March 2011


Extra, Extra Read All About It –

The Sugar Prophets Make the Finals!

By Rich Cibelli


Dateline - Memphis, Tennessee, February 5th: Great blues band from Champaign, Illinois makes it to the Finals of the 2011 International Blues Challenge. Yes, folks this isn’t a dream.

The Sugar Prophets, representing The Illinois Central Blues Club, made it all the way to the finals of this year's 2011 International Blues Challenge. Out of 170 bands invited, they placed in the top 10. Now that’s amazing!

How did they do it you ask? Answer: Hard work pays off big time.

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That’s right.  The Sugar Prophets have been working hard the last two years, practicing night and day and playing shows in our area, all in preparation to show the folks down in Memphis that they belong at the top.

Along the way they’ve created a great fan following and produced their debut CD “The Sugar Prophets.” The band even took time out to do a fundraiser with The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society and their friends from Soul Creek and Kilborn Alley. They also dodged a major snow storm or two. Talk about a hard working group. I say the word “easy” is not in this band’s vocabulary.

The current band comprised of Josh Spence-Lead Vocals/Harmonica, A.J. Williams-Guitar/Vocals, Joe Asselin-Guitar/Vocals, Al Chapman-Bass and Fuzz Elam on Drums is not your typical blues band. No, blues fans, these guys are more like: in your face!  One example is the band’s first 2011 IBC show at Alfred’s on Wednesday February 2nd.   The judges would see and hear 10 bands that night. I’ve seen this band several times before, but never in this type of setting. Sometime after 8:30 p.m. the band was ready to show the folks in Memphis their stuff. 

From the first few notes of “Hey Bernice,” I could tell the crowd was in for something special and I was right. This band was cooking on Beale Street and no one was going to stop them. For 25 minutes they went from song to song flawlessly and even threw in a few extra treats, like showing off duel harmonica playing between Josh and Joe. The crowd really liked it!

Thursday’s second quarterfinal show also took place at Alfred’s.  Just like the previous night, The Sugar Prophets did what they do best: play like winners. Again the crowd loved the music and the band looked unbeatable during their 25 minute set. All that was left was waiting to see if they would advance to the next round. If not, they would be watching from the sidelines, just like the rest of us.

(Sugar Prophets continued)

Friday morning I woke up and turned on my cell phone. There was the news I’d been waiting for all night. The Sugar Prophets had advanced to the next round. Better yet, the band wanted to thank all the folks from The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society for coming down to Memphis and supporting them. It was decided that we would all try to enjoy a meal together. 

Wow, as if things couldn’t get any better, now we were going to get to hang out with the band before their semi-final show. Only one problem existed.  Where could we get a table for 20 on Friday at noon in Memphis on day three of the 2011 International Blues Challenge?  Ten minutes later we came up with an answer - Blues City Café at Courtyard. This place is known for some great food in the city that was home to the Blues. 

With a little luck my wife, Sherry, and I were able to talk to the manager. We told her we were from out of town and had eaten at her restaurant on several occasions in the past. We also mentioned how happy we were to be in Memphis at the IBC’s and that we really wanted to share a meal with our local band.  After a few minutes she told us we could have the whole upstairs. If there wasn’t someone looking over us, I’ll eat my hat.

By 12:30 p.m. Friday afternoon we were all seated and enjoying a meal. I had some really good fried chicken, macaroni and cheese, and green beans. This was a really great time to catch up and wish the band luck in their next show at Rum Boogie later that night.

When we finally arrived for Friday night’s semi-final show, the place was already filled to the rim. That’s when we saw Mindy, Joe’s wife, who told us the band had some tables at the back of the restaurant and we could go and hang out there. “What perfect timing,” I said out loud. The show was just minutes from starting. I told the band good luck and took my seat.

Those familiar first notes and words of “Hey Bernice,” filled the speakers of Rum Boogie and just like the two nights before, the crowd started dancing and getting into the Sugar Prophets’ set. 

Pardon me if I take a line from “Groundhog Day,” but the band played another flawless show. Could it be they were heading to the finals? Only time would tell as my nerves began to set in. I really wanted the band to make it to the finals. Call it first time charm, but I hadn’t heard anything close to their sound for days. If they got in, they would really have to be at the top of their game. This was the finals and they were playing for all the marbles.

Extra, extra tell everybody you know.  The Sugar Prophets are in the finals! I found out on Saturday morning they had survived to play another day. In fact, I felt like going down to Beale Street and telling everybody I saw. The last day of competition and only eight bands left. Could this be the big day?

The Sugar Prophets were scheduled to play in the seventh position that day. Competition would take place not at Alfred’s or Rum Boogie or any of the other clubs that line Beale Street.  The center of attention would be none other than the historic Orpheum Theater.

