A reissue from one of Northeast Ohio's longest running blues bands, Mr. Stress Blues Band's Live at the Brick Cottage 1972-73
chronicles the blues band led by the late Bill “Mr. Stress” Miller. Drummer Kenny Ruscitto met Miller in 1967 at Duane Verh’s house and joined the band in 1968.
“Bill had some really kind of free-form, not necessarily committed bands that played some gigs in the University Circle area and in East Cleveland,” says Ruscitto. “It was just a few gigs here and there. After I joined the band, we played a lot of gigs. The chemistry was great when we played at Duane’s house. Duane was also instrumental in turning me onto different styles of music but Bill was the one who schooled me in the blues. He would say, ‘Listen to the originators; don’t copy the imitators.’ I was really enamored with anything and everything that involved being in a band. It was thrilling for me.”
One of the album's highlights, the Muddy Waters song "Walkin' Through the Park," starts with a bit of woozy harmonica before gritty guitars and bluesy vocals kick in. "Get Out of My Life Woman" possesses a distinctive swagger and sounds like something that should have been a hit.
“Now, 30 to 40 years later, I would say there are a couple of tunes where I overplayed,” says Ruscitto when asked about the reissue. “It does capture some of the excitement. Pete Sinks was the other drummer. He played that older fashion of blues drummer. He was fabulous. I was trying to interject rhythm and blues and funk when it didn’t fit. At the Brick Cottage, there was a whole lot of attitude adjustment and enhancement going on. There were so many nights at the Brick Cottage. Bill had such a long career, there were some other lineups that might have been more musically sound. But the Brick Cottage sessions were really raw.”
For the release party, alumni from the Mr. Blues Band will join locals such as Blue Lunch, Anthony Lovano's Supernatural Band featuring Tim Matson, and the Alan Greene Band.
“I talked to a long list of people who are going to play as part of the ‘alumni and friends,’” says Ruscitto, adding that Alan Greene and Blue Lunch will start the show off before handing things over to Anthony Lovano’s Supernatural Band. Each band will play a half hour set; the last two hours will be a jam format. “Everything that I’ve heard from people who have called, texted and emailed me is super positive. I think it will be a successful night. Last year, when they had the memorial at the Euclid Tavern, I could not believe the people who showed up. Not just the musicians but the old fans. It was great seeing all those people.”
Mr. Stress Blues Band Alumni, Blue Lunch, Anthony Lovano's Supernatural Band featuring Tim Matson, the Alan Greene Band, 8 p.m. Friday, June 3, Beachland Ballroom, 15711 Waterloo Rd., 216-383-1124. Tickets: $10, beachlandballroom.com.