Superharp https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/ Superharp SUPERHARP James Cotton (called Cotton by his friends) was born on the first day of July,1935, in Tunica, Mississippi. He was the youngest of eight brothers and sisters who grew up in the cotton fields working beside their mother, Hattie, and their father, Mose. On Sundays Mose was the preacher in the area's Baptist church. Cotton's earliest memories include his mother playing chicken and train sounds on her harmonica and for a few years he thought those were the only two sounds the little instrument made. His Christmas present one year was a harmonica, it cost 15 cents, and it wasn't long before he mastered the chicken and the train. King Biscuit Time, a 15-minute radio show, began broadcasting live on KFFA, a station just across the Mississippi River in Helena, Arkansas. The star of the show was the harmonica legend, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). The young Cotton pressed his little ear to the old radio speaker. He recognized the harmonica sound AND discovered something - the harp did more! Realizing this, a profound change came over him, and since that moment, Cotton and his harp have been inseparable - the love affair had begun. Soon he was able to play Sonny Boy's theme song from the radio show and, as he grew so did his repertoire of Sonny Boy's other songs. Mississippi summers are ghastly, the heat is unrelenting. He was too young to actually work in the cotton fields, so little Cotton would bring water to those who did. When it was time for him to take a break from his job, he would sit in the shadow of the plantation foreman's horse and play his harp. His music became a source of joy for his first audience. James Cotton's star began to shine brightly at a very early age. By his ninth year both of his parents had passed away and Cotton was taken to Sonny Boy Williamson by his uncle. When they met, the young fellow wasted no time - he began playing Sonny Boy's theme song on his treasured harp. Cotton remembers that first meeting well and says, "I walked up and played it for him. And I played it note for note. And he looked at that. He had to pay attention." The two harp players were like father and son from then on. "I just watched the things he'd do, because I wanted to be just like him. Anything he played, I played it," he remembers. There were dozens of juke joints in the South at the time and Sonny Boy played in nearly every one in Mississippi (pronounced "miz-sip-ee") and Arkansas. Now he had an opening act! Because Cotton was too young to go inside he would "open" for Sonny Boy on the steps of these juke joints, sometimes making more money in tips outside than Sonny Boy did at the gig inside. After a gig early one morning Sonny Boy split for Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to live with his estranged wife, leaving his band to Cotton who comments, "He just gave it to me. But I couldn't hold it together 'cause I was too young and crazy in those days an' everybody in the band was grown men, so much older than me." There was no one to care for the teenager - no real home to go to - but young Cotton had his harmonica. Beale Street in Memphis was alive with the blues and Cotton played on the street for tips. Also, he put a mean shine on any paying customer's shoes. When he'd been with Sonny Boy, they had played a juke joint named "The Top Hat" in Black Fish, Arkansas. One night he heard Howlin' Wolf was playing there and he decided it was time to meet him. He was still underage but the owner let him through the door this time. He liked the young musician plus he knew if Cotton sat in with Howlin' Wolf the good times would roll even farther, deep into the night. Cotton got along well with Howlin' Wolf from the moment they met and they began to play the juke joints as far north as Caruthersville, Missouri, and as far south as Nachez, Mississippi, with Cotton doing most of the driving down old Highway 61. He learned the ways of the road from a second blues legend. At the ripe old age of 15 he cut four songs at Sun Records: "Straighten Up Baby," "Hold Me In Your Arms," "Oh, Baby," and "Cotton Crop Blues." KWEM, a radio station in West Memphis, Arkansas, directly across the Mississippi River from Memphis, gave Cotton a 15-minute radio show in 1952. This was a great achievement for a bluesman who was only 17 years old. It gave him a wider audience; not everyone went to juke houses, but the radio was on everyday from 3-3:15 p.m. Mississippi and Arkansas held the very essence of the blues in their cotton fields. People wanted to hear their own music. Cotton had gigs every weekend but to help support himself better he found a job in West Memphis driving an ice truck during the week. When he got off work one Friday afternoon in early December 1954, he walked to his regular Friday happy hour gig at the "Dinette Lounge" and played his first set. The club was getting crowded and he recognized many familiar faces but when the band took a break, a strange