The latest from Bob Corritore
February 11, 2008
- Grammy® recap: Our trip to the Grammies® this year was truly a celebration of the veteran blues artists whose music and company we cherish so much. This was the first time that I was a sideman in a Grammy®-nominated release, which was thrilling. (I play harmonica on one track of Pinetop Perkins’ On The 88's).
After a night of performance at the Rhythm Room with Big Pete Pearson and The Rhythm Room All-Stars, Kim and I caught an early flight from Phoenix to LA. Upon arriving at the Millennium Biltmore, it felt like old home week, with Hugh Souther of Blue Mountain Artists greeting us directly out of the taxi. Then we ran into producer/recording engineer Michael Freeman, as well as Mike, Jeffry, and Ann Dyson. Mike Dyson invited us to a Louisiana luncheon put on by the Louisiana Economic Development Office, where we met Lynn Orman, publicist for the Blue Shoe Project. We were also introduced to Alonzo Townsend, the 22-year-old son of the late Henry Townsend. I greatly enjoyed telling him stories of my experiences with his father. (Alonzo was born when Henry was age 75; ain’t that a man?) After some gumbo, étouffée, crab salad, and bread pudding, we ran into Amanda Gresham, Honeyboy Edwards, Michael Frank, Bruce Iglauer, Bettye LaVette, Koko and Cookie Taylor, and Mary Lockwood. We met the hosts of the party including Lynn Ourso of the Louisiana Music Commission (who was also the guitarist of the famed John Fred & His Playboy Band). When we finally got up to the room to catch a little catnap before that night’s events, we felt like we already had quite a party.
That night we caught a ride with Michael Freeman and his wife to the Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception. On the way there, Michael told us about his forthcoming production of Pinetop Perkins to be released later this year on Telarc Records. This record includes guest appearances by B.B. King, Jimmy Vaughan, Nora Jean Bruso, Eric Clapton, and others. This great event was held at the Wilshire Ebell Theatre. Among those honored were Burt Bacharach, The Band, Cab Calloway, Doris Day, Itzhak Perlman, Max Roach, Earl Scruggs, Clarence Avant, Jac Holzman, Willie Mitchell of Hi Records, AMPEX Corporation, and John Eargle. The reception was filled with great food, great company, and great music. At the reception, we hung out with Pinetop Perkins and his manager Pat Morgan, his caretaker, Barry Nowlin, and Mary Lockwood and her niece, Auntunesia (Niecey), who was responsible for proposing Robert Lockwood, Jr.’s honorary doctorate at Case Western Reserve University, Michael Frank, and the Dysons. Also at this party were members of The Band, Quincy Jones, Earl Scruggs, Clarence Avant, recording engineers, label bosses, and all sorts of music industry people. It was great to meet the legendary Willie Mitchell, whose Hi Records brought us classics by Al Green, Ann Peebles, Otis Clay, Syl Johnson, and others.
The next day, in the breakfast buffet, we enjoyed breakfast and conversation with Honeyboy Edwards, Michael Frank, the Dysons, and Lynn Orman. We were told that morning that the Pinetop/Honeyboy/Koko Grammy® performance would be at 3pm, with the award happening afterwards, so we planned our arrival accordingly. We arrived approximately on time with our entourage, which included my brother John and his date, and my cousin Mark and his life partner, Aleta Ring. Unfortunately, the performance apparently was moved up so we weren’t able to catch that, but we were there for the blues awards. We were delighted at the announcement of the traditional blues category, and the album Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live In Dallas. This release highlighted four of the then oldest living bluesmen (Pinetop Perkins and Honeyboy Edwards; as well as Henry Townsend and Robert Lockwood, Jr., who have passed since this recording). All of these artists combined into one package meant that the old school as a whole could be honored with one award. It was joyous to see Pinetop happily accept his award and give his brief acceptance speech, to see Honeyboy Edwards tell a brief story of traveling with Robert Johnson, recording for the Library of Congress, and moving to Chicago. Mary Lockwood was beside herself with joy, as her late husband was finally honored with a long-hoped for Grammy®. Alonzo Townsend recalled that his father was the only bluesman to have recorded every decade since the 1920s. In addition, the Dysons spoke of the educational purpose of putting on the show, which they documented in the fine form of this record. This release was such a noble effort, in that it was done on a level of artistic preservation by a nonprofit organization with no commercial overtones or agenda; and it had an astute focus on four of the greatest bluesmen who ever lived. In the world of the Grammies®, where so many awards are bestowed on the pop culture phenomenon, it is great to see a purely historical record by the real pioneers get its due. Please note that all of the nominees in this category had great merit, in that they all drew upon some of the greatest legends in the blues. However, this one, above the others, found its place in time in Grammy® history. Congratulations also to contemporary blues winner, J.J. Cale and Eric Clapton.
From there, it was on to the televised awards, which was a dizzying array of fast-paced performances, high-profile presenters, film clips, and stage productions. A sold-out Staples Center held an enthusiastic crowd and a show that boasted a broad commercial appeal. In the lobby, we saw Kim Wilson's road manager, and he introduced us to Doyle Bramhall. Among the performers, those of blues interest included a gospel performance by Aretha Franklin and Bebe Winans, a duet with Beyoncé and Tina Turner, in which Tina, sadly and conspicuously, did not acknowledge her late husband Ike, who had recently passed, even while doing Ike’s arrangement of “Proud Mary”. Ike was validated, however, in the memorial section, as well as in a tribute to old-school Rock ‘N Roll, that included Jerry Lee Lewis, John Fogerty, and Little Richard, who performed “Good Golly Miss Molly”, a song in which Richard always acknowledges that the piano intro was taken directly from Ike Turner’s piano intro of "Rocket 88". Other performances outside of the blues genre included Amy Winehouse (via satellite from London), Josh Groban and Andrea Bocelli, Alicia Keys, Kanye West, The Foo Fighters, Carrie Underwood, The Time, Herbie Hancock, Rihanna, a performance art rendition of The Beatles' "Let It Be", and Keely Smith and Kid Rock doing "That Old Black Magic". The after-party was another opportunity for all of us in the blues to gather. We ran into Richard Rosenblatt of Vizztone, and then were joined by Michael Frank, Alonzo Townsend, Hugh Souther, and of course, the great Pinetop, who held court at our table. A great memory was taking Pine out to the smoking area, where his simple joy became our joy, as he related stories of early days with B.B. King, Ike Turner, and others. When Pine called it a night, just as Cyndi Lauper hit the party stage, it felt like our time to exit also.
The next morning, we had breakfast with a delighted Honeyboy Edwards and his manager, Michael Frank, and the Dysons, who were simply beside themselves with joy. A very satisfying trip and a special privilege to be witness to this point in time in blues history.