Blues musician Johnnie Bassett: Feelin’ Lucky, Baby

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This year’s Brighton Smokin’ Jazz and Barbeque Blues Festival is offering up a number of delicacies for both the taste buds and the ears. But, here’s a secret: you’ll want to be there Friday night from 9:45-11 p.m., because a world-class, award-winning treat is going to be available for you to enjoy.: Mack Avenue recording artist and Detroit-area blues mainstay Johnnie Bassett will be performing with his band, the Blues Insurgents (Keith Kaminski, saxophone; Chris Codish, keyboards; James Simonson, bass; and Skeeto Valdez, drums).

Bassett recently received the honor of being named the “Artist Deserving of More Attention” from Living Blues Magazine, and has received numerous Detroit Music Awards in his career – and as you’re about to read in this exclusive LivingstonTalk interview, the accolades are Johnnie’s just desserts for a dedication to the craft of playing the blues.

Daryl:  Having lived here for over 10 years now, I’ve noticed that the level of performers that are being brought in for local festivals like the Brighton Blues and Barbecue event has risen dramatically in the last few years.  However, not everyone follows blues and jazz closely enough to realize that.  Could you give us some recent highlights in your career to give people a sense of what caliber of artist they’ll be seeing?

Johnnie:  Sure.  We just got back a few weeks ago from Cognac, France;  I had never played in Cognac before.  I’ve played in Paris several times, but this was my first time in Cognac.   We played at a five day festival there that draws 55,000 people.

D: Fifty-five thousand?  Wow!

J:  Yeah, it was something else.  The organizers told my agent that a lot of people said that we were the highlight of whole festival. Before that, we played a festival in Belgium for about 2,500 people, and festivals in Kalamazoo and the Poconos Mountains in Pennsylvania.

D: You recently received an award from Living Blues Magazine as the “Artist Most Deserving of More Attention” for 2010.  Couple that with the Detroit Music Awards and other awards you’ve received – how does it make you feel about what you do to receive these honors?

J: After over 30 years, it’s about time…….. (laughs)   No, I’m always pleased to receive honors like these, and it validates that people get that what I’ve been doing for all these years is good.

D: Every once in a while, someone will refer to you as “this new blues guy in Detroit” and it always makes me laugh.

J: Yeah, all anyone needs to do is search my name on the Internet and they’ll see that I’ve been at this a LONG time (note: Johnnie first worked as a session musician on records in the late 50’s).  But I started out as a side man and didn’t start appearing as a band leader until 1994, and then people started to take notice. But you have to put in the time, man, and pay your dues. Plus all the songs on my CD’s, with only one or two exceptions, are originals.

D: I am aware of your work and the playing of the guys in your band, and because of that I wouldn’t miss this show for anything. Echoing my first question, some music fans here in the county may not realize what they’d be missing if they didn’t come.  What would you tell them they’re going to miss out on if they don’t come out, as a way to encourage them to make it a point to visit the festival for your set?

J:   Swinging, jumping, enjoyable music! This is a young band, and they have a lot of energy – which keeps me going too. And they’re have the ability to do whatever I ask them to do, which makes it so much fun. I just try and keep it fun and simple. This isn’t going to be down-home kind of blues, this is electric, swinging blues. People have a real good time listening to us.

If you want to have a real good time, check out Johnnie Bassett and the Blues Insurgents on Friday, Sept. 10, from 9:45-11 PM at the Brighton Smokin’ Jazz and Barbecue Blues Festival.

You can learn more about Johnnie and listen to sound samples by clicking here. Johnnie says to check out “Keep Your Hands Off My Baby” and “Feeling Lucky Baby.”

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles
Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.