"Blues & Jazz have practically defined a whole musical culture in which by the end of the 20th century had become embedded in the mainstream of American society."
The Lucky Losers: Yin & Yang Blues
The Lucky Losers is a male/female duet with new sound for blues and beyond! Singers Cathy Lemons and Phil Berkowitz have come together to create a vocally rich, harp infused, and musically eclectic sound that is firmly rooted in blues. Their beautiful harmonies, imaginative arrangements, classic covers, and their exceptional songwriting skills make them a special act. San Francisco’s fronted band, The Lucky Losers transcend the dark side of the American dream with their 60’s inspired sophomore new album, “In Any Town”(2016). Just one year after the release of their critically acclaimed debut, “A Winning Hand”, veteran blues singer, Cathy and soulful vocalist/harmonica ace, Phil return with a dangerous and sophisticated work of art. CATHY LEMONS is a blues singing legend who has performed regularly in the Bay Area for 25 years. Hailing from Dallas, TX she honed her chops with the likes of Anson Funderburgh and performed with Stevie Ray Vaughan. She has worked with some of the great names in blues including John Lee Hooker, Tommy Castro, Ron Thompson, Kid Andersen, Steve Freund, and many others. Cathy Lemons writes much of her own material and has branched out into the singer-songwriter category, writing lyrics and melodies that are as haunting as they are autobiographically revealing. Since July of 2012, she has been been bringing Northern California blues musicians together and producing high profile shows such as "Guitar Slingers & Blues Singers: A Blues Revue" at The Great American Music Hall: and "Tip Your Hat to the Blues: West Coast Songwriter Session" at Slim's, as well as benefits to help members of the blues community in need.
PHIL BERKOWITZ, is a Bay Area based blues harmonica player and vocalist, has brought his unique and energetic musical style to audiences for over 17 years. Phil's CD, “All Night Party” was released in 2009. It contains original and musically diverse material that ranges from West Coast Swing, Chicago Blues, New Orleans R&B, Soul, and Country Blues. It was co-produced by Danny Caron and features notable musicians such as Sean Carney & Bill Stuve. Phil has performed and recorded with a variety of top blues and jazz musicians such as Danny Caron, Duke Robillard, Sean Carney, Kid Anderson, Bill Stuve, Billy Branch, RJ Mischo and the late Gary Primich. Phil's 2005 recording, Louis' Blues, which pays tribute to the legendary R&B saxophonist, Louis Jordan, received critical acclaim from magazines such as Living Blues and Blues Revue, and was played on many radio stations across the country as well as abroad. In addition to being a seasoned performer, Phil is also the president of a non-profit organization called "West Coast Blues For A Cure" which puts on benefit shows to raise money and awareness for various cancer charities.
Photos: Victoria Smith, Peggy DeRose, Bob Hakins & Myron Mu/All rights reserved
What do you learn about yourself from the blues and what does the blues mean to you?
Cathy: The Blues is my life. Baby. I grew up poor, first in several countries overseas, and then in Dallas, Texas—moved 15 times by the age of 18. Raised by a mentally ill, single mother who made paranoiac decisions. My two sisters and I learned to endure impossible circumstances. I questioned everything from an early age because none of it made sense. In my mid twenties to early thirties I survived a terrible addiction to heroin, spent time in jail, endured a short career as an exotic dancer and prostitute, survived street life, violence, crime, you name it. Through all of that I hung onto the one thing I know I was meant to do—sing blues. Why blues? Because blues is a fight back from all the predicaments—all the laughable intangible stings of life that can make us either laugh or cry. Blues is a great healer. Because when you write a great blues song you are putting your finger on a precise emotional trigger. How you feel in the moment of crisis and how you decide to crawl out of that hole—that’s all blues. Everyone can relate to a great blues song!
Phil: The blues has taught me that my troubles and hardships are very much the same as most people's. We all have our own unique story to tell, but there is a universal message that blues music carries for all of us as listeners and fans of music. It is real, it is raw, it is visceral. There is a rich history to blues music…the fun for me was in taking the time to find out the bits and pieces of it that I now apply to my performance, writing, and creative interpretation of it. It's all in there…every nuance of emotion that you can imagine. Real blues tells a truthful story about human suffering…and it is through the recognition of this truth that we evolve into greater human beings.
