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Friday, May 16, 2008

Bob Corritore Blues News

May 14, 2008

  • Mojo Buford Hospitalized: Mojo Buford's Manager Doug McMinn reports that Mojo Buford has been hospitalized in Minneapolis, and has had to postpone a European tour that would have started today. "It is with a sad heart that I inform you that Mojo Buford had to be rushed to the hospital last night (May 12, 2008). He was in diabetic shock, and was having trouble breathing. It turns out that he is suffering from congestive heart failure, and that’s why he was having trouble breathing. Because of some new medicine he was prescribed, he was forgetting to take other medicines, like his insulin; and that’s what threw him into diabetic shock. Mojo is doing better today, as the hospital balances his medications." Mojo Buford is best known to blues fans as the long time harmonica player in the Muddy Waters Band, but Mojo is a great blues artist in his own right with a beautiful voice, great harmonica sound, and a wonderful repertoire. Thanks to Michel Hofkens from Belgium, who first made us aware of this.
  • BMA/Delta Groove Recap: As I begin to catch up after three days of non-stop blues activity, my reflections turn to the Blues Music Awards gathering, which included a pre-party, the big night of the Blues Music Awards, and the 3rd Annual Delta Groove Showcase at Ground Zero. At this point, many lists of the winners have been posted and emailed, but for the full list of 2008 BMA winners, click here. Big congratulations to all the winners and nominees! Please note that this recap will cover only my tiny perspective of this huge event, in which every attendee had their own great moments filled with interactions unique to their experience. When you put together an event that draws all aspects of the blues community/industry, there is a tremendous amount of mutual interest, camaraderie, and just plain love going around. Unique combinations of people, introductions, networking, and acknowledgment of both veteran masters and new talent abounded. Each year we all feel a special joy and privilege to a part of this big family of the blues. This year was very special for me, because I was a nominee for the first time for my collaboration with Dave Riley; Travelin' The Dirt Road on Blue Witch Records was up for Best Acoustic Blues Album. A number of CDs that I have played on or produced were up for awards before, but this was the first time that my name specifically was on the ballot. This was a great thrill for me to be recognized this way, and it was a dream come true to be asked to perform at the event.

Our journey began on Wednesday morning as Kim and I caught our plane from Phoenix to Memphis. Big Pete Pearson, who landed a little before us on a different airline, greeted us upon arrival. We ran into Paul Benjamin (Blues Foundation president) and his wife at the airport, and so it began: the wonderful non-stop greetings of blues friends that would not cease until we would board our flight home three days later. We rented a car, and Kim, Big Pete, and I drove down Highway 61 to the Grand Casino in Tunica, Mississippi, where the BMAs were being held for the first time away from Memphis. The scenic ride was filled with Big Pete's great stories of touring the south during the 50s, and the memories jogged by various landmarks. When we arrived at the Grand Casino's Veranda Hotel, we said hello to Sam Lay, Nick and Kate Moss, Gaye Adegbalola, Andra Farr, and many others.

Kim and I had just enough time to check in and freshen up for a moment before the 5:30 bus left for a riverboat pre-party before the Hall of Fame Dinner. Before catching the bus, we met up in the lobby with Dave Riley and his wife Tanja, and Dale Baich and Beth Lipham of Blue Witch Records, as well as a large crowd headed to the event. Getting on the bus, I realized that it was filled with friends: Hubert Sumlin in the front row, followed by Nappy Brown, followed by Magic Slim, Scott Cable, and the list goes on. When Kim and I arrived at the Tunica River Park to board the Tunica Queen Riverboat, everyone took a photo next to a life preserver bearing the boat's name. Great appetizers were served below deck, and the socializing began as we talked with Bob Koester, Art Tipaldi (who I had last seen in Lucerne), Jimmy McCracklin (my first time meeting this legendary blues singer), Blues Foundation Director Jay Sieleman and his lovely wife Priscilla Hernandez, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith (who introduced me to the young Kenny Wayne Shepherd), Janiva Magness, Bruce Iglauer of Alligator Records, Mark Hoffman and James Segrest (co-authors of the Howlin' Wolf bio, Moanin' At Midnight), Bill Wax of XM Satellite Radio and his lovely wife Sheila, Bob Porter of WBGO and Music Choice and his lovely wife Linda, Big George Brock, Fruteland Jackson, Gina Sicilia, Dave Gross, Richard Rosenblatt of Vizztone, and many others. The scenic view of the "Big Muddy" and its river banks was spectacular.

