My passion for blues was rekindled four years ago, when my wife Susan bought me bass lessons for a Christmas present with North Vancouver musician Keith Bennett. We were at a local pub called the Raven listening to Keith and she secretly made arrangements with him for my lessons.
Initially, the idea of taking up music after quitting in Junior high was very daunting. But, Keith who performs and teaches worldwide made me feel very comfortable. His first question was: What do you do? He said this is the first question musicians are asked when they show up to play. In the first lesson, he showed me the 12 bar blues.
For homework I decided which blues songs I would learn. I was always blown away with how Keith organized the lessons. First, he would listen to the CD I brought in and play the song on piano. Next, he played the song on the guitar and figured out the bass line. Once I was able to play the song on bass, he would play along on the guitar. I found the whole process extremely amazing and fun. This video features Keith playing guitar and harmonica at the Yale, which was Vancouver’s premier blues club.
When I finished six lessons, I never went back for more. The reason for this is I was playing by ear. And, Keith would tell me after each lesson, “you already know what you are doing, you can figure out the rest” So, that is what I decided to do. Since then I have started to play the harmonica and sing.
Keith was a finalist in the 2010 World Harmonica Championships in Germany and has been featured with the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra. But, he is also an accomplished guitarist, pianist and singer. He has played on more than 200 CDs & soundtracks for film and television. The following video demonstrates his mastery of the harmonica at the international level.
The Keith Bennett Band performed regularly at the Yale Hotel in Vancouver for many years. The hotel was one of Canada’s premier blues clubs, which had live music seven nights a week and hosted an astonishing array of world class musicians for three decades.
When rumours began to emerge in 2008 that this prominent musical attraction was going to close, Keith decided to produce an audio snapshot of his time there with a CD titled “Jumpin’ at the Yale.” The song is considered to be a solid example of the talent that Canada has to offer when it comes to Soulful Blues.
The Yale Hotel closed for renovations in November 2012 and was put up for sale. When it reopened the venue had a different format. The Yale was billed as “Vancouver’s home of rhythm and blues.” Over the years, a who’s who of local and international blues musicians played there, including John Lee Hooker, Clarence (Gatemouth) Brown, Charlie Musselwhite, Otis Rush, Lowell Fulson, Pinetop Perkins, Johnny Winter, John Hammond, James Cotton, Charles Brown, Jeff Healey, Colin James, and Jim Byrnes.
The following video documents the closing night at the Yale. It includes interviews with local musicians who played there, including Keith Bennett. It also tells the history of the hotel.
The 270-seat bar is on the main floor of an historic building that was built in 1888, when the City of Vancouver was just two years old. The Yale’s red brick façade, mansard roof and neon signs make it one of Vancouver’s most distinctive buildings. The Fan Club a few blocks down Granville street is one of the venues that now hosts Vancouver’s blues scene.