Brant Buckley

Benny Turner Going Back Home

 

Benny Turner is an American Blues musician. He is the younger brother of Freddie King and was the bass guitarist for the Freddie King Band. Turner joined Mighty Joe Young as the bass guitarist before becoming the bandleader for Marva Wright for over 20 years. After many years as a sideman, Turner started his solo career. Turner has performed with Eric Clapton, John Fogerty, and Grand Funk Railroad.

Could you talk about your new album “Going Back Home?”

When I found out my good friend Cash McCall was suffering from stage 4 cancer, I wanted to record with him. He was wasting away in Memphis and nobody seemed to give a damn about him. There was a benefit for him at Willie Dixon’s place at Chess in Chicago and we flew him in to participate. At Chess, we started talking about making a CD. He wasn’t doing anything and was all for it. We didn’t have time to do originals, because originals require arrangements and things like that. Within the record, we wanted to go back home and play songs by Chicago musicians; songs we heard when we were first starting out. I requested Elmore James “It Hurts Me Too.” The lyrics go: “When things go wrong, wrong with you, it hurts me too.” I wanted him to sing that one to me and he did. We recorded in Chicago, Memphis, and New Orleans. Cash had chemo treatments in the morning and by noon he’d be in the studio ready to work. Cash was so excited.

There aren’t many bass playing front men around: What are the benefits and challenges involved?

I have been a sideman for my whole musical career. Coming out front has been a big challenge and it’s not easy if you want to do it right. You want people to be happy and you need to entertain them. It’s not easy as everyone is looking at the guitar player. Front guys always play guitar. I played guitar with Dee Clark in Chicago in the early 60’s. After that, I played bass my brother (Freddie King). During that time, I developed my own bass style. Freddie and I didn’t have mentors so we had to learn on our own. I have my own style and it seems to be working.

How are Texas Blues different from Chicago and Delta Blues?

For me it’s hard to say, but there is a difference. When I think of Chicago Blues, I immediately think of the old Chicago Shuffle. When I think about Texas Blues, I think of Albert Collins. Elmore James played slide and Jimmy Rogers and Muddy had their own style. They weren’t Texas style. Those are some of the differences that come to my mind.

Could you talk about your book, “Survivor the Benny Turner Story?”

That book’s been in my head for many years. I told my manager Sallie Bengtson that I am the king of procrastination. Everybody wanted me to write the book for years and I never did. I wish I would have done it a long time ago because it was so much fun.  She started to work with me and we jumped on the plane. We started in Gilmer, Texas where I was born and Freddie and I went to school. I talked with one of our old school teachers as she and her husband taught me. It was so much fun. I had a ball revisiting everything. I talk about Chicago and the places I first visited when I arrived. I thought about the good times and I also wrote about bad times. When I sing the Blues, it’s for real. A lot of people today sing the Blues for entertainment. I was born in 1939, so I saw the Depression and the start of World War 2. In east Texas you have Blues.

What’s your greatest musical moment?

It would have to be playing at the Apollo Theater in Chicago’s Lincoln Park. On the “Chitlin Circuit”, I was making $15 a night and I was playing all night to get that. When I started playing with Freddie, I don’t think I made $10 a night. When I hooked up with R and B singer Dee Clark, I was playing at the Apollo Theater making great money.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I have done CD’s that have been for other people. Currently, I am making a CD about songs that have touched me throughout my career and the players and people that I have come into contact with. This time it is going to be for me. We thought about calling it Benny’s Blues, but nothing is written in stone. My 80th birthday is coming up and it’s going to be in Brookeland, Texas. I am looking forward to it. We are going to have a blast there. It’s called The Lone Star Blues and Heritage Festival at Salmon Lake Park. Also, I am grateful to the people of Illinois who have supported my CD “Going Back Home”. It has been in the top 10 for a few months and is still doing well. We had no idea it was going to be this popular. I am very grateful and I wish I could play more in Chicago. I hope to be back in the coming months or year. I love the music venue Rosa’s in Chicago. I am going to Europe with Billy Branch which is going to be very cool. This will be the first major gig that we have played together. I am really looking forward to it.

Adam Gussow Apprentice Blues

 

Adam Gussow is a Blues harmonica player, teacher, and writer. A professor of English and Southern Studies at the University of Mississippi, Gussow was one of the first amplified Blues harp players to make overblows a key element in his stylistic approach. According to a reviewer for American Harmonica Newsletter, Gussow's playing is characterized by "technical mastery and innovative brilliance that comes along once in a generation." Gussow is best known for his long partnership with Mississippi born guitarist Sterling "Mr. Satan" Magee as the duo Satan and Adam. After working the streets of Harlem from 1986 to 1991, Gussow and Magee toured internationally from 1991 to 1998. Their performing credits include The Chicago Blues Festival, The Newport Jazz Festival, The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, The King Biscuit Blues Festival, The Kansas City Jazz & Blues Festival, and The Philadelphia Folk Festival. They toured with Bo Diddley and opened for Buddy Guy, David "Honeyboy" Edwards, Otis Clay, Johnny Winter, and Jimmy Thackery. 

Your new Netflix documentary Satan and Adam is incredible: Why do you think Sterling Magee aka Mister Satan let you sit in play and stay? Looking back what do you think he saw in you?

There is something that is not touched on at all in the documentary. When he was living in St. Petersburg in the early 60’s, he was known as 5 fingers Magee and he wore a white glove. I suspect it was on the picking hand. He was in a trio with two white guys. When I met one of the original guys, he said Sterling used to bring him to black clubs. It was unusual back then because St. Petersburg was still Jim Crowed. He had a pre-history before I ever wandered along. Back in the 90’s people asked Sterling what he would have done if Mr. Adam couldn’t play. He said GHAP (Go Home and Practice). That’s what he said to people. It suggests that he let me stay because I was good or good enough. There are other reasons. The U2 folks came along in the summer of 87’. That ended up in Rattle and Hum. I disappeared that fall playing with Big River which was a Broadway show. Sterling told me my spot would be saved and the testing of the relationship was important. There was a 3rd member in the group named Bobby Bennett who was a washed up bass player. I wrote about him in Mr. Satan’s Apprentice. We were a trio but Sterling ended up fighting with him and fired him. I had a car and Sterling liked it and we called it our car. We came together at a time when New York was a rough place. Michael Griffith, a 23 year old black man, was chased out of Howard Beach and killed on a highway in New York. He was killed by racist Italians. It was called a racial lynching. I was a young white guy playing harmonica a month after this happened. It was in the papers every day and not a single person told me to leave. The film leaves a mistaken impression. There was only one time in five years when I was hassled. It was the one day that I described in the film. Other than that, no one hassled me. The guys who hassled me were from Brooklyn and not Harlem. We felt we were race rebels offering a living image of inner racial harmony in a city that was against that. Sterling saw people enjoy my presence with him. He saw that the people around us got it and felt it. Sterling never pulled the race card.

It sounds like your greatest blessing was being on the receiving end of The Blues. Could you talk about translating soul deep pain into music?

The beginning of the film makes it seem that I went from a broken hearted guy straight to playing the streets of Harlem. What I want to stress is that playing this music well is a journey. I’d taken a lot of the early stages of the journey by the time I entered Harlem. When I was a junior in college I fell in love with a woman who was beautiful, smart, wise, and compassionate. We fell in love. It was love, sex, and what I wanted. I wanted that ancient heavenly connection. It was very intense. She went away for a year to Europe and had several affairs. There was an element of loss and heartbreak that was already in the relationship. We lived together and went out to California. We came to back to New York and we were together from 1980-1984 until she left. I suffered through a couple other affairs. Eventually, she left me for a guy I was in a seminar with. That loss shook me in the most profound way. It cut me to the core and disillusioned me. I went from a female centered world to a male centered world. I drank a lot of beer and was in a lot of pain. The harmonica which I had put away began to speak to me. If you have a badly broken heart, Blues music speaks to it. In 1984 it was all Madonna and pop was in. None of it spoke to my condition. I didn’t comfort me. When I was at Berklee, I wanted to be George Benson and Pat Martino. There’s a song by Albert Collins and the lyrics are: “My baby’s left me and now my mind’s begun to leave me too.” In other words it wasn’t just the heartache. There were moments that felt like nervous breakdowns. Like the kind of fear that makes you cower in the corner of room when your worlds falling apart. I found that Blues comforted me. I began to discover there was place that I could go to, have a jam session, and a few beers. The club was called Dan Lynch Blues Bar. It was an absorbing other world. Playing the music, listening to the music, and hanging out in Blues bars helped me get to sleep. It’s very primal when there’s a community that is going to help you get your pain out. It made me think about what deep Blues was. There’s a mojo in it that can heal you. Learning how to heal yourself through the music is learning how to play the music well. I think anybody who adds anything significant to the music has spent some time in the Blues condition that I am talking about where you are worried about your psychic and mental health. I am very fortunate that I came all the way back from it.

Could you describe the sound difference between Harlem/New York Blues versus Chicago and Mississippi Blues?

In a book of mine called “Journeyman’s Road”, in the introduction I talk about the New York Blues sound. The Holmes Brothers, Popa Chubby, Shemekia Copeland, and Satan and Adam were 4 acts that came out of New York in the 90’s. New York had many musicians coming in from many different places including Broadway. There was a lot of rock, funk, and jazz. New York Blues was more postmodern. It was a mash up of different idioms. Another key were the organ trios. The style of Blues that I used to listen to was from Baltimore, Philly, and the New England area taking place in black communities. There is an organ, drum, and one other instrument. The other instrument was usually a guitar or horn. That is very different from the Chicago model of bass, drums, and guitar. When Blues shows up in New York it’s the Jimmy Smith type thing. There was a guy named Victor Davis who I used to play with. The film leaves out that 6 months before I played with Sterling, I played in Harlem Jazz clubs. The film makes it sound like I lost my girlfriend and started playing clubs. Nothing could be further from the truth. I also did a lot of busking. The sound I absorbed from records and jamming in clubs had a certain kind of groove. Sterling is from Mississippi and what we did had a Baptist Pentecostal energy. We would play songs for a long time and let the energy rise and rise. Sterling was not a typical Blues guitarist and definitely not a Chicago Blues guitarist. He used a wound 3rd string. He played a guitar wound with jazz strings. The Blues he played was less about squeezing the note which is reminiscent of the Chicago and Mississippi style. It was about taking chord forms and letting them drone. I have never met anybody who could copy what he did. Many years ago we played a Blues Festival in Greenwood Mississippi and we went through Clarksdale. We played with Johnnie Billington who founded a Delta Blues school. The three of us tried to jam on the street and Johnny was dragging tempo wise and was a quarter step flat. It was an interesting mini train wreck. Johnny was a little bit behind the beat and that taught me that there is a New York Blues sound.

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

Every writer feels his latest book is his best. I have written a total of 5 books. “Mr. Satan’s Apprentice” was my first. I managed to get Mr. Satan during a period that really brought him to life. I’m really proud of that. My second book was my dissertation “Seems Like Murder Here.” It gave me an academic life and reputation. It’s pretty academic. “Journeyman’s Road” was my 3rd. In some ways I am proudest of “Beyond The Crossroads”. It may be the most important book in the long run because I took a central theme of The Blues and the devil. I researched the Robert Johnson crossroads cliché and the Blues devil music cliché. I basically went behind them to try and tell the fullest possible story. I took what I’d call an enduring theme of The Blues and it put myself on the map as a scholar for anybody who comes along later and wants to treat the theme. It took 7 years. Every book has a different velocity. “Beyond The Crossroads” was very hard. I hoped to get out of it alive. I offered a new interpretation of Johnson. I’m happy because the book is written in a very accessible language. I wanted to learn everything I possibly could about The Crossroads. I wanted to know if there was any truth. If you are really lucky you dig to the bottom of the barrel and the floorboards breakthrough and there is a sub-basement. That’s what I found. I found the original blueprints for the crossroads; what the highway department used. I proved that they didn’t exist during the time Robert Johnson was getting good on the guitar. He couldn’t have gone there because it was an unimportant dead end. I interviewed the guy who came up with the design and built it. The area was called The Crossroads as early as the 1940’s and it had nothing to do with Robert Johnson. When Johnson composed the song he theoretically could have written it there, he just didn’t get good there. After the film “Crossroads” came out, tourists would stop at a record shop in town and ask where The Crossroads were. The general public started attributing Robert Johnson to that spot.  

What’s your favorite course to teach at The University of Mississippi?

