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Eddie B. Burns, 1928 - 2012

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“Eddie B. Burns was born on February 8, 1928 to Albert and Eddie Mae Burns in Belzoni, Mississippi. He was the oldest of ten children. On Thursday, December 12, 2012, at the age of 84, Eddie went home to be with Jesus.

“As a young child, Eddie’s parents were sharecroppers, and he disliked picking cotton. Eddie Mae would tell of how instead of picking cotton Eddie would run through the cotton fields watching the birds flying free and imitating them. He said he wanted to be free like the birds. Seeking freedom and job opportunities, he headed north.”

So begins the obituary for Eddie printed in the program for his home-going celebration at the Lemay Church of Christ on Detroit’s east side on December 20. Eddie had been baptized and joined its congregation in 1996, and unlike many, his eulogy was delivered by a preacher who knew and loved Eddie, his wife Alma, and their family.

Eddie had 15 children with Alma and his first wife, Carmen Laberdie. They and their children and their children’s children filled literally half the church at the home-going. That’s how beloved a man Eddie Burns was. And oh-by-the-way, he was a brilliant musician too.

Eddie arrived in Detroit in 1948. Days he worked in an auto plant, nights he haunted clubs and house parties. In 1949 Eddie was blowing harmonica with guitarist John T. Smith at a house party in Black Bottom when John Lee Hooker heard him through a window. Hooker dropped his plans, entered the house and asked Eddie if he could sit in. Three days later Eddie made his first recording with Hooker, who was already a rising star on the strength of his 1948 recording of “Boogie Chillen’.”

Eddie remained with Hooker for many years, playing harp on recordings, holding down club engagements when Hooker was away promoting his records, and ultimately taking over his regular spot at Detroit’s legendary Harlem Club. He continued to develop his guitar chops, and on Hooker’s seminal “Real Folk Blues” sessions for Chess in 1966, Eddie played guitar throughout.

Eddie was a mainstay in the thriving Detroit blues scene throughout the 60’s. In the 1970’s he toured Europe with his own band several times and in the 1980’s continued to tour the U.S. and record. In 1994 he was honored with a Michigan Heritage Award. The citation asserts, “Eddie is the only pure blues musician to live and perform continuously in Michigan…His maintenance of blues tradition while contributing new compositions and effects on the guitar and harmonica makes Eddie Burns a key bearer of the living blues tradition.”

Aaron “Little Sonny” Willis was one of Eddie’s closest friends and musical associates. In the program for Eddie’s home-going he is included as family. Like Eddie, he fled the south seeking freedom and a job, arriving in Detroit in 1957. Like Eddie, he worked in the auto industry by day and haunted clubs by night. The very first joint he visited was the Plantation Bar on Russell Street, and Eddie was on the bandstand. “He had that place locked down,” said Sonny. “That was his main gig.”

In his eulogy at the home-going, Sonny noted that his very first time on the bandstand was when Eddie let him sit in, and that Eddie’s last time on the bandstand was with Sonny at Detroit’s Music Hall during the 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2008. Sonny was in semi-retirement himself at the time, and he agreed to the performance primarily because he was asked to play with and pay tribute to his long-time friend and band mate.

Eddie’s health was already failing and he could no longer play the guitar, but he sang and played harmonica through three songs and received a thunderous ovation as he left to sit in the wings with Alma for the rest of the set. From the stage Sonny said, “There might not have been a Little Sonny if it hadn’t been for the first man you saw walk out here to perform.” He then dedicated Z. Z. Hill’s “I Found Love” to Eddie and Alma.

Sonny spoke often afterwards of how much that appearance meant to Eddie, about how much joy the performance and recognition gave him. We didn’t need Sonny to tell us that at the time because we could see it in the smile on Eddie’s face. But then it was rare to see Eddie without a smile on his face. It was infectious, and Eddie spread warmth in every room he walked in to. He was one of the most gentle, gracious, and generous people we have ever been privileged to know.

A little over a year ago Eddie was admitted to an assisted living facility, but he came home for a last Thanksgiving. The house was packed with family, and Eddie gave as much love as he received. Three weeks later we went to sleep, peacefully and for the last time.

