The Delta: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: May 28th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

It is the sense of the place.

More so than the righteous music I’ve heard there on several trips down.

The Delta. Birthplace of the Blues. Which of course begat the rock & roll I love so much.

Two images from my first visit more than a quarter century gone still resonate.

A desolate crossroad of two gravel/ dirt roads with fields of scrubby early season cotton plants to the horizon in every direction. The lone highway marker, a rusted tilting pole, the sign reading Joe Noe Road.

Not far away, off Highway 61, in the middle of proverbial nowhere, a siding of 50-60 rusting rail cars, abandoned.

The Delta, ever bleak, haunts, it’s mysteries lurk. Land of cotton. Seemingly forgotten, yet daily interactions say old times there not.

The goal of that first trip with pals was a blues festival in Greenville, where BB King was to play, his first visit back to perform in a long while.

Along with way, we found Charlie Patton’s grave site, saw the cabin said to be where Muddy Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation, stood alone in the middle of road in front of the Hollywood in Robinsonville, one of the places where Robert Johnson “is from.” Read the rest of this entry »


JazzFest ’24: First Weekend +

Posted: May 4th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, New Orleans, Rock & Roll Rewind | 3 Comments »

I’m a lifelong rock & roller. I love JazzFest. Here’s my latest report.

But first a quick explanation why this is so late. And thanks to those loyal readers who have actually reached out and wondered what’s up and where is it? Stuff happens. Strange week. Car tsouris. Reacclimatizing to Ohio Valley sludge and the allergies it petri dishes. Gettin’ my daily grove back after overindulgence in New Orleans. Etc, etc. It’s been a Larry David kind of week.

But here goes:

It permeates as it were mist rising from the reeds under a full moon in Atchafalaya Swamp.

Fragrant as magnolia swelter.

Foreboding as the gators and snakes that lurk in the bayou.

Mysterious as cricket and dragonfly crackles from the mossy vines.

Mystical as a summer night in the swamp ever is.

Phantom mosquitos hover.

Atmospheric. Melancholy.

Of all the acts I heard during the opening weekend of New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 2024, none came close to cutting through like Dylan LeBlanc. Read the rest of this entry »


Favorite Derby Party Ever: R&R RePast

Posted: May 1st, 2024 | Filed under: Rock & Roll Rewind | 2 Comments »

I am a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

Derby parties. Derby concerts. I’ve been to a few.

When the two merge it can be really special.

The Derby Eve Jam used to be a big thing. May still be, don’t pay as much attention as I used to.

The first I remember from back in he day is Canned Heat at Louisville Downs. Also saw Emmylou Harris there, with some original Crickets in her band. Allman Brothers at Freedom Hall. Dwight Yoakum, I believe.

Plenty more, on Derby Eve mostly.

But my two all time favorites were on the day after, Derby Sunday. Read the rest of this entry »


Birds of Chicago: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: April 15th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another: 

There are many wondrous happenstances that can come when going to a concert.

One is learning the full effect of a performer you might have known only peripherally. A classic example for me is Tony Joe White.

Back in the day — I know it’s a hackneyed term, but describes that bygone era when you can’t pinpoint a year — there were several shows at Parkway Field. Which for the uninitiated is where a minor league ballpark used to sit next the Speed School by the Eastern Parkway overpass.

I heard MC5 there. Uriah Heep. Black Oak Arkansas, if memory serves.

At one of those shows, among the four acts was Tony Joe White. Whom I only knew from his singular hit, “Poke Salad Annie.” Only to be mesmerized by the deep voice and Swamp Rock chops.

He became one of my favorites. I was honored decades later to introduce him during the period when Waterfront Wednesdays would come inside during winter months at the Clifton Center.

Which venue was the site in 2014 of my favorite unknown discovery ever.

The blessing of a previously unknown act that rings my chimes to this day.

Opening for the Carolina Chocolate Drops was Birds of Chicago.