That’s a tricky question. I teach a Blues literature course. I introduce people to the Blues literary tradition of plays, poems, autobiographies, and philosophies. I brought in Mississippi Blues musicians: Bill Perry, Josh Razorblade Stewart, and Mark Muleman Massey. They all have monikers. I taught a course on Freedom Summer which is what happened in Mississippi in the summer of 1964. One black and two white civil rights workers were assassinated in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Mississippi Burning is based off that. I taught it to a classroom of 13 young white Mississippi freshman. They were all smart young people who had never been exposed to it. We are at very different place now than we were then. They were shocked. Many of them went to entirely white academies. They began to understand the way in which they received their education and how it had been structured by white supremacy. It’s not a term I throw around a lot. This is a case when it really applied. I was proud of how deeply engaged they were.  

What else do you want to accomplish?

In the film I say when you have given The Blues a good run, you are allowed to let go of them. It’s true. I’ve ended up in a great location, have a wife and child, and live in a suburban home in a college town in Mississippi. I am very lucky. When I came to Mississippi I thought all of my musical dreams had been realized. Satan and Adam was done, I’d written “Mr. Satan’s’ Apprentice”, and I had an academic job. The Mississippi Blues didn’t grab me as I am more of an urban Blues guy. I wanted a little more Jazz and Funk. I hung out my shoes and put the music away. In 2009, a young African American player named Brandon Bailey responded to one of my You Tube videos. We became friends and I mentored him. He gave me a stomp block and I bought a foot drum. It changed everything and suddenly I reinvented myself as a one man band. I never wanted to be a one man band even though I played with a guy who was a one man band. Sterling’s ultimate two high hat cymbal arrangement was something that evolved while I was with him. After recording Kick and Stomp, they began to play it on Bluesville. That changed my life and I sold a lot of copies of that. I did that in my early 50’s at exactly the same age Sterling Magee was becoming a full throated one man band. Both of us were in our early 50’s when we had an explosion of creativity. My song “Crossroad Blues” on You Tube has close to 3 million views. People are going for it. I am not a great singer and I had only been playing foot drums for a year. Both of those things drove me as a harp player to do things I had never done before. It was my declaration of independence. It is what it is but it’s original. I am really happy that it’s out there. At some point you need to put your own mark on the music and say this is my sound and my contribution.

Dave Cavalier Burlesque Blues

 

With the emotional capacity of a hurricane, Cavalier’s guitar playing is almost as if a tattooed James Dean played guitar like Hendrix. Billboard has said Cavalier has some of “The greatest tracks you’ve never heard of.” The Huffington Post has called him, “Jack White merging his talents with those of Robert Palmer...his music defines what is known as the carnal arts - sexy, sensuous, gritty music.” In 2015 Grammy nominated producer, Hal Winer, produced Cavalier’s “Howl”. He has performed with Buddy Guy, Eddie Vedder, Don Henley, Aloe Blacc, Kendrick Lamar, Kenny Wayne Shepard, Amos Lee, Band of Horses & many more at festivals across the country. He is an award winning film composer and has been the focus of both national and international marketing campaigns for brands such as Peugeot, Best Buy, HTC Vive, Las Vegas & San Diego Tourism.

Who are your favorite Blues artists?

The 4 pillars of my electric church are Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Eric Clapton. If you dig into my most individual guitar playing moments, you will find a smattering of all of them.

Can you talk about your new E.P. Rumors?

I am genuinely very excited to get these songs out. We started the release of Rumors with our first single “Snap Out Of It” followed by “Talk is Cheap”. Currently, I’m dishing out “Damage Is Done”, “Rumors”, and “No More”. I have had these songs for over a year and I needed to get them out. They need to see the light of day. It is very exciting. Musically speaking this was a growth period for my sound. With my first E.P. Howl, I was a straight Blues Rock guy. My perspective changed a little bit more with Rumors and I tried to modernize the sound. I know at my core I have always been a Blues guitar player. I was delicately walking this balance between creating something that fits into a modern radio landscape while still retaining my roots. “Damage Is Done” is an Alternative Rock song with Blues licks. It’s a 6/8 groove until you get to the chorus where some synths come in and it gets a lot more modern and big. It was a growth thing for me to try and marry these two things together in a cohesive and entertaining way.

How do you describe your sound? Can you talk about the soul of Chicago meeting the grit of Hollywood?

I like to call it Alternative Blues. For me it all comes from that place. Lyrically a lot of the story lines tend to revolve around classic Blues themes like heartbreak and people getting cheated on. I think what it really came down to is what I call L.A. Blues. I am from Chicago so I grew up around the very traditional Chicago Blues mentality. The B.B. King and Buddy Guy thing. There’s a sound to it that is in a very specific lane even though these artists approached it in their own individual way. Los Angeles is such an amalgam of different kinds of music and art. The Blues that exists in Los Angeles is much more specific than what other people deal with in other cities or regions in the United States. Here you could be in total love with someone and they will still ditch you for a producer with a Ferrari. The Blues people deal with here is about people chasing their dreams and having their dreams crushed or having them come true and then having them crushed. It is so unique. I wanted to explore what that side of the Blues felt like to me. I think that is why I had to modernize the sound. Los Angeles is always on the cusp of whatever is new. I don’t think it would do L.A. Blues justice to give it an old school sound.    

You and your band play live music with burlesque dancers. Can you talk about this?

It all started a few years ago at a show called Blue Velvet. I started with my business partner Olivia Bellafontaine. We performed at a local Hollywood spot called Sassafras Saloon. It has an elevated stage as it’s supposed to represent New Orleans. You are essentially playing from a balcony like you would at The French Quarter. The problem was we weren’t really connecting with the audience while jamming on the second floor. What ended up happening is they had burlesque dancers performing. I met Olivia who’s in charge of doing the shows and we discussed burlesque dancers performing to bridge the gap; Dancing on the bar to bridge the performance gap from the first level to the second balcony level while we play music. It turned into a fully improvised theatrical performance that has become incredibly fulfilling. From the first step to the last note everything from the dancers to the band members is totally improvised. The band will get into a groove and as the dancers begin to move, I bend the strings as they bend their bodies. We build up a visceral sexual energy in the whole room which leads to people taking off their clothes. We offer a fully improvised experience. When you see a show like Blue Velvet or our Alligator Wine show, the first time you see it is the first time I see it. The first time you hear it is the first time I hear it. I lose my mind onstage as it is so much fun. It’s very much an exorcism as it is a musical performance. It is incredibly emotional and a blast.

You primarily play Gibson Les Paul guitars. Why do you like them so much?

I have a 2000 Classic that used to belong to my dad who is still around. I was gifted it from him when my needs changed so to speak. Back when I was a touring guitar player for the pop group Stamps, I played a Fender Telecaster and I loved it. It was a Nashville style Telecaster with 3 pickups like a Strat. It was great but when I started playing in a power trio I needed something much bigger. I wasn’t interested in the Jimi Hendrix Marshall stack sound. I needed sound that could fill up space and a lot of that has to do with my Gibson Les Paul. I have Seymour Duncan Humbucker pickups installed. They accent the nuance in my playing. I will openly admit, I do not have the best Blues licks but I have always loved how B.B. King could make you cry with one note. I always strive to be the most emotional emotive player as opposed to being an encyclopedic of riffs. My Les Paul is set up to be as articulate and nuanced as possible. A lot of my tone comes from my Red Plate Amp which is a boutique amp from Arizona. It is one of the best purchases I have made that defines my sound. My pedal board is very simple. My main weapon is my wah pedal. I have some great dialed in tones that fit my voice and I use a little bit of overdrive when I need some extra juice. That’s kinda the sauce.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I would love to see more people using guitars again. Not in an Indie Rock kind of way. I mean using them in the way that inspired me; whether its throwbacks to Hendrix or the Alternative Rock days when people were using them in really creative ways. The idea is to keep guitar playing moving forward. You won’t see me using techniques like Mat Bellamy from Muse, but a Kaoss Pad inside of a guitar is a really fun and crazy way to keep pushing the instrument forward. The Blues philosophy is about making music as emotional and from the heart as possible. Now we have all these new tools to create new sounds and I would love to see guitar come back to the forefront. I hope I can play some small part in doing that. Within my career I want to keep making great music, continue getting it out as often as possible, and being as genuine as possible

George Thorogood (B-B-Bone Rippin’ Blues)

 

George Thorogood is an American musician, singer, and songwriter. His "high-energy boogie-blues" sound became a staple of 1980’s rock radio. His original songs include “Bad to the Bone” and “I Drink Alone”. He has popularized “Move It on Over”, “Who Do You Love” and “One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer”.

Could you talk about your new Epiphone White Fang ES125 guitar? What made you want to have your own signature model?

It really wasn’t my idea. It came to us out of necessity. The Epiphone Company and people in our organization had been urging me to get new instruments. The ones I was using were completely worn out. It was costing us a fortune to repair them. Maintenance on the old instruments is expensive and they don’t make them anymore. They are very frail guitars and I have a pretty heavy attack on the guitar. They tend to wear out. It’s not like banging on a Les Paul or a Stratocaster. The original new models didn’t work out. Epiphone ended up taking stock guitars from the line and altering them to my style. It made sense to me. It’s like a pair of pants but the cuffs are too long so you make alterations. Playing my Gibson is the equivalent to swinging the bat and the ball bounces into the stands for a ground rule double. When I play the Epiphone, I hit the ball into the upper deck for a grand slam home run. I went back to the Gibson for one night and I could tell from the response from the audience. It was good but not as good as the Epiphone model. I now use the Epiphone at all times.

What do you look for when choosing cover material? What tests do songs go through?

We cover material and we call it obscure material. It’s material that no one is aware of and it hasn’t been exposed. We need to be able to play it, it needs to sound good, and our fans need to like it. We are kind of like a restaurant because we want to keep our customers. It’s more involved than just picking up the guitar, learning a song, and going into it. I will pick up a song and someone will say The Grateful Dead did it on their live album. Well forget that because the song is out. Nothing against the Dead. It has already been internationally exposed and there’s no need to do it. I take a lot of pride in the fact that material we have dug up ninety percent of people have never heard the song. Our mission is to turn people onto obscure tunes. Some of them are still in the set today. I was doing “One Bourbon One Scotch One Beer” before I even put a band together. I was playing that solo. It’s stood the test of time.

I hear so much Hound Dog Taylor, John Lee Hooker, and Chuck Berry in your music. If you had to pick one Blues artist who shines through the most, who would it be and why?

Probably John Lee Hooker and Hound Dog. John Lee Hooker was the main reason I picked up the guitar. I could get behind what he did and what he did was very simple, basic, and driving. Through John Lee Hooker I found my strength. He could do so much with one chord. I am not a sophisticated player on the level of B.B. King, Elvin Bishop, Jeff Beck, or Clapton. This was what I could do and I practiced Hooker over and over again. I really dug him. I was knocked out by this cat. Later when I saw Hound Dog Taylor, I bought an electric guitar. I realized it was time to get an electric guitar, bass player, and drummer. Hound Dog’s style was very driving. He had high energy and was very happy. At the same time he was simple and primitive. I became friends with John Lee Hooker and Hound Dog. Without saying anything, they knew exactly what I was getting on top of without directly copying them. This style was natural for me. It felt natural to play John Lee Hooker and Hound Dog. I didn’t have to work at it. It just fell into place and I didn’t fight it. When I hooked up with John Lee Hooker and Bo Diddley I found my home. I told myself I didn’t need to go any farther. This is what I am about: Pick it up, plug it in, turn it on, and see how far you can take. It got me to Ravinia in Chicago playing with superstar Melissa Etheridge.  For a guy who only knows one chord, it’s not bad.

You initially wrote “Bad to The Bone” for Muddy Waters. How long did it take to write?

The guitar riff was one that we had been doing for a while. It’s a backdoor version of “I’m A Man” and “Hoochie Coochie Man”. It took me a while to put the lyrics together. I listened to lyrics of: Bo Diddley, Mick Jagger, John Lee Hooker, and Howlin Wolf.  I was fascinated with Bo Diddley and some of the things he did. I knew I had something if I could get a Muddy Waters type riff going with Bo Diddley type lyrics; that tongue and check macho thing that Bo does. I thought if I put those two things together, I might have something. Muddy Waters didn’t want to do it. I took it to his management and they were offended by the idea. I said that’s bullshit. If Keith Richards or Eric Clapton wrote this song Muddy would have recorded it in a second. It’s because I’m a nobody from Delaware. I took it to Bo Diddley and he liked the song. He dug it. He didn’t have a record deal at the time. We did the next best thing and put him in the music video.

Is there an artist you would like to record with that you have yet to?

Sure. Paul McCartney, Bob Dylan, Keith Richards, and Mick Jagger. They don’t answer my calls as they are a little busy. I am still waiting for the phone to ring for the return call. If I were in a movie I would love to work with Martin Scorsese. I wanted to be in a movie with Marlon Brando. You have to shoot for the stars. If Paul McCartney wanted me to play tambourine on his next record, I would fly to the moon and do it. I have recorded with John Lee Hooker, Bo Diddley, and people like that. A lot of people aren’t alive anymore. I’ve done recordings with Elvin Bishop and Ian Stewart. I don’t think there is ever going to be a shot at getting into the studio with Jeff Beck. He’s the one guy who absolutely never needs another guitar player. I am half kidding and half not kidding. These are the greatest names in music period.  If the phone rings and Steve Cropper calls me, I am returning the call.

