community weblog - [ Rhythm and Blues ]

Detroit Blues & Beyond: The Best of Detroit


"I think that's how most of white America got into the blues; people like the Rolling Stones saying, 'You love us so much, how can you not know about your own American blues artists who influenced us?'"
Tino Gross of the Howling Diablos in

The American Music Research Foundation's 
Detroit Blues & Beyond
Alberta Adams
Johnnie Bassett
Sir Mack Rice
The Calvin Cooke Band
The Howling Diablos

five minute sampler 



AMRF News  AMRF ON TV  Blues  Merchandise  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

Buddy Miles 1947-2008


OUR FRIENDS AT THE ILLINOIS BLUES SOCIETY  PASSED ON THIS SAD NEWS: is saddened by the passing of drum legend Buddy Miles.  He will be missed!

Buddy Miles  9/5/1947 -  2/26/2008
Legendary Drummer Buddy Miles  passed away this Tuesday, peacefully at his home in Austin, TX. He was (60) sixty years old. He suffered from congestive heart failure but the official cause of death is not known.

Buddy performed with some of the greatest names in music including Stevie Wonder, Muddy Waters, Michael Bloomfield, Wilson Pickett, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, David Crosby, Jack Bruce, Eric Burden, Peter Torque, Billy Gibbons, Prince, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Vaughan, Rick James, Kool and the Gang, Jr. Brown, Ike Turner, Pinetop Perkins, Jr. Wells, Koko Taylor, Johnny Taylor, Barry White, Aretha Franklin, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Carlos Santana, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Billy Cox, David Bowie and others.

Buddy Miles recorded over 70 albums and performed in numerous world tours, television commercials and videos. He is best known for his work with Jimi Hendrix and bass player Billy Cox in Band of Gypsys.

Band of Gypsys recorded one album appropriately titled “Band of GypsyS" in 1970 at Fillmore East in New York. Two of the songs on the album were written by Miles. ("We Gotta Live Together" and "Changes").
In lieu of flowers; the family has asked to please make donations to the Jazz Foundation of America specifically in Buddy Miles' name to assist with funeral, and other expenses at ; The Jazz Foundation of America, at 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY, 10036, Attn.: Amy Cusma.

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

Funk Brother Joe Hunter Passes


Legendary pianist and Motown Funk Brother Joe Hunter was found dead in his apartment in Detroit on February 3, 2007.  Click here for Detroit Free Press writer Brian McCollum's obituary.

Joe was the Master and Ceremonies for the 2003 Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival. AMRF President Ron Harwood remembers Joe fondly:

It is a great loss to the music community and a great personal loss to hear of the passing of “Ivy” Joe Hunter. Joe was a very special person, kind to everyone and always with a smile on his face. Over the past few years I had the privilege to visit with Joe, interview him and have him perform on our 2003 AMRF Motor City Blues and Boogie Woogie Festival. His interviews were a special treat to an old ethnomusicologist like me, because Joe brought Detroit’s music history to a vibrant and lively – and sometimes romantic crescendo as he rollicked across two decades of Hastings Street stories.

To be sure, Joe Hunter was a terrific piano player, someone who could capture an audience with either a solo boogie number or a smile-filled vocal; but mostly, Joe was a unique character. There was never a time that I saw Joe off in a corner. On the contrary, he was always where the action was, filling his friends with stories of dozens of great recording sessions, personal histories of the great Motown singers and always recognizing the guys in the band who made such special backdrops for the gospel/soul voices that Barry Gordy discovered.

I was also blessed with the opportunity to hear Joe’s straightforward explanations on the evolution of R&B music from gospel and country blues – and of course – Boogie Woogie. Joe felt comfortable playing almost any style because he was an entertainer at heart with no special axe to grind for one musical genre over another. He simply loved to play, loved to talk, and loved life. I know for sure that he’s giving piano lessons on the other side and grinning from ear to ear. We will miss you Joe.

Here is a slideshow of pictures from 2003.                view slideshow

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

Pictorial Review of the 2006 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival


The words may change, but it’s the same refrain every year: “It doesn’t get any better than this.” It’s Founder Ron Harwood, understated as always, saying 15 minutes into the Big Band Boogie Woogie show, “I guess this was a good idea.” And Judy Greenwald, the most expressive member of our group, standing by the sound board with her jaw on her chest saying over and over again, “Oh….my…..God!”

It was the Friday audience dancing all night long to Calvin Cooke, Alberta Adams, Johnnie Bassett, Sir Mack Rice, and the Howling Diablos. It was the Saturday house, still packed, demanding yet another encore from the big band at 12:30  in the morning.

