Thank you for the cover story in BLUES ACCESS #33. I have two corrections and one amendment that I hope you'll print.
On page 14, when speaking about heredity: "Are you hip to means? That's the things you get culturally, y'know." That should read: "Are you hip to memes?" The reference is to genes and memes, which is a very different word from "means," and a word with very specific and precise meaning -- what you get from the cultural background.
The second correction is on page 18, discussing jazz playing, seventh paragraph that begins with "Right ..." In the second line, the word should be "simulating," not "assimilating," again, a very different meaning.
Also, it was unfair of me to single out Jerry Wexler as my villain at Atlantic Records. I hardly knew him, and besides, he was probably just speaking for the company. I took myself more seriously back then.
The Rest of the Lonnie Johnson Story
I read the Lonnie Johnson article (BLUES ACCESS #32) with great interest, and before Jim McHarg is canonized, let me tell you the rest of the story.
I was responsible for having the album made with McHarg re-released a few years ago. It was also my decision to change the title so that it read "Lonnie Johnson" first, obviously looking to feature Lonnie, rather than McHarg and his band. The latter certainly received due credit, just that Lonnie came first because he was the focal point of interest. Remember this was for a "Roots & Blues Series" release.
I might add that most everyone even remotely interested in the genre has some knowledge of Lonnie Johnson, while the same cannot be said of the McHarg band. I'm not taking a "shot" at McHarg, just stating what I perceive to be the truth, as any reasonable person interested in blues would understand.
To continue, an action was brought against Sony by McHarg (who, by the way, was receiving royalties as per his original contract) because of the above-mentioned name reversal. As a result of his action, Sony (not me, I can assure you) decided to have the CD deleted from the catalog. It is no longer (legitimately) available because of the resolve between McHarg and Sony. I promise you that I tried to avoid this outcome, and had I the final say in the matter this would never have happened.
Further, I was informed by Sony Music Canada (remember that the original contract and release was with CBS Music Canada) that even after the recording was deleted from the catalog, McHarg was still intending to sue for damages. So much for altruism. And even though I'm a non-practicing lawyer, I am hard put to find justification for this, either legally or morally.
What the present state of the action is, I do not know. No one has kept me up-to-date and that's just fine. Perhaps if he is lucky enough, McHarg will someday meet up with Lonnie. If he does, I hope that he will spare Johnson the indignity of these details!
You Gotta Earn It
Bob Margolin's reply (BA #32) to a review (BA #31) is a joke. Since when does a reviewer have to critique a CD to the satisfaction of the artist? This is simply sour grapes. You earn respect -- you don't demand it.
I appreciate both the brief reviews as well as all the detailed ones. I always scan the brief reviews as I do not always have the time to read the detailed ones. Most of the time I agree with the reviewer, but not always, which you would expect.
If I can't count on your reviewers giving an unbiased opinion, I would not purchase your fine magazine. I have no problem with the Rooster's review, but again, my opinion may not agree with those of other people.
Dixie Cups, Indeed
Viewing Raeburn Flerlage's stunning photograph, in BLUES ACCESS #34, at last I understand why a dynamite vocal group would ever own the label the Dixie Cups. Just look at that picturesque woman, dressed to the nines in her Saturday finery, surrounded by good times and Dixie cups. Suddenly you see why those stylish gals from the '60's took the name.
Your photos are always worth the cover charge, and Flerlage is a special treat. Keep up the great work.
Flerlage Is Awesome!
Had a few quiet moments yesterday and managed to sit down and pick up the latest issue of BLUES ACCESS. I always start with Back Stage Notes to see what's going on behind the scenes.
Reading that there were some photos by "veteran lensman" Raeburn Flerlage inside, I flipped right to them and WOW! What an incredible find! The shots were taken at the Trianon Ballroom in Chicago in the early '60s. There's Bobby "Blue" Bland with his audience, looking so sweet and sexy, the women grabbing him and calling to him. (The men looking a bit more reserved.) If I could only have been a fly on the wall.
Then a great take of B.B. King that's so full of movement you can almost hear the notes coming from his mouth. This picture originally appeared on the dust jacket of Charles Kiel's Urban Blues, as did some of Flerlage's other photos, including one of a dapper Muddy Waters singing and pointing his finger, letting the audience know he was the man.
Then there is Jackie Wilson, and seeing these pictures gave me chills. They capture all the drama of his kinetic performance. (If only that mellifluous voice could sing up from the page!)
