What Blues Needs....part two

Charlie Bernstein

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Maybe this should have a thread of its own, but I'll try this here:

On TDPRI, I have read a lot of posts, that address the SRV wannabes that seem to permeate the blues scene. I wonder if there are some names and recordings of the SRV wannabes. Who are these wannabes?
They're most of the "blues" players here in central Maine. They think the blues came from Stevie and Eric. There are bassists how who don't know who Willie Dixon was, keyboardists who've never hear of Otis Spann or Pinetop Perkins, and guit pickers who think "Wonderful Tonight" is blues.

But why listen to their recordings? Just pop in an SRV disc and go right to the source. Sort of.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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Maybe? Haha, I don't know.

I started the thread to point out the mecca of electric blues for decades, Chicago, had a generation of wildly successful folks who got their start in bands covering the blues music out of Chicago. And, many years later, still many successful people who share their love of that music. Yet, unlike some other cities and their respective scenes/genres, very little to near nothing was preserved from that incredibly influential era beyond the effort of a couple OG's (Dixon, Guy). Not even placards at important locations, lol.

There's still a ton of people playing the music, some famous & loaded, most not so much. Liking what they're laying down is certainly a matter of our individual taste.
You're ignoring the obvious.

The country music industry is a huge economic driver for the Nashville region. Music dominates Music City. In comparison, the blues business is chump change in Chicago.

Music dominates other economies, too. South By Southwest has measurably driven up house and apartment prices around Austin — and driven the gentrification that has moved a lot of people out. New Orleans thrives on its traditional jazz heritage.

Like Nashville, those towns' music draws in hordes of tourists. But the money the blues brings to Chicago — or Mississippi, for that matter — just doesn't compare.

Blues has always been an outsider and an outlier. That's why they call it the blues.

But before you zip back to Chicago to lobby the chamber of commerce to start boosting the blues, consider what happened when Chet Atkins starting promoting the Nashville sound.* He got rich, and the music lost its soul.

The blues still has soul to spare, and the main reason, in my humble, is that it hasn't been monetized beyond all recognition.

--------------

* Auto-correct won't let me capitalize "sound," but I want to.
 
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deytookerjaabs

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You're ignoring the obvious.

The country music industry is a huge economic driver for the Nashville region. Music dominates Music City. In comparison, the blues business is chump change in Chicago.

You've lost the plot...

Much of the preservation in Nashville was in place long before it became a top tourist destination when downtown was practically in blight and moreover most of it has jack squat to do with the money maker that is modern country music, the opry ownership group, modern Broadway et cetera. And, that preservation was driven by certain individuals in and around the music scene, not by the board of commerce. While the city does boast "Music City" as a thing it's now supporting a scene that little resembles what it was just ten years ago. Sorry, propping up bachelorette tourism to Kid Rock's is not what I'm talking about when I use the term "preservation." Places like the Ryman, spots where you can still hear old country like Robert's, Layla's, even the fact the Tubb's survived for so long were all because players/enthusiasts gave a damn.

You can say a similar bit about New York, that scene has survived on the back of enthusiasts, venue owners & players. It's got nothing to do with the actual economy of the city itself either, obviously.

Now, the idea that "Blues has a soul and don't need no stinkin' preservation" might sound cool in a snarky music journalist article. But, in reality, there are legendary guys who have stepped in and tried to keep a scene going in Chicago already for the sake of preservation. If you think that's the antithesis of "Blues" because you know better what blues is than they do then go have a word with those guys yourself, lol.
 

tfarny

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There is just no market for a blues scene like there is for country in Nashville. As a part of what made American music its unique contribution to the world (the product of melding African influences with European, producing jazz, blues, country, and all their variants), it is still tremendously influential. I could hardly play anything that isn't touched by some blues elements.

But electric blues rock, which is what most people actually mean when they think of blues, is a tired, tired, tired genre, it's tiring to even state this fact. And the earliest versions of the blues (what was recorded, anyhow) are not gonna move people today. And that's fine, there are all kinds of people making all kinds of good music today and it's easier to hear them than ever before.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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. . . Now, the idea that "Blues has a soul and don't need no stinkin' preservation" might sound cool in a snarky music journalist article. . . .
Yes, it might. But that's not what I said (or think).

