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Thursday, March 13, 2008

Henry Townsend And The Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen

Received this via email from Lynn Orman it is an article written by Scott Shuman

Henry Townsend and The Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen

I met Henry Townsend backstage at the Belleville Illinois Folk Festival in earl 1975

I had the chance to pickup a a guitar there , and play a few licks,and I remember Henry listening and saying" I hear You!". I asked this very sophisticated looking Bluesman, If I could play guitars with him sometime,and he replied:"What are you doing tomorrow?" I went to see Henry the next day at his home on Kings Highway in St Louis ,and we became best of friends from then on. I moved to St louis in June of 75 and began the education of a lifetime

Henry had a recording studio in his basement and we'd spend late nights recording and jamming with some of the best musicians in St Louis .That's really where I learned about sound and how to play on a recording session. Henry used to tell me " Scotty, you're just like a cat. You learn a trick one day and can't remember it the next" .He was a hard teacher for the close group of us that he mentored . Thats how you knew he was invested in you -When he just wouldn't cut you any slack-.

Out of everything that I learned from Henry, it was not as much about the music but about how to carry your self , how to be aware of things around you, and to stand up for yourself and live with integrity. He was like our Zen master-constantly teaching and training and preparing us for our careers as musicians-

Henry and I made a lot of recordings together and when I started my studio in Virginia ,he would come out and record when he visited the east coast. In 1998 I was travelling with My own Blues band, and made a decision to drop that, and spend more of the time I had to play music with Henry. He was pushing 90 at the time , and I really wanted to be with him as much as possible in his late years We played in Atlanta , Memphis , Kansas city , Davenport at the Chicago Blues festivals and just all over the mid west.

We had worked up a couple of 3 part grooves playing guitars late at night in his kitchen in St Louis that he really wanted to record.,. He came into my Falls Chuch studio in early 1999 , to do that. Every Label he recorded with insisted that it be "Authentic" and cut live ,. but Henry wanted to overdub and multi track and add drums and things like a chorused guitars played through a rotating lesley speaker cabinet- ..He tried to branch out into more creative recordings and stretch his wings, and he really wanted to use anything that he could create a cool and different sound

On "The Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen" we performed a track called "It's Got to End Somewhere"that's the type of layered groove that he was trying to record in the late part of his carreer. Producers would always try to lock him into recreating what he did in 1931 and he was just itching to try something new and different. He was the most innovative musician that I ever worked with, and it's that side of his recording legacy that was fairly unknown

. We mixed the Grammy winning CD in early 2006 from the live recording that was made in Dallas I spoke with Henry at length about the record, and sent him test copies of the CD that he critiqued with his amazing ears .This is a guy that recorded in 9 decades ,and when he a had a comment about something , believe me, we all listened! At the age of 95 Henry's hearing was still extremely acute and he would catch little things that we would sometimes miss.He would say :"you know there's this little scratchy thing at the beginning of the third track that don't sound right", or "the last couple of songs sound a little thin -Can you warm that up a little bit.?"

Paul Grupp who's my good friend and recording Guru from LA set up the initial EQ' for the CD .We then put together the sound design to create a live feel for the Majestic theater in Dallas where the recording was made. Paul is probably the best engineer anywhere , particularly when it come to precise EQ ,and he really put his Mojo into this record.

The day we started mixing and selecting the tracks , we were in awe of the fact that the 4 artists on the CD were the "Board of directors " of the Blues .I remember that evening I called Henry in St Louis to tell him that we were going to get a Grammy for this record. -I knew it!

Henry's health was starting to fail and the more that we got into creating the CD,the more that I felt that this was a way to Honor him,and get him the recognition that he never quite received .It was partly my way of saying "thank you" to my best friend and mentor and to honor his legacy and punctuate his career.

In late 2006 I flew to st Louis to go out on a gig in Wisconsin with Henry.
When I arrived, he had just been released from the hospital suffering from on ongoing heart problem. The doctors had forbid him to travel and said that if he went on the road he would not survive

Well, they had said the exact same thing to Henry in 2005 when we flew to Texas to perform for the "The Last Of The Great Delta Bluesmen",, so he just didn't put too much stock in what the doctors had to say.

