Cuby and the Blizzards
The Netherlands
Music group
1965: The Rocking Strings become Cuby & The Blizzards. ‘Cuby’ after the neighbour’s dog, and ‘Blizzards’ is randomly picked out of an English dictionary. It is the start of a legend. Muskee and Gelling take the musical lead and introduce Holland to the blues: music with emotion.

Singer Harry (“Cuby") Muskee and leadguitarist Eelco Gelling, both working (as a reporter and a photographer) with a local newspaper in Assen, a town in the Northern part of Holland and the other members Dick Beekman (drums),Willy Middel (bas), Hans Kinds (beatquitar) of the band were forced to turn professional after one year as three of the boys were fired, because of their long hair.
As the five excellent musicians refused to do any commercial types of music, they struggled almost three years for recognition. Their music is highly influenced by the Chicago blues. Most of their tunes have been composed by Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling, though the group also recorded songs by a.o. John Lee Hooker, Elmore James, Eddie Boyd and Lightnin' Hopkins.

One afternoon, Cuby & The Blizzards record ‘Stumble and Fall’ and ‘I’m So Restless’ (CNR), live and without any overdubs. The songs do very little, but locally Muskee becomes a hero. The band’s hard core of fans paints the band name on walls everywhere, following the band across the northern provinces on motors and bikes.

The first international performance of Cuby & The Blizzards is in 1965. They perform at a local dancing in Marderno, near the Garda lake in Italy, mainly for German and Dutch tourists. Italian band Gli Uragani covers the Cuby & The Blizzards song ‘Your Body is not Your Soul’. Their version, ‘Vuoi arrivare su’, reaches the number 6 position in the Italian charts.

The following single is ‘LSD’ (Got a Million Dollar), a song by Manfred Mann’s Tom McGuiness. NCRV radio boycots the song. The B-side is ‘Your Body not Your Soul’, one of Harry Muskee’s first songs. The single ‘Back Home/Sweet Mary’ enters the Dutch Top 40. Drummer Dick Beekman joins the Ro-d-ys from Winschoten and is replaced by seventeen-year-old Hans Waterman (The Rene Five).

Cuby & The Blizzards record their first album Desolation. The title comes from the book ‘Desolation Angels’ by Jack Kerouac, one of the leaders of the beat generation, who is very influential on the artistic Dutch youth as well. It is the first Dutch blues album and draws the attention of Willem de Ridder, editor-in-chief of Hitweek.

Harry’s farm in Grolloo becomes a place of pilgrimage. Ton Sybrands, Simon Vinkenoog, Boudewijn de Groot, Johnny the Selfkicker, John Mayall, Eddie Boyd, and Alexis Korner all sleep at Harry’s farm. A ‘road to fame’ in Grolloo reminds us of the many, often eccentric, visitors. Single ‘Just for Fun’ is a tribute to the village and its inhabitants. a small village called Grollo (population: 500) situated in one of the most isolated parts of Holland.

A young piano player called Herman Brood (ex-Moan) joins the band. Moan regularly performs for American soldiers in Germany, always an exhausting experience. To keep it up they swallow pep pills given to them by the Americans, and Brood turns it into a lifestyle.

Cuby & The Blizzards reaches the top position in music magazine Hitweek, followed by performances both in and outside Holland, from Oosthesselerbrug to Brussels, from The Hague to West Berlin, from Prague to London. But fame takes its toll: Hans Kinds and Willy Middel leave the band. Jaap van Eik (Blues Dimension) is the only replacement on bass. The legendary album Groeten uit Grollo is released, featuring Herman Brood, Jaap van Eik and Hans Waterman.

Eddie Boyd (1914) may be the first black man in Grolloo. This legendary blues singer (coming from the same cotton plantation as Muddy Waters) from the Mississippi Delta is one of the first black American blues singers traveling to Europe. In 1966, during his UK tour with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, both end up at Cuby’s farm in Grolloo. This first personal meeting with the black blues singer results in the Eddie Boyd and the Blizzards album Praise the Blues, which is followed by a tour.

This is followed by a 3-day Dutch tour (5 gigs) with Irish singer Van Morrison (Them). The arranged recording is cancelled at the last minute. The broadcast museum at the Mediapark in Hilversum still has a black and white comedy capers-like clip of Van Morrison and the Blizzards.

Het jaar 1967 mag voor Muskee c.s. extra succesvol genoemd worden. In dat jaar ontving de groep namelijk uit handen van Wim Sonneveld een Edison. Een onderscheiding, die nog geen enkele groep uit dit muziekgenre had mogen ontvangen. Hoewel bluesmuziek nooit doorgedrongen was tot het commerciële circuit, slaagde Muskee er met zijn band in zo populair te worden, dat de, door de groep uitgebrachte, singles tussen 1996 en 1971, maar liefst negen keer voorkwamen in de top 40 van de meest verkochte platen.

