The late Johnnie Bassett, known as "The Gentleman of the Blues," won a Detroit Music Award for his CD "I Can Make That Happen" (Sly Dog) on Friday. Bassett’s last recording was named Outstanding National Small / Independent Label Distribution Album.
|JOHNNIE BASSETT (BluesPhotos by Don McGhee)|
Bassett, who passed away from complications of liver cancer on Aug. 4, 2012 at the age of 76, was a silky smooth singer-guitarist, who got his start in the mid-1950s with Joe Weaver and the Blue Notes (the studio band for Fortune Records), backing up musicians such as John Lee Hooker, Big Joe Turner, and Ruth Brown.
After a stint in the U.S. Army, Bassett lived for a time in Seattle, where he hosted a Sunday night jam session often attended by a young guitarist named Jimmy James, who later became well-known as Jimi Hendrix.
Bassett returned to the Motor City in the late 1960s, but didn't headline his own band until the early 1990s, when he formed the Blues Insurgents. Bassett made up for lost time with a series of outstanding recordings.
He received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Detroit Blues Society in 1994.
His DMA win wasn’t for only sentimental reasons. “I Can Make That Happen” was one of his best recordings ever. It reunited Bassett with The Brothers Groove (keyboardist Chris Codish, bassist James Simonson and drummer Skeeto Valdez) and the Motor City Horns (saxophonist Keith Kaminski, trombonist John Rutherford, and trumpeters Bob Jensen and Mark Byerly), who played with him on his previous recording and who regularly backed him up at live shows.
“One advantage is they know your style, they know practically every note you’re going to do before you do it,” Bassett said in an interview two months before his death. “It just jells together when you have worked with the guys over the years.
“It’s so much more comfortable, so much easier playing, and so much more fun. I love it and I wouldn’t change a thing.”
The 11-song CD features nine originals, including Detroit-oriented tunes “Proud to be From Detroit” and “Motor City Blues,” as well as covers of Lowell Fulsom’s “Reconsider Baby” and Solomon Burke’s “Cry To Me.”
For more on Bassett's music or to purchase "I Can Make That Happen," click www.johnniebassett.net.
In DMA blues music categories, guitarist Bobby Murray was named Outstanding Blues/R&B Instrumentalist, and Barbara Payton, Eliza Neals and Martin “Tino” Gross won multiple awards.
Payton was named Outstanding Blues/R&B Vocalist and Outstanding Rock/Pop Vocalist and her group, Barbara Payton & the Instigators, won Outstanding Blues Artist/Group.
|MARTIN "TINO" GROSS|
Neals received the Outstanding Blues/R&B Recording DMA for “Messin’ With a Fool” and was also named Outstanding Rock/Pop Songwriter.
Gross, who was a contributor on Neals’ “Messin’ With a Fool,” won an armful of awards, including Outstanding Blues/R&B Songwriter and Outstanding Record Producer. His label, Funky D Records, was named Outstanding Local Record Label; and his group, the Howling Diablos, was named Outstanding R&B Artist/Group.
Congratulations to all the winners and those who were nominated.
To see a complete list of Detroit Music Awards winner, click www.detroitmusicawards.com.
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