SIT DOWN AND GET COZY
This is a long one. Surprisingly, there is a lot to say even though much of the world is on hold. This also is the last newsletter for 2020. I will be back babbling on JAN 8.
So, warm wishes and happy-ish holidays! No matter what or how you celebrate, just stay safe and healthy and somewhat sane. Onward to 2021 and at least a partial return to normalcy.
REST IN PEACE
Scrap Iron was tragically killed on Nov. 6 in an accident on the freeway with a trailer tractor in Memphis. There was no one quite like Scrap Iron. He was Little Milton's road manager before he became an MC on the Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruises (LRBCs). Not only did he dress how I want all bluesmen to dress, he was charming, funny and friendly to all. When they finally get back to sailing, the LRBCs are just not going to be the same without his joyous presence. He will be greatly missed by all who crossed his path. REST IN PEACE, Scrap Iron.
Friday, Nov. 20 | 4-8pm
NJ Ford Funeral Home
12 S. Parkway, Memphis, TN 38109 FUNERAL
Saturday, Nov. 21 | 2pm
Greater Mt. Moriah Baptist Church
1098 S. Wellington St., Memphis, TN 38126
Donations may be made out to either his son, Frank Robinson, or his partner Wanda Parham. Please mail donations to:
313 Lawrence St.
Kansas City, MO 64111
OTHER RECENT PASSINGS STERLING MAGEE (aka MR. SATAN)
Sterling Magee, who played on the streets of Harlem as a solo act and later as part of the duo Satan and Adam with Adam Gussow, died in a hospice in Pinellas Park, FL, from complications of the coronavirus. He was 84. READ THE NY TIMES STORY
NOTE: You can watch the documentary, Satan & Adam, on Netflix.
GAVIN ANDREW McKEE 6.22.85–10.21.20
Gavin McKee (also known as Ben Richards) was the road manager for the Eric Gales Band. READ HIS OBIT
********************************* SPENCER DAVIS
Spencer Davis was a Welsh musician who founded the (blues-ish) Spencer Davis Group with Steve Winwood. He died in Los Angeles while being treated for pneumonia. He was 81. READ THE ROLLING STONE ARTICLE
REVEREND JOHN WILKINS
Reverend John Wilkins, the son of blues singer Robert Wilkins, passed away October 6 after a two-month battle with COVID-19. He was 76. READ THE MEMPHIS FLYER ARTICLE
John Valenteyn was a co-founder of the Toronto Blues Society in 1985, a radio DJ at CIUT and CJRT (now jazzfm), and a member of the Maple Blues Award Steering Committee. He died the result of a rare blood disorder known as HLH. He was 73. If you want to honor Valenteyn, his wife Brenda has requested donations be made to Toronto Blues Society, either online or via check sent to the office address: 910 Queen St. W. Suite B04, Toronto-ON M6J 1G6. LEARN MORE
ROBERT SMITH HAGAN
Memphis street musician who performed as Beretta Mo Betta
LARRY VAN LOON
Nashville keyboardist who had played with the Andy T - Nick Nixon Band, Shaun Murphy and many others
Kilgo-Cunningham was the vocalist for the Chris Canas Band, a 2020 International Blues Challenge finalist–and mother of Chris Canas. The much-beloved Michigan-based singer died the result of a long battle with cancer. A PHOTO TRIBUTE BY DON McGHEE
NO EXCUSES. Remember last newsletter when I waxed poetic about all the work Dick Shurman did on the new book, The Blues Dream of Billy Boy Arnold, that is set for release in August 2021? Well...Shurman had NOTHING to do with the book. The real workhorse here is Kim Field, who is a writer and musician (Kim Field and the Perfect Gentlemen) based in Portland, OR. Shurman’s only involvement is: 1. reposting a Facebook post and 2. being Field’s friend (I think). My only involvement: A stupid mistake. #$%! happens–and I always regret it.