I am not dead. I did not die;
I simply chose to live another life.
I have no pain, so don’t weep
You might disturb my peaceful sleep
My soul is free like a morning breeze,
No cares, No worries, No needs.
Don’t worry about me being alone, I have a new home
I am with Jesus, I can’t be alone, I am happy as can be.
So, don’t stand at my grave and cry
‘Cause I am not there, I did not die.
Eddie B. Burns



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R.I.P. Johnnie Bassett

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Johnnie Bassett, 1935 - 2012

A few weeks ago, as we were working to put all the pieces together for both the NETA distributed public televison program and DVD release of "Detroit Blues & Beyond," word filtered down that one of Johnnie Bassett's band mates had taken him directly from a gig to the hospital and that he was in critical care. The outpouing of prayer and support that ensued is a testament to how beloved Johnnie is but was not enough to make a miracle happen. Johnnie Bassett succumbed to liver cancer in hospice at St, John's Hospital in Detroit on Saturday, August 4, 2012. He was 76 years old. 

AMRF Board member and Producer Keith Irtenkauf shared this reminiscence:  

We had the honor and pleasure of working with Detroit’s “Gentleman of the Blues” during our 2006 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival.  Johnnie Bassett was a soft-spoken man who let his unique guitar style and smooth singing voice speak for him.  Watching a performance dozens of times during an edit can get very monotonous, but it was different with Johnnie.  His restrained, but precise attack at the strings and his excellent lyrical timing made his set a pleasure to watch over and over.  There was always something new to see and hear, something pleasant and exciting.  Try to put your finger on his style; a bit like B.B. King, but different, a bit like Elmore James, maybe a little like T-Bone Walker, maybe a little like Jimmy Reed?  Familiar, yet totally unique, that was Johnnie.  Johnnie preferred playing deep-bodied electric guitars in a rarely-used tuning and had a unique tone that was warm and clear.  His voice was smooth and soulful.  Like many blues musicians who came up in the heyday of Detroit’s blues scene, Johnnie wasn’t born in Detroit, but was proud to be a Detroiter.   Johnnie’s just-released CD opens with a tune by the same name “”Proud to Be From Detroit.” 

Listening to Johnnie talk about his own history, you got the sense that he was proud of his musical accomplishments and that fame was not important, it was the music that was important.  Johnnie just wanted his music to make people happy.  His jump style of blues was upbeat and soulful, and his jazz chops added a precision to his guitar playing that was truly unique.

Johnnie was born in 1935 and was the son of a Florida bootlegger.   Johnnie’s family moved to Detroit in 1944 and Johnnie attended Detroit’s Northwestern high school.   It was during his high school years that Johnnie started playing guitar.  He joined the Army in 1958 and was stationed in Seattle, Washington. After 6 years in the Army, Johnnie stayed in Seattle for a while and picked up gigs.  Johnnie tells a great story about a young Jimi Hendrix coming to his Sunday night jam sessions and being amazed by Johnnie’s sound - Johnnie tells this story without a trace of arrogance or immodesty.  Jimi wants to know how Johnnie gets that unique tone and the working man musician Johnnie encourages Hendrix to find his own sound; “You don’t need to sound like me, do your own stuff and get your own sound.” 

Johnnie would return to Detroit in the mid 1960’s and was a solo performer and session musician for Fortune, Chess and Motown Records.  Johnnie played with the likes of Tina Turner, John Lee Hooker, Dinah Washington, Ruth Brown and Big Joe Turner.  Later in life, he stayed busy as a local musician gigging with Joe Weaver and Alberta Adams.  He released five CD’s and was nominated 5 times for a W.C. Handy Award (the highest Blues honor).  Johnnie was also a multiple winner of the Detroit Music Awards best blues musician award.



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Philipe Lejeune at Cliff Bell's Friday April 6th

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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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James "Red" Holloway, 1927 - 2012

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James “Red” Holloway
May 31, 1927 – February 25, 2012

 Life is after all a terminal disease, and even if we were still teenagers, our mission at the AMRF pretty much guarantees there will be more funerals than weddings. It’s just that some passages are harder to take than others. Red Holloway’s death at the age of 84 on Saturday, February 25th, is one of the hardest.

