International Blues Articles / Artículos Internacionales

Version en Español


A conversation with Hitman Blues Band by Gary Schwind

Our good friend Frank Roszak forwards us an interesting conversation with Hitman Blues Band by Gary Schwind:


Hitman Blues band is a band that specializes in modern blues much to the delight of audiences in both the U.S. and Europe. The band’s songs have been streamed more than half a million times on Spotify, and with the new album Not My Circus, Not my Monkey, it shows no signs of slowing down. By phone, frontman Russell Alexander discussed what drew him to the blues, the new album, and itching to return to touring.

Gary Schwind: What drew you to playing the blues?


Russel Alexander: I’ve been a musician my whole life. My dad was a jazz musician. He played with a lot of the greats. I started playing professionally when I was about 16. Eventually I realized that the music that appealed to me the most long-term was the blues. Like most people do, I played a lot of covers, really immersing myself in the various styles of the blues. I’ve always been writing original tunes, and I started writing in that style. It came out the way that it comes out.

GS: Are there any particular artists you were first drawn to?

RA: Oddly enough, Elvis. The early Sun sessions. Hearing what he was doing set me up for listening to blues artists like Muddy Waters, Big Bill Broonzy, going back to guys like Charley Patton, Lonnie Johnson and those guys, and then all the way back to Blind Willie Johnson. These are guys with various fingerpicking styles. At one point, I was hired to learn all the Cream Clapton solos. Hearing what he had come from and how he expanded the styles. It was a pretty big eye-opener for me. That also influenced the way I was looking at it. This is also coming from a rock and jazz background with all the jazz songs since my dad was a jazz musician.

GS: Speaking of jazz, did you hear about Chick Corea?


RA: I heard about it. It’s so awful, and so sudden. They said it was a rare form of cancer that was just recently discovered. No warning. Last year was pretty rough. I’m hoping this year won’t be a repeat. We’re going to be dealing with things like this as people get older. The thing is, I don’t see a lot of guitar heroes coming to fill that spot. Do you?


GS: No. For a long time in the blues, there’s been Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd. I don’t know who might be coming after them.


RA: They never really reached the public acceptance of Jimmy Page or Jimi Hendrix or Stevie Ray Vaughan. Most people, you say Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd, they’ll be like, “Who?” They’re not kids anymore. It’s encouraging that live music is getting pushed by a lot of artists who some years ago were more concerned with sequenced tracks. I see more live music being promoted. Maybe it’s just the circles I run in.


GS: You have a new album coming out next month. How is it different than previous albums you’ve recorded?


RA: We play what we call modern blues. It’s a combination of blues, jazz, and rock, but it’s all blues-based. I gave copies to a few people. What I’ve gotten is that it’s just been brought to a whole new level. It’s still blues, but it’s a whole different level than what we’ve done before. Honestly, I’m not really sure what they’re talking about, but OK. Almost everything that I write is based on my own life. If they like it, that’s good. Have you heard the album?




GS: Yes.


RA: Did anything stand out to you?


GS: The first track. And the version of “John the Revelator”.


RA: “John the Revelator” has been done so many times. They always stick to the same lyrics and the same general song. I was thinking what if John was sitting there in his cave writing the Book of Revelations and all the other gods just popped in and gave their own version of what the end of times is going to be like? So I wrote the lyrics like that. I had Buddha come by, and Odin, and Brahma. I like the way it came out.


GS: You have done pretty well in Europe. What’s the difference between performing in Europe and performing in the U.S.?


RA: Generally I’ve found that people that come to see us are less genre-specific. They’re the kind of people who will go out and see a blues band one night, a heavy metal band another night. They just like good music and music that’s performed well. Here, it’s “You’re not a real heavy metal guy, you poseur!” You’re always going to have people that are experts in a particular genre. They’re like “You’re not really blues. You’re not really rock.” One comment that we get a lot is “I don’t really like the blues, but I like what you guys do.” What we’re doing is the blues. I’m glad you like it.


GS: We do get a little particular here.


RA: The way I look at it is, as long as they listen to it. If they’re going to hear it, then they can decide if they like it or not. If they want to say, “I like it, but it’s not…” that’s OK. As long as you like it. I always remember that Dylan came out and did his electric set at the Newport Folk Festival, and he was booed off the stage. Did it stop him? No. If some people don’t like it, then they don’t like it. What are you gonna do?




GS: What would you be doing if you weren’t making music?


RA: I don’t know. Assault? (laughs) I like computers. I’m a bona fide computer expert. I’ve always done that as a hobby, and I enjoy it. The mind is set up for that the same way that it’s set up for music. You follow the same kind of paths of things. I’d probably be a full-time computer guy, spending my time in the basement and having the same kind of skin I have now because I have a nightclub tan. Everything would be the same, but I’d probably weight a lot more. Twinkies and Jolt, man.

We were supposed to fly to France last August and the UK in November, and that got canceled. Hopefully we’ll be able to go this year. The dates from November have been pushed to November of this year. As far as France is concerned, it’s hard to make any plans.


GS: I bet you’re itching to get back on the road.


RA: I love playing out. I would love to play more in the United States, but it’s a big band. It’s nine pieces. It’s hard to get routing on that unless people already know your stuff and you have the advance ticket sales that can cover that. We’re trying. We’re pushing. We’re following everything we can. These days it’s a lot different. You’ve got Spotify, Deezer, Apple, and eight million blogs. It’s a bit overwhelming. We had half a million streams on the last album, which shocked the hell out of me. My sax player told me we had more than half a million streams, which is not quite enough to pay for pressing 1,000 CDs, but it’s a brave new world where you can get tons of people hearing your music, but not actually get any money for it. We do it for love.

When the internet was first starting, I used to think it’s be great if you could just put your music out and people all over the world could hear it and be able to listen to it right away. Now we’ve got 10,000 new songs a day. You gotta be careful what you wish for. It’s a lot of pros and cons. It must make your job a nightmare. You must be inundated.


GS: It’s a bit difficult when you get a lot of music and you want to pay some attention to it, but you just don’t have time.


RA: A journalist friend of mine gave me the CDs she received for one month. It had been a couple years previously. Forget it, man. You have my respect. I did it that one time, and I was absolutely fried. It got to the point where I would go, “Shit! Next!” Some of it was good and you could tell right away it was good. But some of it was shit right from the jump. Then I felt bad because I could get shit, but I’m not really giving it a chance, am I?

When I was younger, I used to teach guitar privately. I had a student who had an acoustic guitar. He had made a deal with his parents. If he took lessons for six months, they would buy him an electric guitar. I taught this kid. He took the lessons for six months. He told his parents he had fulfilled his end, and they bought him an electric guitar. He stopped taking lessons from me. He went on to form a band, and he went on to write a paragraph about the whole situation about me in his autobiography. His name is Ian Scott from Anthrax. Had he stayed with me, what probably would have happened, he would have said, “I’ve got this band.” And he would have played it for me. I would have said, “That sounds like shit. You guys should do something else.” That would have been the end of that. Sometimes you listen to something and decide it’s shit. That could be the next seminal band.

Not My Circus, Not My Monkey will be released on March 15. For more information about the album and the band, visit



Gary Schwind is a longtime music journalist whose musical tastes range from blues and soul to rock and reggae. He has interviewed artists such as Bettye Lavette, Bobby Rush, and Billy Joe Shaver, among many others. His reviews can regularly be found on Glide Magazine and Americana Highways. He lives in southern California with his wife and two sons.







* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *







The McNaMarr Project Serves Up Soulful Memphis Blues From Down Under
By Barry Kerzner

Our good friend Frank Roszak forwards us an interesting conversation with John McNamara & Andrea Marr about Australia blues community and their new release.
Here it is:

Australia is known for its beautiful coastlines, rugged interior, and adventurous people. More and more they are becoming known the world over for their incredible blues. Whether it’s delta blues, Chicago blues, West Coast blues, country blues, or soulful blues, Australian artists are reinterpreting the classics and gifting the world with their own masterful original blues.
Andrea Marr and John McNamara are no strangers to a talented Australian blues scene here. They have each had successful careers as solo artists winning awards, selling records, and performing around the world.
Recently they have come together to form The McNaMarr Project and have been crafting and performing songs that sizzle. Their unique soulful blues is quickly winning over audiences at every turn.
Their album Holla and Moan is due out on SelctOHits in July and will be available on CD and as digital download, as well as through the usual outlets: Apple Music, iTunes, etc.
We caught up with Andrea and John and talked about what it’s like transitioning from successful solo artists into being a successful duo. They also shared glimpses of the tight-knit family that is the blues community in Australia, and what we can expect on their upcoming new album.

Barry Kerzner: Great speaking with you!

Andrea Marr: Thanks for taking the time to do this.

BK: First a wee bit of background on your careers, but mostly I’m excited to talk about your upcoming new album together. John, some of the quotes I’ve read about you are pretty strong, and I had to smile. For instance; There’s one that says “The best STAX album, not on the STAX label,” referring to Rollin’ With It.

John McNamara: We’ve had a few comments coming from the States in that kind of fashion. It’s amazing! I’m sitting here talking to you today from farmland. I’m a country boy from Victoria, Australia. To hear that compared to Memphis made me think that I’m on the right track. When you’re down here in the middle of nowhere writing these songs, and playing the music, you hope that it’s authentic. To have it so well received in America, it’s a great feeling.

