Etta James combined multiple genres to make her own unique sound

She became a blues legend by singing each song with heart and soul.

Etta James stood out as a blues musician by calling on her gospel roots while intricately combining rock-n-roll, R&B and a little soul. She continuously created music that people could feel deep within their core. The early music of Etta James was as rich with sound as her later music was.

Etta James was a Los Angeles born native who grew up singing gospel. By the time that she was 12, she had moved to the great city of San Francisco. It was there that she had formed her first band (later to become the Peaches), which later became employed under Johnny Otis.

Etta James Something's Got A Hold On Me

The truth of the matter is that the voice and charisma of Etta James wasn’t meant to be under another musician. As such, it was only a matter of time before Etta James struck out on her own. Etta recorded numerous hits throughout all stages of her career.

Like many musicians of her day, Etta James suffered a life of drug addiction. Even though she had a constant battle with drugs, she was still able to release hit after hit. We can only wonder how much more she would have or could have achieved if her drug addiction were removed.

Etta James became ill and had passed away earlier this year on January 20, 2012. Even with her declining health, Etta played music to the bitter end and released her final studio album (The Dreamer) in November of 2011, a mere two months before her death. Etta suffered from Leukemia, Dementia and Hepatitis C and yet still managed to release an album. 

 

Guy Davis Bio and Tour dates

The talented Life of Guy davis

Guy Davis is a man with talents that travel far beyond his music. Guy Davis was bound to become multi-talented, he grew up in a life that was filled with artistic creation and was also surrounded by influential people who stood for a greater good beyond themselves. You can hear the early influence that Guy Davis had in everything that he has performed.

Guy Davis was the child of Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, both of Guys parents were known for their contributions to theater and had actually began in the Theater scene of Harlem New York. Ruby Dee went on to become an influential actress and has been in numerous movies from 1946 on, you may recognize her for her role as Frank's mother in American gangster. Ossie Davis has also performed several roles in mainstream movies, Ossie is also considered to be one of the many important civil rights activists figures. Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee raised Guy Davis in a household filled with creative expression while also providing a sense of equality.

Guy Davis is known mostly for his blues music, however he has also created and performed The Adventures of Fishy water: In Bed with the Blues. The Adventures of Fishy waters is a one man play that is a compilation of story telling and singing. If you missed your chance to see this great performance, you can still get a taste of it through his 2 Disk release.

 

Discography

 

Dreams About Life

 

Guy Davis Live

 

Stomp Down Rider

 

Call Down the Thunder

 

You Don't Know My Mind

 

Butt Naked Free

 

Give In Kind

 

Chocolate to the Bone

 

Legacy

 

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In addition to the many releases by Guy Davis he has also contributed to many album releases of other musicians. Guy Davis continues to live his life immersed in blues music. He is currently on tour, you can see his remaining tour dates below so that you can see if you might get a chance to see a true blues musician in a live performance.

 

Tour Schedule

 

March 23, 2012 Old Saybrook, CT Katharine Hepburn Cultural Ctr. ***
March 24, 2012 Minneapolis, MN Fitzgerald Theatre *BT
March 29, 2012 Oxford, OH Big Song Music House
March 31, 2012 Idaho Falls, ID Colonial Theater ***
 
April 20, 2012 Lakewood, NJ Strand Theater *JD
April 21-22, 2012 Washington, DC Howard Theater *AB
April 24, 2012 Topsham, UK Bridge Inn
April 25, 2012 Chichester, UK The Chichester Inn
April 26, 2012 London, UK Green Note
April 27, 2012 Braga, Portugal

TBA

April 28-29, 2012 Lisbon, Portugal Centro Cultural de Belem
 
May 12, 2012 Milan, IT TBA
May 19, 2012 Thomson, GA Blind Willie Festival
May 24, 2012 Amsterdam, NL Paradiso
May 26, 2012 Puurs, BE Duval Blues Festival
     
June 2, 2012 Brewster, NY Green Chimney Fundraiser
June 9, 2012 Rock Hall, MD Mainstay
June 16-17, 2012 Croton, NY Great Hudson River Revival
 
July 2-7, 2012 Westminster, MD Common Ground on the Hill

 

Remembering Furry Lewis on his Birthday

The man known as the Father of Blues

Furry Lewis was born March 6, 1893. He was considered by many as the Father of blues and lived a life engulfed in music, though his contributions went beyond music. He was a man of humor, he took his music far beyond traditional blues and in all aspects of the word he was a true entertainer.

