Calgary International Blues Festival (2014)
Bob Margolin Autobiography
I play Blues guitar and sing, I tour and record on today's Blues scene. Been around for a while too. Bandleader, guest, with Chicago Blues legends, a revue or alone, on a stage or in your laptop, pad or phone, I'm here to play my deepest, driving, moving and most entertaining Blues.
- I was nominated for a 2013 Blues Music Award by the Blues Foundation for Traditional Blues Male Artist.
- I won the Blues Foundation's Blues Music Award for "Best Instrumentalist, Guitar" in 2008 and 2005 and was nominated in 1996.
- I won a Blues Music Award for producing the Best Historical Recording in 2004, Breakin' It Up and Breakin' It Down, on Sony/Legacy. This album was from live shows I played on in 1977 with Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, and James Cotton.
- I was nominated for 2004 "Best Traditional Blues Album" and "Blues Band of the Year" Blues Music Awards for The Bob Margolin All Star Blues Jam which featured Pinetop Perkins, Carey Bell, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Mookie Brill.
- I have received the Blues Foundation's Keeping The Blues Alive Award in 2013 for Journalism. I have written a column in Blues Revue magazine for 20 years.
- In 2011 I released an eBook, which I believe presents the best of my writing - Blues Revue columns, photos & their stories, and intentional Blues fiction. It is available from iTunes, Amazon Kindle, Barnes & Noble Nook, and many other online outlets. Here is a review of the book by Tim Parsons, published in Blues Revue Magazine May/June 2012:
Steady Rollin' - Blues Stories, Snapshots, (Intentional) Blues Fiction.
By Bob Margolin
"Trying to play these blues right will hurt like falling in love."
Those were learned words Muddy Waters used to tutor his band's new guitarist, "Steady Rollin'" Bob Margolin, who, 40 years later, has plenty of his own words to share. The longtime Blues Revue contributor has finally consented to the often-heard suggestion, "Why don't you write a book?"
Margolin has released a page-turner of a book, Steady Rollin' - Blues Stories, Snapshots, (International) Blues Fiction. Some parts were previously presented as columns in this magazine, although they've been polished and updated. Sharing his experiences, observations, and creativity with readers in a large, more permanent format is not only entertaining and educational, it is necessary because Margolin, despite being somewhat self-deprecating about his writing mechanics, is a person who has lived the blues and can describe them in a narrative congruent to the emotion of the music itself.
Here's a news flash: the life of a bluesman isn't entirely glamorous; in fact, it's not even close. Steady Rollin' tells what life is like off-stage. Imagine trying to convince a flight attendant to not check the guitar every time an airplane is boarded. Imagine after losing the argument discovering your livelihood smashed up in its case. Moreover, imagine the loneliness of a life on the road. Margolin offers true stories, candid and amazing photos, and his "blues fiction" in an easy-to-read format. This is not a chronological life story. Like listening to different tracks on an album, readers can enter at any chapter, and experience excerpts of a blues life. From records to cassettes to compact discs to MP3s, the presentation of music continues to evolve, and so do books. Steady Rollin' is not offered in conventional book form. It is exclusively available electronically by an author who writes upon a laptop as he travels to gigs: "A sexy woman named Leola, wearing an overflowing halter top, a huge Afro and hot pants, breasted her way on stage and called off Aretha's 'Dr. Feelgood.' Oh yeah, the bluesman can write. Certainly the nonfiction parts were absorbing. Gaining insight to Muddy Waters, whom he played with for seven years, and his cohorts, I suspect, is why most readers will want to purchase the book. But the blues fiction is a real treat, and it allows Margolin to give truth, flavor, and emotion without selling anybody out. Readers, however, can speculate who he describes, adding another level of intrigue.
"Blues fiction," Margolin wrote, "is the closest thing to songwriting and playing music for me, because it combines my experience with my imagination in a story."
It was important for Margolin to write Steady Rollin.' Literary silence would have been a shame because living blues history is steadily losing its voice. Margolin's band mate Calvin "Fuzz" Jones passed in 2010, and the clincher for the author may have been when Pinetop Perkins left the blues world in 2011. As Margolin finished up his book, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith also died. Writing the blues, no doubt, hurt like falling in love, too. Blues with a feeling, indeed. I highly recommend this book.
