blast, as always. I always jump at the
chance to play with the incomparable King Robinson (a.k.a. Rob Sulski).
Mike Landers came up with this format where we employ 3 guitars, and
rather than sounding like it's over the top....it actually works! The
last few times we've played, the music has been especially compelling,
perhaps because the 3 of us guitarists are so distinctly different in
terms of style and tone. It also helps that we are all able to lay back
and pick our best spots, enabling us to mesh as if we were in a
recording studio environment. Mike coaxes an amazing tone from his old
Gibson, and Eric Van Duyne is simply amazing. It's quite fun.
Dave Harris and Gary Heller came
and sat in and sounded awesome, as did Jeff Coca and Doc. Marty
"Thumper" Willis on bass and drummer Chris Buck provided excellent
grooves all night. Good stuff.
Here's a picture of Mike, Rob and
I at the event....
February 2015 Written By Bruce Williams
Still working on the album after a
few setbacks, and we're now recording in my upgraded studio. I recently
migrated to a computer based system, running Pre Sonus software. I
looked at all the available software before I opted for this, including
ProTools and Sonar, but this one looked like the best value with the
I got 11 years from my Roland
VS-2480 and produced 2 albums and enough material for 2 more. I have no
complaints about the old recorder, but it became cumbersome in terms of
moving data around and backing up data.
The new platform is anchored by a
computer from Sweetwater, designed specifically for audio and video
production. It's super fast, has dual drives with a dedicated recording
drive, and a bunch of other outstanding features. It will take awhile
for me to get the software down, but it can't be any more difficult than
the Roland was.
Here's what it looks like at the
moment. The Roland is temporarily setup as I am transferring data to the
The plan is to move tracks
recorded on the Roland over, then start mixing the album. I've already
done some of the work, but there's lots to do. In the meantime, we'll
finish recording these last few songs.
Finally finished remodeling the
kitchen area of the house. It took forever, but in the end looks great.
It's such a pleasure to cook in a fully appointed kitchen.
We had our stairpost restored and
it looks like new:
The dogs love it, too:
The TV viewing section of the
Let's make a sauce!
For the rest of the winter, we'll
cook and hang out in this new part of the house. We may put on a few
pounds, but we'll be comfy.
October 2014 Written By Bruce Williams
I can't believe I haven't added a
bit here since July! I guess I don't spend as much time on the website
as I used to, although it's still very important to me. When I was
gigging regularly, I used this site a lot for presenting my various
musical acts to prospective clients. The most important aspect of this
site has always been the memorial section, which is dedicated to fallen
comrades. I've gotten a huge amount of feedback from it, and I continue
to amend this section when I can.
Still recording that album, and
the results have been really good. All our sessions have been a lot of
fun, with great collaboration and lots of creative ideas. We just
finished "Air France", a song I wrote only a few months ago, based on a
groove I wrote about 7 years ago. We're now working on "Downhill Dancer"
a song I wrote about 9 years ago, and have performed with my old trio
and a few iterations of my old 4 piece band. The guys came up with a
fresh approach for this one, which really breathes new life into the
A couple more songs and we'll wrap
this thing. It's going to be a great album, thanks to this crew of
I took the gazebo tent down from
the yard today, a sure sign winter is looming. Hopefully, we'll finish
this remodeling before Thanksgiving, but it's going to be close.
July 2014 Written By Bruce Williams
I've lived on Highland Lake for 33
years, and have caught a huge number of fish, mostly bass, northern and
Son Rob and I were out fishing on July 22nd, and we were actually on our
way back to our pier. We were cruising along the outside of the lily
pads and both of us were taking a few final casts for the day. I was
using a white "L" spinner and my spinning rod, a Shakespeare 'Ugly
Stick' equipped with a Mitchell 300 reel. I was using 8 pound test with
a 60 pound mono leader. The water depth here is about 4 feet.
I was casting the lure way out in
front of the boat as we slowly headed home, and I was not letting it
sink too much after it hit the water, keeping it just a few inches below
the surface using a fairly rapid retrieve. Suddenly it felt like I had
hit a log or something. Had it been weeds, I would have been able to
pull it through to free the lure, but this was different. As I gave it a
yank, I suddenly felt the fish and knew it was a monster. I applied
pressure and held the rod tip high and the fish surfaced. At first
glimpse one might have thought this was a northern, but the coloring was
different and this fish was much larger than the northern we normally
catch here. He went back down and ran to one side as I tried to
control the drag on the reel. I set it to maximum drag and fought him
hard and he surfaced again, this time closer to the boat and both Rob
and I knew that this was a big musky!
We finally got it into the boat,
thanks to Rob somehow getting our smaller bass net around the beast. We
took a few pictures and released the fish.
June 2014 Written By Bruce Williams
Bobby Womack gone. He was a great one. Amazing writer, arranger and
performing artist. After I read Greg Kot's obit this morning, I sent
him the following e-mail:
I've admired your writing for years, and have always thought your
reviews were thorough and fair. I'm writing today because I just
read your article on the passing of the great Bobby Womack, and was
surprised you didn't make mention of the fact that Womack wrote "Breezin'",
which was a huge hit for George Bensen. The original recording of
this song, which Womack did with Gabor Szabo, is truly wondrous. It
has those intangible qualities that separate artists like Womack
from the pack. He plays rhythm guitar on the record, accompanying
Szabo with subtle passages, carefully supporting the simple melody.
Bensen's version pales when compared side-by-side. As in a lot of
Womack's work, there are little things in the arrangement that make
the song unique. "That's The Way I Feel About You" comes to mind,
another of his works where he handles each verse differently, even
adding an unexpected chord here and there.
The inclusion of Breezin in your article might have shown Womack's
amazing diversity as an artist, and even educated those who think
it's a George Bensen song.
Keep up the great work!
I never write letters like this, but felt compelled in this case
because Womack was always under appreciated, in my opinion.
I've been fishing a lot, and catching some beauties. I caught
this June 25th, along with a few nice bass and another, smaller
northern. I caught this monster on a top-water frog bait son Rob
gave me for father's day. The strike was so hard he rupturd the frog
bait, and the fight was spectacular!
May 2014 Written By Bruce Williams
My 24 track digital recorder is
made by Roland, and like most computer based gear, grew obsolete
quickly. The DVD drive pooped out, so I had to find a replacement and
swap it out. Roland wanted 500 clams for their replacement part, but
thanks to the resident expertise within the users group I belong to, I
found one for $55.
Changing the hardware was similar
to working on a desktop computer. I flipped it on it's back...
Took off the bottom...and swapped
out the drives. It wasn't that bad. I just kept all the screws in little
tubs as there were about 30 of them, all different sizes.
Of course I had a guitar nearby
for when I needed a little break (and a sweet roll...). I also took the
opportunity to rid any dust from the inside of the recorder and gave it
a good cleaning.
The repair worked and up I'm back
up and running again. Yay!
So far the fishing has been great
this year. Lots of minnows around the pier.
I had to downsize the pier as the
ice trashed our old one, big time. This will do for now...
Here's King Robinson with a nice
northern caught from the lake I live on...Besides being a Hell of a
bluesman and environmentalist, he's quite the fisherman....
May 28, 2014
The other night I saw Slash play
the national anthem at the opening of the hockey game. I'm not a metal
guy, and I admit I frown upon artists who change their name to a one
word moniker, but my comments today are more about originality than
anything. When Hendrix played The Star Spangled Banner at Woodstock, it
was a surprise. It also seemed to be a musical commentary on the
gathering of all those people, amassing in defiance of 'the man' and the
conventions of the time. Most of the people who saw Slash do his thing
weren't even born when Hendrix blew everyone away with his solo anthem.
What guitarist would have the balls to steal Hendrix's thing and try and
duplicate it? On top of that, it was a rather boring and uninspired
rendition of the song. And what's with the top hat? Does he have a bald
spot? I wore a hat like that in high school....
If I want to hear The Star
Spangled Banner played on the guitar, there's only one version I would
want to hear, requiring me to find my Woodstock DVD and hear Jimi do it.
In fact, in the case of Hendrix and many other iconic musicians from the
past, I would never want to hear these signature awesome songs
reinterpreted. When I want to hear them, I'll listen to the original
Several years ago when I was still
in the advertising racket, I was in Seattle for a speaking engagement.
After fulfilling my responsibilities for the day, I ventured out that
night to check out the local music scene. I found a bar downtown off
Elliot Avenue where an open mic jam was being held. I didn't have a
guitar with me on this trip, but in the back of my mind I wanted to play
and was hoping I could borrow a guitar for a few songs. When I walked in
and scanned the room, there were at least 10 guys dressed up like Jimi
and waiting to jam. Some of these dudes went to great lengths to find
the little vests that Jimi wore, with the dangling tassles...and several
of them had their hair done up afro style. Most of them had Strats and
were strutting around like they were their hero incarnate. I watched a
few of these guys perform and they were so-so. Some had Jimi's
'choreography' down, complete with facial expressions. The longer I
stayed, the less I wanted to sit in. There was one standout performer, a
roundish black guy with a Les Paul who played a Freddie King song and a
few other blues numbers. I checked him out, finished my drink and left,
kind of chuckling at this scene of copycats.
For Slash, maybe he thinks he's so
great that he can get away with his pre-game performances of the anthem,
even though he's copying Hendrix out of context. Perhaps he's found that
these 'game gigs' pay well and good for him. He may have no problem
doing this routine, maybe even positioning it as some kind of tribute to
Jimi, but one has to wonder if deep down, he knows it's a cheap rip-off,
complete with wah-wah.
April 2014 Written By Bruce Williams
Perhaps I jumped the gun a little
bit on the Spring thing...
