Dave Bartholomew, A Father Of Rock And Roll, Dead At 100 ~ NPR

Dave Bartholomew, the New Orleans trumpeter, songwriter, bandleader, producer and arranger, has died; his son, Don Bartholomew, confirmed the news to NPR. He was 100.

 

Best known for collaborating on an extraordinary string of hits with Fats Domino between 1949 and 1963 – amassing more than one hundred entries on the pop and R&B charts during that span of time – Bartholomew was one of the primary architects of the sound now known as rock and roll.

David Louis Bartholomew was born on Christmas Eve 1918 in Edgard, La., the seat of St. John the Baptist Parish, located about forty miles northwest of New Orleans proper. Some of the first live music Bartholomew heard came from the bands aboard showboats that docked at Caire’s Landing in Edgard, as they steamed up and down the Mississippi River. But there was plenty of music at home, too: His father, Louis, was a bass and tuba player who performed with jazz clarinetist Willie Humphrey. In the 2016 documentary The Big Beat: Fats Domino and the Birth of Rock n’Roll, Bartholomew recalled gathering with friends and relatives around his neighborhood’s single radio to listen to Louis Armstrong, with whom he’d soon share a formative city, after his father moved the family to New Orleans while Dave was still a child, opening a barbershop in the uptown part of the city.

According to John Broven’s 1974 history Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans, local jazz bands would advertise upcoming gigs by playing on the backs of flatbed trucks that cruised through the streets; young Dave was among the gaggle of neighborhood kids who would trail along after, listening to songs like “Tiger Rag” and “Milneburg Joys.” It was hearing Armstrong’s recordings that made him choose the trumpet as his instrument — and in fact, one of his first music teachers was Peter Davis, the band instructor who changed Armstrong’s life by introducing him to the cornet when the young star was incarcerated at the Colored Waif’s Home in 1913. It was a perfect synchronicity: Bartholomew would become as important to the evolution of rock and roll as Armstrong was to jazz.

By time he was a teenager in the ’30s, Dave and his horn were landing gigs playing traditional jazz, in bands led by Oscar “Papa” Celestin and Joe Robichaux. In pianist Fats Pichon’s ensemble, he performed on the riverboat Capitol, riding upriver all the way to St. Paul and back again to New Orleans. It was that gig, he told UPI reporter John Swenson in 1988, at his induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame, that taught him how to lead a band; when Pichon took a solo gig in 1941, Bartholomew took over until he was drafted into the Army in 1942, where he learned to write and arrange music in an Army band.

Impresario Lew Chudd was one of the wheeling-and-dealing “record men” who emerged on the new frontier of the independent recording industry after World War II. His Los Angeles-based label, Imperial Records, was only a couple of years old when he caught Dave Bartholomew’s band for the first time at the hot Houston nightspot the Bronze Peacock. It was their sound that inspired Chudd to start looking for rhythm and blues talent in New Orleans to record for Imperial, and in Dave, he found a valuable partner. New Jersey-based DeLuxe Records had been the first of the indies to mine New Orleans for its deep vein of talent after the war; Dave had had a hit recording “Country Boy” for them, and had scouted more likely acts for the label. In 1949, he signed on to do the same for Imperial. One of the very first acts he took Chudd to see, in a Ninth Ward nightclub called the Hideaway, was a promising young pianist called Antoine “Fats” Domino, Jr. Fats and Dave had a hit right out of the gate for Imperial with “The Fat Man,” a reworking of the prewar piano blues “Junker’s Blues.” The record spent three weeks in the top ten of Billboard’s R&B chart, heralding what would be almost 15 years of hitmaking for the pair – and, with its pounding rhythm, a new sound called rock and roll.

“The Fat Man” was recorded in the back of recent Tulane dropout Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Music Shop on Rampart and Dumaine, a jukebox and coin-operated machine business that had gradually morphed into a record store and then a studio. J&M was poised to become ground zero for the evolution of rock and roll, and Dave Bartholomew was no small part of that. His band became the house ensemble at J&M, backing a laundry list of early rock and R&B greats, including Lloyd Price, Earl King, Smiley Lewis, T-Bone Walker, Frankie Ford, Roy Brown and countless others. Members of the studio band backed Little Richard on the piano-pounder’s career-defining 1954 New Orleans sessions for Specialty Records; in Rhythm & Blues in New Orleans, Dr. John opined that “it was the New Orleans sound that got Little Richard across.”

Dave, who also broadcast a radio program out of the record shop for the local station WJMR, served as in-house producer, arranger and writer for J&M, developing a reputation as a tough and exacting taskmaster – while, as the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame wrote in its official bio, “shaping the rhythmic orientation of that city into a sound everyone would come to know and love as rock and roll.”

Bartholomew was inducted into the Rock Hall as a non-performer in 1991, five years after his protégé and partner Fats Domino joined its initial class of honorees. In 2010, the Rock Hall dedicated its annual American Music Masters celebration to both men, the first time it had so acknowledged a creative collaboration of that nature. But the “non-performer” label had stung, Bartholomew told UPI’s Swenson back in ’88 – and perhaps for good reason. His legacy as a musician and bandleader was inextricable from his influence as an architect of American music. In the late ’40s “the Dave Bartholomew Band was the band in the city as far as rhythm and blues was concerned,” sax player Alvin “Red” Tyler explained to Broven.

It’s true that by the time rock and roll was here to stay, Bartholomew was too busy writing and producing to work much with his own horn. “He had reached a level that other people wouldn’t call Dave up and say ‘Hey, man, do you want to make up a session?’ ” Tyler told Broven. “…because he would probably say ‘No, man, I don’t have time.’ ” But the sides he did record for himself in the ’50s were masterful and diverse, from the clattering Caribbean rhythms of “Shrimp and Gumbo” to the goofy novelty “My Ding-A-Ling” (which Chuck Berry unearthed for a 1972 hit) to the singular grinding blues “The Monkey Speaks His Mind,” a strange fable that questions whether humans, with all their sin, are truly superior among the primates, and which showcases his bellowing, stentorian baritone. (Elvis Costello paid tribute to the tune on his 2004 album The Delivery Man, name-checking Bartholomew on the track “Monkey to Man.”)

