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Philipe Lejeune at Cliff Bell's Friday April 6th


Philippe Lejeune performed at the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie in 2005, and is featured in our program and DVD, "International Boogie Woogie." He is coming back to the Motor City for a performance at Cliff Bell's on Friday, April 6th, starting at 9:30pm.

Mr. B once told us, "I've always admired guys who, when they sit down at the piano, you don't know exactly what you'll hear. That's what keeps me interested as a listener." Philippe LeJeune is one of those guys. 

Philippe grew up in the south of France studying classical piano. His world changed in 1968 when his mother took him to hear Memphis Slim perform in Reims. "I did not even imagine such music could exist," said Philippe. He threw himself into the blues and boogie woogie, scouring shops for recordings by the masters - Meade Lux Lewis, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Cow Cow Davenport, and many more. 

How much did he learn and how well could he play? Memphis Slim had become a Parisian citizen in 1962. He had heard Philippe and in 1980  asked him to record an album of piano duets. Just their four hands on two pianos. Enough said.

Today Philippe is recognized primarily as a jazz pianist, but his repertoire is broad, his approach his own. "For me music has to be different," he told us in 2005. "I like to play jazz standards with a blues feeling, or boogie woogie with jazz chords."

Friday night at Cliff Bell's you can hear for yourself. Don't miss Philippe LeJeune.


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Requiem for Pinetop



It had always been our dream to have Pinetop Perkins play the Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival; he was the last of the great Mississippi bluesmen, and the story of boogie woogie is more than incomplete without his.


Pinetop was born in Belzoni, Mississippi, in 1913. He started in juke joints, spent three years with Sonny Boy Williamson on the original King Biscuit Time radio show in Helena, Arkansas, and then toured extensively with Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker. It was as an afterthought at a session with Hooker at Sun Studios in Memphis that he recorded his remake of Pinetop Smith’s classic “Boogie Woogie” in 1953 and earned his nickname. In 1969 Pinetop took the piano chair from Otis Span in Muddy Waters’ band, and in 1980 when that band broke up he and several other members formed the Legendary Blues Band. Pinetop went solo in the early 90’s and continued to perform through early last year.


Pinetop was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2003, and received a Grammy for Lifetime achievement in 2005. In 2007 "The Last of the Great Delta Bluesmen" was the Grammy's Best Traditional Blues Album of the year. His last recording, “Joined at the Hip” with long-time partner Willie “Big Eyes” Smith, received the same honor in 2010. The Blues Music Awards (formerly the W.C. Handy awards) are the blues equivalent of the Grammy’s, and Pinetop won the best pianist award so many times (11 years in a row) that he was finally retired from competition and the award renamed for him.


Our dream came true at the 10th annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2008. It was bittersweet. Pinetop was 95 years old and physically frail, arriving at Cliff Bell’s for his interview in a wheelchair. He had lost most of the hearing in one ear decades before when Earl Hooker’s guitar amp pretty much blew up in his face at a gig on Chicago’s south side, and it had deteriorated further to the extent that our questions had to be relayed directly into his good ear by long-time friend and band mate Willie “Big Eyes” Smith. He had great difficulty answering any but directed questions, and his attention quickly waned.


But his spirit was indomitable, his smile lit up the room, and when we got him seated at the piano for the interview he simply began to play. There was power in his hands, and the music in his soul took a sledgehammer to the physical constraints the years had imposed on his body.


The afternoon also yielded one of our most cherished moments at the AMRF. Allen Toussaint was on the bill with Pinetop, and the tight production schedule allocated 90 minutes for his interview at Cliff Bell’s, after which he was to be hustled back to Music Hall for sound check while Pinetop was brought in for his interview. Toussaint cites Pinetop as a major influence on his music but had never met him, and when he discovered that Pinetop was coming he declined to leave until he had a chance to do so. It wreaked havoc on the schedule, but for those who witnessed the historic meeting of these two musical giants, and watched as they played four handed piano, it was not only magical but an overwhelming affirmation of the AMRF’s work that none of us will ever forget.


