Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Thursday in Leland is Jimmy Reed Day

The Delta Democrat Times reports that Leland's board of aldermen has proclaimed Thursday to be Jimmy Reed Day. Reed is a member of the Blues Hall of Fame and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Reed, one of the most influential of all the Delta bluesmen, was the first to cross over on to the R&B and pop charts. Reed scored a remarkable 18 top twenty hits on the R&B charts in a period from 1955-1961. He also had a dozen hits on the pop charts.

The popularity of his music in both white and black audiences led him to play such hallowed venues as Carnegie Hall and The Apollo Theater. His songs have been covered by The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, The Grateful Dead, and Elvis Presley.

A Mississippi Blues trail marker will be unveiled in his honor on Collier Road at Dunleith Thursday at 4 p.m. The ceremony will be followed by the dedication of a mural of the famous Washington County native at 101 North Broad in Leland at 5 p.m., immediately to be followed by a reception at the Highway 61 Blues Museum.

Read the full story here: Leland to honor native bluesman Thursday

New Yorker: Reluctant Diva

The New Yorker has this "Loverly" piece on Jackson, Mississippi native and Jazz diva Cassandra Wilson.

In a world of niche audiences, the singer who refuses to go gently into a particular niche and stay there is at best a challenge and at worst a double agent. Cassandra Wilson, the willfully original jazz singer, has been puzzling her audiences for nearly half of her fifty-two years. Jazz radar first picked her up as a member of the nineteen-eighties collective M-Base, whose name, an acronym for MacroBasic Array of Structured Extemporizations, signalled its attempt to promulgate new ways of thinking about improvisation. With M-Base she worked as both leader and sideman in styles from avant-garde jazz to funk. Her originality, irresistibly evident in her confidential smokehouse contralto, spurred admirers to coax her into a more glamorous career—as a star. A beautiful, voluptuous woman, with a golden complexion and an inviting smile, she has now been a star for two decades, but a reluctant one, known for her expansion of the jazz repertory and her eagerness to lose herself in an ensemble. She seems intent on maintaining the attitude of a sideman. If it isn’t a team effort, where’s the fun? If you can’t take risks, what’s the point?

Wilson’s refusal to accept any single idea of how to steer her career was apparent last week with the release of a new album and two very different New York appearances. The album, “Loverly,” is an unalloyed triumph, and her record company, Blue Note, is promoting it as her first album of standards in twenty years. (The claim is off by a decade—everyone seems to want to forget her 1997 record, “Rendezvous”—but still.) Singing during an air-conditioning failure at the Blue Note (the club—no relation to the record label), she gave a glowing account of the material from the album. Despite the steam-bath ambience—standards, she noted, were written before air-conditioning—she sang with open-throated, pitch-perfect vivacity, nailing every song. But two days before, at BAM, as the climax of a monthlong festival devoted to the heritage of the Mississippi Delta—Wilson is a native of Jackson, Mississippi—her intonation wavered a bit as she indulged in endless vamping grooves, sacrificing melodic concision for rhythmic repetition. Wilson has always thrived on rhythmic complexity, but her best work, including “Loverly,” balances it with melodic, harmonic, and verbal nuances that transform evergreens into personal deliberations, frequently underscored with an ironic eroticism. If the BAM performance, alternately gripping and monotonous, left some in the audience bewildered, it succeeded in driving home her unconventional achievement, combining promiscuous collaboration (both engagements featured the prodigious twenty-one-year-old pianist Jonathan Batiste) and determination to rethink the jazz songbook.

Read the full article here: The New Yorker: Reluctant Diva ~ The unpredictable Cassandra Wilson.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blues Trail: Big Walter Horton, Jimmy Reed

Mark your calendars for two upcoming Mississippi Blues Trail markers.

June 19 - A marker for Jimmy Reed at Collier Road in Dunleith, Mississippi 4pm (followed by a mural unveiling at 5pm on Broad Street in Leland and a reception at the Highway 61 Blues Museum).

June 20 - A marker for Big Walter Horton on Center Street in Horn Lake, Mississippi 10:30am.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Noxubee 3 on the Blues Trail

The Mississippi Blues Trail will recognize three Noxubee County natives at a marker ceremony on August 19: Carey Bell, Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, and Willie King.

The Noxubee Alliance, along with local partners Main Street Macon and the Noxubee County Historical Society, will join with the Mississippi Blues Commission and the Mississippi Development Authority Tourism Division to host the marker unveiling and dedication ceremony at the new Macon Welcome Center on Jefferson Street in the Downtown Macon Historical District. Honorees Eddy Clearwater and Willie King are scheduled to attend and perform together. Lurrie Bell, son of deceased honoree Carey Bell, is scheduled to represent his father and also perform. Bruce Iglauer, founder and president of Alligator Records in Chicago - the largest independent Blues label in the world - is helping to coordinate the event and has been invited to speak at the ceremony.

