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January 1, 2010 Volume # 5  Issue # 1

Special Announcements
CD or DVD Releases
News Flash
Record Label News
House of Blues Radio Hour
Blues Festivals
About Us
Arthur Adams has been a popular mainstay of the blues scene in Los Angeles for many years. As the featured house bandleader at B.B. King’s blues club in Universal City, Arthur exposed patrons night after night to his soulful blend of silky rhythm & blues combined with his searing guitar and buttery smooth vocal delivery.
 The Tennessee native got his start early in life at six years old singing in the church choir and later acquired his first guitar as he entered into his teens. His initial inspiration came from guitarist Howard Carroll of the American gospel group The Dixie Hummingbirds, but Arthur also displays an obvious affection and stylistic debt to the six string attack of longtime friend B.B. King.
Arthur traveled throughout the south early on in his career before eventually heading out west and settling in Los Angeles in the mid-sixties. His first album, “It’s Private Tonight” released in 1972, firmly established the silky smooth vocal presence and guitar style that still comprises Arthur’s signature sound of today. Over the years, Arthur’s talent and versatility in the studio proved invaluable as his skills were consistently utilized for numerous recording projects for film and television, along with extensive session work that includes albums by Jimmy Smith, Nina Simone, Quincy Jones, Lowell Fulson, The Crusaders and Bonnie Raitt. In 1991, Arthur played rhythm guitar and contributed two songs, “Mean And Evil” and “Something Up My Sleeve,” to B.B. King’s album “There Is Always One More Time” on MCA Records. King later returned the favor appearing on Arthur’s comeback release “Back On Track” in 1999.
When Randy Chortkoff established Delta Groove Music in 2004 with the label’s very first effort “That Represent Man” by The Mannish Boys, Arthur was invited to appear on stage with the band at several of their live performances and was later featured as a special guest on Mitch Kashmar’s debut release “Nickels & Dimes.” So when Arthur approached Delta Groove about his latest project, naturally he was welcomed in with open arms. “Stomp The Floor” features Arthur Adams’ signature brand of soulfully sweet rhythm & blues filled with melodic hooks, classy arrangements and impeccable songwriting, affirming once again Arthur’s status and rightful place amongst the genre’s most celebrated and beloved artists.

ALCHEMY OF SOUL showcases the keyboard wizardry and songwriting of Jacob Merlin, whose original songs combine influences as diverse as James Brown, Chicago, Dave Matthews, Jack Johnson, Steely Dan and Earth, Wind and Fire in one glorious caldron of sound that's bound to satisfy.
Legendary trumpet player Mic Gillette of Tower of Power guests on this potent mix of old-school funk, mixed with New Orleans second-line beats, pop and rock flavors - all powered with a gospel fervor -- ALCHEMY OF SOUL brings back the grooves of te all-time great horn bands as epitomized by Tower of Power.

From Reunion Island -
The musical style of Malouz is a novel combination of traditional maloya instruments, percussions(congas) and vocals with lyrics in Creole. Malouz opens a new direction in the fusion of maloya and Blues.
From acoustic saga ballads to electric maloya, Malouz creates a bridge between maloya and blues that carries the listener from the sugar cane to the cotton plantations.
Click for more