I just mean that there are a lot, lot more rich artists, producers, and distributors in country music than in blues. The blues world doesn't have as many deep pockets. Some, as you say, but not a lot. The Nashville Sound (fixed it!) proved to be a cash cow.

Folks like Taj Mahal and the people you mentioned work wonders, but there just aren't nearly as many of them. That's why the blues is an outlier. I hate it, too. No more Theresa's!

So I heartily agree with your point. It is a shame that Chicago hasn't invested more in its blues heritage. You nailed it. I was just trying to point out the dollars and sense of it.

Glad you're keeping the faith!
 
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deytookerjaabs

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Glad you're keeping the faith!

There was a place that I used to go to around 2002/3. It was a south side survivor called "The New Apartment Lounge" and was in that lineage of south/west side lounges from back in the day (that are basically extinct?). It mostly was a drinking establishment but had jazz a few nights a week.

You walked into the place and it was like stepping into 1968 south Chicago. It had those funky mirrors, a round teal colored with gold sparkle bar, old swivel chairs etc. It had some younger fellas but a good number of old timers, guys who took wearing a hat with a feather in it seriously. They'd talk fast when asking for a drink "Hey mama, get I get uh .... ... ... .... ... .. . ... .. .. with some ice in it thanks baby." You know, you had to have personality to hang.

The musicians would be part imports like me but a surprising amount of local folks who came to sit in. Guys from the neighborhood would walk in with paint on their jeans like they just got off the job and sit down then swing their ass off on the drum kit! It was a reminder of how local all this stuff used to be. It was also a reminder that the audience used to ebb & flow in an outspoken manner with the players, if it was tight you got an "alright" if it wasn't you got some looks come your way.

Point is, the fact that place survived up through the 2000's made it all the worse that it closed down. There were so many places like it in their heyday and it would have been nice to see a survivor or two for another generation of people to get that experience. An experience which, IMO, is very different from the usual blues or jazz club nowadays.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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There was a place that I used to go to around 2002/3. It was a south side survivor called "The New Apartment Lounge" and was in that lineage of south/west side lounges from back in the day (that are basically extinct?). It mostly was a drinking establishment but had jazz a few nights a week.

You walked into the place and it was like stepping into 1968 south Chicago. It had those funky mirrors, a round teal colored with gold sparkle bar, old swivel chairs etc. It had some younger fellas but a good number of old timers, guys who took wearing a hat with a feather in it seriously. They'd talk fast when asking for a drink "Hey mama, get I get uh .... ... ... .... ... .. . ... .. .. with some ice in it thanks baby." You know, you had to have personality to hang.

The musicians would be part imports like me but a surprising amount of local folks who came to sit in. Guys from the neighborhood would walk in with paint on their jeans like they just got off the job and sit down then swing their ass off on the drum kit! It was a reminder of how local all this stuff used to be. It was also a reminder that the audience used to ebb & flow in an outspoken manner with the players, if it was tight you got an "alright" if it wasn't you got some looks come your way.

Point is, the fact that place survived up through the 2000's made it all the worse that it closed down. There were so many places like it in their heyday and it would have been nice to see a survivor or two for another generation of people to get that experience. An experience which, IMO, is very different from the usual blues or jazz club nowadays.
Yep. I've visited Chicago a few times. One trip, went to a bunch of great bars. The one I remember clearly was Theresa's. It had a big, peeling sign out front that said, "Buddy Guy and Junior Wells Thursday Nights."

It was Thursday, so my friends and I were pretty excited. We went in. I said, "When do they start?"

"Who?"

"Buddy Guy and Junior Wells."

"Oh. Uh, they ain't been in here in a long time."

Great show, anyhow, by a bunch of locals.

Another Theresa story: A friend went in a long time ago and asked the bartender if Junior Wells was playing that night. The bartender said he'd be there.

