930 Blues Café's Blues Jam featuring Casey Phillips slated for Tuesdays at 8 p.m. Mark your calendars for Tuesday, when the 930 Blues Café's Blues Jam featuring Casey Phillips will kick off weekly jam sessions every Tuesday at 8 p.m. at Jackson's only authentic Delta blues venue.
Jamming with Casey every Tuesday night from 8-12 at the 930 Blues Café will be his regular high-energy lineup and one of the hardest-working bands in Mississippi: "Brother" Sartin on guitar, Willie James Hatton on bass, Rick Lewis on drums, and Tony Santangelo on keyboard and harmonica. Since jamming and jambalaya make the perfect match, the 930 Blues Jam will include jambalaya for only $2 a plate.
"We play a little of everything blues," Casey said. At one time, the guitarist knew 17 hours of blues songs. At a gig on the Mississippi coast for Mardi Gras, Casey said he played eight and a half hours without repeating a single song.
After spending 9 years at the now-defunct George Street Grocery, Casey describes the 930 Blues Café as the perfect place for blues. "It's the perfect marriage of Jackson's longest-running blues jam and Jackson's best blues club," he said. "The 930 Blues Café is the best place to hear live Delta blues. It's got a great multi-racial atmosphere that reminds me of the old Subway in that respect," he added.
Casey should know. He was one of the featured performers on "The Last of the Mississippi Jukes" filmed at Subway where he played with blues harp artist Fingers Taylor, who Casey says is probably one of the top five harmonica players in the world. "He played with Jimmy Buffet for 29 years and with James Taylor," he said.
During the 930 Blues Cafe Blues Jam, Casey will keep a sign-up sheet for guest artists who want to jam with the band.
Mac Byrd, owner of the 930 Blues Café, Jackson's top tourist attraction for its dedication to keeping Delta blues alive and thriving in the capitol city, said he expects the 930 Blues Jam featuring Casey Phillips to pack the house and keep everyone dancing until closing. "Casey has played a big role in Jackson's blues scene for 10 years," he said. "His music exemplifies the best of the blues and the reasons that they will always be a part of the human experience."
Casey, a gritty, bare boned, and raw singer, songwriter, and guitarist who plays lead and bass, started learning his blues in Commerce, TX, from Texas bluesman Trig Ward at 16. But his musical background dates back much earlier to age 4 when he started piano and switched to guitar at age 6.
The 43-year-old guitarist plays acoustic and electric but says that his favorite weapon of choice is a Telecaster. "I play some slide guitar and I've been known to play behind my head and with my teeth," he said. Although Casey considers himself a Mississippian now, he names former fellow Texan Albert Collins as his biggest influence.
Before moving to Jackson in 1995, Casey lived in Memphis for one year, playing solo, with a band and in duos at kicking blues venues on Beale Street: B.B King's, Black Diamond, Blues City Café, and Rum Boogie Café. He also played at Huey's, which has three locations in Memphis and is owned by Jay Sheffield, who used to do B. B. King's bookings.
Casey has played with some of the best blues recording artists, including Little Milton, Dorothy Moore, Carl Sims, Artie Bluesboy White, and Fingers Taylor, who he describes as the most fun. He's also played with Pat Brown, Dennis Fountain, and Patrice Moncell.
Blues artists who've played with the Blues Jam include Bobby Rush, Mel Waiters, Chris Gill, Jesse Robinson, King Edward, Abdul Rasheed, Noland Struck, J.T. Waters, Scott Albert Johnson, the 930 Blues Cafe's own "Miss Sweetheart" Jackie Bell, and a score of others.
Of all his years in the blues, Casey's most proud of the young players who cut their teeth with the Blues Jam. He lists Dustin Messina on guitar; Patrick Harkins on guitar; Patrick McClary ,who's playing with DayBreakDown; Russell Welch, who's playing with a jazz group; and Virgil Brawley, who's playing guitar with the Juvenators.
Casey counts himself lucky to hold two jobs that he loves: playing blues and teaching 11th and 12th grade at Bailey Magnet High School. "I'm doing them both and very happy to be able to that," he said. He considers both jobs avocations.
The bluesman holds a bachelor's degree with a double major in history and English and a master's degree in Information Science. At Bailey, he teaches Advanced Placement (AP) U.S. History, AP U.S. Government, AP Macroeconomics, and one section of regular U.S. History.
The 930 Blues Café is located at 930 North Congress Street in Jackson. For more information about the 930 Blues Jam, call (601) 948-3344 or (601) 714-4226, or check the website at www.jesdablues.com