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True Blue Newsflash:
The blues world has lost yet another true blue legend…Jimmy Rogers (a.k.a. James A. Lane) died at 6:15 a.m. on Friday, December 19th, after an extended battle with colon cancer and emphysema. Rogers, 73, was best known for penning blues classics like ”Walkin’ By Myself,“ ”That’s Alright,“ ”Chicago Bound,“ and ”Rock This House,“ to name but a few. The Chicago blues guitarist, vocalist and composer was also right hand man and lead guitarist for the legendary Muddy Waters, performing and recording with Waters during the evolutionary years of the ‘Chicago Blues’ sound. For a very special remembrance by fellow Maxwell Street bluesman Jimmie Lee Robinson, visit the the Jimmy Rogers Memorial Homepage (courtesy of the folks from the Maxwell Street Historical Preservation Society) on the world wide web. Expressions of sympathy can be sent to Jimmy Roger's wife: Dorothy Lane, 6314 South Honore, Chicago, Illinois, 60636.
True Blue Double Feature: One of my most cherished true blue memories is the 10-15 minutes I spent several years ago, listening to Honeyboy Edwards tell about the night legendary delta bluesman Robert Johnson was poisoned at Three Forks, just outside Greenwood, Mississippi. He was waiting to catch a bus back to Chicago, after having performed at Scott Community College earlier in the day (an appearance made possible by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society). Honeyboy knew the story pretty well, no doubt due to the fact that he had told the same story countless times to countless blues writers. Moreover, he was there as a contemporary, fellow bluesman and friend to Johnson - the mysterious figure in blues history who supposedly sold his soul to the devil in return for musical prowess. David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards - New Blues Biography/New Blues CD ”The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing,“ The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards, traces the footsteps of a stellar folk blues artist who is also one of the last living links to the original Delta blues. With this year’s release of ”Crawling Kingsnake,“ ‘Honeyboy’s’ new CD on Testmanent Records, the reader can now travel the blues highway with him (via the written word) while simultaneously listening to his signature Delta blues. It is a unique experience I highly recommend to both the veteran and novice bluesfan - this truly must be where the term ”the real deal“ originated. Edward’s biography (from Chicago Review Press) is skillfully transcribed by Janis Martinson and Michael Robert Frank, from hours of priceless stories as told by ‘Honeyboy’ himself. ”Crawling Kingsnake,“ the essential soundtrack for this reading, delivers classic Honeyboy numbers such as ”Just Like Jesse James,“ ”Sweet Home Chicago,“ ”Long Tall Woman Blues,“ ”My Baby’s Gone,“ and the CD closes with a historic 1967 Chicago interview between Honeyboy and Pete Welding. This clasic interview, by the way, includes the famous ‘Robert Johnson story’ as only Honeyboy can tell it. From sharecropper’s son, to itinerant bluesman in the juke joints of Mississippi, on Beale Street in Memphis, Dallas and Houston, and on to Maxwell Street in Chicago with his ‘friend-boy’ Little Walter Jacobs - this is the heart and soul of the blues pilgrimage. Read the book…listen to the music, and feel the blues.
New True Blues:
Special thanks and a true blue welcome to the exclusive sponsor of this here music column - the good folks at Ace Muffler Clinic, Rock Island. Since 1955 they’ve been delivering quality automotive service to the Quad Cities, and they’re ready to serve you. Just call Ace Muffler Clinic at 786-2524 the next time your bluesmobile is runnin’ a little ragged, and tell Butch and Joe that ‘True Blue’ sent ‘ya! (Remind them that they better treat you good, or I’ll be distributing some more of those pictures of Butch ridin’ the donkey in Mexico…) On that note, it’s down the road I go…
- ”Do the Rump,“ Junior Kimbrough (HMG/High Water/HighTone Records) Junior Kimbrough and the Soul Blues Boys just lay down the blues house-party style like they’ve been doing since the 1950’s. It’s raw, it’s rough and it’s real, just like you’d get it dished up on a Friday night at the fish fry or juke joint. This ought to be required listening (and learning) in Blues 101 for all young, aspiring blues men and women. True Blue Track: ”You Better Run“
- ”The Chess 50th Anniversary Collections,“ Various Artists (Chess/MCA/Universal) These are the classics from the classic Chicago blues label, Chess Records. Salutations to the folks at MCA and Universal Music and Video Distribution for the reissue of these landmark recordings that define the evolution of the Chicago blues. Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Bo Diddley, Chuck Berry, Jimmy Rogers, Howlin’ Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson, Buddy Guy, Little Milton, Etta James - all were Chess artists during that essential period in the development of the urban blues. An epic 1997 reissue of the Chess classics! True Blue Tracks: Yep, every one of ‘em!
