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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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Showing posts with label Professor Longhair. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Professor Longhair. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Alligator Records News Briefs - April 16, 2014

Conjure up a list of all-time great blues harmonica players, and high up on it you'll see the name James Cotton.

The Mississippi Arts Commission presented blues music icon (and Tunica, Mississippi native) James Cotton with the coveted Governor's Award For Excellence In The Arts in a ceremony held February 20, 2014 at Belhaven University in Clarion, Mississippi. The Governor's Arts Awards are presented annually to outstanding writers, artists, performers, craftsmen and educators who have made significant and lasting contributions through their work as well as to corporations or organizations on the basis of their dedication to arts advancement. Previous winners include B.B. King, Little Milton Campbell, and Bo Diddley.

Video of the presentation and live performance is here:

Cotton is currently celebrating his 70th year as a professional entertainer. His Grammy-nominated 2013 CD, Cotton Mouth Man, is an upbeat, warm blues album boasting fine musicianship and Cotton's undeniable spirit. Living Blues says, "James Cotton is one of the great harmonica innovators of his generation. Cotton Mouth Man is a star-studded affair that makes James Cotton's best recording for Alligator. It is an autobiographical narrative of Cotton's eventful life and soul-deep relationship with the blues. He plays with an authority and energy that belies his age."

Blues Hall of Famer Joe Louis Walker will take part in the Thelonious Monk Institute Of Jazz's International Jazz Day in Osaka, Japan on April 30, 2014. Many other artists will also perform, including Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock and John Scofield.

According to the Monk Institute, "The designation of International Jazz Day is intended to bring together communities, schools and other groups the world over to celebrate and learn more about the art of jazz, its roots and its impact. Ultimately, it seeks to foster intercultural dialogue and raise public awareness about the role of jazz music. As a language of freedom across the board, jazz promotes social inclusion, enhancing understanding, tolerance and nurturing creativity."

From its base in Washington, DC, the Thelonious Monk Institute Of Jazz identifies jazz music's new voices, honoring its present and past masters, making the jazz aesthetic available and comprehensible in concert halls and classrooms around the world. The Institute is the lead nonprofit organization charged with planning, promoting and producing International Jazz Day.

Walker's latest album, Hornet's Nest, has been hailed as a true blues tour-de-force. USA Today says it is "tough and resilient." Living Blues added, "Few contemporary blues artists blend aggression, deep feeling and eclecticism with the panache and ferocity of Joe Louis Walker."

Alligator Records recordings from Professor Longhair, Corey Harris and Anders Osborne have and continue to appear on network television programs. Professor Longhair's Whole Lotta Lovin' (from his Crawfish Fiesta album) is the opening theme song for My Big Redneck Family, airing weekly on the CMT network. Corey Harris' Moosemilk Blues (from his Fish Ain't Bitin' CD) and Anders Osborne's On The Road To Charlie Parker (from his American Patchwork CD) both appeared in the April 1 episode of CBS Television's NCIS.

