Archive for wendy DeWitt

The Medicine Ball Band at the Sausalito Cruising Club

Posted in Bay Area Music, Night Beat, No Name Bar, Sausalito After Dark, Sausalito night life, ukulele music with tags , , , , , , , , on September 26, 2011 by joetatesblog

The Sausalito Cruising Club often hosts the Medicine Ball Band Sunday afternoons from 5-9:30 PM. This group must be one of the best-kept secrets in the Bay Area music scene. Their excellent music far exceeds the notoriety they have been accorded.

Led by guitarist David Sturdevant, who moved here from upstate New York 38 years ago, MBB delivers a versatile repertoire with everything from swing standards to R&B with a distinct New Orleans flavor. If you ask, they will even play Dixieland. They were kind enough to play dinner music for a while so everyone could enjoy the buffet.

Basic Medicine: David Sturdevent, Ylonda Nickell, Larry Vann, Richard Howell, Kirk Harwood and Wendy DeWitt

Founded in 1971 by Sturdevant, the group started by playing in the street for tips at Union Square in San Francisco. Along with Sturdevant was a pair of banjos played by Dave Marty and Abe Van Der Meulen. The late Amanda Hughes started singing with them later as they moved on to clubs. Their first bass player was Randy Jackson, the world famous producer and arranger who is now a judge on American Idol.

John Stafford and Wendy DeWitt

Today they are joined by Wendy DeWitt, the Queen of Boogie Woogie,  on piano. With Ylonda Nickell on alto sax, John Stafford  on various woodwinds, Richard Howell on soprano and tenor sax, Larry Vann on drums and kirk Harwood on congos, the group is rounded out with vocals by Thea Rose, a sweet young singer adept in the ways of jazz.

Starting with a couple instrumentals, DeWitt sets the pace with one of her classic boogies rendered in her own inimitable way. Careless Love follows with John Stafford leading the way on tenor sax.

The beautiful Thea Rose takes the stage and belts out Who Could ask For Anything More?, followed by Otis Redding’s Dock Of The bay, sung in a clear tenor voice.

Thea Rose

Ms. Rose is in the tenth grade at Terra Linda High, and plays cello, piano and guitar. Her uncle gave her a Billie Holiday CD when she was seven and she has been enthralled with jazz ever since. Her Favorite singer is Ella Fitzgerald and favorite musician is Thelonius Monk, just to give you some idea of where she’s coming from. When time and circumstances permit, she sings with the Medicine Ball Band as she has for the last two years.

After a break she returns with Lullaby Of Birdland, which is completely over the top. Sturdevant and Stafford toss in an incredible harmonica-clarinet duet that makes the whole performance click.

Sturdevant sings My Blue Heaven, written by Walter Donaldson with lyrics by George A. Whiting in 1924. The dance floor fills up with this one, and DeWitt’s keyboard work transports us to the 50s’ and Fats Domino. We get some more of the harmonica-clarinet instrumental section.

David Sturdevant and John Stafford

Apparently Sturdevant and Stafford have been working this routine up. They are planning a tour of the US to showcase what they have been creating. After the break they give us a demo of playing just harmonica and clarinet. It starts off seeming to be just amusing, but them morphs into a full blown musical tour de force.

There was some good blues on the menu too. The drummer, Larry Vann, is a true original as he delivers his song, Down In Shady Lane, played in 4/4 but overlaid with 6/8 time. It is slow and soulful and you know you are hearing the real deal.

Larry Vann

Vann played on many of the famous Motown recordings, toured extensively with Buffy St. Marie and has recently been playing dates with Martha Reeves. He is known as the Groove Merchant, and is the originator of something called the Oakland Scratch Groove. Often appearing at venues like Yoshi’s, Vann is in demand.  Check out his website at

David Sturdevant, Ylonda Nickell and Richard Howell

Richard Howell, impressive to listen to, also has some serious cred in the business. Names like Etta James, Chaka Kahn, Don Cherry, Carlos Santana and Taj Mahal are just a few of the personalities that drop from his lips when he discusses his resume’. Learn more about Richard Howell at

Not to be outdone by all the name dropping, Ylonda Nickell, takes over the proceedings with her rendition of Misty. Starting a with a slow, roboto introduction, Nickell launches into something bordering on Rhapsody In Blue, Gershwin’s monument to stately blues. Nickell has a way of expanding a simple song like this into a kind of symphony with many movements.

The joint was a' jumpin'

There was lots of other good stuff including Feelin’ Alright, of Joe Cocker fame and sung here by Stafford. Sturdevant and Stafford team up for some vocals too, like on Sweet Georgia Brown, written in 1925 by Ben Bernie and Maceo Pinkard (music) and Kenneth Casey(lyrics). It’s good to hear some male harmony and these guys are getting ready for the road so they have really tightened it up.