BK: You’ve been doing well, and you’ve been well received, everywhere. You’ve performed all over the world including a tour with Mr. Big vocalist Eric Martin.

JM: I’ve done a couple of tours with Eric. As bandleader in Australia many years ago, and when it came time for him to tour Japan, which is a big market. It was a fantastic trip. As a kid growing up, that’s a band that I had posters on my wall; my pencil case [was] scribbled with “Mr. Big.” That was like a dream come true. That was a great feeling, and we were lucky to get a strong response. It’s lovely to work with the people that you look up to so much.

BK: Andrea, you’ve been doing well for yourself as well. You’ve won awards, and your records are selling well. People are coming out to see you perform at festivals and shows. You won the VIC/TAS Female Artist of The Year in 2002, and you won the Blues Performer of The Year in 2005. So, life is good, no?

Andrea Marr: Yes. It’s been a long journey my twenty years doing blues now. I’ve mainly been recording, going out on festivals and doing well especially since our album has done so well in the States. It’s been a great journey; I’ve loved it!

BK: You’ve been doing this since 1999 Andrea. Would you tell the fans why you have come together with John to form The McNamarr Project, given the two of you have enjoyed successful solo careers?

AM: Actually, that was thanks to Frank Roszak. He said to us one day, “You are a mirror version of each other… you should work together.” John and I had been friends for a long time and but we never considered joining forces till then.

(John dropped off the call, and we had to get him back)

BK: We are back! Before you dropped off, I had asked Andrea why given how successful you are as solo acts, why you decided to join together as The McNamarr Project. She was saying that it was actually at the suggestion of Frank Roszak.

JM: Exactly! It’s a great idea, and it makes sense to us as well. We’re both doing something very similar. We both have these albums with equal parts soul and blues with the horn section. Also, we have similar success in the sense of radio play, charts, and that kind of thing. When Frank mentioned it, we thought we’d get together and see how it sounded, and since we sang together, we knew it was something worth pursuing. It just so happened we turned out to be a great writing team, and singers as well. We knew each other before, and we’re loving it.

BK: I would imagine that you are enjoying it! You started in May of last year, and you’re still going strong. The other thing is that when you are a solo artist, you have all this freedom. You have creative freedom. If you’re self-producing, obviously you have that freedom. How your music is presented to the public is very much within your control. When you come together as a duo, you give up some of that freedom. How has that worked out for you?

JM: That’s a really good question too. I mean, for me its made everything fresh again. Doing the solo thing is that yes you have control and that kind of thing but, it’s only yourself you’ve got to motivate you. In the role of writing too, you start rewriting the same kind of songs where when you started a duo, you’ve got two people pushing you for motivation. You’ve got to push somebody else, not just your own self, so, that makes you work a little bit harder. The songs are fresh. It’s easier to write something new because you haven’t done it before.

AM: Yeah… I’ve never written with someone else in mind either. I’ve always been the only singer in the band. So, I’ve always had to write just for myself, and you don’t know if it’s going to be good until you start humming it back. There’s something about singing with someone else. It’s just an easier journey because it’s way more fun, way more fresh.

BK: As a duo, you clicked fairly quickly, winning the Solo/Duo portion of the Blues Challenge in Melbourne in 2018.

AM: We’d only done three gigs together before that. Is that right John?

JM: Yeah…

AM: I think we only did three performances together and the Blues Challenge caught us by surprise, and there we were, doing it. It was something we had talked about doing because Frank [Roszak] said, “Look: Get yourselves over to the states to be heard.” And we thought that that was a great way of doing it. And we were writing the songs everywhere during the Challenge. So really, it was “challenging.”

BK: That’s a great showcase to be seen in. A couple of years ago there were over 200 acts from around the world performing and competing.

AM: Yes, definitely!

BK: And I’ll tell you: Frank knows his stuff, and he knows it well. I’ve known him for years now, and he’s up to speed on what’s what.

AM: Yes… We listen to him very carefully.

BK: He will not steer you wrong. You are in good hands. Y’all traveled to the IBC in Memphis this past January and represented Australia.

JM: I’ve been there in 2016 in the solo category. Andrea has been there three times now. We met some great people and had a good time. We soaked in the history and atmosphere and the feel this opportunity allowed for us. It was lovely showcasing the international market like that.

BK: And, you get to meet performers from all over the world, some of whom you are going to wind up touring or performing with.

AM: I had friends from all over the world that were representing. I knew the UK representative and a whole bunch of other people around. It’s so great to catch up with the other performers. I loved it! That’s the best part for me is catching up with everyone.

JM; In the past, I’d toured with a German Blues Challenge winner by the name of Johnny Rieger. He graciously took me around Germany on two different tours, and it’s just an excellent example of the networking that happens within the blues community. I think there’s gonna be a lot more of that happening in the future.

BK: Johnny Rieger you say?

JM: Yeah, Johnny Rieger. R-i-e-g-e-r. A German Blues Challenge winner. He took me two times around the country and then we returned the favor, toured them around Australia in 2014? Yeah; It’s a great community. Very much in Australia too. The blues scene in Australia; we all know each other very well. There’s a good family community vibe, and I’m sure it’s the same in the states. You’ve got the same interests, and you’re doing the same circuit, and it becomes something quite special.

BK: You do have a close blues community, and Canada is another country with a close blues community as well. It’s nice when it’s a big family thing.

AM: Yes. It’s really great because we all mentor each other and work together. We see each other at all the festivals. It’s just a great community.

BK: There’s a lot of anticipation surrounding this new album… Would you like to talk about that? How it came about, and what fans and newcomers can expect.

AM: I’ll tellbit and leave the rest to John. We’ve written everything for the album at this point. We’re doing the demos at the moment to agree on final details. We’ve been road testing the songs, playing them out live, and loving how they are feeling. I feel like it’s the best material that’s come out of me in a long time. So, I’m really excited about the songs, and they sound really good. So, that’s the cool part really, and I’ll let John tell you the rest.

JM: The process of recording this album is gonna be unique; similar to what I did with my ‘Rollin’ With It’ album in the sense that we’re using an American band. We’re going to be using Lester Snell, STAX music legend, an arranger from our last album and recording in Royal Studios in Memphis very soon. We’ll be putting that Memphis swagger and spring into our wonderful original material.
Then [we’ll] send the tracks down under where we sing on them and add lead guitar so… The world is getting smaller and this kind of thing we’re able to do rather quickly. Basically, we chose to use a Memphis band simply because nobody does it like those guys. It’s a wonderful collaboration of Americans and Australians on original old school soul and blues music.

BK: Are you going to do the mix yourself and the production yourself as well, or did you bring someone else in?

JM: No, we’re gonna handle the mix over here, and the mastering is gonna be done over here. I’ve done seven albums myself so I’ve always produced everything myself. I think we can handle that part. We just wanted the music to sound the way that we heard it in our heads. We were really craving that Memphis sound. Having been in Memphis, we soaked in it, and we wanted more of it!

BK: I don’t blame you. It’s awesome.

AM: It’s killer!

BK: So what formats will the album, ‘Holla and Moan’ be available as?

AM: We’re looking at CDs, digital download… SelectOHits [based in Memphis] is gonna be doing our release. They’re gonna be doing our distribution.

BK: You’re going to offer it in multi-format, correct?

AM: We’ll be doing digital download and card as well; but certainly, on iTunes and Amazon and all the rest of it. So, it should certainly be available in everything that people usually listen to.

BK: Spotify and all of that as well, I’m sure.

AM: Yeah. Apple Music.

BK: That’s a good thing about music now-days: There are so many ways to get it and keep it with you, compared to the old days where you used to have a cassette and a boombox. When the Walkman came out, that was a big deal!

AM: My dad had all the cassettes and all of that. I grew up on all of that as well. You had a cassette until you wore it out.

BK: And then you tried to splice it with scotch tape and then you wore it out some more before you finally bought a new copy.

AM: Oh yeah; we did that actually!

BK: And after a while, you would get good at it too!.
Obviously, you’re going to be out on tour. Do you have any special festivals or performance venues that you will be live at that you’d like to mention?

AM: We’re waiting until we finish the album and once the album’s out, then we’ll open our schedule after that. We haven’t done that yet: We haven’t booked any tours yet.

JM: We’ll be playing Australia… we are always playing down under.

AM: Yeah; we play here a lot.

BK; Well of course! After all, it IS home. Do you anticipate doing a DVD of your live show of this material at some point?

JM: Something Andrea and I do very often is we do it in an acoustic format. Yeah, I would love to do a live recording of this acoustic because its songs have a completely different market and they love the charm as well. I can see something like that happening. I think we need to get the acoustic stuff out one day because it sounds intimate and sweet.

BK: When you play in the states, try and book the Hollywood Bowl and do a set there. Also, The Walt Disney Concert Hall in LA. The acoustics in there are said to be amazing!

AM: Are you writing this down, John?

JM: No. I’m standing here looking at sheep!

