Saturday, 13 July 2024


Authorities are looking for Berret Brown, who fled the scene of a crash on Sunday, July 19, 2009. Photo courtesy of the California Highway Patrol.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – Law enforcement officials are looking for an armed man who fled a crash scene on Sunday.

California Highway Patrol Officer Steve Tanguay said 24-year-old Berret J. Brown and a second unnamed subject ran from officers on Sunday morning.

Brown, who goes by the nickname “Bear,” is an active parolee at large who should be considered armed and dangerous, said Tanguay.

Brown was driving a 1995 Mazda MX6 northbound on Highway 53 approaching the stop sign at Highway 20 at approximately 10:30 a.m. Sunday when he struck the back end of a 2000 Mercedes driven by a 41-year-old Elk Grove woman who was sitting at the stop sign ahead of him, Tanguay said.

Tanguay said that, after the collision, Brown and an unknown male passenger got out of the Mazda and pushed it out of the roadway before fleeing the scene on foot.

CHP and the Lake County Sheriff's Office conducted a search for the men.

Reports from the scene indicated that one of the men was running north through nearby vineyards, and CHP had Verizon “ping” his phone to find him. One of the men – believed to be Brown – motioned in a manner that led officers to believe he was armed by no weapon was seen.

Tanguay said CHP asks anyone who has information about Brown's whereabouts to call the Clear Lake CHP office, 707-279-0103, or the Lake County Sheriff's Office, 707-262-4200.


UKIAH – Hundreds of firefighters have been called in to fight a Ukiah area blaze that is putting out thick smoke that the wind is carrying into Lake County's air basin.

The Sheppard Fire started shortly before 3:30 p.m. Monday, according to Cal Fire spokesperson Tracy Boudreaux.

By 9:30 p.m. Monday the fire had grown to 105 acres in size, with 60-percent containment, Boudreaux reported.

Boudreaux said the fire is believed to have started in the area of 3630 Robinson Creek Road, cross of Highway 253 in Ukiah. The fire is in the west hills, in the area of Spanish Canyon and Oak Knoll.

“We're hitting it pretty hard with air tankers right now,” Boudreaux said early Monday evening, nothing there have been “spotting problems” with the fire.

More than 300 firefighters were on scene by the end of Monday, along with five air tankers, one helicopter, one water tender, four hand crews, three bulldozers and 18 engines on scene, Boudreaux said.

“We drew all of the closest engines to jump on this right away,” she said.

Cal Fire resources also have been called in from out of the county, she added.

Earlier in the day, structures were reported to be threatened in the immediate area. By by Monday night Boudreaux said the threat to the structures was minimal – unless the weather changed Tuesday.

No evacuations were in force, although Boudreaux said some people were asked not to return to their residences while firefighters are working earlier in the afternoon.

Later in the evening Boudreaux said all area roads had been opened up, some to residents only and others – like Boonville Road – to the public at large.

Boudreaux said more aircraft and hand crews are expected to be on scene on Tuesday.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation, according to Boudreaux.

“We haven't even had a chance to get to the origin,” she said.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Clear Lake High School teacher Oscar Dominguez is the 2009-10 Lake County Teacher of the Year.


LAKE COUNTY – The county's best teachers were recently honored with special recognition for their achievements.

Clear Lake High School instructor Oscar Dominguez was selected as the Teacher of the Year for 2009-10.

Each year the county's school districts select one outstanding teacher as their District Teacher of the Year. A Blue Ribbon Committee of community leaders then interviews these candidates.

This year's committee members were Wally Holbrook, Madelene Lyon, Brock Falkenberg and the Lake County Teacher of the Year for 2008-09, Joyce Paiva. The committee was chaired by Chris Thomas, county deputy superintendent of schools.

The criteria for selection of the County Teacher of the Year is based upon the state and national requirements. These include professional development activities, commitment to the improvement of the educational system, personal attributes, creativity and ability to communicate ideas effectively as well as professional skills in delivering curriculum and instruction to students.

