KING OF THE BLUES

21 May

King of the Blues

BB King #3

By:  Bob Gersztyn

Over the decades I’ve had a number of opportunities to see B. B. King perform beginning in 1969. The King of the Blues passed on from this life on Thursday May 14, 2015 after 89 years of life beginning September 16, 1925. He was born the son of a sharecropper on a cotton farm in Mississippi. He learned to play guitar when he was 12 years old and like most of the youth of that era, he sang in the church choir. Kings older cousin was Bukka White the legendary bluesman who he learned from until T Bone Walker turned him on to the electric guitar. The last time that I saw him perform was in 2011, when I reviewed the show for Blueswax/Blues Review magazine that I was an associate editor with.

Curtis Salgado #1

It was a rare opportunity to see the legendary King of the blues on Sunday November 20, 2011, at Keller Auditorium, in downtown Portland, Oregon.   The concert began at 8:00 PM when Curtis Salgado opened the show for B. B. King and lit up the city of Roses with an hour long set. Then punctually after 30 minutes, the lights dimmed at 9:15 P. M. and B. B. Kings 8 piece band took the stage and began playing their introductory number.  James “Boogaloo” Bolden led the band and played trumpet, as he scurried around the stage indicating who was to perform.  Each band member took a turn in soloing beginning with Walter King and then Melvin Jackson on sax.  Stanley Abernathy stood front and center and blew his trumpet, until Charlie Dennis stepped forward and wailed on his guitar, using B. B. King’s signature sound.  Reggie Richard thumped out a bass solo, and the band rolled into “Manhattan Blues” with Ernest Vantrease demonstrating his keyboard prowess and Tony Coleman mercilessly pounding the skins, until Bolden took a solo and then the rest of the band joined in preparing the way for the king.

I remember the first time that I saw B. B. King perform on Labor Day weekend in 1969, 2 weekends after Woodstock.  The concert was at the Eastown theater on the East side of Detroit, with Savoy Brown, a new English blues/rock band opening the night.  The show featured 2 blues guitar legends, Albert King and B. B. King, during a time when white middle class American youth were discovering the blues.  The Butterfield Blues Band, Cream and  Jimi Hendrix, had piqued everyone’s ears for the blues, but this was the real thing.  B. B. King had just recorded “The Thrill Is Gone” in June of that year, so he showcased it at the show.  Over the ensuing decades I’d periodically see him. perform, but hadn’t done so for a while, so I was excited to see him again.

King was escorted onto the stage wearing a black sequined tuxedo that reflected the colored lights as he stood at the foot of the stage gesturing to the crowd before he took his seat and donned his Gibson. After he got situated he greeted the audience and told them that he was happy to be in Portland playing for them.  “I’m an old man,” B. B. said, “I just made 86 about 3 weeks ago.”  Then he dove into “I Need You So” with an enthusiasm that transcended his age as he impeccably belted it out.  The band flawlessly accompanied the master with a skill that bellied the fact that some of them went back to the old days.  The song ended in a crescendo of brass leaving B. B. telling the audience about the old days, when some of his band members played with Duke Ellington and were stealing women.  When he talked he had a wry expression that turned into a comical caricature that reminded me of Bill Cosby, as he offhandedly mentioned the name of James “Boogaloo” Bolden, the bandleader as a primary offender.

BB King #2

Big Bill Broonzy and Charles Segar’s classic, “Key To The Highway” began with B. B. picking out the tune on his Gibson for a few bars before he grabbed the microphone and began singing, “I got the key to the highway.”  He broke into a guitar solo as an introduction to all the band members performing short solos.  Finally Tony Coleman brought down the house with his thundering drums as B. B. turned to the microphone to finish the song by asking for “one more kiss,” as he wailed, on his guitar.    King kept up a continual banter with the audience in between songs, on a variety of subjects, including his home state of Mississippi.  “Back in Mississippi this time of the year we’d be picking cotton,” he told the audience as he introduced Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Please Keep My Grave Clean.”

“When Love Comes To Town” was performed as a duet by U2  and B. B. King in the1988 documentary of the group’s U.S. tour called, Rattle & Hum.  It was the next song that the band broke into and played until B. B. broke in and began picking the tune in the familiar style that made him Rolling Stone’s #6 greatest guitar player.  He played the song nearly as good as he did the last time that I saw him in the 1990’s, although the solo was somewhat shorter.  He still had the ability to fluidly bend his strings and squeeze a vibrato from his guitar.  His voice was strong and clear as he forcefully articulated the lyrics and their powerful gospel message.

“I was there when they crucified my Lord I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword I threw the dice when they pierced his side But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide.”

BB King #1

By the time that the song was concluding the entire audience rose to its feet clapping time in the packed out auditorium, which turned into thunderous applause when the song concluded.  The subject for this interlude was hearing, and B. B. explained that what’s really bad about not being able to hear well is that you think everyone is talking about you.  Then he broke into the mysteries of sexual attraction as he explained to the audience.  “When we’re young we try to talk to the older ladies, but when you’re old you talk to the young ladies.”  Then after another 5 minutes of diverse dialogue that concluded with a comment about how at 86 he now looks at young men and thinks to himself, “I used to be able to do what they can now.”  B. B. began playing his early composition “Rock Me Baby,” until the crowd began singing along.  As the song concluded and the audience clapped in approval someone yelled out to play, “The Thrill Is Gone.”

“I can do it now or later, whatever you want,” King responded, and then immediately broke into “The Thrill Is Gone,” with the band following.  The band was impressively adept at being able to follow B. B. in whatever direction or change that he chose to take.  He dedicated the next song to all the young men who were in love, or wish that they were, but before he could begin it, he changed direction and began to talk about how one year they made 342 one nighters and they made them all.  This led into some comments that he made about Phyllis Diller, and then he promptly acknowledged that most of the audience probably didn’t even know who Phyllis Diller was.  Just before he began playing “Guess Who,” King complimented his band and told the audience that he depended on their youth to carry him.

Around 10:30 P.M. King was telling the audience that he had a good time and would like to come back for another show some other time. Since it was Thanksgiving week he sang “Merry Christmas Baby” and peppered the lyrics with sarcastic changes where he would replace words like paradise with misery, along with the inherent sarcasm of the lyrics and melodic structure.

BB King #4

“I haven’t had a drink this evenin’ baby,

But I’m lit up like a Christmas tree.”

By the time that King’s performance was concluding it had a quality to it that was somewhat reminiscent of a Pentecostal church service without speaking in tongues and fainting in the spirit.  He wished the audience a Merry Christmas and elongated his goodbye, until the band broke into “You Are My Sunshine,” at his lead.  Then they played happy birthday to someone in the audience and just before he said goodnight B. B. told the audience that he would sing 10 autographs.  He stood at the foot of the stage where some people would offer everything from posters to sheets of paper to receive his imprimatur, while everyone else filed out.  I was 22 the first time that I saw B. B. King in 1969, and now I’m 64, but the message that he has spoken to me through the decades has been the same. Understand that life is a journey, that is sometimes joyous and othertimes painful, but the things that keep you going are music, a sense of humor and love.

How The Jesus Movement Really Began

14 Apr

Bob Gersztyn 1978 #2

Way back in 1978 when I was the associate pastor at the Highland Park Neighborhood church in the North East Los Angeles barrio, known as Highland Park. It was home for the Avenues Mexican gang that sprayed grafitti in the alley behind the church, but we also had Jesus music concerts in the pioneer Agape Inn coffe house. Then in 2008, when I was still a contributing editor and staff photographer for “The World’s Only Christian Satire Magazine,” the legendary “Wittenburg Door,” I began writing a history of “Contemporary Christian Music,” for “Praeger” publishing Co.. This is how it developed as I wrote and communicated with my editors, until 2011 when I completed it.

Table of Contents:

Preface: What Is CCM? An essay that explains what CCM is to readers who may not be familiar with the genre, and brings them up to speed.

Part I: Prelude – Setting the Stage.

Chapter One: The Baby Boomers 1946-1964. This chapter sets the stage for the birth of the counterculture, and the coming of age of the first batch of Baby Boomers, as they graduate from High school. It covers all the significant cultural, political, religious and social issues that made up this time period.

The first of the “Baby Boomers” were born in 1946 to returning World War II veterans. Those same soldiers fought Germany and Italy in Europe and Africa, along with the Japanese in the South Pacific. Harry Truman, the man who okayed the nuclear annihilation of two cities in Japan was president. The returning veterans were happy to find work, after living through the joblessness of the “Great Depression” prior to going off to the work of war. From the auto plants of Detroit, to the steel mills of Pennsylvania and the oil wells of California, Oklahoma and Texas, there was plenty of work. For those that preferred a pastoral setting to that of a bustling city, there was an infinity of fertile farmland in between the coast’s to feed and employ the growing population.

The first memories of that early batch of “Baby Boomers” were formed through the lens of a new technological influence, the television set. President Dwight D. Eisenhower expounded on the Communist threat and the American Dream, while Walt Disney marketed everything from Davey Crockett to Mickey Mouse and taught the young sponges to dream. Most everyone had Sunday off from work, and all but drug stores, movie theaters, bars and businesses related to the recreational industry were open. For most citizens of the USA, Sunday mornings were either spent in church or watching religious programs on television.

UFO sightings, beginning in 1947 were part of early childhood memories. From flying saucer crashes in Roswell, New Mexico, to floating lights in Adrian, Michigan earth’s attention was drawn to the sky and the possibility of extra terrestrial life. Movies like “This Island Earth”, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” and “I Married a Monster From Outer Space” and authors like Isaac Asimove, Ray Bradbury and Robert Heinlien speculated the ramifications of human encounters with alien life forms and space travel.

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (LSD), was first discovered in 1938, at the beginning of WW II, by Albert Hoffman, a chemist, working for Sandoz Laboratories, in Basel, Switzerland, on a cure for morning sickness during pregnancy. The psychedelic mind expanding entheogen was used by the US government in mind control experiments under the CIA’s MKULTRA program, during the 1950’s and into the 1960’s. The drug played an important part in shaping the Boomers vision of reality and spirituality. Especially after receiving positive endorsements by recognizable members of society, like the actor Cary Grant and the publisher of Time/Life, Henry Luce.

