Blues Music Now! Grapevine

Sept. 6, 2000

R&B Foundation honors class of 2000 inductees

By Jake Roussel

MANHATTAN, N.Y — R&B stars of the past and present were honored at the 11th Annual Rhythm and Blues (R&B) Foundation Pioneer Awards induction ceremony, which was held in Manhattan, N.Y. on Sept. 6.

The year 2000 honorees were Huey "Piano" Smith, Clyde Otis, Sylvia Robinson (Mickey & Sylvia Duo), Johnnie Johnson, The Chi-Lites (Eugene Record, Marshall Thompson and Robert "Squirrel" Lester), The Impressions (Jerry Butler, Curtis Mayfield, Sam Gooden, Richard and Arthur Brooks and Fred Cash), Betty Wright, Stevie Wonder ( Lifetime Achievement Award), Ahmet Ertegun (The First Founders Award) and Marvin Gaye (Legacy Tribute Award).

Don Covay, who was honored in 1994 but was unable to attend at that time due to a stroke, was present to receive his award along with this year's inductees.

The chairman of the R&B Foundation, Jerry Butler, kicked off the event by remembering the recording artists and board members who had passed on for their contributions to the music and the foundation. The R&B Foundation Awards honor artists of the 1940s, 50s and 60s who have contributed over the years to the rise and development of rhythm and blues. The honorees are given checks which range from $15,000 for a single artist to $20,000 for a group.

The master of ceremonies was none other than Smokey Robinson, who was joined by many other stars, who were on hand to give there respect and approval for the honorees. Aretha Franklin, Mary Wilson (of The Supremes), Gene Chandler (Duke Of Earl), Sister Sledge, Bonnie Raitt, Herbie Hancock, John Sebastian, Paul Shaffer (of David Letterman), Berry Gordy, Isaac Hayes, Dionne Warwick, Minister Louis Farrakhan, Bill Pickney (of the original Drifters) , BeBe Winans, Chuck Jackson and other greats filled the audience.

The first honoree, Huey "Piano" Smith, was inducted by Lloyd Price. Smith gave the crowd a rousing melody of his hits "Don't You Know It" and "High Blood Pressure."

Bonnie Raitt and Chuck Jackson inducted Sylvia Robinson as they coaxed her into singing. After Johnnie Johnson's induction, he was joined on stage by Bonnie Raitt, Herbie Hancock and John Sebastian as they had the audience jamming to "Johnny B. Goode."

Aretha Franklin inducted Ahmet Ertegun, co-founder of Atlantic Records, who received the First Founders Award. Ertegun was unable to attend due to illness. Franklin also made a donation to the R & B Foundation and challenged other artists in attendance to donate.

Natalie Cole proudly inducted Clyde Otis as she spoke about his brilliant songwriting. She also noted that he was the first black songwriter to receive a Country Music Award.

The late Marvin Gaye received the Legacy Tribute from his children Marvin Gaye III and Nona Gaye, followed by a tribute of his songs performed by Brenda Russell, Brian McKnight, Gerald Levert, and Ashford and Simpson.

The Impressions induction was made by Mary Wilson, followed by an announcement by Jerry Butler, who said he was returning his $4,000 back to the R&B Foundation. The band performed its hit songs "All Right" and "Keep On Pushing" while honoring their fellow member, the late Curtis Mayfield.

Erykah Badu inducted Betty Wright as she took the audience back in time with her hits "Clean Up Woman" and "Tonight's The Night."

The Chi-Lites were inducted by The Dells, who serenaded the audience with their No. 1 hit "Have You Seen Her." Eugene Record praised the R &B Foundation for their help and support to fallen artists.

The last honoree was Stevie Wonder, who received the lifetime achievement award for his musical contributions dating back to the age of twelve.

Wonder, who said he didn't need the award right now, spoke of the importance of the foundation and suggested that a recording of the night's performances be released with proceeds donated directly to the foundation. "Once a couple million copies are sold, then I will come back next year to collect the award," Wonder said.

With help from Sister Sledge, Isaac Hayes, Dionne Warwick, Erykah Badu and others, Wonder had the audience rocking and reeling to some of his many hits, including, "Hey Love," "Superstition," "I Was Made To Love Her" and "A Lover's Question."

A special presentation was made by Berry Gordy Jr, the founder of Motown , who honored his late sister, Gwendolyn B. Gordy Fuqua, with a $750,000 donation to the R&B Foundation in her name.

The R&B Foundation is a non-profit organization that assists R&B artists with expenses including medical and dental bills and funeral costs. The organization can be contacted at phone number (202) 588-5566 or by mail at: The Rhythm and Blues Foundation, 1555 Connecticut Ave, NW, Suite 401, Washington, D.C., 20036.

