is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer.
is a softbound, 150-page book with 50 black-and-white photos by the author. The book features interviews with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Hubert Sumlin, Gregg
Allman, Johnny Van Zant (Lynyrd Skynyrd), Jonny Lang, Robert Cray, Corky Siegel, Edgar Winter, Johnny Winter, Pinetop Perkins,
Graham Parker, Bob Margolin, Kim Simmonds (Savoy Brown), Roger Glover (Deep Purple), Bonnie Raitt and more. Buy it online.
EXCERPTS FROM "TOMBSTONE BLUES":
From the interview with BUDDY GUY:
That polka-dot Stratocaster has been with you a long time.
That's Fenders Buddy Guy signature model. When I left Louisiana in 1957,
I told my mother I was going to Chicago, gonna make a lot of money, and come back
and buy her a polka-dot Cadillac. Then later she had a stroke, so I never did get a
chance to give her that car. Those polka-dots on my guitar are for her.
From the interview with ROBERT CRAY
One of the best numbers in the movie "Lightening in a Bottle" is your duet with Shemekia Copeland.
Thank you. I loved being a part of that whole weekend. Just being in the wings watching the performers
or being in the dressing room and being able to pay respects to musicians I admired was an honor. I had the chance to talk
with Honeyboy [Edwards], Solomon Burke, Ruth Brown, Hubert Sumlin. It was just awesome.
From the interview with HUBERT SUMLIN
In the months to come, Sumlin devoted countless hours to practicing on his guitar.
He also began sneaking into the local roadhouse taverns where black musicians were allowed to play.
These were dangerous places for adults, much less a boy of ten. On Saturday nights, the bootleg whiskey
flowed freely and tempers flared. A casual glance at another man's woman often erupted into violence,
sometimes fatally. Hours later the sunrise and Sunday church services offered redemption, the sacred once
again co-existing with the profane. "At that time Howling Wolf's band was playing a lot, and I went off to see them every chance I got,"
Sumlin says. "I used to find a lady walking into the roadhouse and I'd kind of slip under her skirts to get past the man at the door."
Sumlin says once inside he was inevitably caught and thrown out. "So I hit upon the idea of piling a bunch of Coca-Cola cases on top of
each other by the outside wall. I'd climb on top of those crates and watch the band though a little space by the exhaust fan."
From the interview with B.B. KING
What inspired you to become a musician?
I was poor! We never had anything when I was growing up, never had our own home.
I picked cotton for a dollar a day, I baled hay by hand, planted corn and soybeans.
Then I was offered $3 a day to drive a tractor. But once I got better on the guitar,
I could stand on Church Street in Indianola (Miss.) and make $50 or $60 in one evening.
Now, why would I want to keep driving that tractor?
From the interview with HONEYBOY EDWARDS
Besides your father, who was your biggest influence?
Big Joe Williams. He taught me everything. Without him, I don't think I'd be here.
I met Joe when I was 16, he was maybe in his 30's then. Just a hobo, but man he could play the blues.
My dad let me go out on the road with Joe that year. We played the whiskey houses in Jackson, Vicksburg,
everywhere, made it down to New Orleans. Me and Joe would hop a freight train and go to the next town.
Friday nights we'd find a country dance, maybe make five and six dollars apiece. Joe was the laziest man
you ever saw, but he knew how to hustle them dimes and quarters. And that's really what I learned from him.
How to make the money!
From the interview with GREGG ALLMAN
You and your brother had a tough childhood in Nashville.
Well, I was 2 when my dad was killed, so I never knew him, and never really had an idea of what
it was like to grow up with a father. My idea of a father was when I'd go over to a friend's house a
nd some drunk would be beatin' him. I was thankful I didn't have one of those. Only time I missed having a dad was
for Boy Scouts or somethin' like that.
From the interview with JOHNNY WINTER
You sat in with B.B. King when you were 18 years old.
Actually, I think I was 17. That was such a great night. He was playing at a club in Beaumont called the Raven,
which had a predominantly black audience then. I asked him to let me sit in with him, but he wouldn't.
Other people kept asking him, and finally he just decided that it would be OK. So I played and it was really great.
They gave me a standing ovation. I was really excited.
From the interview with PINETOP PERKINS
What it was like growing up in Mississippi in the 1920s?
I come up the hard way. I worked on a farm. I learned how to work on the farm by watching other people. Didn't anybody teach me.
Because I didn't get much learning in school when I was growing up. Small letters I understand. Them big long letters, I let them alone.
Because I didn't finish third grade.
From Part Three - Notes from the Road
WHEN GRAFTON HAD THE BLUES
There's a spot just south of downtown Grafton where 12th Avenue and Falls Street meets the Milwaukee River.
It's become a residential neighborhood with several upscale homes built overlooking the river. As for the evidence of the
old recording studio, well, other than a few bricks and a crumbling piece of wall, there's not much there anymore. If you didn't
know what occurred on this site, you could easily mistake it for just another Wisconsin riverbank. To those who loves the blues,
however, this is truly hallowed ground. For it was at this site in 1929 and 1930 that Skip James, Son House, Charley Patton, Blind Blake,
Ishmon Bracey and other early heroes of the blues recorded some of their most enduring work. The Wisconsin Chair Company's factory
stood here until 1938, and the story of how the company became forever entwined with Mississippi blues singers is one of Grafton's best kept secrets.
From Part Four
Robert Johnson rests quietly in Greenwood Mississippi beneath an expansive pecan tree in the rear of Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church's graveyard.
Nearly 70 years after his death, the singer, whose grave is decorated with coins, guitar picks and other offerings, still makes headlines,
most recently in The Wall Street Journal as his relatives fight over the rights to the only existing photos of him. While Johnson was alive,
he raised more than a few eyebrows by allegedly going to a Mississippi crossroads at midnight and selling his soul to the Devil in exchange for
unlimited musical talent. For decades, blues fans and musicologists alike have searched for the elusive crossroads in an attempt to identify the
exact location in which the unholy bargain was struck. Some say the crossroads is at the juncture of state highways 61 and 49, just outside of
Clarksdale. Others believe it's closer to Friars Point or Robinsonville, where Johnson spent a good deal of time. The most practical-minded of
those who seek the mythic ground maintain there is no actual crossroads. Instead, they say, it's those who believed in voodoo, the centuries-old
superstitious hybrid of African and Catholic religions mentioned in so many blues songs, that kept Johnson's enduring legend alive.
Also from Part 4
LITTLE RICHARD CAN'T HELP IT
At 72 years of age, the voice is as elastic as ever, effortlessly sliding up into the strident shriek of "Lucille", later plunging into the
lower registers of "Jenny, Jenny," not unlike a preacher baying from the pulpit and admonishing his flock. Recently, Richard Penniman, a.k.a.
The Architect of Rock and Roll, showed a Milwaukee audience why he's still a king of the musical genre he helped create. Richard's bawdy piano style
consistently fuses the sacred with the profane, his left hand playing the stride bass lines from a gospel church while his right hand hammers
a tinkling honky tonk that would be welcome in any Georgia house of ill-fame. His superb band provides a thunderous backdrop to Richard's vocal
pyrotechnics, with two bass guitars, two lead guitars, three saxophones and two percussionists. Dressed in cowboy boots and a white suit
studded with rhinestones, Richard literally glows as he climbs atop the piano to greet his fans.
Buy "Tombstone Blues" online right now.