Furry Lewis was born Walter Lewis in the country town of Greenwood Mississippi. Furry Lewis began playing guitar at a young age though the exact age is unknown. Of course in back roads of Mississippi I doubt anyone thought it would be that important to know the exact date of when he first picked up some run down guitar to string his first note.

Furry Lewis had run away from his childhood home and hooked up with Jim Jackson. He made what little money he could under Jackson helping him out on a traveling medicine show, in many ways this short time could have been his first introduction to entertainment.

One of Furry Lewis’s first musical partnerships was with W.C. Handy, who according to Lewis had given him his first “good” guitar. Furry had spent a bit of time in the hobo life and had actually lost a leg as a result of this time. Regardless of the loss of his leg, Furry went on struggling do odd jobs and playing music until he managed to pull himself into the entertainment world. Furry Lewis was known for his hits Kassie Jones, Rock Island Blues and Mean Old bedbug Blues, he continued to make music, sing and entertain until he had become ill and died at the age of 88 in 1981.

2011 Blues Hall of Fame Inductees

Legendary Performers and pieces that belong in the Blues Hall of Fame

The Blues Foundation will be honoring new inductees in a ceremony that will be held in Memphis on May 4th 2012. It’s an honor to be inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame, only those who have made a lasting impression through their literature or music have made it into the Hall of Fame.  This year there have been a total of ten deserving blues artist and two pieces of literature.

Classic of Blues Literature

The classic of Blues literature has two inductee pieces this year. Bessie, written by Chris Albertson was the biography of Bessie Smith and was put together with firsthand accounts of her life with the help of living relatives. The Living Blues Magazine was inducted for “the Voice of the Blue”, a collection of 12 interviews from blues legends that had been used for smaller pieces within the magazine. The “Voice of the Blues” used the full interviews, including the sections that had previously been edited out.

Classic of Blues Recording – Album

Two albums have been inducted under the Classic of Blues Recording – Album category. "Damn Right, I've Got the Blues" by Buddy Guy was produced in 1991 and had all of the energy and passion that made Buddy Guy an amazing blues Artist. The Robert Cray Band was also inducted for the album "Bad Influence", released in 1983. The album "Bad Influence" was said to bring blues music back into the spotlight at the time of its release.

Classic of Blues Recording - Single or Album Track

Magic Sam, Tampa Red and Pine Top Smith have all been inducted into the Blues hall of Fame. The single, "All Your Love" by magic Sam was one of his introductory singles and became the signature of his classic sound. The single "It Hurts Me Too" by Tampa Red was inducted for its impact of adding empathy into the blues music. Finally, "Pine Top's Boogie Woogie" by Pine Top Smith was inducted for its influence of combining blues and “boogie Woogie.”

Individuals

There were three Individuals inducted this year; Doc Pomus, Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau and Pervis Spann. Doc Pomus was a singer and songwriter, as a songwriter he wrote hits for numerous legendary musicians including Ray Charles. Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau were music promoters, they gained the most fame and presence through their promotion of the American Folk Blues Festival tours. Pervis Doc gained fame as the "The Blues Man" of Chicago radio, he became a major influence in blues as a radio personality.

Performer

There are a total of 8 inductees in this year’s Blues Hall of Fame Performer category. The Inductees are Allen Toussaint,  Billy Boy Arnold, Buddy & Ella Johnson, Frank Stokes, Furry Lewis, Lazy Lester, Matt "Guitar" Murphy and Mike Bloomfield. All of these performers developed a presence in blues music and have single handedly shaped blues in their own way.