Ears open and eye perennially on the bottom line, Bartholomew, who appeared in his first rap video – a song called “Born in the Country,” a collaboration with his son, New Orleans hip-hop producer Don B and grandson, the rapper Supa Dezzy – in 2011, stayed up to date on the successes of New Orleans artists well into the 21st century, no matter the genre. During an interview on New Orleans’ community radio station WWOZ in 2008, the DJ attempted to flatter him – misguidedly, as it turned out – by suggesting that the latest generation of local stars, like Lil Wayne, didn’t measure up to the work of Bartholomew’s generation. Listeners could practically hear Bartholomew’s eyes widen in disdain as he informed the jockey that his fellow New Orleanian had sold millions of copies; he knew exactly how many singles the younger artist had on the Billboard charts that very week.

On ‘Africa Speaks,’ Santana Finds a Worthy Partner in Buika

 

merlin_156998208_ae4319f0-f701-45b7-b11f-b172b39f9160-jumbo.jpg

Credit Debra L Rothenberg/Getty Images

By Jon Pareles

The call was completely unexpected. It was Concha Buika’s manager on the phone to say that Carlos Santana had invited her to work on the album he was making. “I was like, no!” Buika recalled by telephone from her home in Miami. “I was so nervous and so excited. I couldn’t believe it.”

Buika is a multilingual singer and songwriter from Spain who has fused flamenco, jazz, rock, African and Afro-Caribbean rhythms and more. She won a Latin Grammy in 2010 for the album “El ÚltimoTrago,” a collaboration with the Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés, revisiting rancheras from the Mexican singer Chavela Vargas. (Although Buika and the Santana band have done a few performances together, they are touring separately this summer. Buika is performing at Central Park SummerStage on Sunday.)

Buika expected to be a guest vocalist, for perhaps a song or two, on an album filled with other guests and would-be pop hits, along the lines of Santana’s 1999 blockbuster “Supernatural,” which has sold more than 15 million copies in the United States alone. (On tour this year, Santana is celebrating that album’s 20th anniversary and the 50th anniversary of his barn-burning Woodstock set.) Instead, Buika became the singer and co-writer of every song on “Africa Speaks,” Santana’s new album.

 

Satchmo In His Adolescence: 1915 Film Clip May Show Young Louis Armstrong

March 1950: Louis Armstrong plays trumpet in his dressing room before a show in New York.

AFP/Getty Images

 

Louis Armstrong has served as the focus of many works of literature. Now, a few seconds of old film that appear to feature Armstrong as a teenage boy have captivated jazz journalist James Karst. If Karst’s theory is correct, the clip from 1915 shows Armstrong at a turning point in his early life — years before he became famous and eventually legendary around the world.

Karst tells NPR’s Scott Simon that he stumbled upon the alleged clip of Armstrong on the Getty Images website. For the first beat of the eight-second clip, apparently taken from a newsreel, pedestrians cross a busy New Orleans street in 1915. Then, the boy who Karst suspects to be a 13 or 14-year-old Armstrong enters the shot.

“A couple of seconds into this film clip, a newsboy walks into the scene,” Karst describes. “His back is facing the camera at first. And then he turns around, and you can see that he’s holding a newspaper — what I believe to be the New Orleans Item, an afternoon paper. And he briefly engages the camera, smiles and then he turns around and keeps going.”

When Karst saw the clip, its possible significance occurred to him instantly. “I saw it and immediately recognized that Louis Armstrong, when he was a young man in this very year, was a newsboy in New Orleans, and was one of, apparently, relatively few black newsboys in New Orleans in this location,” he says. Karst immediately set out to determine whether or not this newsboy was in fact Armstrong. 

YouTube

From there, Karst got to work piecing together bits of evidence to support his hunch. He reached out to Dr. Kurt Luther, a professor at Virginia Tech University known for his work identifying people in Civil War-era photographs, for advice, and compared the facial features of the boy in the video to those seen in the earliest known images of Armstrong. Karst also accessed census records to verify the small number of black newsboys on the New Orleans records at the time the film was taken.

At the time, Karst says, Armstrong would have recently been released from a boys’ reformatory where he had been sent for shooting a pistol into the air — this reformatory is also where Armstrong played in the marching band and received his first formal music instruction. As Karst says, after coming out of the reformatory in June of 1914, Armstrong found work as a newsboy to help support his family, who lived in poverty.

Karst says he’s been surprised to find that others largely accept his suggestion, which was published in a magazine of the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities. “I fully expected people to try to pick it apart.”

According to Karst, there is one evident clue on the boy’s face in the clip: “The beautiful Louis Armstrong smile that later became famous.”

For Santana, ‘Africa Speaks’ Album Is About ‘Manifesting Divine Voodoo’

“Everything’s new to me, with purity and innocence,” Carlos Santana says. “It’s all in how your heart perceives things.”

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

 

 

In 1969, Carlos Santana and his band walked onto the stage at the legendary Woodstock Music Festival, as unknowns. “We had the element of surprise because nobody knew us.”

Now, 50 years later, Santana operates more like a legend. But even with a genre-hopping discography and 10 Grammys to his name, Santana still approaches music making and performing with the wide-eyed vigor and vitality of a newcomer. “I’m 71, but I swear to you, if you come to see our band. you wouldn’t believe just how much energy and vibrancy is flowing out of our bodies,” he says.

For his latest album, Africa Speaks, Santana leaned heavily into his curiosity surrounding the “sounds of Africa.” Lyrics on the 11-track project are sung in English, Spanish and Yoruba and feature vocalist Buika, who hails from the Spanish island of Mallorca.

Santana spoke with NPR’s Ari Shapiro about his rapid work schedule — he recorded 49 songs in 10 days for the album — his many collaborators on Africa Speaks and his constant thirst for musical discovery. Listen to the conversation at the audio link and read on for interview highlights, including some that didn’t make the broadcast.


