DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Brother & Sister: RIP Greg Bendin

Posted in Personal Essays by darielb on January 30, 2009

When I was a kid, all I wanted was for my big brother to like having me around.

But he didn’t.

I was the albatross – decked out in Wrangler jeans and a Dr. Kildare shirt – hanging around his neck that our parents insisted he bear. By the time we were in junior high and high school, he tolerated me, most likely because he had the hots for my girlfriends. I don’t think he ever noticed that his taste in music had become my taste in music.
To this day, I can’t listen to Sam & Dave: Hold On, I’m Comin’ without thinking of my brother. I used to sneak into his room for it – the old Stax album with the bright yellow cover and a photo of Sam Moore and Dave Prater sitting on a cartoon drawing of a big, green slow-movin’ turtle. The title cut, “Hold On, I’m Comin’” always got my juices flowing and I would play “Just Me,” track three on side two, over and over again.

Another of his albums that I loved (and still do) is Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the group’s self-titled debut album from 1965. It changed my life. It introduced me to the blues, and I became an instant fan of Paul Butterfield, Elvin Bishop and the rest of them.
The memories brought to mind by the music are especially poignant for me now because my brother died last week. He stayed up to watch a show on the History Channel and died. Just like that.

I tell you this in order to remind you that this go-round we have here is a short one. We need to use our time more wisely.

I don’t know about you, but I plan to walk on the beach more often, listen to more music, spend more time with the people I love, cook more meals, kiss more people, read more books, read more liner notes, write more stories, enjoy my camera, drink finer wine, visit my younger brother, brush up on my French, get my passport renewed, go to Italy, suffer fewer fools, declutter my house and my life, get the hot tub fixed and find a turntable so I can play Sam & Dave again.

Thanks for the music, Greg.

Lowcountry Blues Bash 2009

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on January 29, 2009

Gary Erwin aka Shrimp City Slim is pretty excited about the lineup for his 19th annual Lowcountry Blues Bash taking place in Charleston from Feb. 6 – 16. And no wonder.
His headliners are Lil’ Dave Thompson; Big Bill Morganfield, who happens to be Muddy Waters’ son; Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones; and Beverly “Guitar” Watkins.

We gonna have some fun.

If you’ve never been, the Lowcountry Blues Bash is a blast. This year, it’s been scaled back a bit, but there are still 44 different live acts performing in 19 different venues over 11 days throughout downtown Charleston, East Cooper, North Charleston, and the West Ashley/James Island/Folly Beach area.

Lil’ Dave Thompson. Born in 1971, Thompson was encouraged by his father, also a musician, to play the guitar. Consequently, by the time he was a teenager, Lil’ Dave Thompson was playing the local blues circuit. This third generation Mississippi Delta bluesman will intoxicate you with his unique brand of visceral soul-blues. Expect to hear some great shuffles, slow blues, junk or even a little jazz with a Latin sound. Lil’ Dave is known for his dynamic live performance, so his should be one of the most popular shows at the Blues Bash.

Be sure to bring some extra cash, because you’ll want to pick up a copy of his 2008 CD, Deep In the Night. Find out for yourself, why this guy has been nominated for two Handy awards and is considered to be one of the top under 40 blues guitarists in Mississippi today.
Big Bill Morganfield. Born in Chicago in 1956, the son of Muddy Waters wears his pedigree proudly, but has really come into his own in recent years. Once heard, it’s clear that Big Bill Morganfield stands firmly on his own talent.

The singer/songwriter/guitarist reportedly never picked up a guitar until his father’s death in 1983. At that time he embarked on a mission to study the roots of Delta blues music. Eventually, he would join forces with harmonica man Paul Oscher and guitarist Bob Margolin, both of whom had played with his father. In 1999, they recorded Morganfield’s debut album, aptly titled Rising Son (Blind Pig Records). The album was received warmly, both for its nod to Muddy Waters and for Morganfield’s original songwriting. A bit of trivia for you here: the title cut from Rising Son, was included in the film A Love Song for Bobby Long, starring John Travolta. The Blind Pig label would go on to record Morganfield’s Ramblin’ Mind (2001) and Blues In the Blood (2003).

Big Bill has just finished recording a new CD titled Born Lover, which was produced by Bob Margolin and Brian Bisesi. This is one to watch for.
Andrew “Jr. Boy” Jones. Dallas born in 1950, this is one of the Lone Star State’s favorite sons. Jr. Boy was playing guitar professionally by the time he was 16, working with the likes of the legendary Freddie Kings’ Thunderbirds, Bobby Patterson’s Mustangs, Johnnie Taylor, R.L. Griffin and Charlie Robertson. He also worked with the Swamp Boogie Queen herself, Katie Webster on her Swamp Boogie Queen CD. While working as a session player in San Francisco, he signed on with Charlie Musselwhite for a number of years, appearing on Ace of Harps (1990), Signature (1991) and In My Time (1993)– all on the Alligator label.
Be sure to check out one of his performances and find out what folks in Texas have known for years.

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. Born in 1939 in Atlanta this rockin’ blues mama is probably best known for her work with Piano Red (who later became known as Dr. Feelgood). If lowdown, foot stompin’ blues is your thing, you’re gonna want to run, not walk to one of her shows during the Blues Bash. As you’ll find out, she plays a mean guitar, often duckwalking or playing with her teeth, and her voice … well, her voice is the blues, plain and simple.

She’s got several shows lined up – Sticky Fingers, the Isle of Palms Recreation Center, the Charleston County Library. Make sure you get to at least one of them. You’ll be kicking yourself if you don’t.