Pope Pius XII led the Catholics while Billy Graham donned the Protestant leadership mantle and ultimately became the Protestant counterpart to the pope. War broke out again, this time in Korea, with our new enemy, the atheist Communists, who now controlled North Korea with the help of the Chinese hoards, led by Mao Zedong. The hot war in Korea ended, but the cold war with Communism continued and Nikita Khrushchev led the USA’s second arch enemy, the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” (USSR), and pounded his shoe on a desk in the United Nations assembly.

A new musical form was born in the early 1950’s known as rock & roll. Pioneers like Ike Turner and the “Kings of Rhythm” along with Bill Haley and the “Comets” recorded the first 45 RPM records of the new genre. The sound was derived from the merger of White country and bluegrass music with Black blues, gospel and R&B. It was hard to distinguish whether the performers were Black or White by just listening to the recordings. Some of the early Black pioneers were Little Richard Penniman, Chuck Berry, Fats Domino and Bo Diddley.
Bo Diddley (Ellas Bates), like so many of the pioneers of rock & roll received his early musical training in the church. When Bates was asked about why so many of the early rock & roll artists were involved in churches when they were younger, he responded with “That’s where we learned how to do something…but I wasn’t playing no Rock ‘n’ Roll in it then. My pastor of my church was Reverend Smith and the man who took care of the music part was the professor O. W. Frederick, Oscar Frederick, and he taught me violin, so I played classical music for twelve years. Nobody influenced me to play classical music. I saw a dude with a violin and a stick and that looked really cool, you know? And my church got together and took up twenty-nine dollars and that’s what it cost back then. Twenty-nine bucks was a lot of money back then. You could get a sack of potatoes for like damn near ten cents.”

Their White counter parts, like Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and Dion Dimucci came out of their respective churches. Dimucci was one of the early White rock & roll stars. He was raised a Roman Catholic, in New York city, where he formed Dion and the Belmonts, after Belmont Avenue, in the Bronx. The style of rock that they performed was doo wop, the vocal harmonizing style of Black music that originated in Baltimore, New York and Philadelphia , and it was 1957. He narrowly avoided death, by passing up on the opportunity to fly with Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper on their ride to eternity, in 1959. In a 2006 interview about the different messages of Blues and Gospel music Dion explained –

“A lot of Blues music seems like it’s moving away from God, or the center, and Gospel music is moving towards it. It’s embracing a higher reality. When you look a little closer, the way that I define it or explain it is that the Blues is the naked cry of the human heart, apart from God. People are searching for union with God; they’re searching to be home. There’s something in people that seeks this union with their creator. Why am I here? Where am I going? What’s it all about? Who am I? All this kind of stuff, but the Blues is a beautiful art form. It’s incredible that you could express such a wide range of feelings. You could use it to sell hamburgers or cars, or to cry out in sorrow, or joy. You could express yourself totally within the Blues. So there’s some kind of connection, but if you ask me exactly what it is, I think that it all comes out of the same place, so to speak.” (1), (2).

Christian recordings were a marginal esoteric branch of the music industry produced by Christian record companies, like Benson Records. In 1951, Jarrel McCracken, a graduate of Baylor university, in Waco, Texas began what was to become an important record label for the Jesus movements music – “Word”. Southern Gospel was the dominant form of Protestant Christian music at the time, in White society. Christian music was just a segregated as the rest of society, so Black gospel had its own record label, “Vocalion”. Most Christian music was marketed by Christian bookstores. In 1950 the Christian Booksellers Association was born, and included about 2 dozen stores.

Racism was the law of the land, in the form of Jim Crow, and enforced segregation. It existed throughout the country in one form or another. Some states, like Oregon, simply made it against the law for Negroes to move there, while others like Michigan, simply designated what areas they could live in, or gather. The Southern states, like Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi had perfected segregation, and had separate facilities, including restaurants, bathrooms and drinking fountains for Negroes. The mixing of the races in the music bled over into other areas. After education was integrated, in 1954, through Brown vs. the Board of Education, in Kansas, the floodgates were opened.

Elvis Presley was the breakthrough act for rock & roll to hit the mainstream. After being televised on some of the top TV programs in the mid 1950’s, including “Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts”, “The Milton Berle Show”, “The Steve Allen Show” and finally “The Ed Sullivan Show” he became the most popular entertainer in the USA and ultimately the “free world”, during the last half of the 20th century. Interestingly, Presley was a frustrated Southern Gospel singer, who signed with Sam Phillips and Sun Records, after failing an audition with Jim Hamill and Cecil Blackwood’s Southern Gospel group, “The Songfellows”. At one point Presley’s popularity even eclipsed Senator Joseph McCarthy’s National Communist Witch hunt headlines.

The fear of communism and nuclear war were further exacerbated by films like “Invasion USA” and “On the Beach”. One of the pop culture trends in the 1950’s was to build a bomb shelter for the family. Using the same technology that launched destructive nuclear warheads, the USA and USSR began a space race, in 1957, after the Russian’s launched Sputnik 1. Soon the space race escalated from launching dogs and monkeys to humans, into orbit around the earth.

Beatniks and the “Beat Generation”, in the 1950’s preceded the counter culture “Hippies” of the “Baby Boomer’s” 1960’s revolution. Two of the leading literary icons of the “Beats” were poet Alan Ginsberg, the author of “Howl” an epic poem about man’s disconnection with his environment, and his novelist compatriot, Jack Kerouac, author of “On the Road”, and other equally hip tomes. They wrote about the rift between the human soul and the industrialized world that the 20th century had produced.

Preceding the Beats were the Industrialized Workers of the World, also known as the Wobblies. They were union activists, who used literature, folk music and blues to carry their message. One of the martyrs of the movement was an immigrant named Joe Hill, who was executed in 1915. Singer songwriter, activists like Woodie Guthrie sang about Joe, and the plight of the working man. Even authors like James Jones wrote about economic injustice forcing the poor to join the military as their only option to poverty, in his novel “From Here To Eternity”.

By the 1950’s the big three auto corporations, like GM, Ford and Chrysler along with major supporting industries, from the rail road and trucking to steel production, were unionized. This resulted in wildcat strikes that sometimes turned violent, as the unions demanded better wages and working conditions. As wages got better, the rural Southerners, both Black and White began immigrating to the larger industrial cities, like Detroit and Cleveland, Philadelphia and Pittsburg. Although the cities were segregated, there was a mixing of the races at the workplace, and sometimes in recreation.

The Civil Rights movement began, with the passing of “Brown vs. the Board of Education” by the Supreme court, May 17, 1954, calling for the desegregation of public education. In 1955 Rosa Parks started the bus boycott in Montgomery, Alabama, that brought Rev. Martin Luther King to his leadership role, as co-founder of “The Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In 1960 Ella Baker founded “The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee” (SNCC), which was the beginning of an expression of what became known as “Black Power”.

American Bandstand, hosted by Dick Clark, in Philadelphia, via the television set, became the first national TV show to showcase rock and roll and its culture, in 1957. By the end of the 1950’s, Elvis was drafted into the army, and a tragic air plane crash claimed the lives of three early rock stars, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper. In 1960, Chubby Checker released a cover of Clyde McPhatter’s song called the twist, which initiated a dancing craze, that got unhip white people shimmying and shaking on the dance floor. It was even reported that President Kennedy did the twist in the white house. One of the major unexpected results of this new musical phenomenon was the integration of American society.

If rock & roll was the soul of integration then folk music was the mind. By the early 1960’s the Black rock & rollers were marginalized, and top 40 AM radio stations played pop rock that had lost its earlier edge. Fabian and Franky Avalon replaced Elvis Presley and Buddy Holly. As rock & roll was on the descent in the late 1950’s folk music began its ascent. Folk music was inspired by Woody Guthrie, and his student, Pete Seeger, who’s career was put on a temporary hiatus, when he was blackballed by Senator Joseph McCarthy, as a Communist.

The Kingston Trio was the first major act of the new folk genre, to receive national recognition and air play. After them came the Limelighters, The Highwaymen, Joan Baez and Peter, Paul and Mary. The music was acoustic in instrumentation, and used guitars, mandolins and banjos. It employed a wide range of vocal styles, both solo and in harmony, and its lyrics dealt with gritty subject matter. Topics like adultery, exploitation, murder, robbery, swindles, extraordinary exploits and broken promises told stories that captivated it’s audience.

Peter, Paul and Mary were made up of Peter Yarrow, Noel Paul Stookey and Mary Travers. Their debut album in 1962 was inspired by the same social, cultural and political tradition that Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger followed. Their first hit off the album was “If I Had a Hammer”, by “Weavers” Pete Seeger and Lee Hays, who first recorded it in 1949. They represented the musical conscience of the nation, supporting the struggling civil rights movement and the anti-Viet Nam war faction.

At one point folk music so upset the status quo, that the city of New York banned folk singing in Washington square, which precipitated a protest that successfully, reversed the decision. Popular folk singers of the day participated in the civil rights movement, and sang about it’s struggles. The biggest folk ensemble of the 1960’s, the “New Christy Minstrels” performed at the White house for president Lyndon Baines Johnson.

This thought provoking music reflected the mood of the country, as it continued in the Ideological war with the Soviet’s. There were multiple Cold War confrontations with Communism, in the early 1960’s, from the Marxist conversion of Cuba, the crisis with Russia, over nuclear warheads in Cuba, the “Bay of Pigs” fiasco, the invasion of the Dominican Republic and US military involvement in Viet Nam.

Barry McGuire began a solo career in 1960 after he purchased his first guitar. He spent some time in the Navy, and got into Woodie Guthrie, Ledbelly and Pete Seeger until he started gigging at Santa Monica bars, until Peggy Lee discovered him, and got him a recording contract. In 1962 he joined Art Podell’s group, the “New Christy Minstrels” as the lead singer. He wrote and sang lead on the group’s biggest hit 45 rpm single, “Green, Green”, and eventually went solo again, which produced the biggest his of his career, when he recorded P. F. Sloan’s song “Eve of Destruction, in 1965.

Black music groups began receiving more air play, on White radio, after groups like the Mills Brothers and the Inkspots broke the ice, back in the 1930’s. By the 1950’s when Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry came on the scene, the White market was being integrated by Black music. Columbia records producer, John Hammond signed a Black Gospel singer from Detroit, Michigan, named Aretha Franklin in 1960. At the same time Detroit produced the most important Black record label of the 1960’s, when Berry Gordy established “Motown” records with Smokey Robinson singing “You Got To Shop Around“.

