Highway 61 Radio

May 12, 2013

Smithsonian Folkways harmonica blues on this week’s show

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 6:35 pm

I was inspired to do this show by Smithsonian-Folkways’ recent issue Classic Harmonica Blues, which includes many classics from the label’s archives, as well as a number of previously unreleased recordings from the Smithsonian Folklife Festival by artists including Mississippi’s Dr. Isiah Ross and Eddie Burns, as well as Washington, D.C.’s Charlie Sayles. The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is particularly important to me, as I’m pretty sure it’s the first place that I saw blues live as a youngster. My parents always took my brother and I there, often in tandem with July 4 celebrations at the Lincoln Memorial.

On the Smithsonian Folkways blog there’s a nice Q&A entitled “Inhaling the Blues: How Southern Black Musicians Transformed the Harmonica,” with my folklorist Barry Lee Pearson, who compiled the set together with Jeff Place.

Click here for a preview of three songs.

Here’s the playlist from my show:

Crow Jane Blues – Sonny Terry 1959
Theme Song – Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss 1987
Good Morning Little School Girl -Doctor Ross The Harmonica Boss 1987
Gillum Blues – Bill “Jazz” Gillum 1961
The Race Of The Jim Lee And Katy Adam - Jazz Gillum, Memphis Slim, and Arbee Stidham 1961
Hooka Tooka - The Chambers Brothers 1968
Down In The Alley - George Chambers, Willie Chambers, Lester Chambers, Joe Chambers, and Brian Keenan 1968
One Way Out - Eddie Burns 1987
Nine Below Zero - Eddie Burns 1987
Bye Bye Bird - Charlie Sayles 1977
I Feel So Good - Warner Williams And Jay Summerour 2004
Take Your Fingers Off It - Will Shade, Charlie Burse, and Gus Cannon 1956
Minglewood Blues - John Sebastian and the J Band (with Geoff Muldaur on vocals, Annie Raines on harmonica) 1997
Great Change  -  John Cephas & Phil Wiggins 2008
Dog Days Of August - John Cephas & Phil Wiggins 2008
John Henry -  Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1958
Dark Road – Brownie McGhee & Sonny Terry Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee 1959

April 12, 2013

Tribute to filmmaker Les Blank this week on Highway 61

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 7:00 pm

Les Blank with his newly received Lifetime Achievement Award at the Folk Alliance Conference, Memphis, February 2011. Photo by Scott Barretta

Documentary filmmaker Les Blank, who died on April 7 at 77, is featured in an interview on this week’s Highway 61. I conducted the interview back in February 11 when Blank was in town for the Oxford Film Festival, where he showed three films — Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe, The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins, and Dry Wood (about Mardi Gras in south Louisiana, featuring Creole musicians Canray Fontenot and Boisec Ardoin– you can watch it here). The following weekend he was to be honored at the Folk Alliance Conference in Oxford, and he stayed for the interim week at the home of my neighbor, documentary filmmaker Joe York. We interviewed him in my living room, and had a great time with Les that week talking about his various passions, including Southern food.

Blank made films on a wide variety of topics (most can be purchased at his website) — including tea, garlic, and gap-teethed women — but is perhaps best known for his films about American vernacular music. In addition to the films noted above, his subjects have included bluesman Mance Lipscomb (A Well Spent Life), cajun music (Spend It All) Mardi Gras (Always a Pleasure), Afro Cuban drumming (Sworn to the Drum: A Tribute to Francisco Aguabella), old time fiddler Tommy Jarrell (Sprout Wings and Fly), zydeco king Clifton Chenier (Hot Pepper), Tex-Mex border music (Chulas Fronteras and De Mero Corazon), Cajun masters Marc and Ann Savoy (Marc & Ann), and polka (In Heaven There is No Beer?). Together with his old friend Chris Strachwitz of Arhoolie Records, Blank also made J’ai Été Au Bal (I Went to the Dance), a wonderful overview of music traditions in southwest Louisiana. Here’s a clip from Always For Pleasure:

A big segment of this week’s Highway 61 features Blank talking about his film about Lightnin’ Hopkins, including the wonderful scene in film where harmonica player Billy Bizor performs a song in which he cries like a baby. Here’s a clip great clip from the film:

In the interview Blank also talks about his films about Lipscomb, Rhodes, Always For Pleasure, as well as his south Louisiana films. Not included in the show was his discussion of his concert film Ry Cooder And The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces, which was unfortunately never officially released (although many clips were posted on Youtube, likely drawn from the film’s one-time broadcast on Japanese TV). Here’s a video clip from our interview with Blank on the Cooder film, followed by some clips from the film:

Ry Cooder covering J.B. Lenoir’s Down In Mississippi

Ry Cooder – Jesus on the Mainline


April 3, 2013

Updated events calendar!

