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The More Things Change ...

New owners will keep JJ's Blues exactly the same

THE GRAVEYARD of South Bay music venues is a noble place, filled with names such as One Step Beyond, the Laundry Works and Club Jazz. Though it's been on the sale block for months, JJ's Blues in San Jose will not make the short list, even with the retirement this month of co-founder June Stanley.

Started in 1983 by June and her brother, Max, JJ's Blues on Stevens Creek Boulevard has been a blues institution that has presented nationally touring artists while nurturing a fertile local scene. There was a second JJ's location in Mountain View from the late-'80s to the mid-'90s and a third in downtown San Jose during the mid-to-late-'90s. For the past couple months, June and Max have been searching for new owners. "At one point, my brother and I were running three blues clubs at the same time plus doing the blues festival at Guadalupe Park for nine years," says June Stanley. "We dedicated 24 hours a day to keep the clubs going, and I sometimes don't know how we did it!"

In addition to feeling fortunate to have both presented and nurtured great musicians, Stanley also feels that she was blessed doubly when it came time to make the ownership transaction. The club's landlords, Stevens Creek Surplus, wanted to keep the spot a blues club. And one of her customers, Johnnie Perkins, is taking over ownership.

"The only plan I have is to keep everything the same—the venue, staff and operations," says Perkins, who will run the club with his wife, Gloria. "It's more a preservation of June's legacy than an implementation of my own."

Currently finishing up his master's in IT, Perkins himself will be in transition as he and Gloria take over JJ's. "I'll look for a white-collar job once I finish that, and then JJ's will be my 'blues-collar' job," he quips.

June and Max Stanley will hand over the keys this weekend with shows on Friday and Saturday (Sept. 17-18). They will then host a free barbecue on Sunday to welcome the Perkinses, who will be on hand to greet their new customers.

"I'm excited because I'll have free time to do something before I officially hit the age of retirement, as I'm 62 now," says June.

Geoff Wong


While other San Jose clubs advertised "official after-parties" for Prince's two sold-out concerts last weekend at HP Pavilion, the tour bus parked outside of Pete Escovedo's Latin & Jazz Club was all the advertising they needed. Prince was indeed in the house last Saturday night. Astute fans already know of the Prince/Sheila E. connection and sleuthing paid off as the line curved around the downtown venue.

Club manager Zena Escovedo said they were notified on Friday that Prince might show up. Prince's people scoped out the club on Friday afternoon. He was a no-show at the club on Friday night but at 11:30pm on Saturday, Zena got the call. Fortunately, they planned ahead. They hired extra security and Prince's people arranged the lighting, fabrics and the candles. At 11:45, the tour bus pulled up and Prince made his way up to the club's VIP section. He unwound from the last Musicology tour date with his band mates, employees and friends Nikka Costa, Larry Graham and others. He also made himself available to fans—coming down to shake hands and mingle for a minute before disappearing back upstairs until the club's close at 2am.

At this point, the club kicked the public out and turned the keys over to Prince. Being the last night of the tour, Prince set up a catered spread, brought in pool tables and set up a giant screen on the main floor where a burned DVD of the evening's concert was broadcast. The party went on, as the cliché goes, until the break of dawn.

"I put pajamas on and we partied until 5 in the morning," Zena says. "We watched his concert. Everyone ended up eating, playing pool."

The only snag is that Prince didn't perform. Prince's after-shows have become legendary for their special guests, setlists and long hours of jamming. Last minute, Pete Escovedo put in a call to the city about getting a late-night permit to allow Prince to perform after hours at the club. Pete says that city officials responded that it could "take a couple of months" of paperwork to greenlight such a permit. Faced with a looming Purple Invasion, the club scrubbed the idea and went ahead with just a party, no performance. If the city approved the permit, Pete says, Prince would have played.

"I've heard that a lot of the merchants are trying to lift that [late-night] ban so they can have different things after hours," says Pete. "That would be nice to have: breakfast shows, after-hours parties. That would be a plus for the city. If name people like Prince and Gloria Estefan know it's available, then their people can plan for it. We can invite the mayor and political people and they could see how nice it is."

Zena added that Prince was an ideal host, telling poppa Pete, "We're gonna have to do this again." Sure, Prince, maybe in a couple years when San Jose government wants cool things.

Todd Inoue

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From the September 15-21, 2004 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

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