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It has been the year of the Stones, as those bad boys of rock & roll returned to the world’s concert stages with yet another mega-tour. Kicking the North American tour off in October in Chicago, many stories have cited the early influence of the blues on the Rolling Stones, their early recording session at Chess Records and the Glimmer Twins’ (Mick & Keith) initial meeting through shared affinity for American blues records. After all, the group took their name from the Muddy Water’s classic ”Like a Rolling Stone,“ didn’t they? They must be blues, then…right? For some critics, the link is weaker than it is for others. For some very ‘legitimate bluesmen,’ the link couldn’t be stronger…
While you’d be hard pressed to find any blues standards on the set list for the ”Bridges to Babylon“ tour, the new album itself does show a few strands of blue weaved into the signature Stones rock formula. ”Anybody Seen My Baby,“ the first cut to make it to the radio waves has a blue funk (ala ”Miss You“), ”Saint of Me“ sports blue shades reminiscient of some old Allman Brothers kickers and ”Might As Well Get Juiced“ should and could have been done by Hound Dog Taylor and the Houserockers. ”Always Suffering“ is a pure country blues ballad, though that brand of ‘country blues’ often brings a frown to the faces of the staunch traditionalists. Oh well, I guess you can please some people some of the time… you know the drill. The point is the Stones have always infected their brand of rock & roll with a tip of the hat to the blues. Some pretty respectable blues names have come to the Stones’ defense, no less than the Chicago blues bossman himself, the legendary Muddy Waters, who was quoted as saying, ”I will tell you one thing about those Rolling Stones and Beatles over there. They woke up our white kids over here. They got them listening to the blues.“
House of Blues Music Company recently also put a different spin on the Stones/Blues correlation, with their 1997 release of ”Paint It Blue,“ a compilation of Stones’ classics performed by true bluesmen. The result is a fresh turnaround on such Rolling Stone’s signature tunes as ”You Can’t Always Get What You Want“ (as peformed by Luther Allison), ”Tumblin’ Dice“ (as peformed by Johnny Copeland), ”Honky Tonk Woman“ (transformed into a delta moan by Taj Mahal) and ”Wild Horses“ (a soulful blues ballad from Otis Clay). Junior Wells also serves up a gritty funk and groove on his version of ”I Can’t Get No Satisfaction.“ Testimonials from Luther Allison, Junior Wells, Gatemouth Brown, The Holmes Brothers, Joe Louis Walker and the other featured artists make up the gist of the liner notes on ”Paint It Blue.“ Each bluesman traced his own blue thread through the Stones’ musical stylings, and all were more than happy to return the favors, and the inspirations. (Special note: the tracks recorded for ”Paint It Blue“ by Luther Allison and Johnny Copeland were the last tracks those two stellar bluesmen would ever record - both artists passed away before the collection was released).
Even the ‘King of the Blues’ himself included the bad boys on his newest outing ”Deuces Wild,“ a collection of duos B. B. King performs with a variety of contemporary artists. The Rolling Stones are featured on King’s signature ”Paying the Cost to Be the Boss;“ however, even though Mick Jagger’s characteristic all-over-the-road vocal stylings (and harmonica) are right there, you’ve got to listen close to pick out Keith Richards’ and Ronnie Woods guitar work. Drummer Charlie Watts and bassist Darryll Jones are locked up as tight as ever, laying down the bedrock for the track. Our verdict: true blue roots cling to these Rolling Stones, no matter how far away from the basics they have rolled over the years.
Speakin’ of the ‘King of the Blues’…
It’s one more time for ”The King of the Blues!“ If you weren’t in the audience for B. B. King’s stellar concert at the Adler Theatre on November 14th, you missed what was quite possibly the blues master’s finest Quad Cities’ performance ever. A thinned-down, pumped-up B. B. King poured out one classic blues number after another like fine wine. From ”Let the Good Times Roll“ to ”Stormy Monday,“ The King served up his signature blues with a renewed vigor and spirit. Long live the King of the Blues! (see more on ”Deuces Wild“ in new releases.)
True Blue New Releases…
True Blue Lights in the Distance…
- ”Time Will Tell“ - Studebaker John & The Hawks (Blind Pig Records) Molten blues with the finesse that has characterized each of Studebaker John Grimaldi’s previous three releases from the ”Pig Pen.“ Equally effective on blues harp and slide guitar, Studebaker John always delivers - taking the best from the Chicago masters who influenced him to a new level. The root is the authentic Chicago blues sound, but the end result is always and undeniably pure Studebaker John. True Blue Track: ”Here No More“ Great hoogly-moogly!