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 10:01 am

Over the last weeks I’ve gone through various listings to find events in the Mid South to put into the “2013 Events Calendar,” which you can otherwise access via a tab at the top right corner of this page. At the beginning there’s a listing of where you can find live blues on a regular basis in the Mid South area. New events in the upcoming weeks including the return of live blues shows to the Foxfire Ranch north of Oxford on Sunday nights, and a free Friday night series at the B.B. King Museum in Indianola until the end of May.

Please feel free to send any suggestions —  I’m generally not going to post information on regular club gigs because of issues of time and space, but I welcome information about festivals, new venues, or special events.

Music of the South Conference @ The University of Mississippi, April 3-4

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 10:00 am

This is the second year of the Music of the South Conference, which extends the mission of the Living Blues Symposium, which I cofounded with Adam Gussow back in 2003 [Greg Johnson, the Curator of the Blues Archive here on campus, reminds me that there were two other Music of the South events over the last decade, so perhaps we should call it the fourth -- we need an official history!]. Last year our committee decided to stage a conference in tandem with the 25th anniversary of the Southern Studies Master’s program, and though that having a music theme would be a good way to both keep the focus on the work the Center for the Study of Southern Culture does as well as ensure that everyone at the reunion would have fun. It worked. This year it’s more of a typical conference, in the sense that it’s not limited to Southern Studies students or alums, and we’re particularly glad to have a large contingent coming from Louisiana, both New Orleans and Lafayette.

There’ll be some musical performers during the conference itself, and the poster below is for a showcase concert we’re presenting in the midst of the conference as part of the ongoing Music of the South Concert Series, which is held in the studio theater of the Gertrude Ford Center.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

David Wharton, Greg Johnson
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

Jim Markel and Mark Neill (producer, eg. Black Keys)

Brown Bag Lecture, Tupelo Room, Barnard Observatory – UM Campus

Beth McKee, Suzi Mills
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

Valerie June, Jake Fussell, Dent May
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

Clay Motley, Jesse Wright, Scott Barretta
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

Malcolm White, Tricia Walker (director of the Delta Music Institute, Delta State University)
Overby Center – UM Campus

Dinner on your own

7:00 p.m. Concert with Valerie June
Music of the South Concert Series
Ford Center for the Performing Arts

9:30 p.m. Jake Fussell and Friends
Lamar Lounge, 1309 N. Lamar Blvd., Oxford, MS

Thursday, April 4, 2013

Kaitlyn Vogt, Alan Harrelson, Mel Lasseter
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

10:30 a.m. FILM – “JESUS IS MY ROCK”
Film by Tyler Keith
Followed by discussion on African American Gospel Quartets
Bingo Gunter, Tyler Keith
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

12:00 p.m. Lunch in Oxford

Jennifer Ritter Guidry
Blues Archive – University of MS Library

Ben Sandmel, Charles Hughes
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

Keith Fudge, DeLisa D. Hawkes
Blues Archive – University of Mississippi Library

Alison Fensterstock, Holly Hobbs, Matt Sakakeeny
Blues Archive – University of MS Library

6:00 p.m. Thacker Mountain Radio - featuring conference participants including Beth McKee, Ben Sandmel (author of the recent biography of Ernie K-Doe), Jake Fussell (leader of the Thacker Mountain house band), and Tricia Walker; @ the Lyric.

