Saturday, February 1, 2020

1972 Blues Concert at BG Offered More Than Music

In 1972, McKinley Morganfield, aka Muddy Waters, won his first Grammy Award, for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording for They Call Me Muddy Waters, a 1971 album of previously unreleased recordings. Later in 1972, he flew to England to record the album The London Muddy Waters Sessions. The album was a follow-up to the previous year's The London Howlin' Wolf Sessions, and Chess Records producer Norman Dayron intended the showcase to feature Chicago blues musicians playing with the younger British rock musicians.

Muddy Waters was not satisfied with the results. "These boys are top musicians, they can play with me, put the book before 'em and play it, you know," he told music writer Peter Guralnick. "But that ain't what I need to sell my people, it ain't the Muddy Waters sound. An' if you change my sound, then you gonna change the whole man." He stated, "My blues look so simple, so easy to do, but it's not. They say my blues is the hardest blues in the world to play." Waters, nevertheless, won another Grammy, again for Best Ethnic or Traditional Recording.

He also performed with his band in Bowling Green, Ohio in 1972. Below is the review of the concert published in The BG News as well as the letters to the editor that came in response to the biting commentary. It is a telling exchange that offers insight into the social climate on campus in the early 1970s.

Review: "Muddy Waters Is the Blues"
The BG News, October 11, 1972
By Richard Brase 

On Monday night, a genuine, honest-to-goodness. down-by-the-delta blues band came to campus and generated about as much excitement as your roommate doing his laundry on the weekend.

That is not to say the music was bad---it wasn't. Instead, the Bowling Green audience was not completely able to identify with the music of a downtrodden people. New Orleans blues certainly differs from lamentations over having a chemistry test the next day.

It was under these circumstances that a highly polished group of musicians known as the Muddy Waters Blues Band gave a free concert in the Grand Ballroom of the Union to an estimated crowd of 2.500 persons. 

The six-piece band broke into four jumpy numbers (about as jumpy as the blues can get) before MuddyWaters made his first appearance on stage The audience resounded with a standing ovation 

The impeccably dressed Waters, clad in maroon and white, took a seat on a stool and began to wail on his guitar. His technique was smooth and polished, which also best describes the performances of the rest of the members of the group.

The group is composed of three guitarists. Waters and two others, a bass player; a drummer, a pianist, and tremendous harmonica player, not quite rating in the same class with John Sebastian.

All were fine musicians, especially Fuzz Jones, the bass player.

Waters played five songs, including his hit, "Rolling Stone,'' before breaking for intermission. When the group returned, they maintained the same pace, a slow and grinding beat throughout the second hall of the concert.

Two things which detracted from the performance were the inadequate audio facilities, which made the words of the singers unintelligible, and the minor problem that none of the names of the songs were announced. 

But the largest problem of the evening was that the audience simply did not understand the music played by the Muddy Waters Blues Hand.

The crowd came expecting music which "moved out," but it never happened. The music reflected the lives of the people of the delta---it seemed to be music which was perfect for just allowing people to sit back and listen.

Many people walked away disappointed because they couldn't jump up and "boogie," or cheer to the words of a song which they all knew But there were also many who were content with just listening to some good musicians telling stones through music.

"Fine concert"
Letter to the editor, The BG News, October 24, 1972.

RE: Mr. Brase I do not know where you were on the night of October 9. nor do I really care, but obviously you were not in the BGSU Grand Ballroom or you might have seen one of the finest concerts to grace this campus in a long, long time.

Muddy is the blues, and if you can't dig it, I guess that's just too bad, and if two encores isn't enough for you, if a young lady freaking and jumping onstage isn't enough for you, and if the whole front of the crowd jumping and screaming "I got my mojo workin' " isn't enough energy for you, perhaps you ought to watch your roommate do his laundry.

As for the harp player being as good as John Sebastian---get serious or shut up. 

When is The BG News going to get a competent concert reviewer?

Barry Foster 
126 S. College

"Correcting Fallacies"
Letter to the editor, The BG News, October 24, 1972.

I thought I'd just drop a line to correct a few fallacies in the Muddy Waters review by Richard Brase. First off, Muddy Waters does have a Delta blues background, has recorded Delta blues for the Library of Congress (released by Testament Records) but the blues he did here hail straight from Chicago. 

Muddy Waters is the main originator and performer of Chicago Bar Blues. Muddy did not perform "Rollin' Stone" at all Monday night nor is it "his hit." 

The song Mr. Brase mistook for it was "Mannish Boy." "Rollin' Stone" is simply Muddy's re-do of the standard "Catfish Blues." 

The reason none of the song titles were announced is two-fold: first, it's a fairly silly thing to do and is almost never done: secondly, all the songs he did could be considered his greatest hits Why announce things like "Honey Bee," "Long Distance Call," and "Got My Mojo Working?"

JOHN SEBASTIAN? Mr. Sebastian does play good harmonica but in an entirely different idiom. Even taking that into consideration, he is definitely not in the same league with men like Little Walter, James Cotton, "Shaky" Walter Morton, or either Sonnyboy Williamson.

The sound set up was fairly poor, but from where I sat every word was clear as a bell.

The main casualty of this situation was Joe "Pine Top" Perkins, who is really the second star of the Muddy Waters Blues Band and an excellent boogie pianist. 

Lastly, I just wonder where Mr. Brase was sitting Monday if he was there at all. Because if he was there he must have been comatose.

I was on the floor with a load of folks and we were shakin' our boogies, as were the people behind us, in front of us, and on both sides.

I also heard quite a bit of hand-clapping, shouting, and foot-stomping. I also saw two encores and for once I was proud of a Bowling Green audience.

Terry Fowler
232 South Summit St

"Setting Record Straight"
Letter to the editor, The BG News, October 26, 1972.

Mr. Foster,

In reply to your attack of my review which appeared in the Oet 17 edition of The BG News. I would first like to say that it is not so much important that I defend my opinions, because they speak for themselves, but rather that I set you straight on numerous misquotes drawn from my review.

To clarify my point further I enjoyed the concert very much, calling the band "a highly polished group of musicians", but I still do not believe that the majority of the audience felt the same way nor went absolutely crazy like you did. 

You then proceeded to make statements which did not make sense at all. You said "if two encores isn't enough for you, if a young lady freaking and jumping onstage isn't enough for you and the whole front of the crowd jumping and screaming I got my mojo workin'...'"

MY ANSWER must still be negative. Out of an estimated crowd of 2,500, one young lady does not constitute a majority in my mind, nor do 12 groupies shaking their backsides while everyone else watched. 

To me, 50 per cent or more constitutes a majority---that seems to be the American, as well as Bowling Green, way. 

As far as your "mojo.'" I again do not believe that a working one is able to fully illustrate the feeling, or lack of such, of an artist or the audience which he is playing to. 

The fact of the matter is that it was a freebie concert-something which immediately calls attention to itself. Maybe that's what got your blood pressure up so high---not having to pay. 

In another instance you suffer from a libelous case of misquotation. I said that the harmonica player was "not quite rating in the same class with John Sebastian." You turned this around and misinterpreted it to mean that he was better. Not so. 

To finish, I will once more praise the Muddy Waters Band for some fine entertainment, but will also repeat that the interest was just not evident, as shown further by about 30 per cent of the audience's walking out at intermission. I mean, why not. They didn't pay to get in. 

I also know that the mentality of the audience which reads The BG News is far above the level of this letter. I can just hope that some day you will look at an audience gathering with a little more in mind than freaks 'n' mojos.

Muddy Waters is the blues, but the question must inevitably be brought up---who, sir, are you? 

Richard Brase
431 Anderson Hall

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