Sunday, June 4, 2017

Jo Ann Kelly Biography Part III: The Final Act

Jo Ann Kelly: The Final Act
By Peter Moody - Oct 1988

During 1970, following the CBS Album release, Jo began to see more of 'Life' in the States. She traveled from New York to Memphis—staying at the Peabody Hotel, journeyed to Brownsville, then went into Mississippi to Clarksdale. The trip was a real eye-opener—showing how blacks lived in the South... with deprivation went the added hardship of combatting the heat and humidity—with neither refrigeration nor air conditioning. Homes were simple timber shacks down on the 'Other Side of Town'. Jo's interest in all this roused the suspicion of the local whites—a sad fact that becomes reality for visitors to the Country. 

Peter Moody contends that "when she declined to work with Johnny Winter, Jo Ann lost the opportunity for a second CBS Album, because the company supported Johnny Winter's ideas for a 'rock' album." Jo parted company with CBS, in Moody's long distance view, due to her disappointment with Winter.

Lawrence Cohn, however---the record executive who signed Jo to CBS/Epic, released her LP, brought her to the Annual International CBS Convention in Los Angeles, where she was the absolute hit of the event, and set her up to go out on tour with Winter---remembers a quite different series of events altogether.

"She started rehearsals with him," Cohn informs, "the plan being that she and Johnny would open up the show as a duo and thereafter Johnny would go electric with his mountain of Marshalls...and then as I had feared, she opted to leave abruptly and return home to UK." Jo never really wanted to be a huge rock star and perform in stadiums to capacity crowds, Cohn explains. "She...was quite content to do pubs and small concerts in Europe."

Her departure from CBS/Epic, moreover, "had absolutely nothing to do with Winter." Cohn released Jo from the label, quite simply, because he recognized that "it was the right thing to do."

Record collectors did not have to wait for too long for Jo to release another album. In December 1972, Nick Perls arranged and produced an album on the US label, Blue Goose. Jo Ann, accompanied by various combinations of musicians — Woody Man, John Fahey and John Miller on guitars and Alan Seider on piano — recorded a fresh and varied selection of Blues from the 1920's and 1930's, using classic Charley Patton, Lemon Jefferson and Memphis Minnie songs.

The Kelly diary around this period was filled with engagements for folk club gigs, college and university concerts. 1972 saw the formation of Jo's first band, Spare Rib with a line-up that consisted of Adrian Pietryga, Roger Brown, Peter Watkins, Nick Judd, and Bruce Rowlands. It was a band full of talent and musical variation with Country, Rock, and Blues influences, but with members of the band pulling in different directions, Spare Rib folded in 1973. In its day, to quote Time Out magazine, "Spare Rib was one of the finest pub rock bands."

Jo Ann returned to solo gigs in the UK and then in September, toured the USA, performing in Boston, Chicago, Washington DC, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, and New York. The tour also featured Taj Mahal and Larry Coryell.

Jo and Fred McDowell

In 1974 she joined Dave Kelly, Bob Hall, Bob Brunning, Danny Kirwan, Dave Brooks, and Mick Fleetwood (later replaced by Keef Hartley), to record as Tramp again. Both an LP and a single —`Put a Record On' — were issued. There were two live radio shows, one on Capital Radio and the other a BBC "In Concert" broadcast, during May 1974. She left Tramp for more solo gigs, before joining 'Chilli Willie and the Red Hot Peppers', a versatile band which included guitarist Martin Stone. Their LP `Bongos Over Balham' received good reviews. 

Around this time, duo work with guitar player Pete Emery began. Emery had started out with Bristol's blues band `The Deep', playing guitar, but he soon moved to London and joined John Dummer and his band. Pete's ability to play many blues styles suited Jo's versatility and they soon picked up a reputation with their act, featuring guitar duets akin to the work of Memphis Minnie and Kansas Joe.

1975 started with a tour of Germany, then in February, another band venture was initiated — 'The Blue Diamonds' — a Soul/Rhythm and Blues band, which featured songs of Esther Phillips and Little Milton. Steve York, Dave Brooks, and Charlie Charles made up the band. The Blue Diamonds lasted around twelve months but disbanded without recording.

As well as a solo spot on Paris Television in June and a duo gig with Peter on HTV Bristol in September, work in Hamburg during October made up a busy year. There was talk of an album under the guidance of Guy Stevens — but nothing came of it.

