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In January of '79 Powder Blues opened for BB King at the Commodore Ballroom. I brought the oldest BB album I had for him to sign. He said he'd be happy to sign it and when I handed the album to him he chuckled and said he had not seen that one for a very long time-in fact, he said he did not own a copy! He was ever so warm and made me feel very welcome in his dressing room. I got to open several more shows for him over the years and he always made a point to say hi.

 

 

My good friend James Byrnes introduced me to Muddy Waters in the winter of '78 when he opened Muddy's show at the Old Roller Rink in North Vancouver. Muddy was super friendly and we discussed Chicago-he was very happy to have moved out of the busy, dirty downtown and into suburban Oak Park where he said, "The squirrels and rabbits play on my front lawn." In April of '83 Jim and I were up in Port Hardy playing a pub. We were on our way to a friend of Jim's for dinner when we heard on the car radio that Muddy had died. It was sad and a little strange that the man who had introduced me to Muddy was with me when we heard the news. Muddy's signature on this album was not done in a permanent marker and has just about worn off but of course I still cherish it.

 

 (L-R) Richard Molina, Big Walter Horton, Jack Lavin(L-R) Richard Molina, Big Walter Horton, Jack Lavin

                     

 

In Feb., '79 I had the great fortune to see Big Walter Horton perform at Rohans Rockpile. It was an incredible show except for a harp player in the audience who played his C harp through every tune. Near the end of the show Walter said, "I can hear you out there playing that harmonica but you will never, NEVER play a harp like me!" I invited him to come over to my home for dinner the next day when he signed this album. We also dropped in on my late friend Portland Al at his record store and had this photo taken. Walter Horton was the best blues harmonica player I ever heard and was a really cool person. 

 

I heard Charlie Musselwhite for the first time at the Fillmore West in 1967 opening for the Paul Butterfield Band and the Cream. I was knocked out by his band and his singing and playing. The next time I got to see him was in early '68-he was playing at the Matrix, in San Francisco, and I sat front and centre in front of his tweed Fender Bassman, bathing in his sound. That night Elvin Bishop sat in and Mike Bloomfield made an appearance. It was an incredible evening of some of the best blues I have ever experienced! Charlie and I rubbed shoulders many times over the years and he was always friendly and encouraging. I think he is my biggest harmonica influence-man can he blow!

  

 

One of the best harmonica players I have ever heard was Harmonica 'Tex' Norman aka Harmonica Colt, aka Colton Coeur Demain, aka Eddie Norman. He spent most of his life behind bars for some offences including armed robbery. He escaped from 2 maximum security prisons and the second time was on the lamb for several years. When he was finally captured, the sheriff's deputies deliberately shattered one of his knees to end his escapes. Legend has it that he could make $500 in a couple hours of busking-playing his harp and singing. He hung out in the SF Bay Area, Tempe, AZ, Boulder, Colorado and other places unknown to me. In 6/72 I was visiting SF from my commune in Wolf Creek, Oregon, staying with a friend. I got a call there from one of my fellow Wolf Creekers who was also visiting friends in SF (Jackie Spear). She asked me to turn on the tv because her pal Harmonica Colt was going to be interviewed by Truman Capote from Colt's residence in San Quentin Prison. I eagerly turned on the tv set and watched Capote as he interviewed some of the prisoners. Each time the programme cut to commercial I heard this electrifying harp lick that stood my arm hairs on end-it was incredible! At the end of the show Capote finally interviewed Colt and it was amazing! As soon as the programme was over I got another call from Jackie asking if I would like to go with her to San Quentin to visit Colt. I accepted instantly and the next morning we went to the prison. I was not allowed to wear my own clothes for the visit and wore some 'rags' they kept there for that purpose. We sat in the visiting room and eventually Colt showed up. He regaled us with tales of his life that were spellbinding. I asked what he did while doing his time. He explained that he had been trained as a baker, an electrician and several other trades during his years of incarceration but these days the authorities left him alone to do whatever he wanted. He said he had a special room where he liked the echoing acoustics and he'd simply play his harps. He told me, "You should hear the ice cold licks bouncing off those walls!" I asked if I could send him a supply of harps but he said he had all he needed. We communicated via letter for a few years and he always mentioned coming to Vancouver to visit me but, of course, the border would never let a convicted felon across. In the early '80s I tried to track him down and eventually got in contact with a woman in the SF Bay Area he had been living with. She told me he had died years earlier and began to weep profusely. If anyone out there knows of this Truman Capote documentary in San Quentin (there were at least two of them) that showed on WNET or PBS (I believe) I would love to know about it. I have been unable to find any recordings of this harmonica genius-it is very possible that none exist.

 

 

 

 

 

In 1986 I was approached by Kanaka Productions to procure talent for Vancouver's first Blues Festival. Although it sprinkled a bit of rain for 20 minutes during the middle of the show no one left and it was a major success. Hoping this would become an annual event we were disappointed that this excellent show turned out to be a one off and to date was Vancouver's only Blues Festival. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From 1985 through 1988 I presided over the Vancouver Blues Preservation Society whose mission was to promote Blues music and musicians in our area. We rented a venerable theatre called The Lux for our meetings and events. We put out a Bluesletter to let our members know of upcoming events. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On stage at the Zanzibar 9/72 6'6" trans-gender entertainer Sherry DeCartier in foreground.

(L-R) Sherry DeCartier, Jack Lavin, Harley McConnell, Clarence Gardner Jr.

 

 

 

 

  

Through the 1970s it seemed there were more gigs than players! All along East Hastings and up Main Street there were numerous burlesque clubs-all hiring live bands to play behind the strippers. Places like the Shanghai Junk, Smiling Buddha, Kit Kat Club, Fort Boogie, The Sunrise, Grand Union, Pennsylvania, The Columbia, Rococo's, and in other neighbourhoods were The Place Cabaret, The Zanzibar, Marble Arch, Dufferin, and many more. One of the strangest places I played was Frank's Cabaret on Columbia and Hastings. Located up a long straight stairway with a Plexiglassed-in booth at the top where Frank collected admission and kept those too drunk to be admitted out, was a real dive. The bands were usually 3-piece rock cover bands. The jukebox had marginally blown speakers and would turn on full blast at quarter to the hour and turn off on the hour. This was the band break-we did 45 minute sets with 15 minute breaks. If you were in the middle of a number when the jukebox came on you had to stop the song asap! When the juke box turned off you'd better be ready to play or suffer Frank's wrath! The place was usually scantily attended till after the race track closed (during summer) and then all Frank's handicapping friends would arrive and fill the joint. We would play from 8pm till 2am for $90 per man per 6-night week! Well, my rent was only $70 per month so I could sort of make that work as long as I kept my bar tab down! This pic from April of '74 was taken by one of the Vancouver Camera Girls who would take a Polaroid pic for a two dollar bill. On stage are Dimitri Brown on guitar, Clarence Gardner on Bass and I was on drums. So glad I came down the pike when there was still work for an upcoming musician!
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In '96 the Yale Hotel was dubbed "the House That Jack Built", honoring me for hosting jam sessions, leading the house band, and procurring blues talent from all over N. America for nearly 10 years. Also pictured is Muddy Fraser, a good friend and band mate from the 'old days'.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 I wrote this autobiographical song for Powder Blues in 1981 and received this nomination for Song of the Year in 1982.