There’s a wise old saying that if you want a serious club that celebrates and promotes any form of music, don’t get musicians to run it.
The Canberra Blues Society (CBS), now a quarter of a century old, seems to have taken that wisdom to heart – and become a powerhouse in the process.
Local blues musicians created the society in 1997, but for the past decade one couple of dedicated blues enthusiasts has been the driving force behind what is now a music society as good as any in the world.
Partners in life and in the blues, Kerry Scarlett and Kerry Sattler make sure things get done and that the CBS is taken seriously not just on the local music scene, but across the country.
And because they’re both named Kerry, they have long been affectionately known as K1 and K2.
K2 (who really should be called K1 because she carries most of the load) says the pair almost accidentally fell into their roles with the CBS.
“It was April in 2010 and we were at the monthly blues jam with a group of friends at the Statesman Hotel,” K2 says.
“They all seemed overrun with work. So I said ‘I can give you a hand’.
“They said ‘you can be the secretary’. I told them that’s not what I meant but they said it would be ‘just until August’. The rest is history. K1 joined the committee in 2012.
“But I’d been on committees before with a bushfire brigade and a landcare group, so it didn’t faze me really.
“I haven’t been on the CBS committee for a few years now, but that doesn’t mean the workload has lessened. It’s gotten even busier.
“This is more than a full-time job. Every single day I’m doing some work for the society.”
CBS membership is soaring, with regular concerts, jams, workshops and youth encouragement attracting talent and audiences from all over the region and beyond.
International acts are now among the society’s long list of featured artists appearing across its calendar of events.
K2 takes care of booking the artists (the couple even put up travelling musicians in their own home), and does all the media and ticketing around the events.
She helps out with gig guides and newsletters, takes audience bookings, sets up rooms for the shows, works the “merch” desk, and liaises closely with the artists.
She was even the project manager on the society’s own CD, released last year for its 25th birthday.
K1 is in charge of making sure posters promoting the music events are pretty much everywhere.
He can be regularly seen around town doing poster runs to shops and cafes, and he fills the concert venues on the day of each event with posters and flyers for the next shows.
K2 helps find travelling artists venues to play at so they come to Canberra.
“We have a very good relationship with the Harmonie German Club where so many of our events are held,” she says.
“I just love the blues. I always have, but when I was much younger I didn’t realise it was the blues I was listening to.
“I was quite naive when it came to musical genres, but I loved listening to Eric Burden and the Animals, Cream, the Yardbirds, the Stones, Jimi Hendrix and many others.
“My mum loved Etta James, so I got interested in all that kind of blues too.
“I love lots of different music, but the blues is what really gets me. I connect with it.
“I’m not a smoker or a drinker or a gambler, but my vice is I can’t stop buying CDs or going to gigs.”
As hard working as K1 is, he’s the first to admit it’s his partner who is the real warrior.
“People are always saying thanks to K1 and K2, but it really is K2 doing most of the work,” he says.
“You can’t stop her. She’s a real force and gets things done.
“K2 is the second highest mountain in the world, after all.”
Blues musician Steve Hartnett has been the society’s president since 2020 and describes K1 and K2 as the “culture carriers” for the club and for the music.
“They have been for many years and many incarnations of the Canberra Blues Society,” he says. “They know all the artists and all the artists know them.
“Committees come and go, but they remain working so hard for the society.
“Musicians can’t focus on running the organisation. They have their music.
“Presidents are often musicians, like I am, but that’s more to do with the ceremonial side of it all.
“The current committee is fantastic, I must say. We’re attempting to lighten K1 and K2’s load. It’s such a big job they do.”
So what is it about the blues that attracts so many aficionados?
“The blues lets you in easy and gives you somewhere to go,” Steve says. “You can stay there if you want, or you can let it develop a complex elegance.
“That’s true for the musicians and for the audience.”