Interview Highlights

On channeling the sounds of Africa

I turned to the “wa.” I learned a long time ago, when I went to Ghana, the women showed me where the “wa” was. They said, “Santana!” And I turned around. It was, you know, maybe five women, and they go: “Hey, na na na Wa!”

And while they were doing that, they were opening their hands, like they have something. And they showed me that every music in the world must have the “wa.” Without the “wa,” … See, music has the capacity to transport you beyond time and outside of gravity. If you visit the “wa” correctly.

On working with Buika and Rick Rubin for the first time

When I hear Nina Simone and Etta James and Tina Turner, Buika is that frequency. Yet, she doesn’t sound like them. But she’s got the same raw sincerity and honesty.

Cindy [Blackman Santana] and I, we were in New Zealand and Australia on a tour. Buika came in for a week at [Rick Rubin’s] Shangri-La Studio. And she told me when she heard the music, she was compelled to go on and create lyrics and melodies, things she’d never done before. She held my hands and she started crying, “Maestro, I’ve never done anything like this. Thank you for inviting me to be part of this. You don’t even have to pay me. Oh, my God.”

Carlos Santana with Africa Speaks vocalist Buika.

Ethan Miller/Getty Images

 

And so, I realized that Buika, Rick Rubin, the band, Cindy, myself — you know, we were driven to create this particular epic event.

Trust is thrust. They trust me. My band trusts me. Rick trusted me. My wife trusts me. Buika trusted me. And I trusted the spirit. So we created this spiritual attraction.

On recording songs for Africa Speaks quickly

Everything that we played on this album is pretty much like creating nutrients and ingredients for a divine spell. A divine conjuring and manifesting divine voodoo. It’s the same thing when people get really passionate and they make love. When they get to that point, they say, “Oh, my God.” Same thing.

On remaining musically curious

A long time ago, I heard someone say that in the Bible, it said that nothing was new under the sun. And I said, “Whoever wrote that has a crooked and twisted mind.” Everything’s new to me, with purity and innocence. Every second. It’s all in how your heart perceives things, to create fresh, new. But you must have a consistent thirst to remain with innocence.

New Documentary ‘Blue Note: Beyond The Notes’ Surpasses Its Purpose

Blue Note Records: Beyond the Notes, a stylish and engaging new documentary by Sophie Huber, opens in the recording studio, with a top-tier crew of modern jazz musicians going about their business. From his station behind a keyboard rig, Robert Glasper calls out ideas for an arrangement; Ambrose Akinmusire’s trumpet, warming up, can be heard in the background. An establishing shot introduces Don Was, the musical polymath serving as Blue Note’s president, as a hipster Buddha in the control booth.

As Was explains to the camera, we’re watching a session for the Blue Note All-Stars, a group with an obvious name and celebratory purpose, having originally been assembled in commemoration of the label’s 75th anniversary. That was five years ago. Now, the pacesetting jazz label is celebrating its 80th, and among its related promotions and corporate tie-ins — vinyl reissues, branded playlists, album-cover art prints, a limited-edition watch — is this film.

To the credit of Huber — a Swiss-born filmmaker whose previous effort was Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction, a profile of the renowned character actor — any misgivings you may have about the corporate self-promotion of the project are quickly disarmed. With a brief collage of artist voices, a few larger ideas are introduced, if not fully fleshed out: how a reverence for the past can cohabit with a compulsion to push forward; how the legacy of the label contains an inherent call to innovation; how the artistic imperative impels a response to the human condition. “Those artists reflect the times, and what’s going on,” saxophonist Marcus Strickland attests. “As soon as I put on the record, I’m just transported to a certain time or a certain feeling or a certain understanding of the world.”

The endless dialogue between music and culture is Huber’s prevailing theme, and it helps lift Blue Note: Beyond the Notes above an exercise in image-burnishing for the label. The film hits its marks as a history — moving neatly through the story of German immigrants Alfred Lion and Francis Wolff, whose shared affinities for jazz led them to establish Blue Note on a shoestring. Their voices are heard in old radio footage; the storied recording engineer Rudy Van Gelder, who died in 2016, appears onscreen in what must have been one of his last interviews. Other signposts — like the label’s unexpected foray into hit records in the’60s, and the pressure it put on Lion to sell to a corporate parent — are efficiently covered.

Huber and her editor, Russell Greene, keep the pace brisk and the visual language fluid. Blue Note had a peerless cover-art aesthetic, thanks to designer Reid Miles, and the film expertly plays on that legacy — often lingering on one of Wolff’s atmospheric photographs, cropping a selection of the image as Reid Miles did, and revealing how it became the basis of an album cover. Importantly, the film is scored with no less care, as a colorful tapestry of sounds from the Blue Note catalog, heavy on Art Blakey and Lee Morgan, Bud Powell and Thelonious Monk.

The film has a sort of elder’s council in saxophonist Wayne Shorter and pianist Herbie Hancock, who made some of the most enduring albums in the Blue Note catalog during the 1960s. Both musicians are featured in the studio with the Blue Note All-Stars; the phrase “beyond the notes” actually appears in an admiring assessment of Hancock, by guitarist Lionel Loueke. (There’s a leisurely, intoxicating section devoted to the tracking of “Masqualero,” which Hancock and Shorter first recorded in the Miles Davis Quintet; Shorter explains how he had been inspired by the mysterious customs of the Mescalero tribe in New Mexico, “and things that we didn’t understand about them and ourselves.”)

Ma Rainey, the ‘Mother of the Blues’

With her unapologetic lyrics, Rainey proudly proclaimed her bisexuality and helped to mainstream black female narratives in a musical style that later became a nationwide craze.

Ma Rainey around 1923. Often called the “Mother of the Blues,” she developed a reputation for her energizing, straight-talking performances and full-throated vocals even before the blues became a nationwide craze. Credit Donaldson Collection/Getty Images

 

By Giovanni Russonello

 

Ma Rainey did not make the first blues recording; that distinction belongs to Mamie Smith, the vaudevillian who recorded “Crazy Blues” in 1920. And Rainey did not achieve the monumental acclaim of Bessie Smith, her mentee and, later, friendly rival.