My friend had a few drinks and gabbed with the bartender for quite a while. My friend asked him if he was sure Wells was coming in. "Oh, yeah, he'll be here, alright."

Around ten o'clock, the bartender took off his apron, grabbed a derby from the top shelf, put it on, and went on stage. Who knew Junior Wells was a mixologist, too?
 

Fiesta Red

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The Vaughanbes were more common in the aftermath of his passing.
Kenny Wayne Shepherd, Chris Duarte, Johnny Lang, John Mayer, Colin James, etc.
Most of these artists have matured and become their own men, IMO.
The Austin bar scene crawled with them for years.
Literally dozens of guys with sunburst Strats, tuned down a half step, plugged into Tube Screamers, Leslie-type pedals, into dimed Super Reverb amps.
They wore sombreros and had big 1/4 notes and conchos on their straps.
I started callng em’ Yawnabees.
Stevie was a monstrous influence on the generation of guitarists just younger than me.
When I moved to Canada in the early 90s, there were clones there in force, too.
SRV was unique.
He honored his mentors humbly, and faithfully.
He was a regular guy, too.
I think he deserves his rich legacy.
☝️What he said. I wish I had the economy of words @brookdalebill has.
Here's the problem for both blues and jazz. In an earlier post, someone mentioned growing up on SRV, then buying a Howlin Wolf record and not getting it (at first). How many SRV fans have Hendrix records but none by BB and Albert?

When I was 13 I wanted to play lead. All the rock guys in Creem Magazine raved about the blues. So I bought a Muddy and BB record and spent a year playing along with a minor pentatonic. I liked it, but I liked rock better, and played rock for about 5 years. One day, looking through my records for something to listen to, I came across that old Muddy record. So I put it on for giggles.

Then I heard it. Real Blues. Like I was hearing that record for the first time. It touched me. When I got into bebop I had a Bird cassette in my car for two years.

The point is, some styles require the build up of capital in the form of time. You have to listen to it over and over again. Regardless of attention span, non-musicians don't have time for that. They have families and hobbies. (I don't have any hobbies, my life is music.)

Further, how many blues aficionados are enjoying the sublime playing of Curtis Mayfield? Hell, how many of us give a little time to Beethoven? We can pass it on, and a revival may occur, but some styles will always be on the fringe because people simply don't want to put in the time needed to hear it. Really HEAR it. I played guitar for 35 years before I ever heard the name Tony Rice. No marketing for one of the greatest non-jazz guitarists of all time. A real bluesman too, in my opinion. My drummer doesn't like Hank Sr because it sounds old. I consider him the first soul singer. Your ears learn just like your fingers... If you have the time.
I grew up in a musically schizophrenic household, and I still listen to everything from Beethoven to Dwight Yoakum to John Prine to ZZ Top.

Blues is my first choice for listening and playing.

I have gone beyond the major “stars” of the genre—I’ll give anything a spin or three. This is due to my dad’s influence—if he liked an artist, he’d listen to everything that artist ever recorded and then find out who the individual players were and track down their other releases…thus, we had records like George Jones’s guitarist’s solo album in the house.

I do the same thing, too. So I don’t just listen to the dirt, I dig down to the bedrock.
 

Mr Perch

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There are a number of younger players who do good work without much airplay, don't imitate SRV, and don't do appalling hair-metal parodies of the blues like Gary Moore did. Some of the ones I appreciate:

Josh Smith
Matt Schofield
Kirk Fletcher
Christone Ingram
 

deytookerjaabs

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The one I remember clearly was Theresa's.

And a pretty high up venue on the list of the old classic blues dives of the era. I think it may have moved around at some point but check it out:

LWEcBzAh.jpg


theresas-lounge-4801-south-indiana-ave-chicago-illinois-267274-1024.jpg


Still there! Probably wouldn't know it even if you lived in the garden unit. :cool:
 

Harry Styron

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An observation to piggyback on the other Blues thread...