The competition started right at 2 p.m. and after four bands had played their shows, I felt that the Sugar Prophets had a really good chance of placing in the top three positions. As with all luck, it usually runs out and on this day luck ran out for the Sugar Prophets. This was not going to be their day.  Even though they didn’t win, they showed the folks in Memphis what a great band they truly are.

 On behalf of the Prairie Crossroads Blues Society I want to thank The Sugar Prophets, their friends and family for allowing us to share this event with you. We had a great time. You guys will always be winners as far as we are concerned and we wish you continued success!

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 The Sugar Prophets Perform at Alfred’s – Photo by Rich Cibelli

The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society will be sponsoring our first IBC event in conjunction with the Urbana Blues, Brews and BBQ Festival June 24 and 25th. Details to follow or contact  Entertainment Chair Bob Paleczny at  entertainment@prairiecrossroadsblues.org




Buddy Guy in His Element - Photo by Pierre Priestly


Play Us a Buddy Guy Song, Buddy!

By Dennis Wismer


Buddy Guy has a new club. It is a block north of his old club with an address of 700 S. Wabash Chicago, IL. It is very tastefully appointed. It has a large stage and open sightlines.  It has two bars flanking the stage. There is a meeting room, pool room and bar upstairs rather than a single pool table to the left of the stage as in the old club. The new Legends has the same great Louisiana influenced menu. The two dishes I tried were fantastic.  The sound system is state of the art and possibly the biggest change in the new Buddy Guy’s Legends.

 Most of the classic guitars, photos and portraits from the original Legends can be found.  One thing is missing for now however. Walking into the new club it isn’t quite so funky you can smell it. Not sure if that is a good thing or not.

 One thing not missing is the Legendary Buddy Guy January home stand. Originally started to help keep his employees and club afloat during the slow month of January, it has become a refuge for fans of Buddy and the blues worldwide. Buddy Guy’s Legends regularly sells out the last 4 weekends of January and provides Wednesday and Thursday shows as well.

 I have been to many Buddy Guy home stand shows in the last dozen or so years. PCBS member Paul Metzger has trekked from the Philippines and Hong Kong regularly to join in and several PCBS members from Champaign including PCBS secretary Greg Altstetter and entertainment committee chair and computer consultant Bob Paleczny join in the ritual. We have chosen Saturday to be the best night for our journey. We have tried some 3rd and 4th weekend shows and they have proven a bit rough as a month of Chicago shows has seen Buddy a bit tired, raspy and or rascally at times While that can be very entertaining on its own merit, earlier in the month finds Buddy generally in better spirits in my experience.

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Billy Branch Jamming at Legends -  Photo by Pierre Priestley

 The opening set for a Buddy home stand show is a pretty sweet gig and always draws headlining talent. This year the great Billy Branch and the Sons of the Blues performed at the show my friends and I attended.   The Saturday night show also features an acoustic set. This year’s performer was Diamond Jim Greene. Greene warmed the crowd up admirably with old school blues played on an assortment of acoustic instruments.

 While the address might have changed, January at Legend’s still belongs to Buddy and his fans.  Traditionally Buddy has entered flamboyantly with his guitar wailing from an unseen post as he finds his way onstage and the crowd snaps to attention. Buddy seemed rather demure this year ambling onstage. Smug almost as he surveyed his kingdom and court. Make no mistake his playing was up front and striking, his voice commanding and clear. He used dynamics to lure you in and technique to blow you away. But his music however formidable melded with a promise he had made to his adopted city, his fans and self.

Buddy delivered on that promise in a big way. He created a blues museum.  The guitars, photos and artifacts on the wall and the glorious food of the south created a living testament to the blues. Rising above all that was the music. Sweet blues music, raunchy blues music with crunchy solos and the deep felt sagas of a man who worked hard, played hard and rose to the top. All the while paying homage to his mentors and sharing his talents and zest for life with any who dared to share, listen and believe in him and his song. He had only one request in return. Mr. DJ please play my music.

Some did. One in particular did -- Tom Marker of WXRT in Chicago, who was our emcee this day.  Marker had the honor to oversee this coronation of a pauper who rose to be a king because he shared his gifts with the world.  It was surreal to be able to share this event with my friends and the one and only 74 years young Buddy Guy.  But I did have one request myself. Play us a Buddy Guy song, Buddy!

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 Singing Legend Marvin Sease

The blues community lost an important member this week. At the age of 64, just 8 days shy of his birthday, the blues legend Marvin Sease died.

Marvin Sease started his career singing gospel music. He always thought of himself as a gospel singer singing in groups in his teens and joining the Gospel Crowns as an adult. He then started his own R & B band with his brothers aptly named Sease. After a couple of years he struck out on his own and had hits such as “Ghetto Man.”  He began working the “chitlin circuit,” in the South. He had another hit with his racy song Candy Licker, that was a big on juke boxes and in clubs but couldn’t be played over the air due to the explicit content.

