Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Mavis should be one of your musical staples

Mavis Staples
You Are Not Alone
(Anti-, 2010)
by Steve “Fly” Klein

Chicagoan Mavis Staples started singing as a teenager with her family’s group, The Staple Singers in 1950. After success with the group, she began a solo career in the 1980s. Her father was the legendary Roebuck “Pops” Staples who was born in Mississippi in 1914 and played with such legends as Charley Patton, Robert Johnson, and Son House.

While Mavis Staples and her latest touring band have been performing regularly for 3 years, this is their first studio album together. The band breathes with Staples’ performance and producer, Jeff Tweedy (of the band Wilco) is wise enough to understand that relationship. Mavis' voice is mixed up front and center on this CD.

The musicians are Rick Holmstrom (or “Pops Jr.” as Staples has called him, guitar and vocals), Jeff Turmes (bass and vocals), Stephen Hodges (drums) and Donny Gerrard (background vocals.) Additional background vocals are by Kelly Hogan and Nora O’Connor (frequent Neko Case collaborators) and Richard Parenti. Tweedy and members of Wilco make appearances on some cuts.

The first number sets the tone with Pops Staples’ "Don't Knock." Holmstrom has the chops and the tremolo drenched sound of Pops, yet he expands that style and drives this gospel song into one of the best on the CD. Mavis’ smooth vocal is punchy and gravelly at the right times and glides over the accompaniment with power and grace.

“You Are Not Alone” is the first of two songs written by Tweedy on the album. It features additional instruments by Tweedy on acoustic guitar and Wilco members, Patrick Sansone, keys and vibes, and Mark Greenberg on celeste. This song serves as a good contrast to the first, as it presents a contemporary vibe with its pop hook.

The traditional “Creep Along Moses” is a Tweedy-arranged gospel classic that features warm harmonies and Holmstrom's weaponized guitar lead. Another standout is “Wonderful Savior” done a ccapella. Surprisingly the lead vocal was recorded by Staples in the unheated stairwell at Wilco’s Loft Studio in cap, gloves, and coat during the middle of December.

Closing out is “Too Close”/”On My Way To Heaven.” Gerrard does a powerful job singing “Too Close” while Staples is raw, raise-the-roof preachin’ on “On My Way To Heaven.” Holmstrom lays down some impressive, twangy riffs that feel as if John Lee Hooker is testifying alongside the vocalists.

Staples adds her special touch to covers by Little Milton (“We’re Gonna Make It”), Reverend Gary Davis (“I Belong To The Band”), Allen Toussaint (“Last Train”), John Fogerty (“Wrote A Song For Everyone”) and Randy Newman (“Losing You”).

On You Are Not Alone Mavis Staples is sounding better than ever. Of the many collaborators Staples has worked with over the years, Jeff Tweedy's role as producer has proven to be the catalyst in creating one of her best solo albums to date.

Originally published in Chicago Blues Guide,

Staples performing at Lollapalooza, Grant Park, Chicago, August 6, 2010

Thursday, November 11, 2010

DANNY BARON "Rocking Blues Man'

Danny Baron hails from the south-side of Chicago and now resides in a far north-west Chicago suburb.  He is self taught guitarist, songwriter and vocalist that has toured and or worked with some top name national and regional talent. Top name talent you ask? How about Brian Wilson, yes that Brian of the "Beach Boys". He did one tour with Mr. Wilson. He also played and recorded with Chicago radio hosts Steve Dahl, Donny Bonaduce and Kevin Matthews.

In my capacity as a pseudo journalist and a die hard to my grave blues fan, I see and hear a lot of blues rockers. I can honestly say Danny is one of the best. He has it all, song writing, vocals, stage presence and oh, by the way this guy can play a guitar. I mean really play a guitar. He can go toe to toe with Joe B., Eric C, Jimi and dare I say it,,,,,,the "Guitar God Stevie Ray" Amen brother and hallelujah be his name. (No disrespect)  

I first heard/saw Danny perform at an Electro Glide Records showcase. Within that first millisecond of sound, he exploded. I was riveted to his pure emotional filled performance. Some of the pickers get it and some don't; If you can't feel the music why do it? 
Danny feels it, uses it, chews it up and spits it out. His song "Jealously"on his self produced CD "Danny and The Devils" is exactly what I am referring to. It's like he is in a trance and all those great guitarists before him are manipulating his fingers. Almost ZEN Like.

There are far too many talented musicians whom never get the recognition they deserve.  I refuse to let this talented man be one. There is nothing to stop him on his journey to the top. He has it, no doubt in my head. 
One special note;  Danny is a real straight shooter and all around great person. In other words he's not a jerk. 
Danny's CD

November 16, 2010 at 11:30 am to 2:00pm. Danny will be playing live in WEFT studios. "Daves Blues Show" That night he will be playing in Pekin , Illinois at "Goodfella's" for The River Blues Society.  Facebook him @ Danny Baron

Blues Me Or Lose Me,
Terry Lape Aka "Gatorman"

Sunday, November 7, 2010

80 Miles south of Chicago with Ana Popovic

80 Miles south of Chicago with Ana Popovic

I have been fortunate enough to see Ana Popovic perform in a small venue located in Bradley, Illinois. It was then and still is struggling to survive. The club contains two main bars, one in the front and one in the back. The back bar is where they have live music and that area seats about 75 people.