Dominguez holds degree in plant pathology from Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas. He went on to teach elementary school, middle school and high school in Tornillo, Texas, where he gained recognition for his outstanding teaching when he was honored in 2002 as the El Paso Times Teacher of the Year.

Dominguez began his teaching career in Lake County in 2002.

Clear Lake High School Principal Steve Gentry gives Dominguez high praise. “Oscar is an outstanding teacher because he is able to combine a focus on students as individuals and a focus on learning for student achievement. He contributes the time and energy to do both successfully. He is a life-long learner, continually expanding his use of technology in and outside of the classroom and expanding his knowledge of science.”

Dominguez holds his students' attention by applying science to various real-life situations.

Each semester his biology students participate in a variety of environmental projects with West Lake Resource Conservation District, Bureau of Land Management, Robinson Rancheria Environment Center, Clear Lake State Park or the Lake Mendocino Army Corps of Engineers.

“He involves his students in real-world application of science – GPS location of fish beds, raising and releasing steelhead, restoring streambeds, cleaning lakes and campgrounds, lab activities at the Marine Mammal Center, seminars at UC Davis – the list seems endless,” said Gentry.

CLHS class of 2009 Salutatorian Taylor Whipple said that Dominguez calls all of his students “friends” and he often shares stories about his past and his family with them.

Joining Dominguez are the outstanding District Teachers of the Year for 2009-10: David Leonard, Middletown Unified School District; Deanna Madeson, Kelseyville Unified School District; Cynthia Ott, Konocti Unified School District; Hank Smith, Upper Lake Union Elementary District; and John Woods, Upper Lake Union High School District.

Dominguez, along with the District Teachers of the Year, will be honored for their exceptional achievement at a dinner this fall.

E-mail Caitlin Andrus at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

LAKE COUNTY – While the Midwest and Eastern United States experiences cooler-than-average temperatures, the West, including Lake County, continued to sizzle over the weekend with high temperatures above 105 throughout most of the county.

The question is, how long will these century-mark temperatures last?

The high pressure system that's been holding sway over Lake County is slowing being pushed out by a stronger low pressure system that will usher in temperatures closer to normal over the next week, according to the National Weather Service in Sacramento (NWS).

Highs today should top out around 95, and continue throughout the week, with lows in the mid- to upper-60s, the NWS predicts.

However, The Weather Channel (TWC) predicts that Tuesday and Wednesday will again surpass the century mark, with Thursday and Friday hovering closer to normal temperatures in the mid-90s.

Both the NWS and TWC agree that high temperatures for the weekend will reach the mid- to upper-90s, with overnight lows in the upper 50s to mid-60s.

The chance of precipitation from both agencies is zero with low humidity. Caution is advised as this is high wildfire season.

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

A Cal Fire helicopter dropped a hand crew that battled the fire before it began water drops. Spring Valley resident Melinda Needham captured this photo as the helicopter flew over her house on a water drop.


SPRING VALLEY – A grass fire in Spring Valley Monday afternoon burned 10 acres and jumped a road before firefighters brought it under control.

Firefighters were dispatched to the blaze, along New Long Valley Road, just before 1 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

Northshore Fire Battalion Chief Pat Brown credited Cal Fire Helicopter 104 and its crew for quick action.

He said they “pretty well saved the day” when the helicopter dropped off a hand crew that went to work against the fire, which jumped New Long Valley Road and started a run.

The helicopter then began dropping water on the fire, drawing the water from the nearby creek, according to area resident Melinda Needham.

She noted it was amazing how fast firefighters responded between the helicopter and ground crews.

Cal Fire sent five engines, the hand crew and helicopter, said Brown. Northshore Fire sent two engines and a water tender from its Clearlake Oaks station, along with one engine from Lucerne. Lake County Fire Protection District sent a water tender.

The fire was contained at approximately 1:40 p.m., according to Cal Fire.

Brown said the cause is still under investigation.

The fire caused an estimated $1,000 worth of damage to one structure, which it burned right up to before being contained, Brown said.

