Hearne: Blues Society Heavyweights Counter Pitch Hit Piece

Lil Joe at Uptown TheatreAnd now as they say, the rest of the story…

It’s hard to do a major league hit piece on somebody without getting the other side of the story. That’s what one would think, anyway. Yet that’s exactly what the Pitch did recently in barbecuing Kansas City Blues Society president Joe Sherrick.

“The writer did leave me a message and sent me an email,” Sherrick says. “But I knew it was going to be an attack story and I was not going to give him a verbal statement because I know how they can twist verbal statements. And a couple musicians told me that what they told him and what he wrote was twisted.”

Although Sherrick declined to be interviewed, he did respond to Pitch music editor David Hudnall by email four days before the story came out saying, “I have a busy schedule next couple of weeks, but I will get back with you when I have some time available to address this. I invite you to send me a (reminder).”

As far as Sherrick knows, Hudnall and the Pitch decided to rock with their hit piece without further attempts to contact him.

Here’s the bottom line on the Pitch story, there are an infinite number of ways writers can employ somewhat subtly make someone look bad if they want to. And that’s just what Hudnall did to Sherrick.

Making sure readers knew that enemies of Sherrick referred to one of his supporters as a “Joe Ho,” calling freely-elected board members that held a favorable opinion of Sherrick his “cronies” and including pretty much only his critics in the lengthy account.

cover-Time-19940404-46721I mean, the guy’s been elected to the board every year since 2005 in an approximately 600 member organization and the only folks the Pitch could find to go on the record were the ones who wanted to bag on him?

Hudnall even referred to the Blues Society’s web site as a relic of the Clinton presidency, as if somehow that fell solely upon the Sherrick’s shoulders after only two years in office.

roger1_thumb_300x388“From my conversations with him Joe appears to be a straight shooter,” says Blues Society co-founder Roger Naber. “Under every new guard comes a whole new set of ideas and everybody wants to change things. And in the (recent past), they changed things for the worst. And Joe walked into a mess when he became president. He walked into an absolute mess.”

s_frank_hicks001Knuckleheads owner Frank Hicks is also sympathetic to Sherrick’s plight. And like Naber, his views were nowhere to be found in the Pitch piece.

Of course Hicks only runs the top blues club in Kansas City, why bother to get his two cents?

“Everybody’s upset because Joe’s trying to change things,” Hicks says. “The biggest problem I see with the Blues Society is it’s not run like a business. Everybody’s on a volunteer basis and you can’t fire them and when you try, they get pissed. I think Joe’s a good guy but everybody’s fighting him like hell.”

“Everybody” being primarily around eight longtime members, Sherrick estimates.

“I only took over as president in 2011,” Sherrick says. “And I said, this is a corporation and it needs to be run like a corporation and I wanted accountability.”

Accountability for monies taken in, for not writing newsletter puff pieces about bands that staffers play in and/or are ultra close to and returning the good name to an organization that lost its non profit status three times in 10 years prior to Sherrick’s presidency for not filing its taxes.

“I felt like in general that the Blues Society had lost a lot of its credibility,” Sherrick says. “And that ruffled a lot of feathers…To make a long story short, I wanted the Blues Society to be an organization that represented the music community here in Kansas City and for it to be financially sound again and return Kansas City to a destination place for music on the national scene.

a-use_this_logo“The blues festival had been gone for 10 years and last year we put it on again at Kaw Point Park in Kansas City, Kansas. And we’re putting it on there again this year on September 21st.

“When I was (first) on the board, I didn’t even know there were bylaws until my last year,” Sherrick continues. “And several of the officers would show up to meetings and events drunk and get up before the audience so drunk they were slurring their words and using profanities. But they’re all gone now.

“And the president and the vice-president came to me in 2010 and asked me if I would run for president and I said, no. And it was Frank Hicks and my wife and several other people came to me and said, ‘Joe, if you don’t run the Blues Society is doomed.’ So I decided to run for the board and they picked me as president.

