Written by Bluebird
Banner History by Rick Beck, in collaboration with Alexis Terrosa and Deb Hebert.
Photos by Rick Beck, Bluebird & Micah Gummel.
In the Joe Bonamassa fan world, all things "Joe" have the pre-fix "Bona". The trademark symbol of the Joe Bonamassa fan base is the now famous "Bona-Banner." I stumbled across it on the web while researching this artist and after hearing some brief history of it, I had to get the whole story. I asked Deb Hebert, who got some history from Rick Beck and we also collaborated with Alexis Terrosa, to pull together the steps of this Slow Train symbol that honors the the Blues Guitar Titan. To these fans, the Bona-Banner is similar to and taken as seriously as, the passing of the Olympic Torch.
There is a song called, Thou Shalt Always Kill, by Dan Le Sac. It's a crazy, techno (annoying) song and the centerpiece of the song and video is the singer taking albums of famous bands like The Beatles, The Sex Pistols, The Cure, The Next Big Thing, and throwing the LP's into the courtyard chanting, 'just a band'. Led Zeppelin was second on his list, "Led Zeppelin - just a band ..." and fling goes the Led Zeppelin 3 LP ... My best-est musical friend sent this 'hit' to me the year I flew to London to see the Ahmet Ertegun Tribute. He was taunting me with it because he couldn't believe I'd actually go to those great lengths and expenses to see 'just a band'.
How far would you go to see your favorite band ? How much money would you spend ? How dedicated are you to making sure that you are a part of the collective that generates so much energy you can fire up a torch for them? A backyard bar-b-que ? If the ocean were a sea of fan commitment energy for your favorite band, would you just put your toe in the water ? Would you jump in for a swim ? Sail ? Surf the waves and see where they led ? During the Led Zeppelin trip, I joined the blogs and on one of them coined the term, "Helicopter Fan." I don't mean helicopter as in hovering around your favorite band like a stalker, no no. A 'Helicopter Fan' is someone who, if the energy for their band is as vast as The Ocean, would be willing to be dropped from a helicopter, just to take the plunge.
Zeppelin fans may think we have the corner on Helicopter Fandom, or maybe Grateful Dead or Phish fans are equal to their own communal culture. One thing I discovered, however, in following Joe Bonamassa this year, is that his fan base has a life history and community that is becoming legendary in and of itself. Is Led Zeppelin, "just a band?" Is Joe Bonamassa, "just a guitarist?" To the Bonamassa team, it's like asking if the Mona Lisa is, "just a painting?"
From Rick Beck:
The BonaBanner started out as a lark. I had noticed during chat on Joe's fan forum that a large group (12) of us had all purchased adjoining tickets in the front row of the balcony at the Las Vegas House of Blues for the concert there in April of this year. It occurred to me, that it was a natural place for a display of something to show the fans' love and support of Joe Bonamassa. I broached the idea on the Joe Bonamassa fan forum associated with his website and was met with enthusiastic approval, so I decided to do it. The words were provided by a long time fan, Rocket, after some discussion on the forum, so Bonaholics Unanimous was what it was going to be. I went to a local sign shop, All The Kings Banners, and commissioned the banner, to be delivered the day before the trek to Las Vegas.
There was a large pre-party organized for fans in the House of Blues restaurant, so I brought the banner down in preparation for the show. We wanted to have a group picture taken in the restaurant on the small stage there but the manager refused, so we went outside into the casino and unrolled it there for the initial display. It is large, 16 feet long by 18 inches wide with foot high letters. Here is one of the first pictures taken in front of the HOB billboard in the Mandalay Bay Casino.
I decided to sneak the banner in since HOB management had said it was not approved so I wrapped it around my torso under my shirt and jacket. We then got in line to go in for the show, but it was announced the show would be delayed by an hour. It was pretty warm wrapped in vinyl for that time. We finally entered, took our seats and I unwrapped it and we put it down by our feet before the show started. Joe's shows always start exactly on time with a song coming on the house PA two minutes before he comes out so when the music started, I gave the signal and we all stood up with the banner and started cheering. In just a moment, the crowd in the theater looked up to see what the commotion was all about and they all started cheering as well, while camera flashes went off all over the place taking our picture. I could see Joe from my vantage just off stage in preparation to come on. He looked around and peeked out to see what all the commotion was about, looked up and gave us the high sign.
A report by one of the crew backstage said Joe was thrilled at how fired up the audience was for the show. At that moment, I realized it would be pretty cool for other fans to experience the fun of displaying the banner at other shows, so I decided to toss the idea out to the other fans. I posted the idea on the forum and the first volunteer stepped forward. I decided the only way it could work was for each fan that took it up to be responsible for sending it along on its way to the next volunteer.
