Live from The Cellar

Beausejour restaurant offers variety of live music Thursday nights

By Bruce Barton / Town Crier Staff Writer
Published on September 10, 2003

Most times, the quiet, cozy Beausejour French restaurant in downtown Los Altos serves diners carefully prepared food in a somewhat formal atmosphere. But every Thursday night, the place gets the blues.

Walk in the State Street eatery and you'll hear the echoes of a live band coming up from below. Venture downstairs and you may be pleasantly surprised.

A five-piece band plays gritty Chicago and Delta blues, spurring the audience into spontaneous aerobic activity on the dance floor. A full bar supplies spirits and, until 9 p.m., visitors can choose from a menu of tasty items that include buffalo wings, shrimp croissant sandwiches and the Beausejour Burger. The room is lively but spacious and not overcrowded, the decor clean and inviting, the music assertive but not overly loud. Even people on the dance floor can hear themselves talking.

Welcome to Beausejour's Thursday nights at "The Cellar," where blues and other pop music are performed from 7:30 p.m. to about 11 p.m. The headline band is Blues Cadillac, a group of veteran musicians who never lost their enthusiasm for making a guitar sing like B.B. King or a harmonica wail like Little Walter. The principal creators of all this musical joy are Cadillac guitarist Steve Welch, by day a State Street financial planner, and his wife, Becky.

The former singer-songwriter, years removed from the music business, caught the blues bug a few years back when he ran into his old bass player, Robin Hood (yes, that's his real name). Eventually, they formed a band comprising Steve on guitar and vocals, Hood on bass, Med Daughtery on drums, Jerry Cash (who had opened for such acts as Santana and Iron Butterfly) on guitar and Alan "Eyebone" Eglington on harmonica.

Then the band needed a place to play. Becky and I go down for lunch (at Beausejour) every once in a while," Steve said. "One day we were at the restaurant and she came up with the idea (of Beausejour's cellar) as a place for our band to play." Beausejour owners William and Ahn Yee agreed to the Thursday night entertainment. William said the arrangement has worked out well since Steve and company started playing at The Cellar in late January. He and Becky redecorated The Cellar to provide atmosphere, and brought along a bartender.

Besides finding a venue for his own band to play, Steve has given other Los Altos acts the same opportunity. Cellar performers include Almost Blue, an a cappella group comprising mostly Los Altos residents, and Rick Glaze, a Los Altos singer-songwriter. I got to tell you - Steve is my hero," said Glaze, a successful financial manager. "I love playing with our band and playing in downtown Los Altos. It's such a comfortable venue."

Steve loves the variety between acts. Glaze serves up pleasant country-flavored originals. They range from heartfelt ballads to amusing novelty numbers such as "My Dot-Com" and "Virtual Love" that poke fun at life in Silicon Valley. "I put this band together just for fun," Glaze said. "I don't have to travel anywhere - I can do it right here. The room also is acoustically good. I've gotten some pretty good crowds in there. (The Cellar's) a real nice addition to Los Altos." This has been like a party every Thursday night for us," said Becky, who helps serve the drinks and generally keeps things in order. "The Yees bent over backward to help us (get started)."

Smiles were on virtually every face among the 40-plus on hand for one recent Thursday night performance. Some, discovering the place for the first time, adjusted to the good-time atmosphere quickly. I'm pleasantly surprised," said Diane Copland of Los Altos Hills. "Upstairs is a formal dining experience. This is relaxed. It's a good place to meet guys," cracked friend Judy Ford.

We're going to pull the Blues Cadillac into the rest stop," Steve said as he and the band ended one of their sets. They've been having a great time getting the band going," Becky said. "For Steve it has been a great release artistically, playing with such talented musicians again." An earlier act that night, Jan Fanucchi, reflected on her second performance since returning to singing for the first time in 10 years. The blues singer, influenced by Billie Holiday and Etta James, found The Cellar a nice, welcoming place that allowed her to enjoy her performance despite some early nervousness.

Between sets, drummer Daughtery calmly reflected on his decades of playing, talking about setting the beat for the likes of rock 'n' roll pioneers Chuck Berry and Bo Diddley. "Chuck just wanted it straight ahead, a country beat," Daughtery said. "Bo wanted it more rhythmic. You just do what they want," he said, matter-of-factly. With his own jazz trio act, Med's Mood Swings, Daughtery has performed the past 16 years at the Plumed Horse restaurant in Saratoga.

As the evening progressed, so did the good vibe. But this was clearly no 20s pickup scene. Most of the crowd were over 40 and very much into simply having a good time on the dance floor. One man, John, was loving every minute of it, wearing a smile from ear to ear. He found himself talking with strangers as if they were friends. In fact, most of the gathering seemed to know each other by the end of the evening. Perhaps the Welches had the biggest smiles of all, knowing they had created a winning environment for bringing people together with their love of music.

The Cellar has a $5 cover charge. For more on Beausejour, located at 170 State St., call 948-1382. For more on Blues Cadillac, see their website at www.bluescadillac.com.

Copyright 2003 Los Altos Town Crier