On a cold and rainy night, Tucson's chapter of the Arizona Blues Hall of Fame (AZBHOF) gathered en masse downtown, with about 150 blues enthusiasts celebrating the induction of its four newest members, all with solid Tucson ties.
AZBHOF president and local blues ambassador Stefan George presided over a brief ceremony announcing the new class of inductees: guitarist Bryan Dean, drummer Ralph Gilmore, bassist Larry Lee Lerma and keyboard whiz Arthur Migliazza. He took over the presidency from Phoenix blues legend Hans Olson, who founded the hall and, according to George, had almost single-handedly kept it going since its inception.
George kicked off a stellar evening of music with an acoustic set that featured Steve James' "County Line Road," which he dedicated to AZBHOF member Gerry Glombecki, whose recent and unexpected death was a shock. "I think Steve wrote that tune for a poet friend who passed away," said George, who acknowledged that he seems to be singing it as a tribute way too often. He then joked, "Perhaps I should be playing with younger players."
George was backed up by fellow hall of famer Tom Walbank on harmonica, as well as Lerma and Gilmore. Lerma and Gilmore then teamed up to form the seldom-seen but much-admired Vandykes, a blues power trio with Danny Krieger, who wailed on slide guitar. Krieger, also a member of the AZBHOF, and Gilmore would help close out the night by joining Steve Grams as a part of the expanded Grams and Krieger group in a set that also included sit-ins by George and Dean.
Longtime blues fixture the Bad News Blues Band played a variety of shuffles, slow blues and swing punctuated by the sharp horn arrangements of Alex Flores and Hurricane Carla Brownlee on tenor and baritone sax, respectively. They were eventually joined by Juke Joint Johnny Strasser on harmonica and slide guitar, on a killer version of Little Feat's "Spanish Moon."
Clearly, however, the night belonged to Dean and his trio. With special guest Heather Hardy on electric violin, they tore into several originals as a tuneup for Dean's upcoming appearance in Memphis as part of the International Blues Challenge.