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Originally published Tuesday, December 19, 2006 at 12:00 AM

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Lance Dickie / Seattle Times editorial columnist

Keeping the blues alive in our corner of the world

Marlee Walker is a blues media diva with a microphone, newspaper, Web site and a cable-TV show. Her Blues To Do enterprises are celebrating...

Marlee Walker is a blues media diva with a microphone, newspaper, Web site and a cable-TV show. Her Blues To Do enterprises are celebrating a 15th anniversary as indispensable sources of blues information around the Pacific Northwest.

Walker's skills and experience revealed themselves on a recent Friday night at the studios of Seattle Community Access Network TV, a couple of blocks off North Aurora. She was not feeling well, the studio was cold as a cheating heart, and the evening's one-hour live show was built around two guests. Who were late. Her volunteer production crew was busy turning empty space into a friendly set, preparing digital magic and making anxious calls.

Walker is a pro, a veteran of Seattle commercial and public radio, and it showed on a night with two ominously empty chairs. Seconds before the 7 p.m. broadcast, she slipped a coat off her shoulders, pulled on an outfit-matching beret, looked into the camera and started to talk about the blues. Betraying none of her own.

Fifteen minutes in, a call. The guests were not coming. A big scheduling oops. Cellphoned apologies from the artists. And the rest of a show to improvise.

In case you missed it


Lance Dickie's column is reprinted from Friday's paper, which had a very limited press run due to the windstorm and power outage.

Viewers enjoyed another fine program because her weekly 60 minutes of blues TV is grounded in Walker's deep knowledge of the music and performers. Stretch a music video here, graciously tout those performers missing in action, delve into the calendar of blues events, and nibble more samples of music and digital art. The hour sailed by.

Walker's entrepreneurial cornerstone is a detailed calendar, a compendium of shows and featured appearances at clubs, bars, taverns and festivals. Her Blues To Do Monthly newspaper is the place to find out who is coming to town, where the CD-release parties are, who is playing benefit performances and who needs to hire a bass player, or is offering lessons. The tabloid has reviews and other blues-focused news and commentary (see the online version at www.bluestodo.com). The TV show is at 7 p.m. Fridays on SCAN channel 29/77 in King County; and on channel 76 in Pierce County at3 p.m. on Mondays and 4 p.m. Thursdays.

A 15th-anniversary party is planned for 5 p.m., Jan. 14 at The New Orleans Creole Restaurant in Seattle's Pioneer Square. The featured band is an ensemble, The Sea-Town R&B Players.

Walker won the prestigious Keeping the Blues Alive award for commercial radio in 2000 from the Blues Foundation of Memphis, Tenn. KBA recognition has returned to the Pacific Northwest. Jef Jaisun of Seattle will be honored next month for more than 30 years of blues photography. His work has been in magazines, on CD covers, collected by libraries and included in award-winning books. An iconic, prayerful shot of singer Taj Mahal was the cover for the 30th anniversary of Living Blues magazine. His photograph of Charmaine Neville is on the front of the current Blues To Do Monthly.

Jaisun joins Walker and Peter Dammann, talent coordinator of Portland's Waterfront Blues Festival, as honorees from the rainy corner of America. Dammann was celebrated in 2001 as blues promoter of the year.

Mention Walker's blues periodical to Patrick MacDonald, The Seattle Times' pop-music critic, and he expresses amazement at the amount of information packed into each edition, and admiration for the fine writing in the reviews, instantly citing a piece by Bill Engelhart of Little Bill and the Blue Notes. No small praise coming from MacDonald, a gifted and passionate chronicler of musical tastes for more than three decades.

If you asked how I would make 2007 a little bit brighter, one of the answers would be to put Marlee Walker back behind a radio microphone hosting a blues show again.

She is always working to keep the blues alive, but it would be fun to have her talents back in regular proximity of blues fans for their enjoyment and continuing education.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is ldickie@seattletimes.com

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