Wednesday, March 11, 2009

We gotta sky up outta this here beee-hah-hah-hah-yatch, Torn Slatterns and Nugget Ranchers

“The Wall Street Journal” reports Donald Trump-related real estate projects are in trouble in Mexico and Las Vegas. So see that? There is some good news in this economy.

The dog has it ruff
Oprah Winfrey has a new puppy Cocker Spaniel named Sadie. As if the economy wasn’t bad enough, how does it feel to know a former homeless dog is richer than you could dream to be?

“The Wall Street Journal” reports Donald Trump-related real estate projects are in trouble in Mexico and Las Vegas. It’s bad, if it gets much worse the bank may foreclose on Trump’s toupee.

T.O.’s b.s.
In a press conference after his unwanted trade to the Buffalo Bills, Terrell Owens said; “I beat to my own beat” Isn’t “I beat to my own beat” Chris Brown’s latest single?

An article in “Parade” magazine questions whether the US has enough spies; personally, I think we have enough spies as long as the lone wolf runs silently over the snowy plain, repeat, the lone wolf runs silently over the snowy plain.

I, uh, I did not know that
Since Abraham Lincoln’s 200th birthday, I have been reading up on Lincoln. Did you know Lincoln was a successful trial lawyer? He did Larry King’s first divorce.

Oprah Winfrey is upset Rihanna is getting back together with Chris Brown because Oprah says when a man hits he always hits. That’s not true, look at Alex Rodriguez in the Fall.

More accurately
President Bush is preparing to go on a National Speaking Tour. Although, in Bush’s case, technically it is a National Misspeaking Tour.

Especially that one
Ingredients in ice cream have been found to prevent sexually transmitted diseases. Especially Ben and Jerry’s new flavor, Trekkie’s Virgin Vanilla.

Historians are questioning the authenticity of some of the personal items of Mahatma Gandhi being auctioned. Specifically Gandhi’s cell phone and iPod.

Alex Rodriguez had successful minor surgery on his hip. You know what the problem turned out to be? They found in A-Rod’s hip a broken tip off Madonna’s cone bra.

Did you hear? Bernie Madoff was leaving his luxury penthouse for a walk, and an angry swindled investor confronted Madoff and Madoff was so scared he soiled his pants. That didn’t happen, but wouldn’t it be great if it did?

Since you asked:
Saw “Cadillac Records” and loved it. Though I could get that some might not.

My love of Little Walter and Muddy Water’s music makes me biased. And the movie’s phony attempts at lionizing the sleazy Chuck Berry as a civil rights hero were almost comical.

And the flick kind of drags a bit at the end. But do not let that deter you. It is a great musical history lesson. If you love the rock and the roll, you must see this.

My head nearly exploded with joy when they showed the studio session where Little Walter first amplified his harmonica. Until then, the harp was viewed as a sort of cross between a rhythm instrument and background harmony. Little Walter turned into a lead instrument and even recorded the first harmonica instrumentals. “Juke” hit #1. (For harmonica buffs, the guitars are in E so you play crossharp in the key of A on a Marine Band Hohner into a Hohner Blues Blaster bullet microphone plugged into any good guitar amp and turn up the reverb)

Sorry, got a little technical there.

One movie flaw: the first time Walter was playing through a guitar amp in the studio, he was playing right into a bullet-shaped harmonica microphone. They weren’t invented yet as this was the first time anyone had played the harmonica on the microphone through the guitar amp instead of just playing acoustically a foot away from a stand up mike going through the P.A. system.

But I doubt most folks would have noticed.

But from accounts I have read and even one angry tirade/rebuke from a recording engineer in the studio on one of his albums, it was impossible to get along with Little Walter. He was the opposite of Muddy Waters. But I had heard that Howlin’ Wolf was one scary dude and that was played to menacing perfection by Eamonn Walker.

Now I can play “Juke” pretty well. Am I a good harmonica player? Yes. Am I the greatest harmonica player of all time? No, Little Walter was. But Little Walter was terminally crazy/stupid/uneducated. The guy took the doors off of his Cadillac on a hot day. It was common knowledge he had shot and killed people. Not a great guy. Listen to the Temptations lyrics to “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” They could be Little Walter’s biography.

Beonce Knowles was great as Etta James if not a tad over-the-top. And the story Hollywood-up’d the truth. Little Walter did not die in the arms of Muddy’s sweetheart. He was not even beaten. He died as a result of a blood clot, probably from a previous beating. And Leonard Chess did not die of a heart attack in his Cadillac immediately after locking up Chess Records for the last time. He had sold Chess to a record company and died of – yes a heart attack – but months later.

As far as Leonard Chess and Chess Records “CR” raised more questions than it answered. Did Chess exploit poor black artists or was he a father figure who loved them? Both. He couldn’t have recorded them and stuck with them if he didn’t care about them. But he did take advantage of them financially. That is what business people do or they go broke. Deal with it.

