Local Music Legends Help Blues Icon, Mr. Stress
No one cares about me, No, I ain't even got a friend...when will my troubles end. Black night is falling. Oh how I hate to be alone.
So sings Bill "Mr. Stress" Miller on an unreleased 1970s version of the Charles Brown classic. This song and many others can be found on the newly released "STRESS RELIEF" CD created to assist the Cleveland blues legend after he suffered a mild stroke in December 2013.
At that time, Mr. Stress was facing eviction from his apartment and dealing with the macular degeneration that has left him legally blind. In late December, he took a break from packing and called into an Internet talk radio show that he listened to regularly. While talking with his usual lineup of friends on the show, one of his colleagues noticed that Stress was slurring his speech. The friend, who was in another state, called 911 and the authorities were able to trace the number back to Stress' Birdtown apartment. The police and EMS were quickly dispatched.
While recovering in Lakewood Hospital, Stress got word that his belongings were about to be thrown out on the street. The movers, who were contracted through social services to move him, refused to do so because he was not completely packed. Moreover, he could not locate the documents - birth certificate, social security card and state ID - necessary for a lease on a new domicile. As if that weren't enough, the social workers never returned any phone calls!
It may have felt as if black night was falling, but Stress’ many friends came to his rescue. My dad and Dussault Moving & Storage moved and stored his belongings free of charge. In addition, fellow musicians Jeff Beam, Mike Sands and I, along with many others, came to the ailing musician's aid as he was relocated to a nursing home to continue his recovery.
Over the next month, the documents necessary for a new home were procured, and Stress was successfully moved into the Cleveland Heights apartment where he currently resides.
I put the word out that Mr. Stress was in distress.
As a long time friend and fan of his, I proposed creating a compact disc to benefit my mentor. Within eight days of my SOS, enough songs were contributed from the Cleveland musical community to fill up four CDs worth of music. The result, “STRESS RELIEF”, is a collection of music from more than 58 of Northeast Ohio's finest artists. The DVD-style box is accompanied by a 20-page booklet containing the history of Mr. Stress and rare photos from his personal archives.
Among the 70 songs are released and unreleased gems from Michael Stanley, The Tree Stumps, Becky Boyd, my band - Colin Dussault's Blues Project, and countless other icons of the Cleveland music scene. As one would expect, the collection includes a sampling of blues music, but it also boasts blues rock, rock, pop, country, folk and Celtic contributions.
Stress started playing the harmonica in coffeehouses in Cleveland in 1966. In the past decades, he worked in such legendary venues as La Cave, the Smiling Dog Saloon, The Grande Ballroom in Detroit, in addition to steady residencies at the Brick Cottage and the Euclid Tavern. Stress has earned the respect of blues players and musicians from all genres of music as is evidenced by the outpouring of love and music that was contributed to this project. It is a testament to the way in which the music community in Cleveland bands together to take care of its own. Black night may have fallen on Mr. Stress, but as “STRESS RELIEF” shows, he is far from being alone.
All proceeds from the sale of “STRESS RELIEF” go directly into a fund to assist Mr. Stress. For more information on the CD, visit www.mrstress.net or www.colindussault.com.
Colin Dussault is a Lakewood-based harmonica player and vocalist. He is also the manager of Marketing and Promotions at Dussault Moving & Storage Inc.