7:00 p.m. Miss-I-Sippin’
Beverage and Food Tasting (Unofficial event)
Yoknapatawpha Arts Council

10:00 p.m. Music on the Oxford Square
Venues on the Oxford Square

RIP Clarksdale blues elders Johnnie Billington and Frank “Rat” Ratliff

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 9:48 am

Johnnie Billington, rear, with students. The one in the foreground appears to be Anthony "Big A" Sherrod, a leading light in today's blues scene in Clarksdale. Photo by Bill Steber

Bluesman “Mr. Johnnie” Billington of Lambert, who received the Governor’s Award For the Arts in 1999 for his work instructing young people in the blues, died on Monday, April 1. According to his family, he was recently hospitalized following a heart attack.Born in Crowder in 1935, Billington learned to play guitar as a child by playing along to the King Biscuit Time radio show broadcast out of Helena, Arkansas.  By thirteen Billington was playing in local groups, and later moved to Arizona and then Chicago, where he reunited with former bandmates and occasionally jammed with leading artists including Muddy Waters and Elmore James.

In 1977 Billington returned to Mississippi, and settled in Clarksdale, where he worked as an automobile mechanic. He began teaching students to play blues out of his garage, and in the early 1990s formed the non-profit Delta Blues Education Program. In addition to technical instruction on instruments, Billington taught students how to work together as an ensemble and was known for his strict emphasis on professionalism and appearance.

He included students in his own group, J.B. and the Midnighters, and taught many of the musicians active in the Clarksdale scene over the last decades, including Terry “Big T” Williams, Anthony “Big A” Sherrod, Lee Williams, and brothers Dione and Harvell Thomas.

He later began teaching out of Lambert, and worked round the state as a Master Artist for the Mississippi Arts Commission. He served as the chairman of the Sunflower River Blues Association, received the Blues Foundation “Keeping the Blues Alive” award, and appeared in the 1999 PBS documentary series “River of Song.” A full profile of Billington is one the Mississippi Arts Commission website.

Billington’s funeral service will be held this Saturday (April 6) at 11am at Delta Burial Funeral Home in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Flowers can be sent to the funeral home at 429 Yazoo Ave., Clarksdale, MS 38614.

Frank "Rat" Ratliff inside the Riverside Hotel. Photo from the Columbus Dispatch; original article can be read by clicking on the photo

Billington’s death was preceded by just a couple days by the passing of Frank “Rat” Ratliff (on Thursday, March 28).  Ratliff was the proprietor of the historic Riverside Hotel on Sunflower Avenue. It was founded in 1944 by Ratliff’s mother Z.L. Hill, and Ratliff continued to operate it following her death in 1997, and worked hard to both maintain the building and expand lodging facilities in adjacent buildings.Ratliff gave tours of the building to thousands of blues fans over the years, sharing tales of former residents including Ike Turner, Sonny Boy Williamson 2 and Robert Nighthawk. One of the hotel’s rooms was dedicated to blues queen Bessie Smith, who died there following an automobile accident in 1937 when the building housed the G.T. Thomas Afro American Hospital. A Mississippi Blues Trail marker stands in front of the Hotel.

Ratliff’s funeral will be held on Saturday (April 6) at noon at the First Baptist Church 115 Martin Luther King. His family has established the “Riverside Hotel Historical Memorial Fund” in his honor, and donations can be made via Regions bank.

On Saturday (April 6) Red’s Lounge in Clarksdale will celebrate the lives of Ratliff and Billington with musical guests including Billington’s former student Anthony “Big A” Sherrod.

April 2, 2013

Music in Indianola this weekend

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 8:22 pm

This Friday the B.B. King Museum and Delta Interpretive Center in Indianola hosts the first “Music on the Lawn” concert, part of a free series that runs through the end of May. And on Saturday the nearby Club Ebony, which is owned by the Museum, will host a concert by Clarksdale’s James “Super Chikan” Johnson — the concert is being staged for local Teach for America workers, but the public is invited to attend.

B.B. King himself will be back in Indianola for his annual homecoming on Wednesday July 3, with a festival during the afternoon on the grounds of the Museum and a concert that night in the Club Ebony. Until several years ago B.B. always came back to Mississippi the second weekend of June, appearing in Indianola on Friday and then on Saturday and Sunday taking part in the Jackson area celebrations of the life of Civil Rights martyr Medgar Evers.

