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2013 News March 21, 2019   

Award winning blues documentary produced and directed by Ramin Niami.

Laura Mae Gross Babe's and Ricky's Inn chronicles the last days of one of the most unique and vibrant blues clubs in the world.

For over fifty years, Laura Mae Gross "Mama", an African American woman from Mississippi, brought musicians together, regardless of race, age, or gender, in a place where only the music mattered.  The club was originally located on legendary Central Avenue in South Central LA.  "Mama" created a place where people such as John Lee Hooker, B.B. King, Albert King, and others shared the stage with newcomers in an open, creative, and safe environment.  The film shows many musicians at their homes and on stage.  They share their life experiences, their music, and their memories of "Mama".  "Mama" acted as a teacher of the blues who's charm and forceful character served as the reason why Babe's and Ricky's Inn became one of the most successful clubs in the world.

The film features original music by some of the most important blues artists alive and showcases some of the most unique blues clubs in LA.  Stunning guitar performances and personal stories about the hard blues life come together in a film about what it means to devote your life to music.

What is remarkable about Babe's and Ricky's Inn is that it attracted generations of young people who listened, learned, and enjoyed.

Official Movie Trailer at YouTube   www.youtube.com/watch?v=triMbeaR9vY

IMDb   www.imdb.com/title/tt1531628/
Facebook   www.facebook.com/babesandrickysinn?ref=ts
Twitter   twitter.com/babeandrickyinn
Tumblr   babesandrickysinn.tumblr.com

Also available at Amazon and iTunes.

December 5, 1938 - July 26, 2013

JJ Cale and Eric Clapton at Crossroads By Miriam Coleman - Rolling Stone www.rollingstone.com

Singer and songwriter JJ Cale, whose work became hits for a wide range of other artists including Eric Clapton and Lynyrd Skynyrd, died on Friday at the age of 74.  According to the musician's website, he died at Scripps Hospital in La Jolla, California after suffering a heart attack.

Known for a relaxed blues style mixed with folk and jazz, Cale got his start playing in honky-tonks in Tulsa, Oklahoma, before joining the Grand Ole Opry road company.  In 1964, he moved to Los Angeles, where he worked as a recording engineer for Leon Russell and Snuff Garrett.  He recorded his first single for Liberty Records in 1965, with "After Midnight" as the B-side.

Eric Clapton later scored his first solo hit with that song, and he went on to cover Cale's "Cocaine".  Lynyrd Skynyrd found similar success with Cale's "Call Me the Breeze".  Cale won a Grammy for his 2006 collaboration with Eric Clapton, The Road to Escondido.

Over a career that spans more than a dozen albums of his own, beginning with Naturally in 1972, Cale cultivated a quiet anonymity, doing few interviews, rarely performing live, and keeping his picture off his album covers in the first decade and a half of his career.

"I'm a background person", Cale told the Chicago Sun Times in 1990.  "I'm not a household name.  People have heard my music, but all my famous songs were made famous by somebody else. . . . But that was my goal."

In spite of the low profile, Cale continued to exert an influence on subsequent generations of musicians.  "The effortlessness, that restraint and underplaying, under-singing - it was just very powerful", Beck told the Los Angeles Times in 2009.  "The power of doing less and holding back in a song, I've taken a lot of influence from that."

January 27, 1930 - June 23, 2013

Bobby Blue Bland By Bill Friskics-Warren - New York Times www.nytimes.com

Bobby (Blue) Bland, the debonair balladeer whose sophisticated, emotionally fraught performances helped modernize the blues, died on Sunday at his home in Germantown, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis.  He was 83.

His death was confirmed by his son Rodd, who played drums in his band.

Though he possessed gifts on a par with his most consummate peers, Mr. Bland never achieved the popular acclaim enjoyed by contemporaries like Ray Charles and B. B. King.  His restrained vocals, punctuated by the occasional squalling shout, nevertheless made him a mainstay on the rhythm-and-blues charts and club circuit for decades.

