Jukin' with the Reverend

The improbable rise of blues rulebreaker Robert Ealey

"You pay your money, you want to hear somethin' different! That's why you come out, have a good time and hear somethin' different. You don't want to hear the same thing y'got at home on tape," Ealey declares. "I make [songs] up onstage. They [the musicians] say, 'What key?' I say, 'Any key--I got a song for it.'

"That's why they call me the Reverend," he offers in a typically Ealey-esque segue. "Three women came up to me at J&J's (Blues Bar), said, 'You the Reverend?' I said, 'I guess so, that's what they call me.' They say, 'Where your church, we wanna go to your church!' I say, 'Baby, lemme tell you somethin'. You in my church!' You go to church, all you see's parkin' places. More people in the beer joint than the church. Find you the beer joint [that has] cars parked all-l-l up 'n' down the street, in yards, double-parked--that's when you found the church o' Robert Ealey!"

One doesn't always have to search overly long to find a parking space at an Ealey gig. But as he readies for another Euro-tour in November--and even though attendance is reportedly down in legit houses of worship--the Cowtown blues shouter is one Reverend who's steadily expanding his flock.

The Robert Ealey Blues Festival will be held in the beer garden of the 8.0 nightclub in Fort Worth on Saturday, September 27, and Sunday, September 28.

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