DarielB – Flying Under the Radar

Living History: Piedmont Blues Legends Show July 21

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on July 9, 2012

The irascible S.C. Blues Doctor – Drink Small. (Photo James Quaint)

I’ve just heard that this show has been cancelled due to illness.                                                                                           No details yet. Bummer! DB –  8 p.m. July 9, 2012

A group of legendary Piedmont blues musicians are coming together for an evening of music, storytelling and camaraderie – the likes of which most of us never get to experience. On July 21 the Legends of the Piedmont Blues Show at the Mauldin Cultural Center will feature Pop Ferguson, Beverly “Guitar” Watkins, Mac Arnold, Boo Hanks and Drink Small. Prepare to be amazed at the combination of talent, energy, and love on the stage.

It’s a sad fact of life that if we manage to bypass illness, disease, accident and worse, we’re going to grow old and die. But life also gives us the opportunity to leave a legacy behind, evidence of what we brought to the table. This lineup is proof that life is, indeed, what you make of it.

Pop Ferguson has traveled the country playing juke joints, fish fries, coal fields and street corners. At 84, he’s one of the last practitioners of true traditional blues of the N.C. foothills. On stage his energy is only surpassed by his unpredictability.

Boo Hanks is 83. He’s said to be a descendant of Abe Lincoln (on his mama’s side). Boo bought his first guitar by selling little packets of seed and grew up picking and singing songs he learned in the tobacco fields. You can still find him sitting out front of the country store with a bologna sandwich. Listen closely, you’ll hear Blind Boy Fuller in his finger-style guitar work.

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins is 72. She was still in high school when she was introduced to Piano Red (later known as Dr. Feelgood), who had his own radio show on WAOK in Atlanta, Ga. She joined his band and began building a name for herself in the blues community for her searing guitar riffs and James Brown moves. (Visit her website)

The Blues Doctor – 78-year-old Drink Small – plays a mean blues guitar with a voice to match. He has performed at some of the country’s top music festivals including Chicago Blues Festival, New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival, King Biscuit Blues Festival, Smithsonian-Folklife Festival and Mississippi Valley Blues Festival. Drink has played Lincoln Center and Central Park in N.Y.C. His profiles have been published in Downbeat, Metronome, Blues Revue, Il Blues, Juke Blues, Soul Bag and Blues News. (Drink’s MySpace page)

Mac Arnold, at 69, is the youngster in this posse. When he was 24, Mac joined the Muddy Waters Band and helped shape the electric blues sound that would provide inspiration for a generation of rock guitarists. He played on the iconic John Lee Hooker album Live at the Café Au GoGo. (Mac’s website)

This is sure to be a once-in-a-lifetime evening of musical performances, personal commentary and surprises. I mean, you never know what Drink is going to say.

Tickets are $20 general admission (or two for $35/five for $80) or $40 VIP, which includes an event T-shirt, pre-show meet and greet with one glass of wine. The VIP reception begins at 6:30 p.m. Doors open to the public at 7:30.The show runs from 8 to 10:30 p.m. Mauldin Cultural Center is located at 101 E. Butler Road, Mauldin, S.C. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit http://www.piedmontlegends.com. Tickets will also be available at the door. cutline:

Road Trip: Pop Ferguson Blues Fest in Lenoir, N.C.

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on June 1, 2012

Pop Ferguson (Photo courtesy reverbnation.com/cjblues (Pop Ferguson Blues Revue)

Clyde “Pop” Ferguson is a legend. Never mind that you may not know his name. He’s a legend anyway. At 84 years old, he’s still playing the blues, and let me make it as clear as possible. He’s the real deal. He’s not someone who’s been influenced by those early authentic bluesmen; Pop Ferguson is authentic blues.

So gas up your Hummer or the pickup, whatever your vehicle of choice; mark your calendar for June 8 and 9 and set the Garmin for the historic city of Lenoir, N.C. in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the fourth annual free Pop Ferguson Blues Festival.

This Festival is unique in that its goal isn’t simply to provide a venue for blues acts. According to festival organizer (and Pop’s son) Clyde Ferguson, Jr., the Pop Ferguson Blues Festival also charges itself with the mission of reconnecting today’s culture with the true heritage of the blues.

To that end, five of the nine acts are considered elders of the genre, playing a range of blues, and all connecting to the past.