I remembered that we talked about the trip to Wisconsin at the time ,and I suggested that we just Hang out in St Louis and cancel the Gig. Henry replied that he" had to leave this earth sometime, and he would rather be on his way to a gig doing what he loved to do than laying around in the bed waiting to die." So we honored his wishes and hit the road on that October Friday morning.

We went to the festival grounds and checked out the stage setup the day before the performance was scheduled. Henry never got a chance to perform that last time in Grafton Wisconsin, where his recording carreer began in 1929.

My friend Henry Townsend died with his boots on

I miss him everyday ,but know that his legacy was profound, and every time I pick up the guitar I can feel his presence. When we went to Los Angeles with our Grammy nomination in hand, I had a sense of purpose. We were there to hit the mark as a final victory for my friend Henry

** Scott Shuman is a member of the Recording Academy

**Scot produced for "The Last Of The Great Mississippi Delta Blues men, with Jeff Dyson of the Blueshoe Project

**Scott mixed and mastered the album with Paul Grupp at Shuman Recording studios in Falls Church Va

Scott Played guitar on 5 tracks on the album and performed and toured , recorded with Henry Townsend from 1975-2006

**Scott is a mastering engineer for Time Life Music and works closely with them, and all the major Record Labels

Scott is currently mastering the "50th Anniversary of Motown Records" collection for Time Life /Universal

**Scott in addition to being a Recording and Mixing engineer directs and produces music television programs for Commonwealth Broadcasting corporation

**He is the creator of "BBs Presents: The Best Of the Blues "

which is distributed to MHz Worrldview to pbs affiliates nationally

**Scott started with BBC producer Robin Mudge

which creates Music Television for broadcsters, and produces DVDs,music videos in High Definition and distributes and downloads live music performances via the internet

**Scott has appeared on the Pacifica network and other radio stations in the United States and has traveled extensively with the Front Row music production crew documenting and filming live music performances

**He traveled and performed exstensively with, Henry Townsend ,until the legendary performers recent death while on the road in Grafton Wisconsin at the age of 96 He has worked closely with the noted recording engineer and LA based producer Paul Grupp, and has performed in Atlanta, Mississippi, Memphis , Dallas and throughout the east coast and midwest

**Scott is currently mastering the 50th Anniversary of Motown Collection for Time Life Music producing music video performances in 5.1 surround sound, and recording weekly Bluegrass and roots music performances in West Va,.

He currently resides in Falls Church Virginia.


Beausoleil, Bela Fleck , BR 549, Bela Velosa, Chic Correa and The Electric Band, Cliff Hardin , Tbe Bottlerockets,Mariane Montalvo, The Holmes Brothers, Tingsted and Rhumbel, Sweet Honey In The Rock, Roy Carrier, , Michael Burks, Bugs Henderson, Eric Scott, Shane Hines and the Trance, Olabelle, First Rays, The Pie tasters, Bela Velosa, Leaving Texas, Robert Lighthouse, Tinsmith, Mike Thornton, Radio Mosaic John Hammond Jr., Berelli Lagrene , Jim Byrnes, The Big Bamou, Alvin Jett & the Phat Noize Band , Robert Jr Lockwood, Gay Abidigola , Darrel Scott, Kate Campell , Henry Townsend, Pinetop Perkins, Sqeeze Bayou, Honeyboy Edwards , Sue Richards, Sharon

Knowles, Iona, Carbon Leaf, Mancino, Sivercloud, Big Jack Johnson, June Maxim, Mike Mays, Eddie O, Jeffrey Cain,Rob Thorworth, Mike Johns, James Manion, Eli Cook, Maches Tres, Juniper Lane, , Patent Pending, Los Hombres Callientes, Bill Heid, John Trupp, Robyn Helzner,The Irish Breakfast Band, The Brindley Brothers, The Washington Social Club Wellbuilt , Jim Stephenson, Michael Burks and a long list of national and internationally renown artists.

Photos, Interview Opportunities, b-roll available upon request

Contact: Lynn Orman at 847-452-6469

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