Blues world is Pearl’s oyster

(Photo by E.K. Waller)

According to the blurb on Boulevard Music’s website, “The blues is life itself to Bernie Pearl. The Boyle Heights native was L.A.’s first all-blues DJ with KPPC FM from 1968, and he helped found the Long Beach Blues Festival. But he’s also an incredible musician in his own right, as he will showcase at Boulevard Music on Saturday. He told the News all about that and more…

When did you start playing and performing? 

I started being interested in guitar in the early 1950’s, my young teens. I started with an inexpensive Mexican-made nylon string, learning chords and strumming at my sister’s hootenannies in her living room. Mostly college-age folks, I was the “kid.”

Describe your sound/style?

My sound and style (hard to differentiate them) evolved from seeing live performances of genuine blues men at my brother’s club (the Ash Grove) where I washed dishes nightly while studying at LACC, and later at UCLA. I also befriended some of the blues men (I had a car, they had no wheels here) and grew to admire them personally as I got to know them, and to be in awe of their playing.

What are your career highlights so far?

I can point out many bright moments, but I did get to play with B.B. King twice – my band backed him at the Benson & Hedges Blues Festival press shows. We also played that event with Stevie Ray Vaughan and other notables. I sat in with John Lee Hooker in Greenwich Village, and was part of Big Mama Thornton’s band for a while. These stand out in memory.

What recorded music is available — particularly the most recent?

I recorded and produced CD’s with Harmonica Fats, both with a band and in an acoustic duo. Our two duo albums were nominated for Handy Awards by the Blues Foundation in Memphis. I recorded two CDs of live performances at Boulevard Music on their Major Label label, acoustic guitars with bass – same bassist who will be playing with me August 19, Mike Barry. I produced a CD featuring violinist Papa John Creach and my band, Papa Blues. His first CD as a featured artist, and his only all-blues recording. One reviewer called it, “the one he should be remembered for.” I also produced a couple of my own CDs, one with a guest vocalist, the late, great Barbara Morrison, Take Your Time. And last year I compiled an all-instrumental work from all of my recordings, Just the Blues Music, on my own Bee Bump Music label.

Have you performed at Boulevard Music before?
For several years (you may need to ask Gary Mandel for specifics) I taught there, and did an annual concert as well, usually in the spring. The pandemic threw a monkey-wrench in the works. This is my first concert since, perhaps, 2019. I am excited.

What can the audience expect from the set this time?

I don’t have any new avenues to explore. I will be doing what I consider my best, deepest, and most interesting material. The audience will, I hope, be pleased and entertained.

What else do you have coming up?

I am not looking beyond this concert, but I do participate in occasional jams, both acoustic and electric. There is interest in my playing at a couple of local venues where I performed before the pandemic. I’m about as busy as I want to be. Hope to see you at the Boulevard.

Bernie Pearl performs with Mike Barry at 8 p.m. on Saturday, August 19 at Boulevard Music. Go to for more information.

Elsewhere this week

The Culver Hotel will be hosting the likes of Sylvia & the Rhythm Boys, and Scotty Bramer. Go to for more info.

There’s a full program of music at the Cinema Bar this week, as usual. The Hot Club of Los Angeles plays every Monday, and Wednesdays are singer/songwriter and open mic night. Other artists performing this week include Hard Rooster & Ginger Merkin, Groovy Rednecks, Dogtown Prophets, and Ben Vaughn. Go to for more info.