The album Desolation is awarded with an Edison at the Grand Gala du Disque, presented to the band by Wim Sonneveld.

In November, the band performs at the Jazz and Blues festival in the Rheinhalle in Düsseldorf for 3000 people, a shared performance with The Spencer David Group.

Dick Beekman returns and takes over from Hans Waterman. The album Live in Düsseldorf is recorded with a four-track recorder. Alexis Korner, founder of the English blues, is guest performer on two tracks. Alexis lives in London at Paddington 116a, Queensway, hence the single ‘Queensway 116a’, the B-side of ‘Nostalgic Toilet’ which enters the Top 40. In December the band performs in Prague.

With a line-up featuring Muskee, Gelling, Van Eik, Brood and Beekman, Cuby & The Blizzards record the album Trippin’ thru’ a Midnight Blues, with the horn section of Eduard Ninck-Blok, Roel Hemmes and Jenne Meinema, their buddies from the northern music scene. The single ‘Window of my Eyes’ is in the Dutch Top 40 for ten weeks, and is considered to be the band’s most important song.

Cuby & the Blizzards became one of the most wanted groups in Europe in these years.The group played on International Festivals in Plumpton (England), Essen, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt (Germany), Prague (Czechoslovakia), Bilzen and Turnhout (Belgium). At these Festivals Cuby & the Blizzards were on stage with top-groups like The Fugs, The Nice, John Mayall, Fleetwood Mac, The Mothers of Invention, The Spencer Davis Group, The Small Faces, Jimi Hendrix Jeff Beck, Jethro Tull, etc.

After the first British tour (October 3-13 '68), the group also toured in Sweden, Poland, Belgium and Germany. Cuby & the Blizzards made a second tour in England from On stage they produced exactly the sound as on record. All members are much-beloved session-men for recordings, radio and TV. As a group they accompanied a.o. Van Morrison, John Mayall, Alexis Korner and Eddie Boyd. Cuby & the Blizzards is one of the few continental groups, capable of making a great impact in England and the US.

In the spring, Cuby & The Blizzards are on tour in Holland with Fleetwood Mac and in August 8-16-'69.they visit the UK for the very first time (where they perform at the famous London Marquee Club). At the end of 1969 the band scores with the single ‘Appleknockers Flophouse’, featuring Helmig van der Vegt (Blues Dimension), who replaces Herman Brood.

Once again there are some changes in the line-up: Jaap van Eik joins Trace, and Dick Beekman joins Livin’ Blues (this time leaving for good). Herman Brood quits as well, the reason being his arrest in The Hague for possession of drugs. Exit Herman Brood, and exit the planned trip to the US. The "Zwolle connection", consisting of Herman Deinum, Hans Lafaille and Helmig van de Vegt (all ex-Blues Dimension), joins Cuby & The Blizzards.

The album Appleknockers Flophouse is released. The album cover design causes a true media riot. Cees Wessels and Anton Witkamp (label manager and copywriter at Phonogram/Polygram) came up with a publicity stunt. They invited a number of farmers from the area of Wezup at Willem Perkaan’s bar (‘Vat Op Klomp’n’) for a cover photo session with the band. There was free food and drinks for all, and when the farmers were reasonably drunk, Cees Wessels brought in a stripper, who did her strip act on the bar, a sensation in those days. The farmers loved it. But when they sobered up the next day and discovered that the whole thing was photographed and filmed, they panicked. The mayor of Zweelo took up arms "to protect his citizens from a scandal". So, the pictures were not allowed to be used. Thus, the album cover contains only the, very cheerful, band. The film, made by the VARA, has never been broadcast, despite frantic efforts to retrieve it.

Cuby & The Blizzards do a two-week tour in Poland with performances in Warsaw, Katowice and Poznan. At the end of the year the band supports BB King at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw. Following the successful sixties, the early seventies are a bit of a disappointment. Planned tours in the US, the UK and Scandinavia are cancelled, and there are disputes with managers. Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling withdraw to an apartment in Assen and go back to basic. Cuby & The Blizzards still release the album Simple Man, for which Harry writes all lyrics. It is the story of an ordinary guy from a small town, middle class neighbourhood, who wants to make his own music without having to make any commercial concessions.

Sometimes is released, the band’s last and very jazzy studio album. The chemistry between Muskee and Gelling diminishes. Four out of nine songs are written by Helmig van de Vegt, and only two songs by Muskee/Gelling. Shortly after the album is released the band breaks up, right before a gig in Munster. The cause is a minor communication problem, but it is the famous last drop with serious consequences. There are problems at the border with the equipment truck because of a missing passport. Harry and Eelco return home. But the guys from Zwolle, unaware of the situation, continue traveling to the venue. As a consequence, the band falls apart. On June 14th both Muskee and Gelling apply for social benefits in Assen.

