Harp player and vocalist Buddy Cleveland was born sometime around the middle of the 20th century. He grew up in Rockville, MD, just north of Washington, DC. The only instruments he ever played as a youngster was the radio and the record player. As far as singing went, he didn't even sing in the shower. In high school, he listened exclusively to Motown - the Four Tops, Temptations, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, and so on. In college, he got turned on to performers like Hendrix, the Stones, Cream, and the Allman Brothers. At the time, he thought these groups had invented the music they were playing until he was exposed to Muddy Waters in the late '70's. It was immediately clear that Muddy was the real deal and he started down the road with the blues and hasn't looked back. Through Muddy - who he had the good fortune to see live before he died in '83 - he discovered one blues great after another. He couldn't get enough of the blues.
It was around 1980 when he saw Delbert McClinton live at the Bayou in Georgetown. He really enjoyed Delbert's harp playing and thought if he learned to play it, maybe he could get even deeper into the blues. After all, they only have 10 holes - how hard could it be? (Of course, now 20+ years later, he knows full well how hard it can be. And, as with many things, the more he learns, the more he realizes he doesn't know.) His girl friend (now his wife of nearly 25 years) paid for a couple of lessons for him as a Christmas present. The instructor was really a guitar player who could sort of play harp, but it was enough to get him started. For a couple of years after that, he would jam with a couple of friends from work, but it never got very serious and he never escaped the "barely mediocre" category. (At that time, the thought of practicing on a regular basis never occurred to him). Buddy then got pretty involved in his career and his family and only picked up the harp once and a while. He even drifted away from the blues a little and listened to a lot of alternative rock.
In the mid '90's, Buddy's company was having a Christmas party and they'd hired Dave Sherman & the Nightcrawlers, a local DC blues band (Dave now fronts the band Smokin' Polecats along with the great harp player and vocalist Roger Edsall), as the entertainment. They didn't have a harp player that night and, after getting pretty loaded, Buddy asked if he could sit in. It's unclear exactly how badly he played that night - the guys in the band said that they never laughed until the ride home - but there were a couple of occasions when he blew a riff that fit right in and he got a nod from Dave on guitar. That's all it took - it was magic and he was hooked. By then, Buddy's youngest son was playing piano and clarinet, and he figured out that you actually got better when you practiced. About the same time, he got to know the outstanding DC area blues guitarist Mike "Junior" Tash of the Bad Influence Band. Mike gave him lots of encouragement and even invited Buddy sit in with his band on occasion.
In 1999, Buddy and his family moved to the Philadelphia area and got involved with some guys he worked with and this group ultimately became the Voodoo DeVille Blues Band. In one of their earliest gigs at a private party, when everyone including Buddy was pretty well hammered, someone dared Buddy to sing a song and he did (he didn't so much sing as shout approximately in key). More magic - he was really hooked now. Buddy (a.k.a. "Pops") still performs regularly as the lead vocalist and harp for Voodoo DeVille.
The Smokehouse Ramblers project offered a way to explore the blues in yet another way and play out in different venues. It's all about having fun, so check out the music and enjoy some blues.