The list goes on. Other notable performers include local faves, King Tyrone & the Graveyard Ramblers. If you’ve never experienced swamp blues à la front maniac Jim Quick and the guys, check out their show at J.B. Pivots. You won’t be disappointed. Pivots is also bringing back Johnny Rawls and his topnotch band. Davis Coen is another act to catch. In fact, I’ll be writing a piece on his new CD, Blues Lights, in the next issue. Daddy Mack Blues Band, out of Memphis, is back by popular demand. Blues bard Jeff Norwood is another great show. If you haven’t seen Stone Cold Sarah Cole before, do it now! I’ve seen this teen guitarist at the last two National Women In Blues Festivals in Wilmington, N.C. and she rocks! Sharrie Williams & the Wise Guys … She’s dynamite. Juke Joint Johnny on harp, another must-see. Maurice John Vaughn and the BJ Emery Band mix some classic Chicago blues with soul and south side funk. Wanda JohnsonPaul GeremiaDr. Pickup (all the way from France) … If you’re any kind of a blues fan, you’ll want to be at the Blues Bash.

Tickets to the individual shows are super reasonable. Sometimes admission is free and the rest of the time prices range from $3 to $15. For more information and a full schedule, visit http://www.bluesbash.com, send an email to mail@bluesbash.com or call 843-762-9125. If you’re looking for accommodations, stay where the artists stay: the Inn at River Crossing in Mt. Pleasant, S.C. Mention the Blues Bash and get a special rate. Call 843-884-5853 or visit the website at http://www.theinnattherivercrossing.com .

JohnFM Streamin’ Beach, Boogie, Blues & Jazz

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on January 29, 2009

I couldn’t be happier that JohnFM is now streaming on the Web at http://www.johnfm.net. According to station owner John Broomfield, WWJN, better known as 104.9 John FM began streaming its beach, boogie, blues and jazz tunes to the world in November 2008. The format is what attracted me to John FM, but until now I could only catch a signal on a road trip down to the Hilton Head/Savannah area.There’s a real depth to the station’s programming. Every time I tune in to this station, there’s some great old soul song playing or a blues shuffle I’ve never heard.

It’s early beach music, from the obscure to the classic – pieces like “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” by Muddy Waters or “Hamhocks” by Big Joe Maher; oh, and “Baby What You Want Me To Do” from Jimmy Reid (I love Jimmy Reid); the early Dominoes; Big Joe and the Dyna-Flows and so many more.

If you’re familiar with the Carolinas, you know what I’m talking about. It’s early beach music, from the obscure to the classic – pieces like “You Can’t Lose What You Ain’t Never Had” by Muddy Waters or “Hamhocks” by Big Joe Maher; oh, and “Baby What You Want Me To Do” from Jimmy Reid (I love Jimmy Reid); the early Dominoes; Big Joe and the Dyna-Flows and so many more.

The distinctive format is a reflection of efforts by both John and Pat Patterson, who actually provides the programming for John FM. Both men are longtime lovers of early soul and beach artists. In a telephone interview, John Broomfield said, “It isn’t syndicated format. The music is all selected. I had music from my previous beach music station in Columbia, South Carolina, Magic 93.1. We played beach, boogie, and blues. My very good friend, the late Eddie “EZ” Zomberfield, was the DJ; he helped me get it up and running. In fact, we used to do a live broadcast from Ducks during SOS.

“This format is a spin-off of that one with the exception … I wanted to appeal to a broader base, so we added blues but still within the beach category.” Pat says, “My musical influence comes from the early soul artists. When I was in high school my favorite music was from the late 50s and 60s. Artists like William Bell, Rufus Thomas, Otis Redding, The Mar-Keys, Eddie Floyd and Sam and Dave.

“My favorite music is the old soul and rhythm and blues. I try to collect music from that era but it is hard to find. That is why two of my favorite collections are the complete Stax Volt singles collection from 1959 to 1968. I also have a Chess Records Decade Of Soul collection. I don’t care if they are 45s, albums, or 33s, if I can get them I will take them all. “I have trying to collect music since I was in high school and it never seems to be enough. I always run into that request that I don’t have. Since being a mobile DJ, I have had to broaden my music. Now I can cover from the 50s to today’s top 40. I have even been able to throw a polka in when I needed to.”
In addition to handling programmer chores, Pat also hosts the afternoon drivetime, Pat Patterson’s Beach Party, Monday through Friday from 4 to 9 p.m. AND the Low Country Boil (wife Robin came up with this apt show title) on Saturdays, noon until 4 p.m. For sister station Sunny 103.5 in Greenwood, S.C., Pat DJs The Beat of the Beach on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. and The Sunny Beach Party on Sundays from 2 to 6 p.m.

“I purchased the station two years ago,” John told me,“ but didn’t put the format on until about six months later. I started off playing just Christmas music [November 2006]; then I played straight jazz. Then I figured out the format.”

Listener comments, emails and the numbers all indicate that the format is a success. Pat told me,”I had an email last week from the president of the Hardeeville Chamber of Commerce saying this was the best format he’s heard.”

Listener reaction to streaming has been very positive. Listener comments in the website’s guestbook rave about both the station and DJs. The numbers for December 2008 report 2,542 with an average listening time of 149 minutes. John FM has also received a 2 share for the first Arbitron book and an overall rating of 1.8.

Pat went on to tell me, “We’re really happy with the response to the streaming. In fact, it was a low-key thing. We didn’t promote it beyond telling listeners during the shows and announcing
the website address.”

Until now, I haven’t heard Pat much on the radio. Instead, I’ve enjoyed him at events like the Charleston Beach Music Festival and during the Southern Soul entertainment series last year at the O.D. Beach Club. But I didn’t know a whole lot about him wanted to find out more about his background:

“I grew up in McCormickk , S.C.,” Pat tells me, “where I lived for 44 years until I met and married my beautiful wife, Robin. I served on City Council in McCormick for 18 years and also served as mayor pro tem.

