Peggy Ratusz


JP Joey K

Duane Rob

What a stupendous opportunity this Y chromosome issue is for me to boast about the brothers and sons I”ve had the extreme pleasure to befriend and partner with over these almost nine years as a professional musician working in the Asheville area. I’ve been anticipating writing a feature for this issue because it satisfies my desire and excitement to acquaint you with all of them—if youíre not already.

Gentle Giant, Duane Simpson
“Where did you learn to play like that?” is the question I constantly hear people asking Duane Simpson. He credits his father and hero Joe Simpson, for teaching and guiding him and encouraging him to practice from the time he was seven years old. That work ethic has stuck, and from where I stand, is taking him (and will continue to take him) far beyond these WNC mountains. If he’s not a name in your household, I guarantee he will be eventually.

Having just turned 29, Duane’s prowess, readiness, and tasteful delivery—every single time he hits the stage—is something Asheville musicians and music lovers know they’ll find at his performances.

For the past four years, Duane and I have worked together in several different capacities. His approach to original music (as well as the cover blues and jazz tunes we’ve been playing together for so long) is consistently fresh and impeccable. Performing with this staggeringly proficient guitarist and warm-hearted true friend has been seriously satisfying.

When I invited local celebrity and steel drums phenom, Jonathan Scales to participate in our weekly Blues Night at Tressa’s Downtown Jazz & Blues, I foolishly didn’t anticipate him wooing Duane into his then-newly-forming Fourchestra. But I experienced an “I-couldíve-had-a-V8!” moment. Who wouldn’t want Duane part of anything creative, especially the complex melodic intricacies over metrically juxtaposed rhythmic foundations that define Jonathan Scales Fourchestra? Joshua Singleton, local and truly under-recognized singer/songwriter and harmonicist also realizes the value and pleasure of working with this 6’7” gentle giant.

Duane has some exciting performances coming up. Check out these venues:
most Thursdays (with me) at Tressa’s Blues Night, 28 Broadway, nine to midnight.
Wednesday June 1st (with me) at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino, 6pm.
Wednesday June 8th at Harrah’s Casino again, with Joshua Singleton and me, 6pm.
Friday June 10th and 17th at Vincenzo’s Ristorante, 10 Market Street, 7pm-11pm.
Saturday June 11th (with Peggy Ratusz and The Daddy LongLegs) for the Brews Blues & Cruise Festival at Pisgah Brewing Company, 150 Eastside Drive, Black Mountain, 6-645pm.

Saturday June 11th (later that same evening) with Jonathan Scales Fourchestra at Asheville Music Hall (formerly Stella Blue).
Friday July 15th at Hannah Flanagan’s Irish Pub, 28 Biltmore Avenue, 9:30pm.,,

All Day Joey K
Controversial, passionate, compassionate, master musician Joey K is hands down the most exciting drummer I’ve ever shared the stage with. He leads, he follows, he creates, he simmers, and he boils ‘n’ burns. How the singer sings the song and how the musicians play it, are in the hefty, instinctual, and capable hands of this 36-year-old Los Angeles transplant. Those of us lucky enough to partake in music alongside and in front of Joey and his array of kits (that thankfully don’t outnumber his snare drum collection—13 and counting), feel fortunate that he now loves, lives, and plays in Asheville.

His personal journey could have been much different if it hadn’t been for music. I think Joey would be the first to admit that its facility took him down for the count—then ended up lifting him back up and saving his life. He rehabbed from drugging and drinking four years ago; met the love of his life here in Asheville.

Though he could drop names, the only ones he does are his friends’. Once you get past the superlatives he barks at the audience, demanding tips from his stage throne, you’ll find an enormously humble and self-effacing king. Crowds either see through that tough exterior or they’re intimidated; the amount of money in the jar reflects that he’s moved ‘em one way or the other. They erupt in spontaneous applause for his heady and provocative solos. He takes it in stride, never one to gloat, but pretty much expects greatness of himself. He’s the first to squelch lament if one of us whines that our performance might have been less than stellar. I’ve not found a more forthcoming, respectful, and caring friend than my champion, Joey K.

