Tuesday, September 22, 2009

"Where Is The Little Colored Girl??"

Long time no speak..
Sorry about that.
I''ve been off for the summer, so I decided to take it easy for a while. I haven't been home for the summer in a very long time, and it's been a rather strange one with the crazy weather and all that's been happening in the world.. The loss of some of our greatest musical icons..

The summer has become my favorite season of the year (sometimes autumn still wins out), but this summer with all of the rain and sad news brought out the introspective side of me. While I've been hard at work on a new record, I also feel strangely detached from music lately. I feel very passionately that this record is some of our best work to date, but still I've needed to take long breaks from recording to pursue other interests and to stop and reflect now and again..
Its been refreshing..
I've also discovered lots of new music which I'll share with you soon.

I got a dog this summer too, who I absolutely adore :-)
We rescued her from a shelter and she is an angel.. We've been going for long walks and getting to know one another..

On another note, it occurred to me recently that you guys don't know that much about my musical history, so I thought I'd share a funny story with you..

One of the things you don't know for instance, is that I have a great love for
standards and for big bands in particular. I'm a huge fan of all the greats.. Ella, Sarah, Billie, Nina, Dinah.. The list goes on, but I also listen to a lot Duke and Count and a few others.

The reason this is so is because of my grandmother. This was the music of my
grandmothers era.. She played it in the house all while I was growing up. She would sing her favorite songs to me and stand me on the coffee table to teach me how to dance.
As a kid I would sing an Ella Fitzgerald song just as easily as I would a Chaka Khan or Michael Jackson song.

A few years back I became completely obsessed with finding big bands in New York to hear and to sit in with.. I was unaware that there was whole movement dedicated to keeping the music alive and once I discovered that, I was ecstatic.. I dedicated myself right away to trying to establish myself on the scene, buying big band arrangements which I didn't realize are crazy expensive! I had a nice collection of vintage dresses, now I had a chance to use them.. It was an exciting time and I made a lot of new friends and learned a lot of new music..

The interesting and very cool thing about being a part of this scene was that when you went to a concert there was always dancing and the crowd would be a mix of people ranging in age from 20 all the way up to 70 and 80 year olds including the legendary Frankie Manning (the man credited with inventing the Lindy Hop), and Dawn Hampton (another incredible and much sought after dancer and singer in her own right).

In this way young people got to mix with people who actually were around in the 1930's and 40's and lived to tell about it, and believe me, these were great and often colorful stories to be sure!

In the midst of this I also met many great musicians and their wives and
girlfriends.. It was one of these musicians whose girlfriend Amy said to me one day, 'I want to introduce you to Les Paul'.


Now before I go on with the story, let me interject.. I am a Jimi Hendrix fan.. I LOVE this man... If there was anyone that I could go back in time and meet, there are a few but Jimi would be at the top of that list, ok?
Ok, so suffice it to say that I've read many books on Jimi Hendrix and in reading about Jimi, I learned a lot about Les Paul, inventor of the electric guitar, inventor of the multi-tracking tape machine, both of which revolutionized music and the recording industry forever..


(A little known fact, Les Paul tried to sign Jimi to his record company right around the time moved to England to record his first record.)

So back to the story.. My friend Amy had said she wanted to take me to meet Les Paul and more specifically, she wanted him to hear me.. Of course I was very excited and honored but I was starting to tour a lot so finding the time became difficult..

Eventually, I had a break one spring and was hanging out in the city to see one of my favorite big bands, the Harlem Renaissance Orchestra. Amy was there and said 'Hey let's run over and see Les, you want to?' And of course I said yes..

Now for some reason, I was wearing my hair in Indian styled braids then.. You know, 2 long Pocahontas plaits, one on each side.. Maybe I was just lazy but it was summertime and it was easy and saved me time but it made me look 12 years old.. :-)

Anyway, we get inside the club and go back stage before the show and Amy introduces me to Les and he was very nice, really nice, but of course he meets lots of people everyday, and he kept forgetting my name a little. Normally I would have attributed this to his being a little older but the man was so sharp and so witty, I mean he had such a hilarious sense of humor and you just know that no one is that funny or astute without having all their faculties straight. I'm sure he was just tired of having to meet and greet people that night, which I totally understood. I was still
very excited about meeting him none the less..