man approached and extended a handshake to Cotton saying, "Hello, I'm Muddy Waters." He'd heard about the young James Cotton. "I didn't know what Muddy looked like but I knew it was his voice 'cause I'd listened to his records," says Cotton. Muddy needed a harp player. Junior Wells had abruptly left the band. He asked Cotton to play the Memphis gig with him. The answer is history. Cotton remained Muddy's harp player for 12 years. Chess Records kept Little Walter (Jacobs) playing harmonica on Muddy's records until 1958. Before then Muddy asked Brother Cotton to "play it like Little Walter" - note for note live on stage every night. But that wasn't Cotton's aim in life and finally one day he said to Muddy, "Hey man, I never will be Little Walter. You've just got to give me a chance to be myself." Cotton's star shined even brighter in 1958 when he began recording at Chess Records with Muddy on "Sugar Sweet" and "Close To You." Cotton developed an arresting stage presence which Muddy recognized. As a sideman, Cotton always respected Muddy's position of authority. But they both knew Cotton had his own full-blown brand of animated showmanship that no one had ever seen before and that, coupled with his own harmonica style, commanded attention from the audience. In 1961 at the Newport Jazz Festival one of the highlights of his career came when his wild harmonica exploded on stage during his solo of the song he arranged for Muddy, "Got My Mojo Working." You be the judge! Fortunately, the tape was running and the recording belongs to all of us. "Muddy was a very sweet guy. I loved and respected Muddy very much. But I did all I could there, an' it was time to move on to something else," Cotton explains why he left the band in the latter part of 1966. The year 1967 is well-documented as Cotton's first year as a bandleader with the two CD's "Seems Like Yesterday" and "Late Night Blues" recorded live in Montreal at the "New Penelope" club and unreleased until 1998 on the Justin Time label. It was the first gig on the first tour of the first James Cotton Blues Band. From that night forward Cotton embarked on tours all across the country. He had crossed over into the blues-rock genre because of his reputation as Muddy Waters' harp player. During the last half of the 60's decade Cotton made four records. "Cut You Loose" was released on Vanguard, "Pure Cotton," "Cotton In Your Ears," and "The James Cotton Blues Band" were released on the Verve label. The hippies had arrived. They were young people with flowers in their hair and music in their hearts and they wanted to know where this rock n roll music came from. Muddy Waters and Brownie McGhee got together and wrote "The Blues Had a Baby and They Called It Rock and Roll" which answered their question. This song was on the "Hard Again" album on the Blue Sky label featuring Muddy on vocals and guitar, Johnny Winter on guitar, and Cotton on harmonica. Not to be forgotten are the miscellaneous screams provided by Johnny Winter and the miscellaneous hoots (or are they hollers?) of Cotton! It's obvious, they had a ball while making this record. It won a Grammy in 1977. Some of Janis Joplin's most popular songs were old blues standards, i.e., Big Mama Thornton's "Ball and Chain." The first time Cotton opened for Janis she had never heard him play. After the show that night an excited Janis phoned Albert Grossman, who was Janis' and Cotton's manager at the time, in Woodstock. Then Albert phoned Cotton saying, "Janis was all excited and told me 'Man, I REALLY dig that James Cotton, he makes me WORK!'" Cotton opened for and/or sat-in with the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, Santana, Steve Miller, Freddie King, B.B. King...to name a few. He played the Fillmore East in New York, the Fillmore West in San Francisco, and almost every major venue between those two cities including the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, Texas. Cotton became known as the ultimate showman. By the time he got to the center of the stage and blew his first note, the audience was on it's feet, dancing, screaming, sweating right along with him, and having a good time. That is what it was all about. "Boogie, boogie, boogie," he'd wail from the stage. He became famous for his back flips. An old fan reminisced with him at a recent festival, "James, the first time I saw you do a back flip, man, I was shocked," he said, shaking his head, "I'd never seen one before! Thanks." Cotton laughed, patted his stomach, and replied, "Well, you aren't getting the flips tonight but you WILL get the music!" It is an old, true story - there are nights when he blows his harmonica so hard the keys fall out in his hands. A man with a good sense of humor, his old fans and friends like to remember one night when he began playing so hard his harp fell apart, "Oh, I'm just warming up," he teased them with a big smile. The 1970's brought releases from Buddah Records of "100% Cotton," "High Energy," "Alive and on the Move," and "Live at the Electric Lady." All this