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What A Difference A Year Makes - An Interview with Vinnie Valenza of the Blues City Deli

Blues Interviews
Real Blues
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By MissVickie@stlblues.net

Hi Everybody! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year! I hope all of you are enjoying the holidays and everyone is safe. Time to snuggle up to your computer for one of my Christmas stories. This year for Christmas, Santa has noted that a young drummer boy, named Vinnie Valenza has done a remarkable job managing and expanding his business. So sit back and enjoy...A Christmas At The Blues City Deli.

As in most Christmas stories written in the midwest, the weather is cold and snowy. As usual, the weather people have forecasted one storm event after another and as usual, all we get is a couple of inches. This day is just like that! It's cold and snowy, with at least three inches of snow on the ground. SUV drivers are dangerously driving to get anywhere before anyone else and the smaller vehicles are darting around trying to avoid the accidents that the SUV's most certainly wish to have happen. The sky is gray, but not so gray that you can not see some hint of sunshine. The temperature is cold, with a hint and a little knowledge that the weather SHOULD be cold, you know the thermometer will record slight drops in degrees as the hours tick by. It's Saturday and as I have done in the past several weeks on a Saturday, I get up and get ready for the day. But this day is special! This day is filled with music, friends, and great food. No, I'm not dreaming! This is Saturday and I'm going to the Blues City Deli for lunch and Music Saturday!!
Now in order for me to continue this Christmas story, I need you all to think back about three years ago. What were you doing back then? Myself, I lived in Cincinnati Ohio. The biggest treat on Saturdays was a drive across the Ohio River to the Party Source store and buy beer. Oh, not just any old beer, but specialty beers that are rich and dark and taste of sludge. (laughter)

Three years ago, a young man, ex-drummer, father, and husband had an idea. Now we all have ideas, but not all of us act upon them. This young man took a leap forward with his eyes closed, not knowing what to expect. How scary is that? No, this is not a Haunted Christmas story...this is real life! This little drummer boy stepped forward and offered what he had. He offered hard work, live music, great food, and fast service. All of this and the support of family and friends have made this idea possible then and now. So is my story over? I bet you wish it was! (Big Laughter) No...this story continues!

So time goes by at a clip! Two years ago, I was still in Ohio, not knowing I was to return to St. Louis very shortly. Meanwhile, here in this story, the little drummer boy is hard at work. So are his helpers! The Dream Team...young kids working with this old guy (big laugh) and working to succeed. They really pride themselves on their work and a quick turn around time! They are like the links of a chain...graham on a cracker, and reindeer pulling Santa's sleigh. These kids work hard! Santa has Rudolph, Vinnie has Vinnie Jr., Robby, Steverino, Mike, Yokum (not Dwight), Clay, Markey Mark, Ryan and a young lady named Kele. (pronounced Ke Le) Oh what fun it is to sing a Christmas song tonite! Hey!

This year, Santa has looked upon our little drummer boy with great favor! This year on Saturdays, live music from 1:00 pm to 3:30 pm engulfs the scene at the Blues City Deli. Three inches of snow will not keep us all away today. Johnny Fox is scheduled to play, but the weather has changed his mind. No problemo! We all just sit and talk about Christmas , watch the snow fall, and eat lunch. Music piped in over head allows us to mentally visualize musicians on stage. Hey! What's in that sandwich that's making me mental? (Big Laughter) Just kidding! I'm always mental! (Big Laugh)

