Charlie Musselwhite’s romance with the blues was just about inevitable. He was born in Kosciusko, Miss., he grew up in Memphis, Tenn., and he can hardly remember a time when the music wasn’t part of his life. “I just gravitated toward it,” says the well-regarded harmonica player and vocalist, who comes to the Blanche M. Touhill Performing Arts Center on Saturday as part of the “Celebrating the Blues” tour. “I was always listening to the radio and playing records, and I got to know a lot of the musicians around Memphis,” he says. “I wasn’t thinking I was going to be a professional – I just loved the music. It felt so good to listen to it, and it felt even better to play it.”
Musselwhite, 60, is among the most respected blues artists around. His albums for such blues labels as Alligator and Blind Pig established his reputation, and at this point a lesser musician might be content to coast. But Musselwhite remains a musical explorer, as anyone who’s heard his latest release, “Sanctuary,” can attest. With its intriguingly atmospheric studio sound, it’s not surprising that the disc is Musselwhite’s debut on Real World, the world-music label established by art-rocker Peter Gabriel.

Not that musical categories matter that much to Musselwhite. “In my travels, I’ve discovered that every culture has its own music of lament,” he says. “Which is the music of the heart. And it seems like when I meet musicians from these cultures that play that kind of music, we can play together effortlessly.”

Charlie Musselwhite “Sanctuary” is a different kind of blues disc: traditional at its core, yet open to a wide range of influences. “With a strictly blues label, they probably would be scratching their heads over a lot of this stuff – which I’ve run into in other situations,” Musselwhite says. “I’ve heard comments like, ‘You’ll confuse the audience,’ or, ‘I just don’t get that.’ But with Real World, it’s like, do what you do. There are people who say it has to be 12 or eight bars and three chords – and if it doesn’t have those ingredients, it’s not blues. But I’ve always thought of the blues as a feeling more than anything else.”

The album’s opening tune, “Homeless Child,” has the sort of rough-hewn grandeur that’s only to be expected from the blues. It’s easy to imagine Musselwhite kicking back in front of a shack down South and watching the world go by. “Train to Nowhere” is the sort of song that Johnny Cash might have sung, and not just because it involves a locomotive. It’s a meditation on the arbitrariness of life, and Musselwhite strikes just the right note of ennui. It doesn’t hurt that he gets a stirring vocal assist from the Blind Boys of Alabama, who also back him up on the thumping, gospel-drenched “I Had Trouble.”

True to his open-eared aesthetic, Musselwhite covers the Randy Newman song “Burn Down the Cornfield.” Although the satirical Newman is about …

Film of a stage show brings icons together

If last year’s multi-part, Martin Scorsese-produced PBS documentary “The Blues” failed to achieve either the impact or audience of Ken Burns’ “Jazz,” it may have been because the concept of having different directors address different aspects of the music in their own distinctive styles failed to provide continuity and context. So it’s satisfying, if somewhat ironic, to see it captured so organically in “Lightning in a Bottle,” a film compiled from a 2003 charity concert held at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall that served as kickoff to the series.
In less than two hours, “Lightning in the Bottle” sums up the journey blues made from Africa to Mississippi and on to Chicago and Memphis, where it had that baby they named rock ‘n’ roll. And it travels with an infectious good spirit that often belies the pain and unfulfilled longings that give the music its name. Blues may, in fact, be the original talk therapy: The more honestly you discuss it, the better you feel.

“Lightning in a Bottle” is directed by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”), but Fuqua scrupulously avoids the high-concept gimmickry that threatened to overshadow the music itself in the PBS episodes. He simply begins backstage with Scorsese, who serves as host, welcoming many of the performers: “Looks like y’all hired the phone book,” says an impressed representative from New Orleans, Dr. John, as he looks around to see who’s sharing the bill. “Jes’ looked up ‘Blues’ in the Yellow Pages.”