Since that first day, it has progressed on a tour around the world following Joe Bonamassa's shows as fans took up the challenge. The sequence was: Las Vegas, Iowa, New Jersey, New York, Canada, both in Montreal and Toronto, Norway, Australia, both in Newcastle and Melbourne, Back to me in San Diego where it was displayed at the first Black Country Communion show in front of the venue, on to Amsterdam for 3 shows, the U.K. for two shows in London, and now on back to the United States for the show in Boston and then the two shows in New York City at the Beacon Theater where it will be retired. (since this was written, the display at New York was missed due to fate and the last was in Philadelphia) The entire band and fans around the world have added their signatures to the back of the banner and small flags representing their countries have been pasted on. It has been embellished with the addition of logos for Joe Bonamassa's web sites and a leather carrying case has been fabricated to protect it in transit. All this was done fans along the way. I acted as a clearing manager to help coordinate the journey but this was a group effort by a few of Joe's most fervent fans. All I did was create it and start it on down the road. With the retirement of the original BonaBanner imminent, other fans have created a second banner to continue the tradition. It started in Chicago and is following the U.S. leg of the present tour.
All I can say in conclusion is that this was one fan's dream come true, made possible by the concerted effort of many others. It has logged over 27,000 miles since its creation and brought joy to many fans around the world as well as promoting our Guitar Hero. I had no idea this lark would gather a life of its own and be so well recieved by Joe and his fans. Needless to say, I'm thrilled! Yeah, me too while I was writing that up. The end of this road is kind of a bittersweet moment. It was tough at first to get it going, but as the first fans got into the spirit of it, momentum took it on its journey.
The list of fans who took up the challenge is actually fairly small. They named themselves BonaBannerBearers, (all things Joe have an added “Bona”) Here is the roll of the folks who did the job. PattyLovesJoe who took up the challenge first, Gloria Trovato and James Bovitz II who got the signature thing going and Joe's endorsement of the idea, Jack and Lori DuMontier who had the idea of adding the logos and country stickers, got actual radio airtime to promote Joe and the banner, and made the cool bag, Alan Nabi who took it around for shots with the Canadian Parliament in the background, Haavard and Wenche Hausken in Norway who showed up cold to the Bergen (RB) fest with no idea of what to do, met Joe for the first time and then payed to air freight it to Australia, Gary Minton who sadly very recently passed, Mullet Fish who carried it across Australia, Bibi Welp who carried it from San Diego to Holland, Ian Connoly who carried it from Holland to the U.K., Maggie Rogers got it from Ian to London (SP). She ended up with nothing after Joe got sick and had to cancel two shows in England, Pete Kemzura who made its presence ubiquitous in London with the help of the London gang, Sandra Piche who carried it back from England to Massachusetts. Ashley Flynn in Boston, and once again Gloria Trovato who displayed it for the last time in Philadelphia after the frenzy of the two shows at the Beacon in New York City on Broadway where it was forgotten in the tour equipment van amidst the DVD shoot. These fans are the ones I am most in debt to, the ones that made it happen and turned my crazy idea into something much more.
You can see Sandra Piche's photo link to the signed banner here.
We opened up the comments page for editing and got these extras stories from Lori and Jack Dumontier of Quebec:
Hi , I just read the article by our dear friend Rick Beck about the Bonabanner.. We are the ones who picked up the banner from Gloria Trovato in Westbury New York as we bought tickets for that show and drove up to new York, and brought the banner back to Montreal, Quebec, Canada for the Montreal Show.Westbury was Friday, March 25th, Montreal show was Thrusday March 31, and Ottawa Canada was Friday April 1, 2011.. We are friends with a DJ (Randy Renaud) who does a Blues Show every Sunday evening on Chomfm . He is also a big fan of Joe Bonamassa, so we told him we were going to New York, and Montreal show's. He ask me to report back on the Westbury show. What an opportunity to advertize for the Banner and Joe Bonamassa...on our Radio Station CHOM FM, so we did. I had an interview with Randy Renaud on the Sunday evening following the Westbury show, and pushed the banner, Joe, and the fan site JBXP.Net....All of our Bonafriends knew, so they listened to it via the internet. Awesome. The Montreal show was coming up on the Thrusday, we kept looking at the banner and something was missing we came up with fabulous ideas, but we would not do anything until we confirmed it with Rick Beck, he gave us the go ahead to add the names of the sites, JBonamassa.com and JBXP.net in black lettering so we worked on that that week before the Montreal show, Then we came up with putting a small Canadian flag sticker, telling Rick, and telling him to get others to put their country flag,Seeing this Banner was like gold, I made a leather bag to carry it in as it needed to be protected as it was going to travel many miles.. and then of course the signatures. We had it in our minds we would get all of the band & crew members to sign it also for the first time. When we got to the meet and greet in montreal, we said we gotta get a picture of Joe with this Banner, so for the first time,, Joe finally has his picture with this famous Banner, and he explained the banner to the growd of people there to meet him what would happen with this banner etc... Then after awhile. Bob Witt, the merchandiser as we were talking said" give me the banner and I will take it back with me and have everyone sign it" woo hoo we were so happy, mission accomplished. lol. As we were in the process of adding things to the banner that week, we said hell, we will buy tickets for the Ottawa Canada show, then Rick got us in contact with Alan Nabi, and we drove up to Ottawa that Friday April 1, to bring him the banner at the meet and greet again.WOW,,,,, We did 3 shows in one week, carried and cared for the Banner, accomplished many things, and we are very honored to have been part of this and made the changes. This Banner will go down in history...