He is known as a master storyteller with his guitar and harmonica, and is about to embark on his “Rolling Down Three Rivers” tour south toward the International Blues Challenge in Memphis. With his latest CD “Tired of Bluesmen Cryin’” hitting in the top 20 of radio blues charts, Tas Cru is a busy man.
However, much of Cru’s energy also goes into sharing his love of blues in schools. It might be an actual music lesson teaching chords or slide guitar, history, explaining and exploring the roots of blues music, or a home and careers class that cooks up some blues.
Recognized and nominated by the Western New York Blues Society, Cru, aka Richard Bates won the Keeping the Blues Alive Award for Education in 2012. Fran Denk, education chairman of the society speaks highly of Cru
“Rick was nominated because he brings to the classroom a total package,” she said. “He is good at what he does, as an artist, performer. I have seen him motivate kids that wouldn’t get involved. He takes it from where they are at to a place where they are learning something new. He likes what he does and it shows, making it fun and interesting for all ages.”
Cru becomes animated when he talks about his work.
He mentions one assembly where he was playing to a large group of younger kids. He was playing a song, upbeat, catchy, about a dog; he was asking questions to the kids about their pets, if they had a dog, sharing about his dog, Ike. He noticed a little boy in the front, with his head down, shaking, obviously distraught. Later, when after a teacher had noticed the child and talked with him, she told Cru that the little boy’s dog had been hit that morning. But, after a cry and a talk, the student felt a little better.
“There is nothing more important than giving myself to these kids,” said Cru. “I work with all ages, and find what I can to get everyone involved. Blues music crosses all barriers, and it’s the roots to all of our present music. The stories that are told can be cathartic as they talk about the struggles of life, letting go, moving on, moving through them. They embrace the human experience.
The Blues Foundation in Memphis will have Cru offer his program during their International Blues Challenge in February. “It is an honor,” added Cru, “and there is much work to be done.”