Friday, March 30, 2012

Current Events

A few items of interest, blues-related, for you.

You might not have been aware that 100 years ago in March of 1912, the first twelve-bar blues song was published.  It was "Dallas Blues," by Hart Wand, an Oklahoma violinist and bandleader.  In commemoration of this event, Friday Blues Fix Friend Brad Vickers has recorded the song with his Vestapolitans (and guest violinist Charlie Burnham) and will be releasing it digitally at iTunes and CDBaby, and several other sites.  All proceeds from downloads of the single will go to the Blues Foundation's H.A.R.T Fund.

The H.A.R.T. Fund (Handy Artists Relief Trust) provides for blues musicians and their families who are in financial need due to a broad range of health concerns including acute, chronic, or preventative medical or dental care, as well as funeral or burial expenses.

The song is a blast, a real old school treat that features fiddles, clarinet, mandolin, and sax.  If you're not careful, you might find yourself singing along with Vickers and Margey Peters.  Great music for a worthwhile cause is always a good thing, so do yourself a favor and stop by one of these sites and check it out.

Another Friday Blues Fix favorite, soul singer Bobby Womack, was recently diagnosed with 1st Stage colon cancer.  He was released on Monday from the hospital, where he'd been battling pneumonia.  Bass player and longtime Womack friend Bootsy Collins posted about it on Facebook a few days ago, saying that Womack was in good spirits and was very "upbeat" about his future.  Womack just turned 68 and has a new album, The Bravest Man in the Universe, due out in June.  Please be sure to keep him in your prayers.

Chicago bluesman Eddie King passed away on March 13 at age 73, after a long illness.  King was born Eddie Milton in Talladega, AL, but transformed himself into Little Eddie King, based on his small stature and his guitar-playing style reminiscent of B.B. King) when he moved to Chicago in the late 50's.  As a child, he learned to play guitar by peeking through the windows at the local blues clubs, memorizing the runs and patterns he saw, then running home to see if he remembered them.  He learned the ropes playing with other artists like Luther Allison, Magic Sam, Eddie C. Campbell, Junior Wells, and Detroit Junior, and spent years backing the likes of Willie Dixon, Little Mac Simmons, Sonny Boy Williamson, and, for two decades, Koko Taylor.

He released a single for J.O.B. Records in the early 60's, and fronted his own band, beginning in the late 60's, but actually didn't get to release his own album  until the late 80's, when Black Magic Records released The Blues Has Got Me.  This disc featured King with one of his sisters, Mae Bee May, on vocals.  In the late 90's, the outstanding Another Cow's Dead was released on Roesch Records.  Featuring the Blues Brothers Horns, it showcased King's piercing guitar work and his wonderful soul-drenched vocals.  It's definitely one for the Five Discs You Might Have Missed list, so maybe we'll take a closer look at it in the near future.

Gadsden, AL-based harmonica player Jerry "Boogie" McCain passed away on Wednesday (3/28) at the age of 81.  McCain was active from the early 50's until just before his death (he recently recorded a single commemorating the Alabama NCAA BCS Championship).  He was influenced as a harmonica player by Little Walter, who actually gave the young McCain words of encouragement (and an opportunity to jam) during a stop in Gadsden.  McCain recorded for Trumpet, Excello, Jewel, and Okeh in the 50's and 60's and some of his classics include "Steady," "She's Tuff" (also covered by the Fabulous Thunderbirds), "My Next Door Neighbor," "Trying To Please," and "That's What They Want."

McCain faded into obscurity for many years before resurfacing with Atlanta-based Ichiban Records, where he recorded several well-received albums, then a disc for Jericho Records that featured guest artists like Jimmie Vaughan, Johnnie Johnson, Anson Funderburgh, John Primer, and the SRV rhythm section (Chris Layton and Tommy Shannon).  He last recorded with the Music Maker label back in 2006.  He was a true original with his clever songwriting and friendly manner and will be missed, most especially in his native Gadsden.  

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