Friday, May 28, 2010

B.B. King goes to Europe at age 84






If all goes according to plan, B.B. King and his fabulous band have crossed the pond by now and will be in Paris Sunday or Monday. I won't be going but I hope the Europeans will be as kind to B.B. as the Americans have been. Keep in mind, he is an 84 year old blues legend and that can never change.

Why, you ask, is this significant to me, a little (4'10-1/2") blogger like me? Two of my dearest friends are likely to meet somewhere in France in the next few days. B.B.'s keyboard player, Ernest Vantrease, a.k.a. The Deacon, as he was known during the 30 years he played with Ray Charles, will meet with one of the co-founders of Soul Bag magazine, Joel Dufour. There should be two dots over the 'e' in Joel but I don't know how to make that happen on my blog.

Joel has devoted many years to interviewing and writing about American blues musicians, mostly black (or if I'm going to be p.c. African American or is it now Afro-American?) We all know what I mean and no offense is intended toward anyone, obviously since many of these musicians are my friends.

In his quest to identify the musicians behind the musicians, those whose names are recognizable only to serious music fans, Joel has sought out the people who played horns, drums, keyboards, guitars, etc. in order to give them credit and keep their memories alive. He is truly one of a kind.

I've seen a lot of concerts in the past 6 months. Each front-man introduced the members of their bands but usually the applause was louder than their names. Clapton gives his musicians their due and so does Roger Daltry but the only names I remember from their recent tour was Peter Townsend's brother (whose name I didn't catch) who is playing guitar in Peter's place due to his battle with deafness.

I realize the musicians in the background change from tour to tour, but don't you think that Clapton hand-picked those who would back him up? Can you name them? I can't.

Leon Russell and Willie Nelson did a better job. I liked the fact that Leon had a young guitar player, introduced him and let him do one of the guitar player's songs with the spotlight on him. That was classy.

When I saw Tony Bennett, he gave credit to every songwriter who had written the song he was about to sing as well as the artist who originally recorded the song and made it famous. That was super-classy, but I guess when you are 80 years old you have learned humility although Bennett always struck me as humble. Maybe that is something you can't learn.

Michael Buble is a terrific crooner who puts on a great show but he has not written a single song; he co-wrote "I just haven't met you yet" with his keyboard player, whose name I can't recall. He gives no credit to any songwriters and the young fans who created an atmosphere that could only be called 'Michael-mania' screamed and carried on, throwing roses on stage just as a teenager might for the Jonas Brothers. I interviewed a few of these love-sick girls, who would be very disappointed to know that he has a steady girlfriend, and asked them if they knew who wrote the songs he sang. They all believe Michael did. He sang a song written by Leon Russell, one written by Bobby Darin and the list goes on. I also asked if the girls knew who the bandmembers were and they could not name a single one.

Alas, Joel Dufour has taken on a mighty task. Many of the great musicians he is trying to credit for their work are no longer alive but still deserve to be remembered. Leroy Cooper, of course is one of them. Most people don't know his name even though he stood front and center leading the Ray Charles orchestra for 20 years, doubling on baritone sax.

So it is with a happy heart that I wish for my friend Ernest Vantrease to meet with my committed friend, Joel Dufour to try to put together some of the musicians with the songs and albums on which they played and got no credit for on the liner notes.

Hats off to both of them for doing something that rarely gets done anymore, remembering the greats that are no longer with us but whose music will live forever.

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