Huey's features Earl the Pearl by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 9/27/2010 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

(Memphis, Tennessee) After a hot weekend of entertainment in the great city of Springfield, Missouri, Doug McMinn, bus-driving drummer of the Reba Russell Band pointed the bus south toward the home of the Blues. After arriving I transferred gear and headed to the midtown Memphis location of Huey's where I was booked to play with Earl the Pearl and the Peoples of the Blues. Archie “Hubbie” Turner was out on the road so I got a call from Earl to be one of the Peoples of the Blues on this fine Sunday night.

The original Huey's

Thomas Boggs

Huey's is a longstanding Memphis tradition founded by the late Thomas Boggs (drummer of Boxtops fame) and my old friend Jay Sheffield.

I have played most all of the now numerous Huey's locations (seven in all), but it is always fun to return to this one as it is the original, replete with tens of thousands of cellophane festooned toothpicks hanging from the ceiling. The toothpicks were all launched like missiles through table straws and the place has a great cheeseburger and comfortable well worn feeling that is still beloved by locals. All of their other locations strive to duplicate the funk of this original Huey's. I have played this bar with Elmo and the Shades, my band, the Wampus Cats, the Reba Russell Band and now Earl the Pearl.

Earl the Pearl Banks straps on his Stratocaster

After my brother and I loaded in the piano, Hammond organ and Leslie cabinet I greeted my friends Melvin Lee, Freddie Harris, and Earl Banks. Melvin Lee was the first guy to make it to the load in and we both were wondering for a while who was drumming this evening. We were glad to see Beale Street stalwart big Ralo, who rolled up on Madison Avenue in his very cool white Lincoln loaded full of drums.

Big Ralo prepares to lay down a cool shuffle, the old Beale Street way.

Soon we were busy trying to set up the PA. Not knowing where the speaker cable for the monitor was, I was delighted to hear Melvin say, “Aw, we don't have to have it, we not going to play that loud anyway.” These older blues guys are unstoppable, and they remember when there were no monitors on stage and nothing was mic'd into the sound system.

The inimitable Melvin Lee, bass player for B.B. King, Prince Gabe, and Earl the Pearl

Melvin Lee has his original, well-worn white Fender Precision which looks like it's probably from the 60's. Earl the Pearl told me that the bass was as old as the late Prince Gabe, meaning the time when Melvin played with Prince Gabe and the Millionaires (heard on “Ohio Bound” on Goldwax in 1964).

guitarist Freddie Harris

Freddie Harris, Melvin Lee, big Ralo

Carl Wolf

Old friend saxophone player Carl Wolf sat in with the band for a few numbers and the then 6 piece band was full, bluesy and sounding like the old Memphis bands from that past century that I knew and loved. As the night wore on we touched on a tremendous variety of old blues and R & B hits, everything from “Soul Serenade” and Willie Mitchell's “20-75” to Jimmy Reed and T-Bone Walker.


© Robert “Nighthawk” Tooms, 2010

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