German artist agency Rolf Schubert talks about the New Orleans, European Blues scene and his friends

"There is a lot of humanity in it (Blues). If it is real blues or real jazz, the musician has to put his soul in it. Nothing technical, nothing controlled by computer, internet, or such."

Rolf Schubert: One Sherry, One Burbon, One Beer

Rolf Schubert for over 30 years Rolf Schubert has been heading his Germany based Concert Buero, an artist's agency that specializes in authentic American jazz and blues. His father bought Jazz Dixieland records. Rolf's liked them and wanted to become a musician. When he was 16 founded a band and played the drums. In 1977 he traveled the first time in the United States, lived in Chicago and New Orleans. Where he met many of his heroes from the 1920s as Little Brother Montgomery, Yank Rachell, Blind John Davis, and Art Hodes. Roif Schubert learned his craft. 

Rolf with many years experience in Blues and Jazz circuits - were is the reason where many American musicians made ​​their permanent home in Germany - has worked with: Louisiana Red, The Holm Brothers, Angela Brown, Big Mama & The Golden six, The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, Anke Angel, Christian Rannenberg, Keith Dunn, Billy Boy Arnold, Rod Mason & His Hot Five Classic Jazz, The N'Awlins Brass Band Street music from New Orleans, The Sazerac Swingers, Aron Burton and Erwin Helfer. Rolf was the manager of Texas-born pianist Little Willie Littlefield.

For over 20 years Rolf Schubert has been organizing package tours to New Orleans and Chicago for music lovers. These are tours off the beaten track unlike any other regular package tour. A few years ago Rolf Schubert made Andalucia his second home and has been organizing tours here in a style similar to the USA trips.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What do you learn about yourself from the Jazz & Blues culture?  What does the blues mean to you?

There is a lot of humanity in it. If it is real blues (or real jazz) the musician has to put his soul in it. Nothing technical, nothing controlled by computer, internet, or such. That’s what I love about it.

How started the thought of label and booking agency of Concert Büro Rolf Schubert?

When I was 14 or so, my father bought some Jazz Dixieland records. I liked them and wanted to become a musician, but had no talent at all. When I was 16 I founded a band and played the drums. After a few weeks my own band fired me, because I was so bad. I still loved the music and wanted to stay in touch. So I became an agent.

"I hate the so called rock blues; it has nothing to do with the blues I love. Not much hope for the blues, totally been taken over by white musicians who copy. Even the black musicians, who play today, play strictly white man’s blues." Photo: Rolf and Cicero Blake 

Which is the most interesting period in your life? Which was the best and worst moment of your career?

The early years, mid – till end seventies. I still had the chance to work with musicians from the first generation. Some of them had already recorded in the 20’s. Great stories from people like Little Brother Montgomery, Yank Rachell, Blind John Davis, and especially Art Hodes, who told about the time in Chicago, when he played for Al Capone.

Best moment, there were so many great concerts; it is hard to single one out. Worst moment, when drummer Odie Payne became very sick (cancer) at the end of a German tour and I had to get him back to his family in Chicago.

Are there any memories from Little Brother Montgomery, Yank Rachell and Blind John Davis?

Little Brother: he was a very proud man, and he was proud that he could read music, and that he also had the musical knowledge to play with jazz bands. He did play for some time with Louis Armstrong. And he hated musicians that could not keep exact time. Little Brother divided the world into "time breakers" and "not time breakers"

Yank Rachell told me the famous story how he became a mandolin player. He lived with his parents on a farm in Mississippi. When he was a boy his father sent him to the market with a young pig to sell it. Instead he traded it for a mandolin. His father was not happy ... but Yank loved the instrument. He taught his granddaughter to play the instrument. Don't know if she still plays.

Blind John Davis - managed amazingly well with his blindness. Could always tell if my girlfriend was good looking or not. Loved to talk and loved to smoke cigars and hated fresh air. Remember sitting in hotel rooms with him, could hardly see him with all that cigar smoke, but one fascinating story after the other. Like him asking someone to show him across the street. Cars honking, cars braking, a big mess. When he was across the street, Blind John found out that he had asked another blind person to show him across the street.

Why did you think that the Jazz and Blues music continues to generate such a devoted following?

Because there are still a people who have good taste.

"Nobody has money for culture anymore. Merkel and Co. send it all to the banks."

Do you remember anything funny from Angela Brown, Mississippi Heat, Billy Boy Arnold and Keith Dunn?

Billy Boy Arnold, very quiet, very serious, nothing funny about him.

Keith Dunn: when he took out his harmonica at 2 in the morning in a Cologne beer pub, and started playing to all the German drunkards – and they loved it.

Heat: just start working with them.

Angela Brown: her backing pianist Erwin Helfer was so drunk on one of her concerts, that he always tried to run away from the piano to go to sleep, and Angela had to chase him and carry him back to the piano. The audience thought it was part of the act.

What are some of the most memorable gigs, jamms and recordings with your label you've had?

Best recording was with The Five Blind Boys of Mississippi. Everybody in the studio, no overdubbing. Great musicianship. Within 4 hours one of the finest recordings that I ever produced.

Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?

People like Blind John Davis, - a wise old man!!!!

Are there any memories from Little Willie Littlefield which you’d like to share with us?

Little Willie was the most energetic guy I ever knew. Will always remember the breakfasts in the hotel. No sleep, hangover, tired, only Willie jumping around trying to kiss the waitress and the other guests …

"Terrible – 99% of what they call blues in Germany – has nothing to do with what I call blues. Situation a little better in France, they still have the idea that blues is a black music."

What do you miss most nowadays from old days of Blues? What are your hopes and fears for the future of Blues and Jazz?

The feeling. I hate the so called rock blues; it has nothing to do with the blues I love. Not much hope for the blues, totally been taken over by white musicians who copy. Even the black musicians, who play today, play strictly white man’s blues. The black musicians who still play for black audiences are not accepted by the white audience. Check out record label Malaco – that’s the type of blues/soul the blacks listen to.

Jazz – situation much better – New Orleans is a paradise for young exciting musicians.

You have traveling from Memphis to New Orleans and from Chicago to Mississippi. Which memory makes you smile?

Small church in Lafayette, LA. I had taken my German tour group there. Than the preacher called me and I had to translate the bible from English into German, and then I had to preach.

How has the music business changed over the years?  Do you believe in the existence of real Jazz Blues nowadays?

Nobody has money for culture anymore. Merkel and Co. send it all to the banks.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of New Orleans, Blues and Jazz with Andalusian culture and flamenco music?

Both independent wild cultures.

"New Orleans is the best city in the world"

Photo: Rolf in Andalusia

Why Europeans are so enamored with the blues? How do you describe the European (especial German) Blues scene?

Terrible – 99% of what they call blues in Germany – has nothing to do with what I call blues. Situation a little better in France, they still have the idea that blues is a black music.

What has made you laugh lately and what touched (emotionally) you from the Blues world?

Saw one of Solomon Burkes last concerts. This made you love and cry at the same time.

Which incident of Blues history life you‘d like to be captured and illustrated in a painting with you?

One of Howling Wolf's concerts in a juke joint in Mississippi

Let’s take a trip with a time machine for the next 24 hours, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?

Always New Orleans – the best city in the world.

Concert Büro Rolf Schubert - website

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