Cleveland's Blues Community Hosting Benefit Show for Guitarist Michael Bay

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COURTESY OF DENISE GRAHAM
  • Courtesy of Denise Graham
One of the Cleveland blues scene’s most visible and respected stalwarts, Michael Bay has performed at many benefit shows for other musicians over the years. He’s a generous guy, and an excellent guitarist. This time around, the show is for him; Bay suffered a heart attack earlier this year, and the city is rallying to raise funds for his medical costs and to celebrate his talents. The show is at Brothers Lounge on Thursday night, the setting for weekly jam nights going back many years. 

"People love this guy, man," bassist Mike Barrick tells Scene. Barrick has been playing with Bay ever since one auspicious day in 1994 when the two crossed paths on Clifton Boulevard. Bay didn't even really know if Barrick could play, but the magnetism and fate, in retrospect, was clear enough. He learned in short order that, yes, Barrick could play. Drummer Jim Wall completed the group. They remain an incredibly dynamic band to this day. You should check them out immediately if you haven't yet. 

The three went on to perform in multiple bands together, including the long-running Bad Boys of Blues, which heads up the weekly jams at Parkview on Wednesday and Brothers on Thursday. Barrick insists, however, that Bay has always been the guiding light of the group.

"The reason he's hung out and done this longer than anyone else is because he's the only person I know who started a jam night for the right reasons," Barrick says. "It had nothing to do with money. It was because he was teaching people, and he told me once, he goes, 'I need a venue that I can use as an outlet to teach my students stuff. We do all these lessons, but then they don't have anywhere to go to actually apply the things that we taught.' He started the jam nights on that."

For more than 20 years, the jams have brought countless musicians together. Bands have formed. Kids grew up onstage. Men and women created unforgettable moments. And the whole time, Bay has been there, directing the great show of life and bringing joy to all who stopped by for the music. 

We're fans too, of course. Scene published a profile of Bay in 2013.

I've known Bay most of my life, and can recall him giving stuffed animals to my brother and me when we were little kids waiting out our dad's guitar lessons on Lake Avenue in the mid-90s. Not too much later, my dad would go on to meet his future bandmates at these jam nights, back when they were held at the Savannah in Westlake. They, too, are still performing together as the Rhythm Syndicate. ("It makes me cry when I think about it," Bay told me a few years ago. "How wonderful it is that people who had a vision for themselves were able to find other people who had the same vision.")

"He's a very dear friend," Austin "Walkin' Cane" Charanghat tells Scene, regaling us with some hilarious stories from over the years. "I'm glad that everybody's coming together for him."

In late-April, Bay had a heart attack. His brothers and sisters in the local blues community are coming together to throw a benefit show in his honor, raising funds for his medical expenses and celebrating the gravity of a Cleveland icon.

Many musicians are set to perform, including Erin Rossi kicking things off at 8 p.m., a 9 p.m. set from the Bad Boys of Blues, a set from Armstrong Bearcat and a late-night all-star jam that will feature many from the entire history of the jam nights.

Also, there will be benefit raffles going on throughout the night. Tons of cool items have been donated. 

The party starts at 8 p.m. on Thursday at Brothers Lounge, and it runs all night. Drop a $10 donation at the door and remember to tip your servers well.

And with that, the benefit show begins.

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