The good news is that my mom had a
successful procedure done at the hospital and went home today. She
painted me this small portrait for my birthday.
My mom is so talented.
April 2014 Written By Bruce Williams
What a relief! April 9th was a
great weather day here, our first one of the year really. Rob, Margie
and Dan came over to celebrate Mary's B-Day. Dan came early and made us
an outstanding breakfast including delicious waffles. We hung out by the
lake and of course Rob couldn't wait to get a lure in the water. He
bagged his first bass of the year and it was a beauty! We've all had
good luck right from shore on this lake, it's truly remarkable.
A little later we tried out my new
trolling motor for the first time. It was a Christmas present I've been
eager to get going. We took the dogs along and they dug it. It took Ty a
few minutes to adjust, as I'm pretty sure that was his first boat ride.
Here we are cruising near the wood
duck houses Mark Rosemeyer recently put in.
Spring has finally sprung!
March 2014 Written By Bruce Williams
I can't believe I haven't added
anything to my newsletter since November. It's been a grueling Winter
with too much cold and even a little too much snow for me, and I love
snow. Seems like a lot of us didn't go out as much and stayed in the
warmth of our homes.
project is coming along really well, albeit slower than I had hoped. The
musical product is outstanding. I've done a few gigs with this crew,
too, and the live results are compelling. It's also good for us to play
outside of the studio, just to get to know each other more from a
In spite of the brutal season, I
have this lucky feeling about things. Every time I walk out my front
door, I remember a day back in early December when I walked out to get
the paper, still rubbing the sleep out of my eyes. There's five cement
steps leading from my front porch to the driveway. I didn't even notice
that there was a thin coating of ice on the stairs. When my foot arrived
at the top of the stairs, I planted it and it just shot forward on the
ice and my legs went out from under me. I flew towards the bottom of the
stairs, upper back first, and my body tumbled backwards as it descended.
When I finally landed, I found my self on the ground just past the
bottom stair. My head had just missed the bottom step and my shoulder
broke the fall. I felt the stair graze my head as I came down. I just
laid there on the cold ground for a time and collected my thoughts, and
then realized how lucky I was that I didn't crack my head open or break
my neck. It was probably a good thing it happened, even though I was
sore for a few days. Now I'm particularly careful walking on the ice and
The holidays were good, the family
is doing good...no gripes. We have gone bowling a few times with the
kids to break the monotony of the cold. That's been fun, even though I'm
not the best bowler. It's just good to hang with the people you care
about and good to laugh.
continue to work on overdubs between recording sessions, and have even
started editing some of these songs. It's hard to say when this project
will get completed, but I hope to have all the recording done in the
next 4 months or so.
as my hydro garden downstairs, it's been a rough Winter. The long
stretches of cold killed off a few rounds of planting. The garden is in
a cold basement and even with a space heater going it was simply too
much for the plants. They like a tropical environment, really. Then I
recently lost a batch of seedlings I was germinating for the same
reasons. So I'm starting over, but at least now the weather is getting
milder and they'll have a chance.
Like the last few years, I'll also be
starting some plants downstairs to move to the outside garden to give
them a head-start.
After having veggies and herbs
during the Winter the last few years, it was hard to adjust. Next Winter
I might seal off the outer room more with plastic in case we have
another extremely cold season. That will help retain heat in the area
and promote humidity.
November 2013 Written By Bruce Williams
Lots going on for me in November!
Working on the new album with a great crew of musicians: Bill Cornish on
keys, Greg James on bass and the incomparable Dave Harris on drums. It's
hard to assemble this crew because all these guys are busy, but it's
worth the wait.
Attended my old friend Kirk
Moulton's 60th birthday party recently. He brought a select group of his
old friends down to the House of Blues Gospel Brunch. Great show, and
really nice to see the old gang.
L to R: Hayden Conant, Edie Newman, Melissa Conant, Kirk Moulton, Val
Moulton, Nancy and Tony Marshall
Newman and Edie
The Gospel Show!
Quit smoking and am doing great.
Entering my 3rd week and feel very confident, although it hasn't been
easy. I know I've been a pain in the ass to live with. I am getting a
lot done around here, though. Lots of energy! I've been organizing
pictures and other memorabilia. Revamped and rewired my studio. I had to
clean the studio to get the smoke smell out. And I cleared out a lot of
unnecessary gear and cabinets and stuff so there's more room for the
My babies in a clean studio!
October 2013 Written By Bruce Williams
The Tavis Smiley Show recently
featured an interview with Robbie Robertson, who was there to promote a
book about iconic musicians ("Legends, Icons & Rebels: Music That
Changed The World" Tundia Books). The purpose of the book is to educate
younger people about some of the great artists who changed the landscape
of music and culture. Louie Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Jordan,
Bob Dylan and
Buddy Holly are among those featured. The book comes with a CD, as well. In his conversation with Smiley,
Robertson talked about how those of us around in the 60's were exposed
to not only a musical revolution, but also a period of discovery, as
record albums from all genres were surfacing and made available to
interested listeners. During the interview, a comparison was made to the
current state of the music industry, which of course was unfavorable.
Smiley is known as a champion of musical talent, and bashed the
mainstream artists of today, and who can blame him?
How did we get here? How could the
same culture that gave us the artists mentioned in the book now have us
worshiping musical drivel? How many times have I turned on the TV only
to see musical acts where a female lead singer is wearing something akin
to a bathing suit, doing silly dance steps and performing songs that
have little meaning and are devoid of any musical integrity? It can't
all be the fault of Madonna, although she certainly popularized this
silly kind of act.
For me, music is more about
hearing than seeing. When I first heard The Temptations, I
thought...'wow! this is great music....awesome harmonies...great songs
and arrangements...' But then when I saw them on TV, doing their
'steps', I was kind of turned off. T-Bone Walker made some great music,
but I have no interest in seeing someone play the guitar with their
teeth (sorry, Jimmy).
I'll never forget the first time I
heard Hendrix. It was 1967 and a few of us were hanging around with some
guys a few years older then us. One of these guys saw us milling about
in his front yard and asked us if we wanted to hear this new record
album he had just bought. It was Hendrix's 'Are You Experienced'. I had
never heard of this Hendrix guy, but before he put the record on, I
noticed the wacky graphics on the album cover. Then the record started
playing, and I heard these sounds I had never heard before as 'Foxy
Lady' filled the room. What the fuck was this? It was revolutionary. It
changed my perception of music.
About a year later, I saw Hendrix
live at The Opera House in Chicago and saw Hendrix doing the T-Bone
Walker thing, and saw him light his guitar on fire and all that. It was
needless for him to put on 'the show', because the music was so powerful
on it's own. And of course we all later learned that the pressure on
Hendrix to keep that crap in his performances really bummed him out.
I guess I liked a few songs by
"The Who" way back then, but was totally turned off by their guitar and
amp smashing routine. It was choreographed to be this rebellious and
spontaneous act, and yet they did it at every show, right on cue. How
stupid. Even Townsend's 'windmill' action while playing the guitar
seemed dumb and meaningless.
I can't include Rap in this
debate, because I don't consider that genre music, really. It's 'bad
poetry with sounds' or something. And most of the lyrics are
superficial, silly and meaningless.
I think one of the reasons Adele
hit it so big is because she can actually sing, and even though her
songs aren't that compelling, maybe the masses actually long for
performances with substance and vocals that are strong. The same is
probably true of the success of Susan Boyle. These singers stand out
more because there's so much crappy music in the mainstream. Neither of
these singers, however, stands up against someone like Sarah Vaughan or
even a Joni Mitchell.
The marketing machine of the music
industry looks for potential stars that they can brand and package,
ignoring the musical side to focus on appearance or gimmick. There are
so many people out there willing to do anything to become famous, which
only feeds the machine with more and more opportunities to flood the
airwaves with mediocre musical acts. The mainstream, music buying public
seems to gobble up all this crap. That doesn't bode well for the state
of our culture, once rich with a diverse range of musical offerings
coveted by true music lovers.
There will always be a
'teeny-bopper' market, ala the performers emerging from Disney's
Mouseketeers, the silly boy groups and the shouting female 'singers'
with their silly dance shows. One would think that their star-struck
audiences would grow older and eventually discover real music and eschew
the nonsense of their youth, but that isn't the case I guess. Perhaps
they don't have the curiosity or interest to seek out music that really
touches their heart because they just don't know better. The young
audiences of today were raised on crap music and just aren't exposed to
good music because it's not readily available. Nowadays, one has to
search for it, or stumble onto something like the ken Burns jazz
documentary, or find their grandmother's old record collection.
The Robbie Robertson book is
important because maybe it will inspire more young people to appreciate
music that is timeless. Maybe a few of these readers will learn
something from the masters, once they are exposed to their awe inspiring
Volume Thirty-three September 2013 Written By Bruce Williams
In recording mode now. Trying not to
take any more shitty gigs just for the sake of gigging. Luckily,
there's still a few places around where the music is appreciated, the
pay is up to par, and where the musicians are treated well. The
festivals are usually fun, too, as are private parties. There's nothing
quite as musically satisfying as recording though. I'm working on a new
album of original songs, including several instrumentals. At the same
time, I'm mixing and still adding parts to an album of cover material. I
need to focus and crank this shit out!
The hydro garden downstairs is in
full harvest mode, with several peppers a day ready for the picking. The
outdoor garden is also producing a nice crop of tomatoes and hot
The hydro garden, however, really
responded to some new chemistry I tried. The growth down there is
Mac and Tyson playing with a stick in
Volume Thirty-two May 2013 Written By Bruce Williams
I finally changed over my irrigation
system in my hydro garden. What a bitch to clean! I had shut this
station down when my last crop of basil and bell peppers fizzled out a
few months ago. I had been procrastinating, but the seedlings were
pushing up against the top of the germinating lid, so it was time. This
time, all 10 plants in the station are basil. Last time, I had basil and
other plants, as well. I'm hoping to grow a shitload of the stuff,
because you can't have too much basil....Especially if you dig pesto.
When the seedlings are this young,
I don't add any chemicals. I just make sure the Ph is perfect. When the
plants adjust to their new home, I'll add the proper nutrients.
I cleaned the outer grow room up,
too, as it was really getting out of hand.
Well, Dan left the band citing his
mayoral responsibilities. I knew it was a possibility, but we'll miss
him! We do have a few upcoming shows together, which I'll look forward
Celebrated Ronnie 2X birthday at AJ's
5/15/13....Fun to jam with my friend on his B-Day!
Ron Cacioppo......55 years young!
Mary and John celebrating with Ronnie
Also met JB Richie for the first time
and saw him play. He sounded great! He did a tasty set in a trio format
with John Linczmaier on drums and a really solid bass player I didn't
know. It's always refreshing to see a blues guitarist who's not trying
to sound like Clapton or SRV...this guy appears to have learned the
blues from the original artists and is doing his own interpretations of
the songs. My kind of guy.
The lone artichoke continues to
grow in my hydro garden...
And the other plants are doing
I keep track of temp and humidity
with one of these:
I'm still harvesting red bell
peppers pretty regularly, although today was the first one in a month or
two, as I had to wait out the cycle on a few of the plants. These
hydroponically grown peppers are so juicy that liquid squirts out when
you cut them, and the flavor is somehow more pronounced. Tonight I made
stuffed chicken breasts using these fresh peppers. I pounded out the
breasts and layered in uncut basil leaves, prosciutto, the red bell
pepper (julienne cut), yellow onion & feta cheese. Then I rolled them up
and secured them for baking. I basted them in butter a few times during
the cooking process. I served it with a white wine and cream sauce made
from homemade chicken stock. The sides are angel hair with jalapeno
pepper and steamed broccoli.
Not much else going on right
now...I did pull the boats out of their Winter storage spots this
weekend, and dragged them down by the lake. Also went fishing with son
Rob yesterday and caught my first bass of the season...just a little
guy, but it counts!
April 2013 Written By Bruce Williams
Well, Dan won the mayoral race, so my
trusty guitarist is a mayor....a first for me as a bandleader....hehe...and
a first for him, as well. I know he'll be a good mayor, and he's a good
Well, the artichoke experiment
worked. So much of this gardening stuff is trial and error, even though
there's great resources for info on the internet. Not much on growing
artichokes hydroponically, however. But after switching the light
cycle and chemistry, I finally have an artichoke!
It doesn't look like much right
now, but we'll see what happens. As usual, the peppers are producing
well, although these pepper plants in the 'flower' room produced product
faster than any pepper I've grown because I forced them to flower.
Another unexpected result is larger peppers. We'll see how that plays
out with the other plants.
I recently germinated some tomato
seeds and a few days ago transplanted them to pots. These are for the
outside garden. I hope by mid-May they are a least a foot high. Last
year I kept them hydroponically until moving them outside, so we'll see
if this makes any difference. We had a good crop last year, but I want
The bad news is, my wife Mary broke
her leg last month slipping on the ice in our driveway. After surgery, a
metal plate and a lot of pain and discomfort, she's finally on the
The band is having fun playing at
The Full Slab every Friday night. The challenge has been to learn more
songs so our material doesn't get stale over there. We still have our
'signature songs', of course, but it's fun learning new stuff, and fun
figuring out how to arrange it properly for our band. The plan is to add
more of my originals, too.
Like everyone else around here,
I'm waiting for the weather to get better.
February 2013 Written By Bruce Williams
This is the time of year when one
gets the itch to end the hibernation of Winter and get outdoors again.
Of course, the weather won't cooperate for awhile, but we can at least
begin to look forward to Spring. In the meantime, like last year, I'll
soon be starting some plants downstairs that will end up in the outdoor
garden in early Spring. Last year we had a huge bounty of tomatoes and
peppers because of this preparation.
I finally moved the artichokes into
the back grow room and switched the lights to a 12 X 12 hour cycle, and
also goosed the chemistry to stimulate flowering. I threw a few pepper
plants in there with them, to see what effect the new cycle will have on
young pepper plants. I'm hoping they'll produce sooner and longer.
In the picture below of the
outer grow room, you can see the old basil plants on the left phasing
out, the new plants in the tray, and a few buckets (dill, parsley and
Other than the garden, Mary and I
have been slowly organizing the house...room-by-room. We both have so
many clothes that don't fit and even though we've become better at
throwing stuff out, we still have too much junk in this house.
The band just played a fund raising
benefit for our guitarist, Dan MacGillis, who is running for Mayor of
I continue working to complete
unfinished studio projects, and I don't see an end to it for awhile. I
have lots of material I've recorded over the last several years,
featuring some great players, and I need to put it out there so others
can hear it. There's some really good stuff!
October 2012 Written By Bruce Williams
Gigs remained pretty slow this
Summer, although we did have some special ones, especially the McHenry
Blues Fest in August. Also doing some fun things in the studio.
The outdoor garden continued to
produce veggies and herbs all season, and there's still much to be
The artichokes I started in the
hydroponic garden last Spring haven't really matured as I would have
hoped, with 3 out of 5 surviving. Two of them look pretty strong and I'm
just going to keep them going to see what happens. Production in the
hydroponic garden will improve now that I won't be focusing on the
outdoor garden for too much longer. I need to be more diligent with
changing chemistry, staying on top of the ever growing algae, etc.
June 2012 Written By Bruce Williams
I meant to post something when I
moved the plants I had started hydroponically outside to the garden, but
forgot about it. Some of them were huge.
Anyway, the outside garden includes:
Beefsteak tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, red bell pepper, jalapeno pepper,
Italian basil, cayenne pepper, garlic, yellow onion, zucchini and some
chives that aren't doing that well.
Garden from the front
Garden from the west
Tomatoes already! Both varieties
Peppers doing great, although one
is always thirsty
Big zucchini plants!!
Really Healthy looking taters!
So this year it looks like lots of
salsa and tomato sauces among other things!
Gigs are still pretty slow, so
I've been devoting a lot of time to the garden, plus the basement garden
is in full swing, too. I've been having fun lately working in the studio
on the song I co-wrote with Ronnie2X, titled, "Maybe Things Aren't So
Bad"...With Tim Williams on drums and brother Dave on bass, we laid down
the rhythm track a few weeks ago. Last Monday Tom, Ronnie and I put down
a percussion track, and "Lightning" George Lebongood is going to do a
slide guitar track next. That and some BU vocals, and the song will be
ready to mix. I'm excited about this one because the song rocks and it
has a great message in Ron's lyrics.
Here's Ron & I on playback Monday
I've also been working with Martha
Egan (Jimmy's daughter) on her songs, helping her develop recordings of
her material. She's very talented and has a great voice, so it's been
fun capturing her performances in the studio.
April 2012 Written By Bruce Williams
Tomorrow I turn 60....WOW! Time flies
when you're having fun, I guess...I feel like a survivor more than
anything. So many of my old friends and relatives are gone. And the year
I was born, 1952, seems like some old date on a timeline in a history
book. Glad I still have most of my hair and teeth, and my health is
holding so I have to feel lucky and blessed.
The hydro garden is in it's second
year, and I just finished starting the second generation of plants. The
only plant still going from the first batch is the parsley, which shows
no signs of fading. I did start some more, just in case.
Here's the new stuff, including the
old parsley plant on the right ...
This year I started plants indoors
which we will plant in our garden in a few weeks. They are isolated in
the back grow room as they are on a 12/12 light cycle so they will be
acclimated to the natural day and night. Zucchini, 2 different varieties
of tomato, onions, chives, and peppers are all doing great!
I am germinating more seeds for both
indoor and outdoor use. We plan on having a large supply of herbs and
veggies this year.
This year I'm trying to grow
artichokes for the first time. A couple of plants died when I
transplanted them from the germinating tray, so I started more. It would
be awesome if I can successfully produce these babies!
Here's a photo of our last snowstorm
of the Winter (it better be our last one...hehe). This was almost a
month ago. I took this out the back window because I didn't feel like
Gigs are still on the
slow side, but I'm keeping busy musically by continuing to finish old
recording projects, and trying to finish up on a bunch of songs I
started writing but haven't finished. I had Brian Taylor come over a few
weeks ago to add a sax track to one of my original instrumentals (came
out great!), and have been bouncing between working on guitar tracks and
trying to develop lyrics...
This mess on the floor at my feet pretty much says it all....
January 2012 Written By Bruce Williams
This is when the hydro garden
really pays off.
I shut down one station, leaving
me with two, the irrigation system and one ebb & flow. It's time to
germinate some seeds and get a new generation going. The basil is
finally thinning out and going to flower. The peppers still look like
they have more to produce.
The knee is doing well, and I have
a gig Friday that I'm looking forward to. Back in the saddle again!
I've been having fun with Dan
McGillis, as he had agreed to play guitar in my band. He's a great guy
and an outstanding musician...a lot of fun to play with.
December 2011 Written By Bruce Williams
In August I spent a lot of time
helping son Rob refurbish his fishing boat so it would be ready for his
vacation in Eagle River, WI. It was a fun 'father-son' project and the
boat came out great. We repaired some damage in the fiberglass, added a
fishing deck on the bow and repainted it. We also installed a trolling
motor, a fish finder and an automatic battery charger. It came out
great, and Rob caught his first ever muskie on his trip!