“Also during my years in McCormick I served as Fire Chief. And, as Robin always reminds me, when we met I was working as a Nationally Registered Critical Care Paramedic for Greenwood County and now I am a DJ!

“I am the youngest of three. I have a older brother who lives in Lexington, S.C. and a older sister who lives in Greenwood. I lost both of my parents to cancer.

“One of my first DJ jobs was at my high school Long Cane Academy in McCormick. I started to volunteer to be the DJ at our school dances and that is when I got the bug. I never will forget that first job. I had two turntables and a box of 45s and albums, my how times have changed. I also played the drums at that time with a band called Southern Comfort. I have played for The Backwater Beach Band; Fresh Air, out of Columbia, S.C. and for four years I played for Hack Bartley in Hack Bartley and Visions.

“One of my most memorable experiences as a DJ has been to be nominated for Club and Mobile DJ and FM Radio DJ for four years in a row. Although I have not won the award itself, I feel that I am a winner just by being nominated; it is an honor to me.

“There was also the memorable wedding reception I did. Over an hour had gone by and the bride and groom had not yet shown up. Finally the bride comes rushing to my to me hands me a CD and says, ‘Play our first dance.’ I give them a grand introduction and they start to dance and I notice tension between the two. After about a minute into their first song the bride catches the groom with a mean right hook that buckled his knees!!! The rest is history, and after a mini brawl the reception was over. That was one for the scrap book.

“Most of my mobile DJ jobs come from word of mouth and from my website: http://www.djpatpatterson.net. I hope that in the future my territory will expand.”

In telling me about himself, Pat changed the subject often to his boss, John Broomfield. “Hats off to John,” he says. “I admire how he pays so much attention to the people who listen to the music. He’s a dancer … a very good dancer, active in the shag club events. He’s part of the community, not just the owner of a station. His contact with people is on a personal level, not just business. In fact, he brings a personal touch to the business that you just don’t see very often.”

If you’d like to check out the streaming beach, boogie, blues and jazz from John FM, log onto http://www.johnfm.net and click on the Warp Radio link.

Here’s the weekly lineup:
Monday – Friday
7 a.m.-Noon The Fez
Noon-1 p.m. Lunch At John’s
4 p.m.-9 p.m. Pat Patterson’s Beach Party
Saturday
12 noon – 4 p.m. Pat Patterson’s Low Country Boil
6 p.m.-9 p.m. On The Beach with Charlie Brown
Sunday
8 a.m.-12 noon The Sunday Morning Jazz Brunch
with Dave Fezler
John Broomfield, owner of John FM. DJ Pat Patterson
Station History
A little history is in order here. With stations changing format and call letters on a moment’s notice, it’s hard to keep track. According to a piece in online reference, Wikipedia, “104.9 signed on as WXRY-FM in 1985. The station changed call signs to WZBZ in 1988, then in 1990 as WSHG, “Shag FM.” In 1997, Shag FM moved its format to what was then WHBZ (now WXST) and became the original home of The Gator, while modern rock WWVV was on 106.9.
“WWVV was owned and operated by Triad Broadcasting, known locally as Adventure Radio (the name of the company that owned WWVV before Triad), as Triad did not want to scare off potential advertisers and/or listeners by announcing new station owners. WWVV and six other stations were bought by Triad in May 2000.” to a beach music station in 1990 as WSHG, “Shag FM.” In 1997, Shag FM moved its format to what was then WHBZ (now WXST) and became the original home of The Gator, while modern rock WWVV was on 106.9.
“WWVV was owned and operated by Triad Broadcasting, known locally as Adventure Radio (the name of the company that owned WWVV before Triad), as Triad did not want to scare off potential advertisers and/or listeners by announcing new station owners. WWVV and six other stations were bought by Triad in May 2000.”

My Long-awaited Interview With Don Wise

Posted in Interviews by darielb on January 29, 2009

The first time I heard Don Wise play saxophone was with the Rickey Godfrey Band at Nightclub 2001 in Myrtle Beach. I became an instant fan, and I’m not alone. Rickey Godfrey says, “When you hear a couple notes from his sax, you immediately know it’s him playing. Don is a technically skilled player, but he emphasizes ‘feel’ over ‘technique.’ He sounds like one of those guys from the 50s, Sam “The Man” Taylor and Fat Head Newman – in terms on tone. But his style is uniquely Don Wise.” I was thrilled to have this chance to talk with him and I wanted to know all about his time with Delbert McClinton, his propensity for old WWII horns and his plans for the future. Here’s the interview:

BENDIN: You played sax with Delbert McClinton for 22 years. Can you tell me how it began?
DON WISE: In the Summer of 1985 I was in a recording studio in Lubbock, Texas, with a band named Radio Zebra from Germany.
We were rehearsing and recording almost daily at this time and I got a phone call at the studio. The voice, without saying who it was, asked what I would be doing in September. I said, “It’s June now and I don’t know what I’m doing tomorrow, why?”

It was the then bass player for Delbert. Someone had told him [Delbert] about a sax player in West Texas and he was calling to see if I was available.

Here is the storied part: I was sent cassette tapes of about 50 songs to learn. With no rehearsal under my belt, I received a plane ticket to be in Houston to play on the 25th of September. I wrote out scads of horn parts and even on the plane to Houston had headphones on and sheets of music manuscript spread all around to make sure I had it down.

At the gig, having never met any of the Delbert band, I was introducing myself and trying to get a feel for what the first four or five songs were going to be. (Delbert didn’t get to the club until about 15 minutes before show-time!) All the band guys were saying, “Well, Delbert will just start calling songs.”

“Surely he’s gonna start with something he usually opens with?”

“Nah, something different every night.”

I set up a makeshift music stand with all these sketched parts and suddenly realized that he doesn’t even do the songs any more that I’d spent months committing to memory.