- Tim Parsons
My latest CD is Blues Around The World, recorded with the Mike Sponza Band from Italy. I have toured Europe many times with Mike and his fine band, Moreno Buttinar on drums and Mauro Tolot on bass. When I sold my CDs at the shows, many asked, "Is this band on this CD." They weren't, so we recorded ones with my best original songs, some originals from Mike Sponza, and some songs that folks really loved when we played them live.
In 2012, I co-produced and played on a CD with Blues piano, guitar, and vocal star Ann Rabson. Ann is known for her 25 years with Saffire, The Uppity Blues Women. She has always made her own featured recordings. On this one, Not Alone, my guitar is the frame around Ann's piano and vocal Blues. I sing three songs too. You can hear the magic of our friendship in this collaboration.
I am a founding partner in The VizzTone Label Group which started in 2007 with my CD, In North Carolina. As of the beginning of 2013, the VizzTone Label Group has over 50 releases including such fine artists as Trampled Underfoot, Matt Hill, Gina Sicilia, Dave Gross, Chris O'Leary, Debbie Davies, Ann Rabson, Christine Santelli, Big Bill Morganfield, Mac Arnold, Fiona Boyes, Mitch Woods, The Scissormen, Peter Parce... aw, just go to vizztone.com and check us out. I am thrilled to work with Richard "Rosy" Rosenblatt, Chip Eagle, and Amy Brat to bring you some fine music. VizzTone's value is the quality of the musicians we work with. DJs and fans tell us they can count on VizzTone CDs for great music.
Before my 2 VizzTone albums, I recorded these albums:
The Bob Margolin All-Star Blues Jam ('03) Telarc
Hold Me To It ('99) Blind Pig
Up & In ('97) Alligator
My Blues & My Guitar ('95) Alligator
Down In The Alley ('93) Alligator
Chicago Blues ('90) Powerhouse
The Old School ('88) Powerhouse
BOB MARGOLIN AUTOBIOGRAPHY - before 2011. For a More detailed description of my early years, please buy my e-book. I became a professional musician (no day job) in 1971.
I was born in Boston in 1949 and was brought up in nearby Brookline, Massachusetts. Inspired by Chuck Berry, I started to play guitar in 1964 and began playing in Rock bands right away. In late 1971 I joined the band of Luther "Georgia Boy" "Snake" Johnson. He had been playing guitar in Muddy Waters' band, and moved to Boston to start his own band. My experience with that band can be found in thinly veiled Blues Fiction in this eBook, in the story "A Night At The Highland Tap."
In early 1972, harp player Babe Pino and I started The Boston Blues Band with piano genius David Maxwell, drummer Mike Avery, bassist Alex MacRae and singer Jane Marchissio. By the time I left the band in 1973, we had Dave Agerholm on drums, Wolf Ginandes on bass, and Babe and me.
In August 1973, I went to see Muddy at Paul's Mall in Boston. He had seen me in opening bands and had been very encouraging to me because I was trying to play his style of "Old School" (Muddy's term) Chicago Blues. He had just lost longtime guitarist Sammy Lawhorn and he hired me to play in his band. While most musicians in modern times learn from listening to recordings, Muddy put me on his right side on the bandstand so I could watch him play guitar. I fully appreciated that opportunity while it was happening, and tried to use it to learn to give Muddy what he wanted on the bandstand, and for myself.
Muddy's band toured the world and jammed with many great Blues and Rock musicians, but the biggest thrill was playing Muddy's Blues with him. He brought me with him to special shows and recordings too, when he sometimes didn't use his whole band, to give him a familiar sound when he worked with other musicians: In 1975, we recorded Grammy Award-winning Muddy Waters Woodstock Album, his last with Chess Records, featuring Paul Butterfield, and Levon Helm and Garth Hudson from The Band.
Throughout the last half of the '70s, when I had time off from Muddy's band, I would add on to Washington D.C.'s The Nighthawks and The Charlottesville Blues All-Stars, playing Blues and Rock 'n' Roll and making lifelong friends.