We don’t put our shows together the way most people do. We don’t book artists just because they'll provide the biggest draw, and we don’t measure success by how many tickets we sell. We don’t try to make as much money as we can by paying the artists as little as possible and charging as much as possible for tickets. Rather, at the AMRF the artists come first, and we try to keep ticket prices as low as practicable in order to encourage folks to come see and hear music and musicians that they might not otherwise experience.

Our rewards come in the form of comments like these from audience members:
“Thank you one & all for the ALL-TIME BEST BOOGIE WOOGIE FESTIVAL to date!”
"…the BEST concert I have ever been to in my life with major dance parties in the   balcony!"
"… the best night of my life!"
"I thought I was in heaven!"
"I never knew what Boogie Woogie was, but NOW I do!"
"I'll never be the same!"
"Why wasn't EVERYONE THERE???"

 And like this, from Big Band Boogie Woogie Music Director, Bassist and Band Leader Paul Keller:

 “…everything about the show was great. I loved every minute of it! Again, thank you for the opportunity and the means for us to participate in this glorious project! It was an epic saga of immense depth, breadth and magnitude! It was a lot of work by a lot of people. The final result was spectacular!!!”

By the end of the weekend, we had turned some audience members on to music they either didn’t know existed or didn’t think they really liked, and had given the artists a weekend that bore little resemblance to “just another gig.” And we made many, many new friends.

Like I said, it doesn’t get any better than this.

Photography by John Collier, shown at work above.
(c) 2006 American Music Research Foundation


Sir Mack Rice works the crowd with Thornetta Davis up front

Watch the slideshow! view slideshow

l-r, Charles Boles, Mr. B, Bob Seeley, George Bedard, Dave Bennett, and Red Holloway do the boogie woogie!

Watch the slideshow view slideshow

Thanks to our Sponsors!



AMRF Festivals and Concerts  Blues  Boogie Woogie  Gospel  Jazz  Rhythm and Blues  


  • Nice shots Mr. Collier!
    - [ryan]
  • Wow! When can I buy the DVD?
    - [bugs]

  read more (2 total)

R.I.P. Ruth Brown


Ruth Brown was one of the most important women in the history of R&B, not only as a performer, but as a champion of artists' rights. I had the pleasure of working with her some years ago at the Detroit Jazz Festival, and came away from that experience with even greater admiration and respect for her. She was an incredibly gracious woman. We mourn her passing, but celebrate her life and legacy. You can find her music here.

l-r, Billy Eckstine, Ruth Brown, Count Basie, unidentified woman


R&B pioneer Ruth Brown dies at age 78

November 17, 2006 22:05:15

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Pioneering rhythm and blues singer Ruth Brown, known as "the girl with a tear in her voice" for emotion-laden singing, died on Friday at age 78 after a stroke and heart attack in Las Vegas, friends said.

Brown was the best selling black female artist of the early 1950s with songs including "(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean," "So Long," "Teardrops From My Eyes," "Oh, What a Dream," and "Mambo Lips."

Her hits for Atlantic Records were so huge that record company became known as "The House that Ruth Built."

But her work with Atlantic Records ended in 1961 as her gutsy, belting style fell out of favor.

Her career faded in the 1960s and she was reduced to taking menial jobs, including that of a maid, until a revival of her work in 1970s. In later years she hosted her own National Public Radio show, "The Harlem Hit Parade," on the great black blues and R&B singers of the 1940s, 50s and 60s and won a Tony award for her work in the musical revue "Black and Blue."

When she left Atlantic, the company said she owed them $30,000. When her career revived, she led a battle for artists to receive royalties from record companies.

Besides being known as "The Girl with a Tear in her Voice," she was also called "The Original Queen of Rhythm & Blues," "Miss Rhythm & Blues," and "Miss Rhythm," a nickname given to her by Frankie Lane,

When she revived her career, she starred in Allen Toussaint's off-Broadway musical "Staggerlee" and appeared in John Waters' film "Hairspray" as Motormouth Maybelle.

She was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993.

Singer Bonnie Raitt said, "Ruth was one of the most important and beloved figures in modern music. You can hear her influence in everyone from Little Richard to Etta (James), Aretha (Franklin), Janis (Joplin) and divas like Christina Aguilera today.

"She set the standard for sass, heartache and resilience in her life as well as her music, and fought tirelessly for royalty reform and recognition for the R&B pioneers who never got their due. She taught me more than anyone about survival, heart and class. She was my dear friend and I will miss her terribly."

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

Detroit Blues Legend Joe Weaver Passes



Joe Weaver at the 6th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in the Redford Theatre, 2004
(c) American Music Research Foundation

The loss of Joe Weaver hits particularly hard for us at the AMRF; he has been a friend for many years. One of my favorite memories is of Joe playing piano for Alberta Adams in President Ron Harwood's basement at the post-festival barbeque' in 2004. In 2006 Joe was to be one of the featured performers in our"Detroit Blues Legends" program. His passing reafirms the sense of urgency we feel about our mission.

