Q&A with Jimi “Chef” Patricola owner of Blues411.com, a website devoted to helping blues music thrive in US

"I firmly believe that Blues music has done more for integration of the races than any other thing ever. It has done so by allowing white audiences to be with black audiences and share a common love for the music and in doing so learn about and from each other. Knowledge is the cure for hatred, suspicion and bigotry."

Jimi Patricola: Blues Music Thrive

Jimi “Chef” Patricola is a writer for several Blues Music big name publications and owner of Blues411.com, a website devoted to helping blues music thrive in the USA. The husband-wife team of Jimi Patricola and Leslie K. Joseph relocated from Rochester, N.Y. Patricola, a classically trained French chef and student of the blues, "brings his unique personality to blues musician interviews, CD reviews, and general 'amuse bouche' commentary," according to a news release. Joseph, a photographer, hopes to "bring musical performances and festivals to life." What started as a small web site for promoting and supporting blues artists, now has turned into a force for good that keeps blues artists and their music in the spotlight around the world, under a very big tent. Born out of the love of the Blues, at Blues411 go beyond keeping the blues alive, keep the blues thriving. “We help blues thrive by sharing musician interviews, CD reviews, photo galleries from our blues travel, and writing whatever else the blues spirit calls upon us to share."

Chef Jimi says: "We also spend time encouraging musicians who know how hard life is on the road and making friends with blues music lovers all over the world. We provide out of the ordinary views and thoughts on the Blues scene. Looking for the diamond in the rough, the road less traveled, the shadow in the corner, that thing of beauty that most people don't see.” And continues: "We at Blues411 provide out of the ordinary views and thoughts on the Blues scene. Looking for that diamond in the rough, taking the road less traveled, that shadow in the corner, the thing of beauty that most people don’t see. We spend time encouraging blues musicians who know how hard life is on the road and making friends with blues music lovers around the world. Each Monday we publish a new Baker's Dozen of Blues. Thirteen hot and tasty new releases that you should know about plus 'amuse bouche' special features. We keep the blues thriving, being kept alive is not enough..."

Interview by Michael Limnios

Photos by Jimi Patricola archive & Leslie K. Joseph / All rights reserved

What do you learn about yourself from the blues music and culture and what does the blues mean to you?

I learned that everything we go thru leads us to our current state of being. By this I mean that we all go through good times, bad times but we would not be right here in the now if it wasn't for these things that we went though. These things, life events can be easily called the blues.  I learned that the blues comes to you in life when you are ready for them, no sooner or later than that right moment. I have spoken with many a blues artists and one common thread is the saying that “the blues found me” and I fully understand that and agree with it. What does the Blues mean to me? As a music - it is the music of our lifetime. The music of our everyday being, the joy, the love that is so fine but also the sorrow, the heartbreak and the bad things that happen. But overall is the music of overcoming adversity and rising above it all.

How started the thought of Blues411?

It was a journey of many steps – I met many blues musicians over a period of time and decided that with all their talent, humility and human nature that they needed an advocate. That is when the Blues chose me to insure that the Blues thrives. To that end I had been writing for other publications and decided that it was my voice that needed to be heard in it's own unique way. A web site was the easiest thing to do, and so over Labor Day weekend 2009 (in USA) we published our first article on musician Robin Rogers who was gravely ill at the time. It is, as they say, all history now.

How do you describe and what characterize site’s mission and philosophy?

To put it simply – To promote the Blues worldwide. By using social media, internet radio, supporting live blues music, we aim to keep the blues thriving. To bring the blues to places where they are not familiar with it, and to promote it heavily to areas where they know of it.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues researches and how has influenced the journeys you’ve taken?

