Dear Friends,

Just got back from San Francisco, where I was mixing a new album with an old favorite–Elvin Bishop! You old fogies (like me) will remember Elvin from the original Paul Butterfield Band or maybe his Capricorn Records in the ’70s.

Real Chicago buffs will know he came here at the age of 16 and learned from Little Smokey Smothers and played with Hound Dog Taylor before joining Butterfield. And Californians know that his live performances have been a treat for years. This will be Elvin’s “comeback” album and I think a great one. Slide guitar freaks, look out! Release will be around Sept. 1. But before that, you can get our new one by The Paladins, Maurice John Vaughn’s “Generic Blues” album, the Kenny Neal album I told you about last time, and one more–the Alligator debut by Tinsley Ellis.

Tinsley is the former leader of The Heartfixers, Atlanta’s #1 blues band. I didn’t hear much about them until their fine album with Nappy Brown on Landslide, so I made it a point to pick up “Cool On It,” the most recent Heartfixers’ LP (also on Landslide, and a good one, with a wonderful cover).

I mentioned liking it to a friend who works for Miller Beer (they sponsor a lot of good bands, including Lonnie Brooks, The Paladins, Little Charlie, Tinsley, Terrance Simien, etc. as well as being the big backer for a lot of blues festivals, so drink that Miller!!) and a few minutes later Tinsley called me. Turned out he was already working on a new album and sent me some knockout rough mixes. I flew down to see Tinsley at a little club in Atlanta and he’s a knockout live too. Anyway, the album is called “Georgia Blue” and it will be out shortly after you read this, so if you like hot blues guitar, pick this one up.

I think I’m about done with the saga of the Great Norwegian Train Wreck. We’re sure having a hell of a time getting the Alligator Story out of 1978! The day after the wreck I went to the U.S. embassy in Oslo and met with the Ambassador. He was incredibly helpful but we (the Son Seals Band and I) were under Norwegian law and couldn’t sue the national railroads. So Sonet Records, our licensing label over there, got us a hotshot lawyer and some free air tickets back home. Tony Gooden couldn’t be moved for ten days while his arm began to heal, so I stayed, committing daily to the embassy from the small town of Moss where Tony was hospitalized. The railroads, gave me a “ride free” pass, so I got to ride back and forth every day across the same section of track we had fallen off of! Eventually we got back to Chicago and the story got sadder from there. Tony never recovered use of his arm and couldn’t play drums again, or get another job. He moved from bad to worse ghetto apartment with his little family, living on disability. One day, he was moving into a new apartment and throwing some old junk furniture off a back porch into a dumpster. He leaned against the porch rail, it broke, and he fell three floors and died. We had a very modest funeral (Son and the band couldn’t come because they were on the road, and the family had no money, so I paid for it). Eventually, there was a settlement from the railroads for just the amount of money lost when*the tour was cancelled, and we were able to give some money to Tony’s wife. I miss him. When we were trying to get him a passport, Tony and I had to go down and locate his school records in some big old city building downtown with marble halls. While we were waiting, we stood out in the hall and sang doo-wop tunes. He took the bass parts and I sang falsetto lead. He had a beautiful voice.

More next time,