Dedicated to the passion, promotion and education of the Blues; Live, Virtual, International. For all blues fans, DJ's, musicians, promoters, educators, and 501(C)3's who appreciate eclectic, discriminating, genuine, fresh and often random articles.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Chicago Bluegrass & Blues Festival

This Saturday, a musical extravaganza unlike any other will take place at the historical Chicago site, The Congress Theater on North Milwaukee.

Thirteen hours of live music will be provided by twenty-five highly talented, extremely diverse and mostly local bands.

Included in the line up is this year's three time Grammy nominated Bela Fleck. Bela is no stranger to Grammy's having garnered six in the past, and nominated for many more. One of The Blues Foundation's 2009 IBC competitors, The Alex Wilson Band is scheduled to perform at 3:20 pm. Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, another local blues favorite is also on the schedule for 4:30pm.

Tickets are $35 in advance through the website. Children are welcome, and those 12 and under are free. Not surprising for this genre, partial proceeds will be donated to two children's charities, Saving Tiny Hearts and Prevent Child Abuse America.

Another 501(C)3, Rock The Earth, will provide a cell phone recycling opportunity at their table.  Several contests and give-aways are offered through the main website.

Additionally, unique holiday shopping opportunities abound for those who appreciate roots music, including a limited edition Chicago Bluegrass and Blues Festival T-shirt for $10. Approximately 50 vendors and organizations will be on the premise.

Attendees are encouraged to bring an instrument for informal jam sessions and a camping chair.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Chicago's Exceptional Finalist's

Sitting in Buddy Guy's darkened blues club, Legends, while enjoying the Big Bayou Blue Plate and checking my notes, various conversations drifted past. It was the night of the IBC regional finals. Only three of the eleven acts would be making the trip to Beale Street in January, including the single youth entry.  They were to be judged by an impressive list of "Who's Who in Blues," albeit all male, on "Talent, Vocal, Blues Content, Stage Presence and Originality" according to The Blues Foundation.

Several hours later, I came away with three observations:

  • First, anyone from Chicago can be proud of the quality of talented artists that stepped on stage;  
  • Second, at the risk of sounding sophomoric, after the initial disappointment for those who wouldn't compete, came the realization that the success, was not about who performed best with such close votes on that particular evening; 
  • And, third, I can't imagine not writing about them in the near future.  There were no losers in Legends, at least that performed. The musicians who played on stage are not the future of Chicago Blues.  They are indeed the present.

Three acts competed in the solo/duo category, each with a vastly different style from each other.  First up was Southsider Diamond Jim Greene, who demonstrated his wonderful storytelling in the tradition of fine Delta Masters.  Watching him play his guitars, I became acutely aware of my ignorance, and wondered how I had missed such a talent. I will go see him again.  And again.  And you should too.

Nigel Mack, was also impressive, managing to play harmonica and guitar at the same time, and maintain an engaging stage presence.  He did well with Willie Dixon and Robert Johnson as well as his own original song which will be on his upcoming CD, Chicago Bound.  That will make the Christmas list here. Originally from Canada, Nigel has been in the area since 2003.  He, too, is on the must see list.

Last, Matt Hendricks with Bill Curtiss on drums, gave an outstandingly solid  performance.  I usually can place a dialect, but not his.  His song Crawdaddy and If You See Me were clearly marks of exceptional songwriting talent.  A modest man, he told the crowd after accepting the award, "I'll make you proud in Memphis."  I suspect he will do just that.  You can spend New Year's Eve with him at Legends, if you want to see him sooner.

I found myself wishing we could send three.

As if deciding between those apples and oranges wasn't hard enough, the bands were even more diverse.   The $15 cover charge, which goes to help defray costs to the winners, was well worth the chance to see all of the performers.

First up was Dave Herrero.  It was my first time seeing him, and I liked what I saw.  Dave had excellent crowd involvement and the air of a true entertainer.  Not only did the words, playful and fun describe him, so did, savvy and intuitive.  I nearly spit out my sweet tea however, when he educated the crowd on his ethnic composition.  I love a musician who can make me laugh.  Dave has a couple other things going for him as well.  Uncle Felix on the bass, a drummer whose name I didn't catch, and a new CD.  Add another to the shopping list.  You can catch his Austin to Chicago CD on  It is described as "A vintage Texas blues sound with a modern twist."  But go see him live, you won't be sorry.