time he was touring, crossing the country many, many times, and playing to packed houses. The name "Superharp" has been with Cotton ever since Kenny Johnson, the drummer in Cotton's band at the time, arrived at the gig one evening with a denim jacket adorned with silver studs, a popular clothing decoration at the time. "SUPERHARP" appeared in these silver studs across the back of the jacket and the well-deserved name has stuck with Cotton to this day - longer than the studs stuck to the jacket! A recording contract with Alligator Records in 1984 produced "High Compression," and two years later, Cotton's first Grammy nomination, "Live From Chicago: Mr. Superharp Himself!" Cotton's next Grammy nomination was for Blind Pig Records' 1987 release "Take Me Back." "James Cotton: Live" was just that - and it captured the blues spirit of the world-renowned Antone's nightclub in Austin, Texas. Cotton's third Grammy nomination was recorded on the Antone's label in 1988. Alligator Records released "Harp Attack" in 1990. "Mighty Long Time," on the Antone's label, was released in 1991. "A perfect illustration of James Cotton's uncanny ability to make any song completely his own while preserving the spirit of the original," is an appropriate quote from the liner notes by Clifford Antone. Cotton recorded "Living the Blues" a 1994 release on Verve Records. It garnered one more Grammy nomination. In 1994 Cotton had throat surgery followed by radiation treatments. Not long afterward he was back on the road with his James Cotton Trio, playing the music of his roots. That same year he moved back to the Memphis area. Cotton's life has come full circle, he has returned to the source of the fountain on two levels...his star still shines. There is a photograph of a man wearing overalls sitting on an old porch intently playing a harmonica. If you study the photograph you can feel the depth of the man's soul. The man is James Cotton. The porch is part of the commissary store on the plantation where he was born in Tunica, Mississippi. The depth of the man's soul can be heard on "Deep In The Blues" on Verve Records. Grammy Award - Best Traditional Blues Album -1996 During the latter part of the last decade The James Cotton Trio - with Cotton on harmonica, David Maxwell on piano, Rico McFarland on guitar, and alternate singers, Mojo Buford and Darrell Nulisch - toured the U.S., Canada, Europe, Japan, and South America.The music was not as loud as it used to be. "We like to play what people can listen to and enjoy," Cotton says. When one looks at Cotton's audience in his theatre, university, and festival venues, it consists of three generations - the youngest is usually holding a harp. My guess is Cotton finds that a beautiful sight. Cotton has made three CDs on the Telarc label. "Fire Down Under The Hill" was released in March 2000. Recorded at the end of 2001 and released in May of 2002 "The 35th Anniversary Jam of The James Cotton Blues Band" received a Grammy nomination. Many of Cotton's friends are singing and playing with him honoring the 35 years since Cotton left Muddy's band to front his own band. His latest CD, "Baby, Don't You Tear My Clothes," has given Cotton the chance to branch out and play not only blues, but also, country and bluegrass - a great surprise to all! He is joined by a premier list of guests and friends. It was released in May 2004. Cotton has always been known for having one of the best bands in the business. The members are: Darrell Nulisch, vocals; Tom Holland, guitar and vocals; Mike Williams, guitar; Noel Neal, bass; and Jerry Porter, drums. Cotton's eyes light up when he talks about his band, "My audience always tells me how I'm doing. If I look out there and don't like what I see, I work harder." His audiences are still on their feet, they enjoy themselves as much as he does, and there are still standing ovations night after night. You will have a memorable evening with an international treasure and a true Living Legend of the Blues. In 2010 Cotton reunited with Alligator Records and produced another Grammy nominated CD - GIANT - which is a ferocious blast of brash power blues from Cotton with his touring band. Fact: the year 2011 is Cotton's 67th year in the entertainment business. What an amazing adventure this man is experiencing with his little harmonica. Congratulations SUPERHARP! -Copyright 2011 by Jacklyn Hairston Back to Top | Home | Gig Schedule | Discography | Awards | Booking & Management | https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008707 130008707 Sonny Boy Williamson #2 Rice https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008708 130008708 Superharp James Cotton https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008709 130008709 James Cotton https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008710 130008710 Chuck Berry https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008711 130008711 Junior Wells https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008712 130008712 Junior Wells and Sugar Blue