Many of the usual and obvious suspects are in the lineup, including reigning elder B.B. King, goodwill ambassador Bonnie Raitt and road warrior Buddy Guy — a prime example of how blues players tend to get better and better with age. But there are also some guests who truly surprise and, in the case of Natalie Cole, rise to the occasion. While Cole has a reserve of soul that she sometimes uses to spice up her pop balladry, no one would have ever mistaken her for a blues singer before her performance here of WC Handy’s “St. Louis Blues,” chosen to illustrate how blues became the bedrock for traditional jazz.

Nor would we expect the squeaky-voiced space cadet Macy Gray to get a leash on “Hound Dog,” a song originated by Big Mama Thornton but appropriated by Elvis Presley for rock ‘n’ roll, or for Solomon Burke, the supersized, super-talented Southern soul singer to bring it all back home with a gospelized “Down in the Valley,” which he recalls performing to confused picnickers at a Ku Klux Klan rally in the early 1960s.

If Areosmith cocaptains Steven Tyler and Joe Perry fail to bring anything new to the table with their version of the great Slim Harpo’s “I’m a King Bee,” they at least illustrate how the blues line runs: They learned the song from the debut album of the Rolling Stones, an exceedingly influential piece of vinyl that also introduced Jimmy Reed and Howlin’ Wolf to …

The Connecticut Blues Society (CTBS) is sponsoring the First Annual Connecticut Acoustic Blues Challenge on Sunday, November 14, 2004, starting at 7:00 p.m. at the Hungry Tiger Cafe, 120 Charter Oak St., Manchester, CT. The winner of this event will be sent to participate in the Acoustic Division of the International Blues Challenge sponsored by the Blues Foundation in Memphis.
The Connecticut Blues Society, which also held a Blues Challenge for electric bands earlier this year, decided to hold the Acoustic Challenge on a separate night to give the solo/duo event more emphasis. The schedule for participants are as follows: 7:00-7:30 p.m.: Joel Blumert; 7:45- 8:15 p.m.: Chris D’Amato; 8:30- 9:00 p.m. Jswine: 9:15- 9:45 p.m.: D.C. Jones; and 10:00- 10:30 p.m.: Dan Stevens.

A panel of judges will award each participant a score of one to ten in the categories of Talent, Blues Content, Originality, Showmanship and Overall Impression, the criteria used at The Blues Foundation’s International Blues Challenge (IBC). In addition to representing Connecticut in the Acoustic Division of the IBC, the winner will also be awarded a $400.00 cash prize to offset travel costs.

Artists must be an official representative of a Blues Foundation-sanctioned blues society to compete in the International Blues Challenge, which enters its 21st year in 2005 as the nation’s biggest and most respected showcase for “undiscovered” blues talent. Larry Garner, Tommy Castro, Susan Tedeschi, Michael Burks, Michelle Wilson, Albert Cummings and Sean Costello have all gained national recognition through the IBC.

Having an opportunity to showcase their music at the annual Blues Challenge provides local blues musicians with the impetus they need to stay at the top of their game and fulfills the non-profit Connecticut Blues Society’s mission of promoting and preserving the Blues as a unique art form in Connecticut.

“The Blues Challenge is important to the local blues community,” says Kent Kirkland, a CTBS board member and event coordinator. “Even though we’re not the birthplace of the Blues in the U.S., it’s amazing how many bands and artists are playing original Blues music in Connecticut. Traditional acoustic Blues is stripped-down, majestic, and powerful. Since artists are playing solo or duo, no mistake escapes notice. The participants in this year’s first Acoustic Blues Challenge are very excited to be performing in this competition and have a chance to compete in Memphis for national recognition.”…

Current orders: Please know that we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, but we must now cancel the approximately 150 outstanding orders piling up at BluesMart. Your credit card has NOT been charged. If you mailed in cash, checks or money orders, these items will be returned to you within 12 business days in the same manner they were received.
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Net-30, Net-60, B2B Accounts: We appreciate your business and hope you have enjoyed the convenience of having a credit account with BluesMart! If your open account has a balance due, we would appreciate you settling your account by the end of the month. If you wish to pay via credit card, let us know and we will send a payment link via email. Otherwise, please make checks payable to Nothin’ But Da Blues and mail to:

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Independent Blues Artist Directory (IBAD) members: Your items are still safely stored on the shelves. We will know one way or the other if BluesMart will re-open by the end of the year. If so, we will be happy to continue offering your products for sale. If you’d prefer to have your products returned sooner, please let us know and we will return all remaining items to you within 12 business days.