IN THE EAR OF THE BEHOLDER.Rolling Stone has issued its newest 500 Greatest Albums of All Time list, compiled based on the input from hundreds of artists, writers and industry insiders. Most interesting to me is that Alice Cooper's No. 1 pick (which did not make the Rolling Stone list) was East-West by the Butterfield Blues Band. I disagree with his comment that the album was "one of those albums that nobody knows about," except musicians. Here's what he had to say: “The thing that really topped it off, I think, after I had worn the album out maybe five or six times — and I still have it in my 1968 Mustang — is I talked to Elvin Bishop, and he mentioned that most of those tracks were done live in the studio, one or two takes maybe, which made it even more astounding,” Cooper adds. “Because there’s not a mistake, there’s nothing. The feel is magnificent on every song.” READ THE ARTICLE HAVE A LISTEN TO EAST-WEST
And, if you care, here are the blues and blues-ish albums on the 2020 list:
492. Bonnie Raitt | Nick of Time
483. Muddy Waters | The Anthology
477. Howlin' Wolf | Moanin' in the Moonlight
455. Bo Diddley | Bo Diddley/Go Bo Diddley
374. Robert Johnson | King of the Delta Blues Singers
372. Big Brother and The Holding Company | Cheap Thrills
317. Billie Holiday | Lady in Satin
299. B.B. King | Live At the Regal
259. Janis Joplin | Pearl
227. Little Richard | Here's Little Richard
226. Derek and The Dominos | Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs
191. Etta James | At Last!
170. Cream | Disraeli Gears
105. The Allman Brothers Band | At Fillmore East
104. The Rolling Stones | Sticky Fingers
101. Led Zeppelin | Led Zeppelin
51. Chuck Berry | The Great Twenty-Eight
41. The Rolling Stones | Let It Bleed
14. The Rolling Stones | Exile on Main St.
In case you wondered, Marvin Gaye's What’s Going On is No. 1. THE COMPLETE LIST
SPEAKING OF LISTS...Here's two more. Barack Obama included a playlist of music he enjoyed listening to during his years in the White House in his new book, The Promised Land. It had an eclectic mix of songs that included just one blues song: B.B. King's The Thrill is Gone. I can help you, Barack, if you need to add more blues.
And then there is Kurt Cobain's faves.According to the U.K.'s Far Out magazine, Cobain had a list too–and, no surprise, it had a lot of bands I've never heard of. Smack in the middle (#33), though, was Leadbelly’s Last Sessions Volume One (1953). SEE IF YOU RECOGNIZE ANYTHING
THE SILVER SCREEN. Director Scott Rosenbaum, who directed the wonderful Sidemen: Long Road to Glory, has a new film called Life & Larry Brown,which has now qualified and is in the running for the 2020 Academy Award for documentary short. The 37-minute film is tentatively scheduled to have a one-week theatrical run Nov. 20–26 at the Cinelounge in Los Angeles, depending on the current state of the pandemic (I am thinking it probably will be postponed). Talk about a tragic life. Larry Brown spent almost 34 years in prison for murder. He learned to play the guitar in prison, was released in 2018 and tragically died just two years later on April 20, 2020, from complications due to COVID-19. GET MORE INFO www.larrybrownfilm.com
CHICAGO BLUES.Speaking of Rosenbaum and Sidemen, the documentary will be released on iTunes around Dec. 15, but you can pre-order it right now. If you haven't seen it, WOW. I loved that movie, but of course I would. I have a little bit (a lot) of an obsession with Hubert Sumlin. In addition to Sumlin, the movie also features Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Pinetop Perkins. Interestingly, all three sidemen died in 2011. PRE-ORDER NOW (It may be the best $12.99 you ever spend.)
WE CAN'T GET ENOUGH. This new documentary about Billie Holiday is based on audio interviews conducted in the 1970s that were originally done for a planned biography that never happened. The movie will be available for streaming Dec. 4 on Amazon and iTunes. LEARN MORE READ THE VARIETY REVIEW
INTERESTING, BUT REALLY?