Next was Linsey Alexander delivering an interesting set. He is cut from a similar cloth to many of my personal favorites, I enjoyed the set, up until the last song and comment.  He ended it doing a cover of The Marshall Tucker Band's "Can't You See?" because there were so many "Caucasion faces in the crowd."  I have to ask, if my skin had been darker, would we have got a better song?  It certainly isn't one that's listed on his CDs.  But, I really can't hold one song choice against him, at least for long.  I would hire him, if I could afford him.

Toronzo Cannon was, well I can't reprint my notes, because I used a word that gets censored a lot.  But let's just say, he was fricking fantastic. Four members, all energetic, original music, worked the crowd. He is at Blue Chicago on November 27 and 28 with Big Time Sarah.  Start a new black friday tradition, his CD My Woman,should fit any blues lover's christmas stocking. 

The Alex Wilson Band was one of the most exciting surprises of the night. Matthew and Marc Wilson along with Alex, delivered true "Red, Hot, Smokin' Blues" and yet there was something completely fresh including original songwriting.  I had the sense of a new voice in blues, one that would appeal not to just those of the blues rock fervor, but to those of the next generation of blues fans. Look for the "The Moon is Shining" from their Tell Me Why CD. If you want to catch them in Chicago, check them out on 12/12/09 at the Bluegrass and Blues Festival according to their website.  

Rockin' Johnny added yet another dimension of blues with a style that blended from folk blues to rockabilly and back. The words "Modern King of the Chicago Westside Blues Guitar" have been coined on such sites as Myspace.  Johnny had two CD releases in the late 1990's - Man's Temptation and Straight Out Of Chicago. I want to see him in six months, my guess is, he will be better than he was before taking a break from the scene.

Chainsaw Dupont put on a great show, one that most didn't mind waiting for.  He is a long time Chicago favorite. Chainsaw has four CD's out on CDBaby, with more coming.  He performed Flame of Love from his Ghost Kings of Beale St 2007 CD.  That one made the list as well.  See him at 

The woman of the night, was Grana Louise.  At 56, dressed to the nines, she tossed her shoes early on, and belted out blues as only a true "Mojo Mama" can.  Her song, Big Fat Daddy, from her Generations CD brought smiles and laughs to the crowd.  Grana also managed to evoke crowd participation, as she moved into an acapella number.  She has the ability to wander into soul and gospel territory and back to ribald blues women.  Just like the city she will represent,she is diverse, larger than life, and one suspects, has a big heart.

Who will be found to be the best unsigned blues band at the 26th International Blues Challenge?  The band, that garners the most votes, based upon who plays the best from Jan. 20 - 23 in Memphis.

jrh 11/09

Monday, November 9, 2009

An Interview With Fiona Boyes

Boyes, Blessings and Blues - Topix

The International Blues Challenge is one of my favorite events, as it helps to launch many relatively unknown talents, who have worked hard to be recognized.   I began taking note of Fiona Boyes when she became an IBC winner in 2003.  As a one time listener of ABS internet radio, her upbeat friendly voice could be heard coming to  you from Melbourne, Australia.  Recently, I had the fortune of seeing Fiona on at least three separate occasions.  I also had the unexpected pleasure of  having lunch with the finger picking guitarist extraordinaire,  and her husband, Steve, The Preacherman, who is ordained and has an interesting story to tell as well.  Between the two of them, they make a team that works in the industry.

Laurie Morvan is sure to Fire It Up!

Laurie Morvan is one of the hottest guitar wielding blues women in California.  Tall, blond, leggy and can play too.  Recently on the Pacific Blues Cruise, Laurie improvised a set with a drummer who played a cardboard box and a plastic tote lid under the tent of "Big City Rhythm & Blues."  Junior and Sugar's humor and random musicians joining in made the jam an unexpected highlight on the pool deck.  And then there was Laurie's genuine warmth and ability to read and connect with people, converting strangers into fans in record time.

Laurie is a born and bred Illinoisan from the New Lenox, Joliet, Plainfield area.  She is also a University of Illinois Engineering Graduate and volleyball team player.  So, how did this talented blues artist manage to escape the corn and soybeans?  She took a day job in LA, but in Aerospace, not music.  Music was reserved for her night time hobbies.  She was a rocker, until she discovered Stevie Ray Vaughn.   Earning her Master's Degree in Applied Mathematics, Laurie raised money for her passion by teaching college courses.