Sam Cooke was 1 of 7 children born to a Baptist minister in Clarksdale, Mississippi. After the family moved to Chicago he became part of the family’s singing quartet, and by 1950, at the age of 19, joined the “Soul Stirrers”, a black gospel group. Through his success with the “Soul Stirrers”, on Specialty records, he achieved fame and fortune within the gospel community. He signed as a secular artist with Keen records where he had his first hit, with “You Send Me”. He started his own record label, SAR, and finally signed with RCA, where he had a string of hits, until his death in 1964.

In an interview in 2002 Clarence Fountain, leader of the “5 Blind Boys of Alabama”, who was a contemporary of Sam Cooke, explained – “We had plenty of chances to go with rock & roll. We had plenty of chances for doing the things that all the rest of the people had done. We could have did that too, but we didn’t want to. I was in the studio with Sam Cooke when he signed his contract. The man offered me one just like he did him. But I turned it down because that ain’t what I told the Lord I wanted to do. I wanted to sing gospel.” (8)

After his discharge from the army, Elvis Presley became a movie star, only singing songs in his own films, that he starred in, with titles like “Blue Hawaii”, “Follow That Dream” and “Kid Galahad”. His impact on music now wasn’t from his style and manner of performance, but from the direction that he took. Music films, featuring artists like the Beatles and Bob Dylan would soon begin to make their way to the screen, as an important way to satisfy and create fans.

The 1950’s ended on a sour note, as Fidel Castro established a Marxist government in Cuba, after taking power, and became an ally of the Soviet‘s. The next conflict with the Communist’s occurred when U2 spy plane pilot Gary Powers was shot down over Russian air space. Everyone was ready for a change, when a youthful looking John F. Kennedy became the first Roman Catholic president elected, and ushered in an era of optimism, along with the Peace Corps. Kennedy’s inaugural speech in January 1961 set the tone of his administration when he said – “And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”

Mylon LeFevre was a member of his parents Southern gospel music group, “The Singing LeFevres”. “The LeFevres” were pioneers of Southern gospel music, and owned their own recording studio, as many of the early groups did. They also embraced the potential for ministry using the new medium of television. While Mylon was in the army he wrote a song titled “Without Him”, which was recorded by Elvis Presley, and over 100 other artists. (2), (3), (4) Mylon formed a secular Southern Gospel Rock group named after himself, and spread the gospel in secular venues, through his music, in the late 1960‘s.

The next major breakthrough that would change the social structure of country was the advent of the FDA approved birth control pill, which began the sexual revolution. Sex of course had always been popular, or there wouldn’t be a human race, but sex without the consequence of pregnancy never had been readily available before. This liberated women, as they never had been before, which in turn augmented the women’s rights movement.

The Roman Catholic Church convened Vatican II, in 1962, to discuss the birth control pill among other issues of the day. Pope John XXIII was in office at the time and at least four future popes were council members. Some of the key issues that impacted church members were, no longer requiring them to abstain from eating meat on Friday, allowing the mass to be spoken in the language used by attendees and economic justice.

In an interview in 2006 Bruce Cockburn explained the impact of Vatican II on the world in general. “I think that there is, but it’s hard to access. One of the things that happened in the 1960s was Vatican II, in which Pope John XXIII convened all the bigwigs of the Catholic church to decide what the destiny of the church should be and what role it should play in the modern world. It was decided at that time that the church would be the church of the poor. It was decided that I think because the vibe of the sixties, the kind of philosophy and energy that was flowing around. It flowed through the clerics as much as it flowed through everybody else. I mean it was just in the air. It touched everybody, whether they wore the uniform or not…of the hippie movement I mean. As a result of Vatican II the church began to teach people in Latin America to read. As a result of people in Latin America learning to read they started trying to overthrow the governments that were keeping them poor and malnourished and not getting medical attention and all sorts of stuff. Many church people became supporters of that kind of social change, and we’ve been living with the result ever since.” (6)

Yuri Gagarin became the first human to orbit the earth, as the Berlin wall was erected. Freedom riders descended on the segregationist South, from Washington DC, as students begin protesting everything from nuclear testing to the escalating war in Viet Nam. The CIA conducted experiments, under the code name MK Ultra, to find out the potential of psychedelic drugs like LSD, for mind control. Ken Kesey, a Stanford graduate student in creative writing was given LSD and wrote “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest”.

At the turn of the decades, with Elvis in the Army and rock & roll on the decline after the payola scandal ruined the career of New York DJ Alan Freed, and nearly derailed Dick Clark’s American bandstand, squeaky clean Pat Boone was the top pop star in the US. Boone was a descendent of American frontier pioneer, Daniel Boone. He began his singing career in the 1950’s, when he was a college student, and recorded sanitized versions of what was then called race music. He had hits on the radio with songs like Fats Domino’s “Ain’t That A Shame” and Little Richard’s Tutti Fruiti. He drew criticism from both sides, when some accused him of trying to pollute White society with Black music, while others claimed that he was exploiting Black songwriters by capitalizing on their compositions.

The human space barrier was cracked for the USA, when John Glenn orbited the earth in 1962, and the first communications satellite, “Telestar” was launched by AT&T, which producing a radio hit for the “Ventures”. “Silent Spring” one of the first books, voicing concern for the environment was published by Rachel Carson. Students begin protesting more loudly, as they supportted the civil rights movement, and began speaking with a louder voice, through the Free Speech movement in California and the forming of “Students For A Democratic Society” (SDS), in Michigan. At the same time Bob Dylan released his debut album.

Another genre of music, who’s popularity was waning in the early 1960’s was known as doo wop. Groups like ‘Little Anthony and the Imperials‘, “The Drifters” “Dion and the Belmonts” and “The Coasters” were some of the top groups. The Castells, with lead singer Chuck Girard had a couple of top 40 hits with “Sacred” and “So This Is Love”.

“I was pretty much a straight-laced young guy. I was into the music thing. I wasn’t really much of a student but I wasn’t really into religious activity or spiritual curiosity in those days. I was more into the music thing, I got bit with the music bug about junior high school years, and by my senior year in high school I had put together a little vocal group. I’m old enough to where I go back to the doo-wop days in 1961.” (7)

Soon afterwards Girard began working as a studio musician. and collaborated with Beach Boy producer, Gary Usher, and sang lead on Brian Wilson’s hit composition about a motorcycle, called “Little Honda” by the “Hondells”. Motorcycles would play an important part in the 1960’s, through the “Hells Angels” motorcycle club, led by Sonny Barger president of the Oakland, California chapter.

Civil rights was the dominant issue during much of the early 1960’s, along with the escalating conflict with Viet Nam. Bob Dylan wrote and recorded “Blowing In the Wind”, which not only became a top 40 hit when Peter, Paul & Mary recorded it, but an anthem of the civil rights movement. Pop art took the stage and graphic television images of self immolating Buddhist monks in Viet Nam burnt themselves into the brains of the beholders. Timothy Leary and Richard Alpert were fired from Harvard, after their research with mind expanding drugs like psilocybin, mescaline and LSD got out of hand.

President Kennedy’s proposed civil rights legislation is punctuated by violence, including the death of Medgar Evers whose murder Bob Dylan wrote a song about, and 4 black girls that were killed in an Alabama church by a bomb blast. At the same time the UK, US and USSR sign an above ground nuclear test ban., as women officially find out that they are discriminated against, through a commission’s finding and a US supported coup condones the murder of president Ngo Dinh Diem.

President Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas by Lee Harvey Oswald, who in turn is assassinated by Jack Ruby, and Lyndon Baines Johnson is sworn in as the new president. President Johnson declares an “unconditional war on poverty”, and signs into law, the “Civil Rights Act of 1964. “Dr. Strangelove” is released and the Beatles come to America, appear on the Ed Sullivan show, while “I Want To Hold Your Hand” is number 1 on the radio charts.
Chapter Two: From Jesus Freaks to Jesus People (Both Secular and Christian Counter Culture). Chronicling the birth of the Hippie counter culture in Northern California and how it effected a revolution of thought among all the youth of America, through drugs, music, politics and religion. Pioneers like Chuck Girard, Phil Keagy, Mylon Lefevre, Barry McGuire, Larry Norman and the Talbot Brothers performed music in secular venues that reflected their spiritual quests.

Part II: A Historical Overview of Contemporary Christian Music.

Chapter Three: The Birth of Jesus Music – The late 1960‘s to 1971. The Edwin Hawkins singers, Norman Greenbaum and “Jesus Christ Superstar” producing top 40 secular radio hits about Jesus, making Jesus cool. The birth of Christian coffee houses and night clubs, Ralph Carmichael’s Light Records and Andrae Crouch.

Chapter Four: The Birth of Contemporary Christian Music – The early 1970’s. Independent record labels, church becomes a venue (e.g. Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa) and the first Christian rock stars – Children of the Day, Love Song, Randy Matthews, Larry Norman.

Larry Norman and his contemporaries, like Mylon Lefevre, Chuck Girard and Randy Matthews, did for the Christian church what the Elvis Presley, the Beatles and Rolling Stones did for secular society. They introduced their audiences to the Black influence in White music. The church was being integrated, from the inside out.

Chapter Five: The Floodgates are open 1972-1979. More Christian rock stars come on the scene – Daniel Amos, Amy Grant, Keith Green, Mustard Seed Faith, Petra, Phil Keagy, Second Chapter of Acts, Randy Stonehill, John Michael Talbot, Terry Talbot, etc., etc..

Chapter Six: Conversions and defections from secular music validate the genre – Bruce Cockburn, Richey Furray, Al Green, Barry McGuire, Van Morrison, Leon Patillo, Dan Peak, Noel Paul Stookey and Bob Dylan. The Jesus movement is buried by the Moral Majority.

Chapter Seven: The Maturation of CCM – The 1980’s. Contemporary Christian Music produces its first crossover superstar – Amy Grant. The multiplication of the genre’s within the genre – The Alarm, The Blind Boys of Alabama, The Call, Dion Dimucci, Benny Hester, Kings X, Newsboys, Twila Paris, Undercover, U2 etc..

Chapter Eight: CCM Becomes Mainstream – The 1990’s. Carmen, Steve Curtis Chapman, dc Talk, Kirk Franklin, Jars of Clay, Rich Mullins, Point of Grace, Michael W. Smith, Jaci Velasquez, delirious? and worship music.

