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My First Boogie Duet by Charlie Booty


Our friend Charlie Booty passed away in February of 2008. In 2006 he wrote this article for us about performing his first boogie duet:

My First Boogie Duet
Charlie Booty

 Thrills and great moments sometimes come totally unexpected and provide “Cloud 9” experiences that are just as real decades later.  Don Ewell, a great jazz, stride and blues piano player, provided such an experience for me in a Memphis, Tennessee, club during a 1965 late-night after hours session.  Let me digress briefly to say that Don Ewell is famous for his jazz band, his stride and blues piano but is NEVER thought of as a boogie woogie player.  That is because he had to protect his source of income.  A player with a reputation as a boogie woogie player (in the 40’s through the 70’s) was not welcome in many venues.  Consequently, he didn’t play boogie woogie in public and became a “closet” player, visiting with Jimmie and Estelle Yancey many times during the 40’s when he was in Chicago, as well as listening to other South Side Chicago players.  In later years, after Jimmie died, Don recorded an album of blues with Estelle “Mama” Yancey.

 Back to the 1965 Memphis club event, Don was in town for a week, playing piano with a local pick-up band.  I was already a solid fan because of his recordings and was in attendance every night but had no idea that he ever played boogie woogie.  One night, after the show was over, the customers had gone and Don was at the bar talking with band members, I sat down at the piano and began playing some up-tempo boogie woogie.  Suddenly, Don came over, watched me a few seconds, then sat down on the piano bench and said, “Scoot over”.  I was taken aback but complied as he put his hands on the keyboard.  After a few choruses, he suggested that we do a slower boogie blues tempo and, next, a moderate tempo boogie.  Since this was a one-piano session, he indicated by hand motions and brief verbal directions, how to do the choreography and keep from tripping over each other’s fingers.  As we played, he would tell me when we were to take breaks.  At one break, he quickly said, “Move to the treble”, so I sprinted  to his right side and began playing the treble keys.  The band drummer, who had joined us on the first duet, kept saying, “Man, I never saw anything like that before.”

As Don and I walked back to the bar, I was bubbling over with praise and enthusiasm.  At one point I said, “Don, I never knew you could play boogie woogie!”   He gave me a big grin and replied, “Charlie, I don’t play boogie woogie.  You know that.”

In many later recordings Don proved that , not only could he play great boogie woogie styles, he also had a strong feel for the music.  He didn’t copy anybody but could play very authentic versions of the pioneer masters.  Despite the evidence, Don was never acknowledged as the great boogie woogie player that he was.

I am still honored, and humbled, by that experience.

Artists  Boogie Woogie  Ragtime and Stride  


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Charlie Booty 1928-2008


It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of Charlie Booty.  Charlie died last week at his home in Milan, Tennessee.  Charlie performed at three of our festivals:  2000, 2001 and 2002.  In the years that he didn’t perform, he would make the long drive from Tennessee just to be with us for the festival weekend.

A truly remarkable man, Charlie was not only an amazing piano player, he was a pilot, an Air Force Veteran a recording artist and a gifted prankster.  Charlie barely survived a plane crash during the oil crisis of the 1970’s.  The crash was caused by mechanical failure; it was discovered that fuel had been siphoned from his plane and replaced with water.  As a result of the crash, Charlie suffered from a brain injury that left him without a memory of ever having played the piano.  After his recovery, he re-learned the piano from scratch and would shy away from air travel if possible.  He would come to prefer a long drive to a short flight.  He would always say that he liked his travel “low and slow.”

A bout with throat cancer left Charlie without vocal chords and Charlie would struggle to speak.  Nevertheless, Charlie was a gifted story-teller and loved to talk about music and life.  It was through his music that Charlie really communicated best.  He was expert at a now-rare form of blues piano called the “Santa-Fe style.”  His playing style was best described as sweet and swinging.  Charlie was also a one-man recording company.  He formed his own label and recorded, mixed and distributed his own CD’s through his own website and mailing list.

Despite the many setbacks in his life, Charlie was one of the most positive souls you could ever hope to meet.  Charlie seemed to love every minute of every day that he had on this planet.  He leaves us with an impressive legacy of recorded music and many wonderful memories.  To say that Charlie will be missed is a gross understatement.
Keith Irtenkauf

We last heard from Charlie in December 2007 and can think of no better tribute to his spirit than the words he wrote: 

This year has been a year of reflection of times past and I find so much I can be very happy about, and give thanks for, especially all the people whom I love, and who have brought so much happiness into my life. Of course, I miss all those times on the Goldenrod Showboat, the Toronto Ragtime Bash and other events which have now become history. I miss all the people who have passed through my life, even if briefly, because they helped make me what I am and who I am. I am especially thankful for those who are still a part of my life.

Despite appearances to the contrary, nothing bad has happened in my life, and all things have worked for my good. I wouldn't change a thing, even if I could, because that would change the sum total of my life; who I am, what I am and where I am. It has all been a blessing, even if sometimes in disguise.

I am thankful for everyone in my life. Peace, Love, Health and Happiness to you all.


PHOTOGRAPHY BY JOHN COLLIER. For more of John's pictures of Charlie click here  

To read a story Charlie wrote about his first boogie duet click here



Artists  Boogie Woogie  Ragtime and Stride  


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"Boogie & the Blues Diva"on DVD



Watch the trailer!

"Recorded at the Redford Theatre in October 2004, this program highlights 60 years in the history of American music. Maria Muldaur performs with James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band, recreating performances of the Classic Blues divas of the 20's and 30's. Butch Thompson, of "A Prairie Home Companion" fame, performs turn of the century ragtime and classic boogie woogie from Pinetop Smith. Detroit's Alma Smith performs mid-40's boogie woogie and blues, and the amazing Jason D. Williams performs Louis Jordan's "Caldonia," from the mid 40's, and the seminal rock and roll of Jerry Lee Lewis in the 50's.

56 minutes + 40 minutes of bonus material.
$25 includes shipping and handling


OR CALL: 1-866-270-5141 between 9am-6pm Eastern


Blues  Boogie Woogie  Merchandise  Ragtime and Stride  


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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  


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