Her first release was in 1997.  Since then, she has put out three more.  The third CD, "Cure What Ails Ya," is what launched The Laurie Morvan Band and brought them well deserved recognition in not only the media, but by advancing as a finalist in two separate categories at the 2008 IBC awards in Memphis.

Her newest release, "Fire It Up," promises to be her best.  Twelve original songs, written by her, backed by her band, and delivered with the feeling a Midwestern native can evoke.  Songs include; Lay Your Hands, Let Me Carry Your Troubles, Come On Over To My BBQ, Livin' in a Mans World, and Cafe Boogaloo, named after a real juke joint.  Laurie noted on the cruise, that since there were so many songs dedicated to "Big Legged Women" that she felt Skinny Chicks needed love too,and so was born yet another playful, fun original song on the CD.  

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bessie's Last Drive

It's a long old road, but I know I'm gonna find the end.
- Bessie Smith

Born in Chattanooga, TN, Bessie Smith sang on street corners, until she was old enough to join a traveling theater company as a dancer in 1912. The Moses Stokes theater company was home to one of the first classic blues singers, Ma Rainey. It was she who taught Bessie about stage presence.

Bessie made her debut with Columbia Records singing Downhearted Blues in the early 1920's. Her recording of St. Louis Blues is considered by critics to be one of the finest from the era.

"The Empress of Blues" was in her early 40's when she passed away from injuries sustained in an auto accident. Her last performance was given in Memphis on Sept. 26, 1937. Late that night, Richard Morgan and Bessie Smith were in a tragic car accident headed South on Highway 61. They never made it to their next destination.

Cynthia Blank-Reid, an associate professor at Drexel University College of Nursing, in Philadelphia, recently reviewed the circumstances of the accident, treatment, and resulting death of the singer. Bessie's fatal crash and the surrounding rumors are clarified, compared and contrasted to the actual treatment and the probable treatment of today.

Janis Joplin, Billie Holiday and Mahalia Jackson claim Bessies influence. Her grave was unmarked until 1970. It was Janis Joplin who paid for the gravestone.

(Cover Art - Phil Hays; Picture courtesy of TN History For Kids)

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Midnight Flyer

Can you guess who is in the picture?

On the left is a guitar icon, inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2009 and will be playing on Valentines Day with Eric Clapton (for those of you who want to plan in advance). Most can guess Jeff Beck circa the 1970's. So, who is the guy with Jeff Beck?

The man with him, has made his own contribution to music, especially the blues genre, and like Beck, is still at it. Can't guess?

He's a syndicated DJ, writer/reviewer, producer, co-founder of the Boise Blues Society, creator of, Norman Davis. Davis began his career in radio in the 1950's and still produces a great weekly show, including an on demand podcast for blues lovers. Midnight Flyer 59b


Norman clearly gets the blues, as reflected in his programming. To quote from his webpage;

Blues comes in all shapes and sizes.

There's blues for good times

and blues for hard times

Electric blues, acoustic blues,

city blues and country blues,

cold blues, hot blues,

pour yourself a shot blues.

(Courtesy of

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Blues Blast

It's not the Olympics, but blues aficionados who enjoyed Buddy Guy's video for the presentation in Copenhagen will have something to look forward to in The Windy City. The Second Annual 2009 Blues Blast Music Awards will be held in Sweet Home Chicago on October 29th.

Over 20 confirmed artists will perform to a standing room only crowd at Buddy Guy's infamous club, Legends. Kenny Neal's, "Let Life Flow," and B.B. King's, "See That My Grave is Kept Clean," are among the list of nominees for Best Blues Song. Eden Brent and Nick Moss & The Flip Tops are in contention for 3 awards each. Local favorites include Lurrie Bell, Shirley Johnson and "Blues in the Schools" founder, Billy Branch. Two up and coming bands, The Kilborn Alley Blues Band and Cedric Burnside & Lightnin' Malcolm both vie for the Sean Costello Rising Star Award. Shemekia Copeland and Janiva Magness will both look to take home the Best Contemporary Blues Recording award.

Tickets are $25, general admission and first come first served. They aren't kidding when they say arrive early. Even if it's standing room, location is everything.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Blues, Bids and Bull

Almost everyone in Chicago knows that the International Olympic Congress will be meeting soon in Copenhagen to decide which city will host the 2016 Olympic Games. We are sending our greatest ambassadors to state our case, however, their names might be overlooked.

