Anyway, when the credits ran, we figured out that she was Renee Austin. And I had to admit I had never heard of her. Which really made it important to find out something about her. How could she be that good and I completely missed her? So today I did a search on her, and the second item that came up said "Renee Austin's Career Cut Short." This was devastating information. Seems she had thyroid surgery which paralyzed one of her vocal cords, and she can no longer sing. And the rest of the story said she had a FIVE OCTAVE RANGE!! That makes me really sad - going from never hearing of her, to being so impressed by what I saw of her, to learning that she can no longer sing all in a 24 hour period. I don't know what will ever happen, but she touched me so strongly so quickly. I can't even imagine someone with a five octave range, only to have that taken away from her. Her performance was so honest, nothing phony about it. Renee, two days ago I didn't even know who you were. I am praying for you, no one is blessed with your gift without there being a special use for it. What else can I say?
As the new year begins, we're hit with a really hard one. Joel Neville, wife of Aaron Neville, dies in Nashville. Now "back in the day," as the expression goes, we all had such crushes on Aaron, there was no way we wanted to hear anything about her. But as we settled down, and learned of their story, it became obvious that she was one of the most interesting, caring and wonderful women in the music business. How could any woman endure what she did to keep her family together, and continue to face everyone with kindness and caring? I saw her only once, at JazzFest, some people were trying to get backstage, and she just ripped her backstage pass off and handed it to someone else, saying "here, take mine." "But then you won't have one," and she just shrugged. Like they would throw her out or something. Knowing Aaron hadn't been back to New Orleans since Katrina, and imagining how hard this must have been to finally go back, only to bury his wife, made it a double whammy all the way around. (I saw the Nevilles at Riverfest here in Little Rock Memorial Day, Ivan's band was playing earlier. He was standing over by the fence smoking, and I just wanted to go over and slap him!) Aaron, everyone loves you and prays for your strength.
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As we wrap up another year, it's hard not to focus on the losses of the year gone by. And to be honest, as more time goes by, we can't expect it to get better - time marches on and soon it will be us. Still, 2006 in particular dealt a severe blow to the soundtrack of our lives. Any year that took from us Lou Rawls, Wilson Pickett, Buck and Bonnie Owens, Gene Pitney, Billy Walker, Johnny Duncan, Maynard Ferguson, Gene Simmons, Al Casey, Don Walser, Etta Baker, Uncle Josh Graves, Freddy Fender, Paul Mauriat, Ruth Brown, amd James Brown is a stunner. But the artists aren't the only ones who wrote the soundtrack. Behind the scenes people left us as quickly as the artists. Songwriters Cindy Walker, Cy Coben, Floyd Dixon, Marijohn Wilkin, and Dennis Linde departed also. And record men - the fabled characters who created the music business as we knew it - and the element most missing today - also exited at an alarming rate; Phil Walden, Clifford Antone, Arif Mardin, Buddy Killen, Marshall Sehorn, Ahmet Ertegun, Bob Feldman. Other behind the scenes folks - Louise Scruggs, Sid Feller, Sid Seidenberg, Tillman Franks, Charles Wolfe. This is the best list I have. If you have additions, please let me know:
Lou Rawls, Bob Feldman, Wilson Pickett, Bobby Moore, Louise Scruggs, Charlie Wolfe, Sid Feller, Ray Barretto, Bill Cowsill, Edwin Duhon, Willie Kent, Ali Farka Toure, King Floyd, Jesse Taylor, Cindy Walker, James Mask, Buck Owens, Gene Pitney, Gordon Terry, June Pointer, Phyllis Carr (Quintones), Phil Walden, Bonnie Owens, Johnny Paris, Sid Seidenberg, Larry Rice, Freddie Garrity, Billy Walker, Charles Lilly (killed in the same crash with Billy Walker - son of Everett Lilly of the Lilly Brothers), Clifford Antone, Desmond Dekker, Cy Coben, Bobby Harden, Billy Preston, Drafi, Emmanuel Lasky, Arif Mardin, Johnny Jenkins, Eileen Barton, Little Buster, "Killer" from Nashville Now, Joe Weaver, Sam Myers, Sam Neely, Herb Kalin, Jessie Mae Hemphill, Floyd Dixon, Rocky Morales, Arthur Lee, Richard Barrett, Barbara George, Mike Douglas, Johnny Duncan, Lil Wally, Maynard Ferguson, Gene Simmons, Al Casey, Danny Flores (Chuck Rio), Don Walser, Etta Baker, Josh Graves, Prentiss Barnes (Moonglows), Jennell Hawkins, Freddy Fender, Snooky Pryor, Tillman Franks, Preston Lane (Fiestas), Marijohn Wilkin, Buddy Killen, Paul Mauriat, Timothea, Lil Alfred, Ruth Brown, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Anita O'Day, H-Bomb Ferguson, Mariska Veres (Shocking Blue), Marshall Sehorn, Jay McShann, Georgia Gibbs, Freddie Marsden, Walter Ward (Olympics), Ahmet Ertegun, Denny Payton (DC5), Charlie Drake, James Brown. The Class of 2006.