I first heard of Ana in Vintage Guitar magazine. My friend Ricky directed me to the article. Rocking Rick, as I call him, is a walking encyclopedia of musical trivia. Ricky served as “Question Mark and the Mysterions” road manager for three years (96 Tears). When Rick tells me about an artist I have a tendency to listen. The man knows what he’s talking about and I thank him for leading me to Ana.

I walked into that Bradley club and paid the $5 cover. You are reading that correctly 5 bucks. The stage was set with all the equipment and the blues were pounding through the sound system. The show was sponsored by a local blues organization called “The Friends of The Blues”. The only requirement for membership is to attend the gigs. Kind of a loose knit bunch of blues fanatics very weird, but fun. They book bands that are in between gigs. They offer the visiting groups food and lodging and some spending money.

Ana’s band opened up with a couple of numbers. They were quite good. Then it was Ana’s turn. You know how a picture sometimes does not capture the essence of its subject. I had seen her photo in Vintage guitar magazine, but was not prepared for the person. Ana is HOT!!!!!!!!!!

Every head in the club turned and every eye fixated on her pure beauty. She slowly walked from the back of the room towards the front like a Queen. She climbed the four steps that led up to the stage as if she was Queen Cleopatra and Queen for the night she was. Over her shoulder carried a royal scepter. It was her Fender Stratocaster. She carried that guitar like a mother carries a newborn child. She hooked it up counted 1,,2,,3,,4,, and she took us into a steamy den of iniquity. She caressed that strat with such pure innocent sexuality that half, no three quarters, of our jaws dropped. I overheard one woman tell her boyfriend that all the men in the place wanted to make love to her and some of the women too. At that point in time every mothers son was love smitten. Her love flowed through the crowd like fog rolls into a seaside town and we breathed deep, very deep. You know the old adage if you look up a certain word you will find a picture of someone next to it. Go ahead and look up the word sexuality Ana Popovic's picture is next to it. She handles a guitar like an exotic dancer handles a pole. I wish I could be her Stratocaster for just one gig.

Once you get past her unusual beauty and extreme sexuality, you find a very accomplished talented guitarist, vocalist and songwriter, a woman after my own heart. Her musicality is way beyond most current artists. In short she has SOUL and knows how to use it. Her playing comes from a much deeper place then few have ever been.

She was raised in war torn Serbia and lived there during the horrid years of the Milosovic regime (1990-1996). Milosovic was a tyrants’ tyrant. He was directly responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths. Can you imagine walking down the street to get basic necessities while snipers try to kill you? Crime was rampant and unemployment was at a record 80%. That is a form of the blues that few people have ever experienced.

Out of tragedy comes goodness and that goodness is Ana Popovic. She is a blues angel sent to us from a very special place and no one can deny her right to play the blues. Thank you Ana , thank you.

I have to admit I am in love with Ana and I would gladly string her guitar anytime, anywhere, any place.

Terrance “Gatorman” Lape
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

"Del Morroco II", just another Sunday evening In Chicago.

Del Morroco II Sunday in THE City of Chicago

Not actual DM II, but similar. 
During the years 1980-1982, I played at a club called Del Morocco II. it was every Sunday from 6pm until 12am The joint was actually located on the corner (crossroads) of Lake and Halsted in an industrial area of Chicago. Smilin Bobby was gracious enough to let me sit in, as long as I bought my P.A. speakers. Bob would bring his mixing board. I do not recall what it was. I also lugged along a Pioneer Reel to reel tape recorder and a stereo microphone. 

This one particular Sunday I took my wife, her work supervisor Bill, his two sisters and another friend. We met at a restaurant in Oak Park, grabbed a bite to eat, and off we went in two separate cars.

I arrived about 5 minutes before the others. I drove the Dan Ryan expressway north and exited at Lake Street. You had to go up a slight rise that traveled back over the Ryan. I stopped at a stoplight at the end of the exit ramp and gazed slowly over my left shoulder towards the club Del Morocco. I saw a bunch of flashing lights as if someone had been pulled over by Chicago's finest. (Police) I drove very slowly up to the club and parked. There were about 12 squad cars and emergency vehicles located in front and behind the DEL. The front door was at a right angle to that corner. On the sidewalk was an unmarked squad car. Its front lights shone on the front door.

I looked on the side of the building and there was Jeff's 1976 Caddy with all the doors, trunk and hood open. In the trunk was Jeff's brand new Slingerland Drum kit.

I parked, grabbed my guitar, my small amp and headed towards the front door. Standing there was a big burly patrolman.

In a very matter of fact voice he asked, “What the hell are you doing here”.

I just looked him square in the eyes and said the ultimate statement,

“I'm with the band’.

“Wait a minute partner. Stop right there”.

He looked inside and inquired, “Hey Charlie you want to come here”.

Charlie was from the homicide division and was a short little guy who was smoking a cigar; a stogy cigar and it reeked. I was now face to face staring at two officers of the law.

The patrolman asked Charlie, “What should we do with him?” whilst pointing at me with an outstretched thumb.

The detective said biting down on that cigar “

“Let him in he's the wrong color.”

The patrolman waved his arms, as a matador would taunt a bull with a bright red cape. I walked through the doorway and past the open door. Spread eagle, against the bar was every black man that had the misfortune of being in the club that night. There were about two dozen guys being frisked, At the end of the b

ar were the guys in the band, drummer Jeff, bass man Hicks, Sax man Bill and of course Smiling Bobby. They arrested Jeff and impounded his car, because he had some wacky tabacky. I believe the car was a1976 Caddy. I asked the detective if we could get the drums out of his trunk and he snapped back they stay they're evidence.