How do you describe The Lucky Losers sound and songbook?
Cathy: Our sound is a personalized spin on traditional forms of music: Chicago blues, swing, jazz, soul, country, funk, NOLA—all these styles are the threads that make up our tapestry. We are drawing from the American songbook—lyrical ideas and snatches of music from Bob Dylan, to Johnny Cash, to Allen Toussaint, even Fillmore Slim! Our sound is eclectic. But vocals are the centerpiece! And we know where we are going! We are utilizing a great theatrical idea—the tension between male and female—yin and yang—hot and cold—up and down, winning and losing.
"My hopes for blues are great! This whole Roots and Americana movement is about to embrace many a blues singer and writer—I can feel it. We Americans are like dogs. You give us a bone and we can live off it for months. We don’t like being told what to do. We like to do things our own way. And we know we get a say."
What is the story behind the name of band “The Lucky Losers”? What characterize your music philosophy?
Cathy: Make it your own story—do the writing most of all—but even if you pick a great cover song—make it fit into your own life story so you can dig deep into the performance. And for god’s sake be yourself! Don’t mimic! You will never be as great as Buddy Guy if you’re trying to sound like Buddy Guy. But you may be very great if you become yourself. We all start out sounding like our heroines and heroes in our 20’s—but when you hit 30 baby doll get your own voice. Nothing irks me more than hearing a contemporary blues vocalist that sounds just like a Chess record. For God’s sake be yourself!
Phil: The story behind The Lucky Losers is the shared individual stories of Cathy and myself taking shape within our repertoire of songs, themes, albums, and so forth. When we told my father the name of our band, he thought that it was not a good name because it depicts us as losers. But he did not get the irony of it in which loss gives a greater depth to one's story…as you go through more loss, you develop a greater appreciation and understanding of life and the world around you…you feel lucky to be alive. Sure…everyone loves a winner, but the difference between winning and losing is usually just a little bit of luck!
What were the reasons that the band started the Blues, Soul/R&B researches and the 60s, Psychedelic experiments?
Cathy: Well I think the 60’s was a most powerful time in our recent human history—a time when music really spoke to people’s lives. It was a time where an artist could really say what exactly was on his or her mind and not be censored. People wanted something more out of their music—they wanted someone to SAY something. Make a statement—put something personal on the line. And the ‘60’s induced what I think was a tectonic shift in the way people thought about living. The status quo was questioned—no more obeying, obeying, going to college, getting a job, having a family, buying a house, buying what they tell you to, fighting in their wars, etc. The ‘60‘s questioned EVERYTHING! I am a rebel. My entire life has been one big, long, rebellious experiment. I can’t buy into what many people buy into. For example I don’t want to work for some giant corporation that uses you up and spits you out--and I don’t care about things—objects. I care about music, art, beauty, living in the moment. So one might say that the 60’s fits us—our sound--our ideas about life—everything. I love the ‘60’s feel—the glittery silver dresses, the jangly bracelets, the suede boots. And I love the MUSIC-- from the psychedelic rock side of Delaney & Bonnie, Eric Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix, to the country side of Johnny Cash and June Carter, to the folk side of Bobby Charles, The Band, and Bob Dylan, to finally the Stax/ R&B songs of Issac Hayes and David Porter, or the great performances of Mavis Staples, Otis Redding, Ruby Johnson, Sam and Dave, and the great Alebrt King, etc.
Right now, in the year 2016, with so much violence erupting across the planet, it’s time for yet another spiritual awakening—the 60’s started that awakening. We all have to adopt an attitude of respect for this planet, respect for one another, respect for every living thing if we are to survive. Making money for corporations and consuming mass quantities of objects will not keep this planet safe. But art will. Art has always been the great savior of souls.
What characterize “In Any Town” philosophy? What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from studio?