“And I said, ‘Let’s not run this like a lemonade stand anymore. Let’s run this as a business.’ Everybody then wanted to go out and party but nobody wanted to work or they half-assed it. We had people getting the magazine that were no longer members in the society and people running ads that were never billed. Everything was in total disarray and there was no accountability. And (one board member) said, ‘Well, you’re taking all the fun out of it.’ And my response was, when you’re on the board of directors the fun stops. You take care of your responsibilities and then you can go out and party.”

Funny how none of that made it into the Pitch piece.




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27 Responses to Hearne: Blues Society Heavyweights Counter Pitch Hit Piece

  1. balbonis moleskine says:

    In my opinion I don’t think the society will be a success again until they can bring the Blues and Jazz festival back to it’s rightful place, Liberty Memorial.

    What a brilliant showcase for one of the authentic things in our city that was. I hope they bring it back, even on a small scale to that area because the demand is there!

    • smartman says:

      +1…plus you gotta have the patience of Job to deal with the “can’t fix stupid d-bags” that inhabit these organizations. Good luck Joe Sherrick! You’re gonna need it.

  2. chuck says:

    Good article, but I don’t understand why the Pitch is so interested in doing a “Hit” piece on the guy.

    What is the point?

    It sounds like the story would be far more interesting had they included the points you (Hearne) made in what they wrote.

    • Hearne says:

      Well, they did try and get Sherrick to talk but he thought it was a set up. And based on how it was written, the deck was clearly stacked against him.

      When entrenched people feel like they’re losing their power and are pissed off, it’s easy to write the kind of story the Pitch wrote. A little more filching around though would have given their story more balance. But less sex appeal. It’s always sexier to take someone down

  3. Dlamda says:

    The Pitch article was so bias that even that rag should have not printed it. It is obvious that those who are screaming are trying to hide serious past indiscretions. Sherrick should take them to task and see where the real illegal activity happened that the past group is trying to hide. thanks Hearne I am going to join now.

  4. Mr. Diddy Wah Diddy says:

    It has been a while since my journalism classes, so correct me if I’m wrong, but when did it become a good idea for a journalist doing an investigative piece to allow one or more of the subjects of the investigation to dictate the time and manner of their reply? Joe Sherrick thought he’d be clever, and submit a written statement that protected HIS interests, instead of answering questions that he might get tripped up in and reveal too much, and he wanted to set the time he’d make it available. If he didn’t have anything to hide, he wouldn’t need to be so careful about what he says.

    If I were the editor of a magazine/paper/’zine/rag who assign an investigative piece to one of my reporters, days later, that reporter told he he was waiting for one of the subjects to write a statement on the issues in question, about which he would not answer any questions, and which was the only way he would agree to communicate with me on the story, and it was held up because that subject was having a really busy time right then, I’d tell him to start acting like a journalist instead of a suck-up and get the damn story, or find another job.

    And, by the way, it’s easy to do a hit piece without all the facts. You proved that with this article. Nowhere in your article is there any mention of the people Joe has ridden roughshod over and what they have to say about the whole mess. If you want to do a real investigative piece on this ongoing catastrophe that has severely undermined the credibility of the KCBS with other regional blues societies and isn’t getting any better, I’d be interested to read that. But after this sad little bit of biased journalism you wrote, for you to call the Pitch article a hit piece is the pot calling the kettle black.

    • Irishguy says:

      I looked up the Pitch piece (missed it the first time, thanks for drawing attention to it a month later) and the most damning thing in it was how poorly the Kaw Point “festival” was run, with none of the local bands making a dime because of the rather high ticket prices ($15 in advance, $20 day of show or $15 and five canned goods), poor operation, poor promotion (Pitch said they never even received a press release about it in advance), and terrible turnout (about 100 people, with Muddy Waters’ son headlining).

      So is any of that true? Hearne doesn’t tell us.

