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NIGHT LIFE

Kirk Maxson and His Friends Are Cooking Up a Blue Stew : The local musicians have resurrected the group headed by the late Buddy Smith. And they cater to dancers.

June 29, 1995|BILL LOCEY | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

When Spinnaker Drive in Ventura Harbor first opened in the early 1960s, it ran from Harbor Boulevard to South Jetty, where beer-addled teen-agers could see the cops coming more than a mile away.

Now Spinnaker Drive is developed and, especially on sunny weekends, it's tough to find a place to park anywhere as out-of-towners mingle with locals and fishermen. Teen-agers now have to watch out: The Ventura Police Department recently opened a harbor substation.

Plenty of the strolling weekend visitors end up at Hi Cees, the new Party Central, a small place with two doors opening on a small dance floor and a nice outdoor patio, where the musically inclined can slurp and slug as blues music is conjured up by the veteran players in Blue Stew.

Blue Stew features Mike Miller and John Boutelle on guitars, Kirk Maxson on bass and Matt Ralston on drums. They originally played in the Buddy Smith Band, but the local blues guitar god died last spring.

"Buddy was a great, great guitar player," Maxson said. "He had a lot of talent. He was a good leader and the band had a direction. I knew him for a long time, and I miss him as a person and a player. We barely started playing here when Buddy passed away last April."

When Smith died, the band had to be renamed. "We finally came up with a name that describes what we do, Blue Stew," Maxson said. "We do a lot of blues styles: Chicago blues, Texas blues, the jump stuff, Delta blues, country blues and Stevie Ray Vaughan stuff. We try to cater to what the dancers like, but we can do all sorts of stuff."

Despite the success of Blue Stew at Hi Cees, blues bands are usually relegated to off-nights elsewhere and seldom get the well-paying Friday- or Saturday-night gigs. Few fans are going to pay much to see a local band that plays for free on weekends.

"And right now, I think there's sort of a re-emergence of the blues, but there's room for improvement, obviously," Maxson said. "People need to come out more and support local music. People just take it for granted that there will always be music--they shouldn't."

Maxson, who has been in about 15 local bands over the years, has been through it all, from low pay to no pay.

"You can't keep playing around for free or next to nothing because after a while, this is what the club owners will come to expect," Maxson said. "They don't realize that some people actually make their living doing this. By playing for free, you kind of cut your own throat and [that of] the other musicians as well. You gotta set some standards. If you don't want to pay for live music, then go see karaoke."

Maxson, at fortysomething, has been playing long before karaoke was a viable alternative to anything.

"When I was going to Santa Paula High School in the late '60s," he said, "I was in a band that had two guitar players and needed a bass player. Since the other guy was a better player than I was, I picked up the bass. I still get a lot of calls to sit in with other people, and I enjoy that."

Blue Stew is working on a tape--some originals, some covers--that should be ready sometime in the '90s. The band will open at a new venue in Ventura on Friday night--Joe Daddy's, formerly Smokey's--and will play Tuesday nights at Nicholby's.

Details

* WHAT: Blue Stew.

* WHEN: 1-6 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

* WHERE: Hi Cees, 1583 Spinnaker Drive, Ventura.

* HOW MUCH: Free.

* CALL: 650-7773.

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