The legacy of Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Koko Taylor, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon and others, will be overheard in the streets of Copenhagen during that meeting. What better way to introduce the Windy City, to give a sense of who we are, than to feel the Chicago Blues -electrified, amped, and a little sax added now and then.

"Chicago Blues" is the theme of the ninth annual Copenhagen Blues Festival, set to start on the 29th. To insure they will be celebrating the Sweet Home Chicago way, this years international stars, include two of Chicago's own, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, Jimmy Johnson and the Mike Anderson Band.

Imagine more than 60 Blues concerts in 20 different venues in 6 days. "FREE" concerts every afternoon. Local, national and international talent, blended in a club based concept. This diverse immersion experience has gained popularity each year far surpassing the original purpose to widen the knowledge of and promote interest in the blues regionally.

Opening ceremonies include the gathering of local and national musicians in contention for the "Danish Blues Musician of the Year," at Mojo's Blues Bar. The recipient receives 10,000 kroner along with the award and title. (10,000 Danish Krone = 1,978.69 US Dollar)

Of course many Chicago Blues fans will be anxiously awaiting a different kind of announcement that will come from Copenhagen in six days and nineteen hours according to the countdown clock. The award and title are immeasurable. At this point, 20 olympians, Oprah, Michelle Obama, and Mayor Daley will make the final pitch.

The surprise for me came with the Brooklyn born, one time legendary athlete, who made a sweet home in Chicago, and was adored and supported by a city, is now apparently too busy to go to Copenhagen. Then again, I don't see him as the type to hang down at Legends, either. I wonder what is his favorite genre of music, even Wiki doesn't know. It is with irony, that I just donated the book, "I Can't Accept Not Trying," to the Salvation Army. I have a feeling a few of us, just might feel that way. But at least, there is nothing truer, than the legacy of the Chicago Blues, and hopefully all of Copenhagen will see it in the upcoming week.

Friday, September 4, 2009

A Different Kind of Blues Artist - Diane Russell

As I skimmed the Blues newsfeed this morning, I came across a hidden gem, "a show" in the Portland area. Normally I would just keep pressing the down arrow, but I noticed it named one of my favorite bluesmen, Clarence Gatemouth Brown, who once did A Song for Renee. Indulge me, good songs about "Renee" are rare.

When I edit, I often see a story within a story, an alternate focus, or a completely different perspective besides the one presented. It allows me to indulge in tangents of choice, explore and find obscure connections, or other words, justify my writing.

The show featured another artist, one I was not familiar with, Diane Russell. Russell isn't quite on par with Etta, Koko, Shemekia, or Bonnie and you won't see her performing at Buddy Guy's Legends, Rosa's Lounge or any other blues club for that matter. However, Ms. Russell is in a class by herself and can be found at gallery shows.

The Blues Foundation used her Pinetop Perkins creation for their 2005 W.C.Handy award poster. The Blues Foundation features it as a poster for sale on their website.

(Click Image)

Reggie Houston's, Katrina Blues, portrait is as emotionally moving as the best played 12 bar blues song. His website talks about what her picture means to him.

While I took one last browse at Russell's website, all I could envision was a Women in Blues series, particularly Koko Taylor. I guess it goes back to that editing style quirk of mine and tangents.

What does an art show in Portland, the W.C. Handy awards, the Legendary Blues Cruise, and Clarence Gatemouth Brown have in common? A different kind of blues artist, Diane Russell. I hope you enjoy discovering this blues artist, as much as I did.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

You Too, Can Learn To Play Like Robert Johnson

Picture courtesy of the Robert Johnson Blues Foundation

For anyone looking to teach or learn some basic blues guitar, I have a find for you. Lurking through the miles and miles of endless links in, there is resource blues lovers should know about.

Written by both a teacher and a musician, the guide provides visual and auditory links.'s Dan Cross, Guide to Guitar, offers up a simple, well presented "How To" for inspiring blues artists, or even for blues loving non musical individuals who want to know what makes a blues song, a blues song.

"Here's a quick and easy little blues riff played by Robert Johnson that you can learn with the help of an mp3 and tab,"exclaims Cross, using Johnson's "Little Queen of Spades" in the above link.

Dan Cross also offers a blog, forum and a series of Guitar Basics to learning the blues.