A recent study links your favorite musical genres to one of the five major personality traits: Openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional stability. Interestingly, blues lovers fare pretty well in this arbitrary classification even though I am fairly certain I know a few unstable blues fans.
What if you like all kinds of music? Does that mean you are schizophrenic?
Or, what if you hate music and prefer sports? Does that mean you are boring and devoid of personality? Maybe.
Emotional links to genre
Soul - Conscientious and agreeable
R&B - Extrovert
Reggae - Open
Jazz - Agreeable
Blues - Agreeable, emotionally stable
Funk - Conscientious
Alternative - Introverted
Rock - Introverted
Punk - Anti-social, emotionally unstable
Emo - Introvert, emotionally unstable
Indie: Open, introverted
I like to think I am emotionally stable, but in the interest of complete honesty, I can't say that I am always agreeable. My crabby side must be the one that loves the Cramps and the Legendary Shack Shakers, right? READ THE ARTICLE
THINK ABOUT IT. Adam Gussow's latest book, Whose Blues: Facing Up to Race and the Future of the Music, looks at blues for the new millennium and opens up a controversial conversation definitely worth having. Gussow, who has written six books, is a professor of English and southern studies at the University of Mississippi who had a long partnership with the late street musician, Sterling Magee (aka Mr. Satan in Satan and Adam). He also is now a member of The Blues Doctors, a duo with Alan Gross.
320 pages, $95 in hardcover (University of North Carolina Press)
HISTORIC PRESERVATION. There is a current effort to preserve Nina Simone's childhood home in Tryon, NC, thanks to the quick action of four New York-based artists. LEARN MORE GIVE A DONATION Photo of Nina Simone's house by Nancy Pierce
Alabama Black Belt Blues
This one-hour documentary directed by Alabama filmmaker Robert Clem, takes a look at the rural Alabama blues scene using slave narratives, archival blues recordings and the recorded music of contemporary blues musicians. Local musicians featured in the film include Clarence “Bluesman” Davis (pictured at right), Vera Hall, Dock Reed, Willie King and Birmingham George Conner. WATCH ONLINE (FREE) Clarence "Bluesman" Davis photo by Roger Stephenson
SUN, NOV 22 @ 9-10pm CST
A memorial benefit and CD release party for Ron Thompson
Featuring Alabama Mike, Chris Cain, Tommy Castro, Tony Coleman, Franck Goldwasser, Cathy Lemmons, Mike Schermer and Marcel Smith. With Kid Andersen, Scott Griffin, Sid Morris, Gary Rosen and Jim Pugh WATCH IT
ON THE BOOB TUBE
SAT, NOV. 28 @ 10pm
THURS, DEC. 3 at 12:30am
WTTW (Channel 11 in Chicago)
Check your local PBS listings for other airdates Eric Clapton's Crossroads Guitar Festival 2019
If you never had the immense pleasure to attend one of Clapton's fests, make sure you watch this. You won't regret it.
Dec. 4 @ 530pm CST
Special Jamming Jean Holiday Concert
with Corky Siegel and Lynne Jordan FREE (but you must register in advance)
This event is made possible by the Levy Senior Center Foundation and will feature three recorded sets with Siegel and Jordan plus a conversation with the musicians in real time. Joining Siegel and Jordan is John Anderson, a Grammy-nominated and Emmy-winning documentary filmmaker. REGISTER us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_sRLHQlOcSXWZBhnzQRhEhg MORE INFO www.lscfevanston.or
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom RELEASE DATE: Dec. 18, 2020
This movie, based on the play of the same name by August Wilson and starring Viola Davis as Ma Rainey and the late Chadwick Boseman as one of her band members, is getting a lot of Oscar buzz. Added bonus for me: It's based on a recording session in 1927 in Chicago. LEARN MORE WATCH IT ON NETFLIX
LISTEN Crazy Juke Joint Blues, Vol. 1
Great stuff on this one...and it will keep you busy for a while. Think Little Walter, Eddie Taylor, Big Joe Williams, JB Lenoir, Earl Hooker, John Brim, Blind Willie McTell and so many more.
