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2016 News July 22, 2017   

MOSE ALLISON
November 11, 1927  -  November 15, 2016
www.moseallison.com

Nate Chinen - New York Times www.nytimes.com
November 15, 2016

Mose Allison Mose Allison, a Fount of Jazz and Blues, Dies at 89

Mose Allison, a pianist, singer and songwriter who straddled modern jazz and Delta blues, belonging to both styles even as he became a touchstone for British Invasion rockers and folksy troubadours, died on Tuesday at his home in Hilton Head, S.C.  He was 89.

His death was confirmed by the singer and songwriter Amy Allison, his daughter.

Mr. Allison began his professional career as a piano player, at a time when his style - percussive and jaunty, carried along by a percolating beat - suited the sound of the jazz mainstream.  In addition to leading his own trio, he worked with some of the major small-group bandleaders of the late 1950s, including the saxophonists Stan Getz and Gerry Mulligan.

But he found greater success, and a singular niche, as a singer of his plain-spoken, pungently observant songs, beginning in the early '60s.  For the next 50 years he worked almost exclusively as the leader of his own groups.

Mr. Allison used his cool, clear voice to conversational effect, with an easy blues inflection that harked back to his upbringing in rural Mississippi.  Backing himself at the piano, he favored a loose call and response between voice and instrument, or between right and left hands, often taking tangents informed by the complex harmonies and rhythmic feints of bebop.  His artistic persona, evident in his stage manner as well as his songs, suggested a distillation of folk wisdom in a knowing but unpretentious package.

He was especially revered by 1960s English rockers who idolized the blues, and who saw in his example an accessible ideal.  John Mayall recorded "Parchman Farm", Mr. Allison's ironic adaptation of a prison blues; so did the English rhythm-and-blues singer Georgie Fame.  Other songs by Mr. Allison found their way onto albums by the Yardbirds, the Kinks and the Clash.  The Who based their world-beating anthem "My Generation" partly on his "Young Man Blues", which the band also featured as the opening track on its 1970 album, "Live at Leeds".

Mr. Allison's tunes were covered almost as widely by his fellow Americans, including the blues artists Paul Butterfield and Johnny Winter, the country-soul singer Bobbie Gentry and, more recently, the jazz vocalist and pianist Diana Krall.  The Pixies, a pace-setting alternative-rock band, named an album track "Allison" in his honor.

In a 1986 interview with the pianist Ben Sidran, conducted for NPR, Mr. Allison grouped his material into three categories: slapstick, social comment and personal crisis.  "Sometimes", he added, "all three of those elements wind up in a tune."  Many of his songs inhabit an air of wry amusement or exasperated skepticism, often pivoting on a single phrase.

He skewered hypocrisies in "Everybody's Cryin' Mercy", recorded by Bonnie Raitt, and mastered the sardonic put-down in "Your Mind Is on Vacation (And Your Mouth Is Working Overtime)", covered by Elvis Costello.

For all of his elder-statesman eminence in rock, Mr. Allison never stopped seeing himself as a jazz artist.  "My definition of jazz is music that's felt, thought and performed simultaneously", he said in "Ever Since I Stole the Blues", a 2006 BBC documentary.  "And that's what I'm looking for every night."

Mose John Allison Jr. was born on Nov. 11, 1927, on a family cotton farm near Tippo, Miss.  His mother taught elementary school and his father, a self-taught stride piano player, owned a general store.  A service station across the road had a jukebox, on which Mr. Allison heard blues singers like Memphis Minnie and Tampa Red.

He began taking piano lessons at 5 and was playing in bands as a young teenager - around the same time he wrote his first song, "The 14-Day Palmolive Plan", a satirical jab at radio commercials in the style of the saxophonist, singer and bandleader Louis Jordan's jump blues.  His main hero then was Nat King Cole, a well-regarded jazz pianist who had begun singing with his trio in a smoothly urbane style.  For a while Mr. Allison also played the trumpet, on local gigs and, after he joined the Army in 1946, with the 179th Army Ground Forces Band.

