Interview with Koby & Monica Kruse (Original Legends Of The Blues) - Blues has touched many in our world

"The traditional Blues are fading fast and dying. All things change. I will forever miss these guys and what they brought to us. The happiness, the tears, the fights, the good times." 

Koby & Monica Kruse: The Blues Mission

Monica and Koby Kruse started their music career once moved from Ohio in the late 70's to Houston Texas. Koby had dabbled around with lights, sound, some small bookings in Ohio, but nothing like he was about to step into. How it started was like this. Monica and Koby owned an entertainment company that provided an experience, rather than just going to a show. Kruse offered a package deal with Ticket, Limousine, Hotel, & Dinner. This was in Houston Texas, and at that time folks had plenty of money in Texas and loved the idea. A show came where we ran out of tickets. Koby just know it was something new, and everybody had to go. Monica worked in a hospital, and someone had posted on a board in the lunch room that they had tickets to sell. Long story short, Koby went to meet the gentleman, and he owned a record store. Out front a band was set up. Nobody playing though.

Koby & Monica Kruse with Jimmi Mayes 

He walked in introduced herself, and started their negotiations. “I could not help but hear the music being played. After our business, I asked who it was that he was playing. He answered with Joe "Guitar" Hughes. He added, "He's asleep back there in the back room." Those of you who truly know Blues would know that Joe Hughes taught several very famous guitarists, and was a huge influence to many more.”  Johnny Copeland, Albert Collins, Johnny Watson, just to name a few. Copeland was taught note by note. The CD or maybe then the record being played, he cannot remember now. The list of artists Kruse either worked with or managed in some fashion is quite humbling. Kruse were  fortunate to work with major acts when they came through, even gaining trust from guys like Gatemouth Brown, Johnny Copeland, and others. 

Interview by Michael Limnios

Let's talk about for the rest of your story in blues and music...How the story goes on..?

So many had ties or family in Houston, that they would usually have a day or two extra in town, and my phone would ring, and one of them would want some extra work while in town. The big agency's they were signed to never knew what was happening. They would partner up with local Houston guys, call themselves something else, and go play. I'm not to sure we were fooling anybody, but it was fun. They eventually caught on, because a club owner called a radio station to advertise I think Johnny Copeland, and the agency found out, and that was that. Although we did run probably one of the largest Monday night Blues Jams ever anywhere starting in the late 80's or early 90's at a place called Billy Blues. The jams are still talked about today, as they were truly historical. The club was a chain, in several cities around the country. Even one in Germany. So now they just came to my Monday night jams and played with the same guys. I am pretty sure we had stuff similar or better than anybody, when we were able to load a stage with Johnny Copeland, Joe Guitar Hughes, Guitar Slim, Clarence Green, Texas Johnny Brown, Clarence Hollimon, and more. One of my favorite times in life, for sure.     Photo: Kruse with Big Roger Collins

We had bands that played the local scene, to bands that toured the worlds largest stages. Many of the guys like Joe Hughes and Grady Gaines, would do two tours a year overseas, and then spend the rest of the time local and in the Texas - Louisiana area. Some of them, like Rayfield Jackson, know as Houston Guitar Slim were so big that they never had to leave the area. He sold out every show I ever took him to for over 15yrs. He was the House Band @ Billy Blues from the day it opened until the day it closed it's doors. He was a giant, as was Joe Hughes. Some would record, some would not. We have private stuff of many of these guys, but nothing I would release. Simply due to their wishes. Video and audio. maybe someday I will do a small collage and stick it on you-tube, but I wouldn't bet on it. You can find a list of artists we worked with on our Facebook photo album page. It is way to long to list. We helped in many ways. Whether it was through benefits, or our own means, we kept food on plates, roofs over heads, meds in pocket, and yes even got a few instruments out of pawn. Was it all worth it? You bet. The book we write with the photos and story's will be quite a read, believe me.

As with anything, nothing lasts forever. We helped put a guy behind bars in Roy Ames who stole and sold their music around the world, and we watched as one by one they left our world. Finally, by about 2003 or so, most were gone we had worked with. We walked away for a few years, I was seriously injured in two rear end accidents in 2007 where people were on cell phones driving. It cost me dearly, and I am now permanently disabled. It took several years just to partially heal, and so I was out of the loop and business for sometime. I eventually got the strength to help a few artists I knew get some new material played on radio, and did some online seminars for those who would listen and wanted to learn how to do things right in this business we call music. I still consult, again, to those who will listen. There are many mistakes made by bands when they start out that if they knew what the outcome would be, they would do it differently.