Inductees discuss past, future of music

By Jake Roussel

Inductees of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation 2000 Pioneer Awards met for a press conference at the New Yorker Hotel prior to the awards ceremony.

Here are some of their comments:

Sam Gooden of The Impressions, talking about the basis for the band's songs: "It comes from Curtis Mayfield, who did about 95 percent of the writing. He grew up in the church, so did Fred (Cash) and myself. You got religious background, and you try your best to stand up and do the right thing."

Fred Cash of The Impressions, about how the band still records its music live in the studio: "The music of today, they're using a lot of gimmicks, as far as recording. We go in the studio, and just sing along with the band. Now, they'll do the tracks first with the band, and you'll go back in and lay your vocals over the tracks."

Gooden announced that they have just recorded a new album with Eric Clapton, who still does it live in the studio. No tour is official yet — they may be doing things with Clapton, but they are still in the works.

Jerry Butler, one of the original members of The Impressions and chairman of the R&B Foundation, has seen many changes since the beginning of the R&B Foundation in 1989. "Well, we've had some peaks and valleys, we've had some shows that were well attended, but we didn't make any money. We've had some shows that were well attended, and we lost money. Now it looks like we have a show that is well attended, and we're going to make some money."

Don Covay, who suffered a stroke in 1994 when he was supposed to be inducted, was present this year to accept his award. He has written for many artists, including Aretha Franklin, Bonnie Raitt, the Rolling Stones, Steppenwolf and many others. His favorite artist to work with was Franklin, for whom he wrote the hit song "Chain of Fools," a No. 1 hit. "I enjoyed writing and hearing her sing my song."

Covay recently released a record, "Ad Lib," on Cannonball Records. It features the Rolling Stones, Wilson Pickett and others.

Johnnie Johnson offered some insight for the younger musicians out there today who are trying to get started. "It may take a long time to get recognition. So, what I'm saying is, never give up. I started music professionally when I was 17, and now I'm 76." Johnson is doing a lot of touring, and still playing music. "I'll still continue to play as long as I can raise my hand."

He is a big admirer of Little Milton, Buddy Guy, those are his favorites. Johnson is possibly going to do a tour with Little Milton, coming soon.

The Chi-Lites, who gave Chicago one of its most recognized sounds, and who are still as lively as ever, say that they've always believed in their music, and themselves to carry out the Chi-Lite legacy.

Robert "Papa Squirrel" Lester feels that the Chi-Lites will always be respected, because their music is not degrading in any way. "It's clean, it's about love, not about a lot of negative things that happen in life," he says. "To each his own, because the world is not always about love. Love is everlasting anyway."

The Chi-Lites have had many of their hits sampled by other artists, like the hit song "Have You Seen Her?" Eugene Record feels that is it wonderful, and is fine with the idea of artists sampling other's music. "It shows that they can't really get away from the real thing. I think if somebody has something good for you, then use it, and if it's gonna be profitable for you, then use it. It makes me feel good, and it let's me know I've done some things right; The Chi-Lites are prospering from it, which gives a lot of positive results."

These days, Record is doing gospel, but The Chi-Lites are still touring for their 40th year, and are still feeling great in every aspect. Marshall Thompson has started his own label with an upcoming artist called "Tara," whose single, "Everytime It Rains," will soon be released.

Huey "Piano" Smith was also among the people to be inducted, but was a bit hard to find. He lit up the room with his energetic conversations with others, and kept moving about the room at a fast pace, making it hard for someone to fully grasp a hold on him. He pays much respect to Hank Williams Sr. and George Williams.

Many people in New Orleans wish for the great Huey Smith to play at the jazz festival again this year, but that is indeed the place where he lost the hearing in his right ear; that is not why he may or may not play though. We may see more of Smith in the near future, but for now, he is just happy that he is able to collect his award.

Harvey Fuqua of the 50's Doo-Wop group, the Moonglows, and former inductee, has a new record label, Resurging The Artists LTD, which is designed to help bring back those artists that the public has swept away into that void, where we never hear of these people again.

Fuqua and the Moonglows, along with other Doo-Wop favorites, such as the Cadillacs and others, recently did a television show called "The Doo-Wop" to show people that they still have what it takes to survive in the music world and have not slowed down yet whatsoever.

Fuqua feels that the music of today has no true discipline, and a lot of the artists do not give much effort to adding to their own music careers. He used to train artists who were truly dedicated to performing, and love their work. To this day, many of these artists still show the same routines, and follow the same guidelines that they were shown to become successful.

