Sept. 4, 2006

18th blues festival in Loretto Sept. 9

By Cullen Schultz
Staff Writer

The Lamont Cranston Band will headline the annual Blues Festival Outdoor Dance and Barbecue Saturday, Sept. 9 at Choo Choo Bar and Restaurant in Loretto.

This will be the 18th year the Blues Festival has been sponsored by the establishment. It is owner Harvey Anderson’s seventh year of running the festival. Anderson purchased Choo Choo Bar and Restaurant seven years ago and continued the tradition.

“It is a lot of fun and people really seem to enjoy it,” Anderson said. The concert has drawn an average of 800 to 900 people a year, and is expected to do so again this year.

The festival is outside of Choo Choo’s, with a stage and tents set up in case of bad weather. The City of Loretto allowed them to block off the city street in order for the dance to take place.

Outside, Choo Choo’s will be grilling pork chops and serving drinks from one of several bars that will be positioned around the area. Picnic tables will also be provided for eating and social purposes.

The bands will begin Saturday at 5 p.m. and play until 1 a.m. Four bands will perform, starting with Davina Sowers and the Vagabonds.

Entertainment Agent Rico Anderson, who manages The Lamont Cranston Band, said that Davina frequently plays in Delano at Three Crows on River Street, and is a local favorite. Her performance at Choo Choo’s will be her CD release party, Rico Anderson added.

“I think the real ‘star’ here will be Davina and her band,” Anderson said. “She’s the new act that is the ‘sleeper’ wherever she goes . . . I would encourage people to get there early . . . she will steal the show. A lot of times, people stroll in late and don’t care about the first band, but this time it’ll be different.”

Davina and the Vagabonds will be followed by The Scottie Reed Band, and then Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants will take the stage.

Walter Smith, of the Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants, is well-known and respected in the blues community. He was born in Tulsa, Okla. in 1930, and moved to Minnesota in 1970. Smith was inducted to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in New Ulm in 1998. Along with his accomplishments, Smith has shared the stage with legendary Blues artist B. B. King. Smith formed the Groove Merchants in 1985.

The Lamont Cranston Band, also a member of the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame in New Ulm, will headline the event with such classic songs as “Upper Mississippi Shakedown.”

In 1996, Dan Aykroyd, the actor who played Elwood Blues in the movie, “Blues Brothers,” asked the band to open for the new House of Blues in Chicago. Each time Aykroyd opens a new House of Blues, he invites the band to perform at the grand opening, and introduces them as his “favorite band in the world.”

The band has released 13 albums in its 30-year career, and has shared a stage with such notables as Muddy Waters, Albert King, and The Rolling Stones.

You must be 21 or older to get into the event. Admission is $12 for advanced tickets and $15 at the gate. For more information, call (763) 479-3565.

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