Maybe 80% of the songs I’d learned we have NEVER played with Delbert! Of the other 20%, and since they didn’t send a list of the songs on the tapes, I would write down a title that cued it for me. So, the first line became the title “It’s 3 O’Clock in the Morning,” but is actually “Back To Louisiana”! I had the titles wrong, so even when he called a song I had learned, I kept asking, “How does that one go?”

To reverse any goodwill I may have brought with me, the makeshift music stand with the 75 pages of circles and arrows got knocked into the crowd about 20 seconds into Delbert’s first song!

I guess he liked my playing because I didn’t miss a show for 17 years and only then because I was caught in a blizzard in the mountains of Tennessee.

BENDIN: Why did you leave the band?


DON WISE: It was a total of 51 years since I started playing in clubs in Westerly, Rhode Island and I had been with Delbert’s band for the past 22 + years. It was the perfect place for a honking tenor sax guy like me to be, but over the course of time the music changed…leaning a different direction than we played before. Ultimately, it became too much like ditch digging. The hardest part wasn’t the playing. It was the getting in the car to drive three hours to Nashville to get on the tour bus and ride 12 hours to Texas or Kansas or Connecticut to play two hours and go home.


BENDIN: Are you playing any gigs with Delbert now?


DON WISE: I have not played any with Delbert since leaving in July, but I am going on the Sandy Beaches Cruise as a guest with my lovely wife Pamela. If all goes well I will be honking a few notes during the week on the cruise!


BENDIN: You produced at least one of Delbert’s CDs, didn’t you:


DON WISE: I was producer on Live from Austin (Alligator Records) mainly because I absolutely wanted to have control over what those horns sounded like on the final release. My solos, of course, but mainly the glorious horn section that played on that Austin City Limits show! Horn sections had been used as dull-witted background for a long long time (from when everybody realized they could play a guitar and turn a knob to be LOUD!). I wanted it to sound like those great late 40s R&B records with their pure section horn sound. I still think, for overall quality of music, it’s Delbert’s best recording! [Editor’s note: This CD earned Delbert McClinton his first Grammy nomination. Four of Don’s solos from this project were later included in the recording produced for the John Laughter book, “Contemporary Saxophone.”]


BENDIN: When and how did you learn to play?


DON WISE: I started clarinet lessons when I was nine because I aced some type of tonality test early on (probably more because the band director needed warm bodies). My mother always liked saxophone music, so the decision was made and I liked it.


BENDIN: Rickey Godfrey told me you have an interest in older saxophones, and that you own one from the World War II era. How are the older ones different?


DON WISE: Most musicians are interested in trying out new instruments and for a long time I did just that. I’ve bought several different makes of horn that sounded great in the store, only to find it didn’t speak the way it should when we were in high gear on stage. I kept going back to the horn I bought in 1964 from a guitar player in New England. I gave him $55 for it and it’s the horn I still rely on to make my life enjoyable! It’s called “The Martin” and it was made in 1951 from left-over brass howitzer shell casings from WWII. In California a few years back, BB King’s drummer, hearing me getting ready to go to the stage, said I was the loudest tenor player he’d ever heard without a mic. I always took that as a compliment to my horn! I have a “The Martin” alto, too. I believe the quality of the metal was better on the older horns. The mechanism on newer horns may be easier to get around on, but the sound coming out the of the bell has to resonate through a lot of things, including the reed, mouthpiece, pads, the type and thickness of metal in the horn and even the resonance in your own head.


BENDIN: Who has inspired you musically?


DON WISE: For sax inspiration there were several that stand out because of the raw energy AND facility on their horn. I was there with my ear to the radio when sax was the centerpiece. I spent long hours working loooooooong tones because I was going for that big, fat, rattle-the-roof sound that I liked. Red Prysock, Sam “The Man” Taylor and Sil Austin were early on favorites and later King Curtis. He played on all the Coaster hits and later with Aretha Franklin. I liked Jr. Walker somewhat but none of them had the intensity of Red Prysock for sound AND fury! Red Prysock was from Greensboro, North Carolina. Illinois Jacquet was more a big band swing guy from Texas and I think the players I named earlier developed their style from him and brought it into the jump-blues/R&B era.


BENDIN: Any best-loved gigs? Delbert or otherwise?


DON WISE: I’d pick the best-loved one this way. When my kids were little and I would come in from playing late at a club, they knew the rule was “Don’t anyone wake me in the morning until at least noon!”… and I always tacked on, “unless Ray Charles is on the phone!” In 1997 he finally called and I played on national TV and got the solo on “Let the Good Times Roll.” [The video of this performance can be seen on Don’s MySpace page: http://www.My Space. com/donwisemusic.]


BENDIN: Anyone special you’d like to work with?


DON WISE: If I had to pick just one, there’s a fantastic band out of Austin, TX, named Mingo Fishtrap that I’ve played a few times with on the Delbert cruise and they’re as rockin’ as any band I’ve heard in my life. Original songs, powerful horn section, super vocals AND at the beginning of their careers!


BENDIN: You seem to have a lot of fans in Norway. How did that come about?


DON WISE: I’m not exactly sure why the fans of Norway like my music. I will say that Norwegians and Europeans in general are very good listeners. By that I mean that when you’ve played a good solo, it is reflected in the response you get back from them immediately. Or if the band has had one of those one in 500, “This is the best we’ve sounded in a long time!” the Norwegians are right there with you!


BENDIN: Are you gigging now? Any plans to come to the beach?


DON WISE: I’ve turned down way more than I’ve taken just because I have really liked sitting still, with no obligation to anybody except my lovely wife Pamela and our rescued Pit Bull, Gigi. After Winter I may be ready to play some with Rickey Godfrey or maybe just go over and visit my friend Paul Craver.