Late last year Ron and I had a conversation about how to further that mission -  to promote, preserve, and document American music and the musicians who create it. Our festivals serve all three elements: The live performances and resultant television programs promote the music and musicians, while the raw recordings of the performances and on-camera interviews with the performers are documents that preserve their legacies. 

But this format is self-limiting because we can only document those artists who are still performing and can come to us. The urgent need is to document those artists who are close to the end of their careers, and even more urgently those who are no longer performing. I remember Ron saying that a bit of his soul dies every time another great one passes without his or her story being captured on camera.

At present we depend on outside personnel and equipment to record our Festivals. We determined that one of our goals should be to acquire equipment that would at least allow us to go to the musicians and get their stories, particularly those of the elder masters no longer performing. 

It is still a goal. Being an "arts and culture" non-profit, particularly in Michigan, presents a tough row to hoe.

In the meantime, we figured we should use this year's festival to present artists who may not perform much longer. This was the genesis of the "Detroit Blues Legends" program. When we all sat down to start considering specific artists for the event back in February, Joe was at the top of the list.  We knew at the time that he was ill, and determined that we would try to get his interview recorded before the festival.

For a variety of reasons, we didn't. And I know I can speak for all of us at the AMRF when I say that with Joe's passing, a bit of all our souls has died. Joe Weaver was a gentleman, and his role in the evolution of the Detroit music scene cannot be overstated. We will miss him.

Below is Susan Whitall's piece from the Detroit News.


July 6, 2006

Joe Weaver: 1934-2006

Musician pioneered R&B in Detroit

Susan Whitall / The Detroit News

Joe Weaver, one of the key figures of the 1950s Detroit R&B scene, died Monday in Providence Hospital in Southfield of complications from a stroke. He was 71.

Weaver, pianist and bandleader with his Blue Note Orchestra, was a human thread linking the 1940s big band era with the '50s R&B era, a musical mix that led directly to Motown.

First, he performed jump blues and jazz in the very early '50s, then throughout that decade performed as the Fortune Records house band, backing up the Fortune roster, including Andre Williams and Nolan Strong and the Diablos.

"Joe was playing some pioneering funk grooves and R&B, way back in the early '50s," said his friend and manager, R.J. Spangler, on Wednesday. "Joe had it all. He could play New Orleans-type beats, doo-wop, jump blues, soul and down and dirty, lowdown blues."

Later, Weaver and his band, the Blue Notes, worked for Berry Gordy Jr., playing on early Tamla sessions such as "Shop Around" for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

A lifelong Detroiter, Weaver was still a student at Northwestern High School when he met guitar player Johnnie Bassett. With several friends they formed the Blue Notes and started winning talent shows at the Warfield Theater on Hastings Street.

Bassett remembered his friend and colleague fondly as someone who didn't spend a lot of time analyzing his musical importance.

"Joe wasn't the type of person who was seeking to be a big name," Bassett said Wednesday. "He just liked to be in the limelight and have fun with what he was doing at the time. He was always laughing and joking. He was always upbeat, regardless of what was going on."

Weaver, Bassett and the Blue Notes would practice in the back room at Joe Von Battle's record store on Hastings, since they were friends with Von Battle's son.

Von Battle had a primitive recording machine in his back room, and he recorded one of those sessions and titled it "1540 Special" (alluding to the street address of King Records). The record, Weaver's first, was released on the Deluxe label, a subsidiary of Cincinnati-based King.

Weaver and the Blue Notes won "best band" so often at the Warfield Theater in the early '50s that they were made the permanent backing band. They performed that function for top Detroit acts such as Little Willie John and John Lee Hooker at the Warfield and at clubs around town such as Basin Street in Delray and the Phelps Lounge on Oakland.

Once at Fortune Records, the legendary Detroit record label located (later) on Third Avenue, Weaver cut many records as an artist with the (then) Blue Note Orchestra.

Several of the Funk Brothers, Motown's famed session band, have credited Weaver's early work for Tamla/Motown as being key in the formation of the Funks since many of them cycled in and out of Weaver's band.

Despite all his work, in the '60s Weaver packed in the precarious life of a musician to work on a Ford assembly line for 30 years.

It was at a backyard barbecue at Bassett's house in the early '90s that blues promoter/musician Spangler first met Weaver and persuaded him to play out again.

"He was still working at his day job, but he was getting ready (to play)," said Spangler. "It didn't take much persuasion."

