A special hope and promise of renewal By Shari Davis Madison Blues Society Board President Shari Davis and the Hot Damn! Blues Band
Greetings, fellow Blues lovers,
Here we are on the brink of summer – always a welcome time in Wisconsin – and now more than ever. Summer 2021 holds a special hope and promise of renewal. It has been a long, strange year of social distancing and no live music! We cautiously venture out again to see our friends and families in person and enjoy the activities we have missed. Before we proceed with announcements and other news, I want to take a moment to reflect.
There is a saying, usually considered a curse, of unproven origin. You are probably familiar with it: “May you live in interesting times.” Those times have arrived. (This is not exactly news.)
We are recently marking the anniversaries of three events which have had a profound impact on our country and collective psyche.
The first is the Covid-19 pandemic lockdown. The stay-at-home order was first issued on March 24, 2020, went into effect shortly thereafter and was only recently lifted – at last! (We hope it lasts.)
The second is the 100th anniversary last month of the May 21, 1921, race massacre in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and complete destruction of the Greenwood neighborhood which came to be known as Black Wall Street. I must confess, this came as a surprise to me – not that it happened – but that I had never learned of it until now. It is one of those things that was not mentioned in any history book when I was in school.
The third is the one year anniversary of the death of George Floyd on May 25, 2020, at the hands of police in Minneapolis. The outcry, not only from people in cities across our nation, but around the world was a remarkable response in the midst of a global pandemic.
These things happened and are happening. There is much healing needed right now. Today is the time to engage in a new dialog, to reach out to our neighbors in the Black community and have the difficult and uncomfortable conversations, to listen, to hear – and participate in conversations that matter.
There is cause to celebrate.
This year the Madison Blues Society is pleased to announce that we will be among the many proud sponsors of the 32 nd Annual Juneteenth Celebration presented by Kujichagulia – Madison Center for Self Determination. This is a four day event which will be held both virtually and in person Wednesday June 16th through Saturday June 19th . Saturday’s in-person event will begin with a parade that concludes at Penn Park on Fisher Street at noon. The event will go until 4:00 pm. This year’s theme is “Black Resilience…Rising From the Ashes.” “Juneteenth is a wonderful opportunity to experience the rich history of Black Americans through various forms of entertainment, lectures, visual presentation, food, and other activities.” – excerpt from Kujichagulia MCSD Facebook announcement. MBS will participate in the Saturday event with an information and membership table. We look forward to re-connecting with old friends and making new ones. For more information about Juneteenth see: https://isthmus.com/events/juneteenth-annual/
We are so excited to partner with Kujichagulia Madison Center on this community event. Join Madison Blues Society this Saturday 6/19/21 at the JUNETEENTH Celebration in the Park at Penn Park (2101 Fisher St, Madison.) Stop by our booth and say hello and ask about memberships!
Harmonica Player “Tall” Paul Sabel, originally from DePere, WI, started his journey in music oddly enough during his first year of Physician Assistant school at UW Madison. On a Monday night he heard Westside Andy Linderman playing harmonica into a bullet microphone and a tube amp with The Blue Monday Band which was led by Clyde Stubblefield. Paul was mystified by the sound and felt an immediate calling to learn how to do that. At the time, he had been re-awakening his creative side and decided to go at learning the harmonica with the mind of a child—no inhibitions and no pressure for time—and he learned the basics of harmonica faster than he had learned anything before. With stops in Chicago and Green Bay, Paul ended up in Madison and keeps a somewhat low profile as harmonica Player for the Ryan McGrath Band. He has been working all along as a physician assistant and is father of two young children but had managed to make it to The Knuckledown Saloon and sit in with Reverend Raven and the Chain-smoking Altar Boys featuring Westside Andy, The Madtown Mannish Boys, The Cash Box Kings, and Brandon Santini. He is happy his wife Silvia supports his love of music and performing live. Always looking to add to his repertoire and musical style, Paul recently started to study via Skype with harmonica player Jason Ricci. You can follow Paul by liking his musician page Tall Paul Sabel on Facebook. Look for gig updates and hopefully soon some new posts featuring live performances and informational videos.