Shortly after that I realized I
had injured my knee...probably a combination of building the new pier,
doing too much yard work and stuff, and I'm an out -of-shape old fart.
I realize that I'm getting older and have to take it easier on this aged
body. So after awhile it became apparent that it wasn't just a sore knee
and I went to an ortho guy and found out I had torn my meniscus in my
knee. December 8th I had arthroscopic surgery and am now in physical
therapy. The prognosis is good and my therapist is very optimistic about
my full recovery. I'll be ready to play gigs again my the first of the
My family has been very helpful
and generous during this time, taking some of the sting out of being
somewhat immobile and confined. They set up a little 'man-cave' in my
recording studio, complete with PC, XBOX, an excer-cycle, and I have
access to the guitar, keyboard and drums. My physical therapist approved
my request to work the drum kick pedal into my recovery therapy, so I'm
looking forward to learning a few new patterns, while at the same time
helping my knee.
I'm also going to work on some
unfinished recording projects. I have an endless list of projects that
need new vocals and guitar parts. This is a good time to make a dent in
This experience has taught me to
be more careful with my body, and more importantly...it's about time I
started thing about a more preventative approach if I want to remain
active in music and performing. I don't want anything to interfere with
my ability to play music publicly.
Finally, the garden has been
producing product throughout the fall. We have a steady supply of bell
peppers, basil, parsley, cayenne and jalapeño peppers, and a small batch
of cilantro. When I'm more 'stair-friendly' I plan on germinating some
new seeds and will add some new plants. The tomatoes never did produce,
and the zucchini died after producing one melon. I think next year I'll
grow those two crops conventionally out in our dirt garden. They take up
too much space, anyway. I'm learning as I go, but am very pleased so far
with the results overall.
August 2011 Written By Bruce Williams
What about this heat? Damn! One of
the things I usually look forward to during the summer is playing music
out in my backyard, but it's been so hot that it just hasn't happened.
It seems like our air conditioning has been running 24/7 for the last
My hydro garden is producing well.
We've been eating onions, red bell peppers and herbs regularly.
Unfortunately I lost the lettuce, mainly because I took my eye off the
ball briefly. The lettuce was in the drip system adjacent to the
basil, and on the grow light side of things. The basil ended up blocking
the light on the lettuce and killed it. That's my theory anyway.
Here's my basil 'forest'....
I've learned a lot in this first
attempt at indoor hydro gardening, and perhaps the biggest lesson is not
to try too much all at once. There's just too much going on in my garden
to keep up with it all, and not enough space to have so many different
Delicious red bell peppers...
I rebuilt our pier a few weeks
ago. It's not a removable pier and the ice movement takes it's toll
every winter, so it had to be done. It came out great.
Now we just need some decent
weather so we can enjoy it! Mary always dresses up the pier with her
flowers, and this year they are thriving and looking awesome.
On the music front, gigs are still
slow, but I've been using the extra time to work on recording and
June 2011 Written By Bruce Williams
Work for the band and the duet has
been rather slow, so I've been focusing on writing and recording lately.
I'm spending a lot of time in my indoor hydroponic garden, too.
Here's a little update:
All plants are doing great, and in
this picture you can see how huge the zucchini is getting. I need to
construct a little wire cage for the vine to climb. The herb plants are
all yielding a continuous flow of delicious tastes to our table.
This pic below shows how well the
red bell peppers are doing. I have a few onions there, too.
Below...the peppers are blooming!
Should see little peppers soon. I'll be pollinating using a little paint
brush, simulating what a bee would do...
If you look closely in the pic
below, you can see little flowers starting to bud, so the tomatoes are
about ready to do their thing, too. A fan is enough to pollinate these
Other than that, I am working on
updating some songs I wrote long ago. There's some good stuff there, but
much of it needs refinement or a fresh, contemporary approach.
And this time of year I am
spending a lot of time working in the yard or working on this old house
we live in (built in 1916). On many evenings I'm sitting back somewhere
in the yard playing acoustic guitar and enjoying the lake.
UPDATE: June 20th, 2011
The kids bought me a drip system
for my garden for Father's Day! Now I'm using 3 different type of water oriented
grow systems in my garden...hydroponic, aeroponic and this new drip
irrigation system. This technique pumps water from a reservoir up
through a hose and into a separate spigot for each plant. A timer is
used to regulate the water flow so the plant medium is alternately
saturated and then devoid of water ,so the plant receives oxygen between
feedings. For starters, I'm feeding for an hour...then off for 2 hours,
and so on. This is one of those things where I'll monitor the plant and
Here's a pic of the new setup..
I moved the basil into the tray on
the left, which gives me a bunch of room in the tray in Ebb & Flow
system #1. I promptly filled that extra space with jalapeno & cayenne
peppers and parsley. In the right tray I planted my recently germinated
iceberg lettuce. After assembling the new gear, I spent most of
the rest of the day pruning my tomato plants and staking them up better,
changing solution and improving the safety of the power cords. With 2
different lights and 3 different pump systems, plus the air pumps for
the bubbler pots, the fans and the seedling gro-lights, there must be 20
different things plugged in...some with timers. It was becoming a mess,
but now there are no cables on the floor in case of spillage and it
appears organized. I also added a dehumidifier to the mix, as the
humidity this time of year demands it. The unit discharges
directly into my sump pit so I don't have to worry about emptying a
The zucchini plants (2) are
getting scary big!
In another few days, I'll start
threading the vines into the trellis...
Here's the other tray without the
basil and with the new plants...
So once again, the garden changes
shape as it evolves...
Most of the tomatoes are now in a
big row in front of Ebb & Flow #2 and the new drip system. I may have to
add some supplemental florescent light to cover them all sufficiently.
UPDATE: (June 25th, 2011) I
have bell peppers!
April 2011 Written By Bruce Williams
Last year I reconnected with old
friend Jim Tulio, a successful music producer with a recording studio in
Evanston. Jim is one of the many wonderful people introduced to me by
the late, great Mark Hannon. Tulio related a story to me about how he
got involved with Bill Dillon, the man recently released from a Florida
prison after being wrongfully incarcerated for over 25 years. Jim saw
the story on a Cold Case Files episode and was intrigued. Bill Dillon
had learned how to play guitar and write music while in prison, and had
written a bunch of songs. Tulio offered to produce an album for him for
free, without even hearing the guy's music. I was so touched by
the whole thing, that it inspired me to write this poem, which Tulio was
kind enough to share with Bill:
If I Could Fly
Dedicated to Bill
Copyright B. Williams 8/16/10
Saw a bird over the yard
soaring in the breeze
And I heard from a far
a sound like wind through the trees
Eerily talking to me…
This somehow brings me hope
‘cause I make up the words
And little did I know
It would give me the courage
To believe what I heard
If I could fly, if I could fly
Over, these walls of steel and stone
If I could fly, my oh my
I’d fly away home
The world in my mind
Is where I want to be
There’s a girl there I find
She waits so patiently
Until I leave reality
If I could fly, if I could fly
Over, these walls of steel and stone
If I could fly, my oh my
I’d fly away home
learn more about the William Dillon story, check this link:
The Innocence Project
check out Tulio's collaboration with William Dillon:
Chicago Tribune Article
hear Bill Dillon sing a song off the album:
At Our Doorstep
For my recent birthday, Mary and
the kids gave me the equipment I needed to start an indoor
hydroponic herb and vegetable garden, something I really wanted. This
will allow us to enjoy produce all year around, plus it's organic and
you just can't beat freshness like that.
I put the operation in what used to
be the furnace room in the basement. The room had to be cleared out as
it was full of parts of the old coal burning furnace, bricks and junk
that had been thrown in there over the last 50 years, including a few
antique bottles. Once it was cleared out, I lined part of the room in
plastic, over a wood framework. The hydro system is what is called 'Ebb
and Flow', that pumps fertilized water out of a reservoir and into
the plant bed 4 times a day, all the while under a strong light source.
Since this is my first attempt at
this, I kept it simple and planted tomatoes, red bell peppers, onions,
thyme, cilantro, basil and parsley.
This is the room...
Here's a few more pics showing more
These pics were taken this morning
(April 27th, 2011) showing the growth 14 days after I transplanted the
seedlings from the sprout tray into the hydro garden.
When the plants start getting bigger,
my plan is to move the tomatoes and peppers into their own buckets which
will employ a 'bubbler' in each container. A pump will force air through
a hose under the plant roots so the plants are constantly bathed in
aerated water, rich in nutrients. That will give me more room in the
main tray for the herbs and smaller plants.
If things go well, I may expand the
room further back into the furnace room so I can have two different
platforms with separate light sources. A curtain will divide these two
sections, so I can maintain both a room for growing plants to maturity,
and then another room for blooming, which requires a different light
cycle and a different blend of nutrients.
These first plants were raised from
seedlings germinated in peat moss, but I plan to germinate the next
batch of seeds hydroponically, so my operation will be 100% water.
Stay tuned to see how it goes!
UPDATE: Here's a pic of the plants
only 5 days after the above pics were taken:
The plants have almost doubled in
size! It looks like they are really digging the extra plant food! I also
installed a radio in the grow room and are turning the plants on to
classical and Mexican music (the cilantro)...
UPDATE: Yesterday I increased the
feeding schedule from 4X a day to 6X a day. As you can see, the plants
are all thriving and growing quickly. I'll be transplanting the
tomatoes soon, as they're starting to take over, and block the light. I
rearranged the plants to help alleviate this.
