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Blues for Peace By Johnny Mayer
Copyright 2003 by Johnny Mayer All rights reserved.
For performances and booklets email@example.com
In memory of my father Henry Mayer, May his memory be blessed.
Did you ever have the urge to write something and you’re not sure why? So far, I wrote two blues guitar books published in Israel by Modan House - Blues & Rock N Roll for Guitar and Blues Guitar Band and I am grateful to them. In spite of this, I have the feeling like something is missing…
Charlie Parker, the legendary bebop saxophonist said… "If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn"...
Perhaps, that's what's missing… to tell you about the places, people and things connected with my music, how I wound up in Israel and what's Blues for Peace…
To stay up all night, listen to music, talk things over, play blues harmonica, laugh, drink and enjoy each moment of living the blues in the little blues country of Israel.
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wanted to hear some live blues. So I decided to hold a Blues for Peace evening for them at the “Syndrome” nightclub in Jerusalem.
In return, they invited me to join them for dinner in Ramallah in the Palestinian Authority. After a dinner, people gave speeches and out of the blue… the host asked me to express my view on the Peace Process. And I thought, “Are you referring to me?”
As I stood up, I felt my harmonica in my pocket, took it out and said to the group, “Listen, I'm not a speech maker or a politician, but there's one thing I know how to do - this!" And I played them a few blues licks on the harmonica.
There was a long silence… then everyone started clapping and smiling. And I said, “That's what Blues for Peace means to me - the power of music to communicate when words fail, to bring people together and encourage leaders to make peace”.
May all your blues… be Blues for Peace.
Shalom, Johnny Mayer
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“If you don't live it, it won't come out of your horn...”
Blues for Peace ...
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Shootout at the Reno Gardens
I was sitting around the house in Milwaukee, WI, one day when the phone rang. Steve Cohen, a good friend from 10th grade was on the line. He said, "Hey, Johnny, we're starting a blues band, do want to join?" Although I had no idea how to play blues guitar… I said, "Sure, man, I'm with you".
So we met at Bill Stone's and went down the basement… Steve - harmonica and vocals, Bill - guitar and vocals, Danny Smith - drums, Dave Kasic - bass, and me on guitar. Bill played us songs like "Hideaway" by Freddy King - and we learned our parts and practiced endless hours. We did songs by BB King, Paul Butterfield, James Cotton, Eric Clapton, Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, etc.
After two months, the "Stone Cohen Blues Band" played its gig at the Catacombs in basement of the YMCA in Milwaukee. Before we started to play, our drummer got punched in the mouth and went home. Marc Wilson brought his drums, played great, and became the band's drummer.
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Blues for Peace
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Blues for Peace And they shall beat their swords into guitars
Blues for Peace… Is it Possible?
In 1971, I was a volunteer on Kibbutz Gonen when I had a dream… “In the middle of the night, terrorists burst into the room where we were slept and started shooting us as we lay in our beds. I was really scared and reached into my pocket, took out my harmonica and threw it at them!
I think the harmonica dream is connected to Blues for Peace that I dreamed up in 1997 on my way to a blues festival in Tel Aviv. In ten minutes I made up a flyer to pass out at the concert that began …
BLUES FOR PEACE
And they shall beat their swords into Guitars...
Recognized by UNESCO as promoting the Culture of Peace, Blues for Peace appeared in Downbeat, USA Today HOT Site, CNN Student News, PBS American Masters, Jerusalem Post, etc.
In 1999, a People to People group sponsored by the Eisenhower Foundation contacted me. They planned to visit Israel, Jordan and Lebanon and
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On Halloween Eve, we did a gig I'll never forget at the "Reno Gardens". Everyone was in costumes, dancing and laughing. The band was deep in the groove of the "Hoochie Coochie Man" when all of a sudden chairs start to fly through the air and people were fighting like a Western movie… then I heard gunshots, and saw a guy with a gun firing bullets into the ceiling.
I never packed up my equipment so fast, with my guitar and "Super Reverb" amp in hand, I fled out the nightclub and jumped into the car. Everyone was in shock…
We' started to drive… our manager sat next to the driver and started to scream and curse. Then he bent down as if he was looking for something and came up with a bloody hand… it turns out he was shot in the butt!
We took him immediately to the Emergency Room at Columbia Hospital and waited the whole night on the bench… (Don't tell my mother, she thinks I was late because of a snow storm.)
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almost everything by notes and was jealous of how easy he could learn new songs. Chris also drew cool pictures of Hercules and other Greek heroes at school.
Another friend of mine, Howie, played bass and sang. He would come and rehearse with Chris and I in the back room… my mother said Howie would be a star someday. We played our first gig at the "Black Steer" owned by Chris’s dad in 7th grade.
In 1971, I was in Israel on a work-study program when I heard that Chris died in police custody of a drug overdose. He was arrested by the Milwaukee Police and ingested the drugs sitting in the patrol car. He was seventeen years old.
Howie grew and performed with Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers on bass and vocals for twenty years. Howie died of a heroin overdose at 46.
Tom Petty wrote in Rolling Stone... “It’s like a tree by your house that you love and see that it’s dying no matter how hard you try to save it. And one day you look outside and it’s not there anymore.”
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Jimi Hendrix – We Gotta Go!!!
One night in 11th grade, I was hanging out with my friend Steve Cohen, when we heard Hendrix was playin' at the Madison Coliseum. We didn't have tickets or money and just decided out of the blue… "We gotta go, man!"
So we hopped a bus to Madison and hitchhiked to the Coliseum. It was a madhouse… there were thousands of people milling about outside because the cops wouldn't let them in... all of a sudden the doors opened and people started streaming in...
Steve and I walked next to the building and all the time we motioned for someone inside to open the door for us... then all of a sudden, someone popped the door open and we flew inside and ran like crazy the hallway ... we came to a place where we couldn't run and farther and entered a side door… and found ourselves in the front row!
There was lots of tension and electricity in the hall from the anticipation of hearing Jimi Hendrix and because the cops. I remember staring up at a wall of "Marshall" amps… I was 15 and had never been
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Like A Tree By Your House
I was born in Milwaukee, WI in 1953 at a time when it wasn't easy to be a Jew in America. As a kid, I remember signs that said "No Jews Allowed" at some resorts and restaurants outside the city.
On weekends, we used to visit my grandparents in Burlington, Wisconsin. They lived in a rural area of farms and factories and the Ku Klux Klan, an anti black and anti Jewish group. Driving home, I saw burned crosses on the hillsides a few times.
When I was 8 years old, I started to play guitar. My teacher, Larry Reuter, was a good musician and before long I was performing in concerts on my red electric guitar.
By the time the Beatles came along, I could play the guitar. I didn’t have an ear for music… but I at least I had the hands. It took me hours to learn to play by ear "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones.
My best friend, Chris, was an artist and musician from a Greek family. He could just pick up the guitar and play almost any song by ear... I played
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