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Cholla Blues Standard rocks Bisbee

Posted April 24, 2015

Written by Adam Leon, student at Cholla High Magnet School, and edited by Bill Greeenberg, English and journalism teacher at Cholla - Photos courtesy of Tom Nelson

The Cholla Blues Standard appeared Saturday, April 11, 2015, in Bisbee, AZ, for the post game blues portion of the 6th Annual Copper City Classic Vintage Baseball Tournament. The tournament was played at the historic Bisbee Warren Ballpark. This marks the second year that the Cholla Blues Standard has appeared at this event.

The vintage baseball tournament and post-game blues show was a fundraiser to benefit the efforts of the Friends of Warren Ballpark, operators of one of the oldest baseball parks in the world: Bisbee's historic Warren Ballpark. The Friends of Warren Ballpark is a labor of love run by Cholla HS Class of '71 graduate, Mike Anderson and his wife, Judith.

After the day's vintage baseball games at Warren Ballpark, the Cholla Blues Standard took to the stage of the historic Bisbee Stock Exchange Brewery and Saloon to open the post-game blues show. They were originally supposed to be followed by "Cat Daddy and the 12-Barz Blues Band," but Cat Daddy was forced to withdraw due to a scheduling conflict.

Instead, Cholla Blues Standard was followed by a makeshift adult band, formed especially for this occasion by Cholla Blues Standard faculty advisor, Bill Greenberg, while the Friends of Warren Ballpark "auctioned off" the naming rights to the new band.

"Trying to put together a band in such a short period of time is difficult enough," Greenberg explained. "I didn't just want any old group of people to play this event, because Mike and Judy are good friends and we felt that historic Warren Ballpark deserved the best we could get."

The so-called "grown-up band" was comprised of Greenberg on drums, joined by bass player Steve Goetz and guitar virtuosos Dave Clarke and Eric Garcia. Clark and Greenberg recently appeared together at the October 2014 Southern Arizona Blues and Heritage Foundation’s annual Blues Festival, with their band, "Baja Arizona." Steve Goetz regularly performs in Tucson with his classic rock ensemble, "Tumblin’ Dice." Eric Garcia is one of Southern Arizona’s premiere guitarists; regularly appearing with his brother, bass-player Steve Garcia, as "The Garcia Brothers."

"Being able to get Eric Garcia to play with us was huge," Greenberg said. "Putting him on stage with Dave Clark was amazing. With talent like that, (bass player) Steve Goetz and I just turned those guys loose and tried to stay out of the way."

Also performing on the Stock Exchange stage was legendary former major league pitcher, blues/soul singer and Copper City Classic guest of honor James "Mudcat" Grant, who joined both bands to the delight of all in attendance – especially the Cholla Blues Standard.

The Cholla Blues Standard opened with a B.B. King tune called "A Little Bit of Love," sung by Marcus Siegert. Then the band played "Spooky," a song that the Cholla Blues Standard refers to as "Mike's Blues," since this song was popular during Mike Anderson's days as a Cholla Charger.

After a few more songs "Mudcat" Grant was welcomed to the stage. He sang a collection of songs, including "What a Wonderful World" by Louis Armstrong and a version of the old blues classic, "Stormy Monday" that was somewhat different from the version Cholla Blues normally plays.

"He was really nice. It was great that he was so patient with us – even when we didn't exactly know some of the songs he wanted us to do," said Cholla Blues Standard singer/saxophonist Jeanette Gonzales. "I was really nervous when he came up on stage with us, but he was such a gentleman."

Cholla Blues also played original songs written by Cholla Blues Standard seniors Andres Leon ("Prisoner of War") and Raul Martinez ("Five Legged Cat").

The Cholla Blues Standard was dressed in formal clothing for the performance in honor of the Warren Ballpark and the vintage baseball tournament. "Vintage baseball" refers to the style of baseball that was played during Abraham Lincoln's days; meaning players wore top hats and old uniforms.

After the Cholla Blues Standard played, Eric Garcia and the rest of the "grown-up band" took the stage to play a high-energy set of old and new rockin' blues – also joined by "Mudcat" Grant, whose generous donation to the Friends of Warren Ballpark gave him the right to christen the band, "The Larry Doby Lacoochee Blues Band."

"Larry Doby was the first African-American player in the American League and one of Mudcat's heroes," explained Judy Anderson. "Lacoochee, FL was where Mudcat was born, He did give us the highest bid." Larry Doby was a professional baseball player who played with the Cleveland Indians, and was noted for being the first African-American player in the American League.

During the third musical set of the evening, Cholla Blues Standard seniors Andres Leon and Raul Martinez joined Eric Garcia and Dave Clark on stage to close the show.

"What an honor to play with those guys," Leon said. "When Mr. Greenberg sent us up there, Raul and I just looked at each other like, 'well, here we go.' I was trying to keep my drumming together, while at the same time watching those guys' fingers on their guitars to try to figure out how they were getting the sounds they were making. Just incredible!"

The Cholla Blues Standard and "The Larry Doby, Lacoochee Blues Band" delighted a packed Stock Exchange crowd with their music and the fundraiser made a lot of money (money that will be used to build new bathrooms for Warren ballpark.).

Afterward, Judy Anderson said, "Last nights musical event exceeded expectations."

Mike Anderson added, "The students rocked the house last Saturday night. I called Principal Frank Armenta to commend the Cholla Blues Standard. Thanks so much – and plan to come back next year."

"Oh we're definitely going back next year," Gonzales asserted. "This year was even more fun than last year, so we can't wait to be part of next year's event!"

 Photo of Mike Anderson
Mike Anderson, left, talks to the media about the 6th Annual Copper City Classic Vintage Baseball Tournament, held April 11-12 at Bisbee's historic Warren Ballpark. Anderson is a Cholla High School graduate, Class of '71.
Photo of Mudcat Grant
 Retired major-league pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant sings the National Anthem to kick off the 6th Annual Copper City Classic Vintage Baseball Tournament, held April 11-12 at Bisbee’s historic Warren Ballpark. Joining Mudcat as a guest of honor for the event is Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik – 3rd from left.
 Photo of Cholla Blues Standard
The Cholla Blues Standard – left to right – Adam Leon, Andres Leon, Marcus Siegert, Jeanette Gonzales, Danyel Caballero and Raul Martinez
 Photo of Bill Greenberg
Cholla Blues Standard faculty advisor Bill Greenberg plays drums in the background.
 Photo of Larry Doby
The newly-named "Larry Doby, Lacoochee Blues Band" – left to right – Dave Clark, Steve Goetz, Bill Greenberg and Eric Garcia.
 Photo of Mudcat Grant
Retired major-league baseball pitcher Jim "Mudcat" Grant joined the Cholla Blues Standard on stage for a couple of songs at the Bisbee Stock Exchange Brewery and Saloon.
 Photo of Mudcat Grant
"Mudcat" Grant sings with the so-called grown-up band, prior to christening the band, "The Larry Doby, Lacoochee Blues Band."
 Photo of Andres Leon
Andres Leon tries to figure out what Eric Garcia – right – is playing, while Raul Martinez keeps up on bass.