Pinetop’s band played a stellar set that evening, and Toussaint’s performance on solo piano was beyond astonishing (watch for “Allen Toussaint: The Soul of New Orleans” on public television this summer). At the end of the night all the players gathered on stage for the traditional “train wreck” finale, and during the bows Toussaint singled out Pinetop.


It was bittersweet, but at the end of the 10th annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, Pinetop Perkins had not only touched our piano; he had touched our hearts.


Pinetop Perkins died peacefully at his home in Austin, Texas, on March 21, 2011.






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Big Band Blues & Boogie Woogie now on DVD




The Paul Keller Orchestra with Mr. B, Bob Seeley, Charles Boles, Axel Zwingenberger, Dave Bennett, Red Holloway, and George Bedard.

This special 2 disc set contains two complete television programs, Big Band Blues and Big Band Boogie Woogie, and an additional 75 minutes of performances and interviews.

$35  includes shipping and handing  BUY ONLINE



Click here to check for public television broadcasts in your area


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One magical evening, Two extraordinary programs...


There was magic in the air long before the band hit the stage for the 8th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival. The Award winning Paul Keller Orchestra had been rehearsing with local soloists Bob Seeley, Mr. B, Charles Boles, Dave Bennett and George Bedard for weeks during their regular Monday night gig at the Firefly Club in Ann Arbor, and the buzz in the street was palpable.

Three days before the show, Red Holloway arrived from California, and Axel Zwingenberger flew in from Germany. The interview shoots left the crew giddy. The dress rehearsal vibrated with chemistry and camaraderie. We knew we were going to capture something very, very special.

Within the first few bars of the opening number, Buddy Rich’s classic, “Basically the Blues,” the audience was whistling and cheering. Lindy-hoppers hit the dance floor. Executive Producer and AMRF President Ron Harwood drolly commented, “Well, I guess this was a good idea.” When the band launched into a rollicking version of “Sing, Sing, Sing” to close the first half of the show, he was on the dance floor himself.

It was well past midnight when the ecstatic house, still packed, demanded a second encore. By then it had become clear that one hour would not suffice to present this unique and exciting event. Instead we are proud to present two extraordinary programs: BIG BAND BLUES and BIG BAND BOOGIE WOOGIE. The programs are built around distinct narrative threads and stand alone, but when presented in this sequence they weave a tapestry illustrating the connections between blues, boogie woogie, swing music and jazz.

BIG BAND BLUES  SD Feed:  Friday, June 26 at 1200 et / SD 07
   (simultaneous HD feed on HD 03)
"If you cannot play the blues, you cannot play good jazz."
Red Holloway
"Some of the stuff John Coltrane and Miles Davis did was very, very innovative, but it was still the blues in the end."
Charles Boles

BIG BAND BOOGIE WOOGIE SD Feed:  Friday, June 26 at 1300 et / SD 07
   (simultaneous HD feed on HD 03)

"Boogie Woogie is happy blues." Bob Seeley 
"If it weren't for the big band movement and swing, boogie woogie would have been forgotten." Axel Zwingenberger


Coming August 1: 4 Shades of Blues

The American Music Research Foundation is a non-profit organization dedicated to the preservation, promotion, and documentation of American music.

AMRF ON TV  Blues  Boogie Woogie  Jazz  


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International Boogie Woogie Honored in Houston


The American Music Research Foundation’s “International Boogie Woogie” was honored with a 2009 Gold Remi Award for Television or Cable Documentary at Worldfest, the 42nd Annual Houston International Film Festival. WorldFest is one of the oldest and largest film & video competitions in the world, with more than 4,500 category entries received from 33 countries in 2009. Awards were determined by points accumulated in juried viewings.

“International Boogie Woogie” documents solo and trio performances by four internationally acclaimed pianists at the 7th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, augmented by interviews with the artists: Switzerland’s Sylvan Zingg, France’s Philippe LeJeune, and Canadians Kenny “Blues Boss” Wayne and Michael Kaeshammer. Wayne emigrated from California, and Kaeshammer from Germany.

