The L.A. Living Room Blues

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Oklahoma Ollie at The Living Room
Oklahoma Ollie at The Living Room

“You got me runnin’ You got me hidin’ Run’ hide’ hide’ runnin’ anyway you want it let it roll” sings Oklahoma Ollie, covering Jimmy Reed’s hit, “Baby What You Want Me to Do.” Wednesday nights are dedicated to the blues at the Living Room. Veterans of the 12 bar blues assemble and recite melancholic allegories. A mere two blocks south of the 10 freeway between a parking lot and Marilyn’s Soul Food Express you will come across some of Los Angeles’ finest blues played live at The Living Room, 2636 Crenshaw Blvd. It is frequented by patrons from West Adam’s, Baldwin hills, and South Central residents though all with a hankering for the blues will be warmly welcomed.

The interior is long, narrow, and dimly lit with tiny tables lining the left side. Everything leads to a small stage in which only a couple of members of the band manage to fit. It is everything a modern day juke joint should be: A corner bar with a buzzer required for entry with most of their songs played without introductions. After 9pm guests are even welcomed on stage to sing along, and many make their favorite requests. Oklahoma Ollie, and the Blues Stand Band comprised of, Ollie (lead vocals & lead guitar), Bobby Haynes Jr. (bass), Loud Lou (drums), Greg Wible (2nd guitar), and Roy Lee Jones (vocals) devotedly drift through a variety of blues hits from legends such as Smokestack Lightnin’, Albert King, B.B. King, and many others including some of their own pieces such as “Good Man Around”. Oklahoma Ollie has previously played with many other incredible legends such as Etta James, Curtis Griffin, the late Lowell Fulson, Willie Mae Thornton, and Lil Johnny Adams. There are times when Ollie steps from the stage, throws his guitar up on his shoulder with the neck facing behind him. He leaves it there, and finishes entire riffs without error.

A nice cold drink sits in front of me. Each week I see something I haven’t seen before, such as a new guitar trick performed by Ollie, or a new visitor’s fascination. The Living Room has a way of captivating you, bringing you back each week. It is rumored that the bartender Kim, has worked there for 30 years.

I sit here, on the 3rd stool from the back in this dimly lit bar. I envision millions of scribbled ideas and rough revisions. I wonder which of them flourished, and which fell apart. For me, the blues depicts a man who begins to growl through his dry throat. I feel him grappling with fragmented moments of beauty and sadness that only the blues can so intricately intertwine. His yearning fills me with nonsensical warmth. The guitar whines and unravels a story. We are bickering with our hearts he and I. The blues will soothe, and soften us the way that only the blues can soften a grown man.

I think of this as I glance back towards the stage. I think all of this, and I rather like it.

 

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