“I listen to blues music a lot and that’s a good person feeling bad and celebrating that pain by releasing it in that kind of joyous fashion.” – Henry Rollins
Saturday December 5, 2020 Volume 1, Issue 32
How Joanna Got Her Groove…A slide poem “Heart of the Blues” by Joanna Connor
Joanna Connor is a weekly contributor to bBluesNote with her column “Heart of the Blues.” Joannais a Guitar Instructor with At Home Chicago Blues. To learn more about Joanna visit her website or watch her videos. To take lessons with Joanna, click here.
That moan -swooping, lilting, swaggering, staggering, sliding down the Delta highway
Yet it came across the sea from Hawaii.
Traveling rapid fire through the diaspora, through the decades cradled by a nearby digit, facilitated by a spider web touch, so precise, so gentle
Just to produce that haunting loveliness, that confrontational note, it will cut straight through you, the listener and you, the maker of the sacred vibration
Transfixed by the Sound Like a voice full of joy or trouble, there is no other fret-defying magic so powerful Leaving time, hung in space, sliding right into your heart
I walked into the lesson met by a whirlwind from a bear of a man, black hair, leather jacket, blue eyes piercing, full of intelligence and humor. Ron Johnson, a man who took on life with gusto and was supremely intellectual and completely down to earth. He would learn Japanese to play a shakuhachi flute, he would take me deep into the Delta, the Piedmont, he would become my slide sensei. He was impeccable with his technique, he demanded I be the same. Hours were spent dissecting Robert Johnson, Blind Willie Johnson, Ry Cooder …
I wasn’t even sure of what a slide was. I had seen Lowell George, Mick Taylor, Bonnie Raitt and Muddy Waters masterfully play it, each their own way, each with a distinctive sound. But I was a novice. Now here I was spending hours , dealing in micro measurements, units of space so infinitesimal it was almost ridiculous, just to produce that sound that I fell in love with more and more.
Ron standing over me gruffly shouting orders at me to get it right. A 15-year old teen listening to these old scratchy recordings practicing every day on a generic acoustic guitar. Eventually it clicked. Decades pass. Gigs played, records made all too numerous too count. And then…
8.3 million views on YouTube of me playing slide in a friend’s backyard in Norwich, Massachusetts. He films it, puts it on YouTube and there it is – viral. I cover a lot of ground in that video, starting with a languishing delta blues intro to full fury, slide guitar notes attacking. Lots of well-known people share this clip. It’s laughable in a way to me because I didn’t really want to do this gig and the neighbor next store surely didn’t want to hear it as he kept turning on his lawn sprinkler that reached us and calling the police. And lo and behold this moment in time captures millions.
I’ve played slide so long that when I teach it now I have to literally pause and analyze every tiny motion on both hands I go through to achieve what I do on the slide.
Is it maddening at first to try and learn this type of guitar playing? 99 percent of the time – yes. But I have witnessed the blossoming of a student who, through trial and tribulations gets it. The magic can be yours too! Try it with me here– https://bit.ly/joannaslide
Lynne Jordan is a diva’s diva. In command. In charge. In tune. From the tradition of great song interpreters of blues, jazz, and SASS. But it also is with warmth that she creates a shared experience with her audience. “When you feel like you are killin’ it because of the audience’s energy, and they acknowledge it with love, joy, fun and freedom, it’s truly a conversation,” says Ms. Jordan. In complete service to the song, she recalls the passion and stylistic nuance of songstresses before her such as Nina Simone and Janis Joplin. “I can sing the hell out of a ballad. It’s in the quiet moments where I can taste the notes to words, BUT I love a rockin’ groove and a good vamp of any tune. Also any fun, naughty tune is one of my specialties.” Lynne Jordan: In command. In charge. In tune.
Photo above taken at an At Home Chicago Blues Trading 4s show (presented by Chicago Blues Network).
