Friday, August 31, 2007

Honeyboy - the convincing bluesman

This profile in the London Telegraph of David "Honeyboy" Edwards includes three videos (David 'Honeyboy' Edwards performs Gamblin Man' --- He Plays and describes learning the guitar --- He tells stories about life on stage) and tells his story from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago to European success:

On a perfect Chicago summer afternoon, the man regarded as an oracle of Mississippi blues lore is scouring a pawn shop for a guitar case. David "Honeyboy" Edwards approaches this task with a veteran's eye, but his battered features crease when he's told I want to ask some questions.

"What's the matter?" chides his manager. "Tired of talking about yourself?" Honeyboy, a very sprightly 92, agrees that he's weary. But an English tour is on the horizon and tickets must be sold. Yet where to start? Honeyboy's a legend of Delta blues, the last man standing of pre-Second World War American music. So is he surprised to be playing the blues aged 92?

"I should have been dead 50, 60 years ago," he says. "God just wasn't ready for me. Because I used to raise hell and drink. I've had my fun!"

Fun, alongside hard times: born to sharecropping parents in the heart of the Mississippi Delta, Honeyboy began picking cotton as a small child. His grandmother told vivid stories of slavery days, and sharecropping was, in many ways, legitimised slavery, with plantation life devouring his parents. "The doctor we had was the same one that went to the mule," he says. "Working for them white folks, you have a doctor come to you about twice. If the doctor talk to your boss and say, 'Well, he ain't goin' to get well,' then the boss quit spending money on you."

Honeyboy - he attracted the nickname as a child - set out to find his fortune aged 16 by jumping a train to Memphis. This was 1931, Depression-era America, so Honeyboy joined the hoboes. Between stints of farm work he begged and rode trains. "I'd ride the rods, too, underneath, because the cops would never look down there for you. The rods are kind of rough, though. The train be running so fast it would throw rocks up and they'd hit you."

Arrested for riding a freight train, he was sentenced to 30 days' hard labour on a county farm. Barely surviving the chain gang, he returned to sharecropping briefly before setting out for good in 1932....He witnessed Charley Patton and Tommy Johnson, the musicians regarded as Delta blues founders, play his plantation. Big Joe Williams tutored him in music and hoboing; he busked with the Memphis Jug Band; befriended Howlin' Wolf when both were teenage farmhands. In 1942 Alan Lomax recorded him for the Library of Congress and in 1945 he took the teenage harmonica prodigy Little Walter to Chicago.

In Chicago Honeyboy was signed by seminal blues label Chess Records....on Monday he starts an eight-date English tour, a trek that would leave a young rocker weary. Surely the pace must make a man born in 1915 feel, well, shattered? And England is only the last stop of a 30-date journey around Europe. "Touring can be hard," he says. "Getting' up stairs is difficult. I just have to walk slow."....Honeyboy lives in Chicago's tough South Side - carjacked in 1996, he boasts of stabbing the thief ("I cut him good!") and carrying a pistol ("Crack makes them boys go crazy"). Which is perhaps why he remains such a convincing bluesman.
(Read the full story here)

Howlin with the Wolf

All you need to know about the Howlin Wolf Festival this weekend in West Point.

Daily Journal: "SCENE: Howlin' with the Wolf"

Extreme Makeover: Blues Edition

52-year-old Morris Cummings, better known as Blind Mississippi Morris, can play the harmonica like nobody's business. The talented musician, born in Clarksdale, Mississippi and blind since the age of four, has performed with B.B. King, Rufus Thomas and Muddy Waters.

Bluzharp Magazine calls Morris one of the 10 best harmonica players in the world.

He and his band, The Pocket Rockets, are favorites down on Beale Street.

For months now, Morris has been in a predicament. His home on Chelsea Avenue in North Memphis is nearly a hundred years old. It's so rundown that code enforcement says it's not safe for Morris and his family to live there.

Saturday morning, volunteers showed up on Morris' front lawn with an offer he couldn't believe.

For the next several hours, nearly three dozen people of all ages, braved the summer heat to give Morris' home a makeover....As the day went on, the volunteers made progress. The staircase was rebuilt. The air-conditioning and ventilation units repaired. Leaks in the roof were patched up....As hammers pounded away and saws buzzed through pieces of lumber, the sound of Delta blues played in the background as Morris played the harmonica.

"This clean-up is a dream come true," Morris said. "I tell you, it means I get to stay here. I'm not going to be homeless."

Morris hopes to one day install a recording studio in the old home. He says he'd like to teach music to the young people to keep them off the streets and out of trouble.

The work on his home is expected to take some more time to complete. And the volunteers say they'll be back again, until it's done.
(Full Story)

JFP: Marty Stuart & Divine Country

Jackson Free Press: It’s difficult to label Marty Stuart. He is a solo artist who broke onto the country music scene as a sideman; a country artist whose roots are firmly entrenched in bluegrass; and a strict traditionalist who can still rub shoulders with country music’s rising stars.

But to Stuart, only one of those descriptions matters.

“Country music is what I do. If I die tomorrow, that’s what the headline will say: ‘Country Singer Marty Stuart,’” Stuart says.

The plain-spoken Stuart speaks of country music with the same reverence that most reserve only for religion. “If you go back to Virginia to where the Carter Family came from, you can feel that it was kind of divinely ordained music,” Stuart says.

Being a self-appointed caretaker of a “divinely ordained” musical genre is a lot of hard work, but Stuart knows that it’s a weight worth carrying: “(It) is what I feel like I am called to do. It’s part of who I am,” he says.