- ”That’s What They Want,“ Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers (Black Top Records) If you can sit still during these blues, it’s time to get the toe-tags out! Great hoogly-moogly! From the kicker ”Lookin’ the World Over,“ to the jumpin’ closer ”I’m Shakin,’“ this collection serves it up pipin’ hot, from one of the blues most venerable collaborations - Stratocaster-blaster Anson Funderburgh and the incomparable Sam Myers on harp and vocals. You can’t go wrong with this combo, folks… True Blue Track: ”The Dew Is Falling“
- ”Live at the Rynborn,“ Bobby Radcliff (Black Top Records) The man who wrote the liner notes on this one was right…the usual accolades heaped on guitar-slingers aren’t necessary in this case. Bobby Radcliff just flat plays a clean, mean guitar - so mean that he once needed surgery to repair his hand from the wear and tear of his brutal improvisational stylings. Recorded live at the Rynborn in Antrim, New Hampshire in November of 1996, this soulful gu itar-slinger and blues singer, along with the ‘dynamic duo’ of Jeff Dedrick on bass and Martin Maudal on drums, burns it up on these ten tracks. True Blue Track: ”Tramp“…that poor ‘ol Stratocaster’s gonna need some surgery next!
- ”In Memory of David’s Buick,“Bob Saar with Patrick Hazell, John Lindsey, ‘Bucky Minnow’, and An Assortment Other Contributors (Music from the Novel - BlueSky /MovieMusic) This isn’t your father’s Buick…it’s David’s Buick, and no, it’s not a ‘blues’ album, per say. (Heaven forbid we should ever color outside of the traditional 'guidelines’ (don’t short-change yourself…). Bob Saar enlisted the help of some very dear friends and kindred spirits on this collection, and the result is an inspired and spirited assortment of folk balladry with a common soul. True Blue Track: Well, if ‘True Blue’also means honest and real, then the title cut of ”David’s Buick“ gets the brass ring! You can sample Bob Saar (and the usual suspects) online at Vibration Nation (via Audio Active’s MPEG-3 player), at www.vibrationnation.com.
True Blue Destinations on the Web…
Blues On Stage Web
The Blues Tribe on Vibration Nation
The Blue Highway
Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition
House of Blues
Central Iowa Blues Society
Don’t forget to stay in touch with us at True Blue, and let us know what blues artists you would like to see come to our neck of the woods. We’re always interested in hearing from you about your favorite blues artists, blues lore and any blue memories you might like to share with our readers. Drop us a line whenever you like at firstname.lastname@example.org, and we’ll keep your address on file for future contest drawings we might have for tickets, special events, etc. ”Snail-mail“ us at: TRUE BLUE, c/o Quad-Cities Online, 1720 - 5th Ave., Moline, Ill., 61265.
Until later, be good to yourself and others…
Blues to ‘ya!
HARMONICA SLIM - LIVIN’ THE BLUES
by Ellis Kell
If the Quad Cities has a ‘real-deal’ bluesman, Harmonica Slim (a.k.a. Eddie B. Hayward) is that bluesman. Born in Inverness, Mississippi on June 26, 1930, Slim was one of two brothers in a family of six children. Inverness borrowed it’s name from the city in Scotland, is one of the oldest towns in Sunflower County (it’s first settlers arrived in 1840), and it lies at the edge of the bayou country. Slim plowed fields with mules, picked cotton, and eventually drove a tractor - just as B. B. King and Muddy Waters (Slim’s personal blues favorite) did only a few years earlier. While Slim’s perception of the blues does include the common thread that you’ve ”got to live the blues to play the blues,“ his views do not include the notion shared by those traditionalists who believe that ”white musicians can’t play the blues.“ His admiration for his fellow bluesmen transcends race, creed, color and, even more notably, ego and competition have absolutely no place in the blues for Harmonica Slim.
Leaving Mississippi in his twenties, Slim traveled North to settle in Flint, Michigan, where he first began to develop his own blues harp stylings, also trying his hand at the guitar. While working at the General Motors Buick plant there for 5-6 years, he started performing with guitarist Doug Henderson. The two played as a duo at a club called ”The Beer Vault“ around 1954-55, according to Slim. The duo would eventually evolve into Slim’s first actual band, which was labeled ”The Rockin’ Rambles.“
”I don’t like to brag about what I do, but they do say I have my own style,“ Slim noted during our lunch interview at the Maid-Rite in Rock Island. (Slim had come directly to the restaurant from his ‘regular job’ as maintenance man at a local masonic lodge, and though he appeared a little weary, his eyes sparkled when he spoke of his travels as a bluesman and the musical friends he had made along the road. When I asked him who influenced his style of harmonica playing the most, Slim first offered a tip of his hat to the legendary Sonny Boy Williamson (a.k.a. Rice Miller). He then went on to acknowledge the great Little Walter Jacobs, with whom he became acquainted in Chicago.
