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An Eclectic Mix at Blues Festival

August 01, 1993|EMILY ADAMS

For two long years, Bernie Pearl sat on the sidelines, watching the Long Beach Blues Festival continue without him. As September rolled around, he would remember the hassles and the joy that went into putting on the annual two-day blues extravaganza that he helped create in 1980.

But after being fired from his disc jockey/blues promoter gig at KLON radio station in 1990, he was locked out. No more hanging out with musicians backstage, watching with pride as hundreds of people swayed and danced to the likes of Etta James, Stevie Ray Vaughn and Bo Didley.

Remembering how he was really the front man for the Long Beach blues scene for years and how he could only watch the scene carry on without him, Pearl felt, well . . . not great.

But this year, Pearl is launching a preemptive strike with a festival of his own.

Today, Pearl will take his first shot at recreating the blues show he started 13 years ago. It is a one-day concert instead of two, but the Big Time Blues Festival is happening nearly two months before that other show. And perhaps there are a lot of people who just can't wait until September.

If you are one of those can't-wait blues fans, head out to GemmrigPark in Long Beach. There, you will be treated to fiddle-master Papa John Creach, Harmonica Fats ("320 pounds of pure blues") and, of course, the Bernie Pearl Blues Band.

For those old enough to remember the pop band Fleetwood Mac, here is another surprise: Mick Fleetwood's band Blue Whale, featuring Ron Thompson on guitar, also will be there.

Don't expect to hear your favorite Fleetwood Mac tunes, however. This is a serious blues band. "Don't Stop (Thinking About Tomorrow)" just doesn't seem to fit in with the lineup.

The appearance of Fleetwood alongside Papa John Creach shows that this is an eclectic mix. Also on the roster are Broadway star Linda Hopkins, singing more gospel than Gershwin, and the more contemporary urban blues of Larry (Arkansas) Davis.

Acoustic guitarists Tom Ball and Kenny Sultan, Argentine guitarist Pappo--singing his blues in Spanish--and newcomers Hook Herrera, Sherry Clarke and Mississippi Millie McLaine also will be featured.

Now, one of our favorite things about the blues festival was always the atmosphere, food included. You may bring a picnic lunch or you might want to sample the food stands featuring Cajun and Creole cooking, Louisiana barbecue, catfish and chips. Do bring a blanket or beach chair, sun block and maybe a hat. Beer will be sold, but you can't bring your own.

The gates open at 10 a.m. today and the concert is expected to last until 7 p.m. Tickets are $20 at the gate.

Gemmrig Park is at 7390 E. Carson St. near the U.S. Naval Hospital in Long Beach. For information and directions, call (310) 426-4616.

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