Antone, Vaughan, Joplin, Van Zandt among new inductees to Austin Music Memorial
The City of Austin announced the next batch of people who will be added to the Austin Music Memorial (a series of engraved plaques on the City Terrace at the Long Center).
From the city’s release:
Clifford Antone (1949-2006) Antone was the owner of the legendary Antone’s blues club and record label. He is credited with launching the careers of many local blues and rock musicians and his club remains at the heart of the Austin music scene.
Martin Banks (1936-2004) Trumpeter Banks played with many of the jazz greats of the 1950s and 60s, touring from California to New York. He returned to Austin in the 80s where he continued to perform and promote music appreciation with several nonprofit music programs.
Erbie Bowser (1918-1995) Blues pianist Bowser was a regular on Austin’s club scene in the 1950s and 60s where he formed musical partnerships with several other local legends. He reemerged in the 80s to record an internationally acclaimed album, and to perform as one of the Texas Piano Professors.
Liliado ‘Lalo’ Campos (1924-2004) A broadcaster and music promoter, Campos was the first person to host a Latino radio show in Austin. His popular show, Noche de Fiesta, ran for 25 years and gave exposure to many local Latino musicians.
Luis ‘Louie’ Guerrero (1937-2006) A native Austinite, “Louie” was a multi-instrumentalist and second-generation composer. He performed frequently in east Austin restaurants accompanying himself on his signature bass & electric guitar combo.
Johnny Holmes (1917-2001) Holmes was well-known as a music promoter, restaurateur, and founder of the historic blues and jazz spot, Victory Grill. His popular juke joint was a staple on the “Chitlin Circuit” in the 1950s and continues to attract national and local talent.
Janis Joplin (1943-1970) One of the first female superstars of rock and roll, Joplin began her music career in Austin as a student at the University of Texas. While performing at local venues such as Threadgill’s she cultivated her signature bluesy, gravel-voiced sound before leaving for San Francisco where she achieved international acclaim.
Kenneth Threadgill (1909-1987) Threadgill turned his gas station into a tavern which eventually became a hotspot for local musicians and those just traveling through. Threadgill’s continues to be one of Austin’s best known venues and is still regarded as a cultural touchstone for the city.
Townes Van Zandt (1944-1997) Singer-songwriter Van Zandt resided in Austin during the 1970s and 80s, helping to shape the reputation of Austin’s country music scene. His songwriting remains internationally revered and his songs have been performed by many music greats.
Stevie Ray Vaughan (1954-1990) A local legend, Vaughan achieved great success as a virtuoso blues guitarist in the 1980s. He also served as a musical ambassador for Austin, bringing worldwide attention to the city’s diverse music scene.
The induction ceremony for these ten honorees will take place at the Long Center on March 28, 2010. The ceremony will include a concert of music associated with the honorees, performed by an all-star band of local musicians.


Annual rolling Chicago Blues Tour turns 20
Blues fans can celebrate the vitality of the Windy City blues scene on Jan. 16 as "The Chicago Blues Tour" rolls into its 20th year.
This delightful pub crawl takes fans to visit eight of Chicago's famous live blues lounges. The tradition began in 1990 as the "West Side Blues Tour" and expanded in scope to include live blues venues throughout Chicago. It's helped promote blues music with assistance from the Mayor's Office of Special Events since 1998.
The $45 per person bus trip starts at Lizzie McNeill's (400 N. McClurg Court), and includes all transportation and club admission charges for the night-long blues adventure, featuring performances by a dozen bands.
Buses depart from Lizzie's every 10 to 15 minutes from 8 to 9 p.m. and then begin shuttling between clubs until 2 a.m. Tickets are available through the Web site or by phone via Ticketweb at (866) 468-3401.
Tickets are limited and advance purchase is recommended as this annual event often sells out.
Get a complete run down of clubs and artists by visiting the Web site or at (866) LIVE-BLUES. Maps, schedules, and an FAQ are updated frequently.

Blues Road - Healing a career, and a fractured relationship - Deep down, underneath their many differences, musical theater and the blues are after the same thing: a good story.
But by and large, attempts to employ blues music in the framework of a traditional musical have resolved themselves into mediocre pieces in which the force of these two titanic cultural formulas cancel one another out. (See “The Color Purple.”)
MusicalFare Executive Director Randall Kramer and Jim Runfola are out to change that with a new musical, “Crossroad Blues,” which opens Wednesday at Musical-Fare Theatre in Amherst. The show tells the story of Joe, an aging blues singer (played by local bluesman Billy McEwen), who is slowly reviving his career and repairing a broken relationship with his estranged son.
The show, originally the brainchild of Runfola, a local musician and frequent presence at MusicalFare, has been simmering on the back burner for years. “We talked off and on about some sort of blues show,” Kramer said. “It’s great music that never really makes its way into the theater, at least not much.”
Last year, Kramer and Runfola finally began to hash out the story of a relationship between a man, his music and his family that seemed strong enough to propel a musical. The challenge, Kramer said, was reconciling the one-note emotional resonance of the blues with the requirement to move the narrative forward in a way that interests theatergoers.
“Typical musical theater songs are written to advance a plot, and blues songs don’t necessarily do that. Blues songs get underneath the layers of emotion. That might be the reason that this kind of thing isn’t done all the time in musical theater,” Kramer said.
The solution was to include the blues songs as performances within the musical, a standard trick in jukebox musicals and bio-revues. But “Crossroad Blues,” unlike previous MusicalFare biographical productions like “Buddy: The Buddy Holly Story” and the Louis Prima tribute “Zooma Zooma,” contains an entirely fictional story.
The music includes mostly well-worn blues pieces with a pair of original compositions by Runfola. The show also stars George Brown, Sharon Bailey, Terrie George and Don Hunley.
Several cast members were chosen for their proven vocal abilities but are not trained actors. This provided yet another unique challenge, Kramer said. “Why do a blues show and then throw musical theater performers up there? Where we all have our work cut out for us is in the acting,” Kramer said. “I purposely wrote the script in a way that the music is at the heart of it, and I try to be very spare with the dialogue.”
Even though the show takes place at MusicalFare — where happy endings are the order of the day — Kramer wants theatergoers to know that the threads of the story may not come together completely in the end.
“In real blues fashion, it’s not tied up neatly,” Kramer said. “I guess there could be a happy ending, but we tried not to make it all neat and clean and simple because the blues are nothing like that.”
WHAT: “Crossroad Blues”
WHEN: Wednesday through Feb. 7
WHERE: MusicalFare
Theatre, 4380 Main St., Amherst
TICKETS: $32 to $36
INFO: 839-8540 or