Cathy: Well one thing I have to say is this—Phil and I have guts. We were not “ready” for this album, but we just jumped the gun and went to work and came up with the songs, somehow. We knew that no one would take us seriously unless we came out with a second album—so we just took the leap of faith. We took the risk. All we had was an idea to start with. “In Any Town” was a phrase Phil came up with one day out of the blue. He said “Let’s write a song called ‘In Any Town’ and call the next album that.” Well, I asked him what that meant. He said “Ya know—we are coming to your town—and it can happen in any town--small or large—across America.” So there it was--the beginning of the idea. Then I began to flesh out stories about the “town” which was easy for me. I had already written “You’re in My Town Now” in 2013 for my solo album “Black Crow.” In that story the town was watching as an injustice unfolded—a cheating man! So it felt like—a continuation. I see life as a town. And I see the world we live in as a series of intersecting points of human contact—like a spider’s web. And when you live in too small of a town you can get trapped. Like a slow death from the familiar—too much of nothing. You try to break out and doors start to slam in your face. It makes for a good romantic story too. Lovers that stand against the world and believe in each other no matter what the odds. This is also how we feel, Phil and I. Us two against the small town talk. We don’t want to make purist traditional blues albums. We want to spice our music up and tell our own tales, in our own voices, our own way, and we certainly don’t want to be held back by what would appear to be a cliquish social club. We have been working against some terrible odds. Consider that we are independent artists with no machine behind us. Everything we do is initiated by us. It’s like moving a huge boulder up an enormous hill. But we believe. We believe in the winning of this game. So we wrote nine personal, confessional stories for this album. And was took musical chances. Kid Andersen did a tremendous job as both a musician and as an engineer. If ever there was a man who has listened and studied ‘60’s music--well it is Kid--and from a recording perspective as well. For example in the ‘60’s many famous engineers separated the bass on one side from the drums on the other—in stereo. Well Kid did that on many of our songs.
Phil: It’s a simple straight-forward philosophy: Be yourself and express yourself as creatively and passionately as possible. There are many personal statements made on this recording…some shared and some more individual. I feel that Cathy and I are starting to truly find our own inner voices and this album exhibits that to a greater degree than ever before. I am deeply touched as well as indebted to the all of the great musicians who contributed to this album…without them, mine and Cathy’s creative stories would not have come to fruition the way they did.
What has made you laugh and what touched (emotionally) you from your collaboration with The Lucky Losers?
Cathy: It’s in the loosing that you win. And we make lots of mistakes, Phil and I. But we are both risk takers. We are not afraid to ask more from our musicians and from ourselves! Nothing we do is standard! We put ourselves out there on the line and it’s scary and exhilarating! And when it comes together—which is does—live—on that stage—and I’m feeling all that animal fear inside of me—knowing the challenge is to match my voice and my breath with my partner, who is singing next to me, who is relying on me every second—well there is nothing like it! Now it’s bigger than me—it’s “us.” And when it works I am so proud.
Phil: The thing that has touched me the most is getting the opportunity to share the stage with Cathy Lemons. It has challenged me in many ways that have exceeded what I have done in the past. From this experience, I feel that I am growing as a writer, performer, singer in ways that I would not have imagined a few years ago. Cathy and I are soul mates…we laugh and cry together…we share our hopes and dreams together. Hopefully, people will pick up on all of this when we perform together.
Which meetings have been the most important experiences for you? What is the best advice ever given you?
Cathy: The best advice I ever received was from John Lee Hooker. He would tell me to jump out there and just sing! Without a net! And be in the moment of the song. The emotional moment. That’s what John did. He sang about whatever was going on inside of him in that moment and that is what made him so great. The best performance I had recently was at Napa City Winery—just a few days ago—on a beautiful stage in a beautiful theatre with an engaged and positive audience. We worked 3 and ½ months to get that gig—a double bill with The Frank Bey & Anthony Paule Band who are just so great. I felt so proud when Phil and I finally got it right that night. We wrote and recorded all this complicated and arranged material and we never really had a chance to hammer out the flaws live because it was all relatively new stuff. Well that night it was perfect. After all the stumbles and falls—we did it! Together! That makes me feel like all the struggling is worth it in music. I was a high as a kite from that performance. Plus I got to hang out and talk to some of my favorite musicians in the Bay Area who were on that gig.