LEARN GET A GUITAR LESSON
Johnny Burgin's Straight Out of Chicago Guitar Lesson: Eddie Taylor TRY IT!
The next chicagoBLUESnews:
FRIDAY, JAN 8 2021 (Mails on THURS, JAN 7 2021)
OUT AND ABOUT
OMG! Can you believe we were OUT two days in a row? And boy did we have some socially distanced fun. OCT. 16 @ The Epiphany Center for the Arts
Liz Mandeville & The Blue Points
We were supposed to see Liz at Legends back in March when the pandemic first started shutting our world down. She did play at Legends on March 15, but we stayed home. At The Sanctuary in the Epiphany, the band was as wonderful and fun as I thought they would be. THE PHOTOS
OCT. 17 @ Muddy Water Drives (E. 43rd St.)
Bronzeville Blues Walk
The Blues Walk was part of Open Chicago, the Architecture Center's free annual festival that offers access to hundreds of sites across the city. Four great bands played different styles of blues at locations along Muddy Waters Drive: John Primer played Delta Blues in front of The Forum (324 E. 43rd); Katherine Davis played jump blues at Park 43 (534 E. 43rd); Jamiah Rogers played contemporary blues at the site of the Checkerboard Lounge (423 E. 43rd); and Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues plus a few guests like Lurrie Bell played classic Chicago Blues next to Muddy Waters' Home, which is being transformed into the Mojo Museum (4339 S. Lake Park Ave.)
Can you think of a better way to spend an afternoon? I sure can't.
By the way, The Forum is now on the National Historic Register. THE PHOTOS
Cross your fingers for 2021!
YA GOTTA LOVE ELVIN “We've been around since
the Dead Sea was sick.”
––Elvin Bishop, from the title track
of the 100 Years of Blues CD with Charlie Musselwhite
GET OFF THE COUCH!
If you do leave your humble abode, please wear your damn mask (says the crabby Karen).
In the meantime, listen to blues online. A quick spin on Facebook will find a lot of options to get your blues fix.
NEW (AND NOT SO NEW) MUSIC
Crossroads Guitar Festival 2019
RELEASE DATE: Nov. 20, 2020 (Rhino)
Four hours of incredible music available on three CDs, six LPs, two DVDs or two Blu-rays from the 2019 edition of Clapton's charitable musical extravaganza GET MORE INFO (including the track listings) NOTE:See info in the Thinking Positively section bout the PBS air dates.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd Band | Straight To You: Live RELEASE DATE: Nov. 27, 2020 (Provogue)
This CD+DVD release is the band's first live concert video in 10 years. Loyal fans will be beside themselves with joy. The last live recording (done in Chicago, by the way) received a Grammy nomination.
Erin Harpe | Meet Me in the Middle RELEASE DATE: Sept. 11, 2020 | Vizz Tone
This new recording, Harpe's fourth release on Vizz Tone, is an intimate acoustic album of country blues recorded in her home studio with husband/bass player Jim Countryman. The 10 tracks include four originals.
Jeremiah Johnson | Unemployed Highly Annoyed RELEASE DATE: Oct. 30, 2020 | Ruf
He says this is possibly his best record, "born from the most challenging time in my life as a musician." He's a guitar slinger from St. Louis that will appeal to those who like their blues on the hard rockin' side.
Jimmie Vaughan | The Pleasure's All Mine RELEASE DATE: Aug. 6 2020 | Last Music Company
This two-CD (or three vinyl) collection offers 31 tracks from Vaughan's various blues wanderings. It basically is a combination of two earlier releases: Blues, Ballads and Favorites and More Blues Ballads and Favorites. If you already have the other two, never mind.
Shirley King | Blues for a King RELEASE DATE: JUNE 19, 2020 | Cleopatra Blues
Shirley King (daddy is the one and only B.B.) is backed by an all-star list of musicians on this recording, each track featuring a different player (think Joe Louis Walker, Duke Robillard, Elvin Bishop, Robben Ford–and more).