In '76, Muddy brought me with him to San Francisco to perform at The Band's Last Waltz concert. Martin Scorcese filmed the concert for the classic film. As it happened, only one camera was operating during our performance, zooming in or out, and since I was standing right next to Muddy, I was in every shot while he sang a powerful "Mannish Boy." Now, when the movie is shown on TV, everyone I speak to tells me, "I saw you on TV!" for a few days. Then they tell me I looked scared, happy, mad, excited, or bored, or however they would have felt in my place. I also played on the four albums that Muddy recorded for Blue Sky Records, which were produced by Johnny Winter, and with Johnny on his Nothin' But The Blues album. Three of those albums won Grammy Awards.
In 1980, Muddy's band left him over business problems, though we all remained personal friends with him until his death in 1983. It is sometimes presumed that I worked with Pinetop Perkins, Jerry Portnoy, Calvin "Fuzz" Jones, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith in The Legendary Blues Band, which they formed, but actually Luther "Guitar Jr." Johnson and I each started our own bands then. I was living in Washington, DC then and in 1985 moved to Blacksburg, Virginia, a beautiful college town in the mountains. All through the '80s I ran up and down the highways, mostly in Virginia and North Carolina and moved there in 1989. I played Blues in bars for soulful folks having fun. I was able to make a living without the pressures of the music business, and didn't even feel any need to release an album. I was playing most nights with total musical freedom and no commercial considerations. Sometimes I'd make a live recording of my band off the mixing board, and make up cassette copies for my friends.
In '82 and '83, I did some gigs with my neighbor in Springfield, Virginia, Rockabilly musician Tex Rubinowitz, who taught me the language of that music. We did a show backing original Rockabilly legend Charlie Feathers, and worked with fine players like Danny Gatton, Evan Johns, and Johnny Seaton.
Occasionally, I would do a "high-profile" gig, based on my Muddy Waters connection. In '84, at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival, we did a tribute to Muddy where Pinetop and I added on to The Fabulous Thunderbirds, with Etta James singing, and Taj Mahal and James Cotton opening. With my band, I opened shows for Stevie Vaughan, George Thorogood, Johnny Winter, and The T-Birds.
These 1980s years of playing many styles of Blues, as well as some Rock 'n' Roll, Rockabilly, Funk, and favorite oldies were important to my musical development, just as my 1970s Chicago Blues experience was. Beyond the music, being at home onstage, improvising in the moment, and treating the audience like friends in all kinds of performing situations helps me break down the barriers between musician and audience. We all have a better time than if I was playing a show at them. Though I can't mark my progress in the '80s by recordings, folks who were at my shows then come out now and let me know how much they enjoyed my band in places like Desperado's in D.C., The Nightshade Cafe in Greensboro, North Carolina, or The South Main Cafe in Blacksburg, Virginia. Those clubs, and many more like them, are long gone now. I worked with some wonderful musicians over hundreds of gigs in the '80s - Jeff Lodsun, Clark Matthews, Steve "Slash" Hunt, Rev. Billy Wirtz, Doug Jay, Terry Benton, Jeff Sarli, Tom Principato, Steve Wolf, Steve Jacobs, Rick Serfas, Big Joe Maher, John Mooney, Ben Sandmel, Dave Besley, Matt Abts, David Nelson, David Maxwell, Mike Avery, Billy Mather, Nappy Brown, Kaz Kazanoff, Fats Jackson, Sweet Betty and many more.
By the end of the '80s, it didn't take a psychic to see that the Blues Scene was going to change a lot in the '90s. People were not going out to clubs as much for their entertainment but there were many new Blues bands emerging, all wanting to work. I realized that in to continue making a living playing Blues, I would have to record and get back out on the worldwide Blues Scene and tour more widely.
In 1989 I recorded my first solo album The Old School for Powerhouse Records, which is owned by Tom Principato, a Washington, D.C. guitar wizard who started the label to release his own albums and those of his friends. The Old School features Mark Wenner, harp player for The Nighthawks, Big Joe Maher on drums, and Jeff Sarli on bass.
I began 1990 with a ten-week cross-country tour playing guitar with James Cotton, who was taking a break from his high-energy Blues-boogie to feature more traditional Chicago Blues. A big highlight of that tour for me was getting to work with and learn from the late Luther Tucker, a great Blues guitar player who had played with Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Robert Lockwood Jr., and of course, Cotton.
