Sunday, March 25, 2012
Yeah that’s me with Billy Cox, who played bass in Band of Gypsys, the short-lived but pivotal group led by guitarist Jimi Hendrix.
Cox was in the D.C. area earlier this month as part of the 2012 season of Experience Hendrix Tour, the ongoing star-powered series of concerts held to honor the guitarist, who nearly 42 years after his death is still considered to be rock’s most influential.
Held March 6 at the Music Center at Strathmore in North Bethesda, the D.C. area show kicked off the 2012 season of Experience Hendrix. The 21-concert tour will end March 31 in Denver after performances in Atlanta; Knoxville, Tennessee; Nashville, Tennessee; Charleston, S.C.; Orlando, Florida; Hollywood, Florida; Tulsa, Oklahoma; Houston, Texas; Austin, Texas and several other cities.
As befits a concert carrying the name of the most famous guitarist of yesteryear, Experience Hendrix features many of today’s leading axmen, among them Buddy Guy, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Mato Nanji of Indigenous, Eric Gales, Dweezil Zappa (pictured below), Jonny Lang and Aerosmith’s Brad Whitford. Also playing the Strathmore was Chris Layton, one-time drummer for Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble.
Other musicians playing the 2012 tour include bassist Bootsy Collins of the P-Funk All-Stars, Robby Krieger of the Doors, guitarists David Hidalgo and Cesar Rosas of Los Lobos, pedal steel guitarist Robert Randolph (if you want to see an interview with him, check out the following post:http://beldonsbluespoint.blogspot.com/2010/11/sacred-steel-robert-randolph-and-family.html), lap steel guitarists the Slide Brothers, blues singer/guitarist Keb Mo’, guitarist Eric Johnson of G3 and guitarist Doyle Bramhall II of Arc Angels.
The company behind the event was originally formed by Hendrix’s father James “Al” Hendrix, with the very first tribute concert held in September, 1995 at the annual Bumbershoot Arts & Music Festival in Seattle, the guitarist’s home town.
Over the next few years tribute events were held under various names: the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Festival, the Jimi Hendrix Electric Guitar Competition, the Jimi Hendrix Red House Tour. In 2002 a “60th Birthday Celebration” concert was held in Seattle featuring Billy Cox; Band of Gypsys drummer Buddy Miles; Buddy Guy; Eric Gales; Guitarist Kenny Olson of Kid Rock’s band; longtime Earth, Wind & Fire guitarist Sheldon Reynolds; keyboardist Larry Dunn of Earth, Wind & Fire and bassist Bobby Watson of Rufus and Chaka Khan.
In 2004, three west coast tribute events were held under the name “Experience Hendrix.” They featured performances by Buddy Guy; Carlos Santana; guitarist Joe Satriani; guitarist Jerry Cantrell of Alice in Chains; Paul Rodgers of Bad Company; guitarist Hubert Sumlin, formerly of Howlin’ Wolf’s band; Kenny Wayne Shepherd; guitarist Neal Schon of Santana and Journey; drummer Mitch Mitchell of the Jimi Hendrix Experience and Billy Cox.
With the passing of both Mitchell and Miles in 2008, Cox is now the only living member of either the Jimi Hendrix Experience or Band of Gypsys. As a performer, he is therefore arguably the tour’s closest living link to Hendrix. He recently did an interview with this blog.
Here’s part one:
and here’s part two:
Other than the music and the picture with Cox, having the following conversation with Dweezil Zappa was the highlight of my evening at Experience Hendrix. While talking to him, I kept thinking that, with the exception of Hendrix, Earth, Wind & Fire and James Brown, I had as a young man listened to his father Frank Zappa more than any other musician or group:
And yeah, you don’t have to tell me how dumb it was to ask Dweezil—who was one year old when Hendrix died—what he remembers about the guitarist. Let’s just say I was caught up in the excitement of the moment.
Anyway, here is some music from the show.
First, Jonny Lang and Brad Whitford do "Fire:"
Then, Kenny Wayne Shepherd with "I Don't Live Today:"
Kenny Wayne Shepherd again helms guitar on Voodoo Chile: "
And Buddy Guy and Jonny Lang:
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Tuesday, March 20, 2012
Found out about this by reading harmonica player Bob Corritore's newsletter. Here's the situation as best I can tell it::
Kim Wilson, harmonica player and lead singer of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, doesn't want his songs on radio host Rush Limbaugh's syndicated show.