March 30, 2013

Highway 61 playlist for March 30 – blues with a Latin beat

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 9:31 pm

Roll and Rhumba – Jimmy Reed                1953
Mambo Chillun – John Lee Hooker         1955
Can’t Stop Loving - Elmore James              1953
Hey Now Baby -Professor Longhair      1949
Mardi Gras in New Orleans – Fats Domino               1953
Country Boy – Dave Bartholomew     1950
Jock-O-Mo – Sugar Boy Crawford   1953
Early in the Morning - Louis Jordan               1947
Woke Up This Morning – B.B. King                    1953
Heartbreaker – Ray Charles                1953
I Cried - Jimmy McCracklin     1953
Baby Please Don’t Go – Rose Mitchell             1953
Mambo Baby -  Ruth Brown                1954
New Kind of Mambo - Big Maybelle  1954
Hey Little Girl – Billy Wright                1951
Daybreak – Pee Wee Crayton        1951
That’s Your Last Boogie - Joe Swift   1948
I Feel So Bad – Chuck Willis               1954
Banana Split – Kid King’s Combo      1953

March 23, 2013

Tonight on Highway 61: Chicago blues on the Chief and Age labels

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 8:25 pm

Junior Wells – Little By Little
Junior Wells – Come On In This House
Junior Wells – Messin’ With the Kid
Junior Wells & Earl Hooker – Galloping Horses a Lazy Mule
Elmore James – It  Hurts Me Too
Elmore James – 12 Year Old Boy
Elmore James – Cry For Me Baby
Magic Sam – Every Night About This Time
Magic Sam – My Love Is Your Love
Magic Sam – Square Dance Rock,  part 1
Ricky Allen – Cut You Loose
Ricky Allen – You’d Better Be Sure
Ricky Allen- Help Me Mama
GL Crockett – Look Out Mable
Reggie “Guitar” Boyd – Nothing But Poison
Earl Hooker w Junior Wells – Universal Rock
A.C Reed – I Stay Mad
Lillian Offit – Will My Man Be Home Tonight
Big Moose and the Jams –  Off the Hook
Earl Hooker – Swear to Tell the Truth
Earl Hooker – Blue Guitar

March 16, 2013

Nashville R&B show, March 16

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 4:33 pm

Cecil Gant – Nashville Jumps
Cecil Gant – Another Day, Another Dollar
Cecil Gant – Boozie Boogie
Christine Kittrell – Sittin’ Here Drinking
Christine Kittrell & Gaye Crosse – Gotta Stop Loving You (John Coltrane on alto)
B.B. King – Miss Martha King
Mr Swing (Rufus Thomas) – Beer Bottle Boogie
WLAC Air Check – John R
WLAC commercial – Little Richard
Jimmy Sweeney – Boogie Woogie Jockey (about Gene Nobles)
Dixie Doodlers – Best of Friends (featuring Blind James Campbell)
The Blue Flamers – Driving Down the Highway
Louis Brooks with Earl Gaines – It’s Love Baby (24 Hours a Day)
Arthur Gunter – Honey Babe
Gene Allison – You Can Make it If You Try
Roscoe Shelton – Please Think It Over
Johnny Jones – Really, Part 1
Larry Birdsong – Somebody, Somewhere
Joe Henderson – Snap Your Fingers
Sam Baker – Sometimes You Have to Cry

March 15, 2013

T-Model Ford fundraiser online; yard party fundraiser this Sunday

Filed under: Uncategorized — Scott Barretta @ 3:18 pm

T-Model Ford has had a rough year, and has been in and out of the hospital for heart problems. I saw him perform at the Delta Blues Festival in Greenville last September, and otherwise he’s made some appearances at various events since then but generally hasn’t picked up the guitar.

There’s currently an IndieGogo fundraising campaign to offer him general assistance — just to make life that much less complicated for him, though he’s well known for being a rascal!  The organizers have already reached their $5000 goal, but there’s still a couple weeks left to help out, and some good folks have contributed art prints, t-shirts, and records as rewards for pledges.

On Sunday you can join T-Model, Stella, Stud and others at his home in Greenville for some old-fashioned yard-party fun and a jam session beginning at 2pm. Donations are welcome. The address is 424 Washington Avenue, Greenville, MS 38701.

I took the photo above in Greenville on December 11, 2006, the day that the first three Mississippi Blues Trail markers were dedicated (the others were at Charley Patton’s grave in Holly Ridge, and the former home of WGRM radio in Greenwood, where B.B. King used to sing with his gospel group back in the mid-’40s) — brandishing the liquor bottle was T-Model’s idea!

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