1. What do you do for fun when you are not playing? STUFF WITH THE KIDS. Going to parks, hiking, reading stories. For myself I like to hike, bike and work out with kettlebells. 2. How did the Ryan McGrath band get started? When Ryan moved back to the area after attending school at Montana State, he formed a trio with local bass player and drummer. The bass player happened to work in Stoughton ER which was one of my sites when I moved back to the area after my 5 years in Chicago. We talked one night and he invited me to play a party they were hired for and Ryan and I clicked right away. That was around Oct 20, 2014 which was 5 days before my son Soren was born. Ryan happened to get married right after than as well so we both had big changes in life as we met and started playing music together. 3. Who are your biggest musical influences? Westside Andy, Glenn Davis, Gary Primich, Jim Liban, Jerry Gonzalez (jazz trumpeter and conguero who I have found to be my spirit animal in music, I watch his Detroit jazz fest live performances on YouTube all the time), Charles Mingus, Big Walter Horton, Little Walter, James Cotton, Mitch Kashmar, RJ Mischo, Flynn McGee, Bret and Clyde Stubblefield, James LeFevere, Joe Filisko. 4. Who is/are the most famous person(s) you’ve shared the stage with? Jorge Chicoy in Cuba probably. I played a gig with Sociedad Habana Blues, a band that Charlie Musselwhite connected me to when I told him I was going to Cuba and asked for advice on playing harp with that music. That band opened up for Chicoy’s band and in between Chicoy asked if I would sit in with his band. I did and they broke it down at a point and it was just him and I going back and forth. He was playing all these insane jazz licks with effects and I’ve got a harp and a vocal mic. I thought to myself, what can I do that he can’t? So when my turn to match him came up, I switched the gears and did my best train imitation on harp and brought the house down. Afterwards he told me I was welcome on stage with him anytime. I got to sit in with Charlie Musselwhite once too and he’s probably more famous but I just remembered that. Charlie was playing a 3 night casino gig in Green Bay in February and I offered to show him around town. Long story short, he likes second hand shops and pawn shops and I brought him to a place where he figured out they had a few switch blade knives hidden behind the counter in a cigar box and bought one. He told me you never know when you might need a good knife. Still in his blood from Chicago days. Anyway, he let me up for the song Cadillac Women on the last night of his residency at the casino. Billy Flynn was there and I think he ended up mailing the switchblade to Charlie so he wouldn’t lose it at the airport. 5. Tell us about your first paid gig. Biker bar next to red letter news in early 2000’s. I made $11. 6. If you could play another instrument beside harmonica, what would it be and why? Drums because my son wants to play them and I wish I could teach him. 7. If you could collaborate with another musician who would it be? Alabama Mike. He sang on the album Howlin at Greaseland which came out around the time my daughter Arya was born in 2018 or so. I used to console her and rock her to that album but really love Alabama Mike’s delivery And would love to meet him someday. 8. What’s the most important skill to have as a musician right now? I don’t know. I guess it’s social media marketing . 9. Describe Ryan McGrath Band fans in 3 words. Addicted, loyal, intelligent 10. If you could change one thing about the music business, what would it be? Pay me in Bitcoin or pay us for streaming our music. 11. What is your opinion about cover songs? I love covers as long as it’s not cover band style and we can improvise. People want to hear stuff they know. I’m not going to try to replicate note for note covers, but I do cover songs and introduce as such. I also want t to sprinkle in original stuff and hopefully people are open to new stuff. Music is communication and if people aren’t open to new stuff, they will be stuck and miss out. 12. Tell us about one of your music teachers. DeWayne Keyes is a Madison legend in my mind. If not for him I wouldn’t have started. He gave classes through the UW extended classes or something like that and I took his course after seeing fliers all over campus for 4 years. I took that course after hearing Westside Andy at Okay’s Corral and knowing I wanted to play harmonica. DeWayne is a great teacher and really inspired me. He had a handout with harmonica players to check out and I took it to the library and checked out cds of those artists and figured out who I liked and didn’t like. 13. What advice would you give to young musicians? Go for what you truly love. 14. What are the benefits of listening to music? Playing music? LISTENING IS CRUCIAL. I can get practice reps in from listening alone while on my bike going to work. It may be out of necessity but it works. It’s like practice reps in sports. And even if passively listening you want to have good music around you all the time. You never know what soaks in. The chromatic harp line I play in part of Play With My Mind on Heat and the Hammer I got inspired from a John Fruschante guitar line from intro to Snow Hey Oh from the Chilli Peppers. I heard it at home the day before my recording session when my wife had the song on as part of a kids dance party. It triggered an idea and I went and wrote it out. Always be receptive to the universe guiding you to create music. 