Q&A with Dutch blues promoter Rob Koning (King Bee Music), work with for some of the best blues bands

"Blues music is a perfect way to tell your thoughts about all these matters. On the other hand, blues can also be ‘’happy’’ blues. People want to dance to the music instead of listening to the lyrics. I don’t think blues music will change the world. I only have to remind you of M.L. King, a great man. Nothing really changed since his dead. We still have to face racial and socio-cultural problems all over the world."

Rob Koning: The King Bee Music

Dutch promoter Rob Koning, running the King Bee Music, a blues agency in The Netherlands, officially since 2000. Actually, already started in 1991. But it was in 2000 when started the booking agency officially. KING BEE MUSIC work with for some of the best blues bands: Stevie Nimmo Trio (UK), John Primer (USA), Joey Gillmore (USA), Super Chikan (USA), Ben Prestage (USA), Chris Cain (USA), Big Daddy Wilson (USA), Sugar Queen (USA), Philippe Ménard (FR), Kat Riggins (USA), Monti Amundson (USA), Meena Cryle and the Chris Fillmore Band (AT), and many others.

Rob Koning / King Bee Music Agency / Photo by Belinda Schiffelers

Rob says: "One simple reason ... after having a ‘nine to five’’ job for 26 years, I was fed up with this, and decided to start my own business. I was already booking some local blues bands in the Nineties, and in the year 2000 I became an official booker / agent for blues bands from the US, UK and the Netherlands."

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues and Rock counterculture influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Way back in the Sixties / Seventies I got influenced by The Rolling Stones. Rebellion came into my life. From Stones to Muddy Waters was not a big step, and that changed my life forever. Thanks to Muddy I got involved with the blues and from that moment my path went a different direction. More social, more interested in other people’s life. The song ‘’I’m a King Bee’’ was the beginning of King Bee Music Agency ... my name is ‘’Koning’’, which means King in English!

What were the reasons that you started the King Bee Music? What is the hardest part as a promoter/road manager?

One simple reason ... after having a ‘nine to five’’ job for 26 years, I was fed up with this, and decided to start my own business. I was already booking some local blues bands in the Nineties, and in the year 2000 I became an official booker / agent for blues bands from the US, UK and the Netherlands. The hardest part was to build a good network, and this costed me 2 years. Once venues and festivals got to know me, it became easier to get bookings. People know me now as a reliable and respectful agent / booker.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

One of the most important acquaintances was without any doubt a man called Wil Blansjaar. He was the owner of 3 bars, and chairman of a huge shopping center. He had faith in me from the beginning, trusted me to do the bookings for his blues bar, and above all of this ... he let me do the program of the yearly blues festival in his shopping center. This man told me to go my own way, and to trust my own instincts in everything I do. Where 9 out of 10 people turn left, I go right, if you know what I mean...

"Honestly? ALL the great black blues musicians, like Albert Collins, Albert King, Luther Allison... I mean, the blues is still here, but not anymore like it was in the past. I see a lot of blues bands in the scene, most of them white, and that’s okay. But I would like to see young black musicians become interested in blues instead of Rap or whatever." (Rob Koning / Photo by Paul de Vries, 2019)

Are there any memories on the roads which you’d like to share with us? What has made you laugh and touched you?

Oh man, too many memories! I have toured with so many great blues bands from England, from the US. The band that made me laugh the most, was Danny Bryant (UK). This was a family band, with has Dad as bass player, his wife as technician, and hus Mum for merch. The fun we had when we were on the road was incredible. Great ‘’after parties’’ after the show, booz on the table, lots of stories. Danny’s imitations from British comedies were hilarious!!

Smokin’ Joe Kubek was another one that made me laugh. I remember we were waiting for him outside the hotel for a long ride. All of a sudden, he appeared on the balcony of his room, dressed as the Pope, and acting like him. This was so fucking good!

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of the past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Honestly? ALL the great black blues musicians, like Albert Collins, Albert King, Luther Allison... I mean, the blues is still here, but not anymore like it was in the past. I see a lot of blues bands in the scene, most of them white, and that’s okay. But I would like to see young black musicians become interested in blues instead of Rap or whatever.

If you could change one thing in the European Blues scene and it would become a reality, what would that be?

I am this business for a long time now, and I do know a lot of great venues and festivals. Most of them are loyal to the principle ‘’Blues’’. Unfortunately, there are clubs and festivals that call themselves ‘’blues club’’ or ‘’blues festival’’, but what do we see? Rock bands, cover bands, blues bands that call themselves a blues band, but they play other styles of music!! So, my wish would be a blues club or blues festival with nothing but original and traditional blues acts. I consider myself very lucky to know a few of such clubs and festivals.

"Way back in the Sixties / Seventies I got influenced by The Rolling Stones. Rebellion came into my life. From Stones to Muddy Waters was not a big step, and that changed my life forever. Thanks to Muddy I got involved with the blues and from that moment my path went a different direction. More social, more interested in other people’s life." (Photo: Rob Koning & Chris Cain)

What are some of the most important lessons you have learned from your paths in the blues circuits?

One of the keywords at King Bee Music Agency is ‘’Honesty’’. I can speak for myself that I have always been honest and fair to my bands, to the clubs, to the festivals, etc. In all these years I had only 2, 3 bad experiences with clubs who were dishonest. Costed me a lot of money. So, one lesson I learned was to get paid in advance if I have to deal with a new club or festival. Fortunately, most of the clubs and festivals I am working with, know me well enough. Another lesson I learned was arranging the flights for my US artists. In the very beginning of my career, I did not realize that flights could be delayed, or fall out. And that this would have consequences for my artists. After one serious experience (flight fell out) my artists fly in a day earlier, to give them more time, just in case of delay etc.

What is the impact of Blues music and culture to the racial, political, and socio-cultural implications?

Blues music is a perfect way to tell your thoughts about all these matters. On the other hand, blues can also be ‘’happy’’ blues. People want to dance to the music instead of listening to the lyrics. I don’t think blues music will change the world. I only have to remind you of M.L. King, a great man. Nothing really changed since his dead. We still have to face racial and socio-cultural problems all over the world.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

Without hesitation: WOODSTOCK!! I was too young at that time, but I have seen the movie, the documentary ... Wow man, the lineup (Jimi, Ten Years After ...) the atmosphere, the solidarity, the feeling of ‘’all together as one big family’’ ... I love this!! So yeah, if you can make this possible, I want to be on board!!

King Bee Music Agency - Home

Rob Koning / Photo by Paul de Vries

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