What caused the commotion was a murder just two doors down and in the back alley. It seems a fight broke out during a drug deal that went south. (bad) This one guy pulls a knife and stabs the drug dealer to death. The only lead the police had was that someone saw a black man exit the alley.

The cops knew about the bar because it was the only one around and they knew it was a predominantly black club. It was the first place they looked.

I looked at Bob and he was smiling like nothing happened.

I asked him, “Hey Bob. We still Playing?”

The band in unison shouted, “NO”.

I walked out the door just as the other car pulled up.

Bill with all sincerity stated the obvious, “Somebody Die?”

My wife got out of his car and jumped in mine and I replied back,

“Yes, as a matter of fact someone did.”

(The story above has been embellished for entertainment purposes only)
Terrance "Gatorman" Lape Copyright by Terrance B. Lape
ask me about free groceries 
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Billy Branch's Birthday party was last night. I'm posting two previous articles about the experience of attending Artis' lounge on a Monday night. All I can say is "BLUES ME OR LOSE ME" and last night I closed the place.


Billy Branch

It was a Monday night, and some people arrived dressed as if they were going to or coming from church. Anytime I spend in a “Blues Club” is figuratively my church. You see, my church is filled with music and laughter and happiness. There is a certain camaraderie amongst Blues people that transcends religion, race, economic status, or intellectual level. Anyone who goes to Artis’ for the music becomes part of a family, and after all isn’t that what church is - just one big happy family?

When in town on a Monday, “Billy Branch and The Sons Of The Blues Band” call Artis Lounge home, as do various Blues fans. On most Monday nights it is standing room only because on Monday nights Blues royalty hold court there.

I met Billy Branch and Rosa just as they were unloading their car trunk. Billy yelled over something about taking a minute to move his car because he was taking up two parking spots. We exchanged pleasantries and proceeded through the side door. As far as Blues clubs go, the place is not much. But, that does not matter! It is the people and the music, the drinks and the laughter that make Artis’ something special.

At first glance, it just seemed like any other corner bar with which Chicago prides itself. I found a seat located along the back wall and started to peel back the layers of the club. A floor to ceiling front window was decorated with engraved musical notes that seemed to dance with reflective neon lights. Outside this window, a Chicago Transit Authority bus squealed to a stop with a familiar whoosh sound of its air brakes. As the front and back doors swung wide open, out would pop another patron of the Blues.

 Red, blue, and green neon lights reflected off that front plate glass window which reminded me of yesteryear. These lights were located high above the bar and were situated smack dab in the center of the club. Bottles of soon to be consumed liquor glowed white from strategically placed lights under their very own glass shelf.  Recessed multi-colored bulbs hung high above, and their 200 watt shine illuminated those who were sitting at the bar. Above and to the side hung a sign that read, “You must have a drink sitting or standing.”

Ball caps, fedoras, berets, and newspaper boy hats started bopping when the first S.O.B. notes landed on anxious ears. Women started that “slow sway-rocking” from their chrome and black vinyl bar stools. Three piece suits mingled amongst the younger blue jean crowd. The Monday night “services” had begun.

Clarence and Artis have a very hip, a very cool, and a very Blue place. You can call it a lounge, a bar, a club, a tap room, or even a “church,” but I’m just going to call it my “Home Sweet Home, Away from Home.”

Artis Lounge is located at;
1249 East 87th Street
Chicago, Illinois

Artis Lounge and Billy Branch

I know I have written about this before and by now you may be sick of reading about it, but I’m going to write it over and over again.  Artis Lounge on a Monday night is the place to be in Chicago, period. Billy Branch without a doubt is the world’s best blues harmonica player performing today. He and his band, the Sons of Blues take the genre to a level that few performers will ever achieve.  

Billy jokes about the band being classically trained musicians and after that statement Dan, the guitar player, kicks that John Lee Hooker riff ala “Boom Boom” as the crowd leaps to its feet. Their version is pure nostalgia blues musicality. I for one could not contain myself. I am not much of a dancer and I do feel like a dork doing so, but I did not care. I think it is because age gives us an excuse to act stupid or is it youth.  I could never figure that one out and the older I become the less I care what people think.  I did it anyway.  No matter.  People did not pay attention to me because all eyes and ears were fixated on the north end of Artis’.

In attendance last night was Sharon Lewis. Sharon is a blues vocalist beyond compare. She and the SOB band dominated a version of “Ernestine” and it was superb. 

Also “In The House” was Eddie Shaw. Eddie is one of the few remaining members of the wolf pack. He was Howlin’ Wolf’s sax man. Eddie is old school and this author absolutely loves old school blues.  Eddie’s voice is as smooth as silk and brings one back to a different era, time and place.  He is truly a master of the blues and truly a real live connection to the golden era.

Ronnie Baker Brooks was there too.  I have seen Ronnie on many occasions and he, like Billy, is an ultimate showman. He played the song “Stuck on Stupid” and then broke into “Hand me down my Walking cane”.  If you have not seen Ronnie Baker Brooks you must. He is old school/new school and I pure joy to see and hear. He can blues you, then rock you and all within the framework of the three chord environment.  I have met a lot of people in the blues community and Ronnie is one of the greats and a true gentleman. I also might add that we had a very nice conversation about staying on the 1. You musicians know what I’m talking about. 