BENDIN: I remember a piece by you in the old Beach Reporter about DJs putting together their own compilations and selling them. Is this still a problem? Can you talk to me about piracy in general?


DON WISE: (Take a big deep breath here!) Beyonce, Britney or 50Cent making in excess of 150 million dollars a year through appearances and endorsements are not overly concerned about this. Here we’re talking about the artists that play the dances & clubs and are basically supporting families and trying to stay afloat. Perhaps one-third of their income may come from selling CDs at the shows and dances. We’re talking about the musicians and artists in the trenches here. Some of them your friends and neighbors perhaps. Even though most digital downloads are about 99 cents per song, if someone wants 20 songs all from different artists that would cost $20. So they may give the list to an unscrupulous DJ (who may have been given CDs by the artist in exchange for playing it) who then burns the songs to disc from HIS collection of freebees and pockets the $20!
Stealing music is the same as stealing anything else. It’s illegal and the consequences are real – for you and for the music.


BENDIN: You seem to enjoy MySpace i.e. changing your status, mood , default photo. Is MySpace keeping you in touch with people who love your music?


DON WISE: A friend of mine named Robert Eriksen in Norway convinced me to use MySpace to get a little more attention for the projects I was doing, but I thought it would take up too much of my time, which the computer already does. He offered to do it for me, because he loves music. As it turns out, I do enjoy putting up new pics and finding “friends’ that are either truly friends or people that have music interests similar to mine. They don’t have to be an actual acquaintance for me though quite a few of my MySpace friends are actual friends of mine.

Finding tribute sites to past originators like Albert Collins or Wynonie Harris is an honor for me to put up as MySpace friends and now that they’re gone, it’s a great way to keep these names alive. It seems the true innovators hardly make it into any “History of Music” or “Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.”

Without the contributions of the Red Prysocks, Louis Jordans, Earl Bostics and Wynonie Harrises of the music world, Rock N Roll couldn’t have been conceived.

This interview has been edited for length. Read the entire piece at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com. To learn more about Don Wise or to hear his music (and legally download it), visit his website, www.donwise.com . And be sure to check out his MySpace page: www.myspace. com/donwisemusic.

Fessa Hook Charts, Shows on Cashbox

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on January 29, 2009

The big news, as some of you heard at the
CBMA awards last month, is that the
resurrected Cashbox Magazine, now operating
online, is posting John Hook’s Top 40 Beach
Music Singles
and offering, not one, but two
new weekly, downloadable radio shows hosted
by the Fessa: the Beach Music Top 40 Countdown
and the new Yearly Beach MusicTop 40
Countdown
. (www.cashboxmagazine.com)

Cashbox considers John’s weekly Beach Music Top
40 Countdown to be the cutting edge of today’s
shag/bop/ beach music hits. The Yearly Beach Music
Top 40 Countdown is based on the top 40 for each year
from 1945 to 2006. It includes tunes like “My Girl” by
the Temptations, “Motown Song” by Rod Stewart, and
“Believe” by Cher, as well as many of the regional
favorites. John believes this familiarity combined with
the unknown is what will make it appealing to a broader audience.

Cashbox is a huge opportunity because it has such a long history
behind it,” John explained to me. “From 1942 to 1997 it was a
successful publication and now Cashbox online is growing an
an incredible rate. It’s risen 350% in the last year,
going from about 50,000 hits per month to three million.

“The list of countries that download our shows is
incredibly long. This marketing and exposure, I
think, is what has been missing in beach music.”

Hook is referring to ongoing discussions within
the relatively small beach music “industry” about
the need for more clearly redefining the genre or
even giving it a new moniker.

“People don’t need further definition,” he states
emphatically, “How clearly defined is rock & roll?
Yet people seem to ‘get’ it. People think it needs a new name? I think it
needs marketing and exposure. And Cashbox now
provides massive exposure.

“The Internet is changing everything. Clear
Channel has divested itself of what – 700 to 800
radio stations. The ‘underground’ has now become
more mainstream. Look at Widespread Panic, successfully
selling out their concerts without radio!”

John has been a trailblazer on both radio and the
Internet. Back in the seventies, John was a top jock
on Big Ways in Charlotte, North Carolina, WAYF.
His show was being watched by big dogs WABC in
New York, the Big Rocker in Cincinnati and Jack
Armstrong at KGB in San Diego.

As the anchor for the Endless Summer Network,
the beach music webcast at www.beachshag.com,
John Hook is still ahead of the game. In a telephone
interview, Bruce Elrod, president for Cashbox
Magazine, Inc. said, “John Hook is absolutely the
foremost authority of beach & boogie music. You
can’t find anyone better, and if you do, you can send
them to me!”

I’ve always been curious about how John’s charts
work. He tells me he’s got a website of some 30,000
unique listeners (who listen 24 hours a day, seven
days a week). He uses a fan base of 200 of those listeners
and a list of carefully chosen DJs, who keep
close track of what fills the dance floor.

“There are really a handful of DJs I pay serious
attention to,” says John, as only John Hook can say.
“They’re what I call ‘entertainer’ DJs. They have a
long history of playing shag songs and they keep a
watch on their crowd. Besides that, there are a
handful of radio stations with a large commitment
to beach music. A few of these folks have good
ears. In fact, that’s where Jackie Wilson’s
“Groovin'” on my chart came from.

“My chart is fan-based, and has been since 1978. Unlike many others,
I’m not driven to play just local artists …
because beach music was not built on local music!

“Now there is some notable local talent. Bo Shronce and the
Fantastic Shakers have some very inventive arrangements.
Jim Quick and Coastline … Jimmy’s certainly inventive …
Dino Fair and Sea-Cruz …some very innovative interpretations
there … Bill Bradford with Spirit Records in Charlotte also comes
up with interesting arrangements … Holiday Band has consistently
good interpretations …Tommy Black is a talented songwriter … Rick
Strickland
, also talented … Chris Biehler up in New
York has hit a home run or two.

