A True Giant has left us!

    What to say about the passing of Blues Legend James Cotton?  Well, when a famous person dies, it's frequently said "We won't see his like again"....problem is, in this case, it's probably true.    From the fields of Mississippi to Chicago backing Muddy Waters, through the rise of the blues to Rock and Roll prominence, playing with the Rolling Stones....unsure where we'd find this type of pedigree for a musical giant again.   And a giant he surely was, combining virtuosity with showmanship (he loved standing offstage with his microphone, playing the first few bars of Cotton Boogie before letting the audience see him), and modern rhythms with respect for blues heritage (equally comfortable with exact quotes of Sonny Boy Williamson licks, and "giving the young people some dance music").

  I first met James at the Tobacco Shed in Whately, a venue aptly named...it was so long and narrow that visuals of the stage actually reached the back before their accompanying sound.   Blues acts were frequenting the Pioneer Valley, and I had made the brilliant decision(I thought) to provide real blues opening act support for them instead of letting the rock bands screw things up....in other words, I had decided to be a Bluesman, and offered my services to Blues venues at whatever the market would bear....which turned out to be:....not very much.  But I didn't care, working up what I thought was a brilliant set that was SURE to impress the audience...and the master himself.    However.....about 50 seconds into the James Cotton portion of the evening, I realized just how far over my head I was.....James' band absolutely DESTROYED us.   A bit demoralized, I walked into the dressing room, desperate for guidance, which Cotton's drummer and bass player, Ken Johnson and Charles Calmese (still the greatest rhythm section I've ever seen) might provide....adding to my confusion, I found them embroiled in an argument about a missed cue during the set (which had seemed flawless from my perspective)....James walked in, and it was like dad settling a squabble among grade school siblings....complete with "he started it" and such.   Cotton got them calmed down, and they did give me some pointers.  Later, James came up to me with 6 hot dogs in his beefy hands. "I saw your check while I was getting mine, and you better take these before your band starves to death!", he said.  That was the start of a beautiful friendship.   A couple of gigs later, Matt "Guitar" Murphy's Fender Twin broke, and we loaned him an amp (might have been Henry Spadoni's), and steered him to a local repair shop, after which I was on the guest list for a LOT of James Cotton shows.   After Johnson and Calmese left the band, I watched him build up another dynamite group with Ray "Killer" Allison on drums....Kenny, who had settled in Greenfield, brought them in to eat at the Dove's Nest.   (He also occasionally recruited me to play in his Valley Blues all-star band).   Still later, when his voice began to fail, Cotton did a duet for part of the show, then brought out the opening act to back him (guess who?) on an electric closing set.   All of us here in the Valley were tremendously influenced by this brilliant, yet gentle blues genius.   Have already altered the new Wildcat album to include a James Cotton tribute....it wasn't that hard to arrange, since we all knew his stuff backwards.   Hope we come close to doing it justice 

A few memories of the late Art Steele

I first met Art in 1978, shortly after moving north from Springfield.....first conversation turned to a comparison of blues idols, with him suggesting that Buddy Guy was the most complete artist in the genre....while I defended the honor of Magic Sam....after I knew Art for a while, it occurred to me that, considering the number of notes I tended to play...and the partial chords and piercing tenor that he employed, it probably would have been more logical if we had reversed positions...I later would play a few songs during his Evening Pro Bluesica shows in S. Deerfield,(at the Hot-L, then managed by the late Buddy Rubbish) and we did many shows together over the years, including a stint where Art had me pretend to be him when his P.A. gigs pulled him away from home after booking the Art Steele Band (and his band would look to me for leadership...which I found weird...."Guys, I'm the SUB") In the shifting sands of our Valley music scene, Art was always ready to adjust on the fly, while still being completely present and in the moment to the audience. In recent years, I would bring Art in as a featured guest at my Sunday show at City Sports Northampton, where he was invariably a most charming, though mercurial, guest....my house band would hang on for dear life as he went "really Deep" in the Blues....oh, I forgot to mention his previous car accident, and the benefit we did at the Harp afterwards....the outpouring of love from the community...and the awe when he walked slowly to the stage..."Stay ready to cover, I lose feeling in my hand and drop the pick sometimes since the surgery" he whispered. "No problem, big guy" I thought to myself...."I'll be over here basking in the reflected glow if you need me"....it was a major trick finding room for all the artists who wanted to perform, a fact we laughed about the next day as I proudly handed him the benefit proceeds...I told him two key facts helped--nobody wanted to be the difficult diva in those circumstances....and the parking filled in so far from the club that they couldn't drag in a million sets of equipment. There's about 20 pictures of various area artists....all with my guitar!....
    We also would do an annual visit to the Radio-a-thon on WMUA to support Katie Wright, with Art usuall issue appeals like this:   "Blues on WMUA are a symbiosis with the community, where a continuum of Christo-mystical synergy makes the community more holistic....don't you agree, Wildcat?"I'd respond after a pause "Uhhh....Art, I was goin' with You gotta donate or KATIE GONNA CRY, MAN"...One way or the other, we'd get the phone ringing
    .One last memory: I got a call from a club in Holyoke a few years ago, which I had trouble locating when I tried to drop in with posters...I wandered further, eventually coming face-to-
face with three cop cars, who were blockading an apartment building, guns drawn....since the only avenue open was to the right, I turned and hurried away...and right ahead of me was this marquee: Live Blues tonight---The Art Steele Band....I went in and said: "You know, Art....I'm always glad to see ya......especially tonight"...Good Night, sweet Prince....you shoulda been Magic Sam