Chapter Nine: The Expansion of CCM – The New Millennium. The Blind Boys of Alabama, Family Force 5, Michael Franti and Spearhead, Kutless, Lifehouse, MxPx, P.O.D., Six Pence None the Richer, Switchfoot and Third Day. CCM magazine stops hard copy publication and redefines what Contemporary Christian Music is.

Chapter Ten: Jesus Music Festivals. Just as Jesus music groups followed on the heel’s of secular rock, so did Jesus Music festivals. The ICHTUS festival in 1970 was a direct reaction to the Woodstock festival in 1969, and today there are hundreds of Christian music festivals all over the world featuring every genre and catering to every spiritual taste.

Part III: Interviews with ten CCM pioneers, legends and stars.

Chapter Eleven: Andrae Crouch.

Chapter Twelve: Chuck Girard (Love Song).

Chapter Thirteen: Randy Stonehill.

Chapter Fourteen: Marsha (Carter) Stevens-Pina (Children of the Day).

Chapter Fifteen: Pete Furhler (The Newsboys).

Chapter Sixteen: Dion Dimucci.

Chapter Seventeen: Clarence Fountain (The Blind Boys of Alabama).

Chapter Eighteen: Barry McGuire.

Chapter Nineteen: Bruce Cockburn.

Chapter Twenty: Charlie Lowell (Jars of Clay).
Footnotes:

Chapter One:

1. * Blueswax Interview by Bob Gersztyn. February 15, 2006 http://www.blueswax.com
* Wittenburg Door Interview By Bob Gersztyn May 2007. http://www.wittenburgdoor.com http://www.diondimucci.com/bio.html (4 November 2008)

2. Dion Dimucci Interview . By: Bob Gersztyn, in Blueswax. http://www.visnat.com/entertainment/music/blueswax/getarchivedfeature.cfm?aaa=zzz&featurenumber=685 (2 February 2006)

3. Banville, Scott. “The LeFevres“, “Encyclopedia of American Gospel Music”, edited by William McNeil. Routledge 2005.

4. http://www.mylon.org/homePage.php (6 November 2008)

5. Powell, Mark Allan. “Encyclopedia of Contemporary Christian Music”, Hendrickson Publishers 2002.

6. Bob Gersztyn. Interview with Bruce Cockburn. Folkwax, November 16, 2006.
http://www.visnat.com/entertainment/music/folkwax/backissues/folkwax_294.cfm (November 12, 2008).

7. Bob Gersztyn. Interview with Chuck Girard. Submitted to the Wittenburg Door 2007.

8. Bob Gersztyn. Interview with Clarence Fountain of “The Blind Boys of Alabama”. The “Wittenburg Door”. May/June 2003.

The Tommy Coomes Interview Part One

28 Mar

Tommy Coomes

The Tommy Coomes Interview Part One
By: Bob Gersztyn

Tommy Coomes #1
Tommy Coomes is a founding member of Love Song, a pioneer Jesus rock band whose nucleus formed in 1970. By 1975 they broke up, but Coomes was also co-owner of Maranatha Records along with Chuck Smith’s nephew, Chuck Fromm. He helped produce albums and had his own projects over the years, along with an occasional Love Song reunion. I did this interview on March 18, 2010, 4 months before I photographed a stop on the band’s West Coast reunion tour at a Calvary Chapel in Vancouver, Washington. I got to know the band in the early 1970’s when they performed at my church in Los Angeles a few times. I was the emcee of the coffee house ministry and introduced groups and delivered a short message and alter call at the end. When Love Song went on a world tour to the Philippines, my senior pastor Laverne Campbell accompanied them as part of the team. My first assignment as a freelance photographer was to shoot Love Song at a Coffee House in Alhambra, to use in promoting their trip to the Philippines. I included a couple of the shots from 1973, that weren’t used.
Tommy also became the music director for the Billy Graham organization, as well as Promise Keepers and has his own band, the Tommy Coomes Band. The purpose of this interview, as I told Tommy, was to get firsthand information about how CCM (Contemporary Christian Music), then known as Jesus Music, first began, for my book. “Jesus Rocks The World: The Definitive History of Contemporary Christian Music, vol 1&2.” The book was published by Praeger in 2012. After talking with Tommy for a few minutes about my involvement in the Jesus movement and some of the people that we both knew the interview began.

Love Song 1973

Bob Gersztyn: I appreciate you taking the time to from your busy schedule to talk to me. I’m glad to be able to reminisce about some really good times and friends that we both had in that era.

Tommy Coomes: Well that’s very helpful and what a fascinating background you have. Laverne Campbell is one of my favorite all time people. I never knew him really well but the last time that I saw him was probably 20-25 years ago in Atlanta I spent a day and a half with him and stayed in his house and thought that he was a wonderful guy. He really cared about people a lot. Is he still alive?

Bob: No, he tragically died from a horrible cancer, along with his wife. There is some speculation about the school that they transformed into a church had radiation or something that even affected some of the elders who also died of cancer, but it’s never been confirmed. It was a very sad thing. He was a great guy and was one of the kindest and caring persons that I knew. He was my pastor for 2 ½ years and my prototype for what a follower of Jesus was. Nobody else compared.

Tommy: I would agree. One of the things we did with him when we were bopping around and I was just doing whatever he was doing and he had a very busy schedule, but God put this young kid in his heart who was a homosexual that worked at a clothing store in Atlanta, where it was a hotbed for that lifestyle. He stopped in just to say hi to him. It wasn’t like he came to put him in a head lock and say, hey I know that you’re gay, but he just wanted to say, hey, how are you doing? I just thought that was very pioneering, back in those days. I just thought, this guy knows something that most people I know, just don’t know. How to be gracious to people and not try to put them in a head lock and preaching to them. Let’s get going with the interview.

Bob: The first question is how many Maranatha! compilation albums were there all together. I have 5 myself.
Tommy: There were 7. I’m not sure that I can tell you what year it was, but it was around 1978 that it was released. The first 4 were the most powerful and most widespread and they also had some really good songs on it. It was a way to not send a group into the studio to do a whole album. It was a way to capture one song and get them out there quickly.
Bob: How and when did Maranatha! Begin? And talk about your involvement with it.

Love Song

Tommy: I love what God did in that era. I think it’s part of why Chuck Smith Sr.’s philosophy of ministry has developed the way it has. God was already doing something, he wasn’t attempting to start something to see if God would bless it. The work of all these young people coming to Christ was already going on. It was something that God nourished. Nobody can take credit for that. It’s a work of God. It wasn’t just at Calvary Chapel (Costa Mesa, California) obviously. It was El Paso, Texas, Seattle, London, a little bit, Kansas City, Dallas, Ft. Worth. I’ve heard Dr. Edwin Orr, who is considered the world’s foremost authority on revival history. He would say that the Jesus movement wasn’t really a revival, it was really in another category that was literally a people movement, where it didn’t affect all of our society, per se, but hundreds of thousands, between half a million and several million people, you might know better than me. Mostly young people, but then their whole family was pulled into the kingdom. So that was already going on, in the context of the Jesus movement.
I came to Christ in March of 1970 and all the guys in Love Song came to Christ at the same time. Shortly after that it was like an explosion and they kept expanding the church. Chuck Smith is from a full gospel background. He’s not unaware of when God is moving and what it looks like. One of the things that I love about pastor Chuck is that he just wasn’t into kind of artificially propping that up or help God. Something special was happening down here because TIME magazine was coming down because it was getting a lot of news media.
The church was small, when I first went there I thought that there were about 200 people, although might say that it was 350, but it was a small, little tiny church. All of a sudden you had all these people were coming into the church to check out what was going on and all these groups start getting born. Groups like Love Song, The Way, Children of the Day, Daniel Amos and then you had Debbie Kerner, Ernie Rettino and you had all these groups start showing up with the songs they sang. It was very natural that within weeks literally, somebody would come up to us afterwards and say I’m the chaplain over at juvenile hall in the Orange County jail system and I’m wondering can you come and play for the prison system. In another case someone say’s hey I’m at this Presbyterian church out here in Orange and we’ve got this church youth group and I believe it needs what you’ve got, can you come and do our church on Sunday morning. Those things began to happen and pretty soon it’s can you come and do Northern California and things like that. The guys in the group didn’t have any money, we were lucky to have a car and some equipment. We were all about ministering day and night and responding to those requests. So pastor Smith said I need to get these kids some gas money to get from place to place. We’ve got all these songs. I literally got a call one night saying all you guys are going to be involved in an album at a little studio that has 4 track recording called Buddy King’s and you’re all going down there to record your songs. That’s how I found out about it.
So all of a sudden that was Maranatha One. Chuck Girard was involved in taking over production once mastering started and he wound up finishing the album. If I remember right there was supposed to be no more than $4,000.00 but wound up being $44 or $48,000.00, when it was done in 1970 and it came out in 1971. I didn’t find out until 20 years later, that Chuck Smith started it as a practical thing. You know, let’s put out an album and then the kids can sell them when they go places and they’ll have money to pay for the gas, because a lot of the time these churches are giving them nothing, but in the places that they’re going, there is nothing to be given. So what happened with that album when it first showed up, the first boxes of albums, we put them in Sunday school rooms at Calvary Chapel. By that time we may have been across the street I not quite sure. I remember seeing the album on the bigger lot across the way there, but it came out in 1971. Then somebody said that we need to incorporate this saying that it’s non-profit and that turned into, well hey, we’ll get some money coming back from these albums and let’s send another group in like Children of the Day. Let’s have them record their album. So it was a very humble beginning. It was not designed to be a record company. It was designed to just be a practical way to fund some of the ministry that was already happening.

Bob: So how did you end up in Love Song at Calvary Chapel, personally?

Fred Field 1978

Tommy: I came back from being in the army. See I went in the army in 1967 and got out in March of 1969. Before I’d gone into the army, I was playing music with Fred Fields, one of the original members of Love Song and another man named Chuck Butler, who was a great singer. We played in bands together in high school and going into college and we all got drafted about the same time. The very night that I got home from Germany, I got a call from Chuck Butler or Fred Field saying, hey, you have to come with us down to this club and hear this guy and I think that the band was probably called Love Song, playing in a bar on 19th Street. A little bar called the happening on 19th Street in Costa Mesa, California. I went down there and they told me about some of the musicians that were in the band that were friends of mine that I’d taken guitar lessons from, like Jesse Johnson or Larry Britton and Denny Corral, a long time friend, who was playing bass in there.
There’s this guy, Chuck Girard, I’d never heard of before. In context you have to remember, it’s like when you were a kid growing up playing, you’re going to go see other players. You’re going to go see the hot bands. So that was the context before I went into the army. I’d go see Denny Corral playing with this band called 5th Cavalry, he was definitely in with them and another band called the Vibrant’s that was playing at a place called the Cinnamon Cinder, in Long Beach, where I used to see Larry Britton and Jesse Johnson play, so these were people I knew. So I went to see this band. I’ve been gone for 2 years overseas and I come home and the first night I see this band and here’s Chuck Girard and 2 of my friends playing that I know and I’m going, wow what a great band wow what a great singer, wow, great songs.