Phil: There are no shortcuts to greatness…I've gotten some good advice from more experienced people along the way… my friends and family etc. But the most recent advice came from a blues documentary called M For Mississippi. At the end of the movie, this 86 year old bluesman named L.C. Ulmer said, "You gotta take the long hard road if you wanna be outstanding. If you wanna be a shortcut, you take the shortcut…but you gonna be run over over yonder…take the other way around. Life is what you make of it."
What do you miss most nowadays from the blues of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?
Cathy: I miss hearing the great teamwork from musicians live and on records. I don’t always hear that. The little nuances. The perfectly timed and wonderful mistakes made into art. Because there was trust and skill and mistakes don’t matter if you are all on the same page. The accidental courage of it all from the Chess days.
My hopes for blues are great! This whole Roots and Americana movement is about to embrace many a blues singer and writer—I can feel it. We Americans are like dogs. You give us a bone and we can live off it for months. We don’t like being told what to do. We like to do things our own way. And we know we get a say. In our life, in our music, in every little thing. And if you mess with us we will come and get ya. This blues music is American after all. From our streets. From our tongue. I see a great future. Because this music comes from our streets.
Phil: I miss the camaraderie that seemed to exist on a much wider scale than it does now. Blues music depends upon a live audience…sadly that audience seems to be dwindling down a bit. The younger generation goes for other forms of entertainment. The internet has changed a lot of the real human interaction that used to take place...when people would ritually go out on the weekend (in their best attire) and get down with some great live blues. That still exists today, but on a much smaller scale.
"I am a rebel. My entire life has been one big, long, rebellious experiment. I can’t buy into what many people buy into. For example I don’t want to work for some giant corporation that uses you up and spits you out--and I don’t care about things—objects. I care about music, art, beauty, living in the moment."
If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?
Cathy: Break up that “Big 3” monopoly in music (Universal Music Group (UMG), Sony BMG Music Entertainment (Sony), and Warner Music Group (WMG). These corporations dominate the landscape and own 75% of the market. They are now making the rules. Change the legislation so that these companies can’t control the market. To me pop music sounds so much alike in every genre. So auto tuned and predictable—so absurdly generic. I watched a group of teenagers at a festival we were on the other day dance to Hip Hop music and I noted how their lives really had nothing to do with what that music was talking about. Yet these kids eat that stuff up. Oh it’s so “bad.” Is it? I think the American populace is being spoon fed their music by big corporations. I hate it. And get rid of those programs that automatically suggest to listeners “a similar artist.” That is the biggest scam I ever heard of. Genius indeed. Please. Music is personal. It has nothing to do with similar beats or sound wave patterns. It has everything to do with the power of personality. When I find a new artist it is not because some corporation has suggested that artist to me. Those corporations only want to make money. The indie movement is going to eventually change everything. New artists that have something unique to say will get heard and exposure is now at everyone’s fingertips.
Phil: I would like to change the ever-growing and pre-dominant corporate approach to the business side of it. Since I've been performing for the last 19 years, I've grown to view myself as a creative public servant. I feel that I am fulfilling a civic duty in some way. The main thing that motivates me to perform in public is getting to artistically express myself…with the sincere hope that other people will appreciate it and possibly take something from my music for themselves. I am not a socialist…I want to be properly compensated for my efforts…but I don't think there should be an exploitative process in which a small percentage of so-called artists get to make over 90% of the money that goes into it. There needs to be more parity…performing artists are still getting paid the same money they made over 30 years ago…that's just wrong.
Are there any memories from Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Lee Hooker which you’d like to share with us?
