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WEDNESDAY, JULY 30, 2014
Blues Brunch Offers Saturday Morning Soul with a Side of Pancakes
WNOV-AM’s Saturday morning Blues Café program may be the only dose of modern Southern soul, naturally combined with its antecedent of R&B-leaning blues, to be found on Milwaukee’s airwaves. Such danceable music with decidedly adult themes lends itself to opportunities for “grown folks” to socialize, just as they do in the songs played on the show.
Several bars and clubs on the Northwest Side cater to the music and the older African American crowd that comprises almost the entirety of its listeners. Though soul blues and southern soul primarily speaks of nightlife and domestic strife, it makes an ideal backdrop to a daylight event, like an actual Blues Café, with a repast for the palate to complement a feast for the ears. And so it occurs monthly.
A couple years ago when Martini Radio WZTI was operating as black talk and music signal WMCS-AM, a similar weekend radio show and a monthly brunch and dancing event was hosted by Phil Anderson, perhaps the last radio DJ in the city to have sung along with tunes he was spinning on the air, at a now-defunct spot on Good Hope Road. Deboe has taken over behind the microphone—imagine a smooth Isaac Hayes figure taking over where a giddy Jackie Wilson personage left off—and though he’s not one to harmonize with the tunes he plays, he’s not shy about doing so with his own band.
That act of his, The Love, Peace and Soul Band, played July’s brunch at the event’s current locale, 3041 North, the venue at 3041 W. North Ave. that has in recent months brought other sorts of live grown folks music, including fusion jazz and adult R&B, to its sun-roofed environs, and blues brunching looks to be a good fit for the space.
The radio show doesn’t differ much when run with some grub and a concert in tow. There’s no Burnt Toast And Coffee Check-In, the feature where listeners telephone Deboe to send well wises to others and let others know what keeps them busy during the weekend, but Deboe still holds sway with his mellifluous larynx over the blues, Southern soul and occasional earthy R&B, jazz and disco oldie.
Deboe’s Love, Peace and Soul Band features the DJ and three other male singers trading lead vocal duties on ’60s and ’70s dusties, many by artists who played “Soul Train.” The closing catchphrase by the show’s late Host/Producer Don Cornelius provides the ensemble their name. The guys up front sing harmony and trade lead with a spirited looseness displaying affection for the sounds of their youth. In their coordinated peach vests and black long sleeve shirts they cut a striking image with their matching bald pates.
One could probably visit 3041 during the blues brunch and not partake of the grub, but considering the variety, tastiness and healthiness of the spread, that would be a shame. Sliced fruit, heavy on melons, and Greek salad rich with feta, olives, bell peppers and pepperoncini comprise the cold selections, while hot trays of pancakes, bacon, sausage links (choose one of those pork options), rice and beef or chicken toppings make for scrumptious hot options. Unlike the buffet offered under Anderson’s run at the brunch, however, beverages both alcoholic and otherwise must be purchased separately.
There may be a bit of sophistication in having one’s orange juice or ice water in the same kinds of glasses from which others are sipping top-shelf mixed drinks, especially in a building its owners call “the first urban country club for the soul.” That kind of classiness both contrasts and complements the kind of down-home soulfulness Deboe and his musical guests will be serving up at least until the end of 2014.