Electro Glide records recording artist Jimmy Warren was also there, but did not stay long enough to play as he had a very early recording session Tuesday morning.  His next performance will be September 11, 2020 at Governor State University.   This is an all star night of the blues which includes Ronnie’s dad, Lonnie Brooks.   

Paris (vocalist) was there and had just returned from an eight month tour with Melvin Taylor.  She did not get a chance to sing, but I hope she returns next Monday and does.

The legendary Twist Turner was in attendance. Twist is the blues go to guy if anyone needs an in the pocket solid drummer.  I tell you this man has played with all the greats. I do not have enough space here to list them all. The list of who he did not play with would be much easier to produce. It would be a very short list indeed. I might add that Twist is a  prolific songwriter that has  many a tune. Just go to youtube and put in his name and listen . 

Billy branch is one super entertainer and I might add one extraordinary gentleman. It is a pure privilege to be accepted into Blues Ville by all these great artists.  I am humbled by the artists that are in this great city of Chicago. Billy calls it the blues capital of the planet. I have to say he is correct.

Terry Lape AKA  “Gatorman”  
Artis Lounge is located at 1249 east 87th Street Chicago, Illinois

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Chris Beard and Electro Glide Records

Chris Beard @ Kingston Mines
Chris Beard is a well known artist in Rochester New York, but what is not widely known yet is his Chicago connection.  
Chris has released a new CD "Who am I and What I do" on what soon will become Chicago land's premier record Label "Electro Glide Records".  

Chris has penned three of the first six songs with his good friend Ronnie Baker Brooks. The title cut explains it all. Both Beard and Brooks grew up with famous blues fathers; Joe Beard and Lonnie Brooks.

Electro Glide Records has launched itself into the big leagues acquiring Chris into it's rapidly expanding stables. Lest I forget they recently signed  Duke Tomatoe also (more to come). They are on the move and will be a force to reckon with.

Mr. Beard is a fiery guitarist on stage and when off he is a true gentleman. I had the pleasure of spending time with Chris and his entourage at this past Blues Music Awards. He is a very easy man to talk to and I am happy to list him as a friend.

Jimmy the president of EGR recently contacted me about Chris' CD release party which will be in Rochester, New York August 26. It will be held @ Water Street Music hall. 

When Jimmy called and told me, I thought how am I going to tie this in with the Chicago Blues News scene. The connection hit me of Ronnie Baker Brooks and Chris beard's relationship.
 What I want to see is both Chris and Ronnie on the same bill, Hey wait we will see Lonnie Brooks and Chris together September 11 @ the "All Star Night Of Blues" show produced in conjunction with Electro Glide Records. Cool very, Cool
Of Course

Mike M, Ronnie Baker Brooks and Author

Monday, August 9, 2010

Dudes My Blues Dues Account is Paid in Full

For two years I chopped away on an Red Ibanez Roadster guitar. My amplifier was a Galien-Kruger 250 ML. It was quite a nice little amp that was rated at 100 watts. I think the thing weighed in at about 15 pounds. I mounted it on an old tripod that folded up. The whole rig was great for quick getaways. I could grab the guitar and amp and be out the door in about 60 seconds. It came in handy on a couple of occasions. The first was at a club on 53rd and Ashland in Chicago. I think the name of the joint was “People’s Choice”. I remember the incident very well.

The place was really a very nice middle of the block shotgun bar. We called it a shotgun bar, because if you fired a shotgun through the front door the buckshot would go out the back door. I could have used that shotgun, this one particular night.

It was late summer 1980. I was now playing off and on with Smiling Bobby on a regular basis. I would call Bob ahead of time to find out if it was safe to play at the club he was performing at. Back in the day there were areas of the city that I just could not go into. Today is very different and that’s for the better. Bob knew the good cubs and the bad ones. This particular night Bob told me it was a pretty cool club and he would make sure to save me a parking spot right in front of the front door. I was driving a 1979(?) Chevette.

That car was great. Good gas mileage and if I put the back of the back seat down I could fit my upright bass in it perfectly. When I arrived Bob and Kenny (Bass Player) were standing outside the front door. Kenny pulled his car forward and Bob drove his car backwards to open up a spot. I slipped in and parked. I retrieved my amp and guitar and walked into the club. Once again I was the only white person in the place. No matter, I was there to play the blues and nothing else. Anytime I could play the blues was time well spent.

Kenny, the bass player, had an Uncle who shall remain unnamed by me. This uncle was and still is a very famous comedian. Kenny had a tendency to drink too much and so did I. I cannot tell you how many times I drove home from gigs drunk. I really do not know how I got through that period in my life, but here I am. DO NOT drink and drive. The preceding has been a public service announcement.

The beers in the club were $2 each and Kenny had bought at the corner liquor store a six-pack for $3. I gave him$ 2 and he chipped in the rest. We sat in my car and started drinking that six-pack. We each had two beers. I noticed a shady looking character lurking about 200 feet away from the front of the car. He kept looking at us. Kenny said to pay no attention to him, because he looked like a local guy that was drunk. Kenny exited the car and went back into the club. I finished what was left of my second beer and exited also.

By that time, the shady guy was standing right next to my car. I thought nothing of it and walked towards the front door. The guy pulled out a 38 pistol and shouted up against the wall. I backed into the wall right on the side of the front door. My back was against the wall and my hands were up.

I said, “Man I’m just here to play the blues and I just spent my last two dollars on a six pack of beer. I’ll have some more money after the gig.”