But it’s possible that neither of these figures would have sung the way they did without the influence of Rainey.

Often called the “Mother of the Blues,” she was the first entertainer to successfully bridge the divide between vaudeville — the cabaret-style shows that developed out of minstrelsy in the mid-1800s, and catered largely to white audiences — and authentic black Southern folk expression.

Even before the recording industry took off in the 1920s and the blues became a nationwide craze, she had developed a national reputation for her energizing, straight-talking performances and full-throated vocals. As the biographer Sandra Lieb observed in “Mother of the Blues: A Study of Ma Rainey” (1983), by combining a black folk style with techniques learned on the vaudeville stage, Rainey “offered to whites a glimpse into black culture far less obscured by white expectations, and offered to blacks a more direct affirmation” of their cultural power.

In the process, Rainey helped to mainstream narratives of black female autonomy that had little to do with the Victorian norms of white society. Partly that meant speaking candidly about her attraction to women as well as men. In “Prove It on Me Blues,”accompanied by a jug band, she sings defiantly:

Went out last night with a crowd of my friends.

They must’ve been women, ‘cause I don’t like no men.

It’s true I wear a collar and a tie,

Makes the wind blow all the while.

Don’t you say I do it, ain’t nobody caught me.

You sure got to prove it on me.

A Georgia native, Rainey began her career on the tent-show circuit, traveling with performance troupes that set up their own stages in towns across the South and Midwest, honing her own gregarious brew of music, comedy and social commentary.

The characters in Rainey’s songs rarely allowed themselves to become dependent on a male partner, or any agent of the law. “Far more typical,” the scholar and activist Angela Davis wrote in the book “Blues Legacies and Black Feminism” (1998), “are songs in which women explicitly celebrate their right to conduct themselves as expansively and even as undesirably as men.”

In Rainey’s blues — many of which she wrote herself — even the most jilted narrator was unlikely to fall into despair. In “Oh Papa Blues,” after detailing her grievances against a neglectful lover, Rainey turns on a dime, steeling herself to exact revenge.

Oh, papa, think when you away from home

You just don’t want me now, wait and see

You’ll find some other man makin’ love to me, now

Papa, papa, you ain’t got no mama now.

With a mouthful of gold teeth, richly dark skin and flashy jewelry dangling about her, Rainey cast a striking figure, with a ruggedly powerful voice and lavish stage presence to match.

“When she started singing, the gold in her teeth would sparkle,” the pianist and composer Thomas A. Dorsey, who was the musical director on some of her best-known recordings, wrote in his unpublished memoirs.

“She was in the spotlight,” he added. “She possessed listeners; they swayed, they rocked, they moaned and groaned, as they felt the blues with her.”

Carlos Santana Brings Hope, Courage And Joy To A World ‘Infected With Fear’

Carlos Santana is arguably one of the most influential guitarists of the last 50 years — from his groundbreaking performance at Woodstock to his millions of albums sold in the ’70s to his revival in the late ’90s thanks to the album Supernatural and its lead single “Smooth.” Santana’s latest album is called Africa Speaks, which just came out on June 7. It’s produced by Rick Rubin and features the vocals of Spanish singer Buika. He recorded 49 songs in 10 days for the album. Talk about your creative inspiration.

When asked why he needed to make this record, Santana explained, “This world right now is so infected with fear that we need this music from Africa to bring hope and courage and joy.”

In this session, Santana will talk about the story behind the song “Smooth,” from the multi-platinum album Supernatural which came out 20 years ago. And speaking of anniversaries, on the eve of Woodstock’s 50th, he recalls his legendary performance began with a prayer of sorts: “God, please help me to stay in tune and in time. And I’ll never do this ever again. I’ll never take mescaline or acid or whatever again.”

In addition, we’ve got some great live performances for you to hear from a concert he performed in Las Vegas in May with Buika. But first, we start off with the title track that opens Santana’s latest studio album. Hear it all in the player.

~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

 

Bob Dylan’s Glam Hootenanny: Returning to Rolling Thunder ~ NYT

Dylan’s 1975 tour was his most peculiar: nostalgic, theatrical, fiery.

Bob Dylan’s 1975 tour, the Rolling Thunder Revue, pulled together mentors and peers for a bizarre trek through off-the-beaten-path performances spaces across the U.S. and Canada. Credit Ken Regan, via Netflix

 

How distant the mid-1970s seem now. They were unkempt, hairy, hedonistic, improvisational, analog, inefficient — anything but neatly calculated and Instagram-ready. Post-psychedelic and pre-AIDS, they were a continuation of the idealistic, natural 1960s, yet they were also an immediate precursor to the polymorphous, synthetic, role-playing disco era. The bitterness of Vietnam and Watergate lingered; hippie utopianism was giving way to a more selfish search for individual satisfaction. Things were still scruffy, but not quite so communal.

The Rolling Thunder Revue, concocted by Bob Dylan, was precisely a manifestation of its era. Starting in Plymouth, Mass., where the colonial Pilgrims landed, it wandered the northeastern United States and Canada from fall into winter of 1975: a brief peregrination. In Dylan’s public career, which is now well into its sixth decade, it stands as his most peculiar tour of all.

Two new projects revisit the Rolling Thunder Revue in extensive detail. “The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings” is a 14-CD, 148-track boxed set of music from the tour’s rehearsals and performances, vastly expanding the two dozen songs released on a 2002 collection, “The Bootleg Series Volume 5: Bob Dylan Live 1975, The Rolling Thunder Revue.” And on June 12, Netflix premieres “Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese.” It’s a not-quite-documentary that mixes 1975 tour footage (which was shot for the 1978 film “Renaldo and Clara”) and latter-day interviews with Dylan, Joan Baez and other Rolling Thunder participants, along with some fictional characters.

“The Rolling Thunder Revue: The 1975 Live Recordings” is a 14-CD boxed set capturing Dylan’s own appearances on the tour, from rehearsals to shows and rarities.