Monday proved an especially hectic day for area firefighters, especially in neighboring Mendocino County, where the Sheppard Fire was sparked near Ukiah around 3:30 p.m., as Lake County News has reported.

A fire near Lakeport threatened a home and outbuildings on Monday afternoon. A call to the home's owner late Monday was not returned.

At about 5:30 p.m., a small grass fire near Hidden Valley Lake at Spruce Grove Road was put out quickly, according to Cal Fire.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Linda Kelly of The Gourd Gallery (center) and fellow artists and craftspeople give County Administrative Officer Kelly Cox the Star of Lake County Award that Harbor Village Artists won in March on Saturday, July 18, 2009. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.



LUCERNE – During a Saturday afternoon reception the artists and craftspeople of Harbor Village Artists celebrated their first anniversary in business.

The little artists colony, which celebrated its grand opening last October, is housed in four little Alpine-themed shops at 6197 East Highway 20, next door to Lucerne Harbor Park.

The county redevelopment agency purchased and renovated the property, and conducted a search for artists who applied for the storefronts.

The four shops that now make their home there are The Gourd Gallery, Pomo Fine Arts Gallery, Lakeside Art and Konocti Art Studio/Gallery. All of them moved in and opened last July.

Joan Facca, who shares space at Konocti Art Studio/Gallery with Judy Cardinale, Meredith Gambrel and Richard Seisser, said the shop is visited by many people traveling along Highway 20, and they've seen “a lot of interest” and positive feedback regarding the original paintings they offer for sale.

However, Gambrel noted, the economy has meant not as many people are buying art.

It's the first time they've had a storefront, and Facca credit the county for its support. “The county's been great.”

Over at Pomo Fine Arts Gallery, Luwana Quitiquit has on display a variety of handmade American Indian crafts, from jewelry to baskets to buckskin clothing, gourd and abalone art, and drawings.

Quitiquit, an acclaimed Pomo basket weaver, also has a big bearskin gracing one wall and a Pomo tule boat hanging from the ceiling.

Lakeside Art, overlooking the lake, features has everything from custom jewelry by Lynn Hughes to hats made by milliner Toni Stewart, and artwork by Patricia Oates, Diana Liebe, Paula Strother and Anja Koot.

The Gourd Gallery, the only gourd-only shop in California, includes work by sister Linda Kelly and Sandi Coelho-Davis, and Marilyn Crayton. They also feature guest artists and classes.

In March, won the Stars of Lake County Award for new business of the year.

On Saturday, the group presented County Administrator Kelly Cox with the Star award they received as a token of thanks for the county's assistance. Cox said the award will displayed at the county offices.

The shops are open Wednesday through Sunday. For information call 707-274-2346 or the shop numbers: Konocti Art Studio/Gallery, 707-274-1033; Lakeside Art, 707-274-1393; Pomo Fine Arts Gallery, 707-349-9588; or The Gourd Gallery, 707-274-2346.

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .



Milliner Toni Stewart offers original, handmade hats at Lakeside Art. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.




Original and unique gourd art is for sale at The Gourd Gallery. Photo by Elizabeth Larson.

MIDDLETOWN – A deputy sheriff's patrol car was stolen Saturday evening after he responded to a call.

Officials said the vehicle was recovered a short time later but the vehicle's key and the deputy's personal cell phone were missing.

Capt. Rob Howe of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported that a sheriff's deputy responded to what he believed to be a fight behind Noble's Bar in Middletown at 12:55 a.m. Saturday.

The deputy followed one of the involved parties into the bar, Howe said, and upon returning to the parking lot, the deputy found that his patrol vehicle had been stolen.

The deputy located the vehicle approximately 10 minutes later, parked behind Hardester's Market in Middletown, with the key and phone missing, Howe said.

Howe said the vehicle’s Mobile Audio Visual (MAV) Unit captured video of the subject believed to have stolen the vehicle.

He said the suspect is still outstanding at this time. No description of the suspect has been released.



