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I'm so blue, my house got washed away. And I'm crying 'How long 'fore another payday? - Barbecue Bob Hicks, Mississippi Heavy Water Blues

Author Topic: Louisiana Red  (Read 2320 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Louisiana Red
« on: March 30, 2006, 11:29:56 AM »
I don't know if he's classed by folk hereabout as "country blues" but it was mentioned to me that Red celebrated his 74th birthday last week which got me to thinking about the first thing I ever read about Red (oops, sorry). It was written for Jazz Beat (April 1964) when Red was a mere 32 years old and totally unknown in Britain, apart for the cognoscenti that is.

After reading the piece that follows was it any wonder that an impressionable South London youngster rushed out to purchase the LP the moment it was released in May 1964:


THE blues field in America has for some time been dominated by a handful of artists such as Muddy Waters Howlin' Wolf, Lightnin Hopkins, Jimmy Reed and John Lee Hooker. These, all with their own compellingly individual approach to the blues, sell records consistently well all through America. There are, however, several young blues musicians and singers who are carrying on in the blues tradition and becoming increasingly popular as well, among them Buddy Guy Otis Rush and Lousiana [sic, BH] Red. The latter artist, virtually unknown until a very short time ago, is now being rated alongside the greatest of the blues singers on the strength of his recent record releases.

Lousiana [sic] Red was born in Bessemer, Alabama, and like John Lee Hooker, took the road at an early age. He is still only in his late twenties, and believes only in his guitar, writes and sings Red has worked at any odd job he could find, factory worker, railroad brakeman, dishwasher and often as not, night club performer. He is extremely well-built, reaching the height of well over six feet, and actually seems to be of Red Indian descent.

His music has an utter directness and simplicity, reaching the very roots of the blues, yet combining the rhythmic approach of the very latest artists in this field.

He also plays both harmonica and guitar on most of his records. He is an itinerant story-teller, a blues singer in the true sense of the word, travelling from town to town earning his living playing and singing. In a blues field which has been dominated by the same artists for a long time, he strikes a note of originality and freshness, which one is liable to underestimate on first hearing.

Lousiana [sic] Red's most interesting recording so far has been an LP for Roulette titled 'The Lowdown Backporch Blues', produced by blues lover Henry Glover for that label. Highlight of the album is 'Red's Dream'. which was released as a single prior to the album, and sold extremely well. In it, Red dreams that he's at the United Nations, and sets the whole nation right. First of all he deals with Castro, and tells him he'll have to go. Next he reprimands Khruschev in no uncertain terms for putting bases in Cuba, before being called to Washington to be the guest of the President.

He tells the President that he can run the country, but he wants to run the Senate and put a few soul brothers in, such as Ray Charles, Lightnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, Bo Diddley and Big Maybelle. The song also has a pounding beat, and must rate as one of the best rhythm and blues records produced in 1963.

The other side of the single, 'Ride On, Red, Ride On' is almost as good, with Red fighting with the freedom riders in the South for integration Both these sides are included in the album, which is consistently good, with 'I'm Louisiana Red' and 'Sad News' standing out as exceptional tracks. The LP is scheduled for release in this country during May; no discerning collector of blues or rhythm and blues records should be without this one and watch out for the name of Louisiana Red in the future.

Offline Bunker Hill

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Re: Louisiana Red
« Reply #1 on: January 19, 2008, 01:05:12 AM »
I was trawling through magazines in search of something specific and the following 500 words caught my eye in Blues Access, Fall 1997 (p.98). The last paragraph brought to mind the preceding feature 30+ years on and somebody is still attempting to get Red "noticed"...but in his country of his birth rather than Britain! A further decade on, is that still the case?

Hangin' with Red

Joel Slotnikoff writes: Bruce Bramoweth, the booking agent for the St. Louis Blues Heritage Festival, called to let me know that Louisiana Red had arrived in town too late on August 17 to play the festival due to mix-ups with his air travel arrangements. He had flown all the way from Germany, but the mix-up actually occurred between Chicago and St. Louis. Instead, Bramoweth arranged for him to sit in with the Soulard Blues Band at the Broadway Oyster Bar. He appeared on Tom Ray's radio program, so at least a tew cognoscenti were present as well as SBB's regular Monday night crowd.

This was Red's first time on a U.S. stage in 15 years. For a three-dollar cover at the Oyster Bar! And what a show. Some of Red's older recordings may have been a bit lethargic, but his 1995 Sittin' 'Here Wonderin' on Earwig was hot, with slicing guitar work and strong, downhome vocals. And such was the case at the Oyster Bar. Red played sitting down, accompanied at first by the band and then in duet with Rich McDonough on guitar.

It could have been Robert Nighthawk, or Muddy Waters, or even Robert Johnson.  He performed material by all three, often in open tunings, often with slide guitar. He wailed, he howled, he groaned the blues. The crowd knew they'd stumbled onto something very special. After playing his Telecaster for half an hour, he pulled out a Silvertone, the kind with the lipstick pickup, and gave a phenomenal slide demonstration. McDonough, no slouch on slide himself, quickly retreated to a rhythm role. In one stretch Red switched tunings six times, on the fly?playing in the same key, though? with McDonough scratching a "Boogie Chillen" beat behind him. He even chanted Nigerian lyrics; he told me later these were tunings he'd learned from King Sunny Ade's slide player while in Africa several years ago.

We took him over to the 1860's Cafe where the sublime Jimmy Lee Kennett and his band were playing. Jimmy played Red a few numbers then turned the stage and his band over to him. Red once again tore things up, to the amazement and delight of Jimmy and the crowd. Jimmy's forceful drummer, Mike Saffron, and bassist Cornell gave Red superb rhythm support, and Red took off and wailed over it. At one point he was playing while lying on the floor on his back. He seemed to play slide in every position?from guitar behind his head to upright to upside down. When he finally stopped for a rest, Jimmy played him the Hendrix version of "The Star Spangled Banner'' by way of a welcome back to America and theIl a superb Chuck Berry "Reelin' and Rockin' " to welcome him to St. Louis. Red joined in on a borrowed harmonica and vocals on some Elmore James tunes. The audiences at both clubs gave Red standing ovations.

After the show Red quizzed Jimmy on some of his techniques and equipment, and I quizzed Red as to why he'd stayed in Germany and away from the States for so long. He replied that he couldn't make any money over here and could over there.

Record companies, booking agents, are you listening? This guy is powerful, authentic, mightily creative in his playing and singing and writing. The first several songs at the Oyster Bar were about the plane trip and how it went awry. A few very fortunate St. Louisans had a taste of what the real blues is all about tonight.

Offline Pan

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Re: Louisiana Red
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2008, 05:56:17 AM »
FWIW Louisiana Red appears on a brand new film, in the documentary "Family Meeting", which celebrates the 20 years of a Finnish group called "Wentus Blues Band". Red has also toured Finland with the band. Other guests include Eddie Kirkland, Lazy Lester, Eric Bibb, Kim Wilson, Mick Taylor and Omar Dykes. The film is a documentary of two concert nights on an old opera house in Helsinki.

Here's a small trailer



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