Read Sugarpie DeSanto's sad story here: Sugarpie
My "baby sister" got married! Friday evening, December 1.
Say hello to Chavonne and Jim Blair.
Sunday after the wedding there was a benefit for long time Ohio musical friend (and artist) Joe Henderson, who has had a number of medical problems. I was unaware of this until I was home for the wedding and saw a flyer in a downtown store window. It was great to see Joe again, and he recognized me as soon as I arrived. Rod Bradford was coordinating the music, I can't even count how many years it had been since I had seen him. It was great to talk with Rod and his wife Bev, and I even got to sing a couple songs with them for old times' sake. Whoever made the sloppy joes, man they were excellent. I will do a report on Joe as soon as I get the information.
We are always hoping for something new and worthwhile to listen to, and in 2006 we were given a really special treat - JAMES HUNTER. His music exemplifies everything the Roadhouse represents. "People Gonna Talk" is his American debut on Rounder. So odd - Hunter is a white guy from England, whose music echoes Junior Parker, Willie Tee, the King Pins, and others circa 1961, with elements of the Impressions and some reggae thrown in. It has been a very long time since I heard anything new that moved me so (I would say since Little Isidore's "Inquisition of Love.") Unlike many white artists who are enamored of black music, Hunter understands that subtlety is the key to sounding authentic. Hunter came to the US for a short promotion tour, and spent the summer opening for the likes of Etta James and Aretha Franklin. Not a bad way to spend the summer, I'd say. Did I mention that he plays his own lead guitar and writes this great stuff, too??? He has received a Grammy nomination in the blues category, but I would like to have seen one for Best New Artist, too.
Freddy Fender. What else can you say??? 1937-2006.
Don Walser was an inspiration to us all. True to his music, true to his family. Then when he retired from his regular job, he pursued his music career full time. And because he didn't play the games of the music industry, his fans included little kids, punks, long time traditional country music fans, and probably others who can't be categorized. Everything about him went against the grain of what the industry said you should be, but everyone who ever crossed his path was touched by him. The forgotten element of music - the love, the passion, the sincerity. Don sang a song about a Hot Rod Mercury at the Lowell Folk Festival that, under normal circumstances, would have been a hit song. He took on the naysayers and by sheer force of his personality and talent, proved them wrong. Thank you, Mr. Walser, may you rest in peace.
It's been a long time since I've written. So sad to learn of the death of Gene Simmons. When I was in Tupelo, Gene was a constant presence. I was disappointed we couldn't attend the Ponderosa Stomp this year, because Gene was to perform. I was excited at the prospect of saying hello again after all these years. His death came as such a shock; I had no idea he was ill. I know Gene and Ace Cannon shared the same manager, and he (Ace's manager) had given me a CD of new material of Gene's at last year's Stomp. There was a new ballad on there I thought was great.
Congratulations to our friend NOLA ROSE, who will be singing the National Anthem at the March 29 Nashville Predators game!!
I keep hoping that I will be writing something here other than death and sadness; I'm sure that there are, and will be, positive things to write. Here are a couple of good ones - MAURY PARENTt (Big Moe) of WOTW in Nashua, NH, and his wife Lucille just celebrated their 51st wedding anniversary!!!! What an accomplishment. And, from my hometown, steel guitarist DICK COCHRAN and his wife NANCY just celebrated 46!
But at the moment, the sad ones take precedence. Today is an extremely sad day for me, as we lost a very special person yesterday (3-2-03), the one and only HANK BALLARD. I have so many memories of Hank, starting with the time I stayed home from school sick, but jumped out of bed and went absolutely craxy when I heard "Finger Poppin Time" on the radio downstairs. I ran to the stairs to try to hear it better, and in the excitement, completely smashed up my toes!! First thing my mom saiid to me years later when I told her I had met Hank, was "Did you tell him about your toes?" Then there was the time Hank played at Club Casino in Hampton Beach, and for some reason, singled me out of the audience, grabbed me by the hand, and took off running, dragging me with him. Naive me, I said "Where are we going?" He said, "We goin up on the hill!!!" Well, of course. It was surely a night to remember. Oh, how I wish I had all my pictures with me, I would post a picture of that, for sure. As well as the one I have where Hank is a dead ringer for ET. Next was the time we saw him at Tipitina's during JazzFest, and later, saw his raggedy old bus chugging up Napoleon Street billowing smoke as it went. Best of all, perhaps, was the time he came into Cheapo, and ran up and down the aisles, exclaiming excitedly about all the music, and buying quite a bit of it, too. (I maintain that the performers who remain fans of others' music are the ones who continue to put on the best, freshest shows.) Hank was performing at Nightstage, which was just a few blocks up the street from Cheapo, and after the store closed, we dragged him to Redbone's for dinner - what a wonderful time we had. I never saw Hank that he didn't put on a thrilling, exciting show. Here is something I wrote for him (take or leave a bit of poetic license) after the Hampton Beach "incident."