“But not all the local entertainers are going to
make my charts because the DJs and fans reporting
to me aren’t driven by playing just local music.”
Never a dull moment with John Hook, huh?

BluzNdaBlood Podcast

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on January 29, 2009

Twice a month Dave Harrison records a one-hour
segment of his increasingly popular blues podcast, BluzNdaBlood.
Recording from his studio in Roanoke, Virginia,
Dave still considers this his hobby. “By day,” he says,
“I’m a 30-year veteran in information technology at a
nearby community college.”

Even so, he’s attracting a growing number of fans,
artists and industry folks who recognize
the value of what he has to offer. For one
thing, the guy loves the blues and he’s committed to
promoting blues musicians – both household names
and unknowns.

BluzNdaBlood is available
for for listening and free download through
iTunes at www.bluzndablood.com. If iTunes isn’t
your thing, visit bluandablood.libsyn.com where
you can pick and choose which podcast you want.
You can also subscribe to his YouTube channel at
www.youtube.com/user/bluzndablood. You’ll find
performances by Coco Montoya, Watermelon Slim,
Big Bill Morganfield, Janiva Magness, E.G. Kight
and more.

Dave figures there are typically 2,000 downloads
each month from blues lovers in about 70 different
countries. His loyal fan base emails him with kudos
and suggestions on a regular basis.

“Sometimes, if I take longer than usual to produce
a show, I’ll start to get emails from people
checking on me. They want to make sure I’m okay,”
he told me.

Producing the podcast since 2006, Dave is currently
working on his 62nd show.

The commercial-free production has four basic
formats. Most often, BluzNdaBlood is presented in a
standard radio format. Often, a show is themed,
such as the upcoming Blues Yule Love holiday
show. One of his highest ranking shows has been
the Funny Bone Blues Show, featuring a mix of
sometimes raunchy, always irreverent tunes such as
“Sleeping With Michael Jackson” by Papa Joe
Grappa
. Dave goes so far as to find equally outrageous
“commercials” to run in between tunes. “This
show is really a lot of work,” Dave laughs, “People
love it though; I get lots of email on the Funny Bone
show. In fact, I’ve done two of them now.” Another
recent theme show was last month’s podcast, The
Devil’s Music
, especially for Halloween.

Other recording formats include interview
shows, featured artist shows and festivals.
Earlier this month, Dave had the opportunity to
interview Braille Blues Daddy, Bryan Lee and he
devoted a whole show to him. Bryan Lee, if you
aren’t familiar with him, heads up his own band
and plays on the Kenny Wayne Shephard DVD, “Ten
Days Out.” Before listening to this show, I’d never
heard of Bryan Lee, which is exactly why Dave’s
podcast is so important. It’s helping to expose more
listeners to the rich heritage that is the blues.

Another engaging interview, and one of Dave’s
favorites, was with Watermelon Slim. “He was such
a great guy, so down to earth. The interview was in a
hotel room, though, so the quality wasn’t the greatest.”

The interview was especially meaningful for
Dave because it took place right after the Virginia
Tech tragedy. “It helped me move past that,” said
Dave. “You know, it was right here. Anyway, I gave
him a Tech hat and he wore it that night.”

Featured artist shows have included blues guitarist
Debbie Davies (who, you may remember, put
on a great show at Ducks during last February’s DJ
Throwdown
) and Janiva Magness.

The fourth category is festival format. Dave often
helps promote various blues festivals by producing a
podcast that features the festival’s artists. For the past
two years he has featured the National Women In
Blues Festival
, held in Wilmington, North Carolina.

“You asked how I got involved with Women In
Blues,” he said. “I had found this book … with a bright pink
cover. It was called “A Bad Woman Feeling Good: Blues
and the Women Who Sing Them” by Buzzy Jackson. I
did some research on the Internet and a link showed up
to the National Women In Blues Festival. I contacted
Michele Seidman [festival organizer and lead singer for
Michele and the Midnight Blues band]. Michele is just
someone who has music in her soul. I did two preview
podcasts and videotaped the 2007 festival.
Through that I interviewed [headliners] Deanna
Bogart
and E.G. Kight, although I haven’t released
those interviews yet.

Other BluzNdaBlood festival podcasts include the
Blue Ridge Blues & Barbecue Festival and
the Big Lick Blues Festival, both held in Roanoke.

When I asked Dave during our telephone interview
which were his favorite shows, his voice took
on a pained quality. I think it was tantamount to
choosing a favorite child. “I hand pick every song,
so I love every show. I used to worry that I’d run
out of music, but it hasn’t happened.”

BluzNdaBlood has recently cut a deal with
KCOR, Kansas City Online, a weekly Internet radio
show airing on Saturdays at 2 p.m. Central time. In
between Dave’s current podcasts, KCOR will run
Blues Blast From The Past (from Dave’s archives of
podcasts). Airing this coming Saturday, Dec. 6 is the
original Funny Bone Blues Show.

If you’re on MySpace, Dave invites you to visit
his page (www.myspace.com/bluzndablood) and
add him to your friends list, and I definitely recommend
adding Dave Harrison’s BluzNdaBlood podcasts
to your iPod.

Griff Is Back & He’s At Papa’s Pizza

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on January 29, 2009

Folks, we’re in for a treat. Griff is back and he’ll be playing at Papa’s Pizza with veteran sax player Johnny Cox on Saturday, Nov. 22 from 8 to 11 p.m. For anyone who doesn’t know, musician George “Griff” Griffith underwent carotid artery surgery earlier this year. During the procedure, I’m told, the surgeon accidentally nicked the venal nerve in his larynx, leaving him virtually unable to speak, never mind to sing, for over six months.