He had put in a year at the University of Mississippi before his service, and he briefly returned to Ole Miss - one reason, perhaps, for his sobriquet "the William Faulkner of jazz", popularized by Mr. Sidran.  But he soon lost interest in his chosen field, chemical engineering.  He ended up graduating from Louisiana State University with an English degree and then briefly worked the Southern club circuit.

Moving to New York City in 1956, Mr. Allison found work as a jazz pianist, initially with the saxophonist Al Cohn.  He joined a successful quintet led by Mr. Cohn and his fellow saxophonist Zoot Sims.  His style had evolved, in line with modernists like Lennie Tristano and Thelonious Monk, but he still had a trace of the South in his earthy attack, and in his untroubled relationship with blues inflection.

Mr. Allison recorded his debut album, "Back Country Suite", for Prestige in 1957.  A song cycle for piano trio inspired by his down-home roots, it was well reviewed but not a great commercial success.  The same was true of "Local Color", his second album, which introduced "Parchman Farm".  At the time, his unorthodox musical blend often ran up against preconceived notions of style.

"In the South, I'm considered an advanced bebop type", he told DownBeat magazine in 1958.  "In New York, I'm considered a country blues-folk type.  Actually, I don't think I'm either.  Maybe I'm a little of both."

Still, his star rose enough for him to be signed by Columbia Records, which in 1960 released "The Transfiguration of Hiram Brown", an ambitious suite with a loosely autobiographical theme:  the excitement and disillusionment of a young man who has moved from the country to the city.  (Mr. Allison later returned to this subject on "If You're Going to the City", a signature tune.)  But "Transfiguration" produced middling sales; Prestige did far better with a 1963 compilation of his vocal sides, simply titled "Mose Allison Sings".

By that time, Mr. Allison's move to Atlantic Records had begun to sharpen his reputation as a singer and songwriter.  His first album for the label, "I Don't Worry About a Thing", released in 1962, introduced several of his best-known tunes, including the title track, a blues that deflates its own trite expression with a caustic addendum:  "'Cause I know nothing's going to be all right".  When Atlantic released "The Word From Mose" in 1964, the album cover featured a memorable tagline next to Mr. Allison's photograph:  "Words of wisdom from the jazz sage".

Rather than make a pop or rhythm-and-blues album for the label, Mr. Allison stuck to his hybrid style, and his relatively modest commercial profile.  He settled down on Long Island, where he lived for more than 40 years with his family before moving to Hilton Head Island.

In addition to his daughter Amy, Mr. Allison is survived by his wife of 65 years, Audre; two other daughters, Janine and Alissa Allison; a son, John; and two grandchildren.

While Mr. Allison released fewer albums from the mid-1970s on, he never stopped writing songs, in his dryly satirical vein.  The title track of one album in the '80s was "Middle Class White Boy".  A later album - released in the early 1990s, when he was 66 - opens with "Certified Senior Citizen", followed by its incredulous pushback, "This Ain't Me".

For many years Mr. Allison kept up a busy touring schedule, typically with a trio.  He reached some of his biggest audiences as an opening act for Van Morrison, who in 1996 made the album "Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison", with Mr. Sidran and Mr. Fame.  (Mr. Allison turned up as a guest on a couple of tracks.)

Mr. Allison's final studio album, "The Way of the World", was released on the British independent label ANTI- in 2010.  Produced by Joe Henry, who had coaxed him out of semiretirement, it finds him in an autumnal but still trenchant frame of mind, despite plaints to the contrary on the opening tune, "My Brain".  The title track, set at a saunter, has the bittersweet resignation of an old man taking stock of what he's seen.

A live album recorded in 2006, "Mose Allison American Legend, Live in California", was released in 2015.

In recent years Mr. Allison stopped performing but kept receiving accolades.  A marker with his name and biographical details was added to the Mississippi Blues Trail in 2012.  The next year, he was recognized as a National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Master, the highest honor for jazz musicians.