June 21, 2000

CNN to profile founder of APO Records

Blues label APO Records and its founder, Chad Kassem, will be featured on the CNN cable television network on June 23 and June 25.

Kassem's story will be told on CNN's "World Today" program during the segment, "Across America with Larry Woods."

The show will describe how Kassem overcame drug and alcohol addictions 16 years ago, instead switching his energies to blues music. He purchased a 76-year-old Gothic church in Salina, Kan., for his mail order business featuring audiophile quality LPs and CDs.

Later, Kassem launched the Analogue Productions label for the reissue of jazz and blues recordings from artists such as Sonny Boy Williamson and Miles Davis.

Eventually, Kassem converted part of the old church into a recording studio, Blue Heaven Studios, in order to record living blues legends on Analogue Productions Originals (APO).

CNN will air its five-minue piece on Kassem on June 23 at 8:50 p.m. EST and June 25 at 9:40 a.m. Following the airing of these two shows, CNN Headline News will air a shorter version every half hour for a 24-hour-time period. The date for this is yet for be announced.

June 1, 2000

French-Tunisian guitarist, 14, to make U.S. debut

NEW YORK, N.Y — Nawfel, a 14-year-old French-Tunisian guitarist whose self-titled debut album has won rave reviews, will appear on "The Late Show with David Letterman" (CBS) on Monday, June 5, 11:35 p.m. EST/PST. He will sit in throughout the hour with Paul Shaffer & the CBS Orchestra.

Nawfel's debut album has been released by Universal in Europe, but is yet unsigned in the U.S. His Letterman appearance is his first media appearance of any kind in North America.

According to Billboard magazine, "Nawfel stands out in any company — (his playing is) reminiscent of Carlos Santana and Eric Clapton." Q Magazine called him "an impressive player with a genuine feel for blues-rock." Blues & Soul Magazine called his guitar playing "spellbinding and eloquent — astonishingly mature in terms of both technical mastery and emotional delivery."

Nawfel's album was produced in Los Angeles by veteran Barry Goldberg, who also contributes keyboard. Ivan Neville and Melanie Herrold provide backing vocals, and studio vet Jim Keltner plays the drums. Nawfel plays a variety of guitars including a classic 1962 Fender Stratocaster.

Nawfel is handled in the U.S. by Ron Stone, Gold Mountain Entertainment.

May 26, 2000

B.B. King named blues entertainer of the year

For the second year in the row, blues legend B.B. King has been named blues entertainer of the year at the W. C. Handy Awards in Memphis.

King, who got his start on Beale Street, was honored at the 21st annual event, which is sponsored by the Blues Foundation, a nonprofit organization that promotes the blues.

Other winners at the event, which was held on May 25 at the Orpheum Theater, were: Blues Band of the Year, Rod Piazza and The Mighty Flyers;
Blues Album of the Year, Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan for "In Session";
Soul/Blues Female Artist of the Year, Etta James;
Soul/Blues - Male Artist of the Year - Wilson Pickett
Blues Song of the Year, "Change in My Pocket" by Sam Myers, Anson Funderburgh, Renee Funderburgh, J.P. Whitefield;
Contemporary Blues Male Artist of the Year, Keb' Mo';
Contemporary Blues Female Artist of the Year, Susan Tedeschi;
Soul/Blues Album of the Year, Wilson Pickett;
Contemporary Blues Album of the Year, Albert King/Stevie Ray Vaughan;
Blues Instumentalist, Clarence Gatemouth Brown;
Blues Instumentalist Drums, Chris Layton;
Blues Instumentalist Bass, Willie Kent;
Blues Instumentalist Keyboards, Pinetop Perkins;
Blues Instumentalist Harmonica, Charlie Musselwhite;
Blues Instumentalist Guitar, Duke Robillard;
Best New Blues Artist, Big Bill Morganfield;
Comeback Blues Album of the Year, Wilson Pickett for "It's Harder Now";
Acoustic Blues Album of the Year, Paul Rishell and Annie Raines for "Moving to the Country";
Acoustic Blues Artist of the Year, Keb' Mo';
Traditional Blues Album of the Year, Muddy Waters for "The Lost Tapes of Muddy Waters";
Traditional Blues Male Artist of the Year, R.L. Burnside;
Traditional Blues Female Artist of the Year, Koko Taylor;
Reissue Blues Album of the Year, Hound Dog Taylor "Deluxe Addition," Bruce Iglauer (Alligator Records)

May 23, 2000

Blues Music Association to meet in Memphis on May 26

The Blues Music Association will hold a general membership meeting for prospective members at the Black Diamond, 153 Beale St., Memphis, from 4 to 6 p.m. on May 26. Admission is free.