If you've never seen Les Paul, he used to do every Monday night at the Iridium night club in New York. I think he must have been doing this for about 20 - 25 years though it could be longer.. He'd play guitar along with upright bass, piano and another guitar.. No drums.. And he played beautifully, I mean I've never heard anything like it.. His touch, his phrasing, just beautiful.. I'd heard that he'd suffered a stroke several years back and couldn't play for a while and after he resumed playing he didn't think his playing was as good but I totally disagree. After seeing him that first evening, I bought a few of his records and I swear I couldn't tell the difference.

The club was packed and it was a who's who of famous guitarists and other musicians as well. I think the guitarist from Bon Jovi or Aerosmith was there.. In any case, Les told story after story, playing songs in between, and inviting various guests up to sit in.

Toward the the end of the set, he leaned over to ask the guitarist a question, to which the guitarist shrugged his shoulders. Then he leaned over and asked the pianist, probably the same question and he also shrugged..
He then leaned in to the mike and said, "I'd like to invite a young lady up right now, but I'm embarrassed to say, I don't remember her name... Is the little colored girl still here? There was a little colored girl backstage earlier, with 2 long plaits, are you still here young lady?"

As I looked around, I realized I was the only colored girl in the room and realized to my surprise, he was talking about me..
Hahahaha.. I had a good chuckle then got up and made my way to the stage..

As we hadn't paid to get in, Amy and I were sitting in the back of the club, so it took me a few minutes to get to the stage, all the while Les was still calling out for the little colored girl.. Then went into another story while waiting for me to come up (it really was that hard to get to the stage).

Finally, he finished the story, invited me up and said "Well young lady, tell us who you are" to which I replied "Hi everybody, I'm the little colored girl"... the audience roared!

Then I sang a song, and Les said it was wonderful and asked me to do another and then another, and then he said something I'll never forget.. He said, "You know Miss, I'd like to invite you back to do a whole evening featuring you on vocals with the band, would you like that?" And I said I would like that very much, and then I thanked him and left the stage..

My friend Amy said Les never let's people he doesn't know sing more than one song so I should feel honored, and I did..

That is my Les Paul Story..

We've lost some great ones this year.. But they will always be remembered for what
they gave us..

Thank you for reading..

