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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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A Bluesy Valentine’s

By Adam Fifield

Valentine’s Day barely registers in a dark and smoky blues club — the musicians themselves will tell you that holidays come and go, but for them “the blues” is a continuous state of mind.

The blues doesn’t have to be sad, either, said BB Melanson, who plays drums and sings for The Blue Devils Blues Revue every Monday night at club Zanzibar.

“I didn’t sound too sad singing up there,” Melanson said.

Listening to a down-and-out lyric, Melanson said, can sometimes have an uplifting effect on the audience: Either the audience members can sympathize and identify with the singer, or just be glad it isn’t they with all those problems.

In fact, Valentine’s Day might be the perfect holiday for the blues, because both are inescapably coupled with love.

“I’ll let (legendary blues guitarist) Son House speak for himself: ‘Ain’t but one kind of blues, and that consists between male and female that’s in love,'” said Bad Brad Wheeler, host of the Monday night blues revue, at which he’s known for pulling out his harmonica and wailing a bluesy line.

Wheeler also hosts a local radio show, “Roots n’ Blues,” every Wednesday and Thursday from 1:30 p.m. to 3 p.m. on KRCL, 90.9 FM. Melanson, along with many other musicians in Utah, testifies to Wheeler’s strong influence on the local blues scene.

“It’s not too hard to have the blues in Utah,” Wheeler said.

No surprise, then, that the blues has a long history in the nation’s reddest state.

“Blues came to town when the trains came to town,” Wheeler said, and that meant Ogden was Utah’s Mecca for jazz and blues for many years.

Much of Utah’s blues credibility, Wheeler said, goes to Joe McQueen, a saxophonist who, in the 1940s, was the first African American musician to perform at all-white clubs in the state.

The Us anthropology department, Wheeler said, began inviting blues musicians to Salt Lake City in the ’60s, and John Paul Brophy, then-owner of the now-defunct Dead Goat’s Saloon, started the Blue Devils Blues Revue in the ’80s.

Running with the torch, Wheeler champions Utah’s blues scene and plays out proficiently. A self-described “rambling man,” Wheeler lives up to the blues mentality.

“I had 330 gigs last year,” Wheeler said, “but I got way more ex-girlfriends.”

Joe McQueen will give a rare performance, at the age of 89, tonight at The Iron Horse in Ogden. When asked if he had plans for himself and a sweetheart on Valentine’s Day, Wheeler replied he’d be watching McQueen play, “hanging out with the other loners.”

Melanson, who has a gig more nights of the week than not, will perform tonight with his band Salty Waters and the Brine Shrimp Boys at Zanzibar, where he plays at least 14 times a month.

Valentine’s Day chocolates might be wrapped up in the brightest pinks and reds, but for many people giving and receiving chocolates, the holiday registers a deep dark blue.

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The Blue Devils Blues Revue plays every Monday night at Zanzibar.

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