Sons of Rhythm, Billy Foster & More Set for 1st Annual Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center Blues Festival May 18-20, LA


World-renowned Jazz and Rhythm & Blues Vocalist, Barbara Morrison will present top talent in The 1st Annual Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center Blues Festival to be performed on two stages at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center (BMPAC), 4305 Degnan Boulevard, #101, Los Angeles, CA 90036 tonight, Saturday and Sunday, May 18, 19 and 20, 2012.

Performers to be featured during the three-day Blues Fest include: Barbara Morrison (Producer of the Festival); the Sons of Rhythm: Johnny “Lucky” Otis (Grandson of Rhythm & Blues Pioneer Johnny Otis), Richard Berry III (Grandson of Composer and Pianist, Richard “Louie, Louie” Berry) and Donato James (Son of the legendary Etta James); Billy Foster & The Original Medallions; the Bernie Pearl Blues Band; Ray Bailey; Big Terry DeRouen; Kirk “Eli” Fletcher; Shelley “King” Fisher; Sonny Green; Sweetie Chicks; Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys; Jamie “Blues Boy” Powell; Sista Sherry Pruitt and Brother Yusef.

Morrison said: “It was a great day for the Blues when at The White House President Barack Obama told the nation that the Blues were alright with him. The Chief Executive celebrated the deep connection of U.S. culture with the music that originated in Africa, took root in slavery, and changed music for the entire world. The link between the Blues and President Obama’s home city of Chicago is well-known.”

But, the City of Los Angeles figures mightily in the story of the Blues as well. After WWII musicians like T-Bone Walker, Lowell Fulson and CharLes Brown found Central Avenue pulsating with music. Johnny Otis, the son of Greek immigrants, came from Berkeley to establish a solid platform for African-American artists in the still-segregated city. Little Esther Phillips, Etta James, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, all fronted his show. Giants like Big Joe Turner, Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson, Louis Jordan, and Roy Brown, lived here and often played with Johnny Otis.

The Blues has had high and low times, but never has disappeared. Gone underground, flown beneath the radar, but never died. Johnny Otis’ last great discovery was a young lady from Michigan who, like many of the great vocalists before her, was brought up singing in church. Her name was Barbara Morrison.

Aside from her considerable performance abilities, Barbara Morrison is now taking on a leadership role in the fostering of classic forms of African-American music in Los Angeles at her new Arts Center located in the Leimert Park.

Morrison said: “The Blues lie at the heart of Jazz, and were instrumental in the development of American popular music. As such, I am proud to start a new tradition here in Los Angeles by presenting a three-day Blues Festival featuring important artists in the field. One thing is for sure – come mid-May, Leimert Park will be jumpin’ as we raise the roof with our enthusiastic music making.”

Performances will be given at the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center on the Theatre Stage and the Festival Garden Stage during the three-day festival from May 18 – 20, 2012. Tickets are $25 per day, with the exception of the “All Star Blues Jam Session Fundraisers” benefiting the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center to be held immediately following the concerts on Saturday, May 19th and Sunday, May 20th, at which time tickets will be $30 per person, plus a two-drink minimum. Tickets may be purchased in advance by calling the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center at 323-296-BARB (323-296-2272) and online at

Food and Drinks will be available for purchase all three days at the Festival.

Friday, May 18, 2012 from 8:00- 10:00 p.m. – Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center Theatre (Tickets are $25 each):
8:00 – 10:00 p.m.: Champagne VIP Reception. Entertainment provided by Barbara Morrison, Jamie “Blues Boy” Powell, Big Terry DeRouen and The Bernie Pearl Blues Band. Honoring Sponsors and Musicians who have donated their time to keep the doors open and the music happening at the BMPAC.

Saturday, May 19, 2012 from 12 Noon – 6:00 p.m. – Festival Garden Stage (Tickets are $25 each); Followed by an “All Star Blues Jam Session Fundraiser” (Tickets are $30 each):
12-Noon – 1:00 p.m.: The Bernie Pearl Blues Band – House Band
1:00 – 2:00 p.m.: Jamie “Blues Boy” Powell – Real Deal Blues
2:00 – 3:00 p.m.: Sonny Green – Soul Blues Legend
3;00 – 4:00 p.m.: Johnny Mastro and Mama’s Boys – Rockin’ Blues
4:00 – 5:00 p.m.: Sons of Rhythm (Barbara Morrison joins the children and grandchildren of three of the giants of Los Angeles Rhythm & Blues): A Tribute to Johnny Otis, Etta James and Richard Berry featuring Johnny “Lucky” Otis (Bass, Vibraphone; Son of Guitarist Shuggie Otis and grandson of bandleader and R&B pioneer, Johnny Otis); Danto James (Drummer, Vocalist; son of the legendary Etta James) and Richard Berry III (Pianist; grandson of composer and pianist Richard “Louie, Louie” Berry) with Barbara Morrison
5:00 – 6:00 p.m.: Billy Foster & The Original Medallions – Classic Rhythm & Blues

6:00 p.m. – on: “All Star Blues Jam Session Fundraiser” – Festival Garden Stage (Tickets are $30 each, plus a two drink minimum). Benefiting the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center.