He shoved the gun into my right lower ribcage and said, “I don’t want no money! I want to know whats you doing my neighborhood. This GD territory.”

I knew immediately that he was a member of one of the most notorious street gangs in Chicago namely Gangsters Disciples. When I realized who this guy was I started to think about what the hell they were going to put on my tombstone. Right then Bobby walked around the corner and saw what was going on.

He said, “Hey you leave my brother alone. He’s with the band.”

The guy yells back at him, “I don’t care who he’s with. He’s a dead man.”

When Smiling Bobby saw the gun he froze for half a second and then calmly walked into the club. I knew at that moment I was on my own. The guy intimidated and taunted me for a couple of more minutes. Those minutes seemed like hours.

Then, from about a block away, I guy yelled, “Hey Tyrone get over here, man.”

Tyrone turned to look at the guy and when he did he took the gun out of my ribs and pointed it towards the yeller. I took advantage and just rolled along the wall and into the club. I knew that the owner would not allow those guys in.

Jeff the drummer said, “Hey we gotta get you out of here”.

I replied, “How?”

The owner and ten guys walked towards me and then out the door. The owner, after a beat, came back in. He looked at me and told me to get my stuff and follow him. I grabbed my guitar and amp and towards the door we went. He stopped me at the front of the door, walked out and then motioned for me to get in the car and go. I stepped out the door to be met by ten guys who formed a line from the door of the club to the door of my car. Five men on a side and each one was my personal bullet blocker. I opened the door waved thank you and off I went.

The next Monday I asked Bob what happened. Bob said the same old same old. What about the gun guy? Bob asked me what gun guy?

I drove by that club last week after almost thirty years. The area has not changed that much, but the club is long gone and all that’s left is a vacant lot. The building right next door to it is a store front church. I wonder if the congregation knows about that club and the people who used to hang out in it. I wonder if they know about the shake dancer that frequented that club. I wonder if they know that right next door the devil's music played.

click here for Bob's cd

© Copyright Terrance B. Lape all rights reserved. Reproduction of this website, in whole or in part, in any form or medium without express written permission.

Chicago Blues Here Today and Gone Tomorrow

Recently I got an email from a photographer that I have not seen in years. His name is Jim Quattrocki. He sent me a couple of photos of Smiling Bobby holding different style guitars. One was a Gibson ES335 pale blue Guitar. He said he only had that in black and white. The other is a picture of Bob holding a yellow Ibanez.
I know the Es335 guitar is blue, because I sold it to Bob about 25years ago. Here is how the story goes.

Bob picked up Ladybird, his main girlfriend, and drove out to my house. It was winter, late November or early December. Chicago's weather is very unpredictable. We have a saying here “If you don’t like the weather stick around it will change.” How true that is. Yesterday June 28th the temperature was hovering around 90. Right now (5:00Pm) it is in the low 70’s and tonight it will be about 58.

Bobby came to Chicago from Helena Arkansans in 1950. He was 11. His mother and father, like so many other poor Americans, came to Chicago seeking a better life for themselves and their family. Bob’s dad found a decent paying job in a packing house. Chicago had one of the largest meat packing industries in the nation that employed 25,000. They worked in the Stock yards and lived in an area they called “Back of the yards.” Chicago is situated just about halfway from the east and half way from the west coasts. This made it an ideal place to ship livestock, process them and reship them to each coast. This industry was a main economic engine in Chicago. Wilson and Company, a major meatpacking organization, stopped operations in the summer of 1955. Twenty years later the Chicago's Union Stock Yards were no more.

1955 was also the year that Bob picked up a guitar. He was greatly influenced by his uncle who was a blues harmonica player. The first time Bob heard him play, he knew had to play “The Blues”. His first guitar was purchased at a pawn shop right out of the back property room for $8.00. All blues artists got their first guitar at the same pawn shop and it is the one at the crossroads of 54th and Vine.

According to Bob, his uncle could wail on harp. That uncle helped Bob get his first professional gig at “When’s Lounge”. Bob was 19 and he earned a whopping $12.00. Back then that was big money. A 1960 census shows the average annual salary $5,600. That breaks down to$2.74 an hour. He made $4.00 an hour. Not bad for a kid right out of the backwoods of Helena Arkansas.

Over the past 50 some odd years Bob has played with some of the greats including; Hound Dog Taylor, Koko Taylor, Tail Dragger, Bobby Rush, Carey Bell, Steve Bell, Buddy Guy, Jr. Wells, Magic Sam, Magic Slim, Little Walter and it goes on and on. He has played just about every club in Chicago, Milwaukee, and Indianapolis. Bob has gone overseas half a dozen times to Paris, Stockholm, Venice, Madrid, Italy and Holland. He told me that Holland had the biggest blues fans and that the crowds were huge. The largest crowd he ever played for contained an estimated 20-30,000 screaming Dutch blues fans. He said it was crazy, but he loved it.

Bob told me that there is no other high like the high you get on stage. He loves the fact that people love his guitar playing. What he can't understand is the adoration that fans have for him. "I'm just a regular guy that loves what I does." said Bob.

Bob’s favorite kind of blues is Chicago Blues, particularly Chicago West Side Blues. Chicago’s west side pickers have a tendency to play very little notes. They do not “shred” as a lot of the young guys do today, but rather utilize a bending technique that makes the guitar talk. These west side men manipulate six steel strings across pieces of wire hammered into a plank of wood. These manipulations create vibrations that are picked up by a couple of hunks of steel wound with a bunch of wires and they are then sent to an amplifier. It is Bob’s guitar manipulations and fluid artistry that has landed him a recording contract with Wolf Records. Watch for the release of “I’ve Gotta Leave That Woman” in late July or early August. Keep up with my posts. I will announce the exact date here first.

