“Terrible Tom” Bowden Brings the Blues Back to 7th Street

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By Roberta Cobb and Godfrey Lee

 

“Terrible Tom” Bowden brought the Blues back to 7th Street in West Oakland on Friday, March 20.

 

Bowden, Fillmore Slim, and their special guests performed at One Fam, located at 1606 7th Street in West Oakland near the BART Station.

Bowden sang “I’ve Been Loving You,” and “When a Man Loves a Woman.” Fillmore sang “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “The Nite Time Is the Right Time.”

 

Bowden met Slim in West Oakland in the 1960s. They became fast friends and toured together. Slim was already popular in the Los Angeles circuit and introduced Bowden to many of the clubs in Los Angeles, such as the Starlight and the California Club.

 

One Fam is a small performing venue with only enough space for about 50 people. But the small spaces helps to bring performers and their audience closer together.

 

The audience was enthusiastic, and several people started dancing outside.

 

The concert was co-sponsored by Bike 4 Life, a community, non-profit bike shop and project of One Fam. Proceeds will support upcoming events.

 

Bowden, a 73-year-old blues singer-songwriter, still lives near 7th Street. He grew up in West Oakland and remembers going to the Slim Jenkins Supper Club and Esther’s Orbit Room to listen to all the artists who performed there, including Billie Holiday, Aretha Franklin, B.B. King, Nat King Cole, Louis Jordan, Etta James and Lowell Fulson.

 

These musicians and many others who have performed on 7th Street, including “Terrible Tom” Bowden, were recognized with plaques installed in the sidewalk by “The Music They Played on 7th Street Oakland” Walk of Fame Project, organized by Ronnie Stewart, executive director of the nonprofit Bay Area Blues Society.

 

There are currently 85 bronze plaques set in the sidewalk in front of the West Oakland BART Station on 7th Street.

 

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