Category Archives: Music, From Way Back When to Now

Great finds around the WWW – with videos where possible

Gary Clark – “Shake”

Gary Clark, Jr is about the hottest rising star in Rock/Blues in the industry right now…

To my ear, he needs some work on his band (this doesn’t appear to be his tour band, Omar and the Howlers)…New drummer…new guitarist to back him…Bass guitar is solid.

He is the next superstar!

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 6, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Patti Labelle Sets the Ground Rules

The only thing Naked at a Patti Labelle concert…

Is her voice.

That is not auto tune, that is not lip sync – that is all Patti you hear. I have seen her in a number of venues, perhaps a dozen times, from her “Bluebelle” and “Labelle” days onwards with Sarah Dash and Nona Hendryx.

She never needed to undress anything except that amazing voice unlike today’s pretend stars.

Tell them like it is, Patti! She is not Minaj or “little Miley”, and isn’t putting up with the crassness (Wild outfits and hair, yes!).

Here is Patti with 2 of the 3 original Bluebells in 1968

One of my favorites from the 70s, with Labelle

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 20, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


Tags: , , , , , ,

Black Protest Music …Then and Now

SO…Has the music died, or is there just another chapter? The author of this piece argues it’s come in a circle…

Sounds of Black Protest Then and Now

By William C. Anderson

The sounds Black people make are the brick and mortar of the United States. Literally. The enslaved African’s singing was a driving force for the free labor that built a young nation and put it at the forefront of empires. Historically, Black Americans have been amongst the primary influencers of music culture. The genres that were born of Black misery, triumph, endurance, protest, and expression have changed the way the entire world sounds. But it’s undeniable that many of these songs were and still are shaped by the fatigue of the constant protest that comes with Black existence.

As the son of a Black Southern Pentecostal minister, I’ve had the privilege of sitting among the serene sounds of praise that birthed a nation of noir notes. Just about every genre that has risen to popularity is from the offspring of the Black church. If you listen closely enough, you can hear Black American beginnings on this continent in our cultural songs: one part culture, one part community, one part family, one part fear of fire and brimstone. The tears that beg to line my face when I hear Mary Pickney’s “Down on Me”, Janie Hunters’ “Jonah”, or Mahalia Jackson’s “How I Got Over” retrace Fredrick Douglass’ words:

“I have sometimes thought that the mere hearing of those songs would do more to impress some minds with the horrible character of slavery, than the reading of whole volumes of philosophy on the subject could do….The mere recurrence to those songs, even now, afflicts me; and while I am writing these lines, an expression of feeling has already found its way down my cheek. To those songs I trace my first glimmering conception of the dehumanizing character of slavery.”

It’s important to note that the act of this singing was more than entertainment for plantation overseers or solely expressions of sadness. In its purest form, the slave’s singing was an act of protest. Its beauty and expression transcends the pervasive hell that was the environment that allowed them to be enslaved.

Black existence is an act of rebellion in and of itself, most especially in art. Black people have sung songs amid the persistent onslaught of struggle in the United States, though not exclusively. Enslaved Africans pioneered music like Cumbia, tango, and rumba across the Americas and integrated self-defense and music in Brazil with capoeira. Here in North America, all of the elements of our African diasporic kin’s musical instincts are present in our musical traditions, too.

Since the days of chattel slavery, we’ve heard as our songs have taken different shapes, changed. Jazz’s earliest beginnings in the Congo Square of New Orleans were moments of sanctification, through the allowance of Whites for them to congregate there, to evoke their traditions and make music. Jazz has been consistent in this way over decades. Artists like Nina Simone and Charles Mingus made outspokenness a part of their reputation over the years with songs like “Mississippi Goddam” and “Fables of Faubus”. Miles Davis became the embodiment of Black protest to many through his unwillingness to bend to White standards, insistence that Black women grace his album covers, and even making a tribute to “Black Jack Johnson”. Other imaginative artists like Sun Ra created other, better worlds for Black people through their music. Some artists like Max Roach and Abbey Lincoln infused what they could into Black protests through their art. In the song “Triptych: Prayer/Protest/Peace”, from the classic Black resistance jazz album We Insist, you can hear the waves of emotion Lincoln pours into her vocals. At one point in the song, she arguably sets a shrieking standard for punk rock before the genre officially existed, but not before evoking the symbolic moans of gospel and the blues. The revolutionary nature of Black music always comes back to that starting point.

