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BIG BOSS BLUES: Powerhouse Blues/Rock and R&B. Winners of the 2014 Lansing Capital Area Blues Society "Blues Brawl" and representing Michigan in the 2015 International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.
Hailing from West Michigan (Grand Rapids, Kalamazoo and Battle Creek) these men have a passion for powerhouse rhythm and blues music that transports their listeners to some steamy club, where the smoke is blue, the atmosphere is alive and the music is gut-wrenchingly powerful. With nearly a century of blues performance history, these musicians pay tribute to the steady rollin' "IN THE POCKET" sound made famous by the blues greats; Freddie King, Albert King, Howlin' Wolf and Little Walter.
Bill LaValley-bass, Joe Ferguson-vocals and harmonica, Charlie Schantz-vocals and guitar and Eric Busch on drums.
“With decades of professional musicianship in its ranks, Big Boss Blues formed in 2012 has quickly made its mark on the region’s blues scene.” John Sinkevics Grand Rapids Local Spins writer
"Honest, Earthy, Genuine: Big Boss Blues":
Big Boss Blues boasts a resume unlike any other on West Michigan’s blues scene.
• For decades, Charles “River City Slim” Schantz has ignited Grand Rapids-area audiences with his impeccable guitar work, inspired by post-war Chicago blues, time spent in the Windy City and stints with Roberta Bradley, Backbone and others.
• The band’s chief songwriter, bassist Bill LaValley – initially trained as a trumpet player – helped assemble and propel well-known Michigan blues outfits Blue Moon and the highly acclaimed BMF Band, based in Kalamazoo.
• Drummer Eric Busch of Kalamazoo has studied classical and jazz percussion, performed at Lincoln Center and Birdland with jazz ensembles, played the International Blues Competition with the BMF Band, and is currently finishing up a bachelor’s degree in music therapy.
• Veteran harmonica player and singer Joe Ferguson, of Battle Creek, formerly of the Loaded Dice Band, Unleashed Band and Smokestack Lightnin’, has opened for the likes of the Kinsey Report and Buddy Guy.
TALENT, PROFESSIONALISM AND PLAYING ONLY ‘GOOD SONGS’
“The talent is there, the professionalism,” LaValley says. “These guys are ready for whatever I throw at them. We might play a museum or arts council one minute, then a club like Billy’s Lounge in Grand Rapids with a giant P.A. (system). When I do booking, I’m looking for people who might appreciate blues wherever it is.”
LaValley pressed Big Boss Blues into service in 2012, after leaving the BMF Band and getting asked to join Schantz and others for occasional basement jams. He recognized the potential of the seasoned players “and started booking gigs before we had three sets” of material, LaValley says. “That lit the fire under everybody.”
Since then, it’s been full steam ahead: Big Boss Blues rapidly established itself as a regional blues force, and now performs seven to nine times per month at venues across West Michigan.
The band produced a five-track demo last year at Broadside Recording in Kalamazoo, with plans for recording a full-length album of original songs written by LaValley.
Influenced by the classic blues of the legendary Albert King, Howlin’ Wolf, Freddie King and Little Walter, the group boasts a refreshing versatility that allows them delve into R&B tunes and their own material for full-bore, crank-it-up sets, not to mention playing laid-back trio shows.
BLUES ‘WITH A LITTLE SOUL AND R&B’
“It’s a blues band with a little soul and R&B mixed in for good flavor,” says LaValley, whose songs include hints of funk and rock.
Adds Schantz jokingly, who also sings: “We only play good songs. We are a blues band, but we don’t pretend to have any sort of authority in defining what’s blues and what’s not. We do mostly blues, but certainly American R&B is influenced by the blues and we do some of that, too. … We still have the sensitivity of swinging old blues with a more modern sound.”
For Schantz – Big Boss Blues represents another step in a musical journey that began when he fell in love with the blues as a drum-playing teenager in the late 1960s. “There’s something so authentic about it,” he insists. “There’s an honesty, an earthiness, a genuineness … that I’d probably never heard in music before.”
Big Boss Blues Booking: Contact Bill LaValley at email@example.com or 269-744-5293