Q&A with vocalist, dancer and entertainer Mizz Lowe - fusion of Jazz, Blues, Tap & Modern Dance

"I feel that Blues and Soul music has and have had a big impact on the Black culture from slavery to now. Blues was the feel good music for our fore parents just as Soul is the new blues for the newer generation now. As I go to the different festivals and concerts and I scan the crowd, I’m noticing that the fans are getting younger and younger."

Mizz Lowe: Dance To The Music

Loretta Harris aka Mizz Lowe born in Holmes county, Mississippi. Growing up in Greenwood, Mississippi, Mizz Lowe grew up singing in her church and school. Mizz Lowe was very active in her school, singing, a member of the school band (playing the flute), on the dance team and a majorette. Mizz Lowe remembers walking through the house in her mother’s heels singing and dancing at the tender age of six. Mizz Lowe contributes her love for blues music to her father, who owned a café when she was growing up.  she remembers hearing on the jukebox BB King, Denise LaSalle, Little Milton, Tyrone Davis, Johnnie Taylor, Fat Dominos and Bobby Rush who she now tours with as his personal assistant and lead dancer to name a few.  Mizz Lowe is widely known for her character she plays as the ‘Young Hen’ for the King of the chittlin’ circuit – Bobby Rush.

Mizz Lowe has had the pleasure of traveling the world with Mr. Rush to include places such as: Iraq, Spain, China, Norway, France, Switzerland, Sweden, Finland and the UK to include a performance for the queen of England. She has graced the stage with the likeness as: Bobby Rush, David Honeyboy Edwards, Patti LaBelle, Chaka Khan, Keb’ Mo, Buddy Guy, Ike Turner, Robert Lockwood, the Temptations, Bobby Blue Bland, Loretta Devine, Don Barden, Judge Maybelline, Kyle Massey and Sam Myers to name a few. Mizz Lowe’s credit includes: “The Help”, “Bobby Rush Live at Ground Zero”, “Feel the Rush (Bobby Rush live in China)”, the “Tri-State Blues Festival” and her most recent project “the Lowe Down Rush project”. Mizz Lowe also have appeared in the world’s oldest blues magazine still in print today ‘Jefferson Blues Magazine’ (in 2008) with Bobby Rush’s Ole Hen / syndicated radio show host and Jefferson’ blues magazine columnist Jazzii A. Mizz Lowe is currently in the studio working on her debut cd, continuously touring with Mr. Bobby Rush and making guest appearances.

Interview by Michael Limnios  Photos by Mizz Lowe Archive / All rights reserved

What do you learn about yourself from the Blues people and culture? What does the blues mean to you?

Greetings to you and the Magnificent Blues world...Let me start by saying that I’ve learned a lot from being around my father who owned a Juke Joint, and from the Blues Artists. From being around artists such as Bobby Rush, Honey Boy Edwards, Denise LaSalle and Bobby Blue Bland to name a few, is how the Blues came about, the meaning behind the music and how it relate to my (the Black) culture. How the Blues was born during Slavery as a way for them to express the way they felt and also as a way to send hidden messages to other Slaves.

What the Blues mean to me…Everything!! I can say that I’m probably one of the few young artists that are doing Blues Music that actually lived a part of that era. I was born and raised in Mississippi. I grew up on an actual Plantation in Egypt, Mississippi; my father was what they called a Straw Boss and at night he ran a Juke Joint there on the Plantation at least five nights a week. It was in my father’s juke joint that I heard artists’ such as Bobby Rush, B. B. King, Bobby Bland, Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Denise LaSalle, Sonny Boy Williams, Albert King and Honeyboy Edwards to name a few. So as a child growing up listening to this type of music, I had no choice but to do the Blues because it was deeply rooted into my soul. Believe it, I still go back and visit from which I came, just to smell the dusty dirty roads and the sweet smell of county living in the air. It’s a different smell in the country then it is in the city.

What were the reasons that you started the Blues/Soul researches? How do you describe your stage perform and sound?

