Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Rollover Ms. Glickert, and tell Ms. Whitehouse the News

Here's a pretty detailed story about the city council meeting that gave the green light to putting up the statue of Chuck Berry in University City.  (Mary Whitehouse tried to ban his "Ding a Ling" in the U.K.)  Here's a photo of Ms. Glickert, who looks nice enough.  Maybe she'll like the statue when she sees people enjoyng it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Earl Slick and John and David

Here's Earl Slick, who played with Chuck and his band last night, talking about how he started working with John Lennon.

Here he is playing one of John's songs on what should have been Lennon's 70th birthday.

And here with his long time used to be, Mr. Bowie.

Chuck Berry at Blueberry Hill, 6-22-2011

Ten full minutes!  Haven't even watched yet.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

What It's Like

I always LOVE to read stories by journeymen musicians who get the call to back Chuck Berry.  Here is a great one!  http://www.polkarioty.com/chuckberry.html

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

A Tease

Robert Lohr and CBII are teasing Facebook friends with news that there will be surprise guest at Chuck Berry's show at Blueberry Hill tomorrow.  (I want to go!)

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Muddy Zimmerman and Robert Morganfield

I think of Dylan as one of America's great bluesmen.  Here he is, interviewed about nterviewed about his new record...

Q:  A lot of this album feels like a Chess record from the fifties. Did you have that sound in your head going in or did it come up as you played?

A:  Well some of the things do have that feel. It’s mostly in the way the instruments were played.

Q:  You like that sound?

A:  Oh yeah, very much so. . "

Likes it enough, in fact, to recreate the sound almost verbatim-- but with David Hidalgo's accordian subbing for Little Walter's harp:  Here's "My Wife's Hometown," done like Muddy's version of Willie Dixon's "I Just Want To Make Love To You."  (Dixon gets writing credit for the song on Dylan's CD.)

And here's where it came from:

Dylan also did his own twist on Rollin' and Tumblin'-- one of the first songs recorded by Muddy Waters on Chess Records.  Here's Muddy's:

And here's Bob Dylan's version from "Modern Times."

(Lest you think Bobby is a simple thief, remember that Muddy used to play exactly like Robert Johnson, and Chuck Berry took the opening lick of Roll Over Beethoven and Johnny B. Goode from Carl Hogan and Louis Jordan.  It's the way it works!)

And, since this is a Chuck Berry blog, I'll requote from the May 14, 2009 issue of Rolling Stone :

"A friendship has developed between Dylan and Berry over the years. "Chuck said to me, 'By God, I hope you live to be 100, and I hope I live forever,'" Dylan says with a laugh. "He said that to me a couple of years ago. In my universe, Chuck is irreplaceable... All that brilliance is still there, and he's still a force of nature. As long as Chuck Berry's around, everything 's as it should be. This is a man who has been through it all. The world treated him so nasty. But in the end, it was the world that got beat."

Rolling Stone 1078 May 14, 2009.  (Here's to friendship!)

Saturday, June 18, 2011

With Youtube All Things Are Possible (Except Those Two Women): Booker T. Laury in Paris

When I was about 25 I was lucky enough to travel from West Africa to Paris, France (and Italy!) for a little holiday.  I met my brother in Paris and the two of us hit the town, eating pepper steak, drinking Bordeaux wine, and, one fine evening, sat right next to the piano at a club where Memphis Slim was playing.  I mean right next to the piano-- so close that Memphis Slim talked to us between songs and sets, because it was like we were at his table.

We weren't alone at the table, either.  We sat on one side, to get a better look at the keyboard, and the hostess brought two extraordinary women to sit across from us.  At one point they went to the restroom or something, and Memphis Slim complimented us.  "You guys got good taste," he said, pointing to the place where the women had been sitting.

"Oh no!" we protested.  "They're not with us!"

That was sure.  Memphis Slim left the bar with both of them half an hour later!

But before leaving, Slim introduced us to someone I'd never heard before or since: the amazing Booker T. Laury, who snuck up to the piano and stole the show as surely as Memphis Slim stole our tablemates.
I've never forgotten the sound of his voice or the piano, but I never heard it again until just now.   So here you go.

 Imagine we were sitting right where those guys are.  Imagine Memphis Slim going out the door behind us, a beauty on each arm.

Can't Be Satisfied-- and I Just Can't Keep From Cryin'

I have been lucky to see lots of my musical heroes in my lifetime. Chuck Berry lots of times. Bo Diddley many times. Same for B. B. King. Bob Dylan several times. Miles Davis twice. Paul McCartney. And lots of people whose music I love. Billy Preston. Roland Kirk. Sonny Rollins. Taj Mahal. Freddy Hubbard. Dizzy Gillespie. The World Saxophone Quartet. Cecil Taylor. It goes on and on.

