Friday, October 31, 2008

Bobby Lounge
Dub Brock from McComb performs as Bobby Lounge, but it's a rare treat. Once a year you can catch "Bobby Lounge" at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival where he has recieved enthusiastic reviews from Downbeat Magazine, Rolling Stone and the New York Times and USA Today.

Here's an excerpt by Edna Gundersen about his 2008 appearance:

•Even with its staggering diversity of artists, Jazz Fest seldom serves up anyone as eccentric as Bobby Lounge, the singer/pianist who made his third consecutive Jazz Fest appearance before a large, enthusiastic throng.

Introducing the reclusive McComb, Miss., resident, toastmaster Calvin Tubbs, said, "I've been paid an amazing amount of money to lend some gravitas to these proceedings." Fat chance.

Lounge, wearing feathery wings on his shirt, was wheeled on stage in an iron lung (that's actually an old gym steam chamber with added knobs). He introduces his "closest companion," a primly dressed woman whom he also describes as a lawn jockey, auto mechanic, parole officer, nurse and contortionist who collects Hummel figurines.

She sits and reads a book as he launches into a new song about a Barry Manilow statue made of cheese. He hauls out other Southern Gothic boogie-woogie marvels, including I Remember the Night Your Trailer Burned Down and the epic Take Me Back to Abita Springs. The humor is swift, smart, surreal and often salacious, and his piano playing recalls the prime of Jerry Lee Lewis. No words can describe the freak performance piece that entails Lounge galloping on the keys and spinning a yarn about a Sasquatch-like squirrel while a man in a huge squirrel costume chases a woman, clad only in bra and panties, through the audience until his tail falls off. Now that's Southern-fried entertainment.

Bobby Lounge is scheduled to perform in Covington on November 22nd.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Happy Halloween

Top Ten Halloween Blues songs… subject to debate, of course

1) Haunted House Blues - Bessie Smith
2) Devil Got My Woman - Skip James
3) Two Headed Woman - Junior Wells
4) Evil - Howlin’ Wolf
5) Bo Meets the Monster - Bo Diddley
6) Haunted House - B.B. King
7) Hellhound On My Trail - Robert Johnson
8) She’s Making Whoopee in Hell Tonight - Lonnie Johnson
9) She Brought Life Back to the Dead - Sonny Boy Williamson
10) Devil's Son-In-Law - Peetie Wheatstraw

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Still King of the 9 String

On his headstone Big Joe Williams is proclaimed to be "King of the 9 String Guitar." It's doubtful that anyone disagrees. It's probably even safer to say that nobody really knows the name of whoever claimed to be second best.

A contemporary of Lonnie Johnson, Honeyboy Edwards, Roosevelt Sykes, John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Peetie Wheatstraw, Robert Nighthawk, and a very young Muddy Waters who played harmonica for Big Joe Williams in the early '40's at juke joints around Mississippi. Williams created the 9 string guitar to make his sound original. But he didn't need a novelty string instrument to make himself a standout and an eventual W.C. Handy Blues Hall of Fame singer/songwriter/guitarist. One of 16 children, he was a talented bluesman from Crawford, Mississippi who taught himself to play on a homemade guitar at the age of five. His very first hit in 1935, "Baby Please Don't Go" became a shortlist blues standard, covered by his one-time harmonica player Muddy Waters, among many others.

Here's Big Joe's version from 1963 on YouTube.

On Monday November 3rd in his hometown of Crawford at four in the afternoon, Big Joe Williams once again will be proclaimed "King of the 9 String" with a Blues Heritage Trail Marker.

Don't expect anyone to challenge it. Not on Monday. Not ever.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Chicago Gets Clearwater News

And we're not talking about Lake Michigan.

Longtime channel seven news reporter Harry Porterfield tapped Macon, Mississippi native Eddy Clearwater for his popular "Someone You Should Know" series on Chicago television Tuesday night at 5:15.

The story (you can see it by clicking the link above) includes video from Eddy's latest DVD Live at the Rawa Blues Festival in Poland. Clearwater now calls suburban Skokie, Illinois home, but insists his heart is in his music, and in his Mississippi roots.

From Porterfield's story:

"I want give as much back to the blues as the blues has given to me because it's very important for the younger generation to hear. This is where we came from this is our culture. I want make sure it continues into the next generation," said Clearwater.