Preserving the Music

Preserving the music

 

Not to underestimate my ability to get myself involved in arguments, but I was surprised nonetheless recently to find myself rousing the ire of a blues legend. This gentleman, not a household word, but known to any in-depth blues fan, and an awesome player (and who will remain nameless) was ranting on Facebook about Ana Popvic, who had posted on Youtube a quite-inauthentic version of the classic One Room Country Shack, complete with pinup pictures of herself, and a reference to “ten foot sacks”.....having picked no more cotton than Ms Popovic, I was nevertheless aware that they are eleven foot sacks...but I was taken aback that this was supposed to be a sign of the Apocalypse, and always ready to defend blonde girls in revealing outfits, made some comment (innocuous, I thought) like “Everybody brings to the music what they can, it's not the end of the world....and are the pictures hot?”....this brought the wrath down on little old me! Good thing I didn't say what I was thinking (which was “It was supposed to end the Blues forever when the let the WHITE GUYS in.....which event should have been ABUNDANTLY familiar to the ranter, who was among the first in that cultural development).

Now I admit that those first few guys went out of their way to immerse themselves in Blues culture, and I would urge the current crop of youngsters to drink in all the nuances of the old masters...but I AM irked that, whenever something new is introduced to the music (be it blonde girls in short skirts or something more substantive), SOMEONE feels the need to protest that you're coloring outside the lines! Let me cut to the chase—leaving aside the question of who appointed guardians for the Blues, my MAIN question is: WHAT PART OF IMPROVISATIONAL MUSIC DIDN'T YOU UNDERSTAND? It would, by definiton, change.....it would, by definition, change all the TIME! Every major Blues book has someone who's “doing it right” and someone else who's a “lightweight dilettante newcomer”....and usually that perspective looks foolish a few years after the fact (I believe it was Charles Keil of Urban Blues fame who brought out a second edition 20 yrs later, in which he apologized for minimizing James Brown in this way!)

This is in no way to assert that any old Blues is just as good as any other Blues. When you have a music of three chords, you had better get used to the fact thats some people can cover those changes without providing us with much value...there's gonna be a whole bunch of chaff....which is to say, stuff you don't like. And, since we can't expect every music listener in the world to immerse themselves in Blues culture, SOME music that seems “lesser” may achieve sizable commercial success (it's said that older Bluesmen were mystified/annoyed by the success of Jimmy Reed...for example).

But, cutting to the chase: The very people who think they're PRESERVING the music are actually holding it back. What's the point of making the circle SMALLER?

 

Wildcat O'Halloran is a Blues guitarist, singer and songwriter. He has labored, mostly in small clubs for 45 years, trying to keep exciting Blues music in front of the public...mostly in New England (not Mississippi or Chicago). In that time, he has seen Disco lionized, along with Rock Shredders, teenagers with metal-shredder guitars (but with porkpie hats), and blonde girls (though he likes those). He has been called “one of the most entertaing songwriters in contemorary Blues” (LB2011)....and also “might be fun at a party, but NOT a serious blues band”

Inspiration Meditation

Inspiration underrated? Perspiration overrated?