LOWER LAKE – Local families are benefiting from a program that focuses on supplying children with nutritious food during the months they're out of school.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Summer Food Service Program is the single largest federal resource available for schools and local organizations that want to combine a feeding program with a summer activity program for children and their families – and the more people that take advantage of it, the better it is for the entire community.

During the school year, meals are available for children through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, but those programs end when school ends for the summer and many children face food insecurity – in other words, lack of meals or nutritious meals – during the summer months.

Konocti, Kelseyville and Middletown unified school districts are participating in this federally-funded program.

“It’s more than just a meal,” said Marla Peterson, Konocti Unified's food service director.

Peterson explained that the Summer Food Service Program provides a social outlet in the summer for youth and families to share quality time together without spending money, as well as provides an opportunity for KUSD to extend their services and deepen their connections to the community.

KUSD is participating in the USDA Summer Food Service program this year and is offering free breakfast and lunch to all youth up to age 18, and adults accompanying children may purchase a meal for $1.50.

Participation in the program helps families to fill the hunger gap so children and their families do not need to go hungry during the summer, said Peterson.

“And at the end of the month,” Peterson said, “families may even have extra money to do other positive activities together,” that they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise – or would have had to scrimp on meals to do so.

KUSD is able to provide this program at no cost all students, regardless of family income, and the more youth and adults that participate in the program, the more funding the program receives, thereby ensuring it can serve more youth and families nutritious and economical food.

So far, KUSD has provided 600 to 700 meals per day to youth and the adults that accompany them, which includes serving some locally-grown produce from Irene Farms in Lower Lake, Leonardis Organics in Lakeport and Seely’s Farm Stand in Upper Lake.

All children are welcome to participate in this program; no proof of age or income verification is required. Everyone up to 18 years of age will be given free meals at breakfast and lunch. Adults accompanying children may purchase a meal for $1.50 per adult.

Because the lunches are served picnic-style, many families grab their lunches and head to area parks to play and enjoy a meal together, Peterson explained.

“Families come together, and they’re able to have quality family time together,” she said.

Recently, an excited line of children formed to receive their lunches – it was the place to be on a hot summer afternoon – with the adults standing off to the side.

After the children had received their lunches, Konocti Unified staff invited one older woman over to receive a lunch. The woman, who explained that she was caring for her grandchildren over the summer while their parents were at work, hugged the staff and told them that she didn’t know how she would have made ends meet if it weren’t for this program.

“We’re willing to go the extra mile,” Peterson said, not only of the food service staff, but of the entire Konocti Unified staff. “We’ve had great support from the whole district, from teachers to IT to administration.”

Another parent admitted that they didn’t need the assistance, but that their children wanted to be where their friends were, so they came to receive a lunch and join in the festive family atmosphere.

Because the program is available to all families in Lake County – regardless of income – participating youth and adults do not have to worry about being labeled, and everyone can enjoy the nutritious breakfasts and picnic-styled lunches.

To receive free meals for students and discounted meals for adults 18 and over, visit:

  • Burns Valley Elementary School, 3620 Pine Av., Clearlake;

  • East Lake Elementary School, 13050 High Valley Road, Clearlake Oaks;

  • Lower Lake Elementary School, 9240 Lake St., Lower Lake (call 707-994-4543, Extension 3211, as the exact location may change with the change in the regularly scheduled daytime activity).

Breakfast is served between 8 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. and lunch is served between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. Monday through Friday, throughout the summer break.

For more information, contact Marla Peterson at 707-994-4543, Extension 3211; for Spanish, call Lily Olivares, 707-994-4710, Extension 3214.

For informational brochures, printable flyers, and a public service announcement video that is being aired bilingually on TV8, visit the KUSD Summer Feeding Program Web site at .

E-mail Terre Logsdon at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .






This column sounds best if you read it with an Italian/American accent.

They may say “Leave the gun, take the cannolis” but I think you may want to leave the crust and take the pizza sauce.

