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“Cuby” Muskee 9/2011

Harry MuskeeSeptember 26, 2011 – Harry Muskee, (June 10, 1941 – Sept 26, 2011) better known as leadsinger of the legendary Dutch Blues band “Cuby and the Blizzards” was born in the northern town of Assen in 1941. His father was a German POW at the time of his birth. As a toddler, Muskee reportedly once shouted at a German officer in a hair salon “Wait ’til my father gets home – he’ll get you.”

His father returned to the Netherlands when Muskee was four years old. His mother developed multiple sclerosis soon after, leaving Muskee to be raised mainly by his grandmother. His mother died in 1961. Muskee got to the hospital too late to say goodbye, which, he said, left him with a lingering sadness.

He made his breakthrough in the music scene after the death of his grandmother a year later.

In high school he came into contact with jazz and Dixieland music. Together with the brothers Henk and Jaap Hilbrandie he founded the band The Mixtures. From this band emerged later on the ‘Old Fashioned Jazz Group’. This band mostly played at school dances in his hometown.

Through listening to the American Forces Network radio station – for U.S. soldiers stationed in Germany – Muskee came into contact with blues music. When he discovered the album Live at Newport by John Lee Hooker, he decided that he also wanted to make this kind of music.

Harry Muskee and Eelco Gelling are the foundation of Cuby & The Blizzards. As singer and guitarist of The Mixtures, Harry performs songs of The Everly Brothers and other bands, before playing the contra bass in the Old Fashioned Jazz Group. (see also the guestpage) Harry is first introduced to jazz and blues through listening to the American discjockey Wilis Conover from the army stations like American Forces Network and The Voice of America on an old radio
Eelco Gelling is guitarist in the Rocking Hurricanes, later The Rocking Strings, with Hans Kinds (rhythm guitar), Wim Kinds (Drums) and Nico Schröder (bass). Their repertoire mainly consisted of Shadow-instrumentals and the group even made two records: “Autumn Leaves” and an EP “Black Rock”. The musicians meet each other on a stage in Drenthe and it is only a matter of time before Harry starts singing Elvis Presley covers with the Rocking Strings.
In 1964, Willy Middel (bass, ex-Sinister Silhouettes) replaces Nico Schröder, who is not allowed to play on Sundays. After Dick Beekman (drums) replaces Wim Kinds, Harry Muskee completes the line-up .

In 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, were forced to turn professional after one year as three of the bandmembers were fired from their jobs, 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 was highly influenced by the Chicago blues. Most of their tunes were 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.

Over time Muskee became known as the man who brought the blues to the Netherlands. As lead singer in Cuby and the Blizzards, his raucous voice shot to the Top 40 with hits like Window of my Eyes, Another Day Another Road and Appleknockers Flophouse.

Cuby & the Blizzards became one of the most in demand groups in Europe in between 1965 and 1972.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 international 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.  On stage they produced exactly the sound and feel as on their records. All members became much-in demand session-musicians for recordings, radio and TV. As a group they accompanied a.o. BB King, Van Morrison, John Mayall, Alexis Korner and Eddie Boyd.

Too autocratic

The band opened for Fleetwood Mac in 1969 when they toured the Netherlands. Van Morrison, John Mayall, Alexis Korner, they all visited Muskee on his farm in the northern Dutch village of Grolloo, where the Blizzards lived. Critics say Muskee’s music reflects the rawness and simplicity of his rural roots.

In the 1970s, the band that also incorporated monster guitarist Eelco Gelling and frontman keyboards player Herman Brood, split up when members claimed that Muskee was too dictatorial as  band leader.

Cuby and the Blizzards won several music awards. They reformed in the early 1990s and Muskee surprised his fans in 2009 by releasing Cats Lost, the band’s first studio album for 11 years.

Harry died from cancer on September 26, 2011.


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