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Monday, August 31, 2009

Losses - Jesse Fortune and Others

Jesse Fortune collapsed and died last night at Gene's Playmate Lounge, 4239 W. Cermak in Chicago. He was on stage, singing his heart out, and went down. He was 79 years old. There is something to celebrate here - a blues man living deep into his eighth decade, then passing while performing. If you have never seen Jesse perform live, you can see him on the Jimmy Burns Band DVD, "Live at B.L.U.E.S." He was a terrific blues singer, one of the greats. It is a painful loss.

We have had other serious losses recently - the legendary Les Paul, blues queen Koko Taylor, pianist Eddie Bo, human jukebox Snooks Eaglin, rockabilly great Billy Ray Riley...many of the greats that laid down the foundations of today's music have headed across the divide.

And now Ted Kennedy has joined them - not a musician, but a man with weaknesses, flaws and pain who achieved greatness in spite of (because of?) these features.

And we lost Tom Hebbard, the unfailingly cheerful and kind Viet Nam War veteran who worked the front desk during the night shift at the McGaw YMCA in Evanston. All of the early morning work-out people benefited from Tom's warm greetings and everyday concern (I am one of those early birds).

Mortality is the great leveler. We all will weaken and die.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

The Mystery Band CD - Ugh!!

Yep, I sweated quite a bit putting the first Mystery Band CD together. I financed it myself, no record company involved. I wrote all the songs so it wouldn't be another disk full of blues covers (not that there is anything WRONG with that; I just wanted something different). The final product is pretty good - I can still listen to it without puking, which is saying something in view of the number of hours I spent on this. I usually get tired of listening to a CD if I play it repeatedly. The CD got decent reviews in the May 2009 "Illinois Entertainer" and the July issue of "Blues Revue." I have been pitching it at all my gigs for the past several months.

And it ain't been selling, folks.

Yah, well, I haven't been working it real hard, I guess, and I haven't tried to get a label to pick it up. I have a day job, and I have to take care of my non-musical profession (it generates all the cash, and for the past two months, I have been humpin' trying to offset the recession with increased effort). But I have gained a deeper realization that making a living in music during this age of downloads and piracy is damn near impossible for a lunch-bucket musician like me. Folks under the age of 45 just don't buy CD's anymore. Many, maybe most, of them steal music. I have family members that are big-time music pirates. This bleeds over into live music, too - folks refuse to pay a cover charge, even a small one, to hear local music heroes. Soon, these working class musicians will stop trying.

Musicians will continue to make music, but the number of professionals has been shrinking and will continue to shrink. The level of techinical skills among musicians might decline. Talented people are giving up and this trend is likely to continue.

So I have about a thousand copies of this disk in my basement. Guess I can use them for drink costers.....but if anyone reading this is interested, you can find the record on CD Baby: