Brant Buckley

Robert Gordon Jack Of All Blues

 

Robert Gordon is a Grammy Award winning writer and filmmaker from Memphis, Tennessee. His work has focused on the American south—its music, art, and politics—to create an insider’s portrait of his home, both nuanced and ribald. In 2003, Gordon wrote the award-winning Can’t Be Satisfied: The Life and Times of Muddy Waters. Gordon directed and produced Best of Enemies, a behind-the-scenes account of the explosive 1968 televised debates between the liberal Gore Vidal and the conservative William F. Buckley Jr. It was co-directed with Morgan Neville. Best of Enemies premiered at Sundance where it sold to Magnolia Pictures and enjoyed a successful theatrical run. It was shortlisted for the 2016 Academy Awards, won the International Documentary Associations Best Documentary Award, and was nominated for best documentary at the Independent Spirit Awards. Remake rights have been purchased by Aaron Sorkin.

It sounds like a life defining moment in your life was when you saw Blues Great Furry Lewis open for the Rolling Stones. What’s the most important thing you learned from him? Is this why you became a writer?

It’s definitely not why I became a writer. It is why I write about what I write about. It’s funny to go back and revisit that experience. After The Stones concert, Furry Lewis came to my high school and performed at lunch time on the porch and we gave him some coins. An upper classman gave me Furry’s number and told me to call him. I began hanging out at Furry’s house. The first time I went to Furry’s I couldn’t drive. The hardest thing about getting there was finding a ride. Furry wanted Ten High which is a cheap bourbon. It was easier buying the bourbon than getting a ride to his house. That whole scene is the opening from my first book “It Came From Memphis.” The blues creators were alive and in my home town. I don’t necessarily consider myself a music writer. I think it is a very limiting way to look at things especially when I look at what other music writers do and compare their work to my own. I think it all stems from my visits to Furry’s house. The music he played and the conditions he lived in were introduced to me as one package. I have always taken the social circumstances and the economic situation as part of the fabric of the music.

How does blues music affect your writing? How would you describe your writing style?

I would describe my writing style as immediate. My goal is to put you there and have you feel the way I felt. I try and use as few words as possible with as many powerful images and quirks of character. I use everything to put the reader as close to the subject as possible and feel it. Blues is an inspiration for that because blues music works the same way. Although some blues players play to many notes, the great blues songs use less to create a forceful experience. I think my writing and film making is musical in some way. Being raised around music affected my sense of rhythm, timing, and contrast. I am very inspired by the music.

What makes The Delta, Memphis, and Chicago so important? How are they intertwined?

The blues moved north with people seeking better opportunities. The Muddy Waters book is where I explore this concept the deepest. A newspaper called the Chicago Defender infiltrated the south and it told black people that conditions in the north were better. You didn’t have to take the inhumane treatment and it really created the migration. The migration continued throughout the century. That’s a long impact. I think part of the reason the migration continued was because conditions in the south continued. Today I could take you to some places that look straight from 1919. Here is a side story. There was a musician from Memphis named Sid Selvidge. He’s dead now. Sid was also an anthropologist at a college in Memphis. He noticed a trend in a lot of the African American students he met. Many of his students said they were from Mound Bayou Mississippi which is not far from where Sid was from. Sid would make  specific references to Mound Bayou and the students would tell him that they’d never been there but their families lived there. It is really interesting to me the way that the home places stay in family lore. Late into the last century and into this century I have read articles about families moving back to where their parents came from because the conditions are better and they are tired of battling in the big city.

How long does it take you to write a book? Could you talk about the process?

You have to dig a hole in the ground and put yourself in it and cover yourself with dirt and live this secluded life in order to get the body of the work done. They are always hard. I remember when my Stax book was done, I realized the fever I’d been in. It was all consuming.  As I started to withdraw from it I realized I had not been outside enough and I wasn’t talking to people enough. Writing a book is about organizing your information and keeping the reader in mind at all times. I want my books to be easily understood by anyone who reads them. I also want to challenge the reader’s assumptions and sense of history. You have to keep a blank slate readers perspective in mind at all times.

You dance between writing, producing, directing, and filming. What is your favorite medium to story tell and why?

I don’t favor one over the other. I feel there is a more direct link in books between the creator and the finished product than there is in visual medium. I used to say that books were made alone and films were made with a group. I liked going back and forth between the two. It kept me sane. I do not believe that anymore in part because I have come to appreciate the impact of both my book editor and my wife. When I look at my books I see their fingerprints as well as mine. The writer has more of a sense of sole responsibility than the filmmaker does. A film editor plays a huge role and has more input than a book editor. In film there are so many more people involved that can be responsible for problems. I recognize that films are seen by many more people than books are read by people. That’s the change in society today.

Who else do you want to write about or film? Any bucket list goals?

I’ve got rid of the whole bucket list idea. With making films so much of the process is about raising money. What ends up happening is that great films do not get made. The artists are the ones who always get screwed. They never have the money. The films that get made are subject to bone headed accountants and corporations that decide what should and shouldn’t be made. Deciding what’s commercial and what’s not is inherently wrong. Consequently, I have to do a lot of films on low budgets. One that comes to mind is “Very Extremely Dangerous” in which we received money to make a trailer. With the trailer money we shot the whole film. We went to the funder and said, “Look now you don’t have to pay for the production you just have to pay for post-production.” We knew that would win them over because the deal was too good to pass up. They would get a film at the fraction of the cost. It was a film that would not have been otherwise made because the subject was extremely unappealing. I don’t have a bucket list because it’s so far beyond my control.

Keith Dixon Nelson Blues Guardian

 

Keith Dixon is the grandson of legendary musician Willie Dixon. He works at The Blues Heaven Foundation (Chess Records) in Chicago (2120 South Michigan Ave.) He gives tours of the studio space and educates artists. His goal is to get a blues resurgence by bringing it to a younger audience.

Could you talk about The Blues Heaven Foundation? What is your mission?

The mission of Blues Heaven is to educate artists on the business of working in music and entertainment. We provide resources for artists to get help. We have people come in to mentor and work with artists to educate them.

What do people come away with after touring Chess Records? It seems to me, that most people a) Do not realize Blues Heaven exists and b) are not aware how important Chess Records was.

Most people that come and visit are from overseas. People will come in from the states. A lot of people learn more about the history and what took place here from artists recording here to the artists that came in and worked at Chess Records. For instance Percy Mayfield, no relationship to Curtis Mayfield, wrote “Hit the Road Jack” for Ray Charles. Ray worked with Percy frequently. The original version was recorded here at Chess.

Is there a new recording studio @ Chess Records? Are you building one?

We have a studio. It is all functioning older equipment. We have an engineer who donated all of the equipment to the foundation. We are setting up to start recording this summer. We are going to start off with local artists and work our way up to bigger artists.

What is your greatest Willie Dixon story?

I am his grandson so I have many. I will give you one that my grandmother filled me in on. My Grandfather was at home and said “Marie I don’t have any songs that are specifically for me that people know me by.” My grandmother told him to write some songs for himself. Within a couple of weeks he came up with 2 songs. He would come up with the arrangements by patting on his stomach and would sing “Hoy Hoy I’m your boy. I’m 300 pounds of heavenly joy.” My grandmother looked at him and told him it was the worst damn song she had ever heard in her life. He started singing his next song, “Some folks are built like this. Some folks are built like that. But the way I’m built don’t ya call me fat because I’m built for comfort. I ain’t built for speed.” Again she told him it was the worst song she had ever heard in her life. My grandmother was the biggest Howlin Wolf fan you could meet on the planet. Howlin Wolf ended up recording both of those songs and my grandmother saw Howlin Wolf perform the songs live. Wolf walked over and said, “Marie what do you think of those two I did? I feel those are going to be my next big records.” She said, “Chester, I am going to tell you the same way I told my husband when he asked me about those songs. Those two are the best damn songs I have ever heard in my life.” My grandfather knew he may not sound the greatest but someone in the world would make his songs sound the way they were supposed to. My grandmother said, “Willie I will never say anything bad about your songs ever again because I clearly do not know what a hit record is.”

Where do you think the blues is heading and what else do you want to accomplish with Blues Heaven Foundation?

My personal goal is to introduce blues to a younger audience. A lot of young artists know a little bit about the blues, but they don’t understand this is a form of music that still is very popular and still makes money. Most people use the term keep the blues alive. The blues is always going to be alive. All forms of music are always going to be alive. I look at it from what my grandfather used to say, “Blues are your roots and everything else are your fruits.” What he means is that all forms of music don’t die, they evolve over time. Blues developed into Rock and Roll. Rock and Roll developed into rap and all of these other forms of music. These forms of music are always going to be alive. Original forms of music which are your roots will always be there. My goal is to get a resurgence of younger artists into blues music. At the same time, I want to educate people and let people know this music is still used today. It is sampled in the most popular forms of music. It is still played very heavily in Rock and Roll. It’s sampled very heavily in rap and hip hop. Some of the biggest hit records over the last 10 years are samples of blues records, soul records, and r and b records. Some of them have even come from Chess Records. I always tell people one of the biggest records that people have heard, seen, and listened to is the song “Good Feeling” by Flo Rida. It’s Etta James “Something’s Got a Hold On Me.” My goal is to let the younger generation really see what the blues has been and what it can be. To keep the music popular and create a resurgence the blues needs the young people.

Kraig Kenning Laid Back Slide

 

At National Guitar's 1st Annual Slide Competition, Kraig took first place honors as Best Unsigned Artist. He has opened for Mick Taylor of the Rolling Stones and slide guitar master Sonny Landreth. He has shared the stage with John Gorka and Patti Larkin; call him Contemporary folk, Acoustic blues, Roots rock, or American fingerstyle: The fact is, Kraig has managed to merge a bit of everything, while maintaining a close and personal connection with his audience. For the last 3 decades he has toured the US playing up to 200 shows a year, showcasing songs from his eight cds containing almost exclusively original material. A Kenning show is a guarantee. Chicago Tribune reviewer Dan Kening (no relation) agrees, noting "Kenning's deft finger picking and slide work on acoustic and steel resonator guitar is truly impressive. So is his flair for crafting intelligent, heartfelt lyrics and memorable melodies."

