Monday, 31 January 2011

STAR BLUES on 30th January 2011 at 22:00

In the wake of the revelation that Neil Jones’ name translates as “Rock God”, we just had a Chain and a white tee-shirt in answer. The armful of blues and a smidgeon of trivia saw us through the two hours of STAR BLUES in the merest trice.

Both links in our chain were written by Pomus and Shuman: the first for Elvis Presley but done for us by Ry Cooder as he was the closer to the last show. His “Bop Till You Drop” album in 1979 was the first entirely made using digital technology, something taken for granted these days. Our closer yesterday was “Lonely Avenue” that was a hit for Ray Charles at Atlantic in 1956. In truth we could have chosen any of dozens of great songs from one of the best writing partnerships known to man. As for next week, you’ll have to be with us at ten next Sunday…

It would have been Janis Joplin’s birthday during the week so we had good reason to go to her landmark “Pearl” album for “Move Over” – her voice still gets to those neck hairs. Our back to back feature went by way of Solomon Burke’s original of “Stupidity” to the version done by Dr. Feelgood in 1975 that gave them a number#1 album. The line-up of the band is one of just two lists of trivia that everyone should know: Big Figure, John B Sparks, Wilko Johnson & Lee Brilleaux. (BTW the other essential list is the 1966 England World Cup winning team).

Texan Lloyd Glenn decamped to California in 1947 and hooked up with T-Bone Walker and Lowell Fulson; he also did some sides under his own name for Swing Time, one instrumental - “Chica Boo” - got an outing last night in the feature “You Me and1001 Blues”. The playing influenced Ray Charles and got to number#1 in the R&B charts in 1951. Real shame that a quick Google only brings forth entries on John Glenn the astronaut. Better luck (but only just) when searching for the “Spirit of Memphis Quartet” who did a rousing gospel performance for us. The core three voices were in groups of 4 to 8 men at various times, I’ve made a note to find out more of their Duke and King recordings.

Diddling on the piano, Fats Domino, Dr John and Bob Hall (sadly one at a time, two from New Orleans and one from Blighty). Wizardry of the six string axe showed up in several guises from Guitar Shorty and Otis Grand through to Josh White, Big Bill Broonzy and Michael Roach. I managed to squeeze in the best harp solo in recorded blues from Walter Horton for Jimmy Rogers then it was all over leaving me wondering if that was really two hours. Your company was really appreciated you made me so welcome, I hope we can do it again next Sunday, until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you

Monday, 24 January 2011

STAR BLUES on 23rd January 2011 at 22:00

Blues for breakfast? According to a publicity mail-out I got last week, that's what exactly happened to Giles Robeson after his track got played by Paul Jones then Chris Evans. I can't promise the same take-up by our very own Slender Man on anything from yesterdays STAR BLUES but stranger things have happened...
The Chain feature has got real traction now with interest in what will top and tail the show to link one STAR BLUES to the next. Have a look at to see what the fuss is about. If you like the later work of Robert Plant you'll like the new album from Gregg Allman, its produced by T-Bone Burnett full of rootsy goodness. Earlier genius from Plant was provided by the sublime reading of "Gallows Pole" from Led Zeppelin III. Other new good things came from Henry Gray and James Hinds.
I did get on the soap box to bemoan the swift execution of the cd format having seen several clearance events in supermarkets and record stores this weekend. There'll soon be no way of browsing and finding unexpected treasures in music: everything will have to be done by download. And even at my advanced age my hearing is good enough to hear the drop in quality in the MP3 format... I speculated as to where you'd find Henry's or James' music to buy it if you didn't have time or resources to dig really deep (and I mean dig).
Joe Tex and Johnny Guitar Watson showed their blues creds last night, both had better financial gain from the Seventies disco boom. Claudette King is one of B. B. Kings daughters, she has a new album out and her dad followed with a real anger in his voice from his 1966 live go at "Gambler's Blues".
Jimmy Yancey turned up with some piano blues and the seven piece Gospel Clefs made their debut on the show even though the internet says they were a quartet. The afore-mentioned Giles Robeson did neat country blues harp on his instrumental "Solidor" and I can hear what impressed Paul and Chris. I'm just miffed we didn't get first dibs. Our chat on "You Me and 1001 Blues" featured Earl Hooker and how an instrumental of his got some lyrics and an indirect cover by Led Zeppelin on their first Atlantic album. There's a blog at and I'll be spending the next week looking for a link in our chain as well as conjuring up more mayhem, further tomfoolery and ironing another white tee-shirt. See how I get on next Sunday at ten pm, until then take care of yourselves and take care of yourselves.

Monday, 17 January 2011

STAR BLUES on 16th January 2011 at 22:00

Several other radio shows run a chain feature to link two tracks, as far as I know STAR BLUES is the only one that links two shows. So it was that Fleetwood Mac's "Need You Love So Bad" from 9th joined with Gary Moore's "The Blues Is Alright" at the top end of yesterdays show. Most folks got the connection that Gary Moore had had a minor hit with a cover of "Need Your Love So Bad".

Elsewhere legendary label owner, writer and producer Bobby Robinson has died so music in tribute was the order of the day. He knew how to record L-O-U-D so had great success with Elmore James, Wilbert Harrison, Tarheel Slim and Buster Brown - we went to the vaults of Fire, Fury, Enjoy and Red Robin for the hits. More sad news that Etta James is gravely ill and we remembered her at her imperious best in 1961 with her Argo single "Somethings Got a Hold Of Me". We found out about her status along with the squabble over her power of attorney being acted out. Better words on Chuck Berry and Aretha Franklin that recent health worries have eased.