BK: Those two places… If you want to do an intimate acoustic show, these are the places to do it. Ben Harper — actually everyone has done an album at the Hollywood Bowl, but he did a show solo and acoustic, as well as electric with his excellent band there. Check it out, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. The music is so intimate, and the sound is just amazing. Since you mentioned acoustic shows, you might want to look into that.
Is there anything else you wanted to say to the fans?

JM: To me, this stuff feels like it came from the ’60s: It’s fresh, it’s written for a duo. In my mind, there’s nothing like it in the past or currently. I’m hoping it creates excitement out there because we certainly feel it. I think it came out really really good.

AM: I would love people who love soul music, people who love Gospel music, people who love blues music -- I think we’re gonna reach all of those people through this music. It combines blues, soul, and Gospel in a duo harmony format. We’re excited about it. We’d love people who love that kind of music to have a listen to it and hopefully, they love it as much as we do.

BK: The album is "Holla and Moan"?

AM: Yep.

BK: Folks should look for that in July.

AM: Yes.

BK: I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you both, so thank you.

AM: Thank you for taking the time.

JM: Thank you.








* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *








Janiva Magness Previews New Album and Shares Her Story In New Memoir
By Barry Kerzner

Our good friend Frank Roszak has forwarded us an interesting interview with Janiva Magness, to celebrate her 15th release in 2020! Here it is:

We hear people talk about someone being a “fighter” and how they have “battled their inner demons” and conquered them. Some of us can visualize that quite vividly and maybe even accurately based on our own experiences. Others haven’t the slightest inkling of the battles some have to wage and the enemies that are overcome, both internal and external. For some, every day out in the world is a monumental struggle just to survive and remain somewhat sane. Most of us would rather not have to live that life, especially from early childhood into adulthood, and beyond.

Janiva Magness knows these struggles and hardships intimately. She has lived them from the time she was a child, well into adulthood. To look at her today, we would never guess the battles she has fought, and the demons she has vanquished. She lost both parents at an early age and was thrust into the foster care system. She would eventually spend time in a dozen foster homes. After becoming pregnant at 16 and giving birth at 17, she gave her baby up for adoption.

Eventually, singing and music would provide an out that wasn’t suicide, jail, insanity, or death. Over the course of her career Magness has issued 14 albums and is releasing her 15th, ‘Change In the Weather’ in September. She has won seven BMAs and been nominated for a Grammy Award. For years she did not want to discuss her past with anyone, even those she was close to.

These days Magness has since decided to share her story and has an upcoming memoir, ‘Weeds Like Us’ due out this month. In our conversation she talks about her past, how an Otis Rush performance saved her life, why she is so involved with Foster Care, and why she is finally sharing her story as well as her music.


Barry Kerzner: Anyone hoping to learn about what influenced you early on eventually discovers that your father’s record collection is mentioned, as well as the huge role it has played in your live even still today. Why has it been such a huge influence and why does it continue to be?

Janiva Magness: Well… There’s some obvious and some not-so-obvious stuff there. The obvious parts are - for a period of time, that is early childhood development, I was under the same roof as my father. Because I was a daddy’s girl, whatever he loved I loved. My father loved to play his records really loud. Today as an adult, a full-grown woman and a professional musician I find it pretty humorous that he liked to play that stuff real loud. He also sang along; he also played harmonica, or he’d be whistling or doing all three. That would be on a good day. That’s a happy time.

So, in terms of early childhood development train of thought, the obvious is the obvious. I was daddy’s girl and I loved what daddy loved. My dad had a beautiful singing voice… so there’s that.

In terms of how It’s funny to me that some of us tend to think that, not realizing till much later in life the value… and I don’t think that this is uncommon; I think that it’s reasonably normal. It’s part of the human condition that we begin to understand later things that we didn’t understand younger.

We recognize the resonance of those experiences and sometimes that resonance can be uplifting and sometimes it can be very difficult. In this case the resonance was uplifting. I learned later in life that absolutely as an adult, much older that I loved Hank Williams; I loved Buck Owens; I loved Patsy Cline. When I was a very young girl, I loved it because dad loved it. As I grew older, I hated it because… I hated it. So, we come full circle with that stuff. For me, to answer your question in point, part of the resonance is the happy memory of my father. Part of the resonance of it is that I appreciate how deeply he loved the music.

I appreciate the influence that it has had on my musicality. I couldn’t appreciate that younger. I can now because I’m a professional musician. Does that make sense?

BK: Oh yeah. I grew up in a house where Saturday was cleaning day because there was company on Saturday evenings. So, all morning and into the afternoon the stereo was on and heard throughout the house. I was really blessed to be exposed to all that music and it was played loud.

Another inspiration in your life was seeing Otis Rush at a young age. Your thought on that was “Otis played as if his life depended on it. There was a completely desperate, absolute intensity. I knew, whatever it was, I needed more of it.” Do you feel that whatever it was that he was doing you have tried to achieve that, or you have achieved that? It that something you shoot for.

JM: It’s definitely the bar that I reach for. That deep, complete consummation, holy… what for me… the experience of it which many musicians that are committed to their craft I believe would testify pretty similar to that place that is a place of holy communion with the music, where I am so deeply in it and it is so deeply in me, that we are one. And I could have never articulated that when I was a 14-year-old screwed-up kid, listening to Otis Rush. I could have never articulated that for many, many, many years… until many years later.

I have come to realize, and I say it in the book — here we go, what occurred was that Otis Rush played as if my life depended on it. He might have been playing like his life depended on it, but I guaran-fuckin-ty you he played like my life depended on it, and I see that now.

That was the first palpable lifeline to me that I can recall from another human being.

BK: You moved around quite a bit. Do feel like there’s still some Detroit in you as far as the way you approach music, the way you listen to music, and the way that you digest it?

JM: Absolutely… absolutely! Talk about resonance and coming full circle.

I have a lot more clarity about that now than I did before. I think that Detroit has absolutely been an influence musically for me. There’s something about people from the Midwest. There is a practicality, and grounded-ness. There is a kindness; if we allow it to be known.

There’s also a sense of a lack of fear. That is not to say that I have not experienced fear in my life. I’ve probably experienced a lot more than most people imagine.

BK: You know what FEAR stands for when you’re in the program, right?

JM: There’s several acronyms. There’s “Face Everything And Recover,” and “Fuck Everything And Run!”

BK: Yeah, that’s the one! That’s the one that most people hear.

JM: So, it isn’t to say that I’ve had more than enough fear and I still do to this day, but there is a sense of courage; let me put it that way. Courage is a more accurate word. There’s a courage about Midwesterners. There’s a sense of courage about Detroiters. There’s a sort of soulful edge, if you will. And I like to think that I have that, and I think that pretty much people that I’ve met from Detroit have that. It’s an interesting thing.

Bettye LaVette is a friend of mine.

BK: She’s amazing!

JM: She’s hilarious. She has that same thing in-terms of that edgy, speak your mind; I’m gonna say what’s on my mind and I’m not gonna edit it. You know, “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” kind of attitude. She’s a remarkable woman and a very talented artist. I’m humbled and proud to call her my friend. She and I are both from Detroit.

See, it’s easier to say this about Bettye than it is to say it about myself. I qualify what I’m about to say here with knowing that are similar qualities about my personality and her personality. Which is a sense of take no prisoners; which is a sense of “I’m scared but I’m gonna go ahead and do it anyway. You keep telling yourself that you can’t do something, you just step aside cause I’m gonna go over here and do this thing. I’m at least gonna try. I don’t want to get to the end of my life with a big-ass pile of regrets. I don’t need any more regrets.

That turns out to be something that drives me.

BK: You’ve mad e a bunch of records over the course of your career…

JM: Yeah. This new one coming out, ‘Change In The Weather’ is gonna be number 15!

BK — An album covering the music of John C. Fogerty…


JM: Yep, that’s the next one; that’s 15; it’s called ‘Change In The Weather.’



BK: Yes: the album comes out on September 13th, and your new book comes out 25 June.

JM: Right. 25 June is the street date although you know, street dates for a book is different than street date for an album.

BK: So, the new album is all covers. I listened to it and the perspective on it… If you don’t mind me comparing it to something?

JM — I don’t mind at all.

BK: Elise LeGrow. Have you heard her album?

JM: No.

BK: She did an album of covers of Chess Records classics. Her versions of “Over The Mountain, Across the Sea,” and “Who Do You Love” are amazing! It’s a totally different perspective that until you hear it, you would never dream of doing the song that way. That’s how I took your album, ‘Change In The Weather.’ It was a completely different look at those songs. For me, that’s what makes it unique, not just “Oh, I’m gonna do an album of covers of J.C. Fogerty.” It was the way that you approached it that made it different. I apologize for comparing it but, that’s that best way I can explain it to you.

JM: It’s not a problem at all. I’ve always been a fan of Fogerty’s, of the Creedence material, Fogerty’s stuff after Creedence; actually, his writing!

His writing is very, very strong. With the Creedence stuff there was a lot of protest singing material going on there. “Fortunate Son,” “Change In The Weather” … “Change In The Weather” came after Creedence. “Wrote a Song for Everyone,” “Don’t You Wish It Was True” is another one that came after Creedence I believe. “Bad Moon Rising,” “Deja Vu”; a tune called “Mr. Greed.”