After learning the riff, there is no guarantee that Gibson will name a guitar after you, however.

Johnson's Gibson L-1 tribute guitar is a small bodied acoustic, released in 2003, and bears his signature. It also lists a MSRP of $2793.00

Saturday, August 15, 2009

ABS Sponsors Poster Contest

Here is a rare opportunity for all you blues lovers!

The Atlanta Blues Society is accepting submissions until August 31st. The graphic will be used for the 2009 Annual Blues Festival.

For a complete listing of rules, see the website. ABS

KWS Custom Classic 1950 Ford

Today, Kenny Wayne Shepherd is making a difference to children around the world, who are in need of medical treatment. Kenny has donated his Custom 1950 Ford Classic, which will be auctioned today to help Mending Kids International.

MKI, a private organization, helps children who would not be able to receive the care in their own countries. They also send teams of Doctor's to other countries to perform surgeries. MKI also seeks host families in the LA area who are able to assist the children while they are in the country for procedures.

Kenny's Ford Coupe should bring quite a pretty penny. Kenny, however is busy today. He will be the Grand Marshall at the Michigan International Speedway. The avid Nascar fan will be performing a postrace concert there tonight.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Les Paul - We Will Miss You

Lester William Polsfuss

Lester William Polsfuss was born in Waukesha, Wisconsin on June 9, 1915. Today, the blues world lost another great.

The guitar legend, Les Paul, died today at the age of 94, suffering from medical complications at White Plains Hospital.

"The world has lost a truly innovative and exceptional human being today. I cannot imagine life without Les Paul," said Henry Juszkiewicz, chairman and chief executive officer of Gibson Guitar.

Paul is the only individual who has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the National Inventors Hall of Fame and the National Broadcasters Hall of Fame.

Like so many of the genre, he will be missed.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Musician Returns To USA Every Summer

Louisiana Red Still "Plays the blues hard"

It's summer, and that means, Iverson Minter, will return from Germany and tour the US during July. The Guitarist has played with the best Blues Musicians in Chicago and Detroit, and won a W.C. Handy Award for Best Traditional Blues Male Artist in 1983. His newest recording was released earlier this year, made in Norway, "Back To The Black Bayou."

It's long been said that you have to live the blues in order to play them. Louisiana Red, born Iverson Minter in Bessemer, Ala., has seen more than his share of the adversity and hard times, and his songs are powerful, passionate reflections of his life.

His Father was lynched by the Klu-Klux-Klan, his Mother died at a young age. He grew up, into an artist that to this day, uses his emotions and improvises in live performances.

His one month USA tour schedule can be found

Notodden Blues Fest, Scandinavia's Largest Blues Party

Beth Hart, Buddy Guy, Shemekia Copeland, Joe Bonamassa, Homemade Jamz, Jools Holland, Cedric Burnside, and Robin Trower, to name but a few, will join with other talented European Blues Artists at the Notodden Blues Festival.

Twenty years ago, thirteen blues fans came together to arrange for a line of credit to hold the the first Notodden Blues Festival. Today the festival is one of the largest in Europe.

The Fest is held from July 30 to August 2.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Robert Korda has been found

1 min ago

Robert Korda Found

The LA Philharmonic violinist of 20 yaers, Robert Korda, was found, dead yesterday in a private residence in Glendale. The cause of death is under investigation.

Noah, his son, has left information on his blog, if you would like further information.

Anyone who has information about the case is encouraged to contact LAPD's Missing Persons Unit at (213) 485-5381. During off-hours, calls may be directed to a 24-hour, toll-free number at 1-877-LAPD-24-7 (527-3247). Callers may also text "Crimes" with a cell phone or log on to and click on Web tips. When using a cell phone, all messages should begin with "LAPD." Tipsters may remain anonymous.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Well Known LA Violinist Missing - Robert Alan Korda

Police and family ask the public's help in finding Robert Alan Korda, who was last seen in Van Nuys. He was to report to work at Gower Studios in Hollywood, and never arrived.


"It's weird," his son Noah Korda said. "My father is a non-drinker, non-gambler, non-smoker...he just completely disappeared."

Noah Korda said there has been no activity on any of his father's banking or credit card accounts since he vanished and there was no reason to believe the man had been upset or distressed about anything.