You’ve been compared to Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, and Bob Dylan. I hear a lot of southern Florida swamp in your sound. Do you live in Florida? How has Florida influenced your sound?

I have a place in Florida. I refresh and take breaks when I am off tour. It’s a trailer home on an acre of land. I have done some recording there as well. I don’t get to go there very often. Most of my southern rock influences happened long before Florida. I heard it all in Chicago. The Allman brothers were very big when I grew up. Duane Allman was one of the first guys I heard play slide guitar. I was only 13 years old. I heard Leo Kottke playing slide around the same time as Duane. My influences did not come from living in the south although southern rock influenced me. The Marshall Tucker band was big for me. I like that kind of sound but I moved away from it as I got older. With everything you have a dose and move on. Right now I don’t listen to a lot of country influenced music. Music is so intermixed now. I’ve been listening to rootsy blues and jazz. It’s funny how it keeps moving around. Although the Allman brothers were considered a southern rock band, they played a lot of blues. It wasn’t country as much as it was rock and blues.

Your slide work is impeccable. Who are your slide guitar heroes? Who influenced you the most?

Slide has evolved so much over the years. In the early days a lot of people weren’t playing slide. Duane was a big influence. Leo Kottke was an influence in a whole different style of slide. As I got older I started hearing guys who could really knock it out of the park. You have to include Ry Cooder, Sonny Landreth, and Derek Trucks. Derek is one of the best out there. These guys took slide to another level. I like to think that I have followed in their footsteps. I respect what they do so much. They are such good players. You have to add these guys to the list of my influences.

What are you currently working on? What tracks of yours should we listen to?

Right now I am driving in my 96 Buick with my studio gear. I am off the road for a little while. I am bringing all of my gear over to my friend’s house. I am going to see if his room sounds better than my room. I have about 17 songs that are very acoustic. They are going to be slightly produced. It’s going to be like what I do on stage. It’s going to be a real low key production. There will be a combination of acoustic guitars and slide guitar. I will be singing, have a kick pedal for a kick box sound, and possibly have light percussive bass on a few tracks. Also, I need to play shows to survive. I don’t hit the road until July in Colorado.

Why are resonator guitars called Dobros?

They are not. Dobro was the first resonator guitar just like Kleenex is a facial tissue. It’s a brand name. Dobro was named after the Dopyera brothers from California. They invented the resonator guitar. Everything since Dobro is an imitation of the Dobro. It’s called a resophonic guitar. A resophonic guitar has a round plate in it like an upside down hubcap. Strings go over it to give it that resonator sound. A lot of people make resonator guitars now. It is a mistake everyone makes. It’s not really a Dobro.

How does your spirituality/religion affect your music?

I grew up Catholic. I didn’t grow up like the bad Catholics everybody hears about. I was treated very nicely at school. I learned a lot about morals. My first gigs were during mass (guitar mass) and that freaks people out when I tell them. We were doing Dylan and Beatles songs. We played Let It Be and Blowin in the Wind at church. That was the spiritual connection. Most singer-songwriters have huge messages. You sing and play with your heart. You can tell from some of my deeper lyrics that I have written. Religions are funny because they make and change rules. The Catholic Religion did that to me. I grew up in a cool way with them and then they didn’t allow me to play those songs in mass. That was enough to make me not be a devout Catholic. It didn’t strip me of my spirituality. That was a big change for me when the Catholics decided that they were not going to allow the songs anymore. Pretty weird. There are a lot of religions that would allow those songs. It’s about speaking the truth. Music is your soul speaking.

Could you talk about the Spiritual Exchange that happens during a great performance?

That’s the whole reason you do it. I wasn’t as aware of it when I first started playing. After being on the road for a while you start to see the intensity of it. Part of it is managing how to get people to hook in when you are playing. You are doing your job but you are also getting a lot of attention from people who are feeding off of your lyrics and feelings. It becomes pretty personal. There are not a lot of jobs where people clap for you after your work. There is a nice exchange and with that comes a lot of responsibly. It’s a magical thing to share something you love with other people and they instantaneously appreciate it back.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I would like to get my Social Media up and running. I don’t really like that name. I want to get with the times so people can check in with me easier. It’s the way the world has gone. I have always tried to stay up on my game in order to make a living doing this. You now have to have an instant connection with your fans so they can see what you are doing. I just put up a new website which is working really well. I am moving in a way to connect with people more. Also, I want to be comfortable playing music for a living. That’s a lifetime goal. It keeps changing and getting trickier and trickier.

Tommy Conwell Cool Blues

 

Tommy Conwell is a US guitarist, songwriter, and performer. He is best known as the frontman for the Philadelphia-based band Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers. The band had a #1 US mainstream rock hit in 1988 with "I'm Not Your Man". His music appeared in the following original motion picture soundtracks: Shout-"Devil Call Me Back Home" (Written by Tommy Conwell and performed by Otis Rush) and "More Than A Kiss" (Written and performed by Tommy Conwell). Chasers- "Rock With You" (Written By Tommy Conwell, M. Rauer) Performed By Tommy Conwell & The Young Rumblers

Who are your blues heroes? Which single blues guitar player comes through most in your playing?

Jimmie Vaughan comes through most. In the early to mid 80’s he was at his peak with the Thunderbirds and his music was so accessible. It was freakishly unique. It continues to be. He's often imitated but never duplicated just like his brother. I wanted to be Jimmie Vaughan. He was a big influence on me and I still try to be Jimmie Vaughan from time to time. I have realized it’s impossible. I don’t waste much energy there. Also, I realized it’s not a goal worth pursuing. I’m a big fan. From my Columbia days, “Let Me Love You Too”, “Work Out”, and “Nice and Naughty” are indicative of him. I’m usually jamming and doing my best Jimmie Vaughan imitation. He blew my world apart. As far as others I like Freddie King, Albert King, Gatemouth Brown, Albert Collins, Hound Dog Taylor, Elmore James, Lil’ Ed, and Muddy Waters. I just did a blues festival in Lancaster with Lil' Ed & The Blues Imperials. He’s great. One of my favorite Muddy Waters albums is Unk in Funk. It’s not very popular and I have no idea why. I love that album. One of my all-time favorites is Junior Wells. He is so scary and legit. When he is on you can’t top him. This is where I am coming from.

Did you write I’m Not Your Man? Did you immediately know it was a hit? How did this song launch you?

I wrote it with a woman named Marcy Wagman who had a Nashville pedigree. I didn’t know her before we started writing. I learned all of the rules they have down there and they have a lot of rules. You can’t do this, you can’t do that, which is great because she taught them to me. I came in with the nexus of the song, but she helped me polish it. That’s a good song. I didn’t know it would be my most popular song. The obvious is not obvious to me.

What elements make your music? Any zone like musical states while performing?

We had a good gig the other night with The Little Kings. The Columbia records are cool, but the Kings records are more fun. The Young Rumblers are working on a new album now. When I play with The Little Kings I am much more likely to get into the zone. When you are doing your radio songs it’s different. I was talking to my wife and she said you are more yourself with The Kings than with The Rumblers. With The Rumblers I just want to give the audience a hug for being there. They spend all this money and stand around waiting for us to come on and you have to play the songs. I just want to play the songs. With The Rumblers the band is not rough and ready. With the Kings everyone will follow whatever I do. They just have to get the key and the feel and we will go. Getting in the zone is a lot like anything else. How elusive is recording in the zone. It’s luck. Sometimes the demo is better than the record. There is a lot of luck involved, but I will say on my end mental preparation is really good. I try to be mentally prepared when I have a gig. I don’t put myself in the car and go to the address. For me the performance starts the minute you drive into the parking lot. They are looking at you like this is the dude that we are paying to watch. They’re thinking is he a dick or is he cool? Is he nice? Is he happy? Is he a jerk? Is he depressed? From the moment I drive onto the parking lot my body language is putting things out. I am always better when I am talking and playing. I need to talk. Also, I have to put a little thought into my sound. Sometimes you get lucky. Sometimes there’s no thought. I can increase my odds of having a transcendent show by being mentally prepared and honoring the audience before I even get there.

Who’s your favorite artist that you played with live and why?

There are so many. We toured with George Thorogood, Chicago, Colin James, Robert Plant, Dickey Betts, David Bowie, and Rod Stewart. Not too many straight blues guys. We played with Buddy Guy in Belgium. Mink Deville was on that show. My favorite has to be George Thorogood or Chicago. Chicago has a lot of easy ballads, but when they break out the 70’s stuff they will blow your mind. They were sweet as pie. I liked them when I was a kid. Thorogood’s music is one quarter of the experience. I imagine he is still doing it pretty good. He’s the best live. I learned so much from him. When I was 20 years old I joined a band called Rocket 88. Mark Kenneally played harmonica. They call him Dr. Harmonica. He learned the blues with George Thorogood. George is the greatest performer and has a huge bag of tricks. He uses every one of them every night. Everything funny that he has ever said onstage has been catalogued. He uses that every night. He moves like a dancer. He’s just unbelievable. I haven’t seen him in a while. To me, he is tough to beat.

Could you talk about your 1969 Guild X500: Where and when did you get it? What does it mean to you? How’d the knife carving signatures start?

That is a blues thing to get autographs on your guitar. I have seen other people do that. I think the first one to autograph it was Dickey Betts. I have a lot of autographs on there. They only go on if you are really cool. I bought that guitar when I was in 10th grade. I wanted to play jazz. During my first guitar lesson the teacher said who do you want play like and I said Frank Zappa. That still cracks me up. He turned me onto Pat Martino during my first lesson. Also, we both agreed we liked George Benson who is cool. His album Breezin was out at the time. Pat Martino blew my mind. Pat is my number one jazz influence. I saved up my money and bought that guitar from a guy around the corner for $500 when I was in high school. It was so beautiful and pristine. I played a lot of blues on it and some Chuck Berry. The guitar has a sweet neck and great tone. I have never seen another one that’s as good. Guitars are like people. They are all unique. That guitar just had something. Maybe it was old enough and they made it right. I bought another one as a backup and I have seen other ones here and there. None of them are as good. I met one guy who used one and played through a super. He was a real player. He played through a super just like I used to. His and mine are the only good ones I have seen. This isn’t a starter guitar that I would recommend to anyone. Mine just happened to be real cool.