 

It's been a while since I blogged....I thought about one on musicians relationship with substances....maybe another time (short version: The brain has its creative side and it's logical, judgemental side....musicians, or any artists need to quiet that critical side in order to make that leap of faith that presenting creations to the world entails....use drugs and alcohol to uninhibit....and usually overdo it! Often doing permanent damage to their “good judgement” side) But I digress, because the subject I want to address today is a term we use without really analyzing: Inspiration. We say something is “inspirational”...or someone “inspires young people”...what exactly are we talking about?

 

We could start with the views of the ancients...to them, it literally meant that a spirit had entered someone, just as, to them, a “genius” might be receiving secret insights from their personal genie!! Unclear whether every level of society took those ideas as symbolic or real (Remember in the Iliad when the goddess “Rumor” ran through the camp creating discord...there might have been a demi-god named Discord as well, but this may have been more “imagery” than actual literal religious belief...unless there were republicans even in those days)....but we don't believe in spirits...do we?

 

No, we're not going to church now. But this is what I think inspiration means: The ability to create in the mind of other people (or to recognize in oneself) the idea “Oh, wow! A human being can actually do THAT!” (Or solve that, write that, draw that)

Wow! I'm transported by that experience....I gotta raise my game!” When I hear Otis Redding, or Aretha....Mike Bloomfield or Tower of Power, I still think “Wow, a human being can do that!” Or it might be non-musical...Shakespeare, Richard Pryor...or even Lupe Fiasco or Manny Ramirez, or ...wait for it....Joel Osteen might have something that speaks to the inner person.....without inspiration, we're just ants scurrying around an anthill....with it, we have the opportunity to strive for our highest potential...to reach beyond our grasp.

 

And as for the actual existence of spirits....well, another time for that one. 

For the Benefit of Mr. Kite

 

Musicians and Benefit Concerts...match made in Heaven?

 

Many a musician has had a significant other say (or scream?): “Musicians are the most selfish people on earth!” To create original music, polish it, promote it takes time and attention away from others....you'd at LEAST call them “self-absorbed!!” Yet no other group bands together so often to raise money for charity, and donates their talents in shows that would otherwise have cost thousands! (with apologies to your local church, who meet weekly, but usually without the same star power....and some have mandatory attendance!), how do we reconcile these two statements?

Well, some might suggest it's as simple as this: musicians like to play.....musicians LOVE to play.....they NEED to play....why Not do a benefit, see all your friends, pretend you're Mickey Rooney, and play for a combined audience? And that's part of the answer, but let's look deeper. There's been a LOT of debate lately about what value musicians should be putting on their services....a lot of which is, unfortunately, counter-productive....if a venue hires you hoping you'll attract some customers, and you don't....they won't be interested in compensating you for your hours of practice (we've talked about this before, right? They might have steered your practice to Nickelback covers if they WERE paying for it!)....but, regardless of your position on that issue, it's an indisputable fact that musicians will frequently be recruited for situations where some one else gets paid first (I did not use the word weasel), while they are left with the short end of the stick....so it might be that they just feel that they'd rather benefit a “cause” than some music biz weasel (there, I couldn't help myself).

But I still don't think that's it. What I really think is, musicians ARE aware that their performances have value....great value! But, they're also aware that, unless they are in a recording studio, their performances go out into the air, hoping to hit a target, like the rays of the sun finding the earth....and when their time is up....it's all over. In other words, musicians give generously of their time and talents because that's what they HAVE to give. Like the Little Drummer Boy...check video at end of this blog

Wildcat O'Halloran has performed at benefit concerts too numerous to mention, and will be hosting his own annual Pre-Thanksgiving Benefit with a all-star cast, this year at City Sports Northampton, benefiting the Western Mass Food Bank

What are we doing up here?

Wildcat Band @ Sunderland LibraryWhat Are We Doing Up There?

In her book “How To Play Madison Square Garden”, Mindi Abair presents this breakthrough concept: If you don't understand that the audience is giving you something of value when they respond to your music, you don't truly understand what you're doing performing in front of people. Which led to a lot of soul-searching on my part, because frankly, I would get so caught up in the nuts and bolts of making the songs “come out right”, that I wasn't at all clear on what the audience was up to...oh, I liked it when they applauded, all right , and I was clear that I was supposed to communicate something to them....I remember telling one of my jazz snob friends “If a musician is a communicator, and literally no one is getting what you're putting down, why do you think you're such a great musician?”...but I still was only scratching the surface, miles from wrapping my mind around that italicized sentence. They're giving ME something of great value?

