The spirit of the Delta captured at Monday night jam sessions
“There is one golden rule for Fat Tuesday’s Monday Night Jam. If you bring it, it’s gotta be the blues. It could be rockin’ blues, country blues, or even funky blues…but it’s gotta be the blues.” ~ Tom Robbins
In a fairly nondescript stripmall right off Lee Highway in Warrenton, Fat Tuesdays features one of the best blues jam experiences in the area. When you first approach Fat Tuesdays and enter through a glass door on a Monday night…it hits you.
Monday night jam sessions make you feel like you happened upon a little piece of Bourbon Street. The place is surreal – a phantasmagoria of decor, lights, smells and music. Colorful memorabilia cover almost every inch of the walls. And the ceiling is illuminated by hundreds of curious colored circus lights, even blinking bulb chandeliers.
The jam sessions start around 7:00 p.m. and end around 11:30 p.m. Some of the best blues musicians within 40 miles of Warrenton come and bless the stage with their talent and skill. As soon as the music starts you’ll forget there are a dozen flat screen TV’s staring at you, and that you are still in Warrenton.
Monday nights are all about the blues. Even if you don’t know what, or never heard of, the 12-bar blues, or cannot tell the difference between a saxophone or a sousaphone, you will still enjoy the sounds. This music genre is universal and originated in the southern United States, specifically in the “Delta” belt area of Mississippi and surrounding areas.
A core group of musicians known as the House Band, kick off the festivities each Monday night and is led by Tom Robbins. He is also the host for the evening and is a blues aficionado on the guitar – and sings like a pro. Robbins is the “real Mccoy” incorporating sounds of the Mississippi Blues belt music: Sweet Home Chicago, Kansas City, Smokestack Lightning, or I’m Ready. He performs with great emotion and says his music “provides a secular feeling of life’s journey expressed through the blues.”
Dean Honeycutt, electric bass musician, is also the general manager of Drum & Strum. He lays down the “fat bottom” of the blues jam each week. Honeycutt loves the blues and says he is “purposed with keeping the blues alive for the next generation.”
David ‘Rico’ Rodriguez is the house drummer. Rico is a self-taught musician, and an accomplished drummer. Max Malmgren is an electric guitarist with 12 years experience who brings heavy chops and youth (he’s only 25) to the stage. Gokul Chalasani, the house musical engineer, mixes all the sounds and is also a drummer and guitarist; sitting in on some songs – if he’s not too busy on the sound board.
Other local musicians often join in, so much so they appear to be members of the House Band. Mike Wilber of the Ginger Funk Band is a guitarist and vocalist who brings a more modern spin to the blues, tapping into the styles of Joe Bonamassa and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Wilbur says, “Blues is a soulful form of music language that you learn to become a great musician.There is nothing like hearing the raw ‘stanck’ of a Telecaster guitar wailing out a blues lead, or the hum of a slide guitar you can feel in your gut.”
Mike Jackson, plays harp (harmonica) and specializes in Chicago style rhythm & blues. Aaron Murphy plays guitar and has a music studio just outside Culpepper. William Schuppert, a young gifted drummer, has his roots in jazz but loves to play the blues. He wants to play professionally in the Big Easy (New Orleans). Cadence McCahn, a local singer with a beautiful smile and voice, brings a country feel to the blues through songs by Patsy Cline, Etta James, and Billy Holiday. Steve Lawson plays slide guitar and hails from Culpepper. And me (Curtis Paul). I play the drums, keyboards, and teach students at Allegro Community School of the Arts.
Occasionally professional icons grace the stage. Famous Washington area bands such as Mark Wenner (Night Hawks), join in on the fun a few times a year. There are also fans too. Steve and Sue Lewis are semi-regulars. Steve says, “Tom’s (Robbins) got the ‘pipes’ to sing the blues and the quality of the music is top notch. I’ve paid big cover fees to hear music not nearly as good.” Rick Hughes, another regular says, “the honesty of the music is genuine, and the blues encompasses the roots to all popular music.”
The blues is ubiquitous; it is a feeling, and a movement of timing. It is a personal extension of expression of the individual performer, blending notes and riffs. Blues is a a ride of ups and downs, with loud and soft moments. It tells a story and always goes somewhere with some unexpected turns. Like chicken soup for your eyes, ears and soul, good live blues music will make you feel better.
So come sing, blow, honk, thump, hit or strum your blues any Monday night at Fat Tuesdays and “don’t forget to bring your guitar.” Soloists or musicians for the rhythm section are always welcome. Be a star for 15 minutes, or just come hear the blues.
About the author:
Curtis Paul is an author, game inventor, publisher and freelance writer from Warrenton.