What else do you want to accomplish?

My goals are very simple and meager. I don’t like to be greedy. I want to be able to play the guitar like Jimi Hendrix, write songs like Bob Dylan, and perform like Elvis Presley. There ya go. Those are the things that I would like to do within my lifetime. I am little ways from doing that but I am still trying.

Dr. Roger Brown Berklee College of Music President

 

Roger H. Brown is Berklee's 3rd president in the institution’s history. Under his leadership the college has expanded scholarship support by 400 percent and created an international campus in Valencia, Spain. He built its first ground-up custom facility boasting 173 residence hall rooms, a state-of-the-art recording complex, and a dining hall/performance venue, and established a suite of institutes including the Berklee Global Jazz Institute under the direction of jazz pianist Danilo Pérez. The college has expanded its global reach to attract students from over 100 countries, markedly improved gender diversity, dramatically increased admissions selectivity, and created the world’s largest online music education system.

Brown says, “Berklee has produced artists who have won a collective 294 Grammy Awards, composed some of the great film scores of our time, written jazz and rock standards, used music as a healing force as pioneers of music therapy, and transformed the way people play their instruments and teach contemporary music. We have the opportunity to be a powerful force in the world to help train the next generation of leading music entrepreneurs, teachers, and artists.”

Who are your favorite blues artists and why do you like them?

My first love musically were The Allman Brothers. I grew up in Georgia and we considered them a Georgia band. I think they were one of the great Blues bands of all time. Through the Allman Brothers, I discovered Blind Willie McTell. He wrote Satesboro Blues. I fell in love with B.B. King early on in my musical career. I also like Willie Dixon and Mississippi John Hurt. I like more modern players like Robert Cray and Keb’ Mo’. I was just with Keb’ Mo’ last weekend. I like Chris Stapleton and I am a big fan of The Stones. The whole rock and roll movement is really Blues music. I love the Tedeschi Trucks combination because as an Allman Brothers fan, they are channeling them. I honestly think if you like American Contemporary Music you love The Blues.

The Berklee College of Music was developed in the 1940’s to teach Jazz and contemporary music. Jazz and Blues are deeply connected. How did The Blues shape Berklee and how do they fit into the Berklee’s curriculum?

We were the first college in the world to respect and treat jazz as a worthy topic of instruction. That was back in 1945 when we first started as a school. The focus then was more on Swing, Big Band, and complicated jazz arrangements. Underlying most of those standards were Blues progressions and Blues inspiration. In a way you would argue that we picked up The Blues in its Swing and Big Band incarnation following it through into the BeBop era. There is an amazing teacher here named Matt Glaser who has influenced my thinking a lot. I knew what I liked but I didn’t really understand why I liked it. He has this wonderful expression that The Blues is the aquifer that has given birth to all of the great American music forms. When in doubt his advice to a students is to go back to The Blues. Rather than simply listening to the Jazz you love, try and understand the Blues roots of whatever Jazz you love. If you are a popular songwriter, returning to the Blues or moving your music more closely to the Blues might be a source of inspiration. I think you have to argue as a school founded on Jazz, Jazz was founded on Blues.  

I’ve heard you mention music is the ultimate way to express oneself. Why is music so important and how does it help someone develop?

You can say many things with words and that’s the normal way we communicate through writing or spoken word. There are some things that are harder to communicate through words and we find ourselves at a loss for words. I think that’s where music is most powerful: When people get married, when we celebrate when someone dies and we want to honor that person, when we are trying to invoke the Divine in the world with the Spiritual, when we try to calm ourselves when we are at risk, and when we are mating. Music is the best accompaniment for these activities that stretch beyond rational thought or our normal way that we communicate through language. We have learned through brain scans that music more than any other thought process illuminates more parts of the brain than any other activity. I think when we are trying to communicate something as complex and nuanced that has rational and an emotional aspirational dimension, music is the way you harness the power of the brain in all capacities at once.

 What makes Berklee unique?

I think our history as being a school that began teaching Jazz means that we are more of an improvisational institution. We are concerned less about technique and the recapitulation of music of the past and more about empowering people to create the music of the future. We value creativity and the new. We value synthesizing musical traditions and coming up with fusions that have not been heard before much the way Jazz does; the way Dizzy Gillespie went to Cuba and suddenly Jazz took this amazing turn. I see Berklee as a place that’s constantly on the lookout for new musical ideas and new musical inspiration that attempts to empower our students to be the creators of music and not interpreters of music.

What’s your proudest accomplishment while being President of The Berklee College of Music?

I’m very proud of our Berklee Online School that has over 10,000 students. Higher education as we all know is very expensive. A lot of the most talented musicians don’t have the means to come to a four year American College. The online school lets you study from anywhere and you can live around the world living in a less expensive place while working. You can get an online undergraduate degree as well as a graduate degree at much less of a cost. You are not living in Boston and the tuitions lower. I am very proud of our program and I think it’s very distinctive. We are the only music school that has a program of this type of any scale. I am very proud that we’ve made the college more affordable to students who come here. The amount of financial aid we offer is up five hundred percent since I’ve been here. What we are trying to do is say look if you’ve got talent, we want to make it possible for you to be here even if you come from a family with no means. This is something I am pleased with. The final thing that has been a tradition of the school since the beginning is we have always been focused on trying to help musicians sustain a living through music. Unlike any other conservatory, we are really good at helping people navigate the existing music industry even as complicated and unreliable as it can be sometimes. We are training people to be video game composers and we have a whole bunch out there doing that. That might not have been what they dreamed of when they were 14 years old, but they are able to sustain an income and a living doing music that they love.

What criteria do you use to select individuals for the Honorary Doctorate Degree?

We have an honors committee made up of 17 faculties, Chairs, Deans, and Staff. We deliver at length and we are looking for people who have made a significant contribution to the world of music; ideally innovators or people who have used music as a tool for social change and people who are respected by their peers. It’s complex and subjective. Obviously you have a lot of wonderful musicians out there and everyone sees the world a little differently. That’s what we are going for. This year we gave our first Honorary Doctorate to a Hip Hop artist: Missy Elliot. Missy was the person who really showed in the early days of Hip Hop that there wasn’t a lot of room for women. Missy showed how women can be credible and authentic. She opened a door for lots of people following her. In addition to just her popularity and success we felt like she was a change agent.

Could you explain the concept that Berklee is always 10-20 years ahead of the curve? Where does Berklee now stand?

I think if you ask our students they’d say we are not as far ahead as we should be. I like to say that we are further ahead than any institution teaching music. There’s an inherent tension between the faculty who are older and grew up in a certain system with certain sets of musical tastes and students who are by definition younger and  listening to different music while wanting to take their music in different directions. I think that tension is actually healthy. I think that is the way we learn. The key is to keep in mind that the goal of the student is not to please the teacher. The goal of the teacher is to empower and liberate the student with knowledge, information, and motivation. I think this is where we have been good. If you can recount, we were the first place where you could study Jazz and by definition the first place where you could study the electric guitar or electric bass opposed to the classical guitar. Now we have a program called EDI (Electronic Digital Instrument) where you can audition on a computer with a controller and show us how you create music using only technology tools. We have always tried to be fearless and ask: Where is music headed? Where are young artists headed? We want to make it possible for them to do that at our institution.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I would like to make the college even more affordable for students who can’t afford a traditional college education. We are doing a lot to make this possible for students to graduate with less debt and a clearer career focus so they are more likely to be successful and be able to be artists. It’s interesting that we are talking about the Blues. As much as we want to be innovative and stay at the cutting edge, we do want to remember our roots. I think Blues and Jazz are the roots. Frankly you hear popular music around the world and you still hear these elements. I think the complex process of being true to who you are and what got you to the dance in the first place includes being innovative and letting the next generation of musicians have their word. The history of music in this country in the era of recorded music particularly is radical change and generational change. I now hear people lamenting the death of Rock N Roll and I think that’s what Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra were lamenting about when The Beatles and The Stones came along. It was the death of their style of music. Someday people are going to say Hip Hop is dying and it’s going to be replaced by something else. I think maintaining a fearless openness to what is happening and what those changes are is crucial. In our case I think the roots are Jazz and the Blues.

Dick Waterman Blues Savior

 

Growing up in an affluent Jewish family in Plymouth, Massachusetts, Dick Waterman (born 1935) was a shy and stuttering boy living a world away from the Mississippi Delta. Although he never heard blues music at home, he became one of the most influential figures in Blues during the twentieth century. Close proximity to Greenwich Village in the 1960's fueled Waterman's growing interest in Folk music and led to an unlikely trip that resulted in the rediscovery of Delta blues artist Son House in 1964. Waterman revived House's music career and became his manager. He founded Avalon Productions; the first management agency focused on representing Black Blues musicians. He worked tirelessly to protect his clients from exploitation, demanded competitive compensation, and fought for royalties due to them. During his career Waterman befriended and worked with the following musicians: B. B. King, Buddy Guy, Bonnie Raitt, Taj Mahal, and Eric Clapton. At the beginning of his career, he documented scores of musicians through his photography and gained fame as a Blues photographer.

How do you like your new biography: “Dick Waterman A Life in Blues” by Tammy L. Turner? Could you talk about the process?

She told me she wanted to do it four or five years ago. I didn’t have any confidence there was a biography in me. She had her mind made up and did a lot of recording. She made up a list of people she wanted to interview and interviewed over forty people. I’ve had people say, even my sister, there is so much in the book they didn’t know. I find it kind of interesting that people who have known me for a long time found new things they did not know about me.

In your book, it sounds like Mississippi John Hurt was one of the most important Blues artists of all time in that he was able to crossover and make Blues very accessible. Please explain.

John didn’t really play Blues. He played in a Piedmont style that was more like Elizabeth Cotton, Mike Seeger, and John Jackson. In other words it wasn’t Hill Country or Delta Blues. He was one of the first and most important entry level Blues person. If you liked John, you could move into Folk, Blues, or a Piedmont finger picking style like Blind Boy Fuller. You could come into the Blues through John whereas you couldn’t really start with Charley Patton or somebody like that because they were so intense.

How did old Blues artists really feel about being rediscovered? The book does some explaining on this but I am wondering if you can elaborate?

Son House really didn’t care. If I went and found him work to do, he would do it. If there wasn’t work to do, he really didn’t care one way or the other. Bukka White and Fred McDowell wanted to make a whole career out of it.

Your father was a revered doctor who helped many people and you put all of your energy into helping Blues artists. Do you ever think about the correlations?

No I never do but I suppose it’s true. My father was one of the most respected people in Plymouth, MA. When people came to him they would often ask him personal things. He was a really wise man and people had great respect for him. He was one of the pillars of the community.

You gifted Clapton a tape of complete outtakes from Robert Johnson and helped John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd put their band together. Any other unique stories the book may have missed?

Well yes. After the book came out I said, “We forgot this story or that story would have been great or something like that.” There were no lists for a year or so. We made it up as we went along. The stories come to my memory and then I forget them again. I don’t have any on my mind right now that were not in the book.

In your other book, “Between Midnight And Day” you mention that Buddy Guy’s level of technical expertise is underappreciated because he makes it look so simple. Can you elaborate on this?

His mind is so fast and his dexterity is so pronounced. The people who play fast may be as fast as Buddy but are not really doing significant runs or things that are intellectually challenging. Buddy is a brilliant guitarist both from speed and the complexity of what he’s playing. One thing I didn’t mention in the book is a player named Magic Sam who died at the age of thirty two. I think Sam was brilliant. He died in 1969. If he had done an album every other year from 1969, I think he would have been one of the all-time great Chicago Bluesmen.

What are your greatest moments in the following categories: Promotion/Management, Photography, and Writing?

For management it’s Son House. I knew very little about Country Blues when I started. Out of the three of us who were out to find Son, I knew the least about Blues. I was a freelance writer hanging around in the Folk community. The idea of going to look for a lost Bluesman did appeal to me. At the time I was not well versed in Blues. I picked it up as I went along. The fact that I am now regarded as a person who knows a lot about it is only because I was in it for such a long time. As far as photography is concerned I did a lot of work with the great Bluesmen of the 60’s: John, Son, Skip, Bukka, Fred, and people like that. What people don’t know is that I had a doctor room tray which was 2 feet by a foot filled with developed negatives. The negatives had been shot and developed. I left it behind at my parent’s house when I moved to California and it was under a roof that had a leak in it. It filled with water and froze every winter and then it turned to dust every summer and then refroze again the following winter. I had about 150 rolls of film close to about 5,000 negatives. If you take my body of work and add about 5,000 negatives from the 60’s to it; it’s like a great sense of loss, stupidity, and carelessness on my part.