My second album for Powerhouse, Chicago Blues, released in '91, features songs from three different recording sessions. One had Chicago Blues legend Jimmy Rogers on guitar and harp master Kim Wilson, with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums. I did a few songs with Willie on drums, along with Pinetop Perkins and Calvin "Fuzz" Jones, all from Muddy's band, and Kaz Kazanoff on sax and harp and co-producing. I also did some with my band at the time, Mookie Brill on bass and harp, and Clark Matthews on drums.
The Powerhouse albums are currently out of print.
Also in the early '90s, I began a second career as a music magazine writer. Friends from the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society in North Carolina asked me to write a story for their newsletter about Chicago harp legend Carey Bell, a friend of mine who was coming to town for a concert. Soon, I began to write stories and Blues album reviews for a local entertainment weekly, ESP. After doing that in '91 and '92 I was interviewed for the new Blues Revue Quarterly magazine. It occurred to me that my local Blues writing might be even more at home in this growing Blues magazine and I contacted founder/publisher/editor Bob Vorel and he invited me to submit some of my stories. Since then I have been a regular columnist, writing articles from my personal experience, profiles of musicians I know and some Blues Fiction stories.
In August, '92 I began working on my third solo album in my hometown of Boston with help from friend and guitar master Ronnie Earl, and his band. Kaz was co-producing again, and I did some additional songs with my own band back in North Carolina. I also did a couple of songs with just my acoustic guitar and the vocals of legendary R&B singer Nappy Brown, whom I worked with occasionally. Another special guest was Chicago Blues legend John Brim, with whom I’d cut a W.C. Handy Award-nominated album for Tone-Cool Records, Ice Cream Man, in '92.
I sent a rough tape to Bruce Iglauer, president of Alligator Records, the premier independent Blues record label. Bruce was not ready to pick up my album but he made some very constructive suggestions about performance and mix. I appreciated the benefit of Bruce's perspective and experience and reworked the songs and resubmitted them. Finally in July '93, Bruce committed to finishing the album with me and releasing it on Alligator. The album is called Down In The Alley.
This was certainly the biggest "break" I'd had in music since Muddy took me into his band twenty years before for Alligator is without peer for promoting their artists. At the same time, I signed with Piedmont Talent, a fine Blues booking agency based in Charlotte, North Carolina. Down In The Alley and Piedmont's strong booking took me all over the world and helped me reconnect with the Blues audience that hadn't seen much of me in years. At the end of '93, I did a gig at B.B. King's club in Memphis with Billy Boy Arnold, a Chicago Blues harp legend who also had a new release on Alligator. Our success together led to many bookings over the next few years with Billy Boy and my band and we backed him on his next Alligator album, Eldorado Cadillac.
1994 found me touring hard and playing at many of the major Blues festivals during the summer season. In August and September, The Muddy Waters Tribute Band, the musicians who were in Muddy's band when I was, went on a national tour with B.B. King, Dr. John, and Little Feat. In December of that year, we cut an album featuring ourselves and special guests from the Rock and Blues worlds, You Gonna Miss Me, a Tribute to Muddy Waters on Telarc Records. That recording was nominated for a Grammy Award in '96.
Also at the end of '94, I recorded my second album for Alligator, My Blues and My Guitar which featured special guest Chicago Blues harp legend Snooky Pryor, Kaz Kazanoff playing harp, horn, arranging for a horn section and co-producing again, percussionist Jim Brock, and my band at the time, Chuck Cotton on drums and Steve "Slash" Hunt on bass. My Blues and My Guitar was released in '95 and I was nominated for a W.C. Handy Award in the guitar category in '96.
'95 and '96 found me touring constantly doing clubs, concerts, festivals, and overseas tours with my band, sometimes with Billy Boy Arnold or the Muddy Waters Tribute Band. At the end of '96 I toured again with James Cotton, this time in a trio with David Maxwell, an old friend from Boston who is one of the world's greatest Blues piano players and is featured on all of my Alligator albums.
My third album for Alligator, Up & In, was released in March, '97. I tried to play some deep Blues, but the song that got the most attention, and airplay on Blues radio, was "Blues for Bartenders." This song is a string of "this guy walks into a bar.." jokes set to a Blues shuffle. The tricky part of writing that song was making the jokes rhyme.