Thursday, February 28, 2013

SHE AIN'T GOT NO HAIR - Walter Papoose Nelson, Professor Longhair

Born Walter Charles Nelson Jr., 26 July 1932, New Orleans, Louisiana Died 28 February 1962, New York City, New York Guitarist Walter Nelson was born into a musical family. His father, Louis Nelson, was also a guitarist and had played with Louis Armstrong. Nelson Sr. taught music to both Smiley Lewis and Professor Longhair. Walter's younger brother, Lawrence Nelson (1936-1963), called himself Prince La La, who made a couple of classic R&B recordings in the early 1960s, before his untimely death from a drug overdose. Melvin and David Lastie were Walter's cousins. His sister, Dorothy Nelson, was married to singer Jessie Hill. They all grew up in a poverty-stricken area. Mac Rebennack : "They're all from the housing projects in the Ninth Ward which is the ultimate in ghettoes in New Orleans - bad conditions, gang wars, just a totally bad and violent situation. They've had very, very rough lives." (Quoted by John Broven, p. 93.) "Papoose", as Walter's nickname was, learned to play guitar from his father. By 1949 he had joined Professor Longhair's band and he plays on the Professor's earliest recordings. Fats Domino heard Papoose when he was playing with Longhair and persuaded him to join his band in 1950. Unfortunately, playing in shady clubs like Longhair's hangout, the Caldonia Inn, he had gathered some bad habits, notably an addiction to heroin. Still, Walter's driving-but-mellow style became the backbone of the Fats Domino band, as Billy Diamond put it. >From January 1951 until September 1959, Papoose played on most of Fats Domino's sessions. When he was not available, it was mostly because he had to spend some time in jail, for drugs possession or non- support. Fats would bail him out, whenever possible. In a way, the Domino band was Papoose's family, as he became more and more estranged from his own relations because of his drug habit. "He was just a good-hearted cat who happened to be strung out", writes Mac Rebennack in his auto- biography. Papoose was Rebennack's first guitar teacher and Mac speaks highly of him. "He was a real soulful player, probably the most soulful guitar teacher I had." Dave Bartholomew was also full of praise for Nelson's guitar playing. Papoose could read music and sometimes he contributed to the arrangements of Fats's records, especially in the case of "I'm Walkin'". However, Alvin 'Red' Tyler didn't think too much of Nelson and rated Edgar Blanchard and Justin Adams, and especially Ernest McLean, higher as guitarists. (John Broven, p. 91-92.) Nelson made one vocal record, "Why Did We Have To Part", on the flip of Herb Hardesty's "The Chicken Twist" (Federal 12460, 1962). On February 28, 1962 (Ash Wednesday), Billy Diamond drove to the Theresa Hotel in Harlem to pick up the members of Fats Domino's band. When Papoose didn't answer his knock, the bell captain opened the door. They found the guitarist lying askew on the bed with one shoe on and a needle in his arm. He was cold, dead from a heroin overdose at the age of twenty-nine. The funeral in New Orleans was not attended by Fats and his band who were still on tour. Roy Montrell replaced Papoose as the guitarist in Domino's band. Montrell would die under very similar circumstances (at the Sonesta Hotel in Amsterdam), while the band was on tour in Holland in 1979. If you support live Blues acts, up and coming Blues talents and want to learn more about Blues news and Fathers of the Blues, ”LIKE” ---Bman’s Blues Report--- Facebook Page! I’m looking for great talent and trying to grow the audience for your favorite band!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Rounder Records presents: Meet Me At Mardi Gras - New Release Review

I just received a copy of Rounder Records latest recording to be released on January 12th, Meet Me At Mardi Gras. Rounder has put together a fine selection of tracks to get us ready for our trip to New Orleans (or to listen to in case we can't get off to go this year)! Mardi Gras if you haven't got it on your schedule is February 21 this year (festivities beginning around the 18 if they ever stop). The recording starts off with a great cut, Say Na Hey by the Soul Rebels. This is a great funky New Orleans track that is sure to get your beads movin. It is horn driven with a great guitar solo for me and trumpet solos to top it off. The second track, Goin' Back to New Orleans is performed by Joe Liggins and the Honeydrippers. This track is delivered by it's author in typical new Orleans jazz style with dixieland sax. clarinet and piano oozing out of it. Track three Mardi Gras Mambo is performed by Zachary Richard and provides that taste of Caribbean. Track four, Funky Liza performed here by New Orleans Nightcrawlers has the tuba driven backbeat that New Orleans is known for and erupts into a full first line parade. Track 5, La Danse De Mardi Gras performed by Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys is a real bite of Cajun flavor. Track 6, Jackamo, performed by Larry Williams is a soul swing take on the traditional party song with Bari sax and all...great! Track 7, Carnival Time, performed by it's writer, Al Johnson takes a stroll down Bourbon Street with strong vocals and cool horn backing. Track 8, Big Shot, performed here by it's writer, Marcia Ball, of course is a great piano song with Marcia's great sense of rhythm and vocals and adding some horns to a great Mardi Gras song! Track 9, Go To The Mardi Gras, performed here by the professor...yes..Professor Longhair playing one his famous songs and whistlin' up the beat. Track 10, Do Whatcha Wanna is performed by ReBirth Brass Band. It really doesn't get a lot more authentic than this. I've seen these guys a number of times and they're always great! Track 11, Tipitina, performed here by Bo Dolls and the Wild Magnolias could be recorded street side in the parade. I mean I can smell it. This is really getting down to it. The 12th and final track, Meet Me With Your Black Drawers On, by Chuck Carbo is a really cool swing blues. It is the surprise track on the cd but I couldn't find a video of it. It is like post parade and sittin' around coolin' with some lemonade... This is a great party!
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Ladies and Gentlemen, Professor Longhair By Lee Pons - John Francis Kavanagh contributor