Chuck & Tommy
That’s how I first met Chuck Girard. Now over the course of a year there’s a lot of movement between Southern California and Salt Lake City, where John Mehler lived and Jay Truax was living. They were in another band called Spirit of Creation. It was a great power trio with another guy Jeff Frarrer, I think it was F-R-A-R-R-E-R, I’m not positive on that one. Truax is T-R-U-A-X. John Mehler, M-E-H-L-E-R. They had this incredible band, it was the best band in Salt Lake City and somehow they came out for a visit and Jay and Chuck Girard had known each other before I knew either one of them.

Jay Truax
It’s interesting that Chuck Butler, Fred Field and Jay Truax all grew up in Downey, California, playing in local bands. So we’re just a bunch of kids. You try to be great musicians, going to see other bands and everybody is trying to make hit records. We’re all just trying to be good musicians. Somehow I run into Jay Truax when he comes into Costa Mesa. I think that I met him at Chuck Girard’s little house on Bay Street, I think that’s probably what it was on Bay Street in Costa Mesa. So I’m coming to see these bands and I remember meeting Jay at Chucks house one time and someone said that they were from Salt Lake. Next thing I know, Fred Field, one of my best friends, he takes off and he goes to Salt Lake City and I get a call from him saying, “dude you got to get up here, we’re opening for “Three Dog Night” and we just opened for the “Grateful Dead” last night. So I’m going, holy cow what is going on? So I literally hitchhiked out to Salt Lake City.

Power Trio
Now this is a long story, but I don’t think that anyone’s ever told it before. So I hitch hiked out to Salt Lake City and ended up living with Fred and the drummer John Mehler from the “Spirit of Creation.” So there is a lot of back and forth movement between Salt Lake City and Southern California, where most of the guys were originally from.
Moving forward a little bit, a lot of these bands started breaking up or going through hard times. Really, what happened was several of us had drug busts. I was busted along with Chuck Butler and Fred Field and a new discharge from the army in Newport Beach, for marijuana possession, late one night in Corona Del Mar. We wound up all living together in this house on the top of Baker Street in South Laguna, California and it’s like the remains of 2 groups. So all of a sudden, I’m living with Jay, Chuck, Fred and a drummer named Bobby Gadoti and a great organ player, Dave, I can’t remember his last name all of a sudden. There were 8 of us living in this house in South Laguna.

Love Song Leader Chuck Girard
Then Chuck Girard and another guy who was living with us was going off to Salt Lake City and they got busted in Las Vegas. So all of a sudden life was caving in on us. We’re all living together, playing together and by now we’re called the Laguna family band. We’re playing at the Hotel Laguna just to make ends meet. We were continuing to write songs, but things were on a downward spiral, but the interesting thing is, everyone is on a spiritual search. That was a good thing.
You remember Timothy Leary and his clan, people who lived right up the canyon and were involved in that kind of artistic, we thought forward thinking, enlightened groups of people or trying to be enlightened. There were people reading everything there is to read about spiritual things, Eastern religions and meditation. We were all vegetarians. We really in our own way, in the natural were trying to pursue finding what’s true? What’s truly spiritual? It really wasn’t all drug related things. There really was a lot of good things with people trying to find out. We weren’t complete druggies or something like that, but we were musicians trying to pick up any clues about where to make a dot connection and how to be a good person and these kind of things. They are very strong natural drives, I think for a lot of people. It was not uncommon at all. It was very common for that era, for that time. It was going on all over. The whole world was in an upheaval about that there’s gotta be something more kind of quest.

Chuck's Side
So while we’re living in South Laguna around Christmas time, before Christmas, a girl that we’d known in Salt Lake City named Sandy Love, spelled just like it sounds. She came to visit and brought us a book. She told us very, very briefly that her life was different now, every day since she met Jesus Christ. She had a pretty desperate situation beforehand. Then she said that there were some people, like us, who were living in this kind of Christian commune up in Newport Beach, some place called the Blue Top and it was a 14 room, if I remember right, old motel. It was 2 story and got destroyed in a flood and a Christian realtor named Ed Riddell, I believe, owned.
As young people would get saved and had no family connections to make a transition into a clean environment where you could study the Bible, work and go to church and you’d kind of change your entire life, leaving the past behind, you could move in there and be a productive part of it. It wasn’t a commune like a hippie commune, but was highly organized and was based around living the life of Christ. Lonnie (Frisbee) and Connie were the elders of the little commune and lived in the back. My future wife, Shelley was living down there as well. She was one of the elder women there, watching out for some of the younger girls.
So Sandy Love drives several of us. Me and Fred and somebody else I think whose house it was and she drives us over. She tells us about this person and about Calvary Chapel. This little church where wonderful things were happening. It’s got this hippie preacher and they teach the word of God. This was all completely foreign to me. Completely! My father was a Catholic and my mother was a Protestant and it was against the rules, the family house rules to ever to talk about religion or politics in our house, because these are the 2 things that send people into controversial discussions. Plus they couldn’t agree about that, so I knew nothing about the Bible and knew nothing about church.

Love Song  #1
The only church’s that I went to were a little strange. As far as my first church experiences they were either deader than a door nail, going through a ritual that I couldn’t understand or wild and crazy and I’ve got to get out of here. So I didn’t have much to go on. I had no Biblical information, no positive church background, but in fairness to this gal, she had kind of an intriguing story.
We went to this commune late one night and found out that it was too late, but we found out where it was and she told us about Calvary Chapel. And about a month later, if I remember right, we were in this house in Laguna Beach. Fred Field has come to Christ because he read a 4 Spiritual Laws or a Chick tract. Something like that. He accepted Christ, and the other part of the story is that reading this book that Sandy Love left. This book by John Sherrill perhaps. About 1969, late 69, that would be at Christmastime. He’s reading this book called they speak in other tongues and it was about the Baptism with the Holy Spirit and the cost. Since I had come from a Catholic background and had never read the Bible either. To Be Continued….

Love Song Zoom

Fortney Road

12 Mar

Jesus Freak guitar

Fortney Road is a soon to be published book by Jeff C. Stevenson. Jeff contacted me and asked me to read an advance copy of his book and provide an endorsement that he could use for the book jacket. The reason why he asked me was because of the fact that the book is about a religious cult that had a successful Jesus music band called the “All Saved Freak Band” and I wrote about them in my book “Jesus Rocks The World.”

The leader of the cult is pastor Larry Hill, who was also a keyboard player and lead singer for the band. Glenn Schwartz became the lead guitarist for the band by the time that they began recording albums in 1973. Schwartz was a renowned blues guitarist from the Cleveland area who formed the James Gang in the late 1960’s. When he left the James Gang to play with Pacific Gas and Electric Company Joe Walsh took his place. Schwartz was in his prime as a guitar player and was considered the most impressive guitarist who played at the 1968 Miami Pop Festival. He was in the same class with, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Peter Green, Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck. At the same time he preached to the crowd about Jesus from the stage to the embarrassment of his bandmates.

Soon after Glenn left the secular music world and joined a religious cult that included whippings for discipline. What began as a sincere effort to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ became a trap that some lost their lives in before escaping from, after a decade of abuse. Read more about it at Fortney Road: http://fortneyroad.com/ and buy the book when it come out. An article came out in Cleveland Scene about Glenn Schwartz and the book http://www.clevescene.com/scene-and-heard/archives/2015/03/12/new-book-aims-to-set-the-story-straight-about-local-guitar-hero-glenn-schwartz

Pacific Gas and Electric Company: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdtLhnL1cXY

Glenn Schwartz: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mEHTNXAaLws

All Saved Freak Band Utube cuts: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sV30Na5gjOw&index=8&list=PL7a09N5krIyq-lqgghL7GCta8ZRnlAz4c

SPIRIT

5 Mar

Spirit 1976 #1
Spirit: One Of The Greatest Hippie Rock & Roll Bands of the 1960’s.

Randy color solo #1
The first time that I saw Spirit was on Halloween, October 31, 1969 at the East Town theater on the East side of Detroit, Michigan. I had heard their radio hit “I Got A Line On You,” and I knew that they had a bald headed drummer, but other than that I didn’t know anything about them. The headline band that I had come to see was Canned Heat another L.A. band, along with Spirit, who was appearing as a special guest. Spirit blew me away with one of the most infectious high energy and original performances that I had seen up to that point.

Randy 1976 color solo

Then as a resident of the Greater Detroit Michigan area for 22 years, at the time, I’d seen all the Motown artists like Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder and major rock groups ranging from Jimi Hendrix and Pink Floyd to the Iron Butterly to the Mothers of Invention and dozens of others. So I wasn’t that easily impressed. In fact I had just seen Grand Funk Railroad perform at the East Town in July, before their appearance at Woodstock, and I was not at all impressed.

Cass

The band was comprised of skinhead Ed Cassidy on a supersized set of drums, Guitarist Randy California in a black leather jacket and sunglasses with curly black hair and a short beard, lead singer and tambourine twirler Jay Ferguson, bass player Mark Andes and keyboardist John Locke. They were so tight that they squeaked and proceeded to blow the roof off the place. They were playing songs off their new album, along with their 2 previous releases. Their repertoire was as impressive as their performance was awe inspiring with a stage presence that completely controlled the audience.

Ed Cassidy

I saw them in a variety of states since this was back in hippie times. Most of the time I was just smoking grass, but the second time that I saw them I was on mescaline and it was a very freaky experience. I saw them at a place in Birmingham that was called the Factory or something like that. It was a square box of a place with I Beams for rafters and absolutely no acoustics. I experienced Spirit in a totally different way than the last time. Plus I now owned their first 3 albums and was familiar with all their songs. However, I was so stoned that their set was nearly incoherent, but then it was a real trip.