 

Both the boxed set and the film sprawl proudly and unpredictably, just as the Revue itself did. And both projects traffic in revelation and put-on, sometimes simultaneously. Onstage in 1975, introducing a then-new song called “Isis” that traces improbable adventures, Dylan claimed, “This is a true story. Actually, they’re all true.”

The Revue’s initial plan was to play spur-of-the-moment, out-of-the-way bookings — a Mah-jongg parlor, a Native American reservation — and shows at small halls that were announced on short notice, with printed fliers and radio ads: no internet then. (For a second, more conventional tour in 1976, the Revue outgrew that approach; both the boxed set and film stick to the initial Revue.) The concerts themselves rambled through their multi-performer bills, often stretching to three or four hours, taking on local guests at whim.

Someday there ought to be a reissue of a full-length, single-night Rolling Thunder Revue concert recording, opening acts and all. The new box is not that. It collects only Dylan’s own appearances — rehearsals, five professionally recorded shows and a final disc of rarities and outliers, like the piano-pounding “Simple Twist of Fate” recorded at the Mah-jongg Parlor in Falmouth, Mass.

The Revue presented itself as an informal hootenanny, but it was a self-conscious one. With a film crew in tow, the shows were also intended to provide material for the amorphous “Renaldo and Clara,” a film that ran nearly four hours when it was released in 1978 and met with near-universal derision. With a script credited to Dylan and the playwright Sam Shepard, “Renaldo and Clara” jumbled documentary and staged scenes, and it scrambled identities; Dylan is billed as Renaldo while the rockabilly singer Ronnie Hawkins plays “Bob Dylan.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In ‘Rolling Thunder Revue,’ Scorsese Tries to Capture a Wild Dylan Tour ~ NYT

 

The director Martin Scorsese mixes fiction and documentary to match the anarchic spirit of the 1975 concerts themselves.

Bob Dylan in a scene from the documentary. Credit Ken Regan, via Legacy Recordings

 

By Alan Light

 

Throughout “Rolling Thunder Revue,” the new film by Martin Scorsese chronicling Bob Dylan’s celebrated barnstorming tour in the fall of 1975, the participants struggle with how best to describe the event. It was like a “con man, carny, medicine show of old,” says Allen Ginsberg; “a circus atmosphere, dog and pony show,” says Sam Shepard; “an experiment in communal existence,” says Joni Mitchell.

 

In the movie, in theaters and on Netflix this week, Dylan himself starts to explain, saying that he wanted to do something “in the traditional form of a revue,” before cutting himself off.

“I don’t have a clue,” he says. “It’s about nothing, it’s just something that happened 40 years ago. I don’t remember a thing about Rolling Thunder — it happened so long ago, I wasn’t even born.”

This unexpected response sets the tone for an unconventional film about an unprecedented tour. The year before, Dylan had returned to the road for the first time in nearly a decade, accompanied by the Band for a series of concerts that broke ticket-sales records but proved musically unsatisfying. In his autobiography, Levon Helm of the Band wrote that the tour “was damn good for our pocketbooks, but it just wasn’t a very passionate trip for any of us.”

Dylan returned to Greenwich Village and started turning up at clubs, seeking out the sense of musical adventure and community that had initially drawn him to New York City. He assembled a new band of young unknowns, recorded what would become the “Desire” album and dreamed up a different way to tour.

Roger McGuinn, formerly of the Byrds, recalled in a recent telephone interview that when Dylan visited him at his Malibu home, “he said he wanted to do something like a circus, but he didn’t elaborate.”

The Rolling Thunder Revue hit the highway, booking halls in New England and Canada a few days in advance and selling its own tickets. Dylan’s boyhood friend Louie Kemp, who made his fortune in the seafood business, served as tour manager, and over 40 days, the top-billed Joan Baez, Ramblin’ Jack Elliott and Bob Neuwirthand others played 31 shows, some stretching four hours long, in 23 cities. (The tour nominally picked up again in 1976, playing bigger venues in the South and West. The film is accompanied by a 14-CD box set with performances and rehearsals from the first tour.)

Makeup, masks and costume were commonplace on the tourCredit Ken Regan, via Netflix

“I think the tour was unique in that it tried to expand the conventions of what a music show would be at that time,” Scorsese wrote in an email. “So there were poets, filmmakers, playwrights, and all sorts of different musicians.”

“It was an attempt to bring an exciting experience directly to the people,” he said, adding, “without thinking about the economics, without thinking about what people had done in the past. Just a pure expression of music and joy.”

The team behind the new movie decided that such an unusual expedition required something beyond a linear documentary. Most notably, the film creates several fictional characters. They represent some of the archetypal figures that surround a rock ’n’ roll tour and are included without comment alongside interviews with Rolling Thunder alumni.

Dr. John, Hall of Fame Singer Who Brought New Orleans to the World, Dead at 77 ~ RollingStone

“He created a unique blend of music which carried his hometown, New Orleans, at its heart, as it was always in his heart,” family says of Grammy-winning musician born Malcolm John Rebennack

UNSPECIFIED - CIRCA 1970:  Photo of Dr. John  Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

Dr. John, the Hall of Fame musician who fused fused funk with R&B and boogie woogie, died at the age of 77.  Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

 

Mac Rebennack, the New Orleans pianist, singer-songwriter and producer better known as Dr. John, died Thursday at the age of 77. The cause of death was a heart attack, according to his family.

“Towards the break of day on June 6, 2019, iconic music legend Malcolm John Rebennack, Jr., professionally known as Dr. John, passed away of a heart attack,” his family said in a statement. “As a Rock N Roll Hall of Fame inductee, six-time Grammy winner, songwriter, composer, producer and performer, he created a unique blend of music which carried his hometown, New Orleans, at its heart, as it was always in his heart. The family thanks all whom have shared his unique musical journey, and requests privacy at this time. Memorial arrangements will be arranged in due course.”