By 1976, the duo work was well established, with club, college and university gigs, plus tours of Belgium, Holland and France. In August, the Red Rag Album 'Do It' was recorded. The tracks featured some songs used in their live sets. The recordings were complimented by the addition of Mike Piggot on violin and John Pilgrim on washboard, but the album is now hard to find. There was more work in Europe in 1977, with the Ghent Festival and concert in Bremen with Alexis Korner and Zoot Money, being two high spots. The same year saw her working with Stefan Grossman — resulting in two LP's with him on the Sonet label, one released that year and the other in 1978. In June, Jo and Steffan recorded two numbers for the BBC program 'Both Sides Now', then a week later in Paris an 'In Concert' session was recorded with Stefan Grossman and Sam Mitchell. Mitchell also appeared on the Sonet albums. A tour of the Orkneys and Shetlands and an inter-view on Scottish Radio followed. In the Autumn, Jo Ann was in Cologne for the Blues and Boogie Festival and later that year worked in Munster and Vienna.

From the Vienna concert came an Austrian long-player on Columbia entitled 'It's Whoopie — Boogie and Blues Live in Vienna', with Jo Ann Kelly (vcl), Martin Pyrker (piano) and Torsten Zwingenburger (drums). Twelve numbers were issued, seven featured Jo and five were piano instrumentals.

In 1978, Jo added another dimension to her life by enrolling at Hillcroft College, Surbiton for further education to gain a diploma in Social Sciences. The academic life was not allowed to stop the music! She went back to the Orkneys, as well as doing other UK work and fitted in a trip to Saltzburg. Leaving college in Summer 1979, Jo worked with Martin Stone again, joining Chris Youlden and Paul Riley in the O.T.'s, though this was a short-lived affair. In April the same year there was a gig at the Bridge House, with Paul Jones, Tom McGuinness, Dave Kelly, Pete Emery and Hughie Flint — the embryonic Blues Band!

A tour of Austria and the annual Ghent Festival filled up the summer. In September Jo traveled with Paul Jones and Dave Kelly to Italy — to discuss the record possibilities for the Blues Band. Terms with Franko Ratti in Milan weren't agreed!

Her road through music during the 'eighties has been continuously varied. Whilst Jo Ann/Peter Emery duets continued, band work still attracted Jo. In 1980 her first 'Second Line Band' was formed with Geraint Watkins and Roger Brown. The band started with a residency at the White Lion in Putney. UK and European tours and concerts continued with solo and duo performances. One solo engagement was a radio show for Wally Whyton's British Forces Overseas Radio Show, B.F.P.O. Germany.

In 1980, Jo returned to college again (this time at Kingston Polytechnic) where she studied history. Two years of study was somehow fitted in around her music and the Second Line Band now with Peter Emery—guitar, Geraint Watkins—piano, Andy Lafone—bass, Les Morgan—drums and Mike Paice—saxophone, received acclaim from both the music world and the press. In an October issue of The Times, a review of a London engagement made good reading. The Second Line had more personnel changes, Paul Riley coming in on bass with Keiran O'Connor on drums and Nick Pentelow on saxophone, but still retained the original band's musical feel.

Motion Lotion appeared on the scene in 1982. This was another fine band, playing mainly blues but with some Country influence and had Jo on vocals, with Les Morgan, Steve Donnelly, Keith Nelson, Mike Deacon, Pino Palladino and Mike Paice. Around this time a studio session at The Pye and Eden Studios laid down three sides for a proposed maxi 45, "Wants Good Loving", Jo's "Come See About Me" and "Sweet Nuthin's". Planned for release in September, the line-up included Albert Lee (gtr), Mike Deacon (piano), Mike Paice (sax), Gerry Conway (drums) and Dave Pegg (bass). The sessions were promoted by Kool King Boss Roy King, who in changing from music to sports management, sadly left these tapes lying in the vaults.

Towards the end of 1982, The Blues Band era was ending. A farewell concert album "Bye Bye Blues", issued in 1983, features Jo with Chuck Berry's "Don't You Lie To Me". It was a fitting inclusion in this concert, as Jo had been in at the start of this band's road to fame. Jo's line-up changed again for the sessions for her Appaloosa long-player entitled "Just Restless". The tracks recorded in the Summer of 1983, with Les Morgan, Geraint Watkins, Mike Paice, Peter Emery and Tex Comer on bass, gave Appaloosa a very credible album.