Bob was supposed to come about six that blustery, pitch dark, winter evening. I live out in the country and we do not have street lights. As a matter of fact we are lucky to have electricity. If it rains, snows, fogs, hails or a coyote howls, out go the lights. When it’s dark, it is dark as the Mississippi black backwaters at 2:00 AM in the middle of a hurricane dark. You cannot see your hand in front of your face kind of dark. You really have to know your way around in these parts. The roads are exactly one mile long and they intersect at, where else, but the crossroad.

When we give directions it’s something like this. Take the first right then the next left. At the second stop sign turn left than look for the first driveway facing the east, it’s in the southwest spot of the crossroad.

Bobby followed my directions to the letter and called me from some farm stand 5 miles away. That’s Anker’s farm and I knew it well. They have a ship’s anchor in the front yard. I hopped in my truck and floored it over. It thanked Mike Anker for Bob's use of his phone. His phone was in the kitchen and it was the, hanging on the wall, stands up while you are talking, type phone.

I escorted Bob and Mattie back to my house. We pulled in the driveway turned out the lights and bingo pitch black. I had to illuminate the driveway so Mattie could make her way to the front door. The first thing Mattie said to me was, “Terry I don’t like it out here. It’s too dark and quiet.”

Bobby liked the guitar and I sold it to him for $500. He had it for less than a year. He finished a gig in a dubious part of Chicago, packed up his gear and left. Someone tailed him after that gig. Bob had a green van that worked out perfectly for hauling gear and other undercover operations.

He stopped at a stoplight and before he knew what was happening, someone broke the glass on the rear van window. They reached in and snatched the guitar, gone in less than sixty seconds.

Bob now uses a yellow Ibanez guitar style strat.That van is long gone and he now puts his guitar in the trunk of his Black Cadillac.
Writers Note- I go on record here and state that if I had not met Bob when I did I would have put the guitar away a long time ago. Bob is my blues mentor and my blues brother. Thank you Bobby. Click here for Bob's latest CD 
Terrance "Gatorman" Lape

Copyright Terrance B. Lape
Reproduction of this website, in whole or in part, in any
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Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Alligator Records signs James Cotton

