When you think of long-running musical traditions on Cedar Rapids area radio, there’s a good chance two things come to mind: polka on Sunday mornings and the blues on Saturday night.
Bob DeForest is largely responsible for making the blues the sound of Saturday night in Cedar Rapids. His show, ’da Blues, debuted on KCCK (known as “Iowa’s Jazz Station”) on Jan. 4, 1992. But “Bobby D” was spinning blues, soul and funk music for area listeners even earlier, starting his career on KOJC, a station devoted to providing programming by and for the Cedar Rapids Black community (the station went off the air in the summer of 1993). Once behind the mic at KCCK, however, DeForest’s audience grew and he and his show became essential listening for blues fans.
The popularity of the show eventually led to the addition of a Friday night edition of ’da Blues on KCCK hosted by John “Big Mo” Heim — which means Eastern Iowa audiences (and listeners from all over who tune into the show via the KCCK website) can now get two night’s worth of the blues (before cleansing their musical palate, if they so choose, with a helping of the Sunday Morning Polka Show on KMRY).
Fans of Bobby D and Big Mo and the music they play will celebrate 30 years of ’da Blues at ’daBluesapalooza, a special event and KCCK fundraiser. The sold-out show is set for, appropriately enough, Saturday night, Jan. 29 at 6 p.m. at the Olympic South Side Theater.
“Radio shows and formats can change, sometimes on a dime,” said Dennis Green, general manager of KCCK. “To run three decades and still be going strong is nothing short of amazing. Bob and John are greatly loved by the audience and the music community, and we’re so excited to celebrate with them.”
The two radio personalities will host an evening of music featuring many of the area’s most renowned blues musicians, including Dan Johnson, Dennis “Daddy-O” McMurrin, BillyLee Janey, Nate Hines, Tom “T-Bone” Giblin and Eric Douglas, performing as “daBluesapalooza All-Stars”; Homebrewed; Johnny Kilowatt, ft. Gloria Hardimann; Molly Nova and the Hawk; ft. Bryce Janey; John Resch and Doggin’ Out; the Tanya English Band; the Evan Stock Band; the Craig Erickson quartet and more.
In addition, International Blues Challenge winner and local legend Kevin “BF” Burt will Zoom into the party from the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise in the Caribbean.
“Blues is the underground aquifer that runs underneath all of popular music. Rock and roll, rap and hip hop, country — all are influenced by the blues,” Green said. “And no one draws those parallels and comparisons [better] as program hosts than Bob DeForest and John Heim while also being huge fun to listen to.”
Given the significant number of musicians involved and the celebratory nature of the event, it remains to be seen how far into the night ’daBluesapalooza will extend. With such a stellar lineup and two hosts who love the music with every fiber of their being, there’s a reasonable chance those leaving the Saturday night concert won’t have to wait too long at all for their Sunday morning polka fix.