French writer/ radio host Luc Brunot talks about Southern rock, local blues scene, Bands of Dixie, and his internet projects

"The blues is not only a very touching music, it’s a warm music with e feeling."

Luc Brunot: South's Gonna Do It Again

Luc Brunot is one of the most profound admirer and connoisseur of southern rock and blues in Europe. The French journalist and radio producer who is working on several projects related to his favorite music. 

Writing in various magazines and sites ( Member of staff of Bands of Dixie, Articles for Virus de Blues, Articles for Blues & Co, Member of the powerblues)  and doing his own radio shows  (Radio programs: « All Blues » on RCF Corrèze (Ussel 102 / Brive 91.4 / Tulle 106.9 / Argentat 89.3); RCF Accords (Angoulême 96.8 / Cognac 89.9 / Confolens 95.4 / Charente Limousine 104.1 / Chalais 96.9 / Ruffec 95.4); RCF Puy de Dôme (Clermont-Ferrand 91.6 / Thiers 84.4 / Ambert 101.5 / Issoire 89.1 / Combrailles 103.1 / La Bourboule et le Mont-Dore 91.7) « Dixie Rock » on RCF Corrèze (Ussel 102 / Brive 91.4 / Tulle 106.9 / Argentat 89.3), « Radio Blues Intense » & « Sweet Home RBA! » on RBA FM Auvergne Limousin (104.4 / 98.2)  is one of the most living cells of the French blues rock scene.

Interview by Michael Limnios

What first attracted you to the Blues and Southern Rock & what does the BLUES mean to you?
I was from a family where the music was important but far from those musical worlds. During my youth, I didn’t know the blues and the rock not too much - at sixteen, I think I didn’t knew the Beatles! It was at my 20th anniversary and someone – I don’t know who – offered me the Doc Holliday Rides Again LP. It was a shock. At first I didn’t appreciate it but my opinion turned after several listening. I became a big fan of this album – that is still my preferred record in my collection of more than 5 000 albums. – and I quickly searched to others Southern rock bands.

It was the good days in France because it was when the government authorized the creation of hundreds of free radio stations and many of this little and free stations broadcasted all the kind of music. In the city where I was, several stations proposed Southern rock programs. Thus, I discovered many things and bought all I could. But it was the end of the golden days of Southern rock and it’s a small musical niche.

Thus, I didn’t find too much more new records and I began to look to other styles like the blues. First were Johnny Winter, Luther Allison and Stevie Ray Vaughan. After, my record store helped me to discover Buddy Guy, Melvin Taylor, Freddie King and more (the great “Mighty Fine Dancin’” by Mike Morgan and the Crawl !). Then, I subscribed to magazines and was more and more passionate in more rooted bluesmen, more or less known.
The blues is a very touching music. There is not off course a single kind of blues but several and the blues can be joyful. But when I’m listening to Otis Rush singing “Double Trouble” or “My Love Will Never Die” or “Violent Love”, there is nothing more emotional. The blues is not only a very touching music, it’s a warm music with e feeling.

How do you characterize the philosophy of Bands of Dixie’s magazine?
Bands Of Dixie is a paper magazine devoted to Southern rock. It’s not really a fanzine in that we don’t hesitate to criticize if it needs. We off course write about the news and the new records but we are – I especially – interested too in the past. Most of the Southern rock bands aren’t well documented and I think it’s important to collect information on it, on their story, when it’s still possible to interview the artists. Blues magazines (like Soul Bag or ABS magazine in France) are doing a great work about the bluesmen and I think we have to do the same thing for Southern rockers. Another purpose of Bands Of Dixie is to permit the people who are not a specialist to discover the historic bands records. Thus, we are doing some complete discographies articles. And we are lucky to have with us my friend Jacques Dersigny who know many totally unknown but interesting bands from the seventies or the eighties, in a Southern country and/or psyche vein.

How do you describe Luc’s broadcast projects?
Well, I have, each week, four programs on several radios broadcasted on line and on the web. Two are live programs and two are recorded. Two are about the blues and two devoted to Southern rock. All Blues is broadcasted by three stations of the RCF network. Depending on the stations it’s 25 or 35 mn long. The program begins with an old tune before to presents the new records. Dixie Rock is 35 mn long and broadcasted by RCF Corrèze. These two programs are available on podcast on my website. Radio Blues Intense and Sweet Home RBA! are on RBA FM Auvergne Limousin (a total of 1 hour 45 mn for the 2 programs) and I program the new CD without to forget some great tunes from the past. I receive around 300 or 400 discs each year, thus I have a lot of new CDs to broadcast I take this opportunity to write too short reviews on it for several magazines. I have to add that I’m a founder of the Collectif des Radios Blues, a French speaking radio DJs society, the only society of this kind in the world (I think). It’s an important tool for all of us the DJs. One of the things we propose – and that I am in charge of – is the Powerblues that present s every month the opinion of seven of us regarding the new blues releases.