After reading this book, it seems to me that you have done more for The Blues than any other man. What are your thoughts on this?

No I think its Chris Strachwitz. You have to realize that Chris Strachwitz was a couple of years older than me. He has a curiosity that is always looking for things to do and the next hill to climb. Chris has always surprised me and I have great admiration for him. I think what I did do is this: I brought a sense of order and organization when there was only confusion and chaos. Each of the record companies booked their own Bluesmen back in the 60’s. I brought an organization to that. I started the first Blues booking agency. I think that is a major accomplishment. It was all scattered before I came on to the scene.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I am not really sure. My negatives are at the University of North Carolina. I hope someday people will go in and organize it to make a fruitful accomplishment out of it. Over the years Ole Miss never had any interest. In all my years living near The University of Mississippi, I was never invited to speak or lecture. People assume that I have some kind of affiliation with the University when I never have. I do photo exhibits when I am asked and I now have them computerized so I can take a disc with 100 or 150 images on it. I can tailor it to be more Jazz or more Folk too. I like doing photo exhibits. People erroneously feel that I am unapproachable, but I think I am very approachable. I have always been in the phone book and anybody can visit or call me. I am a totally accessible person. I don’t feel that I live off of my past accomplishments from decades ago. I try to live in the moment and if anybody wants me or needs me, I’m available.  

Robert Mugge Motion Picture Blues

 

Robert Mugge is an American Documentary film maker. He has focused primarily on films about music and musicians. He’s done several movies on the Blues. Deep Blues, a 1991 film narrated by Arkansas music writer Robert Palmer, features performances by Mississippi masters R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimbrough. Mugge said that a major point of Deep Blues was that pockets of authentic Mississippi blues were alive and well. But by 1999, when he made Hellhounds on My Trail: The Afterlife of Robert Johnson, “I started to sense (Mississippi blues) was beginning to die. A lot of performers were dying, and jukes were closing down.” That concern prompted him in 2003 to make Last of the Mississippi Jukes. While it’s full of high-powered performances by Alvin Youngblood Hart, Chris Thomas King, Vasti Jackson, Bobby Rush, and Patrice Moncell; it’s ultimately a sad film. Mugge has made documentaries about bluegrass, reggae, and Hawaiian music and has done films centered on Rubén Blades, Sonny Rollins, Robert Johnson, and Gil Scott-Heron. In 1984’s Gospel According to Al Green, Mugge became the first interviewer to get the soul singer to open up about a terrible night in which a spurned girlfriend threw a pot of boiling grits on him.

What’s your favorite Blues Documentary that you have filmed and why?

I have made many kinds of films other than Blues. For years I intended to do something on Mississippi Blues. Although I was born in Chicago where my father was getting his Doctorate of Sociology from the University of Chicago, I have southern roots. He was doing his dissertation on Black migration. We moved to Atlanta where he taught at a Black University. I also lived in Washington D.C. and Raleigh North Carolina. We moved to Silver Spring Maryland outside of D.C. where I grew up. Washington D.C. aside from the Federal Government is largely a Black city. My mother was from Birmingham Alabama and my father grew up in Tampa Florida. Both of them had deep southern roots even though they were heavy into the Civil Rights Movement. I’ve always had interest in the south. After making the Al Green film, I became more interested in doing a film on southern Blues. I was especially interested in Mississippi Blues. Dave Stewart of the Eurythmics grew up in Northern England. He had a cousin in Memphis and he would receive records, blue jeans, and other southern related things. After he became successful with the Eurythmics, he wanted to give back. He decided he wanted to do a film on Mississippi Blues. He contacted music writer Robert Palmer and Robert said, “If you get Robert Mugge to direct it, I will work with you.” Although I have made many Blues films, Deep Blues is still my favorite. People know me for this film over any other. It had a theatrical release and played at Sundance and The Lincoln Center in New York. It’s been all over the world. It captured very important artists who were not around for much longer after the film released. R.L. Burnside, Junior Kimbrough, Big Jack Johnson, Jack Owens, Bud Spires, Lonnie Pitchford, and Jesse Mae Hemphill are all dead. If you think about it almost everyone in that film is now dead with the exception of Dave Stewart. If you don’t capture certain things fast enough, they’re gone. I’m proud the film helped these Blues artists receive national attention and record for Fat Possum Records. I also love my following films: “Pride and Joy the Story of Alligator Records”, “Hellhounds on my Trail the Afterlife of Robert Johnson”, “Last of the Mississippi Jukes”, and “Deep Sea Blues.” I did a couple Zydeco films which are related to Blues. My 2015 film, Zydeco Crossroads: A Tale of Two Cities, was funded by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage. Ever since I made Deep Blues, the Blues genre has been involved in all of my musical films.

What film projects are you currently working on?

I’ve recently presented a number of my music films at screenings. Over the last few years, I have remastered many of my old films. I’ve released around 22 new home video releases via MVD (Music Video Distributor). A few weeks ago I was in Montreal overseeing the remaster of my 1991 film Deep Blues. Dave Stewart of The Eurythmics originally funded the film and made a few appearances in it. He agreed to remaster the film and wants to relaunch it in the near future. I remastered it in Montreal and he slightly remastered the soundtrack. We are talking to distributors about getting it back out. I was just in Baltimore at a film festival presenting my 35 year old film on Al Green. It’s amazing how some of my films continue to be in demand for screenings around the world. It’s weird that my early films are getting screened most widely.

When you do something for a long period of time there are periods when you are tapped into funders and there are periods when you aren’t. Since relocating to the Midwest to teach, I’ve lost some of my connections with funding sources. I am in another rebuilding faze. Several years ago, I filmed 3 days’ worth of interviews with Steve Bell. He was a correspondent at ABC News and the original anchor for Good Morning America. He covered: The Newark riots, the shooting of George Wallace, the attempted shooting of Gerald Ford, Watergate, the 1968 Chicago Convention, and the assassinations of: John F Kennedy, Martin Luther King, and Robert Kennedy. He was a professor emeritus of telecommunications at Ball State University. I met him at Ball State and I ended up becoming the 5th person to take that position. We hit it off and he kept telling me these incredible stories. I decided I had to document them. My wife and I spent 3-4 months organizing his one hundred best stories and spent 3 longs days filming them. I than took his 22 best stories and made them into a 2 hour film.  At the end of this month, I am applying for a $200,000 completion grant.

I’m also writing a book. I just finished my third rewrite for the publisher who is interested. It’s a book about the original Robert Mugge; my great grandfather who came to this country from Germany in 1870 as a 17 year old.  It will be called “Saloon Man: A German Immigrant Battles the Limits of Liberty 1870-1915. He was called the Saloon Magnet of southern Florida because he owned 20 saloons. He owned a distillery, a wholesale liquor business, and hotels. He was very controversial. He owned a liquor businesses during Prohibition and Temperance. He was in the segregated Deep South and insisted on working with African Americans. He would take out saloon licenses in his name and turn them over to African American managers who then hired African American staff. This greatly aggravated the Jim Crow South especially white southern Americans who were Civil War Confederate Veterans. He was constantly at odds with the police. He would take out newspaper ads attacking the police as being totally corrupt. He was a very colorful and successful character. I am hoping my latest re write will satisfy the publisher so we can get it out.

In your film “Gospel According To Al Green,” while Al was in the studio you captured a beautiful red background. How did you achieve this and what is the significance of the color?

I made the film right after his traumatic hot grits incident. A girlfriend asked him to marry her and he wasn’t interested. She threw hot grits on him and badly scalded him giving him third degree burns. She shot and killed herself. This was the last straw that led to him abandoning popular music. He bought a church in Memphis and committed himself to only Gospel music. I came in with the backing of Britain’s Channel 4 television and I made the film “Gospel According to Al Green”. It was heavily centered on what he was doing at the time and his previous career. As a popular artist he inspired romantic thoughts in female fans. He would throw red roses to the crowd during his concerts and it made me think about the color red. I knew we were going to be discussing a lot of the recent torment in his life. Ingmar Bergman’s wonderful film “Cries and Whispers” dealt with torment of the soul. I read in an interview that he used red in the film because he considered red to be the color of the human soul. Since I was dealing with various types of soul and soul music, I thought I’d use this motif. It happened naturally when we filmed the concert. There was a lot of red around especially red flowers on tables. When we filmed in his recording studio in Memphis, he finally gave me an interview. After we filmed a staged rehearsal I convinced him to do the song “Let’s Stay Together” and he turned to me and said, “So you wanna do that interview now?” I needed a little time to set up. Erich Roland my director of photography put a red light bulb in the light on the side and used some red filters on his own lights. It gave us a red look. I asked Erich to give me a film noir concert look. I wanted deep shadows. This is something he’s very good at. Somebody is half in the light and half in shadows and it suggests a certain emotion of upheaval and mystery. Adding the red was the final touch.  

How are magical moments captured on film when people know they are being filmed? Can you give specific examples?

Sometimes magical moments happen on their own and sometimes you have to set the stage so that if magic is going to happen there’s fertile ground for it to happen. I never work from scripts. I always make pages and pages of notes about what we could do when making a particular film. I often say I have enough notes to make 10 different films on the same subject. Once we get out there you need to be ready when the magic happens. Magic can be positive and magic can even be negative. When I made Saxophone Colossus with Sonny Rollins we had already filmed him in concert in Tokyo Japan doing his world premiere of his concerto for saxophone and orchestra. That was Sonny branching out and trying something totally different. He improvised throughout on his own themes the orchestra was playing. We wanted to get him with a more traditional jazz ensemble. We originally were going to film him on a boat sailing around New York City. I found out the cruise was at night and there weren’t any lights. They didn’t have sufficient power for our lights or camera batteries. We decided to film at Opus 40 in upstate New York on a sculpted rock quarry. He had the coating changed on his saxophone and it changed the tone of the instrument. When he got up to play he would play a vowel and out came consonants. Being a brilliant artist, he could build something around it. He was doing a brilliant concert but he was getting frustrated. Finally, he was doing solo improvising onstage and it was getting to him more and more. He jumped off the six foot ledge to stop it. It’s like he was having a musical nervous breakdown. He broke the heel of his right foot and fell back and just laid there. We were really concerned that he seriously injured himself. I ran to the other side to find out if he was o.k. Suddenly, he lifted the injured foot on top of the other and started playing as he was lying there. It’s a magical moment. That was legendary in the jazz community before the film was released. We made it part of the film. He asked me to not use the music as they continued to play because his musicians were so upset they started playing the wrong changes. It still sounded great but he could hear what was wrong. That was a magical moment with positive and negative connotations. It was a situation that we were ready for. Also, my wife and I produced New Orleans Music in Exile. Diana Zelman is my wife and she’s been my producing partner since 2005. We were shooting musicians down in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina. We filmed 2 months after the hurricane hit and everything was desolate including the following cities: Houston, Austin, Memphis, and Lafayette. You could see the desperation and sadness on the musician’s faces when they gave us interviews or performed for us. Going in with every artist you need to know where they come from, the kind of music they play, and the personality they have. Knowing this sets the stage for various possibilities.

Are there any Bluesmen you are itching to film and make a new documentary on?

I am always happy to work with my buddy Vasti Jackson. He has been in more of my films than anybody else. I forgot to mention I made a Blues film on my buddy Ted Drozdowski about his Midwestern tour with his earlier band Scissormen. I am so happy to see new young talent coming around like Kingfish out of Clarksdale. He is only 20 now and my wife and I saw him 3 years ago while we were in Cleveland Mississippi for the Grammy Museum opening. He knocked our socks off. He seems to be getting better and better. I would love to work with Tedeschi Trucks band. I almost worked with Derek Trucks a decade ago. Some projects get funded and others don’t. I just saw them perform on Jimmy Kimmel and they were tremendous.    

What else do you want to accomplish?

I want my book to get published. I look forward to the re-release and the relaunching of Deep Blues. I hope it will have the same amount of success it had the first time around. There are more music films I want to make. I need to figure out where funding is going to come from. One of the things that has often happened throughout my career is that I hook up with corporate funders like BMG Video, Sony, Britain’s Channel 4 Television, and Starz. Often there is synchronicity that happens when you hook up with the right funder at the right time. If the company is in need of programming and your interests are in synch, you are able to get a few projects out of them. When a company sets a new goal, I’m able to get several projects out of them before they suddenly realize they are spending too much money. That happened with Channel 4, BMG Videos, and Starz. When corporate goals change and they decide they’ve built up enough of a program library, they will put someone in charge who’s a care taker and doesn’t spend much money. As an independent producer you are always looking for the next wave to ride. Inevitably, the wave runs out. I am looking for the next wave I can ride.

