Memphis Blues Again

When Piano Bob and the Snowman won a prestigious W.C. Handy Award, they had no idea they'd end up duking it out with another Miami band in a Memphis alley.

An article by John Floyd in the October 8 issue of the weekly Memphis Flyer jibes with Speedo Kelly's portrayal of the Blue Tornados as welcome Handy Awards benefactors, but also bolsters the assertion that they became major players at the awards only after they anted up. According to the paper, "An additional $5000 life preserver was thrown to the Foundation by the Blue Tornados, a Florida-based blues band who, once they cut the check, were then moved from a slot in the after-show jam at the Radisson to a prominent spot in the awards line-up, thus proving that money does indeed talk."

Regardless of the timing of the donation, Piano Bob and the Snowman were hurt by the sudden prominence of the Blue Tornados in an awards ceremony at which the boogie-woogie duo had overcome long odds to win the right to perform. It didn't help matters that the Blue Tornados took out an ad in the official Handy program, billing themselves as "South Florida's Blues Ambassadors."

The matter finally came to a head during the soundcheck for the show at the New Daisy Theatre in Memphis. Big Bob, a burly Vietnam vet who says he earned two Silver Stars, two Bronze Stars, and a Purple Heart, spotted the Snowman and, still smarting from the latter's words on the WLRN show, snarled, "You and me got a date back in Miami." The Snowman, also a hefty fellow, responded with something to the effect of, "Why wait?"

And the fisticuffs were on. The actual fight, which took place in the parking lot adjacent to the Daisy Theatre, was a fairly short-lived affair, distinguished by a nasty bite on the thumb suffered by the Snowman, which necessitated a tetanus shot and the filing of a police report.

"Who got what, I can't say," says Speedo, who was with Big Bob when the fracas occurred. "I can't say they were duking it out. All I know is, ten seconds and it's over, Bobby's on one knee, Ken's splitting."

Says Big Bob in retrospect: "I congratulate Piano Bob on winning the contest. I did the same thing on-stage at the awards. But if they would like to compete against us on any stage in this town...."

For his part, the Snowman has already put most of it behind him. "I got to sit there with Buddy Guy and his manager; the Memphis Horns presented our award. We got to play at Frank Frost's juke joint, we played on Beale Street. It was the greatest time of my life, regardless."

Adds Piano Bob, "All we wish is that whatever becomes of [the Blue Tornados] doesn't affect what becomes of us. First the organizers told us we finished second when we really won. Then this thing with Big Bob -- I've known him for a long time, never had a problem with him before. It's like we had to cross all these hurdles to get to the Holy Grail.

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