HOUSE OF BLUES NOTE
Booker Teo Leyasmeyer dismissed
BY TED DROZDOWSKI
The Cambridge location of the House of Blues club chain has fired its award-winning booking agent, Teo Leyasmeyer. Word of Leyasmeyer’s dismissal began to circulate during the week of February 10 after callers to his telephone line at the club heard his taped message announcing that he no longer works at the venue.
The move was a surprise to many on the Boston and national music scenes, because Leyasmeyer, who was unavailable for comment, is a highly regarded figure in the nation’s blues community and is credited with making the Cambridge House of Blues one of the premier touring stops for top blues artists. Other clubs in the chain, while featuring blues, tend to favor rock and other pop-music formats.
For 10 years, Leyasmeyer was responsible for bringing the House of Blues a number of historic performers — including Otis Rush, Dr. John, the Blind Boys of Alabama, Ike Turner, and Solomon Burke — who would typically not play a small (225-capacity) club. He also introduced the raw Mississippi-blues sound of the Fat Possum label to the Boston market, booking the first area performances of both Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside. After all, Leyasmeyer was a touring pianist with such well-known bluesmen as Buddy Guy and Freddie King before he entered the talent-buying business.
In 1997, the Blues Foundation, a nonprofit organization made up primarily of professionals from all aspects of the genre, acknowledged Leyasmeyer’s accomplishments with one of its Keeping the Blues Alive awards: Promoter of the Year. In 2000, the Blues Foundation drafted Leyasmeyer for its advisory board, where he sits alongside such blues-world dignitaries as the record producer Jerry Wexler and the performer Bonnie Raitt.
Since Kevin Morrow, senior vice-president of entertainment for the House of Blues chain, did not respond to phone and e-mail queries directed to his LA office, it’s impossible to tell how Leyasmeyer’s dismissal will affect the future of blues at the Cambridge club, which was the first House of Blues to open, in November 1992. The history of bookings at other House of Blues venues, the corporation’s Internet presence, and its overall marketing focus invite speculation that Leyasmeyer’s firing is a prelude to a shift toward more rock and pop in the Harvard Square room. Jacquie Tedesco, general manager of the Cambridge location, said, " We’ll still be booking blues, but may be more eclectic. " However, new booking agent Max MacAndrew says he is not operating under a mandate to change the club’s music format, " but just looking to bring in the best live music available to the New England market. " MacAndrew assumed his new post on February 17. Previously he worked for the New York City–based Latin-music promoter Ocesa Presents.
Issue Date: February 27 - March 6, 2003
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