I’ve been pleasantly amazed by the great media and fan reaction to Alligator’s 40th anniversary and the double-disc Alligator Records 40th Anniversary Collection. For example, I was recently interviewed on NPR’s Weekend Edition, plus the Collection got a four-star review in Rolling Stone. I’ve appeared on dozens of radio shows both here and abroad, and we’ve been covered in blues publications worldwide. Perhaps the most satisfying tribute was in June, when the Chicago Blues Festival climaxed with a 90-minute Alligator all-star extravaganza. Lonnie Brooks, The Voodoo Daddy himself, and his crack band hosted guest appearances by Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater, Rick Estrin and Michael “Iron Man” Burks. Each artist delivered a peak performance. And to make things sweeter, Tom Marker of WXRT-FM made a surprise appearance in the middle of the show to present Lonnie, the senior member of our artist roster (on the label since 1978), with a proclamation naming June 12 as “Lonnie Brooks Day” in Chicago. Lonnie was overwhelmed and in tears. The set ended with all the artists plus Shemekia Copeland, who opened with songs from her recent Deluxe Edition album, leading the audience in (what else?) Sweet Home Chicago. I was a proud man.
In July the city gave Alligator an afternoon at Taste of Chicago for another anniversary show. This time we presented two groups — Chicago’s own Lil’ Ed & The Blues Imperials and the power-packed Dallas band of Smokin’ Joe Kubek & Bnois King. Guesting with them were three world-class Windy City bluesmen who aren’t currently Alligator artists but have plenty of history with the label – Eddie Shaw, Lurrie Bell and Maurice John Vaughn. With five hours of music, everyone stretched out and the musicians and audience had a great blues party.
By the time you read this, we will have launched our new, improved and updated web site at www.alligator.com. Now you can listen to samples of every song on the label, read more news, hear more full length songs on the jukebox and build your own customized Alligator jukebox. You can check out music, apparel, books, DVDs and much more in our user-friendlier store. Most important, if you are not on our email list, you can and should click the “JOIN” button and sign up. Why? Because that way you’ll hear about every gig by every Alligator artist that’s within reasonable distance of where you live, even if you live outside the USA. Plus, you’ll be offered discounts at our online store that are available only to our e-mail list.
We’ve had really great response from the fans to Tommy Castro Presents The Legendary Rhythm & Blues Revue—Live! They love that the album captures the good-time jamming spirit of the Legendary Blues Cruises and we’ve gotten praise for all the performances, including Tommy’s own and those by his guests — Michael “Iron Man” Burks, Janiva Magness, Rick Estrin, Joe Louis Walker, Debbie Davies, Trampled Under Foot and Theodis Ealey. With Tommy’s crack band behind them, the guests all step up and deliver their best. And now you can hear samples of just good they are on the Alligator web site!
Last time I was telling you about rehearsals for the debut album by Little Charlie & The Nightcats, back in 1986 when they were just a locally-popular band playing mostly in and around Sacramento. In those rehearsals in that drafty warehouse, the band had fire in their eyes. They knew this album could launch them on a national career path. By the time Justin Niebank, my regular engineer, arrived from Chicago and we headed down to the Music Annex studio in Menlo Park, California, they were ready. They had performed most of the songs many times on stage, and we had crafted and tightened up the arrangements for the new tunes. I always believe that the big decisions should be made in rehearsal, and the studio is for striving for the most exciting and passionate possible performance. If everyone is confident of their parts, then they can get loose and have fun in the studio like they do on stage. With all the intense rehearsals, the band hit the studio a bit nervous but absolutely prepared to (as Rick would say) “get all the way crazy.” Hey, that would make a good album title!
More next time,