6/14/17: Walking the Blues

At the age of 15, I was listening to Culture Club and ABC and Prince and Heaven 17 and Sheila E. Everything was shiny and clean and super-produced.

But I also listened to the Rolling Stones, and that led me down a really interesting musical path.

My nature, when I run into a new band or style of music, is to learn everything I can about it. So when I got into the Stones at the age of 13, I got every book and magazine article I could find. I knew how Keith strung his guitar, I knew about the sleazy apartment he and Brian and Mick lived in, I knew Mick went to the London School of Economics, I knew Charlie Watts didn’t drive and collected Civil War memorabilia.

I also read about what kind of music they had been into. That’s where I first heard the names Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Sonny Boy Williamson and Willie Dixon.

We had cassette tapes back then, and cassette Walkmen, and I took my cassette Walkman on very long walks listening to the blues or maybe some Culture Club or Fun Boy Three. I think comparing the two kinds of music really got me interested in the blues; I’d rather hear the comparatively simple production value of a Muddy Water or Sonny Boy Williamson album than the shiny, shiny highly produced sound of Eighties Pop.

I’m not talking abut that hissy sound you get from all old recordings. I’m talking about remarkable songs, beautifully performed, and recorded simply. That’s what got me.

Ebeth fun fact: My uncle, Pete Welding, had a blues-based record label called Testament Records. That’s not why I got into the blues, but it was always cool to look on the back of an album and see liner notes written by Uncle Pete.

“Blind” Connie Williams: “Trouble in Mind”:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zqi_7bGwy-U

This is from Uncle Pete’s label. Williams, an extraordinarily talented guitarist and accordion player, attended the same school for the blind as Ray Charles (that’s according to Uncle Pete’s liner notes). The song itself has been recorded by a lot of folks; I know Nina Simone does a great version.

To many people, “Rollin’ Stone” is is the “Stairway to Heaven” of blues music, but I love it. I can remember walking around the suburbs of northern New Jersey with this on my headphones.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4T2hygHu8CI

There’s a whole Rolling Stones subtext to this post (as with my life), and if you ever wondered where the album title “Get Yer Yas Yas Out,” ask Blind Boy Fuller. Holy cow, listen to that playing.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ciH8BULldU

If you let it, music will take you on some amazing journeys – this is where being a Stones fan has brought me. And there’s so much more to know! I’ll never know everything about music, and that what makes it so magical. Every day, it’s something new.

 

 

Image provided by Kevin Dooley, CC License 2.0.