Here is a rather odd line from Wikipedia’s bio of Leon Redbone:
According to the Toronto Star report in the 1980s, his birth name is Dickran Gobalian, he came to Canada from Cyprus in the mid-1960s and changed his name via Ontario, Change of Name Act. (Continue Reading…)
For some reason, it doesn’t seem surprising. I never really knew if Redbone was on the level. He is remarkably talented, but I never quite bought the shtick. But the bottom line is that it doesn’t matter.
Jon Niccum writes an engaging bio at Redbone’s site which, again unsurprisingly, doesn’t say anything about Redbone himself:
The careers of performers who reside in the limelight are usually short-lived and over-overexposed. So it’s refreshing to encounter Leon Redbone, who has for decades remained so musically resonant and personally elusive. Though his iconic guise of white fedora, jacket and sunglasses has been thoroughly satirized (anybody remember the “Leon Redbone workout” Far Side cartoon?), it’s easy to overlook what a genuinely gifted artist he remains – a role he inevitably tries to downplay.
“In some ways I’ve always been complacent in my approach to music,” Redbone says. “So in some ways maybe I’m the pure definition of consistent.”
At the core of his initial calling was the desire to simply honor songs from the past – a waltz with bygone days that established him as sole curator of the museum of 20th century music. Over the course of his 30+ year, 15+ album career, the bard has continued his love affair with tunes from the turn-of-the-century (as in the second-to-last century), flapper-era radio ditties, Depression-spawned ragtime and World War II folk-jazz. (Continue Reading…)
There isn’t a great deal of good video of Leon Redbone, but the 1991 clip from The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson is excellent. Redbone performs Up a Lazy River and Mr. Jelly Roll Baker. The guy — whoever he really is — is very talented. Looking that relaxed and seeming to do so little as he does so much is unique. In a way, it’s reminiscent of Willie Nelson.
Check out the slide guitar player about halfway through the second song.by
Wikipedia’s entry on Robert Cray contains a very interesting piece of movie trivia:
By the age of twenty, Cray had seen his heroes Albert Collins, Freddie King and Muddy Waters in concert and decided to form his own band; they began playing college towns on the West Coast. In the late 1970s he lived in Eugene, Oregon, where he formed the Robert Cray Band and collaborated with Curtis Salgado in the Cray-Hawks. In the 1978 film National Lampoon’s Animal House, Cray was the uncredited bassist in the house party band Otis Day and the Knights. After several years of regional success, Cray was signed to Mercury Records in 1982. Two albums on HighTone Records in the mid-80s, Bad Influence and False Accusations, were moderately successful in the United States and in Europe, where he was building a reputation as a live artist. His fourth album release, Strong Persuader, produced by Dennis Walker, received a Grammy Award, while the crossover single ”Smokin’ Gun” gave him wider appeal and name recognition. (Continued Reading…)
Actually, it’s not a hard question if you look closely at their faces.
Rapper Shawnna — above performing Gettin’ Some — is Guy’s daughter. Below, Guy plays Long Way From Home at a memorial for Stevie Ray Vaughan. Since we are talking family here, note that Vaughan’s brother, Jimmie–a great guitarist himself–is playing rhythm.
Talent runs in families, and such connections are common.by
Statesboro Blues, a song that of course is familiar to contemporary music fans, is credited to Blind Willie McTell.
McTell is an interesting figure in the history of blues. According to the New Georgia Encyclopedia:
“Blind Willie” McTell was one of the great blues musicians of the 1920s and 1930s. Displaying an extraordinary range on the twelve-string guitar, this Atlanta-based musician recorded more than 120 titles during fourteen recording sessions. His voice was soft and expressive, and his musical tastes were influenced by southern blues, ragtime, gospel, hillbilly, and popular music.
At a time when most blues musicians were poorly educated and rarely traveled, McTell was an exception. He could read and write music in Braille. He traveled often from Atlanta to New York City, frequently alone. As a person faced with a physical disability and social inequities, he expressed in his music a strong confidence in dealing with the everyday world.
As the bio says, his voice was surprisingly soft. Here are Searching the Desert for the Blues, Lonesome Day Blues and Lord, Send Me an Angel. Here, for good measure, are versions of Statesboro Blues by Taj Mahal and The Allman Brothers.by
This was a sad thing. I was trying (fruitlessly) to find videos of Elmore James. While doing so, I ran across the version of Dust My Broom that is above. The quality of the video is bad, but Steve Thorpe’s playing renders that meaningless.
I decided to wait a bit with James and feature Thorpe, who operated out of the area around The Kennedy Space Center in central Florida. Here are two more songs: She’s With Me and Alan Toussaint’s Sneakin Sally Through the Alley.
The sad part is almost as soon as I stumbled on Thorpe, I read that he passed away in 2010.by
On this day in 1984, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton died at age 58 in Los Angeles. Thornton wrote and recorded Ball ‘n’ Chain, which was covered (as Ball and Chain) by Janis Joplin. Thornton also recorded Hound Dog, which was written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller in 1952. The Elvis hit came four years later. Above, she performs Hound Dog with Buddy Guy.by
…Just check it out. You’ll see what I mean immediately. I think this is what they mean by the term cognitive dissonance.by
James often played his guitar with an open D-minor tuning (DADFAD), resulting in the “deep” sound of the 1931 recordings. James purportedly learned this tuning from his musical mentor, the unrecorded bluesman Henry Stuckey. Stuckey in turn was said to have acquired it from Bahamanian soldiers during the First World War, despite the fact that his service card shows he didn’t serve overseas. Robert Johnson also recorded in this tuning, his “Hell Hound On My Trail” being based on James’ “Devil Got My Woman.” James’ classically-informed, finger-picking style was fast and clean, using the entire register of the guitar with heavy, hypnotic bass lines. James’ style of playing had more in common with the Piedmont blues of the East Coast than with the Delta blues of his native Mississippi.
The Wikipedia entry, which is short of citations, paints a picture of a difficult person. Perhaps most intriguing is the tidbit that he “denounced” the version of I’m So Glad done by Cream. I couldn’t find elaboration on that, however.by