Thursday, April 30, 2009

It's the Birthday of Rev. Gary Davis

Reverend Gary Davis, also Blind Gary Davis, was born on April 30, 1896 and he passed away on May 5, 1972. He was a blues and gospel singer and guitarist. His guitar playing was a unique finger-picking style that influenced many other artists.

In his prime of life, which is to say the late '20s, the Reverend Gary Davis was one of the two most renowned practitioners of the East Coast school of ragtime guitar; 35 years later, despite two decades spent playing on the streets of Harlem in New York, he was still one of the giants in his field, playing before thousands of people at a time, and an inspiration to dozens of modern guitarist/singers including Bob Dylan, Taj Mahal, Donovan, Grateful Dead, Wizz Jones, Keb Mo, Ollabelle and Resurrection Band among others; and Jorma Kaukonen, David Bromberg, and Ry Cooder, who studied with Davis.
Harlem Street Singer
Harlem Street Singer by Reverend Gary Davis

Rev. Gary Davis @SqueezeMyLemon
Rev. Gary Davis

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Six Strings Down Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan

Someone asked a question about the song Six Strings Down. And it reminded me that I own the DVD A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan, and that song is on it. I had loaned it out to so many different people, because I wanted them to see what other musicians thought about Stevie Ray Vaughan, that I was worried that I had lost it.

So I had to go to my DVD collection to see if I could find it. I had not viewed it in a few years. I hate to admit that I own so much music that even putting a lot of it on heavy rotation I still do not get around to listening to a lot of it. So much good blues music, so little time I always say.

It is a very cool DVD and the song Six Strings Down is a very cool song. Check out the YouTube video below.

This 1996 concert tribute underscores that common denominator through muscular performances from contemporary blues masters who readily (and appropriately) confirm the Texas guitarist as a true peer--it's no small matter that bona fide influences Buddy Guy and B.B. King cite the honoree on an equal plane with Vaughan's most obvious rock forebear, Jimi Hendrix.

King and Guy are among the stars who interpret Vaughan's own songbook in live performances backed by either his old band, Double Trouble, or the larger Tilt-a-Whirl Band. Bonnie Raitt, Eric Clapton, Robert Cray, Dr. John, and the late guitarslinger's big brother, Jimmie Vaughan (himself a major figure since his days with the Fabulous Thunderbirds) all pay gritty musical homage noteworthy for powerhouse guitar work.

A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan
A Tribute to Stevie Ray Vaughan DVD
click image for info

Stevie Ray Vaughan @SqueezeMyLemon
Stevie Ray Vaughan

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Men Behind The Bluesmen: Ralph Bass

According to Wikipedia;

Ralph Bass (May 1, 1911 – March 5, 1997), born in The Bronx, New York, was an influential Jewish American rhythm and blues (R&B) record producer and talent scout for several independent labels and was responsible for many hit records. He was a pioneer in bringing black music into the American mainstream. During his long career he worked for such labels as Black & White Records, Savoy Records, King Records, Federal Records and Chess Records, recording some of the greatest performers in black music, including Etta James, Sam Cooke, James Brown, Earl Bostic and groups such as The Platters and The Dominoes. By doing so, he was instrumental in helping to shape their careers. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991 as a non performer, as well as the Blues Hall of Fame.

In the 1940s at Black and White Records Bass got his start as an A&R man. He produced and recorded, among others, Lena Horne, Roosevelt Sykes, Jack McVea (suggesting he record the hug hit "Open the Door, Richard") and T-Bone Walker, including T-Bone's landmark "Call It Stormy Monday".

In 1959, the Chess brothers hired Bass away from King Records in Cincinnati to serve as A&R Director at Chess Records. He was there until 1976, working with blues, gospel, R&B, and rock and roll artists, including Clara Ward, the Soul Stirrers, Etta James, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and Sonny Boy Williamson. Later, for MCA Records he produced John Lee Hooker.