Sometimes I was just in the right place at the right time. J. B. Hutto got stuck in Seattle for a couple of months and I kept seeing him in small bars. Albert King opened a show at the Memorial Auditorium when I was a kid. So did Freddie King. When I was in college I went into a small coffee house on campus and saw the blues pianist Dave Alexander.

And there was a time in Seattle, just after I returned from three years in Africa, when many of the best African and reggae musicians came through town. I wrote about them for local papers and got to see most of them for free—Tabu Ley Rocherau, Fela, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Kanda Bongo Man, Alpha Blondy, Sonny OkossunsThe Bhundu Boys, Jimmy Cliff, Toots Hibbert, Mutabaruka, The Mighty Diamonds and Burning Spear.

Once, in Paris, my brother and I sat three feet from Memphis Slim during a show at a small but luxurious show there. (We were accidentally seated next to two beauties from Israel.  When they went to the bathroom Memphis Slim complimented our taste.  Once he'd established our incompetence he moved in for the kill and left with both of them.)  The next night we saw Nina Simone at a bigger club, and we saw the Gil Evans orchestra perform at night, outdoors, in a beautiful square in Italy.

I am a cheapskate, but a lucky one. At Jazz Alley in Seattle the shows used to be free with a two drink minimum. It cost me $5 to see and hear musicians like Ahmad Jamal, McCoy Tyner and Abdullah Ibrahim, to name only a few of my favorites. (When it first opened I sat a few feet from Earl “Fatha” Hines—a close up glimpse of jazz history.) In Sacramento I saw Queen Ida Gilroy and L. C. “Good Rockin’” Robinson at a free outdoor blues festival.

More cheap treats: For 6 weeks one summer I worked at a Lake Tahoe Casino. We were given drink tokes with our check to get us in a spending sort of mood. But I was thrifty. Two drink tokes and a tip got me into the free lounge, where, on different weeks, I saw Bobby Bland and B. B. King.

Seattle’s labor day music festival, Bumpershoot, also used to offer an unbelievably inexpensive (cheap) (subsidized!) way to see and hear great music-- $5 a day to hear people like Miles Davis, B.B. King, Taj Mahal, Wilson Picket, Little Richard (he essentially lost his mind on stage), Smokey Robinson and Ornette Coleman. I didn’t see him (I was in Afrcia at the time) but Chuck Berry once played there and evidently was a huge success. Years later I saw Johnny Johnson do a show at Bumpershoot with an audience of many hundreds. Pretty amazing to me that I got that opportunity.

The list goes on and on. I’ve seen various rock and roll acts. Some passed through the Sacramento Memorial Auditorium—Van Morrison, Elton John (a new guy—tiny crowd), Tower of Power and Buddy Miles. I saw Elvis Costello on his first tour (he was obnoxious), and Bruce Springsteen on one of his early national tours.

There are a lot more people if I could make the brain work.

So I have been lucky. And I need to keep this luck going.

But the reason I’m writing this is that I’ve been reading Robert Gordon’s biography of Muddy Waters, “I Can’t be Satisfied,” and I’ve been supplementing that reading by listening to as much of his music as I can find and even trying, in my lame-ass way, to play some of it. (I ask your forgiveness Muddy. As you used to say, I cannot send that message. But I like trying.)

Then, this morning, I see the website http://www.muddywaters.com/, which includes a great list of his final tours. And I see that the great Muddy Waters came to Seattle several times while I was living here, and I didn’t go.

I wonder if I saw those notices? I wonder if I drove past the clubs or theaters and saw his name in lights and just ignored them?

I’ll admit—in those days my Muddy Waters collection consisted of a few songs on compilations. I didn’t know his music well enough. I was an ignorant fool when it comes to Muddy Waters. I knew Hootchie Cootchie Man, and Mannish Boy.  But that should have been enough. 

Besides-- I was a Chuck Berry fan—and that should have got me to buy a ticket.  Muddy Waters pointed the way for the man I idolized.

I want to kick myself, even today.

And think of it now—how many others I am missing today, too ignorant to know, or too lazy to buy a ticket.

Well baby I can’t be satisfied, and I just can’t keep from cryin’.

(Actually, I'm blessed.  And blessed by youtube.  Here's a great version, recorded live, at a show that I missed!)

Song Lyrics: I Can't Be Satisfied
Written & Recorded by Muddy Waters (1948)

Well I'm goin' away to leave
Won't be back no more
Goin' back down south, child
Don't you want to go?
Woman I'm troubled, I be all worried in mind
Well baby I just can't be satisfied
And I just can't keep from cryin'

Well I feel like snappin'
Pistol in your face
I'm gonna let some graveyard
Lord be your resting place
Woman I'm troubled, I be all worried in mind
Well baby I can never be satisfied
And I just can't keep from cryin'

Well now all in my sleep
Hear my doorbell ring
Looking for my baby
I couldn't see not a doggone thing
Woman I was troubled, I was all worried in mind
Well honey I could never be satisfied
And I just couldn't keep from cryin'

Well I know my little old baby
She gonna jump and shout
That old train be late man, Lord
And I come walking out
I be troubled, I be all worried in mind
Well honey ain't no way in the world could we be satisfied
And I just can't keep from crying

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Roll Over Amadeus, and Tell Ms. Glickert the News!