Exhibiting a delicacy of phrasing and command of dynamics akin to those of the most urbane pop and jazz crooners, his intimate pleading left its mark on everyone from the soul singers Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett to rock groups like the Allman Brothers and the Band.  The rapper Jay-Z sampled Mr. Bland's 1974 single "Ain't No Love in the Heart of the City" on his 2001 album, "The Blueprint."

Mr. Bland's signature mix of blues, jazz, pop, gospel and country music was a good decade in the making.  His first recordings, made in the early 1950s, found him working in the lean, unvarnished style of Mr. King, even to the point of employing falsetto vocal leaps patterned after Mr. King's.  Mr. Bland's mid-'50s singles were more accomplished; hits like "It's My Life, Baby" and "Farther Up the Road" are now regarded as hard-blues classics, but they still featured the driving rhythms and stinging electric guitar favored by Mr. King and others.  It wasn't until 1958's "Little Boy Blue," a record inspired by the homiletic delivery of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, that Mr. Bland arrived at his trademark vocal technique.

"That's where I got my squall from," Mr. Bland said, referring to the sermons of Mr. Franklin - "Aretha's daddy," as he called him - in a 1979 interview with the author Peter Guralnick.  "After I had that I lost the high falsetto.  I had to get some other kind of gimmick, you know, to be identified with."

The corresponding softness in Mr. Bland's voice, a refinement matched by the elegant formal wear in which he appeared onstage, came from listening to records by pop crooners like Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Perry Como.

Just as crucial to the evolution of Mr. Bland's sound was his affiliation with the trumpet player and arranger Joe Scott, for years the director of artists and repertory for Duke Records in Houston.  Given to writing brass-rich arrangements that built dramatically to a climax, Mr. Scott, who died in 1979, supplied Mr. Bland with intricate musical backdrops that set his supple baritone in vivid emotional relief.  The two men accounted for more than 30 Top 20 rhythm-and-blues singles for Duke from 1958 to 1968, including the No. 1 hits "I Pity the Fool" and "That's the Way Love Is."  Steeped in feelings of vulnerability and regret, many of these performances were particularly enthralling to the female portion of Mr. Bland's audience.

Though only four of his singles from these years - "Turn On Your Love Light," "Call on Me," "That's the Way Love Is" and "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" - crossed over to the pop Top 40, Mr. Bland's recordings resonated with the era's blues-leaning rock acts.  The Grateful Dead made "Love Light" a staple of their live shows.  The Band recorded his 1964 single "Share Your Love With Me" for their 1973 album, "Moondog Matinee."  Van Morrison included a version of "Ain't Nothing You Can Do" on his 1974 live set, "It's Too Late to Stop Now."

Mr. Bland himself broke through to pop audiences in the mid-'70s with "His California Album" and its more middle-of-the-road follow-up, "Dreamer."  But his greatest success always came in the rhythm-and-blues market, where he placed a total of 63 singles on the charts from 1957 to 1985.  He signed with the Mississippi-based Malaco label in 1985 and made a series of well-received albums that appealed largely to fans of traditional blues and soul music.

Mr. Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 1997.

Robert Calvin Brooks was born on Jan. 27, 1930, in Millington, Tenn., just north of Memphis (not in nearby Rosemark, as most sources say).  His father, I. J. Brooks, abandoned the family when Bobby was very young.  His mother, Mary Lee, married Leroy Bridgeforth, who also went by the name Leroy Bland, when Bobby was 6.

Mr. Bland dropped out of school in the third grade to work in the cotton fields.  Though he never learned to write music or play an instrument, he cited the music of the pioneering blues guitarist T-Bone Walker as an early influence.

After moving to Memphis in 1947 Mr. Bland began working in a garage and singing spirituals in a group called the Miniatures.  In 1949 he joined the Beale Streeters, a loose-knit collective whose members at various points included Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, Earl Forest and B. B. King, all of whom went on to become popular blues performers as solo artists.

