articles tagged "interview"
Thursday, 11 October 2012 | Art Schuna
I’ve always been a big fan of Jerry McCain. He was one of the most under-rated talents in the blues. The songs he wrote were unique. Jerry McCain was born in Gadsden, AL in 1930 and lived his entire life there. McCain’s first record was made for Lillian McMurry’s Trumpet label in 1953. Jerry was not too fond of this firs.t release, saying his voice was too high. He would go on to record 9 tunes for Trumpet and had one more release which included “Stay Out of Automobiles” which was released shortly before the label folded. Neither of the Trumpet releases were commercially successful due to limited distribution. His Trumpet records on a release originally issued on the Acoustic Archive label and reissued by Alligator titled Strange Kind of Feeling. McCain would go on to record for Ernie Young’s Excello label and had half a dozen singles released between 1955 and 1957 including “Courtin’ In a Cadillac” and “Run Uncle John Run” which were early classics. Many of these were upbeat tunes aimed at rock and roll fans. The song “Tryin’ To Please” mocks Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender”. These songs demonstrate McCain’s unique approach to lyrics that would be a trademark throughout his career. The Excello sides may be found on That’s What They Want: The Best of Jerry McCain released on AVI/Excello which is, sadly, out of print. In 1960, Jerry McCain would acquire a manager Gary Sizemore, who would be with him for 26 years. Jerry released a series of records on Sizemore’s Gas label. His best tune from this period was released on the Rex label, “She’s Tough”. This tune was a regional hit for him would later be covered by the Fabulous Thunderbirds in 1980. You’ll find these recordings on a CD called Good Stuff, released on the Varese Sarabande label. This CD also features a great tune called “Welfare Cadillac Blues”. Unfortunately, this record seems to be out of print. Jerry would go on to record for the Okeh label who tried to turn him into a pop music star. At least one of his records included backing by the Anita Kerr Singers, a female chorus known for their syrupy arrangements. I’ve never heard these records but maybe that’s a good thing. He was billed $33,000 for these questionable productions. The records were not a commercial success. Between 1965-68 Jerry recorded for Stan Lewis’ Jewel label and released 5 singles. In later years, …. more »
Friday, 5 October 2012 | Art Schuna
Samuel Charters is a noted blues scholar and author, record producer, musician and poet. He first became interested in the blues after listening to Bessie Smith’s version of “Nobody Knows You When You’re Down And Out.” He soon became a record collector and began playing jazz clarinet. While in the Army in the early 1950s he ran afoul of the House Un-American Activities Committee. This led to an interest in politics, but as he did not feel he could run for political office he began writing about black music as a means of fighting racism. His book, “The Country Bluesmen” was published in 1959, one of the earliest books on the blues. Charlie Musselwhite told me in an interview that this book was important in his becoming a bluesman. He was living in Memphis and read the book. Then he discovered that many of the bluesmen included in the book were still living in Memphis. He tracked down many of them from Charter’s book. Perhaps the most instrumental to his future career was Will Shade, who played a number of instruments but was best known for his work on harmonica. In the 1950s Charter began to search for African American bluesmen and did field recordings of them for the Folkways label. One of his early successes was the rediscovery of Lightnin’ Hopkins. He recorded him in his home using a single microphone and a portable tape recorder. In this interview, Sam describes holding the microphone and moving it from Lightnin’s guitar to his face depending on whether he was singing or doing a guitar instrumental break. The Smithsonian-Folkways recording “Lightnin’ Hopkins” is still in press and is an amazing record given the conditions under which it was recorded and worth seeking out. He recorded quite a number of blues musicians including Pink Anderson, Billy Boy Arnold, Baby Tate, Homesick James, Jesse Fuller, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, James Cotton, Otis Spann, Juke Boy Bonner, Robert Pete Williams, Big Joe Williams, Siegel-Schwall Band, Eddie Boyd, Otis Rush, Champion Jack Dupree and Memphis Willie B to name just a few. He also produced all of Country Joe & The Fish’s LPs. Perhaps one of his most important production achievements was the Chicago/The Blues/Today! series which was originally released as 3 LPs on the Vanguard label in the mid-1960s. This is essential blues that belongs in every blues fans collection. Each LP/CD featured 3 bands, many of them not under contract at the …. more »
Friday, 5 October 2012 | Art Schuna
I had the privilege of interviewing David Honeyboy Edwards in October 2003. It was a remarkable in that although he was 88 years old at the time, he had an amazing recall of events from his lifetime going back to the earliest days of his life as a blues artist. He got his start in the pre-war era and learned how to busk on the streets from Big Joe Williams. He was one of the last living blues musicians who was a contemporary of Robert Johnson and performed with him. He knew many of the blues greats from the pre-war era. His interview covers not only discussions about many of the bluesmen he worked with over the years but also what life was like at that time. He talks about hoboing to travel from town to town and being harassed by the police. He also talks about his life as a gambler and how to cheat at dice. Honeyboy wrote a book about his life, “The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing” published by Chicago Review Press which is still in press and is definitely worth tracking down as there are very few autobiographies of blues performers from this era. I had the good fortune of seeing Honeyboy in performance on a number of occasions. The last was the next to the last time he ever performed in public at Folklore Village in Dodgeville. He was 95 yeas old. He was joined by Michael Frank, owner of Earwig records who released a number of Honeyboy’s recordings including “Delta Bluesman”, which has his first recording for Alan Lomax and the Library of Congress together with more contemporary recordings. All of his recordings are worth having. A few of my favorites are “Mississippi Delta Bluesman” released on the Smithsonian-Folkways label originally in 1970. “Don’t Mistreat A Fool” on the Genes label, “Shake Em On Down” on APO and “White Windows” on Evidence are also favorites. We lost Honeyboy August 29,2011. It marked the end of an era as he was probably the last pre-war performer and the last direct connection to blues artists of that era. Click on the title above to go to the interview. more »