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Ponderosa Stomp goes on in Memphis: Detroit News

Several artists with Michigan roots will jam at benefit for musicians who are Katrina victims.

Susan Whitall / The Detroit News

Fans of New Orleans' funky roots music festival the Ponderosa Stomp will be happy to hear that the Stomp will go on this year, in exile.
Because of Hurricane Katrina, the Stomp will be held, for one year only, in Memphis on May 9 and 10 at the Gibson Factory. The festival will be co-sponsored by Gibson Guitars and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It will be a benefit for New Orleans musicians.

In past years, the Ponderosa Stomp has specialized in mysterious and hard-to-find acts -- many of the most revered R&B, swamp-pop and rockabilly acts still alive and playing. Many of the acts have New Orleans roots, but many are also culled from Memphis, Nashville, Detroit and other music cities.

One year, there was a special night where fans could see Elvis Presley's guitar players, Scotty Moore and James Burton (who also played with Ricky Nelson), onstage at the same time.

Another night featured Dale Hawkins, who had the original '50s hit "Suzie-Q," along with Burton, who'd played guitar on the hit as a 15-year-old.

This year as always, Detroit and Michigan have been culled for interesting acts. Among those playing from our area will be blues artist Lazy Lester, who's a regular; ? and the Mysterians; and Motown guitarist Dennis Coffey, whose first session at Motown with his wah-wah pedal resulted in the Temptations' hit song "Cloud Nine." He later had a No. 1 soul instrumental hit with the song "Scorpio."

Money raised at the Ponderosa Stomp will be divided between the New Orleans Musicians Clinic and a special fund to be administered directly to New Orleans musicians by the Stomp promoters, also known as the Mystic Knights of the Mau-Mau.

Coffey was asked earlier this year to play the New Orleans festival by Stomp promoter Ira Padnos, who had seen him in the film about the Funk Brothers, "Standing in the Shadows of Motown." But when Hurricane Katrina roared through the Gulf Coast, Padnos asked if he could play a Ponderosa Stomp benefit in Memphis instead.
"I said fine, I'll play it as a benefit," says Coffey, who lives in Farmington Hills. "He said you would have to be there in New Orleans to realize how bad it is. Many houses are still vacant. At least they understand that these musicians are important to their tourism, important to their cultural heritage."

Also playing the Stomp this year will be Clarence "Frogman" Henry, Joe Clay, Rebirth Brass Band, Eddie Bo, Barbara Lynn, Roy Head, Archie Bell, Scotty Moore, DJ Fontana, the Hi (Records) Rhythm Section, Johnny Jones and Chick Willis. Tickets are $40 each night, and the music runs from 5 p.m. to "at least" 2 a.m. each night. The musicians will not only play their own sets but always jam with each other, to the delight of fans. Tickets, and a complete list of acts (updated as they are added), are available at ponderosastomp.com.
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