While I was making Up & In, I went out to dinner with Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer and Piedmont Talent president Steve Hecht. We were trying to think of a special way to promote the album. Bruce suggested that since Pinetop Perkins was a special guest on the album, we book lot of shows with Pinetop added onto the band. Great idea. It has been my honor to work with Pinetop often since then.
I introduced Pinetop Perkins at our shows together this way, and it should work for you now if you don't know about him:
"Ladies and Gentlemen, it's Star Time. Please welcome a man who has been young for a very long time. He worked with the original King Biscuit Boys in Helena, Arkansas. He played with great slide guitar players Robert Nighthawk and Earl Hooker, and spent twelve years in Muddy Waters' band. On his own, he is a living legend of the Blues piano and has won ten W.C. Handy Awards, and was nominated for a Grammy this year..." -- and since I originally wrote this for my website, Pinetop's had more W.C. Handy Awards, Grammy nominations, and a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award too. In 2011, he was partying in Hollywood after winning a Grammy for Joined at the Hip with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, just three weeks before Pinetop peacefully left us.
Pinetop was born in 1913, two years before Muddy Waters. When we played in Muddy's band together, I stood onstage between Pine and Mud, and those times are the deepest Blues music I will ever experience. Though many of my shows are still done with just me and my band, the many times in the last few years that Pine has been our featured guest were a pure pleasure for me. We tried to back him up gracefully and to inspire him to play his best, deep Blues and good fun. Pinetop got recognition he deserved before he passed in 2011. At our shows, when I introduced him as above fans rushed the stage like he was Elvis.
Also in '97, I scripted and was featured in an instructional video, Muddy Waters' Guitar Style for Starlicks Video produced by New York guitar player, educator, and author Dave Rubin and distributed by Hal Leonard Corp. Originally on VHS tape, this video is now widely available on DVD. It gives up what I know about Muddy's guitar playing for the Blues guitar player. It continues to sell strongly, according to the checks in my mailbox.
Fourteen times between 1995 and 2012, I played at the Handy Awards (now called Blues Music Awards) shows in Memphis, often leading an all-star band and performing with such fine musicians as Scotty Moore, Joe Louis Walker, Diunna Greenleaf, Shemekia Copeland, Marcia Ball, Tracy Nelson, Reba Russell, Kim Wilson, Snooky Pryor, Charlie Musselwhite, Chris Layton, Pinetop, Gaye Adegbalola, Rod Piazza, Dr. John, Ronnie Earl, Duke Robillard, Willie Kent, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Calvin "Fuzz" Jones, John Nemeth, Johnny Dyer, John Del Toro Richardson, Patrick Rynn, Mookie Brill, Tad Walters, Wes Johnson, and Matt Hill.
In '97, I appeared on a Kennedy Center Tribute to Muddy Waters, which featured Buddy Guy, Koko Taylor, John Hiatt, G.E. Smith, Peter Wolf, Nick Gravenites, Keb' Mo', Big Bill Morganfield, Robert Lockwood, Jr., Charlie Musselwhite, Barry Goldberg, and Johnnie Johnson. A DVD, A Tribute to Muddy Waters, King of the Blues, of that show was released the next year.
In '98, I was approached by Blind Pig Records to produce a debut album for Muddy's son, Big Bill Morganfield. Rising Son won a W.C. Handy Award for Bill, "Best New Artist Debut" in 2000. I was having artistic differences with Alligator Records and left them on friendly terms to make Hold Me To It for Blind Pig Records, released in June '99. I made the album I wanted to make with Blind Pig, and Big Bill Morganfield and I were co-billed on a number of shows in '99 and 2000 which featured my band backing us.
During that time, Bill and I also played some shows which featured Pinetop Perkins. This revue was called "The Rolling Fork Revue," a joke that musician/comedian Rev. Billy Wirtz made to our booking agent, referring to Muddy Waters' birthplace and our traditional Blues. I still think it's strange that the name from an obscure, offhand joke stuck - still never even been to Rolling Fork, Mississippi, and I don't pretend to be an old African-American Bluesman, and most people who hear the name don't understand the reference to Blues history. The "Rolling Fork Revue" name is retired now, but the idea of old-fashioned revues featuring well-known players is a good one and lives on.