John Bonham of Led Zeppelin with Professor Longhair, Photo by Sidney Smith
Today is the birthday of the funky, enigmatic, and wildly talented Professor Longhair, who’s outstanding life and music have touched millions for generations.
Lovingly known far and wide as the “Fess”, the godfather of New Orleans piano, Professor Longhair was born Henry Byrd on Dec 19th, 1918 in Bogalusa, Louisiana. The family moved to New Orleans shorty after his birth and, though he did get music lessons from his mother, he would say that his first musical instruments where the bottoms of his feet! As a child, he used to tap dance on street corners of the French Quarter for spare change.
Byrd didn’t get any real serious interest in music until he was in his late teens. He was a member of a dance troupe when he had to fill in for the drummer one night (no one knew he could play the drums — not even him!). Tuts Washington, the piano player in that group, told Byrd he should continue with the drums, which he did. Pretty soon he got tried of having to lug a drum set around, and switched to the piano. Tuts acted as one of Byrd’s early mentors on the piano. Fess also got encouragement from Sullivan Rock who taught him how to play the standard “Pinetop’s Boogie Woogie”.

The Birth of Fess

One of Byrd’s strongest influences came from working with a government road crew. The job’s tenure was for 6 months, and involved a good amount of traveling. During these travels, he was exposed to a variety of Latin and Caribbean band music. Drawn by the rhythmic interplay of the music, Fess soon incorporated the unique syncopations into his own playing style, by blending them with blues and barrellhouse piano. This “Rumba Boogie” as he would later call it, would turn out to have an immeasurable impact on New Orleans music, and in Piano Blues music as a whole.
In 1942, Byrd was inducted into the army, and left 2 years later on a medical discharge. Afterward, he spent spend the next few years working as a cook or as a professional card player. Gambling would always be his “second profession”, as he would say, and he became well known in New Orleans as an amazing card shark. In the mean time, he would play occasional gigs as a piano player, but he wasn’t noticed as a musician until 1948, when, during another band’s break, he played a few songs on the piano at a club. He caused such a hoopla with the patrons that the owner of the club fired the band and hired Byrd, right then and there! It was at this club that he would be given his nickname, Professor Longhair, because of the ponytail he sported at

Monday, December 19, 2011

Every Day I Have The Blues - Professor Longhair

Professor Longhair (December 19, 1918 – January 30, 1980; born Henry Roeland Byrd, also known as Roy "Bald Head" Byrd and as Fess) was a New Orleans blues singer and pianist. Professor Longhair is noteworthy for having been active in two distinct periods, both in the heyday of early rhythm and blues, and in the resurgence of interest in traditional jazz after the founding of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.

The journalist Tony Russell, in his book The Blues – From Robert Johnson to Robert Cray, stated "The vivacious rhumba-rhythmed piano blues and choked singing typical of Fess were too weird to sell millions of records; he had to be content with siring musical offspring who were simple enough to manage that, like Fats Domino or Huey "Piano" Smith. But he is also acknowledged as a father figure by subtler players like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John.
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