I have always loved music. From early days of Little Richard, Sam Cooke, Doo-Wop thru The British Blues Invasion of the Animals, the Stones, up to Janis, and Jimi, the Allman Brothers – then the music seemed to die for me. I was looking in all the wrong places – popular music, classic rock nothing there that was relevant. I heard Bill Wax on BB Kings Bluesville satellite radio while on vacation and it was like a curtain being drawn away from my eyes and ears. This was the music I had always loved but had lost touch with it. I began an internet correspondence relationship with Bill and we spoke of the music and he was always open, and his knowledge was like water to a parched man. Shortly after that I went on the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise – that was it for me. I was hooked and as John Lee said 'it's in the boy and it goes to come out'.
The music was wonderful, but the history behind it was even more fascinating, how the blues started, how it grew and traversed the American landscape up the mighty Mississippi river. When it reached Chicago it plugged in and now it has spread all over the globe. I had to know about it, library trips, seeking out magazines and books, DVDs all to feed the hunger that had been awakened inside of me. How has it influenced my journeys? That can best be answered by seeing what I and Blues411 does everyday - it has given me a new purpose and a passion. It has taught me new humility and appreciation for things that I would not have known before it. How we are an extended family and stay connected and through this music.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences for you?

Each person has something to give to each other, this I have learned from the Blues. Appearances do not matter, it is the inner self that is of utmost import to us all. Each artist, fan, fellow blues traveler has given me something that I carry with me every day. If I were to choose a most important it would be all of the musicians who have shared their time with me, to teach, compare and share opinions with. Yet as I said each and everyone that I meet on this road has done those things.

What touched (emotionally) you?

Most of all it was the depth of commitment that the artists have to their music, our music the Blues. It is never ending. They strive everyday with life's normal situations, yet they give us all such joy and release with their music. Some work at regular jobs and can only play at night. Others make their living in the music, yet each one sacrifices for the music. Also the passing of so many of these fine people, it can get hard to take, especially after this past year 2016 and the toll it has taken on our brothers and sisters.

What´s been the highlights of Blues411 so far?

To receive letters and emails from artists who have said we have helped them reach audiences they never had before. That we made a difference. To me, and Blues411, that is a highlight, it is also an affirmation that we are doing the right thing. Getting a hug and a kiss at the BMA's from Janiva Magness after she won an award. Being able to broadcast live from the BMA's with Tony Colter and Bill Wax on BB Kings Bluesville. To start a successful radio station with my wife, Leslie, when so many others were going under and bailing out. Being successful and having the support of the blues community in doing what we do. Where within a year we have added nine DJs to our station. Each playing their brand of blues and each very good at what they do.

Are there any memories from interviews which you’d like to share?

Some I can share, others, I am sworn to secrecy. So let me share this funny one. My very first 'big star' interview was with George Thorogood (I had somehow managed to get thru to them and convinced them that Blues411 was something they need to connect with). I got several calls making sure that I knew that George would be talking to me at our prescribed time and when we did hook up he calls me Chief Jimi, I laughingly and innocently reply “who's this calling, there is no Chief Jimi here” SILENCE on his end, I then say, rather quickly, that it's Chef and we laughed and went on to have one amazing conversation about music and his baseball career.
One other super moment was actually a two parter. I was speaking with Maria Muldaur about her new release several years ago, and we had realized that we were both from NYC back in the day, so we went on a tanget about it and she spoke of growing up with John Hammond and John Sebastian. I casually asked her why John hadn't called me in a while, and she said that she would tell him to call me, and we left it at that. So come Monday my phone rings and I see the last name Sebastian on caller ID and freak out, well there he was and he told me that whatever Maria asks him to do he does. I then proceeded to interview him and got some great stories from him. You can find all these and more of our interviews by visiting site and searching for the artists name.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

My past in the Blues is rather recent, I do not go back to the beginnings so I don't have that knowledge pedigree. But I will say that I am starting to miss the originality of song and musical stories that emanated from the blues masters and their first generation artists. There seems to be an almost formulaic sense to some of the blues music these days. I worry for the death of real blues, though I know that it can come in many forms and in small degrees, but there is something missing at times.

