Blue Cafe veterans and other Long Beach musicians combine for a virtual big-band performance of an old song for our new times

Talk about getting the band back together.

Randy Cauble, a former owner of the long-lamented Blue Cafe from back in its glory years of the mid-to-late-1990s, heard from Matt Hewitt, a musician and former head chef of Christy’s restaurant, also now defunct, about an idea of getting a bunch of local (many now displaced) musicians from back in the day to collaborate remotely on a virtual version of a particular song. Hewitt was thinking David Bowie’s “Heroes.”

“This was before everything happened,” said Cauble by phone from his home in Valley Center. “Because then George Floyd got killed and that changed everything.”

The protests all over the country, the Black Lives Matter movement coming to the fore, the looting and arson, the divisiveness over COVID-19 shutdown. It all prompted Cauble to suggest, instead, Nick Lowe’s, by way of Elvis Costello’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love, and Understanding.”

It would feature different musicians singing and playing from their own home studios and sending their takes in. “They did their own videos, almost all on iPhones,” said Cauble.

The whole mess, the combined works of nearly 20 musicians, was mixed and recorded by Bill Lanham, a bassist and tech wizard who has worked as a touring backline technician for Don Henley, Boz Scaggs, Michael McDonald, Ted Nugent, Korn, Tears for Fears, and others.

The song features “pretty much everyone from the old Blue Cafe days,” said Cauble. There’s guitarist Chris Hanlin from Bourbon Jones and the dibs, along with fellow dibs Brett Bixby and Chris Paul Overall; Mickey Way, from Mickey’s Big Mouth; Greg Mitchell, who plays with Mike Malone and Brophy Dale in the Brougham Blues Band; guitarist Pat Bostrom from Throw Rag; drummer Matt Hewitt; world-class bassist and luthier Greg Coates; and many others, including a bit from Christy Caldwell, owner of The Ordinarie bar and restaurant at 210 N. The Promenade in the space once occupied by the Blue Cafe.

The project took about two months, with much of the work (besides getting a bunch of musicians to turn their stuff in on time) involved with smoothing out the performances. “It was coming in in different formats and from different phones. “But in the end, everyone was excited about it,” said Cauble. “There were a lot of goosebump moments.” And a lot of memories. “These were people we used to let play in the backroom at the Blue, remember?”

The project was done under the name Long Beach United Music, and Cauble says that he and Hewitt and whoever else wants to get or stay on board, have plans to release more such projects and to perhaps start a non-profit organization to help out Long Beach musicians.

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Tim Grobaty is a columnist and opinions editor for the Long Beach Post. He began his newspaper career at the Press-Telegram in 1976 as a copy boy and moved on to feature writer, music critic, TV critic, copy editor and daily columnist. He’s the author of several books, including I’m Dyin’ Here, and he lives in Long Beach.
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