 

Let's re-group.....We've all seen the T-shirts that say “More of ME in the monitors”, playing on the known fact that, to beginner musicians, the idea that they can MAKE SOUNDS!!!! is so fascinating that they have no interest in what the rest of the band is doing (or how the song sounds!)....but, on the other hand, musicians further evolved must have SOME fascination with the sounds they make, or else why would they bother presenting them to other people? Where's the tipping point? Is Dunning Krueger effectinvolved? it the fault of the internet? I frequently hear that computer recording, Facebook et al have “flooded the market with amateur musicians”...usually from “professional” musicians who think “chops” are passe, leaving me to wonder in what area they ARE higher than the “amateurs”.

 

I used to divide musicians (or performers in general) into two classes : “Hey Look at Me” performers (Britney Spears?) and “Hey, Look what I can do” (Joe Satriani?)...now I've decided there's a third choice: “Let me tell you what's in my heart tonight” musicians, who present the audience with that rarest of complete experiences: The Great Song!!

More radio stations added

Date: Wed, 25 Jun 2014 20:37:16 -0800
From: toddg@gci.net
Subject: Radio Airplay Report - Wildcat O’ Halloran – Party Up In Heaven – Dove’s Nest Records
To: bluemondaytoo@hotmail.com

Radio Airplay Report
Wildcat O’ Halloran – Party Up In Heaven – Dove’s Nest Records
 
 
Confessing The Blues - Syndicated
Blues Debut
WCNI  -New London - Connecticut
WVBR - Ithaca - New York
WFDU - Teaneck - New Jersey
WMWV- Conway - New Hampshire
WPCR- Plymouth - New Hampshire
WBRS - Waltham - Massachusetts
WMUA - Amherst – Massachusetts
WUML - Lowell – Massachusetts
WOMR - Provincetown- Massachusetts
WMEB -Orono – Maine
WBOR - Brunswick – Maine
WMPG - Portland - Maine
WRBC - Lewiston – Maine                 
WIZN - Burlington - Vermont
WNRB - Wausau - Wisconsin
WVPE - Elkhart – Indiana
WUEV Evansville – Indiana
WNKU - Highland Heights – Kentucky
WFPK - Louisville – Kentucky
WBGU- Bowling Green - Ohio
WAIF - Cincinnati - Ohio  
WNIJ - DeKalb - Illinois
WEFT - Champaign - Illinois
Friends of the Blues /WKCC - Kankakee - Illinois
WFOS - Chesapeake - Virginia
WNRN - Charlottesville  - Virginia
WWCU -  Cullowhee - North Carolina
WBZR- Atmore – Alabama
WJAB - Huntsville – Alabama
WLRH - Huntsville – Alabama
WWNT - Dotham – Alabama
WVVL - Enterprise - Alabama
WWOZ - New Orleans – Louisiana
Smoketack/WUCF - Orlando – Florida
WQTL - Tallahassee – Florida
WMNF- Tampa - Florida
KTEP - El Paso – Texas
KPFT - Houston - Texas
KENW - Portales - New Mexico
KKIT - Taos - New Mexico
KXCI - Tucson - Arizona
KTDE- Willits - California
KROV - Oroville - California
KSCU- Santa Clara - California
KWPT - Fortuna – California
KHUM - Humboldt County - California
KNCA - Redding – California
KRCB - Rohnert Park - California
KEGR - Concord - California
KAFM Grand Junction - Colorado
KPVL- Postville – Iowa
KCCK - Cedar Rapids - Iowa
KZUM - Lincoln – Nebraska
KIOS - Omaha - Nebraska
KRUE- Owatonna - Minnesota
KRCL - Salt Lake City - Utah
KDHX - ST Louis – Missouri
KSPQ - West Plains - Missouri
KRVM - Eugene - Oregon
KWCW - Walla Walla - Washington
KAOS - Olympia – Washington
KKZX - Spokane - Washington
KTUH - Honolulu - Hawaii
CKUT- Montreal - Quebec – Canada
CKIA - Montreal Quebec – Canada
CFRO - Vancouver BC - Canada
3 Way Radio – Australia
Bluesbeat /Hot FM – Australia
 

