Saturday, September 27, 2008

The Delta Nationals All over the Map and The Blues Audition Excerpt

Paul DeMark was in touch recently with much musical news. His group’s second CD came out, and he is at work in spare time writing about his experiences in music. And the group recently opened for Willie Nelson.

The new Delta Nationals’ CD takes a big step beyond the first CD. It is still a compendium of American music but it is all original material this time and it is called “All over the Map” – my fave rave on the outing is Everlasting, co-written by none other than Paul and including Joyce Hough on vocals. Check out the Delta National’s web site.

Is this the same guy that I encountered sitting cross-legged on the steps of Cambridge Castle on the East Side of Milwaukee in 1971? Really serious dude who could watch the world go by waiting for the lotus in the stream? Yes! He divulges: Eddie Floyd is an influence. Who’d a thunk?!

Paul on the path of dharma is a wonder. This music business can cut-cha – but Paul has stayed on the case and has much to show with All Over the Map, bro.

Paul graciously has let MoonTravellerHerald excerpt a bit of his present writing project. On one level, it is a look at the encounter of the Suburban Kid with the Chicago Blues reality. Being highfalutin, I'd call it an Orpheus in the Underworld reality. I have been there too, and it is not all fun and games. There is pain. The Blues Audion Excerpt is neat for me because I remember hearing this story. Driving down to Chicago, to audition for Sunnyland Slim who was to become a great mentor and friend.

But, for the youths that came into the blues sphere there was a tightrope too. The story here is of when our good intentions were not up to par. Harry Duncan and others had gone about to create a poster for a concert – I recall this poster as beautiful, as green and red, and also recall that Little Eddie Taylor, featured on the poster, did not show up at the gig. Here’s the story..

The Blues Audition Excerpt
By Paul DeMark

I was 21 years old and driven to find out if I could develop into a professional drummer. I dropped out of college at the end of my third year at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
At home, I set my drums up in the basement and practiced with along blues, R&B and rock and roll records every night and on weekends: Little Walter, Muddy Waters, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Rolling Stones and the Beatles.

About mid-summer, I got a call from Harry Duncan, a good friend from Madison. He asked if I wanted to audition for Chicago blues pianist Sunnyland Slim and play some club dates. Although feeling anxious because of my lack of experience – I’d played maybe half a dozen shows in my life to that point -- I said yes to the audition. I was ready to gamble. Hell, I’d already told my parents I was dropping out of college ...

Harry began setting up some shows. The first one was booked for September 1, 1972 during the first week of the fall semester at UW-Madison. The band would include Slim, guitarist Eddie Taylor, who was well-known for his highly regarded recording work with blues star Jimmy Reed, and a rising Chicago blues harmonica star, Carey Bell. Harry would be a second harmonica player and a Chicago bass player, Joe Harper, would join me in the rhythm section.

For weeks I practiced every night after coming home from my day job, practicing to the Chicago blues records I had. I worked hard on my shuffles and slow blues beats like a college student cramming for a final exam before meeting Professor Sunnyland. An audition was set.

I set up my old white-pearl-finish Ludwig drums and cymbals and we got down to playing. We played a lot of Sunnyland’s songs, which were a combination of uptempo Chicago blues shuffles, some jump-swing-style tunes and slow blues. Eddie Taylor played and sang a few songs. After about an hour Slim quit playing. I’d passed the audition.

Harry had put out the publicity early, including a poster for the show we were going to play the next day in Madison. My friend Jim had brought along a couple of these posters. He enthusiastically showed the Chicago musicians the bright orange poster announcing headliners Sunnyland Slim, Carey Bell and Little Eddie Taylor. Slim looked at it a shrugged as if to say, “OK, no big deal.” After all, he’d been doing this for over 50 years. When Eddie looked at it, he got real quiet for a few seconds.

“My name is Eddie Taylor, NOT Little Eddie Taylor!” he exploded in anger. “Fuck this, I ain’t playing!”

Sunnyland tried to talk him out of it, but Taylor, who stood about 5-foot-5, packed up his guitar and amp, and left the basement in a huff. Irritated, Slim just wrote off the outburst and said he’d get another guitarist.

Jim, Harry, Jeff and I were shook up by the Eddie’s quitting. On the way home, my friend Jim apologized to us. “I’m sorry guys, I had no idea that he was not known as ‘Little’ Eddie Taylor,” Jim said. “Neither did I,” said Harry, who had given the information for the poster to the graphic artist.

I’d been initiated into the tough and unpredictable world of Chicago blues

I met Eddie Taylor once briefly. Told him how much I appreciated the chance to hear him play. He was not happy with the band, and was not too interested in accepting my plaudits. He seemed as if he was always about trying to do better.
The midpoint of Sunnyland Blues is courtesy of Paul. I taped Paul's description of a West Coast swing he and Harry did with Slim and it is another Orpheus in the Underworld story. It anchors my book of 1990, and I hope it might fit in Paul's future tome. I did it up on the web in the early days with help of my friend Bob Ganong. As the Yardbirds said: Here 'tis.

1 comment:

Jeff said...

ey Jck and everyone. Nice to read this and hear your thoughts, Jack, as always. Gets harder and harder to keep up sometimes.

I was in that basement with Paul and Jim and Harry and the musicians. I think Jim actually said to Eddie Taylor, "Eddie, could you turn your amp up a little, it's hard to hear." OR something like that and that's when Eddie said, "Fuck it! I ain't playing!" That's how I remember it.--ALso, GO BREWERS!

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