I blame the TV chefs. They all seem to do and say the same thing; there is very little originality amongst them. I can count several who have done a show on pizza and said, “The key to a great pizza is the crust.” Whaddaya talkin’ about? After all, if you wake up in the morning after any kind of party where pizza has been served the one thing you will find is buckets full of leftover pizza crust.

The purpose of the pizza crust is a lot like the purpose of pasta, it’s simply the vessel that brings a sauce and other ingredients to your face. So I always listen to these TV chefs praising the virtues of pizza crust and think, “Aaaay! Whatsamattafah you?” Nobody orders a pizza because of the crust unless something in particular is done to the crust to make it more appealing.

But remember that it’s the additions which are being ordered, not the crust itself. The pizza crust is only desirable if it is stuffed with cheese, sprinkled with herbs, or encrusted with some other thing. Nobody orders a pizza “Extra cheese, pepperoni, and extra crust” or says “Let’s go to Tessio’s pizza place since he has the best crust.”

No, folks, the key to a great pizza is the sauce. Some pizza restaurants have realized the importance of pizza sauce and are so proud of their sauces that they put the sauce on the top of the pizza. Some say it’s pride, some say it’s a marketing ploy; I say it’s pizza so have fun with it.

Pizza is best when all of the ingredients are of good quality and there are some very decent quality ready-made pizza crusts you can purchase at the grocery store. From there you select your quality cheeses, meats, veggies – whatever toppings you like on your pizza – but these ingredients are single notes in the pizza. The only thing that can be really controlled and experimented with is the sauce.

I often think that too many pizza sauces taste good on the spoon but get lost on the pizza, so for my recipe I used much larger amounts of herbs and spices than most pizza sauce recipes call for. I want the sauce to have a chance of being tasted on the pizza, not just be some tomato based lubricant for the other ingredients. Big flavors – now that’s the key to a great pizza!

There is a lot of debate among chefs about whether you should cook your pizza sauce or not during the making, and I’m a big proponent of cooking it so you can pull those flavors out of the dried herbs. I also use wine in the sauce and cooking helps remove that winey taste. I like to use an Italian-style wine for this since “I know a guy” at Rosa D’Oro Winery, and why shouldn’t you use a nice Italian wine for an Italian recipe? I used their 2007 Sangiovese for the recipe and served what was left with the pizza.

When making this pizza sauce recipe be sure to use freshly grated Parmesan; if you use something out of a can, “Why I oughta!” That’s like using powdered lemonade instead of lemon juice in a recipe. I finely grate the cheese with a microplane zester (available at The Kitchen Gallery) and you should use three tablespoons of the cheese if it’s tightly packed, or half a cup if loosely packed.

In view of the fact that I use salt packed anchovies and Parmesan cheese in the recipe I omitted salt as an ingredient, but if you don’t want to use anchovies then you will want to add salt to taste. Just remember to do it when the sauce is finished or you could end up with a tomato-based salt lick.

Almost as if it was planned this way, the average pizza will need one quarter cup of sauce and your average ice cube tray makes cubes in one quarter cup size. Freeze your pizza sauce in ice cube trays, and once frozen remove them from the tray and put into a plastic bag and store in the freezer. This will make portioning easier, and when you’re ready to make a pizza simply take out a cube, let it thaw and then spread it out on your crust. If you are a home canner you can put your pizza sauce up, but use smaller jars so they will be easier to portion.

One footnote about the ice cube trays: the molecules for oil and plastic are very similar and they bind with each other very easily and it is very difficult to separate them, so if you freeze the pizza sauce in plastic ice cube trays they may very well be stained red for life. You may want to purchase new trays to freeze the sauce in.

One last note: Your stovetop WILL be covered in pizza sauce by the end of this. “Sorry ‘bout dat.”

To all of those TV chefs that learned something today ... Fuggitaboutit!