Limbaugh has been under fire since last month when he called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “slut” after she argued to Democratic House members that religious institutions should offer free contraceptives in their insurance plans. The case drew even more public attention after Republicans refused to allow her to make her arguments before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
Limbaugh, who also recommended that Fluke post videotapes of herself having sex on line, argued that the law student was essentially asking to be paid for having sex.
“The Constitution gives us the right of free speech. (But) I don’t want people to think that I’m affiliated in any way, shape or form with him,” said Wilson, adding that he was “mortified” by Limbaugh’s comments. “The message he promotes is something I’m totally against.”
Limbaugh has not yet responded to an email from Beldon’s Blues Point asking if he will comply with Wilson’s wishes.
Wilson made his demands known in a March 6 memo sent to Limbaugh and his show’s distributors, the media conglomerate company Clear Channel Communications and its radio syndication arm, Premiere Radio Networks. The Thunderbirds’ 1986 hit “Tuff Enuff” is among the music Limbaugh has used on his show.
So far, the controversy is believed to have cost Limbaugh 142 sponsors. On March 12, Premiere announced that it was suspending national advertising on the program for two weeks.
In announcing his demand, Wilson said: “What kind of example is Rush setting for the youth of America? He’s a proven drug addict and is now in his fourth marriage…both things his listeners rail against and yet these people still listen to him. Rush Limbaugh is a promoter of ignorance. He’s a clown..all he does is stir up the rabble that exists in this country. I don’t think he’s an idiot—he makes 50 million dollars a year. The things he says are not only disrespectful, chauvinistic and racist—it’s about everything that—in my mind—is wrong.”
In 2009 Limbaugh turned himself into authorities in Palm Beach County, Florida in response to a warrant charging him with fraud to conceal information to obtain prescriptions. Prosecutors, who had accused Limbaugh of “doctor-shopping” in order to illegally acquire OxyContin, agreed to drop the charge if he continued treatment.
Wilson also said Limbaugh’s description of Fluke as a “slut” was “factual misinformation.” “It wasn’t funding as part of a health bill that she wanted, but for her own insurance—that’s private industry,” he said.
Kim also said he is releasing an album through Severn Records later this year. Here is an interview we did with him in January, 2010:
Bob also gave us notice of the following deaths in the blues world. Links to newspaper obituaries about these great artists appear under their names:
*Piano player Big Walter Price
*Harmonica/bass player Andy Cornett
*Guitarist Eddie King
*Guitarist Bugs Henderson
*Saxophonist Red Holloway
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Friday, March 16, 2012
There’s the Memphis Rock ‘n’ Soul Museum. There’s Sun Studio, where B.B. King, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Elvis Presley recorded. And, of course, there’s Graceland. There’s also the Gibson Guitar Factory.
I had time to visit two museums in Memphis. One was the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, located at the site of the old Stax recording studios on McLemore Avenue.
The other was the Lorraine Motel, where in 1968 Dr. Martin Luther King was murdered and which has since become the site of the National Civil Rights Museum.
Located at 450 Mulberry Street, the museum includes the hotel and a large addition built around it. It also includes a rooming house across the street. James Earl Ray initially said it was from inside the rooming house that he shot King, who was killed by a single bullet while standing on the balcony outside Room 306.
Ray, who received a 99-year sentence and who died in 1998, later tried unsuccessfully to withdraw his plea of guilty to the crime.
The motel has an interesting history. Named the Windsor in the 1920’s, it was purchased in 1945 by Walter Bailey, who renamed it the Lorraine after his wife “Loree” and the song “Sweet Lorraine.”
During segregation, the Lorraine was one of the few hotels in Memphis that would accept black travelers. Song writers and musicians for the Stax Record Company, along with other visiting performers, frequently stayed there, including Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Ethel Waters, Otis Redding, The Staple Singers and Wilson Pickett.
King, who had stayed at the Lorraine on previous trips to Memphis, was in town to support striking sanitation workers when he was assassinated. Working with a local radio station, Bailey started the ”Save the Lorraine” campaign after the civil rights leader’s death with the aim of keeping the motel a civil rights shrine. To further that cause, a group of prominent Memphis residents created a foundation they called the Martin Luther King Memorial Foundation.