Bobby Rush Blues Godfather

 

Bobby Rush is a Grammy winner, Blues Hall of Famer, 12 time Blues Music Award winner, and a B.B. King Entertainer of the Year. In 1971, Bobby broke through the national charts with “Chicken Heads” for Galaxy Records. “That was the first big record I ever had,” notes Rush. The song has been featured in the film Black Snake Moan and HBO’s Ballers. After decades of tearing up the chitlin’ circuit with his sweaty funkfests, Bobby has broken through to the mainstream. In 2017, he won a Grammy for Porcupine Meat. He consistently tours the globe as a headliner. Bobby’s brand new album “Sitting On Top Of The Blues”on his own Deep Rush imprint (distributed by Thirty Tigers) promises higher musical heights.

Could you talk about your upcoming CD: “Sitting On Top Of The Blues”? What was the writing and recording process like?

The making of this CD was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. My last record, Porcupine Meat, won a Grammy. The hardest thing was outdoing myself and making something better. I came up with new songs to go in a direction compatible with what other artists are doing while trying to beat them and myself out. It’s awful hard because you never know what people are going to like. Fans follow you because they love what you are doing. Sometimes they follow you because you are good at what you do. I have to give my fans something good and give them the best that I have. “Sitting On Top Of The Blues” came out of London from the band Cream. They covered an old Blues song called “Sitting On Top Of The World.” There is also a Howlin’ Wolf version. I thought it would be very smooth to call my CD: “Sitting On Top Of The Blues.” It doesn’t mean that I’m at the top of the Blues. It means that I am at the top of my game for my time and age. I am one of the oldest Bluesmen still around. We also have Buddy Guy. If you are talking about Black Blues guys, I may be the oldest or I may be the ugliest. I am winning at least one of the categories (Laughs.) I am not trying to be a winner; I am trying to let other people know that I am happy and enthused about what I am doing. I believe we have something really good with this record: “Sitting On Top Of The Blues”.  

What is your favorite song on the new record? What separates this CD from past records?

I think it’s a collection of things. It’s funky and bluesy but it’s updated. Everyone will be able to relate to the energy. It has a lot of energy. There’s a song called: “Get Out Of Here (Dog Named Bo.)” It’s going to be the first single. I was 19 years old and in love with a girl. Her daddy didn’t want me to marry her because I was a blues singer. At the time blues singing was not a real profession. When I would go to her house her dad would stick the dog on me. I talk about the kids running and sneaking off to get married. Here are a few lyrics: “…Judge says do you solemnly swear. Take this woman for your lofty wife I don’t want that love affair. Before I could open my mouth to say I do guess who walked through the door: Dad and mom big brother John and a dog named Bo.” He didn’t want me around his house and marrying his daughter. I don’t think he had anything against me personally. In those days being a blues guitar player was a big no no. Another song on the record I like is called: “You Got The Goods On You.” What I mean by the goods is how she’s built: she has big legs, heels, and she’s 43 in the hips. I have another song about making love in slow motion. It’s called “Slow Motion.” How can I make love but slow at my age? Even when I was younger I wanted to slow it down. One of the last cuts on the album is called “Bowlegged Woman” and there’s another song called “Recipe for Love.” Here are a few lyrics: “Don’t ever come too soon. What you serve for breakfast you can serve the same thing after noon.” I am trying to say if it’s not broken don’t fix it. I am saying these things in a funny way so people can enjoy themselves while laughing at troubles and tribulations. There is so much happening in the world. People aren’t getting along and people are getting shot and killed. It’s on the news, radio, and T.V. Music ties everything together and it’s a way out. It’s about showing love to everyone: black, white, or green. This is what I am trying to do with the music. I am talking about myself and I hope it relates to you.   

You are headlining the Chicago Blues Festival in June. What does the festival mean to you? What feelings arise when you play in Chicago?

I moved to Chicago in 1951 and it means everything. This will be my second time headlining the festival. Headlining is o.k. but I am not waking up to be the headliner. I look forward to having fun. Headlining for me equals seeing the fans who have supported me over the years. I spent around 48 years in Chicago. I now live in Jackson, Mississippi. Chicago is like a home away from home. I moved there in the early 1950’s and I stayed for many years. My fans, friends, and relatives live in Chicago. It’s going to be a lot of fun coming back to Chicago. I will be playing Friday June 7th (7:45 p.m. - 9 p.m. @ the Jay Pritzker Pavilion.) It’s good that they put me on Friday night. This shows me I have drawing power. Anybody can draw on Saturday night. You put your stronger acts on the weaker nights. I am now in a position where I can headline and draw people. It’s good for the festival and myself. I make numbers and that’s what makes the world go round.  

What are the most important lessons you learned from the following artists: Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, and Jimmy Reed?

I love Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley, Fats Domino, and Louis Jordan. All of my writing ability came from Louis Jordan. He wrote about things I related to as a country boy: hogs, cows, chickens, and fish fry. Muddy Waters was so clean and deft on the stage. Howlin’ Wolf was so different. Jimmy Reed was an excellent writer. Little Walter could blow the harmonica so well. I loved Sonny Boy Williamson’s stories. If you put all of these players in a bowl and stir them up you get Bobby Rush. I come from a lot of guys. Than you have: Stevie Wonder, Michael Jackson, and Prince. They looked at what I was doing while I was aware of what they were doing. I see what the young guys do and it motivates me.

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

Chicken Heads was my first Gold Record in 1968. That record was a lot like my last record, Porcupine Meat, which won a Grammy. It was hard to bring the title to my producer, Scott Billington, because I didn’t know how to bring it to him. I told him: “I have a song and you’re not going to want to hear the title.” I told him that the title was called Porcupine Meat. He laughed and told me that’s the same thing I did with Chicken Heads. Back to Chicken Heads. Initially it was going to be called Chick Heads. They didn’t want me to record it. I sang the lyrics: “Daddy told me on his dying bed. Give up your heart but don’t you lose your head. You came along girl what did I do. I lost my heart and my head went too.” It has nothing to do with chicken. I was told I needed a B side too. I told the higher up the song was called Mary Jane. He said he had a girl that did him wrong and her name was Mary Jane. I wasn’t talking about a girl at all. I was talking about reefer. On the new CD one of the songs was going to be called “A Dog Named Bo”. I changed the title to “Get Out Of Here” because I thought animal lovers wouldn’t like it and they would think I was being cruel to animals. To me it’s called “A Dog Named Bo.” The Blues is everything that I know and I feel “A Dog Named Bo” is one of my strongest songs. It’s the way I feel. Throughout the years, I have recorded so many songs that I’ve liked. A lot of songs that I liked never received airplay. The ones I love have deep meaning.  “Making a Decision” is a great example. Here are the lyrics: “Making the decision about a child crying is different when your own child is crying. Making the decisions by the old folk crying is different when your mama cries. Oh Lord why don’t you help us make the right decision?” I am serious about songs that have deep meaning. I wrote a song called “Garbage Man.” When you think about someone stealing or dating your woman, it’s a rough thing. You would never expect it to be the garbage man. In the song, he’s picking everything up but garbage. There are so many songs I have written that I really like that didn’t become hits. I get confused sometimes which is which. I am enthused with what I am doing and that God keeps blessing me by giving me the strength to keep working. Here are my daily prayers: Stay enthused, keep recording, and thank God every day.   

Where are the Blues going and what else do you want to accomplish?

I think the Blues are here to stay. I am trying to make my mark while I am alive. What I do now is going to last forever. I am hoping my Grammy win will allow me to be a leader for young people. I want to keep them encouraged so they can continue with what they are doing. Many Black people are ashamed and afraid of singing and playing the Blues. Promoters, writers, T.V.s, and radios play everything but the Blues. There are a lot of Blues houses and festivals that are cool, but a lot of time they play everything but the Blues. I hope I leave a mark so others can say if Bobby Rush did it, so can I. I try to be good at what I do. Here’s my motto: you don’t have to like me but I want you to think I am good. That’s all that matters. I’ve put out over 350 albums. I am not just a Blues guy. I own all of my masters. Nobody thinks about this or talks about these things. How many Blues guys are there at my age that own 300-400 masters? There are a few guys that did. Sam Cooke was killed for it. We also had Prince and Michael Jackson. I am holding my masters and hoping I can make a dent in this world. Right now in terms of the Bluesmen left from a certain era, it’s Buddy Guy and Bobby Rush. Don’t get me wrong there are a lot of other guys doing it but they are younger. I keep working because my bandstand is my record shop. I have a fan base but I do not have the fan base that Elton John has. I am heading in that direction. I want guys who play the blues to know where it comes from. You have Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, and Joe Bonamassa. They are telling stories about where it comes from. They help the blues and it helps the Black Blues guys encourage them to do the Blues. I really want this new record to make a dent.

Fernando Jones A Blues Kid at Heart

 

Fernando Jones is an American Bluesman, educator, songwriter, lecturer, and scholar. Born in the South Side of Chicago, he taught himself to play guitar at the age of four. Jones is the Blues Ensemble director at Columbia College Chicago and is a highly sought after lecturer. His clientele includes the Smithsonian Institute and The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. On July 9, 2010 Jones received a Proclamation from Pat Quinn, Governor of the State of Illinois, for founding Blues Camp. Fernando Jones is a Keeping the Blues Alive Award Recipient and a Chicago Blues Hall of Fame member. His music has been featured in the Travel Channel’s “America the Wright Way”, The Ryder Cup (Chicago host), Eric Clapton’s Crossroads DVD, ABC7’s "Someone You Should Know”, Dateline NBC, and Downbeat Magazine's Musicians Studio.

https://www.fernandojones.com/

Could you talk about your Blues Kids and Blues Camp program? What are the differences?

I established The Blues Kids of America program 30 years ago. I created it while teaching in Chicago Public Schools. I was a substitute teacher at the time. The program is designed to be a multicultural arts interdisciplinary arts-in-education music program. When I was teaching at different schools, I recommended my program. It expanded to different parts of the country through the help of The National Alliance of Black School Educators (NABSE). Eventually, kids had the opportunity to perform at the Chicago Blues Festival. We developed a relationship with the Chicago Blues Festival. We had a performance space in a tent and we sell merchandise. Blues Camp is for a fixed period of time. I coined the term “Blues Kids”. Here is a link to our website: https://www.blueskids.com/missionThis is the 10th year of camp and we will be at Columbia College Chicago. We service anywhere from 75-130 student musicians promoting ages 12-18. We will have some 7-11 years olds in the camp. We don’t publicize the 7-11 year olds because we don’t want to be a babysitting camp. Parents, family, and loved ones have the opportunity to participate in my Blues Mammas and Blues Daddies band during blues camp. They are put together under the direction of Ms. Flo Lawnicki. During the week, Blues Mammas and Blues Daddies open up shows for the Blues Kids. When I started the program, I wanted it to be a place where kids could play the blues with like minded others from 8 a.m.-12 p.m. We started giving snacks and lunch. This was not part of the original vision. On Monday’s we will now have an extra bonding activity for the kids. We will take them skating and bowling and they will have the opportunity to play games and get to know each other. I like to call Blues Camp the bluesiest place on Earth. On Tuesday we have a performance at The Old Town School of Folk Music. On Wednesday night we have a performance at Reggie's Rock Club. On Thursday we have our annual white party at Navy Pier. We will be at The Hard Rock Café on Friday. Throughout the week, kids have the opportunity to get hands on instruction and performance experience. There is no camp like this in the world. I have been fortunate enough to establish camps in Havana (Cuba), London England, Tokyo Japan, and throughout the United States. We’ve partnered with the University of California Irvine, California State University LA, Miami Dade College, and many others. We have strategic partners: The Mary Barnes Donnelly Family Foundation, Columbia College, The Ford Martin Fund, Microsemi, Jim Dunlop, Fender, Shure, and Tom Liebman.

How long did it take you to write your book: “I Was There When The Blues Was Red Hot”? What made you want to write a book?

In 1988, I had conversation with Sugar Blue. Most times conversations are superficial with musicians in general. There is no substance. During this particular conversation, Sugar Blue let me know that he really appreciated the fact that I was a Black man playing harmonica. I wanted show people that young Blacks are still playing and supporting the Blues. This is always a bone of contention with us musicians; being afraid to publicly talk about race even though it is the whole condition and backbone of the Blues. I started writing and I submitted some things to Ebony magazine. Around this time, one person per block had a computer. I bought a typewriter and I started typing. If I made a mistake, I would type the paragraph over again and cut the paragraph from the page and paste it over the top of my manuscript. I was writing about Blues history, being a Black man with Mississippi roots, and being born into the Blues. I also wanted to interview people like me. I interviewed my following female contemporaries: Katherine Davids and Barbara LaShore. I interviewed fans and Dj’s. The book was released February 1990 and it opened many doors for me. It opened the door for me as a performer. It received attention from big time promoter Marino Grandi. He’s the founder and publisher of Il Blues Magazine in Milan Italy. He was fascinated with the fact that I was writing, arranging, and producing my own music. Being Black and writing about Black music was another advantage for me. We are still tight today. I respectfully call him my European Godfather. I was a young man and he embraced me and gave me an opportunity. His son Davide does management for me today.  