My exposure to the music at an early age, I feel have a lot to do with it.  As I had stated earlier, my father Kapus Rooks (but everyone called him KP) was a Straw Boss on a plantation and was the only black man at that time allowed to have a café on the plantation. In the day time I used to go with my brothers and sisters to clean up the juke joint and we would listen to the blues music on the jukebox before the people would come in to party and dance.

My stage performance is contributed to me growing up and being influenced by the music from my father’s café to having a love for music which lead to me joining the band, where I played the flute, to me becoming a majorette in the band. From that I began to want to adventure out in the field and try more and more things, so I started entering talent, modeling and dance contests. I would describe my style as a fusion of Jazz, Blues, Tap and Modern Dance.

"Looking back, my father’s café had a big impact on my future and the path that I have taken. Back then I had no idea that this is where I would be as a career. I just knew that I loved music and I like the way that it made me feel. I couldn’t dream that I would be surrounded by such legends and most of all to be embraced by them." (Photo: Bobby Rush & Mizz Lowe)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Knowing Bobby Rush has been by far the one which has yielded the most experiences. Being a part of Bobby Rush’s crew have enabled me to see the world, experience different cultures and to witness things that I learned about in school, such as; traveling through and being in the different time zones and crossing the International date line, to seeing one of the seventh wonders of the world, the Great Wall of China…..not only just seeing the wall but being able to climb the Great Wall of China. I’ve even had the opportunity to go to Baghdad and Kuwait as a civilian and performing for the troops.

I would say that the best advice came from the Queen of the Blues Ms. Denise LaSalle. She told me her story about her being the only female in a group, then she gave me some life lessons about being on the road and told me “Be the best at what you are going to do, don’t be afraid, because you can make it happen when you hit the stage and whatever you do ‘Let their asses have it’”.

Are there any memories from Ike Turner, Bobby Rush and Robert Lockwood Jr. which you’d like to share with us?

Memories about Ike Turner that I have are: Meeting him in person for the first time was in Finland, and that he kept holding my hand and wouldn’t let it go.

Robert Lockwood, Jr. (sigh) I will forever be grateful….He and his wife are so nice….I remember I getting up this particular morning, Robert’s wife decided to sleep in a little…I helped him with get the thing ready for his morning drink (coffee/tea) and him sharing his knowledge with me about Classical Music. Man I will never forget this…He is a musical genius.

Bobby Rush – Ha ha, there are so many memories with being on the road with Bobby. One in particular that I remember is with a fan….Bobby used to do this stunt in the show, where he would call a lady up, he would bend over and tell her to hit him. The lady was supposed to hit him on the butt. Well!! This particular time, the lady took and spit in her hand, like she was going to hit a home run….Awww yeah, she hit a home run alright….She hit his little butt so hard that she knocked him off of the stage. (Laughing) He looked at me and said “Ouch baby she hit me”. The fans had so much fun with that one.

Another fun one with Bobby is when we went to China. We were in a restaurant eating and Bobby ordered some rice. When the waiter brought out the rice, he saw Bobby putting some sugar on the rice (that’s a Southern thing). The waiter said “no, no, no sugar on rice, you are gonna spoil the rice”. So Bobby explains to him that it was a southern tradition for some people to put sugar on their rice. Now the waiter responded back to Bobby: “how come? How come their butts so big? Bobby – Rice…Waiter – Rice make big like that? Bobby – Yessss. Everyone just fell out laughing at them.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown says? What is the status of women in Blues?

To be a female artist in a “Man’s World” as James Brown put it, is a little challenging at time, because:

1-We are outnumbered by male artists.

2-Most of the promoters are male.

3-We have to constant prove ourselves, that we are just as good as our counter partner, that we have as good of bands/musicians as they, that we can promote, produce and hold our own if given a chance.

4-And they won’t us to work the same gigs for less pay. I feel that we can make it and make a different in what we contribute to the industry. Today we have the same opportunities as our male artists in the industry when it comes down to industry tools and education.                        (Photo: Denise LaSalle & Mizz Lowe)

What has made you laugh from Honeyboy Edwards? What touched (emotionally) you from Boddy Blue Bland?

