Friday, July 15, 2011

Ten Questions With........Who??!!!

Sorry, but the regularly scheduled post for today was going to be a Ten Questions  Unfortunately, due to some serious procrastination on my part (I would try to get some counseling about it, but I keep putting it off), it will have to be postponed for a few weeks, but trust will be worth the wait.  In the meantime, I decided to do a Ten Questions post with someone who always happens to be available........your humble blogger.  Here's your opportunity for find out more about me than you ever really wanted to know.

Okay, so what's the deal with all the cats on this Blog?

You know, I didn't even think about that until someone sent me an email and said, "Wow, you must really like cats."  The truth is that my family has three cats (and two dogs) and they're all quite photogenic, whereas I am most definitely not and I thought a picture of one of them would look better than a picture of me in the About Me section.  The main picture on the page is my favorite Bill Steber picture and it just looked like a good "title picture" for the blog.

One interesting thing about the cats is when I get a chance to plug in some blues around the house, they usually come to where I am and hang out, so I guess they do have good taste in music. 

Can you, like Buddy Guy, remember the first time you met the Blues?

I was walking through the, not really.  The first time was probably when I saw B. B. King on Sanford and Son, way back in the mid 70's.  That was my favorite show when I was growing up and I can remember King being on there.  I remember the song he sang ("How Blue Can You Get"), his band, and most of all, his guitar.  I don't guess I was what you would call "hooked" (I was only nine or ten at the time), but I can remember later I would watch whenever he appeared on the Tonight Show (with those LOUD horns that would almost drown him out).  I always liked him and loved to hear him play Lucille.  Still do.

Who were some of the artists that led you to become a Blues fan?

Man, where do I start?  As I mentioned on a previous post, I have to give a nod to the Blues Brothers, like most people my age who started listening in the late 70's/early 80's.  They led me to some other great music.  Others include Eric Clapton, the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, etc...  I used to find whatever I could read about them, mainly to find out where they got their sound.  They all pointed out similar sources.  All of them referenced B. B. King, naturally, but they also cited some other less familiar (to me) sources.  Clapton talked about Buddy Guy and Albert King, as did SRV.  The T-Birds mentioned some of the Excello artists, like Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, Jerry McCain (I loved the T-Birds' version of McCain's "She's Tough").

I also listened to lots of soul and R&B during that same time period.  I started out with the contemporary stuff and gradually went back to the older soul recordings from Atlantic, Stax, Motown, and whatever else I could find in print back in the early 80's.  I really dug folks like Bobby Womack, who sort of bridged the gap between the older stuff and the new, and a lot of the legends like Ray Charles, Wilson Pickett, Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Percy Sledge, etc...As I stated a few weeks ago, Clarence Clemons' Rescue was a big factor in starting me on the path, too. 

As I've said in the past, I enjoyed both genres (rock and soul) equally, but there was something missing from both of them that I wanted (even though some of them were closer to it than I thought at the time).

What led you to realize that the Blues were what you were looking for?

A little recording called Showdown!  That was where it all came together for me.  I wrote about this at length a few months back, so I won't rehash, but that's the one that opened the floodgates.  After I heard it, I knew what I wanted and where to look for it.  Only thing was that most record stores' Blues sections were basically desert wastelands (kind of like now, at least the ones that are left), so there wasn't much product out there.  This actually sort of worked out for me because instead of being overwhelmed with choices, I would find maybe one or two interesting releases per visit, so I wasn't overloaded with a bunch of music at once.  Alligator always had a few of their recordings on the shelves, and there was always plenty of B. B. King.  I was even able to track down a couple of Robert Cray's early recordings just before Strong Persuader was released.  Since I was from the south, there were also lots of recordings from the soul/blues side of the aisle, with Johnnie Taylor, Little Milton, Bobby Bland, Z. Z. Hill, Latimore, Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, etc....

What did you use for sources of information to find out more about the Blues?