You’re one of the best dressed bluesmen around: Thoughts on this?

I also hope I am one of the best you have heard. You never want to get distracted by yourself. In Blues you’re not supposed to be able to do two things at one time; either you’re a phenomenal guitar player or a phenomenal singer. I embrace who I am and I do not apologize for it. My road has been a little longer and rockier but I own myself and I play what I want to. I am not in dispute with anyone else owning my material. I am free and have always been free. That’s what I am most proud of. The common denominator is that I am free.

What courses do you teach at Columbia College Chicago?

I started at Columbia College Chicago in 2005 and I am the founding Blues Ensemble Director. The courses that I have on books vary from semester to semester and it depends on overall enrollment. During the last few years, we have had a decline in enrollment. I give private guitar and bass lessons, teach a course called The Blues: Chicago to the Mississippi Delta, and I teach The Chicago Blues Scene: From Past to Preservation. I had the opportunity to take 27 students down to the Mississippi Delta. B.B. King was still alive during the time and I took them to the B.B. King Museum. Six to seven of the students were from my Blues Ensemble class and I had them play down there. We went to Greenville, Greenwood, the Dockery Plantation, Mound Bayou, Po' Monkey's, and Delta State University. We saw the Crossroads at 61 & 49. I also took them to Al Green’s church in Memphis. It was a really good service. Some of my students said if they knew there were churches like that, they would have gone as a kid. The other course I teach is Chicago Blues Scene: From Past to Preservation. I make Chicago an open book when it comes to Blues. We talk about copyrighting and publishing. I have students do projects  demonstrating excellence. I partner them up in groups of 3 or 4. The topic may be on someone like Buddy Guy. Then it's up to them to figure out what they are going to do on him. They can make a skit. It’s open for interpretation. During the second part of my career, cell phones and cameras emerged. Everything that I am talking about has been documented. That’s important because it won’t be arguable if it happened or not. I have an archive set up through The Center for Black Music Research at Columbia College Chicago. Anyone can look at artifacts ranging from Blues obituaries, clippings, letters, and my awards.

Any upcoming recordings or live performances?

I am somewhat like Prince in that I have 100’s of tunes in my vault. I am going to start releasing them on Facebook. I can put songs up for free on Facebook and people can watch and or listen to them. I want to put them out there. When you are dead, your material becomes waste if you don’t put it out. You never know when your candle is going to burn out. I have a performance June 21st on WGN-TV in Chicago. I’m going to do some new tunes on that broadcast. The interview and song will have a run time of about two and a half minutes.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I want to be recognized. That’s the battle hymn of every artist. I am not interested in money because I have access to money. I want to be like Smokey Robinson, Babyface, and Prince. I am talking about artists that have successfully contributed on every level. I want some people to think of me as a writer, others to think of me as a hell of a guitar player that doesn't sound like anybody else, and some people to think of me as the guy that opened the door for kids to be able to play the Blues in a safe environment. My perspective is different because I started playing as a 4 year old kid. I am 55 now and I have been consistently doing this for 51 years. I have been a continuous player, learner, and lover of music.

Oscar Wilson Cashbox King

 

In 2001, Joe Nosek founded The Cash Box Kings in Madison, Wisconsin. Since 2007, he’s co-led the band with Oscar Wilson, the charismatic vocalist. The two form a perfect union; Wilson’s authentic South Side Chicago blues vocal delivery mixed with Nosek’s dynamic harmonica playing. According to Wilson, “The Cash Box Kings are a throwback to the golden age of blues with some kickin’ fresh young blood. Joe is my best friend in the music world. The band is a marriage made in heaven for both of us.” “Oscar is godfather to my oldest son,” says Nosek. “We have each other’s backs. We’re family.”

Could you talk about your new record “Hail to the Kings?” Where did you record it and what are your favorite songs?

We recorded it in Chicago at Reliable Recorders. Alex Hall runs the studio. It’s hard to pick a favorite song. “Bluesman Next Door”, “When the Rabbit Got the Gun”, and “The Wine Talking” (a duet I do with Shemekia Copeland) are all great songs. My favorite song is “Sugar Daddy.” We have a song about someone getting locked up under false pretenses. The man is from the Southside of Chicago and has been in jail for years. The song is called “John Burge Blues.” Joe Nosek and I wrote it. The record didn’t take too long to record, but I was sick and had to come back and put vocals in. I had a flu shot that made me sick. I was sick November through February of last year. I want to tell everyone to look for the new album coming to a store near you or you can get it online. It’s truly a great album and we have some great players on it: Kenny Smith, Billy Flynn, Little Frank Krakowski, John W Lauler, and Xavier Lynn.

How did you find your way into The Cashbox Kings? Could you talk about your fellow bandmates?

I was living in small town called Janesville Wisconsin and I was very bored. One day I was reading the paper and I saw that there was a blues jam at the VFW. At the club, the previous guitar player for The Cash Box Kings introduced himself to me. I told him I was a singer/harmonica player. I sat in with the band and we rolled through a set. Within two weeks, we played at Buddy Guy’s Legends and received three standing ovations. The band said they have never received such applause. We went through a rough patch as I was the new guy in the band. We have become best of friends.

How did you get signed to Alligator Records? What is it like working with Bruce Iglauer? How does he help the band?

That’s Joe Nosek’s baby. The Alligator thing. I met Bruce when I signed the contract. In the studio, I learned so much from him. Bruce and I have a great relationship. He’s one hell of a producer. He fine tunes everything and has an incredible ear. It’s very hard to explain. When he’s listening, he can pick anything out. It’s like he has radar in his ear. The label does all of the advertising and places our music around the world. Joe Nosek is our gig getter and negotiator. Bruce helps us personally and gets us gigs across the country.

Favorite venues to play?

We played the Knuckle Down Saloon in Madison Wisconsin last Saturday. It is my favorite place to play. The bar owner, Chris Kalmbach, is fantastic. The bar is on the east side of Madison and no one thought it would last. Chris is a great promoter and keeps it going. Our last performance at The Knuckle was packed. People were outside waiting to get in. We were on the bill with another group from Madison called The Jimmys. The Madison audience is very receptive. The whole Madison scene has more black people coming to gigs versus Chicago. In Madison, musicians are really taken care of. There is another bar called The Crystal Corner. The Harmony and High Noon Saloon are also great clubs. Those are the four main clubs for bands.

What’s next for The Cashbox Kings? Future Goals?

We want to keep rising to the top. We want to be known as one of the best bands to ever do it. If we were a rock blues band, we would make a lot more money. We stick to the 40’s, 50’s, and 60’s Chess/Sun Records type of blues; the delta blues and the early Chicago Blues. On Sunday June 9th, we are playing The Chicago Blues Fest. We play from 2-3 p.m. on the Front Porch Stage. See you there! 

Corey Dennison Better Man Blues

 

Formed in 2013, The Corey Dennison Band has become a favorite attraction at Chicago blues venues. Led by Corey Dennison’s soulful voice and muscular guitar, the band released its self-titled studio debut for the legendary Delmark Records in 2016. Corey has shared the stage with The Kinsey Report, Robert Blaine, Chico Banks, The Steepwater Band, Jimmy Johnson, Robert Randolph, Derek Trucks, John Mayer, Gerry Hundt, Nick Moss, Lurrie Bell, Carlos Johnson and the Buddah of Bass, Mr. Bill Dickens, and Buddy Guy.

What are you currently working on?

We are currently working on a new Corey Dennison Band cd. We are getting all the material finalized and the songs arranged. We are starting to play them live and we are fine tuning everything so we can go into the recording studio and knock it out. Lyrically, 10 songs are written and few more songs may pop up at the last minute.

When did you get signed to Delmark Records? What are the benefits of being signed and what should we be listening to?

I was signed to Delmark Records about 5 or 6 years ago and it changed my life. It jumped me up to the next level and became a reality. It gave me the opportunity to go into a real studio, work with a producer and engineer, and create amazing music with my fellas: Gerry Hundt on guitar, Joel Baer on drums, and Aaron Whittier plays bass. Everything that was in my head is on the cd. When I received the final mix, I was driving home from the studio. All I could do was cry down the highway because everything I heard in my head was right at my fingertips. It was incredible. My guys are amazing. I wouldn’t be anywhere without them. I used to play with Carl Weathersby and he took me all over the world. He taught me everything. When I left Carl’s band, I was really sad. My band members know me really well and have the ability to translate my feelings to music form. In my opinion, the first album is the best. It let people know about us and that we are here to stay.

How long did you play with Carl Weathersby? What did you learn from him?

I played with Carl for about 10 to 13 years. I learned everything from him. I am what I am today because of him.  

You primarily play with your fingers and do not use a pick and you play very hard. How do you do this? Massive Calluses?

I haven’t used a pick in about 6 years. I was on a cruise ship playing with Sugar Blue doing a Grammy tour and that’s when I stopped using a pick. It was a great experience and I love Sugar Blue. I have known him since I was a kid. My uncle was a harmonica player and he was a Sugar Blue disciple. On the cruise ship I’d leave my picks on top of the amplifier. During the day the room would be open for bingo and people would walk around and see Grammy memorabilia. Diana Ross’s dress was on display. People would steal my guitar picks and steal my rubber duckies. I take rubber duckies with me on the road and I Velcro them to my amplifier. People kept stealing my picks and rubber duckies. We were headed towards the Caribbean and I somehow found a music store. I needed guitar strings and picks. I spent 60 to 70 dollars on two packs of guitar strings and a small pack of guitar picks. I told myself if they steal these guitar picks, I am not buying anymore. A couple of days went by and I was out of guitar picks. I asked Sugar Blue not to give me anymore guitar solos because I was not going to be using guitar picks. That’s how it started. I’ve always loved the way it sounds. Some of the greatest guitar players in the world did not use guitar picks. When I stopped using a guitar pick the things that I heard in my head started to come out. I had a better connection with my instrument.   

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

There are two: One is “Room to Breathe” off the first record and the other song is called “Better Man” which is off our new record Night After Night. The reason why “Room to Breathe” is such a great song is because it’s about all my accolades and achievements. I originally wrote it for Carl and never had a chance to present it to him. When I recorded it for the new record, he was there and I asked him to play on it. I told him I would give him a couple hundred dollars. He looked at me, smiled, and said, “You don’t need me.” I was overtaken. That was the greatest compliment ever. The first line in “Room to Breathe” is “I crossed oceans and time, I’ve traveled many lands.” When I left Carl’s band, I was really depressed. I was with him for so long. I really loved playing guitar for him. I loved playing chords and bringing him up. I loved everything about it. I remember doing the crossing which is a trip from Miami to Spain. It takes 12 days on a cruise ship. Every night, the clock goes up an hour and you cross two to three oceans. That’s where that line came from. I woke up one morning and went out to smoke a cigarette and I looked to my left and I thought I saw the mountains of Spain. It wasn’t Spain it was Morocco. We were crossing through the Strait Of Gibraltar. When in Italy, I was sitting at a café and I was looking at Mount Vesuvius. I wrote a Facebook post thanking everyone that helped me and still believed in me. The first person to like the post was Carl and that’s when I wrote the song. I called him and he said, “Hey man where are you at?” I told him I was in Italy. That’s when I wrote the song. A couple of weeks later, we recorded it.

The song “Better Man” is about my dad. My dad died when I was really young. I had to help out a lot more around the house and watch my brothers. It was really rough. We grew up really poor. There were a couple of times for a month long period where we only ate oatmeal and baloney. It’s my tribute to him. My 10 month old son, Carleton, talks on the beginning of the song. I recorded it and knew that had to be on it. I named him after Carl Weathersby.

What else do you want to accomplish?

Honestly, I think about that all the time. I really want to continue writing good music and performing. I want to take my band to places that I got to go with Carl Weathersby. I want Carl to be proud of me and show him that nothing he taught me was in vain. I want to keep touching people with my music. Last night at Kingston Mines I played a song and a girl was in tears. I didn’t know her at all and I asked her if she was o.k. She told me she realized that everything is going to be o.k. There is always somebody out there who has it way worse than I do. You have to keep fighting and pushing. As long as I can make good music and help people, I am going to do it. I really want to go to the next level and take care of everyone that has taken care of me over the years. I want to say thank you in my own special way. I want my guys to go wherever their heart’s want to take them. If they want to stay with me and keep doing the same thing; kicking ass and taking names than great. If they feel like they need to move on and do their own thing, I wish them the best. I want them to accomplish and achieve their dreams. Hopefully, they want to do the same thing that I am doing. 