Weaver was a bubbly raconteur, regaling friends and reporters with colorful tales from his long musical career.

He liked to tell of the time he and the Blue Notes were backing up the volatile Andre "Bacon Fat" Williams.

Williams was complaining all through his set about how badly he thought the band was playing, which wore on Weaver's nerves, so the bandleader instructed his musicians to stop playing. "Don't play another note, let Andre sing a cappella!"

In 2002, Weaver got together with two old friends, Stanley Mitchell of Stanley and the Hurricanes and solo singer Kenny Martin, both '50s hitmakers out of Detroit, to form the Motor City Rhythm and Blues Pioneers.

The R&B Pioneers released a self-titled CD that year. In May of this year, in one of his last public appearances, Weaver was honored at the Detroit Music Awards with a Distinguished Achievement Award.

Weaver is survived by three daughters; Zenobia, April and Belinda, and his girlfriend, Sue Williams. Funeral arrangements are pending.

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

Singer-songwriter Billy Preston dead at 59


By BOB CHRISTIE, Associated Press Writer

PHOENIX - Billy Preston, the exuberant keyboardist who landed dream gigs with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and enjoyed his own series of hit singles including "Outta Space" and "Nothing From Nothing," died Tuesday at 59.

Preston's longtime manager, Joyce Moore, said Preston had been in a coma since November in a care facility and was taken to a Scottsdale hospital Saturday after his condition deteriorated.

"He had a very, very beautiful last few hours and a really beautiful passing," Moore said by telephone from Germany.

Preston had battled chronic kidney failure, and he received a kidney transplant in 2002. But the kidney failed and he has been on dialysis ever since, Moore said earlier this year. ... [MORE]

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

The Other Mathews


Andrew Gilbert

Sunday, January 1, 2006

David K. Mathews

David K. Mathews wears his musical passions on his sleeve. Well, not his sleeve exactly, more like his biceps, back and pecs.

Decked out in a tight, white muscle shirt, Mathews testifies to his wide-ranging keyboard pursuits with his numerous tattoos, starting with the Tower of Power logo on his burly right bicep that commemorates the years he spent playing organ with the great East Bay funk band in the mid-1980s. Just below that is a jaunty image of Fats Waller from his 1930s heyday, ink that served as motivation for Mathews to explore the demanding Harlem stride piano style.

"I really wanted to learn how to play some Fats Waller, so I thought maybe if I got a tattoo of him, I'd have to be able to back it up, and that's what happened," says Mathews, 46, during an interview at an Albany cafe. "I'm really a funk, soul, R&B guy, and I see the tattoos as kind of a rock 'n' roll thing. It's just like one of the guys in Def Leppard."

The aesthetic may be rock, but you'd have to look far and wide for a metal player capable of navigating intricate post-bop lines on the Hammond B3 organ. That's what Mathews will do at Yoshi's on Monday, when he celebrates the release of his excellent album "The Coltrane Connection" (Jesse's Dad Records). Featuring Bay Area saxophone great Mel Martin, the prodigious drummer Deszon X. Claiborne and Barry Finnerty, the first guitarist recruited by Miles Davis, the project focuses on another area of Mathews' investigation, the lithe, harmonically sophisticated jazz organ sound developed in the mid-1960s by Larry Young and Don Patterson. ... [MORE]

David K. Mathews appeared as a surprise guest at the AMRF's 6th Annual Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival.  -RBH

Artists  Blues  Boogie Woogie  Jazz  Ragtime and Stride  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

The O.G. of Love; Johnny "Guitar" Watson gets his due with a terrific two disc set


By John Nova Lomax
Published: Thursday, October 13, 2005

Vishnu ain't got nothin' on Johnny "Guitar" Watson.

It's hard to believe, but in the late 1940s, Lightnin' Hopkins, Johnny Copeland, Joe Hughes, Albert Collins and Little Joe Washington were all living within a few blocks of one another in the Third Ward. And until 1950, there was even a sixth musical great among them, a boogie-woogie pianist's son named Johnny "Guitar" Watson, who moved to Los Angeles when he was 15.

As famous and talented as Hopkins, Copeland and Collins all were, Watson had more influence than all of the rest of them. In fact, you can make a case for Watson's having been one of the most influential American musicians of the 20th century. Where most bluesmen had to scuffle to survive through the 1970s disco and funk boom, Watson was just about the only one who not only survived but actually thrived, and he did it all by simply playing the same greasy and funky Third Ward blues riffs amid more updated arrangements. Watson never sold his soul; he just put new beats behind it from time to time. ... [MORE]

A real mother for ya

Artists  Blues  Rhythm and Blues  


  discuss this article

<<  |  July 2020  |  >>

view our rss feed