https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008713 130008713 James Cotton https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008714 130008714 https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008715 130008715 Walter https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008716 130008716 Bo Didley https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008717 130008717 Junior Wells https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008718 130008718 Howlin Wolf https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008719 130008719 Big Daddy Kinsey https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008720 130008720 Sonny Boy Williamson #1 John https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130008721 130008721 Muddy Waters https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130010217 130010217 Muddy Waters https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130010218 130010218 Muddy Waters https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130010219 130010219 Koko Taylor Blues is my life,? says Grammy Award-winning blues singer Koko Taylor, Chicago?s?and the world?s?undisputed Queen Of The Blues. ?It?s a true feeling that comes from the heart, not just something that comes out of my mouth. Blues is what I love, and singing the blues is what I always do.? And, in many ways, blues is what saved Koko Taylor?s life. Back in November of 2003, following emergency surgery for gastrointestinal bleeding, Taylor?s condition grew even more serious. She was struggling just to breathe. Family and friends feared the worst as she was placed on a ventilator. But her forceful will to live, and to sing the blues again, brought her back. Slowly but surely she recovered, and by the following spring she was back on stage singing. Her resurgence not only led her back to the stage, but also led her back to the recording studio. With her first album in seven years, the aptly titled Old School (AL 4915), Taylor once again shows the world what she does so well. From foot-stomping barnburners to powerful slow blues, Koko proves in an instant that her blues are joyous and life-affirming, powerful and soul-stirring. With Old School, Taylor brings it all back home, supported by a band of veteran musicians and young revivalists. Singing like she did for Chess Records early in her career, Taylor belts out a set of material that could easily have topped the blues charts in the 1950s, and will certainly reach the top of the blues world today. Koko Taylor, guitarist Criss Johnson and Alligator president Bruce Iglauer produced Old School. Recorded in Chicago, the 12 songs (including five new Taylor originals and songs by Willie Dixon, Magic Sam, Lefty Dizz, and E.G. Kight) all hearken back to Taylor?s early years in the Windy City. They range from the humorous truth of Piece Of Man to the rocking blues advice of Better Watch Your Step to the tough street scene of Bad Avenue (done in classic Muddy Waters style), to Koko?s version of Memphis Minnie?s Black Rat, a song she used to sing as a teenager. ?I put my heart and soul into everything that I do,? says Taylor. ?I worked long and hard on Old School, and I want my fans to enjoy it as much as I do.? Live, she simply cannot be matched in her power and raw talent. In fact, reviews of her 2006 live performances all rave about how ?The Queen? is singing better than at any other time in her long, storied career?a career that includes singing with Muddy Waters, Howlin? Wolf, Willie Dixon, B.B. King, Buddy Guy, Robert Plant and every other imaginable legend. She?s performed in clubs, festivals and concert halls all over the world, played for two presidents, and even lent her voice and her likeness (as an animated bear) to the PBS children?s television program Arthur. Over the course of her almost 50-year career, Taylor has received just about every award the blues world has to offer and then some. She?s received Grammy nominations for seven of her last eight Alligator albums, and she won a Grammy in 1984 for the live multi-artist album Blues Explosion on Atlantic Records. In 2004 she was presented with the coveted National Heritage Fellowship Award from the National Endowment For The Arts. She holds 25 Blues Music Awards (more than any other blues artist, male or female). A major feather in her cap came on March 3, 1993, when Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley honored Taylor with a Legend Of The Year Award, and declared ?Koko Taylor Day? throughout Chicago. In 1998, Chicago Magazine named her ?Chicagoan Of The Year,? and in 1999, Taylor was inducted into the Blues Foundation?s Hall Of Fame. ?There are many kings of the blues,? said The Boston Globe, ?but only one queen. Koko?s voice is still capable of pinning a listener to the back wall.? It is not easy being a woman succeeding in the male-dominated blues world, but Koko Taylor has done just that. She?s taken her music from the tiny clubs on the South Side of Chicago to giant festivals, and continues to perform all