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TRUE BLUE from Ellis Kell
True Blue Salute to
The Quad Cities own ambassador of the blues, Michael "Hawkeye" Herman knows a thing or two about true blue spirit, and the Blues Foundation in Memphis recently recognized him for it by designating him as the recipient of the 1998 "Keeping the Blues Alive" Award for achievement in education. The award will be presented to Hawkeye, a professional musician for over thirty years, at the KBA Awards Banquet on Friday, May 1st in Memphis, Tennessee. The KBA awards are a part of the W. C. Handy Awards, which are the equivalent of ‘Academy Awards’ to the Blues music world. Hawkeye has, for many years, reached out to a diverse spectrum of students on all levels through his "Blues in the Schools" program, his work with various Blues societies, and his educational workshops at Blues and folk festivals across the country. Hawkeye summarizes his devotion to the true blue mission in this recent statement:
"My mission is to let young folks know that the blues is an important aspect of American music history, influencing other styles of music in the past, right up to the present. Blues is the real deal, the story of the human experience, and that will always hold a place in the hearts and minds of the people. I’m trying to ensure, through my educational programs and workshops, that future generations are aware of their own rich musical heritage. The personal satisfaction of doing what I love, combined with reaching out to people, are wonderful rewards in themselves. I am most honored, grateful, and encouraged to be recognized for my efforts by the Blues Foundation."
True Blue and the entire musical community in the Mississippi Valley is very proud of our ‘native son,’ Michael "Hawkeye" Herman, and the manner in which he has carried the message and mission of the Blues across this great land. We salute you as a true Blues ambassador, congratulate you on a well-deserved award for a job well-done, and we all wish you continued success and blue skies in the future. Hawkeye, I know ‘Cool Papa’ is smiling down from Heaven, and just bursting with pride.
True Blue Images in ‘Life’:
This month’s edition of Life magazine includes some excellent photos and quotes from some very notable Blues people, including Honeyboy Edwards, Ruth Brown, James Cotton, Howard Stovall, Frank Frost, Sam Carr, John Lee Hooker, Koko Taylor, Keb Mo and Jonny Lang. It’s worth the price of the issue for the Blues veteran or novice, and expresses the spirit of the Blues very well through heartfelt words and true blue images. The most memorable quote from the feature, at least for this Blues spirit, is from singer and harmonica player Willie Cobbs: "When I play the Blues, I feel the same way I feel when I’m in church. I get happy. I get tears in my eyes, and I can’t stop them from coming. I walk the stage and feel like I’m close to God." Yea, brother Cobbs!…you been readin’ my mail.
American folk music icon Pete Seeger also comments in the feature that "others have tried to learn the blues, finding how a voice can hold a conversation with a guitar. Are they ‘authentic’? Of course, not. All one can be is authentically oneself." I’ve got to admit that this observation by the honorable Mr. Seeger just about sums up my own response towards the self-appointed ‘keepers of the Blues gates’, who have determined that they, and only they, are the ones who hold the true secret of the Blues. Most typically, they deny some of the most innovative and expressive, true blue newcomers such as Jonny Lang and Kenny Wayne Shepherd their rightful place in the world of contemporary Blues. I remember an article from back sometime ago, where one of the original British Blues session players said something like "Howlin’ Wolf didn’t like his first electric guitar too much, either, but he got used to it…"
So how does this all relate to the price of eggs and butter? The recent reviews of "Blues Brothers 2000" were less than favorable. I would have to say now that I myself was disappointed in the sequel, but I found some saving grace in the soundtrack. Perhaps it was one of those sequels that simply should never have been made. There is one point that I don’t agree with, though, and that comes from those who discredit the contribution that the original Blues Brothers (and it’s creators, Aykroyd & Belushi) made towards bringing the Blues into the fold of mainstream music, and therefore doing much to help assure it’s survival. I do believe that Aykroyd and Belushi not only respected, but revered and honored the Blues when they created the original Saturday Night Live skit back in the 1970’s. I don’t think, for a moment, that they ever considered themselves serious representative performers of the Blues. Yet I believe they fully intended, through their comic parody of two orphaned ‘white boys playin’ the blues’ in Chicago, to help promote the music that already resided in their hearts and souls as true blue fans of the music. Dan Aykroyd continues ‘the mission’ today, through his nationally-syndicated "House of Blues Radio Hour," and as part owner of House of Blues Entertainment, Inc. While I’ll expect to hear back from the critics that this sounds like a commercial for Elwood, I do know that the man does what he does out of sincere love and appreciation for the Blues. I think Jake did, too, and that’s God-a-plenty for me.
One last reference to the Life feature comes from someone also connected (and then disconnected) from the recent "Blues Brothers 2000" sequel, James Belushi. Originally slated to assume his late brother John’s position as Elwood’s partner, James Belushi was not allowed to appear in the sequel due to conflicts between studio schedules. The actor was heartbroken to say the least, and had worked hard for several years to prepare for the role. For a time virtually everyone was unhappy, including Akyroyd, who at one point considered pulling out of the picture. Some may say that might have been for the best, considering the less than favorable reviews. However, Jim Belushi didn’t throw in the towel, but continues to tour with his own blues band, "The Sacred Hearts," and still makes regular appearances at the various House of Blues venues where he ‘honed the act’ with brother Elwood. Though I doubt James Belushi considers himself anywhere near a legitimate-authentic-blues-tradition as a performer, he does carry the true blue spirit in his heart. In the Life feature, Belushi comments: "Blues has become the cornerstone of my life. The rawness of the beat and sound, the emotion, all speak to a part of me.