What are you currently working on? Is there anything else you want to achieve?

There is a lot of stuff that I want to achieve. It is amazing to hear myself say that because for a long time I didn’t feel that way. I am working on an album with The Young Rumblers which is pretty cool but also a major pain in the ass. Everybody’s schedule is brutal. It is taking forever… It’s fun being with those guys. We are really like brothers and have been through a lot together. On the new record I am using the acoustic guitar and there will be a few guitar solos and a couple rootsy bluesy things. There will be some interesting things if you are a guitar picker. I am still playing my early 70’s telecaster. I am also using a guitar that a friend of mine made called a J Guitar. I am borrowing some acoustic guitars. I am playing through an Allessandro Working Dog. It’s a nice boutique high end amp. I love amps. I like amps better than guitars. If I collect something, I would rather collect an amp. They are so cool. As I get older, I am interested in authenticity. I want to see how close to the bone I can get. I want to see how real to the heart I can get. I want to see how real of a song I can write. I am still chasing that.  

Kweder Part 2 Glass Eye Blues

 

You have a new song coming out called Glass Eye Blues. What is it about? Any other blues tunes?

The song is all about the tuning. It’s about a guy with a glass eye and then he grows a glass leg. It’s psychotic. It’s like a cyclops movie. I have another one that I wrote when I was really young called “The Never Knowing How to Lose Blues Song”. It’s about a guy who keeps winning and winning and he never loses. It was giving him the blues because he could never lose. I wrote that a long time ago. I also did something called “The Speed Reading Blues” years ago. It’s about learning how to speed read and going to a speed reading school. I never was able to speed read as fast as I wanted, so than I got the speed reading blues.

You are teaching guitar now: What’s that like?

It’s pretty cool. I only have a couple students. It puts the breaks on my crazy velocity filled life. I have to slow down and think about what I am doing because I am teaching somebody the fundamentals of the guitar. I can’t rush through it. It’s like a parachute opens. I slow down and focus and see if the person I am teaching is picking up on what I am teaching. It’s therapeutic and healthy. The best thing is that it is at other people’s homes. It is very civilized compared to most nights when I am doing a gig at the bar. I like it. A lot of it is very mental.

Back in the 70’s and 80’s what blues acts did you open for? Any good stories?

I opened for Bo Diddley at a place called Starz. It was owned by Stephen Starr the restaurant guy. Bo Diddley was a very confident man. I don’t think the word humility would apply to him. He was great. He was really all about Bo Diddley. When we opened up we had a luke warm response. He really was Bo Diddley. He delivered. I opened for Jesse Graves in 1976 at The Main Point in Bryn Mawr. There was a huge crowd for that show. There’s another guy I want to mention. His name was Blues Man Willie. He was so soulful, authentic, and gracious. A beautiful cat. He was always overlooked by the media. He played everywhere on the east coast and up and down the sea board. He used to have a big old bus with a big picture of him on it. He always had the hottest women. I don’t know how he could afford it. He had the couch dancers with him. The kind you see in a strip club. They were the backup singers. Not only was he a great player but he was carrying the blues banner in Philly. He never made much money but he always tipped the soundman and the bar tender on the way out. He was such a gracious wonderful guy. I’m thinking his name needs to be put in a blues magazine. Blues Man Willie was the real deal.

What were your thoughts on George Thorogood when he was coming up in Philly? You were also Tom Waits’ limo driver. What was that like?

George Thorogood used to play every Sunday from 4-7 p.m. for 75 cents on South Street. He would do the duck walk on the bar. He was very young at the time. From the get go, he was a stunning sensation and he took off like a rocket. The first couple of weeks he played at Dobbs there would be a line around the block to see him. We met up a couple of times. I met him at a bar on 22nd and Lombard where he was playing. We knew each other. He went off to the big time and became a huge star. He always worked hard. He always gave his band work too.

On to Tom Waits. It wasn’t a limo. It was my car. It was a huge 1967 Buick that was half the size of Japan. He got a kick out of that. I had a police siren on it. I drove him around 16-17 times. The more I drove him around the more we became friends. He always joked around that he would drink, but he was not an alcoholic. He was a workaholic. We would stay at the same hotel and he would be up most of the night working on his act for the next day. He was the true definition of a workaholic and that is probably why he succeeded. Ultimately, I was a little too casual. I would drink backstage at his gigs. A few times I had way too much and would wake up in the backseat while he was driving. After that happened a couple of times he pretty much said you’re fired. (Laughs) That’s a true story. A great guy.

What’s next in the Kweder legacy?

I am going to be doing a show called “Drinking with Kweder”. I am going to interview people in a bar at a table. It’s going to be filmed by a professional film crew. I am going to get a hold of the Mayor of Philadelphia, disc jockey’s and athletes. It’s going to be like a talk show except everyone will be drinking while I ask questions. It will start in the fall. We are going to do 12 episodes. We are going to get some high profile people that will go along with the circus act.

Jesse Graves Part 2

 

Some incorrect information was printed about you. Starting with the Courtley First Judicial Newsletter: “He traveled to Harlem to receive advice and encouragement from Reverend Gary Davis just prior to his death. He studied in the Mississippi Delta region, was taught to play the slide guitar by Son House, and learned the blues philosophy from Mississippi Fred McDowell, who also served as a father figure”. Please set the record straight.

First of all Son House wasn’t in the Mississippi Delta. He was in Rochester New York. I never studied with him or Fred McDowell. I listened to a lot of records. I met Son House which was one of the highlights of my life with his manager Dick Waterman. I spent time with Gary Davis and his wife in Harlem towards the end of his life. I met Mississippi John Hurt in the 60’s at a club in Philadelphia. I learned to play his song “Candy Man”. I was a great opening act. Never a headliner. Always a bridesmaid never a bride. I learned by watching these guys play and I would pick up what I could from them. I went to the delta to record Robert Pete Williams for my record label Gazebo, but I ran out of money and couldn’t put it out. I stopped giving interviews after a reporter claimed I studied with Robert Johnson which was totally false. These writers were embellishing and misconstruing and that’s when I stopped giving interviews.

In the 80’s you worked at the Prothonotary's Office. What were your duties? How many years did you work for the city?

I worked for the city for seventeen and half years. I was a supervisor in the record room. I put aside my guitar in 89 thinking nobody wanted to hear that kind of music anymore. I was drinking a lot and doing drugs. I am clean now, but I drank myself out of a career.

What was it like opening for John Lee Hooker?

When I opened up for John Lee Hooker, I was still drinking and he was sober. He wouldn’t even shake my hand because I was drunk. Let me say this: my music playing cost me my marriages, my sanity, and my sobriety. Back in the 70’s and 80’s there were a whole lot of drugs going around and I fell victim to it. Now I sit in my living room and play my guitar for me.

You are teaching yourself guitar again. What songs are you working on?

Gary Davis’s “Death Don’t Have No Mercy”, “Hesitation Blues”, and Robert Johnson’s “Me and the Devil”. All three of them have good picking exercises. I suffer from arthritis so sometimes it is harder than other times.

How does Native American Spirituality play a part in your life/music?

Every time I picked up a guitar and played professionally I always dedicated it to the Great Mystery. I grew up reading books just like I grew up listening to records. I read books about Native American affairs. I am not Native American physically, but I believe in their way of life.

Lazer Lloyd America's Blues

 

Lazer Lloyd is a singer/songwriter and virtuoso guitarist born in New York and raised in Connecticut. 

"I grew up with the great North American songwriters - Willie Nelson, Neil Young, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell - they are all huge influences on me.  I started writing songs in college and my lyrics reflect the long road of travels, days and nights on the road performing, raising my family, living in the Middle East for 20 years up close to both deeply painful tragedy and inspiration. I am an emotional man and my songwriting captures the fire and the tears, it keeps me balanced."

"This past year tens of thousands of people have sent me personal messages sharing the pains and joys of their lives, writing to me about their own music, spiritual quests, guitar and songwriting questions, sending me their songs and their artwork.  I've made an effort to read through the massive number of messages and comments, replying as often as possible and getting to know many beautiful, amazing people, making many new friends.  I see that the songs really touched people, each in their own way. This is unbelievably gratifying and humbling to me.  Can't wait to see you all on the road..."  

Who are the blues guitar players that really stirred your soul and influenced you? Who do you channel from most?

There are so many blues players I channel from: B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Albert King, and Peter Green.

Your guitar playing is beyond emotional: How do you this? Where do you mentally go when you play?

I can’t tell why my guitar playing is so emotional. I’ve gone through many emotional things in my life. Living in Israel the last 24 years has done a lot of that to me. I’ve witnessed a lot of emotional things obviously.

How does your religion/spirituality impact your music?

I am not a religious person. I consider myself spiritually oriented. Of course that opens the channels of feeling people and feeling the world. I try to listen to what the world is saying. I try and let that go into my music.

Could you talk about your guitar tunings? Mississippi based? Other worldly? What’s your favorite tuning?

I like to play in open G tuning and open E tuning. I like a special tuning that I do that is half Middle Eastern and half Mississippi tuning. I combine them and I very much enjoy that. The open tunings give you more space to play solo chords and sing.

What’s the best song you have written and why?

There is no best song because each song reaches each person differently and I try to write many different things to reach different people. I think, perhaps, the song America… Every musician needs to be in tune with the world to know what the main issues in the world are right now. The main issue in the world right now is what’s going on in America. America’s the most influential country in the world and America’s going through turmoil. That’s the place that is my country that has so much potential, so much good, and so many challenging issues. It’s on the bridge of destruction through conflict and hatred. I really want to do everything I can to have people move to the middle.

What else do you want to achieve musically?

I want to keep going to expose my soul through the music and to find that one pure note, that one pure word, that one pure song, and that one pure breath that I will be able to sing where there will be some connection to many people in the world to touch their inner beings.

Jesse Graves Legendary Bluesman

 

How and why did you get into the blues?