over the world. She?s appeared on national television numerous times and has even been the subject of a PBS documentary. Through good times and personal hardships, Koko Taylor has remained a major force in the blues. ?It?s a challenge,? she says. ?It?s tough being out here doing what I?m doing in what they call a man?s world. It?s not every woman that can hang in there and do what I am doing.? Without a doubt, Koko Taylor is the preeminent blues woman in the world today. She is?and will remain?the undisputed Queen Of The Blues. BIOGRAPHY ?I come from a poor family,? recalls Koko. ?A very poor family. I was raised up on what they call a sharecropper?s farm.? Born Cora Walton (an early love of chocolate earned her the lifelong nickname Koko) in 1928 just outside of Memphis in Bartlett, Tennessee, Koko was an orphan by age 11. Along with her five brothers and sisters, Koko developed a love for music from a mixture of gospel she heard in church and blues she heard on radio stations beaming in from Memphis. Even though her father encouraged her to sing only gospel music, Koko and her siblings would sneak out back with their homemade instruments and play the blues. With one brother accompany-ing on a guitar strung wth baling wire and another brother on a fife made out of a corncob, Koko began her career as a blues woman. As a youngster, Koko listened to as many blues artists as she could. Bessie Smith and Memphis Minnie were particular influences, as were Muddy Waters, Howlin? Wolf and Sonny Boy Williamson. She would listen to their songs over and over again. Although she loved to sing, she never dreamed of joining their ranks. When she was in her early 20s, Koko and her soon-to-be husband, the late Robert ?Pops? Taylor, moved to Chicago looking for work. With nothing but, in Koko?s words, ?35 cents and a box of Ritz crackers,? the couple settled on the city?s South Side, the cradle of the rough-edged sound of Chicago blues. Taylor found work cleaning houses for wealthy families in the ritzy northern suburbs. At night and on weekends, Koko and Pops would visit the South and West Side blues clubs, where they would hear singers like Muddy Waters, Howlin? Wolf, Magic Sam, Little Walter, and Junior Wells. And thanks to prodding from Pops, it wasn?t long before Taylor was sitting in with many of the legendary blues artists on a regular basis. Taylor?s big break came in 1963. After a particularly fiery performance, songwriter/arranger Willie Dixon approached her. Much to Koko?s astonishment, he told her, ?My God, I never heard a woman sing the blues like you sing the blues. There are lots of men singing the blues today, but not enough women. That?s what the world needs today, a woman with a voice like yours to sing the blues.? Dixon first recorded Koko for USA Records and then secured a Chess recording contract for her. He produced several singles and two albums for her?including her huge 1966 hit single Wang Dang Doodle?firmly establishing Koko as the world?s number one female blues talent. In the early 1970s, Taylor was among the first of the South Side Chicago blues artists to find work?and an audience?on the city?s white North Side. In 1972, Koko played at the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival in front of more people than ever before (including a young Bruce Iglauer). Atlantic Records recorded the festival (including her performance) and released a live album, which brought Koko to the attention of a large, national audience. In 1975, Koko found a home with the city?s newest blues label, Iglauer?s Alligator Records. Her first album for the fledgling label, I Got What It Takes (AL 4706), earned her a Grammy nomination. Since then, Koko?s recorded eight more albums for Alligator (and received five more Grammy nominations) and has made numerous guest appearances on various tribute albums and recordings of her famous friends. She?s been in movies and on television, on radio and in print all over the world. https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130011254 130011254 Koko Taylor https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130011255 130011255 Koko Taylor https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130011256 130011256 Billy Branch This is a newspaper article on my good friend Billy, I remember back in the 70's he was the new kid on the block..no longer is he a kid..and many tours, many years later..he not new no more..he's traded in the new tag for famous.. he's known around the world now.. type in great harmonica player in any serch and his name will come up..Thats why I still wonder why he was passed over...when it came to choosing someone to do the harp work for Walter in Cadillac Records.. no respect at all.. It reminds me of the 50s when blacks would make an album and they put white people on the cover.. Or blacks would make a hit record and instead of them being allowed to release it..they'd get a white group to put it out... That's America.. Love it or Leave it huh?... but if I were the director.. I would have