Which was the best moment of your career and which was the worst?
In my “career” of radio DJ and writer for magazines, I had not really bad moments. Only some little frustrations about some interviews never finished with artists who were ok at first to do it. The worst is a person with which I had good email discussions and who suddenly stopped to answer without I see the reason. The best was to meet very kind persons and to discuss with some artists very interesting in their answers. Some of them are very endearing people and we are still in touch.

Are there any memories of all these GREAT MUSICIANS, which you’d like to share with us?
Well, I do interview mostly by e-mail thus it’s not easy to tell about vivid memories. But I have met some of these artists that were playing concerts. Sometimes it was when we did the interview, sometimes I saw them after we did the interview by email. I remember the first interview we did with Bruce Brookshire from Doc Holliday in Belgium. The long car trip in the fog, the very good set, Bruce Brookshire replacing one of the guitar players of the opening band (Lizard) and, during the interview, the intelligence and the goodness of Bruce Brookshire, the singularity of his ideas. I remember the interviews we did with some Point Blank members (Buddy Whittington, Rusty Burns and John O’Daniel) and when Phillip Petty (their bass player) was thanking me warmly for having broadcasted a song he penned for Smokin’ Joe Kubek. A musician who was quite a myth for me some years before and who is thanking you! Do you believe it? I remember too the joy of the Judge Parker and the Hogjaw musicians when we met. Surprising and touching for me.

Do you remember anything funny or interesting from your interviews?
Not all the interviewed artists are interesting in their answers but yes it can be fascinating when the artist answers in depth. Off course, I have forgotten some things – my memory is not excellent – but yes I remember a lot of these interesting conversations. Too many things to mention all: the story of the end of the professional career of JoJo Billingsley, the links of Mose Jones with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Jay Boy Adams career links with ZZ Top and Point Blank, the whole musical story of George hatcher, Hydra and their feeling of the horns added on their first LP, the different opinions of Dru Lombar and Larry Howard about Grinderswitch, Gary Jeffries putting all is money to record his CD, etc.
One thing a bit funny is the story of the interview with Donnie McCormick. Because he didn’t use Internet (and computer?), I gave a paper with the questions to Mudcat, a bluesman and friend of him from Atlanta who was often in France. He did the interview with a tape recorder and, in the conversation, added his own questions. But then the tape was lost and it takes maybe one year before it was find again. Thus I got the tape but unfortunately the sound was very weak and Donnie had a terrific accent for me. Thus I had to find someone to translate. There were different attempts but finally I got the interview even if, unhappily, some of the answers were inaudible.

What are some of the most memorable interviews you've had?
The most memorable where when I had not only a formal relation but a true relation with people doesn’t saying commonplaces. I remember, for example, Bobby Golden (my first!), Paul Hornsby (a gentleman), Buzzy Gruen, Bryan Cole (a very kind person), Russell Gulley, Stevie Hawkins (he said so many things. Tom Coerver too), Jimmy Hall, Robert Nix, Billy Crain, George Hatcher (one of my favorites), Gary Jeffries and JoJo Billingsley. At first, she was a little mistrustful, bitter by all the troubles she got with the music business, but so kind after. It was a strong time and we kept in touch after, until her illness.

Which of the people you have worked with do you consider the good friend?
I could mention Bryan Cole, George Hatcher, Bobby Golden, Russell Gulley, and Hogjaw. It was the same thing with JoJo before she passed and Robert Nix before he got health troubles. I have regular emails with Jimmy Hall, Tim Kelliher or Stevie Hawkins too.

Of all the people you’ve meet (and spoke), who do you admire the most?
I admire Bruce Brookshire for his music (he recorded my favorite album), his kindness and his opened mind, I admire Paul Hornsby and Jimmy Hall (what a career!), Robert Nix (I’m a fans of the Atlanta Rhythm Section), George Hatcher (most of his stuff is great and he’s quite unknown), Billy Crain (what a guitarist and an interesting guy!), Gary Jeffries (a real true and passionate rocker). But I admire nearly all the musicians I interviewed. They all made great stuff and I am incapable of doing the smallest fraction of that they did.

Which of the artists were the most difficult and which was the most gifted?
I had two frustrating interviews. One was with the Simple Southern Boys. Deryle Hughes answered shortly at first and later never answered to my emails. I have not had the possibility to complete the interview. The other was with Ronnie Riddle of Preacher Stone: very short answers and often without interest (I hope it’s not my case here!). For the most gifted I think I mentioned before the most interesting artists. I think that the more prolific were Stevie Hawkins (the first answer is maybe longer than some of complete interviews!) and Tom Coerver.

Did you help many artist in the meantime did you found any gratitude from them?
Yes, I know that I’m helping some artists with interviews, CD reviews and broadcasts. I don’t know if it’s an important help or no. I often find gratitude from the artists.