Greasy Rob Geisler
Prolific and punctual in life and in music, a better electric bass player you will not find within thousands of miles. The level of technical ability, combined with his emotional investment, stimulates and elevates every tune and every player. The superior skill Rob Geisler brings to the bandstand and into the studio has created national buzz. A dedicated father of two, he is as reliable as rain in the Amazon, both musically and personally. Listening is his strong suit and even though he’s also got something to play, he does it with the perfect amount of complementary musicality and rhythm; waiting his turn, engrossed in the melodic conversation. He’s a musical bottom-feeder and his tone evokes what St. Michael the Archangel’s voice might sound like.
The role of bass player is lonely for some; but not for Robby Baby. He’s an integral band member who solos like a jazz singer scatting like a horn player. If you listen close enough, you’ll hear him doing just that; almost fallin’ off his stool from all the grease.

Rob plays with me on Thursdays at Tressa’s Blues Night, 28 Broadway from 9pm to midnight.

Rob and Joey K will be playing with Peggy Ratusz & Daddy LongLegs at Harrah’s Cherokee Casino on Wednesday June 15th from 6pm to 10pm.
Rob plays with old school R & B band, The Business Friday June 3rd, 10th and 17th at The Grove Park Inn Great Hall, 290 Macon Avenue starting at 8p.

Jonathan “JP’ Pearlman
Where do I begin to tell you about the astoundingly talented guitarist and one of my best buds, Jonathan Pearlman? I’ll start by conveying his versatility, then his outstanding and intuitive chops. He and I do intimate performances together (and it’s amusing to witness musicians young and old who stare at his fingers with their mouths a gape). He’s oblivious to the admiration. Give him a compliment and watch him squirm a little.

This dude was born gracious and kind-hearted. Jonathan can play any genre of music. He is truly tremendous. The colors and emotions he brings to jazz, blues, indie pop, rock, and his originals (penned and published under the name Alien Music Club) are infinite. His latest CD release show will be held at Mo Daddy’s, 77 Biltmore Ave on Friday, June 17th and will feature a variable who’s who list of Asheville’s finest musicians performing some of JP’s most stunning, funky, soulful, and intricate original material. The party starts at 10pm.

The rhythm section of my swing band, Peggy & the Swing Daddies consists of two guys who are great contradictions. Michael Hynes is a boisterous upright and electric bass player who provides technical sound engineering and leadership skills as well as comedic relief. Shy guy and top-shelf jazz drummer Justin Watt forms the other half. Opposites absolutely attract. This impressive rhythm section and I, along with Duane Simpson on guitar, will be playing at 11 on Grove for Swing Asheville on Tuesday May 31st and Tuesday July 18th, starting at 8:30pm and at Jack of the Wood, 90 Patton Avenue on Saturday, July 2nd at 9:30pm.

I sound like a broken record, but let me say at least 1000 more times that I’m honored to be able to dip into the cream of the Asheville crop. Testimony to this is my latest studio release Infused with the Blues which includes 24 different friends who play or sing in and out of 13 tracks. Take Jim Arrendell for instance: A brilliant arranger, a fantastic drummer, a thrilling and electric front man and vocalist for The Business, who has helped me and countless other artists grow their confidence. He’s a counselor, a networker, a gentleman and a scholar.

The fill-in musicians I call on, know who they are and are too numerous to mention for sure. An impressive and accomplished pianist, composer, and teacher, Patrick Boland was my first Asheville music partner and someone I’ve had the extreme pleasure to recently re-connect with on that basis after many years. The hardest working Mr. Mom and one of the best upright players in the Southeast, Zack Paige is a generous, big-hearted mentor who is sought after and performs with many fantastic local groups. Jake Wolf, solo acoustic and electric bassist extraordinaire, is another fine example of what this area has to offer in the way of incredible talent. I had my first real gig with the infamous upright bassist to the stars, Mike Holstein—and what an education it is playing with that guy! And let me just mention a few more if I may: Brilliant piano player and keyboardist Brian Turner, guitar god Mike Barnes, funky-as-all-get-out electric bassist Mike Rothacker, unbelievably versatile upright and electric bassist Shannon Hoover, drummers Ryan Lassiter, Phil Bronson, Leo Moore, Jeff Rudolph, and Chip Lundsford; guitarist Chris Morgan, pianist Aaron Price.

I haven’t forgotten you even if you’re not listed here.

While I sit and chit-chat with my girlfriends about how it’s a man’s world, but it wouldnít mean nothin’ without a woman or a girl, for me personally it wouldnít mean nothin’ without these guys; my friends, my brothers, my sons. Being able to share music with them brings me incredible joy and I love them all.

Peggy Ratusz is a songstress, writer, and vocal coach [ ]

Sandi Tomlin-Sutker
Written by Sandi Tomlin-Sutker