Upon landing, we headed to the adjacent meeting area at the Tunica River Park where the dinner and awards would take place. There we said hello to Bob Stroger, David Maxwell, Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, Diunna Greenleaf, Nora Jean Bruso, Pinetop Perkins, Jumpin' Johnny Sansone, John Németh, Pat Morgan, Duke Robillard, Bob and Pamela Margolin, Hugh Southard of Blue Mountain Artists, Joe Whitmer from The Blues Foundation, Michael Cloeren, Sharrie Williams, Steve Simon, and many others. The dinner and company were great, and set the stage for the Hall of Fame Awards, which inducted great recordings, literature, producers, and musicians in the blues. For a complete list of this year's Hall of Fame inductees, click here. Bill Wax and Bob Porter were excellent hosts as they alternated in presenting the awards. When Big Joe Williams' Piney Woods Blues was announced, it was accepted by the great Bob Koester of Delmark Records, who told heartwarming stories of Big Joe and the recording session. Bob Koester noted how the blues LP album was a relatively new and unique thing at that time. When Moanin' At Midnight: The Life And Times Of Howlin' Wolf was announced, authors James Segrest and Mark Hoffman related their passion for this project, and told stories of their years of research. An inspiring reflection of the life of record producer icon John Hammond, Sr. was told by Sony/BMG Senior Vice President/A&R Man Steve Berkowitz. The Legendary Hubert Sumlin was enthusiastically cheered as they announced his induction into the Hall of Fame. Hubert was escorted to the podium by the youthful rock guitarist Kenny Wayne Shepherd, who awkwardly gave the majority of Hubert's acceptance speech for him. The legendary blues hit maker Jimmy McCracklin also was inducted, and gave a riveting acceptance speech. On the bus ride home, Big George Brock started playing gospel classics on harmonica, which lead to a beautifully enthusiastic chorus of numerous singers switching off on the lead vocal and support roles. We arrived at the hotel to see Evan Caleb (Candye Kane's son and fine drummer) as well as Jerry Del Giudice and Edward Chmelewski from Blind Pig Records and Scott Allen and Jen Taylor of Vivid Pix. Mark Hoffman then introduced me to Vera L. Johnson-Collins, the niece of Mississippi Blues legend Tommy Johnson (how cool is that!). She has started a foundation in her uncle's name; the website can be accessed by clicking here. The day was completed with a conversation by my dear friend Sam Lay before retiring to the room.

The next day started with a 12:15pm sound check for Dave Riley and I, who would perform later that night as a duo. Dave's son, Dave Riley, Jr., and I drove to the casino, and we met up with Big Pete Pearson and Patrick Rynn there. The room at the venue was very nice, and had a good sound to it. They were running a little late, which allowed conversations with Bob Margolin, Dale Baich, Michael Cloeren, and others. We got to hear the sound checks of Sharrie Williams, Gina Sicilia (with Dave Gross and David Maxwell) and the John Németh Band (with Junior Watson) before Dave and I breezed through our stage settings. Then back to the hotel, where I had plans to meet Charlie Hussey, host of the Dublin, Ireland blues radio show Blues Train, who did a 45 minute interview with me, and will edit it, combine it with songs, and broadcast it at a later date. We then went looking for Tomcat Courtney, who had arrived the night before with Chris James and Patrick Rynn. Upon finding Tomcat he and Charlie went off to do a second interview as I stayed in the lobby, saying hello to Chris James, Ronnie James, Debbie Davies, German Blues DJ and photographer Horst-Dieter Fischer, Steve Hecht of Piedmont Talent who introduced me to his new artist signing Samuel James, Lurrie Bell, Scott Dirks, and others. Then it was time to catch a moment in the room before Kim and I would get ready for the awards night. My beautiful Kim looked stunning, as always, as we headed down to the lobby where the next 10 hours would be wonderfully filled with well-dressed blues musicians and fans, greetings, introductions, photo ops, and of course, the Blues Music Awards! As we arrived at the venue, we gathered at an outdoor pre-party where we heard Lionel Young followed by Trampled Under Foot (both were IBC winners this year). To see some photos from this pre-party and to get a second account of the event, check out Lew Jetton's blog recap by clicking here.

