Every once in a while we take a stab at grasping the meaning of the blues (both in this space and in real life). Try this: James Thomas was born in 1926 on a farm in Ya¯zoo County, Mississippi. Influenced by Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup and Elmore James, he worked the Southern circuit, recording for Transatlantic and Matchbox, later appearing in films such as Mississippi Delta Blues, the award-winning Delta Blues Singer: James "Sonny Ford" Thomas, and Give My Poor Heart Ease: Mississippi Delta Bluesmen. One writer described him this way: "The music of James Thomas emerges from the Delta musical tradition and is particularly important because it shows the blues in its most basic expression." In other words, the real damn deal. Thomas recently underwent brain surgery and has just been released from the hospital. The blues-loving folks at Cheers in Fort Lauderdale found out about the legend's predicament (he reportedly owes $50,000 in medical bills). This Sunday at 5:00 p.m. the club stages Daryll Dobson, Mike Pinera, Iko-Iko, Texas West, Jamene Miller, Joey Gilmore, the Shakes, Big Mama Blu and the Bluz Club, and others. They ask you to donate what you can at the door, with funds raised to go to Thomas. Call 771-6337. James Thomas may not live forever, but his music will, and for that we all owe him a debt.
This October, you can read up on the blues in a new book called The Down Home Guide to the Blues by Frank Scott and the staff of Down Home Music. The annotation is fairly workmanlike, but the discographic information is excellent. It'll tell you, for one thing, how to build a collection of James "Son" Thomas albums.
The new 2 Live Crew video for "Pop That Coochie" is pretty hilarious. Like so many clips these days, it incorporates a dramatized story line at the beginning and end. In this one, a board room of conservative-looking white folk are considering whether to air the video on their network (no names, please). Naturally they're a bit put off by the butt shaking they see and the lyrics they hear. Good fun. Call your video channel and request it. Better yet, call MTV and demand it.
YakMan is looking for an "open-minded, on-the-edge, dynamic performer" willing to work hard "toward local prominence and eventually a recording contract." Which is to say they've dumped their singer. Call Blowfish at 531-6253.
I was going to take this opportunity to mention (belatedly) that Fleet Starbuck's blues classes at Miami-Dade's Wolfson campus have started up again, but looking through the continuing-ed sked reveals a bounty of cool music sessions. It's never too late: Call Althea Kaplan at 347-3176 for the scoop.
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R.I.P.: Rob Tyner, MC5 vocalist. Thanks for the revolution, man.
We normally attempt to stay away from big business and the high end, mostly because it's all so surreal from out here. But check this out: There's been a major brawl over the legality of home DAT machines and other advanced recording technology entering the marketplace. As reported in Option, the solution is the paying of a royalty fee by recording-equipment manufacturers to major record labels. Four of the big labels that would receive chunks of 38 percent of the multifaceted royalty pot are Sony, Capitol/EMI, Polygram, and MCA. Among those paying them will be their corporate owners, Sony, Thorn-EMI, Philips, and Matsushita. Sort of brings new meaning to "what goes around, comes around."
So many stories - that time in the early Eighties when R.E.M. put "Walter Czachowski + 10" on their backstage list for a show in Gainesville and Walter and members of the Chant inner circle (plus a certain chronicler from the press) hopped a van and drove up there, even though we'd just seen the new band from Athens a couple of days before.... Oh forget it. Churchill's, Saturday.
Butthorn of the week: Any major-market, commercial, AOR radio station (located at 103.5 FM) that plays old Dire Straits in lieu of "Calling Elvis" or "Heavy Fuel" or anything else from the new Dire Straits album.
The media circus: Here's a slant I haven't seen the hypemasters yelp about in the endless coverage of buns and poses: Some record stores were accepting deposits for copies of the new Guns N' Roses albums. Kids would reserve their copies (I guess counting on their parents to come up with the 27 bucks for two CDs). Then they showed up on the day the things were made available, only to find out that kids can't purchase these albums at most record stores - the recs are parental-advisory stickered. Reserving copies was wholly unnecessary - there's plenty of leftovers on the shelves. But an extra trip to the retailer, with mom or pop in tow, was required. That's a lot of effort for a couple of records. Especially these two records.