Best Bets: Blues society president, weekly jam on the move

Outgoing Central Delaware Blues Society President Barry Pugh, right, stands with society founder Craig Coffield during a CDBS function. Mr. Pugh will be vacating his post as president due to hearing loss. (Submitted photo)

Change is in the air for the Central Delaware Blues Society.

The group’s popular Thursday night blues jam is on the move, as is the society’s president, Barry Pugh.

The jam, which has invited professional and amateur musicians to play at Jonathan’s Landing Clubhouse in Magnolia for the past six years, is switching to a new location at the American Legion Walter L. Fox Post 2 on Bay Road in Dover.

The weekly event had its final go-round at Jonathan’s Landing, which has a new management team, Thursday night.

“We worked with them for a little while to keep the music and the jam going but they decided they didn’t want entertainment or the blues society any longer, which is their right,” Mr. Pugh said.

“They wanted to have the extra income to rent the room and have it be known as a golf course instead of a blues club.”

Enter the American Legion and its entertainment director Michele Stabley.

“I knew there was a change in management at Jonathan’s Landing and that the jam was in a bit of trouble so I contacted (the society) and asked if they would be interested in us hosting each week,” she said.

“To me, it’s a no-brainer. You have musicians who come in from Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey to play. They attract a great crowd of people. It’s the perfect fit for the American Legion. It’s amazing.”

She says the venue in the back of the building, which is non-smoking, can hold 200 to 300 people.

“We have a bar. It’s open to the public. We have a full menu. I’ll be cooking the food out of the kitchen myself. It will be just like Jonathan’s Landing, with the same quality of blues music going on,” Ms. Stabley said.

“It’s a win-win situation for both of us. We can expand our attendance and they can expand their membership. The American Legion is all about giving back to the community and we’re fortunate to be able to partner with these guys.”

Mr. Pugh agrees.

“It should be good for both of us. It’s a fresh new venue for us. They seem to be excited to have us, which is a good thing. We’re hoping that it works out for all of us.”

The first jam at the American Legion will take place on July 11 starting at 7 p.m. and be hosted by the Joey Fulkerson Trio.

In October, they will also host the group’s Battle of the Bands, which annually sends one group to the prestigious International Blues Challenge in Memphis, Tennessee.

In April of 2013, Craig Coffield, who was general manager of Jonathan’s Landing at the time, began hosting the jams after staging blues concerts by national acts there since 2011.

Seeing the popularity of those nights, Mr. Coffield began formation of the Central Delaware Blues Society.

In the beginning of 2014, he called together a few interested blues aficionados, which included Mr. Pugh and others, and they formed the rough layout of a group and began setting direction for a long-term commitment of holding more blues shows, staging a festival and sending a band to the IBC.

“I knew that there was the Diamond State Blues Society upstate but there was nothing south of the canal. I saw the enthusiasm that was evident at these jams and we started the society,” Mr. Coffield said.

“Another big reason was that I wanted to be able to send a local group to the Blues Challenge in Memphis and maybe get some national attention for them.”

As founder of the blues society, he’s happy that the music will play on at the Legion.

“It’s an opportunity to get some new people interested in what we do. Word of mouth is the best kind of advertising you can get. We’re hoping to get back to having national acts come in again too,” he said.

Mr. Coffield finds it rather appropriate that Mr. Fulkerson’s trio will be the first act to play at the new venue.

“In the beginning, even on weeks that he wasn’t hosting it, Joey would still be there and really helped it grow,” he said.

“With him being so well-known in the area, to have him come in, even on his off night, to play was special.”

But while the music will go on, Mr. Pugh won’t go with it. He is stepping down as president once a suitable replacement is found.

In a cruel twist of fate, the reason why he has decided to vacate the position is that he is losing his hearing.

“When I came back from the Blues Challenge in Memphis in January, I had real problems hearing. I just couldn’t understand what anybody was saying. I waited for three weeks to see if my ears would settle down but when they didn’t, I made an appointment with my audiologist,” Mr. Pugh explained.

“He asked me what had I been doing lately because my hearing had gone down 10 percent since my last appointment in October.

“I told him that I went to the IBC with lower case blues and I was practically standing on the stage with them near the speakers for four or five days.”

His doctor delivered the bad news that if he continued to frequent concerts and music venues, his hearing would decrease even more significantly.

“He said I wouldn’t be able to understand human speech at all. I already have hearing aids and one ear has problems. He said the most I should be exposed to is 85 decibels and your average music venue has its sound way over 85 decibels,” he said.

And so he made the tough decision to step down.

“If I can’t go to the venues to support the music that I love and if I can’t go and see the people and chat and socialize with them, then I don’t think I’m doing my job,” Mr. Pugh said.

“That’s a major part of my job and so I shouldn’t be the president. It’s very disappointing. It pains me to have to do this but I have to do it. Otherwise I pay the consequences.”

Noting that “it just doesn’t seem fair,” Mr. Coffield said Mr. Pugh has been a huge part of the success of the blues society.

“He’s done a fantastic job. He had always run the IBC end of things when I was running the society itself. But I always knew that he had said that when he retired he would like to become president,” he said.

“His enthusiasm for the music rubs off on you. His love for the music is evident anytime you talk to him. He’s going to be missed. People don’t realize how hard he and his wife Julie work to keep things going.

“He’s the reason why we have a board of directors and we have a 501 (c)3 tax-exempt status. He was able to set up and design the whole website. He’s definitely been our ace in the hole.”

Mr. Pugh, who has an IT background, said he’s happy with what he’s been able to do over the years.

“I’m very proud of what we’ve done. We’ve had five festivals. We’ve given five bands a chance to perform in Memphis. We have about 200 paying members and an email list of 650 people I send out information to. We’ve built a website and kept it active. We have a database of memberships that automatically sends an email out remind folks to renew their membership,” he said.

“A lot of sorely needed administrative duties have been formalized over the last few years.”

Mr. Pugh said the society has a few people who are interested in the job of president.

“I’m hoping we can meet next week and get this done by the end of July. But we have bylaws and regulations we need to follow. We don’t just appoint a new president and that’s it,” he said.

He said he and wife will stay on the board and continue to advise but the new president will be free to appoint new board members as well.

“If the whole thing takes another 12 months or 18 months, that’s fine. We just want to continue this thing on the way we anticipated and hopefully it will continue to grow,” he said.

If interested in a board position, contact Mr. Pugh at BWPugh@Comcast.net.

‘Merry Wives’

Possum Point Shakespeare Players’ summer presentation of “The Merry Wives of Windsor” will be staged today through Sunday.

An affiliate of Possum Point Players, the Shakespeare group performs a full-length production of the comedy in Possum Hall in Georgetown.

The Shakespeare Players have drawn cast members from Dover to Frankford for this tale of the philandering, and sometimes fumbling, Falstaff’s attempt to seduce two well-positioned wives.

From left, Marsha Shull, Chuck Rafferty and Tara Wisely. (Submitted photo)

Leading the merry mix-up as Falstaff is Chuck Rafferty of Laurel and his conquest, or conquerors, are Mistress Ford, Tara Wisely of Lewes, and Mistress Page, Marsha Shull of Frankford.

Set in festival season in Windsor, joining in the cast are Georgetown resident Zach Rogers; Dick Pack and Sadie Andros of Lewes; and Tommy Trietley, Becca Davidson and Peter Klotz of Milton. The cast also includes Steven Perry and Thom Harris of Rehoboth Beach, Richard Huffman of Prime Hook Beach and Bethany Beach residents Hannah Bellistri and Mike Marotta. Rounding out the cast are Susan Newark of Harrington and Karen Fitzpatrick of Dover.

Experienced Shakespearean actor and director Shannon Parks of Lewes directs “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

Friday and Saturday shows are at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinee is at 2 p.m. General admission tickets are $15 and may be purchased at www.possumpointplayers.org, the Possums’ ticketline, 302-856-4560 or at the door.

Calamari Sisters return

Delphine and Carmela Calamari are bringing their brand-new show, The Calamari Sisters’ “Sausagefest,” to the Milton Theatre for four shows today at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m., and Sunday at 2 p.m.

The sisters achieved their stardom in Brooklyn, New York with their twist on a musical cooking show. Their widespread success has brought them to the Milton Theatre several times to sold-out crowds every time.

Tickets are $20-25. Purchase your tickets online at www.MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302.-684-3038 or at the box office at 110 Union St.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the Beatles-centric musical fantasy “Yesterday” and the horror sequel “Annabelle Comes Home.”

Nothing of note is coming to DVD or download next week.

To share news of your entertainment group, venue or event, contact Craig Horleman at 741-8224 or chorl@newszap.com.

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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