Boomers rock House at blues show

By Carl Nadig

Rock music was rolling with grace Thursday with Johnny and The Boomers and the NIU Jazz Band.

Johnny and The Boomers play at the House Cafe, 263 E. Lincoln Highway, on the first Thursday of every month. The band hosts the Open Blues Jam at venues in the surrounding area. Anyone who brought an instrument to the show could step on stage and improvise with the band.

“I was 21, I think, when we started doing this,” said frontman Johnny Sherman. “I’ve always hated that blues get pushed off into a corner as … ‘old people music,’ when it’s very much alive. You can play anything from Muddy Waters, Chicago blues and then you have Joe Bonamassa that’s slaying with crazy guitar licks. It’s not all lumped into a genre. Our main goal was to open it up to people. The mixture of ages in this band is all over the place.”

The Open Blues Jam opened with an impromptu performance of simple scales and solos followed by renditions of popular artists like Eddy Arnold’s 1956 single, “You Don’t Know Me.” At one time, near the end of the jam, three guitars and a harmonica unified into a caterwaul, while the bass and drums pelted down continuous groves while covering Jimi Hendrix’s 1968 track, “Voodoo Child.”

Open Blues Jam is not new for the participating NIU Jazz Band.

“The NIU Jazz band started showing up a couple of years ago,” said Tad Eggleston, 33, of Round Lake Heights. “Which is when they got horns on stage. It’s a jam, so it’s going to be different every night. You’ve got different qualities of players other than the Boomers coming in. It’s a little waxed and waned sometimes, but they’re pretty good at weaning out the people who shouldn’t be up on stage, so the quality is generally pretty high.”

The band’s members — Teddy Lawrence, Jimmy Doyle, Phil Paulson, Ken Rodd and Tim Taylor — have become well-acquainted with local residents throughout the years.

“They’re all local guys,” said Terry Low, 57, of DeKalb. “They’re from the Genoa, Sycamore, DeKalb area, [and] one of them is a NIU professor of music. It’s a great gathering.”