FEATURE ON BLUES BASH, WRITTEN IN PART BY GARY WAGNER // KJAZZ 2019 BLUES BASH FESTIVAL

 
Wilshire Ebell Theatre, photographer Ian Fox

Deb Ryder, photographer Ian Fox

Sugaray Rayford, photographer Ian Fox


Robben Ford, photography Ian Fox

After a successful summer of music, KJazz kicked off the fall season with yet another spectacular event — The KJazz Blues Bash. The KJazz Blues Bash took place on September 20th at one of Los Angeles’ most historic venues, the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. The show featured GRAMMY®-nominated artists: guitarist Robben Ford and vocalists Sugaray Rayford and Deb Ryder.  At the event, Albert Edmund Lord III, Deputy for the Office of City Council Member (and then President in 2019) Herb J. Wesson Jr., made presentations to Gary “the Wagman” Wagner and to KJazz.

The 2019 KJazz Blues Bash was a great success. We would like to take a moment to thank everyone who attended, as such events help keep the gift of jazz and blues in our community. 

We reached out to Gary “the Wagman” Wagner, host of “Nothin’ but the Blues,” who also hosted the evening’s event to learn more about his experience with the KJazz Blues Bash and delve a little into his professional background.

Albert Edmund Lord III presents certificate of recognition 
to KJazz DJ Gary Wagner 

Tell us about your experience at the 2019 KJazz Blues Bash.

I always arrive early for the bash to make sure everything is set. The VIP party also starts early, and I love to make the rounds during the party, personally greeting as many VIP members as possible. Often, this is the first time they are able to “put a face with the voice.” I like to spend as much time as I’m able with listeners during the VIP party before the show. After the doors are open there are certain places I am required to be at specific times, so I really have to pay attention and be ready. Once the show is underway, I like to walk around a bit in the audience area to say hello to people and check on the sound. I really have to pay attention to time, though, so I’m ready for the next set change. The 2019 show at the Ebell was star-studded. The musicianship and professionalism of the performances was tip of the top. It was an honor to be the host of a show like that. 

How did you decide on the line-up for last year’s KJazz Blues Bash?

Robben Ford is more than a blues icon, he’s done it all. Of course, with his blues band “The Blue Line,” but he also played with Miles Davis, The Yellowjackets and Joni Mitchell. When he was still a teenager, he started a blues band with his two brothers, Mark and Patrick, and made a blues album that remains a classic today. 

Sugaray Rayford and Deb Ryder go together like red beans and rice. To be able to get them both, with their own bands, on the same stage on the same night, was not just spectacular, it was wonderful. Then, for them (by my special request) to perform their duet on the song “Get a Little Steam Up,” well, it caused the hair to stand up on my arms. Electric! 

Why do you think it is important for KJazz to host events like the KJazz Blues Bash?

The critical importance of live musical performances to our culture and heritage cannot be overstated. This is especially true with blues. In these times when we hear something on the radio and wonder about its musical merit, the deep merit of blues music cuts through all cultural, intellectual and sensual aspects of music. To experience it live, is to feel it in the marrow of your bones. It can set your soul free. 

What was your earliest memory that influenced your decision to go into radio?

When I was a kid I discovered listening to radio when I got one of the first shirt-pocket-size radios. Somehow, I discovered Wolfman Jack. This was way before he became a TV star. It was almost cult-like, his following. His radio show was late at night so I would sneak my miniature radio into my pillowcase at bedtime so I could listen. I also was a big LA Dodgers fan and I loved to listen to Vin Scully’s play-by-play. I always loved his voice. So, it was Wolfman and Vinny that originally inspired me to want to be on the radio. 

How did you first get interested in blues music?

In 1979 I was holding down the 7-midnight shift at progressive rock station WJKL in Elgin, Il. I got a call from the program director one afternoon asking me if I could cover the shift of the jock that had the afternoon shift before mine. He told me this artist named Muddy Waters was coming in for an interview, and the afternoon jock at the time had called in sick. So I went in early that day and interviewed Muddy Waters. I barely knew who he was but of course I had heard the name. That interview changed my life. However, it wasn’t until 1991 that I actually got to start playing the blues on the radio, on KLON, in the early days of what is now KJazz. 

What is the best way for our listeners to support KJazz?

I have friends that have told me they love to be on the sustaining membership plan. You don’t have to even think about it, and yet you get to be certain that, no matter what, you are continuously supporting the music you love to have on your radio. We can’t do what we do without the support of our listeners, and membership is critical to the survival of my program, Nothin’ But The Blues. 

You can listen to Nothin’ But the Blues every Saturday from 2PM to 6PM PST and Sunday from 2PM to 7PM PST on 88.1 in Los Angeles, or worldwide on-line at www.jazzandblues.org.  Archived programs also are available at https://kkjz.org/programming/archivedPrograms/



27

Looking Back at 2019 and Getting Jazzed Up for 2020

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KJazz Tops Goals for The Herb Alpert Foundation Challenge Grant During 2019 Fall Pledge Drive By Lorraine Bautista

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A Musical to Watch: Matilda By Lorraine Bautista & La Mirada Theatre Interview

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Feature on Blues Bash, written in part by Gary Wagner // KJazz 2019 Blues Bash Festival

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Feature on David Cardenas, KJazz Volunteer and Winner of the Volunteer Sweepstakes from 2019 Fall Pledge Drive

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Feature on Laurine Tuleja, Winner of the New Member Sweepstakes from 2019 Fall Pledge Drive

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KKJZ Fundraising, Inc., a registered commercial fundraiser, conducts fundraising activities on behalf of the California State University, Long Beach Research Foundation for the benefit of KJazz. Registration does not imply endorsement.

KKJZ Fundraising, Inc., P.O. Box 251469, Los Angeles, CA 90025
Phone: 310.478.5061  |  Fax: 310.478.5315  |  www.jazzandblues.org