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Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Good-Bye George Carlin

I always loved this guy, since I was a high school kid. Here are some of his quotes, which I found on-line today:

"The weather forecast for tonight: dark. Continued dark overnight, with widely scattered light by morning. ... What we have here is a Canadian low, which is not to be confused with a Mexican high."

"If crime fighters fight crime, and fire fighters fight fire, what do freedom fighters fight? "

"If lawyers are disbarred and clergymen defrocked, doesn't it follow that electricians can be delighted, musicians denoted?"

"I'm completely in favor of the separation of Church and State. My idea is that these two institutions screw us up enough on their own, so both of them together is certain death."

"If the No. 2 pencil is the most popular, why is it still No. 2?"

"One tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor."

"If a parsley farmer is sued, can they garnish his wages?""If the 'black box' flight recorder is never damaged during a plane crash, why isn't the whole airplane made out of that stuff?"

"Whose cruel idea was it for the word 'lisp' to have an 'S' in it?""Why is there an expiration date on sour cream?"

"If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do the rest drown, too?"

"One nice thing about egotists: They don't talk about other people."

"If the police arrest a mime, do they tell him he has the right to remain silent?"

"What if there were no hypothetical questions?"

"Atheism is a non-prophet organization."

" 'I am' is reportedly the shortest sentence in the English language. Could it be that 'I do' is the longest sentence?"

"The word bipartisan usually means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out."

"Dusting is a good example of the futility of trying to put things right. As soon as you dust, the fact of your next dusting has already been established."

"Have you ever noticed that anybody driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone going faster than you is a maniac?"

"I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me — they're cramming for their final exam."

"If it's true that our species is alone in the universe, then I'd have to say the universe aimed rather low and settled for very little."

"Most people work just hard enough not to get fired and get paid just enough money not to quit."

"Some people see things that are and ask, Why? Some people dream of things that never were and ask, Why not? Some people have to go to work and don't have time for all that."

"When you're born you get a ticket to the freak show. When you're born in America, you get a front row seat."

And here is my all-time favorite:

"The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A Death! What's that, a bonus? I think the life cycle is all backward. You should die first, get it out of the way. Then you live in an old-age home. You get kicked out when you're too young, you get a gold watch, you go to work. You work 40 years until you're young enough to enjoy your retirement. You do drugs, alcohol; you party; you get ready for high school. You go to grade school; you become a kid; you play; you have no responsibilities. You become a little baby; you go back into the womb; you spend your last nine months floating ... and you finish off as an orgasm."

Thank you, George.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Blues Day Festival - July 12. Congress Theater

I received this message from Tyler Wilton. It sounds like he and Fernando Jones have organized a terrific event that will benefit a good cause. It is coming up on July 12. Fernando Jones is a terrific talent - one of the new generation of bluesmen (it isn't a large group, sad to say). Fernando is also a respected blues educator, received a "Keeping the Blues Alive" award from the Blues Foundation for his teaching activities. The artists booked at Tyler and Fernando's festival are top-knotch. Fruteland Jackson is a friend of mine and is keeping the acoustic blues tradition alive - he always puts on a great show. Two of Chicago's finest female blues singers will perform - Nellie "Tiger" Travis and Jackie Scott. Jose Cornier plays some smokin' guitar with a Latin groove. Coco Elysses is a fine jazz vocalist and percussionist who frequently appears at Fred Anderson's Velvet Lounge. And Lonnie Brooks is a GIANT! It will be a great day and evening of music.

Here is Tyler's message:

I wanted to let you know about a one-day blues festival my friend and I are putting on at the Congress Theater (Blues Day Festival). It is on July 12th and it is for a good cause. It is an event for the whole family and part of the proceeds will be donated to Blues Kids of America and the Koko Taylor Foundation. Doors open at 9:00am where a blues clinic for kids will begin. Kids will learn how to play the blues on various instruments. The music starts at roughly 3:45pm with the Columbia College Blues Ensemble. There will be 9 other acts throughout the evening and Lonnie Brooks will be the headline act ending at 11:00pm.

Tyler Wilton

Monday, June 09, 2008

A True Story of Blues Competition

I heard this story from a musician friend of mine. I am not including anyone's name because that wouldn't add anything to the tale, and besides - this is an unverified story. But it rings true to anyone that has worked the hyper-competitive blues scene in Chicago...

There is a fine young guitarist in Chicago - let's call him "Young Buck." Young Buck has been playing since he was a teenager, and has been a sideman for many of the blues greats, both in Chicago and in touring bands. Young Buck can truly play and he sings pretty well. He is ambitious, and has his own band - let's call them "the Buckaroos."

Now Young Buck was supporting a great, elder statesman of the blues - we will call him "Old Vet." Old Vet had been on the scene for decades and never quite achieved break-out, star status. He was heading in that direction though. He started playing some of the better rooms in Chicago (including Buddy Guy's Legends) and he got some dates in Europe. Things were looking up for Old Vet.

So Old Vet got 2-week tour in Europe, but he was going to be backed by local European musicians - he had to leave Young Buck and the rest of the band back in Chicago. Young Buck noticed that Old Vet seemed to have a double booking - he was scheduled to play in Germany on a Saturday night when he was also scheduled to play at Legends. Young Buck saw an opening.....

Buck called the booking manager at the club. "Hey, Vet is going to miss his date - he will still be in Europe." "That's strange," said the booking manager. "Vet told me he would be back in time." "Well," said Buck," I double checked the schedule and he is double booked. But don't worry, I'll take the gig with my band, the Buckaroos." The booking manager agreed to this since he had a hole in his schedule.

