articles tagged "blues"

Dick Waterman Interview

Saturday, 13 October 2012 | Art Schuna
dick waterman

    Dick Waterman is an author, photographer and blues music promoter. He began in the music business by promoting local blues shows in the Boston area in 1963. The following year he joined Nick Perls and Phil Spero on a journey to Mississippi that was to change his life. The trio were in search of Son House, a bluesman who was only known as a performer on a few Paramount label 78s that were recorded in Grafton, WI in the early 1930s. Based on a tip by Bukka White, they traveled South only to find that he was no longer there. They eventually found him living in Rochester, New York. Before long, Dick founded Avalon Productions to manage Son House and a number of other blues artists including Mississippi John Hurt and Skip James. Avalon promoted other artists including Bukka White, Arthur Crudup, J.B. Hutto, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and Luther Allison. He also managed Bonnie Raitt early in her career. Dick photographed his artists and others over the years and this led to a later career as a professional photographer. A number of his photos were featured on the Blues Hall of Fame wall, which featured photos of all inductees at the time at Luther’s Blues club here in Madison when they were in business. His work may be seen at www.dickwaterman.com. His book, Between Midnight And Day: The Last Unpublished Blues Archive has about 100 of his photos together with recollections of the artists portrayed. I feel fortunate to own 3 of Dick’s photos. Dick also assisted in writing the book B.B. King Treasures . He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 2000. Dick is an incredible story teller and has many stories to tell about his career and the artists with whom he worked. About half of this interview is about the discovery and return of Son House as a performer. Perhaps one of the greatest rediscoveries in the blues revival era. I use excerpts of my interviews with music to create radio specials. Dick had so many stories I needed to do 2 shows to do justice to his interview. Click on the title above to access the interview.   more »

Henry Townsend Interview

Saturday, 13 October 2012 | Art Schuna
henry townsend

  Henry Townsend was born October 27, 1909 in Shelby, Mississippi and grew up in Cairo, Illinois. He moved to St. Louis when he was young and this was his home for most of his life. He began performing and recording with Walter Davis on piano. He first recorded music in 1929 for the Paramount label in Grafton, Wisconsin and recorded in 9 decades of his career. In 1999 University of Illinois Press published his autobiography “A Blues Life As Told To Bill Greensmith”. He was equally adept with a guitar and the piano, but later in life as his fingers became less nimble, he preferred the piano. He died in 1996, hours after receiving an award on Grafton’s Paramount Plaza Walk of Fame. He postumously won his first Grammy for Best Traditional Blues Album in the 2008 Grammy Awards for his recording “Last of the Great Mississippi Bluesmen: Live In Dallas” released by the Blue Shoes Project in 2007. This recording also featured Honeyboy Edwards, Robert Junior Lockwood and Pinetop Perkins, all of whom, sadly, are no longer with us. I had the good fortune of being able to attend a number of performances by Henry Townsend as he was frequently invited to the Chicago Blues Festival. I phoned Henry at his home in St. Louis in 2003 for this interview. Click on the title above to access the interview. more »

Hubert Sumlin Interview

Thursday, 11 October 2012 | Art Schuna
huber sumlin 3

  I’m not really great in identifying guitarists just by listening to them but Hubert Sumlin’s tone and style are so distinctive, he’s one of a few I could pick out in a blind listening test. He was born in Greenwood MS in 1931 and past on just last year. Sumlin joined Howlin’ Wolf’s band in 1954 and was with him (except for a few brief lapses) until Wolf died in 1976. His guitar came to define Howlin’ Wolf’s band nearly as much as Wolf himself. Hubert Sumlin had a reputation for being more than a little wild in his youth. When I interviewed Henry Gray (Wolf’s piano player) he told me Wolf would fire Hubert from the band on Friday and hire him back on Monday. Fortunately, Hubert mellowed with age. In Howlin’ Wolf’s funeral program, Hubert Sumlin was referred to as Howlin’ Wolf’s son. I interviewed Hubert in 2005. He was an incredible story teller. He would often end a story by saying “Do you know what I’m saying?” I have to admit, there were times I said yes even if I didn’t know what he was saying because I just wanted to keep hearing those stories. Hubert Sumlin at this time was a gentle soul, but he maintained more than a little mischief. I hope you enjoy this interview. Click on the title above to go to the interview. more »