In 1984, they changed the foundation’s name to the “Lorraine Civil Rights Museum Foundation,” through which they later purchased the property for $144,000.
Constructed under a design created by former Smithsonian Institution curator Benjamin Lawless, the museum opened in 1991.
There was one point of controversy. A former housekeeper, Jacqueline Smith, had been staying at the hotel since 1973. When she was told to leave, she barricaded herself inside of her room and had to be forcibly evicted.
A marker in front of the museum recognizes King for his role in the civil rights movement.
Nominated for an Academy Award in 2008, the documentary tells its story largely through the eyes of Reverend Samuel “Billy” Kyles, who was on the balcony when King was killed. Former NAACP Executive Director Dr. Benjamin Hooks; Maxine Smith, a one-time Executive Secretary for the NAACP’s Memphis Branch; and Taylor Rodgers, a sanitation worker who was involved in the strike and had marched with King and Kyles, also appear.
As visitors walk through the museum, they take a chronological journey through the United States’ civil rights history, starting with the first arrival of slaves here in 1619.
Visitors can see the interior of Room 306—as well as the balcony itself—through transparent plastic.
The rooming house exhibits cover the aftermath of King’s assassination, the legacy of the civil rights movement and the role the movement played in the advancement of human rights globally. Evidence connected with the assassination—including the Remington rifle believed to have fired the fatal shot—is included in the exhibits.
Beldon’s Blues Point went to the Stax Museum a few days after Soul Train host Don Cornelius died. The museum payed homage to Cornelius on its marquee.
The museum traces soul music from its roots in gospel and blues. It doesn’t just cover Stax artists; it even pays respectful attention to the company that became Stax’s primary competitor back in the day: Motown Records. Possibly because of Cornelius’ death, there was a “Soul Train” exhibit displaying clips from the show on a large screen.
Still, you get a healthy dose of Stax history, a lot of which I didn’t know when I was nodding my head and snapping my fingers to their music when I was a silly teen–ager during its heyday.
For one, the organization that eventually became Stax Records was founded in 1957 by Jim Stewart, a white country fiddler who knew little about black music.
Stewart got his start in the music business by recording country music out of a North Memphis garage owned by his wife’s uncle. The following year, Stewart’s sister, Estelle Axton, mortgaged her home to buy recording equipment for the company, which at the time was called Satellite Records.
In the summer of 1960, Satellite released “Cause I Love You,” by Rufus Thomas and his daughter, Carla.
In 1961, Satellite released “Last Night,” an instrumental by a Memphis high school group known as the Mar-Keys. That same year, Stewart changed Satellite’s name to “Stax,” a combination of the first two letters of his surname (ST) with the first two letters of his sister’s (AX).
Over the years Stax Records collected a stable of artists that included the Thomases; Booker T and the M.G.’s; bluesman Albert King; singer/songwriter Isaac Hayes; the Bar-Kays; bluesman Little Milton; the Soul Children; singers Sam and Dave of “Soul Man” fame; Johnnie Taylor; and perhaps their brightest star of all, Otis Redding, who, along with several of the Bar-Kays, tragically perished in a 1967 plane crash.
In 1965, Al Bell, a former disc jockey from Little Rock, Arkansas became director of promotions at Stax. Over the years, Bell, an African-American, rose through ranks, becoming executive vice-president in 1968.
In addition to his administrative work, Bell worked with Stax artists as a songwriter and promoter. After Redding’s death, when Stax separated from Atlantic Records, Bell brought on several signees—including the Emotions, the Staple Singers and the Soul Children—in his effort to rebuild the company’s catalog. In 1969, he bought out Estelle Axton to become a 50-50 co-owner with Stewart.
The Stax sound was grittier and closer to the blues than the more polished, pop-oriented Motown. It emphasized the low end, with the extensive use of horns in the background. For bridges, it relied on pre-arranged horn ensembles instead of the guitar, saxophone or keyboard solos heard on much of the popular songs of the day.
Over the years, the company carved a place for itself in popular music.
In 1967, several Stax artists toured Europe to enthusiastic fan support. Also that year—a few months before his death—Otis Redding shared the bill with popular rock performers such as the Who, Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin at the Monterey Pop Festival in California.
In 1972, the company filmed Wattstax, a documentary centered around a Stax charity concert in Los Angeles.