Mr. Hurley is a contributing photographer and writer for Living Blues Magazine and the staff photographer for Chicago Blues Network. His recent book Blues Legacy: Tradition and Innovation in Chicago, in collaboration with Blues historian and author David Whiteis, showcases his work in the field. His passion for blues music began with the Chess Studios’ sound of Bo Diddley and continues to this day. (For website click here).
Watch Lynne Jordan and more Chicago Blues Masters in this At Home Chicago Blues Trading 4s concert, where this above photo was taken. Watch the Blues in Action!
Lynne Jordan, Demetria Taylor, Billy Flynn, Dave Specter, John Kattke: Trading 4s. July 23, 2020
Mark your calendar for the next At Home Chicago Blues Trading 4s show on December 17th! Stay tuned! Get tickets in advance for $5.
“The Dangerous Nickname Game” by Marty Weil @ChiBluesHistory
Peetie Wheatstraw was known as “The Devil’s Son-in-Law” and “The High Sheriff of Hell,” nicknames he helped cultivate from the stage where he would tell tales of selling his soul to the devil and other not-so-nice behaviors. Of course, the nicknameless bluesman Robert Johnson is today more famous than Wheatstraw for his supposed dealings at the crossroads. Almost 100 years later, Johnson’s legacy is clouded by ridiculous devil tales, which were, as likely as not, lifted directly from Wheatstraw’s stage antics.
Johnson, relatively unknown during his lifetime, intended to excite small crowds in barrooms or on dusty city streets with his “devil-at-the-crossroads story.” During his lifetime, he couldn’t have known the permanent damage he was doing to his legacy. How could he have known of his unnatural death at 27? Or that his small catalog of songs would become the revered template for electric blues and rock-n-roll? Considering one in 10,000 men in the Delta shared the name Robert Johnson, it’s incredible that Johnson is more closely associated with Beelzebub than the man who cultivated two devilish nicknames for himself.
Ironically, Robert “Jr.” Lockwood, the only bluesman to have been taught to play directly by Robert Johnson, suffered professionally as a result of his nickname, which was designed to tie him to Johnson by blood. At the tender age of 15, Lockwood was already playing professionally at parties in Helena, Arkansas. In Helena, he often played with Robert Johnson, Sony Boy Williamson II, and Johnny Shines. On one occasion, he played on one side of the Sunflower River while Robert Johnson played on the other, with the people of Clarksdale, Mississippi, milling about the bridge, reportedly unable to tell which guitarist was the real Robert Johnson.
Lockwood relished the idea of being mistaken for the great Delta bluesman and took on the nickname Robert Jr. However, the association grew tiresome when Lockwood re-emerged during the Blues Revival of the 1960s. During the heady days of the Blues Revival, he grew weary of the attention he received because of his misleading nickname, as it connoted his being Robert Johnson’s stepson, a fact that he rightly knew overshadowed his own achievements as an outstanding bluesman. His solution? He placed the Jr. after his given name, thus becoming Robert Lockwood Jr.
Marty Weil is the editor of@CHIBLUESHISTORYon Twitter. Marty is a blues researcher, educator, and social media influencer.
Lessons with Chicago Blues Masters The Video Library is Growing…
Latest Episode “No Border Blues” With Guitar Instructor & Chicago Blues Master Johnny Burgin and Producer Stephanie Tice
No Border Blues #6 Ghalia Volt
Take a blues journey with No Border Blues! This bi-monthly video podcast, sponsored by The Chicago Blues Network, talks with notable international blues artists about how and why they got the blues. It shines a spotlight into the hidden blues scenes– “mesmerized clusters”– of serious blues music and fans in places you might not expect. Delmark recording artist Johnny Burgin and producer Stephanie Tice present exclusive musical performances and intriguing cross-cultural exchanges with blues artists you should know about. Episode six features Ghalia Volt, whose rock-n-roll attitude and Mississippi hill country-inspired playing makes her stand out from the crowd. In just a few short years, she’s progressed from busking on the streets of her native Brussels to seeing her third CD, Ruf Record’s “Mississippi Blend”, hit #3 on the Billboard Blues Charts.