As success in The Blues World grew more challenging in the New Millenium, I put together revues with my legendary Chicago Blues friends. In the fall of 2002, I produced a recording of The Bob Margolin All-Star Blues Jam which features Pinetop, Carey Bell, Hubert Sumlin, Jimmy D. Lane (talented son of Chicago Blues legend Jimmy Rogers), and my bass/harp/vocalist Mookie Brill. This album was released on May 27, 2003 on Telarc Records. In 2004, it brought me two W.C. Handy Award nominations: one for "Blues Band of the Year" and the other for "Traditional Blues Album." It was recorded at Blue Heaven Studio in Salina, Kansas, known for its majestic acoustics and the audiophile dedication of owner/promoter/high-end audio dealer Chad Kassem. It shows off the consummate music engineering skills of Mark Williams, who has worked on all of my albums since '93, and has taught me patiently about the process of recording music.
At the end of 2003, booking agent Hugh Southard left Piedmont Talent to start his own booking agency, Blues Mountain Artists, now called BMA Tours. bmatours.com Believing in Hugh and how he operates in business and friendship, I jumped over to Blue Mountain and have enjoyed the progress that they've made booking me on my own, with The Bob Margolin All-Star Blues Jam, and starting in 2005 with Legends of Chicago Blues. This gang featured a customizable lineup of with Willie "Big Eyes" Smith on drums and harp, a choice of harp players James Cotton, Carey Bell, or Jerry Portnoy, guitar genius Hubert Sumlin, piano players Pinetop or David Maxwell, and a choice of Calvin "Fuzz" Jones (R.I.P. 2010), Bob Stroger, or Mookie Brill on bass.
I also produced and consulted on reissues of Muddy Waters' recordings for the Blue Sky Label for Sony/Legacy. I played guitar on these recordings and it's an honor to make them sound as good as we can, present unreleased recordings for the first time, and write liner notes that reveal the story of the recordings from the inside. I have to thank my Boston friend, guitarist Steve Berkowitz, who worked at Sony/Legacy, for that sweet opportunity. If I could have known when I was recording with Muddy in the 1970s that I would have a hand in updating our music for the future, I would have been thrilled. I'm thrilled enough now to make up for it. Thanks again, Steve!
The first was released in September 2003 - the Muddy "Mississippi" Waters Live Legacy Edition. It was remixed, remastered, and featured a new CD of a performance of Muddy and his band in a small club. In 2004, it won the W.C. Handy Award Best Historical Recording. In May 2004, the other three albums I did with Muddy for Blue Sky Records were reissued: Hard Again, I'm Ready, and King Bee. Each album features out-takes from the original sessions. The albums were remastered but not remixed, and I wrote new liner notes for each of them. King Bee and I'm Ready were nominated for Handy Awards for Best Historical Recording in 2005.
In early 2004, Blues Revue magazine was sold by founder/publisher Bob Vorel to Visionation, which publishes the online Blues magazine BluesWax. I write articles for both, though not for BluesWax since 2009. By 2011, Blues Revue and BluesWax are together online and Blues Revue is still in print magazine form too.
In 2005, I was honored to receive a W.C. Handy Award for best Instrumentalist, Guitar. I took it as an inspiration to honor all Blues guitar players. I continued to tour worldwide, both with my North Carolina band and in revues which featured Chicago Blues Legends like Hubert Sumlin, James Cotton, Carey Bell, Pinetop Perkins, and Willie "Big Eyes" Smith. 2006 brought more of the same, including tours in Finland, Poland, and the Czech Republic.
In January of 2007, I released In North Carolina, a CD that I crafted at home, alone. It is a solo album in that nobody else played a note on it, but there are songs where I overdubbed more than one guitar part, and I played electric bass and snare drum on some. I wanted to play the music that was in my heart, beyond the music I make onstage and in recording studios, and take my time recording it. To release the album, I formed my own record label, Steady Rollin' Records, with partners Chip Eagle (publisher of Blues Revue and BluesWax) and Richard "Rosy" Rosenblatt (former President of Tone Cool Records, a great harp player, and an old Boston Blues Scene friend).
We soon realized that we could provide the same label services for other Blues musicians with independent labels. We formed the VizzTone Label Group. Vizztone.com VizzTone makes sense in today's world where the Twentieth Century business model of marketing recordings is long gone. It's a win-win-win situation for VizzTone, the artists, and music lovers.
