A Chat With Calvin B. Streets, A/K/A “The Brooklyn Bluesman

“If you look in any calendar section around this great country from town to city to roadhouse, the blues is everywhere. From festivals to open mic nights. The blues is America’s original art form and gift to the world and American Bluesmen and Women lead the vanguard. I am proud to just be a link in the chain.” – Calvin B. Streets

All Access Magazine (AAM) recently sat down with Los Angeles-based blues musician Calvin B. Streets (CBS) to discuss the state of the Blues and much more.  Calvin B. Streets will be performer at KONGFEST taking place on Saturday, July 7 at The Joint in West Los Angeles.

AAM: This is probably a question you get asked a lot, but why did you decide to play the Blues in the first place? CBS: First of all let me say thank you very much and it is a pleasure to be here.It seems like the blues chose me early on. I used to play in the parks in Brooklyn and had crowds before too long. Then when I was sixteen I met up with Washboard Doc, Cab Lucky on guitar and Johnny Flash on washtub bass. They let me sit in all day in Washington Square Park for the whole summer and I’d go home with 2 pockets bulging full of quarters every time.

 AAM: How would you describe the style of Blues that you play?

CBS: Well the style of blues on my new album, “I’m Just Sayin,’” is acoustic roots blues. I play the acoustic guitar and sing and play harmonica, Jeff Turmes plays the stand-up bass and Jordan Clover plays the saloon piano.  There are some ragtime tunes as well as some Delta blues on that disk. My first album, “He Ain’t Done With Me Yet”, is rockin’, ripping Chicago and Texas blues as well as some delta blues and a rag or two.

AAM: Talk about some of your primary and most important musical influences?

CBS: I literally learned at the feet of some of the greatest first- and second- generation bluesmen during my time up at Centrum in Port Townsend, Washington.  I would have to start with Louisiana Red who not only showed me slide and feeling in so many styles of blues, but also humanity and soul. To know him was to truly love him. John Cephas, the legendary Piedmont King was also more patient with me then perhaps I deserved. Honeyboy Edwards was fascinating. Kenny Sultan, Eddie Pennington. Carey and Lurie Bell, Phil Wiggins. I know I left out so many.

AAM: What do you count as some of the more meaningful songs you have written?

 CBS: Well, as a songwriter sometimes I’m called upon to compose for a genre other than the blues. My most meaningful tunes personally, or what fans come up to me and tell me? Let’s see, my new album has a few tunes that fit the bill, “Lazy Day Blues,” “The Folding Money Rag,” “That’s Good Enough For Me.”  This album is actually from my live set list and with the exception of the harmonica, was recorded live.

 AAM: Where do you see the state of the Blues going forward in time?

 CBS: If you look in any calendar section around this great country from town to city to roadhouse, the blues is everywhere. From festivals to open mic nights. The blues is America’s original art form and gift to the world and American Bluesmen and Women lead the vanguard. I am proud to just be a link in the chain.

 AAM: You’re known as “The Brooklyn Bluesman,” tracing to your New York origins. What do you see as the main differences between the music scene on the East coast with that **of the West coast?

CBS: Well, if you look at it like this, every region of this country has what you would call a regional accent. So you can tell just by listening if you are hearing Chicago Blues, Texas Blues, Delta Blues, etc. The instrument voicing, has an accent. In addition, West Cost blues would tend to be a little jazzier in the fuller scales used then a typical 5-note blues scale. The best West Coast Bluesman I’ve heard is Kid Ramos and the best West Coast Blues Women I’ve heard is Teresa Russell.

  AAM: What do you hope to accomplish with your career in the future?

 CBS: As a songwriter, I want to continue to place tunes in movies, collaborate with other creative artists and have other singers cover my tunes. As a performer I want to bust out my tunes live in the biggest venues in front of as many people as I can and release more albums with my band, The Big Boro Blues Band.

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