I've been in Nashville for a long minute. There's something funny in it's scene related to and around ye olde country music, a bunch of people dedicated to this thing they call preservation. Some venue owners, guys like Marty Stuart & Joe Chambers, and others who all took on risky or straight losing ventures for the sake of the P word. Whether it's saving buildings, lobbying for museums or just flat out not selling out when you could retire fat there's this odd devotion to culture at large by many people. And, there was certainly a long time where this downtown could have been considered too blighted to save.

But I'm from Chicago, that's why this is so odd to me. Years back I had a list of old club, home & studio addresses in Chicago that I'd saved from interviews of musicians in Blues & Jazz. None of that stuff preserved, some of it parking lots, but a lot of spots simply just sitting around slightly dilapidated or repurposed. Now, there are a few players in the game. Buddy Guy lost money on his club for years, Willie Dixon foundation did a good service as well. But, considering all those giants that came after whom rode on the shoulders of musician's out of Chicago and specifically it's blues men of the 40's-70's I find the lack of cultural preservation to be on another level of disinterest.

Yes, I've seen some other charitable organizations in the related sphere but I don't think giving some kids in random towns a few lessons plus import gear hits the mark nearly as well as saving the hallowed grounds.

It'd be nice if the "Chicago School" of influence so to speak had a few more Marty Stuart's come out of it's woodshed but, sadly, that's not the case from my observations. Seems to me the guys who started with the least, like Buddy & Willie, had the most to give....an irony certainly worthy of The Blues.
Does Chicago have anything at all for the blues, like Kansas City's American Jazz Museum? It's not as big as the Country Music Hall of Fame, which has a well-curated museum, but it does honor jazz musicians who were a part of KC's heyday as a jazz center.

Maybe Dan Ackroyd would be a logical benefactor, unless the House of Blues venture has exhausted him.
 

Charlie Bernstein

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blues needs more middle to late aged suburban guys in aloha shirts , cargo shorts and flip flops, and fedoras (berets if you prefer) who spend way too much on their gear . . . .
Yup! Guilty as charged. Aloha shirts if it's hot. Hat if the sun's out. Haven't lived in a suburb for about twenty-five years, though. I'll work on it.

Shorts are out, though. And sneakers. And baseball hats. And tee-shirts. I'm dorky, but I'm not that dorky!
 

deytookerjaabs

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Does Chicago have anything at all for the blues, like Kansas City's American Jazz Museum?

Man, Kansas City is the only place I can think of comparable to Chicago where it once was the home of a massive music scene that literally went to crickets. But, the difference IIRC is that huge portions of the city that were historic had been leveled. Not that there isn't anything there now but the pictures I've seen of old KC are gorgeous, remind me of downtown Chicago. I hear they still have real good players with a quality & supportive jazz community.

I'm not sure if there's a city museum in Chicago that's blues related besides exhibits at the history museum, don't think so. There's the Chess studio/museum on S Michigan that was saved by the Willie Dixon foundation. That's where most of the Chess catalogue was recorded in from the mid 50's to mid 60's. They do tours and used to do performances, not sure how active they are these days. Cool place, cool vibe. I wonder if it's still an active studio.

Speaking of recording studios, here's the Cobra records studio location, or what's left of it on Roosevelt:

qxBxgs1h.jpg


The building in the middle, the front used to be a business and behind the storefront was where the studio was in the back room. Ike Turner, Buddy Guy, Otis Rush all had a lot of action there. Was only open for 5 or 6 years then everyone migrated to Chess or elsewhere. But, it's output or moreover the long term influence especially of those early Otis cuts runs deep.

The Chicago History Museum did release massive archives of old photos that are fun to look through:

 

OmegaWoods

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Nashville is known and has been known for one thing. Music. Period. Makes perfect sense that the Nashville preservation focus would be on music.

Chicago is known for lots and lots of things and has been for a long time. The great blues houses in Memphis and St Louis have also suffered the fate of Chicago over the years. I'm sure there's at Chicago Blues museum but it's not the Mecca of Music the way Nashville is. The dispersal of the blues across such a wide swath of mid America inevitably led to faction and dilution. Country music's concentration in Nashville ensured that didn't happen nearly as much.

That's my barstool analysis.
 




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