Below is a partial list of famous guitarists who play a Les Paul guitar

Duane Allman - Sunburst, Goldtop
Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) - Junior
Martin Barre (Jethro Tull) - Standard Sunburst
Jeff Beck - Standard Sunburst
Fran Beecher (Bill Haley and His Comets) - Custom
Ariel Bender (Mott the Hoople) - Junior
Chuck Berry - Custom
Dickey Betts (Allman Bros.) - ’59 Standard Sunburst, ’57 Goldtop
Marc Bolan (T.Rex) - Standard Sunburst
Kix Brooks (Brooks and Dunn) - Standard
Buckethead - Custom
Bumblefoot (Guns N’ Roses)
Lindsey Buckingham (Fleetwood Mac) - Custom
Chester Burnett "Howlin’ Wolf" - Goldtop
Toy Caldwell (Marshall Tucker) - Standard
Vivian Campbell (Def Leppard) - Standard
Graham Coxon (Blur) - Custom
Charlie Daniels - ’58 Standard
Eric Clapton - Standard Sunburst, ’61 SG-style, Custom
Steve Clark (Def Leppard) - Standard
Bill Connors (Return to Forever) - Custom
Sheryl Crow - Special
Dave Davies (The Kinks) - Custom, Goldtop
Al Di Meola - Custom
Rick Derringer (Johnny Winter And, Edgar Winter Group) - Goldtop
Andy Dunlop (Travis) - Deluxe
Elliot Easton (Cars) - Goldtop
David "The Edge" Evans (U2) - Custom, Goldtop
Don Felder (Eagles) - Standard
John Fogerty - Custom, Goldtop, Standard
Peter Frampton - Custom "Black Beauty"
Ace Frehley (Kiss) - Custom
Robert Fripp (King Crimson) - Custom Black Beauty
John Frusciante (Red Hot Chili Peppers) - ’69 Custom
Noel Gallagher (Oasis) - Standard
Jerry Garcia (The Grateful Dead) - Goldtop
Billy Gibbons (Z.Z. Top) - ’59 Sunburst
David Gilmour (Pink Floyd) - ’56 Goldtop w/Bigsby
Ray Gomez (Stanley Clarke) - Standard
Stone Gossard (Pearl Jam) - Standard
Peter Green (Fleetwood Mac) - ’59 Standard Sunburst
Steve Hackett (Genesis) - Goldtop
Kirk Hammett (Metallica) - ’68 Custom "Black Beauty"
George Harrison - Plain top Standard
Warren Haynes (Allman Bros, Gov’t Mule) - Standard, Les Paul 12-string
Jimi Hendrix - Custom
James Hetfield (Metallica) - Custom
Noel Hogan (The Cranberries) - Custom
James Honeyman-Scott (The Pretenders) - Standard
John Lee Hooker - Goldtop
Steve Hunter (Lou Reed, Alice Cooper) - Special
Davey Johnstone (Elton John) - Custom
Adam Jones (Tool) - Custom
Billy Jones (The Outlaws) - Custom
Brian Jones (The Rolling Stones) - Goldtop
Mick Jones (The Clash) - Junior, Custom
Mick Jones (Foreigner) - Custom, ’61 SG-style
Steve Jones (Sex Pistols) - Custom, Special, Sunburst
Terry Kath (Chicago) - Les Paul Recording
Danny Kirwan (Fleetwood Mac) - Custom
Mark Knopfler (Dire Straits) LP seen in "Money for Nothing" video
Allen Lanier (Blue Oyster Cult) - Standard
Albert Lee - Custom
Frank Lero (My Chemical Romance) - Epiphone Standard
Alex Lifeson (Rush) - Standard, Custom
Kerry Livgren (Kansas) - ’69 Deluxe
Thin Lizzy (Scott Gorham - Deluxe; Brian Robertson - Deluxe; Gary Moore - Standard; Snowy White - Goldtop; John Sykes - Custom)
Steve Lukather (Toto, sessions) - Standard Sunburst
Harvey Mandel (Canned Heat)
Paul McCartney - Standard Sunburst, Goldtop (both left-handed)
John McLaughlin - Custom
Mike McCready (Pearl Jam) - Standard
Henry McCullough (Joe Cocker, Wings) - Goldtop
Bob Marley - Special
Sonny Mayo (Amen) - Custom
Steve Miller - Goldtop, Standard
Rick Nielsen (Cheap Trick) - Standard, Goldtop
Jimmy Page - ’58 and ’59 Standard Sunburst
Les Paul - a bunch of ’em, but especially the Les Paul Recording
Carl Perkins - Goldtop
Joe Perry (Aerosmith) - Standard Sunburst
Vicki Peterson (The Bangles) - Custom
Rod Price (Foghat) - Custom
Mick Ralphs (Mott the Hoople, Bad Company) - Junior
Amy Ray (Indigo Girls) - Standard
Randy Rhoads - Custom
Keith Richards (The Rolling Stones) - Standard, Custom
Gary Richrath (R.E.O. Speedwagon) - Standard, Goldtop, Custom
Donald "Buck Dharma" Roeser (Blue Oyster Cult) - Standard
Mick Ronson (David Bowie) - Custom
Gary Rossington (Lynyrd Skynyrd) - ’59 Custom
Todd Rundgren - ’61 SG/Les Paul
Carlos Santana - Special
Joey Santiago (The Pixies) - Custom
Joe Satriani - Standard
Boz Scaggs - Goldtop
Tom Scholz (Boston) - Goldtop
Neal Schon (Santana, Journey) - Standard
Kenny Wayne Shepherd - Standard
Slash (Guns N’ Roses) - Standard Sunburst
Earl Slick (David Bowie) - Custom
Steve Stevens (Billy Idol) - Standard
Steve Stills - Custom with Bigsby
Joe Strummer (The Clash) - Junior
Hubert Sumlin - Goldtop
Mick Taylor (The Rolling Stones) - Standard Sunburst
Johnny Thunders (New York Dolls) - Junior
Pete Townshend (The Who) - Deluxe
Ted Turner (Wishbone Ash) - Junior
Joe Walsh (James Gang, Eagles) - Standard Sunburst
Muddy Waters - Goldtop
Jeff Watson (Night Ranger) - ’56 Goldtop
Leslie West (Mountain) - Junior
Whitesnake (Adrian Vandenberg; Mick Moody; Bernie Marsden; Mel Galley)
Brad Whitford (Aerosmith) - Standard Sunburst
Nancy Wilson (Heart) - Epiphone Les Paul Ultra
Johnny Winter - Goldtop
Ron Wood (Faces, The Rolling Stones) - Custom
Zakk Wylde - Special
Neil Young - ’56 Goldtop painted black
Frank Zappa - Goldtop