“International Boogie Woogie” was originally uplinked by NETA in MAy 2008, NOLA INBM OK1. It is the most recent of four nationally distributed documentaries produced by the AMRF, a non-profit based in Farmington Hills, Michigan dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and documentation of American music. “Motor City Boogie Woogie & Blues Festival” was released in 2005, “Boogie & the Blues Diva in 2006, and “Gen2 Blues” in 2007.

The AMRF will release three new programs this year. Companions “Big Band Blues” and “Big Band Boogie Woogie” feature the Paul Keller Orchestra with pianists Charles Boles, Mr. B., Bob Seeley, and Axel Zwingenberger; saxophonist Red Holloway; clarinetist Dave Bennett, and guitarist George Bedard. “4 Shades of Blues” features Ruthie Foster, Ana Popovic, Tommy Castro, and Koko Taylor.

Executive Producer and AMRF Founder Ron Harwood said of the award, “I began filming these shows 10 years ago simply to document and preserve the excellence and elegance of underappreciated artists and genres. I never expected to win awards, but I am proud of our group’s achievements.” Producer and AMRF Director John Penney added, “It’s particularly appropriate that we received this award in Texas, the birthplace of boogie woogie.”

For a DVD containing the complete program
and an additional 45 minutes of bonus footage
call toll free 866-270-5141.
$25 includes postage and handling.

CONTACT: John Penney 248- 478-2525


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International Boogie Woogie: Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival


The American Music Research Foundation is proud to announce release of the fourth in our series of public television programs from the annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival.
INTERNATIONAL BOOGIE WOOGIE has been distributed to stations nationwide by the National Educational Telecommunications Association. Individual stations may air the program at any time at their discretion, so contact your local station and let them know you want to see INTERNATIONAL BOOGIE WOOGIE! For a listing of currently scheduled broadcasts click here and be sure to check back often - listings are updated daily.

For a DVD containing the complete program
and an additional 45 minutes of bonus footage
call toll free 866-270-5141.
$25 includes postage and handling.

A pianist with a ferocious left hand rolling through eight-beats-to-the-bar is what comes to mind when you think of boogie woogie. The four pianists in INTERNATIONAL BOOGIE WOOGIE provide plenty of that while approaching the music from different perspectives. Switzerland's Sylvan Zingg demonstrates that, "you can boogie anything." France's Philippe LeJeune is a jazz pianist originally inspired by boogie woogie legend Memphis Slim. Vancouver B. C.'s Kenny "Blues Boss" Wayne learned boogie woogie from his church organist in Los Angeles, and Toronto's Michael Kaeshammer has been reinventing the genre ever since he heard boogie woogie as a child in Germany. The program ends with all four artists jamming in a classic eight-handed "train wreck." If you love the piano, the performances in INTERNATIONAL BOOGIE WOOGIE will amaze and inspire you.

WATCH  A 3 MINUTE TRAILER AMRF logo does not appear in actual program

ALSO AVAILABLE              

Gen2 Blues       
Boogie & the Blues Diva  


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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.

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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



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Sugar Chile Robinson plays Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival


In 1945 Detroit’s Frank “Sugar Chile” Robinson lost a boogie woogie piano contest because he was too young to officially compete; he was six years old. By the age of eight he had performed with Lionel Hampton, played for President Truman at the White House, and appeared in the Hollywood movie “No Leave, No Love” with Van Johnson and Keenan Wynn. By the age of 12 he was one of the most famous entertainers in the country, regularly breaking box office records at theatres across the country and in Europe.


By the age of 15 Sugar Chile had all but disappeared and for the past 50 years music historians and boogie woogie affecionados have been asking, "Whatever happened to Sugar Chile?"