15. If music were removed from the world, how would you feel? Very dead and no emotion. 16. How much time do you spend listening to music each day or week? Playing music? It depends. I go in streaks where I’m checking out new music or listening to stuff that stirs the memories and spend hardcore hours going at it but lately it has been very sad where I’m listening to sports radio and trying not to think about music because there isn’t much to look forward to and if I don’t have deadlines, less likely to carve out time to practice with the family obligations there. 17. Is there a song that makes you emotional? Sound of Silence, original but the Disturbed version has really moved me to tears. 18. What is your least favorite type of music? Whatever category the song What Does The Fox Say is in as it’s my son’s favorite song and I feel like I’m hearing that more than good music so my ears may be getting contaminated with annoying pop sh*t. 19. Karaoke – Yeah, or nah? Nah, unless I’m drunk in Tokyo which I have been And for some reason it’s not as annoying there. Probably because I was drunk. 20. Who should answer these questions next? Westside Andy
Lost But Found Again: A look behind the music By Eric Heiligenstein, MD Madison Blues Society Board Member (AKA Too Sick Charlie and His One Man Band; https://TooSickCharlie.com
By the end of the 1950’s, blues music was at a crossroads. The blues was dying, as it so often does, in mainstream culture. It was disparaged as low-class, old fashioned, and unenlightened. Many blues musicians chose to readjust and redefine themselves to cope with changing tastes.
Yet few foresaw the revolution that was to come. In the early1960’s social and political upheaval enveloped the United States. As a result, many of the sixties counter culture generation began to embrace the blues as an honest, earthy people’s music. And the events that followed have been defined as critical to the rebirth and rediscovery of the blues.
Folk, jazz, and rock brought new listeners to the blues in the 1960’s. White audiences were often introduced to the blues by white performers. The blues started to take hold among college students, folkies, festival crowds, and rock and rollers. The British blues rock invasion of the mid to late 1960’s featured bands that learned the music of their blues idols and in turn brought those songs back home to American audiences.
The Rolling Stones are named after a Muddy Waters song and they recorded his “I Just Wanna Make Love to You” (Decca Records, 1964) on their debut album. Waters stated “That’s how people in the States really got to know who Muddy Waters was.” One of the first things the Beatles said when they arrived in the States was that they wanted to go see Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley. One reporter replied, “Where’s that?”
The 1960’s saw blues played, studied and emerge as a cause itself. It became established as an art form with a discrete identity rather than a sub-genre of folk, jazz, or rock.
Probably the most critical part of the evolution was famed songwriter/musician Wille Dixon’s determination to establish the blues as a legitimate and commercially viable music. In 1962, he collaborated with German music producer Horst Lippman to form the American Folk Blues Festival tours of Europe (1962-1966). He assembled all-star lineups many whom had never previously performed outside the United States. The tours attracted substantial media coverage, including TV shows which allowed performances to be filmed and archived. European audiences embraced these performers with a passion. In retrospect, Willie Dixon commented “I wouldn’t have gone over there in the first place had I been doing alright here.”
The performance link (https://youtu.be/QyCwO18qybk )related to this article is of Sonny Boy Williamson II (Rice Miller) performing “Don’t Start Me Talking/Coming Home to You Baby”. The first song was his most successful, climbing to number three on the R&B charts.
Sonny Boy Williamson’s visit to London after the 1963 festival led to this clip. There are few archival films of Sonny Boy performing outside of his 1963 tour. During that time he also recorded ‘Sonny Boy and the Yardbirds’, (Star Club Records,1965) and ‘The Animals with Sonny Boy Williamson’, (multiple labels, 1963).