Pizza Sauce

1 six ounce can tomato paste

1 cup tomato juice

1 cup red wine

½ cup grated Parmesan (loosely packed)

1 clove garlic, finely diced

1 anchovy filet or 1 teaspoon anchovy paste (optional of course)

2 tablespoons honey

1 bay leaf

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried basil

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon celery seed

¼ teaspoon fennel seed

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Mix everything together except the olive oil in a sauce pan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer (uncovered). Let reduce for half an hour until sauce thickens, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat. When cool enough to handle, process through a food mill or your favorite strainer to remove seeds. Add the olive oil and stir together. Makes 1 ½ cups of pizza sauce.

Ross A. Christensen is an award-winning gardener and gourmet cook. He is the author of "Sushi A to Z, The Ultimate Guide" and is currently working on a new book. He has been a public speaker for many years and enjoys being involved in the community.

CLEARLAKE OAKS – A man was injured after he was approached and stabbed by a stranger last week.

Capt. Rob Howe of the Lake County Sheriff's Office reported Monday that Michael Wayne Schnell suffered a 7-inch laceration across his forearm in the incident, which occurred July 16.

Schnell was installing a swamp cooler at a friend's house at 12521 Foothill Boulevard in Clearlake Oaks when an unknown suspect approached and started shouting at them, according to Howe's report.

Howe said Schnell got into a brief argument with the suspect, who then produced a knife and slashed Schnell’s right forearm before fleeing the area.

Deputies responded to the scene, Howe said, and found Schnell, who was bleeding profusely and appeared to be losing consciousness.

Howe said medical personnel responded to the scene and Schnell was eventually transported by REACH helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital for treatment.

Deputies searched the area for the suspect but didn't locate him. A description of the suspect wasn't released.

LUCERNE – As California Water Service begins the process of seeking another rate hike for the community of Lucerne, a local grassroots group that wants to see Lucerne's water locally owned has reached a milestone.

On July 17 Lucerne Friends of Locally Owned Water (FLOW) received notification that it has attained nonprofit, 501c3 status, according to Craig Bach, the group's vice president. The status went into effect July 13.

He said the nonprofit application was submitted Feb. 13. It was Lucerne FLOW's third attempt, and Bach credited this latest attempt's success to the work of retired attorney Bob Plank, who assisted in making the application.

Bach said Lucerne FLOW will now be able to receive tax-deductible donations as it moves forward in its goal of gaining control of Lucerne's water production and distribution facilities.

Charlie Behne, Lucerne FLOW's president, added, “Now we can pursue some grants and things to help us with some of the things we want to do.”

Lucerne FLOW and its sister organization, Lucerne Community Water Organization, were founded in 2005 in response to San Jose-based Cal Water's proposal to hike the community's rates 278 percent, according to Bach. Cal Water has owned the town's water system since May of 2000.

Lucerne FLOW filed for and received its incorporation status in the fall of 2006, Bach said.

Cal Water is once again seeking a rate increase of 54.9 percent, which Bach said would go into effect in 2011.

Bach said Lucerne FLOW's mission is to gain control of Lucerne's water from the multibillion dollar Cal Water, which he said is guaranteed by the California Public Utilities Commission to make a profit.

Lucerne FLOW, Bach said, is modeled after other FLOW groups, particularly Felton FLOW. That group, located near Santa Cruz, recently gained local control over their water from Cal American, a subsidiary of the European energy giant, RWE.

The effort to meet Lucerne FLOW's goal of locally owned water will be a long one, cautioned Bach.

“It's not going to be done overnight,” he said. “It's going to be a long, tedious process.”

That long process will involve going through the Local Area Formation Commission (LAFCO) and forming a community service district. The LAFCO process is estimated to cost about $15,000, Bach said.

Behne said Lucerne FLOW has spoken to LAFCO officials to get insight about what will be involved. Beginning that phase is “probably our next big step,” he said.

Bach thinks there's a good chance of succeeding, pointing out that Lucerne FLOW has been effective.

For one, he said it's succeeded in its efforts to keep Cal Water from getting that original large rate hike, which had been meant to fund the new plant. Eventually, Cal Water received a loan from the state for the plant.