Spirit Randy b&w Spririt Randy Teeth

At one point I remember Randy California telling a story as a lead in for playing Foxey Lady. It was about a guitar duel between the devil and some hick from down South. Randy played a searing guitar solo representing the devil and then he vamped up a notch and the hick played his explosive solo that blew the devil away.

Spirit #3

I didn’t know it at the time, but I found out that Randy California was a name given to him by Jimi Hendrix and in actuality Randy Wolfe was his name. The story according to Randy goes like this; when he was 16 he was living in New York City and was a member of Jimi James and the Blue Flames, Jimi Hendrix’s band in Greenwich Village. This was in 1966 before Chas Chandler of the Animals discovered Jimi and whisked him off to England. Randy told the story many times about how he was in Manny’s Music store, in Manhattan, when he saw a black guy playing a fender Stratocaster who he asked if he could look at it. The licks he played impressed the black guy enough to ask him to join his band that was currently playing at the Café Wha?, in Greenwich Village. While he was a member of the band there was another Randy in the band who was from Texas, so to avoid confusion he named one Randy California and the other Randy Texas.

Randy color 1995

I saw the original 5 members perform a total of 4 times over the next year and every show was great. Then after they released their 4th album, “The 12 Faces of Dr. Sardonicus,” they began to tour and broke up in the middle of the tour. I cried and moved from Detroit to L.A. a few months later. Jay Ferguson and Mark Andes formed a band called Jo Jo Gunne and I saw them perform at the Golden Bear, in Huntington Beach in June 1971. I photographed them, but was not a very good photographer at the time, so all my images were taken at a slow shutter speed and blurred.

Jo Jo Gun #1

Randy 1976 color solo

Then in 1976 I was attending Bible college to become a minister, but attended a Spirit concert at the Golden Bear. I brought my camera and got shots of the concert with Fuzzy Knight on bass. At the same time Jay Ferguson had a solo career that made him a album oriented FM station top 40 radio star. Mark Andes began playing bass for Northwest sister’s band, Heart and Spirit continued in its many incarnations with Randy California and Ed Cassidy at the center and a variety of sidemen. It was a father son venture. Folk Singer Steve Forbert Opened the show and I accidentally did a double exposure of him and Randy.

Spirit & Steve Forbert

By 1984 I had moved back to Michigan after 13 years on the West Coast, for a couple of years. While I was there Spirit was doing their 1984 tour, based on their radio hit “1984” from 1970. They were playing at a new place that opened while I was gone, called Harpo’s. It was on the East Side of Detroit, on Harper, like the East Town theater, but was more of a night club, like the Golden Bear. They had guards in the parking lot and I enjoyed the show. The band was made up of 4 people.

Cass Sunglasses

Then in 1995 one day I was looking in the entertainment section of the Oregonian and saw that Spirit was going to be playing at a club in Portland called Bojangles. I bought 2 tickets and took my just turned 21 year old son, Michael with me. I called ahead of time to get permission to photograph the show. They connected me with Randy and we became Spirit’s guests. I shot the show and after the show I talked with Ed and Randy and they wanted me to photograph them for an upcoming promotional poster. I invited to come to my house the next day and gave Randy my address and phone number.

Randy test strip

The band was a 3 man group made up of keyboardist Scott Monahan, Randy and Ed. Ed Cassidy was 72 years old when I photographed the show and then the next day. He became the oldest performing rock drummer. Cass, as Ed Cassidy was called, was originally a jazz drummer and was in his mid 40’s when he formed Spirit with his stepson and his friends. Originally they were the Red Roosters and won a battle of the bands contest.

Spirit & Bob

They came and I photographed them on 5 rolls of black & white film that I gave to Randy for the cost of the film. Since they were bulk loaded film they only cost about $2.00 a roll, including the cartridge, which was reusable. Randy let me take some color shots of them with and without me in it for my collection and even signed a model release along with Ed and autographed my Spirit compilation album. I told them that they could use the shots any way that they wanted. They would give me credit and that was all I wanted. Randy tragically drowned in 1997 at the age of 45 and Ed Cassidy died of cancer at the age of 89 in 2012. You can still get their music and even some videos on utube, but as any experienced rock concert goer can tell you seeing a great group perform live in their prime is something that recordings and films can only present a limited representation of. They were great and if I only had one band to be on a desert island with it would be the original 5 man Spirit of 1969.

Spirit signed album reduced

“I Got A Line On You 1968 & 1984 Spirit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2aKNhvMd_5U
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=en55_U3sKAM

“When I Touch You” Spirit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0z_e17GJ_Ao

Entire album: “The 12 Dreams of Dr. Sardonicus” by Spirit
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TXXdZjispHs

Run, Run, Run by Jo Jo Gunne
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AqYYhbDbnsI

https://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A0SO8wv74QBVnDEAEiOl87UF;_ylc=X1MDOTU4MTA0NjkEX3IDMgRmcgNzcGlnb3QteWhwLWZmBGdwcmlkA2RvbGk4MC40UUsySHV0WkN2VzBRQUEEbl9yc2x0AzAEbl9zdWdnAzUEb3JpZ2luA3NlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20EcG9zAzEEcHFzdHIDUnVuIFJ1biBydW4gam8gam8gZ3VubmUEcHFzdHJsAzIzBHFzdHJsAzMxBHF1ZXJ5A3J1biBydW4gcnVuIGpvIGpvIGd1bm5lIHlvdXR1YmUEdF9zdG1wAzE0MjYxMjEyNjY-?p=run+run+run+jo+jo+gunne+youtube&fr=spigot-yhp-ff&fr2=sa-gp-search&type=903578&iscqry=
https://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=A0SO8wv74QBVnDEAEiOl87UF;_ylc=X1MDOTU4MTA0NjkEX3IDMgRmcgNzcGlnb3QteWhwLWZmBGdwcmlkA2RvbGk4MC40UUsySHV0WkN2VzBRQUEEbl9yc2x0AzAEbl9zdWdnAzUEb3JpZ2luA3NlYXJjaC55YWhvby5jb20EcG9zAzEEcHFzdHIDUnVuIFJ1biBydW4gam8gam8gZ3VubmUEcHFzdHJsAzIzBHFzdHJsAzMxBHF1ZXJ5A3J1biBydW4gcnVuIGpvIGpvIGd1bm5lIHlvdXR1YmUEdF9zdG1wAzE0MjYxMjEyNjY-?p=run+run+run+jo+jo+gunne+youtube&fr=spigot-yhp-ff&fr2=sa-gp-search&type=903578&iscqry=

Thunder Island by Jay Ferguson
https://search.yahoo.com/search;_ylt=AwrTHQor4wBV6hQAyc.l87UF;_ylc=X1MDOTU4MTA0NjkEX3IDMgRmcgNzcGlnb3QteWhwLWZmBGdwcmlkA0NZRFA3RWhCUVl5X0xrdlppX2ZBQ0EEbl9yc2x0AzAEbl9zdWdnAzEwBG9yaWdpbgNzZWFyY2gueWFob28uY29tBHBvcwMxBHBxc3RyA2pheSBmZXJndXNvBHBxc3RybAMxMQRxc3RybAMyNwRxdWVyeQNqYXkgZmVyZ3Vzb24gdGh1bmRlciBpc2xhbmQEdF9zdG1wAzE0MjYxMjE1NDI-?p=jay+ferguson+thunder+island&fr=spigot-yhp-ff&fr2=sa-gp-search&type=903578&iscqry=

Shake Down Cruise by Jay Ferguson
http://www.last.fm/music/Jay+Ferguson/_/Shakedown+Cruise

Bo Diddley Interview

16 Feb

Bo Diddley Interview #1
Back in 2006 when I was an associate editor for Blues Revue/Blueswax and the Wittenburg Door magazine I had the privilege of interviewing Bo Diddley, who is a rock & roll legend. It was before his concert in Salem, Oregon that I reviewed for Blues Revue/Blueswax. It was published in both online publications and can still be found online at the Wittenburg Door’s website, which is still up, even though the magazine quit publishing in 2008. Blues Revue/Blueswax quit publishing in 2013, but their website is no longer up. The link to the online interview is at the end of the interview. I took all the photos at the Elsinore Theater in Salem, Oregon, the day of the concert.
Bo Diddley Interview.
September 26, 2006
By: Bob Gersztyn

Bo Diddley Interview #2

Bob Gersztyn: You began your musical involvement through the church. That seems to be common among many of the early pioneers of Rock & Roll. Why is that?

Bo Diddley: I don’t know. That’s where we learned how to do something.

Bob: Were you going to church with your parents?

Bo: Yeah, but I wasn’t playing no rock & roll in it then.

Bob: I read that your first music teacher, who taught you violin was the pastor of a church wasn’t he?

Bo: No. Professor O. W. Frederick.

Bob: I must have misread it in your biography.

Bo: Somebody added some shit to something that you read. It wasn’t so. My Pastor of my church was Reverend Smith, and the man who took care of the music part, was the professor O. W. Frederick, Oscar Frederick, and he taught me violin, so I played classical music for twelve years.

Bob: When you first were starting out, I mean as very young, in the thirties and forties, who were the people that influenced you at that time?

Bo: Nobody. Nobody influenced me to play classical music. I saw a dude with a violin and a stick, and that looked really cool. You know? And my church got together and took up twenty-nine dollars, and that’s what it cost, back then. Twenty-nine bucks was a lot of money back then.

Bob: I’m sure it was.

Bo Diddley Interview #3

Bo: It was man. Laughter. You could get a sack of potatoes for like damn near ten cents.

Bob: When you look back on the tumultuous period that was going on in the 1960’s, how did that affect you? Were you involved in that in any way?

Bo: Like what do you mean?

Bob: Everything from Civil Rights to the Hippies.
Bo: I wasn’t involved in that, but I benefited from that, from the people that was doing it. You know. Because this shit should have never been that way in the first place. America has got some deep bullshit going on, you know, that we’re walking in. This is a beautiful country, and I think we got one of the greatest systems in the world, but it’s got some flaws, a lot of bad flaws, and it makes us no different from the people, like the people that they fighting right now. We got some shit going on right here in this country, that should not be going on. I’m talking about freedom. I don’t think that you’re supposed to go out and do wrong and then hide behind the flag, but a lot of people are doing that right now. Being a Black man, I used to wouldn’t even say shit like that, because I think that one day everybody would be as one. Regardless of who we are, if the Bible is right, we are all sisters and brothers, regardless of what color we are. What nationality or whatever way you want to put it. That’s the way I see it. I never thought about people being black and white, yellow and green and all that crap. We are all one.

