Big news! We just signed a deal for a brand new album by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. I’ve been a “Gate” fan for years, and it’s a thrill to finally sign him. Gate virtually invented a new style of Texas swing blues guitar, plus he’s a great fiddler, and on this album also plays piano and drums on a couple cuts. The album is called “Standing My Ground” and it will be out in late November. I honestly think it’s his best album of the ’80s. Of course, this isn’t Gate’s first Alligator album. A few years ago I compiled an album of some of the killer sides he cut for the French Black & Blue label in the mid-70s with some terrific American players. It’s called “Pressure Cooker” and it will be out on compact disc next year. “Standing My Ground” will be released on l.P, cassette and CD, like all. our new records.
Plus, I just finished cutting ten new songs with Koko Taylor! It’s so good to be recording Koko again. After her accident (almost two years ago) I wasn’t sure she would over be well enough to record again. Now she’s in great voice, plus she’s written three new songs for this album. Joining her for the sessions are Criss Johnson, the fine guitarist who played on her last two studio albums, “From The Heart of a Woman” and “Queen of the Blues,” Jerry Murphy, her regular road bassman, Ray “Killer” Allison on drums and a fine new-on-thc-scene keyboard man, Jim Dortch. We cut the “basics” in three VERY long (the sun was rising when we went home) nights at Streetervilie Studios over the last month, following endless rehearsals in lvoko’s basement. There’s still a lot of work to be done, including all the mixing, but I’m expecting a release date early next year. One of the many delights is a duet with Lonnie Brooks on a brand new song called “It’s A Dirty Job.” Lonnie and Koko are good friends, and the fun they had cutting together comes through loud and clear. Expect Koko and Lonnie to be touring together in 1990.
Also, we just signed another female blues act—Saffire, “The Uppity Blues Women,” an acoustic trio from Virginia who sing beautifully and play very well in a style that encompasses early country blues and the “classic blues” of the 1920s. This is something different for Alligator, and I’m pleased to step out of the “high energy electric blues” bag again, like we did this year with Charles Brown’s album. Resides that, I’m happy to have another quality female act on the label, along with Koko and Katie. Look out for those blues gals!
Last time I began telling you the story of the “Living Chicago Blues” series. But I realize that it’s very hard to explain the vastness of this undertaking. Back in 1977, we had only 12 albums out, most of them cut in two sessions and mixed in two more. I was contemplating nine recording sessions, almost half again my entire experience in the studio. Besides that, I wanted to release a 3-LP set, to be cut over several months, so virtually everything had to be paid for (musicians, studio, etc.) long before the records were even released. This required an outlay of money I could hardly even imagine, much less put my hands on. But I was determined that this series had to exist on records and not just in my imagination. Without much hope, I turned to our European licensee, Sonet Records (the company that leases our records for release in Europe and the UK). Somehow, I had to talk the boss, Dag Haeggqvist, a rather reserved Swede, into investing a lot of money into a project that existed only in my head. In fact, when we met at a little Peruvian restaurant in Chicago, I was so sure he’d say “no” that I didn’t even have an amount to ask for.
When he expressed some interest, I worked out the budget on a paper napkin. It came to the vast sum of $22,000, of which I was asking Sonet for half. To my amazement, Dag agreed immediately and we shook on the deal. It was the summer of 1977, and in honor of the event I invented the Alligator 7700 series. So you can thank Sonet for (ultimately) six fine albums.
More next time,