GET INTO…BLUES | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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My name is John Nellist I’m 34-year-old chef who has a passion and love for the blues.

I am singer who performs as part of a duo, alongside Andy Turnbull, called Monkey Junk and other projects. I am also one of the founders of The Monkey Junk Blues Club which has had some of the best local and national blues players perform in different venues in Newcastle. In 2014 myself and Andy were inducted into The American Heritage Blues Hall Of Fame.

What make the blues special to me is the history and the stories behind the songs and how over time different blues players styles change with their own experiences. I’m a big believer that the blues influenced most genres of music today, such as jazz, RnB, gospel, country, rock ‘n’ roll, soul and hip-hop. I also think it’s the most soulful genre of music. I love all styles of music, and all music is special but the blues always feels like home to me.

If you want to experience live blues, there are plenty of events in the region. Jumpin’ Hot Club have been putting blues and roots music events on for over 30 years and they know what they are doing! Sage Gateshead’s SummerTyne Americana Festival is also a great place to catch acts. For the more regular and local shows there are some free events such as my own free entry blues club – The Monkey Junk Blues Club which is on every Sunday afternoon in the main bar at The Cluny. Newcastle’s Billy Bootleggers offer upbeat bands doing a range of stuff from Chicago Blues, rockabilly, rock ‘n’ roll to bluegrass and more. It’s a real party vibe with authentic drinks to go with the venue, it is also free entry and has live music on from Thursday to Sunday nights. There’s some great stuff happening over Sunderland as well. George Shovlin has been doing blues events for some time now and he still has a Speak Easy night at The Harbour View in Roker every Thursday which is definitely worth checking out!

What make the blues special to me is the history and the stories behind the songs and how over time different blues players styles change with their own experiences

If you’re a performer that’d like to play, the best thing to do is check out busker’s nights. Wellington Street Blues on a Wednesday night at The Railway in Gateshead has space for buskers in between the booked acts, which is always a good opportunity to play in front of a blues crowd. Another way would be to do a recording of yourself playing, these days it’s easy to use a phone and record a video or a recording and upload it to YouTube or social network and then contact promoters like myself, introduce yourself and pass your music on. I’m always on the lookout for new players – junkclubblues@gmail.com

To get a more in-depth study of the genre I recommend a great blues DVD box set called Martin Scorsese Presents The Blues which covers nearly all genres. It has seven episodes directed by famous directors and is definitely worth buying. A good book to get would be The Land Where The Blues Began by Allan Lomax. It’s a raw ‘tell it how it was’ tale of the times where blues was more of a hidden thing and only really heard and performed by the black community. Allan Lomax befriended a lot of blues players during this time and recorded them performing. These recording are available to listen to and are incredible! My first introduction to the blues was the John Landis film The Blues Brothers; I fell in love with the music straight away and it is still one of my all-time favourite films.

As for music, there is so much out there but here are a few of what I would say to be profound albums: Robert Johnson – The Complete Recordings; BB KING – Live At The Regal; Blind Willie Johnson – The Complete; Muddy Waters – At Newport 1960; Magic Slim – West Side Soul; Fleetwood Mac – Then Play On; Ray Charles – At Newport; The Blues Brothers – Original Soundtrack.

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