Mike Wheeler Happy Blues

 

Mike Wheeler is a Chicago blues songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. His first gig was with Muddy Waters' piano player Lovie Lee. He’s performed with Koko TaylorBuddy Guy, and Shemekia Copeland. In 2001 he formed The Mike Wheeler Band. In 2012 his CD, Self Made Man, was released by Delmark Records to critical acclaim. His recognizable sound includes elements of funk and jazz and there’s an uplifting energy to his music. He was inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame in 2014.

What are you currently working on?

I’m in the process of writing my 3rd CD for Delmark Records. I put my first cd out on my own. I do not know what we are going to name it. It is going to be about life. Normally we go into the studio and the basic tracks are cut in a few days. We come back and do overdubs. I spend time on vocal overdubs. We can finish a cd in about 2 weeks.

How do you differentiate yourself from other Chicago Blues Artists?

What differentiates me is that I have a large variety of influences and I listen to a lot of music. I incorporate it into all of the music I make. It is still blues music but it comes from different angles. My biggest influences are Buddy Guy and Albert King. I like The Beatles, Led Zeppelin, and Prince. I listen to everything.

You were inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall of Fame as a Master Blues Artist. How did it feel getting inducted?

That was amazing to be acknowledged. For me, it all started with the blues when I was 5 or 6 years old and my mother played Chicago blues artists around the house. The committee inducts people who have been around for a while and have played with a lot of people. The committee also acknowledges photographers and blues promoters. They try to acknowledge everybody.

How long have you been playing at Kingston Mines (Chicago Blues Club)? How has the club changed over the years?

I have been playing at Kingston Mines with my band for over 9 years. I have played there with other acts. Playing there has evolved because the crowd is getting younger and they are still hungry for Chicago style blues. They like all genres. The crowd is pretty lenient and we don’t have to play straight blues all night long. The diversity in the music keeps the crowd interested and around. All the clubs treat me nice. I like all of the Chicago venues equally. It’s hard to choose one because it’s like picking your favorite child.

Could you talk about your songwriting process? Do you write by yourself or with others?

Most of the time I write by myself. Sometimes I write with my band. The band and I wrote our first Delmark cd together. If something comes up at rehearsal we just start writing. A lot of time I write at home. When I get ideas, I put them into my phone.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I would like to play the bigger festivals in the United States. Other than that I have no complaints. My band and I have been together for 17 years and I want to give them a shout out; Larry Williams plays bass, Cleo Cole is on the drums, and Brian James plays keyboards. It’s good to have the same band and we know each other very well. We are like a family.

 

Joseph Morganfield New Mojo Man

 

Joseph Morganfield is a blues singer and the youngest son of Muddy Waters. He’s been inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall Of Fame twice and manages his father’s estate.

What music projects are you currently working on?

I released a 4 song E.P. earlier last year called Mojo Risin. It came out last August. I am going to be recording a new full cd later this year. I am going to start it in June or July. I am going to be singing on the record. I am just going to be doing vocals until my guitar playing is ready. I am working really hard and trying to get my guitar playing back.

Who are your biggest influences? How would you describe your style?

Besides my father (Muddy Waters), I like John Lee Hooker and Howlin’ Wolf. I mostly like the old cats. I really like Keb Mo. I have been around blues all my life but I started singing about three years ago. My life went a different route and I ended up getting a basketball scholarship. I pursued it and put the guitar down. When I married and had kids, music was still at a distance, but the desire has always remained in my heart. As my children grew up, I decided to pursue music. I know it’s a late jump. I would rather try it and fail than have regrets. This is why I am here.

You’ve been inducted into the Chicago Blues Hall Of Fame twice? Could you talk about this? What are the nomination titles?

The first nomination was under Blues Ambassador and the second was under Blues Promoter Supporter. My next goal is to get in as a vocalist. I am an ambassador for my fathers (Muddy Waters) estate. I also get invited to Q and A’s from different universities.

You are writing a book on your father: How is the writing going? When will it come out?

It’s definitely in progress. I have another writer who is helping me. I do not have a date yet. I spent 10 years with my father before he passed away. It’s more about Muddy the man at home and father. It’s about what we did, the places we visited, and the vacations we took when he was off the road. I was the only boy he raised. I had hands on experience. Eric Clapton and Johnny Winter would visit our house. I traveled with his band and listened in on dressing room conversations. It’s everyday McKinley Morganfield.

What’s going on with Muddy’s old home in Chicago (4339 S. Lake Park Ave. )? Who owns it? Do you think it will ever be restored so his spirit remains?

I lived there for one year before we moved to Westmont. The house is owned by my father’s great granddaughter Chandra Cooper. To make a long story short, she bought the house from the estate and neglected it. We are trying to get her to sell the house back to the estate so we can get it out of foreclosure and make the necessary repairs before it’s demolished. We are currently negotiating with her. The plan is to get the house back and restore it.

What else do you want to accomplish?

Right now I am trying to get established and get gigs. Being Muddy’s son doesn’t mean anything. I am trying to fine tune my craft and work on my vocals. I take vocal lessons and rehearse with my band. I know it’s not going to happen overnight. My ultimate goal is to win a Grammy. Also, I perform all over the United States. My siblings and I are trying to keep my father’s legacy alive. Big Bill and Mud Morganfield are keeping his legacy alive. We don’t want his legacy to die. We are doing our part. You have different families that are keeping the blues alive. Willie Dixon’s family and Buddy Guy’s family are keeping it alive. Everyone is playing their part for younger generations.

Billy Branch Master Blues Teacher

 

Billy Branch was discovered by Willie Dixon while he was still in college. Willie encouraged Billy to finish his college education. Instead of going to law school after receiving his political science degree, Billy began touring with The Willie Dixon Chicago All Stars. Billy has played on over 150 different recordings. He has recorded with Willie Dixon, Johnny Winter, Lou Rawls, Koko Taylor, Eddy Clearwater, Honeyboy Edwards, Syl Johnson, Lurrie Bell, Ronnie Baker Brooks, John Primer and Taj Mahal. He has received three Grammy nominations (losing one nomination to BB King and Eric Clapton).

You have a new cd coming out on Alligator Records? What is it called and could you talk about the record?

We don’t have a definite title. We have some ideas tossed around. Essentially, it’s a tribute to Little Walter. A few years back we developed a friendship with Little Walter’s daughter, Marion. We are part of The Little Walter Foundation. My wife Rosa is the director. Last year we produced the Little Walter tribute show at Bluesfest commemorating the 50th year of his passing. It featured four other harp players along with myself. Marion was encouraging us to do a record and tribute to her father. Between her and my wife, I had no choice. To be honest, I pushed back because there have been so many tributes for Little Walter. This project is unique because Marion provides commentary about memories of her father. This makes it unique. Once we embarked on the project, it became bigger and more satisfying than I had anticipated and hoped for. We added what we call the Sons of Blues touch so you are getting musical deviations and surprises.

What is the harmonica’s function in a band? How is it different from other instruments?

Within that question there are several answers. The bottom line depends on who is holding the harmonica. In my case, because of the way my style developed, it’s an accompanying and lead instrument. During the course of my quest to master the instrument, or at least become an accomplished capable harmonica player, my style developed. A lot of the time I am playing horn lines or rhythmic riffs. Some harmonica players simply focus on soloing. When you hear my band I am playing throughout the song. I am adopting the role of an accompanist. In my case, I love all harmonica styles. I love country (Charlie McCoy), classical (Larry Adler), Stevie Wonder, and Lee Oskar. I’ve always loved the harmonica, and I play with feeling and inspiration. I’ve always felt the harmonica, in the hands of an adept player, is one of the most inspiring instruments even though it’s so small and basic. To me, it’s the closest to the human voice. That’s why it’s so essential in the blues to invoke emotion.

What did you learn from Willie Dixon and Junior Wells?

Since you brought up Junior Wells, I will also include Carey Bell, Big Walter Horton, and James Cotton. They were the strongest primary live influences for me. I was influenced by Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson on recordings. These guys were contemporaries and disciples. Junior Wells and James Cotton spent a lot of time with Sonny Boy Williamson. Carey Bell’s influence was Big Walter Horton. My strongest live influence was Carey Bell because I replaced him in Willie Dixon’s Chicago Blues All-stars.  His son, Lurrie Bell, was the founding member of my band The Sons of Blues, so I was around Carey a lot. I was around all of them. I learned that less is more on the instrument. Junior taught me how to become a competent band leader and how to successfully and effectively get musicians to play a groove, especially in situations where I would have to use a pick up band while in a foreign country. I remember Junior at Theresa’s. Everyone would be jamming and it sounded like crap. Junior would hit the stage and all of a sudden the band was cooking. It took me a long time to learn this skill. I owe the biggest debt to Willie. I learned so many things from Willie. When I was with the Willie Dixon band, I quickly discovered that I wasn’t as good as I thought I was. Willie was a philosopher. He ate, slept and breathed blues. The blues were his life. He embodied it. He was very proud that his people were the creators of this music. He felt imperative that we realize that. I inherited that same desire to impart that upon my fellow African American brothers and sisters, as well as the world. The blues, despite it being the roots of all American music, has always been relegated to an underground status. I was always acutely aware that blues was not on mainstream radio or television except on rare occasions. It has not been given the due that it legitimately deserves. We know that there would be no Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, Doors, and all of these great groups that emerged without the blues. That fact is not widely acknowledged. I learned a deep appreciation and love for this music, and what it really represents from a historical and cultural social climate.

Could you talk about your “Blues in Schools Program?”

I am one of the first people to ever engage in Blues in Schools. I have been doing it since 1978. I have done it in different capacities. I am still actively involved. Sometimes it’s a performance with an auditorium full of children. I have done it with just a guitar and harmonica. The most notable thing is when the whole band and I do residencies for five weeks at a time. We did it in Seattle and years ago in South Carolina. I am doing this globally now. We do two hour sessions. I teach all of the student’s harmonica and blues history. I quiz them. After the first hour, they split up with other respected musicians. Some want to learn drums, bass, or guitar. I teach them standard songs and they compose their own songs. Towards the end of the 4-5 week period they perform at schools, festivals, or nightclubs. Last week at Rosa’s Lounge, I had a former student from my very first residency and one of the mothers of my former students show up. Last year we did a U.S. Embassy sponsored tour to Ecuador. I taught Blues in Schools in Spanish. We went to Afro-Ecuadorian communities. That really fulfilled me. I sometimes hear from kids around the country, “Mr. Branch I still have my harmonica.” It’s very satisfying and part of my passion that was inspired by Willie Dixon. In early programs, there were times when Willie Dixon and Koko Taylor would come and address the students and play onstage with them. We did a benefit at the old Kingston Mines down on Lincoln and the Who’s Who of Chicago Blues players were there.    

What’s your favorite club to play in Chicago and why?

It’s hard to say. The principle clubs we play at are Kingston Mines, Rosa’s and Buddy Guy’s. Rosa’s is a special place for me because we just celebrated its 35th anniversary last weekend. We were the very first band to play at Rosa’s. Tony Mangiullo and Mama Rosa created the club. It’s a family kind of an atmosphere. Tony advertises it as Chicago’s friendliest blues lounge. To a degree that is true. Tony will take the time to talk and interact with people. Buddy Guy’s is nice because it is a bigger showcase. With Buddy Guy being attached to it, it makes it very special. Prior to that, I held the longest continual gig in Chicago at The Artists Lounge on the South Side. I played there every Monday for 27 years. It was a magical place. Mavis Staples sang “I’ll Take You There” with my band on my 60th birthday party.

What else do you want to accomplish?

It would be nice to become very wealthy. That would be wonderful. I would like to be included with groups that cross the cultural genre and get younger people interested and engaged in the blues. I understand a lot of young people are not initially attracted to the blues because it has a stigma attached to it that it’s old, sad and depressing. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s so rich and vast. There are so many different styles and musicians who bring their unique original flavor to it. We know there is only one Howlin Wolf, B.B. King, Otis Rush, Koko Taylor and Willie Dixon. I feel very privileged to have played and recorded with them. I was born here (North Chicago), but grew up in Los Angeles. I came back on a scholarship to the University of Illinois. I was completely ignorant about the blues. I would have said, “I don’t know anything about the blues and I don’t like them.” That’s what I would have told you. Fate being fate, fortunately it opened up my eyes and ears. It made me appreciated it while becoming an integral part of it. In the early 70’s there were hundreds of great musicians and dozens and dozens of blues clubs on the south and west side of Chicago. I felt everybody should know about this. That was my motivation for Blues in Schools. In over 40 plus years of teaching Blues in Schools, I have never had an unsuccessful program. The children always get it. They are enthusiastic and embrace it. After 40 years, many of them still retain it.