In speaking with a few IBAD members, we realize many have a need for and still want this service; as such, we are considering a smaller-scale operation specifically to offer IBAD member’s products, and may include time sensitive products (such as the 2005 Blues Calendar). We will know for certain within 12 business days.

Contact: If you have questions or concerns, please contact us by sending a fax to, or leaving a voicemail message at, the toll-free number: 877-755-2710.

Bookmark this page if you’d like to keep posted on what’s happening with BluesMart; any and all updates will post here on this page. Please excuse the sudden notice. Due to time constraints, this is my first opportunity to …

What are the Delta Blues? For the members of the Mississippi State Blues Commission, the answer might not come so easy. As the Mississippi Blues tourism industry begins to take shape, it is becoming necessary to discuss exactly what the genre means to the musicians, businesses and tourists involved. The state-sponsored committee of politicians, academics and business leaders spent Thursday morning discussing how they might define the Blues during a meeting at the Delta Regional Authority in Clarksdale.
“The Blues is a complex subject. There are a lot of different facets to consider,” said Gary Gusick, creative director of the Ramey Agency. His advertising group will provide consulting services for the commission pro bono. “I want to see how these different aspects can mesh together in preserving the rich blues legacy and helping it flourish so it will have a positive impact on the economic state of Mississippi,” he said.

For the Blues Commission, the issue is “branding,” a marketing tool used by advertisers to sell a unique product. Once the commission decides how it will brand the blues, it can move forward with a campaign to market that brand to tourists worldwide. The problem is pinning down exactly what elements make up the Delta Blues. “The Blues is changing form,” said Robert Moore of Mississippi State University. “The music today is much different from the original Delta Blues.” Moore and other members of the council discussed the idea that the prewar acoustic blues are just one kind of music being played in Delta juke joints today. Some tourists familiar with prewar forms may be unaware that many Delta musicians play more contemporary blues forms. Delta State professor Luther Brown agreed. “There is no one thing that is the blues, and we’ll have to take that into account,” he said.

Gusick also expressed a need for consistent live music in the Delta, as well as readily accessible food and lodging. The council must submit a polished marketing plan to the state by the end of this year. “A large part of marketing the Blues is marketing the Delta because this place is so amazing,” said Chrissy Wilson of Mississippi Archives and History. Commission Chairman Fred Carl agreed. “There’s a mystique about the Delta,” he said. The Blues Commission also discussed the creation of a Mississippi Blues license plate to raise funds. They are also working on a website, tourist maps and a 1-800 number.…

Mysterious, magnetic, hard-charging Michigan native Terry Knight took a scruffy blues-rock trio from Flint to the height of stardom in the 1970s. His career as a band manager culminated at a 1971 concert at Shea Stadium in New York where his group — Grand Funk Railroad — broke the record for ticket sales that had been held by another band from a working-class town, the Beatles. Several years later, though, Knight basically disappeared, dropping out of the music scene.
“I’ve never seen a flame begin so brightly yet end so darkly,” said Peter Cavanaugh of Clarkston, who worked as a disc jockey in Flint with Knight in the early 1960s. “All Terry had was a brilliant mind, dazzling charismatic personality, plus he was an articulate speaker. That’s what you need in the music business. He came out of nowhere with a bunch of Flint kids.”

A year after the Shea concert, Grand Funk members accused Knight of ripping them off, and they fired him. Knight answered with multimillion-dollar lawsuits that he eventually won. “He totally dropped out of sight,” Cavanaugh said, adding that Knight blew through $10 million in several years.

Knight was stabbed to death in Tempe, Texas, during a domestic dispute Monday, and word gradually spread to his old comrades. Police said he was defending his daughter from her live-in boyfriend when he died. He was 61.