Look at how the war is going on. I’ve been involved in it just as much as my white brothers. Now if it’s going to be separated, what do you want me to go fight for? It ain’t no business of mine, I didn’t do it, so why should I fight. I’ll stay back here and take care of the house. Sweep the floors and all that, but instead, we’re all in the same boat baby. We all in the same boat, and America needs to get rid of these standards that we got going on. See, just wake up and smell the roses, that’s all.

Bob: How has racism affected you in your career, over the years?

Bo: I’m still working. I never got a royalty check from Chess Records. It went to Sugar Hill and I ain’t seen no money yet. Everything that I own, I got it from working one nighter’s. A lot of people don’t understand how that can happen. All they have to do is, the people don’t pay you, that’s all. If they can stay away from me long enough, because first of all you got to have money to get a lawyer. You dig?

Bob: Yeah, I dig.

Bo Diddley Interview #4

Bo: And then if there’s no money in what you’re doing, you can’t get no lawyer. So they ain’t worried. They fight you with your money, and I’ve been a victim of that, and I’m not happy about it, and I figure one day maybe before I leave this damn Earth, that I’ll go out and look in my mailbox and they’ll all be in there. In other words that ain’t gonna happen, this is America. That’s what you call a good old American rip off. You look at me right now. If I decided to jump up and go 100% suing somebody, it would be crazy for me to do it. You know why? Because they got something up the road called “Statute of Limitation”. Just like you’re doing a story right now. Alright, now if somebody else copies something that you did, and it might be a “statute” of three months, if there’s anything called a statute. It could be a hoax for all I know. Somebody gets something of yours and you wait four months to go after them, you might as well go back over and sit down, because they got it for their own. There’s a statute on that, you should have did that 23 days ago. Laughter. Do you hear what I’m saying?
Bob: Yeah, but….

Bo: You’re screwed right there man. You ain’t going to get nothing, so you might as well shut the hell up, and go back home. And that’s what’s happening right now. These people don’t have to run from me, but they know that I ain’t going to get nothing if I take them to court.

Bob: How many times, do you think, in you career do you feel that you’ve been ripped off?

Bo: I been ripped off for millions baby! Millions! I’m not just saying that as just a word. I’ve been ripped off. I have never seen a royalty check that came to me. I had some problems with a song. I’m gonna tell you this, but I don’t talk about it. A song that I wrote back in 1957, called Before You Accuse Me, I had some problems that the publishing company was paying another dude, and my name is Ellas, and they was paying another dude, and somebody sees something in a magazine and calls me and says, Bo did you write a song called such and such. Yep. Well there’s some other dude in there that say he got paid for a song that he don’t remember writing.
Eric Clapton did the song, but Eric don’t have nothing to do with people getting paid. Whoever it was, sent the money to the wrong dude. What kind of shit is that?

Bob: I read how you became the Deputy Sheriff of Los Lunas, New Mexico. How did that come about, and how long did you do that?

Bo: Two and a half years. Then I went back to Florida.

Bob: How did that even happen?

Bo: It’s worse than the police man. I like law. We got to have law. We got to have it. If we didn’t have laws, you couldn’t walk the streets. You dig? It’s bad now that we got the law. You can’t hardly walk the streets. You got crime. People getting away with all sorts of shit. It’s just not right. The drug scene can be stopped. If they go through people’s shit, like they do if I go to Canada, they go through my guitar case, tearing up shit, pulling stuff loose, wouldn’t no drugs get in here. So what is the thing? Everybody turns their head and look the other way, because we’re talking about a dollar bill. There’s a lot of money involved in that shit. People ain’t gonna hang themselves. They ain’t gonna put no rope around their own neck, you know. It’s almost like the kids that we’re dealing with today. With all the gangs and crap like that. Now when I was a kid coming up, if you were involved in gangs and making trouble in the streets, they put your ass in the Army. You understand? Go in there and learn how to be a man. That’s damn near about what needs to happen, I think. Because with this mess that we’re fighting right now, we’re not gonna win this, because this is a different type of man that we’re fighting. I don’t know who he is, but this dude is like a ghost.
What kind of man will stand up and kill by just putting a bomb on himself, and go stand around to kill six people. This is the thing. They have no regard for human life, and all this kind of stuff. I call it a ghost that we fighting. We need to leave them, and just tell the innocent people to get the hell out of Dodge, because we coming. You understand? We need to try to wipe this crap off the face of the planet. I don’t like to kill nobody, but this is not….he’s called a human being, but what kind of human being is he? You dig? What kind of man is this that they’re trying to eradicate? We’re trying to straighten out, trying to turn him into our ways, and they don’t want to be like us. It’s like trying to train a dog to do arithmetic. Set up and talk to you. I don’t like the things that go on where we stepping outside of our civilization. A civilized world as we call it for us. We are able to negotiate. We’re able to sit down and talk, and find out who stepped on who’s foot, that pissed them off. Don’t jump up and say the hell with you, I’ll step on it again. No, I’m sorry. That’s the reason why that word is in our vocabulary, is because I’m sorry for doing what I did to you and it won’t happen again. We due to have that one chance to prove that we are really sorry. What did we do to these people that make them want to kill everybody in America? What did we do? Somebody tell me something. You dig? I don’t know what it is, but I don’t think that God meant for us to be doing what we’re doing. I just don’t believe it. It’s like a family. Are they our brothers and sisters, as I said before? Are they involved in it? I don’t know, I’m scarred of it. It’s really weird. We’re fighting a ghost, and these people are not going to yield to our democracy, and all the stuff we trying to put on, they don’t want it. You can take a mule to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Bob: So what do you think that the solution to the problem is?

Bo: They need some rock & roll.

Bob: Could you say that again.

Bo: They need some rock & roll. They need some happy people. They need some good music that is not dangerous to their culture, and they’ve got to be showed something, something’s wrong man. Something went down funky, that we as citizens don’t know. Somebody did something. You take like, this is political. I get tired of talking about rock & roll all the time. I want people to know that I know something else besides the guitar. You dig what I’m saying?

Bob: Yes I do.
Bo: In my studio I’m gonna do a tape of Bo Diddley speaks, because I have a lot of time to think, and I see a lot of stuff that just ain’t right. Even in our own law enforcement, in our cities. We got police running around with dogs, biting people. This is an animal. You can’t talk to him, he don’t know you and he’s trained to kill. That’s like giving a nut a gun, and telling him, go ahead, shoot it. If you tell the police don’t bite me, the dog don’t know what the hell you saying. You know? And the man turning him loose to go bite whoever, that is wrong. I think, don’t sue the State, sue the person who sic the dog on you. I had a person tell me that a dog jumped on their mother, and I said that I’d like to ask the Governor, or whoever it is, that’s been having all this dog jumping on people. I said if you have to use a dog for a vicious criminal, then so be it, but people with a traffic ticket and stuff like that, you going to sic a dog on them? Would you want a dog sicced on you Mother? No. Uh uh. You dig what I’m saying? No this is wrong. This is something that we’re fighting against. This is German tactics, Russia and all those kinds of places like that. Now we got it here in America? No! Uh uh! That’s not right! It’s not right, and people need to think. I just jump back and say, well this is an old rock & roller talking and I ain’t biting my tongue about it. It needs to be looked at, because we’re turning into something that we ain’t gonna like man. It’s almost like you try and change somebody’s way of living, and after you change them, you might not like what you change them into. You dig? We need to look at this and get happy. I mix it up with rock & roll, with music. Let’s go back to doing something worthwhile and nice. America the beautiful, and all that good stuff. That’s where I want to be. I don’t want people telling me, I don’t like your country man.

Bob: So do you think that music has the potential to be able to make some changes?

Bo: I think so. If you can soothe a damn ape, where he’ll sit and look at you rather than tearing you apart, if you’re playing something. It’s funny man that we can train animals and we can’t even train our own kids. Really weird. Like I was getting ready to say a moment ago, when I got into something else, because there’s so much on my mind about different things that I get it all mixed up. Like the kids. Kids going to school with guns, and all this stuff. We didn’t have no crap like that when I was coming up. That’s what you call a change. That’s some kind of change, but what kind is it? For the better or the worse? Because parents are not allowed to train their own kids, cause you can have 9 kids, and one of them is liable to give you a heart attack. So what is happening? We need to get back to the good book. Our whole thing is based on God bless America. You think God’s going to bless the bunch of crap that’s going on?

Bob: Are you a religious person?

Bo: Very much. Very much. I play my little rock & roll, but I believe in that book man. That book is like a schematic to our life, and look what’s happening right now?

Bob: What’s your favorite part of the Bible?

Bo: All of it. It’s all in there. It’s like a map that you get from here to Chicago. If you follow the right road you’ll end up at the right destination, but if you veer off, you’re going to get lost. Okay?

Bob: Okay. What do you think of the current state of the music today?

Bo Diddley Interview #5
Bo: That’s one of the things that really is confusing to me, because the rap music that’s going on today, is okay, but I just don’t like the dirty rap. With the dirty lyrics. I don’t like that. No. Some of the lyrics of the rap songs I don’t like. I’m from the old school baby. You can make music without using the dirty lyrics and exploiting our girls and mothers. Women in general. I just don’t like that. Everybody talks about censorship, and this shit, some of it is out here, just like I said it right now. Ten years ago, I wouldn’t of said that. All of a sudden, my mouth got to the point where, I didn’t have to worry about certain words, which I still don’t like it. That one just slipped, just then. You understand?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: I still don’t like it. I don’t understand how the FCC allows this stuff. A couple of things I’ve heard, that I couldn’t figure out, how did they let them get through to say that. How did they let some shows get on television, with chicks half naked, ain’t got no clothes on, and some dude licking all over them, you know, and your kid’s looking at this shit. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: So now how do you raise a kid, to try and let him get 15, 16, 17 years old before you take your hands off of him. Since he got to be with us that long anyway. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: We’re the only species on the planet, that I know about, that our kids stay with us til they’re 21, 25 damn near 30 years old. If you leave them when they first come in the world, they starve to death. There’s nothing else that will do that except little bitty things that can’t see. How they going to do nothing? But everything that comes in here, almost know how to start finding something to eat, to survive. We are not that way. We rather kill then survive. So we got all these different things going on. Like these people that I was talking about a moment ago. What kind of man is this? A man that take a plane with a lot of innocent people, and run it into a building. What kind of man is this? We need to try and find out, what it is, of where he come from. Who is he? Because he looks like a human being, but is he really? What do we have? How can we fight this? Cause something is wrong baby. Something is so wrong. I’ll get back to the rock & roll thing what you asked me.