There is something about Shirley LIVE, though, that this CD just doesn't capture. Go see her live when you can.
Joe Louis Walker | Blues Comin' On RELEASE DATE: April 1, 2020 | Cleopatra Blues
Walker doesn't really need any help, but here's another recording with an impressive list of guests on the 12 tracks that include Keb' Mo', Eric Gales, Albert Lee, Jorma Kaukonen, Dion Dimucci and more.
Elvin Bishop & Charlie Musselwhite | 100 Years of Blues RELEASE DATE: July 17, 2020 | Alligator
Bishop and Musselwhite were both in Chicago playin' and hangin' back when the joint was really jumpin'. They finally got together to record what you should know, before even hearing it, is a great recording.
Reverend John Wilkins | Trouble RELEASE DATE: Sept. 18, 2020 | Goner Records
This 11-track recording was released just a month before Wilkins lost his battle with COVID-19. It is the second solo release from this Memphis preacher who effortlessly combines soul, southern gospel and hill country rhythm. He followed in the footsteps of his legendary father, Rev. Robert Wilkins, a blues singer turned preacher. Wilkins’ three beloved daughters, Tangela Longstreet, Joyce Jones and Tawana Cunningham provide harmonies and call-and-response backing vocals on this wonderful recording.
IS IT THE SEASON?
Hard to be in the holiday mood this year, but here's a little music to keep your holidays bluesy.
Various Artists | A Gulf Coast Christmas
A total of 16 tracks of both covers and original Christmas tunes from 18 Gulf Coast artists that include Kat Riggins, Kevin Burt, Mike Zito, Albert Castiglia and more.
Kingfish Ingram | Ghost From Christmas Past
This single is the first Christmas recording from this young phenom. And, yes, it is as good as you would expect it to be.
AND DON'T FORGET THAT NEW CALENDAR 2021 Calendar: Pneumonia Blues
This annual calendar from Blues Images features classic blues artwork from the 1920s plus a 23-track CD with 11 recently discovered songs by Lost John Hunter, the first African American blues singer to record at the Memphis Recording Studio (now SUN Studios) with Sam Phillips at the controls.
Don't bother–except for maybe putting the 42nd Blues Music Awards on your 2021 calendar. It is tentatively (like all things now) planned for May 6, 2021.
The rest of the time, just Hygge. Or, like the fun-loving Finns, just Kalsarikännit (look it up). HERE'S A QUICK PRIMER
Nov 19 Mike Zito Holly Siegel
Nov 20 Tom Albanese
Nov 22 Angela Strehli
Nov 23 Jake La Botz
Dr. Dan Ivankovich(Chicago Slim) Mary Lane
Nov 24 Lynn Orman Weiss Pete Griffith
Nov 25 Jimmy Johnson Jerry Portnoy
Nov 26 Susan Williams (and the Wright Groove) Tina Turner Willie Buck Bernard Allison
Nov 28 Ori Naftaly
Nov 29 John Mayall Martin Lang
Dec 3 Kirk Clayton Manley
Dec 5 “Little Richard” Penniman Paul Petraitis Kim Maiden Simmonds
Dec 7 Terrance Chism
Dec 8 Precious J Taylor
Dec 9 Tom Holland Danny Kalb
Dec 12 Chris Alexander
Dec 13 Larry Taylor Lurrie C. Bell Elbio R. Barilari (Delmark Records)
