The first musical environment I discovered in the Los Angeles area when I moved out here three years ago was a blues jam in Toluca Lake at a place called Lucy’s 51. It was led by Bobby Spencer and his band, and I found my trumpet to be welcome in that place. One of the leading lights of that session was an imposing gentleman who would lumber to the stage carrying a black guitar, situate himself on a tall bar stool, and from about a foot off the microphone, do some of the most gripping blues hollering I have ever seen anywhere. This was Jamie “Blues Boy” Powell, a six-foot-four powerhouse of blues music, one of the early indicators to me that yes, Los Angeles is a place where I might be able to live.
Jamie Powell has died and I find myself to be pretty busted up over the news. He was in the hospital and was visited frequently by close associates, and all of the reports were that he was looking well and in good spirits. I fully expected him to recover and I expected to play with him again. He didn’t, and I won’t.
Jam sessions are formed, they live and they die, and this one at Lucy’s is no more, but while it was happening, it had its own unique beauty. A real family developed in the time the session was happening, and I grew to be part of that family. When Jamie would sing and play, if I were there, he would always request that I join him on trumpet. That was a great honor and a pleasure, as I looked upon Jamie as a blues master, and someone who, as Bobby Spencer once put it, “comes from what he’s singing about.”
The most beautiful part of the Lucy’s 51 little chapter in Los Angeles music history was the advent of a young man named Ray Goren, then 12 years old, who played authentic blues guitar. He would come in accompanied by his father, and he would often share the stage with the great master, Jamie Powell. The two became dear friends and with the help of Bobby Spencer, Retha Petruzates Tadg Galleran and many others, they formed the Generation Blues Experience, a blues band that featured the stately stage command of Jamie Powell and the ferocious guitar work of young Ray Goren. The project garnered significant attention and resulted in gigs from Los Angeles to Chicago and in between.
The picture I post here of Ray and Jamie says it all. It was a brief confluence of ostensibly different but at a core level practically identical trajectories of energy, Jamie’s and Ray’s, colliding at this jam session that happened for a period of time in Toluca Lake, and I was afforded a front row seat on it and the opportunity to play with both of these great musicians, one whose musical voice is just finding its wings, and one whose mastery and command shall soar no more.