At the induction ceremony in Manhattan, Mr. Allison accompanied his daughter Amy at the piano in a version of his ballad "Was".  A parlor waltz with connotations both mortal and memorial, it begins with some verb-tense wordplay, quickly turning poignant:

When I become was, and we become were
Will there be any sign or a trace
Of the lovely contour of your face?
And will there be someone around
With essentially my kind of sound?


BOB "ROOSTERFISH" DENNISON
May 1, 1946  -  September 10, 2016

The Roosterfish In Memoriam to a Central Valley Blues Giant / Bob "Roosterfish" Dennison R.I.P.

I got a message from the CVBS Webmaster Hal Kent about the passing of his long time friend and musical brother.  Here are his words.

"Bob 'Roosterfish' Dennison of the Loose Gravel Blues Band passed away this morning.  I've been playing with Bob since I was 17 and he was 21 and attending Fresno State.  He was a retired high school photography and music teacher in Turlock and was living in Escondido after retirement.  He had a record collection that was larger than a lot of record stores I've seen and he used it in his blues radio show at UC Stanislas for over 25 years.  The man was a walking blues encyclopedia.  He's a legend in Visalia, fronting bands starting in the 60s including RD and the Showmen, Whitman Sampler, Potato Creek Johnny (a blues and boogie band when I was still in high school from 1967-68 and continued to 1971), The Charades and the Loose Gravel Blues Band (1980-2010)."

He also told me that "Bob had and opportunity to go pro back in 1969 but he wanted his teaching credential and a career so he could raise his two daughters.  He was band mates with Tommy Johnston of the Doobie Brothers in the early years and remained tight friends over the years.  Bob replaced Tommy as Guitarist in The Charades.

Bob had Parkinson's disease but what really got him down was Lewy body dementia which sometimes goes with Parkinson's.  His wife Sandra stuck with him and took care of him at home right to the end.  What a saint."

I met Bob after Hal Kent worked with me to found The Central Valley Blues Society.  Deja Blues did several gigs with Loose Gravel and I remember what a great guy Bob was.  He was an awesome guitarist and vocalist and so generous with this knowledge of the Blues.

Rest in Peace Bob "Roosterfish" Dennison.

Don Heflin

Loose Gravel Blues Band Loose Gravel Blues Band

Loose Gravel Blues Band

Visit the CVBS Facebook page www.facebook.com/CentralValleyBluesSociety for comments.


WILLIAM EDWARDS ANDERSON
"BIG WILLY"
January 4, 1965  -  August 16, 2016

www.badluckandtroubleweb.com

Big Willy William Edward Anderson was born on January 4, 1965 in Visalia, CA to Gary and Mary Anderson.  He passed away on August 16, 2016 at the age of 51 surrounded by family and friends.  William grew up in Bishop, CA with his parents and brother, Matthew Anderson.  He later lived in San Diego for over 20 years where he helped raise his two beautiful daughters, Rachael and Zoë.

William met his wife, Diana Vigario-Anderson, at a Power Lifting Competition in 2000.  They were married on August 14, 2004 and shortly after moved back to their hometown, Visalia, in 2005 and enjoyed 12 happy years as husband and wife.  William graduated from Fresno State University with a Bachelors' Degree and Masters' Degree in English Literature, and was currently working towards obtaining his Doctorate in Education.  He was a devoted English teacher at College of Sequoias and Reedley College and was also a writing consultant at the Graduate Writing Studio at Fresno State.

William had a great passion for music.  He had been singing and playing guitar for over 35 years.  Very soon after moving to Visalia, "Big Willy" met Ken Richardson, bass player, and blues duet "Bad Luck and Trouble" was formed.  The duo became a trio with the addition of Chris Black on drums.  The three members of Bad Luck and Trouble were not only band mates, they were "brothers".  William also supported other musicians of the valley by hosting an Open Mic Night once a month with his daughter Zoë and good friend Marcos Zamudio whom he met at the very first Open Mic.  Marcos and Zoë plan to continue the Open Mic Night in Will's honor.