Holt street renamed to honor musician
Caroline Shines stands beneath a sign designating the street on which she and her late father, the blues great Johnny Shines, lived for more than 30 years off Crescent Ridge Road in Holt. The county installed the sign recently after Caroline petitioned the county commission for a street to be named in Johnny Shines’ honor -  Caroline Shines arrived home Thursday to find what she says “is the best Christmas present I can think of.”
Her street off Crescent Ridge Road had a bright new sign designating it Johnny Shines Street, after her father, the late and great blues musician who lived in Holt for the last 20 years of his life before his death in 1992.
“It’s both a Christmas present and birthday present, since my birthday is Dec. 26,” Shines said Friday afternoon as she, also a blues singer, got ready for a gig at the NorthRiver Yacht Club, where she and the Debbie Bond Fabulous Blues Band were to play for the annual Jim Walter Resources Christmas party.
Johnny Shines, a member of the Blues Hall of Fame, played slide guitar and was inspired by Robert Johnson, the great and tragic blues man of the 1930s with whom Shines often traveled.
Shines was born in Frayser, Tenn., and like many black musicians of his era he eventually migrated to Chicago where he cut some classic blues records in the 1940s and 1950s. He moved to Holt in the early 1970s and was still playing locally when he died at the age of 76, less than a week before his 77th birthday.
“He had a show booked for the Train Station (a former Tuscaloosa music venue) the next week when he died,” said Caroline, his only child.
It was Caroline’s idea to rename what had been 11th Street, the only place she and her father ever lived in the Tuscaloosa area, Johnny Shines Street.
But to do so she had to secure the approval of every resident and property owner on the street before the Tuscaloosa County Commission, which has jurisdiction over unincorporated Holt, would give its approval.
“I walked up and down this street for weeks,” she said Friday. “I even had to get court records and get on the Internet to track down some property owners who live out of state and write them letters. “It took a lot of time, but it was worth it.”
The commission approved her request in August, but commission clerk Lisa Whitehead, who Caroline says “was a tremendous help at every step of the way,” said the Johnny Shines Street signs did not arrive until earlier this week. “They had to be special ordered, and I guess there was some sort of backup at the state highway department,” she said. “But they got here, and we got them up as soon as possible.”
Bond, one of the founders of the nationally-recognized Alabama Blues Project that teaches after-school music classes and tries to bring attention to blues musicians with Alabama ties, said she is thrilled the street where Johnny Shines spent his last years now bears his name.
“We can’t let our rich heritage in the blues be forgotten, and we’ve got to not only preserve it, but keep it going through the young people,” said Bond, who often backed up Shines on guitar.
Bond said the blues project also wants to raise money for a monument at Shines’ grave in Cedarwood Cemetery south of Tuscaloosa.
“Two or three times a year we get people from all over the world contacting us and wanting to know where they can find Johnny’s grave,” she said. “Sometimes I think there is more reverence for the blues in Europe than in the United States, where it was born.
“But at least now we have a Johnny Shines Street we can show blues tourists,” she said.

