Wednesday, December 7, 2011

South Jersey Soul Singer Howard Tate RIP

Soul singer Howard Tate dies in Burlington City apartment at 72

TRENTON — Soul singer Howard Tate has died in his Burlington City apartment a decade after a career resurrection that followed years of tragedy and obscurity.

A spokesman for the Burlington County Medical Examiner’s Office said Tate died of natural causes Friday at age 72.

The son of a Baptist preacher, Tate was born in Macon, Ga., and grew up in Philadelphia singing gospel songs. In 2004, in a feature story published by the Burlington County Times, he was living in a home along the Rancocas Creek in Southampton.

In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Tate had three top 20 R&B hits, including “Get It While You Can,” written by his longtime producer, Jerry Ragovoy, and made more famous by Janis Joplin.
But his own album sales suffered, and Tate claimed that he received almost no royalties from his music.

“I’d go out on the road and come back home to my wife, who would say, ‘You’re on the charts, you’re working 300 days a year, how come there’s no money?’ “ he recalled in the 2004 article.
Depressed and frustrated, Tate left the music scene, vowing to never return.

In the late 1970s, Tate’s daughter died in a fire, his marriage ended and, to ease the pain, he turned to alcohol, marijuana and cocaine. He wound up homeless, living on the streets of Philadelphia for about 10 years. Ragovoy believed he had died.

“I’ve been hit in the mouth with a brick, been on the scene with knives and guns,” Tate remembered. “I could have lost my life out there.”

In 1994, Tate said he found God and created a church to help the homeless and drug-addicted. He made his musical comeback after a fellow musician saw him in a grocery store in 2001.

His 2003 release, “Rediscovered,” again with Ragovoy producing, was nominated for a Grammy for best contemporary blues album. His last work of new material was “Blue Day” in 2008.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Blues Guitarist Hubert Sumlin RIP

Hubert Sumlin with Eric Clapton's Gibson ES-335 guitar during the Crossroads guitar festival, Chicago, 2007. Photograph: Alexandra Buxbaum/Rex Features

Of the blues that were most closely listened to in the early 60s by young guitarists such as Eric Clapton, Keith Richards and Jimmy Page, many were by Howlin' Wolf, and, of those, not a few featured a guitarist, then still young himself, who could steal a scene even from so charismatic a performer. Hubert Sumlin, who has died aged 80, thus became one of the most revered of blues guitarists, and in his later years younger musicians practically lined up to play with him or have him guest on their recordings.

Sumlin was born near Greenwood, Mississippi, and grew up across the river in Hughes, Arkansas, where he took up the guitar as a child; by his teens he was playing for local functions, sometimes with the harmonica player James Cotton. The first time Sumlin saw Wolf in action, as he told Living Blues magazine in 1989, he was too young to get into the club, so he climbed on to some Coca-Cola boxes to peer through a window; the boxes shifted and Sumlin fell into the room, landing on Wolf's head. After the gig, Wolf drove him home and asked his mother not to punish him. "I followed him ever since," Sumlin said.

At the time Wolf was working with the guitarists Willie Johnson and Pat Hare, but Sumlin was occasionally permitted to sit in. Then, in 1953, Wolf left the south for Chicago, where he would develop his music on the bustling club scene and in the studios of Chess Records. In spring 1954, he sent for Sumlin to join him, and soon afterwards the 23-year-old guitarist was heard on records such as Evil and Forty-Four, and a couple of years later the sublime Smokestack Lightning, though for a while he played second to more experienced guitarists like Johnson and Jody Williams.

Sumlin would serve under Wolf's flag for more than 20 years, a collaboration interrupted only when he briefly jumped ship to join Muddy Waters, who paid better. (The resulting argument between Wolf and Waters, squaring up to each other like two Mafia bosses contesting their territories, was vividly dramatised in a movie about the Chess blues roster, Cadillac Records.)