The blues are Black survival music. While many songs deal with the everyday issues, others from blues’ earliest beginnings up to contemporary times are blatantly political. Three songs about my infamous home state of Alabama come to mind: J.B. Lenoir’s “Alabama”, Lead Belly’s “Scottsboro Boys”, and John Lee Hooker’s “Birmingham Blues”. You can find countless songs about Alabama because it was one of the starting points of the “great migration” Blacks made when they left the South fleeing oppressive violence. Furthermore, it was once the cradle of the civil rights movement and Black activism itself.

Much of the music that defines what most know as Black protest songs are civil rights era protest music. Songs like “We Shall Overcome”, “A Change Is Going to Come”, “We Shall Not Be Moved”, and “Ain’t Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Round” set the stage for what many millennials like myself would come to know as the movement songs. Documentaries like Eyes on the Prize were filled with these songs as soundtrack to the brutality of White supremacist violence against Black people.

I must admit that seeing these images of Black people singing while being beaten ruthlessly felt self-defeating and depressing as a child. The eternal words of Malcolm X, “stop singing and start swinging,” come to mind. Though there should not be any diminishing of the importance of any particular type of protest music, the current Black generation has moved toward a more confrontational approach….Read the rest of this outstanding piece here


Posted by on September 16, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

Legend of 50’s Do-Wop, First of the R&B Soul Groups — The Orioles and Diz Russell

Earlington Tilghman created one of the most influential vocal groups of all time when he formed the Vibranairs in Baltimore after World War II. Tilghman was better known as Sonny Til, a charismatic tenor who loved rich arrangements and had a knack for picking (and writing) great material.

After 60 years, this R&B singer’s wife said it was time to retire. Then came his final show.

“I never thought I would be this old,” Diz Russell said.

Sitting on the worn black leather couch in his sunlit Capitol Heights, Md., living room, the 81-year-old singer was surrounded by reminders of a long, busy life . Framed photographs, record covers and concert posters hung below a red sign proclaiming “THE LEGENDARY ORIOLES.” There was a black-and-white portrait of the band members from the 1950s, with a fresh-faced Diz in the middle. Here was a photo of Diz sitting on a committee for longtime mayor Marion Barry — “my buddy,” he said.

But mostly he nodded and smiled behind tinted glasses as his wife of 59 years, Millie Russell, explained the mementos on their wall. The nostalgia-heavy decor of Millie’s careful selection is largely lost on Diz, who became blind from a cataract at age 55.

Since then, Millie, 75, has been watchful. When Diz shuffled out of the room and came back with white foam around his lips, she furrowed her brow. “You didn’t do too good of a job shaving,” she said, getting up to wipe the cream from his chin.

They met backstage at the Howard Theatre, when Millie was 13 and Diz was 19. Millie was in the crowd for a show with Jackie Wilson, and she spotted a jeans-clad fellow on her way out. He told her that he was a singer.

“You don’t look like a singer to me,” she retorted.

Diz responded with a chuckle, “Honey, you better believe it.”

They married four years later, shortly after Diz joined the Orioles, the band widely recognized as the first R&B vocal group and credited with popularizing the musical style in the late 1940s and early 1950s.

Although the version of the group that Diz sang with was considered its second generation — after frontman Sonny Til broke away from the original Orioles and started a new combo, tacking on the “Legendary” to distinguish them from the baseball team — he still recalls the band being in hot demand wherever it went, selling out shows in Texas, Michigan and at their home base in Baltimore…

Wife Millie Russell, who has managed the band for 34 years


For 34 years, Millie has been Diz’s band manager. For 26, she’s been his eyes. More recently, she’s become his memory.

The diagnosis of early-onset dementia came almost a year ago, although there were signs before then. Sometimes the name of a close friend would draw a blank, or Diz would claim to have misplaced a piece of clothing that he never owned. As bandmates brought their equipment inside for their weekly Friday rehearsals, Diz still held a shaving razor in his left hand as if he’d forgotten to put it down.

When Diz rambles about his past, Millie tends to roll her eyes and swat the air, as if his distorted memories were swarming like flies. But when she vocalizes her disagreement with his version of history, he’s quick to contest.

“I know this,” he said through gritted teeth. “I lived this.”