Out of Africa: Hazanut and the Blues
Festival in the Desert: The Sway Machinery will play in Mali in January
By Jeremiah Lockwood:
I listen to music as an act of perceiving history. I am listening to hear the voices of ghosts from bygone days, who sang their songs before I was born. And when I sing the music of my own family’s past, I feel that I am receiving a surer transmission from the recesses of history than any written history could promise.
The paths by which traditional music travels into the present from the past have been as serpentine and complex as the routes that the merchants of antiquity took across desert trade roads. With each iteration of a melody, changing details of a story or the strictures of a particular religious practice, the information would subtly yet distinctly change, reflecting the needs of both listener and place. In this way, strange and wonderful transformations of cultural ideas take place, engendering constant change and newness in the realms of folk culture.
Growing up, the first music that I came to love on my own, separate from my family’s cantorial music tradition or the European classical music I heard from my father, was the blues — specifically, the classic 78-rpm recordings of prewar rural blues guitarist-poet-singers, artists like Charley Patton, Bukka White and Blind Lemon Jefferson. Their voices opened a passageway into an art of truth telling that was both a product of its culture and a forum for transcendent personal expression.
This is the nature of the bard — the communal storyteller — to be a complete servant of the cultural knowledge he possesses and to simultaneously struggle to create new art. The fact that both blues singers and hazanim share this communal role is part of what unconsciously drew me into this musical art form.
My passion for blues music drove me to study it like a science. And as should any respectful student of a tradition, I sought to know its history. This led me to the music of Mali, a West African nation linked by history to the Americas through the slave trade. When listening to artists like Boubacar Traore and Ali Farka Toure, contemporary masters of Malian music, you hear the incredible modal and rhythmic connections to American blues music. The musical traditions of the Islamic African lands asserted themselves as being particularly pugnacious in their survival in the New World.
Listening to the blues, I hear the musical traditions of Mali, and listening to the classics of Malian music, I hear the profound impact of the music of Islam, as is befitting of a nation that has been Muslim since the 11th century. In the particular modalities of Malian music, the muezzin call and the cantillation of the Quran are indelibly present. In Malian music, I hear the integration of disparate cultural strains into one living strand where no one element is foreign or takes precedence over the other.
In my work with The Sway Machinery, a musical project exploring the cantorial music tradition, I look to Malian musical history as a powerful paradigm. Jewish music came to America in the late 19th and early 20th century and almost immediately opened an ongoing dialogue with the African-derived forms of music in the New World. My work is a continuation of this process.
And now The Sway Machinery has been invited to play in Mali, at the Festival in the Desert, a music and culture festival established by the Tuareg to celebrate their truce after a violent uprising against the Malian government. In an Islamic country where Judaism was banned at various points in its history, we have been invited to bring our voice of New Jewish Music before an audience of thousands. To me, this feels very much like an opportunity to bring a diasporic thread full circle. The Muslims who left the Middle East to bring their religion into the depths of the Sahara desert will soon be met by a small convoy of Jews who were exiled from the Holy Land thousands of years ago and are now returning to the Old World via the New. It is a circuitous route opened by the hands of passionate aesthetic imperatives. It is a meeting between cultures that I pray will be greeted with open arms on both sides.
Musician and native-born New Yorker Jeremiah Lockwood is taking his band, The Sway Machinery, to Mali in January.

