It's that time again. When the days get longer and warmer, residents know the blues are coming to town.
The 10th annual June Bug Blues Festival, Saturday and Sunday, June 7 and 8, will again bring some of the finest talents in the nation to Payson.
Blues fans are delighted to have the festival back in the cool grass of Rumsey Park, rather than being choked by dust and singed by the searing heat of the Payson Event Center.
Organizer of the festival, "Shakey" Joe Harless, overcame the usual hurdles and more to keep the festival alive, mainly getting it moved back to an appealing venue so that he could entice the best talent to town.
"The festival has evolved, changed, progressed and regressed and matured -- most importantly, it has survived," Harless said. "On a very personal note, I must commend the people and the businesses that have come forward this year to help keep this good thing alive.
"Our festival, yes, our festival, Paysonites, was in dire straits. Thanks to Mayor Ken Murphy and a great town council, our request to move out of the rodeo arena and back to Rumsey ballfield was voted on and unanimously approved."
The Harless Principles
This year's festival is, again, based on the Harless principles of a good time.
"The idea is simple. Bring the best blues bands, not the best known," Harless said. "Serve fantastic food at real-people prices, 'cause you can't be happy with an empty belly, and do the whole thing in the soft grass, with a breeze in the mountain town of Payson."
Shakey Joe's Economic Development Plan for Payson
A healthy amount of Blues fans make the pilgrimage to Payson every year to see the festival. They spend the night, shop, eat out -- they pump money into our local economy.
"Music events like the June Bug bring money to town," Harless said. "Our town needs tourism, not drive-through tourism, but come-here-and-spend-your-money tourism. This is Shakey Joe's Economic Development Plan for Payson."
Over the past decade of the June Bug Blues Festival, Harless has relied on local businesses to help sponsor the event.
"Our local economy has had a rough year, yet local businesses came forward this year to sponsor the festival like never before," Harless said.
"They want Payson to be a known as a culturally rich town and keeping our festivals alive is part of that.
"I really want to thank the sponsors and for people to thank them as well, because without them -- there would be a big empty," Harless said. "These are the businesses that stepped forward, doing their part to bring music, art and culture to our community."
Harless has a few more people to thank, including his wife.
"My wife is my biggest sponsor and supporter," Harless said. "Without her, there would be no June Bug.
"Thanks to all of our friends and volunteers," Harless said. "We couldn't do it without you either."
Harless invites everyone to come and enjoy the festival.
"For two days and one night, Payson is gonna shake -- and that's a good thing," Harless said. "I don't care who you are, if you're out of diapers, you know the blues. To quote blues legend Mississippi Catfish, ‘the blues ain't nothin' but a good man feelin' bad.'"
For $22 (adult price), you can get two days of great entertainment and help local organizations.
According to Harless, a portion of the proceeds will be donated to Big Brothers Big Sisters of Gila County. Leftover food is donated to the Time Out Shelter. A portion of beer proceeds goes to Santa's List, a local organization which buys toys for Rim country children in need during the holidays. A major portion of Pepsi and water sales are being donated to the Old Time Fiddlers Contest to help keep that festival going. Aluminum cans go to the Payson Humane Society's dumpster divers, a group of volunteers who collect cans to help the animal shelter.
Alex Maryol: 19-year-old blues guitarist from Santa Fe, N.M. Maryol has played with James Brown, Taj Mahal, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, Bo Diddley and Blues Traveler.
Danny Rhodes and the Messengers: A very orchestrated, complex form of blues -- phenomenal keyboard player.
Uvon and the Blues Wizards: "The little lady with the big voice" -- a vocalist storyteller and her band from Tempe.
Bill Tarsha and the Rocket 88s: The "undisputed king of harmonica" is one member of this Phoenix blues quartet.
Honeyboy Dupree and the Smokehouse Players: Rhythm and Blues meets Big Band. This eight-piece band plays powerful, in-your-face R&B.
The Carey Slade Band: If you like Bonnie Raitt, you'll dig the Carey Slade Band. They have a premier slide guitarist.
The John Scott Band: Payson's own rockin' blues power trio.
Train Wreck: A four-piece classic rock and blues band from Bisbee.
The Jim Glass Band: Longtime premier Arizona guitarist who has played with Dr. John. Glass married an opera star who now sings the blues with him in the band.
The Chuck Hall Band: Blues artist Hans Olsen calls Chuck Hall "the best guitarist in Arizona." This band plays to sold-out venues all over Europe.
Gus Harless and F.F. Keith: Local musicians who will play between sets. Harless plays spontaneous "new blues" and F.F. Keith, hard rockin' blues.
Other festival attractions
Pre-eminent blues photographer, David Horwitz, will be displaying his work during the festival. Howitz's collection of live performance shots and backstage candids spans from 1971 to the present. His work has been in every major blues publication and displayed in museums across the country.
Singin' the blues
3 p.m. -- The Carey Slade Band
4 p.m. -- Danny Rhodes and the Messengers
5 p.m. -- UVON and the Blues Wizards
6 p.m. -- Bill Tarsha and the Rocket 88s
7 p.m. -- Honeyboy Dupree and the Smokehouse Players
8 p.m. -- Alex Maryol
12:30 p.m. -- The John Scott Band
1:30 p.m. -- Train Wreck
2:30 p.m. -- The Chuck Hall Band
3:30 p.m. -- The Jim Glass Band
4:30 p.m. -- Alex Maryol
Mini-sets in between hands both days by Augustus Harless and Flight Fingers Keith
Saturday, June 7 --3 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.
18 & under $5.00
5 & under free with adult
Sunday, June 8 -- 12:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
18 & under $5.00
5 & under free with adult
The Blues Afterglow
When Alex Maryol plays his last set Saturday night, the blues fest continues throughout Rim country. A number of local bars have invited blues performers to keep the party going.
The John Scott Band at The Buffalo
Bill Tarsha and the Rocket 88s at Famous Sam's
Honeyboy Dupree and the Smokehouse Players at The Mill
Big Nick and the Gila Monsters at Sportsman's Chalet in Strawberry