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Love To You..

“A long, long time ago...
I can still remember how
The music used to make me smile.
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And, maybe, they’d be happy for a while..

I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride,
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died..”
-Don McLean

When I was a very little girl, I would hear this song on the radio and it would make me cry. I didn’t understand why, I was too little to understand the concept of death or dying and I didn’t really know what to song was about. There was just something about “the music dying” that seemed awful and forever to me. To this day that song still makes me a little sad.

Hey guys,
Sorry I’ve been away for a bit. Been busy as you all know, working on new music but I felt like I needed to stop for a few days. The music just left my head. Feels like I can’t hear anything. The day I heard the news I was so stunned, hell everyone in the world was stunned, but I thought… in a day or so it won’t seem like such a shock. Even though it felt like I just lost a brother, it felt odd to be grieving so much for someone I’ve never even met. At first I said “I’m not going to watch any programs or news, or listen any radio stations playing his music, at least not for a while.” I taped a lot of stuff but I still haven’t watched, it feels too hard.

I can remember when Donny Hathaway died and feeling really sad but I was just a kid. I understood the concept of death better but up to that point I had never lost anyone close to me or been to a funeral. I knew it was a tragedy and though I didn’t understand how or why he died, I was very sad. Even though I was a kid, I somehow instinctively knew that music would be very different without him. Maybe that’s because I can remember the first time I heard Mr. Hathaway. It was Christmas of 1970. I was going to take my first plane trip to California to visit an aunt. I was going with my father and his parents and I was beside myself with excitement. When we arrived, the entire car ride from the airport to the house, all my aunt talked about were these two new artists that were making incredible, and really beautiful music. It was music for black people, young, hip, soul music for young, hip, beautiful black people. Of course that wasn’t exactly what she said but it’s how I remember it, it’s what she conveyed. It was music that people actually sat and listened to. It seemed to me, now thinking back on it, to be a new kind of blues if you will, very heady, dark and rich, their voices, both so soulful and so full of yearning. Those artists were Donny Hathaway and Al Green. During that vacation which lasted several weeks, there was no other music played in the house, and I mean no other music. But all of this was shaping me and I still remember it as one of the best Christmas’s I’ve ever spent with my dad and his family. Somehow listening to those two artists still remind me of my dad, so I was very sad when Donny died.

I also remember the day Marvin died. The shock of hearing of his death and how he died, I remember feeling ripped apart by that. Now I could really and truly relate, having begun to lose loved ones. I also knew that I would never be able to do anything with my life but music and was so completely engrossed in all things musical. More importantly though, I had met Marvin Gaye a few times and he was so very kind to me. Furthermore, not so long before, my childhood friends and I spent an entire summer dancing to Got To Give It Up. It was one of those records that defined a period in our lives and we never stopped playing it the entire summer long, literally. Now I knew music would never be the same.

Then three years ago James Brown passed and again we were all shocked and saddened. Where as Donny, Al, and Marvin might have been my mother’s music, James Brown was everyone’s music, young and old. You danced your ass off listening to James Brown, he kept it grimy, gritty, and soulful. It was soul of the rawest kind, not polished and beautiful but very honest and very real.