By the end of the 1950’s Slim had moved on southwest to Kansas City, where he would perform (under the name of Eddie Hayward) with the late, great Albert Collins and also opened up shows for Bobby Bland. It was in Kansas City that Slim would also make his first recording with Odell Wright. One of Slim’s fondest blues memories goes back to his days in Kansas City, during a particularly ‘wild night’ at a club where he performed with pianist Willis McCoy and guitarist Andrew Douglas. ”There was fights breakin’ out, and this this one guy come up and dumped two full pitchers of beer on some man and his lady! The place was really jumpin’ that night!“ Slim laughed as recalled the club date.
It was in Chicago, in the early ‘60’s, that Slim would meet the man he admires to this day as his ideal of the consummate blues performer, Muddy Waters (McKinley Morganfield). ”I just love the way Muddy Waters played that guitar…his style with that slide…that’s the way I wish I could play guitar,“ Slim added with a big grin. In Chicago, he would also cross paths with other such notables as Willie Dixon, Junior Wells and, as Slim recalled with equal pride, even the ‘fab four’ from Liverpool, The Beatles. Slim also remembered the landmark Windy City blues venue Pepper’s Lounge, where he played harmonica with ‘Scotty and the Rib Tips,“ as well as dates he played on at Rosa’s, another notable Chi-town blues club.
In the mid ‘70’s Eddie Hayward moved to the Quad Cities area, where he became known throughout the local musical community as ‘Harmonica Slim’. He worked his ‘regular job’ for a few years at Sivyer Steel Company in Bettendorf, as well as other various jobs in the area. By the early ‘80’s he had begun performing with a variety of local musicians, just as the blues scene really started to take off in the Quad Cities with the founding of the Mississippi Valley Blues Society and the creation of its annual blues festival. He also proudly remembered when an earlier incarnation of his group, ‘Harmonica Slim & The Works’, traveled to Chicago to perform at the Heartland Café. That particular group also featured local blues guitarist and bandleader Gary ‘Bubba’ Gibson.
Harmonica Slim has toned down his stage antics a bit in the past few years, no longer dropping and rolling around on the floor while playing a hot blues harp solo. He has turned more than a few heads in the audience over the years, and no doubt some thought Slim had been overtaken by the spirit of his blues on a number of occasions. "It was all part of the show, you know…just tryin’ to get the people goin’," Slim admits, going on to add, "…but I had some problems with my knees, and just couldn’t do that stuff no more." Now he’s forced to rely on just his seasoned blues voice and raw blues harp talent - which is always more than enough from this very inspired bluesman.
Slim is very proud to have performed at three of the annual blues festivals here, and says he would love to play at another. He still pointed out, however, that it’s very difficult to make it on music alone in this area. ”I never have been able to give up my regular job to just do my music, ‘cause there just aint enough work around,“ he remarked, shaking his head. ”That’s why I try to get my guys to branch out, move out of the area a little bit.“ Slim and his Steady Rollin’ Blues Band just recently began performing on a semi-regular basis in Iowa City on Tuesday nights. The band features local blues veterans Joe Pena (guitar), John Pena(guitar) and Lyle Pena (drums) and Tom Norman (bass). The Steady Rollin’ Blues Band has also become a Thursday night tradition at Stubb’s Eddy in Bettendorf, where the group has been regularly featured for the last few years. He is very proud of his association with his fellow band members, and made special note of the Pena Brothers’ skills as blues players. He also credited bassman Tom Norman for not only his musical talent, but also for his efforts to book more performance dates outside of the Quad Cities for the group.
Harmonica Slim is very interested in doing some serious recording with his Steady Rollin’ Blues Band, and looks forward to getting something rolling in the near future. One of the Q. C.’s favorite blues harp players, Slim received the 1995 OIL Music Magazine ‘People’s Choice Award for Blues Harmonica’. He was also featured along with other Quad Cities musicians on the ‘Run, Run Rudolph’ track that eventually evolved into the full-length OIL Compilation CD, released later in 1995. While he is always very proud of the recognition he receives from fans and fellow musicians alike, playin’ the blues is neither a ‘contest to win’ nor an ego trip for Harmonica Slim. ”That aint what it’s about…and I just don’t get why some look at it that way,“ Slim remarked. He also then went on to offer his praise to other fellow musicians in the area, noting that ”we’re all just trying to do our own thing.“ Slim also made a point of
recognizing another Quad Cities’ blues harmonica man - Dennis ‘Shineboy’ Hancq, formerly of the Blues Hounds. "Now that boy can play blues harp…I really like what he does!"
"If you play the blues, just keep up the good work…don’t quit!" Slim offers to fellow blues players who might share his frustration with not being able to afford leaving their ‘day jobs’ behind, to devote all to the pursuit of blues music as a full-time occupation. "The blues is here," Slim adds, pointing to his heart, "That’s where it all comes from. You got to live the blues to play the blues." As Slim and I shook hands and went on our separate ways, I couldn’t help but think back to what the late blues giant Luther Allison once said: "Lose the ego…play the music…and love the people." You know, I think Harmonica Slim and ‘ol Luther would have hit it right off together.
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