But Millie doesn’t trust those stories anymore. She winced recalling Diz stumbling on the lyrics to “Baby Please Don’t Go” — one of the group’s greatest hits — while performing at Echostage last November. He skipped the second verse entirely and went straight to the last.

The band kept playing as if it was business as usual, and likely no one in the audience noticed, but for Millie the incident was searing.

“I won’t let him embarrass himself like that,” she said. The band’s 68th-anniversary celebration at Mr. Henry’s restaurant on Capitol Hill was to be Diz’s last major performance before going into “semi-retirement,” a dignified term for a plan to suspend all but the occasional cameo.

After so many decades as her husband’s right hand, Millie admitted that she was also ready for a slower pace. A sense of injustice dogs her view of their relationship.

“You think if it was the woman who needed so much help, the husband would stay?” she said.

“She’s steadfast,” Diz nodded.

“A man is weak,” Millie said. “And I’m tired.”

But the band will stay in Russell hands. After Millie retires as manager, their 52-year-old son, Christopher, will take up the mantle….Read the Rest Here

A very early hit by the group in 1948  –


Leave a comment

Posted by on September 4, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Erroll Garner Unreleased Album

My fellow jazz aficionados will be excited about this one. An entire album of never released music from Jazz Legend Pianist Erroll Garner. Can’t make the embed code work on this blog, so you will have to go to the article to listen to the first released Track called “Bernie’s Tune”.

For those of you who have never heard of the real Piano Man – here is Side B of what is probably his best known album –

Exclusive: Hear ‘Bernie’s Tune,’ an Unreleased Erroll Garner Track

At just 5-foot-2, jazz legend Erroll Garner used to stack phone books on his piano bench to properly reach the keys. But that didn’t stop him from making a name for himself as one of the genre’s greats, crafting tunes that would become standards—and even allegedly holding the title as Johnny Carson’s favorite musician.

Though Garner died too young—at age 55—in 1977, his memory lives on with both a devout fan club and, of course, in his music. Coming Sept. 18, a new collection featuring 11 unreleased tracks will be available. Errol Garners The Complete Concert by the Sea celebrates the 60th anniversary of his best-selling live album of the same name, which was recorded as part of the concert series that laid the groundwork for the Monterey Jazz Festival. Along with extra tracks, the collection includes audio from both the show’s announcer and interviews with band members.

“I don’t think I need to tell you how significant a figure Erroll Garner is in the history of American music,” Grammy-winning jazz writer Dan Morgenstern notes. “His artistry transcended categories over four decades. Without ever saying a word or indulging in showbiz trimmings, he could just play the piano and hold thousands enraptured.”

Below, hear the previously unreleased “Bernie’s Tune” for the first time, and click here to preorder the album. Hit the link to the article above.

Just for fun…One more…

Leave a comment

Posted by on September 2, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


Tags: , , , ,

#1 in Country Music – Darius Rucker

There has always been a thing line between Southern R&B and Country music. Ray Charles had several hits which crossed over, and his album Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, including the his “I Can’r Stop Loving You” is considered by many to be a a classic of the genre.

Darius Rucker, formerly of Southern Rock Band Hootie and the Blowfish has become one of the very big stars of the Country Music genre, with his last 4 albums going Number 1.

His newest release “Southern Style” –

Leave a comment

Posted by on August 28, 2015 in Music, From Way Back When to Now


Tags: , , , , ,

Fats Domino’s Piano, Like NOLA After Katrina -Still Has a Ways to Come Back

Worked on the post-Katrina recovery efforts in NOLA and Mississippi. The flooding not only killed the houses and infrastructure, but threatened to kill the spirit of a city whose residents were used to adversity.The story 10 years after is one of gradual rebuilding, but how do you knit the spirit of the town’s communities back together when so many are gone? The even bigger question though in my mind – is if we can’t even get it right in America, right in our own back yard…How exactly can we get it right anywhere else?

In terms of the Fat man’s pianos, one black, one white – one working fully, one not restore-able…Seems like a reflection of the whole city 10 years after.

The Piano That Can’t Play a Tune

If you could see Fats Domino’s piano today—white and gleaming on a pedestal at the Louisiana State Museum in the Old U.S. Mint in New Orleans’ French Quarter—you might think he had been kind enough to donate one of his signature grands to the museum for its music collection. That is, if you were unaware of the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago, including Domino’s home on Caffin Street in the largely obliterated neighborhood known as the “Lower Nine,” where the white Steinway once held pride of place in Domino’s living room.

