Blues is more than music to the members of the Steve E. George Band.
The Des Moines-based group, which includes Oskaloosa native Jared Boisen on guitar, headlined the Blues for Backpacks concert at George Daily Community Auditorium on Sunday afternoon. Bone Band and the acoustic duo Larry and Jared opened the show, which invited attendees to donate school supplies for Operation Backpack, sponsored by Mahaska County United Way and other area businesses. More than 100 school supply items were donated at Sunday's concert.
The current lineup of the Steve E. George Band came together approximately three years ago, according to George. As they sat backstage preparing to perform, members of the Steve E. George Band discussed their influences, the most important part of performing and the meaning of the Blues.
Although he serves as the confident frontman of the group these days, George admits that he was shy as a child. Much like many R&B and Blues singers, George did his first singing in church. In his case, George's church experience was that of a predominantly African-American congregation where a good deal of audience participation could be expected.
Tim Hammett, drummer for the Steve E. George Band, noted that as a musician from the south, the influence of African-American Gospel music on his playing is great.
Over the past several decades, George has had the opportunity to play with a number of musicians in venues all over the United States. He noted that the venue Center Street in Des Moines played a significant role in his life.
However, the location where he and the band play is not the most important factor to consider.
“It really doesn't matter where it is,” explained George, noting that having people that enjoy the music at a given venue is the most important thing. “It's all about feeling.”
Hammett too noted the importance of the feeling one gets from music.
“You talk about R&B, Soul and Blues — the primary thing is about the feeling of it,” said Hammett. “I cannot explain it, but you know when it's there.”
Fred Koogler plays bass in the Steve E. George Band. Koogler explained that he's been playing music since he was a teen and that he's played big band and Rock 'n Roll in the past. However, the Blues holds a special place for Koogler.
“But, for me, I always come back to this music because this is the music that's real,” said Koogler.
Hammett stressed that R&B, Blues and Soul music have served as a means for social integration in the U.S.
“It has, I believe, been an instrumental, vital part in social change,” said Hammett. “I truly believe that. And people should never minimize that fact.”
Hammett also noted that Blues music has influenced numerous forms of music, saying that they are tapped into the “taproot of Blues.”
Before his group hit the stage Sunday afternoon, George said he hoped that any of the young people who were in attendance would “broaden their horizons” and listen to R&B and Blues music in the future.