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It's rather ironic that many excellent blues musicians want a sound that's almost diametrically opposed to what most luthiers spend their lives trying to achieve - George Gruhn,

Author Topic: Promoting Sleepy John...  (Read 2418 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Promoting Sleepy John...
« on: December 29, 2005, 01:37:51 AM »
About 5 years back I sent Dick Flohill a scan of a review of a SJE concert he promoted in 1964. I've been performing some email 'housekeeping' and came across his acknowledgment which contains some interesting sidelights on blues promotion in the 60s. I'm sure Dick won't object to my passing on his reminiscences. :)

"Re-reading John Norris' piece on Sleepy John in Canada brought back a whole lot of memories - I was one of the two people (the other being a marvelously eccentric pathologist Dr. Beverley Lewis) who brought John into Toronto.? It was my first experience as a "concert promoter" - I still continue doing that, but my primary job is as a music industry publicist for record companies, individual artists, and music organizations and events; it was nice that John remarked on the publicity effort that Beverley and I made!? With Estes as our inspiration, Beverley and I went on to bring Muddy Waters and Robert Nighthawk to town - we never made any money, but we learned a lot and we heard some wonderful music.

The Estes presentation was done in an odd way, as John pointed out. We asked our backers to buy tickets in advance for $10.00 each (quite a lot of money back then!), and we promised them that they would get whatever proportion of their money back after the expenses (including paying John, Hammie and Yank) were taken care of.

The backers, in fact, got $9.50 back (plus their ticket, which wound up costing them 50 cents).? Only after everyone had been paid back did I realise that I hadn't paid for the posters, and that bill was $90.00. Thus I proudly lost money at my first concert promotion!

Later on, I made a killing with B.B. King's first appearance in Canada; lost my shirt (and stopped smoking the next day) with Bobby Bland; made money with Miles Davis and Benny Goodman and The Chieftains and Stephane Grappelli and Ry Cooder; lost big time with Maynard Ferguson, and sorta broke even with dozens more.? I later got deeply into the folk music end of the business, and I'm still active there.

But Sleepy John set me off on my music biz life, and I owe him bigtime for what's been a rich and marvelous life! Cheers, Richard"

Offline Johnm

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Re: Promoting Sleepy John...
« Reply #1 on: December 29, 2005, 09:52:38 AM »
Hi Bunker Hill,
Thanks for passing on this remembrance.  The tendency so often is to think of concert promoters as slick businessmen taking advantage of the unworldly artists that it's a good sort of re-setting of the balance to be reminded how innocent of the ways of the Music Business a lot of the people sponsoring concerts of the re-discovered country blues musicians were.  Quite often, too, the audience in those days was there on faith, not really knowing what to expect.  What in the world could prepare you for your first hearing of Robert Pete Williams?  I'm still amazed and really grateful for how many of the country blues musicians I was lucky enough to see back in those days.
All best,

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Promoting Sleepy John...
« Reply #2 on: December 29, 2005, 11:26:14 AM »
What in the world could prepare you for your first hearing of Robert Pete Williams??
Interesting you should use RPW as an example. What follows veers away from SJE but in 1966 I saw RPW at London's Royal Albert Hall. Please excuse the self-indulgence but here is a section from my review of that event:

"...Hearing Robert Pete Williams on record doesn't prepare one for hearing him live. The two blues he sang didn't make for comfortable listening and my girlfriend felt decidedly embarrassed by it all, perceptively likening it to voyeurism upon private misery. During the obligatory everybody jam finale Williams sat himself down on the low balustrade (which separated performers from audience) and concert-goers immediately began to call out at him waving autograph books in his direction.? He waved back and beckon them down, which they did, closely watch by Hall officials.? At one point he must have had a dozen fans on either side of him. With the grand finale in full swing? Jr Wells, clad all in black, ventured out toward the audience James Brown style. The stark contrast between the Williams and Wells approach to the "jam" said it all for me and captured on camera by at least one member of the audience - despite the stuffy "authorised photographs only.""
[apologies for the blow-by-blow style of writing, but I was young! BH]


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