Katie Strikes Back!!

so ANYWAY.... being a non-commercial, partiallyuniversity-supported station, our mandate includes education, and the systematic degredation of African-American additions to our culture creepily echoes the inherent bedrock racism that this country was built on, and still stands.  Kids need to know who Leadbelly was, and they deserve to find themselves tapping their foot to Joe Hill Louis, even though they don't know who he was, and even when he was alive, he wouldn't have made the pages of People Magazine.   Those of us who are not making money off our tiny sub-industry probably have a slightly different view than the folks who actually WORK in this tiny sub-industry, even "in your spare time".   But people on both sides of that equation can see that the blues is a Gift from the african-american culture to our wider American culture, and to refuse that gift or degrade it, would be rude.  I think educating people about the past of this music, and moving it forward by innovation, are both good.  So where's my blog?  I dont' know if any of that would warrant an edit or not - and the JLH story is still funny, so it's all good!

I know Robert Johnson better blues player than me....but he dead

I know Robert Johnson Better Blues Player Than Me....but He Dead!”----John Lee Hooker, dressing room at Four Leaf Clover, New Salem, Ma....1975

 

Of course John has now passed as well, which brings us to today's topic: the tendency of blues media (and blues people) to focus on the obituary page.

Let's face it: there aren't many areas of American life that are more focused on the past than the blues...unless we count the southern evangelists, whose motto is : “If it's true, it ain't new...and if it's new, it ain't true”. Problem is, sometimes that's the motto of the blues as well. In what other music form does a new release compete with a “new” bootleg of a dead performer, (possibly with dogs barking on his porch)? ….don't tell me hip-hop, their dead performer would be twenty and was shot during the bootleg....last week! And European blues magazines are full of pictures of young performers in pork pie hats (we have white bands here that do that....what year did bluesmen dress like that?...I've only been following since 1968, and James Cotton was more likely to be in jeans and a t-shirt ...Junior Wells might feature a “Huggie Bear” Australian bush hat....and Albert Collins was the king of polyester....nary a pork pie hat to be found, but what the hell!) And there used to be a regular ad in Living Blues that proclaimed “If a guitar ain't been in no pawn shop, it can't play no blues”. OK ALREADY! I GET IT! We like authenticity...no problem there....that used to be a quality that Country Music valued...if you were gonna sing that you were a coal miner's daughter, you'd damn well

better BE a coal miner's daughter! And maybe the rappers still need street cred. But my problems with our “looking backward at the plow” are two: First, to our young emerging audience, it's all just MUSIC. They don't know or care whether you've been in a coal mine or have worked as a male model “MerMAN!!”...and they feel excluded... “do I have to pass a test to listen to this music? I thought that was Jazz!”

And secondly, (I pause before speaking this heresy) in a music that's constantly evolving through continual improvisation, this thing called “progress” occurs, and songwriting or performances that would once have been “state of the art”....are now....wait for it....sometimes not that good. Yeah I said it...at one time, blues might be a series of unrelated one-liners, time and measures might wander (the aforementioned Hook was famous for this!) And while it is extremely rewarding to check out the building blocks of what came after, and while the true classics are so brilliant that they still jump off the disc today, if we make blues programming into a history class, no wonder the young people think we're boring! Wouldn't we have been better served to give the artist some air time while they were at their most productive, rather than 9 tracks in a row on the day they died, starting with their last performance at age 96!

