The history of BLOCK Magazine
Even before we founded The Dutch Blues Magazine BLOCK in March 1975, I had written articles, interviews and reviews in a variety of magazines.
At an early stage I basically wrote about popmusic, but in my early twenties my musical taste switched to blues, after I obtained a second hand copy of the album 'Coffee House Blues' by Lightnin' Hopkins, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee (Vee Jay VJLP 1138).
Among the magazines I wrote for was Rockin' And Stomping, a small magazine basically devoted to rock & roll, though I contributed articles and reviews about blues. In the seventies I wrote a couple of articles about blues musicians like Thomas Shaw, Hound Dog Taylor and Dave Alexander for the major Dutch popmagazine Oor. I also contributed a regular bluespage, including a news column for a fortnightly published and nationwide distributed jazzpaper called Jazz/Press.
I've always considered my writing, and other activities to promote blues music, as a hobby, beside full- or parttime dayjobs. In March 1975 I published the first issue of BLOCK, by then a small fanzine about blues and fifties rock & roll-music.
My wife Marion founded the name BLOCK, a combination of the words blues and rock. The first issue contained sixteen pages and it was mailed to a hundred people that we knew as fans of (primarily) blues and to people who were active in the, at the time, very small Dutch bluesscene.
Surprisingly that first issue brought us some positive - and also some less positive - response. It became evident that there was a need for a magazine like this. At the time not much was published about blues. The aforementioned paper Oor had a blues page in every issue and Martin Van Olderen published a small infrequently appearing newsletter named The Boogie Woogie And Blues Collector. In the field of rock & roll, there had been a publication called Rockville. Rockville folded by the time we started the publication of BLOCK.
BLOCK was a bimonthly publication until issue # 40 (October/November/December 1981). From then on we published the magazine quarterly. The amount of pages had grown from twenty into forty between 1978 and 1982 and we already had a staff of volunteer reporters, photographers and reviewers.
By the end of 1982 we made the major decision to abandon articles about rock & roll. BLOCK became the Dutch Blues Magazine, which it still is today (Tijdschrift Voor Blues means: Magazine For Blues).
During the eighties blues became more and more popular over here, basically due to the fact that rock-blues acts like Stevie Ray Vaughan and George Thorogood were touring over here frequently, while B.B. King - who I'd seen for the first time live in Amsterdam in 1968 when I was 18 - played almost annually at the famous North Sea Jazz Festival. Also the first Blues Brothers-movie and the seemingly endless tours of Luther Allison, who lived in Paris, France, led to an increasing amount of bluesfans. This all resulted in more and more subscribers.
Meanwhile I've promoted blues as much as I could. I produced four albums with local Dutch blues musicians, organised two festivals. One of them, The Cotton Town Blues Festival, existed only four years, but I was able to book artists like Wild Child Butler, Duke Robillard, Luther Allison, Little Willie Littlefield, Jerry McCain, Jimmy Thackery, Dunn & Packer and many others. The other festival, The Drijf-In Blues Festival in Giethoorn was co-founded by me during the mid eighties and it still exists. We had Jerry McCain, Eddie C. Campbell, Wild Child Butler, Louisiana Red, Angela Brown, Otis Grand, Little Willie Littlefield, Dave Peabody, Bob Hall and a lot of other artists - including many Dutch artists - playing there. After seventeen years we handed over the organisation of the festival to other people. Also I have adviced the North Sea Jazz Festival (and occasionally still do!) in booking blues artists.
I was MC at North Sea's blues stage in the period 1979-1982.
Tons of photo's
BLOCK had grown considerably in both the amount of subscribers and the amount of pages. We went out doing reports on blues festivals all over The Netherlands and Belgium and sometimes England, while since 1977 Marion and I spent most of our summer holidays and even two Christmas vacations in The States, where we went out to the blues clubs in cities like Chicago, Detroit, New York, St. Louis, Memphis, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, San Francisco and other areas. We did extensive reports on the scenes and festivals in those cities with the main focus on Chicago.
During the daytime we usually visit record companies and artists to gather news and to do interviews.
The contacts with record companies, photographers, collectors and other magazines have resulted in building a photofile containing about 30,000 photo's. Currently we're busy reorganising the file and shifting through literally thousands of photo's. We've been able to help various record companies by supplying liner-notes and photo's for album- and cd-releases. Particularly the English label Ace has used photo's from our files and incidentally Delmark, Crosscut (Germany), Wolf (Austria), Bear Family (Germany, their recent Freddie King box), JSP (UK), Flyright (UK), Dallas Blues Society, Henry Stone's Rockin' Records (Florida, USA) have used our photo's. Also we contributed photo's and wrote liner notes for a series of albums called 'I Din't Give A Damn If Whites Bought It' on Red Lightnin' (English). And we supplied photo's (taken in Chicago between 1977 and 1981) for the documentary about Maxwell Street called 'Cheat You Fair, The Story Of Maxwell Street/Electrified, The Story Of The Maxwell Street Urban Blues' (produced and released by Phil Ranstrom from Chicago), as well as a few photo's for the books 'The Truman And Eisenhower Blues' (by Guido van Rijn, Continuum Press, 2003) and 'Kennedy's Blues' (by Guido van Rijn, University Press Of Mississippi, 2007).