Here's the latest on the (losing) battle to stop a simple statue from being put up across from Blueberry Hill.


And if she's still on the war path, here are some other pieces of St. Louis public art that she can go after.  Maybe by removing these the city could scrub a few more cents from her tax dollar.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Lonnie Johnson

It's good to know who your heroes listened to.  Both B. B. King and Chuck Berry mention Lonnie Johnson as an early influence.  Here he is in 1963, when King and Berry were already stars.

Here's a song from 1939...

I'm not familiar with Johnson's music, so if you have a song to recommend, don't hesitate...

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Makes Me Like Him!

Keith Richards as cute old man!

A Wonderful Chuck Berry Story

Everyone's got a story about Chuck Berry and his contracts. This is one of the best-- complete with photos! Enjoy.


How to SOUND like Chuck Berry

Actually, you can't.

But I have tried, in a lame way, for 35 years. And about one year ago I stumbled on a chord whose twang struck like a message from God.

Chuck Berry is mostly known for his double string lead guitar. Most people who play "Chuck Berry" simplify this style into oblivian, emphasizing the bluesier aspects and missing all the major scale and rhythmic complexity of Chuck Berry's best work. Check out the Johnny Carson interview below. The guy wanted to play in big bands. He listened to T-Bone Walker and Elmore James for sure, but he also listened to Charlie Christian, Illinois Jaquette and Tommy Dorsey.

But beyond the "lead" guitar, he does wonderful, weird rhythm work. One of my favorite bits in his live performances is a chord he uses to punch out rhythms, often while trading beats with a drummer. He alternates between the low and high notes of the chord-- boom-cha, boom-cha, boom-cha-boom-boom-cha, cha. (Again, kids, learn music notation. Otherwise, you get stuck writing gibberish that means absolutely nothing.) I used to copy it in a weird, weak way using strings on different frets, but I knew it wasn't right. Then I saw this chord in a book, hit it once, and knew. Sure enough, saw Chuck do it on youtube!

This is for the key of C- the key for most of Chuck Berry's guitar jams on Johnny B. Goode, etc. Throw it in sometimes instead of the regular C.

But you still won't sound like Chuck Berry. Ah well.

Friday, June 10, 2011

New, From the Entertainment Editor

These came in the night, gifts from Doug.

A rare "Too Much Monkey Business."

This one I'd seen...

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Oh, Baby Don't You Want to Go

...back to the land of California, to my sweet home, Chicago, where I'd certainly take an interesting sounding tour of the former Chess studios.  (Back in 1978, when I wound up stalling my car in Chuck Berry's driveway, I stayed at a $4.32 YMCA about half a mile from this place, but I didn't know and walked in the other direction.  (Those pre-internet days were a mother.)  Ah well, The Art Institute is good, too.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Mea Culpa! (Will the Real Slim Einarsson Please Stand Up!)

When I first posted the interview of Thomas Einarsson I included a video clip of a Swedish blues band that called itself "Bad Sign."  There was a guy with a shaved head playing guitar.  I said it was Thomas.  I thought I was safe.  How many Swedish blues bands fronted by a shaved headed guitarist can there be?

Well, one too many!

So here is Bad Sigh with Thomas Einarsson!

(I hope!)

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Haven't Watched

But you might want to... (It's an hour long!)

Sort of "live blogging" as I watch.

This is the old way of telling the story, that puts Elvis in front of Chess and Chuck.  Since his first hit came a year after Maybellene, that telling doesn't really make sense.

I say "the old way."  That old story about Elvis being the "King" died with Elvis.  Eventually the truth will out.

They put Bo after Elvis and Chuck.  Also wrong.  Not saying there's any intention to mislead, just that how you tell a story shapes the story.

They call Pat Boone a "cover artist" but don't call Elvis a "cover artist."  But that's what he was for the most part, especially in the early days.  He was just a better cover artist than Pat Boone.  Chuck and Bo weren't covering any of it.

Fats gets it right: "What they call rock and roll was called rhythm and blues before.  I been playing it 15 years in New Orleans."

Little Richard comes after Fats in this show-- but his first hits were in the very early 1950s, weren't they?  But this show put Bill Hailey first.

Good thing they do is contrast Boone's bad covers-- but he gets as much time as Richard.

The pictures of the mixed audiences are cool-- best I've seen.  This was the huge contribution these artists made to U.S. culture.

(I'm up to 25 minutes.  That's enough!)