We walked into the venue, and were greeted by the spellbinding Mississippi blues of Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, whose brilliant CD on Broke & Hungry Records was up for an award. We sat at a table with Charles and Lori Ragsdell, with Dale Baich and Beth Lipham sitting next to us and Dave, Tanja, and Dave Riley, Jr. as well as photographer Donovan Allen (some great company). Koko Taylor was at the next table, and our other table was also close by, and included Big Pete Pearson, Tomcat Courtney, Chris James, Patrick Rynn, and Judy Marut of Blue Witch Records. Also in attendance were Robert Jr. Whitall and Shirley Mae Owens of Big City Blues Magazine, Chip Eagle, Dar, Randy Chortkoff and his lovely girlfriend Kelly, Michael Frank of Earwig Music, Frank Roszak and Josh Tempkin of Delta Groove, Arnie Goodman, Don Crow, Rick Booth and Jake Lankheit from Intrepid Artists, Onnie Heaney, Patricia Morgan, Derek O'Brien, Pamela Taylor, Fred Litwin of Northern Blues, David Earl of Severn Records, David Berntson of Crossroads Learning Experience, Mr. and Mrs. "V", who host of Houston's Blues On The Move on 90.1FM KPFT, Amanda Gresham, Dave Wright of Champaign, Illinois' Dave's Blues on 90.1FM WEFT, Carol Marble of Mississippi Delta Blues, Inc, any many other blues VIPs. The night proceeded with numerous awards and performances, and included a greeting by Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour. Some highlights for us included watching our dear friends and musical associates Sam Lay, Bob Stroger, Koko Taylor, Diunna Greenleaf, and Bob Margolin receive BMAs, and great performances by Lurrie Bell, Big George Brock, Diunna Greenleaf, The Holmes Brothers, and more. The unquestionable performance highlight was Nappy Brown's explosive version of "Night Time Is The Right Time". Nappy had recorded this song before Ray Charles, and Ray's version closely mimics Nappy's original. Nappy's performance was complete with whoops and hollers, rolling around on the stage, waving his legs in the air, and stalking the crowd in search of woman to sing to (Nappy appeared to have a special attraction to Jen Taylor of Vivid Pix!). Nappy combined his show stopping stage antics with his amazingly rich and versatile voice, and the audience was beside themselves with his performance. It was so great to perform at this event, and Dave and I felt good about our duet performances of "Travelin' The Dirt Road" (a Dave Riley composition), "Jelly Roll King" (written by Frank Frost) and "Sharecropper's Blues" (written by John Weston), which were aired live on XM Satellite Radio’s Bluesville Station, along with all performances and acceptance speeches of the night. Though none of the four CDs I played on won, I felt very privileged to be nominated and belong to this great musical family of the blues. We heard that the event went on until 3am, so we missed the last hour, as Kim and I visited with friends in the lobby before heading back to the room to get a little rest before the next day's activity. We enjoyed seeing Tommy Castro, photographer Aigars Lapsa from Latvia (who presented me with beautiful photos that he took at the Lucerne Blues Festival), Mookie Brill, and Nappy Brown. We went back to the hotel with Nappy Brown, as he and I caught up on some of our mutual friends. Nappy and Tomcat Courtney settled in the hotel lobby and stayed up till the early morning swapping stories, while Dale and Beth of Blue Witch and Chris and Patrick of The Rhythm Room All-Stars watched on.