      • Hearne says:

        From what I understand the local bands were recruited to play for free because they had so little money. Only the headliner was supposed to be paid

        • Irishguy says:

          But doesn’t that fly in the face of this statement: “And I said, ‘Let’s not run this like a lemonade stand anymore. Let’s run this as a business.’”?

          Seems to me that if you are going to re-launch a festival after a 10-year hiatus, you’d better have your ducks lined up. And that includes having the capital to run it right and to promote it — like a business, not a lemonade stand.

        • Matthew Moore says:

          From conversations I’ve had with a musician that played the Kaw point event, not all of the players were recruited to play for free, so learning this after the fact tends to piss people off. In addition, the single most upsetting thing for this band member, and I can attest to this, was a rule change that required all bands or at least one member to be paying members of the KCBS or lose their listing on the website. This doesn’t sound like non-profit support for local musicians to me. I personally was contacted last summer and told “pay or we will remove your listing” this kind of seemed like low-level blackmail. It’s not the amount of money, but the method and motivation that bother me.

    • Hearne says:

      Real editors don’t tell real reporters doing the type of story the Pitch was doing to man up, just fuck em, just get the story in. That’s not the way the game is played.

      Real reporters get the comment before they turn it in if the entire story is about taking one guy down.

      Look, I never even heard of this Joe guy, but it took one phone call to get his cell number, I called it, he answered me blind and talked to me even though I don’t think he really knew who I was.

      What’s so hard about that? Guess I could have waited for an email.

      • Mr. Diddy Wah Diddy says:

        “Real editors don’t tell real reporters doing the type of story the Pitch was doing to man up, just fuck em, just get the story in. That’s not the way the game is played.’

        Real editors may not say “just get the story IN”, but they DO say “just get the STORY.” And if he, or you, thought Joe was trying to stall him, “wasn’t available for comment” is all that would be needed to maintain ethical standards and satisfy the editor.

        “Look, I never even heard of this Joe guy, but it took one phone call to get his cell number, I called it, he answered me blind and talked to me even though I don’t think he really knew who I was.”

        Sounds like he learned his lesson about trying to play games with reporters.

        “Real reporters get the comment before they turn it in if the entire story is about taking one guy down.”

        Really? If Woodward and Bernstein had waited for a comment from Nixon, we’d never have heard about Watergate.

      • Mr. Diddy Wah Diddy says:

        Joe said “But I knew it was going to be an attack story and I was not going to give him a verbal statement because I know how they can twist verbal statements.” How did he know it was gonna be an attack story? Did he get a tip-of from somebody at the Pitch? Who else would know what kind of story the reporter was gonna write? And how does he know “how they can twist verbals statements”? Has he been attacked in the press before?

        • Irishguy says:

          I also can’t help but wonder if Hearne’s defense of Sherrick almost a month after the mighty Pitch published its story on line did more harm than good.

          If I ever entertained any idea of joining up, I’m certainly going to steer clear now with all these children bitching and moaning and pointing fingers at each other.

  5. Dlamda says:

    Mr. Diddly Wah Diddy should learn the difference between a private blog and a claimed journalistic piece. Journalists are also suppose to check the validity of accusations from a bunch of crybabies before it goes to print.

    • Mr. Diddy Wah Diddy says:

      Whereas bloggers are only troubled by such issues as maintaining credibility if they want to be taken seriously. By the way, if you look on Facebook, the kcBS Repsonse page, in the post about this story, one of the formere board members says the reporter had hard copy evidence of at least some of the claims against Sherrick, so it doesn’t seem you can fault the reporter for validating the story. And Sherrick had his chance refute the validity of any and all claims against him, but he tried to stall the reporter so he could present a self-serving written statement instead. He outsmarted himself.

