Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Jeff Maylin a link to Detroit’s classic blues

Singer-guitarist performs Thursday at Jackson Blues Festival
Forty years ago, Jeff Maylin was a young white student at a suburban university and seemed an unlikely candidate to become a link to Detroit’s classic blues musicians.
But, as he approaches his 60th birthday, Maylin is one of a dwindling number of musicians who knew and performed with Detroit’s classic blues men.
His first real contact with the blues came in the early 1970s when he was a student at Oakland University.
“I was about 19 and I was in my dorm room, practicing guitar by listening to John Lee Hooker and trying to learn his music,” Maylin said. “I was playing a lot of acoustic then. My buddy Rick was playing in the Abstention (coffeehouse on campus) and I went there with him. Here comes this black guy, Bobo Jenkins. I sat in with him at the Abstention and he wanted my phone number.
“I thought he wanted to me to play bass, so I went somewhere in Detroit and rented a bass, because I’m a pretty good bass player. But, I found out he wanted me to play lead guitar.”
Maylin, a guitarist and singer, performed with Jenkins and soon met many of Detroit’s top players.
“I started with Bobo at the Bamboo Lounge on 12th Street and Pingree,” Maylin said. “It was a real cool blues bar.
“The really cool thing was that he had his own recording studio, Big Star, on Joy Road near Linwood. I would hang out there and met a lot of the guys like Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones and the Butler Twins. Through Bobo, I met Uncle Jessie White and he took me over to 29th Street and I started hitting the jam sessions there (at Uncle Jessie’s house).
“I always revered the blues and wanted to learn from the source. I played in ghetto bars for 20 years and I was always treated good.”
Many of Detroit’s blues greats – Hooker, Jenkins, Uncle Jessie, the Butler Twins, Baby Boy Warren, Mr. Bo, Little Mac Collins, Willie D. Warren and, recently, Little Jr. Cannaday -- have passed on. A few veterans, such as Alberta Adams, Johnnie Bassett, Little Sonny and Billy Davis, are still performing at, or close to, their peak. Others, such as Eddie Burns, are ailing.
And although there are many fine younger players currently on the Detroit scene, there’s always a reverence for the older players who set the standard of excellence.
“That whole era was awesome,” Maylin said. “It would be cool if, somehow, the blues came along in popularity again.”
Maylin, a very talented guitarist with a penchant for wandering into the crowd during his solos, has had a couple of opportunities to make it to the big time. But, bad timing and a problem with hallucinogenic drugs negated those opportunities. Psychological problems after taking LSD sidelined Maylin from his late teens until he was almost 30.
“It was like post-traumatic shock,” Maylin said. “I lost 10 years of my life, in and out of psych wards. It traumatized me, emotionally, like the Vietnam vets. It was like I left the planet and came back. It stifled me in a lot of ways, like blind paranoia.”
He hasn’t taken drugs or drank alcohol in years, relying on coffee and cigarettes to keep him going.
“It seems like five minutes since it was 20 years ago. I look at it now that I’m blessed to be alive and I try to dwell in the spirit of the Lord as much as I can and be more and more humble all the time. Sometimes the more we lose, the more we gain in the spirit realm.
“We’ve got to take responsibility for our lives. I can’t define success on how much money I’ve made or have not made. I’m just blessed to be hanging out.”
Maylin and his band will perform at 7:20 p.m. Thursday, June 2, at the 10th annual Jackson Blues Festival at Jackson County Airport, 3601 Wildwood Ave., Jackson. Other performers on Thursday include Ben Moore & the Blues Express (6 p.m.), Sonny Moorman (8:40), and The Witchdoctors (10 p.m.).
The festival continues Friday, June 3, starting at 5:30 p.m. with the Harmonica Hounds lesson for children. The first 100 kids who register Friday will receive a free T-shirt, sunglasses and harmonica, and a chance to jam with Mojo Phoenix. The festival continues Friday with The Derrick Boile Band (6 p.m.), the Mojo Phoenix Blues Band (7:15 p.m.), E.C. Scott (8:45 p.m.) and headliner Eddie Shaw & the Wolf Gang from 10 p.m.-midnight.
On Saturday, a full afternoon and evening of blues artists starts at 3 p.m. with The Bluescasters. Also on the bill Saturday are the Automatic Blues Band (4:45 p.m.), James Armstrong (5:45 p.m.), Greg Nagy (7:30 p.m.), Chris Beard (9 p.m.) and the Lee Lewis Band (10:35 p.m.).
For festival information, click http://jazzthug.tripod.com/SDP/JBFest.html.

