[Publishers] Jean and Paul asked me if I would do a regular column on the blues. At this point, I'm not sure what form these articles will take, for they left that up to me. It appears my ramblings will cover a variety of subjects, hence the name.
Let's start off with a review of an excellent recently released CD on the Blind Pig label. I've heard Andrew B.B. Odom sing at several Chicago Blues Festivals and his emotionally charged voice always got me and the crowds going. He just got up and sang his heart out. Like Bobby Bland, Jimmy Witherspoon, Big Joe turner and Jesse Fortune (?), his sole instrument was his voice. His vocal range and diction were not the greatest, but he more than made up for it with the gospel feeling he had straight from his soul. The title cut, "Goin' to California," is a beautiful rendition of Albert King's classic slow blues song with Steve Freund' s lead guitar providing sensitive solos and backing around Andrew's voice. Throughout the whole disc, Steve's guitar work is outstanding. And if you want to hear more of that, check out his own record Romance Without Finance on the Red Beans label. Andrew does a nice mix of up-tempo blues like "Bad Feelin', "Come to Me" and "Feel So Good" and slower mournful blues like "Why Did You Leave Me" and "Don't Ever Leave Me All Alone."
Andrew had been performing on the Chicago blues scene for many years with just a few records out under his own name on Bluesway, Wasp and some foreign labels. It is sad that he did not live to get the recognition from this release; a year ago he died of a heart attack while driving from Buddy Guy's Legends to the Checkerboard Lounge.
Speaking of Chicago, the Chicago Blues Festival will be celebrating its 10th year next summer. The dates will be May 28, 29 and 30, which moves the Festival up to the Memorial Day weekend. You can see the Sunday-evening show and not have to go back to work the next day. At this time, the musicians slated to perform are sketchy. There will be a tribute to Big Bill Broonzy who was born 100 years ago in Scott, Miss. Another blues legend, Jimmy Walker, will be honored on his 88th birthday. Jimmy has been playing his brand of rocking blues in Chicago since the 1920s.
On Friday evening Delmark Records will be honored. This Chicago-based label was founded 40 years ago and is still managed by Bob Koester. The achievements of Delmark are numerous. Bob Koester first recorded Sleepy John Estes and promoted him at concerts after he was "rediscovered" in 1961. Where would we be without those great recordings of Magic Sam on Delmark. Magic Sam's West Side Soul is on every blues lover's desert island list. The Jazz Record Mart on 11 West Grand was the home for Delmark, but now the label has a new location at 4121 N. Rockwell called Delmark House, with a state-of-the-art recording facility called Riverside Studio. Many of Delmark's recording artists will be featured that evening, including Junior Wells, Willie Kent, Big Time Sarah and Dave Specter.
Speaking of Dave Specter, the Riverside Studio will be recording him and the Bluebirds, featuring the little-known vocalist Jesse Fortune. This release should be a treat. I first heard Jesse on an obscure anthology of Chicago blues from the '60s. Then there he was performing on the crossroads stage at last year's Chicago Blues Festival. If you liked Robert Cray's version of "Too Many Cooks,"Jesse's version is even better. Jesse's vocal style is unique for he is a shouter with distinctive gospel inflections.
Many blues greats that are buried in unmarked graves have recently been paid tribute with a head stone. The KYANA Blues Society did this last April at the grave site of the pioneering blues guitarist Sylvester Weaver, in the Louisville Cemetery. Blues Time Productions in Indianapolis is starting a fundraising drive to place a memorial headstone at the grave site of the sophisticated blues pianist Leroy Carr. Carr moved from Tennessee to Indianapolis in the mid-'20s and teamed up with the guitarist Scrapper Blackwell to tour and record throughout the Midwest. Carr was only 30 years old when he died in 1935. On December 10 Elmore James finally got his due. Capricorn Records, Warner Brothers Records and BMI have jointly announced the dedication of a three-foot monument that features a bronze relief of Elmore created by Dr. Sam Barnes. Elmore tragically died of a heart attack at the home of his cousin, Homesick James, in 1968 when he was 45 years old. The memorial marker is located at the New Port Cemetery near Ebenezer, Miss. Incidentally, Elmore James, along with Bobby Blue Bland, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in '92. As Brownie McGee says, "The blues had a baby and they called it rock and roll."
Blues societies are emerging all over the country. Each one has its own newsletter and, if they are established, their own blues festival. In our region, besides the KYANA Blues Society, there are other organizations in Indianapolis, Columbus (Ohio), Nashville, St. Louis and, most recently, Cincinnati. The Greater Cincinnati Blues Society was founded in November 1990 and is "dedicated to the preservation and perpetuation of the blues in the tri-state area." In addition to their newsletter The Blues Record, they publish a monthly calendar called "Blues Update." This flier lists a variety of clubs in their area like Allyn's Cafe, Burbank's Real Barbecue (at two locations), Coco's, Cory 's, Local 1207 Bar and Mansion Hill tavem where the Society meets the first Sunday of each month at 5 p.m., followed by a blues Jam.
Looking ahead to 1993, Vanguard films will be producing a three-part series for public television called the "History of the Blues." The three segments will first feature blues in the Mississippi Delta, followed by the rise of urban blues as blacks immigrated to the northern cities. The concluding program will be an all-star concert produced by Chicago public television station WTTW.
I'm about all rambled out, so here's to a happy holiday season and a bluesy '93.