Jerry “Boogie” McCain Interview

Thursday, 11 October 2012 | Art Schuna
jerry mccain

    I’ve always been a big fan of Jerry McCain. He was one of the most under-rated talents in the blues. The songs he wrote were unique. Jerry McCain was born in Gadsden, AL in 1930 and lived his entire life there. McCain’s first record was made for Lillian McMurry’s Trumpet label in 1953. Jerry was not too fond of this firs.t release, saying his voice was too high. He would go on to record 9 tunes for Trumpet and had one more release which included “Stay Out of Automobiles” which was released shortly before the label folded. Neither of the Trumpet releases were commercially successful due to limited distribution. His Trumpet records on a release originally issued on the Acoustic Archive label and reissued by Alligator titled Strange Kind of Feeling. McCain would go on to record for Ernie Young’s Excello label and had half a dozen singles released between 1955 and 1957 including “Courtin’ In a Cadillac” and “Run Uncle John Run” which were early classics. Many of these were upbeat tunes aimed at rock and roll fans. The song “Tryin’ To Please” mocks Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender”. These songs demonstrate McCain’s unique approach to lyrics that would be a trademark throughout his career. The Excello sides may be found on That’s What They Want: The Best of Jerry McCain released on AVI/Excello which is, sadly, out of print. In 1960, Jerry McCain would acquire a manager Gary Sizemore, who would be with him for 26 years. Jerry released a series of records on Sizemore’s Gas label. His best tune from this period was released on the Rex label, “She’s Tough”. This tune was a regional hit for him would later be covered by the Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1980. You’ll find these recordings on a CD called Good Stuff, released on the Varese Sarabande label. This CD also features a great tune called “Welfare Cadillac Blues”. Unfortunately, this record seems to be out of print. Jerry would go on to record for the Okeh label who tried to turn him into a pop music star. At least one of his records included backing by the Anita Kerr Singers, a female chorus known for their syrupy arrangements. I’ve never heard these records but maybe that’s a good thing. He was billed $33,000 for these questionable productions. The records were not a commercial success. Between 1965-68 Jerry recorded for Stan Lewis’ Jewel label and released 5 singles. In later years, …. more »

Samuel Charters Interview

Friday, 5 October 2012 | Art Schuna
samuel charters

  Samuel Charters is a noted blues scholar and author, record producer, musician and poet. He first became interested in the blues after listening to Bessie Smith’s version of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” He soon became a record collector and began playing jazz clarinet. While in the Army in the early 1950s he ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee. This led to an interest in politics, but as he did not feel he could run for political office he began writing about black music as a means of fighting racism. His book, “The Country Bluesmen” was published in 1959, one of the earliest books on the blues. Charlie Musselwhite told me in an interview that this book was important in his becoming a bluesman. He was living in Memphis and read the book. Then he discovered that many of the bluesmen included in the book were still living in Memphis. He tracked down many of them from Charter’s book. Perhaps the most instrumental to his future career was Will Shade, who played a number of instruments but was best known for his work on harmonica. In the 1950s Charter began to search for African American bluesmen and did field recordings of them for the Folkways label. One of his early successes was the rediscovery of Lightnin’ Hopkins. He recorded him in his home using a single microphone and a portable tape recorder. In this interview, Sam describes holding the microphone and moving it from Lightnin’s guitar to his face depending on whether he was singing or doing a guitar instrumental break. The Smithsonian-Folkways recording “Lightnin’ Hopkins” is still in press and is an amazing record given the conditions under which it was recorded and worth seeking out. He recorded quite a number of blues musicians including Pink Anderson, Billy Boy Arnold, Baby Tate, Homesick James, Jesse Fuller, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Otis Spann, Juke Boy Bonner, Robert Pete Williams, Big Joe Williams, Siegel-Schwall Band, Eddie Boyd, Otis Rush, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Willie B to name just a few. He also produced all of Country Joe & The Fish’s LPs. Perhaps one of his most important production achievements was the Chicago/The Blues/Today! series which was originally released as 3 LPs on the Vanguard label in the mid-1960s. This is essential blues that belongs in every blues fans collection. Each LP/CD featured 3 bands, many of them not under contract at the time, and is …. more »

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