And the movie sidesteps the moral issue that Leonard Chess’s increasingly violent South Side bar mysteriously burned down right after Chess had increased his insurance policy and that was how he funded the recording studio.

Not to condone all of Chess’s business deals, but people sign bad record deals to this day. And it is still common practice to lure young artists with expensive champagne, luxury hotel rooms and Private Jets and then turn around and pay for those luxuries out of their side of the recording profits. Chess just did it with Cadillacs. Plus the artists needed to drive to radio stations and gigs.

Chuck Berry was given far more credit in “Cadillac Records” than he ever deserved for being a civil rights combatant. He didn’t stay in white-owned hotels because he was fighting prejudice, he didn’t stay in them because he was too cheap. If they were owned by black people Chuck wouldn’t have stayed in them either.

Chuck Berry was so cheap he nearly chose to go to prison a third time rather than pay taxes. And he went to prison the second time for sleeping with – and traveling across state lines for immoral purposes – a 14-year-old girl. The first time Berry went to prison for carjacking a guy. (He was ahead of his time with carjacking) Chuck Berry was an oily scumbag and a pervert and I never did like his music. It was way too corny and pop-like. But this movie, and a great job by Mos Def, makes Berry truly likeable. No easy task. Oh, I’m being hard on the legendary Berry?

“Spy” magazine revealed how Chuck Berry had hidden cameras installed in the women’s bathroom in a sleazy roadhouse he owned so he could watch women going to the bathroom. Yuck. The real Chuck Berry was a totally emotionally ill immoral degenerate.

The movie makes no bones about the fact that Etta James was a hooker hired by Chess. (Cameo for Jack White as her pimp) Chess gave these artists their break. But, although he was not the devil, as some broke blues artists want you to believe, Chess was clearly no saint. But good job by Adrian Brody.

To my enduring shame, my buddy, Woody, and I walked in and out of a wildly under-publicized Muddy Waters concert attended one hot summer night by about six people at the Winnetka Park District skating rink. Why did we walk out? Because there were no girls there. Oh, the humanity.

One of the great myths of rock and roll is that it was built on the bones of horribly ripped off blues players. If it wasn’t for Chess Records the blues artists would have had no way to make albums in the first place. Prior to getting the radio stations to play “race” records, the only money these folks made was playing in dangerous South Side bars, mostly for drinks and tips.

And they talk about the exploited black artists struggling along traveling the South in the Chitlin circuit. Guess what? The Chitlin circuit is still thriving.

True, Willy Dixon successfully sued Led Zeppelin over the rights to one song, but most great bluesmen, like B.B. King, are openly grateful to the Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton for introducing their music to a younger white audience that would neither of heard about them nor purchased their records.

“Chicago Tribune” deceased columnist and violent drunk, Mike Royko, tried to rouse some free publicity when a poor old black grandmother came to him and said Eric Clapton stole her song “Give Me Strength” and recorded it on “461 Ocean Blvd” without her permission and with no compensation. It made for a great two or three columns for Royko and it would have been an even better story if it turned out to be even remotely true.

The press just loves to believe that rich evil white record producers and spoiled white musicians are stealing from poor sainted long-suffering black artists. The problem is it isn’t true.

Nobody told Muddy Waters to support many illegitimate kids and get divorced four times. Waters’s fortune went to alimony, not just Leonard Chess. Muddy Waters was a great man and a music pioneer, but, no matter how much “Cadillac Records” tried to make him one, Waters was no saint. Saints generally don’t repeatedly cheat on their wives.

Yes, the blues are the musical foundation of rock and roll, but so was Elvis Presley. And if you want to credit the great Muddy Waters and great Little Walter and that greasy little dirtbag, Chuck Berry, with inventing rock and roll, go ahead, they probably deserve it.

But you also have to give equal credit to Leonard Chess, the Beatles, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones.

What does the world need now? A really good Eric Clapton biopic. My choice for the title? “What’ll You Do When You Get Lonely?” Sadly, from his tragic childhood, to years of substance abuse and even now that he has found family and fortune and sobriety, loneliness is a rich vein running through Eric Clapton’s life. But it is what drove his music to such unbelievable heights.

And I vote for Orlando Bloom as E.C.

Blues songs you must own:

“Thrill is Gone” B.B. King

“Juke” and “Key to the Highway” Little Walter

“Good Morning Little School Girl” and “Chitlin Con Carne” Junior Wells.

“Help Me” Sonny Boy Williamson

“Scratch My Back” Slim Harpo.

“Boogie on Raggae Woman” Stevie Wonder (Yes, I know it’s not the blues, but the harp is amazing)

“Hoochie Coochie Man” "Mannish Child" Muddy Waters.

“Rambling on My Mind/Have You Ever Loved a Woman” Eric Clapton.
(This is a must for blues players because it takes those two songs through many key changes - about six or seven - and shows the effect that different keys have on the songs. Clapton calls out the key changes as they occur)