Little Sammy Davis and Other Legends 

     From 2008 through 2012  I was privileged to host Blues On The Mountain at Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz.  For 5 years we brought an outstanding array of talent to this very special venue for a weekend long celebration of a unique American art form.  As I look back over the program from year one it's hard not to be stuck by the fact that so many of these wonderful artists are no longer with us:  Wendell Holmes, Popsy Dixon, Mighty Sam McClain, and now Little Sammy Davis - have all passed on.

     I want to thank Elizabeth Schmidt (formerly Moroney) and Nina Smiley of Mohonk for having the vision and the commitment to honor these great artists and to present them in a setting worthy of their talents.  Those were wonderful times and cherished memories and they also serve as a reminder that the elders of blues and roots music are an endangered resource who won't be be around always...and that they deserve our respect and our support now.  

    A Memorial Concert and fundraiser for Little Sammy Davis takes place Thursday March 8 at The Towne Crier in Beacon.  Please consider attending and sharing the love with your brothers and sisters in The Hudson Valley Blues Community.  There is also a Go Fund Me Campaign to raise money for a proper headstone for Sammy.  Won't you please consider a contribution?  Thank you.

 

https://www.facebook.com/events/1772712092750590/

 

https://www.gofundme.com/littlesammydavisheadstonefund

Bobby Rush: He's coming your way... 


     Bobby Rush won The Grammy Award a few weeks back for his album Porcupine Meat.  As is often the case the mainstream music industry is a little slow on the take when it comes to Blues and other types of 'outsider' music. Nonetheless kudos to the voters for recognizing this living legend who is still going strong at the seemingly impossible age of 83.  The Bobby Rush Revue is a throwback to the days of The Chitlin' Circuit, and even further to the days of travelling tent shows.  His live show comes complete with outfit changes, dancing girls, props, comedy, and of course a smoking R&B band that takes no prisoners.  "The King of The Chitlin' Circuit" has been plying his trade for more than 60 years now and it's a pretty safe bet to say that we won't see his like again.
      A few years back when we were hosting 'Blues On The Mountain' at Mohonk Mountain House we were very fortunate to have Bobby Rush with us for an intimate/acoustic show.  What a treat that was, and Bobby Rush was as friendly and as engaging as you could ever want. [nb the man is always known by his first AND last names, so... 'Bobby Rush' becomes pretty much one word].  Big Thanks to Elizabeth Schmidt (formerly Moroney) for that booking coup, and for the whole 'Blues On The Mountain' Series...more about that in a future post.
      I bring all this to your attention because if you are in the Tri-State area (NY-NJ-PA) or within reasonable driving distance your opportunity to catch Bobby Rush live is at hand.  He appears at a most unlikely venue: The Villa Roma Resort in Callicoon NY on Friday Night March 24th as part of Michael Cloeren's 'Bluzin' In The Catskills' Event.  I'm no longer on the radio anymore but I do present this to you as kind of my own personal PSA (public service announcement).  As noted earlier, he's a one of a kind living legend, he's 83 years old (although he carries himself like a man 20 or 30 years younger), and we won't see his like again.  Your move my friends..

  

 



 

Who is John Thorpe? 

     Do you like Al Green?  Do you like Ray Charles?  Of course you do.  Mavis Staples, Sam Cooke,  Aretha Franklin, The Blind Boys of Alabama, Sister Rosetta Tharpe?  Surely you do.  I could go on of course because the list of Soul and R&B and Pop Stars who got their start in Gospel Music is just about endless.  So we are in agreement - yes?
You do like Gospel Music.

     It's always been a bit surprising to me that more fans of this music don't go and seek it out in our own area where it's being grown locally and organically. When I was first getting involved with Blues it was still possible to go to small clubs on the other side of town and see some of the greatest legends in blues for just about nothing.  Those days are gone but a quite similar situation exists in Gospel Music today.  Very few Gospel Stars cross over into mainstream attention but if you look around, particularly in cities of any size, you can always find a Baptist Church, a Holiness Church, where some serious shouting and praising is going on and where the level of musicianship is extremely high.

     Case in point:  John Thorpe & Truth.  John is a Gospel singer whom I've followed for over 25 years.  During that time he has performed live on-air at WDST. I have seen him perform at Fairs and Festivals, at The Omega Institute and at humble storefront churches as well.  And in every single instance he has never failed to deliver a stirring, powerful, emotionally uplifting performance.  In short, John Thorpe is the Real Deal.  He and his band are travelling from their home in Rougemont, NC this Saturday June 11 to perform a 3 PM concert at  St. John's Episcopal Church 207 Albany Avenue in Kingston.  This is a FREE show and an opportunity for you to see one of the great gospel singers of our time up close and personal, not in a theater or in a concert hall but in church where this music came from and where it always resonates most deeply.  And you know it's not really about whether you're a Christian or believe in Jesus or anything like that [I am, and I do, but that's not the point right here].  And I don't think that would be a consideration if you bought a ticket to see one of the above mentioned artists at a concert hall. It's about whether you are moved the power of music delivered with passion, honesty, and soul, and about whether you believe in the healing transformative power of music  We would love to see you there.  

Your move....

John Thorpe: He's Working Miracles

Jack Kerouac Was A Bluesman 

It was on this date in 1969 that Jack Kerouac died at the age of 47.  I was living in Portland, Indiana at the time and Walter Cronkite closed out his evening broadcast with this news: "Jack Kerouac the novelist who wrote On The Road reached the end of it today."