Pepper's Hideout, 1975. "Everybody knew everybody," says harmonica player Sugar Blue. Musicians "basically communicated in a song format people and events everybody knew." (Photo courtesy Michael Abramson
In the part of the city where Chicago blues used to shriek, howl and moan, you could see an amazing transformation just by hanging out at the clubs
Live entertainment featuring blues and jazz may have ruled the South Side for years, but in the mid-1970s, clubs sprang to life, serving up some funky soul sounds.
Perv's House, Pepper's Hideout and the legendary High Chaparral gave locals, many of them workers in the steel mills and stockyards, a chance to ditch the dungarees and strike out in high fashion.
Donning hairstyles and heels, fedoras and fur, leather and suits, club-goers turned the local taverns into Chicago's most unexpected weekend glamour palaces. A new picture book, "Light on the South Side," captures much of that lifestyle by focusing on the people who lived it.
"The people in the clubs were as much a part of the creation of the music as the musicians themselves," said famed harmonica player Sugar Blue, who lived in Chicago intermittently in the 1970s. "These places were, in a sense, homes of a great musical cuisine. If you have no customers, there's no point cooking."
Blue said the club scene represented how tight-knit the neighborhoods were at the time, which directly nurtured development of the music.
"Everybody knew everybody. It was a very insular kind of a situation," said Sugar Blue. "The music came from these neighborhoods. Because people knew each other, they sang about what they were talking about, what happened last weekend. They basically communicated in a song format people and events everybody knew."
Photographer Michael Abramson, a white kid from Evanston, made himself a regular in many of those clubs, which catered to blacks. He pointed his camera lens not at the musicians onstage but on the people on the dance floor, the sidewalk and at the bar. But even before Abramson stopped taking photographs, near the end of the 1970s, things had changed. Live entertainment was shrinking with the continuing migration of the black middle class to the south suburbs. Urban renewal meant many clubs were knocked down to make way for new buildings, some of which were never built.
"You need a clientele that has a steady paycheck. No matter how low the cover is, it's still something," said Dominic Pacyga, a Chicago historian and author.
"When the black middle-class people started to make money, they became the fastest growing part of the middle class, and they're not going to hang around there; they want to move, like every other American, to a bigger and better house, farther and farther away," Pacyga said.
The loss of jobs in steel plants, stockyards and manufacturing contributed to the decline of the area, but it wasn't just economics at play. Tavern life flourished in the South Side because blacks did not feel as comfortable in downtown clubs as they did in their own neighborhoods, said Bruce Iglauer, president of Alligator Records, the Chicago blues label. While integration broke down those barriers, it also contributed to "the cultural disbursement of self-nurturing black communities."
Abramson's black-and-white photographs capture the last great era of entertainment on the South Side, as well as "the little intimacies that occurred when people have conversations at tables," he said. There are seemingly innocuous images: a man whispering into his date's ear, a woman raising her arms in delight while sitting alone at a table, couples locked together on the dance floor, debonair young men in suits posed against a wall of mirrors. But they capture the emotions of South Side residents who were released -- at least for a while -- from real-life cares.
"Even though I was hearing the music, you couldn't escape the booze and the cigarette smoke, the people who were really happy but maybe only on the veneer," Abramson said.
A few decades removed from the golden age of Chicago blues, the clubs operated in the disco era, which played out in high fashion as well as the music.
"[People] might be really decked out, and some of them might have no shirt on at all," Abramson said.
If there was one impresario of the South Side during that period, it was Johnny Robinson, also known as Johnny Pepper, who operated three successive clubs from the late 1950s through the early 1980s: Pepper's Lounge, Pepper's and Pepper's Hideout. His clubs became landmark music venues where such stars as B.B. King, Muddy Waters and Ike and Tina Turner performed.
Lisa Robinson-Stevenson, who cares for her 84-year-old father in her Lansing home, remembers growing up in his clubs and, as a little girl, being stunned by the elegantly dressed crowd.
"The people were dressed up like they were going to a black-tie affair. I think that was the era. When they went out, they dressed up," she said.
There is still live music to be found on the South Side, in venues such as Lee's Unleaded Blues, the Checkerboard Lounge and Linda's Place, but the majority followed the clientele to the suburbs, to places such as Genesis, a steppers club in Country Club Hills that features live blues every Sunday night.
Robinson-Stevenson said she took her father there four years ago and as soon as they walked through the door, the band members rushed over to thank him for giving them their start.
"More quiet, more safe, more laid-back," she said of the new venues. "People who are in their 60s, they still want to hear the blues."
The hardcover "Light On the South Side" was published by the Numero Group, a Chicago record label, and includes two reissue LPs.

Arkansas Heritage Delta Music Trail
Five 4-by-5 foot signs marking points on the new Arkansas Heritage Delta Music Trail: Sounds from the Soil and Soul went up last Friday, providing photos and information on the radio show King Biscuit Time at Helena, Southern Tenant Farmers Union supporter John Handcox at Tyronza, saxophonist Louis Jordan at Brinkley, drummer and singer Levon Helm at Turkey Scratch and blues songwriter John Weston at Marianna. Four more of the six-foot-tall signs, a project of the Arkansas Delta Byways Regional Tourism Association, will be installed in January to recognize Albert King at West Memphis, Johnny Cash at Dyess, KWEM radio station at West Memphis and KVSA at Dermott. The first sign was installed earlier at the old Plantation Inn in West Memphis, where many blues musicians got their start.

