Tuesday 12 February 2019

Blues Lyrics

As a songwriter, I really do enjoy listening to songs with adventurous lyrics.
It would have been so easy for the the old bluesers to stick with the norm; "I woke up this morning, just about the break of day".
Thank God they didn't!

I personally think that Louis Jordan has to top the list of the all time great blues songwriters.
I don't think he ever wrote a bad one: "Let the good times roll", "Choo choo ch boogie", "Early in the morning", "Barnyard boogie" etc etc etc.

As a young man, I was knocked out by Mose Allison singing,"Because your mind is on vacation and your mouth is working overtime".
Cousin Joe also knocked me for six with "I wouldn't give a blind sow an acorn, wouldn't give a crippled crab a crutch, 'cause I just found out baby that you aint so such a much".
And Willie Mabon was definately from another planet: "Now I can go down to the bottom of the sea, count the grains of sand, peep through muddy water and spy dry land, I'm mad.......".

Of course the Blues has always had a blue side to it and there have been many a recording made and played on the airwaves.
Chick Willis springs to mind with his "stoop down baby let your daddy see, you got something down there worrying the hell out of me"!!
Shake Rattle & Roll isn't so innocent neither; "I'm like a one-eyed cat peeping in a seafood store, I can look at you 'till you aint no child no more", well well.

I bought a Memphis Slim record and played it on and off for a couple of years.
There is a song on the record called "If you see Kay".
A nice story about Mr. Slim missing his gal Kay. So if you see her, tell her to go back home.
It was only when I saw him on the TV live at Ronnie Scotts that I finally got it.
He looks into the audience and hits them with, "F, U, C, K, send her home to me" !!!!!!
And yes, I did add this song to my repertoire!

Indeed, lyrics are a true wonder.
They can make you happy, sad, thoughtful, angry, suspicious..........................
Prince Partridge asked "How come my dog don't bark when you come around"?
Steve Clayton said "I heard my baby knockin' 'bout a quarter to four, knockin' from wall to wall, she had hair just like Medusa and I know I shouldn't accuse her but it looked just like she fell off a horse", (Where did you stay last night).

There have been countless books written on this very subject so I am going to leave you with lyrics written by Lightnin' Hopkins which for me really epitomise the Blues.
"Good Lord just let me live 'till tomorrow, I'm gonna sing you another prayer, yes 'till tomorrow, this black man's gonna sing you another prayer. Sometimes I begin to wonder, what in the world am I doin' over here"
A truly great live recording of "Stool Pigeon Blues" can be heard here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1DTOLJlblqM


Saturday 14 April 2018

Early Days

What a fantastic feeling it is to be able to walk into a pub, order a beer, and go and bang out some low down Boogie Woogie on the old upright piano in the corner.
Thirty five years ago I was doing that a lot, and being paid for it.
Payment was made in pounds sterling, (a few), and beer, (a lot!!).

That, of course, was long after the arrival of the Jukebox and those evil, criminal activities known as "Piano Breaking Competitions"!!!
It was hard enough to find pubs with piano's in Birmingham then, but there were some, and you certainly learnt your craft in those places, physically and mentally.

After spending several years playing in various Blues bands, I was looking for a venue where I could sit down and play & sing the songs that I was writing for a solo career.
The Wellington on Bristol Street was one of these venues.
Dave & Catherine were running the Wellington back then.
Dave was a great cook and you really had to reserve a table in the "back room" so as not to be disappointed.
His charming French partner, Catherine, loved to tell jokes, but she would always break into fits of laughter before getting to the punch line, so you never did "get it".
They had a really dangerous piano, you had to dodge the bits that used to fly off it whilst playing.
The boss should have made every piano player who played on it sign a declaration of liability.
The audience, (if that is the right word to use), were, how can I say.......different 😊.
I think they thought Boogie Woogie was probably something Dave had whipped up in the kitchen and would be served with chips during the break.
But I loved it, and always looked forward to it every Monday night.
It was as close as I was going to get to playing in a Barrelhouse.

When the Wellington changed hands I moved to the Adam & Eve on Bradford Street.
The management informed me that the wooden box in front of the fire place was a piano and I spent a couple of years beating the living daylights out of it with my newly formed band "The 44s".
Anyone who attended a Monday night gig at the Adam will tell you what a great night it was.
Man, it used to get rammed!
There are also some people who can tell you the night some weirdo came into the A&E and ended up sticking a gun to my head as I was playing the piano.
I thought that was it, the bar at the A&E was the last thing I was ever going to see.
If it wasn't for my hero,Terry, creeping up behind him and sticking a bottle over his head, it probably would have been.
The police and ambulance duly arrived and took the weirdo off to a different A&E !

The piano moved from the Adam & Eve to The Old Railway, Curzon Street, then known as O'neils and I moved with it to continue my weekly residency.
It wasn't long before I persuaded owner Mick to purchase a new piano, and we set off early one afternoon to do just that, stopping off at five or six pubs, (to say "hello"), on the way to Sparky's.
By the time we arrived at Sparky's, I didn't have a clue what the difference was between a Steinway or a Banjo, but I pointed and he paid !
Talking of paying, you couldn't have paid enough for some of those nights at O'neils.
All the top dogs from the local scene would get up and join me for a couple of songs and I always encouraged up and coming piano players to "have a go", and it is nice to know that some of them are still "having a go" today.
The crowd loved it..........................BOSTIN !!

It was during my stint at The Old Railway that I decided to move to Germany.
That was1998, and I look back at those early days with great fondness.
To me, it was like playing in your living room surrounded by friends, having a drink together.
Of course I still return to the UK a few times a year to visit my family and do a few gigs.
And yep, there are still some places which have real piano's to play on so things are looking up.

I did at one time, contemplate buying a small piano and putting it on the back of a trailer so I would always have a decent piano at my disposal.
Although my mind was saying "yeah, yeah, do it" my back was telling me something else.
I do own an electric piano which actually sounds great, but it don't look good.
You can't see the hammers swinging to & fro or hear the clatter of fingers upon the ivory-nicotine-beer-stained keyboard or hear the creak of the sustain pedal, and not forgetting that smell !!!!!!

People often ask me if I prefer playing on a grand piano or an old upright.
I always reply: "If I put the lid up on a grand piano, where do I put my beer ?"


Tuesday 20 March 2018

Time to blog !

Well, I finally decided to do it......to blog!
It seems like I'm being left behind in this fast and furious world.
Newsletters are out and blogs are in.
I mean I don't even have a smart phone or what's app !!

So, it is time to grab this fast and furious world by the scruff of the neck and show it who the boss is.
As it was with my newsletter, I wont be posting something everyday, only when needs must.
Regarding themes, well I guess I will be posting things which I need to get out of my system and things which I think may be of interest to others.

My newsletter included things like latest news, tours, new CD's etc.
All of these things are available on my homepage anyway so blogging opens up another dimension for me, one which will take me and my readers into the great unknown :-)

Of course I will be welcoming your comments to my blogs, thumbs up or thumbs down.

Here we go then..................................................................


Blues Lyrics

As a songwriter, I really do enjoy listening to songs with adventurous lyrics. It would have been so easy for the the old bluesers to stick...