The organization is seeking the support of all music industry professionals who work in the blues music genre to work together to help blues find a bigger audience.

Also at the meeting, the BMA will present its first A.G.E.S. (Achieve Greater Economic Success) Award to the blues professional whom voting members deem the year's most important contributor to achieving the BMA's goal of heightening the commerce of blues music.

In the past year, the organization has achieved various goals, including a successful campaign for the Record Industry Association of America (RIAA) to track blues record sales separately, rather than grouping them under R&B or rock.

This means that, for the first time in the history of blues recordings, the blues music industry will be able to cite specific market share as well as information on who is purchasing the music. The BMA will utilize these findings to create greater media coverage and more live performance corporate sponsorship for the blues.

The BMA is continuing its ongoing blues demographic research. The original study dealt with consumers who buy blues records; the next phase will study the image and popularity of blues in the general public in the U.S. The BMA will utilize this data to generate greater media coverage and sponsorships for blues artists and recordings.

The BMA also has created an annual retail promotion with Borders featuring CDs by W.C. Handy Blues Award nominees. The promotion is geared toward raising consumer awareness of the all blues recordings during the month of May, culminating with the W.C. Handy Blues Awards on May 25.

The BMA has also officially launched its web site,, which provides the organization's mission statement, lists its Founders and Steering Committee, plus the bylaws and results of the BMA's first demographic survey and links to member sites.

Blues label APO to be featured on CBS's "60 Minutes II"

SALINA, Kan. — CBS News magazine "60 Minutes II" will feature a segment on the Analogue Productions Originals (APO) record label and Blue Heaven Recording Studio — both housed in an old church in this mid-Kansas town of 44,000 — on its Tuesday, May 30, at 9 p.m. ET/PT (8 p.m. CT) edition.

The traditional blues label featuring new audiophile recordings from blues legends such as Jimmy Rogers and David Honeyboy Edwards, came to the attention of "60 Minutes II" through the oddity of being headquartered in the former First Christian Church of Salina, Kan., built in 1924. Since his 1996 purchase of the church, owner Chad Kassem has converted it into a sanctuary for the blues.

APO and Blue Heaven have also been the subject of a recent report on National Public Radio's "All Things Considered" and a forthcoming feature on CNN's "Across America" as well. APO's Jimmy Rogers album, "Blue Bird," won the 1995 W.C. Handy Blues Award for Best Traditional Blues Album of the Year.

In addition to its high-profile media accolades and awards, APO announces an exclusive distribution pact with harmonia mundi usa, which will issue a vast selection of compact discs and DVDs from APO and its sister label, Analogue Productions. Analogue Productions features reissues of artists including Thelonious Monk, Miles Davis, Sonny Boy Williamson and Otis Spann while APO offers new audiophile recordings of blues greats such as Jimmy Rogers and David Honeyboy Edwards.

APO and Blue Heaven Studios are the brainchild of Chad Kassem, 38, a native of Lafayette, La. — deep in the heart of Cajun country — who arrived at a halfway house in Salina 16 years ago to overcome drug and alcohol addictions. Doing so successfully, he proceeded to switch addictions to blues. He purchased the 76-year-old Gothic church in Salina, initially to house his record mail order business featuring a world-famous selection of hard-to-find audiophile quality LPs and CDs.

Next, Kassem launched the Analogue Productions label. His audiophile re-mastered, meticulously pressed 180 gram vinyl and 24 karat gold limited-edition CD reissues include such artists as Miles Davis, Sonny Boy Williamson, Art Pepper, Thelonious Monk and Otis Spann, to name but a few. Acoustic Sounds is the world's largest distributor of audiophile LPs and CDs.

Then the idea came to him to utilize the church for a recording studio with the goal of documenting the remaining blues legends on CD and DVD. He tapped some of the best engineers and designers in the business to help convert the church, which was possessed of naturally superior acoustics, into a studio. All recording equipment is strictly analogue. Kassem believes it has a warmer, more authentic tone than digital. The sanctuary is a vaulted room with a 45-foot ceiling braced by walnut beams that resemble the inverted hull of a ship.

The next step was to begin making new recordings. In November 1993, Analogue Productions Originals (APO) recorded its first album — "Blue Bird" by Jimmy Rogers. It was recorded just before the church was converted, though at some point all APO releases began to emanate from the church studio. Kassem has also enlisted the expertise of Jimmy D. Lane as Music Director for Blue Heaven. Lane, himself an APO recording artist, is the son of blues legend Jimmy Rogers and grew up listening to Rogers and other legends in Chicago's South Side and has since worked with the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton, among others.

