How can I describe the Blues Garage in Isernhagen? Maybe it would be better to describe the man himself, since everything else flows from him. Henry is 58 years old, with a muscular build, a strong chin, bright blue eyes and shoulder-length blond hair. He grew up in East Germany, where the Russians renamed his native town Karl Marx Stadt. In 1974 he went to prison “for speaking my mind.” In 1980 he escaped to the West, and his wife Ramona followed in 1982.
The way it looks, American rock and blues music is to Henry a symbol of freedom. He has made his club a shrine to it.
When we first pulled up to our lodging, the Motel California, and saw a portrait of Jimi Hendrix flanked by two electric guitars on the wall, we knew we had arrived someplace. Parked on the street and in the yard were two Lincoln limousines, a few Winnebagos, a Smart car, and a red American fire engine.
Henry greeted us and showed us to our rooms. “This is not yours yet. Darren, this is yours. Franher, this is yours. Okay, Tom this is yours.”
In my room, under a portrait of John Lee Hooker, was a double-manual Wurlitzer organ. Within five minutes I had it on and was jamming with the latin rhythm box. This might be my favorite hotel room ever!
Isernhagen is just outside Hannover, on the edge of the countryside. After we’d settled in we took a walk along a path through the fields and woods. Flying over France and Germany on Thursday we had noticed a lot of bright yellow fields scattered across the landscape. Now were were walking among them. When I asked Henry about them, he told me they were a biodiesel fuel called something that sounded like “raps.” Henry’s son told us you can also use them to make beer or eat them in a salad.
When we walked into the Blues Garage for sound check, one of the first things I saw was a poster with photo of my former bandmate Keith Christopher, along with some other old friends, Dan Baird, Mauro Magellan and Warner Hodges, who are playing the club later this month as Dan Baird and Friends. Mark asked Henry, “What’s the craziest band that ever played here?” He said, “That Dan Baird band is pretty crazy.”
The sound quality on stage for our show was excellent. (In fact, all of the German venues we’ve worked so far on this tour have had first-rate sound systems.) The crowd was a lot of fun to play to. After the show we hung out a while and had a couple beers and some really good bratwurst from the stand outside. Here’s a video from the show (thanks, Ulrich!):
Back at the Motel California, Franher and Mark stopped by my room for a late night Wurlitzer jam.
Henry graciously offered to put us up another night, and having a few days off we took him up on it. Sunday we slept in till noon, then enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and took another long walk in the country. We heard a cuckoo just like in a clock – probably not a big deal in Germany but a novelty to Americans. That night Henry, his wife, son and daughter, along with her boyfriend, took us out to an excellent Italian ristorante. The whole family lives upstairs at the Motel California and works at the Blues Garage.
Back at the ranch, after our hosts had gone upstairs, the four of us sat around the kitchen table, sipping weissbiers from a case Henry had brought over from the club and listening to his Creedence CDs. Henry had offered to let us stay another night. He said, “I don’t have another band in until Wednesday.” We didn’t have another gig until Wednesday ourselves, but we didn’t want to wear out our welcome. Some time after midnight we decided that it would be a mistake to lose momentum. We resolved to pack in the morning and head for Amsterdam.