A little less than a year ago Johnny Prepolec, better known as Chef Johnny Prep, bought the Mr. B's complex in downtown Royal Oak. The place needed some work, including a major revamping of their kitchen and menu. Prepolec has spent the better part of his time heading the complex turning the cooking quarters into a scratch kitchen, but he's made some changes to the rest of the space as well.
Around October of last year, Prepolec took what used to be a cigar lounge and turned it into Boo's Live Blues & Jazz Club. He took down the space's massive flat screens, removed the comfy but bulky leather couches, tore away walls, and added a stage. He contracted local musician and radio host Mark Pasman and got him to book the space with local blues acts. Now, he says, Royal Oak and all of the metro area has the kind of live music venue that hasn't been available since Memphis Smoke shut down over four years ago.
Both Pasman and Prepolec are huge fans of blues. Pasman can talk at length about Detroit's noteworthy blues scene, mentioning both up-and-coming acts as well as mainstays like Thornetta Davis. He makes a point to book acts from both generations at Boo's, ensuring those who love blues are getting the best of both worlds. For example, this weekend's schedule includes Bobby Murray, a local musician who's toured with the likes of Etta James, and the RJ Spangler Kansas City Six, a band that includes young blues musicians who are still in college.
Pasman, a longtime local musician, has been playing in bands since the '70s. In the '80s he was the youngest program director ever at WRIF and in the '90s he moved to 'CSX where he worked for more than two decades while simultaneously performing in the popular local outfit Mudpuppy. He's a Detroit Music Award winner and for the last 15 years he's also headed up Super Sessions, an unrehearsed jam session he plays with other local musicians. This guy is no slouch when it comes to music.
"Mark has become an incredible resource," says Prepolec. "He has a great reputation and he's a great musician. I put the whole ball in his hands."
All of that knowledge has helped Pasman become not only a competent musical director, but a passionate one. He's proud and pleased at how well Boo's is being received. He says the space is comfortable for both guests and musicians, something that was very important to him and Prepolec. The space is becoming so beloved that this spring Prepolec and Pasman hope to extend their hours to include Thursday nights. Shortly after that, they hope to open on Sundays as well.
For now the blues is on at Boo's on Friday and Saturday nights.