If you've been a blues fan in my area (western Massachusetts), you've no doubt heard Katie Wright's show on WMUA (UMASS Amherst, Thurs 2:30-4:30, 91.1FM)....heck you've probably heard me hawking some show on there! I've always thought Kate had great taste in blues, and have been continually flattered to find that she might play my stuff, but a couple of years ago, I phoned in my first complaint....it was, to be precise, Jan 26th, 2012. “What's with all the ancient acoustic stuff”, I asked, “Muddy Waters done invented electricity, ya know.” “Well, it's Leadbelly's birthday”, she answered, “Or at least it MIGHT be Leadbelly's Birthday...we're not exactly sure about the date.” “It MIGHT BE Leadbelly's Birthday?” “ IT MIGHT BE LEADBELLY”S BIRTHDAY?????”.....I'm fired up now “For THAT we're putting UMASS to sleep?” Katie calmly deflected my inquiries, but I think she's mostly avoided the museum approach since (maybe alarmed by crazy people calling in!). But this Jan. 26th, I was headed down to NYC for a gig, with bass player Dave Kenderian in the car. After we'd played all my CD's til they skipped, we tried radio....and...lo and behold: A BLUES SHOW!! But a blues show playing really old, scratchy records (believe it was WKCR...Columbia?). Thinking I'll impress Dave, I whip out my phone and call in (as we now know, calling on cell while driving in NY is a no-no, but I digress). The DJ calmly tells me she can't play any Wildcat today, it's...you guessed it....Leadbelly's birthday!....couldn't help saying “You mean it MIGHT be Leadbelly's birthday!”

A couple of John Lee Hooker notes: One, if you loaned him your guitar (he was reluctant to bring his on planes), when you got it back, you might find the strings in BETWEEN the bridge saddles...5 out of 6 for me....John struck the guitar rather firmly, you might say. Two, when I first met John, he had a pickup band from Boston and would play three song forms: shuffle, drone, boogie....shuffle, drone, boogie...shuffle drone, boogie....but later (after Blues Brothers movie?) he brought a terrific band out from West Coast with Deacon Jones, who would shadow his every move (14 bar blues, then 18, then 11 and a half....didn't matter what he did, they were right with him). After another year or two, some new guys joined and you might catch Deacon cue-ing them...then eventually it was back to pickup band, which led John to say the sweetest words an opening act could ever hear...he said to me “ I need you to start late....and play overtime”....not exactly what openers are usually told! Oh, and three, once when I wanted to take a photo with him, and my wife Amy had wandered off, I had Katie Wright (then a Smith undergrad) fill in as photographer, letting the Hook think she was my better half....high comedy ensued later when John Lee asked Amy if she wanted to come back to the hotel with him and she replied that we were married ...I can still picture the Hook looking from Amy to Katie.....finally he asked me if I was a Mormon.

Blues Books....Threat..or Menace?

 

Blog 2---Blues Books—Threat or Menace?

 

Last week, on the same day my first blues article came out, I was scrolling through Facebook posts and came across one from a FB friend that I don't really know saying that Facebook was nothing but a bunch of white people trotting out theories on things they knew nothing about.....hoped it wasn't a direct reference to my blog! But “White People Trotting Out Theories On Stuff They Know Nothing About” might be a good title for this week's blog, which has no scales this week, but is instead about Blues books...specifically, about why they are doomed to failure.

While I admit that I haven't read them all (and I don't want to), I do have some favorites....Deep Blues by Robert Palmer (not the Addicted To Love dude, the Rolling Stone writer) has a lot of great stories, and the concept of “deep” blues, which comes from a conversation he has with the late Muddy Waters, might be in the category of really important concept....Urban Blues by Charles Keil walks us step-by-step through B.B. King and Bobby Bland performances, attempting to analyze how and why they create their magical effects.....Blues for Dummies (comes w/CD!), Blues Highway, Rhythm and the Blues, and our own local Steve Tracy/ Jack Coughlin book, all have things to recommend them.....but the whole genre has something in common with the Reggie Bar: they're good to throw!