Bach believes the new plant is working, but it's still having to deal with the unique challenges of Clear Lake's water in the third low water year. “This is like the test of the plant.”

He said previous water managers have said Cal Water hasn't understood Clear Lake's unique nature. “I think it's a lot harder than they originally thought,” he said, noting that they're asking for new equipment for the plant as part of the latest proposed hike.

As Lucerne FLOW prepares to start the process, it's also busy with other community projects, such as beginning a community garden, said Behne.

It also will work against the proposed rate hike. Lucerne FLOW will work with Lucerne Community Water Organization to look at the proposed hike and form a plan to address it. The point is to make sure the community gets what it pays for, Behne said.

“Cal water has a pretty good history of getting rate increases and then not spending all the money for those purposes,” he said.

For more information about the volunteer group visit .

E-mail Elizabeth Larson at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .


I finally got the Queen of the West Coast Blues, Sugar Pie DeSanto, checked into her room at The Lodge in Bettendorf, Iowa at about 10 a.m. July 3. We were a bit jet lagged and slightly sleep deprived, but not worried about it.

Sugar’s manager, Jim Moore, scheduled a radio interview for the noon hour, so I scrambled to my room, jumped on the bed and power napped until about just past 11 a.m. I then rose in search of some un-flight food.

The Lodge is a finely appointed Eastern Europe-themed hotel. En route to the hotel restaurant, I passed a real sleigh, originally from Bavaria, in the latter part of the 19th century that was designed for King Ludwig II by Franz Seitz. Wow, I bet there’s a blues song or two inside that velvet history, I thought. Someone should pimp that ride!

The restaurant was a surprise also. I though I’d invaded some sort of Midwestern banquet or something. I quickly picked my jaw up off the floor, rushed through a great sandwich and gave Sugar Pie a wake up call in time for the radio interview.

Like clockwork, as soon as she was fully awake, Mike Sanders, the radio producer called. He and his wife were in the lobby of the hotel. Sugar Pie advised me to send them up and after all the introductions are made, I left them to handle their business. Sugar Pie asked me to check on the status of her Band Director, Willie Henderson.

Willie Henderson is another soul-poppin’ legend. I actually met him in 2008 at the Chicago Blues Festival. I first became aware of him though in 1970 when he had a hit entitled “Funky Chicken” albeit a different tune than the Rufus Thomas track with the same title. Henderson produced many of the hits of creator of the sound of Southern soul, Tyrone Davis. He also produced hits for Mr. Excitement, Jackie Wilson, as well as the Chi-Lites, Barbara Acklin and others. He is a top notch arranger and band leader.

Willie Henderson and his seven piece band arrived at The Lodge before noon. By 2:30 p.m., we were all assembled in a basement room of the hotel for an intensive rehearsal. Though it was essentially the same band that Sugar Pie used in Chicago last year, it was really interesting to watch Sugar Pie, the cagey veteran, explain exactly how she wanted each song. Every subtle nuance was charted.

In one testy exchange, Henderson handed the horn section parts written in bass clef. When one player complained, Henderson snapped, “You’re an arranger, fix it.” (Transpose it to treble clef.)

They rehearsed more than an hour. The Hotel and the Mississippi Valley Blues Association made sure all the right equipment was there; sound board, mics, monitors, drum kit, piano etc. Toward the end of rehearsal, the band was really hittin’ it. Various musicians from other bands, blues aficionados and hotel guests crept in for a peek at who was putting down the great sound.

Finally, sometime after 3 p.m. Sugar Pie and Willie were satisfied that everything was in order. We coordinated the time we were to leave for the gig and everyone went their separate ways for a few hours.

I checked and double checked my list of things to do; check on Sugar at the appointed time, double check transportation to the gig (and to the airport the following morning), recount CD inventory, grab a snack, nap, shower and boom it’s time to get moving again.