"Wolf had a gravelly, hypermasculine voice and Hubert a jagged, unpredictable guitar style," Wolf's biographer Mark Hoffman wrote; "the two combined musically like gasoline and a lit match." Contained within the two and a half minutes of a 45rpm single, these small explosions resonated around the world. Sumlin's lissome solo, as much rock'n'roll as blues, on the endearingly silly Hidden Charms, and his spiky phrasing and strikingly vocalised tone on more heavyweight early-60s recordings such as Back Door Man, Built for Comfort, Tail Dragger and Goin' Down Slow, ignited the imagination of trainee blues guitarists both at home and overseas. Spoonful was reworked by Cream, Killing Floor by Jimi Hendrix. "I love Hubert Sumlin," said Jimmy Page recently. "He always played the right thing at the right time."

Wolf died in 1976, and Sumlin, whom the older man regarded almost as a son – indeed, on the funeral programme he was named as such – took the loss very hard. He dropped out of music for a while, but returned to shape a career for himself, at first deliberately moving away from Chicago to Texas, where he left an impression on the Vaughan brothers, Jimmie and Stevie Ray.

Over the next 30-odd years he toured extensively in the US, Europe and Japan and made numerous albums for various blues labels, gradually revealing, and never quite overcoming, the problem that he was at heart an invaluable sideman rather than a natural leader. His conversational singing was seldom strong enough, or his own material striking enough, to grip the listener for the length of an album.

Perhaps aware of this, some producers solicited instrumentals, on acoustic guitar as well as electric, but unplugged he had less to say, though the quiet colloquy of his guitar and John Primer's on the 1991 album Chicago Blues Session had a charming back-porch serenity. Nonetheless, on Wake Up Call (1998) he seemed to rediscover the verve and unpredictability that had made his work with Wolf so exciting, while the sympathetically produced About Them Shoes (2005) skirted the issue of his coarsening voice by focusing on his guitar, in settings buttressed by admirers including Clapton, Richards and Levon Helm.

Sumlin was nominated for a Grammy four times, most recently in 2010, and was placed 43rd in a 2011 Rolling Stone poll of the 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time. He had a lung removed in 2004. His wife Willie "Bea" Reed, whom he married in 1982, died in 1999.

• Hubert Sumlin, blues guitarist, born 16 November 1931; died 4 December 2011

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Frank Bey at the Ocean Club Cape May

We've been reading your blog and would love it if you considered posting about our client's upcoming event! Let us know if you need any additional information.

The Ocean Club Hotel is pleased to announce An Evening with Frank Bey at its SeaSalt Restaurant on Saturday, December 3rd. From 8PM- 12AM enjoy fresh seafood, specialty cocktails, and the master of the art of blues himself performing live. Bey, who also participated in the Cape May Jazz Festival, is sure to create an atmosphere of excitement. The Ocean Club Hotel is located at 1035 Beach Avenue in Cape May, NJ. For reservations please call (609) 884-7000 or visit
Thank you! Best regards,

Anna Antonova
R. Couri Hay Creative Public Relations

Hi Anna,

And it would be a pleasure to post your announcement about Frank Bey's show, as Frank is one of the few guys who really blew me away when I first encountered him at the Cape May Jazz Fest a few years ago.

I'm sure he did the same to Carol and Woody, who scour the nation for the best jazz acts and then bring them to Cape May.

I later learned that Frank played with some of the biggest stars in the Sixties, and then took a few decades off from performing, disenchanted with the music industry, but I'm so glad he came back and that I was fortunate enough to catch his act.

After that first show Carol invited me back to her house for a private party with the volunteers who helped put the festival together and the acts who performed, and somebody sat down at the piano in the living room and started playing, which sparked Frank to get up and sing along, and then somebody else - a female vocalist - started scatting. And Frank, being a scatter himself, started a conversation with her scatting back and forth like they were having an argument, that Frank won.

It was an amazing, impromtu performance that I will never forget.

I've seen Frank again since then at other Jazz Fests, and was glad to see that he performed at the benefit show earlier this year at Cabannas, and I hope to catch him again soon.

Keep me posted on when and where he is performing and I have no qualms about posting the information here, as I will do for any act who performs at the Jersey Shore - and contacts me:

All the best,

And give my regards to Frank,

Bill Kelly

New York, NY 10024