felt it would be disrespectful to the blues community to not put a brother on Walters harmonica... Sometimes you have to stop and think.. will this ruffle any feathers? Will the blues community accept this? Blues Community =Da Hood... That's why I say..we've got to make our own movies. ...well I'll let yall get on with the article... ************************************ Sweet Home Chicago: Billy Branch keeps the city?s blues tradition alive By Ben Oren May 17, 2007 Billy Branch?s voice?gravelly, melodic, precise?doesn?t seem like it should be used for ordinary speech. The statement ?Hi, how ya doin?, come on in? shouldn?t be uttered in such leaden tones. Nor does it seem that a legendary bluesman should be welcoming guests into such a cottage so bourgeois that kids with ?Hello Kitty? backpacks run past on the way home from school. One of the ?Last Great Blues Harmonica Players? should be living in the perpetual twilight of a dimmed nightclub, smoke permanently swirling around a hand frozen into a cup and a face forever stuck behind four inches of gleaming metal. Yet here Branch sits, sinking into the depths of a leather sofa in the middle of a tastefully decorated, well-lit house on 84th Street. Little touches betray his profession: he?s dressed in black from his baseball cap to his socks, and the art on the walls ranges from a cubist painting of a harmonica player to one of Branch himself of almost photographic quality. The Grammy nominations on the walls help, too. The more recent nomination was for an album called ?Superharps,? recorded with three other harmonica players. In describing the actual event, Branch rises from his seat and begins gesturing expansively with his arms. ?When I was in the ceremony, I had this crazy delusion that I might win; they flash your name up on the big screen, you know, you get excited. Then they said BB King, and I thought ?What the hell am I thinking, I must be on dope.?? That?s an anecdote which deserves to be said in a voice used to growling into a microphone. Branch has a catalog of similar events, betraying a familiarity with old hangouts and famous names: ?The Rolling Stones came to play at the old Checkerboard [Lounge] on 43rd Street. I remember vividly that night, that I knew they were there but I opted to stay at Theresa?s Lounge [a club on 48th Street]; I didn?t want to fight the crowds. My bass player was there and ended up sitting in with them.? The bass player was part of the band Branch has been managing for a few decades, the Sons of Blues. The Chicago Blues Festival this summer will hold a thirtieth anniversary celebration of the group, which has served as a kind of vanguard for the traditional Chicago-style blues. ?We were formed in 1977 as the answer to the question, ?Are there any young black musicians playing the blues??? says Branch, his rehearsed cadence indicating how many times he?s told this origin story. ?We were recruited by Jim O?Neal, who is the editor and founder of Living Blues magazine. In the beginning everyone in our band, except for myself, was the son of a famous blues musician. I kept the band intact over the years, although the personnel changed many times. But throughout the history of the band we had some of the finest players of our generation pass through. At the Blues Festival it will be like a reunion of past players and the current band.? It will be an eclectic group on that Blues Festival stage, and not just for the diversity of instrumental talents. Two of the band?s current members, Aryio on piano and Minoru Maroyama on guitar, are Japanese, which reflects the disparate popularity of the blues outside the US as compared to within it. Overseas, ?the audiences tend to be more knowledgeable, and there?s a great deal more respect internationally. I?ll go on a tour in Europe, Asia, even South America and someone will come up with every recording I?ve ever done, y?know, stuff on vinyl. They study and research. In Europe sometimes we?re playing in concert halls and opera houses, places where they?d never dream to put the blues in the States. Unfortunately.? When considering how this sad state of affairs came to be, Branch rises like some vengeful Blues Spirit and starts waving his arms erratically. ?People here have never been properly educated, they?re ignorant en masse. The blues is rarely played, you rarely see authentic blues players on television. It?s not very accessible; in Japan there?ll be a billboard with my picture on it. I?ll be lucky to get a poster with my picture on it, here in Chicago.? Branch hasn?t just been lamenting the state of the blues in the US; he?s also been trying to fix it. For the past twenty-nine years, he?s put on the ?Blues in Schools? program in partnership with various other organizations. Varying from one to three weeks, the program tries to develop an appreciation of the blues through playing and teaching. Branch has instituted the program all over the world, from Seattle to Haiti. From clips of an old news broadcast done on a program in South Carolina, it?s