Performances and Festivals History

Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants
To perform at the
11th Annual tattoo You Convention
Duluth, MN
October 19 & 20, 2002

Big Walter to perform on Sunday afternoon.
Lakeview Castel
5135 North Shore Dr., Duluth, MN

Big Walter Smith a Minnesota blues legend
Thunder Bay Blues Festival
July 5-7, 2002
By Ken Wright

Big Walter Smith and the Groove Merchants is the only band to have appeared at all 14 Bayfront Blues Festivals and the only one to regularly receive a standing ovation both before and after performing. In fact, the band is so popular in Duluth that the mayor designated August 8, 1997 to be Big Walter Smith Day in the city.

Born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and raised in Kansas City, Walter cites his friendship with Albert Collins and the singing of Bobby Blue Bland and B.B. King as his biggest musical influences. He moved to Minneapolis-St. Paul in 1970, formed the Groove Merchants in 1985 and has been a mainstay of the Twin Cities’ music scene ever since.

Big Walter Smith is a Minnesota blues legend and he and this Groove Merchants have won just about every music award that the state has to offer.

In 1998, he made music history when he became the first blues musician inducted into the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame. The band’s 1990 release, Brother To The Blues, received a Grammy Award nomination for Best Blues Recording of the Year. That level of recording excellence has continued with the release of the widely acclaimed Midnight Express and their recent CD, Grovin’ (Live).

The current edition of the Groove Merchants is lead by the first-class guitar playing and back up vocals of Scotty Graves with Paul Wigen on keyboards, Joe Sherohman on bass and Tom McShane on drums. The heart of the group’s funky blues and brassy R&B sound is the Hi-Steppin’ horn section featuring Jim Kogl (tenor saxophone), Ted “T-Bone” Thomas (trombone), and Tom Tange (trumpet) who strut their stuff on stage. Fronting the band is the “Ambassador to the Blues” Big Walter Smith and his smooth, soaring, mellifluous vocals.

Big Walter Smith to perform at the Laramar
The Messenger/Fort Dodge, Iowa
Friday, June 21, 2002
By Jennifer Harp (staff writer)

(Lizard Creek Blues concert tonight at 9 p.m.; doors will open at 7 p.m.)

He’s played with B.B. King. He’s been nominated for a Grammy. He’s been called Minnesota’s most honored and recognized blesman. And he’s coming to the Laramar to perform.

Big Walter Smith and The Groove Merchants are no strangers to the stage. Lizard Creek Blues Society President Bob Wood said, “Smith’s ‘velvet Chicago-style blues sound’ should be an attraction to many.”

“Big Walter Smith has been singing for more than 30 years,” Wood said. “He was the first inductee into the Minnesota Blues Society Hall of Fame.”

While Wood is looking forward to the concert, he said that Smith and his band say they are looking forward to playing at the Laramar.

“The historical significance always makes the Laramar a great location,” Wood said.

Wood also said that Smith has an eight-member band and called the horn section outstanding.

“A lot of bands have a horn section, but not like this,” he said.

The band has been together for more than 15 years, and Wood said that has played a large role in Smith’s success.

“This is a very diversified group. There is a large instrument variety represented and it’s pretty typical of some blues bands and different styles.” Wood said, “You don’t get to see a lot of horn sections in the Midwest.”

While the Lizard Creek Blues Society is preparing to bring in Big Walter and the Groove Merchants, it also is working on the Blues Under the Trees Celebration, scheduled for later this summer.


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