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

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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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