Knight’s recent life is a mystery. Some friends said he became heavily involved in cocaine use and dealing. Several accounts of his later life have said he was in a witness protection program after testifying against an East Coast drug lord. David Carson, a Detroit radio historian who has written a book on the Motor City’s music scene, said Knight was living in Arizona and writing children’s books before his death. “He was always looking for another angle and another big thing,” Carson said.

Knight, a Lapeer native whose real name was Richard Terrance Knapp, worked in the early 1960s as a disc jockey in Flint and at the legendary CKLW-AM (800) in Windsor. He also had another gig: promoting the Rolling Stones. “Everybody else was screaming Beatles, but he was ahead of the game,” Carson said.

He left the radio business and formed Terry Knight and the Pack, with such local hits as “I Who Have Nothing.” When the Pack disbanded, he hooked up with two former Pack members, drummer Don Brewer and guitarist Mark Farner, and another musician, bassist Mel Schacter. Confident and aggressive, Knight once declared: “The Grand Funk is no hype. Grand Funk sold more records last year than any other artist in the world. They sold more than the Beatles. Collectively, more records and tapes than any other group. That should be news.”

Knight’s former lawyer, Henry Baskin of Birmingham, said Friday: “Terry was always working. He was a type A person, and in a very competitive business looking for places to book his act. It was exhausting at times.” Baskin said he lost touch with …

When singer-songwriter E. G. Kight steps up to the microphone at Jeremiah’s on Sunday evening, several area musicians will be there with her. Kight, known as the “Georgia Songbird,” got to know the local folks through her manager, Bonnie Tallman of Hughesville.
Last year, when she had a day off before a show, Kight and Tallman dropped by the Wednesday evening jazz show at the Italian Terrace near Lewisburg. Kight “sat in” with Greg Burgess, Andy Seal and Steve Mitchell for a few numbers, and she really enjoyed the experience. A few months later, Kight was booked to open for Little Feat at the Community Arts Center in Williamsport, and she needed some back-up musicians. Tallman, who knew of his work with the Lipsmackin’ Blues Band and the Greg Burgess Trio, suggested Seal.

“It was a big step for me professionally,” said Seal, a music major at Bloomsburg University. “We got together to rehearse earlier in the day, but the rehearsal mindset is a lot different than the performing one.” Seal, the guitarist and the drummer had never met each other before, nor had Kight ever performed with any of them before. “She’s very experienced,” Seal said. “Watching her deal with things as a professional, the last minute changes, was a real treat. She’s a very calming person.”

Kight’s performance that evening brought the audience to its feet. In fact, the house management had to ask them to leave the stage so the headliners could perform. Kight liked Seal’s work so much that she invited him to be part of her “northern” band, and during the summer, he spent almost three months traveling and performing with Kight. “We traveled from Washington, D.C., to Charlotte, N.C., and all the way to Rockland, Maine,” said Seal. “It was a great experience.”

Along the way, Seal met blues legends Bob Margolin and McKinley Morganfield, son of Muddy Waters, and Shemekia Copeland, the daughter of Johnny “Clyde” Copeland. “That was the highlight of the trip,” Seal said. He even gained college internship credits from the trip, he noted. Seal is one of several local musicians who contributed to Kight’s latest CD release, “Takin’ It Easy.”

“I’ve been in music all my life,” she said. “My first solo was at age 4 in church.” She hasn’t stopped since, appearing at country music events at 15 and writing her first song, a paean to teen heartbreak, at 16. She was soon performing on stages all over the south with country music stars like George Jones and Jerry Lee Lewis, and she had a regular spot on TNN’s “Nashville Now” show in 1989. “I’ve dabbled in ‘em all,” she drawled. “Jazz, Dixieland, ballads. You can hear all those influences in my songs…All these types add flavor to what I sing, like salt and pepper.”

In 1995, Kight had a defining moment. She heard blues diva Koko Taylor belting out a song and thought to herself “What have I missed?” Since then, the blues have taken over and …

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