 Just hearing his name I see his ever-present smile. I hear his laugh, and the way he said, “greazzy,” with more than a couple of z’s. I hear him snoring contentedly in my car as I drove him from rehearsal at the Firefly in Ann Arbor back to his hotel in Farmington. Mostly I hear his tenor saxophone, so sweet and so gritty all at once.

It’s not that I really knew Red; he wouldn’t recognize me on the street, and it’s beyond doubtful he’d even remember my name. He spent but four whirlwind days with us in Detroit during the 8th Annual Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival in 2006. But what I took from him during the few hours in which we were together and he wasn’t snoring was more meaningful than days and weeks I’ve spent with some others.      

The AMRF had decided in January to present a big band boogie-woogie show.  Paul Keller had agreed to serve as Music Director, with his 14-piece PKO providing the foundation. Pianists Mr. B, Bob Seeley, Charles Boles and Axel Zwingenberger were all in the mix, and we were casting about for additional players and vocalists, and also big band boogie woogie charts; Paul has a massive book but there were some holes we were looking to fill, and the more material to choose from the better.

It was sometime in the spring when I walked into AMRF President Ron Harwood’s office and he said that Axel had suggested we consider a guy he had worked with, Red Holloway, who played saxophones, sang, and probably had some charts. Ron asked me what I thought. After peeling myself off the ceiling I told him in language more colorful than can be repeated here that I thought it absolutely brilliant.

Red was 79 years old, a seasoned veteran and product of Chicago’s south side who straddled the worlds of jazz and blues with ease. He had played with everyone from Roosevelt Sykes, Willie Dixon, and B.B. King to Clark Terry, Sonny Stitt, and Dexter Gordon. He was a member of organist Jack McDuff's famed quartet in the early 60’s, with Joe Dukes on drums and a teenager named George Benson on guitar. He was a favorite sideman for vocalists Etta James, Joe Williams, and Carmen McRae.  He was the perfect choice to round out our ensemble.

I Googled Red and found his website. There was phone number I figured was for his agent. It was Red’s home number and he answered himself, the first of many pleasant surprises from this wonderful man. I explained the project, said that Axel had recommended him, and just like that, he was in. Just like that.

The concert itself was so magical we made two television shows from it. Red’s soul infused the entire evening. He reached deep into the mud for an exquisite duet with Mr. B on “Going Down Slow,” swung mercilessly with Charles Boles on "Rt. 66," and blew the house down while Axel pounded out the boogie woogie. He pulled out a pennywhistle to play an achingly beautiful ballad, and pulled in the audience to clap along and sing with him on “Locksmith Blues.” It made the crew a bit crazy that he was playing through the vocal mic, holding it in the bell of his horn between choruses, but they got over it.

Red’s contributions to the concert were extraordinary, but it’s the interview that really sticks with me. The express purpose of our Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festivals is to bring artists to us so that both their music and stories can be captured on video for posterity. Red’s anecdotes alone were beyond entertaining: Sitting next to Johnny Griffin at fabled DuSable High in Chicago. Being stranded, starving and freezing on tour in North Dakota. Practicing a lick over and over in the closet with a towel jammed in the bell of his horn, so that he wouldn’t be blown off the stage at next week’s jam session in a south side club.

Most compelling is the extent to which his story informs our understanding of what music is, and what it means to be a musician. I hear every nuance of cadence and inflection as he said, “If you cannot play the blues, you cannot play good jazz.” I am still awed by the breezy eloquence of his simple statement, “I liked jazz, but I liked to eat too.” His equally eloquent summation gives voice to a universal truth: “If you’re going to be a real musician, you’re going to play anything that’s going to make you some money, so you can eat regular, and be just like the people who work six or seven days a week.”

We have been privileged at the AMRF to capture the performances and stories of over 50 artists, and we have learned from every one of them. We are particularly proud that one of those artists is Red Holloway. Not only did he provide some of the most compelling footage in our archive, but in the process he touched us all with his wisdom and beautiful soul.  He made us feel, not just good, but greazzy good. RIP

John Penney, AMRF



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  • i had the pleasure of working with red holloway in the 2006 concert and I must s...more
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  • Thanks for the wonderful article about my Dad! He was truly one of a kind and w...more
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Requiem for Pinetop

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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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Life, History, Music

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The words, “Life, History, Music,” loom large on the AMRF letterhead. If you have any questions about what those words mean to us, look no further that the cover story in the October 1, 2008 edition of Detroit’s Metro Times on Little Sonny Willis, a featured artist in our 10th Annual Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival at the Music Hall. See the pictures and read the article here.