This was all before the advent of the internet, so I bought lots of books and magazines.  Most of the guitar magazines would do an annual Blues issue, so I would grab those up whenever they were published.  One really helpful one was the annual Blues issue of Guitar World from around 1987 (SRV was on the cover).  Inside was an article called "Who's Who of the Blues," and it showcased around twenty-five or thirty blues guitarists, some of whom I had become familiar with and some that I'd never heard of.  That was a BIG help.  Other magazines, like Guitar Player and Musician were helpful, too, but the best thing I ever did was subscribe to Living Blues when I got a chance.  I later started picking up other magazines, like the late, great Blues Access, Blues Revue, 78 Quarterly, Magic Blues, and the British magazine, Juke Blues.

As I've discussed previously, the books by Peter Guralnick were indispensible (Feel Like Going Home, Lost Highway, Sweet Soul Music, Searching For Robert Johnson), as was Deep Blues, by Robert Palmer, Rythm Oil from Stanley Booth, and autobiographies from B. B. King and Honeyboy Edwards, too.  There were many more that I've already discussed in depth here.  These not only enabled me to learn more about the artists I knew, but also helped me to discover others.

Did the music inspire you to become a musician yourself?

Sure, I wanted to.....who hasn't dreamed at one time or another about becoming a musician?  Unfortunately, I was never really musically inclined....that and the school I attended had little to no music program when I was going through, so maybe at one time I could have been, but just missed the boat.  I also can't carry a tune in a bucket.....I think people started a petition to get me to stop singing out loud in church.  What it really inspired me to do was write, especially after I read the various Guralnick and Palmer books about musicians.  That was what I wanted to do.  I always enjoyed writing, but had a hard time finding something to write about that really interested me.  Then I stumbled onto Blues Bytes.

How did you end up writing for Blues Bytes?

I had just started using the internet around '97, and was surfing for anything with "Blues" in the title.  I found some neat sites, but one of the coolest was Blues Bytes.  They were a monthly online publication that reviewed new Blues CDs.  I got to the point that I eagerly awaited each issue.  It was run by a guy from Phoenix named Bill Mitchell, who I started emailing from time to time. 

I had been reading it for about a year or so, when he happened to put on the site that he would love to have some other people write reviews.  He had a lot of irons in the fire and was having a hard time keeping up.  I jumped at the offer and offered my services, reviewing three or four CDs I had bought that month (one from Chizmo Charles, a couple from Larry Garner, U. P. Wilson, and one by Johnny "Guitar" Watson).  I've been reviewing CDs (approaching 800 total) for Blues Bytes since September of '99 and it's still a lot of fun.  Blues Bytes won the Blue Foundations "Keeping The Blues Alive Award" in the Internet category in 2006.  I've been able to meet lots of people through the site....musicians, publicity folks, managers, etc...people that I never would have met otherwise, and am grateful that Bill Mitchell gave me the opportunity to do something I'd always wanted to do.

So how did Friday Blues Fix get started?

Actually, it started at work.  I emailed a song to one of my friends that was sort of related to what we all do (Jimmy Johnson's version of "The Highway Is Like A Woman") just for a hoot one day.  After that, I just started sending a song out to him and some of my other co-workers who liked the blues every once in a while.  It usually was on a Friday morning, for no real reason that I can remember.  One day when I was sending it, I just put Friday Blues Fix in the title box.  Soon, one song became two or three, and I started writing little bits about each song.  Then, I started doing themes (like "Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue") and featuring certain artists. 

After a while, word got around, and others started wanting me to send it to them, too, so I did.  This went on for about two years, then new email policies came out and there were bandwidth issues and our IT guy told me it might be a good idea to cease and desist with the big non work-related emails, so I shut things down.  A couple of the regular recipients were disappointed and told me so, and then they suggested I start a blog. 

I had thought about doing a website several years earlier and had even drawn it up like I wanted it to look (I'll have to find it and post it one day), so it seemed like a good idea.  By doing a blog, I could include more information, like pictures and least I could when I learned how to do all that.  So one day, in February of 2010, I decided to give it a try and here we are a year and a half later.

How do you go about creating a post every week?

