Babe’s & Ricky’s on a Monday night is something that everyone should experience. Owner Laura Mae Gross, or Mama, as many call her, greets you at the door. At eighty- seven years old, she is still at the club every night. The eight-dollar cover gets you a free soul food dinner and all night Blues, including a brief set by Mickey Champion.
My first Babe’s & Ricky’s experience was last Monday. I got there early to walk around Leimart Park. I didn’t see the late night chess matches that once went on into the wee hours of the night. There used to be these intense chess matches just outside the legendary 5th Street Dick’s. I hadn’t seen them the last few times I been to Leimart Park. I passed by Project Blowed and The World Stage, both closed for the night. All these locations mentioned are known promoting culture, creativity and improvisation in the black community. Leimart Park is the place you need to be to improve your musical and word skills, with multiple Blues, Hip-Hop, Poetry and Jazz open mic sessions.
Babe’s & Ricky’s has a varied selection of beers, from New Castle to Ole English Malt Liquor. I noticed they had Guinness and I wondered if anyone had the nuts to make their own Black Eight at the bar. For those who don’t know, a Black Eight is a concoction of Ole 8 and Guinness, a throwback to my youth often done as a tribute to Tha Alkaholiks. (…Oooh don't I sound great when I down a black eighth, my style is much hotter than the enchilada plate...) I thought about doing it for a sec, then thought against it, as it’s a long drive from Leimart Park back to Cypress Park.
The house blues band was tight, Chicago blues style. After a few songs from them, the jam session began. Sign ups started early, so there was a healthy amount of people ready to play. Some of the blues players were ready to bring it, others couldn’t hang, but overall, everyone had talent. After a while they brought out the soul food buffet. The buffet consisted of fried chicken, collard greens, string beans, black-eyed peas, potato salad and Louisiana pork links. I heard that Babe’s and Ricky’s was one of the best soul food spots in Los Angeles and I can’t disagree.
Mickey Champion took the stage after the buffet. She’s well into her 80’s and still performing all over town. Tonight she sang two songs. Her voice is so strong that she walked around the club singing without a microphone, collecting tips along the way. Her voice is unique, somewhere between Etta James and a melodic cat in heat. Then, just a soon as she went on, her mini set was done, leaving everyone wanting more. This is the kind of place you want to stay all night at! It’s a shame that I waited all this time to come here.
BABE'S & RICKY'S INN
4339 Leimert Blvd., Los Angeles CA