Which of historical music personalities would you like to meet and recording?
I don’t usually do interviews without bluesmen (I like them too but the job is very well done by a lot of magazine… and people like you) but I’d like to do it with Bobby Parker. He’s an incredible guitarist but an incredible singer too. He’s – for me – one of the greatest bluesmen. Unfortunately he has recorded only two albums and he’s in the obscurity. I’m not too much interested in interviewing Southern rock stars like Lynyrd Skynyrd, Allman Brothers, Molly Hatchet, Marshall Tucker Band, etc. because they are already often interviewed. One regret is that I didn’t find the possibility to ask some questions to Ronnie Hammond. I’d like to do it too with Barry Bailey, one of my favorite guitar players. I don’t have too much hope but maybe one day… I would have liked to interview Danny or Pat Liston of Mama’s Pride but it was already done in Bands Of Dixie. But off course, I hope too to meet some of not too much famous Southern rock bands to document them.

Which memory from Bands of Dixie’s magazine makes you smile?
The magic trip in Belgium to see and interview Doc Holliday. We were at first a little doubtfully about the capacity of the band – it was the first Doc Holliday show for us – that we thought, was declining but they did an incredible good set. It was like a dream.

Which is the most interesting period in your life and why?
I’m a very lucky man because all the periods were interesting – except the high school. They were different but all interesting in their type.

What is the think you miss most from the “original” Southern Rock era?
I miss the important number of new albums releases and I miss – above all – the possibility to see these bands at their peak.

Why did you think that Blues & Southern rock continued to generate such a devoted following?
Well, I don’t know and I fear there aren’t too much followers. What I know is that especially my RBA programs are listened by people that usually don’t listen to this kind of music (it’s a local radio that many people are listening all the day). And I know they like to listen to the blues.

Why are Europeans so enamored with the Blues and Southern Rock?
Well. Off course because it are great music! One reason is maybe still the influence of the American myth. Another reason that these music are now maybe more appreciated in Europe than in the US could be the difference between the two continents concerning the history. Maybe, because we have a long long history, are we more sensible to the music fixed in the past. In the USA, with less history, people seem to change more easily and to give up the former musical forms.

Give one wish for the blues and Southern Rock
A perpetual revival!

You had pretty interesting project "sweet home music", where did you get that idea?
At first, it was just to publish the playlists of my radio program to permit to the listeners to find all the credits of the stuff broadcasted. Later, I thought of my interviews of Bands Of Dixie. It was a pity that only the Bands Of Dixie readers can be informed. I thought especially of the outside France fans. Thus I wanted to publish the English version.

What is your “secret” MUSIC DREAM? What mistake of the music business, would you wish to correct?
I’d like that the artists get their recognition by their music and not because of the marketing, the name of their parents or for any reason not linked to their talents. At the Cognac Blues Passions 2012, one of the top of the bill is Hugh Laurie, the House, M.D. star on TV. Maybe he’s a good bluesman but the reason because he heads the bill is not his fame as a blues player but his fame as an actor. It’s a pity.

What are the secrets to a good music journalist? What is the word "seal" of your work?
You should ask it to… a good music journalist! I’m just hoping I’m not too bad and I’m doing the best I can. I think my best assets are my love for this music and my good knowledge of the subject. For it, I read what I can find on the Internet, on the albums booklets, etc. to prepare the questions. With my questions I really want to learn something.

What is the strangest desire that you have requested someone in the interview?
The strangest question? Maybe when I asked Bruce Brookshire if Doc Holliday met Dr. Hook at a doctors conference…

From whom have you have learned the most secrets about music?
I don’t know if I have learned too much secrets. I have learned some facts I didn’t knew. I don’t know if it was secret!

When it all began for the blues and Southern Rock in France, who is considered the local "godfather" of the blues?
There are French bluesmen from a long time in France. I think to my friend Cisco Herzhaft who backed John Lee Hooker on a tour in the sixties. Among the most famous in the historical French bluesmen are Patrick Verbeke, Bill Deraime, Paul Personne and Benoit Blue Boy. If there is a godfather, I think it would be the latest.
France is not a country of rock. The history of French Southern rock bands it’s not substantial.

Make an account for current realities of the case of the Blues and Southern Rock in France
The blues (and soul) French scene is now excellent in France with a lot of really excellent bands. Among my favorites are Bo Weavil, Nico & the Rhythm Dudes, Malted Milk, The Honeymen, Sophie Kay, Lenny Lafargue. We have many concerts and festivals. Thus, we have good opportunities to see many blues acts. There are a lot of magazines (around ten) and radio programs (more than fifty). Blues is well alive here.
Now, we have several bands playing more or less Southern rock: Calibre 12, Natchez, General Store, Plug & Play, Truckers and some others. We were lucky to get a lot of American bands tours these last years but a few dates are booked in France during these European tours. For example, Lynyrd Skynyrd would play ten shows in Germany and only one in France.  France in maybe more a country of Southern rock magazines! Except Bands Of Dixie, you can find Road To Jacksonville, a webzine.

What mistake of the local blues (and Rock) scene you want to correct?
I just would like less quarrels, bad terms between persons and sometimes more respect for each other. Especially, there is here a recurrent dispute about the singing language. “You must sing in English because it’s the language of the blues and the French doesn’t sound good or if it sounds good it’s no more blues.” “You must sing in French because it permits to all the audience to understand your story.” Well… Let’s respect everybody. I like the French singing and I like the English singing. The two bring something different and the whole is richer.

Bands of Dixie   Skydog's Elysium   Sweet Home Music

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