The truth of the matter from my perspective is that you could take the entire John Fogerty catalog and close your eyes and throw a dart and you’d hit a great song.

BK: Pretty much!

JM — Pretty much! So, the question is how to approach it. This is different because it’s me singing it for starters, so I’m gonna do what I can to bring myself to the material, which is always what I try to do when I’m covering, interpreting someone else’s material. And, it’s a woman’s perspective, so that’s also a variation on it. And, they’re just stone good songs man! I’m real glad that we did it.

BK: You’re working on the album with producer Dave Darling?

JM: Correct. Same producer I’ve had for several albums.

BK: And the musicians that you worked with?

JM: Primarily, this is my touring band. This is a newer touring band. [There’s] a new drummer by the name of Steve Wilson, a new main guitar player by the name of Zachery Ross, and my regular bassist of 18, 19 years, Gary Davenport. Then there’s a few other additions; Arlan Schierbaum on the keyboards, and Dave Darling was playing guitar on some material. There are two duets on it. One with a dear friend, he’s like a hot comer right now and kind of Outlaw country; his name is Sam Morrow. He’s from the Houston area; a Texas boy. He duets with me on Lodi. And then my dear friend Taj Mahal duets with me on “Don’t You Wish It Was True.” It’s a really, really joyful protest song.

I know that might sound funny to say, “joyful protest song,” but it’s true.

BK: Where was the album recorded?

JM: In LA. We did the tracking at a place called Clear Lake Recording Studios in Burbank; North Hollywood actually. Then we did overdubs at a couple of different places in the LA area.

BK: ‘Stronger For It’ on Alligator in 2012…

JM: Right. Last Alligator.



BK: That had some of your own songs on it which you hadn’t done for a long time. So how does it feel now to go back and interpret someone else’s songs? Which do you like better, or does it matter?

JM: It’s good. It’s Fogerty’s stuff, so that’s pretty strong. That’s pretty great material to dive into. It’s a different experience, a different kind of pressure. I’d say it’s less pressure. There’s definitely pressure, and then add the fact that this is John Fogerty. There’s some additional pressure for that.

But it’s not the same as crafting all original material that has not been previously recorded by anyone. It’s not the same kind of pressure. There’s a few degrees less doubt.

BK: I’d think that the biggest concern you have is that you come off well when you perform someone else’s material. You would want them to think well of the way you did it.

JM: Absolutely! I want that as well as I want to… I mean let’s face it, any of those versions of the Creedence stuff is great material. So, if you’re gonna do it, you better bring stuff to it because just covering it; what is the point to it? Interpreting it? Yes. Covering it? Ah, not so much.

BK: John C. Fogerty is a great catalog to dive into.

JM: He’s a very prolific writer and he has a lot to say.

BK: So I’m thinking you are satisfied with the end result?

JM: I’m really happy. I don’t know about “satisfied.” I don’t have a whole lot of objectivity, so I can’t tell if things are finished. I think it’s dangerous to settle for quality. That’s a bit of a fixed idea in my thinking. I’m a fan of this quote which is, “Good enough is the enemy of greatness.” I’m not trying to say I’m great; I’m trying to say to say I reach for that the same way I reach for the Otis rush experience.

BK: You’ve done well with music, so your idea of not settling has served you well over the years: 15 albums, and a Grammy nomination, as well as 7 BMAs. Obviously, you are doing something right. It has to be somewhat gratifying for you, no?

JM: It’s very gratifying and it’s very humbling because it’s never been a goal for me. That’s never been the thing that I’ve held up and reached for. It has been a consequence, a blessed resonance of the work and of persistence, and a testament to those things. And I suppose, a testament to my stubbornness. I think some of the recognition is because I haven’t given up. It’s not the number of times you get knocked down, cause if you’re in the game, your shit is gonna get knocked down. You’re gonna take some hits. You’re gonna break your nose; you’re gonna get a black eye. The question is, are you getting up again? Apparently, my answer is yes. So far.

BK: Sometimes, not giving in is what saves you. Anything else you want to add about this album for the folks out there?

JM: I think it’s a really good record. I only hope that people listen to the whole thing. We live in a world of divided attention. Driving, texting on the phone, putting on make-up… and I’m guilty of all of that. Focused attention is such a rare thing nowadays, it’s a gift. I hope that people listen all the way through the album and they find something that they dig and connect to; something that they relate to.

The album is dedicated to my little brother, Carson. He passed in August of last year. He was the last of three brothers. So, in my family, everyone is gone except my sister and I. He was a young boy who was very sensitive. I’ve never met anyone in all my days who got a shorter end of the stick. Did ya draw sticks when you were a kid? Whoever got the shortest one had to do the shittiest whatever. I watched that. Being told as a young boy he’d understand one day. He came into this life and came through this life and left this life without ever being given that understanding. And it’s heartbreaking. So, the album is dedicated to Carson and the song in particular, “Someday Never Comes.” I love that song.

Then there’s the track with Taj. That’s a dream come true deal. First of all, he’s a friend of mine. It’s so beautiful to me. It’s so joyful and it’s a protest song.

I could go through the whole album like that.

BK: You are involved with Foster Care. At one point you were an Ambassador for both Foster Care Alumni and Child Welfare League of America.

JM: WLA and FCAA both asked me to come aboard as ambassador.

BK: Did you want to tell everyone about that?

JM: Absolutely. It started several years ago with people in the programs asking me to come on and be a spokesperson for the National Foster Care Awareness campaign, raising awareness of issues for youth at risk. [Also]to raise awareness to the number of youths in care in our nation. I speak to that authentically. I was in Foster Care. I am an alumnus of Foster Care.

The point to talking about my experience and my life is to help to communicate the message that you never know when a very simple act of kindness is going to change the trajectory of a kid, because it can. It happens every day. You never know who you’re gonna stand up for. Who’s that gonna be? Is it gonna be Steve Jobs? Is it gonna be the lady who lives three blocks away who saves your grandson who’s three years old from being hit by a car? That woman could be an alumnus of care as an adult. You never know who you are gonna stand up for.

Winston Churchill said it so well: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” It goes back to that whole thing of persistence. Keep going. I have the history of someone who doesn’t make it. I don’t look like my story. Opening my heart, speaking about my experience actually serves to help someone else.

It helps me to heal… Helping another human being. When I left Foster Care, I had nothing. I didn’t even have a suitcase when I was in Foster Care. I carried my crap around in a garbage bag. Do you know how common that was?

I can look at a kid aging out in the eye and say, “I know. I understand. It isn’t always going to be like this. This can change.” And that’s real.

The telling of the tale absolutely helps me to heal and I never ever expected that. I only went into the telling of the tale, at the end of it, very reluctantly. Fuck off, back up. That was my position on my story. I did not want to discuss it with anybody. There were people that I knew intimately for years that had no idea that I had suffered like that.

BK: It has been my experience that recovery is something I must work at every day. I cannot rest on the fact that I am clean and sober. I try to be a little better every day — I have to work at it.

JM: I have to stay engaged in the healing. That isn’t to say keep picking at the scab, so it never heals — that’s not what I’m talking about. I have had to continue to work at my own healing process. 12 step recovery has been a big, huge part of that. I don’t want to be in psychic or emotional pain.

BK: So after all this time why the memoir ‘Weeds Like Us,’ and why now?

JM: A memoir is because it’s my story. It’s my experiences. As writer, you know the difference between a memoir and biography or autobiography. A memoir is based on the experience of the author. It’s the only thing I have the authority to write about.

Why now? I’ve been working on it for six years and it’s an idea that has haunted me for … since I was 22. I stopped shooting dope when I was 22. I woke up. “I got woke.”

The idea of the experience of my life hurt, and I did everything I could to shove it down. I could do a lot to shove it down because I didn’t want it out. I grappled with myself with that idea. In my late thirties I had a publicist, Michael McClune who was a dear friend and he… I shared a few things with him. I worked with this guy for seven years and at one point he said he needed to talk to me about something. “I think you need to consider writing your story down.” My response was, “Fuck you, back off!” He told me “I’m gonna suggest this idea to you, you do what you want. It is entirely possible be telling and sharing your story, and you control what is shared by the way; you might actually help someone.” “Yeah, fuck you.”

And that dialog between he and I very gently, very gently from him went on for seven years. [After] a couple of years I had moved on in terms of a publicist and I realized he was right. And, it would be wrong of me to not try and help some people.

On a human level that would be like you have a chance to help somebody that’s really in pain and you fucking walk away. Now, I did a lot of that. I did a lot of that when I was younger; I walked away.

He helped me re-craft my bio and put it the bio. Then somebody at a blues magazine said “I wanna interview her.” That’s where the first break began. This started in my late thirties. I’m 62 now. I decided six years ago that I was gonna stop dodging the idea, that I was gonna go ahead and write the book. I said it out loud at a gig once…

My story is a tool for other people, to help others; it’s become a thing. I’m at the merch table, guy walks up and hands me his card and says, “I gotta tell ya, I’ve never heard of you before tonight. My wife was looking for something to do tonight… I’m completely blown away.” He was saying very kind things and he said, “For this idea that you’re gonna write this book, here’s my card. I’m sure you get a million people talking to you all the time, but I really am a writer. I’d love to help you in any way that I can.”