In 1984, there came a special occasion. Jo Ann and Pete Emery had a baby daughter — Ellie (Eleanor Grace) — on November 26th. Engagements at this time were the "occasional gig", sometimes with the Terry Smith Band, with whom she had recently worked. The act "Ladies and The Blues" had evolved before Ellie's arrival. With Pete Emery and Mike Deacon, Jo gave a fresh approach to performing. Covering the Blues styles of the 1920's through to the 1980's, "Ladies and The Blues" gave the visuals, the theatricals and the atmosphere an act only three such professionals could carry off. Classic Blues, Jump, Country Blues, Gospel, Boogie Woogie, Jazz tinged T. Bone Walker, even rock and soul! One sentence in a review said it all. "This trio is perfect and balanced for this showcase of adult music". This act continued well after the new addition, latterly with John Cleary on piano, after Mike Deacon had an accident which stopped him playing.

In July 1985 the BBC was formed out of the then defunct Blues Band. This "British Blues Corporation" was virtually The Blues Band including Jo Ann, but minus Paul Jones. As each member of the band had other musical commitments, this was another short-lived venture. 

In January 1986, Jo, reunited with piano man Martin Pyrker, toured with the "Blues and Boogie All-Stars", through Austria, Switzerland and Germany. More UK and European work, both solo and duo, was followed by the emergence of a new Jo Ann Kelly Band, with a new record deal, which has resulted in the release of a brand new album simply titled "Jo Ann Kelly". The Album, reviewed in this edition of British Blues Review, will tell you all. Ably supported by Geraint and Steve Donnelly, the band is now out on the circuit, with the addition of Dave Suttle on bass. It is fitting to close our three-part article at this point in Jo's career. This new line-up recently presented by Paul Jones on his R & B show gives Jo Ann Kelly's approach to the music further challenge. Mixing Country Blues, Cajun, Mountain Music and various styles of Blues, this album fuses American musical traditions.

[Jo Ann was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 1988, she and passed away from complications during surgery on October 21, 1990. Her remains were cremated, and they remain in the possession of her husband.] 

Yazoo Blues makes History with Raw Emotion, Sound and Talent

Yazoo Blues makes History 
with Raw Emotion, Sound and Talent 
By Jamie Patterson - Yazoo Herald - February 21, 2015

Jimmy "Duck" Holmes is pictured outside his family
business, the historic Blue Front Cafe in Bentonia
. The
blues artists groomed within Yazoo are
not only a part of black history but music history. 
The sound of the blues seems to dance and travel on the winds that sweep through rural Yazoo County.

Her faint, haunting melody serves as a reminder of her rich history along the Yazoo clay hills and amidst her Delta flatlands. 

From Bentonia Blues to Delta blues to hill country blues, the music is a part of Yazoo's black history. It's history, point blank. 

One could get lost in the mountain of literature, old recordings and modern pieces of the Yazoo blues. But there are a few names that stick out within the local movement that changed and influenced the music world.

And most stories begin with a young black man and his guitar on a small farm or rural community, deep within Yazoo County.

Nehemiah "Skip" James

Nehemiah "Skip" James is hailed as one of the greats when it comes to blues music. His dark, finger-picking technique would influence several generations of future blues musicians from blues legend Robert Johnson to modern blues king Eric Clapton.

And his story begins on June 9, 1902 on the Woodbine Plantation in the Bentonia community. He was born the son of a preacher who converted from bootlegging. 

Music struck a cord with him at an early age, being around local musicians Henry Stuckey and others. It wasn't long before the organ was James' outlet.

During the early 1920s, James worked along levees and other road construction projects. His earliest song Illinois Blues is believed to have been written surrounding his early labor days. 

James was beginning to make a name for himself with his dark lyrics, intense vocals and complex playing.

Friday, June 2, 2017

Nancy Apple Brings Unique`Cadillac Cowgirl' Show to Blues Alley

Nancy Apple Brings Unique`Cadillac Cowgirl' Show to Blues Alley
By Panny Mayfield - Clarksdale Press Register, May 12, 1999

Memphis entertainer, songwriter, and actress Nancy Apple brings her band to Clarksdale for a Blues Alley May concert. 