William is survived by his wife of 12 years, Diana Vigario-Anderson, his daughters Zoë Anderson of Visalia and Rachael Segi and husband Jordan Segi of Murrieta, CA; his grandchildren Keanu, Noelani, Aulelei, and Kenai Segi; his parents Gary and Mary Anderson of Exeter; his brother Matthew Anderson and sister-in-law Tami Anderson of Gardnerville, NV and his nieces and nephew Alyssa, Coby, Heather, and Tori Anderson.

A graveside service will be held on Thursday, August 25th at 9:00 a.m. at Visalia District Cemetery.  A memorial tribute may be offered by logging onto www.salseranddillard.com

Published in Visalia Times-Delta and Tulare Advance-Register on Aug. 23, 2016   www.legacy.com/...


RICHIE BLUE'S HERO HELP CAMPAIGN

June 10, 2016

Donate:  www.gofundme.com/Team-Caroline

Richie and Caroline Within each one of us is a hidden power to act Heroically and save the life of another!

Today and throughout our campaign our goal is to bring awareness to the plight of those in need of living donors such as Caroline Jackson, Team Caroline (liver recipient) and the Living Donor program but to our own local Hero Richie Blue (The Donor) and his selfless act in donating half of his liver.

These monies are needed as quickly as humanly possible, then throughout the next few months and will contribute to his daily needs, living expenses as well as any unforseen medical and life expenses while he recovers!

This is how we support one another in the music industry and now you can help us help Team Caroline today!

Richie Blue is a Master gutarist and musician and makes his living in so many different genres and styles of music.  He's a recent inductee into The Blues Hall of Fame and he's been inducted into The Bakersfield Country Music Hall of Fame.

Our long time Central Valley Blues Society member and friend, Caroline Jackson, has been battling liver disease for some time.  We know that to be on the transplant list in California usually means certain death because the number of organs available just don't meet the need.

This is where our very own master musician, singer, guitarist, lover of people Richie has responded to the urgent appeal for a living donor and stepped up to the plate.  With the help of his wife Marilyn, Richie Blue has successfully completed all the preliminary medical testing and is a close anatomical match, allowing for the transplant of part of his healthy liver to Caroline.

The surgery was performed June 10, 2016 at U.C. San Francisco and that's why we believe in our friends, Team Caroline, to help support them through these challenging days and months ahead.  So today, please, we are asking and thanking all of you in advance for your contributions and support.

This truly means so much to all of us locally and around the globe in supporting Team Caroline financially but nationally raising much needed light to this cause of The Living Donor Program.

UCFS Fast Track Donor Registration

We will continue to keep everyone updated on their status.  Once again thank you all so very much!

Copy, paste and share:  https://www.gofundme.com/Team-Caroline


BAY AREA BLUES SOCIETY
USS POTOMAC SUNDAY BLUES CRUISES


PRESS RELEASE

Beginning Sunday, June 5, 2016

Sunday Blues Cruises BLUES CRUISE ON BOARD THE USS POTOMAC

Featuring the BAY AREA BLUES SOCIETY Caravan of Allstars
with Ronnie Stewart

Cruise the bay on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Presidential Yacht while listening to fabulous blues music.

Beer, wine and nibbles will be available for purchase.

540 Water Street, Oakland
JACK LONDON SQUARE

3:00 pm - 5:00 pm

Tickets:  $55 per person

For reservations or information visit www.ticketweb.com
or call the Potomac office at 510.627.1215


LONNIE MACK
July 18, 1941  -  April 21, 2016
www.lonniemack.com

Marc Lipkin - Alligator Records www.alligator.com
April 21, 2016

Lonnie Mack Groundbreaking guitarist and vocalist Lonnie Mack, known as one of rock's first true guitar heroes, died on April 21, 2016 of natural causes at Centennial Medical Center near his home in Smithville, Tennessee.  His early instrumental recordings - among them Wham! and Memphis -- influenced many of rock's greatest players, including Eric Clapton, Duane Allman, Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and especially Stevie Ray Vaughan.  He was 74.