UPDATE: As you can see from the
picture below, I did add the hydro bubble pots to the garden. There are
now 6 tomato plants outside the ebb & flow tray, giving me much more
room for the other plants to flourish.
I may have to go to a stronger light
source or add a reflector to cover the additional area. In the meantime,
I've started germinating seeds for the next crop! I'm going with
cilantro and parsley again, but am trying jalapeno and cayenne peppers,
zucchini, and yellow onions this time.
I did some new research and am now
shutting down the light for 4 hours a day instead of running the grow
light 24/7. To avoid having to install a curtain between my sprout area
and my grow area, I put the light for the germinating seeds on the same
UPDATE: 5/17/11....At this point
we're starting to eat some of the herbs. So far we've had basil and
cilantro, both delicious. I've had to start staking up a few of
the plants and soon will have to stake the tomatoes.
This pic below shows the new sprouts
starting to come up, most notably the yellow onions...
UPDATE: I couldn't help myself...had
to expand. In the beginning I told myself that if the garden does
well, then I must make it larger. I knew going in that I had to grow
enough plants to provide a continuous supply of herbs and veggies to our
table to make this all worthwhile.
I put the new ebb & flow system just
outside the door of the original room and moved all the tomatoes out
there. The light is a 400W with reflective dome. This really frees up
room in the grow trays and gives me space to bring in some new plants
from seedling. (yellow onion, jalapeno and cayenne pepper).
The above pic shows the intense
effect of the reflective dome
Still have a lot of plants that need
to be transplanted to the larger medium.
The above pic shows how much more
room there is in the original space. Now I can get back there and tend
to the plants, where before the tomato buckets blocked the way. This
will also make changing the water much easier.
Take a virtual tour through my
March 2011 Written By Bruce Williams
It's been a long and cold Winter
here in Illinois, with lots of snow and ice, but soon the rains will
come and everything dormant will come to life spectacularly. There's
nothing quite like Spring in the Midwest, as the change is so dramatic.
My band had a really fun gig at
The Irish Mill Inn in Mundelein last weekend, where we performed some
fresh new material for the first time. We added a few more of my
original songs to the mix, as well as a song I've been wanted to do for
a long time, Bobby Womack's, "That's The Way I Feel About You". When I
first started my band in 2001, we were doing mostly straight blues, but
over time our repertoire has evolved considerably. There are 17 of my
originals in the line-up now, plus carefully selected covers of great
old R&B and soul songs, a few funky-jazz offerings, and of course some
Over the Winter I refurbished a
set of timbales that were down in my basement gathering dust for the
last several years. They're old drums, so I replaced the mounts with
some new heavy-duty hardware and bought a nice new stand. After a good
cleaning and some new skins, they sound awesome, and I've been learning
how to play this difficult instrument. I've been using YouTube and
following the instruction of a guy named Tomas Ramos Ortiz a.k.a. "El
Panga". He's got a bunch of lesson videos posted and they're great. This
is all part of my fascination with Latin rhythms, and a continuation of
my belief that percussion knowledge enhances your playing on other
instruments. I've always felt that my guitar playing really improved
after I started playing drums back in the 80's. While I never became
what you might consider a very good drummer, I learned enough to better
understand different beats and developed a stronger sense of meter. It
also gave me a different perspective and a new appreciation for the
drummer's role in a band.
September 2010 Written By Bruce Williams
Had a great gig in Waukegan last
night with my brother Dave on bass and Phil "Boom-Boom" James on drums.
It's always fun to play with my brother because we automatically 'click'
making the music gel. Must be a family thing, but he's a terrific
musician and played great. Phil was simply excellent on the drums, what
This morning I woke up to a few messages from people saying my picture
was on the front page of The Waukegan News-Sun:
The gig actually came through Joel
Packer, and was put on by Waukegan's Main Street Programs, a special
committee doing a great job helping to turn Waukegan around. Waukegan is
a great little city and has so much potential, especially being on the
shore of beautiful Lake Michigan. And after all, it's the hometown of
Jack Benny! I've played a lot of events like this in the past, and this
one was obviously very well organized and i was so impressed by the
passion of all the committee members. What a great assembly of dedicated
people, and all so nice. They are really making a difference and
providing the community with some needed fun and cultural experiences.
August 2010 Written By Bruce Williams
The worst thing about 2010 has been
losing my father (see "In Memory" section). The best thing has been my
older brother Dave moving here from California. He's an interesting guy,
a very good musician and a man of great wisdom. We're doing some music
projects together, he plays with my band here and there and we have more
stuff in the works.
The highlight of the summer was being
a guest at Albert Goodman's lodge up in Northern WI. We got to hang out
with Albert and some very old friends and had great weather almost every
day. At night we would jam and party until the wee hours. This year Jim
Url was up there with his wife, Jean. He's a great bass player and also
plays a mean mandolin. Babs Hannon and her hubby Brent were also there,
and they played some really cool Latin music...she singing and playing
concertina with Brent on guitar. Later Babs would sing and Brent would
switch to drums and together we made some great music. All this was made
even better because we were playing for our friends.
Mary preparing to go hiking
in the Nicolet Forest
Last week I fixed our bicycles which were in need of repair, and the
plan is to ride a few times a week to get some more exercise. Seems like
the only work-out I get these days is lugging equipment to and from a
gig. Remind me to get a lighter guitar amp....
April 2010 Written By Bruce Williams
This has been an exciting time for me
musically, as I suddenly departed from the trio format and added an
extra piece to my group in the form of the very talented Brian Taylor.
Brian plays sax and other reeds and woodwinds, and also guitar, so his
presence will add a lot to the music. We've only had a few rehearsals so
far, and a few performances, but already I am overjoyed at the sound
we're getting. Brian will be helping with the album project, as well,
and I'm really looking forward to hearing horn arrangements on my
I learned so much playing in the
trio format. I had really never played in that format much prior to this
experience. I know it has made me a better musician, but now I am eager
to enjoy the textures and harmonies only achievable in a larger band
You really should come out and
hear this new sound!
March 2010 Written By Bruce Williams
Are Performers Pestering
Their Facebook Fans?
I've been on Facebook since nearly the beginning, and have many of my
music contacts and buddies there on my 'friends' list. It seems like
everyday I get asked to join someone's 'fan club', but I decided early
on that the whole fan thing on Facebook is a nuisance to the people who
receive the endless stream of gig invitations and fan club requests. I
haven't asked anyone to become my fan, either, and don't plan to.
Sometimes it's nicer to invite people to a gig with a friendly e-mail or
a phone call instead of the invitation style mechanism Facebook uses
requiring some kind of response. I think that's intrusive and adds to
our already cluttered mailboxes.
Facebook has some really cool
features and is a great way to keep in touch with people in real-time. I
still don't get the whole barnyard thing and really don't understand how
some people can spend so much time tending to some virtual farm. The
barnyard requests in my mailbox are just as annoying as the fan club
requests and gig invites.
I've reconnected with some folks I knew a long time ago on Facebook, and
it's really easy to find an old friend assuming they are Facebook
members. Just enter their name into the search box on your home page and
you'll get a list of people with that name. You can tell who's who
by the profile pic, the home town or some other detail.
Facebook is a great way for
musicians and artists to showcase their wares, especially with the
Reverb Nation bundle. I have several of my songs posted on my page and
one of them, "Southbound Train" has been steadily climbing the charts.
If people choose to, they can view my gig calendar and listen to some of
my music, and that's good enough for me. I hope my musician pals don't
think me a snob when I ignore the fan club requests, I just don't want
to be a part of it.
March 2010 Written By Bruce Williams
Spring is almost here, and boy am I
glad! The good thing about Winter though, is that it always brings with
it a period of creativity and production as I spend lots of time holed
up in my studio. I've been working with Joel Packer and Chris Pastin
religiously on our album project. Our first song is an original of mine
titled, "Juniper", which is coming along very nicely and will feature a
tenor sax part by Brian Taylor. It's a Latin influenced instrumental
and showcases Chris Pastin's command of not only traps, but percussion
too. He's has an incredible mastery of different rhythms, and is quite
adept at conga and hand percussion instruments. Joel is always adding
creative elements to the compositions and the guy is like "Mr. Music
Theory", so together we compliment each other with our various talents.
These guys are helping me take my songs to a new level of sophistication
and high quality, which is really exciting.
I'm working with Peter Quinn again on
some new songs, which is always fun. We somehow manage to continually
come up with compelling music together. He has such good ideas and we
both have different perspectives on certain things, but we always seem
to find that middle ground in our collaborations.
The Blue Monday jam at The Vine is
plugging along. Last week we had King Robinson in as a special guest
star and it was so much fun playing with him again, as it's been awhile.
We did a really swampy version of "The Same Thing", along with favorites
from the old Housewrecker's days. Jimmy Egan came up and added some
really tasty guitar licks to "Crawlin' Kingsnake" as we took that song
to a new and interesting place. Last year the jam closed for some of the
Winter months due to poor attendance, but this year we've remained open
all season with only a few really slow nights. I think people are
finding out that while there may be a volume issue at this jam, it's a
place to go to find really good musicians to play with. It's a small
space with so-so acoustics, so the volume needs to be controlled, but
the reality is that lower volume usually equates to better music in the
Finally, there's Mac, our dog....
Pics were taken just before we had
him trimmed last week. He loves the snow, especially when he finds a
frozen goose turd, which I think Mac believes is a special popsicle
treat just for him. That would also explain his horrible breath, too!
December 2009 Written By Bruce WilliamsI
2009 was a great year! Lot's of
family, lots of music, a few adventures, and we're all healthy which is
the biggest blessing of all. We're just lucky to be here because life is
so precious. We lost a few good friends this year....Billy Ferrick...Kimmy
Friel...very sad. We will always remember them.