I was contacted by a source who wanted me to be connected with Jimmi Mayes, the guy who found Jimi Hendrix, he wanted to start a band. I had promised myself, my wife, and my family, that I would not come out of retirement. That promise had a little attachment to it. I wasn't going to manage bands anymore unless it was something really big, or that I truly believed in. I got both with Original Legends Of The Blues. Almost 300yrs. combined, and the history these guys carry is second to none, like their set list. The band was named to keep the masters they played with and their music alive. But these guys are all legends in their own right. Anybody who sees Boogaloo, Jimmi Mayes, Charlie Dennis, Russell Jackson, Eric Demmer, and Barry Seelen, will know just exactly what they saw, Legends....We want to do education, seminars, and oh yeah, these guys are really really great musicians. Just ask B.B. King, they still play with him too, every show he does. We look forward to bringing this band to world-wide audiences. The Voice Of America DVD will be a world-wide TV special as well. These guys deserve it, and we have worked hard to get them there.

Joe Guitar Hughes, Albert Collins and Koby Kruse 

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

I'm sure that after hearing Blues music for the first time, that it grew on me immediately. I was able to put two and two together. Meaning it was quite obvious where and how all of our music started. I don't care if it's Rock, Country, or any other genre, it traces back to Blues at some point. This has allowed me to respect the music and artists in this genre even more because of these facts. I know I love the music.

How started the thought of the Original Legends Of The Blues? How do you describe project’s mission?

Original Legends Of The Blues was started for the following reasons:

We were fortunate enough to work with many of the very best in the business. It is this band that can carry on the music of the masters they recorded and played these tunes with on a nightly basis. It is about educating, clinics, seminars, and history. It is an opportunity for these great artists to tell their part of the story in the show. The show is unique in the set list alone, which no band out there has.  They do not have the artists that were part of as many songs as  they can play that were Blues hits or well known traditional songs we all know and love. It is about hearing all the songs that we are familiar with, and the guys who wrote and played and recorded them.

Why did you think that the Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Blues does not have the following in the USA like it should. The traditional Blues artist is being passed over now for what is really a combination of Blues & Rock & several other genres all combined. It is the "overseas" fan that keeps these guys and gals going. I appreciate that respect, as we do not get it here. My hope is that we get one more chance to show that traditional side. Another reason for Original Legends Of The Blues.

Junior Wells with Buddy Guy and Koby & Monica Kruse

Some music stars can be fads but the bluesmen are always with us. What means to be Bluesman?

What it means to be a Blues man? Go live the life style for a week or two and tell me if you can take the travel, long hours, riding, playing, clubs, hotels, missing family and friends, and doing it 300 days a year to get by and make ends meet. You truly have to love what you do....Remember, it does not pay like some make. Much respect for those who see it through for a lifetime....

What are some of the most memorable gigs and jams you've saw? What’s the best festival you ever saw?

There are way too many gigs, festivals, jams, etc. for me to pick out. I will however use my memory here, and answer this to my best.

My favorite Festival is the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, second to none. Two weekends, the best Blues talent on the planet back in the day. (Let alone the best food on the planet). One stage might have John Lee Hooker, another Gatemouth Brown, another Albert Collins. You had to run from one end of the fairgrounds to the other just to try and catch your favorites. It is not like that anymore, the guys have left us. However the talent has changed some too. Bruce Springsteen & Tom Petty are not what I call Blues bands. The landscape has changed. Goes back to my point earlier, more appreciation overseas.

My favorite gig, there were many. I started my Blues career with Joe "Guitar" Hughes. He taught Johnny Copeland how to play note by note. He also influenced Albert Collins, Johnny Watson, and the list goes on and on. Whenever they would get together and play side by side, it was magical. You see many guys get up and play together, but when it is teacher and pupil or pupils, it is so much more special. They just could not be touched on guitars, period. Thus the middle name "Guitar ".

Koko Taylor with Koby & Monica Kruse

Are there any memories with all those great bluesmen which you’d like to share with us?

I think what I took away that is most important to me is the tremendous amount of worldly knowledge that these guys carried around with them. There just was not much they did not know, and nothing much bothered them, the show just kept going on. I miss that. Intelligent, funny, happy, and crowd pleasing. That is what I took away, and remember. Pro's from when they woke up, to when they laid down at night. Yes, I have story's that would make you laugh or cry...Those will be in the book we write!!

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you?

Having met most of who is who in this business has been a blessing, and also not. There are some who you loved on the music you heard, and then meet them and find out that you are dealing with ego and attitudes of " I'm better than everybody else, and I don't have time for you being a fan, or time to talk to you " and it just blows the wind right out of your sail, and you never look at them the same again. Then there are those who are what you would expect or want them to be. I will say it is almost better to NOT meet that person you look up to or like. Sometimes you find out stuff that bursts your bubble...Let your dreams and imagination live, don't kill them by being let down. Sorry, but they are all human too. Some folks that I really look up to, and knew well or did business with.... B.B. King, Buddy Guy & Junior Wells, KoKo Taylor, Johnny " Clyde " Copeland, Albert Collins, Gatemouth Brown, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Lee Hooker, and my trail to them all, Joe " Guitar " Hughes.

