Bruce Page and The Blues Heavyweights Plus
Big Mike Griffin Live at Envisions
April 21, 2000

by Hairy Larry
photos by Larry and Vivian Heyl

OK, I have to admit, I'm prejudiced. Three of the Heavyweights, Bruce Page, Phil Hestand, and Jim "The Generator Man" Drennan, used to play in my band and I have been friends with Bill Little and Grady Broadaway for years. All of these fine musicians have helped with Blues Fest in the past and we are looking forward to seeing them again this year.

Their set started strong with an opening medley where they segued smoothly from one tune to the next. Then they played a series of originals. These songs were blues, all right, but they all had a change or a twist that made them stand out. Then they were back on the crowd pleasing standards until the end of their set.

Big Mike Working

Bruce plays a straight ahead guitar style following in the tradition of the three Kings. Phil Hestand is more of a guitar technician and although he usually plays rhythm he got to shine out on a few Rock leads on some of the originals. The Generator Man is a true Delta harp player, blowing low and always putting on a show for the crowd. Bill Little played organ for years before he grew up and got a real job. It's great to have him back on his night job again. The drummer, Mike Rinaldi, was playing with the Heavyweights for the first time but I wouldn't have known it. He was right on the arrangements and driving the band through the transitions. And what can you say about Grady Broadaway but thumping and pumping. More important than any individual talent is the way they work together as a unit. These guys get tighter every time I hear them.

I guess the tunes I remember most are Bruce Page's original "Milky Way Blues" and the Blues classic, "I'm a King Bee". In Bruce's tune he says "My baby is sweeter than a Milky Way candy bar" a fine sentiment truly expressed. And Bill Little really had that Hammond sound buzzing along on "I'm A King Bee".

Bruce Page

Grady Broadaway

Jim "The Generator Man" Drennan

Phil Hestand

I talked to Bill after the show and he said they are fixing to record a CD of originals. I'm looking forward to this followup to their first CD "The Heavy Side of The Blues". Bruce Page and The Blues Heavyweights have a strong schedule this summer including many Arkansas festivals. Don't miss them when they come to your town.

After a short intermission when Big Mike's band set up while Mike tuned a half dozen guitars we got a real treat. Big Mike Griffin tours as a three piece, guitar, bass, and drums and they certainly have a solid sound. After they got rolling and got the audience going Mike turned it way down and walked out into the crowd jamming one table after the other while getting quieter and sweeter at the same time. Members of the audience shouted out "Play it white boy" and "That's what I'm talking about" while Mike's guitar spoke back.

Big Mike Griffin

Johnny Bird

The drummer, Johnny Bird, has been playing with Big Mike for four years. He gave us impeccable blues drumming banging out the backbeat. And the bassman, Chili Sauce, wasn't afraid to play quarter note parts when the song called for them. Just watching him play he was obviously enjoying himself.

Big Mike shared the limelight with Chili Sauce, who sang one for us and with Bruce Page who he brought up to close the set. Envisions was full but not crowded and the audience was enthusiastic making for a great night of blues. If you're wondering how Big Mike got his name just go see him sometime. Big is actually an understatement. But the biggest thing about him is his heart. He puts it all into his music and it washes right over anyone listening to him and that, after all, is what it's all about.

Chili Sauce

Big Mike Griffin
Jamming with
Bruce Page

Mike Rinaldi

Bill Little

For more information on Bruce Page and The Blues Heavyweights

Bruce Page on Delta Musicians
The Blues Heavyweights Band Page on Delta Boogie

For more information on Big Mike Griffin

Big Mike Griffin and the Unknown Blues Band