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January 16, 1999 - Dan Electro's Guitar Bar
by Patrick Ferris - HotBands Editor

Coming back to Houston, I was already familiar with the blues circuit, and getting out "incognito" to jam with some of the other players in the area has been pretty tough due to work schedule.  I did make time on thursday the 14th to go out and hear as well as play some blues at Dan Electro's, which is a local hot scene for the blues players in the Houston area. 
There is a live blues jam every thursday hosted by Teri Greene, and you'll see some of the best that Houston has to offer wander in to play with members from other bands. Owner Boison Zoomack has had the doors to Dan Electro's open for over 10 years, and has had a live blues jam happening since day one.  "The music is eclectic", says Zoomack,  "..ranging from blues to rock, but no heavy metal or rap.  I guess we get such a draw because we have the best sound system in the City of Houston."
That night, I had the opportunity to hear a couple of tunes belted out by blues singer Diunna Greenleaf, which had me begging for more...the more coming only two days later at the same club. 

Diunna Greenleaf and her band Blue Mercy opened, hosted, and closed the evening of blues featuring singers: Pearl Murray & the Jewels, Lady Love, Mary Thomas "Texas Queen of Zydeco" and Sandy Hickey as well as some local blues heros like Mike Reed on Sax, Skiles Kelley on guitar, Ed Williams on guitar and Jimmy Danda on keyboards.  Each did their thing with the guest singers fronting, and eventually band members switching around until it was a free-form blues jam.  I did get to interview a Diunna, and Pearl, and the interviews follow:

Diunna Greenleaf

HotBands - "Tell us about your experience in the blues scene.  How long have you been active in the scene in Houston?"

Diunna - "I was born and raised in Houston, and I grew up singing, although I never pursued music professionally until a few years ago"

HotBands - "I noticed on the Houston Blues Review newsletter that you are on the board of directors for them.  What prompted you to become so active in the blues scene?"

Diunna - "I love the blues. I was afraid of doing it as a profession, so I got my undergraduate degree at Prarie View A&M, and went on to get my Master's degree in Education and Counseling.  I currently am a school counselor and one of the things I do is go to the different schools teaching about the blues and black heritage.  I guess it was the children that prompted me more than anything"

HotBands - "Has your band been together long? Do you have plans for any CD releases?"

Diunna - "In this incarnation, only since January 1st.  I currently have enough of my own material for more than three CD's, and am planning on having the first one released..... let's just say when I get around to it...maybe this year."

HotBands - "Diunna, you sing with a lot of emotion.  I noticed in your last set that you were crying during one of the songs to the point that you nearly couldn't sing.  Is that a normal thing with you?"

Diunna - "I sing from the heart.   Each song has a different meaning for me, and depending upon the mood, MY mood, and which song, I can go from laughing to weeping and back in any given set."

HotBands - "You seem well on your way.  I can't say that I've seen many more dynamic and powerful singers.  Do you have any regrets musically in your career thus far?"

Diunna - "The only regret that I have is that I never pursued singing professionally until my grandmother and both my parents had passed away.  I still have a recording of me that I recently had made into a CD of my grandmother singing to me...she was 105 years old at the time, and has been one of my inspirations for the blues"

And that inspiration seems to have taken her to a blossoming music career.  With every bit the stage presence, attitude, moves and VOICE, the first thing I thought of as her voice boomed across the microphone, was Aretha Franklin, and her two-song jam last thursday is what brought me back to see her again.  
Best of Luck in your music endeavors Diunna!  We will be watching for your upcoming CD and look forward to a follow up interview.

Pearl Murray

HotBands - "Where did you get your start?  Have you been in the Houston music scene long".

Pearl - "I've been singing for years and years.  I guess that I kind of modeled myself after Bessie Smith, and got my roots in New York on the East side of Manhattan.  My husband and I owned a club for many years there called "Pearl's Cotton Club", and although it wasn't THE Cotton Club, we had a great group of people, and I hosted the entertainment nightly."

HotBands - "So you moved to Houston from New York?  When did you get here, and what are your plans with the blues and music in this area?"

Pearl - "We moved here around the end of 1990, and opened another club here...also called The Cotton Club, but retired out of the club owning business, and these days I'm perfectly content with singing the blues with my current band.  We've been together in this form for about a year, but I've been playing with some of the members like Skiles Kelly (guitarist) off and on for over 12 years"

HotBands - "If one were to look for you in the Houston music scene, where would be the best places to find you?"

Pearl - "We play all over, but mostly here at Dan Electro's, Shakespears, Mathiasis and we also do a lot of private parties"

Unfortunately, our interview got cut short because she had to take the stage, but I think that any party that had Pearl Murray and the Jewels would be getting their money's worth if dancable music and great blues is what you were looking for.  Great show, and we look forward to seeing you again soon!