Eddie Shaw A Budding Movie Star with Sax Appeal

Like Father like son? After years as a successful blues musician, Benoit's Eddie Shaw appears to be going the other direction, following in his film star son's footsteps onto the big screen.

Like so many bluesmen before him, saxophonist Eddie Shaw went from Mississippi to Chicago to play the blues. Eddie is of course well known for his solo work and also for his earlier career work playing tenor sax behind Hound Dog Taylor, Freddie King, Otis Rush, Earl Hooker, Magic Sam and most notably Howlin' Wolf. He took over Howlin' Wolf's band, the Wolf Gang, and became the Wolf's personal manager. Eddie also arranged the tunes on The Howlin' Wolf London Sessions (with Eric Clapton) and Muddy Waters' Unk and Funk album.

Not a bad resume.

Eddie's son Stan Shaw went in another direction, from Chicago to Hollywood. You've seen Stan in "Fried Green Tomatoes" "The Boys in Company C" (Where Stan's character does sing a little blues) and "Harlem Nights".

Now more than 30 years after Stan broke into acting, Eddie is turning up on the big screen. First, there was last year's natural performance as elder bluesman Time Trenier in the terrific but sadly overlooked John Sayles independent film "Honeydripper." (do yourself a favor, rent it)

Here's a clip from the film courtesy YouTube complete with Spanish subtitles and commentary about Eddie from writer/director John Sayles:

This won't be the last we see of Eddie Shaw at the movies. Stan is working to get his dad back up on the big screen, and this time in an even more comfortable role: himself. Stan is in the final production stages of a soon-to-be released blues documentary called "Roots of my Father, Blues Royalty."

According to an earlier story in the Illinois Entertainer, Stan Shaw has interviewed friends in and around Benoit, Mississippi. The film will of course include concert footage and interviews with Eddie about his lengthy music career.

He's a bluesman, not a movie star. But who says he can't be both?

Look for the film to be released early next year.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Updating R.L. Burnside

Northern Mississippi Hills guitarist R.L. Burnside tried to make his mark as a blues artist in Chicago during the heyday of Chicago blues in the 1950's but left a broken hearted man. It wasn't that his music talent when unrecognized. It was because while in Chicago, Burnside's father, brother and uncle all were murdered within a month of each other. R.L. decided to get out alive. He left the big city and returned home to farming. But he never stopped playing his guitar, and his influence on generations of other hills blues guitarists is legendary.

Now here it is 2008 and Burnside's grandson has released his own brand of blues. Count a Boston Globe music reviewer as a fan of the Juke Joint Duo Cedric Burnside and Lightin' Malcom. In a Boston Globe review of the new CD "2 Man Wrecking Crew" reviewer Tristram Lozaw writes:

If there was any doubt about the inspiration for this debut, it's dispelled in the album's first track, an ode to legendary Delta bluesman R.L. Burnside. Working in memory of the electric gut-bucket blues of Big Daddy, drummer Cedric's granddad, this Mississippi duo casts its own heady spell of juke-joint blues stripped down to the fuzz and guts. Schooled in supporting roles for R.L., Junior Kimbrough, T-Model Ford, Otha Turner, Hubert Sumlin, and others, the young Burnside and guitarist Lightnin' Malcolm add a wonderfully ragged and Hendrix-like rhythmic crunch to the entrancing circular moans of their Hill Country blues teachers.

You don't have to take Lozaw's word for it. If you want to see and hear for yourself what the new generation of R.L. Burnside blues sounds like here's your chance. Cedric and Malcom, who perform as "The Juke Joint Duo" will be playing Martin's in Jackson on Saturday November 1st at 10 p.m.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Is This Man Robert Johnson?

There are two verified photographs of blues legend Robert Johnson. Vanity Fair might have just published a third. In a fascinating article in the November issue of Vanity Fair (available online here) Contributing Editor Frank DiGiacomo writes about how a New York guitar salesman bought the photograph on eBay for several thousand dollars, (where it was erroneously suggested the guitarist pictured might be B.B. King) then set about trying to authenticate it.

Steven “Zeke” Schein believes that's Robert Johnson on the left and another delta bluesman, Johnny Shines on the right. And Schein makes a great case for it, but you'll have to read the 5 page Vanity Fair article for details about why. The story also includes the detailed copyright history which began when Steve LaVere bought the only other two known photographs of Robert Johnson from his half-sister Carrie Thompson in 1974 and the Mississippi Supreme Court decision that gave Crystal Springs native and Johnson' heir Claud Johnson ownership of Robert Johnson's image.

