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Do You Know What It Means To Miss New Orleans......An Interview with Rockin' Jake

by "Miss Vickie"
special ops./STLBLUES.NET
~ Miss Vicki@STLBlues.net ~

Rockin' JakeWhat a great song, and it really holds true these days with so much turmoil caused by Hurricane Katrina, and with so many people forced to leave this beautiful city. I sat down with Jake and we spoke in great length about his experiences with the evacuation, rebuilding of his life, and the new and improved Rockin' Jake Band!

RJ: “First of all, I want to say to St. Louis, Thank You! I've met some really nice people and you have a really great music scene! Eric McSpadden, who I've seen on my many tours to St. Louis, is a really great guy. He's helped me a lot while I've been in St. Louis and Preston Hubbard who used to play with the Fabulous Thunderbirds and now with Los Carnale. I've seen him play since 1974. He's been a great friend and incredibly supportive. They are all good people and I'm thankful for their friendship. I've been all over the country numerous times and I really love the “Family “ feeling I get when I'm at BB's Jazz Blues and Soups. All the people , musicians, and venue owners have really been supportive and I'm very blessed!

I want to take my hat off to the people who are back in New Orleans and trying to rebuild their lives and they are facing incredible hurdles. It takes an intestinal fortitude to do what they're doing with very little support from the many government entities involved...the city, state and federal governments. I have great respect for them and what they are trying to do with their lives. I've never loved a city more in my life than I love New Orleans. I like a lot of cities, New York, St. Louis, San Francisco, but I'm in love with New Orleans and it's a pain missing that city and my friends. It will be with me for a long time. Many of my friends have scattered and I do not know where they are. It's upsetting the most about my little coffee shop I hung out at everyday.....City Perk about a mile from City Park, Mid City between Canal and Orleans Ave on Carrollton Ave. It was so beautiful. I'd sit outside at my table and the trees along the median are palm trees and the street car runs along that neutral ground and not a day would go by and I would sit there and look at this beauty. It's the small things that give you joy.

The neighborhood I lived in was really fantastic and it was wiped out. A lot of the heart and soul of the city is coming back..the mom and pop restaurants, night clubs, and my coffee shop is under new management. There is still a lot of beauty and there is beauty in the ugly after the devastation and the rejuvenation that is coming back to New Orleans. It's still a beautiful city to be in. When I go back now, I play at the Jazz Emporium on Bourbon Street, the Bank Street Bar and Grill in Mid City, and a little dive called 'The Apple Barrel' that holds maybe 30 people when it's packed. I was on the road in New England when Katrina hit and was not able to go back to my home. My wife, luckily, left two days before the hurricane hit and went to Fort Worth, Texas to stay with her Aunt. I drove across country from Maryland to Texas after my tour ended and that's where we lived for four months after the hurricane. At the time, I was still using my band from Louisiana, so whenever we had to go on tour, they had to fly or drive up to Texas. In Dec 2005, I moved up to St. Louis and I was still using my band from Louisiana.....one guy from Baltimore, one guy from Austin, Texas, and one guy from Louisiana, and I had to pay to get them to St. Louis when we went on tour until it got to where it was just financially impossible and logistically impossible, so I stopped the band for awhile in May 2006 and stayed around St. Louis and regrouped. I stayed around here looking for musicians. I didn't really know anybody and then I met Eric McSpadden, another harp player, who invited me to sit in with his band, Rough Grooves featuring Rich McDonough, and Rich and I kinda hit it off that night. He liked what I was doing and I loved what he was doing, and we stayed in touch and I hired him for some gigs.

Fast forward to today, Rich is still in my band and I picked up a drummer, Joe Meyer, and a bass player, Dan Eubanks, from St. Louis, who has been living in Nashville for the last three years and a friend of Joe Meyer. Dan was married, working a day job, playing music at night, just bought a house and we thought it was a long shot, but we thought it can't hurt to ask, so we asked him to join the band. He was looking for a change. Since he came into the band, it's changed my band radically and brings a renewed enthusiasm for all of us. I've been playing professionally since 1980 and I can say with all honesty, this is the best band I've ever had. We all get along and are on the same page musically. Dan has really galvanized the enthusiasm with this band. Everyone is working together for the band. After 27 years I feel like this is the beginning of something really good! I met Joe when I was playing with Los Carnales down at Hammerstone's in Soulard. He came and sat in. We just stayed in touch and I loved his playing. He's young, enthusiastic, firey, great chops, he has everything and turned out to be a phenomenal addition to the band. He has fire and I need fire. He's a great drummer. His music knowledge is incredible. I play many styles of music and it takes a rare musician to perform, and Dan, Joe and Rich are just perfect for the band. We do a lot blues, but we also do a Louisiana style of music, second line, funk, zydeco, and rock and roll. We just have the times of our lives when we're on the road together. We laugh all of the time! Joe keeps us in stitches! It's a fantastic feeling. I'm beside myself and excited. We are all excited about of all of the possibilities with this band.

