Arts Devo

Butte got the blues

RIP Stanley Ross

RIP Stanley Ross

Photo by Ken Pordes

Cancer blues Butte County and the local blues community took a big hit last week, losing two of its main players to cancer within a day of one another.

According to Facebook posts by his friends and family—including his partner and bandmate Flo ParkerStanley Ross, guitarist for Next Door Blues Band and guitarist/bandleader of Boneyard Blues (featuring Parker on vocals), died on Aug. 23. Not many details were available at press time, and no public services have been announced. An informal celebration will take place tonight , Aug. 30, 7-11 p.m., at the Tackle Box, as organizer Chuck Terry redubs his monthly Lefty’s Blues Jam: a “Jam for Stanley Ross.”

RIP Lazy Lester

Photo courtesy of Alligator Records

And according to a press release by Alligator Records, the day before Ross’ passing, on Aug. 22, legendary blues harmonica player Lazy Lester died at his Paradise home. He was 85. “Legendary” is no exaggeration for Lester (tributes to him were published in The New York Times, The Washington Post and San Francisco Chronicle last week), who was born Leslie Johnson in Pointe Coupee Parish, La., and is considered one of the architects of swamp blues. He played with everyone from the key luminaries of that style—Slim Harpo, Lightnin’ Slim—to blues giants such as B.B. King and modern artists like Mos Def. He recorded his own music on Excello Records in the ’50s and ’60s; his songs have been covered by the likes of The Kinks and the Fabulous Thunderbirds; and he was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2012.

A decade or so ago, Lester moved up to Paradise to live with his partner, Pike Kaksonen, and quickly became a much-loved friend to local musicians, including Butte County’s blues godfather, Maurice “Big Mo” Huffman, who said that, as of press time, memorial plans have not been confirmed. On the day that his friend died, Big Mo wrote and recorded (with guitarist Volker Strifler) a lovely country-blues called “Lester’s Song” and posted it on his Facebook page this week. The closing lyrics go: “Your soul, music, your smile/will live forever/Lazy Lester, my friend.”

Fresh air Last month, as the Carr Fire crested the mountain range overlooking west Redding, the KFPR radio transmitter recorded its own demise. Video from a camera at the peak of Shasta Bally shows the moment flames snuffed out the signal and took KCHO’s sister station off the air. The two stations are under the North State Public Radio (NSPR) banner and broadcast the same programming—the former in Redding at 88.9 FM, the latter in the Chico area at 91.7 FM. And, while there is no estimate for when KFPR’s transmitter will be replaced, listeners in Chico (and beyond) might notice that, after a few months of operating on the reduced signal of a backup transmitter, KCHO is coming through stronger than ever thanks to the installation of a full-power one.

TLDR: For those of you 21st century citizens who might be reading this on your smartphones and dozing off, all you need to know is that you can still stream Ira, Terry and the rest of the NSPR gang online at