Grand opening, grand closing: Evolution of the L.A. music scene
The Sunset Strip-based Key Club closed its doors on Nov. 29, making it the second Hollywood or West Hollywood music venue to go out of business since October.
But it may not be closed for good.
Its president, Keith Pressman, told the Los Angeles Times that the club could reopen again in February with a new partner.
“As far as everyone is concerned we’re dead and buried, but this is just a temporary thing,” he said.
According to the Times, there was no official announcement of an impending closure, but the club cleared its December calendar of performances and told promoters to book shows elsewhere.
Pressman went on to tell the Times that the Key Club could be up and running again as early as February, but is now staying mum on a date.
On Monday, he told The Independent that he is working on “negotiations regarding the future direction of the club” and that “once the deal closes, we’ll be able to release details.”
That announcement could come at any time, Pressman said.
Sunset Strip Business Association Executive Director Todd Steadman said he was thrilled when heard the Key Club could be reopening, adding that live music is synonymous with the Sunset Strip.
“We need to retain that venue there as part of the music experience — that’s what we’re known for, that’s what differentiates us from other areas of the city,” he said, adding: “It’s important that the music experience is supported here on the strip."
The Knitting Factory in Hollywood shuttered in October and little word has been heard since then, but a new message has appeared on its Web site.
“Knitting Factory Entertainment is currently in the process of relocating our Los Angeles location. Keep visiting this site for details and announcements,” the message reads.
Much like the fate of the Knitting Factory and the Key Club, some music venue owners say the Sunset Strip and Hollywood Boulevard music venues have been going through their own share of ups and downs this year.
Michael Maglieri, whose family has owned Whiskey a Go-Go for more than 50 years along with The Rainbow Bar and Grill, said he believes the worst of the current economic downturn has passed and looks to more improvement in the near future.
“Quite honestly, the worst is over,” he told The Independent. For now, Maglieri said he’s not making as much money, but he’s not losing much either.
“We’re breaking even,” he said. “We’re not breaking records. In a normal economy I would be 20 percent up from last year, but right now, we’re just holding our own.”
He also contends that he has faced tougher times, such as slow business as a result of the 1992 L.A. Riots.
Another thing Maglieri said he has noticed is the decline of record company-sponsored events that draw in crowds.
Roxy owner Nic Adler told the Times that 2009 has been “worse than you can imagine” and that while attendance is holding steady, patrons are spending less money.
As for the House of Blues, one of the area’s largest music venues, its future remains foggy as a potential demolition date stays dependent when construction begins for the Sunset Times, a two-acre mixed-use development owned by Combined Properties.
The House of Blues rests on a portion of the site for the proposed project.
Steadman said things will start to turn around more and quickly with the upcoming openings of new restaurants and other attractions.
As part of West Hollywood’s 25th Anniversary Capital Improvement Project, Sunset Boulevard will be repaved.
In addition, 2010 will see the opening of the Soho House, an upscale lounge on the top of Luckman Plaza at 9200 Sunset Blvd.
“A lot of exciting things are going to happen in the next six months,” Steadman said.
Use the Blues to Improve Literacy & Help Close the Achievement Gap
Music as a Second Language
Columbia College Chicago Music Center
1014 S. Michigan Avenue (wheelchair accessible)
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 • 3:30PM
Hosted by Fernando Jones
Illinois State Board of Education Professional Development Provider
Blues Kids of America, Founder • CPS Vendor #21794
Columbia College Chicago, Blues Ensemble Director
This hands-on, interactive and entertaining session is designed to engage administrators and teachers (pre-K through university), by demonstrating how to improve literacy, attendance, discipline and academic success using America’s root music, the Blues. In a workshop setting culturally relevant teaching strategies will be modeled and attendees will participate in activities that they can take back to their classrooms and school districts.
Fernando Jones has done this seminar throughout the United States and Hawaii including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame + Museum, LA Unified School District(s), and the annual NABSE Conference. Some participants will receive harmonicas and classroom resources. Jones is also a “Keeping the Blues Alive Award” recipient in education.
Confirm Your Reservation: • (312) 369-3229
Go online for more details & past PD videos:

The Doors in an Unusual Hue
A six-CD set shows us the band's red-hot blues side
Very few major bands of the '60s and '70s have an image today that's as far removed from the music they played back then as the Doors. The Los Angeles-based quartet is likely remembered as the group behind the dated though still-enjoyable hit singles "Light My Fire," "Hello, I Love You" and "Touch Me," as well as the FM radio staples "Riders on the Storm" and "L.A. Woman." Lead singer and lyricist Jim Morrison achieved rock immortality by dying before his decline, having established a public persona that was part Brando, part Lord Byron, part preacher and part shaman. Live recordings of his long-form pieces with the Doors—"The End," for example, which evolved onstage into an Oedipal drama with Morrison playing all the roles—give the impression the band alternated between pop hits and self-indulgence.
But, as the recently released six-CD set "Live in New York" (Rhino) illustrates, the Doors were a red-hot blues band too. At the time of Morrison's death in 1971 at age 27, about 18 months after the shows were recorded, the band was stripping back its sound and reconnecting to music that, before the Doors struck it big, had been in its repertoire.
"The Doors were a blues-based band with literary aspirations," said Ray Manzarek, the band's keyboard player, when we spoke recently by phone. In 1966, when they played their first shows at the London Fog, a club on L.A.'s Sunset Strip, "we had to do four sets a night, maybe five on the weekend," he told me. "That's a lot of time to kill. So we started to play the blues."
Mr. Manzarek, Morrison and their colleagues John Densmore, a drummer, and guitarist Robbie Krieger admired Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and John Lee Hooker as well as groups like the Chicago-based Paul Butterfield Blues Band with guitarist Mike Bloomfield.
"I grew up on the South Side of Chicago, and Robbie is a country blues guy," Mr. Manzarek said. "When we were signed by Elektra, he was thrilled because they put out the Paul Butterfield band." Paul Rothschild, who produced Butterfield, was assigned to work with them.
In time, the Doors put away the blues. "We had our own material," Mr. Manzarek recalled. Willie Dixon's "Back Door Man" appears on their debut disc, but they recorded no other blues standards on their first four albums.
The blues slipped from their live shows too. "We played the Doors' greatest hits," Mr. Manzarek said. "If you came to see the Doors, paying all of $5, you'd better hear 'Light My Fire' and 'Hello, I Love You.'"
"Soft Parade," the Doors' fourth album, in which the band was backed by an orchestra, was "the obligatory horns-and-strings experimentation," Mr. Manzarek said. "And then we got back to the blues." The next album would be the band's grittiest studio recording, "Morrison Hotel," which is book-ended by two original blues works—"Roadhouse Blues," featuring John Sebastian on harmonica, and "Maggie M'Gill." Guitarist Lonnie Mack, who influenced Duane Allman and Stevie Ray Vaughn, sat in on bass on both.
When the band arrived in New York in January 1970 to do the four concerts that constitute "Live in New York," "Morrison Hotel" had yet to be released. Before the shows, the audience was probably unaware that the band was returning to its roots, though by agreeing to play two shows a night at the Felt Forum, rather than one at the much larger arena next door, Madison Square Garden, the Doors were simplifying. Mr. Manzarek said they were eager to play a smaller venue for a New York crowd.
"New York was our best audience," he told me. "They understood the musical references, the jazz, and Morrison's poetry."
But four shows over two nights would be a test for Morrison, whose addiction to alcohol made him an uneven performer. "That's a lot of work. That's tough," Mr. Manzarek said. Morrison, he added, "had done some ripping and tearing on the old vocal chords. But he held up."
The best set of the four, which are presented in their entirety in the box, is the kickoff. During each show, the band rips into Bo Diddley, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker and others as well as "Roadhouse Blues," which opens all the shows. They play the hits, of course, but with a fierce attack. The package recasts the Doors as a tight live act. Though Morrison commands the spotlight, the trio behind him is more than mere support. Mr. Manzarek, who filled the bottom by playing the Fender Rhodes Piano Bass with his left hand, creates a sinewy platform for Morrison with an electric organ, while Mr. Krieger's guitar has an appealing bite as he alternates between soloing and working off Mr. Manzarek. On drums, Mr. Densmore makes rock that swings.
"Of course, we nailed it," a cheerful Mr. Manzarek told me. "Ooh, that band is tight. When my left hand locked in with Densmore's kick drum, I could just feel it. I've said this before, but one of my biggest regrets was that I never got to see the Doors. I never got to experience that tightness from the audience."

