(The Cash Box Kings band members and front-men, Oscar Wilson (left) and Joe Nosek, performing as part of the Canada South Blues Society 20th anniversary concert series at Rockstar Music Hall in Windsor, Ontario on Friday, February 14, 2020. Photo by above by Dan Boshart / Eyes On Windsor.)
From the moment The Cash Box Kings played their first note, it was clear the night was about to explode with some of America’s best blues played by some of its most talented ambassadors. It is not just an accolade to call the group Kings, the members have earned their position atop the blues totem pole simply by the number of awards their recorded music has generated over the years.
Awards however are just part of the story. The real deal is measured in rewards, and the night was one quick reward after another for those sitting in the Rockstar Music Hall. Hosted by The Canada South Blues Society, it is all part of the celebrations of its 20th Anniversary which promises a year of top-notch entertainment.
The Kings, featuring Chicago blues vocalist and songwriter Oscar Wilson and Madison, Wisconsin songwriter, harmonica master extraordinaire and singer Joe Nosek, are a band of blues aficionados with only one style, full-frontal, raw, emotional get it done.
Wilson has spent his life living and playing the blues, most of it in Chicago. He tells Eyes on Windsor, no matter where it is from, Blues is all the same. The only element Chicago has added is electric guitars.
One of the distinctions of a night with the Cash Box Kings is the originality of the performance. No two songs or shows are ever the same. What the Rockstar audience heard loud and clear Friday night will never be exactly repeated.
As a child, Wilson remembers his grandparent’s Alabama home and blues music just breaking out on the front porch. Such joyous occasions were a regular at his parent’s home in Chicago, on the famed 43rd Street, known as Muddy Waters Drive. A feature was Friday night “fish fries/jam sessions” where Chi-Town’s most famous blues players would drop over. Where the jams went and how they ended up was always unique.
“Nothing in the blues is verbatim,” says Wilson. This makes it both challenging and exciting for the musicians who simply go wherever they want to. It helps if the group members have been playing together for quite some time.
Nosek and Grammy-winning drummer Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, the son of blues royalty, the legendary Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, have been at it for twenty years. Wilson joined a little later. Nosek tells Eyes on Windsor, Smith knows exactly what he is going to do, “ten seconds before it happens.”
Influences are plentiful. Nosek reasons the musicians all have music rolling around, “in our minds and it just comes out.” A lot of it is tributes to the stars of a variety of genres.
Songs turn into jams and suddenly Nosek is singing Folsom Prison Blues and when he belts out, “But I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” Smith uses his drums to replicate the sound of gunfire. It is exactly the same touch DeWayne Quirico, of the Bobby Fuller Four, used when the late Robert Gaston Fuller sang: “Robbin’ people with a six-gun.”
It is also what happens when 21-year old Cleveland guitarist Xavier Lynn throws in a little Chet Atkins guitar riffs. Atkins is one of his heroes and the way he does it is simply magic. The university student tells Eyes on Windsor he is allowed to play with the band as long as he keeps his physics grades in check. Both his parents are physicists.
For Nosek, the band’s style is best described as “Bluesabilly” the merging of Chicago Blues and Memphis rockabilly. It is also pure honest blues from as far back as the 1920s and as recent as a few weeks ago. Rounding out the group is bassist John W. Lauler and guitarist Billy Flynn, who, unfortunately did not make the trip to Canada this time around.
Performing with The Cash Box Kings was guitarist and harp player Shoji Naito. Canada South Blues Society President Michael McCann says, “he played with late great Mississippi-born Chicago bluesman Eddy ‘The Chief’ Clearwater.” Eddy has been missed since he passed away in 2018 and Naito played along side him for the last 14 years of his life.
Local musicians in the audience were more than impressed. Guitarists Michael Hereford, of British Beat 66, and Kenny Koekstat, of Brand “X” Live, both capsulize the evening as fantastic. They were not exaggerating. If nothing else, the Blues Society has raised the bar for its 2020 anniversary year exceedingly high.
Not to worry, Mike McCann, President of the Canada South Blues Society has plotted out an impressive series of concerts by the best blues musicians in the business. Next up, Madison, Wisconsin’s the Jimmys will bring their blues, funk, soul, rhythm and blues to Rockstar Music Hall on Saturday March 21. No strangers to Windsor, they were loved at past Bluesfest appearances so it should be another evening not to miss.
Also set to perform are Vannessa Collier (Apr 24), Joanna Conner (Oct 24), and Lil Ed and the Blues Imperials (Dec 4).
For more information about the Canada South Blues Society visit http://www.bluessociety.ca
For upcoming shows and information about Rockstar Music Hall visit https://www.facebook.com/RockStarWindsor/
Article by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.
Photos by Dan Boshart
Dan Boshart is a talented photographer from Windsor, Ontario, who is looking forward to spending more time on concert photography when he retires from his full time job in the automotive industry. In addition to shooting bands, he has an interest in travel, architectural and street photography. Some of Dan’s photos can be viewed on Instagram and he can be followed on Twitter or his 27th Floor Photography Facebook Page.