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In Concert with LED ZEPPELIN, January 15, 1969                                       

Mother Blues Band History

Patrick Hazell taught himself to play boogie woogie and blues piano at age eleven in 1956 after listening to the piano music of Pete Johnson and Hadda Brooks. After playing in countless jam sessions and bands through the late 1950s-and early 1960s, in 1968, PATRICK HAZELL co-founded the MOTHER BLUES BAND in Iowa City, Iowa. The band quickly became one of the most popular in the region and established a strong home base in the upper Mississippi Valley. Well-known for their original and progressive approach to rhythm and blues, they toured from Indiana to Kansas, Minnesota to Oklahoma, Wisconsin to Arkansas, and points between. They shared concert billings with Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane, Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Clifton Chenier, Asleep At The Wheel, Eddie Harris, George Thorogood, Junior Walker, and many others. In an era when most local/regional bands did not have albums they released four vinyl record albums and several 45rpm records; were the subject of countless press articles, and made many radio, and television appearances.
From 1968 through 1982, over forty musicians played in the MOTHER BLUES BAND performing in various combinations of four to eight people at any one time. However, as testimony to upholding a standard of excellence, between 1978 and 1982, they were voted top Blues Band four different times in the Peoria-based Prairie Sun Music Magazine's annual reader's poll covering a six-state distribution area. The band achieved a status that is now legendary and is still revered in various present-day (1999) music reviews for its seminal influence in the Midwestern Music scene. They exposed countless listeners to the blues for the first time and provided the inspiration for the establishment of a number of nationally important blues societies that still continue to function.

The Mother Blues Band: A short history by Patrick Hazell

The Mother Blues Band was formed in the Spring of 1968, when Alex Richman, the lead singer for St. John and the Heads, introduced me to bass player Jeff Weber. Jeff and I knocked around for several weeks looking for other musicians while playing several impromptu gigs, parties, and so on. After a short period with two different guitar players, Chuck Luther and Mike Sexton, we found Gary Buck in Cedar Rapids, and soon after that, trumpet player Charlie Croope, saxophonist Ron Lustick, and drummer John Herbst. With this band we hit the road and I named it "Mother Blues". We were the only band around doing any straight-ahead blues with the exception of the Linn County Blues Band -- however, they had recently relocated to the San Francisco scene. Late in the summer we added another sax player, John Monick. We did a few Butterfield and Electric Flag tunes plus more standard blues and a few originals. We even got into a few jazz things inspired by people like Charles Lloyd and Wes Montgomery.

Quickly, the band became the talk of Iowa City -- its number one band. We became involved with people at the University's department of New Music and did many wild Sunday afternoon jam sessions -- real spaced out stuff -- "free" music. From these sessions evolved the second Mother Blues Band. John Monick was already connected with the players from the University. Through him we met Will Parsons the head percussionist for the School Of New Music. He became our new drummer in 1969. Jeff Weber dropped out, so did Lustick. We hired on bassist Dan Roach, who I had known from my college days in Ames, Iowa.

So, with this new line-up we made big waves in the Iowa Music scene. Nobody before or since then ever played music in Iowa like we were doing. This was the band that people who made the Iowa City scene in the late 1960's still talk about. Some of the craziest and most fantastic times I ever had with a Mother Blues band came from this period. We played in concerts of 15,000 people, had a major label pay our way to New York city for showcasing and recording. But, it got too crazy. I had to quit for awhile. By winter of 1971, the band broke up. It resurrected 1 1/2 years later for a couple of gigs, and then died.

However, I did get together in 1973 with Parsons and two other guys from the School Of New Music, John English and Mike Lytle, and we formed the band "Sound Pool". At a benefit gig we shared the bill with the "Rocket 88s". The '88s heard me play harp and asked me to set in with them. Their guitar player was Joe Price.

I started playing occasional gigs with the Rocket 88's (Weber was in that band and had introduced Price to me). Soon the 88's broke up, but not before playing some gigs where this young guy from Burlington, Bob Ramsey, showed up and wanted to sit in.

As time went by I found myself playing with Bob and Joe. We decided to go out as a trio and they eventually suggested that I use the name of my old band, "Mother Blues". I agreed to this. Now it was no longer just knocking around in the garage. It was another serious attempt to put a band "on the road". So, the third "Mother Blues" started up. This was probably late 1973 or early '74. We soon added a drummer, Jeff Weber! However, Jeff's stint was short-lived. Then we found a new drummer --Sonny Lott, and bassist--David Silverstone. With this five-piece group we toured until 1975 or early 76. Silverstone then moved on and Sonny had to leave for personal reasons. We then found bassist, Rick Cicalo and drummer, Dwight Dario. Sometime later, Dwight left the band and was eventually replaced by Steve Hayes. And then, bass player, Steve "T-Bone" McPherson replaced Cicalo for awhile.