In January of 2007, as my own new CD was being released, I was in California producing and playing on Candye Kane's Guitar'd & Feathered CD for Ruf Records. In February I produced Breakin' It Up, Breakin' It Down for Sony/Legacy. This live album is from concert tapes of a 1977 tour featuring Muddy Waters, Johnny Winter, and James Cotton after the release of the legendary Hard Again album. I played in the original concerts, chose the songs for the CD from the raw live tapes, worked on the sound of the recordings with golden-eared engineer Mark Williams, and wrote the liner notes for it. The album won a Blues Music Award in 2008 as Best Historical Recording.
In 2008, I continued nonstop touring, but also co-produced and played on Gaye Adegbalola's Gaye Without Shame and Big Bill Morganfield's Born Lover. Both were released through the VizzTone Label Group. I also won another Blues Music Award for Guitar. In 2009, I produced and played on Mac Arnold&339;s Country Man and it was released on VizzTone. In October 2009, I toured in Argentina and Chile with Chicago Blues legends Willie "Big Eyes" Smith and Bob Stroger.
From 2010 to now the way I gig is changing. I still play in Blues clubs in the U.S. either with a band that I bring from North Carolina or with musicians who live where I"m booked. I still do some festivals and big club shows with the surviving legends of Chicago Blues. In the last few years, I've been traveling overseas alone more, to work with fine bands who contact me and say they can book a tour and back me well. Usually starting with an e-mail or Facebook message, I'm touring often with non-American bands who take care of business on and off the bandstand and become my musical and social brothers and sisters. I want to thank Enrico Polverari who conspires with me to conquer Italy. Bonny B blesses me with great music and kind friendship in Switzerland. I've done 2 or 3 tours a year with the Mike Sponza Band, and recorded my last CD with them. We have tours coming up in Central Europe. The Tota Blues Band in Spain make me feel at home whenever we get together. In September 2012 I went to Russia and The Ukraine with Vladimir Rusinov and the Jumping Cats.
The VizzTone Label Group continues to grow into a prominent presence in the world of Blues Recordings. Our deliberate efforts to be very selective about who we work with has resulted in respected brand recognition - our artists' fine music reflects on us. We're proud and gratified that in 2011, three of the five nominees for The Blues Music Award for Best New Artist Debut were for VizzTone artists Peter Parcek, Chris O'Leary, and Matt Hill. This means we are truly in the forefront of the future of Blues music. Matt Hill won, for his CD On The Floor, which I and VizzTone/Swingnation artist and producer Dave Gross helped Matt to record. Matt has done many shows with my band since 2008, in the U.S. and overseas, and thrills music lovers when he is featured playing his own music. It is my pleasure to watch Matt's star rise. He is also carrying on the music I love with the same power and passion that his musical heroes had. In early 2013, Matt and his wife Nikki Hill are making a big splash in the music world. I truly believe that my teenage friend from Colorado, Austin Young, will soon be a big star. He's a great entertainer, singer, songwriter and is especially thrilling on the guitar. Watch him go!
All the music I've listened to and played, all the experience onstage, and all the fine musicians I've worked with have left their mark on me and are revealed when I play now. On the bandstand, I play what feels right at the moment, whether it's featuring my original songs, telling stories, joking and talking with he audience, or just playing for the dancers. I like to be "professional" for responsibility and competence, but past that I am a musician playing for my friends.
I am particularly gratified to be teaching workshops to young and young-at-heart Blues players in the summer of 2011. I am on the Board of Director of the Pinetop Perkins Foundations and our annual masterclass workshops fill my heart to see young people carrying on the Blues that Pinetop and I love. I also worked this summer with the Uptown Collective's Blues-a-Thon in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. Folks compliment me for passing these old Blues on to new generations, but I promise you the kids give me more than I could ever give them. I get the same feeling from the young-at-heart musicians who attend my workshops at Jorma Kaukonen's Fur Peace Ranch each year. And playing at the Beacon Theater in New York as a guest of Electric Hot Tuna in December 2013 was a thrill.
Thank you for checking me out and getting to know me, but you can get much closer to who I am by listening to my music. I hope this background makes that more interesting for you.