Cathy: Oddly what sticks out in my mind is the sad insecurity of both. I remember both had to prove they were “men” to the outside world. I remember how Steve Ray Vaughan’s girlfriend clung to him when I met him as if I was some kind of immediate problem. Why? Because women were for the taking and not treated as people. I can still see her today sitting on his lap and staring at me as if I was a boogie woman. I remember the cocaine being passed around backstage too. How the wealthy guitar seller made sure the SRV had all of that for free. And with Hooker (photo) I remember up until the day he died how he was obsessed with giving off the impression that he was a stud. A week before his death, here is a man in his late 80’s fastening his belt buckle at the door when my friends arrived, John Lee smiling about the two hookers in the bedroom putting on their lipstick and pulling up their pantyhose. I honestly think he set it up for my friends to see. Poor John. He always thought he had to be a player and give off an impression like that. So sad. He was such a lovely decent person deep down inside and none of that was necessary.
Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?
Phil: Well…there are quite few, but I’ll share this one story with you. Back in 2001 (about three weeks after 9/11), I went down to Memphis and attended the King Biscuit Festival with my buddy, the guitar player from my band. We were primarily there as spectators, but we did get to perform on Cherry Street in downtown Helena, Arkansas. There were many great performers I remember checking out at the festival…Billy Branch, Anders Osbourne, Paul Oscher, Robert Lockwood, Levon Helm & The Barn Burners. But the one performance that stood out for me was Billy Boy Arnold, who was backed by The Gary Primich Band.
Billy Boy Arnold was one of the first blues artists I ever listened to…this was a couple of years before I decided to even pick up a harmonica…it was those great early V-Jay recordings that he did back in the 50's. I can remember when I first heard them…it sounded like a whole other world to me and inspired me to eventually play blues music myself. Anyway, I recorded their set with my DAT recorder (still have it to this day). After the festival, my guitar player and I checked out Gary Primich on Beale Street in Memphis. We got to talk with Gary, who was very approachable and friendly. He mentioned that he would be playing the next night at a burger joint called Huey's in midtown and invited us to come down. My guitar player had to leave the next morning, but I was around for one more day so I decided to come down. When I got down there, Gary approached me and told me he was going to have me sit in with band. Of course, I accepted the invitation, but was scared shitless…I had only been performing for about three years or so. And to make matters even worse, there were several professionals sitting in as well…and I mean monster players like Jimmy Thackery and Kirk Fletcher (just to name a couple). After the cavalcade of stars did their thing, Gary finally got me up on stage…and lo & behold…I managed to hold my own. By the end of the last song, I was actually enjoying myself! The band was really nice to me and we hung out after the gig and talked…it was loads of fun! That night made me believe for the first time that I belonged in this world of live performers and could truly be great at it.
I saw Gary several times after that night and he was always very nice to me. Unfortunately, he passed away (too early) in 2007. In 2012, when I toured through Texas with my friend Ben Rice, I got the chance to use Gary's old drummer from those days, Jim Starboard, in my touring band. I reminded him about that experience in 2001 and told him that I still had the recording of their King Biscuit performance with Billy Boy Arnold. He was tickled to hear that and even requested a copy of it which I gladly burned onto a disc and sent to him after the tour.
"So personally, I would have to say that’s been the hardest thing deal with in my life. As a musician, I have had to overcome the overwhelming amount of rejection and ignorance that I’ve encountered in the music business with venues, festivals, etc."
Are there any memories from Tommy Castro and Steve Freund which you’d like to share with us?
Cathy: Tommy Castro is so generous. He is the sweetest guy. I will never forget how he had Johnny Ace and I team up with him for our first CD release party at Slim’s in San Francisco in 2000. It was Y2k and the turnout was not near what it should have been. Everyone was afraid to go out. Tommy had our band open up so we could get some exposure in a big, famous club. Tommy had played on my first record “Dark Road” to help us. He recommended us to festivals too. And he played on the CD “Lemonace” –never would even take a penny. He just did it out of the kindness of his heart.
Steve Freund is such a character. I think Steve for a good seven years played with me and Johnny Ace, the bassist, doing local gigs in San Francisco. We did some great shows—we did. Highlights would be at The Saloon where we played some of the dirtiest, low-down blues you would want to hear--all feel. Steve is probably the very best in blues guitarists when it comes to that fluid, rich, deep, old timey Chicago sound. Like steel pouring through your veins.
