“The blues is a mighty long road. Or it could be a river, one that twists and turns and flows into a sea of limitless musical potential.” – Billy Gibbons
January 23, 2021 Volume 2, Issue 7
National Music News Celebrating American Music
Be sure to check out this article in The New York Times: “Black Music Has a New Home in Nashville: The National Museum of African American Music is opening in the capital of country music. And that’s exactly where it belongs.”
“Beginning with the musical traditions of enslaved people, its interactive exhibits celebrate the brilliant legacy that has followed the first Black Americans through more than 50 musical genres and subgenres — classical, country, gospel, jazz, blues and hip-hop, just for starters — during the past 400 years.” – New York Times
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 Chicago Blues with Joanna and other Chicago Blues Masters, click here to get started.
I having been a working musician since the age of 17. I started out as a vocalist. That instrument is lived in – a testament to years of projecting over muscular rhythm sections, uninhibited guitars and overcompensating and often underserved, due to inadequate monitors and or unresponsive sound men. So,now it’s starting to sound like a blues voice, or at least a voice with many tales to tell. I still enjoy being a singer, but to be candid, I usually can’t wait to get to a guitar solo or groove with the band, inventing coordinated or complimentary rhythm guitar parts. Singing was a work in progress always.
I suppose I was a decent singer from the beginning, in that I could carry pitch and phrase and had a pleasant enough sound quality as I passed auditions to choruses starting at the age of 10. I would sit in the car with the radio on in those days because in the late 60s and 70s radio played pop – meaning popular songs–anything from Dr John to Steely Dan to Grand Funk to Bill Withers to Linda Ronstadt. It was an adventure and a great training ground. I would spend more time with records- particularly Aretha and Stevie and Taj and Bessie. And I’m not downplaying the work that goes into becoming a singer, especially a great one, although you are given an instrument, and from there you can maximize its potential. But you will always sound like you, hopefully a better and more soulful version as time goes on.
The guitar – sigh. It’s not as naturally easy. It’s enduring blisters and a bit of pain and getting your wrists and hands and fingers to accomplish out of the ordinary motions. But again, the guitar- sigh… The most expressive and versatile of instruments. From Segovia, to Robert Johnson, Wes Montgomery, BB King, Ry Cooder, Chet Atkins, Les Paul, Chuck Berry, Hendrix, Eddie Van Halen, John McLaughlin. It’s a cornucopia of sonic wonderment. The guitar is your lover and your teacher and your adversary and your trial and your triumph. Playing the Blues on it, pulling from that deep aquifier that irrigates all other American music, that is a journey worthy of every effort, because once you can play the blues, you are given roots and wings to play most every other kind of music. You will have an advantage on musicians that don’t know it or don’t study it or don’t appreciate it, because you will have a depth of feeling and a feel for syncopation others will lack. The understanding of it will nurture all the notes you conjure.
I taught the Chicago Blues Bootcamp at Roosevelt University in Chicago during the week of the Chicago Blues fest in June, 2019 to a group of 30 or so aspiring and accomplished guitarists, each from all over the planet, each with their own desires and stories. It was my first time and I loved it. This year I was set to do the same. But we all know what befell us. Scott Weill took over and assembled a cast of diverse and talented teachers, camera people and others. Everything is online for now, https://chicagobluesnetwork.com including brilliant and inspiring performances aptly called Trading Fours, several podcasts (mine will launch soon!) a newsletter, office hours to meet with your instructors and also an actual calendar that is visually stunning. In essence – a complete and boundless resource to inspire and enhance your own musical journey. I am envious. I wish there was something like this available to me when I was starting out. And I tell this to all of the guitarists reading this who are act every level of guitar or bass playing ability: do not give up. Every single lick, chord, motion, song l learned, particularly in the beginning took great effort, patience and devotion of time on my part. And I will never regret one single moment!
— Joanna Connor
John Hammond: America’s Musical Soul by Marty Weil @ChiBluesHistory
Without record producer John Hammond (1910-1987), the careers of Billie Holliday, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Aretha Franklin, and Stevie Ray Vaughan might not have happened or been significantly delayed in their development.
Hammond was arguably one of the most important figures in American popular music in the 20th century and was one of the most important and influential proponents of the idiom. In 1938, for instance, Hammond organized the first From Spirituals to Swing concert at Carnegie Hall, presenting a broad program of blues, jazz, and gospel artists, including Ida Cox, Big Joe Turner, Albert Ammons, Pete Johnson, Meade “Lux” Lewis, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, the Count Basie orchestra, Sidney Bechet, Sonny Terry, James P. Johnson, and Big Bill Broonzy (who took the place of the murdered Robert Johnson). Hammond looms particularly large in the story of Robert Johnson, whose posthumous fame he did much to promote.
John Hammond was a hugely successful producer and talent scout, but perhaps more importantly he was in many ways a precursor of the young, white, intellectually engaged fans that would “rediscover” blues in the 1960s. For John Hammond, America’s musical soul, the story of blues is at once personal and epic. It is the story of a man at the center of things bringing forth the music legends that made the world dance, smile, and think.
Marty Weil is the editor of@CHIBLUESHISTORYon Twitter. Marty is a blues researcher, educator, and social media influencer.
Pete’s Pics / “Blues in Action” by Peter M. Hurley
Readers of a certain age will know GENE BARGE as the saxophone playing cat name-checked on Gary U.S. Bonds’ 1961 rousing single “Quarter To Three” based on the instrumental “A Night With Daddy G” by Barge’s own band, The Church Street Five.
Don’t you know that I danced, I danced till a quarter to three With the help, last night, of Daddy G. Blow Daddy!
Other readers will know him as the tenor blaster on Chuck Willis’s “C.C. Rider”, Jimmy Soul’s “If You Wanna Be Happy” and later as a session-man on many Chess records of the ’60s such as Koko Taylor’s “Wang Dang Doodle” and “We’re Gonna Make It” for Little Milton. Mr. Barge also has toured and played with such notables as Fats Domino, Bo Diddley, Big Joe Turner, LaVern Baker, Ray Charles, Chuck Willis, the Rolling Stones and Natalie Cole.
Photo taken @ the Chicago Blues Fest, 2016 Gene Barge Tribute.
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. Visit Peter’s Website here.
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