Sunday, May 20, 2012 from 12-Noon – 6:00 p.m. – Festival Garden Stage (Tickets are $25 each); Followed by an “All Star Blues Jam Session Fundraiser” (Tickets are $30 each):
12-Noon – 1:00 p.m.: The Bernie Pearl Blues Band – House Band
1:00 – 2:15 p.m.: Brother Yusef – One-Man Down Home Band
2:15 – 3:15 p.m.: Kirk “Eli” Fletcher – Exciting Young Guitar Sensation
3:15 – 4:30 p.m.: Ray Bailey – L.A.’s Master Guitarist and Blues Guru
4:30 -6:00 p.m.: “Mama Blues” – Starring Barbara Morrison, Sista Sherry Pruitt, Shelley “King” Fisher and the Sweetie Chicks

6:00 p.m. – on: “All Star Blues Jam Session Fundraiser” – Festival Garden Stage (Tickets are $30 each, plus a two drink minimum). Benefiting the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center.

About the Performing Artists:
Barbara Morrison (Festival Producer; Vocalist) Raised in Romulus, MI, Morrison logged her first performance on radio in Detroit at the age of 10. Since then, she has toured the world, dazzling fans with her two-and-a-half-octave range, in a wide array of genres from traditional Jazz and Blues to Gospel and Pop. Morrison has been featured on over 20 recordings. Over the years she has performed with a virtual “Who’s Who” of the Jazz and Blues worlds: Gerald Wilson, Dizzy Gillespie, Ray Charles, James Moody, Ron Carter, Etta James, Esther Phillips and many others. Morrison has also guest starred with the Count Basie Orchestra, the Clayton-Hamilton Orchestra and Doc Severinsen’s Big Band. She has performed at Blues and Jazz Festivals around the world, including Montreaux, Nice, Pori, Carnegie Hall, North Sea and Monterey. She is the creator and director of the Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center in the Leimert Park area of Los Angeles. Morrison will sing on Friday night at 8:00 p.m., Saturday afternoon with the Sons of Rhythm at 4:00 p.m and on Sunday afternoon with “Mama Blues” at 4;30 p.m.

The Bernie Pearl Blues Band: (House Band performing at the Festival all three days with a variety of artists.)
Bernie Pearl (Guitarist and Leader of The Bernie Pearl Blues Band) Los Angeles native Bernie Pearl got hooked on the Blues at his brother Ed Pearl’s renowned Ash Grove. His earliest guitar mentors included: Brownie McGhee, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Mance Lipscomb and Mississippi Fred MacDowell. He went on to perform with Blues luminaries such as Will Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, Freddie King, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon, Big Joe Turner and B.B. King with Stevie Ray Vaughan, and many others. A long and fruitful partnership with Harmonica Fats led to national recognition and performance in Europe and Canada. His career has included long stints as radio host, educator and festival producer. Currently, Pearl often tours, performing traditional and original acoustic Blues, and he continues to lead his five-piece Bernie Pearl Blues Band at festivals and clubs throughout Southern California. He has just released his fourth CD, “Sittin’ on the Right Side of the Blues” (Major Label Records, 2011).

Terry “Big T” DeRouen (Guitarist, The Bernie Pearl Blues Band) is a guitarist and vocalist with a distinctive sound. He has appeared and recorded and with dozens of artists, including Guitar Shorty, Willa Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, Smokey Wilson and, most recently, Etta James on her final studio release, “The Dreamer.”

Bobby “Hurricane” Spencer (Saxophonist, Vocalist, Songwriter and Educator; Member of The Bernie Pearl Blues Band) has a musical past that has spanned over 40 years. Born in Detroit, MI he checked into Alameda, CA by way of Arkansas at the tender age of 11 months. He was Musical Director for the legendary Jimmy McCracklin band. He also played with Johnny Tolbert and Dee Thangs, Marvin Holmes and the Uptights, and recorded with Oakland Blues icons J.J. Malone and Sonny Rhodes.

Albert “Big Al” Trepagnier, Jr. (Vocalist, The Bernie Pearl Blues Band) has been playing with the band for over 25 years. His New Orleans “sanctified foot” keeps the beat solid and in the groove. His soulful vocals are a highlight of each set.