Thanks to the efforts of the American Music Research Foundation we now have not only the answer to that question but also Sugar Chile’s first major performance in a half century recorded on video tape. The AMRF is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion, preservation, and documentation of American musical forms. It produces the annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival, records the performances and interviews with the artists for documentary purposes, and creates programming for public television that promotes the music and the artists. For AMRF Founder Ron Harwood and Director John Penney the footage of Sugar Chile is some of the most important ever captured for the AMRF’s extensive archive.


In 2003 Sugar Chile surfaced briefly for a performance at Southfield’s Millenium Theater. In 2006 his 1950 recording of “Go Boy Go!” was used in a television commercial for Dockers and the drumbeat in the boogie woogie community intensified, noting that he had been “spotted” in Detroit a couple of years earlier.


In early 2007 the Magic Bag’s Willie Wilson contacted Harwood to say that Sugar Chile had been booked for a festival in England and therefore might be willing to perform at the AMRF’s Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival. Harwood and Penney met with Frank Robinson a couple of weeks later and after a long exploratory conversation he agreed to perform and be interviewed on camera. His single condition was that he be allowed to bring his church choir. “That was then, this is now” is the way he described his set, which would begin with the boogie woogie piano he played in his youth and end with the gospel music he now plays in church.


On October 6, 2007 Frank “Sugar Chile” Robinson returned to the stage of Detroit’s Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts, one of the first he had ever played on as a child. As he moved from the “then” portion of his set to “now” he answered the 50 year old question:


“I started out so young I really had no childhood...and I wanted to stop entertaining because I wanted a thorough education. I was raised in show business with a tutor. And the tutor taught school. So when he was in school teaching, all my friends were in school too...and when he came to the house they were out playing, and I was in school. I had to make a decision about whether to keep entertaining or to get an education. And that’s what I did. That’s the reason why you didn’t hear from Sugar Chile in a long time.”


Frank Robinson earned a PhD in Psychology from the University of Michigan and has lived quietly in Detroit  ever since. He will perform at the Rhythm Riot Festival in Cambor, England Thanksgiving weekend. The television program containing his performance and interview during the 9th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival will be released in 2008.


CONTACT: MATT LEE:  248-584-3715







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Boogie woogie Great Big Joe Duskin Passes at 86


Boogie Woogie legend Big Joe Duskin died Sunday May 7 at his home in Cincinatti from complications arrising from a long battle with diabetes. You can read the obituary in the Cincinatti Inquirer here.

 Big Joe, the “gentle giant,” was a perennial favorite of ours, performing at the first three Motor City Boogie Woogie Festivals from 1999-2001. He was honored as the first inductee of the Boogie Woogie Hall of Fame in 1999 in hometown Cincinnati, Ohio.  A professional musician since the age of 16, Big Joe’s grace and style belie his size and his other profession -- working 30 years as a Cincinnati police officer.  Big Joe has always mixed his musical talents with his love of gospel.  In fact, Big Joe’s love of Boogie Woogie got him in trouble with his Baptist preacher father. While in his 80s, Big Joe’s father made Joe promise that he wouldn’t play “the Devil’s music” until after his death. What no one could predict was that Big Joe’s father would live to 104 years of age.

Joe first heard piano played in his local church.  “I used to have to walk through a swamp filled with alligators to get to church,” Joe recalls.  “And the only way I escaped a beating for being out late at night was because my uncle would find me behind the piano and take me home in his wagon.  He used to get me to slip under the porch when we got home, before my old man could come out. Then, when my father started hollerin’ for me, I would get out from under that porch and tell him I’d fallen asleep under there.”

When his family moved to Cincinnati, Joe was able to teach himself to play the piano.  “I used to play the same song over and over and over, the only song I knew, Coon Shine Baby.  Folks would close their doors when I came onto the porch.  They’d say, ‘Oh no, here’s the Duskin boy again.  Don’t let him near the piano.  He’s gonna play that damned song again.’  ‘Cause at the time, we didn’t have a piano at home.” 