They will be back from their tour in October. You can hear them at the Sausalito Cruising Club on Sunday afternoons a couple of times a month.

To learn more about the Medicine Ball Band go to

To Learn more about the Sausalito Cruising Club go to

Also check out Last Voyage Of Th Redlegs at just click on the PDF link

If you are a musician, please come to the Blue Monday Jam Sessions at the Sausalito Cruising Club every Monday at 7.

Go here


No Name Bar and Presidio Yacht Club

Posted in Bay Area Music, Night Beat, Sausalito After Dark, Sausalito night life with tags , , , , , , , on April 4, 2011 by joetatesblog

It was a bar hopping evening starting at the No Name Bar in Sausalito at 6PM. Joe Tate plays here every week at this time along with Lonnie Walter and one other of his rotating guests. This week, Jerome Phillips rounds out the trio with his very experienced keyboard playing. Joe Tate performs his usual New Orleans swamp blues along with a couple new numbers like Little Egypt, the famous Leiber and Stoller song best known for its Coasters recording.

Lonnie Walter, Joe Tate and Jerome Phillips

They also let loose with some good old Chuck Berry stuff like Nadine which Jerome sings to good effect. Jerome also performs some nice instrumentals here and there while Tate scurries around with the tip jar.

They were selling  some DVDs of The Last Free Ride, a movie which chronicles the houseboat wars which took place here in the 70s. Tate also sells the Ukulele baby Songbook which come with a CD of him performing all the songs in the book. It is available at

They finish up the night with Cab Calloway’s Minnie The Moocher and finally Chuck Berry’s Rock and Roll Music.

The next bar hop was to the Presidio Yacht Club where The Tickets, fronted by Debra Clawson, were playing. This joint is located in one of the most beautiful spots on earth on the edge of Horseshoe Cove at the foot of the north tower of the Golden Gate Bridge. Viewing the bridge and San Francisco is like looking at a post card come to life. If you haven’t been here you should check it out. For information go to

Anyway, The Tickets do a lot of the popular covers from the Rolling Stones and other great rock groups. They also do some very nice originals with clever chord progressions and diatonic melodies. Very reminiscent of the 60s. This is exactly the kind of music that Bill Graham wanted to get rid of. Happily, in spite of his best efforts, this stuff keeps coming back.

The Tickets at the Presidio Yacht Club

There was a good crowd and The Tickets kept the dance floor full with such tunes as Born To Be Wild, the Steppenwolf classic that idolizes biker chic. Sung by Peter Herbert, who doesn’t appear to be the biker type, the song brings back memories of when Steppenwolf used to play at the Ark in Sausalito.

Debra Clawson comes back with a ballad or two that showcases her one of a kind voice.

The next bar hop was back to the No Name Bar where Wendy DeWitt was making some very fine music with her excellent band. With Kirk Harwood on drums, Jan Martinelli on bass, and Steve Freund on guitar, this group is a force to be reckoned with.


Kirk Harwood, Steve Freund, Jan Martinelli and Wendy DeWitt

Freund’s mastery of the guitar is beyond words. But his powerful vocals leave little doubt that he is the real deal. Combined with the Queen Of Boogie Woogie’s over the top piano, it’s easy to see why Harwood and Martinelli get excited. Kirk Harwood in particular keeps bouncing up and down with every cymbal crash. He just can’t sit still.

Anyway, this was real fun evening and hearing these folks was the perfect ending.

To learn more about Wendy DeWitt go to

To learn more about Steve Freund go to

To learn more about The Tickets go to

To learn More about Joe Tate go to

Wendy DeWitt and Joe Tate at the No Name Bar

Posted in Bay Area Music, Night Beat, Sausalito After Dark, Sausalito night life, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on February 21, 2011 by joetatesblog

Wendy DeWitt has an unbelievable left hand for the piano. While the left is playing a driving bass line, the right is drawing out a melody. All the while, the voice is singing and sometimes shouting. With Joe Tate laying down some guitar riffs, Lonnie Walter mends it all together with a rhythmic tattoo. Also sitting in was Kurt Harwood who brought his congo drums. These added a nice bass spectrum to the percussion. He also doubled on tamborine and some other small gadgets.

Wendy and Joe took turns on vocals every two songs. Starting off with some New Orleans sounds, the genre drifts to rock, country and a little Hawaiian. Joe sang “Over The Rainbow” while Wendy peeked over his shoulder at the chart. For this, Betty the bartender came out and stuffed money in the tip jar. Others followed her, though it’s not clear why except it’s clear people love this song.

It was a cold and rainy night and the tourists came in shivering. Quite a few Irish Coffees disappeared and there was quite a bit of merriment. There may have been some intoxication too. In spite of this the mood was upbeat with plenty of laughter.

DeWitt’s playing was spectacular as usual. Lonnie Walter played a few bongo solos that were extraordinary. Tate held the middle together as well as possible between the staccato drums and the piano orchestrations.