Rolling Stone called him "a pioneer in rock guitar soloing".  Guitar World said, "Mack attacked the strings with fast, aggressive single-string phrasing and a seamless rhythm style that significantly raised the guitar virtuoso bar and foreshadowed the arena-sized tones of guitar heroes to come."  The Chicago Tribune wrote, "With the wiggle of a whammy bar and a blinding run of notes up and down the neck of his classic Gibson Flying V, Lonnie Mack launched the modern guitar era."

Drawing from influences as diverse as rhythm and blues, country, gospel and rockabilly, Mack's guitar work continues to be revered by generation after generation of musicians.  He recorded a number of singles and a total of 11 albums for labels including Fraternity, Elektra, Alligator, Epic and Capitol.

Mack was born Lonnie McIntosh on July 18, 1941 in West Harrison, Indiana, twenty miles west of Cincinnati.  Growing up in rural Indiana, Mack fell in love with music as a child.  From family sing-alongs he developed a deep appreciation of country music, while he absorbed rhythm and blues from the late-night R&B radio stations and gospel from his local church.  Starting off with a few chords that he learned from his mother, Lonnie gradually blended all the sounds he heard around him into his own individual style.  He named Merle Travis and Robert Ward (of the Ohio Untouchables) as his main guitar influences, and George Jones and Bobby Bland as vocal inspirations.

He began playing professionally in his early teens (he quit school after a fight with his sixth-grade teacher), working clubs and roadhouses around the tri-state border area of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.  In 1958, he bought the guitar he would become best known for, a Gibson Flying V, serial number 7, which he equipped with a Bigsby tremolo bar.  (After the release of Wham!, the tremolo bar became known worldwide as a "whammy bar".)  In addition to his live gigs, Lonnie began playing sessions for the King and Fraternity labels in Cincinnati.  He recorded with blues and R&B greats like Hank Ballard, Freddie King and James Brown.

In 1963, at the end of another artist's session, Lonnie cut an instrumental version of Chuck Berry's Memphis.  He didn't even know that Fraternity had issued the single until he heard it on the radio, and within a few weeks Memphis had hit the national Top Five.  Lonnie Mack went from being a talented regional roadhouse player to a national star virtually overnight.

Suddenly, he was booked for hundreds of gigs a year, crisscrossing the country in his Cadillac and rushing back to Cincinnati or Nashville to cut new singles.  Wham!, Where There's A Will There's A Way, Chicken Pickin' and a dozen other records followed Memphis.  None sold as well as his first hit (though Where There's A Will earned extensive black radio airplay before the DJs found out Lonnie was white), but there was enough reaction to keep him on the road for another five years of grueling one-nighters.

Fraternity Records went bust, but Lonnie kept on gigging, and in 1968 a Rolling Stone article stimulated new interest in his music.  He signed with Elektra Records and cut three albums.  Elektra also reissued his original Fraternity LP, The Wham Of That Memphis Man!.  He began playing all the major rock venues, from Fillmore East to Fillmore West.  Lonnie also made a guest appearance on the Doors' Morrison Hotel album.  You can hear Lonnie's bass on Roadhouse Blues.  He even worked in Elektra's A&R department.  When the label merged with giant Warner Brothers, Lonnie grew disgusted with the new bureaucracy and walked out of his job.

Mack headed back to rural Indiana, playing back-country bars, going fishing and laying low.  After six years of relative obscurity, Lonnie signed with Capitol and cut two albums that featured his country influences.  He played on the West Coast for a while and even flew to Japan for a "Save The Whales" benefit.  Then he headed to New York to team up with an old friend named Ed Labunski.  Labunski was a wealthy jingle writer that wrote "This Bud's For You" who was tired of commercials and wanted to write and play for pleasure.  He and Lonnie built a studio in rural Pennsylvania and spent three years organizing and recording a country-rock band called South, which included Buffalo-based keyboardist Stan Szelest, who later played on Lonnie's Alligator debut.  Ed and Lonnie had big plans for their partnership, including producing an album by a then-obscure Texas guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan.  But the plans evaporated when Labunski died in an auto accident, and the South album was never commercially released.  Lonnie next headed for Canada and joined the band of veteran rocker Ronnie Hawkins for a summer.  After a brief stay in Florida, he returned to Indiana in 1982, playing clubs in Cincinnati and the surrounding area.

