“Lost the keys to paradise, well that’s the oldest story in the world..” Peter Case joined by former Plimsoul Eddie Muñoz on a nifty 2012 version of “The Oldest Story in the World.”
In the early 1980’s the Plimsouls were almost famous. This song appears in Valley Girl, and their biggest hit “Million Miles Away” charted at #11. Peter Case went solo shortly after and has mainly navigated an excellent solo career since. Plimsouls reunions are infrequent but enjoyable.
The L.A. Times reports that 673 tape reels of Producer Allen Toussaint have been purchased at Roadium in Los Angeles, a weekend flea market. The trove includes masters and safety copies of many 1968-1979 records at Sea-Saint Studios. After several ownership transitions following the sale of the tapes winding up in a flea market where Mike Nishita purchased them. He is brother of Money Mark and a DJ of reknown. The tapes had been feared lost after Hurricane Katrina.
I had the distinct pleasure of video interviewing Allen twice in the mid-1990’s as well as shooting a play talk interview with Earl King at Sea-Saint. Funky and full of mystique, Sea-Saint is best known for Sir Paul’s Venus and Mars, Labelle’s Lady Marmalade, Allen’s own Southern Nights, and Robert Palmer’s Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, but so often Toussaint could pull magical results from his regular backing band, The Meters.
Providing to New Orleans what Booker T. & The M.G.’s did to Memphis, they went on to become a funk mainstay and have had outsized influence on subsequent sounds. In addition, the Neville Brothers found a world-wide audience summarizing these triumphs with tours and records featuring songs first recorded at Sea-Saint.
Finally Chicago gets a blues museum, at Muddy Waters former home on the Southside. Celebrating the blues by passing down the history and the music with a recording studio and renovation, it aims to engage the next generation of talent.
“It’s our job as blues historians, but as people who love blues or are vying for the blues legacy … it’s our jobs to remind people that the blues is the root of a lot of music,” said Chandra Cooper, Waters’ great-granddaughter.
Waters, born McKinley Morganfield in 1913, moved to Chicago in 1943 to pursue music professionally. He developed an influential electric guitar based blues style that went on to heavily influence the Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter and an entire generation of blues rockers.
Israeli bluesman Andy Watts recently put out his fifth album Supergroove with guests including (BCI #2’s) Joe Louis Walker, singer Eliza Neals, Roy Young, and Israeli vocalists Danny Shoshan and Gadi Altman. Watts, 56, was born in Sweden and moved to Israel when he was 20 years old.
The record has had some chart successes remaining on the Roots Music chart for 17 weeks, reaching a peak of No. 6. It hit No. 9 in the U.K. and went top 20 in Australia.
Blues pioneer Gertrude Pridgett (1886 – 1939) began performing as a teenager and became known as “Ma” Rainey after her marriage to Will “Pa” Rainey in 1904. They toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Her first recording was made in 1923 followed by over 100 more including “Bo-Weevil Blues” (1923), “See See Rider Blues” (1924) and “Soon This Morning” (1927).
Rainey was known for her powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a “moaning” style of singing. Rainey recorded toured until 1935 (including with Thomas Dorsey and Louis Armstrong) when she continued as a theater impresario in her hometown of Columbus, GA for the reaming four years of her life.
In 1982, August Wilson authored the musical Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – the title coming from Rainey’s song of the same name, which refers to the black bottom dance from the Roaring Twenties. Now it is a high production value Netflix feature with Viola Davis excelling in the lead role.
When the first gramaphone recordings of blues hit the market in 1920, black female singers surged to success. However, once guitar caught on in the following decade, men predominated popular blues. While the blues has remained in the popular music picture at all times in the intervening century, it is often behind the scenes powering rock, R&B, country and funk. But the blues is still with us.
100 years later things are going full circle. Female artists kicked down the door for this important music then, and now a younger generation is picking up the guitar and plugging in to carry the blues forward. In “Women created the blues. Now they are taking it back” in Christian Science Monitor Stephen Humphries discusses how Larkin Poe, Samantha Fish, Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Jackie Venson are reinvigorating the music.
