By now, you're probably wondering, "What does all this have to do with the blues? Have I stumbled onto the wrong blog. I was hunting for my Friday Blues Fix." Well, hang in there, folks......without Clarence Clemons, there might not even be a Friday Blues Fix. You see, it was an album by the Big Man that helped start me in that direction.
In 1984, Springsteen released his latest album, maybe you're familiar with it. That really threw them into the spotlight....by the summer of '84, most people knew at least half of the E Street Band and Clemons was really popular. This meant many great opportunities for the Big Man, including more copies being available of his album from the year before. By the fall of that year, I found a copy of the album, called Rescue, on cassette. I played this cassette about as much as anything else I had for a long time. Finally, it developed that inevitable cassette squeal that cassettes used to do.
"A Woman's Got The Power" was one of the singles released from the album. How about that video?!!! Makes you long for those fashions and all that hair spray, doesn't it?
A few years ago, Rescue was re-issued as one of those "two-fers" that became the rage when CDs became the rage....where a record label combined two of an artist's best albums onto one CD. Rescue was combined with Clemons' second CD, Hero, which became a big hit for the Big Man. Me.....I hated it for a couple of reasons......1) one of the best things about Rescue was the incredible vocals of J.T. Bowen, who sounded like Wilson Pickett's little brother. On Hero, Clemons took most of the vocals himself and let's just say it was not an improvement and move on. 2) The focus moved from that sizzling retro bluesy Soul/Rock sound to 80's Pop, so while it was a notable success in the mid 80's, twenty-five years later, you can't remember anything but that duet Clemons did with Jackson Browne that made the Top 40. I guarantee that if you heard "Jump Start My Heart," or "Resurrection Shuffle" from Rescue, you would remember them now as much as you did in '83....I guarantee it.
|J.T. Bowen and Clarence Clemons|
I didn't pick up the "two-fer" set... opting, after much searching, for a Japanese import of the original Rescue that I found on Ebay. Listening to it today, I'm aware that some of the songs are thinly disguised 80's Power Pop, lifted up considerably by Bowen's raw, rugged vocals (whatever happened to him??!!!) and the Big Man's wailing sax. Still, it's a lot of fun to listen to even today. What Rescue did for me, though, was inspire me to dig deeper to get more of that sound that they were emulating. From Rescue, I discovered the great vintage Soul catalog of Atlantic Records (Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Joe Tex). From there, I wanted to read more and learn more, so I picked up Peter Guralnick's Sweet Soul Music book (which deserves a post of its own and I promise I will do one soon). Prior to that, even though I loved soul music, my knowledge was mostly limited to current acts, Motown, and a few artists I had picked up through friends (Maze, Bobby Womack, etc....).
From that point, it was a short hop and a jump to the blues, which was the place I wanted to be all along. However, I might never have found my way there without the efforts of Clarence Clemons on his first album. Thanks, Big Man......I owe you more than you'll ever know.
I'll bet that Heavenly Orchestra is raising the roof right now.
Last of the Mississippi Jukes was directed by Robert Mugge, who also gave us Deep Blues in the early 90's. The newer film was released in 2003 and it's a look at what many consider to be a dying breed in Mississippi, the juke joint. The film's primary focus is on two locations, the legendary Subway Lounge in Jackson, MS, and Morgan Freeman's Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale. Your mileage may vary on whether or not Ground Zero qualifies as a juke joint (who cares.....the blues is being played there, so go support it), but there's not much doubt about the Subway Lounge's authenticity. During the filming of the documentary, there was an effort being made to save the Subway Lounge. It was located in the basement of the Summers Hotel and the building was in bad shape and in danger of being condemned. Unfortunately, the building was demolished a year after the film was released.
|The Summers Hotel - Home of the Subway Lounge|
In July, we will be looking at a few new releases, a few old releases, and hopefully, we will have a Ten Questions With.....post, maybe two, as well. Meanwhile, let's close out with a couple of Gary Clark, Jr. videos, including one of Clark with the Honeydripper band, which includes Shaw and Williams, from 2008, and one from the wonderful 2010 Crossroads Guitar Festival DVD, with Clark and Doyle Bramhall II. You're going to be hearing a lot more from this guy, I promise.