“A true friend and fellow musical traveler died today,” the Allman Brothers Band wrote on Twitter. “The Allman Brothers Band family express their sincere sadness in his passing. Mac played many times with the Brothers. Walk on Gilded Splinters our Old Friend, we will all meet up at The Right Place.”

“God bless Dr. John,” Ringo Starr wrote on Twitter. “Peace and love to all his family. I love the doctor.”

“There was no other performer like Dr. John, and there never will be,” Louisiana native Ellen DeGeneres wrote. “Tonight my heart is in New Orleans.”

Although best known for his Seventies solo work and radio hits like “Right Place, Wrong Time,” Rebennack had a career that spanned pop history. He was a key part of the “Wrecking Crew” stable of ace Los Angeles session musicians in the Sixties. He played on recordings by Cher, Aretha Franklin, Canned Heat, Frank Zappa and countless others, fusing funk with R&B and boogie woogie.

Rebennack began putting out his own records in 1968 with the release of his debut album Gris-Gris. It was the beginning of his larger-than-life Dr. John Creaux the Night Tripper character, with Rebennack incorporating elements of voodoo into his outrageous stage show. He quickly grew a large following, introducing much of America to New Orleans music.

Born Malcolm John Rebennack on November 21st, 1940, Dr. John was immersed in the music of his native city from an early age. He started banging on a piano when he was three, venturing to African-America clubs when he was teenager and working at a studio in town during that time. His first instrument was the guitar, not the piano, and he soon met and began playing with Professor Longhair, the New Orleans piano icon. As a teenager, Dr. John had played in bands, wrote songs for local acts like Lloyd Price and Jerry Byrne and worked an A&R job at Ace Records.

His life and music took a fateful turn when, in 1960, he broke up a fight and his left index finger was hit by a bullet. With that, he switched to piano, which would be his primary instrument throughout his career. When the New Orleans music scene gave way to Detroit’s Motown world and other hot cities, Dr. John relocated to Los Angeles in 1964, where he began his session-man career.

Originally, he had planned for another musician to play the “Dr. John” character, modeled after a voodoo priest, but when that player opted out, Rebennack took over the part himself. “I had it all planned and set to go, so I just did it myself out of spite,” he once said. “I never thought I would be doing another record. I never wanted to be a frontman. All of a sudden, I got into it, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought.” He soon had fully renamed himself and started a solo career that blended New Orleans, blues and psychedelia, with accompanying robes and headdresses of his new character.

Signing with Atlantic, by way of legendary producer Jerry Wexler, Dr. John found his groove and his voice, starting with Gumbo, the landmark 1972 album that featured his renditions of “Iko Iko,” “Let the Good Times Roll” and other New Orleans classics. The next year, he hit his commercial peak, when his funky stomp “Right Place, Wrong Time” hit the Top 10. Those albums showcased not only his loose growl and rhythmic sense but his piano playing, which incorporated boogie and swinging syncopation.

Speaking to Rolling Stone in 1973, Rebennack discussed his internal battle over making “commercial” music. “The only thing that makes a record commercial is if people buy it,” he said. “Originally, I felt to go commercial would prostitute myself and bastardize the music. On reflecting, I thought that if without messin’ up the music and keeping the roots and elements of what I want to do musically, I could still make a commercial record I would not feel ashamed from, I’m proud of, and still have a feel for, then it’s not a bad thing but it even serve a good purpose.”

He was popular enough by 1976 to be invited to perform at The Band’s Last Waltz alongside Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Eric Clapton, Muddy Waters and other greats of the era, but his commercial fortunes waned in the Eighties and an addiction to heroin hobbled his career for years. He kicked the drug in 1989, around the time that Ringo Starr helped revive his career by bringing him on the road for his inaugural All Starr Band Tour. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Famein 2011.

Rebennack released dozens of albums over the course of his career as both a solo musician and member of Bluesiana Triangle, a trio he formed with jazz giants Art Blakey and David “Fathead” Newman. He made jazzy pop (1979’s City Lights), pre-rock pop standards (1989’s In a Sentimental Mood) and homages to his home town (1992’s Goin’ Back to New Orleans). In 2012, he released the Dan Auerbach-produced album Locked Down, which landed on Rolling Stone‘s Best Albums of the year.

He continued to tour heavily until 2017 when health problems took him off the road. “I don’t go out to each too much,” he told Rolling Stone in 2010. “I can’t eat things like lamb because I have cirrhosis of the liver. So I have a pretty limited diet and I like to eat a lot of seafood. So that’s kind of depressing.”

Rebennack summed up his career back in 1973, when he told Rolling Stone that audiences didn’t need to know anything about New Orleans or voodoo to enjoy his music. “If you’re gonna get off on somethin’ you don’t need to know nothin’ about it, music is a universal language,” he said. “If it’s opera in Italian, you ain’t supposed to know nothin’ about Italy. You can just sit there and dig on it.”

 

~~~~

Dr. John, Legend of New Orleans, Dead At 77 ~ NPR

The music legend, guitarist, piano man, jive talker and psychedelic godfather Malcolm John Rebennack – better known as Dr. John – died “towards the break of day” on Thursday, of a heart attack, a statement has confirmed. He was 77.

That last bit of information was something only discovered, or at least disseminated, late last year, in fact: in his fantastical 1994 autobiography “Under the Hoodoo Moon,” Dr. John had declared his birth date as “just before Thanksgiving 1940.” But in a column for the Times-Picayune published in November 2018, author John Wirt unearthed a birth announcement from the same paper 77 years earlier: Mac, as he was colloquially known, was actually born November 21, 1941. The factual fluidity was, in its way, appropriate to an artist who lived and worked in the shifting, hip space of the trickster, and also to one who was as iconic of New Orleans as Louis Armstrong, to whom his final album, 2014’s Ske-Dat-De-Dat… (The Spirit of Satch) was a tribute. (Armstrong’s real birthday was misrecorded for decades, too.)

Mac Rebennack started out in New Orleans as a teenage guitar slinger in the ’50s, hanging around the Dew Drop Inn, a historic black nightclub (where he received hassle more than once from police enforcing the Jim Crow laws that regulated interracial gathering), and doing session work at engineer Cosimo Matassa’s J&M Recording Studios in the French Quarter. He was a denizen of a strange and distinctive old New Orleans, associating with the white-clad priestesses of the storefront spiritualist churches in the Ninth Ward — which, he recalled during a live interview at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville in 2013, smelled overwhelmingly of roses — as well as with petty criminals, dopers and practitioners of witchcraft. The Dr. John character, hoodoo mystery and cool, was originally developed for his bandmate and old Jesuit High School classmate Ronnie Barron, with whom he played in the R&B group Ronnie & The Delinquents. But Barron had a record contract that stopped him from taking on the role, so Mac absorbed it; as the story goes, it was during a fight that broke out after a dance he played with Barron that Mac was shot in the finger, prompting his switch from guitar to piano.