I shoved the card in a merch bag, and we went on to Seattle. I opened that and looked at that card four days later and looked the guy up online. He was a pulitzer-nominated author. I laughed at the universe, and that’s my ghost-writer: a fellow by the name of Gary Delsohn.

Why now, in short: because everybody in my family is dead except for me and my sister. They all died and there’s nothing like death to motivate a person. I’m 62. My mother took her own life when she was 43 years old. My father died when he was 52. There’s a lot of things that lined up for the motivation. That’s why now. I want it told. I want the information to be of use to somebody.

I really hope that it can become a vehicle of change for at least one person who can’t see the hope. There’s a saying in recovery literature that says, “We will come to find that our greatest tragedy is our greatest asset.” I would raise my hand on that.







* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *








These are edited extracts from an interview with Keith Richards for Blues Britannia: Can Blue Men Sing the Whites.
Published by The Guardian, May 200

It was a great day for music when the young Rolling Stones discovered the blues. Keith Richards looks back on a lifelong love affair

I loved rock'n'roll - but then we found the blues'
Keith Richards ... 'I got to sit around with Muddy Waters, Bobby Womack. They were so sweet'.

On first hearing the blues

It's very difficult to say - when did I identify the blues as a particular form of music? My mum was playing me jazz - a lot of Billie Holiday, Billy Eckstine, Sarah Vaughan. I mean, it's not your country blues but, as I went on, I realised that I was brought up on a broad basis of blues music without even knowing it, so, in a way, I'm a result of what my mum played. I had a natural affinity for it, I think, so it wasn't like a conscious thing or anything like that. You know, I didn't think in terms of black or white then. You didn't know whether Chuck Berry was black or white - it was not a concern. It was just what came in the ears and, my, what it did to you. And then I slowly realised that what these cats were doing was closely related to what I'd grown up listening to. You know, it was more stripped down, it was more rural. And then I went into this thing of finding out - where did he get it from? And without actually being able to call up Chuck Berry - I was 15 - and say, "Hey, Chuck, where do you get that from?", you went through record labels and [found out] Muddy Waters had been the guy to introduce Chuck Berry to Chess Records - then there's a connection. Then I got into Muddy Waters and then, before I knew it, that leads you immediately to Robert Johnson, and then you're before the war and you're into this other stuff - and a lot of it's, like, pretty rubbish.

On trying to hear more of the blues

I had to stick people up. We would borrow records and lend records, and stuff. Some guys had interesting sounds, and you sort of gravitated towards people that had a collection of records. And you try and steal one here and there, or just borrow. Let's put it like that: borrow. It wasn't just necessarily blues - there was a lot of folk music involved. We'd pick up anything we could listen to. I mean, my experience of art school is basically sitting in the john all day playing guitar when I wasn't forced to draw some fat old lady. And there I found a whole hotbed of music, where we distilled this stuff and listened and tried to figure out what we've been missing out on. You know, the BBC had not been particularly generous in its deliverance of blues and esoteric kinds of music. You started to search out certain guys that had more knowledge, more material than you did, and you had to know where it came from. So then I went to study this stuff and I realised that these blues men, they're talking about getting laid. And there's me studying what they're doing, but I ain't getting laid. I mean, there was something missing in my life - obviously, to be a bluesman I have to go see what this lemon juice is, running down your leg. And you know, these guys are actually living a life - they're not studying. I loved rock'n'roll but there's got to be something behind the rock'n'roll. There had to be. We found, of course, that it was the blues. And, therefore, if you really want to learn the basics, then you've got to do some homework. We all felt there was a certain gap in our education, so we all scrambled back to the 20s and 30s to figure out how Charlie Patton did this, or Robert Johnson, who, after all, was and still probably is the supremo. Blues didn't just mean doing one thing or another - there was a lot of room to manoeuvre around the blues.

On blues singers' names

It made me sick - my name's Keith Richards. It hardly makes it against Howlin' Wolf or Muddy Waters, does it? On my first guitar I had Boy Blue written - just pathetic. But that was as good as I got at the time.

On learning to play the blues

Once you start to play, you realise you've got to know how he did that. "This man just bent the string three yards! And made it sound simple! And he's got a rhythm going here that is unbelievable and he's blind and he's ... " I mean, it's just something you've got to do. You have no choice. I mean, we had other things to do and everything, but once you got bitten by the bug, you had to find out how it's done, and every three minutes of soundbite would be like an education. We did learn our stuff, though and, quite honestly, the blues ain't just necessarily black. We found that out eventually.

On the Stones' love of the blues

Mick was as much of a maniac. Brian as well, an absolute maniac. Charlie was more broad-based - that is, more jazz - but very much in this. We turned Charlie Watts on to Jimmy Reed, which, for a drummer, on the surface of it is the most boring job in the world. But it was the sheer monotony, the sheer non-stop throttling hypnotism that got Charlie into the blues. And these cats are great. After all, they were all jazz drummers in one form or another. The thing we didn't realise then is that cats in the States didn't put everybody in a bag. In England, you were put in a bag - he's jazz, he's this, he's pop, he's rock, da-da-da.

On recording the Stones' first demos, and recording the blues

I very barely remember it, because, to me, I was in heaven, 'cause I was actually in a recording studio. I mean, to me, that was the whole point - you'd died and gone to heaven. You're actually in a room built to make sounds, and there's actual microphones. Another thing to do with the blues is how they were recorded. They were done on the quick, and some of that stuff was made on wire, not even tape, let alone digital. So you'd have to work out where to put the microphone to get the sound of the room - you know, where John Lee Hooker would put his foot. And you'd sort of work your area. Making regular records - orchestrated and produced records - you didn't get a chance to figure out the room, and figure out what you can do. Every room is different - you get a bounce back here, and you put the microphone a little further back. You could hear on Robert Johnson records where they'd deliberately pulled the microphone back to get more guitar, and so he's wailing over the top. It's one thing doing it, another thing to capture it. And I think, in England, a lot of us got interested in how to capture it. How to get that sound right. These cats would leave a microphone over the back of the room, and then there'd be a drummer slapping around over there. And it's the best drum sound you ever heard. You know, there's not just one way to make a record, there's not just one way to record an instrument. If you had Beethoven going, and 50 violins, then you'd treat it a different way. You got one cat with a foot and maybe some guy slapping a bass somewhere round the back, and you could hear them playing the room, as well, and not just the instrument. And I think making records was really the other great drive for most of us English blokes to get in a studio and figure out eventually how it's done. [In English studios] you had to fight this whole other system of how records are made - it was: "Mind my microphone!" Well, I'm not trying to hurt it, you know. "You're playing too loud into it, and you've moved it!" and all that sort of stuff, but that's called learning how to record. They were applying European techniques to recording, to making music, that don't apply to that system at all. So you did find yourself, for quite a while, head to head with this sort of monolithic idea of British recording engineers. You just learned by trial and error. Trying to transfer it on to tape was a pain for years. I mean, anybody will tell you you're up against this monolithic idea of, like, the correct method of recording. But we're not looking for the correct method, we're looking for the incorrect method: I want to see how much that microphone can take; if a guy is over there and yelling, I want to see whether the voice still carries. It's trial and error, trial and error, and mostly error.

On what the bluesmen thought when the Stones visited Chess Records studios, the home of Chicago blues

They went, "Ah, man, I don't believe it, you're playing our music." They were just so effusive, so sweet - "Come over to the house," you know. I mean, you'd died and gone to heaven - it was the cats, gentlemen in the truest sense of the term. They'd stab you in the back, but gentlemen. They were so interested in what we were doing, and realising, at the same time, that we didn't know shit, really. They would all help, it was all encouragement, and that. To me, that was one of the most heartwarming things. 'Cause you figure you're gonna walk in [and they'd think], "Snooty little English guys and a couple of hit records." Not at all. I got the chance to sit around with Muddy Waters and Bobby Womack, and they just wanted to share ideas. And you were expecting, "Oh, English kids making money out of me," and it could well have happened. But they wanted to know how we were doing it, and why we wanted to do it, you know.

On the relative status of the bluesmen in the US and Europe

Their US audience was getting smaller every year because they were now considered old hat. They liked Europe - they'd come over once a year. American black music was starting to slide into Motown, which was far more slick and more organised. [The bluesmen] felt they were being a little left out by their own, and this influx of interest from Europe, especially England, really caught their interest. I've no doubt they all looked at each other and said: "Well, that's the strangest audience I've ever seen - they're a bunch of wimpy English guys with long hair going 'Ooh!'"

On making a No 1 out of Howlin' Wolf's Little Red Rooster

We must have been wearing brass balls that day, when we decided to put that out as a single. I think we just thought it was our job to pay back, to give them what they've given us. They've given us the music and the friendship, and let's stand up, be men, and give them a blues, and it went to No 1. Mr Howlin' Wolf, he didn't mind at all. It was maybe a moment of bravado, in retrospect, but it worked. We have been blessed by the music that we listened to, and let's see if we can actually spin it back around and make American white kids listen to Little Red Rooster. You had it all the time, pal, you know. You just didn't listen.






* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *






SAM CARR BIOGRAPHY (Courtesy by Scott Barreta). Widely acclaimed as one of the best drummers in the blues, Sam Carr was born Samuel Lee McCollum in 1926 outside of Marvell, Arkansas. His father was the influential blues guitarist and vocalist Robert Lee McCollum, who recorded under the names Robert Lee McCoy and Robert Nighthawk, but Carr didn’t meet him until he was seven years old. About a year and half after his birth, Sam’s mother, Mary Griffin McCollum, left Sam to the care of the Carr family, who adopted him and raised him on their farm near Dundee, Mississippi. Carr’s first instruments were the harmonica and "Jew’s harp," and around age 16 he moved to Helena, his father’s then residence, where he collected money at the door during his father’s performances at the river city’s thriving clubs. During this time Carr also worked as a chauffeur and played bass for his father, who was already an established professional musician.

Between 1937 and 1940, McCollum recorded twenty-six songs under the name "Robert Lee McCoy" for the Decca and Bluebird labels, including the song "Prowling Night Hawk," whose popularity lended him the artist name "Robert Nighthawk." During this period he also appeared as a sideman on many records by artists including Sonny Boy Williamson 1, Big Joe Williams, Peetie Wheatstraw, Walter Davis and Speckled Red. On all these recordings he played acoustic guitar, but by 1942, Carr recalled, Nighthawk was playing electric guitar with a slide, an approach later documented on recordings for labels including Chess. Nighthawk (1909-1967) is relatively unheralded today, but was very influential in shaping the guitar styles of artists including B.B. King and Muddy Waters.

In 1946, when Carr was 20, he married his wife Doris and took up sharecropping in Arkansas. After a heated argument with the agent for the plantation owner, the Carrs packed their belongings on a bicycle, crossed the river by ferry, and took off for Chicago by train. They soon moved to St. Louis to live with Carr’s mother, and Carr began playing bass with harmonica player Tree Top Slim. He formed his own band, Little Sam Carr and the Blue Kings, which initially featured Nighhawk’s wife Early Bea on drums before Carr decided to take on that role.

In St. Louis, Carr played mostly in "low-class clubs" in poor neighbourhoods, and in 1956 began working regularly with Frank Frost, who then played both harmonica and guitar. The pair backed Sonny Boy Williamson II for a while, and continued to perform together after they moved to Mississippi in the early ‘60s. In Helena, Arkansas they sometimes backed Williamson, Houston Stackhouse, and Robert Nighthawk.

In 1962 Clarksdale-based guitarist Big Jack Johnson joined Carr and Frost, and for several years Doris sang in front of the band. Later that year the trio made recordings under the name Frank Frost and the Night Hawks for producer Sam Phillips in Memphis, and recorded an album, Hey Boss Man, on his new Phillips International label. One of the songs they recorded for that album was "Jelly Roll King," which inspired a name the trio later occasionally performed and recorded under, the Jelly Roll Kings.

In 1966 the group returned to the studio, this time in Nashville, where they cut several singles under Frost’s name for the Jewel label. They scored a minor hit with "My Back Scratcher," a take off on Slim Harpo’s earlier hit "Baby, Scratch My Back." Although it is often assumed that the Jewel recordings featured Frost on harmonica, it was actually their frequent collaborator, Arthur Lee Williams.

The Jelly Roll Kings did not enter the studio again for over a decade, and while the group continued to play together throughout the ‘60s and the ‘70s the three men often worked outside of music. Carr drove a tractor near his home in Lula, Johnson drove an oil truck, and the famously laid-back Frost did as little as possible.

In the mid-‘70s Chicago-based blues fan Michael Frank encountered the Jelly Roll Kings playing at the Black Fox Club, owned by Big Jack, and in 1978 he recorded the group. The following year released he the Jelly Roll Kings debut album Rockin’ The Juke Joint Down as the debut release on his Earwig label. That album effectively introduced the group to the blues market, but didn’t generate enough attention or demand to keep the group together regularly as a unit.

In 1978 Frost moved to Greenville, where he played with musicians including Willie Foster and T-Model Ford, and was sometimes joined by Carr, who continued to live in Lula. Back in the Clarksdale area, Carr continued to play with Johnson, often in clubs owned by Johnson.
The trio was united formally on various special occasions, including for Frank Frost’s 1988 Earwig album, Midnight Prowler, Big Jack Johnson’s 1991 Earwig album Daddy When Is Mama Comin’ Home, and the 1996 PBS film documentary River of Song. The same year the trio recorded an album, Off Yonder Wall, as the Jelly Roll Kings for the Fat Possum label, and in 1998 Carr and Frost recorded the album Jelly Roll Kings for the HMG label. Carr also contributed drums to albums by Delta artists including T-Model Ford, Asie Payton, Robert "Bilbo" Walker, Paul "Wine" Jones, and Lonnie Shields.

Following Frank Frost’s death in 1999, Carr has lent his drum skills to various bands in the region, guested on albums including Buddy Guy’s award-winning Sweet Tea, and led his own group, the Delta Jukes, often with Dave Riley on guitar and vocals. The group has recorded a number of albums, including Working for the Blues (2002, Black Magic), Down in the Delta (2004, Bluesland), and Let the Good Times Roll (2007, Blue Label).

In the last decade Carr’s skills have achieved wide acclaim, with annual nominations for best drummer for Handy Awards (now Blues Music Awards) a Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts from the state of Mississippi in 2007, and multiple awards from Living Blues magazine.


* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pagina Principal/Home
El Programa de Radio/The Blues Radio Show - La Programación/Playlist - Novedades Cds/Cds Received - Criticas de Discos/Actual Cd Reviews - Criticas Discos Antiguas/Old Cds Reviews - Reconocimientos/Show Aknowledgements - L
inks de Interés/Logo Links - Posters Blueseros/Blues Posters

Quien es Zúmel/Who is Zumel - Las Fotos/Blues Gallery - La "Harmonica Zúmel Blues Band"/The late "Harmonica Zúmel Blues Band" - La Sociedad de Blues de Barcelona S.B.B/Barcelona Blues Society SBB

Agenda de Conciertos/Blues Gigs calendar - Las Noticias Nacionales/Spanish Blues News - Los Artículos/Spanish Articles - Las Entrevistas/The Interviews - El Diccionario de Blues - El Vídeo del Mes/Monthly Recommended Video

Las Noticias Internacionales/International Blues News - Las Entrevistas desde USA/The USA Interviews


Artículos Internacionales / International Blues Articles

English Version


Estos son algunos extractos entresacados de una entrevista con Keith Richards para Blues Britannia titulada "Can Blue Men Sing The Whites".

Publicado por The Guardian, el 9 de mayo de 2009

Fue un gran día para la música cuando unos jóvenes Rolling Stones descubrieron el blues. Keith Richards rememora el pasado de una historia de amor que ha durado toda su vida.

"Me encantaba el rock'n'roll pero luego encontramos el blues".
Keith Richards... "Tenía  que sentarme junto a Muddy Waters o Bobby Womack. Eran tan dulces".

Escuchando blues por primera vez

Es difícil de decir cuando identifiqué por primera vez el blues como una forma particular de música. Mi madre tocaba jazz, un montón de temas de Billie Holiday, Billy Eckstine o Sarah Vaughan. Quero decir que no era blues rural pero, a medida que fue pasando el tiempo, me di cuenta de que, sin saberlo, me había criado y crecido con una amplia base de la música blues, por lo que, en cierto modo, soy el resultado de lo que mi madre solía tocar. Creo que, aunque yo no era consciente, sentía una afinidad natural por esa música. Entonces no pensaba nunca en términos de música negra o blanca. Uno no sabía si Chuck Berry era negro o blanco, pues eso era algo que no nos importaba en absoluto. Lo importante era lo que llegaba a nuestros oídos y para mí, también, el efecto que causaba en la gente. Y entonces, poco a poco me fui dando cuenta que lo que aquellos tipos tocaban estaba muy relacionado con la música con la que había crecido en mi casa. Ya sabes, sólo era más crudo, más rural. Y entonces empecé a sentir curiosidad y entré en ese tema de querer saber - ¿cómo saco esto con la guitarra? Y claro, aún no era capaz de llamar a Chuck Berry, -entonces yo sólo tenía 15 años- y preguntarle directamente "Eh, Chuck, ¿cómo haces esto?", íbamos a diferentes compañía discográficas y (nos enteramos) que Muddy Waters había sido el tipo que había presentado a Chuck Berry a Chess Records, así que había una conexión. Entonces empecé a escuchar a Muddy Waters y -todavía antes de conocerle en persona-, su música me llevó inmediatamente a Robert Johnson, y eso era justo antes de la guerra y estás metido en otras cosas, y muchas son realmente basura.