To check out Jeff Maylin's compilation CD, "Satori in Blue" (No Cover Records), click http://www.cdbaby.com/cd/jeffmaylin1.

To contact JB Blues, please email joe.ballor@dailytribune.com.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Little Jr. Cannaday passes on

Detroit bluesman Paul Miles reports that Detroit blues legend Little Jr. Cannaday passed away following a long battle with brain cancer. Funeral arrangements are to be announced.

Cannaday first arrived on the Detroit blues scene in the early 1950s and performed at the 1973 Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival. Recently, Cannaday contributed the fine song "What Did I Do So Bad" to the benefit CD "Blues for Katrina and the McDowell Family" on No Cover Productions that won the Detroit Music Award for best blues/R&B recording of the year in 2007. Cannaday and his wife Lee recently celebrated their 41st wedding anniversary. 

To send info to JB Blues, please e-mail Joe.ballor@dailytribune.com.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Planet D Nonet at Scarab Club

The Detroit Blues Society presents "The Detroit Big Band Blues" with the Planet D Nonet today (May 14) from 2-5 p.m. at the Scarab Club, 217 Farnsworth St., Detroit.
Band leader RJ Spangler reports that the group will explore the history of big band blues, with special guest vocalist Dan Devins. For about 25 years, Devins has lead the Back Door Blues Band around metro Detroit and he appears on the latest six-song EP by Planet D Nonet, "Blowin' Away The Blues, Vol 2."
Listeners can hear real Detroit proto R&B/swing ala Paul "Huckelbuck" Williams, King Porter, and Todd Rhodes, as well as real jump blues from Louis Jordan and T-Bone Walker. T-Bone's connection to Detroit will also be discussed.
Members of Planet D Nonet include Justin Jozwiak (alto sax & cl), Jim Holden (tenor sax & cl), Joshua James (alto, tenor & bari saxes & cl), James O'Donnell (trumpet, flügelhorn & vox), Ken Ferry (trumpet & flügelhorn), Dave Gadd (piano), John "T-Bone" Paxton (trombone & vox), Bill MacLeod (string bass), and RJ Spangler (drums).
To contact JB Blues, please email Joe.ballor@dailytribune.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Rockets open for Bob Seger

The Rockets, featuring founding members guitarist Jim McCarty (Mystery Train) and drummer Johnny "Bee" Badanjek (Howling Diablos), will open for Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band on Tuesday (May 17) at The Palace of Auburn Hills. Many years ago, McCarty and Badanjek were members of Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels.
To see Gary Graff's previous story about The Rockets reuniting, click here.
To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.ballor@dailytribune.com.

Johnny "Bee" Badanjek
Jim McCarty

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spoons full of magic

Lorenzo Spoons Brown at the Mudpuppy reunion
Anyone who doubts the power of music should have been at Callahan’s Music Hall Saturday for the Mudpuppy reunion that doubled as a benefit for ailing band percussionist Lorenzo Spoons Brown.
Spoons needed a cane and assistance from a friend just to make it up on the bandstand, but played the entire lengthy set that earned the band rousing applause at the end of the evening.
“He didn’t want it to stop, I don’t think any of us did, for obvious reasons,” said Mudpuppy guitarist Mark “Pazman” Pasman. “I know that he felt 20 years younger leaving than when he came in. I know that he was truly humbled the way everybody rallied around him and how much joy we had.”
Mark "Pazman" Pasman and Paul Randolph
In addition to Spoons and Pazman, the reunion concert featured Paul Randolph (Jazzanova) on vocals and bass and Darryl Pierce (Betty LaVette)  on drums. Also joining in on the fun were “unofficial” Mudpuppy members Jimmy “Pickles” Nicholls on vocals and harmonica and Barb Davis on percussion.
Darryl Pierce
Pazman said that the band members used to have a standing bet on how long it would take Spoons to get up in front of the crowd and dance.
“Sure enough, by the second song he was up there with his slap sticks,” Pazman said.
The event raised money for medical expenses for Spoons, who has kidney failure and must undergo dialysis treatments three times a week.
“The money, obviously, was wonderful,” Pazman said. “But for a cat like Zo, the event itself was really magic. Not to mention, the music was pretty dang good.”

