Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Tribute to two music pioneers: James Cotton and Chuck Berry on Blues Moon Radio 3/21/2017

Tonight we will break into our Women's History Month programming to pay tribute to two music pioneers who passed away this week: James Cotton and Chuck Berry on this edition of Blues Moon Radio, with your host, Clair DeLune on WUSC-FM.
 6-8 p.m. ET/USA (usually -5 GMT) on 3/21/2017

James Cotton, Superharp:
Chicago Tribune's memorial column by the award winning writer Howard Reich began, "Admirers called him 'Superharp,' which was a bit of an understatement. The sheer lung power and technical virtuosity that Cotton brought to bear sometimes made you wonder if his tiny, hand-held instrument could withstand such force."

James Cotton, Charlie Musselwhite
& John Hammond; Durham NC 10/2014

Clair DeLune, photographer

Musicians and music fans alike mourn this powerful icon of the Blues who fought throat cancer and won, only to fall decades later at the age of 81. Cotton played long and hard, and rode with the greats, having traded places with Little Walter by leaving his own band, the Aces to play harp for Muddy Waters when the relationship between Walter and Waters got rocky.

He was warm and sweet offstage and as interested in knowing about you as you were about him. He shared hugs and kisses and CDs with me every time I saw him and even though he was unable to stand for long, he arose to greet me with a kiss the last time I saw him in 2015, during a memorable appearance in Durham NC with Charlie Musselwhite and John Hammond.

From Hawkeye Herman: musician, author, folklorist, educator and recipient of the Blues Foundation's Keeping the Blues Alive award:

"I first saw James Cotton perform in the 1970s when he was with Muddy Waters. I saw him perform with his own band numerous times over the years after he formed his own band. I was honored to have presented James Cotton with the Mississippi Valley Blues Society's RiverRoad Lifetime Achievement Award at their Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa in July of 2006. At that blues festival ceremony The Mayor of the City of Davenport also presented James Cotton with the Key to the City of Davenport. James Cotton was most appreciative in receiving these honors, and he expressed his deep gratitude to the Mayor and the thousands of fans gathered for the blues festival ... and to the joy of the crowd, he then proceeded to perform a superb set of his signature 'high compression' blues ...  in spite of the 100+ degree weather. I'll never forget the great James Cotton."
He touched so many lives. He will be dearly missed. Thank you, James Cotton for the indelible mark you left on Blues and in our blue, blue hearts.
Chuck Berry 1958
By Pickwick -
Billboard, page 59,
25 November 1972
Public Domain
Shortly afterwards, a Blues and Rock icon, Chuck Berry, left us [NBC News video obituary]. Berry laid one of the cornerstones of Rock 'n' Roll, along with musical architects like Little Richard. Chuck wrapped R&B around some country licks, sped it up and a particular style of music was born. Musicians who have played around the country with him are legion because Chuck knew how to make a dollar work. Instead of hiring and paying for travel for a touring band, he would often call in advance of a gig and ask for local musicians to learn his songs and back him. His music was familiar to most aspiring young musicians and he had little trouble filling the bandstand. He was the attraction and few, if any, were able to discern that the band was not his professional backing band, but a pickup group from their own home towns.

Berry was savvy in a number of ways and thankful for the "gift God gave" him to make music, starting out at a whopping $50 a night, which was more than a month's rent. He worked with myriads of well-known musicians and is remembered for his musicianship, his characteristic riffs and his trademark "duck walk," which he laughingly admitted he got by recovering from a fall onstage.

Last October, shortly after his 90th birthday, he said he was ready to release his first album in more than 35 years, simply entitled "
Chuck." It is due later this year.

Hawkeye Herman also shared his impressions of Chuck Berry with us today:
Charles Edward Anderson "Chuck" Berry, age 90 - b. 10/18/26, St. Louis, MO - d. 3/18/17, St. Charles, MO - A true pioneer & "founding father" of rock and roll. His music & memory will live on forever ... including eternally on tour extraterrestrially; as his song “Johnny B. Goode” is the only rock and roll song selected amongst the music that was placed on a golden record aboard the Voyager I spacecraft/space probe, launched in 1977, and forever awaiting discovery by 'civilizations' in deep space ... who it is surmised, upon hearing the music on that golden record, will contact Earth from deep space with the singular message; "Send more Chuck Berry!"
Personally, I give thanks for these music pioneers and am happy to have owned their records, seen them play and in the case of James Cotton, had the honor of being kissed on the cheek on numerous occasions by him.

We send each of these wonders to Blues Heaven with our love and thanks... let our musical tribute begin:
We'll finish out the show with our previously planned tribute to women in music.

Be well out there - sending love and comfort to everyone who knew these men - they are missed. We also - from another personal standpoint - dedicate the chicken songs to the charming and delightful Miss Pauline, who is ever in our hearts, on this anniversary week of her passing.
Clair DeLune and RockyDawg, Blues Defender,
reporting on a sad week in music history.


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