 



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Remebering Muddy Waters 1915-1983

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The Classic Studio T label and Blues Legacy would also like to take the opportunity of commemorating the life and music of the legendary Blues artist Muddy Waters who passed on this day (April 30th) 25 years ago.


As many of you know, British trombonist Chris Barber introduced Muddy Waters to UK audiences in 1958.The outcome of the tour with The Chris Barber Band was nothing short of a magnificent milestone in history.The recordings recently discovered by The Blues Legacy are now available on The Blues Lost & Found – Volume 2 album and it is possible to find out more details and purchase online via: http://www.blueslegacy.net/

 

If you wanted to just hear a few Muddy Waters tracks for free, simply check out our My Space page: www.myspace.com/blueslegacylabel


Muddy Waters was a huge inspiration for musicians in the British scene and is known as one of the most influential artists of the 20th century. Not only did the tour with Chris Barber enhance Muddy’s reputation in Europe, but in turn, reawakened an interest in the blues from the other side of the Atlantic. Arguably, it was this visit to British shores, with Muddy on electric guitar, which led to the phenomenal rise of the blues explosion. We salute you Muddy!

 


Remembering Humphrey Lyttelton 1921 - 2008


The Classic Studio T label would like to extend their deepest sympathy to the friends and family of the late, great musician and broadcaster Humphrey Lyttelton.


It was announced on the 25th April that the legendary Jazz musician died aged 86.  ‘Humph’, as he became known, was a towering figure in the world of music and also a respected presenter on BBC Radio 2 and 4.


The Classic Studio T label, based at Shepperton Filmed Studios first worked with Humphrey Lyttelton when he was invited to our Classic T Stage recording studio by vocalist Elkie Brooks in 2005 for the recording of her Pearls Live DVD.  You can see footage of this on You Tube:
http://uk.youtube.com/watch?v=JApXXMAwGVw


Elkie and Humph had worked with each other extensively over the years and our label was also proud to release another collaboration from the two on the ‘Trouble In Mind’ album.


Classic have also been working with another of Humph’s good friends in recent years.Jazz legend Chris Barber surprisingly found some previously unreleased material now survived on the Blues Lost & Found – Volume 3 album, which features Chris Barber, Ronny Scott and Humphrey Lyttelton performing on stage together at the Richmond Jazz & Blues Festival in 1964. This was released on the Blues Legacy imprint: http://www.blueslegacy.net/

 

 



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Buddy Miles 1947-2008

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OUR FRIENDS AT THE ILLINOIS BLUES SOCIETY  PASSED ON THIS SAD NEWS:

IllinoisBlues.com 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
www.jazzfoundation.org ; The Jazz Foundation of America, at 322 West 48th Street, New York, NY, 10036, Attn.: Amy Cusma.



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My First Boogie Duet by Charlie Booty

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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
by
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

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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.

Charlie

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

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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: MLeibow412@aol.com  248-584-3715

 

 

      TOP PHOTO: FRANK "SUGAR CHILE" ROBINSON AT THE 2007 MOTOR CITY BLUES & BOOGIE WOOGIE FESTIVAL.

PHOTO BY JOHN COLLIER (c)2007 AMERICAN MUSIC RESEARCH FOUNDATION 

BOTTOM PHOTO UNATTRIBUTED: SUGAR CHILE 1947

 



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Blues Diva Maria Muldaur releases Naughty, Bawdy & Blue

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"Naughty, Bawdy & Blue" in stores Now!

When most people think of the blues they think of a man with a guitar at the crossroads or on a back porch in the Mississippi Delta. But America's fascination with the blues began with a recording by a woman, a Vaudeville singer in New York City backed by a jazz band. The year was 1921, the singer was Mamie Smith, and the record was, "Crazy Blues." It sold over a million copies and demonstrated that there was a huge market for records by and for African-Americans. Record companies went into a feeding frenzy, signing women to sing what has come to be known as the "Classic Blues."