In 1966 there was a folk resurgence in the 60’s. I really liked Mississippi John Hurt’s Country Blues. There was a place in Philadelphia on 52nd and Spruce Street. They used to have live acts like Bobby Blue Bland, Melvin and the Blue Notes, and Patti Labelle. I used to stand outside because I was under age and I would listen to these people perform. That's what really sparked me.

After you released your Gazebo Album how did your career pick up?

After the album, Michael Tearson was with WMMR and he gave me my first airplay. After that, I started getting gigs. Bill Eib was my manager and he booked me in the colleges and what have you. I met with Dick Waterman and Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie used to tack me onto a lot of her shows so I could get practice and exposure. The national guitar that she used on her first two albums she gave to me and I sold it for 300 dollars to get high. I was into the drugs back then. I drank myself right out of a career. Gazebo Records went out of business when I ran out of money.

What was it like getting hands on experience from Muddy Waters and opening for him at the Main Point?

I listened to Muddy on Chess Records as a kid. I listened to a lot of Reverend Gary Davis, Muddy Waters, and Johnny Shines. I owe everything I am to the old black artists. It was a music that really stirred my soul.

Have you written songs for other artists?

I wrote a song for Tom Waits back when he was writing all of his own material. He didn’t use it. He and I were friends back in the mid 70’s. I did a gig with him and Bonnie at Widener College in Chester PA. We used to hang together because his girlfriend and my girlfriend at the time lived in apartment and when we came off the road we would go to the apartment. I wrote a book of prose of poetry and song lyrics and Waits wrote the introduction but it has never been published. They will probably publish it after I die. Bill Rogers has all of the original transcripts.

What’s your greatest and worst musical moment?

I played the Academy of Music in Philadelphia with Bonnie Raitt and Taj Mahal and it was sold out. I enjoyed that performance more than most because the people were into all three of us. It was me and Johnny Davis. He was my harp player for 10 years. Every time I’d go onstage I say a prayer and I would let the guitar take over. I learned by watching. I would go to Gary Davis’s house. When I met Son House and he played, I watched him like a hawk. Bonnie, Bill Eib, and Bill Rogers really gave me my break.

Where do you think the blues is headed and why does it always remain under the radar?

I don’t know (Laughing). Guys like Buddy Guy… Then there are guys like John Hammond. I used to open for John. I think the players that get involved in blues put their own imprint on it. What the public likes or doesn’t like; it’s a matter of opinion. I used to play the black clubs in north Philadelphia and some white people were there. The older people in the 60’s and the 70’s used to like my music. The younger guys would give me a hard time. Everyone has a different opinion. People like Keb Mo, Gary Clark Jr., and Rory Block are all trying to keep it alive with their own twist to it. George Thorogood was doing Chuck Berry riffs and duck walking to a new generation of listeners. It’s like Tom Waits said it’s an old story unless you never heard it before.

If you had to do it over again what would you do differently?

Run away and join a gypsy band and play the tambourine.

Are you making a comeback like Son House? What do you want to do with the rest of your life?

I have a lot of blues songs that are mine. I would like to record them. There a couple of people where I live who have taken an interest in me. I would like to do one more album. I would like to play locally. Nothing stringent because I’m old. I just want to try and have some fun. Music is fun. If it ceases to be fun then you are in trouble. You have to love what you do and never give it up. I gave it up because I didn’t think anyone wanted to hear from me. A lot of people helped me along the way. If there is anything I can do to help anybody I will do it. It didn’t cost me anything and it’s not going to cost them anything. My best advice is to go see as many live blues acts as you can and soak it up like a sponge. Also, one last thing. The guy and the girl on You Tube under the name Jesse Graves is not me. That’s all there is to it.

 

 

John Two-Hawks Good Medicine

 

Grammy® and Emmy nominated, Platinum Award winning Native American Flute Music Recording Artist, Author and Activist John Two-Hawks has spent his life looking intensely into the deep ways of Spirit, wisdom, healing and connection. With his music and his words, he has reached into a hurting world, sharing the healing power of love, compassion and humility. The enchanting music of John Two-Hawks soars with breath taking symphonic sounds in one moment, and then soothes the spirit with the powerful organic voice of a lone Native flute in the next. A master virtuoso of the Native American Flute, John is also an extraordinary vocalist, musician and composer.

When and why did you start playing the flute? Who were your teachers? When/Where did the native flute first originate?

I have been performing with the Native flute for over 25 years. I began sharing it as part of my educational programs at schools and universities. Over time, more and more people began to ask me to perform with it, which ultimately led to where I am today. I always say that I didn't go looking for the Native flute, it found me. No one taught me, I just picked it up and I could play. It came naturally. Neither have I ever had a teacher for any of the dozens of other instruments I play and compose with. Music has always been like a second language for me, and I have understood it from the time I was a small boy. My Lakota name is Siyotanka (she-oh-tahn-ka), which translates to 'big/great flute'. Thus it seems I was destined to share the song and story of this ancient instrument from the start.

The origins of the Native flute as I have learned through Lakota oral history go thousands of years back in a time before memory. I share a detailed telling of the origin story as I have heard it in my book 'To Make a Voice - Native Flute Lessons & Wisdom', but I will sum it up for this interview like this; The instrument known by Lakota people as hokagapi (to make a voice) - and now known by all as the Native American flute - was born of a broken heart, and of love. It began as a courting instrument for boys to serenade the girls they had eyes for. It evolved into an item used by certain medicine people for healing. And today has become a musical voice for peace, healing, love and a return to ancestral wisdom.

Could you talk about the old way and how your culture shapes your music? What are you trying to express in your music to others?

As a Lakota person who also carries Anishinabe and Celtic-Irish lineage, my approach to music composition is multifaceted. At its center, my music is anchored in the root of those old Indigenous ways. And yet, it reaches out from that traditional root to a place of contemporary expression as well, and is imbued with musicality that honors the totality of my own ethnic diversity and celebrates the same in our world.

Each of my albums (27 to date) have a unique purpose and story. No two are the same, conceptually or musically. And yet, the overarching theme of all the music I create is a singular vision: to mend the sacred hoop. A great healing is needed, individually, nationally and globally. We must rid ourselves of the cancers of hate, greed and fundamentalism. These social diseases divide human beings, creating destructive enmity between cultures and nations, and they threaten the very future of all life on this planet. My music, and the message contained within, is my effort to use the gifts Tunkasila (grandfather) gave me to reach into a chaotic world with a song of peace and healing, with the hope that one day we will finally learn to live in harmony with each other, and in balance with the sacred web of life on Maka Ina (Mother Earth).

How do you compose? Flute first? Singing? Drums? Please Explain. How far back do some of the native songs go that you play?

Since I was very young, musical compositions have just sort of revealed themselves to me in natural ways. The wind rustling through the leaves of a tree, the tones of a distant plane, and the cadence of my own footfalls on the stairs are just a few examples of the stimuli that often become compositions that begin to play over and over in my psyche until I actually 'birth' them into audible existence. So, when I enter the studio, I usually have a great deal of what I want to record already composed in my head! I usually begin with the instrument(s) that will provide the foundation and framework for the composition, which can be percussion, piano or strings. All these are performed with the composition of the Native flute in mind, so that the flute is already 'living' in the music before it is even recorded. The flutes are always recorded last (unless of course the song is solo flute). Although my music is composed and arranged with traditional approaches, elements and sensibilities, my songs are all original compositions.

What’s your greatest musical moment and what’s your worst?

I will begin with the worst moment and finish with the greatest. One of my worst musical moments was when, in the middle of a concert I got the vocal harmony to one of my songs stuck in my head, and sang the entire song that way! The stage terror from that caused me to also forget all but one verse, which I sang over and over. Add to that, a digital effects anomaly in the sound booth that made it sound like there was a spaceship landing on the theater, and the humiliation was complete! Interestingly, at the 'Meet & Greet' afterward, folks told me they loved that song!

I would have to say I have two greatest musical moments. The first is performing for an audience of 12,000 beautiful souls with Nightwish at the Hartwall Arena in Helsinki, Finland. As a performer, that moment on stage for an audience like that is unrivaled. The second greatest musical moment for me was performing and recording the music for the Emmy winning HBO film, 'Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee' at the Eastwood Sound Stage at Warner Brothers Studios. It was both a humbling honor, and an amazing experience!

What are your future music, book, and activist goals?

I have a new album, my 27th, coming out this spring. It is called 'Peace', and features my flute sounds with the soothing guitar compositions of my longtime musical collaborator, the amazing Van Adams, who is as a brother to me. This music is created intentionally for meditation, yoga, massage, holistic health, and really anyone who just needs a little peace in their life! I am currently doing classes and book readings/signings for my current book, 'Hidden Medicine - Surviving, Healing and Rising From the Ashes of Abuse'. I have plans to start on a new book about the deeply complex experiences of Native people with 'mixed' ancestry in the near future. As for activism, I am always working for causes close to my heart, which include Indigenous human/civil rights and social justice, and environmental issues. Always, everything I do is infused with a vision for a better world for our future generations, and the mending of the sacred hoop. 

 

Peter Humphreys Crystal Clear

 

Peter Humphreys- Crystal Clear

Engineer Peter Humphreys is regarded as the region's finest mastering engineer. Those in pursuit of premium sound will inevitably find themselves steered to Pete's room; few engineers offer the wealth of experience and perspective that Peter has accumulated over his three decades in the business.

Pete was playing music and touring extensively on the east coast during the early 1970s. He decided to pursue studies in audio engineering at I.A.R. (institute of Audio Research) New York City; over the course of the program Pete displayed considerable proficiency in engineering, and on the strength of his performance there, he landed a coveted staff position as recording engineer at Sigma Sound Studios, the virtual epicenter of hit record activity during the 1970s. Pete engineered for a steady stream of major label artists at Sigma. His credits include gold and platinum dates for Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, Phyllis Hyman, Billy Paul, and many others. In the early 80s, Pete teamed with Grover Washington Jr; the two went on to become close friends. Humphreys recorded a number of records for Grover and served as audio consultant on two of his world tours. (He would eventually go on to master several of Grover's later albums.) Pete was also instrumental in helping to grow Sigma's expansion into media services for radio and television, and audio sweetening for video and film. Demand continued to grow for Humphrey's services, and he found himself branching out to consult on disc mastering and album manufacturing in addition to his session work at Sigma. In 1986 Pete made the move over to the mastering side with the acquisition of Frankford/Wayne Mastering Labs of Philadelphia. Soon to follow was the birth of Masterwork Recording which provided him the perfect venue for his engineering skills. Since that time, Peter's mastering has enhanced thousands of discs and garnered praise from musicians of every type. With artists traveling from as far away as Canada and Italy to master with him, it's evident that Peter Humphreys is regarded as one of the best mastering engineers in the business.