"To promote the Blues worldwide. By using social media, internet radio, supporting live blues music, we aim to keep the blues thriving. To bring the blues to places where they are not familiar with it, and to promote it heavily to areas where they know of it." (Photo: Jimi & Leslie Joseph)

What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

If I can reference the previous answer, and start with the fear aspect. I guess it could be summed up as fear of total cultural appropriation of the blues from the originators of the genre. I also fear that backlash from 'purists' who will not allow the blues to grow in a natural way. I guess it boils down to the blues as we know it will become more and more 'white' – we won't argue the no black, no white just blues here, nor that what is out there now is or is not real blues. My hopes is that the blues gains more popularity and is allowed to stretch it's borders and reach a larger audience while keeping it's root in the past while the fruits grow in the future. I hope for a re-connection of black youth to this music, led by some of the young black artists. I believe that this is already happening with Jarekus Singleton, Marquis Knox, Jamiah Rogers and others their approach to the blues in current and topically it is in the current and real life that they are living.

What are the legacies of Blues?

That it is the root of all popular music that we enjoy (or not) today. That people have overcome tyranny, hatred, and bigotry. It connects the lineage of the African Kings to the Blacks living in America and elsewhere – it provides them with a source of pride of accomplishment while also reminding them to be ever vigilant with their culture for in admiration from others one must be vary of them appropriating it to become their own. Maybe as we have said before Blues is life . . .

What do you think the major changes will be in the future of the Blues world?

What do I think or what would I hope to be? I will go with hope for. More reach into the youth market, more relevance to current people a rediscovery of sorts. We are very healthy within our own little village but to put the blues at it deserved spot will take a lot of effort and maybe, just maybe we as a community do not want that to happen?
It would be great to have a re-birth of some of the traditional instruments – let's get away from the over worked guitars and get the banjo, fiddle, washboard – all pretty much acoustic blues but with a modern taste. There are some great things going on out there but I think folks need to push the envelope and support a new turn in the road. One major change that I see coming is the marriage of the several 'national' blues groups. They need to work together to provide a unified stage at all levels of artist. I do see that coming how soon is only up to the people and organizations involved.

What's the difference and similarity between the local scenes and circuits around the United States?         Photo: Jimi Patricola & Barbara Newman, Memphis TN

Every area seems to have some very talented blues artists. I see them in my travels around the US, they range in styles and approach but they are all similar in level of accomplishment. That bodes very well for the future of the blues. Yet each has their own geographic and 'cultural' aspects that are prominent in their delivery and approach to the music. Some areas are more rocking blues – while others are more acoustic or countrified. Wherever they are, they are all staunch supports of their blues bands and believe that theirs are the best. That's a good thing. This can be seen by attending the International Blues Challenge, sponsored by The Blues Foundation in late January, early February in Memphis.

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

I firmly believe that Blues music has done more for integration of the races than any other thing ever. It has done so by allowing white audiences to be with black audiences and share a common love for the music and in doing so learn about and from each other. Knowledge is the cure for hatred, suspicion and bigotry.

Where would you really want to go with a time machine and what memorabilia (books, records,) you would put in?

Ahh a time machine, interesting thought. I tend to not live in the past, I am maybe a futurist in that sense. So I would say I would go to the future, maybe 30 years ahead and bring a collection of all the different types of blues music from field hollers, to Robert Johnson & Bessie Smith into Little Milton and OV Wright, Denise LaSalle and todays amazing artists, as many as possible to show people of the future what was once a proud creative genre of music by and for the people. Music created by people about real life dreams, hopes, failures and more. Not just CD's or Digital media but also movies, concert films stuff that is very emotional and strong. I say this because I believe that in the years ahead of us we shall see a severe diminishing of the relevance of the blues to the general public. With corporate radio, personalized incubation of music for people and such I do not think it bodes well as this genre and others will get pushed deeper into the rack of obscurity.
By doing this I would also hope to spur the interest into its rediscovery by the people. Pretty wild thought and to think I could probably pull it off. I foresee small juke joints or clubs where the people would congregate to hear it and be part of its renaissance. AS I said earlier the Blues will always be with us, sometimes it just needs to sit quietly and regain it's composure and level out. Yes the Blue is a living thing.

Blue411 - Official website

Photo by Leslie K. Joseph

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