To contact JB Blues, please email Joe.Ballor@dailytribune.com.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

French duo celebrates American roots music

French duo !What The Folk?, Cyrille Bourgogne, left, and Laurent Vanhoenackere, center, will be joined by Detroit bluesman Paul Miles in concert tonight at AJ’s Music Café in Ferndale.
!What The Folk? joins Detroit bluesman Paul Miles in concert Wednesday at AJ’s Music Café

Laurent Vanhoenackere and Cyrille Bourgogne of the French acoustic duo !What The Folk? have a deep love of American roots music. Their new CD, “Living Roots,” features elements of blues, African-American spirituals, and country music.

The two Frenchmen are currently on their first tour of the United States, including a performance with Detroit bluesman Paul Miles Wednesday at AJ’s Music Café in Ferndale. Their visit is being recorded for a video documentary.

You could call their trip to America a fact-finding mission.

“It’s very interesting,” Vanhoenackere said. “I tried to come with no expectations. We’ve been listening to American music for years and years, so we already had an idea of American history and the way people are and where it comes from. Some things appear to be so, and some things were very different than what we had in mind.” 
The duo played several dates in Georgia and Kentucky. Their home city, Mâcon in France’s Burgundy region, is the sister city to Macon, Ga. While in Macon, they were able to attend a local Gospel church service.

“I realized the importance of the churches and religion as the roots of black music, soul and funk, which I didn’t expect really,” Vanhoenackere said. “I know James Brown as James Brown, who is very sexual in a way and quite a way from the teachings of Sunday morning.”

The duo were also surprised at the racial segregation they’ve witnessed in our country.

“It’s the fact that the communities don’t mix (racially) at all, even in big cities,” Vanhoenackere said. “There’s some segregation in the South, definitely. The segregation is on both sides. We noticed that black people wouldn’t mix with white people either. It’s very different than European culture.

“France is in the center of Europe, so we have Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, and Algerian people who came to France to work. It’s very different. There are obviously language and religion differences, but we talk to everyone. We do a concert and Portuguese people will come to the concert and share a drink with the French people. All the people (here) are American, obviously, but it’s very different.”

The new release by !What The Folk? has three traditional American songs – “Pick a Bale (of Cotton),” “Western Plain” and “Black Betty” – and 10 originals inspired by American roots music. In another era, these guys would have been comfortable jamming with Jimmie Rodgers, Leadbelly or the Carter Family.

Like many Americans, the Frenchmen were initially exposed to the blues through the music of British rockers of the 1960s.

“In Europe, as everywhere in the world, we listen to The Beatles and the Rolling Stones,” Vanhoenackere said. “They are very popular in France. They themselves say that they are very much influenced by black American blues people. By listening to all these kinds of music, we went to the roots afterward. So, we wanted to come across the ocean and do some research, basically.”

Vanhoenackere and Bourgogne initially established an online friendship with Miles. That led to Miles touring Europe and performing in France with !What The Folk?.

“We made a connection, not just as musicians, but as people,” Miles said. “That adds to it and they are very, very versed in the traditions of the music.”

Miles sees musical collaborations as a way to bridge the gap between nations.

“ That’s how we get to know other people and that’s how we have a chance to have world peace,” Miles said. “Musically, if I can bring some people together and have a good time, then other musicians can go, ‘Wow, maybe I can play with a guy from Spain, or play with some African drummers, or a guy from Ireland.’ That’s the power of music.”

!What The Folk? and Paul Miles will perform at 8 p.m. Wednesday at AJ’s Music Cafe, 240 W. Nine Mile Road, Ferndale. There will be a $5 cover charge to raise travel money for the group. The event will also be livestreamed at www.ustream.tv/channel/aj-s-cafe-open-mic-with-ted-berlinghof.

To see a video of !What The Folk? performing the song "The Honey & the Bee" click here.

To send info to JB Blues, please email Joe.ballor@dailytribune.com