Big Momma Thornton

The woman who never really received the credit she deserved

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If talent is measured by the number of times that a musicians songs are covered by other bands the Big Momma Thornton was certainly a success. She has had numerous songs covered, the song that gained the most success is Hound dog which was covered by Elvis Presley. In actuality Hound Dog has been remade numerous times, though I would have to say that no one sang it with the same feeling as Big Momma Thornton did.

Big Momma Thornton was an incredibly talented blues musician that never really received the credit that she deserved. Her first introduction to music came from the church where her father ministered. Though this woman was bigger than gospel and therefore followed her music wherever it took her. She toured and played with many greats such as Johnny Otis and Sammy Green's Hot Harlem Revue.

Sadly she quit touring as blues interest slowed other than a few live performances in the San Francisco bay Area. When I sit and listen to her deep voice I often wonder why she never really gained the recognition that she deserved. Upon contemplation I am often reminded of the differences that she would’ve faced compared to musicians today. She was a large woman who did what she wanted when she wanted. She didn’t listen to the wishes of male producers, she was responsible for herself and she certainly wasn’t going to bow down for any man. Today that would be seen as a sign of strength and even beauty though in her time it was most likely seen as a sign of contempt and disrespect, two things that a women wasn’t supposed to display. Though I may never know, I believe it was her strength and her time that kept this women from gaining the success that she so wholeheartedly deserved.

True Blues Musician - Otis Rush

His Unique Sound compiled with his Loyalty to Music makes him a Blues Musician that Should be remembered as One of the Greats

Otis Rush brought his Mississippi roots to the Chicago Blues Scene in 1948. He gained fame playing many night clubs on the west and south side of Chicago. Otis’s real fame came when between 1956 and 1958 when he began recording his classic hits I Can’t Quit you Baby, All your Love and Double Trouble.

 

Otis Rush is known for his unique guitar rhythm, which he creates by flipping his guitar upside down and pulling his strings downward to create his character sound. Between his special musical talents and his determination to only release songs worthy of being listened to he has managed to create blues music that you can feel deep down in your soul. He may not have had a celebrity styled career yet what he did have and still has is a career that’s center around the sound, the idealism and the soul of blues music.

In Otis Rush’s early career he released only singles. It wasn’t until 1969 that he created his first album titled Mourning in the Morning. During this same year he also contributed to his first compilation with Albert King titled Door to Door.

His discography tells the story of his life and every emotion he has had to bear through 12 single releases and 14 full albums. He has also been a contributing artist in the release of 8 compilation albums. In addition to his musical albums he has also released three DVD’s that allow everyone the chance to see him play live. Otis Rush, though he has age is still making his unique style of blues music that is certain to echo his characteristic sound long after he is gone.

A look back at Urban Blues and Louis Jordan

A true musician that gained success through having fun

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I thought I would step away from traditional blues this week and take a look back at the often forgotten Urban Blues. Urban Blues was formed by merging blues and jazz together often with a splash of rock-n-roll. This gave urban blues an upbeat, catchy sound.

Louis Jordan is one of my favorite early urban blues musicians. He has performed many classic songs such as Is You Is or Is You Aint My baby, Aint Nobody Here but us and Saturday Night Fish Fry. He is best known for his song Keep a Knockin But You Can’t Come In.

Louis Jordan was born in 1908 and had lived a full life until he passed away in 1975. He recorded music in a time when many hardworking Americans had come to face to face with struggles that most thought would never arrive. This help him to gain popularity with his upbeat hits that took away some of the heartache and pain that so many people suffered through each day.

He gained his greatest success during World War Two and had become popular with the Armed Forces, recording through the Armed Forces Radio Service. He was the man that many brave soldiers listened to when they needed a smile, to break up the pain of their grueling days. His success during the war also gave him the opportunity to give a cameo in war based Hollywood films. I like to think that his music inspired future generations and that when we here upbeat songs today a piece of Louis Jordan is in the notes.

