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12 Steps 12 Bars

Posted on June 21, 2013 at 4:15 PM

12 Steps and 12 Bar Blues

By Banjotom

12steps 12Bar Blues My story started at Twin Town Treatment Center, in the University/Midway area of St. Paul in the summer of 1978. My recovery date is August 7, and my last drink was while sailing on the St. Croix river near Hudson, Wisconsin.

A receptionist at the treatment center in 1978 made a comment to me when I whined that I wasn’t to blame for all my woes. She commented about the benefit of finding a mission in recovery and lo and behold, 44 days later I was asked to lecture to the group on how I was going to “trade” my addiction to alcohol for a more positive one. I chose my passion for music as my topic, which eventually led to the title “12 bars 12 steps.” Thus is the genealogy of the Dry Bones Blues Music Festival recovery project.

I was a “folkie” and student of the 12 bar blues and subjected to rock and roll as teen but I was never able to play blues like local players Dakota Dave Hull or Cooker John. I just liked the 12 Steps and the 12 bars blues and what they jointly did to improve my “dry” quality of life.

One of my 12 Step groups in St. Paul had a music jam every Friday night, and one of the regulars — Larry B. — was the director of Christ Recovery Center at the Union Gospel Mission. Larry recruited musicians for a Wednesday night sing­-a -long at the Mission that’s been jamming for over 30 years now. It’s at the Mission I met piano player Bluesman Jack and bass player Joe Wilson Jr. These guys took me under their wing at Cosmic Charlie’s, the Day by Day Café, and a barbeque place in Little Canada.

In time, things changed. One band member started drinking again, another had a stroke, and we evolved into the mission chapel band. We were invited to play at the Central Park United Methodist (CPUMC), where we played 50 Friday night Sober Jams a year and Sunday Morning worship Services once a month.another_blues_band2

In 2005 we planned a blues festival which we pulled off with a $2000 grant from the Metro Methodist Builders group and were thrilled that we made enough money to pay back the grant money and rent for the Sober Jammers venue.

Again, the passage of time wrought change, and CPUMC was torn down and moved. Having lost our moorings at CPUMC we were offered off hours at the Minnesota Music Café (friend of Bill Wilson’s) for the band to play and practice. We pulled off two more Dry Bone Blues events before another church, Dayton Avenue Presbyterian Church invited us to their facility in St. Paul.

This year Dry Bones Blues got a St. Paul Star Culture Special Project grant allowing us to pay bands a better rate and promote the event. Our business sponsors range from anonymous live music patrons, machine shops, unions, appliance stores, hardware stores, restaurants, cafes, and treatment centers. The event is free as always (suggested $10) and open to the public. Licensed food venders will administer to gastronomic needs at fair prices.

And yes, you can dance to the music in church….sober! of course.

email to: [email protected], call 651­-491­-6286, check us out on Facebook or visit www.dryboneblues.com for a list of scheduled bands and sponsors.

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