The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise
Jan 22 - Jan 28, 2012
Seven Blues Festivals In Seven Days
By Peter "Blewzzman" Lauro © Feb. 2012
Holland America's Ms Nieuw Amsterdam
Prior to departing on my "Virgin Voyage", I had decided I was going to make written notes on pads I'd brought along and verbal notes on a pocket recorder I'd also brought along. Then, upon returning, I was going to write one of the most in depth articles ever written about The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. However, that idea - along with the one that I was going to pace myself - quickly got abandoned. First of all, I decided that participating in the hard partying, the heavy drinking and the very long hours seemed like a lot more fun than taking notes and writing about them. Secondly, writing about every band, mentioning every band member and talking about all the songs they performed would take forever and ultimately become boring. Therefore, what I intend to do is touch on the things that made the cruise special for me personally. I guess you might say this is going to be an article about the Blewzz Cruise.
The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise Slogan
Let me start off about this being my virgin cruise. I, like most virgins, have many friends that have been telling me for a lot of years that because the LR&BC is the ultimate blues experience, I needed to be on it. As a matter of fact, living in South Florida - where the ship departs from - and being a member of several of the states blues societies, I've been hearing it from a lot more people than most. Throw in the fact that as a result of my website - Mary4Music.com - I'm heavily involved with the genre and it was a downright sacrilege I hadn't yet cruised. Reason being - although it's worth every penny, the LR&BC is an expensive venture. Having said that, and now being able to speak from experience, let me now become part of the ever growing group that's telling you "You've got to experience The LR&BC". Whatever you've got to do to make it happen - DO IT!
As the cake says..."Let's Go Bluesin"
A blues festival a day keeps the doctor away and the LR&BC is exactly that - seven blues festivals in seven days. Virtually, from 11:00 AM to 4:00 AM (or later) you can see and hear live music. Ranging from solo acts to twelve piece ensembles and including amateur jamming (the cruisers themselves) to world class headliners, it's all there.....all day.....every day. Incredible!
Eat...Sleep...Live the Blues
- with the emphasis on Eat & Live
Although the LR&BC differs from regular cruises in many ways, one of them that caught my attention was quite unique. It involved the ships crew. On standard cruises the crew - as friendly, courteous and attentive that they are, they've always been a quiet, reserved and almost invisible bunch. On the LR&BC they were as outgoing as most of us passengers and seemed to be having a good time themselves. The wait staff in the areas where music was being played were always dancing around the venues and off to the back of the crowd, many off duty stewards could be seen enjoying the shows as well. As a matter of fact, the night before we were to disembark, I had a conversation with the ships cruise director and jokingly said "well, tomorrow you'll be full of boring, bitching passengers again, are you going to miss us?" His earnest reply was that he, as well as the rest of the crew would indeed miss us and he went on to say the blues cruisers are their favorite group to have. It was just a wonderful feeling knowing the blues was responsible for that.
The harp playing bartender & dancing waiter in the Crows Nest Lounge
I've heard that on the LR&BC cruise many impromptu events take place and that some of those can ultimately wind up as cruise highlights. That held true for me on several occasions. One was an unscheduled duet between Nick Moss and Rick Estrin. I believe it took place at 1:00 PM one day and it had only been arranged late the night before. As it turned out, Nick & Rick are good friends and just wanted to have some fun together. To hear Nick tell the story of how they met was so cool. Here it is in a nutshell. As a student, Nick held all kinds of titles in wrestling and football and being a natural at it, sports was going to be his career. Unfortunately, internal medical problems changes all that. As a matter of fact, Nick was in a hospital across the street from a joint where Little Charlie and the Nightcats were playing one night. That night his brother came by to visit him and with a little help from some staff and a little bit of trickery, he was able to sneak Nick....tubes in tow.....across the street to see the show. Nick saw Charlie Baty working the magic that he did on a guitar and immediately decided his new career. Great story and great set as well. The guys did a hell of a job on a Cephas and Wiggins type show, had a hell of a lot of fun doing it and left the audience a hell of a happy group. We all just witnessed a "happening" - just one of many.
The "Rick & Nick" show
A very special highlight for my wife Rose and I didn't even involve music - well, not directly anyway. We were on our way from one show to another and while walking through the buffet dining area we noticed Dion and his wife sitting alone having a cup of coffee. Wanting to say hello, and tell him how much I enjoyed his show earlier that day, we veered towards them. After introducing ourselves and paying our compliments we started to walk away. Sounding like a long lost buddy, Dion says "Where ya goin'? Sit down and relax a while". Imagine that, being made an offer we couldn't refuse from Dion. Well, for the next 75 minutes we talked like we knew each other all our lives. Being close to his age, and being an Italian from Brooklyn, we shared neighborhood and family stories that had us all cracking up. Then Dion pulls out his cell phone and starts showing us pictures that were priceless....Him and Annette, him and Frankie Avalon, and on and on and on. For Rose and I, and our friend Joe who joined had joined us, this was another of many "happenings".
We could've listened all day to Dion's singing & storytelling
Of course, the music and the shows were mind blowing. Three to four appearances each by the likes of Rod Piazza and the Mighty Flyers, The Tommy Castro Entourage, Nick Moss and the Fliptops, Coco Montoya, Shemekia Copeland, Super Chickan and on and on. It was relentless. However, in addition to seeing all the superstars, one of the things I enjoy about a festival environment, is being exposed to new acts. These are what I like to refer to as the surprise highlights of the event.....and there were two for me. The first was Philipp Frankhauser, a blues band from Switzerland and the second was Chris Cain from Los Gatos, California. I made sure I saw all three performances by both of these acts and if there were five more I'd have been at them as well. Chris Cain is the total package. Not only is he one of the best blues guitarists I've ever seen but he's by far, the most colorful and visual of them all. Philipp Frankhauser has an amazing band. Their strong suit is beautiful and emotionally sung blues ballads yet when they kick it up a notch they rock the room. Every member of the band is phenominal. These two acts are must see blues.
Philp Frankhauser with Shemekia Copeland
The intense looking Chris Cain
After having the time of my life it's only right to thank people for making that happen. Thanks to all of the very cool cruisers - some of which were good friends, some of which I knew for years via the Internet but just met and some of who are now new friends. Now I understand the meaning of The Blues Cruise Family. I had a ball partying with all you maniacs. Thanks to the blues loving staff of the beautiful Niew Amsterdam. Thanks to all the musicians that provided us with world class entertainment. And saving the best for last, thanks to Roger and all of his associates for making this remarkable event a possibility.
Lastly, I'd like to offer living proof why what happens on the blues cruise should stay on the blues cruise.....
For the safety and protection of those pictured, their names have been omitted.
I couldn't think of a better way to close this story than to quote the Terminator himself........ "I'll Be Back".
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