Blues Access Winter 2001
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Backstage Notes

Blues survivors: It started, like so many good things to do with the blues, in Chicago. Leland Rucker and I were in town for the 1999 Chicago Blues Festival and Michael James of AmericanLegends Music Organization had invited us to come by the Hothouse for a performance of what he was billing as "Legends of the Delta Blues." As it happened, the Hothouse a stylish jazz club in ordinary, non-bluesfest times was practically around the corner from our hotel.

As we walked in Jon MacDonald was warming up the crowd. Checking the place out we walked into a back room and voila, there were the "legends" themselves Honeyboy, Homesick, Robert Jr. and Henry posed in front of a photographers backdrop. (See "Catfish Whiteys Pond," BA #39.) Honeyboy, replete with Hamburg, was looking particularly natty, but they were all smiling and cooperative. We, meanwhile, were pinching ourselves, wondering if wed accidentally stumbled into Blues Heaven.

Later that year Sinclair and I crossed paths with Michael James again at the Long Beach Blues Festival. We speculated on what it would be like to be a fly on the wall when this four-headed repository of blues lore was just hanging out and relaxing. Michael said he thought he could make that happen and, after a few false starts, Bill Taylor and John (along with photographer Joe Rosen) caught up with the ageless foursome in New York.

What starts off as a "Q&A" interview soon settles down to the old guys swapping tales back and forth. Weve often lamented in this space that the first couple generations of true blues players has been passing away before our eyes, yet here in the year 2001 we are able to tap into this wealth of blues history dating back to the early part of the 20th century. I feel truly blessed at the thought.

As for the four musicians who make up what is now known as the Delta Blues Cartel, Im as much amazed at their obvious affection for each other as I am at their recall. (Although I guess its possible that those trains that Honeyboy was hoboing on were loaded with ginkgo biloba.)

While Id never argue that the blues should be anything but a living, evolving music, this kind of unique window into the culture that it originally developed from is something invaluable. That the men providing this look back are still active and performing at such a high level makes it all the more precious.

On it online: Just in case you came in, clicked on the current issue, and haven't taken a moment (or 12) to look around the site, take a few minutes to wander around and you'll find generous helpings of feature stories, columns and reviews spanning the last five years of BLUES ACCESS. (Look for the "Our Back Pages" link on our home page.)

Youll find links that allow you to create your own CDs, and, very soon now, to download MP3s of your favorite blues tunes. You can also easily order your subscription (or renewal), our BLUES ACCESS and Red Rooster t-shirts, as well as the full range of back issues weve got available. (Yes, all the above make fabulous gifts for your blues loving friends.) Visit our Message Board to communicate with an active community of online blues fans.

Looking for hard-to-locate independent labels? Weve compiled all our "Where to Find Em" information over the years into one convenient listing. And, of course, come spring well be revving up our unparalleled Festival Listings. Its all part of our commitment to service your blues needs in every way we can.

Feedback loop: Just in case youre feeling taken for granted, be assured that our readers are the most priceless commodity to the hard-working little crew behind the scenes here. Were always interested in hearing from you and email is the best way to do that. You can reach me c/o and all our staff email addresses appear on the Contents page.

As is obvious from our Letters section, our readers are passionate about the blues and BLUES ACCESS. Whatever ups and downs weve gone through and whether we thrill you or tick you off your loyalty has been greatly appreciated. Keep in touch.



©2001 Blues Access, Boulder, Colorado, USA