Korda is white with grey hair and brown eyes and a goatee. He is 5 feet 5 inches tall, weighs about 135 pounds and wears eyeglasses.

He drives a white Geo Metro, California license plate 3GPJ453.

Anyone with information regarding his whereabouts can call the LAPD's Missing Persons Unit at (213) 485-5381 or (877) LAPD-24-7.

Friday, July 10, 2009

Vote For Blues Music Education

News from The Blues Foundation - Blues Notes

You can make a difference. Join with Bonnie and Taj to raise money for every ticket sold, on the BonTaj Roulet Tour. Then go to the above link and vote on what the Action Fund will support.


Wednesday, May 27, 2009

The Dutchess of Coolsville Keeps On Crooning

Most know this powerful American singer, for her 1979 hit, Chuck E's In Love, or her 1989 hit Makin' Whoopee, for which she won a Grammy.

Some know her as Tom Waits' lover from 1977 - 1980. (Or a year according to his biography written by Barney Hoskyns). The boho duo experienced career success at different times. As her career took off, Wait's grew emotionally distant, and the once touted next Joni Mitchell turned to heroin for comfort. Her insecurity, led her to be more dependent, and ultimately Waits made the decision to end the romance.

Drinking, drugs, a self proclaimed two year heroin addiction, and a 6 month cocaine slide after the break up, led to Pirates her second main album of what would eventually be fourteen. The Duchess of Coolsville is her Anthology album, released in 2005.

Influenced by Sarah Vaughn and Nina Simone, among many others, the talented Chicago born, Rickie Lee Jones, sang at President Clinton's Inauguration with Ratt Dog.

Rickie is still delivering original organic blues. It is rumored, Jones expects to release a new album in September. A review of her recent appearance from the Minneapolis Star Journal includes,

"Once she hits the stage, Rickie Lee Jones is fearless. Forget about the manic depression, the heartbreaks, the growing old."

Personality, stubbornness, and her refusal to fit into a singular commercial classification of a musical genre, have endeared her to her cultish following, for yet another decade.

An Artist approved autobiography is available at Her upcoming tour dates can be found at

Saturday, April 25, 2009

16 Hours of Virtual Blues Benefit

3 min ago

16 Hours of Free Virtual Blues Today

Talented live performers and DJ's in Second Life, have volunteered to stream 16 hours of non-stop blues today for a free concert to benefit the The Autism Society of America. This program can be heard at through 12 Midnight Pacific Coast Time. The Blues For Autism 2009 Main Event is 8:00am DJ IronGut McCallister; 9:00am Artist Danny & Randy; 10:00am DJ Joelle Lustre; 11:00am Live Artist Jimmy49 Dukes; 12:00pm Live Artist Allister Westland; 1:00pm Live Artist Jimmy49 Dukes; 2:00pm DJ Lucinda Bergbahn; 3:00pm Live Artist Detritus Rau; 4:00pm Live Artist Srv4u Conacher; 5:00pm DJ Fiery Otaared; 6:00pm Live Artist Tone Uriza; 7:00pm Live Artist Von Johin & Daughter Kelly; 8:00pm DJ Angellica Lemieux; 9:00pm DJ Jaeger Runo; and at 10:00pm DJ IronGut McCallister will provide the final two hours of entertainment. Those blues fans and performers who are in the metaverse, are welcome to attend the event on The Depo Sim in Second Life. Donations are accepted at the event and on the website for those who have not taken their Blues experience virtually, yet.

Read full story from

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Lurrie Bell is Everywhere!

Lurrie Bell caught my eye again today as Blue Bella Records sent a release announcing that he is appearing in my town on April 21 and bringing his buddies Nick Moss & The Fliptops. It is the best reason to hang out at Best Buy, that I can think of.

Bell's name is popping up everywhere lately. As I checked through several news feeds this weekend, I also saw he is featured on The new release of Chicago Blues: A Living History (Raisin 2009) which lays down 21 tracks of authentic style Chicago Blues.

Lurrie Bell, is a second generation Chicago Blues Artist, his Father Carey Bell, was a well respected Harmonica player. This child of the blues, without a doubt, is one of our greatest guitar players of his generation. If you are in the MidWest, you can see him on Beale Street in May, and at the Chicago Blues Fest in June. He has many credits to his name. Lurrie has made the cover of Living Blues, been nominated for several awards, and they just keep coming, but my favorite memory of him, is playing with Koko Taylor.