The Versatility of Ray Charles

The man who combined blues music across multiple genres

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Inspired by some channel on my cable package I thought I would look at Ray Charles. One thing about Ray Charles is that not everyone sees him as a blues musician. This is in part due to the vastness of his musical career.

He intertwined blues, jazz, gospel, pop and rock n roll. He also flirted with country music and big band. Regardless of what kind of music he performed day by day he was definitely a versatile musician with blues roots that made each and every song his own.

Throughout his musical career Ray Charles released an unbelievable 62 albums plus an additional 126 singles. He toured relentlessly throughout the years and in his early career had to face many hardships while on tour. Towards the end of his musical career he had as many followers as he did in his prime, he in fact was even one of the chosen to take part in the We are the World song as part of the USA for Africa charity in 1985.

Ray Charles was a musician who had many firsts. He has been inducted into several music halls of fames including the Rock N Roll Hall of Fame, Songwriters l Hall of Fame, Blues Hall of Fame, Country Hall of Fame and many more. He has received awards both in country and abroad. Additionally, many exhibits have been erected in his honor.

Ray Charles was music icon. He lived a colorful life that was made from extremes. He had many highs and numerous lows. The life that Ray Charles lived made way for his musical talents. Today, his material is still listened to. In fact they are still releasing the music of Ray Charles, his newest release is a DVD collection of his live concert in France. Ray Charles was a musical genius that lived a life filled with the heartbreak of the blues.

Remembering Johnny Otis

Rest in Peace Johnny, your music lives on

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Looking back over the Life of Johnny Otis, who passed earlier this week you are left with a vision of his amazing attributes. There is no question that this man was the very symbol of the blues. His creative genius went beyond his love of music.

The one thing that really set Johnny Otis apart from other musicians of his time was the way that he would meld his music together. Many of his 1950’s era songs were a classic combination of rhythm and blues and 1950’s style rock n roll. This gave him a signature sound that people enjoyed from the first time they heard him sing.

He didn’t stop there, he created beautiful canvases that capture his love of blues and in some way signify what blues music meant to him. His pieces are unique and remind me of a different time, a lost time. Even though the chances of getting an original are slim, there are canvas giclee prints available on his website and ranging in price from $485 to $755, more than I can ever pay yet still reasonable. He also created a few sculptures, that are rather interesting and unfortunately not for sale.

Johnny left behind a few books as well, including a cookbook titled Red Beans & Rice. The title alone says it all, this man had music burnt deep into his soul. It’s sad to see him go, however it gives me joy to realize that he left behind so much beauty through his music, artwork and writings.

Mississippi Blues Marathon and Expo

Race day event featured for blues lovers of all ages

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This weekend is the annual race day that the soul of blues meets the heart of the athlete. This event coincides with the birth of Elvis Presley, January 8th and takes place each year during that weekend. People in all walks of life gather as bystanders and participants to the annual Mississippi Blues Marathon and Half Marathon. This race event is like one you’ve never seen, as runners struggle up and down their terrain they’re met with screaming supporters and sideline blues players.

 

This marathon brings in more than just the seasoned athlete, many participants are first time marathon and half marathon runners. In fact they even host a kids run. Some people come for the athletic event, others come for the history and all come for the music.

They have blues performers on the stage that can be heard throughout the race. They also have beginning bands playing along the race sidelines along with many sideline individuals just singing and having fun, which is what it’s all about.

As for the race itself, it starts out in the heart of the city and has runners take off heading up State Street, where they follow through several side bends and turns until they reach Jackson Street. Jackson Street brings them down to their final designated route that will bring them back onto to State Street and to the finish line.

This year’s races begin January 7th. Races begin at 6:50 am for anyone who is in anyway physically challenge with the actual race beginning at 7am. The kid’s race starts at 8am. The event will run all day so that people can get their fill on blues music.

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