As I said a few weeks back, I don't know how people are able to do interesting posts every day or at least a couple of times a week.  It takes me several hours during the week to do one post that that I hope people find interesting.  I usually brainstorm on Sunday nights and come up with a couple of ideas (unfortunately that didn't happen this week), then on Monday, I try to write up the post and maybe grab a few pictures and videos to use.  Tuesdays and Wednesdays, I find songs to attach (mostly from my collection).  Thursdays, I don't do much but look it over and make adjustments, if needed.  Of course, this entire process is subject to change on a weekly basis.

What are some of the coolest things that you've experienced since starting the blog?

It's been really cool to get emails from people in other countries that have happened upon the site.  It still blows my mind that I can write something here in Smalltown, MS and it's being read by people all over the U.S., and in England, Japan, Egypt, Poland, France, Italy, Mexico, Denmark, Spain, Australia, Israel, and Russia.

But the coolest thing was when I was interviewed about the blog for the local newspaper and my mug was plastered on the front page of the paper.  Unfortunately, they opted for me instead of one of the cats.

Anyway....that's it for Ten Questions With.....this week.  I hope you enjoyed it and I promise to do better next week.  As always, I appreciate your continued support and visits.  I hope that FBF is improving and continuing to maintain your interest. 

Before I go this week, I really wanted to tip my hat to some people who encouraged me to write and blog about the blues over the years.  A guy from Houston, TX named Jim Shortt played a big part in helping me get started.  He shared some great anecdotes about the Houston music scene, helped me iron out the rough spots on those early CD reviews, and turned me on to some fantastic music in the process.  Jim passed away about three years ago, long before I got this started, but I would like to think that he would approve of it.  Also, a big thank you to everyone else (too many to name without leaving somebody out) who has been there with suggestions and encouragement.

Hope to see you next week.  In the meantime, why don't we close with some music.....

Here's a ragged but right clip of Buddy Guy and Junior Wells, taped at Legends sometime in the early 90's.....just two guys who enjoy playing together, and we're certainly glad that they did.

The early 90's edition of Magic Slim and the Teardrops, with John Primer on guitar, Jerry Porter on drums, and Slim's stalwart brother, the late Nick Holt on bass.

Now check out Jimmy Johnson, from the mid 90's, taped in Germany. Johnson is still going strong in his early 80's. Look for a post on him in the near future.


Cee Cee James said...

Graham.. very interesting to read about how this all started and how you 'got the blues.' I like that.. "just when did YOU get the blues!" ha.. I know several people who seem to stumble upon them in later life as they are starting to go through turmoil, changes, shifts.. which all seem to start happening around 50 - 60 (sometimes a bit earlier); which take folks deeper into who they are through the pain they go through with divorce, loss, etc., etc. At that point they seem to stumble upon the BLUES. Maybe they draw it to them.. to help them through their times.. who knows..but it does seem to be a pattern OR maybe they can finally understand it at that point and relate due to what they are going through. I know many stumble upon them in their earlier years and possibly it's because not all pain in life comes at you when you are older. Some get it the moment they are born... But however we all come upon the BLUES, (which at times may have nothing to do with pain at all, but possibly with a desire to connect to something deeper in oneself through music), thank God we do.. there is an ache and and an honesty in blues based chord progressions that hits you in the gut or heart or groin that we all relate to at some point. You can't deny it.

I also really enjoyed reading about your background which I related to. The old Soul and R&B of the 70's is what I came across first as a kid and then the more rocked up blues was next and then finally I found traditional blues through my husband who played it for many years in the Oakland, CA area with many of the blues greats there.

As long as it's got some 'blues bottom' I'm there! LOL And there is lots to choose from. I'm certainly NOT a blues scholar and don't want to be.. a soul blues or a rock blues moves me sometimes much more than a traditional blues or visa versa.

For me.. as long as it's got a raw real feel that is honest and takes me to someplace in my bones.. dat is the blues.

Thanks for the informative insight into Graham Clarke!

jsansing said...

Friday blues fix is one of the best things to come out of mdot!