Those are all good reasons to be a fan of Lurrie, and even check out his MySpace and peek at, but beyond the mundane, is a blues artist, who knows what life is in all it's extremes. It has never been better demonstrated than in this current version of Lurrie, that makes me absolutely love him. In his new CD, Let's Talk About Love, you can hear the depth and breath of emotion as played only by a man who has felt it personally. Unfortunately, that emotion came at great cost, losing his beloved partner Susan and his Father within a three and a half month period.

Lurrie's life has not been easy. He has had great loss and sorrow and knows what it is to struggle with Mental Illness. And yet, he serves as a source of great inspiration and even courage to many, who take the time to learn his story.

His official biography, contains the following: "Music has the power to heal, to restore and empower, not only the artist but the listener as well." All I can say to that, is Amen.

Change of Address has been changed to remains unchanged

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Eleanora’s Birthday Blues

A woman once said, “Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.” Her name was Eleanora Fagan Gough and today was her birthday.

Her tale is not a new story, teenagers, having babies, and a father leaving. Trials and tribulations of single parents in poverty are well known. And no one is really surprised to find out, a child born into that scenario could have been sentenced to a Catholic Reform School at age 10. It is a plot as old as time, and continues with a move to “The Big City” to become a prostitute, and later arrested for drug possession. Perhaps a plot twist you never see coming is a benefit concert for the Associated Communist Clubs of Harlem in May of ’44, earning her an FBI file and presumed censorship regarding an anti war song. Below is her mug shot from 1947.

Of course you can guess the ending, Eleanora Fagan Gough died broke and much too soon at age 44, a heroin addict, and finally succumbing to cirrhosis of the liver. The name most recognize is Billie Holiday. What makes her story different from the thousands of similar stories is what she did between those dates of life and death; however, finding reliable sources to document that mystery is some what of a challenge. Her autobiography, “Lady Sings the Blues” contains distorted facts and tales.

What is known of Eleanora is that she sang in local Harlem nightclubs, where in 1933 she met John Hammond, a record producer, and that is where her life takes on a very different sub-plot. She performed with Benny Goodman and made the local rounds, before settling on a stage name, borrowed from her favorite actress, Billie Dove. Her Father was “widely believed to be Clarence Holiday.” Her nickname, “Lady Day,” was given to her by friend and fellow musician, Lester Young.

Unlike many Jazz artists of the day, Billie Holiday sang with emotional intensity, showing the influence of Blues singers, Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. Her unique sound was also influenced by her friend, “Pres” (Lester Young)as well as Louis Armstrong, whom she reportedly called “Pops.”

I owe Eleanora for changing my perceptions on music. As a teenager, I first encountered Porgy and Bess at the local community theater. I was fairly certain that anyone named George and Ira Gershwin would not have music I would like. I was wrong, “Summertime” and “Porgy” resonated with me no matter what style it was called. “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)” and “Strange Fruit” both won Grammy recognition. The singer defied labels.

Billie’s talents also included a gift for songwriting.

Billie took it as a compliment that she was hard to classify. “Certainly, her music was rooted in the blues tradition,” observes Angela Y. Davis, author of Blues Legacies and Black Feminism. Davis further delves into the influence of her love songs and the impact of social consciousness in two separate chapters.

Her accomplishments and tributes include: A Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1987; A Billie Holiday postage stamp in 1994; Induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000; Immortalized in 1959 by The Poet, Frank O’Hara, in ‘The Day Lady Died;” and lastly, U2’s 1988 release of Angel in Harlem, was inspired by Lady Day, as seen in the lyrics, “Lady Day’s got diamond eyes, she sees the truth behind the lies…Angel in the devils shoes, salvation in the blues.”

Like many creative, artistic temperaments, Billie suffered from addiction and depression. She also had her share of abusive relationships, which started at a young age. Like most great Blues Artists, her songs resonated with experience, not the “Tin Pan Ally”sound she so detested. Lady Day, took the inner strength of those experiences, and used it to transform and improvise lyrics and sounds to match the emotion of a song, common by Blues singers, uncommon for Jazz.

“Don’t threaten me with love, baby. Let’s just go walking in the rain.”

Sources: Blues Legacies and Black Feminism: Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, Bessie Smith, and Billie Holiday (Paperback) by Angela Y. Davis, You Tube, Wikipedia,,,,, Malaspina Great Books,