Todd Glazer Promotions 
Po Box 230531
Anchorage AK 99523 
Ph / Fax 907-279-8546
Email toddg@gci.net 
www.toddglazer.com


--Forwarded Message Attachment--
Date: Thu, 22 Aug 2013 19:36:57 -0800
From: toddg@gci.net
Subject: Friends of the Blues Radio Show - Stations

Friends of the Blues Radio Show
Kankakee Community College
Kankakee IL  60901
Co-hosts: Shuffle Shoes – The Blues Guru & Dr. Skyy Dobro
 
Saturdays – 7 to 11 pm
WKCC Radio   91.1 FM
Internet Audio Streamed on  www.wkccradio.org
Broadcasting from U.S. Central Time Zone
Find Us on Facebook:  www.facebook.com/friendsoftheblues
Audio Streamed in CD Quality Stereo!
 
Now being broadcast over-the-air from 11 stations in 10 States:
1. KBBG                                Waterloo IA
2. KFSK                                 Petersburg AK
3. KTOO                                Juneau AK
4. KGUA                                Gualata CA
5. WVAS                                Montgomery AL
6. WNAA                               Greensboro SC
7. KCRJ Gulch Radio          Jerome AZ
8. KISU                                  Pocatello ID
9. WVSD                                Itta Bena MS
10. KPVU                              Prairie View TX
11. WKCC                             Kankakee IL


--Forwarded Message Attachment--
Date: Fri, 19 Jul 2013 11:41:50 -0800
From: toddg@gci.net
Subject: The Smokestack Lightnin’ Family of Radio Stations

The Smokestack Lightnin’ Family of Radio Stations




WUCF, 89.9 Orlando, Florida 4/28/02
KJZA, 89.5 Williams, Arizona 5/03/09
KJZP, 90.1 Prescot, Arizona 5/03/09
KJZK, 90.7 Kingman, Arizona 5/03/09
KJZA, 89.5 Flagstaff, Arizona 5/03/09
KJZA, 91.3 Flagstaff, Arizona 5/03/09
WPRL, 91.7 Lorman/Jackson, Mississippi 6/03/09
City Sounds Radio Blues (http://blues.citysoundsradio.com/) 6/20/09
KASU, 91.9 Jonesboro, Arkansas (Memphis market) 7/11/09
KCOL - Kansas City Online Radio (http://kconlineradio.com) 10/29/09
95.7 The Wolf, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada 2/10/10
WZXP, 97.9 Burlington Vermont 7/21/10
BluesJazzRadio.com, Virginia Beach, Virginia 11/02/10
WVAS, 90.7 Montgomery Alabama [Pending]
WBRS,100.1 Waltham, Massachucetts (Boston Market) [Pending]
 

The Young Horse Run Fast, The Old Horse Knows the Way

The Young Horse Run Fast, But The Old Horse Knows The Way

 

It's been dogma in the U.S, for a generation or longer, that our culture in general, and music in particular, are (and should be) youth-centric in the extreme. Those teenagers are the ones who follow the trends, and have the diposable income to run to the record store, everybody knows that........well, all that's out the window now!! The young people rip the music ( a lot of which is rehashed 80's stuff anyhow...they don't have much of a consensus on music of their own) off the computer, while the boomers not only might still BUY a CD, but kind of like the feeling of having a concrete piece of the artists they enjoy, something they can hold up and say “Hey! I just got the new Wildcat O'Halloran CD!”...or whoever.

 

And it's not like it was always thus....Rock and Roll was proclaimed a young person's game partly because young black artists were willing and eager to take out a few of the subtleties of the blues, while pumping up the tempos....and the amplification, to the initial horror of the established blues artists! For many years after R&R's inception, there would be “revue” shows with older legends in the tradition for the parents, and Rockers for the “young uns” When record companies saw how much money could be made off the younger audience (and how gullible they were!), the “teeny-bopper is our newborn king” became etched in stone...or so it seemed. “The Blues had a baby....and they named the baby Rock and Roll”, said Muddy Waters.

