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Monday, August 06, 2007


"Not everybody got what Bernie did," said harmonica player "Big Nancy" Swarbrick of Bernie Brausewetter, the South Plainfield blues guitarist who died April 15 at the tragically young age of 52.

I know exactly what she means. I call what Bernie played "super blues" or "cosmic blues." It wasn't traditional blues like B.B. King or Buddy Guy. It was weird, trippy, spaced-out blues like Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Winter or Robin Trower. Even among the last three guitarists mentioned, there are wide gulfs -- wide, beautiful gulfs.

Bernie reminded me most of Trower, who is not as widely known as Henrix or Winter. To me, Hendrix is a '60s cat; Winter is a '60s/'70s cat; and Trower is FIRMLY a '70s cat. And I am, at heart, a '70s cat.

The first time I met Bernie was when he opened for Johnny Winter at the former Club Bene in Sayreville. I think the year was 1998. Kathy and I were covering Johnny's show. We didn't know from Bernie's band, B.B. and the Stingers. (By the way, don't you agree that it's pretty ballsy to use the acronym "B.B." for the name of a blues band? "B.B." was kind of already taken.)

Over the years, we've seen many local bands opening for past-their-heyday artists. But the Stingers got through to me immediately. Once Bernie started playing, I could hear all that cosmic '70s stuff flying through the ether. I shouted to Kathy over the loud music, "This guy's awesome! Shoot his set!"

Anyway, we met Bernie and the guys, and they were very sweet. I did a few interviews with Bernie over the years. We would see him around; we went to see him play a little bar in Long Branch, ran into him at The Stone Pony. He would call me with career updates, send me his postcards. Now, he and Kathy are both gone.

It just goes to show you: If there's someone in your life who you appreciate, TELL 'em once in a while.


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