Some of you noticed that my letter/ad didn’t appear in the last issue of LIVING BLUES, nor did any other Alligator advertising. As you may have guessed, I was so furious about LB’s decision to “hold” my reply to Lawrence Hoffman’s defamatory article until he had a chance to respond to it (which he didn’t do) that I decided to “hold” my advertising by way of a protest.
Childish, perhaps, but considering the legitimate grievances of blues artists and writers who have been ripped off (see the letter from Carey Bell in this issue) I feel that LB showed very poor judgement in running the Hoffman piece with its ridiculous “ethical” questions about Alligator. Anyway, I’ve had my say and, as a co-founder of this magazine, I feel I must continue to support it.
I’ve just finished one of the most exciting months of my career. Starting at the end of February, Alligator put an “Alligator Records 20th Anniversary Tour” on the road. Kofco Taylor and Her Blues Machine, The Lonnie Brooks Blues Band, Elvin Bishop, Katie Webster and Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials piled into a 40-foot bus and hit the road, playing sixteen shows together in fifteen cities in eighteen days. It was like the old rhythm and blues revues—Alligator hired the bus and crew, printed the posters, hired the artists and did all the advertising and publicity. Almost all the dates were one-nighters, with the tour travelling every day, unloading the gear, setting the stage, putting on a four-hour blues extravaganza, packing up in the middle of the night and hitting the road early the next morning. It was grueling but exhilarating—each show ended with about fifteen musicians on stage and the audiences on their feet.
Two of the shows were taped for a possible album, and Bob Mugge, the acclaimed music film maker (“Deep Blues” among other films) shot the Philadelphia show as part of a documentary on Alligator that should appear on public television next year. I’ve always seen Alligator as more of a family than a business, and watching so many members of my “family” having a great time together for so many nights felt better than I could possibly describe. I especially enjoyed the jams—Katie and Lonnie duetting on “Lonely, Lonely Nights,” Elvin and Ed cutting loose on “Don’t Lie To Me,” and Koko and Lonnie teasing each other on “It’s A Dirty Job,” plus the final all-star “Sweet Home Chicago.” It was certainly a fitting climax to the first twenty years of Alligator, and a terrific incentive to make the next twenty years just as exciting as the first twenty.
We’ve had three new releases since I last wrote you—NO LOOKING BACK by Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown, TROUBLE TIME by Tinsley Ellis and SERIOUS INTENTIONS by William Clarke. I don’t think I need to tell LB readers anything about Gatemouth (if I do, you probably shouldn’t even be reading this magazine …you’re culturally deprived!). But if you haven’t yet discovered Tinsley or Bill, they’re among the finest bluesmen of their generation. Tinsley treads the ground where blues and rock meet. He’s a guitarist with as much fire as anyone recording today. TROUBLE TIME is his deepest, most passionate album yet. Bill is simply one of the greatest harp players around, plus a fine writer and singer. His music has that West Coast swing and a whole lot of soul. As both these guys tour constantly, I imagine a lot of you have seen them live, in which case you’re already sold on them and I have nothing more to say.
I haven’t left myself any space for reminiscing, so next time I’ll tell you about making Son Seals’ CHICAGO FIRE album. It was one of the most controversial records of Son’s controversial career.
More next time,