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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]

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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


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John Hammond's "From Spirituals to Swing"


 The New Masses Presents
“From Spirituals to Swing”
         Carnegie Hall

John Hammond conceived of this concert as a political statement set to music:  “...the Negro people have produced some of the most amazing musicians the world has ever known,” and they deserved better than the oppression and discrimination they were subjected to.

Hammond was born on December 15, 1910 in an eight-story mansion on New York’s upper east side, an heir to the Vanderbilt fortune. As a child he discovered a Columbia Grafanola in the servant’s quarters, and by the age of 12 was collecting recordings of “early Negro and country artists.” His grandmother had a player piano and he also began collecting jazz rolls. At the age of 17 he snuck up to Harlem to hear Bessie Smith, telling his parents he had to go out to play string quartets. For the rest of his high school days he inhabited the Harlem clubs, frequently the only white face in the room.

While a student at Yale Hammond returned to New York on weekends and spent his nights in Harlem. During his sophomore year a recurrence of jaundice forced him to drop out, but by then Hammond had determined that he wanted a career in the music business.

His father sent him to “The Millionaire’s Club” in Georgia to recuperate. As Hammond says in his autobiography, “I returned to New York physically recovered and emotionally enraged. The habit of discrimination was so encrusted by centuries of acceptance that both black and white knew no other way to act. I had walked through my first southern Nigger town, the son of the president of a private club for millionaires, many of them Southern, all of them white and Protestant. To know better was no longer enough. I had to do something.”

For Hammond doing something meant promoting the artists and music he loved. As an independently wealthy man he was able to pursue his passion as he saw fit. As a young man he wrote about jazz for music magazines, invested in concerts, produced his first records, and hosted the first ever radio program devoted to jazz. He traveled the country by car, seeking out new talent.

At the center of his vision was a concert that would “bring together for the first time, before a musically sophisticated audience, Negro music from its raw beginnings to the latest jazz,” but it took years to find a sponsor that would underwrite the talent search and Carnegie Hall production. In early 1938, the Marxist publication, “New Masses,” agreed to sign on.

Hammond contacted a talent scout in North Carolina and set out to find his performers. Robert Johnson was at the top of Hammond’s list but had been killed by his girlfriend earlier in the year. “Big Bill” Broonzy was signed instead. Hammond also signed many of the performers he had discovered in New York, Chicago, and Kansas City.

In the printed program for the event Hammond laid out the show, not in the order of performances, but in the order by which the music evolved. There were eight parts:

Introduction During which recordings made by the H. E. Tracy expedition to the Africa were played.

I. Spirituals and Holy Roller Hymns
Mitchell’s Christian Singers were a group of laborers from North Carolina that sang a cappella on Sundays. Hammond went to their home, a back country shack without water or electricity, to sign them up.Sister Rosetta Tharpe was a forerunner to Mahalia Jackson, a singer and guitarist who played a “Holy Roller” style of hymns that straddled gospel and the blues. She played mostly in churches but had done one night at The Cotton Club, which brought her to Hammond’s attention.

II. Soft Swing 
The Kansas City Six featured Lester Young (cl. tsax.), Buck Clayton (tr.), Eddie Durham (electric g.), Freddie Greene (g.), Walter Page (b.), and Joe Jones (dr.) Their music straddled swing and dixieland styles of jazz.
III. Harmonica Playing
Hammond went to North Carolina to sign
Blind Boy Fuller, but Fuller was in jail. Living next door was blind harmonica player Sanford (Sonny) Terry, and upon hearing him Hammond signed him on the spot.

IV. Blues
It had been Hammond’s dream to feature
Bessie Smith, but she had passed on by the time the concert was in production, so he signed Ruby Smith – no relation to Bessie – accompanied by James P. Johnson, one of the originators of the “stride” style of piano that straddled the transition from ragtime to jazz.Hammond discovered blues shouter Joe Turner and his colleague boogie-woogie pianist Pete Johnson in Kansas City, and first brought them to New York to perform at The Famous Door in 1936. In 1938 he brought them back for a guest appearance on Benny Goodman’s “Camel Caravan,” and they stayed to perform in Carnegie Hall. Bill Broonzy had moved from Arkansas to Chicago in 1924, where he had become a major figure in the blues scene. The Carnegie Hall performance marked the first time he had played for a white audience. Jimmy Rushing was the vocalist in Count Basie’s band, and Helen Humes was a volcalist Hammond had discovered in Louisville, Kentucky and recommended to Basie. They both performed with small groups at Carnegie Hall before performing with the orchestra.