Sonny Boy had toured Europe to wild acclaim. He is widely considered one of the best of all time. His lyrics were full of witty and sly humor, playing some of the loudest, most passionate notes one minute, then deep soulful notes the next. His music was often about himself, telling his stories and experiences through his intimate music style.
Sonny Boy planned on becoming a British citizen but returned to the States in 1965 and subsequently died that year.
MBS raised funds for this scholarship at our Bowling & Brews event. MBS volunteers contacted Madison High School Music Departments for potential scholarship recipients. They eventually picked Anthony from East High, based on recommendations from the music director. The music director identified him as a student that was quite dedicated and could really benefit from additional guitar lessons.
Bill Roberts agreed to provide 14 half hour private lessons for Anthony (paid for by the profits from the bowling event.)
Anthony’s mother was very grateful for this opportunity for her son. Turns out they live so close that Anthony can probably walk over there.
Thank you to all the Bowling and Brews participants and especially to Bill Roberts for making this happen.
“The blues are the roots and the other musics are the fruits. It’s better keeping the roots alive, because it means better fruits from now on. The blues are the roots of all American music. As long as American music survives, so will the blues.”~ Willie Dixon (1915–1992)
We’re proud to announce that we’ve been awarded a Dane Arts grant for our 16th Annual Blues Picnic. Thank you!
This project is supported by Dane Arts with additional funds from the Endres Mfg. Company Foundation, the Evjue Foundation, Inc., charitable arm of The Capital Times, the W. Jerome Frautschi Foundation, and the Pleasant T. Rowland Foundation.
Please consider joining us for this community-wide free event on June 16th at Warner Park!
As Membership Coordinator for the Madison Blues Society, my job is to receive and process new member applications and membership renewals. Member information is kept in a database which I maintain. I also manage the membership email list and periodically send out information such as meeting minutes from the Board of Directors and special event announcements. Interested in joining us? You can become a new member or renew online at www. MadisonBluesSociety.com/member.htm. Feel free to contact me via my email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or by phone (608-234-0358) if you have any questions about membership records or processes.
If you were excited about the terrific line-up for last year’s Madison
Blues Picnic, you’ll be happy to know that the members of the
MBS Music Committee have choosen the 2018 lineup set for Sat.,
June 16 at Warner Park in Madison.
Our committee— Susie Laudner (Chair),Dave Speers, Vivian Schmelzer, Shari Davis,
Steve Lendborg—began reviewing bands once the submission
deadline passed on Nov. 27.
So how do we begin to whittle down the list? Well, because we
don’t have a travel budget we start by eliminating from consideration
those who wouldn’t already be in the Upper Midwest.
Next, it’s important we get the right mix of bands. If we choose
all local bands, we’re probably giving our audience acts they have
already seen and heard. But if we don’t choose any local bands, we
felt we weren’t being true to our local music community. We plan to
do what we did last year: Select a combination of local and regional
bands, plus a great headliner.
We spend time together listening to the bands that fit in each of those
categories. We’re also on the lookout for bands who will offer a variety of blues styles. We discuss, debate, research, and eventually come to a consensus.
Once we came to a consensus, we presented our recommendations to the
2018 MBS Board of Directors and it was approved! The five selected bands have been notified and once the contracts are signed, we’ll make the public announcement. It’ll be very soon!
Next up, we’ll be reaching out for volunteers to help run this
free community event, so mark your calendar for a day of great blues
music and fellowship with other blues music lovers—Sat. June 16!
The health of Madison Blues Society is directly related to how many members choose to be active in some way. No ONE person can pick up all the balls that we try to juggle—and even if we could, it’s not a wise, long term strategy for MBS’s success. We’re working to provide avenues to become active that correspond to varying levels of time commitments.
What we can accomplish is related to how many people participate. If you want to be part of a strong blues society, we invite you to reach out to any member of the board (listed at the end of this newsletter) or membership chair Dave Speers.
We really want to hear from you—Madison Blues Society belongs to ALL of us!