Mr. Bland also traveled as a part of the Johnny Ace Revue and recorded for the Chess, Modern and Duke labels before being drafted into the Army in 1952.  Several of these recordings were made under the supervision of the producer Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in Memphis; none of them had a significant commercial impact.

After his time in the service Mr. Bland worked as a chauffeur, valet and opening act for his fellow Memphis rhythm-and-blues singer Junior Parker, just as he previously had for Mr. King.  He toured as a headliner throughout the '60s, playing as many as 300 one-night engagements a year, a demanding schedule that exacerbated his struggles with alcohol, which he later overcame.  He performed widely, in the United States and abroad, until shortly before his death.

In addition to his son Rodd, Mr. Bland's survivors include his wife, Willie Mae; their daughter, Patrice Moses; and a son, Dexter, and daughter, Samantha, from previous marriages.  In addition, Rodd Bland said his father had recently learned that the blues singer and harmonica player James Cotton was his half-brother.

Mr. Bland's synthesis of Southern vernacular music and classy big-band arrangements made him a stylistic pioneer, but whatever he accomplished by way of formal innovation ultimately derived from his underlying faith in the emotional power of the blues.

"I'd like to be remembered as just a good old country boy that did his best to give us something to listen to and help them through a lot of sad moments, happy moments, whatever," he said, with characteristic humility, in a 2009 interview with the syndicated "House of Blues Radio Hour."

"Whatever moments you get of happiness, use it up, you know, if you can, because it don't come that often."

October 24, 1936 - April 12, 2013

Jimmy Dawkins By Maureen O'Donnell - Chicago Sun-Times www.suntimes.com

Blues guitarist Jimmy Dawkins was a son of Mississippi with a stinging West Side style.

He sold out shows in Japan, received standing ovations in Switzerland and Macedonia, and won the Grand Prix du Disque de Jazz award from the Hot Club De France.

In his 1970s heyday, he had a mutual admiration society going with Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

His growling guitar seemed to say just as much in the spaces between the notes.

And though his playing earned him the nickname "Fast Fingers", he didn't like it.  Mr. Dawkins rejected labels.

"I can play slow", he'd say, recalled Bob Koester, owner of Delmark records, where Mr. Dawkins recorded.

Mr. Dawkins died Wednesday at age 76 at his Far South Side home.

He was "technically perfect, the quintessential, no frills Chicago player", according to Tom Mazzolini, founder of the San Francisco Blues Festival, in a 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle newspaper.

Fans say Mr. Dawkins helped pioneer a percussive, aggressive West Side style, in contrast to the mellower grooves of South Side Blues artists like Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.

"He had a hard, driving sound", said Michael Frank, owner of the Earwig label, where Mr. Dawkins also recorded.

"The South Side is more harmonica, and, possibly, horn-driven", said guitarist Billy Flynn, who started playing with Mr. Dawkins when Flynn was a starstruck 14-year-old.  "West Side Blues is more guitar-driven - say, Buddy Guy vs. Sonny Boy Williamson."

Mr. Dawkins' lyrics also differed from the Delta-based South Side genre.  Instead of relationships, "he would talk about the condition of the world", said David Whiteis, author of the book "Chicago Blues", and the upcoming "Southern Soul-Blues."

His songs had titles like "Born in Poverty" and "Welfare Line." He didn't clown around onstage, and considered that a form of minstrelism, said Frank.

Mr. Dawkins used spellings that some might consider anti-establishment or Afrocentric, Frank said, like "Kant Sheck Dees Bluze."

An anchor in the recording studio, he made order out of chaos.  Once, he recorded with Arthur Crudup, whose "That's All Right Mama" was the first big hit for Elvis Presley.  But Crudup didn't want to do uptempo songs, because his wife had just died, said Koester, who owns the Jazz Record Mart.