Eighty-four-year-old Pop Ferguson is one of the last practitioners of traditional blues in the N.C. foothills. Growing up in the African American community of North Wlikesboro, he played for local revivals, all the time yearning for the blues. As a young man, he traveled all around, playing juke joints, fish fries, coal fields and street corners in the northeast. He shared the stage with Papa John Creach and Etta Baker. Playing at first in the local Piedmont blues style (thumb and finger), he adopted popular techniques and developed his own style of blues gospel.

“With my dad,” Ferguson, Jr. laughs, “you never know what you’ll get. He may start a song that you think you know, but then he just does his own thing.”

Beverly “Guitar” Watkins. (Photo Mary Ann McLaurin)

The Festival lineup also includes the inimitable Drink Small, South Carolina’s much loved blues doctor (age 79); from the N.C. Piedmont, finger-style guitarist James Arthur “Boo” Hanks (age 83); Beverly “Guitar” Watkins (age 72), playing straight ahead blues and telling it from a woman’s P.O.V.; and Mac Arnold, playing modern day jump blues that reach back to the old days. At 69, he’s the baby of the group.

There will also be gospel, traditional acoustic folk music, storytelling, country blues and the introduction of a special young talent – Miss E.

History
How the Festival was born is especially touching.

“My dad and I starting playing together about six years ago,” says Ferguson, Jr. “My parents got divorced when I was really young, and I visited my dad and heard him play, but we didn’t spend ‘time’ together. I went away to school, started teaching, had kids. In 2006, we came back together, started to have a real relationship.

“For Christmas that year, I wanted to give him a special present. I learned to play guitar so we could pick together and on Christmas day I sat down to play for him. When I was done, he turned to me and said, ‘Boy I believe that song goes like this.’”

Clyde is laughing out loud as he remembers. “Well, my feelings were hurt, but Merry Christmas anyway! I went back to his house on New Year’s Eve, with a bass guitar and this time he said, ‘Play that again.’ And then we started playing together.

“Within 30 days we had a  harmonica player, a guitarist and Pop Ferguson Blues Revue was created. So we started playing.

“This guy was following us around everywhere we went. And a little while later, we get this notification he was going to be recognized by the Smithsonian Institute.”

Turns out the guy who was following them around was with  StoryCorps Griot Project and he was researching Pop for the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. So Pop Ferguson’s life story, recordings and works will be preserved by the Smithsonian.

This year’s Festival theme is Celebrating the Blues Heritage of the Appalachians. What a terrific way to not only learn, but experience the heritage of the area.

The Festival is free. Just head into downtown Lenoir and volunteers will be onsite to direct you toward the stages and events.

Festival Schedule
Friday Workshops
(5 – 8 p.m.)
Patrick Crouch. Slide blues guitar
Jaret Carter. Country blues guitar
Max Hightower. Blues “Hohner” harmonica
Saturday Performances
Main Street Stage
3:45 Pop Ferguson
4:30 Anointed
5:15 Drink Small
6:00 Boo Hanks
6:45 Beverly “Guitar” Watkins
7:30 Pop Ferguson
8:15 Mac Arnold
9:00 Blues Jam Session
Sweet T’s Stage
4:00 Strictly Clean & Decent
5:00 Mt. Pilgrim Choir
6:00 Jaret Carter
7:00 Smith Memorial Choir
Alibi Stage
4:00 Jaret Carter
5:00 Diana Banner & Sisters
6:00 Life Center Choir
7:00 Strictly Clean & Decent
Venti’s Casa Stage
4:00 Pop Ferguson w/Miss E
5:00 Life Center Youth Choir
6:00 Storytelling – Diana Banner
West Avenue Stage
5:00 Jacob Johnson Band

Piccolo Spoleto Blues in Charleston, S.C.

Posted in Live Performance Previews/Reviews by darielb on May 21, 2009

Spoleto, Charleston’s art & culture extravaganza runs from May 22 through June 7, 2009. It’s a wonderful festival, but some folks prefer their art a little less formal and, in some cases, less expensive. That’s what Piccolo Spoleto (also in Charleston) is all about and it takes place during the same time period. Since I’m a great lover of the blues, I wanted to let you know what Piccolo Spoleto Blues has in store for you. The following information is from the Piccolo Spoleto website:

Blues On the Dock

Blues Romp in the Swamp

5/23 4PM – 7PM

Blazing guitar blues from two great guitarists, Rev. Dr. Johnny Mac & Booty Ranch and Dr. Kim May, plus the incisive humor and sharp harp of Smoky Weiner & the Hot Links and their high octane blues outfits. Food and drinks available for purchase.
Bowen’s Island Restaurant
1870 Bowen’s Island Rd., James Island