I used to laugh at and about Honeyboy talking about him being from the same town in which I live today – Greenwood, Mississippi. He used to talk about Greenwood being his old stomping grounds and all of the gambling spots. He also talked about this one area there in Greenwood known as Baptist Town which I was very familiar with. I remember as a teenager we used to ride over to that area. He talked about Robert Johnson.

Another fun memory I have of Honeyboy Edwards is when Bobby Rush and I with Robert Whitall, Sugar Owens of Detroit, Michigan and Honeyboy was traveling to Canada in a snow storm, the windshield wipers started freezing up and inverted. We all started laughing so Bobby decided to get out and fix the wipers, the wipers froze completely and got stuck……Honeyboy said what the h*ll he get out there for… He just laugh and laugh and the next thing we knew the wipers flew off of the car and we were just sitting there like we were at a drive in movie.

Bobby Blue Bland – Bobby Rush and Bobby Bland were friends; we used to talk with him a lot. They would make sure that they would always go where the other one was when we were together. His wife Willie Mae would always embrace us.

I remember talking with Bobby Bland about me doing music and Bobby Rush would tell him about the way I would want to do it. The one thing I remembered was Bobby Bland telling Bobby to leave me alone and let me create my way because everyone creates differently. I have never had nothing but respect for Bobby Bland, coming up on his music in my father’s café and to be in his presents was a might plus for me.

What do you miss most nowadays from the blues/soul of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

Real music. I miss the real music of the past when the artists/musician/music was the kind that you could feel down in your soul. When the artists would make you feel the songs, feel their pain, feel their joy, made you cry or made you forget about your troubles for the moment. Back then the music gave you hope, people would come together at the juke joints on the old dusty roads with their shinny cars or trucks. You could identify the days and the music back then.

Nowadays…I personally don’t feel that the new generation will carry on the blues as I grew up on. Today that style of blues is known as cotton field blues to the new/young generation and the new generations lots of them say they don’t won’t to sing that style of blues because they didn’t live it and can’t identify with it. I feel that part of our history will be lost or forgotten because the older ones are dying off and the young ones won’t carry it on.

Today I feel that our music have no substance in it, there is no story. What happened to the story line?

"What the Blues mean to me…Everything!! I can say that I’m probably one of the few young artists that are doing Blues Music that actually lived a part of that era. I was born and raised in Mississippi. I grew up on an actual Plantation in Egypt, Mississippi; my father was what they called a Straw Boss and at night he ran a Juke Joint there on the Plantation at least five nights a week." (Photo: Bobby Rush & Mizz Lowe)

How has your father’s cafe influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

Looking back, my father’s café had a big impact on my future and the path that I have taken. Back then I had no idea that this is where I would be as a career. I just knew that I loved music and I like the way that it made me feel. I couldn’t dream that I would be surrounded by such legends and most of all to be embraced by them. I was very close to my father and I paid attention to him. I thank my father from the bottom of my heart for what he shared with me, because the Blues will always be a part of me.

What is the Impact of Blues/Soul music and culture to the racial and socio-cultural implications?

I feel that Blues and Soul music has and have had a big impact on the Black culture from slavery to now. Blues was the feel good music for our fore parents just as Soul is the new blues for the newer generation now. As I go to the different festivals and concerts and I scan the crowd, I’m noticing that the fans are getting younger and younger. And with Social Medial being the new marketing outlet, you can be anywhere in the world and hear what’s being released by the artists, you can see where the different artists will be performing. It has really leveled the playing field for the independent artists to have some of the same marketing tools as the majors.

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would really like to go to Hawaii and to the African Safari. I would like to spend a week or so in each country. As a little girl I used to watch Fantasy Island and used to say I want to go, I want to go to Hawaii and visit Fantasy Island and I would love to go to Africa to visit the Safari. I love watching the animals, how they interact with one another, how they hunt for food for their family and just run free. I can just see it as Blowing in the Wind.

Mizz Lowe - Home

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