RIP, Mama
October 6, 2009 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Laura Mae Gross, founder and owner of Babe's and Ricky's Inn in Leimert Park (a gem of an artistic community in Los Angeles), died this past Saturday.

Some consider Babe's and Ricky's Inn to be a well-kept Los Angeles secret, but their Monday Night Jam (and $10 soul food buffet) is famous and beloved by many. The songs on Babe's & Ricky's myspace page are presumably performed by the house bands, The Mighty Balls of Fire (Friday/Saturday nights) and Johnny Mastro & The Mama's Boys (Thursday nights).

Whatever night you show up there, however, you're perfectly within your rights to expect to be blown away by a revolving cast of incredible blues musicians from all over Los Angeles doing their thang. Some come from nearby Watts and South Central, others from East LA, others from the valley, the westside, some from MUCH farther away. Their official website boasts having played host to music legends, the likes of B.B. King and Eric Clapton, but it's the local blues players (mavens and naifs alike) that make it the treasure that it is.

Up until now, you could have also expected to see Laura Mae Gross, known to many as mama, at the door. I have a personal favorite memory of her: I went to Babe's and Ricky's one night on a date, at my suggestion. As a modern lady, I always rush to pay for myself (this has caused me some dating confusion, but I digress). I walked right up to mama and pulled out my wallet to pay the $10 cover, but she vehemently refused -- and insisted my date pay. Somehow this delighted the both of us and set the stage for a really lovely evening.

Sometimes it's crowded, and sometimes it's nearly empty (you can see mama in the background at her regular spot by the door, eclipsed by the dancing couple, in that video), but the bands never disappoint. Mama will be missed terribly, I can only imagine how much by those that knew her, but even to nearly complete strangers like me.
posted by pazazygeek (2 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Wow -- I wish I had known about this place earlier. I have a big ol' guide to Blues and Jazz haunts all over the US, and Babe's & Ricky's isn't even in it. Thanks for pointing it out.


posted by hifiparasol at 4:17 PM on October 6, 2009

This is just terrible news. On my annual visit to LA last month, I was shocked that she wasn't there (the first time in over 25 years of going to B&Rs). The rumors and sketchy information we could gather put a serious damper on the evening.

The music at B&R's was really only half the story - it was the way Mama conducted things from her seat by the door. On more than one occasion I saw her hook a player that wasn't cutting it off the stage with a loud "No, no, no, no, NO!" while shaking her head. The devastated guitar player would come off stage and hang his head while she lectured him, firm, but with a loving hand, about how he needs to stop thinking about the music and just feel it.

From the NPR link above:

I know they going to come ask well, how did I do, Mama? I say you got didn't do worth a damn. You've got go study some more. And the one that listen, some of them do, they turn darn good. But I tell them above all, keep out of the gangs, and pay attention to what your mother and father tell you, and please, no dope. Concentrate on your music.

I'll continue to go the club as long as it exists but it will never be the same without her.

Dear Laura, hope you find peace further on up the road...

posted by victors at 1:20 AM on October 7, 2009

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