~~~  MORE  ~~

 

 

~~~

Dr. John, of Voodoo Beads, Feathers and New Orleans Sound, Dies at 77 ~ NYT

Mac Rebennack, better known as Dr. John, in Manhattan in 2008. He immersed himself in the sounds of his native New Orleans from a young age. Credit Tony Cenicola/The New York Times

By Gavin Edwards

 

Mac Rebennack, the pianist, singer, songwriter and producer better known as Dr. John, who embodied the New Orleans sound for generations of music fans, died on Thursday. He was 77.

A family statement released by his publicist said the cause was a heart attack. The statement did not say where he died. He had been living in recent years on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, La.

Mr. Rebennack belonged to the pantheon of New Orleans keyboard wizards that includes Professor Longhair, James Booker, Huey (Piano) Smith and Fats Domino. What distinguished him from his peers was the showmanship of his public persona.

Onstage as Dr. John, he adorned himself with snakeskin, beads and colorful feathers, and his shows blended Mardi Gras bonhomie with voodoo mystery.

He recorded more than 30 albums, including jazz projects (“Bluesiana Triangle,” 1990, with the drummer Art Blakey and the saxophonist David Newman), solo piano records (“Dr. John Plays Mac Rebennack,” 1981) and his version of Afropop (“Locked Down,” 2012). His 1989 album of standards, “In a Sentimental Mood,” earned him the first of six Grammy Awards, for his duet with Rickie Lee Jones on “Makin’ Whoopee!”

Dr. John & Rickie Lee Jones – Makin’ Whoopee!CreditCreditVideo by Arbor Video 2

 

His only Top 40 single, “Right Place Wrong Time,” reached No. 9 on the Billboard chart in 1973. In 2011, he was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Malcolm John Rebennack Jr. was born in New Orleans on Nov. 20, 1941. His mother, Dorothy (Cronin) Rebennack, worked as a model and in a music store. Malcolm Sr. owned an appliance store. Mac, as he came to be known, was a photogenic baby whose picture appeared on boxes of Ivory Soap.

He immersed himself in the sounds of New Orleans at a young age, first through the city’s radio stations and then by following his father to nightclubs, where Malcolm Sr. would repair P.A. systems while young Mac peered through the window, watching musicians like Professor Longhair rehearse.

Leon Redbone, An Unusual Singer From A Bygone Era, Has Died

~~~  LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW  ~~~

Leon Redbone, the perpetually anachronistic, famously mysterious artist who rose to prominence as a performer on Toronto’s folk circuit in the early ’70s, died Thursday while in hospice care in Bucks County, Pa.

Redbone’s family confirmed his death through a publicist. No cause was given, and Redbone’s age was a subject of speculation for decades.

“I’ve heard he’s anywhere from 25 to 60,” Bob Dylan told Rolling Stone in 1974, “and I can’t tell, but you gotta see him.” That same year, when asked about his age by Rolling Stone, Redbone replied: “Of course I don’t know. It’s just something I vaguely recall. I can’t say for sure.” In the news release announcing his death, Redbone’s age was cited as 127.

The only things known — ostensibly — of Redbone’s origins were revealed by Toronto Star columnist George Gamester in the 1980s: that he was a Cypriot named Dickran Gobalian, who emigrated to Ontario in the 1960s and changed his name after arriving in Canada.

Redbone’s obscurantist tendencies, including his ever-present, masking uniform of sunglasses, bushy mustache and Panama hat, gave Redbone the aura of a quixotic time-traveler, someone who simply stepped onto the stage fully formed.

And Redbone was a man happily — or at least, authentically — out-of-time. He played dusty classics — from Tin Pan Alley and ragtime to blues and country — with a loose fidelity, always anchored by his casually lovely and always wry voice.

Dylan’s endorsement, made at the apex of his and Rolling Stone‘s cultural footprints, was a defining moment for Redbone and helped widened interest in him from stars of the era, including Bonnie Raitt and John Prine.

His commercial success, according to the Billboard charts, peaked in 1977 when the album Double Time reached the top 50 — helped, in part, by two performances during Saturday Night Live‘s debut season. But Redbone remained a cultural presence for decades, singing the theme song for ’80s sitcom Mr. Belvedere and appearing as “Leon the Snowman” in the now-classic Christmas film Elf in 2003.

In 2015, Redbone announced his retirement from touring, with a rep citing health concerns. He followed that retirement up with another album, Long Way Home, composed of his earliest recordings and released by Jack White’s label, Third Man Records.

