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Author Topic: Juke Boy Bonner Interview UK 1969  (Read 878 times)

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Offline Bunker Hill

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Juke Boy Bonner Interview UK 1969
« on: December 11, 2010, 02:41:09 AM »
Stumbled upon this which for some reason I scanned seven years ago but before deleting thought I'd park it here. Mike's comment about "having spent more time with Weldon than anybody else" was no idle boast as can read at Stefan's Bonner discography.

An Interview With Juke Boy Bonner
Mike Leadbitter
(Blues Unlimited 78 (1970), p. 18-19 & 79 (1971), p. 20)

Introduction: I have probably spent more time with Weldon than anybody else, but we had never really got down to a really good bull session until the man came to stay a few days with Simon. On the 28th October of last year, Simon brought him round to my place for the evening and after a quick (?) session in the local pub we settled down to talk. I supplied the food and music and Weldon had the bourbon. mike

BU: How did you feel when you heard that a guy from England had your records and wanted to write your story?

JB: I thought some cat was pulling my leg, you know. I forgot all about those recordings I'd put on tape. I was just playing music, so I thought it was some kind of a crank.

BU: You'd really forgotten all those things you'd cut for Irma and Goldband?

JB: Well I never got anything out of it. Everytime I'd go through Lake Charles I'd get the same runaround you know. I didn't get anything but a new guitar.

He'd say we've got the record working and it'll be out next week. Just hold on

BU: Did it sell? I don't think it did!

JB: Well, you got no way of knowing unless you sue somebody and that's not good for your career'

JB: Oh, in Los Angeles, some kind of tie shop and I just worked. I wasn't even playing then. I was broke. One day I went home, got my harmonica and started walking and playing. I walked from downtown, about 5th or 6th Street, and all the way up to Watts. Then about the 400 Block of Central I saw the "Jack In The Box" club there and Mercy Dee was playing in there with a couple of old guys. A drummer and a bass. So I walked in; I had picked up a few dollars playing on the way. So I told Mercy Dee I was from Texas and he took me to his house, gave me some good advice, gave me a meal, and took up a collection for me which was pretty good, for when I got back home I was able to pay my rent. He's a nice fellow.

BU: What happened next?

JB: I left Los Angeles and went to Oakland because there was a lot of money being made in canning there. I worked for Del Monte there and I'd go into town to find the musicians. Go to blues clubs where the music's at, and - er - just anywhere you got a congregation of people swinging.

BU: How did you get to be called 'Juke Boy'?

JB: Well, by two friends in Los Angeles. I used to stay with them and we'd ball around together every night. One of these guys would follow me playing guitar, as I was playing guitar and harp then, which is before I went to Oakland. I used to play that harp on the Mercy Dee Show and the Johnny Otis Talent Show. I won a prize on the Johnny Otis Show doing a Jimmy Reed number, and then Jimmy Reed popped up as a special guest and he did a Little Richard thing! That was at the Club Oasis. I didn't have an electric guitar then; I got one of those after I went to Oakland. Anyway, these two guys, we'd go round the juke-joints so damn much, that they started calling me Juke-Boy. I would play along with the music on the jukebox. Little Walter was popular then. I played behind him like that, and - er - Jimmy Rogers, "That's A1right". He was very popular in L.A. Little Walter had "Juke". That was very big in Texas ... "Mellow Down Easy" and all that stuff.

BU: Was it playing round these clubs that led you to meet Lafayette Thomas!

JB: Lafayette, oh yes! He's a great guitar player. He showed B.B.King how to play Lowell Fulson's "3 O'Clock". He took me to McCracklin and Bob Geddins to record. I was playing harp and guitar and I wasn't used to it. The guitar was ok, I just rode along on the bass, but I couldn't get the harp right. Lafayette told me, "Don't worry if you miss a note, I'll cover it up"' He played on that record.

BU: I see that on your first record you were called Juke-Boy...

JB: Yes, when I left for Oakland I stayed with friends for a few weeks till I got an apartment. Baxter their name was. They loved music. They had stuff by Redd Foxx, McCracklin, Jimmy Reed. They were crazy about music. They really started people calling me "Juke Boy", so I just got used to using the name.

BU: When you first started on guitar, what style were you playing?