Buck then got on the telephone and called the other sidemen in Vet's band. "Hey, Vet's double booked and I am taking the gig at Legends. My band is going to play it. Sorry - your services won't be required." This did not please the other guys in Vet's band. No, sir.

So my friend (who was a member of Vet's band) placed an international call to Vet. "Old Vet, do you know you are double booked - in Germany and at Legends, same night?" "No I am not - that is an old schedule. I cut the tour short so I would be back in time to make the gig," said old Vet. "Hmmm," said my friend. "Buck called the club and told them you wouldn't be there and he has taken the date for the Buckaroos." "The FUCK you say," said Old Vet with a chuckle. "Well, tell the guys to get to Legends early with a substitute guitar player. We will give Buck a little schoolin'."

And so Vet and the band were on stage, ready to go, when Young Buck and the Buckaroos rolled into Legends for the gig. Buck was caught, deer in the headlights. Vet said, "I been all over this town playin' for 45 years and nobody, NOBODY, steals my gigs, Buck. Oh, and you're fired. Please leave the club quietly and quickly." Young Buck stammered a bit, then left. The Buckaroos all quit his band that night.

This is a small piece of the drama that happens in Chicago's blues community. In truth, there are too many musicians chasing too few gigs. This can cause bad behavior....

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Review of Chicago Blues Festival - Walkin' Around, June 7

I was busy this week, so I missed the Thursday and Friday performances at the 25th Chicago Blues Festival. I did make it there on Saturday, and walked about, checking out a few acts. The rain fell at about 4:45, so I left (I had a gig Saturday night and had to leave anyway). It rained again on Sunday, so I wussed out and stayed home. Shame on me. I caught some interesting stuff on Saturday, though.
The Juke Joint Duo - Cedric Burnside and Lightnin' Malcolm: Malcolm and Cedric are pictured at the top of this post. These guys ripped up the fest on the Mississippi Juke Joint Stage. They are, indeed, from Mississippi, and Cedric is the grandson of the great R.L. Burnside. These are young cats, doing that awesome drone-style North Mississippi blues made popular by the Fat Possum Records crew. Their "special sauce" was unison vocals - an eerie, keening sound that really worked well with the beats laid down by Cedric and the riffs pounded out by Malcolm. They had some intense energy, very much a hip-hop vibe. Thumbs up for these two!

Steve Arvey - Mr. Arvey is my friend and he is a fantastic guitarist. He was playing an acoustic set at the Maxwell Street Corner stage. Steve has left Chicago now; he spends most of his time in Florida where he says there is quite a bit of work for blues musicians. His set at Blues Fest was relaxed and quite interesting; I got the feeling that he had not played frequently with this group of back-up musicians. The set had a bit of a jam session feel to it (not that there is anything wrong with that). An interesting participant in the set was a blues harmonica player from Spain, Quique Gómez. Quique is a nice young man who has solid Chicago blues harp chops. The name of his band in Madrid is "Juan Bourbon, Juan Scotch, Juan Beer" HA! I love it.

Bumblebee Bob: Bumblebee Bob Novak is one of the Chicago blues guys that never got the attention he deserved. His music was stripped down, raw Chicago blues in the tradition of Hound Dog Taylor. A fine harmonica player, guitarist and vocalist, he is known for his work with the Chicago Slim Blues Band and his own group, Bumblebee Bob and the Stingers. Bob also played with pianists Sunnyland Slim and Erwin Helfer. He was the son of Russian immigrants and fell in love with the blues on Maxwell Street; he got into it before the "white college kid crowd" (Butterfield, Bloomfield, et al). Bob is also a fabulous painter (grad of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 1958) and has had many one-man shows at high-end galleries. - he also designed the Chicago Blues Fest posters for many years. I was really looking forward to seeing Bob, but it was not to be - he fell ill before the fest and was in intensive care, not doing very well. His band carried on, and my friend Tom Albanese played harp and sang a few tunes in Bob's absence. It was very entertaining, but sad. Bumblebee Bob is 75 years old now....looks like he is reaching the end of his road. Tough year for harp players - Little Arthur Duncan is struggling after brain surgery, now Bob is struggling, too. Say a prayer, people.

I saw some other acts, notably part of Otis Taylor's "Recapturing the Banjo" set. But these three acts took up most of my short visit.

It is always great to hit the Chicago Blues Festival - the fans are really into the music and there is great respect for the musicians. Too bad the folks in Chicago don't always give these great blues players the props they deserve during the rest of the year...

Monday, June 02, 2008

Bo Diddley - Another Giant Leaves Us

The news hit a couple of hours ago - Bo Diddley (aka Ellis McDaniel, aka Ellas Bates) has passed at the age of 79. I have been a huge fan of this gentleman - first tripped out on him about 36 years ago. His impact on contemporary music was massive. Some of his hits will live forever in the world of American pop music -- "I'm a Man," "Who do You Love?","You Can't Judge a Book by Looking at the Cover" and "I Can Tell." I have swiped a few of his licks and his fabulous "Bo Diddley" rhythm for one of the songs I wrote. The bass player in my band, E.G. McDaniel, is Bo's cousin. This caused me to feel connected to Bo Diddley (yeah, I know that is a stretch...). Bo had the cool square guitar, the freaky tremolo tone, the aggressive vocals...and I always loved the maracas in his tunes - awesome touch. Jerome Green shook the maracas for Bo (there is another unsung hero of blues and rock - Jerome Green). Bo was not a guy doing the Same Old Blues Shit.

I knew Bo was sick - heard about the stroke he had in Iowa. I had heard that his rehab was going well, but I guess his heart just gave out. He had diabetes for many years.

Bo was a giant; hugely inventive. His sound was instantly recognizable and broke new ground. Countless rock and blues artists covered him or imitated him. And he didn't make anywhere near the money that he deserved...