*Los Angeles-If you are longtime residents of Los Angeles, and perhaps you heard your parents speak fondly about, or you are of a certain age to remember the glory days of Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn Blues Club from back in the day on Central Avenue.
I was only four years old, living in Tampa, Florida when Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn was founded in 1964, by Laura Mae Gross, affectionately known as “Mama Laura”. Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn was in business on Central Avenue for 37 years. This was a jumping blues joint to see up and coming blues stars. In 1997, Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn relocated, re-energized to 4339 Leimert Park Blvd., in historic, and culturally vibrant Leimert Park Village. Sadly, Laura Mae Gross passed away in 2006. She left behind a lasting legacy in the local blues community and beyond.
The song “Family Affair” was blasting from a speaker in a nearby park when I arrived to Leimert Park Village for the 5th Annual Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn Reunion Jam, Sunday, March 13th, at Barbara Morrison’s Performing Arts Center.
This was a fitting tune as well as the song “Family Reunion” that accurately described the vibe inside Barbara Morrison’s Performing Arts Center. Mike Gliona assembled a stellar line-up of local blues musicians uniting to continue to honor the life and legacy of “Mama Laura” during this annual Jam Section.
You came to the right place if you wanted to hear some Down Home blues and to experience various hues of the blues on his chilly, overcast day in Southern California.
The Other Mules kicked off the program with a powerful set on the tunes “Can’t be satisfied,” and “The Wind Cried Mary. The Reverend Rooster Kingfish vocals/bass presided over this tight band.
Mighty Balls of Fire was the house band at Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn. The band treated the audience to “Give Yourself a Little More Time,” “Honky Tonk” featuring Gary The Hurricane Spencer wailing away on sax. Mr. Spencer was the featured vocalist on his original tune “Big Maybelle.” The tempo slowed down for a lovely tune “Song for Mama” by guitarist Eric Garcia. Mike Gliona added a classic touch on keyboards.
Guitarist Richard Ross stretched out with some high-octane blues to the delight of a captivated audience.
Los Angeles legendary blues vocalist Lady GG raised the roof on “Five Long Years,” and “Every Day I Have the Blues” with a standout solo by Gary The Hurricane Spencer, sax and Leroy Martinez on bass.
The show continued with vocalist Debra Ash as she sang “Let Me In,” and “Summertime. USC Professor Steve Travato, guitar with Chef Danny, harmonica thrilled the crowd with the tune “Caledonia.” SlytheFly performed “Rock Me Baby” and Romeo captivated with a blues/reggae tinged version of “Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone.”
The lovely, talented Ms. Barbara Morrison dazzled the proceeding with the tunes “Shake, Rattle and Roll,” and “So Many Roads.” Guitarist/Vocalist Solomon King entertained with “She Jacks Me Up,” and “My Baby Does Me Good. Jeff Dale performed another incendiary set (guitar made out of a gas can) on the tune “You’re the One” followed by Sonny Green vocals and Deacon Jones, organ to perform “Every Day I Have the Blues,” “Stormy Monday,” and “Further on up the Road.”
We paused for the cause to take a historic group photo of all of the assembled musicians outside of the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center.
The program continued with Ms. Mellow paying tribute to the late great David Bowie on the tune “Let’s Dance.” Guitarist extraordinaire Gregg Wright delighted everyone with the tune “Blues at Sunrise.” This concluded my enjoyment of this amazing event. The show continued for about another hour after I left.
I can’t wait until next year’s Reunion Jam, eventually this incredible show Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn Reunion Jam will evolve into a festival considering all of the talented musicians available to perform.
Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based writer, music reviewer and photographer. Contact him via: [email protected]