While it took a bit of time and effort to build things up, the Lowcountry Blues Club firmly established itself as a vibrant weekly music series — for younger and older blues fans alike.
Last summer, booking agent and sound engineer Stuart "Allnight" Johnson (of local band Allnightkungfu) brainstormed with a few friends about the live music situation at Mt. Pleasant venue A Dough Re Mi — a two-room pizzeria with a sizeable bar area and stage. In previous years, he'd booked a variety of local and touring bands of all styles — from bluegrass to punk/metal. Through fall and winter, he switched to a blues/roots music format, and the Dough gradually reestablished itself as a hot spot for local and national live musical acts.
- Stuart Johnson
"Dereck Curry, Kathleen Wehle, and a few other regulars wanted to see the Lowcountry Blues Club become something that they could actively participate in," says Johnson. "While Gary 'Shrimp City Slim' Erwin's Lowcountry Blues Society is the driving force in this state for the blues, it is mostly for promoting and festival organizing. His attention to detail and unmatched professionalism pretty much make the Blues Society a one-man show. So we decided to make a club of our own."
Curry, a local photographer, has been involved in music promotion at A Dough Re Mi for years. "Most blues societies around the country have regular jams, which we thought would be cool. This was about the time A Dough Re Mi switched their live music format to primarily blues."
The Lowcountry Blues Club considers itself "the community club for anyone who loves the blues" and congregates every Tuesday evening at A Dough Re Mi. The meetings start at 7 p.m.
"It has been a great way to meet other talented musicians and start playing again," says singer/guitarist Skye Paige, a local songwriter. "We are all like a big family up there. Everyone is very supportive of each other."
Every week, a printed newsletter includes an essay on a different featured artist, a schedule of local blues-style shows, and ads for local corporate sponsors.
The core "house band" from week to week usually includes Johnson, singer/guitarist Tommy Thunderfoot, bassist Craig "The Monstah" Campany, and drummer Greg "The Motor" Levkus.
The rotation of musicians often includes Paige, singer/guitarist George McDaniel, singer/harp player Smoky Weiner, guitarist/singer Ranny Garey, harmonica player Rob Lowe, and others. A Dough Re Mi proprietor Dave Clark even gets up and sings from time to time.
- Tommy Thunderfoot
"It's actually mostly Chicago style, except without the horns," says Thunderfoot. "If you made the leap from Elmore James, Willie Dixon, Howling Wolf, and T-Bone Walker to the modern era, that's about the style of the jams."
It's especially impressive how well the younger musicians collaborate with the older players and among themselves. It's a valuable, interactive, on-stage experience for budding musicians.
The younger "teen" team includes guitarist/bassist John Shafer, Wyatt Garey (Ranny's son), guitarist/singer "Stone Cold" Sarah Cole, and drummer Sammy Derrik, among others. All of them can handle just about anything from Muddy Waters to Jimi Hendrix.
"These kids aren't showing up with Wal-Mart guitars. They're bringin' in good gear," says Thunderfoot.