JB: T-Bone Walker. Yes! I was good at it. At that time I played T-Bone and that was all. He was hot stuff all over the States. I remember the first things he ever made. "Way last winter, baby, the snow was on the ground. " Remember that? You put me out, baby, and I didn't know where to go " That was "Got a Break Baby".

BU: What was the first talent show you did?

JB: Trummy Cain's, back in Houston. 1948.

BU: Man, people don't realise how long you've been on the scene! They think you just started a couple of years back!

JB: Man, I've been there a long time. I cut some stuff for Gold Star but it never came out, 'cause I sounded too much like Lightnin' Hopkins at that time. I cut some stuff for old Fat Atlas on Lyons Avenue and I did some tests for Don Robey. Always the same problem, I sounded too much like Lightnin'. See, I played a lot of guys' music - T-Bone, Muddy, Lil Son Jackson, Smokey Hogg, I used to play all his stuff' So I was playing what was hot at the time. In the end I had to do something different, get my own style. I had to come over with something new and quit foolin' around.

BU: Who was big when you first came to Houston?

JB: Gatemouth Brown, T-Bone Walker, Lightnin', Charles Brown, Louis Jordan, Roy Brown. They was all great artists. Lightnin' was real popular those days when I was coming up. You heard Brownie McGhee? That "Letter To Lightnin' Hopkins" was a bitch in those days. Then there was Big Bill Broonzy.

BU: Do you know T.V.Slim, J.D.Edwards, Goree Carter?

JB: Goree I know. I played with him a few weeks back at Koret's Smokehouse Lounge. Plays jazz now, he doesn't do blues anymore. The other guys I don't know. See, so many people just give up music. Lots of musicians die, or quit, or just dropped out. They won't touch it again the rest of their life. So its hard to catch up on them, especially if you act like Hop Wilson. One bad experience ruined his When I knew Goree he was just a drummer.

BU: Who got to you first....? Skoog? Mack McCormick? When you were "rediscovered"?

JB: Mack came by first and told me a lot of junk.

BU: Did you know that for a few months after we found you were living in Houston, no-one would tell us you were found. It was Larry sent me that newspaper story in the end. Then Mack asked us not to print it as he was saving it for a book he was writing.

JB: Well, you see Larry was always getting those papers. He was doing a lot of writing at the time, working on the poverty programme and all that stuff, so he kept up-to-date with the Negro newspapers. Skoog's alright - he's selling books now to keep his butt going. Mack came in right before him, it couldn't have been more than a matter of months. He came by one night and wanted me to record and all that stuff. Boom, boom, boom with the hot lines, but Lightnin' had told me about him. I haven't seen him since. Oon't know what happened to him. Him and Lightnin' had a big run-in about how Lightnin' went to New York and cut two albums in one day. One for Fire and one for Candid. He got 800 dollars out of one thing, and when one company found the other had beat them on a record, they felt they had been cheated. When Mack went to Lightnin' about the money, Lightnin' wouldn't have none of that bullshit. They parted ways right there.

BU: What do you think of "Blues Unlimited"

JB: It's good. I like it, I like it very well.

BU: I ask because a lot of people in the States and Canada ask us what we know about the blues as it really is.

JB: Well, there's some people not keeping up with it, who don't know what's happening.

BU: But there's people over here writing about Blues and they've never been to America

JB: There is? They write second-handed? But if you been to America and stayed there you understand it. You get a pretty good picture of it. You got to be broadminded about the situation. Most musicians are complicated people. They hate a lot of questions that dont make sense. This a fact - a musician will walk off - he's not going to hang around listening to something that doesn't make sense. If you talk shop they like it, but you find it hard if you ask other kind of questions. A blues musician is a complicated person; who got enough problems of his own without people asking crazy questions. Musicians all got one thing in common, they likes to drink. A musicians got to be always with the people, and the people always drinking so they drink too; you hang round with them you got to relax and enjoy yourself. Blues Unlimited is a good magazine. It does more for the blues and people like me than anything else.

BU: Can you think of anyone else your age playing country blues in Texas?

JB: No, I can't think of a one. Sylvester, he's dead now.

BU: Well, I guess you're going to follow Lightnin' to be the last of the great Texas blues singers!...........


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