Mike Barry (Bassist, The Bernie Pearl Blues Band) came to Southern California from Oregon. In High School he began gigging and has never stopped. A road veteran of many years standing, he quit the road and settled in to become one of this area’s busiest bassists. Joining the band 25 years ago, he and Albert “Big Al” Trepagnier, Jr. have become one of the great rhythm sections. Upright bass in hand, he has often joined Bernie Pearl in duo acoustic concerts and recordings. He is co-producer of their most recent release.

Billy Foster & the Original Medallions: (Billy Foster & The Original Medallions perform on Saturday at 5:00 p.m.)
Billy Foster (Leader of Billy Foster & The Original Medallions) has recorded with the Medallions since 1957. His falsetto voice was one of the highest registered notes recorded in the song “Behind the Door,” an original by The Medallions. Foster is currently the group’s manager. In 1948, as a child, he sang in the motion picture musical “Carmen Jones.” He attended Idyllwild School of Music & Arts in Los Angeles, CA. Additionally, Foster Productions, his company has produced shows with such artists as The Drifters, The Coasters, John Lee Hooker, Etta James, Mary Wells and comedian/talk show host Rosie O'Donnell. He was the co-writer of “I’d Rather Go Blind,” recorded by Etta James, Rod Stewart, and others. Billy Foster and Etta James were married, and have a son, Donto James.

Buddha Khan (Actor/Bass Singer; Billy Foster & The Original Medallions) joined the group in 1956. Previously, he sang with the Shantones, staying only a short while. Khan left The Medallions for 10 years to pursue a career in pro-wrestling where he captured the Championship Belt in 1983. He also became the manager of the New York Bombers Roller Derby skating team and secured acting roles in “Stir Crazy” and Mexican movies where he played the “bad” guy. He has also performed with the Jack’s/Cadets. He assists in managing the Medallions.

Darrel Brewer (Vocalist, Billy Foster & The Original Medallions) The Los Angeles singer started with “street corner” groups in the late 50’s and early 60’s, and appeared with the group “Smoke” in 1967. Brewer joined the Air Force in 1971, and sang in various groups while in service until 1976. In 1977 he joined Temptations Tribute Group, and he continues to sing with them every so often. He began his career exclusively as a bass, but added baritone from that time on for groups such as Shep & The Lime Lights, Leon Hughes’ Original Coasters, The Original Medallions, Special Blend, Fred Black’s Platters Revue and any other group with harmony in need of “bottom” notes.

Leon Holston (Vocalist, Billy Foster & The Original Medallions) sang with the Fascinations in 1965. He has performed with The Original Medallions since 1961. Holston presently sings 2nd tenor, baritone and lead on “The Letter” and “Buick 59.”

Sammy Yates (Vocalist, Billy Foster & The Original Medallions) was born in Texas, but moved to Los Angeles at an early age. As a teenager he performed on the Johnny Otis Show. He was also the lead singer of the Premiers with the hit song “My Darlin’.” Yates also recorded on Capital Records as Sammy Hagan and the Viscounts, with the hit single “My Darlin’.” He headlined his own show for 30 plus years, throughout U.S. and Canada. He joined the Medallions; his stage presence and unique 1st tenor voice is an asset to the group.

Jamie “Blues Boy” Powell (Vocalist) When people talk about the real deal blues, they must have someone like Jamie Powell in mind. Los Angeles Blues stalwart Powell is tall and imposing, grey in his beard, and has the bearing of a man who has been around the block a few times and is much the stronger for it. When he starts singing, his gruff voice and true tales hit you right between the eyes. You barely recover from one line when the next makes you rock with laughter and understanding. (Jamie Powell will perform Friday 8:00 P.m. and on Saturday 1:00 p.m.)

Johnny Mastro & Mama’s Boys (Vocalist) With the recent passing of “Mama Laura” Gross, a major venue for the Blues was gone…but not forgotten. Her club, Babe’s & Ricky’s, was the home of the Blues in South Los Angeles for decades. Originally on Central Avenue, then more recently in Leimert Park, this was the place to go to eat some fried chicken and listen to the real thing. Gross also took budding Blues artists under her wing and nurtured them with guidance and stage time. Her favorite band was led by a transplanted New Yorker, Blues harmonica (“harp”) player Johnny Mastro. The band loved Mama Laura so much they named their group after her. Johnny & Mama’s Boys to keep the spirit and the music of Babe’s & Ricky’s alive.