Dec 14 Rosa Enrico Branch (Mrs. Billy)
Dec 15 Nick Moss
Dec 16 Aaron Moreland Sugar Blue Robben Ford
Dec 17 Paul Rodgers
Dec 20 Heather Tackett Falduto
Dec 21 Carla Thomas
Dec 22 Twist Turner Judy Harrigan Liz Mandeville Indiara Sfair
Dec 23 Jorma Kaukonen
Dec 24 Doyle Bramhall II
Dec 25 Barry Goldberg Dustin Arbuckle Joe Louis Walker
Dec 27 Tracy Nelson Bob Stroger
Dec 28 Frank Raven
Dec 29 Steve Bell
Dec 30 Biscuit Miller
Jan 1 Kerry Clark Cookie Taylor (daughter of Koko) Melvin Smith
Jan 2 Scott Tipping
Jan 3 Tony C. Brown Harlan Terson
Jan 4 Harmonica Hinds
Jan 6 Shirley Brown Kim Wilson Franck Goldwasser (Mannish Boys) Henri Musselwhite (wife of Charlie)
Nov 20 Dr. John
Nov 21 Lloyd Glen
Nov 22 Alex Moore
Nov 23 Betty Everett R.L. Burnside
Nov 25 Eddie Boyd
Nov 27 Jimi Hendrix
Nov 30 Robert Nighthawk Brownie McGhee
Dec 4 Larry Davis
Dec 5 Sonny Boy Williamson II Willie James Lyons
Dec 7 Blind John Davis
Dec 8 Jimmy Smith Gregg Allman
Dec 9 Junior Wells
Dec 10 Guitar Slim
Dec 11 Big Mama Thorton
Dec 12 Joe Williams Lonesome Sundown
Dec 13 Lucky Peterson
Dec 15 Andrew Odom Golden "Big" Wheeler
Dec 17 James Booker Paul Butterfield
Dec 18 Pee Wee Crayton Eddie “Cleanhead” Vinson Lonnie Brooks
Dec 19 Professor Longhair King Oliver
Dec 20 "Cousin Joe" Pleasant Joseph
Dec 21 Peetie Wheatstraw Harmonica Slim
Dec 22 Lil Green
Dec 23 Little Esther Phillips
Dec 24 Lee Dorsey
Dec 25 Cab Calloway L.V. Johnson McKinley Mitchell
Dec 28 Pops Staples Johnny Otis Peg Leg Sam
Dec 29 Matt “Guitar” Murphy
Dec 30 Bo Diddley
Dec 31 Odetta Holmes
Jan 1 Frank Stokes Johnny Young Arthur Prysock
Jan 2 Little Smokey Smothers
Jan 3 David Kimbrough III
Jan 4 Tommy McClennan
Jan 5 Johnny Adams
Jan 6 Wilbert Harrison
BELATED BIRTHDAY WISHES
An unfortunate "Communications Glitch" caused us to not include these birthday wishes in the last issue. @#$%!
Nov 9 Susan Tedeschi
Nov 10 Bobby Rush
Nov 11 Mercy Morganfield Felton Crews
Nov 12 Tommy Couch, Sr. Doktu Rhute Muuzic Amberly Stokes Booker T. Jones
Nov 13 John Hammond, Jr. Marie Martens
Nov 14 Stephen Dougherty Ree Ree
Nov 15 Mark Cihlar Anson Funderburgh
Nov 16 Ilaria Lantieri
"Long Tall" Deb Landolt
Nov 18 Brian Lupo Mz Peachez
Nov 10 Mojo Buford James Davis Big Chief Ellis Hip Linkchain
Nov 11 LaVern Baker Mose Allison
Nov 12 Bukka White
Nov 13 Louisa “Blue Lu” Barker
Nov 14 Carey Bell Valerie Wellington
Nov 15 Clyde McPhatter Little Willie John
Nov 16 W.C. Handy Brewer Phillips Hubert Sumlin Francis Clay
Nov 18 Hank Ballard
A NON-BLUES MOMENT
Country musician Jason Isbell and his partner Amanda Shires returned their Country Music Assn. membership cards to protest that John Prine, Jerry Jeff Walker and Billy Joe Shaver were not honored with special tributes at the recent CMA Awards. Apparently, according to Pitchfork, Sturgill Simpson had a pretty colorful (and amusing) comment on Instagram that was deleted but can be read in Rolling Stone. Bravo!
BE WELL....BE SAFE... and (TRY TO)
BE FESTIVE! See you in 2021! NEXT NEWSLETTER: JAN 8 2021 (mails on Thursday, Jan 7 2021)