V. Boogie-Woogie Piano Playing
Pianists Albert Ammons and Meade Lux Lewis had shared a rooming house with
Pinetop Smith in Chicago from 1927 to 1930. Smith had a hit with the recording of “Boogie Woogie” in 1928. After he passed away in 1929, Ammons and Lewis continued to develop the form. At Carnegie Hall they played solo, duo, and six-handed with Pete Johnson. The Spirituals to Swing concert began the boogie-woogie craze in this country. Ammons and Lewis were recorded together at the very first session for Blue Note Records in January of 1939.

VI. Early New Orleans Jazz
 Sidney Bechet (cl. ssax.), Tommy Ladnier(tr.), James P. Johnson (p.), Dan Minor (trb.), Jo Jones (dr.)

VII. Swing
 Count Basie and His Orchestra

The concert was oversold to the extent that chairs for an additional 400 people had to be put on stage, and a second “From Spirituals to Swing” concert was staged on Christmas Day, 1939.

Blues  Boogie Woogie  Gospel  History  Jazz  


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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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Boogie Woogie

Boogie Woogie was the first and to date the only exclusively piano music to issue from the blues. Boogie Woogie, a term used to describe the blues piano playing that thrived roughly between the years 1920 and 1945, was a highly popular music in tenements. The very name Boogie was another name for the "house rent party." Both terms describe a phenomenon that took place in the crowded tenements of Chicago, Detroit, New York, and virtually every city with a large black population. Because poverty was a way of life, black people learned quickly to depend on each other to band together and to work toward common goals. One such goal was that of simply being able to pay the rent. With unemployment at a normally high level (at least for blacks), men long accustomed to surviving under the most adverse conditions ingeniously devised a technique that served the combined purposes of raising the rent and providing a means of social intercourse.   More

Boogie Woogie  


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The Centennial of Meade "Lux" Lewis


          This year, the American Music Research Foundation celebrates the centennial of one of the biggest names in Boogie history, Meade Anderson "Lux(embourg)" Lewis.  Born on September 3, 1905, Lewis was inspired by legendary Clarence "Pinetop" Smith and Jimmy Yancey.  Lewis shared a friendship with two of Boogie-Woogie's other cornerstone players, Pete Johnson and Albert Ammons.  With Johnson and Ammons, a fellow Chicago taxi driver, Lewis rocked many pianos in the mid-20's.
          In 1927, Lewis recorded his famous "Honky Tonk Train Blues", a classic that would be reproduced by nearly every Boogie player to follow.  The "Honky Tonk Train Blues" has a slow, rhythmic left hand that rests in one place, mimicking the sound of a train chugging along its tracks, while the right hand reproduces a starting whistle, bridge crossings, whistle conversations, and finally the slow descent of the train pulling into a station.
          When Lewis released the solo record two years later, a new name had been found for his style.  Clarence "Pinetop" Smith's 1928 "Pinetop's Boogie Woogie" was the first known coinage of the title "Boogie Woogie."  Smith's song was a faster-paced Boogie than Lewis's, and surpassed it in popularity.
          With the Great Depression came a great decline of Boogie-Woogie's popularity.  Lewis couldn't make enough money playing piano, and fell back onto side jobs to make ends meet.  In 1935, Lewis was found washing cars by the New York record producer and critic John Hammond.  Hammond, inspired by his discovery of the young Billie Holiday and his work with artists like Fletcher Henderson, Bessie Smith and Benny Goodman, was on a mission to bring black music into the limelight.  Hammond was gathering all of the best black American artists he could find to play in his "Spirituals to Swing" concert at Carnegie Hall.
          On December 23, 1938, Meade "Lux" Lewis joined his friends Albert Ammons and Pete Johnson on stage, along with shouter Big Joe Turner, the Count Basie Orchestra, the Bennie Goodman sextet, vocalist Rubie Smith (the recently deceased Bessie's niece), and Sister Rosetta Tharpe, among others.  The concert was an unmitigated success, blowing the minds of the white New Yorkers who came to see Carnegie Hall's first ever presentation of black American music.  The audience went wild for the three Boogie piano players, launching a huge nation-wide Boogie-Woogie craze that would last into the early 50's.
          After the 1938 concert, Lewis, Ammons and Johnson, along with Big Joe Turner, settled into an extended engagement at the Cafe Society in New York, often playing "train wrecks" with two and three pianos at once.  Lewis continued to tour and record into the early 60's, joining sessions sometimes on celeste and harpsichord.  Though Boogie-Woogie fell out of fashion, Lewis held his left-hand chords through the development of jump blues and rock and roll, living proof of his genre's foundational influence on later music.  Lewis died in a fatal car crash in Minnesota on June 7, 1964.