Sobre tratar de escuchar mas blues

Tenía que aprovecharme de la gente. Solíamos prestarnos discos y otro material. Algunos colegas tenían música interesante y uno solía pegarse a la gente que tenían una buena colección de discos. Solías intentar robar alguno o pedirlo prestado, ¡dejémoslo en pedir prestado! No todo era blues, había también mucha música folk. Cogíamos cualquier cosa que se pudiera escuchar. Mis recuerdos de la escuela de arte son, básicamente, estar sentado en el retrete tocando la guitarra todo el día, mientras no me obligaran a dibujar a una señora vieja y gorda. Pero allí encontré la semilla de la música, el abono perfecto para descifrar y comprender todo esto, para escuchar y entender todo lo que nos habíamos perdido. Bueno, la BBC no había sido nunca particularmente generosa con el blues y esos tipos de música tan esotéricos para ellos. Empezamos a intentar conocer a algunos colegas que tuvieran más conocimiento y más material del que nosotros teníamos, y quisimos saber de dónde venía todo eso. Me puse a estudiar esa música y me di cuenta que todos aquellos bluesmen estaban hablando de echar un polvo. Y allí estaba yo, estudiando lo que ellos hacían sin comerme un rosco. Sabes, faltaba algo en mi vida, obviamente para ser un bluesman tengo que ver que se siente cuando esa limonada te baja por la pierna. Esos tipos si que viven la vida, no están estudiando. Me gustaba el rock'n'roll pero tenía que haber algo detrás del rock'n'roll, seguro que había algo mas. Y, claro, descubrimos que era el blues. Y, por lo tanto, si realmente se quiere aprender lo básico, entonces hay que hacer los deberes y trabajar un poco. Todos sentíamos que había una cierta laguna en nuestra educación, de modo que hurgamos en los años 20 y 30 para averiguar cómo lo hacían Charlie Patton o Robert Johnson, quien, después de todo, era y sigue siendo, probablemente el numero uno. Blues no sólo significa hacer una cosa u otra, había mucho espacio para maniobrar alrededor del blues.

Sobre los apodos de los cantantes de blues

Me ponía enfermo. Mi nombre es Keith Richards. No tengo nada en contra de los nombres Howlin 'Wolf o Muddy Waters, ¿sabes? De hecho en mi primera guitarra, puse el nombre de Boy Blue, ¡patético! Pero en aquella época me parecía muy bien.

Sobre aprender a tocar blues

Una vez que se empieza a tocar, te das cuenta que tienes que saber cómo lo hacen. "¡Este tío fuerza las cuerdas de la guitarra más de tres yardas!" "¡Y hace que suene tan fácil! ¡Y además tiene un ritmo increíble, y es ciego, y es...! Quiero decir que es algo que debes hacer. No tienes elección, ¿sabes?. Teníamos tantas otras cosas que podíamos hacer, pero cuando te pica el gusanillo, no paras hasta que descubres cómo se hace, y aprender tres minutos de aquel sonido era como toda una educación musical. Lo aprendimos bien, trabajamos a conciencia, aunque, hablando honestamente, el blues no es necesariamente sólo negro. Con el tiempo nos dimos cuenta de esto.

Sobre el amor de los Stones por el blues.

Mick era un loco del blues. Brian también era un auténtico fanático. Charlie tenía una mentalidad  más abierta -es decir, más hacia el jazz- pero también estaba muy metido como ellos. Hacíamos que Charlie Watts escuchara a Jimmy Reed lo que para un batería, a primera vista, era el trabajo más aburrido del mundo. Pero fue aquella completa monotonía, aquel inacabable ritmo asfixiante e hipnótico, el que metió a Charlie en el blues. Y estos tipos son grandes. Después de todo, de un modo u otro todos eran baterías de jazz. Pero hubo algo de lo que entonces no nos dimos cuenta. En Estados Unidos no se ponía a todos los músicos en el mismo saco. En Inglaterra te ponían enseguida una etiqueta, este es jazz, este es esto, este toca pop, esto es rock, bla, bla, bla. 

Sobre las primeras demos y grabaciones de blues de los Stones.

Casi no me acuerdo porque, aquello para mí, era como estar en el cielo, porque estaba realmente en un estudio de grabación. Quiero decir, para mí, aquello era el centro de todo, te habías muerto y estabas en el cielo. En realidad estás en una sala construida para recoger todos los sonidos, con micrófonos sofisticados. Otra cosa que pasa con los blues es que hay que saber como se grababan. Se hacía deprisa y mucho de aquel material se grababa por línea, ni siquiera en una cinta y por supuesto nada en digital. Por eso había que comerse la cabeza para saber donde poner el micrófono para recoger todo el sonido de la habitación, sabes, imaginar en qué sitio de aquel cuarto se hubiera puesto John Lee Hooker para sonar bien. Y eso hacerlo con cada uno de los músicos. Si grabas regularmente discos con orquestación y producción, no tienes la oportunidad de conocer la sala de grabación y darte cuenta de lo que puedes hacer. Cada sala es diferente, si rebota el sonido puedes poner el micrófono un poco más atrás. Se podía escuchar en discos de Robert Johnson en los que deliberadamente había echado el micrófono para atrás para tener más sonido de la guitarra y por eso suena como un auténtico gemido. Una cosa es hacerlo, pero otra cosa es saber capturar todo esto.  Y creo que, en Inglaterra, muchos de nosotros nos interesamos en aprender cómo capturar esa expresión y cómo conseguir que el sonido fuera auténtico. Aquellos tipos pondrían un micrófono en un rincón de la sala y al batería aporreando en el otro lado de la habitación. Y sin embargo es el mejor sonido que nunca se ha escuchado. Sabes, no hay una sola manera de hacer un disco, no hay un solo modo de grabar un instrumento. Si tuvieras que hacerlo con Beethoven y 50 violines, lo harías de una forma diferente. Tienes a un tipo dando golpecitos con el pie y quizás a otro marcando fuerte con el bajo a tu espalda. Puedes oírlos tocar desde cualquier rincón de la sala, y no sólo es el instrumento lo que escuchas. Pienso que grabar discos era otro gran reto para muchos de nosotros, esos tipos ingleses que entrábamos en un estudio e intentábamos descifrar y aprender cómo se hacía todo aquello. [En los estudios ingleses] tenías que luchar contra un sistema totalmente distinto de hacer discos. La cosa iba así: "¡Cuidado con mi micrófono!", Bueno, ya sabes que no quiero estropearlo. "¡Estas tocando muy fuerte y muy cerca del micro y lo has movido!" y todo este tipo de cosas que hacen que parezca que realmente estas aprendiendo cómo se graba. Se usaba la técnica europea tanto para hacer música como para grabar y no servía para lo nuestro. Así que durante un cierto tiempo nos encontramos frente a frente con aquella idea monolítica que tenían todos los ingenieros de sonido ingleses. Aprendíamos haciendo pruebas y equivocándonos. Y durante años fue terrible pasarlo todo a una cinta. Ya sabes, todo el mundo te decía que estabas otra vez en contra de aquella idea monolítica de cómo se debía grabar correctamente. Pero nosotros no buscábamos el método correcto, sino que queríamos el método incorrecto: quiero ver hasta donde puedo llegar con este micrófono; si hay un tipo allí al fondo gritando, quiero ver si su voz todavía funciona. Se trata de probar y equivocarse, volverlo a probar y volverse a equivocar, y equivocarse muchas veces.

Sobre lo que pensaron los bluesmen cuando los Stones visitaron el templo del blues de Chicago: los estudios de grabación Chess.

Nos dijeron "Oye tío, no me lo creo, estaís tocando nuestra música". Eran tan efusivos, tan amables. "Veniros a casa". Sabes lo que quiero decir, era como haber muerto y estar en el cielo. Eran colegas pero, al mismo tiempo, unos auténticos señores. Podían darte una puñalada por la espalda, pero siempre con elegancia, como unos caballeros. Estaban tan interesados en lo que nosotros hacíamos, y al mismo tiempo, se daban cuenta de que nosotros no sabíamos una mierda. Todos nos ayudaban, nos animaban, nos alentaban y todas estas cosas. Para mí eso fue una de las cosas que más me impresionaron. Te imaginas que vas a llegar allí [y que ellos iban a pensar], "Estos presumidos inglesitos, con un par de números uno". Nada de eso. Tuve la suerte de reunirme y charlar con Muddy Waters y Bobby Womack, quienes sólo querían compartir ideas. Uno podía esperar que dijeran "Oh, estos chicos ingleses ganado dinero a mi costa". Eso podía haber pasado. Pero lo único que querían era saber era cómo nos iba y porque lo hacíamos, ya sabes.

Sobre el relativo status de los bluesmen en US y Europa.

Su popularidad en US se estaba reduciendo gradualmente porque se les consideraba antiguos y pasados de moda. Les gustaba Europa, solían venir una vez al año: La música negra americana estaba empezando a entrar en Motown, que estaban muy bien organizados y fueron muy listos. [Los músicos de blues] tenían la sensación de que se les había dejado abandonados a su suerte, y este interés que venía de Europa, especialmente desde Inglaterra, realmente atrajo su atención. No tengo ninguna duda de que entre ellos se decían: "¡Vaya, es el público más extraño que he visto nunca, son un montón de de chicos tontos ingleses con el pelo largo, Ooh!"

Sobre convertir el tema de Howlin' Wolf "Little Red Roster" en número uno en las listas de éxitos.

