A few memories of the late Art Steele

I first met Art in 1978, shortly after moving north from Springfield.....first conversation turned to a comparison of blues idols, with him suggesting that Buddy Guy was the most complete artist in the genre....while I defended the honor of Magic Sam....after I knew Art for a while, it occurred to me that, considering the number of notes I tended to play...and the partial chords and piercing tenor that he employed, it probably would have been more logical if we had reversed positions...I later would play a few songs during his Evening Pro Bluesica shows in S. Deerfield,(at the Hot-L, then managed by the late Buddy Rubbish) and we did many shows together over the years, including a stint where Art had me pretend to be him when his P.A. gigs pulled him away from home after booking the Art Steele Band (and his band would look to me for leadership...which I found weird...."Guys, I'm the SUB") In the shifting sands of our Valley music scene, Art was always ready to adjust on the fly, while still being completely present and in the moment to the audience. In recent years, I would bring Art in as a featured guest at my Sunday show at City Sports Northampton, where he was invariably a most charming, though mercurial, guest....my house band would hang on for dear life as he went "really Deep" in the Blues....oh, I forgot to mention his previous car accident, and the benefit we did at the Harp afterwards....the outpouring of love from the community...and the awe when he walked slowly to the stage..."Stay ready to cover, I lose feeling in my hand and drop the pick sometimes since the surgery" he whispered. "No problem, big guy" I thought to myself...."I'll be over here basking in the reflected glow if you need me"....it was a major trick finding room for all the artists who wanted to perform, a fact we laughed about the next day as I proudly handed him the benefit proceeds...I told him two key facts helped--nobody wanted to be the difficult diva in those circumstances....and the parking filled in so far from the club that they couldn't drag in a million sets of equipment. There's about 20 pictures of various area artists....all with my guitar!....
    We also would do an annual visit to the Radio-a-thon on WMUA to support Katie Wright, with Art usually issue appeals like this:   "Blues on WMUA are a symbiosis with the community, where a continuum of Christo-mystical synergy makes the community more holistic....don't you agree, Wildcat?"I'd respond after a pause "Uhhh....Art, I was goin' with You gotta donate or KATIE GONNA CRY, MAN"...One way or the other, we'd get the phone ringing
    .One last memory: I got a call from a club in Holyoke a few years ago, which I had trouble locating when I tried to drop in with posters...I wandered further, eventually coming face-to-
face with three cop cars, who were blockading an apartment building, guns drawn....since the only avenue open was to the right, I turned and hurried away...and right ahead of me was this marquee: Live Blues tonight---The Art Steele Band....I went in and said: "You know, Art....I'm always glad to see ya......especially tonight"...Good Night, sweet Prince....you shoulda been Magic Sam

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