What is your definition of mastering? Could you talk about your approach to mastering music? 

I would define it as the process of creatively optimizing. It’s in two parts. One part is technical and anyone can learn the technical part if you have the aptitude for it. That’s the process of learning questions, details, cleaning the in’s, making sure there is no noise at the beginning and the end, getting the titles right, getting general levels, and organizing the product. The other side is the creative side. That’s the side that really distinguishes the person. There may be two great mastering capable people and one might give you a better result than the other; not that either one would be lesser from the other. It’s their perspective and how they understand what the client wants. You want to make sure you are in the head of the producer and understand what they are looking for. Sometimes they bring something to you and say, “I am so close to it I don’t know what to think anymore”, and you will take a stronger position on your approach. On the other hand if someone has a specific direction then you take their lead. Help them get there. Both approaches can be very enjoyable.

Your sound is so clean, pristine, and clear. How do you achieve this?

Sometimes clean is good. Sometimes it’s not. Let’s start with a lot of experience. I started in the early 70’s. I worked at Sigma Sound for 14 years in the thick of it during the best period. I worked with a great staff of people. Everybody was on each other to do the best job and loved each other for it too. That raises your bar as far as your expectations and what you are listening to. That still doesn’t teach you about mastering. The mastering I learned was when I took my product as a mixer and went to follow it through and go to a mastering house. I went to all of them up in New York. I went to Sterling, CBS (now Sony) & Frankford/Wayne. So the experience of having them tell you as an engineer if you do this, I can do this better while mastering. You learn the tricks and I pass it on to my clients. That all comes with experience. The other part is great gear. It doesn’t always have to be exotic gear but it has to be of a caliber that you feel when you put something in it does no coloring. Unless it’s a tube piece or something that will add something or drive it a certain way. Something that will change it. You want to make sure the producer wants to change it. It can be plus and it can be minus. In many cases today with all of the digital processing sometimes tubes are a pleasant alternative. I don’t want to stress that as a necessary thing. Great equalizers that are proven in the field: I use some classic Sontec and Urei EQ’s. You build a custom chorale of gear that help you create and solve daily problems. That’s another reason why mastering houses can be different. It’s about making choices from your experience. Sometimes clean is not desirable. Sometimes someone brings me something that is to clean. I compare it to other examples of music in their market. (I always suggest people send me examples so I can get into their head and see what they like). Sometimes I will drive the equipment harder or emphasize areas of the sound to make it feel a little dirtier/ thicker. If you are doing something that’s a real rock band but they are sounding jazz like or it’s to clean, that’s great if you are going for the Steely Dan thing, but if you want that edge you may push more to try and achieve that. Again that’s making choices based on your experience and also what the producer sees. Nowadays there isn’t always a producer or artist present so I can send something back on the internet if I am doing it online.

What does a typical day look like for you? Do you protect your ears as you are listening to music all day?

I personally like to get an early start. I am an early riser. Maybe around 6:30 a.m. I get my coffee, do my exercises, shower, and then try to hit it. A lot of times I like to get it going so I can take a break and eat something. That is the nice thing about working from home. Sometimes I like to get it all together and leave the house. I spread my work through the whole day. I love to work in the evenings as well. Years ago it would fit into a daily schedule. Mastering in the early days was pretty much a day job because most of what you did was in contact with plants (producing/manufacturers). You were cutting discs and sending them out. Things were happening more on a business schedule. Nowadays you can stop at your discretion and work on a piece for a long period of time. You may have to do a little bit of extra work to bring it up to form. I like to look at the overall collection of songs before I get too deep so I can see what the path is going to be like. I look for the best sounding songs and the worst if there are any. I like to find one that is really representing the sonic spectrum and energy and I really try to push that one to its max to see what I can do with it. That way I have a measuring stick. If I have something that is all encompassing so I can take something and put it up against it. Years ago there was a sense of what good sounded like but nowadays good can be street credible ugly. Now it’s all over the place. Basically that’s it you are trying to find a path for the project.

As far as ears go, varying listening volumes in any stage of the recording is very good for your ears. I recommend that if you are practicing something or working on something. One constant volume is the worst thing for your ears. It messes with your brain waves. Also, your ears can tire when there is volume stress. During mixing and mastering moderate levels are much more accurate. It has to be a nice listening level. You want to hear the range but you don’t want to listen super loud. Switching to different sized speakers is also helpful. I protect my ears if I go out to a club the night before. Anything will do: cigarette butts, tissues rolled up. I bought a pair of earplugs that have these barrels. They look like space creatures and they evenly attenuate the sound at a flat level so you can appreciate a live concert with full fidelity but you are dropped down about 10db. I recommend them to every musician.

 If you could pick one artist to work with, who would it be?

Grover Washington Junior was one of my favorite people. He was so creative and so ahead all the time. He was misrepresented by the Jazz field sometimes because he was so broad in his perspective and open minded. He was loved by the Jazz world. He liked to mix and bring in all kinds of music (a funky jazz r/b flavor). I spent 10 years working pretty exclusively with him. We were really close and he was one of the great people to work for. When he passed, it was terrible. I have worked with so many great artists… It’s hard to think… Alan Parsons would be one. I like working with any creative person that is doing something really good. I really prefer to work with someone who is really trying to push the envelope a little bit and do something different. If there is anybody out there that is doing this in any genre, I would like to work with them. I would work my heart out for them, have fun, and find the best in it.

 

Dylan Galvin L.A. Acoustic Heart

 

Hand chosen by Paul Simon for a private songwriting session in Boston MA, Dylan Galvin is a melodic pop-folk songwriter who likes to add a touch of quirkiness and a dash of philosophy to his emotionally based music. Earning a degree from Berklee College of Music, Dylan studied under some of the best musicians in the world, including John Mayer's own guitar teacher, Tomo Fujita and James Taylors quaint and talented brother, Livingston.  

He's racked up quite a few awards for his music including "IMEA Adult Contemporary Artist of the Year", "Phoenix Radio Best Guitarist", "ISC Honorable Mention", "Berklee Songwriting Competition Winner". He is an introverted storyteller at heart, weaving words into his intricate acoustic finger-style guitar playing, looking at the world with careful discernment and trying to balance his inner optimist and pessimist.  

You recently moved to L.A. from Maryland. What are your L.A. music goals? What’s the biggest difference from back home? Also, you are now acting in short films and doing product placements. Could you talk about transitioning into this field?

I came to LA so I could get connected in the industry. It's a big bad place here and I know the competition is fierce. I'm looking to sharpen my recording chops, get my music in films and TV and record a few more originals. The biggest difference between here and home is the intensity of the industry and the connectedness with the celebrity world. You can walk down the street and see Vin Diesel hopping into a Lamborghini. It's a reminder that the biggest figures in the industry are everywhere here. But that being said, there are so many people and such a bigger network of people, it's easy to feel separated and lost. Back home, I know so many people. We're like a big family back there. Here, it's kind of like a kid heading to their first day of school. With the acting thing, it's something that happened organically once I got here. I've had to expand my portfolio so I just became a Craigslist hawk and I've found some golden opportunities from it. I'm not planning to abandon music, but if it takes off seriously, I'll have to figure out how to keep music in the mix down the road. I'd really love to be in a season of Stranger Things! If that happens, I'd have to put the music on hiatus for a while. 

Currently, what are you working on musically? What songs of yours should we be listening to?

I'm in the middle of doing what I call the "Demo Sessions". I'm making a Youtube series of one original and one cover every month, completely self-produced, just to get a feel for my audience, force myself to create on a regular basis, and give my fans a consistent stream of videos to look forward to. My most recent one "Slow Fading" is a love song for dorks. I just put it up on my youtube channel and my website: www.dylangalvin.com. Also, I've got a great one in the que called "Samurai Dave" about a samurai who goes on a blind date. I think people are going to love that one. I'm going to try and have it finished in the next few weeks. 

You are heavily influenced by John Mayer. I can hear subtle hints in your music. What is it that I am hearing? Do you listen to any blues?

Definitely. John Mayer is one of my biggest influences. I love his playing, his writing, and his overall musicianship. That's definitely what you are hearing! Good ear man. I have listened to a lot of blues because of his music too: BB King, Albert, SRV, Muddy..which led me to find modern blues masters like Robben Ford, Joe Bonamasa and king of all the blues: Derek Trucks. That guy is from another planet. His playing is liquid emotion from 5 dimensions. It's insane how lyrical and beautiful every single line he plays is. 

What’s your best performance and what’s your worst?

My best performances are probably the times when I couldn't care less how the show goes; when I'm cracking jokes with the audience and I can mess a song up, start improving the words to the verse I messed up and have people dying laughing. This only happens when I'm not in introvert mode, which is 90% of my life. I spend so much time in my head, critiquing, thinking, reflecting, it's nice just to exist for a little and enjoy the moment and when that happens on stage, it's quite an entertaining show. My worst performances happen when I'm in my head while I'm playing. I'm analyzing facial expressions in the crowd and wondering if they like me or not. That's something that a lot of people struggle with and in the long run, who cares? The goal isn't to have everyone like you, it's to share something real with strangers and let them see something true and vulnerable. Performing is just a type of communication. 

Where do you want to be in 5 years? Please paint the picture.

In five years I'd like to have features in a few major films and TV shows. I'd like to have at least two full albums under my belt, a sustainable income from my music alone, and extra income from my acting. I also want to start a theology blog and help elucidate a lot of things I've learned in my spiritual life to other people. I'd like to be able to use my income to help funding to a few worthy charities too. There are a lot of people out there who really need help, they are running from militants, starving, or in in need of medical assistance. I certainly would like to use money to help people who were born into troubles like that. 