But by the mid-70’s the company was in trouble. A distribution deal with CBS didn’t meet expectations after CBS started warehousing the records. On another front, the IRS began investigating Stax after an employee was found carrying $100,000 through an airport.
By 1974 the company was unable to pay salaries for over 200 employees. It also found itself immersed in a web of lawsuits and countersuits.
The year 1975 brought more bad fortune, and from several directions. A record-pressing company sued Stax and a bank foreclosed on the company publishing arm. Bell was indicted by a federal grand jury for bank fraud, a charge he was later acquitted of. And Al Jackson Jr., a drummer, songwriter, producer and founding member of Booker T. and the M.G.’s, was murdered.
The company went into involuntary bankruptcy in December, 1975.
In 1981, a bank deeded the McLemore Avenue facility to the Southside Church of God in Christ for $10. The church demolished the building in 1989 to make way for a community center that was never built.
The current building is a replica of the original. Among the numerous displays, you will find this jacket owned by Otis Redding:
Here is some of the original recording equipment used by Stax:
And here is the piano used to compose one of the company’s most popular hits, “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the M.G.’s: http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/ If you want to know more about the Stax Museum of American Soul Music, check out its website at: http://www.staxmuseum.com/ In the meantime, join our site! Represent!
Wednesday, March 7, 2012
Sometime between sets, we started a conversation and he bought me a beer! I remember being amazed that someone with such prodigious skill on guitar—who was that good at anything—could be so humble.
Since then, I have followed his career over three albums (I’ve never heard his first album, the self-produced From the Inside Out, released in the late 1990’s) and concerts in Whitehall, Pennsylvania; Chicago; and Philadelphia. I even drove to suburban Baltimore from here in D.C. one night to hear him play. That show sold out before I got there.
On Sunday, he was here in the Nation’s Capital playing the Hamilton, a restaurant/bar/music hall opened downtown a few months ago by the owners of Clyde’s, a popular Washington restaurant chain. On the verge of releasing a new CD, Burks will also play Chicago (at Buddy Guy’s Legends), St. Louis, Boca Raton, Tampa, Jacksonville Beach, and Iceland. Yeah, Iceland.
For us D.C. people, he will be back –at least within hollerin’ distance—on May 19, when plays the Chesapeake Blues Festival in Annapolis.
Burks is an artist of striking contrasts. When he’s just talking he’s easy going and relaxed—just the type of cat you’d expect to buy someone a beer on a humble.
They were all excited to see him.
But Burks, who has the nickname “Iron Man,” becomes another person when he picks up his guitar. Serious. Studied. Intense. It is like watching Thor pick up his hammer. Check out the videos I recorded and you’ll see what I mean.
He has the type of musical heritage that a lot of other musicians only dream about. His grandfather, Joe Burks, was an old-style Delta blues guitarist in Camden and his father, Frederick, was a bass player. Frederick Burks eventually moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin, where he worked the steel mills by day and played the clubs at night, sometimes backing Sonny Boy Williamson II.
Born in Milwaukee, Michael started learning guitar at the age of two. His father used a curious ruse to get him to learn songs: he began paying young Michael a dollar for every song he learned. But Frederick Burks discontinued that practice. To find out why, check out my interview with Michael below.
After a machine accident injured his hand in the early 1970’s, Frederick moved back to Camden and opened the Bradley Ferry Country Club, a 300-seat juke joint. The club provided ample performance experience for young Michael. In addition to fronting the house band, he played with rhythm and blues and blues legends who passed through the club.
When Bradley Ferry closed in the mid-80’s, Burks took a job as a mechanical technician for Lockheed-Martin. But the blues were still calling to him and in 1994 he formed his own band.
After From the Inside Out, Burks joined Alligator Records, for which he recorded 2001’s Make it Rain. It was hearing that album played inside of a Whitehall, Pennsylvania Border’s that first introduced me to Burks. He followed up that album with 2003’s I Smell Smoke and 2008’s Iron Man.