Commenting on APO's new relationship with harmonia mundi usa, Kassem says, "I've known the people at harmonia mundi usa for years as I have always sold their products through our audiophile mail order business. harmonia mundi may not be known for blues, but they are known for quality. Other distributors approached us, but I'd rather be a big fish in a small pond, and I am thrilled to be in business with harmonia mundi."

Adds Matthew Owen, National Sales Manager of harmonia mundi usa, "harmonia mundi is a company that always focuses on quality. We're not about making a quick buck. APO is a perfect fit for HM, because Chad never compromises on his recordings in any way — musically or visually. We're thrilled to be in on the re-launch of APO. It's a perfect partnership."

March 21, 2000

Document Records is sold, moved to United Kingdom

Document Records, based in Vienna, has been sold by founder Johnny Parth to Gary Atkinson, the managing director of Document Records Ltd., which now will be based in the United Kingdom.

According to a company press release, the transaction will assure the future of the company and will allow Parth to spend more time at home with his family after an exhausting 10-year schedule.

Parth will continue to produce for the company.

Document Records will continue to provide collectors, fans and institutions of learning with the complete recorded works of vintage blues, country, jazz, gospel, spirituals and Viennese musicians.

The label plans to release a live recording by Son House (DOCD-5663). The performance likely was House's New York debut, recorded at the Gas House in January 1965, shortly after his rediscovery.

Document also will release a live recording by Leadbelly (DOCD-5664). Recorded at the private party in Minneapolis on Nov. 21, 1948, the relaxed atmosphere encourages Leadbelly to speak freely to his small audience. The great "king of all twelve-string guitarists" even gives a detailed account of the attack on him, which resulted in his second stretch in prison.

According to Document, the informal occasion of the recording allows Leadbelly to reach levels of power and energy surpassing much of his other recorded works.

Other Document releases include "Diggin' Thru Jazz" by jazz violinist Zipflo and the first four volumes of the Skillet Lickers.

The company is developing a Web site, which will provide information for collectors, fans and researchers, as well as the Document catalog and online ordering capabilities. The Web site is expected to be up and running by the end of March.

March 1, 2000

Screamin' Jay Hawkins, Lonesome Dave Peverett pass away

Perhaps the blues' craziest showman, singer/pianist Screamin' Jay Hawkins, who shocked and amused audiences with his crazed shrieking and bizarre voodoo-influenced stage antics, died in mid-February at the age of 70.

Hawkins was best known for his song "I Put a Spell On You," which he recorded on the Okeh label in 1956. It helped him reach cult status in the United States, Europe and Japan.

Hawkins also acted 1989's Jim Jarmusch film "Mystery Train." He played a surly hotel desk clerk.

Also, British blues/rock lost one of its most unique voices in early February when Lonesome Dave Peverett succumbed to kidney cancer at the age of 56 in Orlando, Fla.

Among Peverett's most popular tunes while with Foghat were "Fool for the City," "Slow Ride" and "Drivin' Wheel," however he also met with success in early 1970s as lead singer for blues rockers Savoy Brown.

Foghat and Peverett's biggest success on the album charts came with its 1977-release "Foghat Live." That double-platinum album, which reached No. 11 on the Billboard album chart, captured Peverett's upbeat stage persona and the band's boogie/rock.

Feb. 24, 2000

B.B. King, Robert Cray win Grammy awards

LOS ANGELES — To no one's surprise, two veteran artists walked away with the honors for the best blues albums in 1999 at the Grammy Awards at the Staples Center on Feb. 24.

B.B. King took home the Grammy for best traditional blues album for "Blues on the Bayou," the ninth Grammy in his 50-year career.

Other nominees in the category were Bobby "Blue" Bland for "Memphis Monday Morning," Ruth Brown for "A Good Day for the Blues," Odetta for "Blues Everywhere I Go" and Pinetop Perkins and Hubert Sumlin for "Legends."

The Grammy for best contemporary blues album went to another established blues artist, Robert Cray, who won for "Take Your Shoes Off." It was Cray's fourth Grammy.

Other finalists for the award were the late Luther Allison for "Live in Chicago," Jonny Lang for "Wander this World," Little Milton for "Welcome to Little Milton" and Charlie Musselwhite for "Continental Drifter."

Ironically, both King and Cray shared a Grammy award in 1996 for their collaboration on the "SRV Shuffle," along with Jimmy Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, Dr. John and Art Neville.

Another blues artist, Susan Tedechi, was a finalist for best new artist. However, the Grammy went to Christina Aguilera instead of Tedeschi, who was a long shot in a category typically dominated by pop stars.

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