Now, I've already referred to the Paul Oliver books, which, in their day, at least gave us ONE BOOK IN THE LIBRARY ABOUT BLUES! While fatally flawed (my favorite was when he went to Africa --of course he's 100 years too late-- hangs around for a couple weeks, and concludes----nope, no blues here, it must be an American art form! ), there are some great parts, like the slave songs that are half in English (quite tame) and half in an African dialect (decidedly less Christian in outlook!). His main crime is that he sets the template for virtually all the blues books to follow: Some things are “THE REAL BLUES” and others are cheap commercial imitation crap.....which is not to say that there isn't cheap imitation crap out there!!...problem is, people writing books will usually be far enough behind the cutting edge that they'll look foolish in retrospect, excoriating developing artists who actually advance the form but who they haven't yet understood. Charles Keil, when updating his Urban Blues book, in which he rips what he calls “moldy fig” reviewers who only like “old school” blues, realizes, to his embarrassment, that he's made the exact same mistake.....he's decreed B.B. King “ the real thing” (for Palmer, it's Muddy Waters) and dismissed James Brown.

Trying to figure out the exact origin has left many a writer looking foolish....Palmer has Blues being invented on the Stovall Plantation in 1911 (he leaves out the time of day) by Charley Patton....listening to Charley's Pony Blues, followed by little girlfriend Louise Johnson, I can't help wondering about the speed at which the student jumped ahead of the “inventor”, at least in stylistic complexity...Oliver rules out Africa, as previously noted (that scale we talked about last week, where ya figure THAT came from!) Palmer also has Tommy Johnson “inventing” the falsetto (See Cool Drink Of Water Blues)....seems unlikely, especially since Oliver reports that the pygmies use falsetto when singing about departed ancestors (dead answer in falsetto).

If we really want to make a case for an American origin for the blues, a better piece of evidence might be the fact that South American and Central American black music evolved differently (in an atmosphere where direct contact with whites was MUCH less frequent....overseer there was usually another slave). My own quack theory is that those pesky Irish contributed something (They LOVE line, line, Rhyming Line form, have a pentatonic scale....not the same one....and they have distilling skills...'nuf said about that for now). But I'm not a big enough fool to try to pin down chronology of a music rooted in constantly sharpening IMPROVISATIONAL skillsThat's where all the books tend to crash and burn.

To digress...and sum up at same time. One of my former bandmates used to get angry at our tendency to throw “everything including the kitchen sink” into songs (and blues cliches out!). “Blues Bands do certain things...we don't do those things!” became his mantra “ I'm not even sure we are a Blues Band”.....this was my answer:

“You once told me a story where new band members (in your previous gig) were given a copy of James Cotton's “Live and On The Move”, and told that, if they liked the record, they should learn every trick on it...and if they didn't, they shouldn't come back.....thing is, James Cotton was once quoted as saying that, while he was proud of that record, it was kind of a “dance record for the kids”....maybe not a “REAL” Blues record.........Dude, the moral is, the line keeps moving, it has to move....too fast for any BOOK....what part of IMPROVISATIONAL MUSIC didn't you understand?310105_1940577404661_1549212564_31717308_1502893_n.jpg

Wildcat explains (or at least rants about) the Blues Scale

 

 

  “Cheer up, BB! You'll beat those blues eventually!” Remember that Wendy's commercial, with the late Dave Thomas misguidedly attempting to advise a rather perplexed B.B. King? Well, while that commercial was SUPPOSED to be funny, it exposes one of the most pervasive (and, yes, racist) misunderstandings about America's greatest, yet most under-appreciated cultural product....of, course I mean the Blues. If you follow along with me, I think I can help crack the code...whether you're an advanced player, or casual listener...and if you want to understand a little more about the music that birthed Rock and roll, this understanding is vitally important. So let's start right here as our jumping off place....IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH SADNESS, LOSS, DEPRESSION, OPPRESSION,HARDSHIP, LONELINESS OR ANY OF THAT!!