Submerged in nine feet of water from a massive breach in the nearby Industrial Canal, it sat for weeks in the fetid lake that covered 80 percent of New Orleans after Katrina. Curators from the Louisiana State Museum raised $35,000 to have it reassembled and restored, and it now sits beneath a spotlight in an exhibit room as if waiting for Domino himself to sit down and play it. At the dedication ceremony in 2013, Lieutenant Governor Jay Dardanne said, “His beautiful grand piano, fully restored, will serve as the perfect symbol for Louisiana’s resilient nature and ever-evolving musical heritage.”

Well, no and yes. Despite the painstaking restoration, the white grand piano is unplayable. It is this last fact that makes the story of this instrument such a powerful metaphor for New Orleans since Katrina. It is a tale about persistence in the face of government neglect, cataclysmic disaster, and the painful incompleteness of reconstruction. More particularly, it is a lesson about the importance of preserving the material remains of the city’s past even as it focuses on the future.

These objects—some partly restored, some not—are all the more important in light of the city’s record of demolition of many significant musical landmarks, despite the recent efforts of preservation groups to turn the tide. Louis Armstrong’s birthplace, for example, was torn down in the 1960s to build a city jail. Other jazz landmarks are in grave disrepair.

The history of New Orleans music had an additional vulnerability before Katrina: The homes of the city’s musicians and writers held much of the city’s musical heritage. Letters, handwritten scores, photographs, cocktail napkins, matchbooks, and musical instruments were under the beds and in the attics of working musicians and their descendants. Most of Michael White’s enormous collection of artifacts from early jazz musicians—some 50 clarinets, reams of sheet music, reeds and mouthpieces, and taped interviews with musicians—is gone. White’s house near the London Avenue Canal in Lakeview took in water up to the roof. The only things salvaged by volunteers were some of his clarinets. “They looked like bodies,” White told me. “And the ones that were in cases looked like bodies in coffins. They weren’t really about me, they symbolized New Orleans history and culture and the present state of the culture.”

Tending to the artifacts the storm left behind, as White did, can feel restorative. And it is not the same as choosing property over people, something that does not bode well in New Orleans. “The black working class in New Orleans,” the historian George Lipsitz wrote in Katrina’s aftermath, “has long refused to concede that white property is more important than black humanity.” After the storm, neighborhood traditions like the parading of Mardi Gras Indians persisted, despite and because of the challenges of rebuilding those communities. But the preservation of cultural artifacts after Katrina, such as Domino’s piano, was something of a different job.

As show-stopping as Domino’s white Steinway grand is, it is the opposite of the first piano he played, acquired by his family in the 1930s. That piano, Domino told his biographer, was “so beat up that you could see the rusted metal through the ivory, it had been played so hard.” According to the authors of Up From the Cradle of Jazz: “The Ninth Ward blues built off of pianos and horns.” There was an old upright in just about every small music club in the Lower Ninth Ward. The white piano, on the other hand, was not even Domino’s regular instrument. Instead, it was the one that greeted visitors to the house on Caffin Street and was a favored backdrop for family photographs. The glorious grand piano testified to his rise from a part-time musician and factory worker to one of the founding fathers of rock ‘n’ roll.

Domino’s upbringing in the Lower Ninth Ward, surrounded by his Creole relatives, inflected his music. His father was descended from French-speaking African Americans who lived as enslaved and then freedpeople in Louisiana’s sugar parishes. Like many Louisiana Creoles, black and white, they had roots in Haiti. When the Dominos arrived in the Lower Nine, the neighborhood was still mostly rural, with unpaved streets, farm animals, and scarce electricity and indoor plumbing. In a recent radio show devoted to Domino, writer Ben Sandmelobserved the artist’s “Caribbean vocal style” in songs like “My Blue Heaven.” “It’s almost like he’s an English as a second language speaker. It’s a very thick regional accent,” Sandmel said. “If you listen to oral histories of people [from the Lower Nine] who recorded around that time there are a lot of thick accents and a lot of French-isms in the speech.” …The rest here


Tags: , , , , , , ,


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 205 other followers