Grammy Man Scot Sax

 

Whether it was with his own bands Wanderlust and Feel, or as a purveyor of hits for singers like Faith Hill and Tim McGraw it was Sax, in fact, who co-wrote the country duo’s Grammy-winning smash “Like We Never Loved At All”. His catchy “I am the Summertime”, penned while with the band Bachelor Number One, was featured in the blockbuster “American Pie.” And he’s netted countless TV credits, with song placements in shows like “Ghost Whisperer,” “NCIS,” “CSI: NY” and “Keeping up with the Kardashians.”

Could you talk about your new record Mr. Chocolate? Who is he? What’s the record about? What tracks should we listen to?

Well, first of all, I don't know who he is. Secondly, I'll tell him you asked. Listen to all the tracks I'd say. Only 6 songs. Kinda like Station To Station. Or was that 7? No two songs are alike really. Only in that they're by the same writer and band but it's an album of emotional variety. One of the deeper emotional tracks is say is "Not Gonna Hate You Anymore". 

I love your tunes Fire Escape and Istanbul: very bluesy. What blues guitar players inspired you? Do you like the old Chicago blues sound? Favorite Chicago venue you played?

I jumped in to the whole blues world by way of Bill Wyman's Blues Odyssey book and several old books on the blues. Though mostly via Spotify which is a phenomenal way of hearing it all. The fact that everyone I was listening to were long gone made me feel less guilty about any lost income. The only blues I like that features electric guitar lead playing is Mike Bloomfield for the most part. Everything else is acoustic blues from the beginning of the 1900's on. 

 What’s your best musical moment and your worst?

Playing to a sold out TLA (theater in Philadelphia) with Wanderlust in '95. The worst was being handed what I thought was a fan letter but turned out to be a subpoena from a lawyer representing some boneheads who claimed they were responsible for my success. Same show.  

You are now living in Nashville. Are you trying to write your next Country hit?

No. I don't like country that much. That hit was a fluke. A half a million dollar fluke, but a fluke. 

 What do you want to achieve that you have not already?

Extended-release Peace of mind. 

Dave Cavalier L.A. Blues Wolf

 

Dave Cavalier is an alternative blues artist deeply connected to his roots in Chicago but firmly focused on establishing the potency of his sound in the City of Angels. Since the release of his debut EP “HOWL,” Cavalier has performed with Don Henley, Aloe Blacc, Kendrick Lamar, Manchester Orchestra, Local H, Brand New & many more at festivals across the country. The Huffington Post called HOWL “…Simultaneously lush, voluptuous and uncompromising…Imagine Jack White merging his talents with those of Robert Palmer and you’ll have an idea of just how good Dave Cavalier’s Howl is.

 Can you talk about your upcoming tour: opening for Stevie Nicks and the Bourbon and Beyond Festival?

Bourbon & Beyond is going to be a career milestone for me up to this point, I’m very proud to be a part of it in its first year. Having grown up listening to Buddy Guy and having him be such a strong influence on me as a blues artist but then to also be sharing the bill with Eddie Vedder whose records literally taught me what rock & roll truly is, it’s surreal. Pair that with the legend of Stevie Nicks and modern day bluesmen Gary Clark Jr & Joe Bonamassa and the stage is (literally) set for an incredible weekend. I’ll be taking notes while my crew all sips whiskey.

 How did the soul of Chicago and the grit of Hollywood merge? Is this how you define your sound?

My music is a product of my roots and my environment. When I moved to Los Angeles from my hometown of Chicago in 2010, I had a long established connection to the blues as well as the alternative rock records I stole from my older brother growing up. When I moved to LA, I saw a lot of the popular themes in the old blues records I loved being played out in front of me: broke dreamers, cheating lovers, alcoholism & drug abuse. I noticed though that in LA, these same stories had a different thing about them that made them unique to this city. In LA, everyone is hustling to become someone else, a better version of who they were when they showed up. That constant state of “in between” gave me a perspective to explore. Paired with my own frustrations & struggles as a young artist, I slowly began to define my music & myself by the stylish lawlessness & distortion my records have today. It’s how this city sounds to me and why it’s been called “LA Blues” and “Dirty Soul.”

 3 part question: Who are the Chicago Blues innovators that influenced you? How do they show up in your music in a fresh way? What tracks of yours should we be listening to?

I’ve always held strong that the four pillars of my electric church are B.B., Jimi, Eric & Stevie. So if we’re talking Chicago? B.B. King is everything. Besides the licks of his I’ve stolen here & there over the years, the thing that fascinated me most in a world of talented guitarists was B.B.’s ability to play one, single solitary note in such a way that you knew it was him immediately. He didn’t have to be flashy, he didn’t have to play fast, he just had to move you. His guitar was a conduit to his soul & that has always been my ultimate goal: to say 1000 things with one note, instead of one thing in 1000 notes. Unique as a fingerprint, when you can tap into that almost meditative state where you’re really locked into a groove, the only voice coming out of the guitar is your own so I guess that’s where it’s fresh because it’s 100% untainted me.

As far as what tracks you should be listening to I highly recommend you keep a look out for the new record I’ll be releasing later this year! Ha, but for what’s out there already, I’d say “Danger On the Dance Floor” if you want to dance, “Blood” if you want a story and “Little White Bow” if you’d like to hear me rip. I hope you listen twice ;)

 What is your best musical moment and what is your worst?

I genuinely believe my worst moments have probably been my best as well, because making lemonade out of lemons has always been a thing during my live show. I break strings CONSTANTLY because of how hard I play and bend and dig into my guitar. One show, I literally broke five strings before the set was over and somehow managed to finish the show on one string. So embarrassing. But then again, I was so into the vibe that night that was the reason why they were snapping! I was unrelenting and that was because we were having so much fun. I’ve tripped on stage over pedals and bounced back up, stepped on cords and unplugged instruments (myself and my bandmates’), but in the end you have to just laugh it off because you’re human just like the audience. You fumble around and make mistakes because you’re in search of this revelatory moment when you’re so lost in the music alongside fifty, one hundred or a thousand people, you forgot where you even were. I’ll lose a few strings in search of that moment any day.

 What’s your favorite venue to play in LA? Favorite Chicago venue to play?

My favorite LA venue is unfortunately gone now, but it was called “Piano Bar” in Hollywood. When I first moved to LA, it was the only place I could go to find consistent, great blues & rock music. Every night the musicians were absolutely stellar and the vibe was incredible. People danced and people laughed and no one cared about who was staring, which was very unlike LA’s “see & be seen” crowd. The red brick interior reminded me of my favorite joints in NYC and it just felt like home. Getting the chance to play there felt like I had joined a fraternity of LA musicians I admired, it was special.

 My favorite Chicago venue has always been “The Elbo Room.” On the Northside of the city, “The Elbo Room” was my “Cavern Club.” With its marquee perched high upon a corner just north of Lincoln & Diversey, the two level rock club had cheap booze and a no bullshit attitude. The basement stage had walls lined with band stickers like all good rock clubs should and a stage that felt so intimate you knew your sweat could fly off and hit someone lucky without much effort. I cut my teeth and learned how to become a great performer in that venue and it’ll always hold a special place in my heart.

 Musically speaking where do you want to be in 5 years?

In five years I would like to have my own studio where I can more consistently explore sounds and songwriting every day and be releasing music constantly. I’d like to produce other artists as well as writing music for film & television, taking on new creative challenges as they present themselves. I’d love to still be touring, preferably internationally at that point, so I can enjoy seeing more of the world. I think all I really would like is the chance to tinker, to play & to share my discoveries with a captive audience. I think that’s every musician’s dream and I’m not that different.

Muddy Waters

 

I found this article on Muddy’s Passing in the May 1st 1983 Chicago Tribune. (Records @ the Harold Washington Library in Chicago). I consider him to be the greatest and most important musician of the 20th century. The article was written by Lynn Van Matre:

Muddy Waters, the legendary Chicago blues singer and guitarist who was instrumental in shaping the urban blues sound, died early Saturday at his home in Suburban Westmont. According to the musician’s manager, Scott Cameron, Mr. Waters died in his sleep of cardiac arrest and was pronounced dead at Good Samaritan hospital in Downers Grove. He was 68.

Funeral arrangements were expected to be made Monday. Mr. Waters’ electrified blues, which became known as the “Chicago Sound,” influenced countless rock musicians, including The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. The Stones, in fact, took their name from the song “Rollin’ Stone” (sometimes known as Catfish Blues) which the gruff voice singer wrote in the 40’s and recorded in 1950.

Mr. Waters whose real name was McKinley Morganfield was born April 4, 1915, in Rolling Fork Miss., near Dear Creek, a tributary to the Mississippi River. He acquired his nickname, the story goes, due to his childhood fondness for playing in the creek behind the family farmhouse.

A fan of such respected bluesmen as Son House and Robert Johnson, Mr. Waters began playing harmonica and singing at social gatherings as a teenager. Later he took up the guitar.

The son of a sharecropper, Mr. Waters had no desire to spend his whole life in the fields, where he worked as a young man. “I always wanted to be great”, he once said “I always wanted to be known cross country, not like an ordinary person who lives and dies.”

In the early 1940’s when folklorists Alan Lomax and John Work were traveling throughout the South recording traditional musicians for the Library of Congress, they recorded Mr. Waters at the plantation where he was working. At the time, he was playing a rough unamplified style of country blues very much in the classic Mississippi Delta Tradition. He came north to Chicago in 1943 to seek his fortune. Mr. Waters electronically amplified his blues while retaining the emotion.

The Bands he formed here featured only a small number of musicians but the sound was extraordinarily loud- a blues sound that remained gritty and earthy, yet packed the more powerful visceral punch necessary to get the music across to a rowdy crowd. Chicago’s rapidly growing black audiences made up largely of ex Southerners, responded to it eagerly.

In 1950, Mr. Waters began recording for Chess Records, the famed Chicago Rhythm and Blues Label and had several R and B chart hits including: “She Loves Me,” “Hoochie Coochie Man,” and “Got My Mojo Working,” which has since become a blues rock standard.

