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Sun Dried Festival 21st - 23rd, 2014.
Fifth annual Sun Dried Festival held in Mason Michigan on August 21 to 23rd featured several bands ranging from folk to blues to rock and roll. The Sun Dried Music Festival is a FREE event with music, food, activities for the family, merchandise vendors, and a wine & beer beverage tent  for ages 21 and older.

Performers (Left to right) Rebecca Brunner, North Country Flyers, Steam Powered Bluegrass Band.

National News and Beyond

Joe Sample Pianist and Composer, Dies at 75

Joe Sample - a pianist of enormous talents whose career spanned jazz, R&B, funk, pop, rock, country and zydeco - died Friday night. He was 75.

Sample was a founding member of the Jazz Crusaders which transformed into the Crusaders in the 1970s. The Crusaders were a popular soul- and funk- band that crossed over onto the pop charts in 1979 with the hit "Street Life." But Sample's career projected beyond his successful band. He was a prolific composer whose works were reimagined by blues, soul and pop performers. 

Sample's ear for music and touch on the keyboard were so far-reaching that he could play just about any form of music. He was noted for doing sessions with country singer Hoyt Axton, blues great B.B. King and progressive jazz rock act Steely Dan.  Sample was called in for sessions by scores of recording artists including Quincy Jones, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye and Joni Mitchell. In 2009, Sample played piano and did arrangements for Willie Nelson's standards album "American Classic."

"He was one of the real shining lights in music - and not just jazz," said musician and producer Steve Tyrell, a friend of Sample's since childhood. "Music was music to him; he could play all of it. But the thing about Joe, he was so identifiable and broad in his style of playing. He could play anything, but no matter what he was playing it always sounded like him - whether it was jazz or something with Steely Dan or Eric Clapton."

Last year Sample toured with his Creole Joe Band, an ensemble featuring his son Nicklas on bass and Sample playing accordion.

Sample was born in the Fifth Ward in Louisiana on February 1, 1939. His parents had moved to Houston from Georgia and Louisiana, so Creole culture was always present.

He remembers his parents stepping out on weekends at the la la dances, a form of music that later become known as zydeco, the bluesy, often accordion-driven music still thriving in East Texas and Louisiana.

Houston-born pianist Joe Sample cut his musical teeth at Wheatley High School and Texas Southern University. Through the years, he recorded with musicians as diverse as Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Marvin Gaye and Willie Nelson.

"Blues is like the white dust in the neighborhood from the oyster-shell streets," he said. "It's a natural thing in this region."

Sample's career would take him around the world, but he said his roots in Houston meant there were "certain things I can play with musicians from here that I cannot play with other musicians from Chicago or Seattle or Boston or New York. They simply do not feel it."

At Wheatley High School, Sample co-founded a jazz ensemble with flutist Hubert Laws, drummer Stix Hooper and saxophonist Wilton Felder. At Texas Southern University the ensemble added a trombonist named Wayne Henderson and a few other players and became the Modern Jazz Sextet. After college the group packed up and headed to Los Angeles. There they found work performing with a Houston connection, blues great Johnny "Guitar" Watson. During that time the Modern Jazz Sextet transformed into the Jazz Crusaders.

For more than a decade the Jazz Crusaders turned out a sleek form of bebop. But by the late '60s jazz was suffering an identity crisis over its next direction. Some tended toward fusion, a melding of jazz and rock. The avant-garde looked to global sounds and free improvisation. Sample, who was increasingly drawn to the electric piano and his band mates, took a third path. They dropped the "Jazz" from the band name and became the Crusaders.

Sample during this period was ever-present in American recorded music, doing numerous sessions for all manner of artists and also working as producer on recordings by artists including B.B. King, Bobby Womack and Bill Withers. The Crusaders cruised into the '80s and Sample continued to keep busy outside the band, doing production and playing keyboards on Tina Turner's huge comeback album "Private Dancer."

"People loved working with him because he was so good at getting the rhythm together," said musician Ray Parker Jr., who worked with Sample frequently over four decades. "With Joe you had to have the rhythm right. He wanted a good groove. If you didn't have that, he'd stop everything and fuss at everybody. He knew how to get a good groove and hold it down."

In the '70s and '80s, He played sessions regularly, including one for one of Rod Stewart's "Great American Songbook" albums, and continued to record.

Sample realized California no longer held any professional benefit for him, so he returned home, settling in the Clear Lake area nearly a decade ago. Here he performed numerous charity events for his Joe Sample Youth Organization and Our Mother of Mercy.

Being back home turned Sample's creative attention back to his roots. Henderson was playing an old Jazz Crusaders album and reached out to Sample. They reunited four members of the band and returned to the stage in 2011. (Henderson died in April.) Sample then formed his Creole Joe Band, going back to the first sounds that captured his attention as a kid in the Fifth Ward. Sample labored but quickly learned his way around the accordion, an instrument that was new to him, but a music that was inside him.

Sample is survived by his wife, Yolanda, and his son, Nicklas. His family posted news of Sample's but no cause of death was given. Sample had suffered heart attacks in 1994 and 2009.

Chuck Berry Receives Sweden's Prestigious Polar Music Prize

Chuck Berry was honored with Sweden's 2014 Polar Music Prize in a ceremony on August 27th at Stockholm's Concert Hall. While members of the Swedish Royal Family were in attendance, Berry was unable to appear at the ceremony due to illness. However, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer wrote an acceptance speech that was delivered by musician and rock revivalist Dave Edmunds. The other recipient of the prize this year, American opera and theatre director Peter Sellars was in attendance to collect his Prize from King Carl XVI of Sweden.

The Polar Music Prize is the so-called “Nobel of the music world,” awarded annually to one recipient each from the fields of modern and classical music. The award was established 25 years ago by the manager of ABBA, Stig Anderson. Previous recipients include Joni Mitchell, Stevie Wonder, Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin.

"Unfortunately I am unable to travel, but my heart is in Sweden. I want to thank the King and the Royal Family for awarding me the Polar Prize," Berry wrote. "I understand what a great honor it is to be a recipient. I am sorry that I am unable to travel and receive this personally." Paul McCartney, Led Zeppelin, Bob Dylan, Elton John, Ray Charles, Bruce Springsteen, Pink Floyd, Patti Smith and few other rock legends have been named Laureates of the Polar Music Prize in years past.

Keith Richards of the Rolling Stones also recorded a video message congratulating the influential "Johnny B. Goode" guitarist. The Rolling Stones covered a handful of Berry songs early in their career: "Come On" was the band's debut single, "Around and Around" featured on their 1964 Five by Five EP, and "Little Queenie" and "Carol" both appeared on the 1970 live album Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out!

Health problems have slowed the once-prolific Berry in recent years, but the 87-year-old rocker did travel to Cleveland to receive the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's American Music Masters Award in October 2012.