Over the next decade the likes of Mamie, Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey, Sippie Wallace, and Victoria Spivey would sell millions of records, travel the country in their own Pullman railroad cars, and play to sold out houses wherever they went. As Maria Muldaur says in Boogie & the Blues Diva, "These women were America's first Pop Stars."

At the 2004 Motor City Blues & Boogie Woogie Festival Maria and James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band recreated the look, the feel, and the sound of this seminal period in American musical history. But the concert and television program represent but two of three parts of the project. During the week before the performance Maria and the band recorded over a dozen songs at Solid Sound in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The result is the new album on Stony Plain Records,  "Naughty, Bawdy & Blue." The album is dedicated to Maria's friends Sippie Wallace and Victoria Spivey, and includes a duet with Bonnie Raitt on Sippie's "Hesitation Blues." You can hear samples of all the songs in Maria's Musical Oasis.

Maria will be touring extensively to support the new album - check the schedule here - and will be performing with James Dapogny's Chicago Jazz Band on Sunday September 3 at the largest free jazz festival in North America, the Detroit International Jazz Festival, held annually in downtown Detroit.

 

 



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Boogie woogie Great Big Joe Duskin Passes at 86

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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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Funk Brother Joe Hunter Passes

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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



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R.I.P. Ruth Brown

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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."



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Pioneer Female Blues artist Jessie Mae Hemphill Dies at 71

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July 24, 2006                             Image Preview


 The Associated Press


MEMPHIS — Jessie Mae Hemphill, whose award-winning blues career lasted decades and was heavily influenced by her upbringing in rural Mississippi, has died, a spokeswoman for the singer's foundation said. She was 71.

Olga Wilhelmine Mathus, the founder and president of the Jessie Mae Hemphill Foundation, said the artist died Saturday from complications of an infection that may have resulted from an ulcer. Hemphill died in a Memphis hospital after checking in a week ago.

"She did not want to be operated on," Mathus said. "I think she was ready to go."

Hemphill embraced music at an early age and came from a family of musicians in northern Mississippi. Her great-grandfather and her grandfather, Sid Hemphill, were fiddle players who passed on their love of music. Her aunt, Rosa Lee, was also a performer who recorded several albums.

Jessie Mae Hemphill began playing guitar at age 7 or 8, and later moved on to other instruments.

She lived in Memphis for 20 years, and played the clubs on the city's famous Beale Street before finding an international audience.

"She brought a lot to the blues culture," Mathus said. "She was a pioneer for women in blues and women in general. Her music was very inspiring to a lot of people."

In 1993, Hemphill suffered a stroke that paralyzed her left side, leaving her unable to play guitar. She retired from touring and returned to Senatobia, where she lived with her dog, Sweet Pea.

She recorded one final album a decade later titled Dare You to Do It Again.

Mathus said funeral arrangements were incomplete.

Jessie Mae Hemphill won the W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Female Blues Artist in 1987 and 1988.  In 1991, Hemphill won the Handy Award for Best Acoustic Album.
 
 



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Detroit Blues Legend Joe Weaver Passes

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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.



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Pianist Hilton Ruiz Dead at 54

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Hilton Ruiz was a featured performer at Mr. B's Boogie & Blues Piano Celebration at the Ark in Ann Arbor just a few months ago. He was a brilliant musician and a gracious man, and we will miss him.

Laura Smith    Jazztimes Magazine

Internationally acclaimed Afro-Cuban pianist Hilton Ruiz died yesterday at 3:51 a.m. in New Orleans' East Jefferson General Hospital. He had been comatose in the intensive care unit since May 19, when he was found along Bourbon Street with massive head injuries. He was 54.

Ruiz enjoyed a long, dynamic career. Born in New York City on May 29, 1952, he began building his musical resume at an extraordinarily young age. At eight years old, Ruiz played Carnegie Hall and was a guest on the Sandy Becker television show. At nine, he took part in an accordion symphony and gigged with various Latin bands as a teenager. In addition to studying jazz with Mary Lou Williams, Ruiz received training in both classical and Latin piano styles. His musical expertise was eclectic, extending far beyond Afro-Cuban music into bebop and blues. During his career, he played with other musical notables such as Freddie Hubbard, Betty Carter, Joe Henderson, Frank Foster, George Coleman, Charles Mingus, Clark Terry and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.