On a positive note, the end of 2009
brings some new musical directions. I have started working on an album
project with Joel Packer and Chris Pastin. The album will feature a
collection of those original songs of mine that are not currently
performed in my trio. The material is mostly older, written in the 80's
and 90's. I am also getting ready to do a recording project with Andrew
Szymanski and Chris Damman, but that project is less daunting as we're
slated to record mostly songs we currently perform live. 2010 promises
to be a very musical year because of the recording, but also because of
the new ground we are breaking creatively. I am so lucky to have the
pleasure of playing with such inspiring and awesome musicians. They have
pushed me into new territory with my playing and together we are all
growing wihin our 3-piece format. It's interesting that I play regularly
with 2 different trios. My 'regular' trio is Chris Dammann on upright
bass and Andrew Szymanski on drums, and together we play most of the
gigs on my calendar. The 'other' trio has Joel Packer on bass and Chris
Pastin on drums. Together we host the Blue Monday jam every week at The
Vine of Grayslake and we do some gigs together, as well. In addition,
the guys fill in for each other if there's a date conflict so it works
out pretty well. The best news though, is I get to play with these
fantastic players. In both groups we are simultaneously discovering
these new musical paths that are really interesting and exciting. This
is all based on the fact that we've all been playing together for awhile
now and we're getting good at reading the other guy and anticipating.
This means we can do more improvisational and experimental exchanges,
yet they all seem to work out. The cool thing about that is that one
successful musical journey inspires another and each time you want to
explore further and deeper. Another very cool thing I've noticed is that
the audience really responds to this free form music. They know what's
going on and they dig it. We still play our 'regular' songs and they are
getting really tight, but on every gig we lay down some of this new
music because it's going somewhere....it's developing into a new sound
for us and I long to see where we go next.
Either way, I am the lucky one
because I continue to thrive among these great musicians. The album with
Packer and Pastin will be a gas because both these guys bring so much to
the table in terms of taking my songs to another, higher level. I'm also
really excited about bringing these older songs to life. The songs were
never appropriate for trio, and when I had a 4 piece band we were doing
mostly blues, so the songs didn't fit in. These old songs mean a lot to
me and heck, they're good songs!
Both versions of the trio have a
different sound, mainly because one has an upright bass and one has
electric bass, but it goes way beyond that. The trio's sound different
because of the different combinations of individual musicians. They have
different backgrounds, different training, influences and experience.
They all have their own individual flair and expertise they bring to
bear and it comes out in the music. I have the unique perspective, as I
pretty much do the same things with both groups, and yet the sound and
style differs greatly from one to the other. It's a super musical trip
that I'm really enjoying!!
October 2009 Written By Bruce WilliamsI
There's nothing like a camping trip
to get reacquainted with nature and to evoke the primal man within. In
late September between gigs, I talked Mary into a short camping trip to
somewhere we had never been, Yellowstone Lake, Wisconsin. We didn't want
to drive too awfully far, and this was a mere 2 and 3/4 hours from us.
We hadn't been camping in over 5 years, and I missed it having been
lucky enough to be born into a 'camping family' and having experienced
camping trips to Yosemite, The Grand Canyon, Sequoia, Lake Tahoe, Rocky
Mountain National Park, Yellowstone and many other awesome spots
including various outings to the coast of California near where I grew
up. This recent trip, however short, reminded me how great it is to
pitch a tent and cook over an open fire.
Yellowstone Lake is a 455 acre lake
nestled within a relatively small 1,000 acre state park adjacent to a
4,000 acre protected wildlife area. It's beautiful country...very hilly
and surrounded by farms. It's about 40 miles north of Monroe.
Funny, but we didn't do much more than just enjoy camping...
There were some good hiking trails, and the lake there full of
fish, but we just felt like hanging out and enjoying our spot...
The campground was virtually empty, so it was very quiet and
peaceful. I played a lot of acoustic guitar and Mary read a lot.
I did all the cooking and with the help of this tripod
contraption the boys gave me recently, I was able to regulate
the cooking temperature and everything came out really well...
It's got a grill device you can raise and lower...I made beef
stew in the dutch oven the first night, followed by an apple,
marshmallow, coconut, walnut, brown sugar and butter concoction
that cooks in the campfire embers in foil while ya eat dinner,
for dessert.The next morning I served english muffins spread
with butter and a thick layer of creme cheese, topped with an
apple, cinnamon and brown sugar sauce that I sauteed. Of course
sausage and bacon on the side and fresh squeezed orange juice...
The second night I made a chicken gumbo in the dutch oven that
really came out well. The tricky part was controlling the
temperature at the end, after I added the rice, but thanks to
the tripod, it was perfect!
For breakfast the last day, I went
all out and made an egg soufflé in the small cast iron frying
pan (covered by the lid to the Dutch oven), with cheese, onions
and red and green bell peppers. I make hash browns, pancakes,
sausage and bacon and served it with a kick-ass Bloody-Mary,
garnished with a lime and green olives speared and stuck into
the celery stalk. I have this huge cast iron frying pan about
20" in diameter for multitasking.....hehe...
I built a little shower using a solar heated water supply (a
bag you hoist into the sun with a tube and a nozzle). Since the
sun wasn't out much, the showers were cold, but hot showers were
only a short walk away within the campground. It was fun to have
our own little place to wash up anyway.
We did have a little rain the first day, and I had to resort
to using white gas to get the wet wood to catch fire.
I had come prepared and strung up a large tarp over the
campsite area, so it really wasn't bad at all. It was just
drizzling anyway. It was a bit challenging setting up camp
in the rain, but the next few days were fine.
Mary loved the camping and I think I have her talked into
doing it again in the Spring. Mac the dog did good, too. It
was his first ever camping trip.
Now I have to figure out where to go camping next,
because I definitely have the bug again!
My old friend Greg Hester, who is a very accomplished jazz
pianist, came into town on a tour with singer Elena
Welsh and stayed with Mary and I for a few days. Greg and I
grew up in Los Gatos, California. I hadn't
seen Greg in something like 39 years, although we had been
keeping touch via e-mail recently. What a great guy, and a
fantastic musician. We really had a great time together,
playing music and recording, watching old jazz videos on YouTube, eating
good food and drinking outstanding wine, and hanging out. He
even accompanied me to my gig this morning at The Community
Church of Lake Forest & Lake Bluff and played a bit on the
Steinway grand there. I had a gig there with my trio, thanks
to my friend Ken Hall their musical director (Ken plays
piano very well, but is more known as a great
vibraphonist....you can hear Ken with The Messenger
Ensemble). This is a very cool, liberal minded church with a
very dynamic minister in Tom Dickelman. Music is featured
prominently in their services and the people I've met there
are really nice.
During Greg's visit, we recorded a few
songs with the help of Joel Packer on bass and Chris Pastin
on drums. Greg loves be-bop, so we did a few of his
originals and he really pushed this old blues guy to keep up
with him....whew!! I had to dust off the old chord book on
some of his stuff, but it was so inspiring to play with him
and also to revisit that boppin' jazz that I hadn't played
for at least 30 years. I learned a bunch from him and can't
wait to do some more musical projects with him on his future
Here's Greg playing my acoustic piano at the house...
Greg also came with when I sub-hosted the Firehouse blues
jam for Crazy Al. Here's Greg doing a song with Joel and
Greg's visit was inspiring and nostalgic as we talked about
old memories from Los Gatos California, and we talked about
our old schoolmates and places we used to go. Lately I've
been yearning to visit my old home state, so maybe now I'll
get my ass out there. Greg can be seen performing with his
jazz trio throughout northern California and beyond. Thanks
for coming Greg, and thanks for buying that great wine!!
Also putting the finishing touches to the 'utility shed'
addition I built onto the workshop I built several years
ago. Now I have a place to park my lawn tractor, and a much
more suitable storage area for garden tools, camping gear,
and lots of other stuff.
Around the same time, I built this little walkway to join
the back patio to the stairs leading to the back door of the
house. About a third of the wood was recycled from an old
jungle gym from Jay Rivelli's yard...thanks, Jay!
Now I need only to scatter some grass seed and this area
will really look nice!
June 2009 Written By Bruce WilliamsI
I'm a bit behind with my newsletter.
Still reeling from the loss of old friend Billy Ferrick. Memorial jam
for him July 19th at Potato Creek Johnny's in Glenview.
Had a very nice trip to Florida
with son Rob and his wife Margie, son Dan and his GF Courtney and wife
Here's a few pics...
Above: Mary and Courtney
Above: Me biking
Above: Rob catching a snapper
Above: Dan boarding
October 2008 Written By Bruce WilliamsI
The last month has been very
eventful! It's been a gas working with songwriter/performer George
Chalifoux in my studio. We recorded 7 songs, and they all came out
great. Actually, we're still tweaking a few things. George did a great
job and laid down some great guitar tracks behind his vocals. His
original, Loose Women" is one of my favorites, with an infectious groove
and intriguing 'bar-story' lyrics, punctuated by some gut-bucket guitar
riffs throughout. His cover of Van Morrison's, "Cleaning Windows" is
magnificent, done it a new way on a creamy groove with great
guitar work by George.
Here's George laying down a guitar
Also had a ball putting together the little video for my song, "Amerika"...you
can get that on my Home page (scroll down a bit). I am now working on a
higher quality video for my song, "Something Changed". This song always
gets a very positive reaction when we perform it live, and I'm hoping it
will reach more people using the video.
