Interviews and text by Nancy Miller
Tate and the 008 Band
Anand Verma, owner of the Liquid Lyrics Lounge (LLL) hosted "out of this world" music on a stage that symbolized the moon beneath a back drop of the solar system. Anand, a Madison native, was a strong supporter of local live music seven nights a week with the longest running blues jam of 9 1/2 years at LLL (continued from the former Dudley's). This cozy, eclectic bar on South Park Street, with the smooth ambience of an urban night club, each Tuesday night hosted one of the best blues bands around: Tate and His Million Dollar Blues Band (in Tate's words: "the best sound pound for pound.") Tate's band includes mainstay players that are the driving force behind this outstanding blues band's long‑term existence in Madison, as well as guest artists that join the band from time to time.
I love to dance. That love has made me a "groupie" for Tate's band because the tunes he croons are so very danceable. Over the course of several Tuesdays at the former LLL, in between gyrating and sweating to the grooves, I was able to learn more about the million dollar players that make up Tate's band.
- Madtown Lounge
Hear their music!
- Why I Sing the Blues
- I'll Play the Blues For You
- Cold Cold Feelin'
The Million Dollar Band members:
James Earl Tate:
- James Earl Tate - Vocals
- Don Rembert - Guitar/Vocals
- Robert Corbit, Jr. - Drums
- Tommy Strader - Drums
- Ronny G. - Bass Guitar
- Michael BB - Keyboards
- James Eisele - Guitar/Vocals
- Brennan Connors ("BJ") - Sax
- Billy McDuffee - Drums
James Earl Tate, who is known simply as "Tate," has graced the Madison blues scene since the mid 1960's. Traveling to Madison by way of Mississippi where he was the youngest of a family of nine, Tate has a rich history in music. Tate, as Luther Allison's soundman, traveled the world with this great musician and was exposed to many blues legends while forming a close friendship with Luther. Tate's friendship now extends to Luther's son, Bernard. Known in Madison also for his decade of Tuesday night jams at O'Cayz Corral (the club is now closed due to a devastating fire), Tate has encouraged and supported many budding and outstanding blues musicians. You can now hear Tate at many Madison events and clubs and will leave a better person for doing so. Tate continues to support the Madison blues scene and has served as president of the Madison Blues Society.Don Rembert:
Tate refers to Don as the "band leader" and as being a "multi‑talented" musician. Don also formerly hosted a Sunday night blues jam at the Anchor Inn back in 1993 and co‑hosted a more recent jam there back in 2003. He is truly a man of many musical talents. Don learned many instruments and much of it was self-taught after reaching the age of consent. You will find Don playing keyboards, guitar, harmonica and maybe even a bass or saxophone. His rich and tasteful guitar tones complement the soft, sweet-talking style of Tate's vocals. Don has sat in with Luther Allison, Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks and Kenny Neal. You can find this Madison talent playing his guitar and or harmonica with other musicians at a variety of venues. His styles range from blues, jazz/fusion, and reggae.Robert Corbit, Jr. - Drummer
Robert Corbit, Jr. has 35 years in Madison. His dad (Robert, Sr.), the well‑known two‑saxes‑at‑a‑time player, said that Robert Jr. was drumming "out of the womb" displaying talent at the infant stage while banging on his crib. Robert Jr. played his first set of bongos at age eight and jumped on the stage with his dad's (Robert Sr.) band shortly after that. Robert Jr. also sits in on jams, played with blues great Paul Filipowicz, and was part of an original rock and roll garage rock band. When not drumming, Robert Jr. works on weatherization for Project Homes. Robert Jr. claims a very important personal accomplishment of quitting drinking.Tommy Strader - Drummer
Currently, Tommy alternates with Robert Corbit as drummer for Tate's Million Dollar Blues Band. Tommy is a scientist and returning University student but that doesn't stop him from adding his talents to the band. Tommy can be seen around town, when he is not drumming or studying, being a great father to his young daughter and hanging-out with international friends. Always a smile on stage and between sets, you may be lucky to get a dance with Tommy as he appreciates a good beat as well.Ronny G. - Bass
The quiet Ronny G. is introduced by Tate as not the quiet, shy type that he appears to be, often referring to Ronny G. as the "warrior." Ronny met Tate while both were living above the Nitty Gritty in the late 1960's which was THE place for the blues in Madison. Ronny's blues playing extends to gigs with Paul Filopowicz, the Woody's, and Thursday night jams at Dudley's (now Liquid Lyrics Lounge). Ronny states that Madison has "no end of talented musicians" and clearly he is one of them. Ronny played with Tate at O'Cayz Corral since January 1986 and claims to have been to even more blues jams than Tate with 18 years of weekly gigs under his belt. Ronny's other interests include building computers and motorcycles. When you see him, don't let that shy smile fool you.Michael BB - Keyboards
Although Michael is usually sitting down at the keys, he may leave his spot for a minute or so to dance and gesture along with his impressive playing as the Million Dollar Band keyboardist. What you will notice immediately when he rises is his height! Michael is ever enthusiastic and just as great a guy as a musician. When asked what he loved best about being a musician he replied "I don't have to work for anyone else anymore." It is clear that Michael's keyboarding skills, which looks like work to those of us who can only crank out a chorus of Chopsticks, is an act of love and fun for him. Michael has been with the Million Dollar Band for a while now but you can also see him play with other musicians at some other local hot-spots, like Hemingway's in Fitchburg and the Concourse Bar in Madison.James Eisele - Guitar/Vocals
James Eisele, a native Madisonian Pisces with German and Hungarian origins, got his first guitar at age 13. James's family didn't have much money so when the time came for his brother's first set of wheels, he traded Jim's guitar for a car. Luckily for us, James managed to pick a guitar up again and develop a prolific musical career. James has been writing blues, R & B, and pop songs since he was very young. He also once worked with John Davis, another Madison blues great, at Capital City Distributors in the comic book industry doing technical writing, composing catalog reviews, and sales. James has played with many musicians including Tom Flynn and the KG Band. James sings one of the most beautiful renditions of one of my favorite songs, "This Masquerade" that I have ever heard.Brennan Connors ("BJ") - Sax
Everybody refers to Brennan as "BJ" so I will here as well. BJ is the youngest member of the band with a talent worthy of many years of playing. BJ plays tenor sax for Tate and The Million Dollar Band but is also skilled in the soprano sax and plays a little flute. BJ came to Madison after spending some time in college in Bloomington, Indiana. He met Tate at jams at O'Cayz Corral like many of the other musicians in the band. BJ has been playing with Tate for about five years and was also with the popular band Know Boundaries for a time. BJ's plans include taking his musical talents to the world going to Europe. We look forward to return visits from this young and highly talented musician.Billy McDuffee - Drums
Billy is an exceptional drummer that has graced Madison music for a long time. Billy has known and played with Tate since the days of O'Cayz like many of the other band members. We promise that you will greatly enjoy his skills and contributions to the Million Dollar Band.
Check out Tate and His Million Dollar Blues Band soon and you will be treated to a fabulous night of real blues, dancing, and phenomenal talent.