The festival is over, but the blues linger on!
CAP: Stacks O'Blues guitarist, Pete Lancaster.
The festival is over, but the blues linger on!
By William L. Bulla
The 15th Annual Western Maryland Blues Fest is now history. It was a delightful, and exciting time for our city. This is true for many cities...Long Beach, CA; Kalamazoo, MI; Thunder Bay, Ontario, Canada; Park City, KS; Wilmington, DE; Denver, CO; Memphis, TN; Chicago, Il; and in many more cities over many years. The basis for American music, the rhythms and musical progressions of blues music has had a public following since the early 20th century.
The blues were born in the North Mississippi Delta following the Civil War. Influenced by African roots, field hollers, ballads, church music, and rhythmic dance tunes called jump-ups evolved into music for a singer who would engage in call-and-response with his guitar. He would sing a line, and the guitar would answer.
As time progressed the sounds of blues music have been altered, expanded, and often renamed. The basis of rock 'n roll, hip hop, rap, heavy metal, and jazz all have beginnings in blues music. Blues music...sometimes sad, lonely, and mournful, but in other cases fully energized and bursting with electric guitar vigor, is one of the most powerful, influential, and popular musical styles of the last few centuries.
Locally, our Blues Fest has shown the blues as a living tradition and celebrated the men and women who lived their lives playing and singing the blues.
Carl Disque, a saxophonist, founded the Western Maryland Blues Fest in Hagerstown and blues band member who became fascinated with the genre and how its history mirrored the story of the south, from the post-Civil War era to the African-American migration to the north.
The Hagerstown festival has grown from a small event with one stage to one with several staging areas, attracting over 10,000 people each year.
The event has generated a desire for this style of music more than just one time each year. As a result it is being made available locally throughout the year at several locations. Some of the restaurants have placed small signs outside their premises simply stating "music inside" followed by the hours it will be available. Other locations may have a sign with a band's name and the hours, but if you don't know that band you may not go in to hear them.
I recently saw a sign stating "Back Roads Blues Band 4 to 7pm on the Patio Sunday, June 27th" The location was Always Ron's Restaurant. The band's name, style of music and hours of the performance prompted me to drop-in to hear the group. I'm glad I did, because it was a delightful evening. And, since that was a very warm, humid day, the event was moved inside to an air-conditioned dining room, which I found it to be even more delightful.
The Back Roads Blues Band had its beginnings in March 1998, when Robert Foutch (guitar, bass, vocals), David Foutch (guitar, bass, vocals) and Trent Renshaw (drums) formed a musical ensemble. Since then the group has expanded to include Kevin Foutch (guitar, bass, vocals), Tony Chaney (drums), Bill Sinclair (sax and harmonica), and on occasions Tom Todoro (guitar), who also performs with River Knot Jazz.
The group has performed at the Western Maryland Jazz Fest and was selected as the lead off band to open the festival in 2006.
Back Road Blues Band will alternate Sundays with Stacks O'Blues at Always's Rons. Both groups have been part of the annual local Western Maryland Blues Fest.
Stacks O'Blues journey started out in Cleveland Ohio where Pete Lancaster was performing as a "one man band". Pete was singing, playing guitar, blowing the harmonica and stomping on a tambourine filled crate and was later tagged "One man Blues Army" in Scene magazine. Cleveland is where Pete met his old time friend, D.C. Carnes, guitarist for the legendary Robert Lockwood Jr. for 14 years.
Pete, or Pedro, as he is nicknamed, moved to Hagerstown in 2000, where he became friends with the Western Maryland Blues Fest Chairman Carl Disque and they started a two-piece band called "2Blue". Pete and Carl then hooked up with Alan Mason on guitar and keys, Arnie Helmick on bass, and Bart Lay on drums to create the aptly named 2Blue Ensemble. With the addition of D.C. Carnes, Pedro changed the name of the Band to "Stack O' Blues".
Pete has warmed up and/or performed with the likes of Robert Lockwood Jr., Honey Boy Edwards, Byther Smith, Hubert Sumlin, Eddie Shaw, Cash McCall, Eddie Burns, Red Holloway, and David Bennit Cohen. Pete also was the guitar tech for Honey Boy and Etta Baker thanks to the help from Western Maryland Blues Fest own, Todd Bolton. Pedro has performed at the Western Maryland Blues Fest in 1996, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2006, and 2008.
Pete's Solo Performances:
* Always Ron's Restaurant - Sunday, July 18, 4pm to 7pm
* Always Ron's Restaurant - Sunday, August 1, 4pm-7pm (outdoor deck)
* Always Ron's Restaurant - Sunday August 15th, 4pm-7pm (outdoor deck)
Pete Lancaster and Stack O' Blues Performances:
* Maryland Theater's "Wind Down Friday" - Friday, July 30 from 5-8pm
Pete Lancaster and Bart Lay, "Stack O' Two" Performances:
* Sunday in the Park, Constitution Park, Cumberland, MD - Sunday, August 1, 7:30-9pm
Pete Lancaster and Friends Performances:
* Always Ron's Restaurant - Sunday, August 29, 4pm-7pm (outdoor deck)
If you have a favorite local group you would like to hear, you may want to Google them to find out where they are playing near you. Yes, the festival may be over, but the blues linger on. Your favorite artists may be among those creating those joyful sounds in our community.
William L. Bulla is a freelance writer residing in Washington County.