"Jimmy really pulled the sessions together", Koester said.

"When Jimmy toured, there was a lot of musicians who really looked up to Jimmy", Flynn said.  "John Mayall, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan; Jeff Beck."

As his reputation grew, he preferred playing and singing well-paying gigs before adoring audiences in Europe, rather than the smoky little clubs of Chicago.  That may have contributed to Mark Hedin calling him "perhaps the best guitar slinger most of us have never heard of" in a 2005 article in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Mr. Dawkins also founded the Leric label, and recorded other blues artists.  In a 2010 review of "Jimmy Dawkins Presents the Leric Story", DownBeat magazine said "this new collection of Leric recordings proves that his ears were in the right place."

Born in Tchula, Miss., he grew up in Pascagoula, a small town on the Gulf of Mexico.

He taught himself how to play with a guitar his mom bought from the Sears catalog, said his granddaughter, Aisha Johnson.

"He used to talk about [how] he heard the New Orleans artists, like Guitar Slim and Fats Domino; R B artists" said music producer and historian Dick Schurman.

He followed relatives to Chicago, and fell in love with the city's bustle, saying, "'That's why I left Mississipi, it's dead!' " his granddaughter said.  "He wanted to be where the action was."

He landed a job at a box factory, she said, but worked at night playing guitar.  "He couldn't work 9 to 5, because he'll tell the boss what to do", she said.

Mr. Dawkins is survived by his wife, Verdia, whom he married in 1966, their daughters, Darlene Ferris and Donna Dawkins; their sons, Len and Reginald; and two more of his children, Alecia Barr and Patti Barr; 28 grandchildren, and 33 great-grandchildren.

It is fitting his services will be at House of Branch, 3125 W. Roosevelt, Aisha Johnson said.

"He loved Roosevelt Road, because when he first came to Chicago, that was where he first played."

December 19, 1944 - March 6, 2013

Alvin Lee From Rolling Stone Magazine www.rollingstone.com

Alvin Lee of Ten Years After died today from complications after from a recent surgery.  He was 68.  "With great sadness we have to announced that Alvin unexpectedly passed away early this morning after unforeseen complications following a routine surgical procedure," reads a message on his website.

Lee was born in Nottingham, England and played with the Jaybirds in the early Sixties.  He helped form a new band in the mid-Sixties, and in 1966, the group took on the Ten Years After moniker.  The band played the Newport Jazz Festival in 1969, which was the first time the event had featured rock artists.  They played the inaugural Woodstock festival that year, and left a lasting impression as Lee led the band in "I'm Going Home."

Woodstock brought the band to a wider audience, spurring hits such as 1970's "Love Like a Man" and 1971's "I'd Love to Change the World," but it also set in motion the group's eventual unraveling.

"We'd play the old Fillmore and be able to just play," Lee told Rolling Stone in February 1975.  "We had respectful audiences then who would appreciate a jam or a swing.  But after Woodstock, the audience got very noisy and only wanted to hear things like 'I'm Going Home.'  I've always been much more of a guitar picker but I began to feel forced into a position of being the epitome of a rock & roll guitarist.  Originally TYA wanted to make it without having to compromise to pop.  It worked for a while but after five or six years the fun went out of it for me, a lot of the music went out of it."

Lee left the band in 1973 to focus on his solo career.  That year, he and Mylon Le Fevre released On the Road to Freedom, which featured collaborations with the Beatles' George Harrison, Steve Winwood, the Rolling Stones' Ronnie Wood and Fleetwood Mac's Mick Fleetwood.

Lee continued to release albums throughout his life.  His latest, Still on the Road to Freedom, came out last year.

August 7, 1937 - February 21, 2013

Magic Slim By Howard Reich - Chicago Tribune www.chicagotribune.com

When Magic Slim thundered at the microphone - his voice rough and ragged, his guitar riffs tough and punchy - listeners heard classic Chicago blues as it was conceived in the 1950s.