Here's a brief passage:

In late summer 2007, Schein’s attorney, John Pelosi, submitted the photograph to John Kitchens, the lawyer for the Johnson estate, to see if there was any way of authenticating it. Kitchens’s father, Jim Kitchens, had been the lead attorney in Claud Johnson’s fight to be named heir of the Johnson estate, but he had since turned the day-to-day handling of the estate over to his son, who turned 30 this year and was all of 12 when the Johnson boxed set was released. Not surprisingly, when John Kitchens saw a copy of the photo, he wasn’t exactly floored. “I didn’t know who it was,” he says. But Kitchens remembered reading about a forensic artist who, that August, had reportedly determined the identity of the sailor kissing the nurse in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous Life-magazine photo of Times Square on the day World War II ended. The artist’s name is Lois Gibson and she works for the Houston Police Department. She is also a graduate of the F.B.I. Academy Forensic Artist Course and was deemed “The World’s Most Successful Forensic Artist” in The 2005 Guinness Book of World Records because, at the time, her sketches and facial reconstructions had helped net more than 1,062 criminals.

Kitchens sent Gibson a copy of Schein’s photo, along with reproductions of the Hooks Bros. portrait and the photo-booth shot. Gibson compared the facial features in each of the three photos and reported back with a pretty startling conclusion: “My only problem with this determination is the lack of certainty about the date of the questioned photo,” she wrote in her report to Kitchens. But, she continued, if Schein’s photo “was taken about the same time as, or a little earlier than,” the photo-booth self-portrait, “it appears the individual in [Schein’s photo] is Robert Johnson. All the features are consistent if not identical.”

(Click to hear Robert Johnson's Terraplane Blues)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Making Jamz On The Today Show

Viewers of NBC's Today Show got a dose of homemade Mississippi Blues via Tupelo last week. American Story reporter Bob Dotson is the latest national reporter to tell the tale of Renaud Perry and his three children, ten-year-old Taya, Kyle, 14 and Ryan, 16.

They began playing the blues with homemade guitars their father constructed out of parts from his auto parts store.

Taught to play by Jabbo Harris, The Homemade Jamz Blues Band recently finished second at the Memphis International Blues Challenge, beating out 92 other bands.

Here's a sample:
“We would sweat and we would work,” recalls Jabbo, pushing back his battered straw cowboy hat. “Then we would practice and sweat some more. I said, ‘This guy’s gonna make a guitar player because his fingers are as fast as lightning.’

“Next thing I know, here comes his little brother, Kyle, carrying a bass guitar. Bass was way longer than he was. Looks like the bass should have been carrying him. He picked up strumming right away.

“Finally, their little sister, Taya. She’s the drummer. Just 7 at the time. Reminded me of Willie ‘Big Eyes’ Smith; just a natural.”

Read the full text and watch the video of Bob Dotson's NBC story here.

NBC isn't the first national media to discover The Homemade Jamz Blues Band. In July, correspondent Michele Norris featured the band on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" show.
An exerpt:
I decided I had to meet the three kids who make up the Homemade Jamz Blues Band, so we invited Ryan, Kyle and Taya Perry to visit our studios. I had the pleasure of watching the adults in the room go through the same jaw-dropping experience. Faces twisted. Eyebrows raised. Are these kids really playing this music? It was rich.

Who knows if these kids will get rich playing their music? I got the sense it's not what drives them. They're not even old enough to vote, and they've already found their talent and their passion. And anybody who listens — well, they're made richer by the experience.

In August, Modern Guitars Magazine featured the band on their website with this story.

Last December, it was CBS news featuring the band.

You also can count blues legend B.B. King and Jesse Robinson as fans, as evidenced in this popular YouTube clip:

The title of The Homemade Jamz Blues Band's CD is "Pay Me No Mind." But with this kind of national exposure, that's not very likely.

Friday, October 17, 2008

M for Mississippi

M for Mississippi: A Road Trip through the Birthplace of the Blues, is a new documentary "celebrating the raw, raucous spirit of Mississippi's surviving blues scene." This isn't about the history of the blues, this is about the present blues.

Ron Brown reports on it for Mississippi Public Broadcasting: Audio Link

Find out more at

Blues Trail: Roots of Rock and Roll

Saturday at 8:30am the Roots of Rock and Roll Blues Trail marker will be unveiled at 614 Mobile Street.