Happily, his voice has returned. Longtime buddy and often recording partner, Johnny Cox said, “Griff is an awesome entertainer, a great songwriter, singer and keyboard player. He had a bad break with the surgery, but thank God his voice is back.”

According to Griff, though, he’s just an old fart who refuses to go away. (His words, not mine. Don’t write me letters.)

Griff has written and recorded lots of songs, although he doesn’t know how many. “Check with Marion Carter at Ripete; he’d have a better idea,” he says. One of his best known recordings is “Savannah In the Rain,” although Griff says, “It was Raleigh in the rain, not Savannah. And it was snow, not rain, but that didn’t sound so good.

“It was during one of my wilder times,” he told me. “I was between wives, and I was with this lady, who decided she didn’t want her daughter to see me in the morning, so I was out in the cold.

“I wound up at a Huddle House, not a Waffle House like in the song, a real rogues gallery – hookers, bums, you name it. I called a buddy to pick me up.”

In the song, Joe was the buddy and the lyrics are classic, vintage Griff:

Where are you, bro? I’ll come get you
I looked up and I see a flashing sign
I said, Joe, I think I’m at the corner of Walk and Don’t Walk
He said Yeah I know where that is
I’ll be down to get you in a minute
Just hold on brother

What a storyteller. His other songs are just as lyrical, but sometimes more humorous. “Bang All Night” is the story of a young boy playing piano, and “Shirt Full of Goodies” is about, well, a shirt full of goodies.

Griff and Johnny have been playing together some five, six, seven years. They’re not exactly sure. Johnny and his wife Linda were returning from a Chapel Hill football game, when a friend popped a CD in the player and said, “You gotta hear this.” It was Griff’s “Savannah In the Rain.” Not long after that, Johnny pulled into the Winn Dixie on Hwy 17 and saw a trailer with Griff’s name on it. Inside he asked this big guy if he worked for Griff. “I am Griff,” came the reply. They started playing together almost immediately.

“Johnny and I, we do a lot of ad libbing when we work together,” Griff told me.”We like to try and stump each other, but so far it hasn’t happened. We have a good time. These are the perks of old age.”

Not everyone is aware of this, but Griff is also pretty well known in the art community. He was one of three artists chosen to kick off the initial Artist Series for the South Carolina Education Lottery. His wildlife paintings are hugely popular, although his best known piece may be one titled “Six Pack,” a painting of five black labs and one yellow lab in the back of a truck. “I’m better at painting people,” Griff laughs, “but who wants to buy people?”

If you’re in town this weekend, head over to Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things for some cool blues and a plate of their lip-rippin’ wings (or pasta, pizza, salads or sandwiches).Since owners Dickie and Dianne Spencer added space to their restaurant this summer, they’ve been able to bring in the occasional musician. Rickey Godfrey played in August and Gary Brown entertained last month. And now, Griff is back! Don’t miss it. This is something special.

Papa’s Pizza Wings & Things is located at 111 Pavilion Plaza (the Lowes Food shopping center on the road to Calabash) in Little River, South Carolina. If you need directions, the phone number is 843-249-3663. Click here to visit their website. Or check them out right here on MySpace.

This blog was written Nov. 5, 2008 and published in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine.

CBMA Honors Trailblazers

Posted in Music Stories by darielb on January 29, 2009

Here’s what I love about the Cammys. It’s a wonderful thing when an industry takes the time and makes the effort to thank and honor those whose contributions over the years have helped shaped that industry. And that’s exactly what will take place this coming weekend at the 2008 Carolina Beach Music Awards.

During a rockin’ show of contemporary beach music artists at the Alabama Theatre on Sunday, Nov. 9, the CBMA board will also be celebrating two long time performers with Pioneer Awards – national R&B artists, Little Anthony & the Imperials and South Carolina’s own Blues Doctor, Drink Small.

Brooklyn born Anthony Gourdine was the lead singer for the Chesters in 1958 when the group was discovered by End Records. The label quickly signed the group and changed their name to the Imperials. Their first 45 out of the gate was “Tears On My Pillow”(flip side “Two People In the World”). It’s said that WINS DJ Alan Freed dubbed the singer Little Anthony, and the name stuck. The group disbanded briefly, and later signed with DCP Records. An amazing string of hits resulted from this mid-sixties alliance: “I’m On the Outside Looking In,” “Goin’ Out of My Head,” “Hurt So Bad,” “Shimmy Shimmy Ko Ko Bop” and “Take Me Back.”

In 1975, Little Anthony left to pursue acting and a solo career. The group, with founder Clarence Collins, continued performing as the Imperials. In 1991, the group reunited for a special concert. Ernest Wright returned from Europe. Sammy Strain, at that time, was a member of the O’Jays., but happily signed on. They’ve been performing again as Little Anthony and the Imperials ever since. If you’re at the Alabama Theatre in North Myrtle Beach this coming Sunday, you can shimmy shimmy right along with them!

Drink Small (yep, that’s his real name), by contrast, is a classic bluesman. He has been singing and playing the blues since 1950-something. Born in Bishopville, South Carolina, he plays virtuoso blues guitar, two-fisted piano and sings the blues in a unique basso profundo voice. He’s a member of the South Carolina Hall of Fame and has received the South Carolina Folk Heritage Award.

In May of this year, Drink released Trying To Survive At 75, a 10-track CD recorded at the Jam Room in Columbia , South Carolina. He also performed at this year’s Piccolo Spoleto festival in Charleston, South Carolina. According to Gary Erwin, musician and organizer of the annual Lowcountry Blues Bash in Charleston, “Drink Small has been many Carolinians’ blues point-of-reference for several generations. With a recording career reaching back to the mid 1950s, countless performances, and ongoing mentoring of younger musicians, Drink is truly South Carolina’s modern blues legend…long live The Blues Doctor!”