When I was a really little girl I was completely, and I mean completely consumed with two artists, one of whom was the magnificent James Brown. Now please believe me when I say this is the truth, my father played percussion with James Brown, (that’s not the part I want you to believe, though it is the truth), but before that, before I could even read, I could read the name James Brown, don’t ask me how because I don’t know. I just know that growing up in the St Nick projects, which is only a few blocks from 125th street (a major thoroughfare and shopping street in Harlem) we used to pass by the Apollo on a regular basis. If I passed that Apollo Theatre and saw the name James Brown on the marquee and my mother said we weren’t going I raised holy hell right there in the middle of the street. Now here’s something else I really want you to understand. You DO NOT have temper tantrums when a black woman is your mother, ok?? You just don’t do it, but that’s on the level, how much I had, not wanted, had to see James Brown. The funny thing is, and this is really funny, sometimes we would have tickets and my mother would be trying to explain to me that we were going to go but the show wasn’t that day or that he wasn’t even in town yet, he might be coming the following week or month but I would be standing in the middle of 125th street screaming at the top of my lungs and my mother would literally have to drag me away form the Apollo. After my dad started playing with him I got to see him often (which was made even better by getting to see my dad too) for as long as my dad had that gig, which wasn’t a very long time but long enough for me to have seen lots of shows.

I still don’t know why I was so mesmerized by James Brown but I suspect it might have been his dancing. I would stand on my seat and watch the whole show (I was only 3 or 4) and not move until it was over. I was star struck and I wasn’t the only one as evidenced by the many artists he influenced from George Clinton, to Jackie Wilson, to Prince, to Michael, speaking of which, the other artist I was obsessed with at that time was the Jackson 5 and particularly Michael.

Here at last was music, that even though everyone loved it, seemed perfectly geared toward black kids especially. In truth it reached all kids black and white, so much so that the Jackson’s white counterpart, The Osmond Brothers came quickly after. I was too young to remember Little Stevie Wonder, he was before my time, had I been a little older, I might have been daydreaming about Stevie but as fate would have it James Brown and the Jackson 5 are the ones who really struck me the hardest. Theirs are the first songs that I can actually remember besides songs I learned in school and the ones my mother would teach me.
My mother was a singer too and taught me many songs as a kid, particularly a lot of Doo Wop and Motown songs. I couldn’t read or write yet but I could harmonize with my mother and sing backup. I guess you could say that I already had the bug at that point, having seen my dad on stage and watching my mom singing. I’d be in the mirror, brush in hand singing with Michael, trying do the dance steps. When the Jackson’s were on television everyone in the building watched. Actually, if any black person was on television we’d all be glued to the tv, but Michael was different because he was this little kid, maybe 7 or 8 years old doing all this amazing stuff. though I was gonna’ marry him. No for real, I thought I was gonna’ marry Michael, I’m not joking.

I realized last week that for every phase of my life there was a Jackson or Michael Jackson record to go with it. All through my childhood and teenage years, even after I became an adult and was falling in love for real it was to a Michael Jackson song. Even my son became obsessed with Michael Jackson. I remember being absolutely mesmerized the first time I heard Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough. I would sit in front of the stereo and play that song and that album over and over and over again. I would study it. And then when we thought he couldn’t top himself he came back with Thriller. He looked totally different and we were all really surprised but we didn’t care. And then he outdid himself and everyone else by moon walking on the Motown 25th anniversary show.

My heart has been aching since I heard the news and hasn’t stopped. I feel like a fool but there it is. My sister in law told me when she goes to sleep, she grieves in her stomach for Michael. I know what she means. I’m trying to figure out why I’m so despondent over someone I never really knew. I wonder if it’s because it seems to me like he never got the to have the childhood he deserved and had to sacrifice so much of his whole life to be what he was to all of us. Or maybe I feel awful because it seems like he never got to have much happiness in his life, growing up with Joe Jackson for a father, then being harassed and torn down in his prime by greedy, shameless people who took advantage of him and did irreparable damage to the reputation of one of the greatest musical icons to ever live (now the kid comes forward and says Michael never touched him... disgusting). One of my closest friends says everyone on this earth feels exactly as I do because when Michael died our childhoods died with him. Beautifully said.. I think it’s that the music died.. at least for me.. for now.

Dear Michael,
No one in the world has ever been able to touch the hearts of so many and no artist has ever been loved more..
I hope you see..
God bless you.