Friday was the 3rd Annual Delta Groove Showcase at Ground Zero Blues Club in Clarksdale, which for the last three years has been the prime after-party for the BMAs. Label chief Randy Chortkoff is legendary in his ability to throw some of the most elaborate musical events in the blues. Many of us in the Southwest fondly remember Randy's amazing annual Little Walter festivals of the 90s. Randy's gracious hosting and star-packed lineups were certainly part of this year’s event. In addition to being a stunning showcase for his Delta Groove label, Randy included a number of artists from other labels on the bill, including a Blue Witch Showcase. When we arrived at around 1:30pm, the place was already packed with a who's who of blues people. After sets by Lionel Young and Bill Sims (with Mark LaVoie on harmonica), it was time for our showcase. Randy gave a great introduction, and then turned it over to me to announce the set and call all the featured artists to the spotlight. The core band for our set was The Rhythm Room All-Stars with Chris James (guitar), Patrick Rynn (bass), and myself on harmonica, and we switched drummers between Tony Braunagel of the Phantom Blues Band and Evan Caleb, Candye Kane's son and drummer (both are great drummers). We began the set with Italian harmonica great Marco Pandolfi, who did a jumpin' instrumental. Then I took over on harmonica as the All-Stars spotlighted singers Chris James, Dave Riley, Tomcat Courtney, and Big Pete Pearson (in that order). We felt great about the set, and everyone shined. From there, Kid Ramos's side project Los Fabulocos did a great set of Tex-Mex and roots-rock songs. In the parking lot, there was a stage set up with the great Cedric Burnside and Lightnin’ Malcolm, who served as core band and kept a spontaneous jam going all through the day with many special guests. To the side of the jam stage was Deak Harp, who, in between jam sets, played great amplified harp and foot-driven drums for a wild and wonderful sound. The Insomniacs did an inspired set, as did the amazing Jackie Payne/Steve Edmondson Band, before the West Coast's pride The Mannish Boys hit the stage and brought the night to new level of energy. With The Mannish Boys' great lineup of talent, they alternated singers, harp players, and guitarists to the stationary solid rhythm section of Richard Innes and Ronnie James. We were treated to features by Franck Goldwasser, Randy Chortkoff, Kirk Fletcher, Kid Ramos, Junior Watson, Bobby Jones, Johnny Dyer, and Finis Tasby, as well as special guest appearances by Phillip Walker, Debbie Davies, and Mikey Junior. The entire set was stunning, but the true highlight for me was Johnny Dyer's spectacular take on Little Walter's "Everything's Gonna Be Alright". After The Mannish Boys set, we heard a few by Mike Zito before calling it a long, great day. A few of the many high points of that day:

-Art Tipaldi's expressed enthusiasm after hearing Tomcat Courtney's CD Downsville Blues for the first time on his car ride that day to Clarksdale

-Hanging out with cinema movers and shakers Mars Callahan and David Hughes on the front porch of Ground Zero

-Meeting Holger Peterson of Stony Plain Records and hearing stories of Robert Nighthawk's performances and recording session in Canada

-Connecting with Cam Hayden and his wife Carrol Deen of the Edmonton Labatt Blues Festival in Canada; Cam also hosts the Friday Night Blues Party radio show on CKUA

-Eating spectacular catfish with Kim, Big Pete Pearson, and Judy Marut at the Delta Amusement Cafe

-Stopping by the Gimme Gumbo Gallery and having artists John M. Fekes and Ilse Jouette personally show Kim and I their blues art

-Spending time in the backstage green room with my dear friend and harp mentor Johnny Dyer

-Taking a break from the showcase and going to the upstairs hotel at Ground Zero to Kid Ramos and his wife Linda's room while Kid and members of Los Fabulocos casually played beautiful Mexican songs on accordion and guitar

-Playing a great set of blues with my favorite musicians on the stage as part of an amazing lineup of talent, while people I admire in the blues listened with approval to our performance. In attendance during our set were Bruce Iglauer, Duke Robillard, Doug James (a fine harmonica player as well as a legendary saxophonist), Bob and Linda Porter, DJ Gary Miller, Bill Wax, Steve Simon (who had never heard me play live before), Roger Naber of The Legendary Blues Cruise, Randy Chortkoff, and many others

Thanks, Randy, for allowing us to be a part of your great event!

All in all, an amazing three days of nonstop activity. If you have never been to the BMAs, I would encourage you to make plans for next year. Simply the greatest blues gathering around! It's an event that brings together encouragement, friendship, reflection, and recognition in the blues!

-Bob Corritore