I am also playing with a new bass
player, Chris Dammann, a very talented younger dude who's background is
mainly jazz. It's a perfect compliment to my songs and the arrangements
of the covers we do.
Chris plays a mean electric bass,
too, but I think we'll stick with the upright on most of the material.
I'm working on finishing tracks in my studio. I have a bunch of songs
that still need work, including the last 2 sessions I did with Ed
Williams before he moved. I also have a few new songs in the
works, which I hope to record with the band soon.
September 2008 Written By Bruce WilliamsI
The Monday night open mic blues jam
at The Vine is no longer, but it was a nice run of almost a year and a
half. Thanks to all those who came out and enjoyed it! We had some good
times and made some really good music.
The radio show is doing great, and
I'm especially fortunate to have been given the two hour Sunday night
time slot. It's a much better time period for a blues radio show, and so
far it has been received very well. We're going to have a bunch of fun
in the upcoming months!
George Chalifoux has been doing some great work in my studio over the
last month on his project. Singer Mandy Zahn has been helping me lay
down vocal tracks on several of my album tracks. And I'm writing some
new songs now, and updating a few of my old ones. I plan to focus on
finishing the 2 albums I've been working on for the last year and a
half. I now have plenty of tracks, and just have to finish some odds and
ends plus editing and mixing.
"Summertime's Coming", a song I wrote
earlier this year, came out great in the studio and will be on one of my
albums. I'm also working on a project which will be made into a video,
due to be released in October.
Speaking of video's, check out the
videos I now have on You Tube:
June 2008 Written By Bruce WilliamsI
Here's some pics of my
trio at The 3rd Annual Greenwood Park Blues Fest. Thanks to all the
folks who came out to enjoy a great day of blues and fun in the sun!
Special thanks to Jellybone and Steve Wik and Soul-Funk for donating
their time and putting on excellent shows. This event is organized by
volunteers and spearheaded by the amazing Marty Nelson. I'm glad we were
there, and Jim (bass) and Tony (drums) were in outstanding form. We
jammed with Bill Douglas later in the day, he with his vintage Les Paul
gold top and me with my custom shop reissue gold top. That was a blast,
jam at The Vine with Ed Williams, and it was quite a night. Ed took a
few of his signature drum solos, but that last one was killer. Here's a
The week before, we did some
recording at my place and got some really good takes. A few of the
tracks will be on my new album. Here's a few photos from the session:
Ed Williams was a such pleasure to
play with. He was one of those guys I just connected with musically and
otherwise. When we were playing, we could really anticipate the other
and inspire each other. I'll really miss his talent, his musicianship,
his showmanship and his friendship. I know our paths will cross again.
Here he is at a recent gig:
May 2008 Written By Bruce Williams
I never predicted I'd be doing radio,
but here I am with my own blues hour on WRLR FM, and I'm having a ball!
It's been challenging and fun learning this medium, and the more I do
it, the more comfortable I feel on the air. One of the highlights of
doing the radio show is that I get to play the music that I want,
including my own music. Sometimes, I bring a guitar to the broadcast
studio and play during my show, and in the upcoming months, I'll be
having some special guests in to jam with me on the air. The station is
small, and only reaches out to about a 30 mile radius of Round Lake
Heights, but can be accessed via the internet at
I am also able to use the radio show to promote my appearances, which is
a great marketing tool.
The other recent news is I have
cut back on hosting the open mic blues jams. I am now concentrating on
only the Monday night open mic at The Vine in Grayslake, and have
dropped the others. It was becoming a bit much to do 3 jams a week, plus
it appears that there's over-saturation as far as blues jams in this
area. Many bars have jumped on the 'jam' bandwagon, as they try to find
ways to increase business on slow weeknights. I plan to use the extra
time in my schedule to catch up on recording projects, rehearse with my
band and of course, hustle gigs. I'll also have more time for composing,
which was getting hard to work in. I really thank all the musicians and
blues lovers who supported me at the other jams, and hope they continue
to come out to The Vine on Monday nights to help create those magical
musical moments we all love.
Finally, I hope everyone get out
to see my band over the next few months, to check out Ed Williams before
he moves to Hawaii. Ed has been my drummer for over 4 years now, and he
will be missed greatly. We have shared many musical adventures, both on
gigs and in the recording studio, and he has helped me shape the sound
of the band with his creativity and style. Ed, in the US Navy music
program, is being transferred in mid-June and expects some sea duty, as
his musical legacy grows and carries him to Pacific ports halfway around
January 2008 Written By Bruce Williams
Casper was the greatest dog. He was
smart, he was cool, was was sensitive and playful. He was a top pure
bred standard and he knew he was special. There is a big void around
here with him gone. He left us with some great and everlasting memories,
though. We'll miss him a lot.
October 2007 Written By Bruce Williams
Marie and I are having a lot of fun
and success with our duet, and gigs are picking up. Our sound is really
coming together, too, and I'm especially happy with our arrangements of
my original songs. These songs had to be revamped from full ensemble
arrangements to the paired down stand-up bass and acoustic guitar
configuration of the duet. We've also talked about adding a
percussionist on certain gigs, because that would really add a lot to
the songs we perform.
Peter and I are still meeting
regularly to write and record new songs. Our latest song, "I Cry Just A
Little" is our first 'serious' song together. The other songs we've
written are amusing and wacky numbers from themes Pete has come up with.
I've performed the new song live in the duet several times to very
Another song which has received a
bunch of attention is "Something Changed", a song I wrote last year. I
perform it both with the duet and the band, and it always stimulates
comments and a great reaction from the audience. At the moment, I'm
trying to produce a video for the song, so I can get it on YouTube and
thus seen and heard by more people.
If any of you film makers out
there want to help me on this, please get in touch me. I want to do the
same thing with the Quinn-Williams songs, which will really be fun!
Here's a recap of some fun stuff
from this past year...
Here's some pics from a
recording session in my studio:
We had fun playing at The
Harbour Club over the summer months
Playing music with Marty at
his day gig event
My lawn helper
A powerful storm blew
through this summer and took out several old trees
Carpfest is an annual ritual
on Highland Lake....we hold a contest to see how many of these
destructive fish we can get out of the lake
We had tons of fun at The
Appleton Lodge in August as guests of our dear friend Albert Goodman.
Somehow, he assembled a great group of old friends up in the north
woods, and every day was awesome.
at the lodge
firing scary weapon
with Brent, Barb and Frank
bags a northernI
caught a smallmouth
Sailing, canoe trips, hikes,
fishing and lots of music were some of the things we all enjoyed at the
This raccoon, living in the oak
tree overhanging the back of our house, must have found my guitar
playing soothing, as he would come out and listen when I practiced
acoustic guitar on the deck....
My dad visited from DC!
My dad and I
dad taking a pic of me taking a pic of he...
My last bike ride before
selling my Magna V65
Squab Fest Gig in Elgin, IL
It was an outstanding
(see the 'Pics' page for
photos of The Housewrecker's at The Illinois Blues Festival in Peoria)
Written By Bruce Williams
Thanks to all the musicians who
pitched in and played at The Greenwood Park Blues Fest. It was a great
success, and I've heard nothing but good things from everybody about the
Big News! King Robinson and the
Housewrecker's have been invited to play the main stage at The Illinois
Blues Festival September 1st in Peoria! This is quite an honor, and
we're all really looking forward to it. In 2004, we played the gig and
opened for the late Carey Bell.
The open mic jam at The Vine is
going very well, with new players showing up each week, and great music
echoing through downtown Grayslake.
Quinn and I are in the midst of
two new songs, "Caveman Daze" and "Dr. Death", both promising to be
unique, amusing and funky. He and I have had some very productive
sessions in my studio, and Pete continues to come up with offbeat and
wacky subject matter.
I just finished the first part of
a recording project with the amazingly talented Greg Vinson, with Greg
playing his upright bass, singing and operating a hi-hat all at once.
This guy really lays it down, and I look forward to working with him
more. It was a challenge to record upright, as always, and we managed to
get great tone throughout the session.
I am now offering music services
commercially, as of July 1st.
While I've done a few
money-making projects here at Highland Lake Records, it wasn't until
recently that I decided to take the plunge and do work for others on a
I have a modest and small, but
well equipped 24 track digital studio with complete post production
Here are a few photos of my set
If you re looking to put together
a demo to help you get gigs or to showcase your original songs, I can
help you put something together that will be very impressive and will
make you sound your best. I will work with you on the rates and we'll
devise a way to do the work as efficiently as possible. There are a
variety of options in terms of using other instruments and personnel.
Give me a shout and let's see if I can help you achieve your musical
I am also available
to produce full blown albums for commercial release, and do soundtrack
work and specialized songwriting.
Written By Bruce Williams
There is so much going on! Pete Quinn
and I are on our 4th song together, in a collaboration that has proven
to be productive and a lot of fun. Our latest effort, "Tequilas Of Mass
Destruction", is in mid-production and is turning out to be a gem.
The work on the King Robinson solo
album continues, and we have a bunch of work to do. It's taking a bit
longer than originally planned, but we're hoping our extra diligence
The most exciting thing going on
right now is what's happening with The Bruce Williams Blues Orkestra.
The recent additions of Joel Pace and Marie Martens have totally jump
started the band.
With Joel's amazing musicianship, and
his ability to play both piano and organ simultaneously, there is
a new energy and a 'big sound' quality to the music now. Joel is an
outstanding singer in his own right, and we feature him singing lead
vocals on several of our songs. He has a great voice and sings with
conviction and soul. He also provides vocal harmony with Marie and I.