In September, 1978, on the afternoon of Don Pugsley's "Last Tango In Iowa City" (on his way to stardom as a bit-part actor in Hollywood) to be held that night at Gabe's in Iowa City, an on-going band dispute erupted and Ramsey and McPherson both left the band. To cover the gig, I went out to West Music in Coralville and signed the line for one of the new Yamaha electric grand pianos -- the most advanced electric piano for its time. At this time we had already added Dan Magarrell to the band. Since Dan played both saxophone and guitar, we felt that with the power of the new piano we could cover all the musical bases left empty by the departure of Ramsey and McPherson. The gig went great and was the beginning of what I consider the 4th Mother Blues Band. Within a couple of months, bass player Rick Cicalo rejoined the band and we were a complete 5-man band again.

By this time, I was putting my name out front -- We went by "Patrick Hazell and the Mother Blues Band". We would eventually drop the "Mother Blues" altogether and be called simply, "The Patrick Hazell Band". One reason for this was the negative image "the Blues" had with the general public at that time. We had club owners complain that people would run the other direction if they saw the word "blues" on a marquee or poster. Blues music was not popular. However, we couldn't afford to give up the name recognition that we had developed with our fans. So, a slow change was what I decided on. Putting my name up front would allow this transfer of recognition from "Mother Blues" to a new name. Plus, I had always admired the traditional approach to naming music groups by simply use the name of the band leader -- The Glenn Miller Band, Duke Ellington Orchestra, Stan Kenton Band, etc. Such a naming system has more longevity and can ride through personnel changes better than the group names that became popular in the Sixties.

This 4th band with Joe Price, Rick Cicalo, Steve Hayes, Dan Magarrell, and myself traveled the Midwest from September 1978 to December 17, 1982. We put out three vinyl albums (Sally Weisenburg, who I met in Peoria sang on two of them); won the Prairie Sun award for best Rhythm and Blues band four times; we traveled the largest circuit of any band I had been in (from Tulsa to Green Bay, Saint Louis to Chicago, Kansas City, and countless points in between); by most standards of success, this band achieved the highest level.

The names I listed above are most of the key players. There were many others. I lost count at 50 or more people who have been a part of the Mother Blues Band at one time or another. Even at this time (2007) I occasionally run into someone who claims either he or someone he knows played with the band (I usually hear this from someone who doesn't realize I started the band--but, sometimes I am thereby reminded about somebody I had simply forgotten about!). Each incarnation of the band had its followers who swear it to have been the best of the Mother Blues Bands. Some old timers swear by the band of the late 1960's; some by the band that played Tulsa in 1981.

But by 1983, touring conditions had deteriorated, the economy was down, record-buying slow, and cops were busting drunks. The whole business hit the skids (and has never really recovered). The writing was on the wall. I had to break up the band. In March of 1983, I began my solo career which continues to this date (2007). However, I do occasionally perform with other musicians. In fact, in March 1993, the first Mother Blues "re-union" show was staged at our old haunt, Gabe's (now called the "Piccadore") in Iowa City. Another followed in Davenport in April 1995.

Beginning in October, 1997, I started what could be considered a "5th Band". Consisting of Rick Cicalo, Steve Hayes, and Iowa City guitarist, Johnny Kilowatt, and Dan Magarrell. I put together this band to perform mainly at the Blue Shop in Burlington, Iowa. With it's small and intimate atmosphere and wonderful acoustic piano, this unique venue allowed the band to get that raw, earthy, "real blues" sound that is very difficult to achieve in a larger, high-tech contemporary venue. It is also a sound that is rare to find with modern blues recordings and productions. It's that 1950's blues sound, and this band got it. The Blue Shop gigs proved to be very successful, and I always look forward to the next time I can bring the band to play there.

Starting in October, 1998, I began booking the band in a few select places in cities other than Burlington. Since then we have performed a number of special events and club dates in addition to my solo appearances, and so, we continue to add pages to the Mother Blues history book. Here's to the road ahead!

PATRICK HAZELL January 16, 2007          

Back on the Road Again
My Kind Of Woman

Schedule of events for 2007

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