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Harrison adds: "A year ago, Blues News had 30 ads an issue. Now there are two. It [the KCBS] is just a total mess, and it's all because of Joe and Judy."
Says Gilley: "I'm not trying to steamroll anything [Sherrick] is doing. But I went to that election in January, and I couldn't figure out what the hell was going on. It was rough. I reached out to Joe after and said, 'What are you doing to mend some of these fences?' ... You can solve a lot of problems just by listening to people. I offered to bridge gaps with him, reach out to some people, try to help get them back onboard. But I never got a firm commitment one way or the other. And I continue to get people coming up to me asking, 'What's up with the Blues Society?' It's been going on for years now but particularly the last few. At a certain point, it's like, who are you serving? What are you about?"
It's kind of a mystery to me what exactly is going on with that entire organization," says Paul Greenlease, who plays bass with such acts as the Nace Brothers and Dave Hays.
On the KCBS Facebook page — as well as on the KCBS Response Group page, started by critics of Sherrick's administration after they noticed that their comments were being deleted from the official KCBS page — the accusations and arguments are invariably interrupted by well-meaning, mediating voices reminding everyone that the KCBS should be about the music, nothing more. But at this point, the KCBS is so divorced from most of the blues scene that a majority of the musicians The Pitch spoke with (many asked not to be identified, either because they didn't want to risk gig opportunities or because they didn't want their names associated with the KCBS's high school drama) said they just don't pay it much mind.
"I've been playing around Kansas City for about 20 years now, and they haven't done much for me as far as I can tell," Greenlease says. "But usually, I'm just too busy playing to really think about anything with the Blues Society. My feeling is that all the infighting just makes a lot of musicians want to steer clear."
Steve Ashton, who says he has been a fan of KC blues for about two decades, had experience with another local 501(c)3, the Structural Engineers Association of Kansas and Missouri, for which he has served as president, so he ran for the KCBS board in 2013 and won. Despite some reservations — he believes he is the only member who did not sign Sherrick's confidentiality agreement — he's optimistic about the group's direction.
"There's definitely some internal conflict, but I think it will be resolved," Ashton says. "They've done all these great things in the past: festivals, events, Blues News. One of the things I ran on is transparency, and the board is working toward that. There's some internal talk of releasing budget information and board meeting minutes to membership. I think it's just a matter of getting people to work together again."
Houze isn't buying it. "These new guys on the board," she says, "they don't know what they're in for."