 

But it's really never been like that in Blues. From the time of Charley Patton and Son House mocking the young Robert Johnson, to the tours of Willie Dixon with his grandson and nephew in the rhythm section, Blues has always been a music where we expect our party to be hosted by someone with a little “mileage” on them. And when Albert King embraced the hippies at the Fillmore (he had already embaced feedback, which they absolutely LOVED!), he immediately advanced his career....and taught a whole new generation (and race!) how to party.....which has always been a theme of this music. From “She's 19Years Old” (and got ways like a baby child) to “Good Morning Little Schoolgirl” (she's not only underage...she might be Jewish....and in some versions, the singer threatens to kill her!....a little TOO Creepy!) the Blues has been a music that, on one level purports to set up war between young and old, but ultimately resolves that conflict as the younger folks come of age under the tutelage (or is that corrupting influence?) of 2000 years of African (not Sunday school) wisdom (“The boy has the boogie in him, and it's got to come out”, says John Lee Hooker. A Bluesman may not really fully hit his stride until 60, and will get respect even when staggering out to the stage one more time as a 90 year old fossil (“I wanted to party with him/say I met him in person---one more time.”) Side trip----the aforementioned John Lee was doing what I call the “frail act” when I first met him....being led out to a chair, only to stand up for the last song, to the amazement of the audience.....now, I understand that the Hook may have had a hard life....but he was 54 then, much younger than I am now!....I may start with the chair soon....but can I still dance with the pretty girls?

 

Someone will no doubt bring up the now-numerous really young blues artists, and my answer may upset some readers: It's exactly the surprise of seeing the teen (or pre-teen) cover the music and appear to dispense the wisdom, that makes this interesting....not to demean the abilities of these artists, but it's precisely because they go against the grain that we marvel....would an analogy to seeing a poodle in a tutu doing ballet be too harsh? Maybe, though at one time, the white bluesman dispensing “down Home” wisdom may have been a similar novelty.

 

Wildcat O'Halloran has kept the Blues alive in western Massachusetts since about 1968....making him officially....old enough to be a Bluesman......his new CD, Party Up In Heaven, is now competing with new releases by men who died in 1968...but that's another blog! Meanwhile.... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sOXTjpnyxpo

War of the Sexes, anyone?

Meaning of the Blues.....Battle of the Sexes??

 

Judging by the enormous number of lyrics in Blues that relate to the....shall we say... “issues” in relationships, maybe we should award this music the grand WAR OF THE SEXES first prize, whatever that prize might be. Think opera or country can compete? (“All I want to be is...DONE” currently rocking the country charts)--No chance!!`As they would say in High School, compare and contrast that little ditty with “I'm gonna call up Big Boy Hogan, to come down and dig your grave....and I'll be right there laughin', when he throws that dirt in your face” (V-8 Ford).....Think your current crop of rappers have street cred? Pat Hare, author of “Murderin' Blues”, acted his tune out, landing in the penitentiary (unsure if it actually WAS better “Than bein' worried out of my mind”)....and what about Howlin' Wolf's girl, who “Puts iodine in my coffee, rat poison in my bread, when I get a little sleepy, she puts lye all in my bed”??

And it's not just the men talking tough and complaining about the fairer sex (“She's a mean mistreater, and she DON'T mean...me no good”-Muddy Waters). From the sass of Carla Thomas (“Otis, you ain't nothin but a no-good tramp....straight from the Georgia woods”) to Little Esther Phillips (“I'll put this stick down, all right....right on your head!!”---same riff as Tramp, btw—always signals trouble...that's why I used it in “If You Won't Do What I Want”,where I tell Emmalyn Hicks that she doesn't need a bra since she has nothing to put in there, and she responds “Then why do you wear pants?”) Ouch!... the girls make the blues an equal-opportunity war. What about the legendary Memphis Minnie, who favored the National Steel Standard guitar (sometime you'll see Bonnie Raitt with one), because, if a man gave her too much unwanted attention, “You could hit him over the head hard enough to kill him....and it wouldn't even go out of tune” Double Ouch!!

Whether the cause is infidelity (“ I saw your other man wearin' my brand new suit”---Bobby Bland), drinking (“he's a real mother-for-ya....got drunk and tore up the neighborhood”---Memphis Minnie), or just general (“Albert, you ain't nothin but an overgrown fool”----Albert Collins, who reminds her that “a good fool is hard to find!”), you never need to mince words in the blues....which is why we love it!! You can make Donald Sterling seem like Ghandi and it's all fair game...just as exaggerating your troubles (“If trouble was money, I'd be a millionaire”---Albert Collins among many...”If it wasn't for bad luck, I wouldn't have no luck at all”--Albert King) is all part of the fun, exaggerting how horrible your girlfriend is (“When we got down to Joe's place, the whole band knew her name”-Jimmy Rogers)....or how badass you are (“We gonna raise your eyelashes and whup you some, and if you run fast enough, we gonna whup you on the bottom of the feet!”-Albert King ) is just part of the one-ups-manship.