Blues Diva Wanda Johnson & The Shrimp City Slim Band

5/24 4PM – 7PM

Greenville’s Goddess of the Blues, Wanda Johnson, will warm your heart and sear your soul backed up by the originator of Lowcountry Blues, Shrimp City Slim. Food and drink available for purchase.
Bowen’s Island Restaurant
1870 Bowen’s Island Rd., James Island

Mudcat N` Mama

5/31 4PM – 7PM

Georgia showman and his leggy Charleston protégé Skye Paige provocatively mash down home Southern blues with a twist of rockabilly. Food and drink available for purchase.
Bowen’s Island Restaurant
1870 Bowen’s Island Rd., James Island

Early Bird Blues

Cotton Blue

5/27 4PM – 7PM
Gator Rob and Detroit Debbie inhabit the verdant jungles of Edisto Island and emerge to present a spicy program of swampy rock and Geechee blues. Food and drink available for purchase.
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Drink Small

5/22 4PM – 7PM
6/5 4PM – 7PM

South Carolina’s iconic 76-year-old blues legend has been on the international scene since the mid-1950s. Razorwire guitar and inimitable basso profundo vocals have made this unique artist a blues favorite for generations of Carolinians. Food and drink available for purchase.
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Geoff Achison

6/3 4PM – 7PM

Back by popular demand, Geoff Achison; “Blues Thunder from Down Under,” is a world-class guitarist/singer from Australia who will return to Piccolo on his annual tour of the U.S.A. Food and drink available for purchase.
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Jeff Norwood

5/28 4PM – 7PM
Jeff Norwood is one of the area’s best-traveled blues bards, logging in many miles ‘tween here and the juke joints of Clarksdale, Mississippi. Delta blues and Hill Country stomp…latest CD is “Awendaw.”
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Juke Joint Johnny & Drew Baldwin

5/29 4PM – 7PM
Juke Joint Johnny has been dubbed “The Harmonica High Priest of the Southeast” while Drew Baldwin has mastered the harp guitar (1910 vintage guitar with added bass strings)-a rootsy, bluesy sound we doubt you’ve heard before. Food and drink available for purchase.
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Matt Walsh Duo

6/2 4PM – 7PM

North Carolinian Matt Walsh (slide guitar/vocals/epic hairdo) leads his duo through torrid readings of classic Chicago blues. His dossier includes recent stints with Howlin’ Wolf’s guitarist Hubert Sumlin and Bob Margolin of Muddy Waters. Food and drink available for purchase.
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Porkchop Meyer

6/1 4PM – 7PM
Ed “Porkchop” Meyer is a Chicago-bred pianist/singer who has plied his trade all over the world. Funky jazz/blues/cabaret with a nod to Tom Waits and Mose Allison. Food and drink available for purchase.
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Skye Paige & The Original Recipe

5/26 4PM – 7PM
Seductive vocals and guitar from one of Charleston’s blueswomen, admittedly influenced by the fabled Memphis Minnie. Paige and her combo specialize in prewar blues, rockabilly and surf music. Food and drink available for purchase.
Mad River Bar & Grille
32 N. Market Street, Downtown Charleston

Blues & Jazz: Piccolo Harbor Cruises
Franklin Ashley Quartet

5/26 7:30PM – 10PM
Enjoy a unique night of original jazz with a renowned theatre professor at the College of Charleston, who has played for several U.S. Presidents. Food and drink available for purchase.
Fountain Walk Dock
360 Concord St., Downtown Charleston

John Tecklenburg & Friends

6/3 7:30PM – 10PM
Join Lonnie Hamilton III, John Tecklenburg, Brian Reed and Frank Cothran as they serve up a night of swinging jazz standards while cruising the Harbor. Food and drink available for purchase.
Fountain Walk Dock
360 Concord St., Downtown Charleston

Rolling on the River Revue

6/4 7:30PM – 10PM
Delighting Charleston audiences for more than three decades, Rivers and Company is known throughout the state as the premier beach music and Motown band.
Fountain Walk Dock
360 Concord St., Downtown Charleston

Smoky Weiner & The Hot Links featuring Nature Boy Nik

5/28 7:30PM – 10PM

Hot blues and swing band that’s sure to get you dancing and laughing with old swing tunes. The Links have played up and down the East Coast, including most recently at presidential inaugural balls. Food and drink available for purchase.
Fountain Walk Dock
360 Concord St., Downtown Charleston