I'm truly blessed. It took me 43 years to find my wife, Christie, and I never thought I'd get married, but she is wonderful and I love her. It's amazing, but now I feel like I'm marrying three other people. (big laugh) We all get along so well musically and personally. It's very very rare and I'm just so fortunate. Rich is one of the best guitar players I've met. People tell me I'm so lucky to have him in my band and I agree. Not only is he a phenomenal guitar player, he gets “House”, and what I mean by that is, he gets a standing ovation every night he plays. I like that. I don't want the band to be me and three statues behind me. I want a band ensemble sound. I've never met a guitar player that good with no ego or attitude. When you gotta turn it down, Rich turns it down without any hesitation. It's a pleasure to work with him. I've been with the same booking agency since 1996 and you really have to pay your dues, especially when nobody knows you. Now I have a fan base across many states. We drive “Ole School Baby”. We drive a 15 passenger van with a trailer. 'Really Ole School' is a couple of station wagons, but we do alright with the van. We feel like dinosaurs (big laugh). We laugh and talk about sports. It's great! Word is starting to spread a little bit so now when I start calling some of the clubs and they find out who is in the band, they are very happy to open their doors for us, like the Famous Bar in South St. Louis. When Mark found out Rich was playing, he was very happy to book us. Rich has a great reputation in this city and so does Dan.

I also play a club in Peoria, Il and Rolla, Mo., primarily we stick close to home while we're here. It's tough to make arrangements when you're on the road especially when you're trying to get an album together. I have a lot of my own music, and several songs that I want to finish, so being home in St. Louis, now, I get a chance to do that during the holiday break. Plus I have some really good guys in the band now and I know we can collaborate to come up with some really great songs. We'll be back on the road for January, February, and March, so I'd like to have a good two or three months to sit down and work this out. In January, we'll be in Key West. It's my 11th year playing New Year's Eve at the Parrot. It's a blast! 5 days at the Parrot and then 5 days over at Margarita Ville. Then Florida and Georgia. Then we play Mardi Gras, in all places, Deadwood, South Dakota on a float and then some casinos. They asked us to come down and we said Great! Then we go to one of my regular haunts, the coldest places in March, we go to Colorado. There are some tough mountain passes to get thru and last year we had a terrible time with the snow, so if anyone has a helicopter we can use, give us a call! (big laugh) Then we go to the East Coast and then back to Florida. St. Louis has a great blues heritage and I love to listen to the great blues artists like Big George Brock, Arthur Williams, and Boo Boo Davis and I'm very fortunate to fall in love with a woman from St. Louis. “

You can check out The Rockin' Jake band while they are here in St. Louis by going to their website www.myspace.com/the rockinjakeband. This site will give you their touring schedule for St. Louis and their remaining schedule to date..They are available for festivals and blues cruises too! Jake plays harmonica and sings, Rich McDonough (can't sing) plays guitar, Joe Meyer plays drums and does background vocals, and Dan Eubanks plays bass and some lead and background vocals. It's like Jake said, this is the BEST BAND he has had and it shows! These guys ROCK! They get along on and off stage and are extremely talented musicians. A MUST SEE show everytime they play!! There will be a special gig at BB's on December 6, 2007 with the Rockin Jake Band, the Liston Brothers and Michael Burks. Don't miss that show!!

For more info go to ...click here, or visit www.rockinjake.com.
My Thanks to Jake for this interview. It was all my pleasure!! I've been a Rockin' Jake fan for quite some time. I saw him when Paul & I lived in Cincinnati, Ohio at the East End Cafe. Jake has another CD coming out that he played on with some friends. It should be released soon and hopefully he will have some copies at the Dec 6th gig at BB's. Jake has several albums out now and will be working on many more with his new band. Oh, and check out Jake's hot sauce, too!

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