NEW CD, GIANT, SET FOR SEPTEMBER 28 STREET DATE Award-winning blues harmonica master James "Mr. Superharp" Cotton returns to Alligator Records with the new CD, Giant, set for a September 28 release. Giant is a ferocious blast of brash power blues from Cotton, one of the few bluesmen to have harmonicas literally explode from the pure force of his playing. Cotton, who in 2010 celebrates his 66th year as a professional musician (starting at the age of nine), has recorded 28 solo albums, including two highly-regarded releases for Alligator in the 1980s and the famed Harp Attack! with Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch in 1990. The New York Daily News calls Cotton "the greatest living blues ha rmonica player." The New York Times adds, "Cotton helped define modern blues harmonica with his moaning, wrenching phrases and his train-whistle wails." Rolling Stone says Cotton is "among the greats of all time. He blazes on harp with remarkable and brilliant virtuosity."
Recorded by Stuart Sullivan at Wire Recording in Austin, Texas, Giant features 12 tracks, including four new Cotton originals and co-writes, alongside songs made famous by Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Ivory Joe Hunter and others. Throughout his career, Cotton has always had great bands, and the players on Giant are no exception. With guitarists/vocalists Slam Allen and Tom Holland, bassist Noel Neal (Ronnie James Weber on one song) and drummer Kenny Neal, Jr., Giant is not just a reminder of Cotton's legendary status, it is a remarkably vibrant and hard-hitting album made by one of the true blues masters.
Between his larger-than-life personality, his huge, boogie-blast-furnace sound and his massive frame, James Cotton is a blues giant in every respect. Born in Tunica, Mississippi on July 1, 1935, Cotton actually grew up on a cotton plantation. The youngest of eight brothers and sisters, he received a fifteen-cent harmonica for Christmas as a very small boy and mastered it almost immediately. He began listening to Sonny Boy Williamson's King Biscuit Time on KFFA from Helena, Arkansas and learned to imitate the older bluesman note for note. In 1944, after both of his parents had passed away, Cotton's uncle recognized the nine-year-old boy's talent and took him to Helena to meet his hero. Upon first meeting Sonny Boy, Cotton began playing the elder blueman's famous licks. Sonny Boy was amazed. The two became close, and Cotton spent many nights traveling with Williamson to juke joints all over the area. Cotton, being too young to enter the clubs, often played for tips outside.
When Williamson left for Milwaukee in 1950, Cotton, now 15, took over Sonny Boy's band. While this arrangement didn't last beyond a few gigs, Cotton got a taste of band leading. He met Howlin' Wolf and soon began touring with him all over the South. Cotton learned all about making it on the road from Wolf, and, though only a teenager, he was determined to succeed. By 1952 his reputation was growing, particularly in West Memphis. He worked often in local juke joints and clubs and, along with drummer Willie Nix, hosted a variety of local radio shows.
In 1953, the teenage Cotton received word that Sun Records owner Sam Phillips wanted to record him. He cut a total of four sides in 1953-54, including the classic Cotton Crop Blues.  In 1954, Muddy Waters came through Memphis without Junior Wells, his harp player at the time. Waters was well aware of Cotton's growing reputation and asked him to join his band. Cotton headed to Chicago with Waters, staying by his side for the next 12 years, becoming Muddy's trusted confidante and the leader of his backing band.
The first few years Cotton was with Waters, Chess Records still insisted on having Little Walter record with Muddy. But that changed beginning in 1958, when Cotton joined Waters in the studio, recording on many of Muddy's classics sides, including She's 19 Years Old and Close To You. Cotton convinced Waters to perform and record Got My Mojo Working, and can be heard playing on the definitive version of the song on Waters' 1960 Chess LP, Live At Newport.
By 1966, Cotton was ready to head out on his own. He first recorded sides under his own name for the Chicago/The Blues/Today! series on Vanguard, and along with Otis Spann, cut The Blues Never Die for Prestige. He made his first solo albums - one for Vanguard and three for Verve - in the late 1960s, with bands featuring outstanding musicians, including famed guitarist Luther Tucker and master drummers Sam Lay and Francis Clay. With his gale-force sound and fearless boogie band (later featuring Matt "Guitar" Murphy), it wasn't long before he was adopted by the burgeoning hippie audience as one of their own. Cotton shared stages with Janis Joplin, The Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Santana, Steve Miller, Freddie King, B.B. King and many others. In 1969 he appeared on Hugh Hefner's groundbreaking Playboy After Dark syndicated television program.
Cotton was well-known as one of the hardest-touring and most popular blues artists of the 1970s. His acrobatic showmanship (he often did somersaults on stage) and full-throttle blues kept him in demand at concert halls all over the country; he played the Fillmore East in New York, the Fillmore West in San Francisco and every major rock venue in between. During the decade, he cut an album for Capitol and three for Buddah. He rejoined his old boss Muddy Waters for the series of Muddy albums produced by Johnny Winter, starting with Hard Again in 1977. Cotton also guested on recordings by Howlin' Wolf, Koko Taylor, John Lee Hooker and many others. He was joined on his own albums by stars like Todd Rundgren, Steve Miller and Johnny Winter.
Cotton joined Alligator Records in 1984, releasing High Compression and Live From Chicago: Mr. Superharp Himself!!! (which earned him his very first Grammy nomination). In 1990 he joined fellow harp masters Junior Wells, Carey Bell and Billy Branch for the all-star release Harp Attack!. He won a Grammy Award in 1996 for his Verve album, Deep In The Blues.
During the 2000s Cotton has continued recording and touring relentlessly, playing all over the world. He was inducted into the Blues Hall Of Fame in 2006. The San Francisco Examiner says, "James Cotton is an inimitable blues-harmonica legend. His wailing harmonica blows them away. His jazzy improvisations on the blues are full of fun and good humor. The blues don't get much better."
Today Cotton, while turning over the singing duties to his road band, still blows the reeds right out of his harp. With Giant, James Cotton's aggressive, powerful blues harmonica playing is a true force of nature. In June 2010 Cotton was honored at New York's Lincoln Center, where his friends Hubert Sumlin, Pinetop Perkins, Taj Mahal, Shemekia Copeland and others paid tribute in an all-star concert. There James Cotton played in front of yet another sold-out venue, with fans all cheering the man known worldwide as "Mr. Superharp," an undisputed giant of the blues.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Chicago’s “Secret Blues Haunts.”

The Blues Birthday Bash
Lady Lee, Terry Lape AKA "Gatorman" and Cyrus Hayes
Friday night I headed to an area of Chicago called Wicker Park. The area has changed drastically since I gigged there in the late seventies.  Wicker Park has become one of the trendiest areas in Chicago. Located in that area is a club called Phyllis’ Musical Inn.  It has been in the same spot since the late thirties.  I had some great times playing there with my blues mentor Smiling Bobby (Wolf Records) way back in the day.

 Phyllis’ Musical Inn
The place I headed for was Jerry’s Restaurant.  It is a couple of blocks west of Phyllis’ Musical Inn and I just had to revisit the old haunts.  I received an invite to Jerry’s because Lady Lee was celebrating her Birthday there.

Lady Lee and Cyrus Hayes
Cyrus is a master harpist that can blow a wicked harmonica. I would put him in the top ten worldwide. Their performances include Cyrus’ harp wizardry and Lady Lee’s rich baritone voice.  It is this talent that places them way above the typical blues musician crowd.  If there was a kingdom of the blues they would most certainly reign as King and Queen. When Lady Lee and Cyrus Hayes hold court there are always local amateur and professional performers in attendance. Cyrus and Lee have no problem letting them sit in with the band.

Jake Dawson
Jake Dawson  plays on and off with the band and was a member of the band that day.  Jake has numerous credits some of which are; Albert King, Willie Kent and James Brown to mention just a few.  Jake was one of the original "Flames" and said that James once fired the whole band and left everyone stranded in Miami. He also says that Brown's estate owes him $500.

Jake and Holly Thee Maxwell
Holly Thee Maxwell was in the audience and sang a couple of numbers. Holly was a back–up singer in the Ike and Tina Turner review. When Tina left the band Holly filled the spot.  She is an excellent performer and a wonderful person. She calls herself the Black Blonde Bombshell. That she is.

Harmonica Jack

Next up was the little known entertainer, Harmonica Jack.  Cyrus gives credit to Jack for teaching him to play. Jack is old school and has a style reminiscent of Jimmy Reed and he is an unsung blues heroes.