For years, the market for this sort of music both in concert and on record was limited almost entirely to the black community. However towards the end of the 1950s Mr. Waters began touring Europe with his various bands winning the admiration of young white musicians and helping to inspire the British Blues Revival and blues rock era of the 1960s. In 1960 his appearance at the Newport Jazz Festival, where he performed “Got My Mojo Working,” won him a young, white following in U.S. as well.

Eventually, a number of the young rock musicians Mr. Waters had inspired would become exceedingly rich and famous playing music built largely on his brand of Chicago Blues.

Mr. Waters’ position as a famed urban blues pioneer and as a veritable contemporary blues icon is secure, but he was never as rich or famous as white rock bands that, early on, built on his sound and sometimes his songs. This fact did not seem to bother him, at least he showed no trace of bitterness. “It don’t bother me at all when bands like the Rolling Stones make it big.” Mr. Waters told The Tribune in 1981, “The boys were real nice (The Stones) didn’t leave me standing out in the rain. They passed a quarter to me-gave me credit, you know.”

L.A. Song Man Shane Alexander

 

Los Angeles based Singer Songwriter Shane Alexander is a fiercely independent artist that has developed a loyal international fanbase and licensed his songs in over 100 television shows and films.  His acoustic track, ‘Skyway Drive-In’ has over 14 million Spotify plays and he has supported such acts as Bon Iver, Jewel, John Hiatt, Suzanne Vega, Seal, Styx and Yes.

How did Bliss come about? What was the songwriting and recording process like?

Since my last album, Ladera, I’d started producing other artists and somehow came to this conclusion that I decided to build a studio of my own.  My wife and I talked about it at length, and eventually took out a loan to add 1,000 square feet to the house. That process was exceedingly stressful, as you can imagine. They ripped the roof off - it was 6-7 months of pure chaos. At the time, I was touring a lot and my mother was very ill and almost died. There was just a lot of going on. With so much coming at me, the songs started to follow. At the same time, ‘Skyway Drive-In’ was having some success, so fortunately I didn’t have to worry about touring as much, so I just wrote and wrote while the place was under construction. The second my Buddhaland Studios facility was complete, I started to make this new record. Bliss is my 6th release and was my first time actually producing myself. I was really excited at the idea of engineering the record, as well. For the first time in my life, I had the luxury of really taking some time. I put down my guitar and vocals first and everything else came after. A lot of the guitars on the record are first takes that I thought I would replace later. Ultimately, I didn’t replace them because they had the ‘juju’ or just felt a little bit more real, making the record feel more organic. I didn’t want it too slicked up. I would put stuff down and take time to make sure everything felt good before moving on. I had such a great experience and the project gave me a lot of confidence in myself. It all came together really well. Also, the record was the first time working with my mixer, Brian Yaskulka. I recorded at my place and then we mixed at his studio, Secret World. He’s now officially part of my team. I’ve produced three other artists’ records since Bliss and he’s mixed them all because he’s so talented and such a sweetheart to work with. Whatever I ask or dream up he always says ‘yes’. We have a really good thing going.

Could you talk about ‘Heart of California’? Which came first lyrics or music? How many takes in the studio? 

I wrote the song in Germany when I was missing home. When you’re in Europe for 3 weeks, it’s rainy and gray and you’re that far from your family…well, I wrote it as a love letter to my girls and my life in the sun. The riff came first. Generally, the riff almost always comes first for me. I had the riff and the first verse on tour and then finished it up when I got back to California. I was fortunate to have such amazing players on it - I’ve got my girls (Jamie Drake, Justine Bennett and Sarah Pigion) with Jesse Siebenberg on lapsteel, Vic Ruiz on bass, Peter Adams on piano and keys and Josh Grolemund on drums. That song was one of the first things tracked because I was doing an early 7” release for record store day in Holland. There’s more of a lo-fi mix out there, but when we had all of the songs in the can, I wanted Brian to remix it so it was cohesive with the rest.

How did you get your music on T.V. and in film? Did this happen organically? How does your agent help get your material out there? What’s the agent’s role?

With my first record I was just getting my feet wet. By the time Stargazer came out in 2006, I had a nonexclusive agreement with an agent named Josh Sanderson from a company called Black Sand Music. Around that time, 2006-2009, we were both building our brands. We had a really good run. What was great was that we were non-exclusive and a lot of others placements came in organically. The synch on the FOX show ‘Bones’ was really wonderful - an evocative three minute montage at the end of the episode with a proper advance, and backend royalties that probably paid for that whole record four or five times over in the subsequent years. A lot of the best opportunities have happened organically. Sometimes I’ve just met sups or network execs after my concerts, which is always nice because you don’t have to pay an agent’s commission.

What is your favorite venue to play? Favorite state/country to play?

Red Rocks was pretty life changing. That’d been my dream since I was a kid watching MTV and seeing U2’s ‘Sunday Bloody Sunday’. The sound check alone at Red Rocks brought tears to my eyes - I remember thinking ‘I finally f-ing got here!’ A really fulfilling experience. The Greek Theater in LA was another bucket list thing. There are a lot of smaller clubs that I love, too. The Sweetwater in Mill Valley, California is really great. The Hotel Café in Hollywood is where I (and a lot of people like me) launched my career and it holds a special spot in my heart. I’ve played 12-13 Countries now. Holland was my first outside the U.S. and feels the most like a home away from home because I have so many dear friends and fans there. I have such an affinity for Amsterdam. Amsterdam and NYC are probably my two favorite destinations on the road.

What’s your best musical moment and what’s your worst?

Bethel Woods was definitely a highlight. Bethel Woods is the original Woodstock site in upstate New York that was once Max Yasgur’s Farm. I was on tour with Styx and Yes at the time. That whole day was unbelievable. I knew going into the tour that it wasn’t necessarily going to be a ‘career maker’ per se, but it was going to be an opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. That whole tour we played big, beautiful amphitheaters. On average 10,000 to 25,000 people a night - and I was solo acoustic. When we got to Bethel Woods, I had my wife and daughter with me and we were given a guided tour of the grounds on a golf cart by this old hippie named Duke who’d been there since 1969! I was misty-eyed the whole day. For true rock and rollers, the Woodstock site is like the Wailing Wall. The museum there is beautiful and to have my family with me was so amazing. My show was dynamite, too (if I may be so bold). That was a really wonderful day for me. 

My worst… Two come to mind. One was en route to SXSW. The night before, I’d played a smaller festival called South by San Antonio and I was staying in a shitty hotel that the venue had arranged. There was an inch gap between the door and the floor and the pouring rain outside was gushing into my room. At the same time, on the other side of the paper-thin wall, this guy was having a complete freakout, screaming his head off and cursing like a madman. Finally, I called the front desk and urged someone to intervene - fearful he’d put holes through the wall with a gun. It was all so sketchy that I didn’t sleep 2 seconds that night. I wrote ‘Homesick Again’ the following day when I finally got to Austin. I had another worst moment in Holland where this jackass promoter was supposed to arrange a hotel for me. He didn’t take care of it, and I learned at one in the morning that I didn’t have any place to go. My friends and fans had all gone home assuming I had a hotel sorted. I ended up staying with a random guy from the venue. After four of five blocks of walking with all my stuff in the freezing cold winter, we finally arrived and my room was just absolutely filthy and disgusting. The minute I went in, my daughter hit me on Skype. I literally turned the lights off so she wouldn’t see where I was going to sleep. I’m a control freak and like my shit sorted out in advance. I didn’t know If I was with an axe murderer or not. NEVER AGAIN.

How does your spirituality influence your music? How’d it influence Bliss?

I have been a Buddhist for 18 years. In the Buddhism I practice, there’s a concept called Kosen Rufu meaning ‘World Peace through individual human revolution’. My mission in my music is to connect to people’s hearts in a way that is honest and sincere. If you go back through all of my records, you’ll note I am always trying to find subtle ways to be encouraging to the listener - because we are all going through challenges from day to day and I feel a real obligation to put something positive out there. With Bliss, I was going through a lot of dark stuff and a lot of friends were really suffering, and I wanted to turn that energy into something healing. At a loss for my album design, I had a vision for this face that radiates warmth and compassion. I went to Alan Forbes who’s a veteran rock poster artist and asked him to draw the cover. He’s such an amazing cat. I told him exactly what I wanted and he absolutely killed it. 

I feel it’s a real privilege to have an audience that cares about my music - and I try to use my powers for good and to help lift people’s spirits. I’ve come to a place of overwhelming gratitude for being able to do what I love.  I’m always excited to see what comes next.

 

Studio Sessions- Chicago Summer

 

I love being in the recording studio and having what you hear in your head come to life is beyond fun! For my new 3 song E.P. “Chicago Summer”, I recorded at Transient Sound in Chicago. The word E.P. stands for extended play. It’s contains more music than one song (a single) but is too short to qualify as a full studio album. Transient Sound has a comfortable homelike feeling to it with a lot positive energy. Recording there was a joy. I spent three days (roughly ten and a half hours) in the studio which isn’t a lot of time to record and mix three songs. Since I’m not rolling in money, all of my parts were well thought out and I had to execute. Before going into the studio, I spent so much time rewriting lyrics, practicing my voice, perfecting guitar parts, writing bass lines, and matching drum beats to my music. Every note, lyric, and idea is my own. I produced “Chicago Summer” and played every instrument. The process was extremely difficult and tedious. On my first song, Chicago Summer (also the title of the E.P.), I used a cool beat called Eurowarehouse Beat 2 at a tempo of 117 beats per minute. The beat drives the whole song and it’s not too slow or fast. The verse acoustic guitars have little blues notes which add unique colors to the song. There’s a Cool Chicago Lake Michigan Pop feel and I really love the way the chorus falsetto vocals pop (You Gotta Go Find the One You Love). There are a few guitar fills throughout and I used a fretless bass. You can slide into notes on a fretless and I love the freedom. The second track is called “Summer Girl”. I used House Filthy Beat 2 at 115 beats per minute. It doesn’t sound filthy at all!!! For “Summer Girl” I created my own guitar tuning. To my knowledge, no one has ever used this tuning. The driving rhythmic guitars make the track feel faster than what the tempo states and there’s circular repetitive sound. I feel like my voice fits in perfectly with the music and the emotion is there. The picked electric guitar part that enters when my voice enters makes the track. I feel like this song captures the green/blue Lake Michigan water/energy and it’s the best song on the E.P. The final song is titled “Mira’s Song”. I’ve had this song for a few years and it’s a departure from the others. It’s very James Taylorish with a little more vocal tension. I wanted to keep the sensitive singer-songwriter alive on “Chicago Summer”. I wrote this song for my cousin and her future husband and I was lucky enough to play the song at their wedding. Collin Jordan did an excellent job mastering the tracks and I’m very satisfied with the final product. Enjoy “Chicago Summer”!