Unless you're Bobby Blue Bland, who, even while “telling the bitch off” and riling up the menfolk, would get nothing but sympathy from the women, who'd actually be incensed at the girl who had hurt “poor, poor Bobby”....how could she do that to him? Some day, I'm gonna get that skill...and hear “poor, poor Wildcat”

More Blues History...and Supa Chikan

 

A little more about Blues History...can you stand it?

 

In case you haven't read my earlier bashing of Blues books, let me start this blog with a disclaimer: By definition, a Blues book is an attempt by some literary type to figure out someone else' culture....after that culture was uprooted, mangled, and mushed together with all kinds of other stuff in America....500 years ago! Sure, I'll take a shot....can't do any worse.

 

When we hijacked a whole lot of different people from West Africa, and threw them together in distinctly lesser conditions in America, what did we get, culturally? We got a rich oral tradition, kept alive by traveling musicians/storytellers called griots, who, while keeping the cultural traditions alive, were also the short-time stranger visiting the village (and viewed with both admiration and distrust, in the finest small-town tradition). Perhaps because of this, or perhaps because West African stories often have the element of trickery as an important component, the patron saint of the griots was Legba, god of music.....and deception! A little ol' trickster god who might put one over on you to satisfy some selfish desire of his own....what a choice for a musician deity! By the way, if you've heard the blues line “I'd rather drink muddy water, and sleep in a hollow log”, those images go all the way back to Africa, where the traveling griots would take shelter enroute in a baobab tree (and sometimes be found dead in there)....and muddy water indicated the Nile was getting ready to flood your farm (hence the association with bad luck). Oh, and you would, of course, meet the griot (or maybe Legba himself)... at the crossroads.

 

Well, as you might expect, it didn't take the white folks (who came to America partly to BE religious fanatics!) long to equate the mischievous Legba with the more sinister....wait for it....Satan! First of all, because they were suspicious of multiple deities anytime, and trickster gods (plus music and dancing...and keeping alive African traditions) were just too much! So, as we might also expect, the early, traveling bluesmen had an image problem......or was it an opportunity? Identifying themselves with the Devil tied them to the tradition, made them seem superhuman....and most importantly....defiant of the white man's rules! So Peetie Wheatstraw adverised himself as “The Devil's Son-in-law”, coated his cornrows with wax, and started shows with his hair on fire....way before Michael Jackson. Robert Johnson's obsession with the Devil has been well documented (maybe not ACCURATELY documented....was he poisoned? Stabbed? Both? Did he really spend his last hours barking like a dog?), but the question is: Was this Posturing, maybe with a little Marketing on the side? Or did life outside mainstream (read white) conventions convince these guys that they really WERE in league with the Father of Lies? Hard to really know, but I think the key words are: Life outside the mainstream (read: White) conventions.....fighting “the Man”, spurning the white hospital to consult a “root doctor”....living like an African griot.

 

One more note about the crossroads: I've been told this story very seriously by TWO different (white) blues fans....who don't know each other....after the tour, which includes a trip to the crossroads near the Stovall plantation, where Robert Johnson supposedly sold his soul to the Devil, and after a few drinks, our tourist decides that he's going to take a guitar and go down to that crossroads at sunrise (this worries me, because I always thought it was supposed to be sunSET, but whatever)....qnd both guys were startled when a black man, all dressed in black, DID approach them...the amusing idea now turned a little more real than they had planned, and thinking not of the mischievous Legba, but rather of our more sinister Lucifer, they each asked hesitantly: “Are....you....who I....think....you are?” And the man answered …............”Absolutely! I'm Supa Chikan (bluesman who lives nearby....and talks to chickens)....Wanna buy a CD?”

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Upcoming shows

May 25, 2017
Munich Haus
Chicopee Ma
May 28, 2017
City Sports Grille
Northampton MA
Jun 4, 2017
City Sports Grille
Northampton MA
Jun 8, 2017
Munich Haus
Chicopee Ma
Jun 10, 2017
Granby Charter Days
Granby Massachusetts

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