Grand Forks' summer blues series kicks off Saturday night in Town Square

Bluesman Corey Stevens lives on the West Coast but his band is based out of Minneapolis and most of his performances are in the Upper Midwest. It's a set-up that works well for him.

Shufflecats Ken Rardin
Ken Rardin is a principal player for the Shufflecats, the opening band for Saturday night's Blues on the Red concert in Grand Forks.

Bluesman Corey Stevens lives on the West Coast but his band is based out of Minneapolis and most of his performances are in the Upper Midwest. It's a set-up that works well for him.

"I live in Los Angeles. I have a house in the hills," Stevens said in a telephone interview. "It's kind of paradise because I'm in the city but I'm up above the city. We have skunks and, unfortunately, coyotes that kill our cats, and raccoons. If I don't leave my house, I don't have to deal with city life."

Stevens and his band will be in Grand Forks Saturday night to play the first of three Blues on the Red concerts of the summer. The concert will be from 6 to 10 p.m. in Town Square with Stevens as headliner. The opening band will be the Shufflecats. The concert is free.

When Stevens has a gig like this one in Grand Forks, he flies from LA to Minneapolis, carrying little more than a backpack. His guitar, band and tour manager await him when he gets off the plane in the Cities.

"I mostly play blues festivals and clubs, bigger clubs and medium size clubs," Stevens said. "You don't really have to go out and do these big tours of 30 cities and then you go to Europe. There are people who do that, but it's super expensive to do. It's hard to fill the weekdays (with bookings) unless you're a really big name."


The Blues on the Red summer concert series, now in its fifth year, features three concerts and is organized by a committee of five or six people who look for bands that will draw a crowd in the Grand Forks market, said Julie Rygg of the Grand Forks Convention & Visitors Bureau, who is part of the committee.

"It's definitely growing every year," Rygg said of the concert series. "It's not a paid event so it's hard to judge how many people we're getting, but it's growing."

Rhombus Guys Pizza of Grand Forks sells food and beverages at the concerts. There's a beer garden for those 21 and older. Audience members can bring their own lawn chairs for seating.

Stevens was born in the small town of Centralia, Ill., just an hour east of St. Louis. He got his first guitar from his grandfather, and his earliest musical influences were Chuck Berry and later the Beatles and other bands that were part of the British Invasion, according to his biography. Growing up, his career dreams alternated between professional ball player and musician.

Stevens credits an Ike and Tina Turner show he saw in Evansville, Ind., for the "epiphany" that led him to become a professional musician. After high school, he studied classical guitar for four years at Southern Illinois University, but spent weekends partying and followed local bands and musicians, including Shawn Colvin. He earned a B.A. in music, then lived in Daytona Beach, Fla., and later Hollywood, learning the business, writing songs, and playing in several bands. For a time, he worked as a third-grade teacher.

"I taught school, but I also practiced guitar, I wrote songs, and played gigs on the weekends," he wrote in his bio. "I was still a musician at heart, but I learned a lot being a teacher. The kids were a good influence on me. They are so honest and full of hope."

Living in a one bedroom apartment, he set up a four-track studio in a walk-in closet and began to sharpen his craft. He wrote "Blue Drops of Rain" and "Lessons of Love" and started getting interest from record companies. He started his own band, but amended his plan again, and threw himself into learning blues guitar.

His band, Texas Flood, limited its playlist to Stevie Ray Vaughan, Hendrix, Albert King, Freddie King, Buddy Guy and Muddy Waters. Early in 1994, he bankrolled his album "Blue Drops of Rain," and it became a classic, with songs such as "Lenny," "Crosscut Saw" and "Back in Time." In 1997, his second album yielded a top 10 radio hit and video, "One More Time."


Other albums and performances followed. His daughter, Kori Lynn, has played keyboards for some of his projects, and Stevens continues to tour with his band and as a solo acoustic performer. His most recent album, "The Dreaming Man," came out two years ago.

"At lot of times I had a stash of songs (before recording)," Stevens told the Herald. "But this time I didn't have a lot of material and had to start from scratch. It was interesting. I didn't know what I was going to come up with. But I'm pretty happy with it."

Right now, he's not planning another recording.

"When you're younger you want to go in and do an album, but it is a lot of days sitting in the studio," he said. "It's just a lot of work."

Stevens' band features Norm Steffen on drums, Larry Weigand on bass and Brandon Scott Sellner on guitar. Five days before Christmas, Stevens cut a tendon in his finger. Two days later, he had surgery, and he couldn't play guitar again until March. In the meantime, Sellner came on board and has been a great addition to the ensemble, Stevens said.

Over the years, Stevens said, he's had some rough times fighting with record labels and making the business changes that were necessary after record stores closed. But today he is proud to say he owns all his recordings and all the rights to his music.


The Shufflecats, a band formed in 1991 and 1992 in Fargo, will open the concert Saturday night. The band released a debut CD in 1997 and was at the height of its popularity, opening for national acts including the Doobie Brothers and Foghat.


In 1998 Ken Rardin and Mark Anthony decided to make the move from Fargo to Minneapolis. They reformed the band, recorded a four-song CD, "Light of Day," and split up in 2001.

Occasionally, the band would get together for a show, but it wasn't until 2010 that there was a true reforming of the group. With Rardin and Anthony, the band features Roy Scheulin on drums, Bruce Barnes on guitar, Maria Meade on bass and Ed Melberg on keyboards.

If you go

• What: Blues on the Red concert with Corey Stevens ( ). Opening act, The Shufflecats

• When and where: Saturday, 6 to 10 p.m., Grand Forks Town Square

• Admission: Free

• Concessions: Food and beverages from Rhombus Guys Pizza available for purchase; beer garden for ages 21 and older

• Seating: Bring a lawn chair


• More Blues on the Red: July 28, 6 to 10 p.m., Sky Blues and Reverand Raven & the Chain Smokin' Altar Boys. Aug. 25, 6 p.m. to midnight, blues women Dee Miller, Kelly Richey and Sena Ehrhardt

Reach Tobin at (701) 780-1134; (800) 477-6572, ext. 134; or send e-mail to .

Shufflecats Mark Anthony
Mark Anthony is a principal player for the Shufflecats, the opening band for Saturday night's Blues on the Red concert in Grand Forks.

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