Seems like I’m virtually living in the studio, finishing our next releases before flying to California to mix the new live album by Little Charlie and the Nightcats. I’ve been working almost every night, often until 4 a.m., mixing the “Harp Attack” super session I told you about last time (as well as starting new albums with Lonnie Brooks and Maurice John Vaughn and preparing to reissue Nappy Brown’s “Tore Up” album that was originally on Landslide). “Harp Attack” is almost finished, and should be out a couple weeks after you read this. But we have a treat for you harp fans right now, a great new album just out this week. It’s called “Blowin’ Like Hell” and it’s by a giant (musically and physically) of West Coast harp, William Clarke. Bill came to me with these tapes a few months ago, and even though I had a very crowded release schedule this year, they were just too good to pass up. Bill did a great job with the production as well as the music. This is one you fans of swinging, powerful harp can’t miss! Trust me…this is one terrific bluesman.
Along with Bill’s album, we’ve just released GENUINE HOUSEROCKIN” MUSIC IV, our fourth budget sampler album. If you’ve missed any ’gators in the last 18 months, here’s a chance to check out a cut from almost all of them. We packed 74 minutes of music onto each cassette and CD. (Sorry, no vinyl on this one; we just couldn’t fit all the music.) A great deal of music, plus a great deal–suggested list prices are $4.98 for cassette and $7.98 for CD.
I spent all of iny last letter/ad talking about new releases, so I wanted to get back to telling you about finishing the first three volumes of the LIVING CHICAGO BLUES series. Although I had planned to release them in the summer of 1978, they were held up because Magic Slim got shot in the leg in a South Side bar (they weren’t aiming at him) and took a long time to heal, so I had to wait until he was well enough to record (but it was worth it for “Dirty Mother For You” alone). When I finally issued the records in early ’79 I was pretty scared–anthologies don’t usually sell very well and I had a whole lot of money and two years of work tied up in the project. But sales turned out better than I expected. The press was very nice to us (including a big piece in ROLLING STONE) and blues fans seemed happy to discover the depth of talent on the Chicago scene. Remember, new blues records were pretty rare at the time. For example, in eight years we at Alligator had only released thirteen albums with only seven different artists (and one, Albert Collins, not from Chicago). LIVING CHICAGO BLUES announced nine more world class Chicago blues artists in one fell swoop (ok, some of them had recorded before, but not for a long time or for even smaller labels than Alligator). For 1979, the LIVING CHICAGO BLUES series was a big deal. I hope it still is.
Of course, when the LCBs came out, everyone asked me “which artist will you be signing for a full album?” It was a tough decision, because I already had Son Seals, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and Fenton Robinson under contract, and with a company made up of just myself and two employees, I knew there was only space at Alligator for one new artist. I’d wanted to see which of the LCB artists came with the most original songs, could work with me in the studio, and had that special ability to convey live blues energy on vinyl. In the end, my choice for “most exciting artist for the future” had to go to Lonnie Brooks. He came with great songs (like “Two Headed Man”), his unique “bayou” style and, even though he was over 40, he had (and has) the energy of a kid. Lonnie and I shook hands and began planning the “Bayou Lightning” album.
After eleven years, Lonnie’s still on Alligator. Guess I made a good choice!
More next time.