Debímos tener un momento de osadía aquel día, cuando decidimos incluir aquella canción en un single. Creo que pensamos que era nuestra forma de pagarles, de devolverles todo lo que nos habían dado. Ellos nos habían dado su música y su amistad, así que vamos a ser hombres, y hacer un buen blues para ellos. Y fue número uno. Al señor Howlin' Wolf no le importaba en absoluto. Quizás fue una bravuconada por nuestra parte, pero funcionó. Hemos sido bendecidos por la música que escuchábamos, así que vamos a ver si podemos darle la vuelta a todo esto y hacer que los chicos blancos norteamericanos escuchen "Little Red Rooster". Lo habéis tenido siempre delante de vuestras narices, amigos, pero nunca lo habéis escuchado.

  * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *


BIOGRAFÍA DE SAM CARR (cortesía de Scott Barreta).
Ampliamente aclamado como uno de los mejores baterías de blues, Sam Carr cuyo verdadero nombre era Samuel Lee McCollum, nació en 1926 en las afueras de Marvell, Arkansas.
Su padre era el guitarrista y cantante de blues Robert Lee McCollum, quien grabó bajo el nombre Robert Lee McCoy y Robert Nighthawk, pero Carr no le conoció hasta los siete años. Alrededor de un año y medio después de su nacimiento, la madre de Sam, Mary Griffin McCollum, dejó a Sam al cuidado de la familia Carr, que le adoptaron y le criaron en su finca cerca de Dundee, Mississippi. Los primeros instrumentos que Carr aprendió a tocar fueron la armónica y la "jew's harp", y al cumplir los 16 años, se trasladó a Elena, donde residía su padre, y se dedicó a recoger dinero en la puerta de los prósperos clubs de la ciudad donde su padre actuaba. Durante aquella época, Carr también trabajó como conductor y también tocaba el bajo con su padre, que ya era un músico profesional de reconocido prestigio.

Entre 1937 y 1940, McCollum grabó veintiséis canciones bajo el nombre de "Robert Lee McCoy" para los sellos Decca y Bluebird, incluyendo la canción "Prowling Night Hawk", cuya popularidad le dió su nombre artístico de "Robert Nighthawk" con el que fue conocido a partir de entonces.
Durante este período de tiempo, estuvo tocando como músico de acompañamiento en los discos de muchos artistas como Sonny Boy Williamson 1, Big Joe Williams, Peetie Wheatstraw, Walter Davis y Speckler Red. En todas estas grabaciones tocaba la guitarra acústica, pero en 1942, Carr recuerda que Nighthawk ya tocaba guitarra eléctrica con slide, lo que fue posteriormente documentado, gracias a las grabaciones para diferentes sellos discográficos incluyendo las de Chess. Nighthawk (1909-1967) es relativamente poco conocida hoy en día, pero fue muy influyente en la formación del modo de tocar la guitarra de artistas como BB King y Muddy Waters.

En 1946 y a la edad de 20 años, Carr se casó con su esposa Doris y arrendó una plantación en Arkansas.
Después de una acalorada discusión con el agente del dueño de la plantación, empaquetaron sus pocas pertenencias en una bicicleta, cruzaron el río en ferry, y viajaron en tren hasta Chicago. Pronto se trasladaron a San Luis para vivír con la madre de Carr. En San Luis, Carr comenzó a tocar el bajo con el armonicista Tree Top Slim. Poco después formó su propia banda, Little Sam Carr & The Blue Kings, en la que inicialmente estaba la mujer de Nighthawk, Early Bea, a la batería, antes de que Carr decidiera asumir personalmente el trabajo como batería.

En St. Louis, Carr tocaba principalmente en los "clubs de clase baja" de los barrios pobres hasta que, en 1956, comenzó a trabajar regularmente con Frank Frost, que por entonces tocaba tanto la armónica como la guitarra.
Durante algún tiempo ambos fueron músicos de acompañamiento de Sonny Boy Williamson II. Siguieron tocando juntos y, en los años 60, se establecieron en Mississippi. En Helena, Arkansas, acompañaron ocasionalmente a Williamson, Houston Stackhouse y Robert Nighthawk.

En 1962 el guitarrista de Clarksdale, Big Jack Johnson se unió a Carr y Frost, y durante varios años Doris fue la cantante de la banda.
Ese mismo año el trío realizó grabaciones bajo el nombre de Frank Frost & The Night Hawsk para el productor Sam Phillips en Memphis, grabando un álbum, "Hey Boss Man", en su nuevo sello Phillips International. Una de las canciones que realizaron para ese álbum fue "Jelly Roll King", que inspiró el nombre del trío, nombre con el que más tarde siguieron grabando y actuando bajo el nombre de The Jelly Roll Kings.

En 1966, el grupo volvió a los estudio de grabación, esta vez en Nashville, donde realizaron diversos temas, todos firmados con el nombre de Frost, para el sello Jewel.
Gracias al tema "My Back Scratcher", una versión de la antigua canción de Slim Harpo "Baby, Scratch My Back", consiguieron alcanzar un cierto éxito. Aunque a menudo se supone que en las grabaciones para la compaía Jewel, Frost era quien tocaba la armónica, lo cierto es que en realidad era Arthur Lee Williams quien lo hacía.

The Jelly Roll Kings no volvieron a entrar de nuevo en un estudio de grabación durante más de una década, pero siguieron tocando juntos en directo y, durante los años 60 y 70, tuvieron que ganarse la vida trabajando a menudo fuera de la música.
Carr se dedicó a conducir un tractor cerca de su casa en Lula, Johnson conducía un camión de gasolina y Frost, bien conocido por su aversión al trabajo, se dedicó a hacer lo menos posible.

A mediados de 70, Michael Frank, un gran aficionado al blues, residente en Chicago, vió a los Jelly Roll Kings tocando en el Black Fox Club, cuyo propietario era Big Jack, y en 1978 los llevó de nuevo al estudio de grabación. Al año siguiente se publicó el primer álbum de los Jelly Roll Kings titulado "Rockin' The Juke Joint Down", que sirvió como álbum de lanzamiento de su nuevo sello discográfico Earwig.
Con este álbum se introdujeron de forma efectiva en el mercado de blues, aunque desgraciadamente el disco no generó la suficiente atención y demanda del público para conseguir mantener el grupo unido.

En 1978, Frost se trasladó a Greenville, donde estuvo tocando con músicos de la talla de Willie Foster y T-Model Ford, siendo a veces acompañado por Carr, quien seguía viviendo en Lula.
Carr regresó a la zona de Clarksdale, donde continuó tocando con Johnson, a menudo en los diferentes clubs propiedad de Johnson. El trío se reunió formalmente en diversas ocasiones especiales, como en 1988, en la grabación del album de Frank Frost "Midnight Prowler" para Earwig, así como en 1991, también para la grabación del álbum de Big Jack Johnson "Daddy Whe Is Mama Comin' Home", para la compañía Earwig, o en 1996, con motivo de la realización del documental "River of Song" de la PBS. Ese mismo año el trío volvió a grabar un álbum titulado "Off Yonder Wall" bajo el nombre de The Jelly Roll Kings para el sello Fat Possum y, en 1998, Frost y Carr grabaron el álbum "Jelly Roll Kings" para el sello HMG. Carr también participó como batería de estudio en muchos álbumes de artistas del Delta, como T-Model Ford, Asie Payton, Robert "Bilbo" Walker, Paul "Wine" Jones, y Lonnie Shields entre otros.

Tras la muerte de Frank Frost en 1999, Carr puso su excelente batería al servicio de diversas bandas locales, colaborando también como invitado en diferentes discos, entre ellos el de los Sweet Tea, y que fue ganador del premio Buddy Guy. También lideró su propio grupo, The Delta Jukes, a menudo con Dave Riley a la guitarra y voz.
Con esta banda grabó varios álbumes como "Working For The Blues" (Black Magic, 2002), "Down In The Delta" (Bluesland, 2004), y "Let The Good Times Roll (Blue Label, 2007.
En la última década la figura de Carr ha logrado finalmente un merecido reconocimiento. Durante diversos años ha sido propuesto como nominado a mejor batería en los Premios Handy (actualmente Blues Music Awards). También ha sido galardonado con el Premio Governor's Award for Excellence in The Arts del estado de Mississippi en 2007, y ha recibido múltiples premios del Living Blues Magazine.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Pagina Principal/Home
El Programa de Radio/The Blues Radio Show - La Programación/Playlist - Novedades Cds/Cds Received - Criticas de Discos/Actual Cd Reviews - Criticas Discos Antiguas/Old Cds Reviews - Reconocimientos/Show Aknowledgements - L
inks de Interés/Logo Links - Posters Blueseros/Blues Posters

Quien es Zúmel/Who is Zumel - Las Fotos/Blues Gallery - La "Harmonica Zúmel Blues Band"/The late "Harmonica Zúmel Blues Band" - La Sociedad de Blues de Barcelona S.B.B/Barcelona Blues Society SBB

Agenda de Conciertos/Blues Gigs calendar - Las Noticias Nacionales/Spanish Blues News - Los Artículos/Spanish Articles - Las Entrevistas/The Interviews - El Diccionario de Blues - El Vídeo del Mes/Monthly Recommended Video

Las Noticias Internacionales/International Blues News - Las Entrevistas desde USA/The USA Interviews