If the weather repeats its stella [sic] performance from last Friday's Blues Alley concert and bugs continue to no-show, expect standing ovations for Nancy Apple's Cadillac Cowgirl show this week [May 12, 1999]. The Memphis entertainer whose "rock-a-billy" style defies categorization will star in the second Friday night in May show. The vocalist, composer and band leader has a major CD, High on the Hog featuring numbers predicted by the Memphis Flyer to become "white trash country classics." Apple, who has toured internationally and lives next door to Keith Sykes, is featured in a movie with Harvey Keitel and Bridget Fonda [Finding Graceland]. "I got to cast the band and most are my regular band mates," says Apple. Apple says her band is the only group from Memphis and surrounding area to be invited to play at St. Louis' TwangFest June 10. Apple has strong ties to the Delta including designing the Delta Blues Museum's Muddywood T-shirt for ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons. She's also performed at Hopson Commissary. However, this will be her first gig in town. Included in her group is guitar player Jay Harrington from Marks. 

The Memphis Flyer reviewed her first major CD, High on the Hog as "a fine debut with some outstanding tunes." Highlights include Mattie and Jessie, a brooding gothic rocker with menacing fiddle; Gun Shy, some primo bluesy pop co-written with Keith Sykes; and the infectious high honky-tonk of Truck Drivers Woman, “sure to become a white trash country classic." 

The album contains ten original tunes including country and western-drenched boogie-woogie, rock n' roll, blues and R&B. A former art director for The Memphis Flyer, Apple has been a longtime supporter of Memphis music through her hosting of Newby's Tuesday night musician jam. She also is one of the publishers of Memphis Musician. Asked to describe her new CD, Apple replies, "it's got so many different things in it, I just have to say, '1 think it sounds good.'" She says one of the strong points of the CD is the all-star band of local musicians. Apple is partial to old cars and especially Cadillacs. She also favors cowboy hats and boots. Although her real name is Apple, she did make up her nickname, “The Cadillac Cowgirl." 

This Navy brat was born in San Diego, however, and she grew up humming and writing poems. She says in the third grade she combined poetry and humming and became a songwriter. She says her first song was about a fictitious dog named Candy. "Then I went through my early high school and junior high school phase when I was a big Alice Cooper freak," she admits. "I would write these really dark operatic metal type things." Later she switched to Carly Simon before trading Simon and Cooper for country music shortly after moving to Memphis in 1975. "When I first moved here everybody thought I really talked funny and I sounded like a valley girl or something," she revealed in an article for The Commercial Appeal. "Over the years, I've acquired this Southern thing unconsciously with my voice. No matter what I sing now, no matter how pop the music is, it sounds country.”

She also began playing drums and says she got "really good at it for a while and played drums with Willie Cobb,” of Greenwood. Although her schedule is busy with performances, Apple spends a great deal of time composing. "I've learned that a lot of your greatest songwriters may not necessarily be the most perfect musicians or vocalist. It's just a matter of creating something universal and applying it to your instrument.” Memphis magazine selected Apple in its Top 40 Musicians in Memphis in 1996 and 1997. She has toured extensively with her band performing USO shows in Southeast Asia.

[Left Photo: MZMF director Skip Henderson gets ready to accept the "Keeping the Blues Alive" Award with Nancy Apple, Hopson's James Butler, Cheryl Bader, and Gayle Dean Wardlow.]

For an update on her music since this time, visit Nancy Apple

Andy Cohen: Kent State to Memphis, Going Out of the Road, & Avalon to Nitta Yuma For Bo

Andy Cohen: Kent State to Memphis, Going Out on the Road, & Avalon to Nitta Yuma For Bo
Part 1 by Ted Joy - (Akron, OH) Beacon Journal - May 22, 1994.
Part 2 by T. DeWayne Moore, director of the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund

It's the crack of dawn for folk singer Andy Cohen — a quarter past nine for the rest of us — and he's just crawled out of bed and groped his way to his second home, Brady's Cafe next to the Kent State University campus. He orders a plate of extra-greasy eggs and searches for his personal coffee mug, an ugly brown thing with "My Old Kentucky Home" inscribed on its side. He notes that he bought it for only a buck-and-a-half at Goodwill. 