From 1974-1977, Ruiz was Roland Kirk’s main pianist and appeared on Kirk recordings including The Case of the 3 Sided Dream in Audio Color and The Return of the 5000 Lb. Man. On his 1993 work Manhattan Mambo, Ruiz skillfully placed bop-influenced improvisation atop infectious Latin rhythms. Ruiz's later work as a leader includes 1994’s Hands on Percussion (featuring the late Tito Puente) and 2003’s Enchantment.

Ruiz also made a foray into film music, contributing tracks to the musical scores of Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors in 1989 and Sam Mendes’ American Beauty in 1999. Ruiz was scheduled to play at the Ottowa Jazz festival, where fellow Latin jazz musician Paquito D’Rivera will perform in his absence.

“He's one of the few musicians on the scene that is equally at home in both the jazz genre and the Afro-Cuban genre in a complete sense ... He really can play the blues, too. For real,” longtime friend and trombonist Steve Turre told the Associated Press. He continues later, “There's a lot of people who dabble with both worlds. But very few can authentically deal with both. And he's one of them. That's your rarity.”

Ruiz is survived by his daughter and wife, who share the name Aida.

For updates on this story, including viewing and funeral information, check back at jazztimes.com. For details on the May 19 incident, visit jazztimes.com’s May 27 report.



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Singer-songwriter Billy Preston dead at 59

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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]





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New CD continues Hawkins' exploration of Davis' music

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By Regis Behe
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Thursday, January 12, 2006

Keith Hodan/Tribune-Review

A lifetime devoted to the music of a single musician might seem to be a myopic pursuit.

For Ernie Hawkins, it's the opposite. His study of the music of Rev. Gary Davis Jr. has opened him up to a kaleidoscopic array of sounds by one of the greatest musical innovators of the 20th century.

"Gary Davis could play blues, jazz, rags, gospel, any kind of music in any key," Hawkins says. "He had a style of playing where he could improvise, particularly blues, in any key. But he was not just improvising."

The CD release party for Hawkins' new album, "Rags & Bones," is Saturday at the Rex Theatre on the South Side. His fifth release, it continues Hawkins' exploration of a music that inspired him to journey to New York City to seek out Davis after graduating from Taylor Allderdice High School in 1965.

"I was an 18-year-old kid from Pittsburgh who didn't know anything about anything," Hawkins says, "sitting in front of this guy who was this blind seer, a great genius who had rewritten the whole way of playing guitar. I look back on it and it's kind of amazing I was just sitting there." ... [MORE]

  


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The Other Mathews

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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


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Blues fans mourn death of singer Vala Cupp, 51

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PETITE POWERHOUSE `WAS HAPPIEST' PERFORMING WITH JOHN LEE HOOKER



Mercury News

When Laura Osborn, a longtime friend, heard the news that blues singer Vala Cupp had died, she said, ``Well, at least now she's with John Lee. That's when Vala was the happiest, when she was with John Lee.''

Cupp, a brilliant but not widely known blues singer who toured for nearly 15 years with blues legend John Lee Hooker, and for a time lived in a room in his Redwood City home, died Oct. 31 in her Austin home. Her death was ruled a suicide. She was 51.

During the time Cupp toured with Hooker, she would open his sets by singing a song or two with his Coast-to-Coast Blues Band, which was led by guitarist Michael Osborn (Laura's husband). Then, during Hooker's own performance, he would bring the petite Cupp out on stage again to perform a duet of ``Crawlin' Kingsnake,'' always a hit with the crowd.

When Hooker retired from touring, and the blues scene in the Bay Area was fading, Cupp, who had never known crossover success as a musician though she was admired among blues fans, moved to Austin in hopes of energizing her career. She found the Austin music scene a tough nut to crack, although she continued to play gigs with various bands. Financial success eluded her, and she worked a series of day jobs.

Cupp had suffered for years from bipolar disorder. Although surrounded by a circle of close friends in Austin and in frequent touch by e-mail and phone with many friends around the nation, she had become increasingly withdrawn. ... [MORE]




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

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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


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