Humphries adds this backstory:
The most popular blues performers in places like Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and Tuxedo Junction in Birmingham, Alabama, were Black women. Notably, these singers bent their voices to sing something unheard-of in staid European music capitals: minor “blue” notes in between major notes over 12-bar shuffles. The blues drew on the call-and-response of spirituals. …Yet the women who helped pioneer the genre were shut out from the recording industry. Then, in 1920, vaudeville singer Mamie Smith convinced the Okeh label there would be a huge Black audience for her recordings. Her second release, which included the song “Crazy Blues,” made her the Adele of her era.
“It’s the first song to bring in a million dollars, and it really set a precedent for women taking the stage and starting to become recording artists,” says Lynn Orman Weiss, head of the Women of the Blues Foundation. “Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, and Mamie Smith were huge stars.”
For more from Stephen Humphries CSMonitor article on women in blues today click here
Samantha Fish stars often in BC’s coverage of the New Orleans blues scene. Here is a clip of her in action at the 2018 NOCBGF. The Blues Center has been an official sponsor of the event since 2017. And in 2020 it was renamed the Samantha Fish New Orleans Cigar Box Guitar Festival.
Phil DeGruy, in Blues Center Interview #21, reveals some of the secrets of his brilliant, idiosyncratic guitar style. In the series finale (BCI #21 shot in January of 2020) Phil DeGruy shows off some jazzy licks on guitarp and talks Chet Atkins, Lenny Breau, Larry Carlton, Steely Dan, Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Beatles, Kinks, Eric Clapton, Hollies and more. Phil alternates a couple of originals with a Beatles medley, “Sunny Afternoon” and “Mr. Sandman.” A tour de farce with strings from the erstwhile funnyman. Host Ric Stewart rides the blues and country fences for containment!
Gabi Cavassa drops by PineCohn and D.J. Maraca’s Soul Country show in an amazing crossing of the beams in BCI #19. In footage shot in late 2019 and January of this year, host Ric Stewart leans in on the radio, guitar and camerawork at the Starlight to bring you a portrait of the young artist. We discuss future collaborations, making a debut album and country’s Patsy Cline, Hank Williams, Marty Robbins and Dolly Parton. A blues duo jam highlights the start of something big.
The New Orleans roots of blues and jazz always featured an Afro-Caribbean element. Writer Ashawnta Jackson offers a look back at what Jelly Roll Morton referred to as a “Spanish tinge.” It emerged from a cultural cross wind including Mexico and re-incorporated Cuban and Spanish sounds.
Mexican influence also found its way to New Orleans’s music scene in the late 1800s and early 1900s through groups like La Orquesta Tipica Mexicana and the Mexican Artistic Quintet, Narváez writes. Musicians like pianist and composer Jelly Roll Morton and his future bandmate Lorenzo Tio Jr., a Creole clarinetist who also had Mexican roots, also combined those influences. As Morton told ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax, “[I]f you can’t manage to put tinges of Spanish in your tunes, you will never be able to get the right seasoning, I call it, for jazz.”
At long last! BCI is back with a new episode. Shot in January – March of 2020, Blues Center Interview # 20 offers a portrait of the artist, Malcolm Wellbourne. Better known as Papa Mali, herein you can find out just how. A lucky trip to Jamaica began a lengthy reggae run for the bluesy, swampy, surf-guitar happy camper.
Along the way a keystone highlight is the collaboration with two of the Grateful Dead, drummer Bill Kreutzmann and songwriter Robert Hunter. Together theydrove the 7 Walkers forward for an album and several memorable years of touring.
Some peak concert moments from the last few years propel the soundtrack – from Chickie Wah Wah, Maple Leaf and PineCohn with interviewer Ric Stewart. Catch the whole series including #10 with Joe Krown, #18 with Alvin Youngblood Hart both playing along with Mali here and at our YouTube Channel.