Pride - Seven Deadly Sins

Stevie Ray Vaughan - Pride & Joy
I never need an excuse to listen to more Stevie.

Well you've heard about love givin' sight to the blind
My baby's lovin' cause the sun to shine

She's my sweet little thang....

She's my pride and joy

She's my sweet little baby....

I'm her little lover boy

BB King Ten Long Years - or to BB for that matter.

Oh, for ten long years, yes, she was my pride and joy
Oh, for ten long years, she was my pride and joy

Well, I used to call her my little girl and she used to call me her little boy

Sade - Love is stronger than Pride
Not the most obvious Blues connection but she 'transports' me.

I still really really love you
Love is stronger than pride

I still really really love you

Monday, April 27, 2009

Jools Holland 20/4/09 Radio

A couple of good bluesy tunes last week

Memphis Jug Band - K.C Moon

I can hear that kazoo

T-Bone Walker - Call It Stormy Monday

British blues

One of the main reasons that I invited my online friend Ron Moorby to contribute to this blog is because I wanted his take on British blues. I have been a fan of British blues since I started listening to music, but I kind of chuckle because I came to it in the opposite direction from must American music fans.

Many, not all, but a lot of blues fans first heard the British blues and then back tracked their way to the classic bluesmen and then maybe to the modern blues musicians. I was hearing the blues in Louisiana, being played by the classic bluesmen in the sixties and seventies when I first started paying attention to music.

I was surprised to find out that there were blues musicians from other countries who had mastered the blues. I remember hearing John Mayall and the Blues Breakers and thinking, Wow, those guys are good.

And now I keep digging deeper and deeper into the British blues scene learning more and more about the history of the blues in the UK.

According to Wikipedia;

The British blues is a type of blues music that originated in the late 1950s. American blues musicians like B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf were massively popular in Britain at the time. Muddy Waters is said to have been the first electric blues player to have performed in front of British audiences circa 1959, and others like Sonny Boy Williamson, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry followed him. British teens began playing the blues, imitating various styles of American blues. Gradually, a new distinctly British sound arose by the mid-1960s, called Beat. This form of the blues, and various derivatives, became massively popular in the US, leading to the British Invasion and British R&B.

The scene coalesced around two figures, Alexis Korner and Cyril Davies, who started a blues club in London’s Soho, The London Blues and Barrelhouse Club, at a time when many American blues artists were also playing in London. The Marquee Club was also central to the 'scene', and a popular place for bands to play. Skiffle had run its course, and some musicians were seeking the real American roots music.

Strange Brew: Eric Clapton and the British Blues Boom
Strange Brew: Eric Clapton and the British Blues BoomA book that covers the British blus scene well is Strange Brew: Eric Clapton and the British Blues Boom. With a foreword by John Mayall.

It looks at the British blues explosion by focusing on three guitarists: Peter Green, Mick Taylor, and especially Eric Clapton. Describing the groups they played in from 1965 to 1970, including John’s Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, Cream, Fleetwood Mac, Blind Faith, and The Rolling Stones, the book is presented in an engaging day-by-day format. With many illustrations and never-before-published details, the book reveals the way the musicians behind the blues boom worked together, influenced each other, and pushed one another to ever greater achievements.

Some of my favorite British blues musicians

The Animals
Jeff Beck
Eric Clapton
Fleetwood Mac
Humble Pie
John Lennon
John Mayall
Gary Moore
Peter Green
Paul Jones
Alexis Korner
Led Zeppelin
Manfred Mann
Steve Marriott
Jimmy Page
The Rolling Stones
Savoy Brown
Jeremy Spencer
Ten Years After
The Who
The Yardbirds
The Pretty Things
Jethro Tull
Black Sabbath

Sunday, April 26, 2009

It's the Birthday of Ma Rainey

Mother of the Blues

Today is the birthdate of Ma Rainey. She was born in Columbus, Georgia on April 26, 1886. She wasn't the first recorded female blues singer, but by she very well could have been. She had been performing for years bofore she was ever recorded.