A native of Philadelphia, Miss., Stuart got his start in country music at age 14 as a member of bluegrass legend Lester Flatt’s band, and he hasn’t looked back since.
(Full Story)

Friday News Update

McComb native Bo Diddley Suffers Heart Attack

Mississippi native Richard Durham to be inducted into the National Radio Hall of Fame

Book Review: Journeyman's Road: Modern Blues Lives From Faulkner's Mississippi To Post-9/11 New York


The Big Muddy Blues Festival cut Ike Turner from the line-up ("after the idea drew complaints stemming from Turner's well-known violent marriage to Tina Turner. Mayor Francis Slay declined to issue a Turner proclamation — a decision that made international headlines — and the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer called in sick") but still claimed its share of Mississippi blues roots (Full Story).

The Farish Street Heritage Festival [in Jackson] will celebrate its 29th year with performances by funk legends Zapp and soul star J. Blackfoot, as well as a lineup of local performers that includes bluesman Eddie Cotton and rapper Kamikaze. (Full Story)

“The Howlin' Wolf Festival will join forces, as a part of a cross-promotional event, with the Prairie Arts Festival to present the first annual Point City Fest,” Howlin' Wolf Society of West Point program director Richard Ramsey said. (Full Story in Columbus Dispatch) - and - West Point blues fest kicks off Thursday (Full Story in MSU Reflector)

With just 42 days remaining until the 22nd annual Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival, supporters of down home Delta Blues are answering tons of questions from fans around the world. Roger Stolle, owner of Cathead Delta Blues & folk art shop on Delta Ave. in Clarksdale Miss. is very busy helping promote the festival as well as answering masses of e-mail quires about Helena's own blues weekend that has received world wide attention. (Full Story)

A couple of Mose's

Memphis Music & Heritage Festival pays tribute to Mose Vinson:

Born in north Mississippi in 1917, the boogie-woogie pianist served as janitor and fill-in session musician at Sun in the '50s; when Peiser met him, he was playing at Peanut's, a seedy Midtown bar.

"Mose goes back to dirt. He looked like he was 150 years old when he was about 50," recalls local producer and performer Jim Dickinson, who, along with Vinson, Rufus Thomas, Eddie Bond, and the Spirit of Memphis gospel quartet, was a headliner at the Center for Southern Folklore's first Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, held in 1982. (The festival became an annual event in 1988.)

In 1997, Dickinson, Peiser, and Knox Phillips co-produced Piano Man, Vinson's first solo album.

"For me, it wasn't as much the historical aspect as it was getting the musical qualities of his voice on tape," Dickinson says. "I cut Mose the same way I did the Replacements. I just tried to make him comfortable and take him back to a certain place in time. When Mose asked, 'You ain't got no pain pills?' that just made it for me."

Dickinson, Bond, and the Spirit of Memphis will reprise their '82 appearances with new sets at this year's Memphis Music & Heritage Festival, which Peiser views as a tribute to Vinson, who died in 2002.
(Full Story)

Mose Allison: ‘I’m dealin’ with the essentials’

Jazz sage Mose Allison, 80, could be forgiven for kicking back on his front porch and singing to himself instead of hustling off to 120-plus dates a year.Problem is, he’s not yet tired of hipping generation after generation to his vinegary piano style and spot-on social commentary. Allison says his classic attack-of-the-fascists dirge, “Monsters of the Id,” has never been better received.

Jazz sage Mose Allison will perform Friday and Saturday at Lansing's JazzFest. Photo courtesy of Carol Fridman.“People come up and ask me, ‘Did you just write that song?’ and I did it 40 years ago,” Allison says.

“The same things always keep happening,” he declares. “There’s always a war, there’s always hypocrisy and political maneuvering, corruption and all that stuff. I’m dealin’ with the essentials.”

“Monsters of the Id” paints a blackly funny picture of society’s self-styled leaders. “Creatures from the swamp are writing their own Mein Kampf,” he sings in his famous seen-it-all drawl. As usual, he pretends to calm while stirring the muck in your mind. “No need to make a fuss,” he reassures. “No need to cause a scene. They know what’s best for us. They’re fighting fire with gasoline.”

As the ship of civilization sinks deeper and deeper, audiences love nothing more than to pull up a deck chair near Allison and enjoy the nosedive.

“I still enjoy playing,” he says. “The traveling is getting to be kind of a drag. That will probably have more to do with me quitting than anything else. Once I get to the piano, I’m OK.”

Allison’s melting-pot keyboard style mixes several jazz variants, from Gerwhwin-esque polish to Thelonious Monk prickliness, with traces of hard blues and deep country from his Mississippi youth. His terse tunes skitter like a knife on a cutting board, while his lyrics make him one of the great American gentleman malcontents on the order of Mark Twain and Bob Dylan....

Growing up in rural Tippo, Miss., at the heart of the Mississippi River delta, Allison was steeped in blues, jazz, big-band swing and country music. He also took classical music lessons and was drawn to the authority and flexibility of the piano. “I grew up listening to Nat King Cole and Erroll Garner, and then I started listening to Monk and John Lewis and Bud Powell,” he says.
(Full Story)

Blues Trail Update

Howlin' Wolf, Magic Sam to get Blues markers

Marker dedication, festivals celebrate the legacy of Howlin' Wolf

Robert Johnson Blues Trail marker stolen

Bluefront Cafe on Blues Trail

Mississippi Blues Trail features some of state's best golf courses

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Blues Trail - August

Here are three upcoming events on the Mississippi Blues Trail:

Bentonia - Blue Front Cafe - August 21st at 10am

Grenada - "Magic Sam" - August 28th at 10am

West Point - Howlin' Wolf - August 30th at 1:30pm

More details to follow...