Doc MacLean's 2023-4 National Steel "JoJo Man" Blues Tour

Sunday, February 18, 2024

Spirit of the Blues: in which my earnings are small, but my rewards are great

 Vanwyksdorp, Western Cape, South Africa. One of those pass-the-torch kind of moments. This young man arrived early enough to catch my set up and sound check- and was full of questions. "How do you tune that thing?" His parents let him stay for the whole show, and he was clearly captivated by the storytelling of the blues. Next year he'll bring his own guitar along for a free lesson.

I'm in the same age bracket as my musical heroes were when I first met them, so it means a lot to me to be passing the blues along in the same fashion. I remember when I'd arrive early to help carry Brownie McGhee's gear in, when I'd hang around outside of Willie Dixon's hotel, waiting for him to come down for breakfast, when I'd call Son House up from a payphone and invite myself over... and I wasn't alone in my pursuit of the blues. But those are other stories.

I've come a long way in over 50 years of shows. Now there are often a few older guys watching my hands as I play- but having a young lad ask "how do you tune that thing?" reminds me of how wonderful my journey has been, and how gentle and honest and kind were its beginnings.

Two more shows to wrap the South African tour, but I'll be back soon enough.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Desert Dogs: Dust, Diesel, December Dreams

And now, I am also among the dogs that run in this dust: that bark into microphones and scratch out happy memories in the little juke joints up and down the blacktop. My Karoo. My soundcheck. And the sound of the big bikes rolling in. Let's run a bar tab: as long as my arm: I've got long arms, sister. How fast can you run? And maybe my memory's not as good as it used to be. But I'm back. Like I've never been gone. That's the Blues Highway: maps and companionship: sparse rooms and solitude: the emptiness of the desert: the fullness of the night. How fast can I go out here? Is it too hot? Will my tyres explode and hurl this old Merc to a fate of dust and glass and fire and crumpled steel? Maybe that's already happened: already happened and this is Hell on the flipside. Not bad. Some final payout for all the years of sin and depravity. There's never been enough of that to go around. A blues pension. This desert of mine. I roll back every year, and the only things that change are the price of diesel, the colour of my hair, the lines on my face, the patina on the old National. The wind is still the same, the frets are new, but the third string buzzes now, sometimes.

It's still November, but I'm dreaming of December. It is my December. My December: in the shade: watching the sun rise over the desert: me: and Big Joe: and Kokomo. Waiting to hear Son House on the radio: waiting for the kitchen to open: and then: breakfast: and then: I'll point the old Merc down Hwy 62. My Karoo.

Thursday, October 19, 2023

Me and Bothners... musical legacy in South Africa

We're back!! Or will be very, very soon. I'm very happy to announce that my partnership in South Africa with Paul Bothner Music continues now into a sixth year. That went by in a hurry! Here I am in Cape Town with Bothners promo honcho Wayne Shelver and one of the company's infamous stage banners. It's always a good feeling when all the gear is loaded into the Merc and I'm heading out to the first show of a tour.

As an independent touring artist, sound on the ground is always a great concern to me. On a typical tour I'll be rolling overland across South Africa: perhaps 60 or 80 shows in all manner of venues. I haul a couple of guitars and a PA system across mountains and deserts into all manner of dorpies and cities and into the little places in between them. I'm not a high-tech kind of guy. It's pretty old school. Heck, I live the dream: I only wish I'd also dreamed of a couple of roadies and a light show... At some point in my day I'm probably lugging a PA up onto a stage, plugging in, dialling up, and delivering a show. It's all gotta work -and work well- every day.

I've mentioned in the past how Bothners is a family business that has been around for over 50 years. As the largest music retailer in South Africa they have a network of outlets across the country that I can count on for all of my basic touring needs. It's like Canada's Long & McQuade, only it's in Africa. I enjoy visiting their well stocked stores- staffed by people who seem to love their jobs. These are the kinds of places where a high school kid can buy his first instrument, and never look back. Catch a dream. Make it happen. I told him to buy the SM58, can't go wrong with that, son.

Monday, October 9, 2023

Record Release Announcement: "Son House Died at Detroit"

Well, here's the new e-single, "Son House Died at Detroit." Released on September 18, 2024.

Contemporary, resonator driven blues with a band. From the delta to the American rust belt cities, to Africa, and back again. I knew bluesman Son House when I was a teenager, and I've often thought of him in my travels across Africa. Indeed, he was on my mind the night this was recorded in a small, desert studio in Namibia. Subsequent parts were recorded in Canada, where the track was also edited and mixed. Mastering was done in Nashville.

You can hear this on any of the streaming services, but I'm sending you to Bandcamp, where you can also choose to support the artist and the recording. I like it when people do that!

Meanwhile, I'm in Canada. It is starting to get cooler. I've got one more show to play in Ontario and then I'm back to springtime in South Africa. Shows across the Western Cape in November, then on into Eastern Cape and Free State for December...

Monday, May 22, 2023


Sold out show in Cork, Ireland, with my new pals, White Horse Guitar Club. This is a gorgeous venue, one of Ireland's finest. The Tour has been gaining momentum from show to show here: word of mouth is still the most important promotion you can have. And: that's what it's all about anyway: the songs and stories. The music itself: whispered from ear to ear. That social media is less important in this place should not be surprising– the Irish can fit a whole lot of words into a sentence when they talk. Or when they write. I wandered about Dublin thinking about James Joyce: The Dubliners. Portrait of an Artist as a Young Man, Ulysses... Joyce installed Dublin into my mind half a century ago, and I was amazed at how many of his words have stayed with me. Another couple of weeks of the Irish leg ahead and I'm already planning for next year's return.

Monday, May 1, 2023

Ireland! The Spirit of the Blues

 It seems like it rains a lot here. It is wet. And green. And colder than I've hoped. But things are warming up. In my first week on the ground I've been on a coal smuggling expedition, a booze run to the north, I've been out busking in Sligo a couple of times, I've discovered Swagman's Pub, I've been playlisted on a couple more Irish/UK stations, picked up a few more shows, and I've visited The Giant's Tomb.

Musicians and presenters have been very friendly and helpful. The bar is set high here: it's a place where everybody plays: and those who play well play really, really well. I'm looking forward to seeing what my shows are going to be. The first dates are in the north of the Island, and start by week's end.

Thursday, April 6, 2023


 Probably more shows across this territory than any other blues artist. It's quite a ride out here. Quite a ride. After a dozen shows I'll fly out to Ireland by the end of April. I'll miss the heat and the sand and the friendly souls I've met in Namibia. But I'll be back. More on this later.