Are there any memories from Duke Robillard, Billy Branch, and Danny Caron which you’d like to share with us?
Phil: In 2010, I got the chance to record with Duke Robillard along with about a dozen other heavyweight musicians like Sean Carney, Ray Fuller, Omar Coleman, Enrico Crivellaro & Jonn Del Toro Richardson just to name a few. Needless to say, I felt a bit intimidated to be recording among such a great wealth of talent in one room! As the day wore on, Duke shared a story with me about his experience as a young man playing on a festival in the 70s with Roomful of Blues. Muddy Waters was the headliner. Toward the end of the festival, they were inviting musicians up on stage to jam and Freddy King was just killing it on stage with Muddy’s band. After a couple of songs, Muddy (who already was well-acquainted with Duke) requested for Freddy to leave the stage and let Duke get up there to play. As Duke was walking up the stage steps, he encountered Freddy who was walking down. He said that Freddy (who was evidently displeased about having to leave the stage early) took his guitar behind his head, leered into Duke and growled angrily right in his face. Duke said that he’d never been so scared in all of his life! I think Duke sensed a bit of my own fear, so that story made me feel a lot more at ease. We recorded a song together called Junco Partner on which I was the featured artist. I told him I was most influenced by the Louis Jordan version of it. Duke replied with “Oh man…Louis Jordan is one of my all-time favorites!”
What has been the hardest obstacle for you to overcome as a person and as artist and has this helped you become a better blues musician?
Cathy: I have anxiety! High, high anxiety! I can’t do anything half way. I have to get all bunched up and go 100% and exhaust myself. My biggest challenge recently has been to manage my own anxiety. I will be writing quite a bit about this subject in my blog that I plan to release soon. The other obstacle is competition! Phil and I live in the nastiest, hardest part of the country to get work. You better be dang good. You better kill if you want to work because there are ten musicians wanting your gig! And they are all great! I have never felt so inspired to be a better songwriter and singer. Why? Because I have to be. And Phil has to be. And we no longer see the music as enough. We want a show! We want to get the audience excited!
Phil: Well…When I was 10 years old, my mother died from cancer. So personally, I would have to say that’s been the hardest thing deal with in my life. As a musician, I have had to overcome the overwhelming amount of rejection and ignorance that I’ve encountered in the music business with venues, festivals, etc. Nowadays, there are ten times as many performers looking to be booked at half the number of venues/festivals and for less money than ever before. Dealing with rejection has taught me to keep pushing forward no matter what happens and to never betray myself and my creative vision. Also…I have tried to become more receptive to audiences that listen to our music and understand that they are truly the people that make all the difference in the success of a performing musician. So, I feel that my failures have ultimately strengthened me as a person and as a performer. I am lucky to have had the opportunity to lose something in life…it makes the successes that much sweeter and that makes me gratefully happy to say that I am a lucky loser!
Phil you’re also the president of a non-profit organization called “West Coast Blues For A Cure”. What has been the relationship between music and activism in your life? How important is activism in your life? How does music affect your mood and inspiration?
Phil: As I stated in my last answer, my mother died of cancer when I was ten years old. So that was one of the main things that inspired me to form West Coast Blues For A Cure. It was also through working with Sean Carney’s Blues For A Cure, that made me want to do something here in the Bay Area for victims of cancer. I feel that music is one of the most powerful ways of bringing people together, so why not try to do it for a great cause. That’s why I came up with the slogan which says, “seeking a cure through the healing power of blues.” We were able to put on events that raised over $10,000 for cancer research in 2011 and 2012 which featured performers such as Elvin Bishop, Irma Thomas, Rick Estrin and Junior Watson to name a few. I’ve had to put the non-profit on hold in recent years, but Cathy and I have discussed the possibility of doing it again sometime in the near future. Even my worst nights of playing music are better than my best days of not playing music. That's what music does for my mood….and I think it does the same for many other folks out there as well.