obvious Branch cares deeply about what he?s doing: with an intense disciplined look on his face (and slightly more hair than he has now), Branch instructs a group of kids on the influences of a blues musician their parents have never heard of. It?s obvious he still cares about the kids he?s taught; every few seconds, it seems, he points to the screen excitedly and says, ?Oh, that little guy, I?m still in touch with him. He?s now a teacher.? Branch rattles off stories about the programs he?s organized, and the kids he?s helped, as energetically as he lists anecdotes about famous musicians: ?In the South, kids are so well behaved. In the Bible Belt, they have good voices. In Helena, Arkansas, especially, I did a program there and they had just beautiful voices ? most of these kids come from at-risk environments and homes. I remember two kids came to the program every day, one of them had tried to burn down the principal?s office, and another threatened to murder his mother. We try and do a little to help turn these kids? lives around.? The Blues in Schools program isn?t the full extent of Branch?s community involvement. Plaques and certificates of gratitude line his living room for playing at various benefits and charities. Branch has been, and continues to be, a pillar of music and musical education for people all over the world. Living in a quiet community, with shrieking kids running past, fits his style nicely. Although he probably wishes at least one of those kids wore a Muddy Waters backpack. Written by Ben Oren ShareThis https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130059044 130059044 Billy Brach https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130062690 130062690 Big Walter https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130062691 130062691 Louis Meyers https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130062692 130062692 Billy Branch https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130062693 130062693 Lil Walter https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130063218 130063218 WALTER https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130063219 130063219 CHARLIE SAYLES https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130063220 130063220 CHARLIE SAYLES https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130063221 130063221 CHARLIE SAYLES https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130063222 130063222 Good Ole Days MY MISSION HERE AT BLUESWORLD IS ..To take you back..back to the days when Junior Wells was just a kid..and a harmonica only cost you $2.00... let's go back to the days when you couldnt go thru the negro community without hearing the sweet sounds of Walters harmonica..and BB King talking about 3:00 in the morning..Lil Milton somewhere standin on the back streets crying. Back then you'd walk in the blues clubs and see these beautiful black people... and mannnnn could they dress.. really sharp dressors..guys would have their hair slicked down and tied with a do rag...I really loved the hats..these were the good ole days..I could sit for hours watching the great dancers in these clubs..the dancers were also a part of the whole experience..everything going on in that bar was part of the blues experience... it was like a fashion show..a competition on being cool..and a dance contest..all that seemed to be happening..and there was always somebody doing the drunk dance all by their self..feelng no pain...on top of all this was always a sprinkling of underworld activity..gambling, numbers, pimping..drug sells....smoke rose up from the hands of the band members...smoke was all a part of the party..and the clinking of the glasses..all part of the scene at a blues joint. Black neighborhood, Black club, Black Patrons... the 50s back when the blues was blues..my mission is to bring back those days..those were the days I loved..I had many harmonicas growing up..what kid did'nt.. I use to hang out outside the clubs peeking in..listening to the bands.. at night Id hear it drifting smoothly on the night breeze as I drifted off to sleep. This is home to me..In my mind I travel there often..to me it aint right without this scene...I'm always recreating it in places here in Chicago...just as a retreat for my own sanity..I remember hanging with Junior Wells at The Queen Bee..in the 70s..he would be so clean..and he gave each perfotmance 100%...we were in the last days then..I remember another day me and Jimmy..Jimmy Reed... we went out to hear some blues at the spot where the Aces played on 67th...that was a nice lil spot..we were just kickin it..after being invited to the stage a couple times..he took one of my harps and got up there and did his thing...my goal is to get you to feel what it felt like..or to take you back to the good times..thats what blues world is all about. Living the blues..Loving the blues the people who made it.....it's a celebration of blackness..welcome brothers and sisters.. https://artistforhire.webs.com/apps/photos/photo?photoID=130076344 130076344