  6. Blues Lover says:

    The bottom line is Joe Sherrick lead, and still leads, the KC Blues Society back in the right direction. There were several problems the crossed wires in advertising, etc. at the KC Blues Fest, but it was the first year for the event, so people should consider that when judging. The point is that Joe spearheaded the idea and the show went onward. The past board members whom have slandered Joe at every turn, have never been successful at anything in life. Their cliques came to a halt when Joe became President and they’ve hated him and undermined every effort of the KC Blues Society ever since. The Pitch is commonly referred to as The Bitch, as people don’t take the articles seriously. People look at the ads and events happening around KC then toss it in the trash, where their journalism belongs.

    • Irishguy says:

      Boy, what a pissing contest you guys are in.

      • the dude says:

        Ugh, yeah. This sounds like another futile battle where the people that suffer are the fans. Sounds like another MMF-type war and the result will be everybody loses.

        Grow up people, it’s about the Plucking music.

  7. Dlamda says:

    If it is such a pissing contest Irishguy then why are you on here blowing your bulkshit?

  8. Orphan of the Road says:

    I was turned off by the organization when I returned to KC. Their agenda seemed to have little to do with preservation and more with egos & power-trippin’.

    How you do an article on blues without consulting Frank is beyond me. Or going to one of the many blues jams and talking to folks who show up.

    It will take five-years to turn around an organization after they have lost focus. There will have to be some very strong personalities to get it right. Hope the right people are involved now.

  9. Robertoe says:

    ‘Let’s not run this like a lemonade stand anymore. Let’s run this as a business.’ Is this kinda like having an online publication that, years later, still doesn’t have the simple capacity to caption its pictures?

  10. Matthew Moore says:

    I still believe, above all else, the duty of an organization who’s goal is preserving the Blues, should be to focus on the local blues musicians first. To give them a forum for discussing their craft, and helping them promote their music. While out of town headliners are a good draw, bringing them here at the expense of quality local talent is not the answer. The majority of the players in this town, would be celebrities if only they were not “local.” Kansas City has a legacy of fantastic music, and while it is known primarily for Jazz, the Blues has always been here. I consider myself lucky to have played with some of the finest musicians right here in KC.

  11. magnolia says:

    The reason for discontent is because this KCBS board hasnt followed its own not for profit bylaws, produced transparent audited accounts and treasurers report, Annual report, or conducted a PROPER annual general meeting and election. It has no bona fide business plan to engage the blues community, bands, venues and fans. Many members feel they are kept “in the dark” and wonder what it is their $30 is for. The Board needs to be open and accountable. Peace and more blues may prevail.

  12. just another hater says:

    Here is how it works in the “KC Blues World.” If you are “the artists” that are on top, that means you are in with the big clubs because you can draw a BIG drinking crowd. Because of your ability to climb to the top, you have had to step on people in your climb up as well as replace the people that used to be up there. Luck, looks, talent, as well as cunning, ruthlessness and back stabbing deal-making are PART of this scene.

    Once you reach the top, YOU have the ability to get paid, use your status and access to secure bookings, but also, the ability to profit from shady music deals where “you get yours at the expense of others.” Music money and jobs are a limited resource, and there is just not enough to go around, so someone is going to get left out and someone is going to hog more than their share.

    That is just how it works. The KCBS and its leadership are just a tool of who can gain this top spot, always has been. Right now, Joe and the KCBS champions Samantha, that bass player with the long name, the guys behind the acts that control the “stars,” and scrap eaters who pick up jobs by hailing these queens. That leaves several outsider groups to take potshots. Those groups are acts that have to work their butt off just to get jobs (but can’t draw people,) and the former people at the top that are now on the outside looking in (who can’t draw, anymore.) There are not many innocents in the game.

    The real question then is, “what is the purpose of the KCBS?” Kind of like politics, religion, marriage, journalism, etc. Ethics, truth, morals, and doing the right thing are subject to lawyers, guns, and money.

  13. magnolia says:

    More shambles – dischord – tonight at KCBS meeting. Strings broken, need replacing.

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