Sky TV Video

Here's the Sky TV UK video about my collaboration with award-winning British Bluesman Trevor Sewell:

 

http://tyneandwear.sky.com/news/article/63853/tale-of-two-sunderlands-wearside-meets-stateside-in-blues-collaboration

Advocate article...Ray and Janet, plus Me!!

http://www.valleyadvocate.com/article.cfm?aid=16604

Sunderland-to-Sunderland Collaboration

Just sent off video for Sky TV UK about my collaboration with British Bluesman Trevor Sewell!   Last fall, while in the digital waiting room for our respective interviews on Les Young's Wall to Wall Blues radio show in Sheffield (though he, too, lives in Sunderland!), Trevor and I started chatting, and hit it off really well.  And when I heard his award-winning song "Hate Me For A Reason", I was blown away....texted him immediately, said I wanted my band to learn song.  Well, about a month ago, he suggested that I remake it with my band, and have him add tracks. which I did.  Lo and behold, Trev says Sky TV will be doing a feature segment, amused (I think) by the Sunderland-toSunderland aspect.  Karen Nugent (Boston Blues Society, Blues Audience, Worc. Telegram) may also do an article here!

International recording !!

Exciting News!!

Tomorrow (3/27) we start recording....our remake of English pal Trevor Sewell's award winning song "Hate Me For A Reason"...we'll have Jopey and Matt, plus special guest Emily Duff of the Raft, and maybe some Harp Girl vocals....Trevor will add his touch digitally later!  And video of session may pop up on UK music program...I'm chuffed (Trevor taught me to say that)

ALSO....Will soon have video of NYC TV show to share

 

Less happy news, believe Friday's gig in Ct. is cancelled!!

New British Review!!

> Wildcat O’Halloran Band – Cougar Bait Blues 
> Dove’s Nest 7500

> “I’m too big to cry so I might as well laugh” sings Wildcat as he lists his woes on the nicely rocking opening blues, and that seems to define his approach. New York born Wildcat has fun throughout, as he remembers that a prime function of the blues is to entertain and he certainly does that on this lively album. He has a muscular guitar style, a sense of what works – listen to him tackle Magic Sam (a lovely tough cover of ‘All Your Fault’), Sam & Dave, James Hunter and Robert Johnson, none of them slavishly so – and the talent to back it up. He writes good songs (try ‘Redneck Woman’ or the title track, which will raise a smile at the very least), has an ace band with him and isn’t afraid to admit he’s old – “the old horse knows the way” – so that it is a little surprising that he is not better known outside his immediate area. Maybe this release will give him the wider exposure he certainly deserves on the evidence of this CD – he’d certainl
> y be an asset to any blues festival, I guess. 

Special guests!!!

Holy Special Guests, Batman! Lightning Boy on Sat at A.C., Ray and Janet Sun. at Bowling Jam....and next Thurs in Westerly....Roomful of Blues drummer Ephraim Lowell joins us for Knickerbocker show!!

Upcoming Shows

Dec 22, 2017
Shutesbury Athletic Club
Shutesbury Massachusetts
Dec 31, 2017
City Sports Grille
Northampton MA
Dec 31, 2017
First Nite
Northampton Massachusetts
Jan 19, 2018
Theodores
Springfield MA
Jan 27, 2018
Fort Hill Brewery
Easthampton Massachusetts

Buy Wildcat cd!!!

Upcoming shows

Dec 22, 2017
Shutesbury Athletic Club
Shutesbury Massachusetts
Dec 31, 2017
City Sports Grille
Northampton MA
Dec 31, 2017
First Nite
Northampton Massachusetts
Jan 19, 2018
Theodores
Springfield MA
Jan 27, 2018
Fort Hill Brewery
Easthampton Massachusetts

WildCat on Facebook

acoustic Cat

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CzTMsi-ec6s#sthash.WURIslWc.dpuf

God's in Charge video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0feB8w3asWI

Starry Night video

https://www.facebook.com/video.php?v=274127569422858

The WildCat O'Halloran Band

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Live at Full Moon Coffeehouse

Wendell Wildcat Bluesfest 2016

link to purchase new Wildcat CD Midnight Service C

http://kunaki.com/msales.asp?PublisherId=140713

daughter Sarah!!

interview up on 11/25/11

http://www.aj-n-dbs.com/apps/blog/