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And the first shall be last… to paraphrase. This was the 1st tune the guys laid down at the recording session I was filming last spring and it’s the last one I have left to post. They used the old Freddy King tune, “The Stumble” as a kind of warm up. It worked because they were hot by the end, Hadley Hockensmith guitar, Phil Driscoll keys & trumpet, Bill Maxwell drums, Michiko Hill piano, and Pee Wee Hill bass.
Once again, just as on all the other songs from this session, the guys were playing with their ears, not their eyes, since there were no charts to work from. It was a great day in the studio with some soulful blues tracks laid down. My only regret is that there weren’t more tunes recorded, meaning there are no songs to post from that day. However this was so good, I have no choice but to try and convince everyone to get together again soon and make some more music. Hopefully they all enjoyed playing together as much as we like listening to them.
Musically it’s a short journey from blues to gospel, or as some might say from Saturday night to Sunday morning. They’re both, when good, music you feel deep in your soul, which gives voice to the emotions you sometimes can’t find your own words to express. This connection between the musical genres is fully evident when some of my musician friends in LA recorded a version of Bob Dylan’s, “Serve Somebody,” for me last year.
They had shown up as a favor to me, to lay down some blues songs I could record on video. I’ve called it Boyd’s Blue Adventure session, but it was really up to the guys to play whatever they wanted. One tune, which I posted previously, called, “Case of the Blues” was made up on the spot, but all were done without any written score to keep them on the same page. Instead they were on the same wave-length musically, and that connection is what made all the songs that day work so well.
Phil Driscoll couldn’t resist the opportunity of having these great musicians in his studio to take the blues over to the Gospel side with, “Serve Somebody.” Phil is on keyboards, trumpet and vocals: with Hadley Hockensmith guitar; Bill Maxwell drums, Greg Mathieson organ; Michiko Hill piano; and Pee Wee Hill bass.
The band had just finished making up a song out of nothing, out of thin air. Where there had been total silence suddenly there was music, good music, a tune than engaged you, had you feeling the beat and moving your body. It sounded like a song that had been crafted and perfected over time, and yet it had been created on the spot in one take, even though when it began no one had any idea where it would go or how it would end.
Bill Maxwell the drummer said to Abraham Laboriel the bass player, who had shown up only minutes earlier in time for this last song of the session, “Let’s do a slow blues number. Abe you start us off.” With those words as his only guide Abe began a little improv riff on the base. A few bars later, Greg Mathieson added some organ, then Bill started laying down the rhythm and Hadley Hockensmith began layering in a very soulful guitar. Finally, right on cue, Phil Driscoll began to sing, mashing up lyrics from two or three songs and making up a few of his own. Later in the song Phil would add more texture to the music with his trumpet.
I call this number, “Case of the Blues”, based on some of the lyrics, but as Greg said when they finished, “It’s called the blues, but when you play like this it leaves you smiling and happy and feeling great. Case of the Blues does all that and more; it also left me feeling amazed at the talent of my friends and what they can instantly create from nothing.
You Don’t Know Me. Did you ever say that to someone who was giving you a hard time about your life? It’s a familiar response to criticism usually uttered in anger. But when Texas songwriter Cindy Walker teamed up with Eddy Arnold to turn those words into a song, it gave the phrase a completely different feeling and meaning. You Don’t Know Me, became an aching, haunting, cry of unfulfilled love. It also became a hit song for Eddy Arnold, Ray Charles, and many other performers.
This version was one of the songs my friends recorded for me in LA last spring when they kindly agreed to show up and play some blues for my cameras at Phil Driscoll’s recording studio. There were no rehearsals, no music, and nothing was planned in advance. They just showed up and started jamming. The results were amazing, like they had been playing together for years.
For You Don’t Know Me, it’s Phill on vocals and piano, Bill Maxwell on drums, Hadley Hockensmith on guitar, Michiko Hill on organ and Pee Wee Hill on bass. Enjoy!
If you like the blues, here’s a little Christmas gift for you. I shot this last spring, but just put it together. It features some of my friends, Hadley Hockensmith guitar, Bill Maxwell drums, Phil Driscoll vocal and trumpet, Michiko Hill organ, and Pee Wee Hill bass who did me a big favor by recording some music for me at Phil Driscoll’s studio. These guys are so good this is their only take of, “Hurts Me Too”, and they nailed it. I’m using the music on my radio show and cutting video of a few of my adventures to some of the songs. I’ll post more of the music in the coming weeks but for now enjoy this blues classic.
Sippie Wallace recorded her first record in 1923. It was a blues classic with the songs “Shorty George” and “Up the Country Blues.” Fifty-seven years later I met Sippie in Detroit where she was still belting the blues in nightclubs on Saturday nights and then playing the organ and leading the choir on Sunday mornings. I spent some time with her in both the club and the church and then stopped by her home where she talked with me about her extaordinary career.
It was Sippie who first told me the only difference between the blues and gospel, the only difference between the music she sang on Saturday night and Sunday morning was the words. She said in the clubs she was singing “Baby” and in church she was singing “Jesus” She sang both for me for a series we were doing on American music for the Today show. This clip is another find from the Boyd closet of old tapes. Scott Goldstein was my producer at the time and we both were just looking for an exscuse to go meet some of the pioneers of the “roots” music we loved. The series also included stops in the “Windy City” for Chicago Blues and a stop in Louisiana for Cajun music. The series would become the inspiration for our regular weekly segment, “On the Record”.
Sippie was one of the big influences on singer Bonnie Raitt who would record one of Sippie’s songs, “Woman Be Wise,” and would also take Sippie on tour as an opening act. Two years after this story Sippie Wallace would be nominated for a Grammy and six years later she would suffer a stroke following a concert in Germany. Less than a month after the stroke, on her 88th birthday, she died in a Detroit hospital. Her contribution to the blues lives on in some of her most famous songs like, “Suitcase Blues”, “Woman Be Wise, “Up the Country Blues”, and “I’m A Mighty Tight Woman.”
I think this is a first, Andrae Crouch playing the blues. Recently when Andrae and the original Disciples got together for an informal reunion, I was there with cameras to capture this reuniting of one of the most influential groups in contemporary gosel music. Two of the band members from the heyday of the disciples were also there, Bill Maxwell on drums and Hadley Hockensmith on guitar. I first heard Bill & Hadley when we were all still teenagers. I was in college in Oklahoma City, and considered going to hear the guys in “The Third Avenue Blues Band,” an essential component of my course work.
As a favor to me, they agreed to do a couple of impromptu blues numbers after we finished recording the Disciples songs. Great bass player and friend Abraham Laboriel was there to add his magic to the mix. Bili Thetford did the singing and Andrae, as best as we can remember, played keyboards on a blues jam for the first time ever. Without a rehearsal here are the guys doing their version of, “Going to Chicago”