Mack began his re-emergence on the national scene in November of 1983.  At Stevie Ray Vaughan's urging, he relocated from southern Indiana to Texas, where he settled in Spicewood.  He began jamming with Stevie Ray (who proudly named Wham! as the first single he owned) in local clubs and flying to New York for gigs at the Lone Star and the Ritz.  When Alligator Records approached Lonnie to do an album, Vaughan immediately volunteered to help him out.  The result was 1985's Strike Like Lightning, co-produced by Lonnie and Stevie Ray and featuring Stevie's guitar on several tracks.

Mack's re-emergence was a major music industry event.  Keith Richards, Ron Wood, Ry Cooder and Stevie Ray Vaughan all joined Lonnie on stage during his 1985 tour.  The New York Times said, "Although Mr. Mack can play every finger-twisting blues guitar lick, he doesn't show off; he comes up with sustained melodies and uses fast licks only at an emotional peak.  Mr. Mack is also a thoroughly convincing singer."  Other celebrities -- Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, Paul Simon, Eddie Van Halen, Dwight Yoakam and actor Matt Dillon -- attended shows during the Strike Like Lightning tour.  The year was capped off with a stellar performance at New York's prestigious Carnegie Hall with Albert Collins and the late Roy Buchanan.  That show was released commercially on DVD as Further On Down The Road.

Mack recorded two more albums for Alligator, 1986's Second Sight and 1990's Live! Attack Of the Killer V.  In between he signed with Epic Records and released Roadhouses And Dancehalls in 1988.  Mack continued to tour into the 2000s.  He relocated to Smithville, Tennessee where he continued writing songs but ceased active touring.  In 2001 he was inducted into the International Guitar Hall Of Fame and in 2005 into the Rockabilly Hall Of Fame.

He is survived by five children and multitudes of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Funeral arrangements are pending.


MIC GILLETTE
May 7, 1951  -  January 17, 2016
www.micgillette.com

By Jon Blistein - Rolling Stone www.rollingstone.com
January 19, 2016

Mic Gillette Mic Gillette, first trumpet and founding member of Oakland funk outfit Tower of Power, died over the weekend after suffering a heart attack, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.  He was 64.

"The Tower of Power family was stunned today by the news that Mic Gillette, our dear friend and bandmate going back to 1966, passed away," Emilio Castillo, Tower of Power bandleader, said in a statement.  "Mic was without a doubt the greatest brass player I've ever known.  Our sincere condolences go out to his wife Julia, his daughter Megan and their entire family."

Formed in the late-Sixties as the Haight-Ashbury scene flourished across the San Francisco Bay, Tower of Power cultivated a brass-heavy sound that would make them one of the most important funk groups of the Seventies - and their horn section one of the most coveted.

Revered promoter Bill Graham signed Tower of Power to San Francisco Records in 1970 after an audition at the Fillmore and released their debut LP, East Bay Grease, later that year.  For their follow-up, Bump City, the group signed with Warner Bros. and scored a minor hit with "You're Still a Young Man".  Their 1973 self-titled third LP spawned their highest charting track, "So Very Hard to Go", as well as seminal cuts "This Time It's Real" and opener "What is Hip?"

Gillette played a bevy of brass instruments alongside trumpet throughout his tenure in Tower of Power, including trombone, flugelhorn and tuba.  A California native and the son of Ray Gillette - a trombonist for big band leaders like Harry James and Tommy Dorsey - Gillette first picked up a trumpet at age four and by 15 was playing in the Gotham City Crime Fighters with fellow future Tower of Power members Emilio Castillo, Francis Rocco Prestia and David Garibaldi.

