Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Return of Jimmy Thackery to Wilebski’s: the Messiah Comes Again

During the 1980’s and 90’s, the Blues Saloon f/k/a Wilebski’s was my second home (along with the Cabooze, the Union Bar, First Ave, Whiskey Junction, Artist Quarter, Emporium of Jazz, 400 Club, the Viking and countless other Twin Cities live music venues). And just like my home there was the constant blare of great blues, soul and r n’ b music, the beer and bourbon flowed freely and back then you could smoke, which gave the times a kind of bluish grey (not purple) haze.

Some of my most memorable, cherished and forgotten music related moments went down in and around the corner of Western and Thomas in the beautifully run down Frogtown neighborhood of St. Paul.

From its earliest inception as Wilebski’s, its rise in prominence thanks to booking the legends of blues and soul, both current and past, its locale for the filming of Survivors, a tribute to an eclectic mix of the greats and undeserved, lesser-known greats of blues, soul and r n’ b music; to its sporadic closings at the hands of the revenuers; to its rebirth and golden age as the Blues Saloon with the greatest booking agent this area has ever and will ever see (sorry Sue McClean and Charlie Campbell), the incomparable Mikki Mulvihilll; this humble, second floor, former union hall was the envy of every juke joint and roadhouse in America. Accolades such as Rolling Stone Magazine’s nightclub of the year came and went, like water down a duck’s back until one day it was no more.

Now many years later, after trying everything from lesbianism to Asian, Wilebski’s has come back home. So how better to reacquaint ones self to one of the truly legendary live music venues in mid-America than to celebrate its return to blues music with this genre’s (or any genre for that matter) guitar legend Jimmy Thackery this Saturday, August 14th.

Anyone who knows me knows of my love and affection for this man’s music. From his early days as guitarist for the greatest four piece live blues/rock band in the history of American music, the Nighthawks, to his many side projects like the Assassins, the Jamaican sessions with John Mooney, to his power trio the Drivers, as well as, many solo projects, Jimmy Thackery has maintained an integrity to the music surpassed by very few artists. A master of dynamics, the greatest, cleanest tone in the business and sculptor of sound that would put Rodin to shame, Jimmy Thackery is simply a joy to watch and listen to perform.

A true maverick and fiercely independent, sometimes to the point of being Faulkneresque, Jimmy Thackery is deserving of the world class stature that he is held in among his peers. I’ll never forget the night his band the Assassins opened for B.B. King at the Wax Museum in Washington, D.C. and after an incredible encore of dueling solos, the King knelt at Thackery’s feet and offered him the greatest tribute he could, Lucille. But don’t believe a biased old fool like me, come out and see a real guitar genius this Saturday and welcome back the very best in blues to Frogtown.

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