-Contributed by Britt Harwood

Boogie Woogie  


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Thoughts From Charlie Booty


Sharing an experience can create lifetime bonds between people and most all my close friendships were developed from experiences in and around musical events. The AMRF production, The Motor City Boogie Festival, is one of those exceptional events where fans and performers can become friends by sharing their love of this wonderful music, which is what it is all about.

Piano blues-boogie woogie can mean different things to each of us.  For me, this music is exhilarating, exciting, emotional and inspirational.  It also has tremendous therapeutic power.  On more than one occasion, during stressful and traumatic events of my life, being able to find comfort and peace from regular music sessions has preserved my balance in life.  Of course, such benefit is derived from devotion and dedication to the music.  Even without therapeutic benefit, piano blues-boogie woogie is a great lifetime adventure.  There is a seemingly endless variety of piano styles and ideas that flow from each performer and each player has a different story to tell.

Over roughly 58 years of playing piano, many people have asked me about learning to play blues-boogie piano.  I have shied away from actually doing long-term teaching though I have tried to start newcomers with simple advice and encouraged those who were already on speaking terms with the piano and notes.  One of the first requirements, in my opinion, is a deep, sincere love and appreciation of the music and it is best not to have on blinders that exclude all but one or two styles from the scope of appreciation.  I have met fans who only wanted to learn the industrial strength boogie woogie piano and, while that is all well and good, it is not wise to try to start out at the top of any profession.  I recommend a lot of listening to recordings of as many early pioneers as possible, primarily to get a good feel for the range of expression and ideas that brought all of us together.  Next, and even more important, is to listen to, and watch, live performances at every chance, on a one-on-one basis where possible.  I have learned a lot by being close enough to a piano to see what the player is doing and how certain things that intrigue me are done.  Of course, for any beginning blues-boogie player, the main thing is to start out very simple and work up to more industrial strength boogie as the control, coordination and finger technique develop.  The hardest part, and this is what many beginners try to by-pass, is practice, practice, practice!  Even the pro's have to stay in shape with practice.

With the Motor City Boogie Festival, the AMRF provides a great way for fans to get their yearly "piano blues-boogie fix", as well as inspiring future players, by presenting the best piano blues-woogie players from around the world.      

-Charlie Booty (Boogie Beat, Summer 2003)


Charlie Booty has worked diligently to promote boogie woogie to a world-wide audience. He has several full-length CDs produced on his private Piano Joys label.  He also has collaborated on discs with artists like Charlie Castner and Ben Conroy.  Another effort is his “Rent Party Echoes: CD series, featuring freewheeling piano solos and duets recorded at Dallas-Fort Worth piano parties.  It is our pleasure and distinct honor to have had Charlie perform for the past 3 consecutive Boogie Woogie Festivals and to contribute his personal insights for our debut newsletter. – The Editor

Boogie Woogie  


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