Along with Tower of Power, Gillette was a member of two Bay Area funk bands Cold Blood and the Sons of Champlin, and for a time played with Blood, Sweat and Tears.  Both on his own and as a member of the Tower of Power horn section, he recorded with an array of artists including the Rolling Stones, Elton John, Santana, Sheryl Crow and Rod Stewart.

After years of touring, Gillette left Tower of Power in the mid-Eighties to focus on raising his family, but continued to work as a session musician and record solo material (his group, the Mic Gillette Band, featured his daughter Megan McCarthy).  While Gillette rejoined Tower of Power for a reunion tour in 2009, he continued to focus on teaching music to East Bay middle and high schoolers.

"It's a funny life", Gillette said in a 2014 interview with the Sonora Union Democrat.  "I've already had a great career, sat next to presidents and played the national anthem before 200,000 people.  But what I'd like to be remembered for is when someone I taught makes good and when somebody walks up to them and asks how they learned to play like that, they mention my name."


OTIS CLAY
February 11, 1942  -  January 8, 2016
otisclay.net

By Howard Reich - Chicago Tribune www.chicagotribune.com
January 16, 2016

Otis Clay The music industry liked to peg Chicago vocal master Otis Clay as a soul singer.  Or an R&B king.  Or a gospel titan.  Or a high-energy showman.

He was all of that, and more, Clay's roots in Mississippi and musical blossoming in Chicago making him an uncommonly eclectic musician who drew upon more stylistic influences than even his more ardent fans may have realized.

The one-time Grammy nominee, who churned out hits in the late 1960s with "That's How It Is (When You're in Love)", in the early 1970s with "Trying to Live My Life Without You" (later covered by Bob Seger) and in the '80s with "When the Gates Swing Open", said he soaked up the music of Duke Ellington and Thomas A. Dorsey, Sam Cooke and Muddy Waters, and a great deal more.

Clay, a 2013 Blues Hall of Fame inductee, died Friday at age 73, said his longtime arranger and producer, Thomas "Tom Tom" Washington.

His daughter, Ronda Tankson, told The Associated Press that her father died of a heart attack.

"Writing this with a very heavy heart and tears in my eyes as I recently heard the very sad news that the great Otis Clay suddenly passed on," Chicago blues musician Dave Specter wrote on Facebook.  Specter collaborated with Clay on "Message in Blue", Specter's critically applauded 2014 album.

"Otis conveyed power with soul music and with blues like very few people I've ever heard live", Specter said Saturday.  "It was as good as it gets.

"His live shows - it was so stirring, and so moving.  And he was a great showman.  Not when you think of a showman being an over-the-top entertainer on steroids.  Nothing like that.  It was so real."

Indeed, in concert Clay proved a galvanic force, his gravelly, rumbling low notes and fervent, imploring high ones showing a potent mixture of the sacred and the secular, the accessible and the sophisticated.

"My life always has been a combination of things musically", Clay told the Tribune in 2013, as he was celebrating the release of his album "Truth Is".

"Every Saturday night I listened to the Grand Ole Opry", added Clay, who was born Feb.11, 1942, in Waxhaw, Miss.

"During the day, later on, you listened to (radio) coming out of Memphis.  During the noonday, at 12 o'clock, we listened to (blues pioneer) Sonny Boy Williamson, coming out of Helena, Ark.  (And) I'm listening to Vaughn Monroe and Rosemary Clooney and listening to Hank Williams and Roy Acuff."

So the far-flung idioms those artists represented were set deeply in Clay's musical persona, even before he came to Chicago as a teenager, in the mid-1950s, to live with his uncle and aunt.  In Chicago he absorbed further musical influences but in the flesh.

"I guess I've always loved Chicago", Clay said in the Tribune interview.  "And people say, 'Well, you're from Mississippi.' And I say, 'Chicago is only a suburb of Mississippi.' It was the place to go.  It was exciting, of course."

"You got to be in a place where a lot of legends (lived), whether they were blues or gospel, they were in Chicago.  I guess I was about 6 or 7 years old when I saw my first live show.  I was living in Clarksdale, Miss. at that time, and that was Muddy Waters.