David Hicks with Band of Oz and Keith Houston, also with Band of Oz and KHP Music founder, are both being honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards. David Hicks was born to be a drummer. Literally. His is a family of drummers. Older brothers, Ervine Hicks (Tassels, Pieces of Eight, Swinging Medallions) and the late Tommy Hicks (Buddy Skipper & the Jetty Jumpers) were stickmen as well as two uncles. David joined beach music staple, Band of Oz in 1976 and has been with them ever since. He also handles bookings for the group through Different Drummer, a company which was formed by Ervine during the 1960s and now owned by Hicks and Keith Houston.

Honoree Keith Houston plays bass guitar with the Band of Oz when he’s not engineering or producing music for other artists through KHP Music (and the KHP/Ripete Records association). Last year, he took home three CBMA awards and this year, he’s nominated for nine or ten more. Keith is quick to say, “It means more to me to see the artists nominated. Those are the fruits for me.”

According to Rickey Godfrey, who earned one of his multiple CBMA awards for his duet for Andrea Kessee , produced by Keith Houston, “Keith has years of experience at recording many different kinds of music, from boogie to blues, shag dance music and smoothies. He is used to recording and getting great sounds out of every instrument used in beach music. I especially like his horn sounds.

“He goes for what feels good, he doesn’t ruin a good production by getting too technical with a recorded song. He’s also a great mastering person in beach and shag music, never adding too many effects, or too much compression … never adding too many lows or highs to a finished product.”
CBMA Hall of Fame inductees for 2008 also include:
•South Carolina DJ, Dan E Lockemy, who has been an institution in Florence for over 25 years. He had a beach music show on WJMX in the late eighties, and today is the host of At the Beach on 105.5 Sunny, WDAR-FM. You may also know him as the voice over in the familiar Blacks Tires commercials that run in the Carolinas and as the on-track commentator at Darlington.
John McElrath, founder of the Swinging Medallions. After touring the Carolinas and the southeast, John took his fledgling band to Arthur Smith‘s famed studio in Charlotte, North Carolina where they recorded “Double Shot of My Baby’s Love.” Enough said? That song became a million seller by 1966 and is still a hit with college students (and their parents) all around the country. John remains with the band to this day, and now shares the spotlight with his sons Shawn and Shane.
Charles Pope, founding member of the mighty Tams, who stepped in to fill the mighty large shoes of brother Joe Pope after he passed away. Charles continues to perform with the group and has become a favorite with audiences throughout the southeast. The Tams, you may recall, were inducted into the CBMA Hall of Fame in 1995.
Ron Moody & the Centaurs, known for their version of “If I Didn’t Have a Dime,” which was released nationally on the Columbia label during the late 60s. Today, it’s a hot ticket item for collectors all around the world. Good luck finding one!
The group released Gon’ Dance in 2007, with the title cut doing well on the beach charts. Unknown to many, Ron Moody is also the writer for Archie Bell‘s current hit, “Do That Thang Again.”
•Amazing 1940s doo woppers Jimmy Ricks & the Ravens. Jimmy Ricks has been called the “founding father of R&B bass vocals.” Beach music lovers know well “Green Eyes,” but many don’t realize that the version of “White Christmas” by Bill Pinkney and the Drifters was actually done first by Jimmy Ricks and the Ravens in 1949, and that the Jimmy Ricks and Lavern Baker duet of “You’re the Boss” in 1961 was the mama of all versions of this tune and the inspiration for Big John Thompson’s later rendition.

This blog was written Nov. 1, 2008 and published in Coast Magazine and Alternatives NewsMagazine.

Putting a Face On Sept.11th

Posted in Personal Essays by darielb on January 29, 2009

On September 11, 2001, I watched in disbelief with the rest of the world as a jumbo jet exploded into the South Tower of the World Trade Center while the North Tower burned. It was almost surreal. My brain was slow to comprehend what I was seeing. How could this happen, and how could it be intentional?

I immediately called my brother in New Jersey, who, thankfully, was out of harm’s way and watching it unfold on television. Then I called Brian, my good friend from college who lives on Manhattan’s Westside, down in Chelsea. Brian works for Time Magazine on Sixth Avenue at 49th. He was upset, but unhurt and miles from the World Trade Center.

“What about Jim?” I asked. “No, Jim works midtown like I do,” came the instant reply.

But it wasn’t true.

Jim’s employer, Marsh & McLennan, had relocated his department downtown to the 92nd floor in the North Tower of the World Trade Center. Jim was dead.

Jim Potorti was my first big love. We met in college and spent the next four years together. Our relationship was full of love and music and dancing and angst and bickering and making up, which, when you’re 20 is enough to sustain any relationship.

Despite all the making up fun, we split up the year after graduation but kept in touch, meeting occasionally when I was back in New York. He grew up to be a peach of a man. There was a kindness to him that I don’t remember from college. I was so proud of him and so happy for him. He had found the woman of his dreams. They had built a life together; they had a wonderful life ahead of them, and in one instant it was gone. He was gone.

His brother, David, is a writer in Cary, North Carolina. I read in one of his pieces that Jim’s office had been right at the point of impact, so the chance of even finding any DNA was slim. They did find a piece of him though, a tiny shard of leg bone smaller than a fingernail. Did his wife find consolation in that? Not much, I imagine. Maybe it gave his parents something tangible over which to grieve. I hope so. For me, I can only see the obscenity in it.

In fact, I have no platitudes, no newly gained wisdom, no noteworthy philosophical view, no understanding to offer. When I think about September 11, I just hurt all over. I’m sick that Jim had to go through that horror. For me, the face of September 11 will always be that of Jim Potorti, who was a peach of a man.