Spreading the gospel of the blues
Brent Morrison is a bluesman. But he’s not much of a guitarist and he can’t blow a lick on a harmonica.
Instead, Morrison spreads the gospel of Buddy Guy, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Muddy Waters with a digital mic tethered to his Apple desktop computer.
Morrison is the producer, director, writer, researcher, librarian, programmer and voice of The Rockin’ Blues Show, a weekly two-hour podcast of all things blues that originates from his New Westminster apartment but has found an audience around the world.
The show is in the second season of its revival after a 17-year hiatus from its origins as a Friday-night programming block on local radio in Dawson City, Yukon. Morrison started the show as a way to share his love for the musical genre he says forms the foundation for pretty much every other type of contemporary music, from country to rock.
Morrison first discovered the blues as a teenager in Ontario when a buddy loaned him a Stevie Ray Vaughan album, Texas Flood. He was instantly captivated by the power and speed of Vaughan’s guitar riffs. He started building his musical collection, first with CDs then digital files, of which he now has more than 3,700 stored on his hard drive.
“The blues make me feel better,” says Morrison.
He paid close attention to the liner notes on albums, learned about the musicians, studied the history of the blues.
“The blues are the perfect blend of music and history,” says Morrison. “Its history is so deep I’m only scratching the surface.”
Tired of the steady diet of Top 40 and classic rock being played on the radio stations in Dawson City, where he was working at the time, Morrison decided it was time to share the wealth of knowledge he’d been acquiring. He talked his way into a four-hour show every Friday night even though he had no broadcast experience.
With so much airtime to fill, suddenly Morrison’s encyclopedic knowledge of the blues didn’t seem so vast anymore. He persevered, built a following. The show lasted more than two years before he moved to Whitehorse and didn’t find local radio there quite as accommodating.
A move to Squamish put him in touch with a local group setting up an online station, Squamish-FM. Morrison was back on the air. Only now his audience was no longer limited by the strength of the signal being beamed from a transmitter tower.
As an online podcast The Rockin’ Blues now has fans as far away as Europe and the east coast. And his recent move to New Westminster caused barely a blip in his production schedule.
Each two-hour show takes Morrison about eight hours of preparation. He starts by logging a calendar of any milestones of blues musicians or important dates to the genre. That often forms the genesis for the week’s theme around which he’ll build a playlist, perhaps conduct some interviews, write a script. Morrison has a SoCan license so all the music he plays is properly sanctioned.
It’s a lot of work, Morrison admits, for absolutely no compensation. But worth it.
“I hope I’m doing a small part to advance the blues.”
The Rockin’ Blues Show can be found at www3.telus.net/bmoblues. A new show is uploaded by 4 p.m. every Saturday.