Thanks for caring enough about the music to bring us such treasures. Now I have to dig into the cover story about Mose Allison, another treat.
Equatorial Blues Pursuits
Greetings from Saudi Arabia. I have to say that BLUES ACCESS is the most informative and interesting magazine on the subject. As a blues and jazz enthusiast since 1988, it is a pleasure to read each issue.
I'd also like to say that Argentina is not the only place below the equator in which the blues is very much alive. In my country, Brazil, there are countless blues bands and very nice musicians popping up all over the country. Thank God. This is not only the land of the samba. The tens of thousands of blues and jazz enthusiasts can confirm that. By the way, Andre Christovam, who you mentioned in "Porteno Blues" (BA #32) is Brazilian.
Wellington S. Cassiano
Thank you so much for the article on Mose Allison. He's been a favorite of mine since the '60s, when it was, believe it or not, hip to diss him. Ah, what fools we mortals be. Lovely article on Big Joe, too. Anybody know whatever happened to that magic mojo of his? I know lots of people who'd benefit by becoming invisible.
Also, thanks for the article on Sammy Myers. He and Anson, Denny Freeman, Janiva & Jeff and Doug MacLeod are among my faves of contemporary blues folk. I surely would like to see a full-treatment review of MacLeod's latest. Doug is a gem who's only just starting to get some long overdue attention. I first heard him play in Norfolk way back in the middle '60s.
Also, loved the Raeburn Flerlage photos. The lady drinkin' beers out of Dixie cups was too much, too much.
Now, as my dad used to say, "You're pretty hot! Don't go gettin' a big head!" Just kidding. Thanks for supporting the blues and for bringing it to the people. Us blues fans do appreciate it.
Another Butter Story
I just finished reading and enjoying Tom Ellis's biography of Paul Butterfield. His depiction of the players, the period and the evolution that Butterfield helped lead was both colorful and down to earth.
I met Paul and Kathy years ago under unusual circumstances. They were vacationing in St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. I spent my high school years there as one of five white kids in Christiansted Public High School, which was an amazing time playing calypso in the marching band and working on the local charter sailboats.
At the time Paul and Kathy came down to the island, I was home on vacation from working in New York at Electric Lady Studios as a very green assistant engineer learning the basics from Eddie Kramer. The break was welcome, as was the 300-foot underwater visibility. My folks and Kathy's parents met each other at my folk's clothing store, liked each other and arranged for my brother and I to take Paul and Kathy snorkeling on the local reefs.
We did, they loved it and we all got together about six months later in their home near Woodstock. It was a warm period that Maria Muldaur's reminiscences brought rushing back to me as she spoke of sitting around the piano downstairs, playing and singing.
These days I create music and sound for computer games here in the Bay Area. Back then I was writing songs, singing them in clubs around the village like the Cafe Bizarre and hoot nights at the Bitter End and making endless rounds of the midtown publishers. It was a major thrill meeting Paul, and it took a lot of will to not immediately hand him a demo.("Hey Paul, Kathy, look at that red snapper! And check out these tunes!")
On one of the visits to their house six months later, the conversation led to me giving him a tape. The song that he liked was "The Blind Leading the Blind," a song I had written and performed while in college a couple of years earlier at Wesleyan in Connecticut. It was actually part of a series of songs I wrote and performed as a senior thesis project (ah, '60s academia).
When Maria spoke of the song's lyrics, she referred to the song as something that Paul and Kathy were writing at the time. Paul's actual contribution was his arrangement. We co-published it with my company, Dull Thud Music, and his, Plur-bon Music.
Paul and I talked about the writing credits, and he insisted on being listed as a co-writer. But all the lyrics and every portion of melody are from the song he first received on the tape I gave him. They used to close their concerts with the song while snaking a conga line through the audience.
This letter is partly to set the record straight on authorship but also to offer a remembrance of a warm, lively window in this great player's life when he and his beautiful, young wife were learning how to use face masks and flippers, and discovering the world of coral reefs.
In the end I'm really, really sorry he died, and I'm sorry for the pain he went through during those last years. But even if I'd never met him, I can say that his fire and musical imagination have been a lifelong inspiration. Thanks to Tom Ellis for the insight and the homework. And to BLUES ACCESS for providing such careful, intelligent and impassioned stories of this blues world.
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