I love this picture of Jack with the harp.  [ Anyone with a clue as to the other cat's identity? ]
I'm not sure how much Jack knew about tongue blocking or the 2 hole draw [technical terms for my harmonica peeps ;) ], but I do know he was always a Bluesman to his heart.  Rest in Peace Brother Jack. May God Bless and Keep You Always.

Below are some links to see and hear the man and to get in touch with his poetic soul.  Peace.

Mexico City Blues
'"I want to be considered a jazz poet blowing a long blues in an afternoon jam session on Sunday.  I take 242 choruses; my ideas vary and sometimes roll from chorus to chorus or from halfway through a chorus to halfway into the next


239th chorus
"Charlie Parker looked like Buddha..."


Blues & Haikus 


Jack on the Steve Allen Show
 

Remembering Bobby Bland 

January 27th  is the birthday of Bobby 'Blue' Bland born in Rosemont TN in 1930.


            In 1969 I was already several years into my passion for the blues and overdue for my first pilgrimage to the Apollo Theater. So on a frigid December evening we boarded the D train in The Bronx and made our way down to 125 St. in Harlem.  BB King was the headliner that night.  I love BB and had seen him before, but the man who really caught my attention this time was Bobby 'Blue' Bland.

       A comedian opened the show, followed by a vocal group, Big Mama Thornton, and then Bobby Bland before BB closed down the proceedings.  Actually there was still a movie to watch after that, all this for about $5 a ticket as I remember. Bobby Bland was one of the last "Stand Up" Blues Singers, no guitar and no guitar hero pyrotechnics, Bobby did it all with his voice and his stage manner.  He didn't dance, he didn't scream, but in the hands of this master even the most economical of gestures spoke volumes: the way he would raise his eyes to the heavens as if searching for divine inspiration, the way he would casually, but carefully, wipe one bead of sweat from his brow with a perfectly manicured finger.  His subtlety drew you in and had you on the edge of your seat.

       All artists must learn from those who go before and I have certainly taken to heart the lessons that I learned from watching Bobby Bland: the way he would engage the audience and make a genuine connection rather than just a recital of one tune after another, his impeccable style of dress, the way he carried himself, and above all, the lesson that Less is More.  Bobby Bland died on June 23, 2013, ringing down the curtain on a legendary career of more than 60 years.  I encourage you explore his rich recorded legacy and get to know one of the very greatest of all bluesmen.  Bobby 'Blue' Bland.

 

Martha Redbone Roots Project 

 
Martha and her band, with special guest John McKuen of The Nitty Griity Dirt Band visited Radiowoodstock for an interview and in-studio performance.  Their new album The Garden of Love  Songs of Wiiliam Blake is killer.  The words of the  mystical bard reimagined as old time mountain string band music. "it's as though the 18th century poet's work has been quietly waiting for Martha Redbone".  Give a listen at MarthaRedbone.com.
 You can hear our interview here: radiowoodstock.com/audio-on-demand-detail&cat_id=&song_id=2686128866&cat_name=&circle_id=5806 

Last night in Ravena 

      We played a sweet concert in The Parish Hall at Grace United Methodist Church in Ravena last night.  It was a great sounding room and the people were lovely, what more can you ask for?  Here's a picture of the fellas taken by a member of the audience.  Thanks Cathy.



 

The Blues Hall of Fame 

On February 16th we'll be up at The Orpheum Theater  in  Tannersville for The Blues Hall of Fame Night.  Since I am being "inducted" I figured I had better find out what this organization is all about.  At first glance of course one is rather skeptical...feeling unworthy to be included in the same breath as the legendary masters of this music.  But upon going to their web site and reading their mission statement www.blueshalloffame.com things become a bit clearer.

You can go to the site and explore for yourself of course.  There's a lot of information there, but one of the first things to know is that there are different levels of recognition which just makes sense.  There are "Legendary Blues Artists", "Master Blues Artists" and "Great Local Blues Artists" among other categories.  They take pride in calling themselves a 'free and open to all'  grass roots organization, "We invite everyone to partner with us".  Go to the web site and see what you think.  I'd be interested in your comments.

For another perspective on The Blues...what exactly it is...and isn't...and who should...and shouldn't...be calling themselves "a bluesman" I will refer you to Adam Gussow.
Adam is a master harmonica player, best known as half of the musical duo Satan and Adam.  But he is much more than that.  Adam is a writer, a scholar, and a professor at The University of Mississippi.  Recently he has uploaded a series of his lectures to You Tube.  You can find them in the 'Blues Talk' section of Adam's website (delivered from the front set of his parked car).  www.modernbluesharmonica.com/blues-talk.html
He calls them "conversations about the history, culture, and meaning of the music".  Adam is brilliant, articulate, and provocative.  It's lenghty investment of time to watch all of this...like taking a college course really.  But you will be rewarded (and perhaps ticked off at times) by his insights and his sometimes controversial  opinions.  Again, If you do check it out I'll be curious to know what your reactions are.

Finally in this long winded post I'll refer you to Chick Willis "A Real Blues Artist and Inventer" (sic).
At this link:  www.blueshalloffame.com/Artists_Exhibit_Pages/Chick_Willis_Exhibit.html  you will find Chick's perspective on the state of The Blues Today:  "I am  quite sad and broken hearted to see what some of the Blues Societies are doing to my Blues."  Please read on and see what you think.