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Thursday, Sept. 29, 2005 01:40 am

Washing up in Springfield

New Orleans musicians find a temporary home


Springfield residents have held several fundraisers for Hurricane Katrina victims, but we’ve also benefited from the diaspora of New Orleans residents, taking in several talented musicians

Friend and fellow musician Jason Eklund, now living in Nashville, recently received news concerning a buddy, New Orleans blues guitarist Augie Jr. After eight days in the flooded city, Augiehopped an Army truck that came down his waterlogged street and was flown to a military base in Tennessee, along with hundreds of other evacuees. He had nothing but the clothes on his back and a strong sense of displacement.

Eklund connected with his pal, and, two weeks ago, he set out to deliver the 30-year New Orleans resident to Minneapolis. They stopped in Springfield to visit and hit a few open mics. Augie liked our city so well that he considered getting a new tattoo to commemorate his stay.

Last Sunday at our Brewhaus gig, Bruce Hart — a former Virden resident who left the Springfield area almost 30 years ago to join the U.S. Navy Band— popped in to jam, his tuba in tow. Hart studied under Gene Haas locally and ended up living in New Orleans, gigging around town on standup bass and tuba. Since the hurricane he has stayed here with relatives but is now at the home of longtime friend Jane Hartman. Hart’s wife just found a place for them in Baton Rouge, and they expect to move back to their New Orleans home several months from now, if all goes well.

Spencer Bohren, an accomplished blues singer/songwriter, toured Europe and Japan several times and crisscrossed the United States for years. He spent most of the 1970s in New Orleans, working such famous joints as Tipitina’s with such famous musicians as Dr. John, Professor Longhair, and the Neville Brothers. Bohren again relocated to the Crescent City late in 1997. He was able to pack up his family and some belongings and leave town before Katrina arrived but lost his inventory of CDs, his shadowbox artwork, some musical equipment, the family home, and everything else that didn’t fit in his car. The Bohrens, who settled near friends in St. Louis, say they aren’t sure about returning to live in New Orleans anytime soon.

Augie Jr. is gigging somewhere in Minneapolis. Bruce Hart plays with the Frank Trompeter Quartet 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday, Oct. 1, at the MC Tap. Spencer Bohren sings the blues 8 p.m.-midnight Sunday, Oct. 2, at Café Kanichi-wa and 8-10 p.m. Monday, Oct. 3, before the Illinois Central Blues Club Jam, at the Alamo. Contact Tom Irwin at tirwin@illinois.com.

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