Marie Martens, our newest band
member, plays a mean slide guitar and is playing regular guitar in the
band, too. She has added a whole new dimension to the group with her
singing, as we now feature back-up harmony vocals on many of our
songs. It's been great fun working out our vocal arrangements. Marie is
from Sweden and her main instrument is bass. She just happens to be a
great musician and can play guitar too! We feature Marie out front
singing lead, too, and let me tell ya, she rocks!
The band is
learning more and more of my original compositions, and with Joel and
Marie adding their thing to the mix, I am free to focus more on my
singing. And with Marie taking on some of my rhythm parts, I am free to
sing and play guitar licks with a new freedom of expression. I am truly
blessed to play with all of these folks. Marty's solid, funky bass and
enthusiasm, Ed's incredible drumming, and love of music, and now these
two talented individuals........what could be better?
The other big news is my new duet
thing, The New Rhythm Projekt, which features Marie and myself playng in
a more acoustic setting, doing blues, folk, R&B and other material.
We're rehearsing now and have a few gigs booked.
Finally, we're all excited about
hosting the new Monday night open mic blues jam at The Vine in Grayslake
starting 5/14. This is going to be a good one!
Written By Bruce Williams
The cold is finally here, and with it
the increased usage of natural gas as I hear our furnace on constantly.
Although I spent a bunch of money several years ago on additional
insulation and new windows, this is still an old and cold house, built
in 1916. It's only really bad when it's around 10 degrees or less.
I guess the big news this month is
that I added Auralex sound panels to my studio to facilitate the
acoustic album I am recording with King Robinson. What a difference it
makes! I needed to separate the upright bass from the acoustic guitars,
so I created a few "L" shaped partitions that can be moved about as
needed. I also finally enclosed the drums, which dramatically improved
the sound of the kit and reduced the ringing.
The panels take up even more space in
an area that was already too small, but it's worth the trouble. The big
logistic hurdle now is changing the studio between the different
sessions. To switch between the "King Robinson Solo Album Project" and
"The Bruce Williams Blues Orkestra Album Project", I'll have to take the
2 partitions out of the room, and set up a keyboard...not too bad,
The King Robinson project has
already yielded some great tracks, and the Orkestra project is in the
midst of working out some very complicated arrangements, with 2, maybe 3
songs in the can.
The weekly 'writing/recording'
sessions with Pete Quinn are going very well. We're pretty much done
with "Lil' Miss Silverspoon", the last tracks being percussion added by
Jim Murray. Tom Trinka's multi-tracked horn section parts are awesome,
as is his tenor sax solo! Pete and I are now working on a song he wrote
the words to, 'Aches and Pains". I came up with several different
musical backgrounds to see what would work best, and we ended up with an
up-tempo Chicago blues style approach, with a cool little chord change
that makes it different.
Written By Bruce Williams
Happy New Year!!
Jeez...I can't believe another year
has passed by. Damn! Just remember, you young ones...The older you get,
the quicker time goes....
Well, the 'instrumental' I wrote about in the last issue turned into a
very cool afro-cuban/pop-funk vocal number titled, "These Are Things I
Wonder About". As the song was developing, I remembered some old lyrics
I had in one of my songbooks, and working from there I fit it in by
massaging the old lyrics and writing some new ones. We did it as a band
in my studio and recorded it, but I want to work with the groove some
more before we make our final stab at recording. The song is really
shaping up, though, and I'm extremely happy.
Since the last newsletter entry,
we've recorded several songs, and I've added some guitar bits and vocals
to them. We still have a long way to go, though, and we spend much of
our session time working out dynamics and screwing around with the
arrangements. I guess that is just part of the deal, as one tends to get
the best ideas as the song is evolving and you hear it blossom. Even
when I plan a song out in advance, with a set intro and all the little
bits and dynamics and the ending and all, a lot of this stuff is done on
the fly. Needless to say, it will take 2-3 months to complete the
recording process, but it should yield two albums.
I've set some pretty lofty goals for
'07, and I look forward to recording a bunch of music. I also am hoping
to play with more musicians from different backgrounds, and to learn
more about my guitar and about music in general. After 'quitting the day
gig' in 2005, one of my goals was to spend more time learning,
specifically on guitar. I continually spread myself too thin because I
do love to play keys and drums. Recently, I finally disciplined myself
to only play other instruments when I need to cut a demo or work out a
part or something...and spend my limited free time working on improving
my guitar playing. It's starting to pay off, as I am finding new
directions and developing new ideas when I improvise.
One of the projects on tap for Q2/'07
is an acoustic blues album with King Robinson. We hope to start
recording in the Spring. The album will feature the King on vocals,
acoustic guitar and National Steel along with me in accompaniment.
We'll also feature some guest artists, stand-up bass and percussion. I'm
pretty excited about this one, as it will showcase the 'other side' of
King Robinson, that of the old delta blues...where ya sit on the porch
with your guitar, stomp your feet and cry out what's troubling you, and
bare your soul.
We should be
recording another Harry Peter Project album soon, too (Peter Quinn and
Harry Reinhart), and I'm collaborating with Peter on a few very cool new
I have also started mixing the
live sessions from AJ's, recorded in Summer of '05. This will be a 10 to
12 song album featuring some of the jammers who frequent the Wednesday
night blues jam. There is some remarkable material from 3 different live
Written By Bruce Williams
Baby, It's Cold Outside...
Time to start thinking about the
winter months, and the shift from playing fun outdoor gigs to spending
more time hiding from the cold in the recording studio. There will
still be the indoor gigs, of course, and the area jams rock all winter,
but no more sitting around the fire playing acoustic guitar pretty soon.
Time to pull out those lyrics written on the back of a bar napkin, find
that notebook full of ideas, those hastily made 2 track recordings of an
idea and get busy making new songs.
The last thing I recorded in my
studio was about 2 weeks ago. I had been going through my old library of
midi sequenced music and stumbled across a great funky groove...some
unfinished idea from about 1992. I decided to try and develop it into
something, and as is often the case, made a rough recording to see what
might happen. I ended up taking that old 'over-synthesized' sequence and
turned it into a softer, acoustic number with 6 and 12 string acoustic,
bass guitar, conga and a small Rhodes part. I doubled part of the bass
line on the 12 string, muting the strings slightly. There were two 6
string acoustic parts, one providing the main rhythm for the song, the
other playing the head and soloing. I'm pretty pleased with where it's
at so far, but haven't decided yet whether to keep it as an instrumental
or develop it into a vocal piece. We'll see.
I just started prepping the studio
for the recording of my new album, which will include several originals
and some of the covers I've been playing live over the last few years.
My studio is very small, and it's always a challenge working in such a
confined space, but I've been doing it for long enough where I know I
can deal with the logistics and get a good sound. The drums is always
the most critical element, because it's very difficult to re-do drum
parts later, and you can only monkey with them so much from an editing
standpoint. It's necessary to get a solid performance from the drummer,
and good tone on the recording. Once the drum track is in place,
layering other elements becomes a simple process. In the case of this
album, I'll be laying down initial tracks with Ed and Marty, and am
confident we'll have a good sound as a foundation for other production.
And of course, we'll be trying out
material and arrangements at the AJ's weekly open mic jam. We're so
lucky to have a place to get in front of people to try new stuff. It's
kind of a validation before recording, but also a way to smooth out
dynamics and accents in a song.
Tomorrow I'll finish duct-tapping the
sound foam material around the kick drum mic on the drums (EV RE 20). I
build a kind of 'tent' around the mic area to block out the other drums.
This really helps later in getting a punchy bottom on the bass drum and
yields a cleaner overall drum mix.
I'm not sure what song we'll start
with...I guess it's not that important, although it makes sense to get
off on the right foot. Maybe 'Signals Of Change'....
Written By Bruce Williams
The Famous Hannon
There are many great Hannon stories, but one of my favorites is the time
Mark lost his tooth at a big party I used to have every year called "Williamsfest".
Williamsfest was a party my wife and I would throw to be with our
friends and to
allow me to keep in touch with my musician friends. At this point in my
career, I was doing a lot of writing and home recording but not playing
out that much,
so the party featured an all day/all night jam, and I was able to play
with my friends.
Mark was at almost every one of these parties as the featured performer.
In 1989, we
hosted the last Williamsfest, and as usual Mark was there from beginning
At one point near the end of the party at about 2AM, a few of us were in
the food tent
eating leftovers. Most of us were shitfaced, and not paying particular
attention to how long the potato salad had been left out, but hey...no
one got sick! Anyway, Mark was eating a hot dog when suddenly he yells
out that his tooth fell out. Mark had a bridge with a false tooth just to
one side of his upper middle teeth. Everyone started getting lights and
searching the ground. Mark was freaking as the bridge was expensive, but
mainly because without it Mark looked like a hillbilly and I know he had
to perform the next day. We looked and looked but didn't find it. Mark
went home shortly thereafter, but called me at 8 AM to ask me to go out
and look in the daylight. When I got out there, I had to laugh, as the
lawn there was so covered with ground in toothpicks, beer bottle caps,
food scraps, all trampled in good. Well, I gave it a go and looked for
an hour, but nothing. I didn't talk to Mark for a week or so , but I
found out later that several days after the party Dave Cleland was
checking his shirt pockets before doing some laundry, and out popped the
bridge. I think it may even have had a little piece of hot dog on it.
Apparently, Mark was talking to Dave as he was chomping on this hot dog,
and as Mark pulled the wiener out of his mouth, the bridge must have
popped out and flown into Dave's pocket! Mark would always wince in a
'good sport' manner,
whenever this story came up later...hehe.
The new Housewrecker's CD, "Hit The
Big Time" now available.
CLICK HERE TO BUY CD!
You can also sample the
songs or buy digitally and download!