Lady Lee Clem's wife, 
Clem and Cyrus

Clement Bashir also played harmonica with the group. He did two songs which included; a very soulful rendition of Summertime and a killer version of the Jazz tune Killer Joe.

Cyrus Hayes
 and Bud Samuels
Bud Samuels was also in attendance. Bud is a voice-over actor who lives right outside Los Angeles.  He was in town selling a guitar. It turns out he is also past promotion and marketing director for ABC, Motown and Rocshire records.  Bud has worked with some great talents including B.B. King, Diana Ross, Jimmy Buffet, Stevie Wonder, Tom Petty and Steely Dan. Bud and I hit it off and I will be keeping in touch with him. I might add he does stand-up comedy.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away

The Chicago Blues Fest received its share of thunderstorms, and yet a reasonably large crowd still attended. Sadly I believe that the festivities days are numbered. The City has reduced its size compared to years past. There were no B.B. King or Buddy Guy type big acts, although Billy Branch, John Primer, Billy Boy Arnold and Lurrie Bell headlined Saturday night. Sunday evening's line-up is sure going to get wet.

I attended Saturday with my good friend Jim and  L V Banks (seen dancing in the opening of this video). The rain forced an early departure of 3:30 PM. Before we departed we got a chance to see Toronzo Cannon, He is an upcoming artist that will soon break nationally. Toronzo is a great artist. He played twice Saturday. Once as the headliner on the Gibson Stage then as a guitar player in the Chris Harper Band. Toronzo can also be seen in the same video with L V.  Toronzo is the southpaw guitar player with the tilted hat. Great job Toronzo.

Sunday I attended with my Blues Mentor Smilin' Bobby. Bobby has played five years in a row at the fest and because of this they would not book him again. He called to see if I wanted to go with to help try to sell some CD's. I did. I was going anyway to pass out flyers for the "All Star Night Of The Blues" Electro Glide Records show   September 11, 2010. Go to their site for more info.

It is amazing the amount of folks that come to the blues fest from all over the United States and the World. As Bobby walked through the crowd fans stopped to say hello. There was a couple from Cincinnati, Ohio that attended because of Smilin Bobby. They were overwhelmed with excitement that they finally got a chance to meet him.  Brits sat at the table with us and we had a couple of good laughs. I like the Brits, my stepmother is one.

The rain stayed away until 4:00 PM and then the skies opened with a torrential, typhoon type downpour. Driving south on Lake shore Drive I glanced towards the festival grounds and observed a sea of Golf Umbrellas . There are at least a handful of die-hard blues fans left. God Bless them one and all.

Love to you all from America's Heartland and of course,
Terry Lape AKA Gatotman

Friday, June 4, 2010

King of The Blues Competition

This past Thursday I happened to go to the local music store. I needed a new set of strings for the Hummingbird Gibson guitar I have that is on loan from my guitar buddy Jim. The place is Guitar Center. I had the pleasure of working there for 30 days. In those thirty days I sold over $15,000 in merchandise. I received a whooping three hundred dollar commission. In my first week there I knocked the top salesman off his perch. He wasn't too happy about the competition and even had the nerve to tell me that I was selling the wrong way.  Mind you after I sold more product than he did. He should have asked what I was doing instead of criticizing. It turned out his job was to help me increase sales, he was certainly a. "Misguided Individual".  At the time I was making more money on Ebay, so I quit.

Before I continue with this report I must say that I listen to a lot of blues, traditional delta blues. With that said let's take a look. (in order of appearance)

First up was Nick Galik. I have known Nick and his family for about three years. Nick is an outstanding player that leans towards Jazz fusion with a spattering of blues Rock. I have suggested that he stick with the blues, because that is what he does best. He needs some strong management behind him.
Above 17 year old Mackenzie Ryan who was the only woman in the competition and my favorite. She can play the blues with the best of them. She has a very laid back approach and in my opinion was the best example there of traditional blues. Mark my words with more seasoning Mackenzie will burst through as a top female blues player. I did not hear her sing, but I hope I get the opportunity to in the future.
I also had the pleasure of meeting her parents. They are great people and very supportive of their daughter.  Good job Mackenzie. One additional note she studies guitar with a teacher that I studied under by the name of David Stone. David is undoubtedly one of the best guitarists I have ever heard. he can play any style at any time. He can comp with the best.
Next is Jim Lerose. I could not get a real good picture of Jim cause he was moving too fast for the camera. Just kidding I screwed it up sorry Jim. Jim was great and well seasoned. He hails from Dyer Indiana. Very nice player.
This is Jim Kroak from Mokena , Illinois. Jim-is another very seasoned player who did an outstanding job. I do not know much about him, but I can tell you this he is an awesome guitarist.

Jim Karones hails from Oak Lawn , Illinois. he is about the same age as I am and it turns out we grew up not too far from each other small world. He and I even knew some of the players from the old neighborhood. Jim's style does lean more towards rock and not blues. that is not a bad think because the world needs rock musicians too.Great Jjob jim, but I feel the judges were too traditional. 

Here is Michael Flynn. Mike is from Orland park. Mike won the competition and is moving on to the regionals. He played a straight style with no effects and overdrive. He has a very nice clean tone. 
Great Job Mike and good luck with the next stage.

All of the players were awesome and I believe the judges are the ones that had the most difficult task. 
Picture Left to right are Fernando Jones, Sammy Fender and Jimmy Johnson.