When asked by NPR’s Lynn Neary in 1984 whether he enjoyed his performances, Redbone responded with a wink: “I never have a good time … but I try.”

~~~~

Leon Redbone, Cult Singer Who Helped Revive Ragtime, Dead at 69 ~ RollingStone

“He departed our world with his guitar, his trusty companion Rover and a simple tip of his hat,” family writes in statement, noting age of humorous singer as 127

SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE -- Episode 22 -- Air Date 05/29/1976 -- Pictured: Musical Guest Leon Redbone during "Shine on Harvest Moon" musical performance on May 29, 1976  (Photo by NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)

Leon Redbone, the nasally singer who helped revive ragtime, vaudeville and Tin Pan Alley music, has died at age 69.

NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Leon Redbone, the singer who built a career out of performing ragtime, vaudeville and American standards with a sly wink and an unmistakable, nasally voice, died Thursday. He was 69.

A statement on Redbone’s website confirmed his death, though it did so with a sweet bit of humor and joking that he was actually 127 years old.

“He departed our world with his guitar, his trusty companion Rover and a simple tip of his hat,” his family said in a statement. “He’s interested to see what Blind Blake, Emmett and Jelly Roll have been up to in his absence, and has plans for a rousing singalong number with Sári Barabás. An eternity of pouring through texts in the Library of Ashurbanipal will be a welcome repose, perhaps followed by a shot or two of whiskey with Lee Morse, and some long overdue discussions with his favorite Uncle, Suppiluliuma I of the Hittites. To his fans, friends and loving family who have already been missing him so in this realm he says, ‘Oh behave yourselves. Thank you… and good evening everybody.’”

Often clad in a Panama hat and big, dark sunglasses, Redbone rose to prominence in the mid-Seventies, though he always had an air of mystery about him, famously refusing to answer questions about his age and background. He was reportedly born in Cyprus, but moved to Canada in the Sixties and began performing in Toronto nightclubs. He eventually hit the folk festival circuit, which is how he met Bob Dylan, who praised Redbone’s enigmatic aura in a 1974 interview with Rolling Stone.

“Leon interests me,” Dylan said. “I’ve heard he’s anywhere from 25 to 60, I’ve been [a foot and a half from him] and I can’t tell. But you gotta see him. He does old Jimmie Rodgers, then turns around and does a Robert Johnson.”

Redbone kept things characteristically strange when Rolling Stone profiled him several months later. When asked if his parents were musicians, Redbone joked that his father was the long-dead Italian violinist Niccolò Paganini and his mother was the 19th century Swedish opera singer, Jenny Lind. When asked where the first place he ever played publicly was, Redbone threw on a W.C. Fields voice and cracked, “In a pool hall, but I wasn’t playing guitar, you see. I was playing pool.”

“The remarkable thing about Leon Redbone is that he’s so accurate in every aspect of his presentation – from his scat singing to his yodeling to his authentic nasally slurred vocals to the unerring accuracy of his Blind Blake-styled , ragtime-piano type of guitar playing,” Rolling Stonewriter Steve Weitzman wrote in 1974.

Redbone soon notched a record deal with Warner Bros and released his debut album, On the Track, in 1975. The album offered up endearing takes on classics like “Ain’t Misbehavin,” “Lazybones” and “Some of These Days.” He would release two more albums on Warner, 1977’s Double Time and 1978’s Champagne Charlie. His 1981 album, From Branch to Branch (released via Atlantic) featured his sole Hot 100 hit, a rendition of Gary Tigerman’s “Seduced.”

Though Redbone never achieved huge commercial success, he developed a cult following thanks in part to frequent appearances on Saturday Night Live and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. He also appeared in commercials for companies like Budweiser, Chevrolet, All laundry detergent and Ken-L Ration dog food, and sang the theme songs for Mr. Belvedere and Harry and the Hendersons.

Redbone continued to tour and record albums throughout the Eighties and Nineties,though his output slowed as he got older. In the 2003 film, Elf, he voiced Leon the Snowmanand recorded a rendition of “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” with Zooey Deschanelthat played over the film’s closing credits.

Redbone released his final studio album, Flying By, in 2014, and announced his retirement from music due to health concerns a year later. In 2015, Third Man Records issued a double-album compilation, A Long Way Home, that collected Redbone’s live and studio solo recordings, dating back to 1972.

“He’s just amazing,” Bonnie Raitt said of Redbone in 1974 before nodding to his enigmatic past. “He’s probably the best combination singer-guitarist I’ve heard in years. I’d like to know where he gets his stuff. I’d also like to find out how old he is.”

 

 

~~~

Leon Redbone, Idiosyncratic Throwback Singer, Is Dead at 69 ~ NYT

Leon Redbone in performance in Cambridge, England, in 1995. His music defied easy categorization; he was sometimes described as a jazz singer, other times as a folk or pop or blues artist.CreditCreditDave Peabody/Redferns, via Getty Images

 

Leon Redbone, who burst onto the pop-music scene in the mid-1970s with a startlingly throwback singing style and a look to go with it, favoring songs from bygone eras drolly delivered, died on Thursday in Bucks County, Pa. He was 69.

His family announced the death on his website. A specific cause of death was not given, but Mr. Redbone had retired from performing in 2015 because of ill health.

Toting an acoustic guitar, his face generally half-hidden by a Panama hat and dark glasses, Mr. Redbone channeled performers and songwriters from ragtime, Delta blues, Tin Pan Alley and more, material not generally heard by the rock generation. His music defied easy categorization; he was sometimes described as a jazz singer, other times as a folk or pop or blues artist. He sang in a deep, gravelly voice that combined singing and mumbling, but he also deployed a falsetto of sorts on occasion.

He began turning up on the coffeehouse circuit in Toronto in the 1960s and developed a cult following. He broke through to a larger audience in late 1975 with his first album, “On the Track,” which included songs like “My Walking Stick,” by Irving Berlin, and “Lazybones,” by Hoagy Carmichael and Johnny Mercer. His sound was unique for the era, as The New York Times noted in a January 1976 article about the record and its producer, Joel Dorn:

Leon Redbone – “Walking Stick” Live at the 1973 Buffalo Folk FestivalCreditCreditVideo by OfficialTMR

 

“Redbone, who in his nightclub appearances plays the role of a grinning, almost catatonic folkie, will undoubtedly confound many, but Dorn has certainly given him his due in a completely ungimmicked musical setting.”

The album earned Mr. Redbone two appearances on “Saturday Night Live” in 1976, during the show’s first season. Fifteen more albums followed, most recently “Flying By” in 2014. Mr. Redbone also sang the theme songs for the television series “Mr. Belvedere” and “Harry and the Hendersons,” was heard on various commercials, and provided the voice of an animated snowman in the 2003 movie “Elf.”

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~