She was on stage as early as 1900 (Encyclopedia of the Blues, Gerard Herzhaft). She was multitalented, she sang, danced and acted in a traveling vaudeville show. In 1904 she married the dancer William "Pa" Rainey and adopted the nickname of "Ma" Rainey.

Her show was a part of the Tolliver circus and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. During this time she took a young Bessie Smith under her wing and gave her advice.

During her time women were the marquee names in blues music, and Ma Rainey was the most celebrated of them all. That is why she is often called the "Mother of the blues." She had been singing and performing for more than 20 years before she made her first recording for Paramount in 1923.

Her best know songs include, "See See Rider," "Bo-Weavil Blues," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." Her vocal delivery was tough and her music included jug bands, guitars, and she also played with bluesmen like Tampa Red and Blind Blake. She also sang with early jazz musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Fletcher Henderson.

You can read all about her here, Ma Rainey @ Wikipedia

And if you would like to hear some of her music, consider the following;

Ma Rainey

Lust - Seven Deadly Sins

There are certainly no shortage of Blues Music about lust or sex or both. However any suggestions I'd like to include would be welcome.

Alex Hepburn - an unsigned English singer, just getting started. I include her here because she has a sexy tag on Google - and a good sound

'Let Me Roll Your Lemon' BO CARTER
The lyrics say it all, leaving nothing to the imagination

Lucille Bogan
Just goes to show women have always been as sensual, sexual creatures as men.

I got nipples on my titties as big as your thumb I got something between my legs make a dead man come."

Bull Moose Jackson
Again nothing left to the imagination - but this is innocent stuff compared with today's offerings

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Blues Song In The Spot Light: Ain't No More Cane

I remember the first time I heard the prison work song Ain't No More Cane it was one of those moments when blues music caused me great sadness.

I don't normally associate blues music with sadness, but this song takes me there. It might have been Leadbelly's delevery, but I thought about all those men who died working on prison work gangs.

Over the years there have been a few more upbeat treatments of the song, and some have really made it rock. Check these out;

Ain't no more cane on the Brazos(1)

Oh, oh, oh, oh...

Its all been ground down to molasses

Oh, oh- oh, oh- oh...

You shoulda been on the river in 1910
They were driving the women just like they drove the men.

Go down Old Hannah,(2) don'cha rise no more
Don't you rise up til Judgment Day's for sure

Ain't no more cane on the Brazos
Its all been ground down to molasses

Captain(3), don't you do me like you done poor old Shine
Well ya drove that bully(4) til he went stone blind

Wake up on a lifetime(5), hold up your own head
Well you may get a pardon and then you might drop dead

Ain't no more cane on the Brazos
Its all been ground down to molasses.


[1] The Brazos is a river in Texas which features in many prison songs because it runs past virtually all of the old prisons in Texas.
[2] Old Hannah is the name given to sun.
[3] Captain is one of the ranks in the hierarchy of prison guards, the man in charge of half the workers in a field. Also used outside the prisons to mean the White boss. In some of the old slave songs the singers call Jesus their captain. I also think that this language carried over from the Civil War.
[4] Bully: an inmate working in the line. The word can also be used as a verb, in which case it means working hard.
[5] A Lifetime prison sentence.