He passed away on February 8th. Although there is no official cause of death issued as of yet, there is speculation that he died from complications from pneumonia.


Corporate Membership

Memphis on Main is a corporate member of the Prairie Crossroads Blues Society.  Memphis on Main regularly brings impressive Blues talent to Champaign.

SuperValu a major grocery supplier to companies like County Market, IGA, Sav-A-Lot and Cub Foods recently made a donation to PCBS. The donation was given as part of a program for employees who volunteer for non-profit organizations.






Blues Rocker Gary Moore 

The renowned guitarist Gary Moore, 58, died in a hotel room while on holiday in Spain in February.  The Northern Ireland guitarist was only 16 when he moved from Belfast to Dublin in 1969, to join Skid Row, which featured Phil Lynott as lead vocalist.  He was later brought into Thin Lizzy by Lynott to replace the departing Eric Bell, another guitarist from Northern Ireland.

Throughout his career, Gary Moore embraced a range of genres including blues and rock.  He performed on stage with a wide range of major artists and released 20 studio albums.  In 1990, Moore returned to performing Blues music and while this might have surprised his rock music fans, it did not at all disappoint them since he did this genre so much justice.  The album “Still Got The Blues” was a fantastic journey into his musical talent and he would remain on this particular road for many more years.  

His death was a shock.  He was described as being a robust and healthy guy.  Scott Gorham of Thin Lizzy said it been a pleasure to share a stage with Moore.  "Playing with Gary during the Black Rose era was a great experience.  He was a great player and a great guy," he said.  "I will miss him."


The Prairie Crossroads Blues Society is looking for businesses in our area to help us fulfill our mission to preserve, promote and educate about blues music. If your company would like to help please visit our web site at www.prairiecrossroadsblues.org to find out more.




Band Memberships

The Kilborn Alley Blues Band is nominated for Band of the Year by the Blues Music Foundation. Good Luck Guys. Kilborn played at Buddy Guys Legends February 22 in a great show which featured appearances from Mary Lane, Nick and Kate Moss and the dapper Abraham Johnson as Buddy Guy looked on in approval.

The Sugar Prophets has produced a CD called “The Sugar Prophets.” The Prophets made it to the finals in the International Blues Challenge in Memphis February 1-5!  Congratulations Guys on an extraordinary feat.

The Painkillers have been playing an early Saturday evening set at the Iron Post in Urbana about once a month. Come and join your blues-loving friends for a great time!


PCBS Business

The March Prairie Crossroads Blues Society Meeting is scheduled for March 16 in Room 222 at the Champaign Public Library. Increasing Board membership is one important topic to be addressed.

Deadline for articles and other information for next month’s Inclusive newsletter is March 16. Time-sensitive exceptions will be taken on an individual basis.  Inclusive, a newsletter of the PCBS, is always looking for new contributors and submissions of finished or unfinished content.



I am proud to know these young Illinois blues bands!!

Yeah, Muddy. Tell me ‘bout it!


Heh heh. The air is rarified up here, but it’s down and dirty in central Illinois.


Mar 2 – Kilborn Alley Blues Band – D.R. Diggers –  


Mar 4 – Sugar Prophets – Bentley’s  Pub – Champaign

Mar 4 – Hot Tuna & Charlie Musselwhite – U of I Sangamon

               Auditorium – Springfield, IL

Mar 5 – Sugar Prophets – Uncle Buck’s Sports Bar –

               Mahomet, IL

Mar 8 - Blues at the Crossroads – Krannert Center –

              7:30 pm

Mar 9 – Joe Bonamassa – Peoria Civic Center –Peoria, IL

Mar 12 – II Ton Heavy Thing – East End Tavern –

                 Monticello, IL

Mar 17 – Sugar Prophets – Pop’s Place – Decatur, IL

Mar 20 - Eric McSpadden with The Kilborn Alley Blues Band

 –Afternoon show -  Memphis on Main - Champaign

Mar 31  Sugar Prophets – Ko-Fusion - Champaign

Apr 6   Kilborn Alley Blues Band – D.R. Diggers – Champaign

Jun  24- Urbana Blues Brews and BBQ Festival -Urbana

Jun 24 -  PCBS International Blues Challenge Qualifier at 88 Broadway-Urbana, IL

Jun 25-   Urbana Blues Brews and BBQ Festival –Urbana

Jun 25-   PCBS International Blues Challenge Qualifier



Prairie Crossroads Board of Directors

President                               Rich Cibelli                                              

Vice President                      Steve Stoerger

Treasurer                              Teri Stoerger

Secretary                               Greg Altstetter



Inclusive  Staff

Editor                                     Dennis Wismer

Editor                                     Sandy Hannum

Editor                                     Kat Brown

Contributing Writers           James Walker

                                                Rich Cibelli

Tech Consultant                   Bob Paleczny and the staff at BP Computers

Mojo Tech                             Sherry Cibelli