“They’ve been calling me blues all these days,” says Len Rainey. “But I do a lot of R&B, some soul, some rock. I even used to play jazz fusion,” he says, sounding a little surprised to hear the words jazz and fusion coming out of his mouth. “I used to play with this group called Xanadu. We used to go around the Midwest all the time.” But that would have been three decades ago, even more. “I came out of Kenosha.” Rainey is 61. “I’ve been in San Diego 30 years.”
- Saturday, September 30, 2017, 10 a.m.
Adams Avenue near 35th Street, Normal Heights
Back when Mission Valley was still hopping, Rainey worked some of the rooms.
“I came here in 1986. Played the Kings Inn.” Then, the balance of power shifted to the Gaslamp Quarter and a corner establishment called Croce’s. Rainey and his band, the Midnight Players, were regulars there. “In the Top Hat Room. Hollis Gentry was there, too. Remember the alley behind there? Hollis and me and ’Fro [Brigham], he’d be over there at Patrick’s, we’d all meet in that alley and talk some trash.”
Len Rainey and the Midnight Players at Sierra Valley Farms, August 2017
Rainey has performed all over the world: Japan, Costa Rica, almost everywhere but Europe. He says maybe, after his fifth CD release, he’ll get over there. “But I’ve been lucky,” he’s quick to add, “to keep playing my steady gigs around town. I’ve always been able to keep my head above water.” He followed his brother to San Diego. “I came out here from Chicago, and it was January.” He puts a little weight on the word “January.” “And it was beautiful weather, you know?”
No, not your average bluesman. Rainey, who has held down gigs in Las Vegas, brings a bit of that town to whatever room he’s playing. He seems in fact far too dynamic to be all blues. “I’ve always liked to get the audience involved,” he says. “I like to get people riled up.”
Len Rainey and the Midnight Players will be on the Hawley Blues Stage at 4 p.m.