FRIDAY November 29, 1996

VALLEY 50 cents

The Fresno Bee

Central California’s leading newspaper

A dream really can come true

The same week he played a gig at Wal-Mart, blues musician, Stan Ruffo of Visalia was invited to open for the legendary B.B. King.

By Ken Robison

The Bee

VISALIA - Early 1980s: Cross-country truck driver passes the asphalt boredom by learning to play the harmonica from his big-rig cab. Mid-1990s: Ex-truck driver, now a professional blues musician, opens for the legendary B.B. King. The transformation of Stan Ruffo from trucker to blues play-er is one of those follow-your- dream tales. Ruffo can’t ever re-member not loving the blues, and now he’s making his presence felt in the California blues scene.

But carving a career playing the blues in Central California means you take what you can get: Hosting a Sunday night radio show; playing for a Wal-Mart late night sale; nightclub gigs from Los Angeles to San Francisco and most parts in between; interviews on Bay area radio stations; recording demo cassettes; teaching harmonica to prison inmates; filling in for a dying musician in a Fresno nightclub; playing a free show in a Porterville restaurant; organizing a blues cruise to Ensenada; maintaining a blues site on the World Wide Web. And opening for B.B. King, Feb. 9 at the Visalia Convention Center. In the crazy world of show business, Ruffo received that invitation the same week he played the Wal-Mart gig in Visalia- drawing a big crowd that boutght out all of his cassettes. The word "hustler" comes to mind, not in the sleazy con-man context but in the way some ball players hustle to keep up with their more famous peers.



And hustling the blues from Visalia- several hours away from the major music scenes - makes it very difficult. But Ruffo is determined to stay. "People told me, ‘You’ll have to get away from here; this is not a place to launch a blues career, ‘ "said the 45-year-old musicican the other day at Visalia’s Main Street Diner. Yes, he once had an eight-month gig there a few years ago. You name the place in Visalia, Ruffo has probably performed in it. Naysayers told Stan Ruffo other things: He’d have to play country to survive. He couldn’t perform without a band. So far, he’s proved them wrong. No country. And, for the present, no band. Rather, Ruffo

Please see Blues, page 22