ramin niami

Ramin Niambi, director of ‘Babe and Ricky’s Inn’

*Santa Monica, CA – It is not too often that you get to see a great movie with the blues as its soundtrack. To top it off, movie goers were treated to a live performance of the blues at the conclusion of the movie.

I’m referring to the movie Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn, directed by Ramin Niami. This movie was the centerpiece during the 21st Annual Pan African Film and Arts Festival,where the film won the Festival Programming Award. I missed the showing of the movie and the blues jam that followed during its showing at the Pan African Film and Arts Festival,February 7-18,2013.

I was overjoyed when I noticed that the movie would be screened at Laemmle Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica. My joy turned to delight when I became aware that my movie ticket also included the live performance of a blues band after the screening of the movie.

Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn is a heartwarming story about Laura Mae Gross (aka-Mama Laura), an African-American women who owned a blues club Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn for over fifty years. This was a legendary blues club hangout that brought musicians and fans together with an un-official motto of “Let the Good Times Roll.” People of different races, ages and gender mingled together where only the music mattered.

laura mae gross

Laura Mae Gross a/k/a Mama Laura

The club was originally located on historic Central Avenue in South Central Los Angeles, back in the day, before it was re-located to historic Leimert Park Village. This blues haven was a relaxing venue where blues masters such as Albert King,B.B.King and John Lee Hooker and others shared the stage in a open,creative and safe environment.The musicians referred to the owner affectionately as Mama Laura, because she cared for them as if they were her own.She fed them, occasionally housed several musicians,and she was known to give out motherly advise about life and about the blues. The film consists of musicians sharing personal stories about Mama Laura, Babe’s and Ricky’s Inn and the hard life of a blues musician.The blues served as the soundtrack from some of the most important blues artists based in Los Angeles. One felt as if we were watching a live concert that was happening before our eyes. Ray Bailey, Bobby Bryan, Deacon Jones, Dennis Jones, Zac Harmon, Barbara Morrison, Guitar Shorty, Suzanne Thomas,Sherry Pruitt, Richard Martin-Ross,Johnny Maestro and Mama’s Boys (they are named after the club owner), Southsideslim, as well as Charlie Chan, George Dez and Tokyo Mississippi to name a few of the performers in the documentary.

Movie goers and I were privilege to hear Deacon Jones perform.Mr.Jones is a veteran of John Lee Hooker and Carlos Santana’s band.Deacon Jones band consisted of Deacon Jones-organ,Ken Taro-guitar,Chris Jones-bass and Brendan Etter on drums.The band entertained the crowd and I with “Smokestack Lightning,” “Afterhours,” “The Blues is Alright,” “I’ll Play the Blues for You,” and concluded their set with “The Boogie.”

This movie is currently showing at Laemmle Monica 4-Plex in Santa Monica, located at 1332 2nd Street,Santa Monica, (310)478-3836. Visit www.laemmle.com for more information about the documentary, visit www.babesandrickysinn.com. There are live blues performances and Q&A after every 7PM show. If you live in Los Angeles and/or planning on visiting during the week of April 8-11, you own it to yourself to see this movie about the history of a legendary lady,blues club and blues music.

I’m certain that there will be people returning to the theater to see this wonderful documentary, as well as to hear a different live blues performance after the screening .I’m almost certain that this movie will be extended as a result of positive word of mouth by text,emails,good old fashion telephone calls as well as twitter and Facebook chatter. Please visit www.babesandrickysinn.com

As you probably already know,”The Blues is a Fact of Life,” so don’t despair if you wasn’t able to see this documentary on the big screen.The nice people at Cinedigm is working on a digital release of the documentary.It will be released on Video on Demand(VOD) on April 9 on iTunes Premium, Amazon, YouTube and Nexflix and other outlets.

Once again, for more information about the documentary, visit www.babesandrickysinn.com

Ricky Richardson is a Southern California based music reviewer, writer and photographer.Contact him via: [email protected]