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On a blue note: Muddy's is closed

Music lovers who used to listen to the blues in north Pinellas County are now singing them. Muddy's, the Palm Harbor restaurant that served bayou food seasoned by blues acts onstage, is closed. One blues aficionado who was surprised by the closing was Gene Hardage, the titular leader of the Sarasota Slim Blues Band, a frequent act at Muddy's and other Tampa Bay clubs.

"There was no notice," Hardage said recently. "It's a very typical thing for a musician to get the short end of the stick abruptly."

Brian Cook and Wes Stock, former owners of Muddy's, have been unavailable for comment. Hardage said Cook only told him Muddy's had been sold and future plans for the restaurant were unclear.

The disappearance of Muddy's from the nightlife scene leaves only two established blues venues in Tampa Bay: Skipper's Smokehouse in Tampa and the Ringside Cafe in St. Petersburg.

Hardage has been instrumental in the creation of a fledgling blues format at Fiddler's Seafood Restaurant at 700 34th St. N in St. Petersburg. Every Monday night, the Gulfcoast Blues Society plans to meet at 8 p.m. at Fiddler's and then hold a 9 p.m. jam session - with both gatherings open to anyone interested in the blues.

"They (Fiddler's) will be trying to take up the slack in a small way," Hardage said, adding that two previously scheduled Muddy's shows have been rescheduled for Fiddler's.

Veteran bluesman Matt "Guitar" Murphy will perform at Fiddler's on Thursday, with Sarasota Slim's band opening. Alligator Records artist Charlie Musselwhite will be at Fiddler's on Feb. 21. Call 323-8841 for details and reservations.