Shemekia Copeland gets some props with a "Deluxe Edition" set that opens up the 40th anniversary celebrations of her label Alligator. Memphis Slim did us proud with his piano and Sister Rosetta Tharpe held down the gospel spot. Her recent documentary shown on BBC4 has put her box set into the top ten charts on Amazon ahead of Thin Lizzy. Our son - who is a fan of Linkin Park - watched her play guitar while his jaw was on the floor. Awesome is too small a word.

The second of our "1001" feature was Billy Boy Arnold's "I Wish You Would" without which there's be no Yardbirds or Eric Clapton? All that was left was a choice to "Chain" with the afore mentioned Gary Moore ...

Since Little Milton wrote "The Blues Is Alright" the closing chain had him on "We're Gonna Make It". All I need do is get a join with it at the start of next Sundays STAR BLUES at ten. How will I make out? - until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 10 January 2011

STAR BLUES on 9th January 2011 at 22:00

New Year, new white tee-shirts, new features. We try to make sure STAR BLUES is unlike any other by ensuring we cover the heritage of the music, its stories and the people. For the first time yesterday, I did a piece at half past ten called "You, Me and 1001 blues" - a bit like Sheherezade's 1001 tales but with a focus on the important songs and artists that don't often get in the mainstream. Muddy Waters' favourite guitarist in his band, Jimmy Rogers, was our man with his very first recording for Chess called "That's All Right". It became the piece that defined him and is an excellent example of Chicago blues purveyed by the Chess Brothers in the 1950s.

To show we haven't forgotten the rock guitar appreciators, Johnny Winter turned up with a previously unissued track to his "second Winter" album and Carlos Santana had Rob Thomas on vocals for a distinctive go at "Sunshine of Your Love". Hans Theesinck sung about "Katrina" and Canadian Ray Bonnevile rolled with the punches - his is an engaging mix of Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash and country blues. Eric Bibb wrote the traditional sounding "In My Fathers House" for the Deacons vocal group and for our gospel spot last night. The piano duties were covered by Sunnyland Slim who observed the "Devil Is a Busy Man" and Ann Rabson with her own song "Since You Been Gone". Now solo she is still at the top of her game.

The second new feature isn't a totally new idea (other radio shows do similar things);; the "Chain" will link the last song on each show to the first on the next show. So between now and Sunday night I need to find something to link with Fleetwood Mac's version of "Need Your Love So Bad". The only way to find out how I get on is to be there at ten pm (GMT) this upcoming Sunday. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.

Monday, 3 January 2011

STAR BLUES on 2nd January 2011at 22:00

My and my white tee-shirt wished you every happiness for the New Year last night and we brought along ten albums classified as "new" releases including something from a trio with an average age of 15 and what proved to be final recordings of Solomon Burke. Of which more later...

The big Red Book of Radio Rules says "thou shalt not start with an instrumental blues" and "Thou willst get the back timing right into the midnight news". Hey! a fifty percent compliance ain't bad because I started with Ronnie Earl's version of "Backstroke" by Albert Collins - and you need * BIG * gentleman's parts to even try to copy the Iceman. Eddie Burns and John Lee Hooker took us to Detroit pretty soon after with some timeless blues. The ladies made a strong showing too: Candye Kane's "Work What You Got", Big Maybelle's "Candy" and Lula Reed's original version of "Drown In My Own Tears" showed us how influential their craft has been in different styles of our music.

Flying the flag for the current crop of Canadian jumping blues is Sabrina Weeks and her band Swing Cat Bounce came along with an infectious piece that was audibly as much fun to record as it was to play. It was their first outing in the collection, not the last I'll be bound. Going back to 1983 - also in Canada - Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert King came together for a tv special. The music has been out before on a 1999 cd but this new year sees a reissue with the accompanying video footage. We caught them sparring on Stevie Ray's "Pride and Joy" last night.

Electro-Fi have put out some of Mel Browns unissued sides with his wife, Miss Angel, finishing off some pieces with her lyrics like "Blues In The Alley". The same label has I believe just done a raw in the studio project on Paul Oscher that I've not heard yet, in anticipation I put something from his "alone with the blues" album into out list - it showed why he twice held down the harp player spot in Muddy Waters band. It says so in Gary Blue's Almanac and it also lists major award winners. Sure to go from nominated to winner anytime soon is the Homemade Jamz Band (ages 18, 16, 12) their "Burned Down the House" is an astonishingly confident performance by the three brothers and sister (dad does a bit of harp) - underpinned by a brutal, wicked kick-drum beat from the girl not yet in her teens.

Biggest shock of last October was the sudden death of Solomon Burke at Amsterdam Schipol airport on his way to do some gigs promoting the album "Hold On Tight" just done with the band called de Dijk. That album is now out and it just underscored how powerful and consistent Burke had been from his very first recordings through to these final ones.

Songs for Eric Clapton's newest album were chosen in the wake of his very serious gall-stone problems; his mortality meant he went back to the music of his parents era. He does (in my opinion at least) these days need a great player to inspire him, like Kim Wilson's harp on the go at Little Walter's "Can't Hold Out Much Longer" that closed proceedings.

As is the STAR BLUES custom, the calculations for the news break worked out ok - just don't tell anyone about the instrumental opener (our secret ok?). I'm planning a couple of new features that I'll tell you about next Sunday at 10pm (GMT) - I hope you can come along. Until then take care of yourselves and take care of those that take care of you.