The Film Babe and sat there mesmerized, smitten from the get go. Read the rest of this entry »


Rock & Roll RePast: Beach Boys

Posted: March 22nd, 2024 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

Noticing that the Beach Boys — or so as now constituted they would call themselves — are playing a number of festivals this summer, including Bourbon & Beyond, I couldn’t help but be wryly bemused.

Their Endless Summer Gold Tour, I believe that’s what the fifty or so dates starting in April are dubbed, is also noted on the group’s website as “The Beach Boys/ Mike Love.”

Of course it is. Because the insufferable octogenarian Love is a fellow who once had the audacity (and apparent legal clout) to kick Brian Wilson out of the band after a short reunion earlier this century. Tsk tsk.

OK, there’s also Bruce Johnston, not an original member, but he did start subbing on tours for Brian Wilson in ’65, after the genius who was the creative centerpiece for the iconic American outfit suffered a “nervous breakdown.” Other than Love and him there’s just a bunch of fill ins this time around.

Dennis and Carl Wilson are both departed. Al Jardine has retired. Brian Wilson’s life long demons finally won him over, and it was announced earlier this year he has dementia.

All that travesty and sadness notwithstanding, under the mentorship and creative craftsmanship of Brian Wilson, the Beach Boys were the one and true seminal Great American Rock & Roll Band.

They both set and reflected teen zeitgeist in the mid 60s.

“If everybody had an ocean/ Across the USA/ Then everybody’d be surfing’/ Like Californi-a” Read the rest of this entry »


Richard Thompson: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: March 13th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | 1 Comment »

I’m a rock and roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

There was one thing that struck me immediately the first time I heard Richard Thompson live.

Which came in the 90s, well after Fairport Convention, well after his Richard and Linda Thompson days.

He was then performing solo most of the time, as I understand it.

What I noticed was how standing alone at the mic with an amplified acoustic guitar, outside at a festival with people moving about as happens in such situations, he totally commanded the situation and the attention of most.

Such is not an easy task.

Especially in the middle of the afternoon in front of 30,000 or so folks.

Of course, I was immediately smitten, because the first thing he said after his opening number was, Where else on earth would you rather be on this Thursday afternoon than in New Orleans at JazzFest?”

He had me at Where else on earth.”

That take charge presence can be attributed to a couple of things it seems.

First, just the nature of his charismatic personality. Then there are the tangibles. His deep resonant voice. His invigorating, powerful guitar stylings, where hed ring out the bass, rhythm and solos simultaneously. Read the rest of this entry »


Dread Zeppelin: Rock & Roll RePast

Posted: February 28th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

At its most astute, satire not only makes fun of the subject it is skewing, but it does so with a reverence and acknowledgment.

In rock & roll, the prime example of exacting, may I say perfect satire is Spinal Tap.

Not only do David St. Hubbins, Nigel Tufnel and Derek Smalls and whatever drummer has been able to make it through the day alive make iconic music, resonant of the Brit 70s rock scene, but they are oh so deftly managed by Sir Denis Eton-Hogg.

Director Marti DiBergi’s telling documentary of the band’s decline stands as the best ever about the music scene.

What rock fan of any worth has not referenced “Eleven. Exactly. One Louder” at some moment or another to make a point.

The flip side, for me anyway, of satire not working is Sha Na Na. Whom I always thought just made fun, did not show true respect for the early days of rock & roll.

All of which brings me to a very real, very good and oh so satirical group.

Dread Zeppelin. Read the rest of this entry »


Ellen McIlwaine: Rock & Roll Repast

Posted: February 15th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a Rock & Roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here’s another.

As is my tendency before I hit the hay, I was culling the interweb the other night, searching for some tuneage that would allow my head to rest more gently on the pillow.

When I came across Lake Street Dive vocalist Rachael Price’s sublime rendering of Steve Winwood’’s “Can’t Find My Way Home.” The original appeared on the only album of one and done “supergroup” Blind Faith.

Listening to Ms. Price I couldn’t help but think of the first time I heard that melancholy take of a cover of the tune. By the egregiously ignored Ellen McIlwaine. Read the rest of this entry »


Bluegrass on the Belvedere: R&R RePast

Posted: January 26th, 2024 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories, lots of stories. Here’s another.