This year the Mississippi Valley Blues Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary. More than 30 acts were presented on two different stages. RiverRoad Lifetime achievement awards were given to Sugar Pie DeSanto on Friday night and Magic Slim on Saturday night. The program of the event explains it thusly:

“The purpose of the RiverRoad Award (as attested by the MVBS logo of a guitar with a river running through it) is to honor those who have devoted their lives to bringing what we call 'river' blues – music that runs deep with emotion, like a river of the soul – to anyone they meet on life’s highways. The MVBS Entertainment Committee chooses as recipients for the RiverRoad Award those bluesman or blueswomen who may not be readily familiar to audiences because they have not been recorded, recognized, or acclaimed as much as the 'stars,' but who are the true legends of the blues, the embodiment of the 'living history' of the blues. As we lose so many of those first and second-generation blues pioneers, it is important to honor those who are continuing the tradition.”

Before Sugar Pie DeSanto’s closing set of the Friday night festivities, Davenport mayor, Bill Gluba, presented Sugar Pie with a plaque and the key to the city of Davenport.

Undeterred, when the band hit at 9:30 p.m., Sugar Pie DeSanto kicked off her shoes and took the capacity crowd prisoner and give a smoldering, unbelievable 75 minute performance. To review it would require more space and time than I am can take at this moment. Be assured that the appreciative crowd danced as if no one was watching, shouted as if sanctified, demanded and received an encore from the Sugar and the band.

After her performance we went straight to the merchandise table where we sold her CD’s and Sugar Pie signed and took pictures for the adoring Blues throngs.

We were finally able to eat “dinner” at about midnight. We were transported back to the lodge where there was an after party goin’ on. Sugar Pie’s performance adrenaline took her to the party. Your CyberSoulMan went to bed. Sugar Pie called me the next morning five minutes before I was to call her as we embarked on the return home journey.

Sugar Pie DeSanto hasn’t had a charting hit in 43 years. Until now that is. Ace Records in conjunction with Island/Universal just re-released all of her Chess Records singles on a CD entitled “Sugar Pie DeSanto; Go Go Power, The Chess Singles.” When the CD was released on this past May 31, it shot immediately to No. 15 on the Billboard Blues Chart. Uncanny.

In the liner notes, the famed Chess Record producer Billy Davis sums up Sugar Pie’s talent in comparison to her record label mate of years ago, Etta James:

“Etta and Sugar Pie were opposites and had a lot in common too. They were both really livewires and loved to entertain. I even took them to do concerts in the Bahamas following those record dates. They set the place on fire. You just couldn’t stop Sugar Pie. Etta could out-sing Sugar Pie, but Sugar Pie could out-perform Etta. It’s too bad they couldn’t do more things together, but they were really on slightly different wavelengths.”

Yes, it is too bad that some enterprising promoter doesn’t book these two great blues divas together to recreate some of that livewire fire that still burns within them both. It’s certainly not too late.


Keep prayin’, keep thinkin’ those kind thoughts.


Upcoming cool events:

Blind Spot, Sunday Brunch, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 19, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake, telephone 707-275-2233.


Soul Doubt, Blues Monday, 6:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. July 20, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake, telephone 707-275-2233.

Open Mike Night, 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, July 23, Blue Wing Saloon & Café, 9520 Main St., Upper Lake, telephone 707-275-2233.

Twice As Good, 6:30 p.m. Friday, July 24. Library Park, 200 Park St., Lakeport.

Smokey Robinson in concert, 7:15 p.m. Saturday, July 31. Konocti Harbor Spa & Resort, 8727 Soda Bay Road, Kelseyville. Visit the resort online at .

The Four Tops in Concert, 9 p.m. Saturday, July 31, Cache Creek Casino Resort, 14455 Highway 16, Brooks, telephone 888-77-CACHE.

T. Watts is a writer, radio host and music critic. Visit his Web site at

Upcoming Calendar

07.16.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.17.2024 5:30 pm - 7:00 pm
Free veterans dinner
07.20.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.23.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
07.27.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
07.30.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
08.03.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
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08.06.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park
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Farmers' Market at the Mercantile
08.13.2024 10:00 am - 1:00 pm
Farmers' Market at Library Park

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