Which memory makes you smile?

The memory list is also a long, long list after almost 40yrs. I guess this is what comes to mind. My wife somehow got a gig for Clarence Green & Guitar Slim for a private party. Now if you have ever done a party like this, it starts out rather stuffy. The host will complain about loud music, (because they have not drank enough yet) and that they need to hear each other talk. This happened to be a large birthday party, really large. We did some private functions, but not many because the artists we handled were larger and of course cost $$$. Clarence would always open up and start the show, bringing on Slim in 20-30 minutes or so. Before Clarence could get started, he was too loud, turn down, etc. Knowing that Slim was a showman second to none, I was a little worried as he was as large and as loud as anything you ever saw. He never left Houston much, he sold out anywhere he played, and lived quite well. He played with his teeth, out in the crowd, the whole bit. The thing is, he was WAY BETTER at this than anybody else. Eventually he was called up to the stage. I just knew all hell was about to break loose. But, here is where a TRUE showman gets what he wants. He took over, period. By the time he was done, there was birthday cake, food, drinks, and god knows what else spread all over the walls, floors, and people. He, we, and everyone slipped and slid all over the floor, it was hilarious!! Not a major festival or big club, just a birthday party, to funny!!!

Guitar Slim with Koby & Monica Kruse

How has the blues changed over the years? What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past?

The traditional Blues are fading fast and dying. All things change. I will forever miss these guys and what they brought to us. The happiness, the tears, the fights, the good times. When you are involved in helping with their careers, it is hard to keep business and friendship separate. Especially when you respect and love them so much. It becomes hard to lose them too. Not a day goes by that something will pop up in your mind, just by seeing something or hearing something. It brings those memories back. I still find it hard to listen to those who were really close without shedding a tear or two. Johnny Copeland did a song called The Nature Song. I have never witnessed a crowd of people swaying and arms moving and singing along like we did in a small club in Houston one night. It was a special private invite with only stars and close friends. I will never forget that moment. I cannot listen to the song without crying.

What are your hopes and fears for the future of blues music? Give a wish for the blues.

Knowing that Blues will never be what they were or used to be, I just hope that we do not stray to far from the roots of it, and turn it into classic rock or something similar. It seems people are doing that. I suppose times and music will continue to change, I just hope more kids learn how to play a guitar, or a bass, or some drums. It takes practice, God given talent, and the desire to be great. That is my wish.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with Soul and continue to Jazz and World music?

I mentioned earlier when asked about where and when it hit me, that all music traces back. When I was a boy growing up, I listened to a station from Detroit Michigan that I could pick up at night with a wire stuck out my window. The station played R&B, Soul, Funk, and some Rock and Jazz. All over the board. This was again an easy way to see how all this came from Blues. Beats, rhythms, even words could be Bluesy in many of the songs that I listened to as a kid. It was easy to see and hear the influence of the Blues and it's evolution.

Albert Colins with Koby & Monica Kruse

What's the legacy of Blues in the world culture? Do you believe in the existence of real blues nowadays?

Blues has touched many in our world. It is not for everyone, just like Rap or Hip-Hop is not for us. We think as long as there are still fans, Blues will always live on. Just like any other genre of music, it has its fans. What happens world-wide? I guess we will see. Like we said, traditional Blues are dying. Part of this is due to artists leaving us, but the other part that concerns me is that not many if any are learning or following that traditional path. These guys are taking many of their secrets to Heaven with them. If you are a Blues artist, find one of these guys and LEARN!! There are still a few around.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

What we would change...We would of course wish success to each artist where they could play and work and make those ends meet. You don't have to like everything you hear, We could tell you several famous Blues artists we do not particularly care for, but everyone's story deserves to be told and heard. But the one real thing we would want to be a reality is GET BACK TO LEARNING. Getting away from computer noise and sounds, go learn how to bend a note or do a shuffle. We cannot stand electronic music. It is the easy way out and serves no purpose or outlet of emotion like playing that one note just right. Technology is our friend in most instances, but when it comes to music, let's get back to rolling up our sleeves and doing it right...

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the Blues circuits?

We have been blessed by the formation of some of the very best artists in Original Legends Of The Blues. This band involves six superstar artists who have spent nearly 300yrs. combined with legends like Gatemouth Brown, to Pinetop Perkins, B. B. King to Jimmy Reed. They intend to keep these legends music alive, and tell their story through history at the shows they do, to seminars, clinics, and workshops. They want to bring the traditional blues back around one more time. This puts a smile on us from ear to ear. They just finished 12 songs and a world-wide TV documentary for Voices Of America. It's all coming soon. How much more proud could we be?

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

To many choices for one day. Hard question as we miss so much. Those early years in New Orleans at the Jazz Festival have got to be the answer though. We could see all those great artists in one place in one day. Yea, that would be like going to Heaven...

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Monica & Koby Kruse with Big Walter "The Thunderbird"

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