My New E.P.! Chicago Summer

 

I love Chicago’s beaches and Lake Michigan. I live very close to the North Avenue beach and I can literally feel Lake Michigan in my apartment. My new E.P. called “Chicago Summer” captures the cool green blue clarity and lake air, the vibrant beach color, and the Lakeview East vibe. For the first time, I’m incorporating beats and loops into my music. Think of that song by Milky Chance called “Stolen Dance”.  Now think positively, add a windy Lake Michigan summer breeze to it, and a city summer beach vibe. Now you’ve got it! Stylistically, it’s called Singer-Songwriter Pop Beat. I’m not sure if that’s a genre, but it sounds good. The 3rd is called "Mira's Song". It's a departure from the other songs and it's an acoustic love song. I’m very excited to have new music and be in Chicago!!

Kenn Kweder: 100 Proof!

 

What’s your greatest musical moment and what’s your worst?

“It’s a tie. The Bijou Café in the late 70’s was a high point for me. It was brand new to me. All the gigs were selling out. That was a national showcase stage. Everybody played there from Elvis Costello, Blondie, Journey, to Barry Manilow. Those shows were just amazing. It was pretty incredible. When I lived in London in the mid 80’s those gigs were pretty incredible. In the 90’s when I lived in Copenhagen those gigs were great. Even now when I play gigs at the University of Pennsylvania there are moments that easily tie moments I had in the 70’s. There is such excitement and kinetic energy that the students bring to my show. I’m ready to collapse and I couldn’t be happier to collapse. There’s just no greater feeling to know that you’re connecting with an audience.

The worst moments in my life… I guess opening up for Blue Oyster Cult in the early 80’s in New Jersey where people were booing me and throwing things and hitting me. That was pretty humiliating and I did that a couple nights in a row. I once opened up for a comedian named Steven Wright. I did sixty minutes onstage and during forty-nine of those minutes there was this high shrill booing. Tough for any human being to endure. Those two moments were really tough. When they were over it made me determined to continue on. It was difficult those nights when I went home, but I came back the next day telling myself I would double my effort to go on. That’s the truth.”

You have a new film/documentary coming out in November: What’s it about? How’s it structured?

“That’s being directed by John Hutelmyer. He’s using me as subject matter and he’s documenting my career in music. It starts in 1970 and goes up until now. I guess it’s an attempt to do a synopsis of a sprawling career that I had. It looks real good. It’s very linear. It’s very logical. It’s not super post modern or anything. It’s chronological and has on and off associates and friends of mine musically throughout the years. No one has seen most of the stuff in the film. A lot of people have brought forth film and video from the last few decades. It’s stuff that I’ve never seen. It was all given to John and he’s shot a ton of stuff over the last 5 years. He’s cherry-picked through all the videos that were suggested to him. It’s put together in a real good visual tapestry of the Kweder career…. or the Kweder non-career. John makes all decisions. I’m the subject of the movie. I think it will premier somewhere in Philadelphia; that’s my instinctual feeling. He’s going to submit it to some Indy film festivals. It’s his project and his perception of me. I’m staying out of it. I would prefer if someone was doing a movie about me to let it be as objective as possible from a third person point of view. I’m doing it the Steve Jobs way!”

I’ve heard that you are the reason Philadelphia clubs started hiring local acts in the 70’s. Did you change the scene in Philadelphia during this time?

“There have always been original bands in Philly. Forever. There weren’t that many. That ended in 1971 for whatever reason and I came around a little bit after that. I was a big believer in myself. I believed I should be on big stages in Philadelphia. It took me a long time, but I convinced club owners to give me a try. With all my pent up energy, I put up thousands and thousands of posters in the city for years. I immediately hit a grand slam because people wanted to know more about me. I was really lucky because my music was pretty good and for whatever reason people in Philadelphia were hungry to see a good act and strong belief in himself. Other people had similar ideas and saw that I had done it. They started to do it. It took me a couple of years to convince club owners to allow me to come in and perform. They were just doing cover bands. Cover bands always do well. It was a different world back than and it’s closing back up again now. Once my thing started it was like a mushroom effect. All of a sudden lots of places started doing local bands. It was building on its own. I happened to be the one of the first guys to start doing it. I was all fired up to do it.

 There’s still a lot of negativity directed towards you. Why is this the case?

“That started in 1978. Some of the bands came back to me and considered themselves more hardcore and they may have been more hardcore. So they kinda figured I was over the hill. Rather than thank me for having opened up the door, they turned their direction towards me and hated me. I figured it would be over in a year or two. It went on a good ten years straight without letting up. It was everywhere I went. It subsided after fifteen to twenty years because all of those people ended up getting jobs. The so called really anti-establishment became the establishment. They got corporate jobs. Still to this day they have bitter feelings towards me. I don’t know why. They don’t play music anymore. They still have me as a target. It’s very bizarre. I did a television interview a while back and people started calling me the messiah. They got really angry over that and they’ve yet to forgive me. To hate continually for a couple of decades is very bizarre particularly when those doing the hating become part of the establishment.”

Any final thoughts?

“I will get back to you on that”

George Manney's New Film: Philly Pop Music

 

    George Manney is a walking/talking musical encyclopedia yet he’s more spirit than book. He can access his digital encyclopedia (musical info stored inside his brain) and convert it back into inspiration at light speed. When the information enters his heart, he beats feel. When we first met in his basement, I played him my song “Lonely Like Me”. (Co-written with John J. Ruppert). As the picked circular carnival like verse guitar part entered the chorus, I strummed E////////Bsus2////////F#////////. He silently paused and pondered. He then asked me to lightly pick the chorus chords and sing. After this new take, he suggested picking the chorus at the neck of the guitar. After the third take, he asked for the lyric sheet. He scanned the sheet and cited Lou Reed for lyrical and vocal inspiration; he wanted me to sing as if I were speaking. We then went to his computer where he played Lou Reed so I could hear/feel and better understand. George selflessly shared his love of music for two hours. He played artists/songs that suited my style. Through listening, I learned how to hear my song in my head and foresee it’s musical future. In one night, with George’s help, I learned how to produce music. I’m forever grateful.
    George has a new film he’s working on called Philly Pop Music. George’s mission is to preserve Philadelphia’s rich musical history. He’s documenting a part of Philly’s pop and arts culture through rare interviews and unseen live footage. The film focuses on “The Lost Pioneers”: the legends who unified music and pop culture in Philadelphia and brought Rock and Roll and R&B to the world via T.V. five days a week (American Bandstand). George needs our help! He needs funding to edit, distribute, and license music for Philly Pop Music. All George wants to do is give back So lets give him a little something. To donate go to:  http://www.phillypopmusic.com/
(For a  $5,000 tax--deductible donation via the film office the autographed Limited Edition Philly Pop Music Guitar (above) is yours. Autographs include: Jon Oates (Hall and Oates, Kevin Bacon, Kenny Gamble, Chubby Checker, Charlie Gracie, The Dead Milkmen, etc…)

Ted Estersohn- Philly Slide Master

 

 

Jesse Graves once told me, “Ted Estersohn is one of the best slide players out there.” I couldn’t AGREE more. Ted knows many styles, but he’s at his best when his dancing right thumb and glass slide do the talking.

            He learned and played with Mississippi John Hurt, Mississippi Fred McDowell, and Son House. I can’t stress how important these Legends are. Their musical DNA remains. Everything and anything you hear today can be traced back to The Mississippi Delta.

            When I went to Ted’s house for guitar lessons, he immediately wanted to see my right hand technique. I played Fire and Rain. Looking back, I have no idea why I played that. After a few bars, I really looked at Ted’s face and I heard Jesse ‘s voice, “Your guitar playing sucks and you play like a white boy”.

            Ted picked up his guitar and played a piece by Mississippi John Hurt. I watched his right thumb like a hawk. His thumb never stopped. Every few bars his thumb turned into Mississippi John Hurt’s thumb. During the experience, I became a believer and realized I was watching a reincarnation and direct disciple of Mississippi John hurt. Ted Estersohn is the REAL DEAL.

New Blues Guitar

 

There's a story behind this Regal RC-56 Tricone guitar. Resonator guitars are the Delta Blues Masters main axes. Initially, I wanted a National Resonator guitar, but they are too expensive. When I called the guitar store and heard the owner’s unconscious heavy burnt out jaded city accent, I immediately knew this guitar needed a home. I can still hear his voice and strange energy stuck and resonating through the guitar. It will be gone soon. When I entered the store, I scanned Terminator style. As I walked up an unusual flight of stairs, I saw it pinned to the corner. It was jammed and hidden between what seemed like a mess of guitars. The guitar was handcuffed to the wall hanger. Literally a pair of handcuffs constrained the guitar locking it to the wall. In all my few years, I have never seen anything like it. When the owner un-cuffed and unlocked it, I held the guitar in my hands. It was like a freed prisoner but I wasn’t impressed. I immediately felt sad. It was not in mint condition and the guitar sounded dead, dry, and depressed. I tried working it over with some open tunings but my magic wasn't working. I  even brought my own tuner and slides. I never do that. EVER!! Right as I was planning for the worst, a shining light through the crappy store window illuminated the guitar. The copper finish radiated LIGHT. At that moment, I knew it was mine. I would like to end with a few Neil Young Lyrics from “This Old Guitar”

This old guitar ain't mine to keep

Just taking care of it now

It's been around for years and years

Just waiting in its old case

It's been up and down the country roads

It's brought a tear and a smile

It's seen its share of dreams and hopes

And never went out of style

The more I play it, the better it sounds

It cries when I leave it alone

Silently it waits for me

Or someone else I suppose

 

 

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