Cigar Store Smokes With Blues

John Henry may be a name-dropper. But he¡¯s earned the title.

¡°That¡¯s Harmonica Shah. By the way, he just called me,¡± Henry said, pointing to photos on the second floor of Third Street Cigar.

¡°Duke Dawson, famous drummer, Piano Fats, Smokin¡¯ Wilson, Phil Guy. That¡¯s A.C. Reed with me and Lazy Lester. Lazy Lester just died a couple weeks ago. That J. Geils back stage with me.¡±

Framed photos of Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Eric Clapton and other rock and blues greats cover the walls of his store.

¡°It¡¯s the soul of the music. It¡¯s fun. There¡¯s nothing fake about this. You can feel it in the music,¡± Henry said. ¡°It¡¯s that history we preserve. There¡¯s nothing that would make me more proud than to have a hundred years from now someone say, ¡®who¡¯s this guy?¡¯ and it was someone we worked with who did this stuff.¡±

Rock and blues legends have been making the Waterville cigar store into a modern upscale juke joint with both scheduled and impromptu shows since it opened nearly four years ago.

Henry¡¯s day job is as president and CEO of OBS Financial, a financial services asset management firm at Levis Commons in Perrysburg. But he would much rather talk about all the musicians he¡¯s booked for gigs, or studio time.

His passion is the musicians and the music they create.

¡°Because that¡¯s real. In the music business, just like the news, there¡¯s fake music. It¡¯s on the radio all the time. This is real,¡± Henry said.

The music is played on the second floor. In the center of the cigar shop, in front of the walk-in humidor, is a Victorian staircase that leads to Big Jack¡¯s Lounge. It¡¯s a reference to the same ¡°Jack¡± pointed out in a number of photos.

Big Jack Reynolds was a Toledo based bluesman that changed Henry¡¯s life. Henry produced one of the most sought after recordings of Reynold¡¯s music, ¡°Broke and Disgusted.¡± While Reynolds died in 1994, his harmonicas and guitar flank his urn at the top of those stairs.

The image is apt, the old bluesman with battered guitar in hand, a nearly smoked stogie hanging in the corner of his mouth. There are so many photos, most taken by the famed John Rockwood, the original of that iconic image is probably part of the collection.

The memorabilia doesn¡¯t end with photos. There are original concert posters and guitars, encased in glass, signed by the Rolling Stones and blues greats who wrote the songs the Stones made famous.

Big Jack¡¯s recording was the foundation of the first of four record labels Henry has been a part of: Highball, Blue Suit, the Black Swamp Blues Society and Third Street Cigar Records.

Today, Henry is working with blues chart toppers Johnny Rawls and Bobby G.

The Third Street Cigar Records label recently published a lost 1974 live recording of blues legend Luther Allison at Howard¡¯s Club H in Bowling Green. He¡¯s also been working with Harmonica Shah and Billy Davis, of Hank Ballard & the Midnighters.

Then there are the guys like his friend, Eddie Shaw, who recently died.

¡°I think we have the last live recording he ever did. So one of these days you might find an album. Van and I, his son, have already talked about it and it¡¯s been mixed.¡±

It¡¯s not just the old guys that Henry is bringing back. He¡¯s helping to foster new and unrecorded talent. Muddy Binkley, a University of Toledo student, opened the Blues, Brews and Brats festival last summer. The long time touring band, The Good, The Bad and The Blues have a new album that will be next to hit the racks.

Third Street Cigar Records can be found at http://thirdstreetcigarrecords.com/ and the recordings can be found in a big cigar box rack in the front corner of the store. Henry pointed to the rack and said, ¡°real live purchases are always welcome, or stop in an listen.¡±  Enditem

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