Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

Night Owl vanishing act

By awoodall
Monday, August 27th, 2007 at 9:09 pm in Uncategorized.

Okay, I admit to being way out of the picture for the past few weeks. It was a combination of a very, very nasty streak of bad luck. Yeah, that right. Not just bad luck but nasty bad luck. I hope the universe is done messing with me now.

And I just wasn’t sure how many people were reading the Night Owl blog. Turns out plenty, to which I say thank you, fellow prowlers. Let’s get better acquainted, though. How about some feedback?

Invisible as I may have been in the blogosphere, this gal was out and about in our fair city.

Wednesday past I was in Old Oakland, checking out the Home Grown Blues Series. I wouldn’t have gone again but I happened to interview Ms. Esther Mabry, the founder of legendary Esther’s Orbit Room on 7th Street in West Oakland. The Grand Lady of the City of Oaks was set on visiting the music fest local Blues man Ronnie Stewart has been hosting on 9th Street every Wednesday during July and August (Aug. 29 is the last one). Since there was no one else to drive her, I offered…nervously. Escorting her made me feel like I had been entrusted with the crown jewels of Oakland: I would have been in BIG trouble if anything happened to her.

 “We have a very special guest tonight,” Stewart called out over the mic when he saw Ms. Mabry — or should I say Queen Mabry — approach. She’s definitely Blues royalty around here. Of course, she took her rightful place next to Jay Payton, who was the Orbit Room’s first act in 1963.

Mabry’s club is about the only place left on 7th, Stewart said. “She helped make Oakland what it is.”

Her presence was proof that the Blues fest was a hit, he continued. “We must be doing well — we got Esther Mabry here,” he boasted to the crowd that took up about half the block sitting, standing, shuffling or swaying. Several thanked me for bringing her. Others asked for her autograph or to pose with them and their children for pictures.

Mabry’s gold-sandaled feet were tapping to the tunes, including a rocking version of “Knock on Wood” that even got about a dozen bodies moving, including several homeless men. “Mustang Sally” (“I think you better slow your mustang down.”) prompted a line of dancers to do a sassy shuffle. As a couple, which I dubbed the Astaire and Rogers of 9th Street Blues, took to their feet, I began to get a sense of what it must have been like when 7th Street was lined with jazz, blues and assorted clubs.    

“Somebody take me to the river and drop in some muddy water,” as one of the singers put it.

Read on tomorrow for the continued adventures of your Night Owl…

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