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I started a quest to find terrific blues music and incredible musicianship when I was just a little kid. I also have a tremendous appreciation of fine musical instruments and equipment. One of my greatest joys all of my life was sharing my finds with my friends. I'm now publishing my journey. I hope that you come along!


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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Bman's Exclusive interview with Big LLou Johnson - Voice of BB King's Bluesville



Bman: Hi Big LLou. I appreciate your taking the time out from your busy schedule to talk with me. And you are busy! I mean Radio, Movies, backing vocals, recording a new cd... They Call Me Big LLou.
And you still have the time to be the voice of BB Kings Bluesville. How do you do it?


Big LLou: You forgot to add tv commercials, prints ads and stage work.. (Laughs) No seriously, I don’t think I do anything more than any other artist who is trying to make a living from their craft. As a matter of fact I’d love to be busier than I am now.

But say for instance, if I’m doing a film, and a client wants me for a tv spot or whatever, there always seems to be time to make both things work without sacrificing the creativity of either. Plus having a great team of people to work with doesn’t hurt either. For example, while I was recording my album and my agent called me with auditions, since I was at a studio anyway I just recorded it there and emailed them back to the agency.

The album was primarily recorded at Rax Trax in Chicago and Rick Barnes and the guys there were just great at accommodating us with just about any request.

Bman: I know that you've been on the screen since back in the 90's. Big good looking guy with a great voice. I can see why you're in such demand. How do you like working in film. (Here's a resume of LLou's work if you have a doubt)!
http://www.bigllou.com/resume.htm

Big LLou: Who you calling “good looking” Bman? I actually started in film behind the camera as the owner of a talent agency that cast talent and extras for film and tv. We did several projects including most of Oprah’s at that time. Clients starting asking me to voice projects and appear on camera for them which was the beginning of the end of me being an agent. Once I became a “full time” actor myself, I went after everything I could get booked on. Stage, print, tv, you name it. But film is one of the mediums that will always be near and dear to my heart because of the relationship that the actor has with the camera. The camera knows when you’re faking it and those watching that performance will know it too. Same thing with a live performance but the audience is the camera and they know when it’s sincere.

Bman: You know I don't roll that way. (Laughs) Tell me about . (For those of you who don't know Big Llou is the voice of BB Kings Bluesville on Sirius Satellite Radio) How did you get hooked up with that?

Big LLou: And what a blessing that has become for me too! Thanks to my blues radio mentor and boss “Bill Wax” who is the program director of Bluesville. They were looking for a particular kind of voice for the station, I auditioned and got the gig. But Bill kicked it up a notch by creating the now popular “Top 10 Commandment of BB Kings Bluesville” in addition to having my name “BIG LLOU” yes.. with 2 LL’s, pop up on your screen every time you hear my voice. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost 10 years now. Thank Y'ALL!

Bman: Well, they certainly found it! Is that also how you got to become one of the hosts for the Blues Music Awards in Memphis?

Big LLOU: Exactly! That was actually my first big public appearance as “Big LLou” from BB Kings Bluesville. The love that the folks at the award ceremony showed me that night will always be one of thee most memorable moments of my life. Reba McEntire has hosted the ACM Awards 12 times, I’d like to break that record with the BMAs. I hope the Blues Foundation folk reads this.. (Laughs)

You know, that co-incidentally lead to me hosting the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruises and other gigs across the country. I recall after my first cruise gig, Blues411.com wrote “Big LLou has found his tribe”. They were absolutely right on target, INDEED.


Bman: Your first solo cd, They Call Me Big LLou came out a couple of months ago. I had written a story about it just about that time. You have one of those deep rich voices that people remember. How is it being received?

Big LLou: Well Bman, so far so good, I think! Yea.. and thanks for writing about it too! That was really nice of you. Well, so far I haven’t heard one “disparaging word”. But it’s still early. The Chicago Blues Guide said that I was “Bringing Sexy Back to the Blues”. I know for a fact that the women are really diggin it and the jocks who are spinning cuts from it have had only good things to say. I really gotta thank them too for playing it cause I feel honored that they are spinning it considering all of the product that comes across their desks.

Bman: I've had the chance to listen to it a bit and you seem really comfortable in it. Tell me about your personal relationship with the recording?


Big LLou: They Call Me Big LLou, is my baby.. man! Literally! Two years gestation period then two weeks of labor pains in the studio during the delivery.
I promised folks that I was going to have my album ready for an OCT. Blues Cruise debut, and we did it! Yes, it was recorded in two weeks at the studio. I had just wrapped my role in the film “Devil in My Ride” where I play a homeless priest and jumped right into the studio after that.

There were several tracks that I initially wanted on the project but didn’t make the cut due to time constraints. I won’t make that mistake on the next one. But we were pleased with the way the tracks that did make it, turned out.

Bman: Rack up another one! Are you going to tour or is that out of the question with your schedule?