Other Notable Versions

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by OllabelleOllabelle - YouTube Version two

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Ollabelle

Ain't No More Cane by Bob Dylan & The Band (MP3 Download)The Band - YouTube - The Basement Tapes (1975)

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Bob Dylan & The Band

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Lyle LovettLyle Lovett - YouTube Kansas City 2007

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Lyle Lovett

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Son VoltAin't No More Cane mp3 by Son Volt (Non Album Track)

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Band Of HeathensAin't No More Cane mp3 by Band Of Heathens

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by The Tex-I-An BoysAin't No More Cane mp3 by The Tex-I-An Boys

Very traditional version

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Paul Austin KellyAin't No More Cane mp3 by Paul Austin Kelly

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by by Ernest Williams & James (Iron Head) BakerAin't No More Cane mp3 by by Ernest Williams & James (Iron Head) Baker

Song by actual prison gang

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Dennis MonroeAin't No More Cane mp3 by Dennis Monroe

Triditional folk version

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Alan LomaxAin't No More Cane mp3 by Alan Lomax

Traditional folk version

Ain't No More Cane mp3 by Harvey ReidAin't No More Cane mp3 by Harvey Reid

Traditional folk treatment

The Band - YouTube - Woodstock 69

Lonnie Donegan - YouTube (1958) Very sad version.

Eric Bibb - YouTube Wales in 2006

The Black Crowes - YouTube in Portland, ME

TheFolksinger - YouTube For Odetta

Friday, April 24, 2009

Friday Blues Funny - Blues Brothers Trailer

On some Fridays when I want to get a good laugh, and a big part of the blues for me is about laughing, I pop this DVD into the player and watch the blues Brothers save the world.

The Blues Brothers (Widescreen 25th Anniversary Edition)
The Blues Brothers (Widescreen 25th Anniversary Edition) (1980)

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Zora Young - Tore Up From The Floor Up

Tore Up from the Floor Up by Zora YoungZora Young is a distant relative of Howlin' Wolf. Her family moved to Chicago when she was the tender age of seven. She grew up singing gospel music at the Greater Harvest Baptist Church. As an adult she began singing blues and R&B music, and over the course of her career has played with many prominant blues musicians.

Youg has toured Europe more than thirty times, in addition to appearances in Turkey and Taiwan. She was the featured performer at the Chicago Blues Festival three times. In the clip below she is on a European TV show.

Track Listing for Tore Up from the Floor Up

1. Love Of Mine 4:30
2. Go Ahead And Take Him 6:37
3. I'm Gonna Do The Same Thing They Did To Me 5:14
4. Toxic 6:03
5. Til The Fat Lady Sings 4:51
6. Slowly 4:51
7. Ace Of Spades 3:27
8. Rainy Night In Georgia 5:32
9. Tore Up From The Floor Up 4:19
10. Since I Fell For You/Silhouettes 7:11
11. Handy Man 3:51
12. Two Trains Running 5:50
13. Interview 4:05

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Kindness - Virtue

So I guess I am one of those guys who likes lists, mathematics is my background. Being a relative newcomer to Blues it helps me as a focus for research and learning. However any suggestions that are more appropriate I'll include. So off with vices and virtues in no particular order and with some very spurious relationship to the topic. However I enjoy the music and that is the main thing? It's fun anyway.

Eric Clapton
- Kind Hearted Woman Blues
a cover of the famous Robert Johnson song

I got a kindhearted woman, do anything in this world for me
I got a kindhearted woman, do anything in this world for me
But these evilhearted women, man, they will not let me be

I love my baby, my baby don't love me
I love my baby oooh, my baby don't love me
I really love that woman, can't stand to leave her be

Robert Cray - My Last Regret
perhaps jazzy but an excellent performer. I might have some problems trying to justify putting this under this topic if pressed, not the happiest of lyrics

J.B. Hutto - Thank you for your Kindness
From a 1970 film (inducted into Blues Hall of Fame after his death)

Motor City Josh

Forty Four: a Tribute to Howlin' Wolf
Forty Four: a Tribute to Howlin' Wolf by Motor City Josh
please click image

People are always asking me, dude who are the new and up and coming bluesmen? Who is going to keep this music going?

One musician that comes to mind is Motor City Josh. He has skils showmanship. Check out these two YouTube clips to see what I'm talking about.

Motor City Josh LIVE at the Green Parrot

Motor City Josh in Peoria August 31, 2008