"Cultural and heritage tourism is the fastest growing segment of the tourism economy and accounts for around 80% of domestic travelers. We lobbied hard for this recognition, and we will continue to aggressively market the existing strategic assets found right here in Noxubee County. I have already received a couple of inquiries from Blues journalists and tourists from other parts of the country who have heard the rumor that Eddy Clearwater, Willie King, and Lurrie Bell will all be together on the same stage for our event. The marker ceremony and performances by these legends will be a great day for Noxubee County and all of Mississippi," said Brian Wilson, executive director of the Noxubee Alliance.

Carey Bell, a Blues harmonica legend, was born in Macon on November 14, 1936 as Carey Bell Harrington.. His passing on May 6, 2007 was mourned by the blues world.

Eddy "The Chief" Clearwater, one of the finest Blues guitarists and songwriters, was born in Macon on January 10, 1935 as Edward Harrington. He is a cousin to the late Carey Bell. Eddy Clearwater has received numerous awards such as the W.C. Handy Award and Chicago Music Award, and he has also been nominated for a Grammy.

Willie King, an award-winning guitarist and singer/songwriter, was born in Prairie Point, Mississippi on March 8, 1943. Willie King has received several awards from Living Blues Magazine and was inducted into the Howlin' Wolf Hall of Fame. King is the subject of "Down in the Woods", a documentary by Dutch filmmakers Saskia Rietmeijer and Bart Drolenga which was nominated for the 2008 Blues Music Award.

Lurrie Bell, son of deceased honoree Carey Bell, is a critically-acclaimed Blues guitarist and singer. He was selected as Most Outstanding Guitar Player in Living Blues Magazine's 2007 Critics' Poll and nominated for several Blues Music Awards presented by the Blues Foundation of Memphis.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Bo Diddley Blues

Clarion ledger Bo Diddley Photos

Billy Watkins writes about Bo Diddley today in the Clarion Ledger:

Seventeen months before he took his final breath, rock 'n' roll legend Bo Diddley was handed the Mississippi Governor's Award for Excellence in the Arts. As far as anyone can remember, Diddley didn't let go of it until after he had arrived back home in Archery, Fla.

"Up until then, he was all about his guitar. 'Where's my guitar?' Seems like he would ask about it every five minutes," recalls Sally Killebrew of the Mississippi Arts Commission. "But after he got that award, he wouldn't turn it loose. He held it in his lap all the way to the airport. The guitar was thrown in with the rest of his luggage, and when the skycap asked about checking the award, he said, 'Uh-uh. I got this from the governor, and it's staying with me.'

"He would show it to anybody who came near him. 'I'm Bo Diddley, and I just received the Governor's Award.' It really struck me that a man who has received so many honors in his lifetime was so touched by this award."

Diddley, who was born in McComb and credited with helping blues transcend into rock 'n' roll during the 1950s, died Monday of heart failure at his Florida home. He was 79 and had been in poor health since suffering a stroke in May 2007 - three months after the governor's award ceremony.

Public and private ceremonies are scheduled for this weekend.

Diddley returned to Mississippi at least once after the Governor's Awards - last November, when he was honored with a marker in McComb as part of the Mississippi Blues Trail project.

"They told me he wouldn't be able to play, not to even ask him," says Jackson blues musician Jesse Robinson, who performed at the event. "But when I kicked off a blues song, he looked at me, and I looked at him. Musicians can feel things. Next thing I know, he is up on stage singing - and I mean singing down-home, cotton-pickin' blues. He took over."

Diddley, who moved around age 7 with his family to Chicago, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1998, and one of his songs, Bo Diddley, is in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Rolling Stone magazine ranked him No. 37 among its Top 100 Guitarists of All Time.

Born Ellas Otha Bates on Dec. 30, 1928, he changed his name to Ellas McDaniel after being adopted by his mother's cousin. Numerous stories exist about how he might have settled on his stage name.

His first instrument was the violin, which he learned when he was 5. He took up guitar at age 10 but later used his hands to form fists instead of chords. Diddley was a Golden Gloves boxer during his teens and early 20s.

But it was his guitar licks that scored the most knockouts.

"He was one of four guys - along with Little Richard, Chuck Berry and Fats Domino - to take blues or R&B into a new territory with a heavy beat," says Mississippi-based blues historian Scott Barretta. "Bo Diddley's entire vision was complex. His music was all over the place. But it was his own style, his own signature."