The evening ended with Joe’s rendition of Minnie The Moocher to which the audience sang along.

Myron Mu was there to pick up Lonnie and he told us that Johnny Nitro had died about an hour earlier. Lonnie, who was really upset, told us we would have to find someone else for March 19 when Nitro was schedule to play at the No Name bar.

Check out Joe Tate’s “Ukulele Baby Songbook” at

You can also download a PDF of “Last Voyage Of The Redlegs” from this site.

Boogie Woogie Piano

Posted in Bay Area Music, Night Beat, Sausalito After Dark, Sausalito night life, ukulele music with tags , , , , , , on February 10, 2011 by joetatesblog

NIGHT BEAT on Rhythm Street       Joe Tate


Tonight we got to hear some old fashioned New Orleans piano from Macy Blackman at Saylor’s Restaurant and Bar at 2009 Bridgeway. Macy presents a combination of styles ranging from Professor Longhair to Ray Charles. In between you can hear Fats Domino, Doctor John, Huey Piano Smith and a little Jerry Lee Lewis. His excellent piano playing is complimented by his soulful vocals. He is accompanied by Bing Nathan on bass.

Starting off with “Let the Four Winds blow,” you can feel Fats Domino in the air. The vocal is spot on with all the little Fats Domino piano figures sprinkled in. The patrons react to “Tipitina” as if they know what to expect. Macy has his fans here and this song gets them going. This must be Professor Longhair’s defining song, though many more are to come.

Next is Rays Charles’ “Hallelujah I love Her So” followed by “Rock House” and eventually “One mint Julep.” “Rockin Pneumonia And The Boogie Woogie Flu” segues to some swamp blues with “Goin Back To New Orleans. Listening to these guys is like a little trip down south, if you know what I mean.

Macy grew up in Wilmington, Delaware and got his chops in New York City. He came to the Bay area in 2000 and now lives in Kensington. He has played with Dr. John, the Clovers and has his own group, the Mighty Fines, that features Jack Dorsey on Drums, Nancy Wright on Tenor sax and Snakebite on baritone sax. They can be heard at Ana’s Jazz Island in Berkeley on June 28.

Macy can be heard also at Servino’s in Tiburon. He will be there July 3. Also coming up is the “Blues Piano Orgy” on May 30, at the Belrose Theatre in San Rafael. This event will have Macy Blackman, Sid Morris and Wendy DeWitt. If you feel like venturing to North Beach, you can hear Macy every Monday and Tuesday in June.

Macy has a couple CDs that are good listening. His newest, “24 Hours A Day,” demonstrates his ample musical skills and is infused with the New Orleans style. He also has an older CD, “Something For Everybody,” a mixed bag of R&D , be bop and blues.

For more information about Macy Blackman go to

For reservations at Saylor’s Restaurant and Bar call 332- 1512 The music schedule can be found at


Following the trail of boogie woogie piano to the No Name Bar at 757 Bridgeway, Wendy De Witt is holding forth tonight with a surprise guest. Wendy is one of the anointed Queens of Boogie Woogie, which was recently celebrated at the Sweetwater Station in Larkspur.

Wendy is endowed with incredible musical independence. Each of her hands is under separate control, the result of right-left brain coordination that is the basis for this ability. When her left hand gets to movin, the boogie starts groovin. The right hand spins the melody all in syncopation to that powerful bass line coming from the left. It is marvelous to watch her hands dancing, sort of in circles, around the keyboard.

“Texas Stomp” sets the tone with it’s quick rhythm and driving bass to get the feet tapping. Wendy’s four-inch heels start to move and her wide brimmed hat is bouncing around. Pretty soon this statuesque woman started singing in a total groove. With the piano filling out the spectrum, all you could have added is drums. Her “Walking Down The Road” was hand clapping good and she got a little vocal help from one table.

Eugene Huggins showed up and brought some real blues power to the proceedings with a pocket full of harmonicas. Wendy introduced him and they took off with “Mother Earth,” the Memphis Slim classic. Wendy has a unique way of playing this song with a slowly descending bass line that, mixed in with the moaning harmonica, sounded spooky and dark  It sounded like it had been crossed with St. James Infirmary. Real nice.

Huggins then sang a few songs including some Jimmy Reed and his holiday favorite, “Life Is a Nightmare.”  This is one special song. The pathological precept here may be a laughable absurdity. Describing all the bummers of life, the song has an uplifting beat that gives a happy feeling. He sings it with a smile so you know ther must be some irony in there.

Wendy closed out the set with a few cuts from her “You’re Not There”  CD. She played “Don’t Want No Man,”  “Unknown Boogie”, and “All You Cab Do Is Cry.” She has another CD titled “Soul Shake.”

For more information about Wendy De Witt got to