Kirk “Eli” Fletcher (Guitarist) The son of a Compton minister, Fletcher has establisher an impeccable reputation as one of the best young guitar players on the Blues scene today. He is a two-time W.C. Handy Award nominee and has toured and performed with a virtual Who’s Who of contemporary Blues: Janiva Magness, Charlie Musselwhite, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, James Cotton, Pine Top Perkins, Hubert Sumlin, Mojo Buford, Larry Carlton, Robben Ford, Ronnie Earl, Doyle Bramhall, and many more. At the age of 12 he attended the Long Beach Blues Festival where he saw Albert Collins, Bobby Blue Bland, (with guitarist Wayne Bennett) and the Staple Singers. This was a life-changing experience for him as he realized that this was the music he wanted to play. In the Mid 90’s Kirk released his first solo effort, “I’m Here & I’m Gone,”on the JSP Label. He answered a call to join Kim Wilson’s Blues Review, resulting in the Grammy Award-nominated, “Smoking Joint.” In 2003 Fletcher recorded his second album, “Shades of Blue,” which brought him greater recognition in the Blues world. In recent years he has been performing all over the U.S. and Europe as a headliner. Currently, he’s readying his third solo album, “My Turn,” for release. (Kirk “Eli” Fletcher will perform on Sunday at 2:15 p.m.).

Ray Bailey (Guitarist/Vocalist) made a splash with his 1993 debut “Satan’s Horn,” but then nothing more was heard from him until 2009’s “Resurrection,” recorded live in L.A. at Babe’s and Ricky’s. His latest, “Cruisin’ for a Bruisin’” has been widely reviewed and praised. Honed by years of Blues-clubbing, his remarkable technical command make Bailey a guitarist’s guitarist. He has gritty vocals and stories, which have a folksy wisdom and a wry humor. (Ray Bailey will perform on Sunday at 3:15 p.m.).

Shelley “King” Fisher (Vocalist) was and raised in the heart of the Mississippi Delta in Memphis, TN. Her diversified repertoire features Blues, Pop, Jazz, R&B, Standards, Rock ‘n Roll, and Country. Fisher’s live performance lineup includes The Barbara Morrison Performing Arts Center, BB King’s, Rum Boogie on Beale Street, Harvelle’s, Playboy Clubs International, The Improv, Marina City Club, Moonshadows Malibu, Sandals Resorts, Jamaica, Landing Bar & Grill Catalina and the Grand Hyatt Kauai. Her unique blend of music and comedy has captivated audiences worldwide. (Shelley “King” Fisher will sing with “Mama Blues” on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.).

Sista Sherry Pruitt (Vocalist) was born in Beaumont, TX. She made her musical debut in church at age six. She continued singing in church throughout her formative years. At age 18, she moved to Los Angeles with her family, and soon began appearing in local clubs. Pruitt’s musical odyssey has taken her all over the world. While stranded on tour in South Africa in 1991, she absorbed a wealth of musical and cultural experiences and was able to turn a disaster into an opportunity for personal and professional growth. In 1997 she played the Peer Blues Festival in Belgium with the Barry Levenson Band, where she delivered a tour de force performance. In 2008 she suffered what could have been a career-ending stroke while singing one evening at Babe’s & Ricky’s. But, with the loving support of her family, her strong faith, and her own sheer determination and courage, she fought her way back to the stage within a year. (Sista Sherry Pruitt performs with “Mama Blues” on Sunday at 4:30 p.m.)

Sons of Rhythm:
(Barbara Morrison joins the children and grandchildren of three of the giants of Los Angeles Rhythm & Blues in a tribute set on Saturday at 4:00 p.m.)
Lucky Otis (Bass, vibraphone, son of guitarist Shuggie Otis, grandson of bandleader and R&B pioneer Johnny Otis). Richard Berry III, (Pianist) grandson of composer and pianist Richard “Louie, Louie” Berry. Donto James (Drummer and Vocalist, son of the legendary Etta James). Donto played drums in his mom’s band for 15 years, and produced two of her Grammy Award-nominated CDs.

Sonny Green (Vocalist) has been one of the most popular Blues vocalists on the south Los Angeles club scene for many years. Green has been plying his West Coast Soul/Blues style since his first 45’s in the early 1960’s. His material ranges from Blues classics like “Call It Stormy Monday Blues,” to advice-giving songs, like his original, and most famous song, the raunchy, “Don’t Write A Check With Your Mouth (That Your Body Can’t Cash).” (Sonny Green will sing on Saturday at 2:00 p.m.)

Brother Yusef (The Fatt-Back Blueman) is a master solo Guitarist and Vocalist who remembers hearing the call of the Blues as young child while attending church with his grandparents in Bakersfield, CA. The raw and intense emotions of the church left a lasting impression as young Yusef dedicated himself to the Blues guitar. Developing and performing the Country Blues in his own unique solo style, he now plays with one foot in the past and one in the present. (Brother Yusef performs on Sunday at 1:00 p.m.).

Photo Credit: Gary Leonard.