Bluegrass music is not rock & roll. Though it’s certainly a part of it.

Elvis Presley’s first release had Father of Bluegrass Bill Monroe’s “Blue Moon of Kentucky” on one side, and blues master Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup’s “That’s All Right, Mama” on the flip.

There was plenty of cross-pollination through the years.

Byron Berline, once of member of The Cumberlands, played fiddle on the Stones’ “Honky Tonk Woman.” Jerry Garcia hooked up with Vassar Clements and former Bluegrass Boy Peter Rowan in Old and In The Way. Rowan ventured into rock in Seatrain. Banjo savant Earl Scruggs joined his sons in forming a rock band.

Sam Bush and Newgrass Revival covered Little Feat’s “Sailin’ Shoes.”

So let’s venture back to the halcyon days when the only urban bluegrass festival settled in on Louisville’s Belvedere. Read the rest of this entry »


Rock & Roll RePast: Solomon Burke @ the Zoo

Posted: January 11th, 2024 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind, Ruminations | No Comments »

Let’s consider Solomon Burke.

Though never as famous, the charismatic soul singer sits rightfully in the conversation of his more noted contemporaries. Otis Redding. James Brown. Sam Cooke. Wilson Pickett.

Always a man of considerable girth, even before the morbid obesity of his later years, he was ever entrepreneurial. On those extended Parade of Stars tours in the 50s and 60s, when performers would often get to towns where they couldn’t find eateries that would serve them, Burke cooked. Burke supplied sandwiches. For which eats legend has it, he would up the prices as the tour ground on.

He was banned from appearing at the Apollo for insisting that he control concession stands on the nights he performed.

His career never really waned, though he was never a big time headliner.

But he was thrust back into the mainstream spotlight in 2002 upon the acclaimed Fat Possum release of his Joe Henry-produced “Don’t Give Up on Me.” He won a Grammy.

I probably saw him on one of those tours in the 60s. Though, frankly, I have no specific remembrance.

I did hear him thrice in the 90s. I can’t give exact dates. Or the order.

Two were marvelous. He was always on, workin’ to make it work. Read the rest of this entry »


Astral Weeks Live at Hollywood Bowl: A Moment

Posted: December 30th, 2023 | Filed under: Music, Rock & Roll Rewind, Ruminations | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I’ve got lots of stories. Here’s another.

Sometimes the stars and planets just align.

Like November 7, 2008.

The tale begins a few months earlier. Before a David Byrne show at the Palace.

Newly betrothed, the Film Babe and I ran into some old pals, who are as musically obsessed as we.

To learn that Van Morrison would be performing the entirety of “Astral Weeks” live, for the first time ever. At the Hollywood Bowl a few months later.

My recent bride and I looked at each other and had the same thoughts.

Favorite singer. Favorite album. Bucket List venue.

Plus, we hadn’t yet had a chance to do any sort of honeymooning thing.

The cherry on the sundae came when we went online immediately upon getting home, to discover tickets were still available. In the 3d row. Read the rest of this entry »


Bands I Didn’t Hear Live: The Big Mea Culpa

Posted: December 18th, 2023 | Filed under: Culture, Music, Rock & Roll Rewind | No Comments »

I’m a rock & roll lifer. I got stories. Lots of stories. Here are more.

Given my annoying propensity to play rock & roll oneupsmanship at every opportunity, I’m often asked a question.

Are there any bands from back in the day you didn’t see live?

Of course there are. As loathe as I am to admit it.

My résumé has holes, some of my own making.

The one that stands out above the rest actually isn’t a concert but a lecture.

One night when I was at U of L, during Little Richard’s first exile from performing, he was giving a lecture at school. I had heard him perform previously, but this was an opportunity to experience one of the Founding Fathers up close and personal.

For some reason, dunderheaded in retrospect, I blew it off. To discover later, there weren’t but about a dozen people there, that he was very engaging and he spoke mostly about his religion, handed out bibles, but answered questions.

So that’s a major hole in my curriculum vitae. Read the rest of this entry »