I wanted to say this as I’m talking about it. Like everybody jumped on Bush, because they think that Bush is such a bad person. I don’t think so. You know why? Because we put Bush in the office to do exactly what he did. To protect us. If there’s something that sounds funky, go out and shut it down. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: So we did that. Now he went and they didn’t find what somebody told him that was there. The poison gas and the mass destructions weapons, and some kind of crap. He ain’t found nothing, but I bet you on my life, I bet you they there. They there. They probably buried in that sand. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.
Bo: And they probably put the stuff so deep, that our little detection machines only detect so deep, and all they had to do was go another two or three stories down, after our little detection machine won’t reach. So we said ain’t nothing there, so Bush lied. No uh, uh I don’t think he lied. I think he acted in good faith. If he’d had of went, and the man came up out of there with something, we’d still be beat’in him up. We beat him up on the front door and the back door. You know what I’m saying?

Bob: Uh huh.

Bo: We going to jump on him anyway, and I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t think that’s right. They need to leave him alone. He did what they put him in there to do. He didn’t find nothin’, but at least he went to look. He went to look. He didn’t set on his butt. He went to look, and I think that they should leave Bush alone. I wouldn’t be the President for nothing in the world man. If you don’t find something they send you to look for, then they want to beat you up, because you didn’t find it. So that’s about all that! Now back to rock & roll!

Bob: What kind of music do you listen to today?

Bo: A lot of Country music.

Bob: Like who?

Bo: A lot of guys, you know. A lot of them I can’t pull their name up. Vince Gill, I like him, and Sheryl Crow. She’s my favorite, and Dolly Parton, in the early years. Well now too, I think that girl is remarkable. Charlie Daniels too. There’s so many of them, I can’t think of their names. There’s so many of them, and I love their music, because they got lyrics. Right now Rap music wouldn’t be so bad, with the part that I’m talking about, if they just clean up what I’m talking about. I like some of the Rap stuff, you know? I’m not against it at all, because it’s a new generation of music, and a new generation of kids, and every generation’s got their own bag of tricks.

Bob: How did you feel about Jimi Hendrix?

Bo: Jimi was okay. Jimi was a great friend of mine. He was a guitar player for Little Richard. I knew him very well, way before he made it big. He was in the “Upsetters”. That was Little Richards band, called the “Upsetters”. He got all by himself in upsetting stuff.

Bob: You play a guitar like a drummer plays drums. How did you first come up with that technique?
Bo: I don’t know. I wanted to be a drummer, but it didn’t work. My hands would not do one thing, while the other was doing the other. They both trying to do the same thing. I taught my daughter, Tammy Deane, to play drums. She calls herself Tammy Diddley. She’s about 4′-7″ or something like that, or 5′-2″. I don’t know, she’s short, a little bitty thing, and she plays like a man, and I taught her.

Bob: When you write a song, what is the process that you go through?

Bo: Put together lyrics, and make them have a meaning. Don’t just say some stuff. I don’t like songs like, things with guys that say I’ll swim the ocean for you, and can’t get out of the bath tub. I don’t like songs like that. I like song’s that’s with reality. Something that people can relate to.

Bob: Do you write the lyrics first or the melody?

Bo: I write sometimes the melody first, and then fit lyrics to it. Something that I can say. Whatever way the melody and rhythm is going. You know?

Bob: If you look at your entire life, and say this is the single biggest accomplishment that I want you to remember me by?

Bo: By the rhythm that I created. I’m a rhythm fanatic. I’m not a watcha call a finger fanatic, that you do a lot of little fast picking and stuff, I can’t do that. That rhythm that’ll make you undress.

Bob: Is there anything that you would like to add that I haven’t talked about?

Bo: It’s just that we deserve, I think that we deserve all the rock & rollers that really want to do something before they really say, I’m through with it. Let these kids know today, where it all began, and the way it’s really done. Don’t sample our stuff, think for yourself.

Bob: So getting back to the roots of gospel and blues?

Bo: That’s right, that’s right. One other thing, when you said roots, that triggered something in my mind that I’ve been telling people about. This is going back. I have to put this in with the political crap that I was talking about. To find out how these guy are working, over there, when our boys is over there. With roadside bombs, homemade bombs and all this. They need to find out where are they getting the material to do this stuff with, because they need to go to the roots of the crime, rather than playing with the leaves and branches, on the tree. You know what I’m saying? You don’t kill a tree by fooling with the branches. You got to get the root. That stops it from growing, and see they’re never going to stop these people if they never find out where they getting all of their stuff from, to make these stupid bombs. They could be making them in somebody’s front room. You know. They got to find out where it’s coming from.

Bob: Kind of like the drug thing.
Bo: That’s it. You gotta go to the roots in order to stop it. You’re not going to stop it by grabbing one of these little punks in the streets with $2.00 worth of something in his fingers. You ain’t going to find out nuthin, because he ain’t gonna tell you nuthin. You got to find out where he got it from. This is one of the baddest things that’s going on in our country, is that we got people that we’re passing by, and letting stuff in. Then other times let a little ship get caught. They sent it out there to get caught, so they can tell the treasury people, oh look what we did, we’re really cracking down. What about the big sucker that went by. Ha. Okay? In other words turn your head, you didn’t see this. You know what I’m saying? See, and we got a lot of crap that needs to be addressed. In other words ghetto tactics, not college. Cause college ain’t working. How do these dudes in the ghetto manage to stay away from the police so easy? Cause that’s their thing. Learn how to hide. That’s what they doing. So you ain’t going to find that in a law book in college, in a classroom. You got to get out there and go where the mess is at, and look for it, and dig deep baby. I’m going to have to let you go. God bless America, and God bless you bro. Take care of yourself. Bye.

Bo Diddley Interview #6

I also had my interview with Bo Diddley published in the Wittenburg Door magazine and this is the online version. http://www.wittenburgdoor.com/bo-diddley-bible.html

Bo Diddley Concert Review

12 Feb

Bo Diddley zoomBo Diddley & group

Ellas Bates McDaniel, also known as Bo Diddley was one of the most important artists to help create the new genre of music called rock & roll out. McDaniel’s first hit was co-written with blues legend, Muddy Waters to establish the connection between blues and the new genre. His career lasted for 60 years until his death in 2008 This is a concert review that I did for Blues Revue/Blueswax 2 years before his death. I also interviewed him and will post that interview in another couple of days.

Bo Diddley & Friends in Concert
Historic Elsinore Theatre
Salem, Oregon
Friday, September 29, 2006

Ruthie Foster #1

Ruthie Foster opened the show a few minutes past 7:30 P.M.. Her performance was an acoustic set combining Blues, Folk and Gospel, that included six numbers, including original compositions, and selections from Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Odetta. When Alvin Youngblood Hart took the stage the music tempo went up a notch, as he belted out his brand of rock & blues. He was backed by Tony “T” Leindecker, playing incredible lead guitar, Sandy Gennaro pounding the drums, James “Jimmy” Hinds thumping out electric bass and Scottie Miller playing keyboards.

Alvin Youngblood Hart #1

After a brief intermission, Bo Diddley, the “Prime Minister of Rock & Roll”, as Alvin Youngblood Hart called him, took the stage at 9:00 PM. He was backed by Gennaro, Hinds, Leindecker and Miller. The set began with Ellas Bates McDaniel’s first hit, from 1955, that became his moniker. It was released two weeks before “Bill Haley & the Comets” released Rock Around the Clock, Bo told the crowd. “Bo Diddley bought his babe a diamond ring” the master began to sing. Dearest Darling followed, which displayed his tender side.

Bo Diddley #1

Between songs Bo talked to the audience. He told the light man to turn up the house lights so he could see who he was talking to. “I’ve been in the business 52 years, and I’m not 100 years old like some people say. I’m only 78. My first record was Bo Diddley with I’m A Man on the back.” Then he explained. “The reason why I’m sitting down is because of breaking two bones in my back, and I’ve got diabetes. If your feet start to swell up, go see the doctor, because it ain’t gonna get better.”

Bo and the band dove into I’m A Man, which is credited to co-authorship with Muddy Waters, who released it as Mannish Boy. After completing the song, Bo explained, “I’ve changed the lyrics of the song for women, so now the title is Shut Up Woman.” Then he began “I’m yours, so you’re mine, so we’re each other’s, so shut up.” Some of the politically correct members of the audience weren’t sure how to react. Tony “T” Leindecker provided some great intricate guitar work, behind Bo’s thumping rhythm, as well as an occasional solo.

Bo Diddley #2

“Back in 1958,” Bo told the crowd, “if you were anybody, you had a 1957 Chevy, with mud flaps and dual exhausts.” Then he continued. “I had a 1949 Cadillac.” This was an introduction to I’ve Seen Them All, a litany of major musical artists that he shared the stage with, at some point in his career. Names like, “Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Jimmy Reed, Church Berry, the magnificent Elvis Presley, I’ve seen them all and been on the stage with them.” The list went on for another five minutes, including Jimi Hendrix, B.B. King, Janis Joplin, James Brown, the Rolling Stones, as the crowd was drawn into the frenzy by being encouraged to clap along.

When band began Don’t Be Caught Digging In My Yard, the audience was exposed to some classic double entendre. “I’ve got two German Shepherds and a Rottweiler, and I might be coming home early, so don’t be caught digging in my yard.” Roadrunner rounded it out with a few beep beeps, as the band got into a jam, and drove the audience’s adrenalin up.

Bo Diddley & drummer

“I’m gonna mess with your head a little bit,” Diddley announced. Then he asked everyone to stand to their feet, and do their own thing. This brought on the opportunity for all those disposed to do so, to shake their booty, or at least tap their foot, as Bo Diddley and company blasted out Wind Me Up. I’m gonna Eat Me a Pig Tonight was performed with a rap like delivery, as the master sang “I wanna do it with you”. By this time Ruthie Foster and Alvin Youngblood Hart were on the stage for the grande finale, and less than a minute later, after I got to the balcony and took a few shots of the entire cast, the show was over, the stage was empty and the lights came on.

Bo Diddley & Friends #1

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