- ”Just Let Go“ - Coco Montoya (Blind Pig Records) Coco Montoya really comes into his own on this one, locking in his vocal powers with his long-standing presence as a mean blues guitarist. Montoya’s previous two releases for Blind Pig (”Gotta Mind to Travel“ in ’95 and ”Ya Think I’d Know Better“ in ’96) while strong, were only precursors to this blistering collection. Jim Gaines (of SRV fame) produces this smokin’ disk. True Blue Track: ”Do What You Want to Do“ (Coco, your ‘ol boss ‘The Iceman’ must have been smilin’ when you cut this track!)
- ”Deuces Wild“ - B. B. King (MCA Records) This collection of duets does not follow suit with the typical icon-pairs-with-anybody-and-everybody formula, rather it offers a good variety of stylings and unique match-ups between the ‘King of the Blues’ and notables as Van Morrison, Tracy Chapman, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Dr. John, The Rolling Stones, Joe Cocker, Willie Nelson and Heavy D. True Blue Track(s): It’s a match with ”Dangerous Mood“ featuring Joe Cocker, and ”Night Life“ with ‘The King’ joining Willie Nelson on his classic blue ballad.
Southside Denny cruises into The Club at the Blackhawk Hotel on Fri., Dec. 3rd for one show only at 8:30 p.m. The South Bend, Indiana guitarslinger has been knockin’ ‘em out on the Midwestern club scene for almost twenty years now, and has opened shows for Ray Charles, Lonnie Mack, and is a regularly featured act at Buddy Guy’s Legend. Performing classics by Muddy Waters, Freddy and Albert King and Otis Rush, there’s never a dull moment when Southside Denny finally hits town! The action continues on through the month at The Club, with the Neons (formerly Ghost Riders) scheduled for Dec. 12, Jimmie Adams & Three Plus One on Dec. 19 ,with The Gary Gibson Band rounding out the month on Dec. 26th.
True Blue to Come… ”The World Don’t Owe Me Nothing“ tells the classic tale of classic delta bluesman David ‘Honeyboy’ Edwards, from his childhood in Mississippi and his role in early blues history, on to Memphis and finally to Chicago where he still performs (and resides) today. Accompanying our review of this very significant blues chronicle, we’ll give a listen to the real thing via ‘Honeyboy’s’ newest recording, ”Crawling Kingsnake,“ from Testament Records and the folks at HMG/Hightone. We apologize that time and space did not allow us to cover Junior Kimbrough's newest stomper "Do the Rump" in this installment, but we do promise to make that right in the next run! We’ll also give a spin to new tracks from Bobby Radcliff, Anson Funderburgh & Sam Myers, Clara McDaniel and we’ll take a peak at a very special new CD from Iowa’s own Bob Saar.
True Blue Destinations on the Web…
The Blues Tribe on Vibration Nation
The Blue Highway
Maxwell Street Historic Preservation Coalition
House of Blues
Mississippi Valley Blues Society
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 email@example.com, 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!
LOOK WHAT JUST 'BLUE' IN...
Rock 'n boogie piano icon LEON RUSSELL, accompanied by his 3-pc. band, visits the Val Air Ballroom in West Des Moines on Friday, December 12th, for one show only. Show starts at 8 p.m., and features them funky Iowa blues boys Charlie Morgan & the Graveyard Blues Band. Tickets are $19.50 in advance at all Ticketmaster outlets, day of show at the door, with reserved and general admission seating available. Thanks to the folks at Music Circuit Presentations for bringing 'ol Leon back to town!
HAVE A BLUE NEW YEAR IN THE Q.C.
Rock Island Brewing Company presents a fine card for your New Year's enjoyment, featuring Studebaker John (new album reviewed in this month's column), along with 'ol blues buddy Ernie Peniston and Burnt McMelba Toast. Cover is TBA at this time, but it'll definitely be worth it! On the other side of the pond, we'll be gatherin' around the egg nog and Mardi Gras goodies at the Radisson Q. C. Plaza's annual New Year's Bash.
Yours truly and the gang will be ringing out the old and ringing in the new, and the New Orleans-style bash at the Radisson is always a real blow-out! Room and party only packages available by calling (319) 322-2200. Tell 'em where 'ya heard about it... and maybe they'll let our band stay inside during the breaks this year. (It gets awful cold out there in the parking garage...)
The President Riverboat Casino will feature good rockin' in the Guest Services Center from the Neons, 8 - Midnight, and the Club Sportsbar & Grille (Blackhawk Hotel) will feature the real deal blues and jazz of Eddie Hodge & Jazz Express, from 8:30 p.m.'til 12:30 a.m.
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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