"And now I'm in the same city that Muddy Waters is living in and playing local clubs and what have you, though I wasn't going to 'em yet.  Sam Cooke was here, the Soul Stirrers, the Caravans and all these (other gospel) people.  It was a lot of excitement."

By age 15, Clay was singing Chicago gospel with the Golden Jubilaires, and three years later, in 1960, touring America with Charles Bridges' Famous Blue Jay Singers.  That experience only expanded Clay's artistic range, because "our audience was basically, most of the time, white", meaning the singers were expected to perform repertoire well outside gospel tradition.

On Sundays, though, "most of the time we would be singing in black churches.  - 1960: What was the greatest craze at the time? The twist.  So we added that to our repertoire.  We added 'That Old Gang of Mine', 'Mother Machree'.  We were variety singers, so therefore I had that exposure, so it wasn't so hard for me to do it."

Though Clay began releasing soul records on Chicago's One-derful label in the 1960s, he never lost touch with his gospel roots, recording and performing that repertoire through the decades.  When disco was ascendant in the 1970s, Clay found a growing and devoted audience for his earthy music on the other side of the world, in Japan.

This came as a surprise to him.

"I had no idea", he said in the Tribune interview.  "I thought when we got ready to go to a foreign country, we were going to go Europe.  I didn't think I was going to go to Japan, because I'm thinking Pearl Harbor, WWII.  - (I thought:) What am I going to sing?  I thought it was one of the craziest ideas.

"And then I go to Japan.  I find that they are so up on the music.  That, too, was a lesson well learned.  - They know the songs, they know the meaning of the songs."

Clay had been scheduled to perform Saturday night on Chicago's West Side, said arranger-producer Washington.  Specter spoke to Clay on Wednesday: "When you get a FaceTime call from Otis Clay, it's a big deal", said Specter, honored by the call and noting that the singer looked to be in fine spirits.

"He was just a combination of his voice, his passion, his intensity", Specter said.

Performing with Clay was "the most inspiring feeling I ever got", he said.

"I remember the first rehearsal at Delmark (Records) for 'Message in Blue' - his voice made me cry.  And it was just a rehearsal."

"I've worked with a lot of great singers.  But I don't think I've worked with anybody who had that feeling."


LONG JOHN HUNTER
July 13, 1931  -  January 4, 2016
en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long_John_Hunter

Chicago Tribune www.chicagotribune.com
January 5, 2016

Long John Hunter Blues guitarist Long John Hunter, who recorded seven solo albums in a 60-year career and was known internationally for his onstage showmanship, has died.  He was 84.

Hunter died in his sleep early Monday at his home in Phoenix, his family announced Tuesday on their Facebook page.

The cause of death wasn't immediately known, said Marc Lipkin, director of publicity for Chicago-based Alligator Records.  Lipkin added that he believed Hunter lived in Phoenix for the past decade or more.

Hunter also was a singer-songwriter whose best-known tracks are "El Paso Rock" and "Alligators Around My Door".

Born John Thurman Hunter Jr. in Ringgold, Louisiana, Hunter grew up in Arkansas and Texas and bought his first guitar after seeing B.B. King in concert.

Hunter adopted his stage name in 1953 when he released his first single.  He relocated to El Paso, Texas, and then made a name for himself leading the house band at the Lobby Bar in Juarez, Mexico, from 1957 to 1970.

James Brown, Buddy Holly, Etta James and Albert Collins reportedly attended shows by Hunter, who also became a mentor to then-teenager Bobby Fuller of "I Fought the Law" fame.

It was at the Lobby Bar that Hunter developed his showmanship.  He was known for holding his guitar by the neck in one hand while continuing to play.  With his free hand, Hunter would reach up, grab a rafter above the stage and start to swing but never missed a beat.

The antics inspired the title of Hunter's 1997 album "Swingin' From The Rafters", which made him an internationally touring festival headliner.

Hunter released independent CDs in 2003 and 2009 and reportedly continued to play regularly until he was 80.

He's survived by his wife, Gayle, and brother, Tom.

Associated Press



 

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