Says Robinson: "He came up with that bomp-de-bomp-de-bomp, bomp bomp beat that made everybody want to dance. That's what Bo Diddley brought to the table."

In a 2005 interview with The Clarion-Ledger, Diddley said: "I don't call myself a guitar player. I'm more of a showman. I make a guitar do things that others can't - beatin' and bangin' on it - and people seem to enjoy it."

He was a pioneer, becoming the first black person to appear on The Ed Sullivan Show. Diddley loved talking about that historic 1955 television performance.

"Sullivan had asked me to sing Sixteen Tons, the old Tennessee Ernie Ford hit," Diddley said in the interview with The Clarion-Ledger . "When I saw a list of the program, it read 'Bo Diddley. Sixteen Tons.' Well, I had a No. 1 song called Bo Diddley, so I thought he wanted me to play both. But he only wanted the one song played. The show was live, so it wasn't like we could stop.

"Afterward, he came unglued backstage. He said something to me I won't repeat, and I told him I'd punch him out. My manager was saying, 'But, Bo, this is Ed Sullivan.' I told him I didn't care who he was, that I was gonna bust (Sullivan's) lip if he said another word. That guy was a control freak."

Diddley wasn't invited back to the Sullivan stage, but it didn't hurt his popularity, especially with young British musicians such as The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton, and Eric Burdon and The Animals.

"I was hearing all this music as a teenager coming from England ... guys like Eric Burdon singing 'Hey Bo Diddley!' - and I suddenly realized they were singing about a guy from Mississippi, this special, unique place where I was growing up. It gave me a sense of pride. It was life-changing," says Malcolm White, who helped book Diddley in Jackson on three occasions.

"Then to meet him and hang around with him was just unbelievable. Bo was a little bitter about some things ... royalties (from songs) he never received. But he was also a jokester. He had fun."

His stream of hits in the 1950s and '60s included Who Do You Love, Say Man, You Can't Judge A Book By the Cover and Pretty Thing.

In the 1980s, Nike introduced him to a new audience. Commercials featuring Diddley and professional baseball and football player Bo Jackson aired constantly. "Bo, you don't know diddley!" he would say to Jackson, who was attempting to play a guitar.

Even into his seventies, Diddley kept playing and writing music. "He never became an oldies act, and I really respect that," Barretta says. "He never became a parody of himself. He was very strong-willed and very independent."

Diddley is survived by four children, 15 grandchildren, 15 great-grandchildren and three great-great grandchildren.

Monday, June 2, 2008

RIP Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley, a McComb Mississippi native and a founding father of rocknroll, died today.

From Modern Guitar Magazine:

On June 2, 2008, the music world lost the man behind the signature voice and choppy guitar riffs immediately identifiable as Bo Diddley. Born Otha Ellas Bates McDaniel in McComb, Mississippi, on December 30, 1928, at the age of seven his family moved to Chicago where he would be turned on to the guitar by John Lee Hooker and don the stage name Bo Diddley. The cause of death has been noted as heart failure.

During the Fifties and Sixties, Diddley was the epitomy of cool with his hip dark glasses, black hat, his homemade square guitar and rhumba-like guitar rhythms on songs like his 1955 record “Bo Diddley” with the now classic flip side, “I’m a Man." Both tracks were chordally constrained, but fueled by the deliberate and hypnotic chunka-chunka rhythms that became his signature sound and inspired countless musicians around the world, including Jimi Hendrix; Pete Townshend, Paul Butterfield, Jimmy Page, the Rolling Stones and the Yardbirds.

Listen to Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” and the Bo Diddley-style riff drives it. All guitarists, whether they were figuring out chords in garage bands or launching their own claims to fame found his haunting guitar work gripping, so much so that Rolling Stone magazine would name him as one of the top 50 “Immortals” of rock ‘n’ roll.

As a young musician, he found himself center stage on Chess-Checkers Records with such blues masters as Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Spann, Elmore James and Muddy Waters.

Diddley was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 with Howard Kramer, Assistant Curator, celebrating the artist’s accomplishments and influence by noting that Bo’s Chess recordings, “…stand among the best singular recordings of the 20th century.”

Governor Haley Barbour release a statement saying, "Bo Diddley was born a Mississippian and grew up in a world where natural talent earned him fame and respect. He was a rock-and-roll icon, a true pioneer whose style generated a lot of copies that were not nearly as good as the original. Marsha and I mourn his loss and extend our deepest sympathies to his family."

(Governor Haley Barbour, First Lady Marsha Barbour, and Bo Diddley)

On November 2, 2007 Bo Diddley was honored with a Mississippi Blues Trail Marker, in McComb Mississippi.