Dancin with Hank, cause I never shrank
Away when he took my hand
As he led me around to the wonderful sound
Of that song, don't you know it was grand
I was only 14, still dreamin dreams
Did all my dancing alone
And the songs he would sing, and the joy that they'd bring
Were the only friends I had known
And now, 25 years later
On a stage like a scene from a dream
One moment in time with an old friend of mine
How I wish everyone could have seen
Me dancin with Hank
Who do I thank
For the thrill of dancin with Hank?
Next, I wish to send condolences to DON LaTULIPPE, one of my teachers at Northeast Broadcasting School oh so many years ago, on the loss of his son in the Providence nightclub fire. I found this out quite by accident in a search of the Boston Herald just to keep up with what 's going on in my old neighborhood.
To get on a positive note, let's congratulate W. C. CLARK for his many W. C. Handy nominations!!! From Austin With Soul is a masterpiece, plain and simple! And a big congratulations, also, to SOLOMON BURKE for his Grammy. Though I still think the categories were messed up, and that he should have been nominated in the Traditional R&B category, not Contemporary Blues. One suspects he was shoved into this category so he could win (since the "Traditional R&B" category, since its inception, has tended to favor more contemporary artists than Solomon - does this make sense?) He should have blown away the Traditional R&B category, and left the Contemporary Blues to Delbert. But then, it's all politics, as to who gets nominated where. With the state of music so dismal, we are glad there are enough good releases that we have this dilemma.
On another positive note, let's mention that the long-awaited release of "Original Copy" featuring BRUCE CHANNEL AND LARRY HENLEY, has finally occurred. And from the snippets I've heard, it's worth the wait.
But now back to the bad stuff. I've covered the loss of our friend BRIAN SINCLAIR from Hillbilly at Harvard on other pages. This is so hard for me to absorb. Hillbilly at Harvard was such an important part of my life - a day to day thing. A part of life I must have always thought I would be going back to in some way. I just don't have words for this, I hope the pictures suffice.
Covered in the Celebrate Music page also was soul singer extraordinaire ROSCOE SHELTON How shocked I was to learn late in the year that Roscoe had died in July. No one had told me, I had seen it nowhere, and I found it only because I did periodic search on Roscoe and others like him who were relatively obscure but who meant a lot to me. I am just so grateful that I got to know him and his new music, and his wonderful personality. Roscoe, you were just the best!!!
The same kind of shock came to me when doing another search, I came across the sad news that we had lost RON LANDRY in September. Another of those "why wasn't it somewhere?????" Ron was a DJ on WBZ in the golden days of WBZ, he had a wonderful Saturday night show called the Ron Landry Town & Country Concert (do you believe this - on WBZ in 1966?), then he headed for the West Coast and teamed up with Bob Hudson - and those awesome Hudson & Landry comedy albums were born. Oh, the memories I have of those! Ajax Airlines, Ajax Liquor Store, Bruiser LaRue, and the Prospectors! I could tell you about a plastic snake we had at WOTW that we named Floyd…..oh, what a wonderful time it was then. Ron, you gave us a lot, and we will miss you a hunded times over.
Back to the good stuff!!!!! THE PONDEROSA STOMP in New Orleans is an event to savor and not let go. The second annual is being held at the Rock 'N' Bowl between JazzFest weeks. The mixture of artists is the creative thing that JazzFest once did, but abandoned for who knows what - more uncomfortable overcrowding at the Fairgrounds? There is aa great mix music, including Rockabilly and Swamp Pop, which JazzFest avoids like the plague. My personal picks - PHIL PHILLIPS!!!!! I think he used to play JazzFest, but the last time he was scheduled was the year before I started going. I am just so psyched to see him. Other than that, BARBARA LYNN - she was there last year, and she is just so awesome!!!! Think about it, a woman guitarist, left-handed, no less, who came out of the Texas/Louisiana area in the early 60s. Her biggest hit, You'll Lose A Good Thing, was produced at Cosimo's, but in all this time, did it ever occur to the powers that be to have this trend-setting and still amazing woman appear at JazzFesat??? Thanks to the Mystic Knights of the Mau Mau for their vision!
There's a lot of important radio stuff coming up this week, but I just can't get all my thoughts together on it this quickly. Suffice it to say that, no matter what the conglomerates say, the most important thing to remember is this - the airwaves are public, they belong to EVERYONE, and that is the only thing that should be taken into consideration in these hearings. That is the reason there was regulation in the first place, and the reason there should be regulation today.