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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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First Annual Great Lakes Blues Society Summit

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AMRF Director John Penney attended the first Great Lakes Blues Society Summit in Windsor Ontario over Memorial Day weekend. While we are not precisely a blues society, our mission certainly includes the maxim of "keeping the blues alive," and we have collaborated with the Detroit Blues Society since the beginning - they are always at our Festivals.

John made a lot of new friends, a lot of new contacts, and had a lot of fun. We will shortly receive and post links to all the blues societies that participated so that you can keep up to date with blues news you can use. In the meantime, here is the press release from Big City Blues Magazine:

Great Lakes Blues Society Summit, May 26-28, 2006

Eight states, two countries and twenty blues societies and organizations met May 26, 27 and 28, 2006 in Detroit, MI and Windsor, Canada to form a partnership and establish regional live blues music tours and beyond.  Plus by working together blues societies and organizations that reach thousands of blues enthusiasts will attract more sponsorship and support for blues music.

After “too much fun” from Friday night’s Motor City Pub Crawl, May 26th with unforgettable highlights of Pricilla Price and Artie “Blues Boy” White’s performing together at Detroit’s #1 juke joint—The Mississippi Connection and next at Detroit’s downtown river front club--Currents where Luther “Badman” Keith and Lady Sunshine sang together for the first time ever, the Great Lakes Blues Society Summit began their business meeting the following morning on Saturday, May 27th in Windsor.

Discussion topics included issues that such as increasing membership, fundraising and blues education. The primary goal for the 2006 Great Lakes Blues Society Summit was accomplished and eight blues societies made a commitment to work together for a fall acoustic tour with Bobby Rush “unplugged.” A spring electric tour will follow.
 
Future partnership projects for the Great Lakes Blues Societies were discussed and may include a compilation blues CD, blues calendar, working with Koko Taylor’s Celebrity Aid Foundation, Gimme 5! fundraising for New Orleans musicians and a possible project with Habitat for Humanity’s Musicians Village in New Orleans.

 The Great Lakes Blues Society Summit received a very positive response. Thanks to everyone who attended and especially to Robert Jr. Whitall and Ted Boomer for organizing this groundbreaking event.
 
Mark your calendars for 2007 Great Lakes Blues Society Summit – May 25-27, 2007.

Great Lakes Blues Society Steering Committee: Ted Boomer, Robert Jr. Whitall, Shirley Mae Owens, Danny Graham, And Rolly Hough

Great Lakes Blues Societies/Organizations Summit 2006 Roll Call:
American Music Research Foundation
Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival
Black Swamp Blues Society
Big City Rhythm & Blues Magazine
Bluesfest International
Blues Foundation
Canada South Blues Society
-Windsor Chapter
-Bruce County Chapter (Incardinate)
-London Chapter
-Kitchener Chapter
Charleston West Virginia Blues Society
Detroit Blues Society
Hot Blues & Barbeque
Kitchener Blues Brews & Barbeques
Koko Taylor’s Celebrity Aid Foundation
Mid-North Michigan Blues Society
Saginaw Bay Blues Society
STLBlues.net
West Michigan Blues Society
Western New York Blues Society

Other Great Lakes Blues Societies & Organizations that are interested but were unable to attend: Alpena Blues Society, Capital Area Blues Society, Chicagoland Blues Society, Cinci Blues Society, Marquette Blues Society, Monroe Library Series, Tawas Bay Blues Society

For more information about the Great Lakes Blues Society Summit/Organization contact: Ted Boomer – ted@thebluesfest.com - 519-977-9631 or
Robert Jr. Whitall – blues@bigcitybluesmag.com or 248-582-1544



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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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John Hammond's "From Spirituals to Swing"

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 The New Masses Presents
      AN EVENING OF AMERICAN NEGRO MUSIC
         
“From Spirituals to Swing”
          (DEDICATED TO BESSIE SMITH)
      FRIDAY EVENING, DECEMBER 23, 1938
         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.



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Gumbo In Congo Square

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The roots of blues, rhythm & blues, jazz, and rock 'n' roll are all in New Orleans, and the evolution of the music is inseperable from the evolution of the city.