Not nostalgic or dated but simply unconcerned with latter-day musical fashion or commercial considerations.

That approach, which Mr. Slim clung to throughout his career, made him a symbol of Chicago blues around the world and an upholder of its noblest traditions.

Mr. Slim - who was born Morris Holt in Torrance, Miss., on Aug. 7, 1937 - died Thursday, Feb. 21, in a hospital in Philadelphia at age 75, after undergoing surgery for a bleeding ulcer, according to his son, Shawn Holt.

"He never sacrificed what his music was about," said Jerry Del Giudice, co-owner of Blind Pig Records, which began recording Mr. Slim in 1990 and continued to do so through his final release, last year's "Bad Boy."

Mr. Slim's music, added Del Giudice, "was Mississippi mud.  He electrified Mississippi blues.  And he stuck with it.  He was no rock-and-roller."

Said Bruce Iglauer, founder of Alligator Records, "Magic Slim was a true Chicago bluesman through and through.  He gloried in the rough edges of the music.  He never tried to make it slick."

Like generations of Southern bluesmen who migrated to Chicago in the mid-20th century, Mr. Slim lived the hard life he sang about.  As a child working the cotton fields of the rural South, he couldn't afford a guitar, so he made one by taking baling wire from a broom, nailing it to a wall and coaxing a primordial music from it.

He tried the piano, but when he lost the pinkie finger on his right hand in a cotton-gin accident, he focused on guitar, playing gigs when he wasn't working in the fields.

In Grenada, Miss., where he moved at 11, he met another future star of Chicago blues:  Magic Sam.

"We went to school together," Mr. Slim told the Tribune in 1996.  "We played acoustics, on a Sunday up under a shade tree, after we'd go to church and come back."

By 1955, Mr. Slim figured he was ready to make his move and came to Chicago.  Magic Sam anointed him Magic Slim, a reference to his towering height of more than 6 feet, but Mr. Slim quickly realized he couldn't compete.

"They wouldn't let me sit in," Mr. Slim said in the Tribune interview.  "They'd say, 'Oh, you can't play nothin'."

Mr. Slim agreed and went back to Mississippi and hunkered down.

"I went back home, and I stayed down there five years," he told the Tribune.  "Then I came back:  'All right, I'm ready for y'all now!'"

Indeed he was, recording his first single, "Scufflin'," in 1966; forming the soon-to-be-celebrated Magic Slim & the Teardrops (with his younger brothers) in 1967; and taking up residence at Florence's Lounge, a South Side club, in 1972.  His rough-and-ready style suited the rambunctious atmosphere of the place and helped make Mr. Slim a Chicago institution.

So did his recordings.  He cut his first album, "Born Under a Bad Sign" (1977), for a French label and in the next decade recorded regularly for Alligator, Rooster Blues and Wolf Records.

"Gravel Road" (1990), his first recording for Blind Pig Records, took its title cut from one of the songs he played in childhood on his self-made guitar.

"The well-traveled Chicago blues singer/guitarist is near the top of his form on this delightful album, which comes close to capturing the late-night ambience of Slim's live set," observed Billboard magazine.

Mr. Slim would maintain that high level for more than two decades, earning critical accolades for albums such as "Scufflin'" (1996), "Black Tornado" (1998), "Snakebite" (2000) and "Raising the Bar" (2010), which marked his 20th anniversary on Blind Pig.

Magic Slim & the Teardrops won the Blues Music Award for Blues Band of the Year in 2003, one of several Blues Music Awards it aced.

More important, his work won the admiration of his peers.

"He was a genius at what he did," said veteran Chicago blues musician Billy Branch.  "Nobody did it like Slim."

"It was just raw, unadulterated Chicago blues."

Survivors include his wife, Ann Holt; four sons; and one daughter.


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