Late Night Inspiration
The inspiration for the Ashland Blues Society struck in the wee small hours in December of 2008 when bluesman David Pinsky lay awake, pondering the direction (and oft-bemoaned decline) of the blues in America. He recalls, “I felt I had to do something to promote the blues in our area.”
To be sure, many individuals and organizations have had successful blues and roots events in the State of Jefferson. But on that sleepless December morning David envisioned an organization that would educate audiences, employ musicians and provide a consistent home for blues events.
So, in January of 2009, David began organizing what would soon become the Ashland Blues Society. The first ABS blues jam was held on March 3, and the first Beacon Hill Festival was held in September 2009. The first two festivals included local talent and were an instant success. Beginning with the third Beacon Hill Blues Festival, out-of-town acts were brought in, including Lloyd Jones, Curtis Salgado, Kevin Selfe, former Rogue Valley resident Karen Lovely, and Homemade Blues Jamz, a three-sibling act from Tupelo, Mississippi.
The Blues Jam Tradition
Blues jams were in the mix from day one. They were held at local clubs and the Ashland Community Center, with a blues class held every other week that allowed musicians to delve more deeply into the music. In 2010, under the leadership of board president Mark Howard, the jams found a home at Roscoe’s, Will and Nikola Moore’s legendary Phoenix rib joint. The jams thrived there until Roscoe’s was forced to close in March of 2013. “It left a hole in my heart,” recalls Nikola Moore.
The ABS soldiered on through board and venue changes, but by the summer of 2016 it was on the ropes. There was no festival that year and the jams stopped. Board member Linda Huffman took over as president in the summer of 2016, reviving the board and obtaining stable funding. In December the jams were restarted at the Grape Street Bar and Grill in Medford and now are held on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month from 6-9 p.m. Minors are welcome until 8 pm, and younger jammers are encouraged to attend and play.
Linda is determined to galvanize the Blues Society into a successful iteration of David Pinsky’s original vision. “I couldn’t just sit back and watch it fade away,” she says.
Reborn as Rogue Blues Society
In November of 2019, the Ashland Blues Society had reached a point where further changes were called for. The board decided that, while the organization was still dealing with financial and strategic issues, it was time to re-write the bylaws and change the name to encompass the wider area the society was serving. The name was changed to Rogue Blues Society, with an IRS 501(c)3 nonprofit status under that name and a renewed association with the Blues Foundation based in Memphis, Tennessee.
Anybody interested in volunteering for Rogue Blues Society events, or who wishes to be considered for the RBS board, is encouraged to contact Linda Huffman, president, at 530-262-5270. You can even stop by the RBS table at the jams and talk to someone.
Note from President Linda Huffman: Blues Jams at Grape Street Bar and Grill have been suspended temporarily due to Covid-19, but we expect to resume in near future. Watch this site and our Facebook page for updated information.