By OnMilwaukee Staff Writers   Published Jun 07, 2006 at 5:10 AM
River Rhythms turns 10 this year and we asked the current and some former executive directors of Westown Association – which created and runs the summer-long, weekly free music event -- to lead us on a stroll down Pere Marquette Park’s memory lane.

Current Westown boss Ellen Winters, recalls:

“I think one of the most memorable shows was actually held last year.  We brought the ‘mongrel music’ band Brother back for an unprecedented third year and the crowd was the largest ever.  We welcomed about 3,000 people to the park that night and 15 minutes before the show ended, we ran out of beer!  We had tripled our order from normal weeks in anticipation and it still wasn't enough.  How often do you hear a story about running out of beer in Milwaukee?"
“I think two other memorable bands would be international blues artist Mose Allison and the ‘80s pop band Ambrosia. On the local front, I have been really impressed by the talents of bands like Crazy Man's Basement, Paul Cebar and Bluehand.”

Stephanie Sherman, whom Winters replaced and who now runs Lela, a Third Ward boutique (and is the wife of’s Jeff Sherman), remembers some high points and some curious moments in River Rhythms history:

“The best performance during my term was from The Commitments. They were great. The skies were looming, the winds started and the crowd was into it. The band sped up the set and had the whole crowd was dancing. Just as they ended and left the stage for their touring bus, the skies opened up. Stacie (Callies, Westown marketing and events director), Jeff (Sherman), the sound guy and I each held ends of the tent to protect the equipment. I thought for sure the whole tent and us with it would fly into the river, but we survived.
“Willy Porter also was great. The crowd loved him. He is so familiar and such a Milwaukee icon. The cool thing was to see lots of old people, young people, families … all enjoying his music. I have a special place in my heart, too, because Willy Porter played on Jeff and my first date (at the Pabst Theater)."
“Sammy Llanas was interesting. He did not want to start the show. He didn't think we had a large enough crowd. So I had to convince him to start. He went on stage with a bad attitude and shoeless, with his toenails painted black."
“The Mighty Blue Kings were awesome. I was so nervous because we did not have a dressing room and they had all of these riders in their contract. But they turned out to be really nice and played to the crowd. Plus the lead singer was very handsome."
“And finally, not related to the music but we used to store the wine in the bridge house. One Wednesday Stacie and I arrived and found our wine drank...probably by a homeless person. But the weirder thing was that down on the lower level of the bridge house by the river, the thief lined up hundreds of empty cups along the ledge. Creepy.”

Beth Nicols, who now heads up Milwaukee Downtown (B.I.D. #21), prefers a “High Fidelity”-style top 10 list…
1. Jimmy Liban
2. Mrs. Fun and Rhythm Club
3. Sigmund Snopek
4. The Bluebirds
5. Steve Cohen
6. Jack Grassel
7. Michael Drake Band
8. Paul Spencer Trio
9. Frogwater
10. Upside Groove Coalition

The line-up for the 10th edition of River Rhythms, which kicks off this Wednesday, is:

June 7 -- Eddie Butts Band
June 14 -- Mose Allison
June 21 -- Steve Cohen Blues Band
June 28 -- 5 Guys with Day Jobs
July 5 -- Madisalsa
July 12 -- Howard Levy’s Acoustic Express
July 19 -- Rosie Ledet
July 26 -- Swing-O-Matics
Aug. 2  -- Piper Road Spring Band
Aug. 9  -- Brother
Aug. 16 -- Ambrosia
Aug. 23 -- The Bridies
Aug. 30 -- Streetlife

All shows start at 6:30 p.m. and are free. The Westown Web site is