Unique video Freddie King: Performance at the Travis Co. Jail
The style of Freddie King speaks for itself and what it says to anyone is grooving blues, tight guitar playing and attitude. In 1976, not long before Freddie’s death, producer, filmmaker and editor Ric Sternberg shot a piece of Freddie King performing for inmates at the Travis Co. Jail. Watch this unique footage of Freddie King and his half-brother Bennie.
Video by Ric Sternberg
Like Johnny Cash and other musicians in those days did, Freddie and his half-brother Bennie were invited to play for the inmates at the Travis Co. Jail. The prisoners loved it. So did the musicians. Ric sternberg shot it with help from William McLellan & Linda Evans. It was shot with a single tube camera.
When I bought my first Muddy Waters Record which was “Hard Again” released in 1977 I saw this cool picture of Muddy, James Cotton and Texas guitar hero Johnny Winter laughin’. That album was an absolute masterpierce and still one of my favorite blues albums. As a solo guitarist Winter made numerous album in which you can hear his guitar virtousity. Song like “Shake Your Moneymaker” and “Straycat Blues” are good examples of what a skillful guitarist he was.
‘Life Is Hard’ is a song in Winters trademark guitar style, a slow blues song filled with guitar virtuosity and the lyrics novel like. Johnny released this song on his album Let Me In from 1991.
Life ain’t easy It’s a long, hard, rocky road Well it’s dog, dog eat dog And survival of the fittest, so I’m told…
You know Texas bluesman Lightnin’ Hopkins mostly for his slow blues songs like ‘Mojo Hand’, but in ‘The Jake-head Boogie’ we meet Hopkins in another way. This song is fast, swings and is full of boogie rhythms.
It will take days to get through Lightnin’ Hopkins repertoire. He recorded for various labels like Arhoolie and Aladdin formed by the Messner Brothers in L.A, but over time you will discover more and more Lightnin’ songs that blow you away, and one of them is the Jake Head Boogie. It is one of the cool things about discovering the world of blues. That’s how I see it.
Lightnin’ Hopkins Jake-head Boogie
People have learned how to strum a guitar, but they don’t have the soul. They don’t feel it from the heart. It hurts me. I’m killin’ myself to tell them how it is. – Lightnin’ Hopkins –
American musician Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown brought it Texas Style
His highschool teacher in San Antonio, Texas said he had a voice like a “gate”, and since that day Clarence Brown would be called Gatemouth Brown. He is a multi instrumentalist and plays a whole lot more than just the Blues. Born in Louisiana and raised in Texas, Gatemouth was -as he describes-, an American and World musician: Texas style!
His Father was his biggest inspiration, but he also like big band music, Count Basie, T-Bone Walker, Louis Jordan and Duke Ellington. At the age of five het started playing guitar and a few years later he mastered the fiddle. Later he was able to play an array of musical instruments such as mandolin, viola as well as harmonica and drums. He was able to play all styles of American roots, but Clarence Gatemouth Brown didn’t roll like that, he made his own music, his own songs, and his own arrangement based on all the music he liked.
San Antonio Ballbuster
My favorite album is “San Antonio Ballbuster, which was released in 1965 and later in the UK in 1974 and containes a compilation of Clarence Gatemouth Brown’s work in the period 1949-1959. On this album you hear a fine grooving mix of Blues, Rock ‘n Roll and Rhythm ‘nd Blues. Clarence Brown shows us how a guitarist in the famous tradition of Texas Bluesmen should sound like. Take one song to understand what I mena and listen to “Okie Dokie Stomp”. The songs is actually nothing more than a fine sounding solo, assisted bij a grooving horn ensemble.
Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown at Home
At an older age Brown was interviewed by student of the Loyola University, New Orleans. In this clip you see a nice portrait of the musician and person Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown. He talks about his life, music, and business. He discusses how he learned to play guitar, how he manages his affairs, where he gets his inspiration, and what he values in band members, and also shares some advice for beginning musicians. Find more documentaries on Artist House Music.
Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown on Fiddle
To get an impression of Clarence’s Fiddle skills listen to “Up Jumped The Devil”, a cajun song, impressive because of the swinging fiddle and honky piano. Ron Yule and Bill Burge wrote in ‘Louisiana Fiddlers’ page 38 a great article about Gatemouth’s fiddle style that is a mix of Cajun, up-tempo Country, Blues and Swing
He won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album in 1983 for his album, Alright Again!. Brown is regarded as one of the most influential exponents of blues fiddle and has had enormous influence in American fiddle circles.
Clarence ‘Gatemouth’ Brown lived until hurricane Katrina in Slidell Louisiana. Katrina forced him to move to Orange, where he passed away on September 10, 2005. Brown was an unique musician and an ambassador for American roots.
Clarence Gatemouth Brown – Ain´t That Just Like A Woman
Les Blank Documentary: The Blues Accordin’ to Lightnin’ Hopkins
In 1968 independent filmmaker Les Blank made a beautiful documentary about Texas Blues musician Lightnin’ Hopkins called “The blues according to Lightnin’ Hopkins”. “Blank’s work offers intimate glimpses into the lives, culture and music of passionate people at the periphery of American Society” (lesblank.com).
Celebrating music as a mode of life
This documentary shows how the blues and living with the blues made Lightnin’ Hopkins, Lightnin’ Hopkins. Roger Greenspun wrote on December 21, 1970 for the New York Times a story about this documentary. “The Blues according To Lightnin’ Hopkins is as much a celebration of a mode of life as it is a study of a kind of music”. “Almost everyboy seems to be a performer. But Hopkins himself controls the film’s mood”.
Blank met his hero Lightnin’ Hopkins in a nightclub called the Ash Grove in Los Angeles, were like many other blues musicians also Hopkins performed. The blues seemed a good way for Blank to escape from problems like divorce and gave him a strong sense of connection to pain and suffering. After Lightnin’ performance, Blank went with his 16 MM projector camera backstage and gave him a copy of his film about Dizzy Gillespie. He asked Lightnin’ to go to his home in Texas and do a film on him. Lightnin’ was satisfied with the offer, and Les Blank was able to film Lightnin’ Hopkins in Texas.
The blues is about stories, and if one thing is sure after watching the documentary, that Lightnin’ Hopkins is a fantastic storyteller, he tells about meetings with the police, about what the blues is, and show how the blues should be played. You will be chained to the screen while watching this short movie. Hopkins is one of the best guitarist around and a fascinating person.
Filming the life of Lightnin’ Hopkins
When Les Blank went to Houston he find a place to stay at a friend´s apartment. With the help of local Folklorist John Lomax (the only white man lightnin’ was known to trust), he was able to immerse in the life and music of Hopkins. There is no other Blues musician that recorded so many songs as Lightnin’ Hopkins did.