After filling the cup with high-octane, steaming black coffee, he climbs the stairs to the balcony and settles into a creaky chair at a graffiti-covered table. He picks the eggs apart almost daintily, simultaneously lighting up the first of many cigarettes. Cohen is an interesting-looking guy. His eyes still twinkle and he grins disarmingly at unexpected moments. A little on the short side, he dresses with a sort of Salvation Army panache.

Read a John Dos Passos novel about the Greenwich Village bohemians of the 1920s and you could readily see him fitting right in. Read a Jack Kerouac novel about the beatniks of the 1950s and the same thing. Read about the hippies —well, you get the idea.

In short, Andy Cohen is the Eternal Hipster. In all of the good senses of the term and few of the bad.
"The clock's running out," he announces. "This fellow I know. Produced my last recording. Just a year or two older than me. He died last year. Cancer. Terrible. And other things too. I'm finally finishing my master's degree. Cultural anthropology. About the old blues singers of the Piedmont."
Cohen speaks in a soft voice, one you often have to strain to hear. It's both nasal and deep at the same time. Sometimes he talks in long, convoluted sentences that sound like a badly written article in an academic journal. Other times he talks like a slightly watered-down version of George Bush — a comparison that most likely would mortify his ultra-liberal sensibilities. Still, undeniably, there is a sort of charisma to Cohen when he talks. And, even more so, when he sings.

For the first time in seventeen years — since he first came to Kent — he wasn't at the annual Kent State Folk Festival. Instead, this February he was in Boston with musicians from all over the country for the National Folk Alliance. "Networking," he exclaims, "Trying to figure out how to make a living out of their music. I've been doing it (singing) for 25 years and I'm not doing it (making it pay off) yet. Neither is anyone else." Kent's folk festival has always been a subject near and dear to his heart. For three or four years in the mid and late-1980s he ran it. Since then, he's been a major behind-the-scenes influence. 

(Lansing, MI) State
Journal, Oct 27, 1994.
"I'm going back to being a musician full-time," Cohen insisted, "and I've got to make a living at it." Thus Boston, and after Boston--the road, specifically a tour for the better part of a month throughout the Midwest. Home for a couple of weeks. Back on tour in the South and the Southeast. Somewhere in between he planned to squeeze in enough time to record a couple of albums: one of children's songs he's written himself and the other of the music of the old-time bluesman, the Rev. Gary Davis. "I learned most of what I know from Rev. Gary," Cohen admitted, certainly "most of what I know about music" and also most of what I know "about life, too." 

According to Cohen, he grew up "a red diaper baby," the son of a labor lawyer in a small factory town in Massachusetts. Both his father and mother were supported the platform of Communist Party, but they stopped a bit short of official party membership.[1] 
"We always had music playing in the house. Jazz. Classical. That kind of stuff, too. By people like the Weavers. Of course, at the time I thought they were real folk singers. They weren't. They were interpreters. Like me." 
"Then I heard Gary (Davis) play. He was an old black country minister. And a number of things began to make sense to me. Really make sense. They slammed together in such a way that they haven't come apart yet. That was when I was in college. Out at the University of......If you saw the Rev. Gary Davis play and sing and preach the way he did, you could not help but reject any notion that imposed less than fully human status on black people. We are all of the same species. Different sizes and shapes and colors. But still the same underlying people." 
Reverend Gary Davis
(late 1950s)
Cohen stops to light another cigarette, to gulp some more coffee. 
"Rev. Gary's playing is the pinnacle of country blues and country dance music. It's black country music. Not white. It's highly elaborated. It's systematic. It should be treated as if it were classical music. That's what I try to do. I try to present clean, accurate readings of what I consider to be America's classic music." 
Cohen explains that he'll always be a re-creator — not a creator — of the blues. His status as a white, middle-class, college-educated male assures that distinction. 
"I can't have the blues. Because I'm one of those sustained by this society. Not broken down by it," he says. "My wife has a good job. I've never had one. Always menial work. Janitor. Dishwasher. Assistant junior copy boy at the Chicago Sun Times. I sharpened Mike Royko's pencils. And Roger Ebert's. The only job I've ever had to use my brains for was when I worked as a field archaeologist for the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. We excavated the Gateway site in downtown Cleveland."