The band performs in its original line-up twice, one time on June 9th during a farewell concert in a sold-out Concertzaal Bellevue in Assen, with Harry Muskee, Eelco Gelling, Willy Middel, Hans Kinds, Herman Brood and Jaap van Eik. Guest performers are Wim Ennes, Henk Nahrendorf and Hans Waterman.

On January 15th,the band records a farewell album in the studio where they perform at the VARA TV show Nederpopzien, with Harry Muskee, Eelco Gelling, Hans Kinds, Willy Middel, Hans Waterman and Herman Brood.

Cuby is back! The three businessmen and fans Henk Aa (Beaphar-Raalte), Johan Derksen and Jan Lagendijk start the foundation ‘Cuby is Back’. A theater tour follows and Harry Muskee, Erwin Java, John Lagrand, completed by ex-Blizzards Hans Lafaille, Herman Deinum and Helmig van der Vergt attract large crowds. ‘Cuby is Back’ is not just a reunion. The current line-up of Cuby & The Blizzards, formed on the foundation of the old top line-up, continues to perform. It is a tight band of very professional musicians, who are not just playing songs from the past, but also new songs, reflecting the sentiments of the present. Besides performing in clubs and festivals, the band does an annual theater tour.

On 31 January and 1 February , Travelling with the Blues is recorded live at blues club "The Lantaarn" in Hellendoorn. The songs on this album and released in March '97 are an overview of Harry’s blues career.

The album 'Dancing Bear' is released, a contemporary product on which Cuby & The Blizzards dares to differ from the traditional 12-bar blues. Title song ‘Dancing Bear’, also released as a single, is about the cruelty to animals in Turkey and other Asian countries, something animal lover and WSPA supporter Harry Muskee despises. this CD has been recorded in april '98 in the recordingstudios of the Dutch rockgroup Normaal..

After a gig in Vlaardingen some of Erwin Java’s and Herman Deinum’s instruments are stolen, like Erwin’s unique 1962 Fender Stratocaster. It was a present from his (deceased) father who bought it from a (sick and deceased) neighbour. It is a guitar with high emotional value, which made Erwin the guitarist he is now. Fortunately, this valuable guitar, and the The Rose guitar made by Ronald Rosenau, are both retrieved.

On Friday June 4th Cuby & The Blizzards plays at Diligentia in The Hague without John Lagrand, who is hospitalized in the Westend hospital with a broken leg. Very special during this gig is a guest performance by Eelco Gelling, who plays two songs. The cooperation with harmonica talent John Lagrand comes to an end due to personal circumstances.

Just before the new millennium, a special project takes place. To celebrate the 180th anniversary of the Johan Willem Friso band, five unique millennium concerts are organized. The JWF band performs with Cuby & The Blizzards, Guus Meeuwis & Vagant, het Mannenkoor Albartros, piano player Cor Bakker and violin player Adriaan Stoet. The JWF band and Cuby & The Blizzards perform ‘Another Land’ (dedicated to the recently deceased Rob Hoeke), ‘Window of my Eyes’, ‘Night Train’ and ‘Travelling with the Blues’ together.

Harry Muskee’s 35th anniversary in music. To celebrate this the CD box Blues Traveller is released. It is proof of the great significance of Harry Muskee for Dutch music. Always going his own way, never taking the easy road. It is a 35th anniversary blues career with ups and downs.

The anniversary album Hotel Grolloo is recorded at "The Amer" bar in Amen. It is a very special album with Normaal’s Bennie Jolink, Barrelhouse’s Tineke Schoenmaker, De Dijk’s Huub van der Lubbe, Skik’s Daniel Lohues and The Golden Earring’s Barry Hay performing old songs of Muskee, completed by four new songs. The recording is filmed for a TV documentary called The Last Secret. On September 26th,the album is officially presented to Harry Muskee during a celebratory concert at the Paradiso in Amsterdam. The concert DVD will be released at the end of 2002.

The exhibition "Groeten uit Grollo" is initiated by the foundation for Maintenance of Cultural Heritage Harry Muskee. More than 3000 people visit this exhibition, with Cuby and the Blizzards as its main theme, at the band’s former farm (Voorstreek 4). The governor of Drenthe, Relus ter Beek, opens the exhibition.

‘Dancing Bear’ is re-released. Together with the TROS, the Red Bullet studio, Skik and Beaphar, a benefit concert and TV show are organized for the Bear Forest in Rheden. The theater tour is dedicated to John Lee Hooker, who died in 2001. Concerts are also scheduled for Curacao and South Africa.
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