In our interview, Burks talked about the new album, among other things:
Since we were in D.C., I also asked his opinion on the recent blues performance at the White House featuring Buddy Guy, Mick Jagger, Shemekia Copeland and others:
Some of his friends and relatives from Camden talked about him:
His band played a set that included this cover of B.B. King’s “The Thrill is Gone:”
There was also this cover of Albert King’s “I’ll Play the Blues For You:”
There was also this searing slow blues. Stay with it, because he talked a little while with the audience before getting underway with it:
There was also this song that he described as “Mississippi Hill Country Music:”
There was also this song:
Here is Burks website if you want to know more about him:
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Sunday, March 4, 2012
Pictured above, guitarist-singer Preston Shannon is just an example of the type of homegrown talent found in Memphis. If you want several samples of Preston's formidable skills, including blistering covers of Prince's "Purple Rain" and the Rolling Stones' "I Miss You," go to this link:
We had the opportunity to hear other fine Memphis musicians during the 2012 International Blues Challenge a few weeks back. One was Vince Johnson and the Plantation All-Stars, which represented the Memphis Blues Society at the Challenge. Led by harmonica player Vince Johnson, the band boasts on its website that half of its members are from Chicago and half are from Memphis. Here they are performing at the IBC:
There were also a couple of talented house bands at B.B. King's, which seems informally to be the anchor club for the entire Beale Street scene.
One of them, the B.B. King All-Stars, was the most versatile cover band I've ever seen, doing everything from Al Green to Lynyrd Skynyrd. Here they are with "Love and Happiness:"
Also at B.B. King's, the Will Tucker Band, headed by 18-year-old guitarist Will Tucker, who began playing with the club's house band at 14 and is now a regular attraction there with his own group. Tucker also played on the soundtracks of the movies "The Jenson Project" and "A Walk in My Shoes."
Here's the Will Tucker Band with its version of "Johnny B. Goode:"
And here they are with a song we could not get the title of, but we liked. Yeah, we know it's out of focus, but you can still hear the music:
Also, one of our readers was kind enough to send us video from an IBC competitor we missed. Robbie Antone's Blues Machine hails from London, Ontario and represented that city's Great Lakes Blues Society at the IBC. The band is led by harmonica player Robbie Antone, who was born on the Oneida Nation near the city and grew up with a collection of Chess and Sun Records. Quite a source of inspiration. The group's latest CD is Red Road Blues. The following music video comes with a series of pictures of the band in action:
Since we started this with Preston Shannon, we're going to leave with him. Here's an interview he gave us last fall in which he talks in depth about the Memphis scene. We had fun doing it and we're sure you'll have fun reading it:
Thursday, March 1, 2012
Head on over to the Barebones Grill and Brewery in Ellicott City, Maryland on Saturday, March 3, to hear singer Nadine Rae and her All Stars perform. The Brewery is located at 9150 Old Baltimore National Pike. The show starts at 9 p.m. with food, lots to drink, free places to park your car, and lots of other things to make your evening easier and more fun.
Keep in mind....Nadine is good!!! If you want to know what you'll be missing if you don't show, check out this video:
The International Blues Challenge is just what it says--international--and there were some good acts from outside of the U.S. One was guitarist Fred Chapellier and his trio, who made the semi-finals representing the France Blues Society. Born in Metz, France in 1966, Chapellier started playing guitar in 1981. After experimenting with different styles for a while, he formed a blues band in 1992. Roy Buchanan is a major influence of his and the inspiration for his 2007 album A Tribute to Roy Buchanan. We concluded that Chapellier has a large fan base: this video we made of him picked up over 600 views in three weeks time: Here's an encore performance from Chapellier: I have to admit I personally really liked Pristine, the group representing Norway's Norsk Blues Union. I thought they had a good lead singer in Heidi Solheim, and their style--how do I put this--kind of looks at the traditional through a slightly different lens. They made the semi-finals. This video is a little out of focus, but the music comes in clear, thank God: This next group, the Bleu Rascals, made it to the quarter-finals representing the Phillipines Blues Society. The group, consisting of Paul Marney Leobrera, 18, on guitar/vocals; Spencer Rymonte,19, on bass and Darwin Quinto, 19, on drums first started making their mark on the Manila music scene last year. Here is their version of "Little Wing:" We're going to end this post with some hot blues from the good ole U.S.A., specifically Texas by way of Massachusetts. Willie Laws is a Texas bluesman in the spirit of Phillip Walker who ended up in Massachusetts, which he was representing when he made the semi-finals in Memphis. Here's the Willie J. Laws Band once: And here it is again: We'll have more from Memphis in the days ahead. Remember: represent! Become a member of Beldon's Blues Point!