Christmas is a time for cheer.. a time for laughter...and a time to drink beer! (big laugh) Yes, the Blues City Deli serves beer. A great selection of local and specialty beers are available. Could be why I like Music Saturdays, eh? (laugh) Not! I love the music! My friends come to the deli for the fun, too! It's so easy to meet there and even more fun to make New friends there. My friend Nina and I met a new friend, Sophie. Nina loves the New Orleans style of food that the deli offers. Having lived in New Orleans for many years, she misses the food, but knows that Vinnie makes up the loss. Nina loves the Zipps chips and wants to see Barq's Root beer added to the menu. (Big Smile) Sophie hangs out at the deli while her boyfriend, Clay, works hard in the kitchen...the newly expanded kitchen of 2007! Sophie claims to be a “Jazz” girl, but her favorite musician is Jimmy Hendrix! Ah, I hate to break it to you , Sophie, but James is not Jazz. Oh well, she's 17..lots of time to live and learn. She sings and writes poetry. Hey Sophie, bring in your poems and let some of the music guys put down the tunes! I know you'll be a great blues singer one day! Lots of musicians, locally and not so locally, come in to check out the place! Could be another reason to like Music Saturday? Mid December, Nick Moss came into town to play with Los Carnales down at BB's Jazz Blues and Soups. Like so many other musicians, they came down to the deli for lunch and a meeting. I was at the deli then, too. Imagine that! Not like I'm a stalker or anything! (laugh) Nick was there with Preston Hubbard, Alec, Derek, and a visiting guitar player named Josh Miller. Josh lives in Florida, knows Nick Moss, knew he was playing at BB's, and drove up for the gig. Amazing! Music happens like this all of the time! Nick and Josh loved the deli. Loved meeting Vinnie. Loved the food! Both musicians would like an opportunity to come back and play on a Music Saturday. I'd love it too! I heard Josh play at BB's. He sat in with Nick and Los Carnales. What a great show! He reminded me of a young Tom Waite. Los Carnales is a Blast! They played at the deli's Third Anniversary party. Vinnie was VERY happy with that day and the sound the band puts out. ”I like the feel of a having a full band in here,” says the little drummer boy. You may wonder, having been in the deli, how would you get a Blaster Band such as Los Carnales into the deli? Well my friends...each band sets up a stripped down version of the band to accommodate the room. The sound is great!

Back to the Christmas story....Santa was listening to KDHX radio one Friday evening. He was listening to Blues in the Night with Art Dwyer, but Art was out that night...undoubtedly shopping for his girl's Christmas gift, eh? Or Not! Anyway..Santa called the little drummer boy and told him to tune into the radio show. Luckily for the little drummer boy, Marquis Knox was performing on air at the station and played a set of acoustic tunes. ”WOW!” Thought the little drummer boy..”he sounds great! Wonder if I can get him to the deli to play like that?” A phone call was made and Marquis is signed up to do an acoustic gig at the deli. Yeah! How easy is that? Don't you wish more things were just as easy? Santa was right to steer the little drummer boy in that direction. He Does know when you're awake!!!
Who else has Santa steered toward the little drummer boy? Well there's Deke Harp, Rev. Robert, Brian Curran, Johnny Fox, Larry Griffin, Eric McSpadden, Bottom Ups Blues Gang, Nathan James, Pokey LaFarge, Matt Roland,Booty Grabbers, John Logan, Los Carnales, and the new kids on the block..the Rum Drum Ramblers! Ryan, who works in the kitchen , is the harp man and vocalist for the Rum Drum Ramblers. Vinnie gets his money's worth with this kid! (laughter)
What's in store for our little drummer boy in 2008? I'm glad you asked! I see (from the web site, ha ha ) lots of talent on Saturdays...musicians from Collinsville and Belleville, Illinois, Brian Curran starting 2008 off with Blues music, and Rockabilly will be hitting the stage with Scott Kay and the Continentals. I see the menu adding some new food items...beer specials...and music on Thursday starting the last Thursday in January....music until 8:00 pm. I see a “jam” during Thursday happy hour and Kele as the “Beer Wench” (laugh) serving up the beverages. 2007 has been great for the Blues City Deli, so let's keep it up in 2008! Let's make some new friends, hear some great music, smile and laugh, clap along with the band, and just have fun! And check out the newest kids on the block for 2008...The Lucky Old Sons...this is a project of Frank Bauer's (still with the Phat Noise Blues Band) and a drummer and keyboard player. Vinnie says it's like listening to Jerry Lee Lewis. I'm looking forward to checking that out!

Well..my Christmas story is drawing to an end. BooHoo! I'd like to thank Vinnie (AKA the little drummer boy) for this interview. He is a treat! Let's get out there and support live music! Let's get out there and make new friends at the deli! Let's support Community Radio! Let's show support for each other everyday! Be safe this holiday and may 2008 be good to you all! Thank you & Merry Christmas!!

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