Big LLou: One would think that something would have to go while you’re on the road, huh? Well, having been on tour with plays, etc., I’ve found that I don’t miss out on much because of technology. I’ve recorded spots from the comfort of my hotel room lots of times and have never had one complaint. But I must admit is it quite arduous serving two, three and sometimes four masters!
But I look forward to touring in support of this album. I live for the stage and that’s where I’m most comfortable. Ain’t nothing like an audience full of blues lovin’, dancing fools! I can say that cause I’m one too.

I’m signed with Intrepid Artists and I’m looking forward to working with them on the tour. They’re very good at what they do so they’ll make sure that we keep it all together, dig?

Bman: Oh Yeah. They know what they're doing!
You play one of my favorite old Sonny Boy Williamson songs on your cd.
Ten Years After did a real nice version of it back in the early 70's. You're put a soul spin on it. It's a cool diversion. How did you go about selecting the songs for your cd?

Big LLou: Thanks Bman! Indeed. TYA brought their creativity to “Help Me” as I hope I did to the tunes on my album. For that song I changed the ending of the tune by coming up with some additional lyrics. I’ve seen Billy Branch do the song in his set and loved it so much I had to record it.

Beside “They Call Me Big LLou”, the other tunes were selected solely based upon their fit for my voice and the Big LLOU persona. I tried not to do any cover the way someone else may have done it before. I’m sure I haven’t heard every version of every blues tune but I think ours can now be considered a “version”.

Bman: Russ Green did a real nice job with harp on this as well as others throughout the recording. How long have you guys been working together?

Big LLou: He did didn’t he! You’re absolutely right when you say “throughout the recording”! If it wasn’t for Russ Green and his ability to produce a quality product with some very talented cats, it would not have turned out the way it did.

This was Russ and I’s first project together and hopefully not our last. He’s truly a talented musician and he immersed himself in the project totally, from beginning to end. It was his baby as much as mine. I thank him for his hard work and for my agent and friend, Vanessa Lanier for putting the two of us together. His knowledge of the blues and the Chicago scene was invaluable. We’re working on putting together a show now. It’s like Sonny Boy Williamson meets Barry White and Howlin' Wolf for a jam session with Solomon Burke!

Bman: That sounds like a pretty intense show!

Big LLou: I’m a pretty intense entertainer. And coming from a theater and radio background I’d like to bring what I’ve learned (from that) to the stage and at the same time stay true to the music. Ya know, Wolf was a radio man before he came up to Chicago!

Bman: Yeah... I can see the parallel! Tell me about DOGG. I'm a big George Clinton fan.

Big LLou: I had a chance to work with George last year. He’s a pretty intense cat himself. But my DOGG, if I can recall correctly, as told to me by the writer himself, Paul Richmond; was written with Snoop Dogg in mind. That didn’t pan out and it was eventually recorded by Tyrone Davis on his “Come to Daddy” album in 2003. Which was the last album he recorded before he died. Paul loved what we did with his tune and even suggested we submit the album for Grammy consideration. What a nice compliment.. huh?

Bman: Yeah Snoop did a version of Georges Atomic Dog. That's probably what he was getting at. The song, They call me Big LLou, has a great Chicago Blues sound. Is this the song that gets the most air?

Big LLou: I can’t say about “most air” but I know it’s a “Pick to Click” on Bluesville. Pretty proud of that because that will always be the song that gave me the additional title of “song writer” to my resume. I think it’s a catchy little tune and my friends and family are singing for me every time they see me. So that’s gotta count for something.

I remember performing the song at Buddy Guy’s Legends before I recorded it and a reviewer wrote “Big LLou showed his vocal prowess by singing a song celebrating his largeness”! I thought that was cute.


Bman: You funk up the recording with "Git Me Some".
Tell me about it.

Big LLou: That’s an Earl Thomas tune, who co-incidentally I’ll be working with in the stage play “Nothin But The Blues” on the Oct. 2012 Legendary Rhythm & Blues Cruise. I fell in love with that tune when I first heard it. I contacted him and asked if I could record it and he replied.. “You and Tom Jones” recording my song.. Wow!
I think I beat Tom to the punch though! That tune is also getting airplay attention which I’m thankful for.

We’re planning on releasing a video on the tune. Additionally, there is talk about it possibly being used in a film. It’s a little too early to state unequivocally because the deal hasn’t been done but just that someone even considered using our work is an honor for me in and of itself.

Bman: That's great for you! I hope it works out! Is there anything else that you want to share with your fans?

Big LLou: Well, first I’d like to thank my producers, musicians & studio personnel for putting out a product we can all be proud of. I’d also like to thank Bill Wax and the nearly 2 million weekly listeners of Bluesville for tuning in and keeping the blues growing! And much love and appreciation to everyone who have embraced our music! Stay tuned because they best is yet to come!

Bman: Thanks a lot for your time!

Big LLou: The pleasure was all mine Bman.. Thank you very much, INDEED!
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