A Letter from Bluestock ‘98

The International Blues Convention & Festival

By E. Wayne Young

My girlfriend Sharon Mills and I arrived in Memphis about noon and checked in at the Radisson Hotel. We went directly to the Trade Show and Heritage Exhibit Hall, where we signed in, got our passes, schedules and a bag of goodies, (CDs, mags and schedules).

The workshops started at 2 p.m. We chose "How to Write That Hit," featuring Steve Cropper, Dan Penn, Mark Selby and Teeny Hodges. Mary Unobsky, the Executive Director of Bluestock, was the host and she introduced the program. Selby started out, talking about writing songs with Kenny Wayne Shepherd. Dan Penn told us about writing "Dark End of the Street" before playing a soulful version of it.

About that time Steve Cropper came in and regaled us with tales of co-writing with Otis Redding. The life of Otis inspired "Dock of the Bay." It seems Otis stayed on Bill Graham's boat while he was performing at Fillmore West and watched the ferries crossing the Bay. Steve filled in rest of the story. What a hit!

I didn't know that Steve also wrote "In the Midnight Hour," "Knock on Wood" and a whole bunch of other R & B hits. Terry Hodge came up and told about "Love & Happiness" (the Al Green hit). Then they jammed on his hit "Take me to the River."

After the workshop I realized I wasn't feeling well, so we went back to the room for a nap, so we would be ready for the evening's festivities.

At 5:30 we were at the Hard Rock Cafe for the Beale Street Walk of Fame dedication ceremony and Bluestock VIP opening reception. The Honorees were "Little Milton" Campbell; Steve Cropper; Sam Phillips of Sun Records and Jerry Wexler, co-founder of Atlantic Records. The Cafe was really crowded, so it was hard to tell what was being said, but everybody was having a good time anyway.

After diner, we went to B. B. Kings Blues Club where Nick Sterling was on stage with a hot 7-piece band. In the middle of his set, he brought out Steve Cropper and the Memphis Horns for an extended jam on a bunch of Steve's hits and other Memphis songs. It was a great show.

We had front row seats in the balcony and we could see everything that was going on, so we thought we would stay and see Mark Selby. Selby's trio was excellent, covering everything from blues to rock to jazz. It was particularly interesting to hear his versions of the Kenny Wayne Shepherd hits "Deja Voodoo" and "Blue on Black."

After Mark finished his show, it was back to the hotel for more rest, as there was another full day of the blues ahead.

At noon the next day, we made it to the "Taking Care of Business" workshop with Hugh Southard of Piedmont Talent; Holly Bullamore of Bullamore Management; Ken Shepherd from Ken Shepherd Management; Vince Jordan, Blue Cafe, Long Beach, CA; artist Otis Clay; Mark Selby and Paul Sacksman, Musician Resource Group. They covered the basics of being a pro, laid out this way:

A- Prebooking - 1)Promo 2)Rider 3)Travel 4)Money

B. Advancing the Show - 1)Directions 2)Load in & sound check times 3)Meals 4)Rooms 5) Equipment

C. Day of Show: - 1) be on time! 2) Sound Man etc. etc.

It was quite informative to see the business from their point of view.

At that point I joined "The Producers of Blues, Soul and R & B Today" which featured Dennis Walker, Allen Toussaint, Danny Jones and Bobby Manuel. These guys were discussing "Old Blues" versus "New Blues" and what made the blues real. The consensus was that it was the emotion presented in the song.

Toussaint said it isn't real blues unless you sweated. Amen!

At 3 p.m., it was the Musicians Resource Group workshop introducing the Musician's Atlas (The Guide to Everybody in the Music Industry), featuring Paul Sacksman and Martin Folkman. I had bought the book earlier and I wanted to learn how best to use it. When I got there, it was a surprise to find I was the only person to show up, so I got a private lesson from Paul and Martin! They are great guys. They used to own Musician magazine and sold it. This was their new venture.

I wanted to each a little bit of the "Getting the Word Out" workshop, where Leland Rucker, Blues Access, Steve Burton of Rounder Records, Joan Myers Myers Media, Martin Folkman and the only other person from the Louisville area, Beverly Howell, of Howell Productions were discussing publicity and promoting in a global way!

By now, I was workshopped out, so it was time to prepare for the evening Showcases. Phew.

There were 13 clubs, each with their own line-up of talent, so you had to chose your schedule very carefully. At 9, we were at Black Diamond to see Wayne Baker Brooks, the son of Lonnie Brooks. He was really good, but I also wanted to see Otis Clay with James Govan at Rum Boogie Cafe. They were jamming that old soul music and we enjoyed their set. Next up was Anthony Gomes, the best unsigned Blues band by Buddy Guy's Legends Blues Club. Anthony was very produced with lots of effects for the audience.

From Rum Boogie, we went to B. B. King's Blues Club to see Leon Russell with Louisville's Jack Wessel on bass. Leon and his band were real good, but we had seen their show a couple of weeks earlier in Louisville, so we headed back to the Black Diamond. Sean Chambers was on stage. He's 30 years old and heavy into Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Ray Vaughan. At the end of his set, Hubert Sumlin, who used to play with Howlin' Wolf, stepped on stage and proceeded to show everyone where the blues came from. When Chambers and band joined in it, was a great display of "Old Blues meets the New Blues." They were great together.

Well, by now we were both having way too much fun. It was been a great trip, lots of nice people and a world of great music.

Long Live the Blues!