"Blues is a great healer. Because when you write a great blues song you are putting your finger on a precise emotional trigger. How you feel in the moment of crisis and how you decide to crawl out of that hole—that’s all blues. Everyone can relate to a great blues song!"
What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?
Cathy: In the mid 1980’s in Texas I watched men with talent the size of my pinky get help and encouragement from other established male blues artists. And I got zip. Men were scared of me. I could see it. And yes I was a little wild. But I already had my own voice at 24, and I already knew intuitively what takes most singers a decade or more to learn. I really feel I should have taken myself a lot more seriously. Instead I made a nose dive into drugs as a refuge. I just had no confidence at all. I had no faith. But part of my lack of faith came from the fact that men dominated the opportunities in Texas. And women were not taken seriously. I remember how sidemen talked about Lou Anne Barton when she got with Wexler and put out the album “Old Enough”. They were all so jealous. Lou Anne was hiring the best musicians so bands were breaking up. She got the big fish! So they’d all say “She’s not so great—she’s just got a cute face and a larger than life personality.” And then they’d say even more degrading things about her. Well Lou Anne was and is actually great! For me, in the beginning, I’d show up to sit in with a blues band and they’d say “Can you sing Summertime?” And I’d see the doubt in all of their faces. And also the desire for me too. And it really made me angry. I had one bass player say “You can’t sing blues!” And back then there were not many women who did. And most of them were being overpowered to the point of developing nodules. Now women rule blues! Janiva Magness and others have really taken control of their careers and their music. I love it because it took sheer guts. They had to step out and step up against great odds. Great odds.
What is the Impact of Blues and Jazz on the racial and socio-cultural implications?
Phil: Well…I'm afraid there's no easy succinct answer to this question. But more simply put...Blues and Jazz are American art forms that evolved out of African rhythms. The stories that are told in Blues mostly came from the days of slavery in which African Americans would sing there own versions of Christian spirituals. Jazz became more of an instrumental expression of African culture as well as an emotional expression. Blues & Jazz have practically defined a whole musical culture in which by the end of the 20th century had become embedded in the mainstream of American society. Whether people know it or not, Jazz & Blues are the roots of most everything that Americans embrace and identify with today. That's what's so ironic about it…many Americans don't even recognize the huge influence it's had on them. It seems that more people in other cultures like Europe have a greater understanding and appreciation of it than do Americans.
As for it's racial implications, many people associate Blues & Jazz with a period in our history when segregation and discrimination were a part of the norm in society (particularly in the South). So perhaps it may be perceived in a negative light…particularly among African Americans. The truth is that the United States is still is at odds with the issue of racism and the past enslavement and exploitation of African Americans. Maybe that's why it's so hard for people to embrace the older traditional forms of Blues & Jazz. But great living non-blues musicians like Stevie Wonder, Prince, Alicia Keys, Aretha Franklin etc. all recognize the rich history of Jazz & Blues and the huge everlasting impact it's had on their music as well as our modern culture.
Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really wanna go for a whole day..?
Cathy: I’d like to be on that “Austin City Limits” show. Why? Because they pick great talent and the audience just loves the music. I’d like to wake up and have a good ole’ Texas breakfast with grits and biscuits and gravy, drive down to the studio in an air conditioned Cadillac--tape the show with a screaming live audience. I’d like to by then have written about 4 more great songs that just rock. And one that’ll make ‘em cry. And that would be a great day for me.
Phil: I guess I'd like to go back to the late 40's... then jump forward to witness the whole evolution and integration that took place with black music in the late 60's when white people finally started to embrace all of it. One of my favorite icons from the 40's has been Louis Jordan. He did so much for American music. His music at that time crossed over the racial barriers more than anyone else (with the exception of maybe Nat King Cole or Duke Ellington). That early 50's R&B (which later became Rock & Roll) was directly influenced by his music. So I guess I would like to go back to the late 40's and get to hang with him for a day. Then, if I got to jump forward to the late 60's, I'd like to see and hang out with Sam & Dave…one of my favorite R&B acts.
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