The Thrill isn’t gone - When Michael Jackson died, each television network had a crisply-edited career highlight reel running concurrently with the announcement.
The engineers surely had their hands full that day, given the near-simultaneous passing of a second luminary, Farrah Fawcett, herself meriting a promptly-prepared tribute segment.
I marveled at the networks’ efficiency, wondering if the television producers plan ahead, preparing obituary segments for the alive-and-well, placing them in a drawer in anticipation of the dark, inevitable day when they ring true and are pressed into service.
This idea suits my darkly humorous core. I pondered the newspaper equivalent of this, imagining the quirky task of writing obituaries for showbiz luminaries and keeping them on standby, scooping our competitors with instantaneous tributes when the need should arise.
The problem with this was, if I have something to say, I’m not sort of guy to hold it back.
Watching the 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Concert on cable recently, I became very aware of time’s dominion over our luminaries, and found myself unwilling to contain what I would say about one particular performer if we lost him.
“The king of blues!” shouted Stevie Wonder, as a large, black octogenarian ambled from the wings. As fitting as this greeting was, and however appropriate the pun on the artist’s last name, it was not enough.
This moment merited another in-depth, Tom Hanks-style introduction, with every viewer admonished to maintain undivided attention.
This comparatively low-key moment in the program, spotlighting a host less flashy than those gracing other segments, might be mistaken for an opportune time to make a discreet trip to the concession stand; in an hours-long show that featured the likes of U2 and Bruce Springsteen, this would be understandable.
I wanted to cry out to every viewer: don’t stand, don’t leave, don’t blink, don’t talk; don’t squander one iota of the precious resource unfurling before you, because there is only so much of it left.
Rock and roll was built from Mississippi Delta mud; each rock artist owes much to the architects of blues music.
Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, all the icons who might lay claim to the mantle “king of blues” — and, therefore, the “next of kin” of rock and roll itself — are gone.
Except one.
The most important player in that building, or any other, was taking the stage; the most tenured, most paramount, in equal parts mortal and immortal, blues artist we have: B.B. King.
King remained seated while he performed his signature song “Thrill is Gone”; the iconic image of him standing, bellowing, gripping the microphone for dear life while Lucille, his beloved Gibson guitar, stands at the ready, dangling to the right of his ample midsection, was conscribed to memory.
Another iconic image, that of a young B.B. with his name painted on his guitar, featuring a block-letter “N” written incorrectly, is equally telltale, a reminder of the disadvantage facing this man as he began this improbable ascendancy.
This is a man of limitations, to be sure. It is well-known that B.B. cannot sing and play guitar at the same time; his jaw is hard-wired shut whenever his guitar rings out. It is perhaps lesser known that his musical toolbox is bereft of chords; where the most elementary of guitarists can strum a few simple shapes, Lucille cannot bear her master more than one note at a time.
Those notes, however, are, like his vocals, delivered with focus, authority, and investment the world cannot reasonably expect to see again.
His weight — “I’m watching my waist,” he jokes; “I keep it out in front of me where I can see it” — is of grave concern to the most casual of viewers.
His efforts to spread awareness about diabetes — he’s not just a spokesman, he’s a member — offer additional incentive to listen, hard, every single time this guy plays music.
This is the season when we think of bygone relatives, reminded with the passing of years that people don’t live forever. When Father Time embraces this huge, distinguished man in a bear hug and refuses to let him go, every music fan will lose a parent.
Watch, learn, remember. Don’t miss a note; don’t miss a syllable; realize that some assets are wholly irreplaceable.
Out there somewhere, inviting himself into your living room, on some rerun of “The Cosby Show” or in some musical venue, B.B. will be there, asking little more than for you to enjoy listening for a little while.
Michael Jackson; Pat Swayze; Dom DeLuise; Farrah Fawcett; Mary Travers; our thoughts turn to the artists and entertainers we have lost since the last time the old odometer creaked forward.
This time, though, I hope you will take a moment to think of B.B. King — the most important artist we did not lose in 2009.


Latest News: The physical release of Michael Packer's "Free Beer" has been pushed back to Tuesday, February 16, 2010 due to scheduling issues. They have also scheduled 3 other fantastic blues releases for the same date.  Solomon King, a great new blues/rock/soul talent out of California with his album "Under The Sun," which is already receiving some airplay across the US. They also have  Cee Cee James with her album "Low Down Where The Snakes Crawl," a powerful blues signer with tones of Janis Joplin, plus a strong album of originals in the blues/rock genre, also getting airplay, most notably on Sirius XM Bluesville, where it's a "Picks to Click." Finally they have their first Soul/Blues release, a great album by Ohio native Mr. Keith Little entitled "Take It Off And Get Loose With It."
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The listeners have voted, and the results are in – the top ten best blues recordings of 2009. We can’t tell you what they are, of course, that would spoil the surprise, but we can tell you that Shemekia Copeland, Jeff Healey, Candye Kane, the Derek Trucks Band, Eric Clapton, and more – are all in the running. As the votes are tallied, register here to win a copy of THE DOORS: LIVE IN NEW YORK -- a 6 disc collection containing all four of The Doors' performances recorded in 1970 at the Felt Forum in New York City. Thanks to Rhino Records. Five blues brothers or soul sisters get a copy.

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