"Gumbo" is the most common metaphor for New Orleans, and it most apt. A good homemade gumbo can take days to make - mine generally take three or four. The first thing you make is the roux, flour cooked in fat that provides the smoky foundation for the dish. Next you add stock, and finally you add the stuff - crawdads, shrimp, chicken, sausage, greens, whatever.

The gumbo that is New Orleans took centuries to make, and the roux was made in the earliest days of the original settlement.

The eminent New Orleans scholar Pierce Lewis has described it as, "an inevitable city on an impossible site." Inevitable because it is at the mouth of the Mississippi River, and impossible because there really isn't a "mouth." Rather, for 200 miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, there is nothing but swampland.

The site of the original French city, commissioned in 1718, has been described as, "wretched." It is too hot, too humid, prone to flooding and hurricanes, and the swamps bred untold numbers of disease-laden mosquitos. Respectable Europeans who had a choice did not choose to live in New Orleans. The original settlers were mostly hustlers, thieves, and opportunists.

The first slaves arrived directly from Africa in the early 1720's. But the French Catholic attitude towards slavery was quite different from that of the English Protestant colonials, and it resulted in a relatively large population of "free people of color" from the earliest days of the colony.

In the first place, slaves were allowed to earn money. City masters often loaned their slaves to others as wage laborers, and slaves were given the weekends off, when again they could work for wages. They used the money to buy their freedom.

Additionally, the French were quite open about secual liasons with slaves. Their mixed race offspring were frequently raised as free men or given their freedom when the father died. Many received an education, some going back to France for it.

These original settlers are the Creoles of New Orleans. They are French speaking Eurpoeans and Africans and, most importantly, everybody in between. In 18th century New Orleans there was no stark distinction between black and white, as there was in the English colonies. Africans and Europeans shared both genes and cultures, and the mixing of many rich shades of brown, both physically and culturally, was essential to the roux.

Another crucial ingredient was the infusion of Native American culture. Africans and Native Americans had much in common. They were both oppressed by the white man. They shared similar beliefs about nature and man's place in it. And they shared a love of music and dance. They were natural friends and allies.

Native Americans orchestrated the first documented escape of African slaves from the colony in 1725. The first account of Africans dressing as Native Americans - a sign of respect among neighboring tribes - comes from the Mardi Gras celebration of 1746.

Rampart Street in New Orleans demarked the inland boundary of the original city. Just outside the rampart was an open field. There are many conflicting stories, but it is apparent that it was a gathering place for Native Americans.

Creoles and Africans began to gather there too. There are stories about Creoles and Native Americans playing lacrosse together on the field. Over time, it evolved into a marketplace.

In 1744 this field was legitimized as the "Place de Negroes," where on weekends free people of color could gather openly to do business, trade news and gossip, and just hang out together. Slaves were allowed to join the congregation, and on Sunday afternoons they would come with traditional African drums and instruments. They would play music and sing, and dance.

Within a few years their numbers grew to hundreds, and Europeans, Creoles, African Americans, and Native Americans would all gather on this field for the weekly musical celebration.

The translation is not exact, but Place des Negroes became Congo Plain, and then Congo Square.

France ceded Louisiana to the Spanish after the Seven Years War in 1763, bought it back in 1800, and within three years sold it to the Americans. French Canadian refugees, the Acadians that came to be known as Cajuns, began arriving in 1764. And a few decades later black, white, and mixed race refugees from the slave revolts in Haiti began to arrive in large numbers. Sailors and settlers from all over the world would come, and some would stay.

Through all of this the Sunday afternoon gatherings continued in Congo Square, with more or less legitimacy. The Americans outlawed them in 1811, but the congregations simply reemerged elsewhere. So in 1817, in the interest of keeping them under watchful eyes, the city reestablished Congo Square as a place where, on Sunday afternoons, slaves could celebrate their heritage. As the city grew and flourished over the next century, this celebration of song and dance became renown throughout the world.

Congo Square is the cauldron in which the musical gumbo of New Orleans was cooked, and musicologists and historians point to all the stuff and stock added during the heyday of the 19th century as the source of most American musical genres.

But the roux was made much earlier, and without it the gumbo would not have been possible.



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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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