Schedule:

Feb 23, 2019

Buddy Guy Legends

Feb 25-28

U of Chi

Mar 1, 2019

U of Chi

Mar 11

Logan Ctr /U of Chi

Mar 16, 2019

Marietta Blues Festival

Mar 21

Wheaton College

Mar 22 & 23

Kingston Mines

Apr 2, 2019

FitzGerald’s

Apr 5, 2019

Private

Apr 8, 2019

Logan Ctr /U of Chi

Apr 28, 2019

S.P.A.C.E.

May 1, 2019

Buddy Guy Legends

May 2-6

Milan Blues Fest

May 8-10

Blues Music Awards

May 23, 2019

Chi Cultural Ctr

May 24, 2019

Private Event

June 1-22

Chi Plays the Stones

June 29, 2019

Griffith Blues Fest Griffith, Indiana

Dave Specter (Jack Of All Blues)

 

Delmark Recording blues guitarist, bandleader, and producer Dave Specter has earned an international reputation as one of the premier talents on the Chicago blues scene. Since 1985 Specter has performed regularly at top Chicago blues and jazz clubs, in addition to festivals and concert halls throughout the USA. Before forming his own band in 1989, Specter toured extensively throughout the U.S. and Europe behind Son Seals, The Legendary Blues Band, Hubert Sumlin, Sam Lay, and Steve Freund. Specter has also performed and recorded with such blues greats as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Otis Rush, Jimmy Rogers, Robert Lockwood Jr., and Jimmy Johnson. He co-owns Evanston Space (Venue/Recording Studio north of Chicago) and has his own Podcast called “Blues From The Inside Out.”  

http://www.davespecter.com/

https://www.bluesfromtheinsideout.com/

http://www.evanstonspace.com/

Could you talk about your new album coming out on Delmark Records? What’s it going to be called? What’s it about? When is it coming out?

It’s going to be called “Blues From The Inside Out” and we are going into the studio in mid-February. It’s my 11th album on Delmark. My first album came out in 1991 and the last album I released on Delmark was in 2014. It’s been five years so I think I am due. It’s all original material. This is the first album with all original material. It will consist of four instrumentals and eight tunes with vocals. It’s going to mark my singing debut. I have always been a guitarist and a bandleader. I have done a couple instrumental records and most of my recordings consist of backing other singers. I am finally going to break out and sing. I will be singing on three tunes.

You have been on Delmark for over 28 years: What has your Delmark journey been like?

I started out working for the label as a shipping clerk. I worked for them in 1985 when the Bears won the Superbowl. I went to college at the University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and that’s when I started playing guitar at the age of 18 as a freshman. The blues got me and I decided I wanted to become a professional blues guitar player. I moved back to Chicago and wanted to immerse myself in the music as much as I could. One of my first jobs was working for Delmark Records and The Jazz Record Mart. Bob Koester owned both until very recently. He sold both. I was working a few days a week for the label and one or two days a week at the store. That’s how I got to know everyone at Delmark. I worked for them for about a year. I was also a doorman at Blues on Halsted. I worked there for a few years. That was great because I was working and listening to live blues every night. I met so many great musicians from all over the world. I met Jimmy Page, John Fogerty, Robert Plant, and Willie Dixon there. I heard Hubert Sumlin, Robert Lockwood Junior, Otis Rush, Lonnie Brooks, and Louis Myers. The list goes on and on. All of that happened in my early 20’s and that’s when I started to play and meet musicians. That was all part of my early journey and experience.

You are a real blues promoter and preserver. Please talk about your new podcast called “Blues from the Inside Out.”

I launched the podcast very recently in December. There’s one album I did for another label in 2010. I signed to a Chicago guitar based label called Fret 12. I did a record called Spectified for them. It’s one of my instrumental records. David Hidalgo from Los Lobos guests on it. They were interested in creating content for their website which is a worldwide guitar community. I was their first blues artist. They wanted me to start doing video interviews with other guitar players to include that as content on their website. They are all up on YouTube. Some are under Dave Specter’s “Blues From The Inside Out” and others are under Fret 12. I interviewed Warren Haynes, John Hammond, Hubert Sumlin, and Jimmy Johnson to name a few. There are about 20 interviews online. A couple years ago some forward thinking friends of mine recommended I create a podcast.

For the last 11 years I’ve been a partner and co-owner at Evanston Space. We have a recording studio right behind the club. I have amazing access to a wide range of local musicians and national touring musicians. The idea was to interview artists while they were at Space. We have a great sounding studio and that was the impetus for the podcast. The podcast is also called “Blues From The Inside Out” and it’s up on Itunes and Spotify. The most recent interview is with Albert Lee. There is a really cool joint interview with Sam Lay and Corky Siegel that includes a live jam session with myself. There are podcasts up with Billy Branch, Toronzo Cannon, and Kermit Ruffins who’s from New Orleans. I recently recorded podcasts with Billy Boy Arnold and Mud Morganfield. It’s going to be a monthly podcast and I am really enjoying it. It creates a unique musician to musician perspective.

What was it like being inducted into the Chicago blues hall of fame?

It was a nice surprise and I felt honored. It’s an interesting organization and it’s not to be confused with the National Blues Hall of Fame in Memphis. It gives well deserved recognition to a lot of people in the Chicago Blues Scene. I am glad to be a part of it. There was a ceremony back in November at Buddy Guy Legends. Fred Below a great blues drummer and I were inducted.

What else do you want to accomplish?

One of the things that keeps me going is my growth and development as a guitarist and musician. It’s a life long journey. I am still learning and improving things. Writing new music is very fulfilling. It is something that I hope to get better at. I am really happy that I’ve been involved in so many facets of the music business for close to 35 years. I still tour. I am going to Switzerland in March. Recently, I just played in France. I enjoy touring internationally. I played the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival and The Chicago Blues Festival in 2018 which was great. I still play five to ten gigs a month in Chicago. I like the balance that comes from performing and managing Evanston Space. At Space we have a monthly Blue Monday series that I am really excited about. The podcast is more on the musicology and intellectual side. I am pretty content and want to keep growing and developing. I want to reach a wider audience. That is something that I always strive for. I want my music to be heard by more and more people. My new album and Delmark being under new ownership will help me reach more people.

Anything else you want to share?

I am also a producer. I taught for many years at the Old Town School of Folk Music. I currently give private lessons. I am helping one of my former students produce his bands first album. There are a couple projects that I have recently done that I would like to mention. Billy Seward who is based down in Florida hired me to produce a full album with my band at Delmark Studios. Jimmy Johnson guested on it.  It’s a great record that I highly recommend called South Shore. I just produced an album for a group that’s based in France and Ohio. It’s a husband wife team. They are called Lil’ Red and The Rooster. Jennifer Milligan is the singer and she also plays washboard. Her husband Pascal is a great French guitar player. They did a full album in Chicago that I produced. It came out 2 years ago and is getting a good response. They were finalists as a duo at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis last week. I play on three songs on the record. We played at the Bay Car Blues Festival in France. I really enjoy producing and hope to do a lot more of it.

Linsey Alexander The Hoochie Man

 

Linsey Alexander was born July 23, 1942 in Holly Springs Mississippi in an area along the Mississippi Blues Trail. Alexander is a blues songwriter, vocalist, and guitarist. He has been a fixture in clubs on Chicago's North Side for nearly two decades and has played with numerous blues musicians including Buddy GuyA.C. ReedMagic Slim, and B.B. King. His album Been There Done That, released in 2012, was rated the best blues CD of the year

What are you currently working on?

Currently I am working on a live cd and I’m getting the material ready. I’m going to record it at Rosas Lounge on Armitage in Chicago. I do not have a name for it yet. It should be out by May.

What separates you from other Chicago bluesmen?

I am a true bluesman. There are very few true bluesmen around. I make my living off the blues; not R and B or hip hop. I have a wireless system and head set when I perform. I go to the public and reach them. I want them to feel wanted. If a baby is in the corner and doesn’t get any attention he’s going to get lonely.

How long have you been with Delmark Records? What are the advantages of being on a record label?

I’ve been with Delmark for about 6 years. The advantage is they pay you to sing the music and pay for the musicians that you use. All you have to do is record it. They create your product and distribute it. They get your name out there.

Could you talk about crowd reaction in the states versus overseas? How are the blues received in different parts of the world?

The blues is received better overseas versus here in the U.S. It’s a gift for them. They love to see you play. They come out in groups. I played in Brazil to a whole city. All I could see were people. I think it has to do with nationality. I can play the blues in a black neighborhood and I can play the blues in a white neighborhood. I get a better response in the white neighborhood. They enjoy music and it’s something that they are used to. Some of the blacks think the blues ain’t nothing. It’s the way that I feel about it.

Could you talk about how you write new songs while you are onstage playing? This is something I have never heard anyone else do.

I have one called “I’m Going Back To My Old Time Used To Be." It was something onstage that I received. Most songs I write, I do not write them down on paper. They are in my head. That way nobody can copyright them. Nobody can take my idea unless they get into my head.

What else do you want to accomplish?

I want good health in life and I want to be in all the big places. I don’t want to be like Buddy Guy. To me that’s miserable. He has to have somebody walk him to the car and drive him. I want to be on my own. I got problems but money is not one of them. If you have a lot of money you are going to die with it. You are going to worry about it. I have a young son who’s 17 years old. He’s getting out on his own and I am showing him the ropes. First he was just a guitar player. I told him if wants to be successful he has to be a lead man and sing. He’s the future.

John Primer The Real Deal

 

Two-time Grammy nominated artist and American blues legend John Primer was the bandleader and guitarist for Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon and Magic Slim & The Teardrops. He has played and recorded with a who's who of blues greats including Junior Wells, Gary Clark Jr., Derek Trucks, Johnny Winter, The Rolling Stones and Buddy Guy. John Primer's personal accolades include a Lifetime Achievement Award that reflects his countless contributions to the history of Chicago blues. There are very few fans, critics or musicians who will deny the fact that John Primer is the real deal.

What are you currently working on?

I’m working on a new cd. It’s called Soul of a Blues Man. There’s a lot of soul music and blues on it. It’s going to come out in January or the first of February. There will be a lot of soul, rhythm, and blues.

What did you learn playing behind Muddy? Any good Muddy stories

He was a great player. He played the same music with different lyrics. His music was always the same. That was Muddy’s sound. He taught me not to be like him or sound like him. Although when I play his songs, I try to sound as close as possible to keep it original. He was a great man. I learned a lot from a player named Sammy Lawhorn who played with Muddy for 15 years. I like the way he played slide. When he played an Elmore James song he would just tune the big string down. I watched how Muddy would put the slide on his little finger. Sammy, could play rhythm while the slide was on his little finger without detuning the guitar. When I play slide I don’t detune; I am in A 440 (standard tuning). Back in the 40’s and 50’s Muddy was in E, G, and A tuning.

How is the sound and spirit of Mississippi in your playing? Can you give examples?

I was born in Mississippi. I had a real hard time there. I lost my dad when I was 3 years old in accident with some guys drinking. I was raised without a father. My mother was in Mississippi a lot but she was always on the go. I practically was raised without my mom and dad. My grandmother, Aunt, and Uncle raised me. My mom’s older brother was my father figure. We didn’t have much food either. We would have to eat cornbread and chicken. We would eat the same kind of stuff. It was tough for me. A real hard time. Just living. That’s where I got the blues. I was a sad kid most of my life especially when I think about my mom and my dad. She left and went to Chicago to get a job. That was the saddest moment of my life. She said when I turned 18 she would come and get me to go to Chicago. When I talk about it I get watery eyes. I would cry, cry, and cry. I would go to the back of the house and cry. My eyes would swell up because I cried so much. It was a real sad time. I play the blues the way I feel it.

How do you approach playing solo versus playing with a band?

It’s easier playing alone. If you make a mistake, you don’t have to catch up with it. Think John Lee Hooker. Muddy would cover his mistakes up. It’s much easier playing rhythm. I play rhythm, lead, and chords while singing.

Do your hands ever tire while playing? Your hands are always moving…

No. I may cramp for a minute. I never get tired. I never get tired playing when I am onstage. I don’t get tired, I wear them out. I have too much energy for them.

If you could only play electric blues or acoustic blues from here on out which would you choose and why?

Acoustic blues. It started on the acoustic guitar. Muddy Waters electrified it. That’s why Chicago is so famous because it electrified the blues.

What else do you want to achieve?

I want to keep the blues alive. That is my main goal. It’s not about winning things. In the beginning it wasn’t about winning anything. Back in the day it used to be about winning contests to see who the best guitar player was. That’s not what it’s about. I want to continue playing the blues as long as I can or as long as the mighty God lets me play them. I want the younger generation to keep on playing the blues. Don’t disrespect it or try to change it. Try to keep it as real as you can. I’m doing what I love. Blues is all about life. I want to keep it real.

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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