Happy birthday, Blues Club
Congratulations and commendations are in order for the Illinois Central Blues Club as the local organization celebrates 25 years of delivering blues to the Springfield area. No other local group involved in promoting music to the masses even comes close to the amount of work and play delivered by the many and varied dedicated members of the ICBC in the last quarter century. My figurative hat (and likely yours too) is off to them for a job well done.
Who dreamed when the initial group of blues fans joined forces on Feb. 5, 1986, the organization formed to “keep the blues alive” would become a major force in local live music from then to the present? It all started with a welcoming letter (and the wonderfully insidious influence of progressive professors from Sangamon State University) inviting friends of the blues to the auspicious meeting held in January of 1986. Founding members included Mike King (host of the first meeting), David Balmer, Dan Bringman, Vicki Biddle, Michael Townsend, Bob Sipe, Pat Hickey, Mike Beatty, David Benner, John Corbett, David Hoffman, Fred Johnson and Bill Engle. Within a month, 33 more members joined the original 13 and the club became a reality.
Several founders still participate regularly in club activities, most prominently Dan Bringman, who as vice-president and live events chairman is predominantly responsible for booking the Blue Monday bands at the Alamo every Monday night. Through the years he expanded the weekly lineup to include top names of national bar-blues touring acts while still including area groups, providing an incredibly interesting mix of talent. Mike King makes nearly every Monday performance and Bob Sipe served on the board just last year. Other members have passed on, moved away or attend now and then, with a host of others who’ve come and gone, stayed and worked, helped and hindered, all adding to the ICBC story.
At the risk of missing many I’ll drop a few more names of dedicated blues club folks including Will Sternitzke, permanent sound engineer and doorperson for Mondays, Steve Truesdale who guided the ship for several years, the past and current (and continuing) club president Mark Edmiston, treasurer Jenny Kepner and Judy Burgess as secretary, newsletter producer and resident cheerleader for all things blues-related. Vicki Biddle, who now performs music with husband Rich Ingle as the acoustic duo Comfort Food in the Chicago area, worked to keep things going in the tenuous beginning period when, from what I remember, things weren’t always wine and roses. But even during the bumpy times, as personalities clashed and plans were dashed, the music continued unabated, delivering the club’s original intent with consistency and purpose. From the big outdoor festival celebrations at Knight’s Action Park to the smoky nights at Bruce’s Tavern, from Blues in the Schools support to the International Blues Challenge challenges, the club survived to become a stalwart of the area entertainment community. Who woulda thunk it?
Along with Saturday night’s celebration at the K of C Hall on Meadowbrook Road with Magic Slim and the Teardrops and area openers the Mojocats, a couple other shows crown the weekend commemoration. Friday the Sangamon Auditorium presents Jorma Kaukonen and Jack Casady of Hot Tuna along with blues legend Charlie Musslewhite and Americana master Jim Lauderdale, while Tombstone Bullet plays 7 to 10 p.m. at the South Side Pub with Mary Jo Curry. Sunday, 2 to 5 p.m., Guitar Town returns to the Trading Post with your host Mark Estill honoring a variety of area guitar players, with plenty of fine blues playing on hand. On Blue Monday at the Alamo, the ICBC presents the annual birthday celebration and memorial tribute for Springfield resident and blues master Eddie Snow, hosted by guitar wizard Bill Evans.
Once again congrats are conveyed to the Illinois Central Blues Club for truly “keeping the blues alive” in central Illinois. Here’s to many more years of continued success.
Contact Tom Irwin at email@example.com.