Also we've been able to find a Dutch distributor for Delmark Records some twenty years ago. Their distribution deal with Dutch company Music & Words still exists today.
Labor of love
Rien Wisse en Bobby Bland 1990
Meanwhile the magazine has kept on growing to 68 pages and incidentally there were more pages. It has developed from a poorly printed small publication into a professionally lay-outed and printed glossy magazine, since issue # 149 entirely printed in full-colour. Both my wife Marion and I have cut-back our dayjobs from five days a week to four days a week a couple of years ago and I take off a month from my dayjob unpaid to be able to manage and produce the magazine. Marion handles the subscribtions (4.500 subscribers right now), she books the roadtrips and hotels, she contributes reviews and she translates the articles and newsflashes exclusively written for us by our American contributors Bill Dahl, Scott Bock, Dick Shurman and for the next issue also Bruce Iglauer. I still do the entire layout myself and Marion and I do the editing entirely together in the back room of our house. This all takes a huge portion of our spare time, but we still consider this all as a labor of love, a way to promote the blues. A way to bring lesser known bluesmen and women to the attention of audiences over here, often resulting in tours at this side of the Atlantic.
So this is briefly my way - I should say our way, since this all wouldn't have been possible without the help of Marion and all our contributors - to keep the blues alive!
A near complete index of BLOCK can be found at: http://members.home.nl/h.maaskant
It is allmost impossible to make a complete summary of all the artists who have been discussed in BLOCK Magazine since 1975, but here is a list of artists who we have interviewed in the last decades:
Luther Allison, Dennis Binder, Bobby Bland, Spencer Bohren, Joe Bonamassa, Lonnie Brooks, Ronnie Baker Brooks, B.B. & The Blues Shacks, Bradley's Circus, Billy Branch, Andrew Brown, Dusty Brown, Kenny Brown, Buckwheat Zydeco, Solomon Burke, Eddie en Jimmy Burns, Lester Butler, Wild Child Butler, Barbara Carr, Clifton Chenier, Marshall Chess, William Clarke, Otis Clay, Eddy Clearwater, Albert Collins, Johnny Copeland, Shemekia Copeland, Robert Cray, Boo Boo Davis, Guy Davis, Bo Diddley, Rockin' Dopsie, Dwayne Dopsie, Johnny Drummer, Arthur Duncan, Champion Jack Dupree, Ronnie Earl, Easy Baby, Honeyboy Edwards, The Electrophonics, Flavium, Billy Flynn, Frank Frost, Anson Funderburgh, Roy Gaines, Eric Gales, Lacy Gibson, Al Green, Buddy en Phil Guy, James Harman, Harmonica Shah, Charles Hayes, Erwin Helfer, The Hoax, Homemade Jamz, Ellis Hooks, Linda Hopkins, Joe Hughes, James Hunter, J.B. Hutto, Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records), Elmore James Jr., Bobo Jenkins, Jimmy en Syl Johnson, Michael de Jong, Ralph de Jongh, The Juke Joints, Michael Katon, Candye Kane, Keb' Mo', Vance Kelly, Willie Kent, Willie King, Eddie Kirkland, Bob Koester (Delmark Records), Jimmy D. Lane, Larry LaDon, Bettye Lavette, Sammy Lawhorn, Lazy Lester, Lefty Dizz, Lil' Ed, Robert Lockwood, Little Boogie Boy, John Littlejohn, Lonnie Mack, Magic Slim, Taj Mahal, Eddie Martin, Pete Mayes, Jerry McCain, Nick Moss, Harry Muskee, Charlie Musselwhite, Sam Myers, Raful Neal, Ted Oberg, Omar, Paul Oscher, The Paladins, Ann Peebles, Piano Red, Rod Piazza, John Primer, Duke Robillard, Queen Ida, Michael Roach, Sonny Rhodes, The Rhythm Chiefs, Sir Mack Rice, Sherman Robertson, Fenton Robinson, Jimmy Rogers, Roomful Of Blues, Otis Rush, Julian Sas, Stefan Schill, Ian Siegal, Eddie Shaw, Roscoe Shelton, Sista Monica, Mavis Staples, Eric Steckel, Henry Stone, Super Chikan, Howard Tate, Eddie Taylor, Eddie Taylor Jr., Gene Taylor, Sam Taylor, Hans Theessink, Irma Thomas, Allen Toussaint, Nellie 'Tiger' Travis, Jimmie Vaughan, Robert Vossen, Charles Walker, Joe Louis Walker, Boogie Bill Webb, Jody Williams, Lee 'Shot' Williams, Sharrie Williams, Kim Wilson, Johnny Winter en Zora Young.
Articles not based on interviews:
Big Bill Broonzy, Hollywood Fats, Arthur Gunter, Walter Horton, Percy Mayfield, Sunnyland Slim, Tampa Red, Otis Spann, Lonesome Sundown, Sunnyland Slim, Stevie Ray Vaughan en Sonny Boy Williamson. Ook publiceerden we verhalen en reisverslagen over de clubscenes in o.m. Chicago, Memphis, Baton Rouge, New York en St. Louis alsmede artikelen over KFFA-Radio (King Biscuit Time), Maxwell Street, de documentaire M For Mississippi, labels als Black Magic, Chess, Delmark, Fat Possum, Fortune, MCM en Swingmaster.
An allmost complete overview can be found here.