The blues push me out of my head. They form my Blue Soul." We all know Jake would be proud of ‘ya.
(Special thanks this month from True Blue to Sherry Teggatz for the ‘Life’ feature article.)
New True Blue Selections:
True Blue Destinations on the Web:
True Blues on the Horizon:
- "Live & Uppity," Saffire - The Uppity Blues Women (Alligator Records) This is those uppity ladies at their finest - LIVE! We had the distinct pleasure of working a show at RIBCO a few years back with these ladies, and this collection took me back to the pure, sweet live sounds of that night. Saffire serves it up pipin’ hot with uppity favorites like "Cold Pizza & Warm Beer," "One Good Man," "Dump That Chump," and "Middle Aged Blues Boogie." These girls don’t hold a thing back and this CD puts you right there in the audience at The Barns of Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia, where the collection was recorded in October of 1997. True Blue Track: "1-800-799-7233"… the ladies put it all on the line in this ‘public service number,’ for the abused who could benefit by calling the the National Domestic Violence Hotline number. Bravo, ladies!
- "The Road," Mike Morgan & The Crawl, Featuring Lee McBee (Black Top Records) Favorites from a recent Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, these gentlemen came oh so close to making it back to the Quad Cities this year. It would have no doubt been another super-energized show, for that is the signature of this houserockin’ ensemble. The numbers roll out hot and smooth as a Texas 2-lane blacktop, with Mike Morgan’s fiery guitar work and Lee McBee’s soulful vocals and master blues harp stylings. True Blue Track: "Born to Boogie,"…and these ol’ boys sho’ nuff are! Top shelf roadway and roadhouse boogie ‘n blues.
- "Pilgrim," Eric Clapton (Reprise Records) This one is taking Clapton fans by surprise across the board, to say the least. While I would agree with most of the sentiments concerning the programmed percussion sounds and notably understated guitar presence, I think ‘Slowhand’ has crawled deep inside his own soul and story-so-far, to a new spiritual calm and serenity. I’ve heard say that the Irish literary trait of "Black Humour" finds that the best laughter, the wicked laughter, is born out of hard times and bad luck. The British guitar legend has, no doubt, seen things from the top, bottom and all sides of life’s trial and tribulations. With recent rumors that this may in fact be Clapton’s last tour, it could also be the last recording effort for some time. Is "Pilgrim" Clapton’s greatest blues album? Nope. But it could very well be the most intimate glimpse the public will ever have of Clapton’s naked soul. 2 True Blue Tracks: "River of Tears" and "You Were There"…it’s like I’ve said before, no Clapton isn’t God, but he sure seems to know Him pretty well.
The Iowa Blues Challenge kicks off on Friday, April 3 at O’Meara’s Pub in Bettendorf, continues on Friday, April 17 at Shorty’s in Davenport, and the winners of the two preliminary rounds compete on Friday,April 24th at RIBCO, in Rock Island. There they’ll also come up against the Iowa Blues Challenge preliminary winner from Iowa City. The winner of the bout at RIBCO will perform at this year’s Mississippi Valley Blues Festival, and will also then move on to the state competition. Local contenders this year include Pappy ‘n What’s Cookin’, Bluescaster, Shane Johnson’s Blue Train, Ernie Peniston, Blue Fins, and Mississippi Voodoo. This leg of the Iowa competition is presented by the Central Iowa Blues Society, hosted by the Mississippi Valley Blues Society, and co-sponsored by Budweiser, 97X, River Cities Sound & Lights, O’Meara’s Pub, Shorty’s Bar and Grille and RIBCO.
Delta blues master John Hammond visits the Iowa City Maintenance Shop on Thursday, April 2. Sultry mistress of the oasis Maria Muldaur plays the Blue Shop in Burlington on Thursday, April 2. The annual Black Hawk College Jazz Festival fires up on Monday and Tuesday, April 6 & 7. Mojo Risin fills the ‘Blues Spotlight’ at the O’Meara’s Pub in Bettendorf on Thursday, April 23. The Annual Spring Pub Crawl in Downtown Davenport is slated for Thursday, April 23, 4 - 11 p.m., with twelve live acts appearing in twelve bars and clubs. John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, The Tinsley Ellis Band and Smokin’ Joe Kubeck with B’Nois King roll into Super Toad in Des Moines on Friday, May 8.
Further On Up the Road:
The great Chicago Blues Festival (15th Annual) is just around the corner June 4th - June 7th, and our own internationally-renowned Mississippi Valley Blues Festival (14th Annual) brings the Blues back to the levee in Davenport on July 2nd, 3rd and 4th. True Blue salutes the many volunteers who donate their time and energy all year long to prepare for these mega-blues events. Your dedicated efforts have contributed so much to the preservation of the Blues, ensuring the survival of the true blue American musical form into the new millennium. So, until we meet again at this crossroads…
Blues to ‘ya!
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