Sunday, September 26, 2010

Miss Freddye and the Blue Faze

Miss Freddye and the Blue Faze

Miss Freddye and the Blue Faze, formed in 2002, is a blues band that also pumps out soul and R&B; they like to get the crowd away from shoe gazin' and onto the dance floor.

The group is a popular draw for venues on the Tri-State circuit and local clubs such as Moondog's, Cefalo's, and the Valley Hotel. They've opened for acts like Kelly Richie and Greg “Fingers” Taylor. They play all the blues jams: Pittsburgh Blues Festival, Wheeling Heritage Blues Festival, Elkin's Riverside Blues Festival, Charleston's Blues Brews and Barb-Q Festival and Sharon's Music Festival.

The Blue Faze represents the genre well. The band won the 2008 Appalachian Blues Competition in West Virginia, which earned them a spot in Memphis for the 2009 International Blues Competition. They've also played The Blues Divas Show for the Western PA Blues Society, the Blues Society Picnic, and Stand Down 2009 for vets.

Blue Faze is made up of Miss Freddye (vocals), Chris Nacy (harmonica), John Erskine (drums) and Matt McClintock (electric and upright bass). Greg Casile often plays the ax for them, but that's a rotating position since Jason Caliguri, one of the founding members, went off to join Jimbo and the Soupbones, along with other acts.

Fredericka "Miss Freddye" Stover: Originally from the North Side, the Natrona Heights resident started out singing in church when she was 15. She has been singing professionally for eleven years and carries the torch of Etta James, Koko Taylor, Susan Tedeshi and Tracy Chapman. For a blues singer, she has a lot of local jazz musicians she follows: Harold Betters, Rodney McCoy, Roger Humphries and Southside Jerry Mellix among them.

She's the face of the band, and as the lead vocalist, she can belt the blues or go slow with a ballad.

She's just released a CD for Bonedog Records in the Mon Valley, "These Are My Blues," a collection of mostly original Mike Sweeney tunes (and not to be mistaken for the Big Joe Williams LP of the same name). Miss Freddye is backed by Boneyard's session players, a strong group of blues/soul musicians. The title track, though, was recorded with Blue Faze, and written by Stover and Bubs McKeg.

Chris "Kit" Nacy: Nacy provides the finishing touch for any true blues band: the harp line. His influences are Smokin’ Joe Bisceglia, Greg "Fingers" Taylor and Matt Nacy. From Cheswick, he's also half of Izzy & Chris, an acoustic roots blues act formed in 2006 that won the West Virginia Blues Society IBC "blues duo" title in 2008 (Izzy Stetar is from Weirton).

Izzy and Chris have also released a CD, 2008's "Preachin' The Blues...Vol 1."

John Erskine: Erskine is another Valley suburbs guy, hailing from Indiana Township. He's a veteran behind the kit, having play with the bands like The Vogues and Jimmy Adler.

Matt McClintock: He's the bassman for several bands around the area, laying the beat from jazz to blues. When not playing with the Blue Faze, he can be found sitting with Erin Burkett and the Mean Reds or teaching music. McClintock has also played with the Drew Bentley Band, The Minda Brothers and Kenny Blake.

He's the newest group member, replacing original bassist Keith Gamble from Freeport, who now plays for the Bobby Hawkins & The Blues Train Band, and also The RumpShakers.

If you're looking for a band that features one of the top blues/soul voices in the district and whose musicians can get you out of your seat with their blues beat, look no further than Miss Freddye and the Blue Faze.

"That Kinda Woman" - Miss Freddye and the Blue Faze

Friday, September 24, 2010

Rock 'N' Roll

Image from Rock 'n' Roll Skirts

Hey, did you ever wonder where the phrase "rock 'n' roll" came from? Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope gives its history in his "Who Invented The Term Rock 'N' Roll?"

We all know it was popularized by Cleveland DJ Alan Freed during his popular music show on radio station WJW, "Moon Dog's House Party," and began playing R&B tunes in 1951-52, which he described as rock and roll. According to another source, Freed didn't use the term until 1954 at NYC's WIN with his "Rock And Roll Party" show. Either way, Freed's phrase stuck.

But musically, it dates back to the Roaring Twenties. The origin of the term “rock ‘n’ roll,” is pretty straightforward.

It originally meant the movement of the boat on the ocean. In the late 1800s to early 1900s, gospel music used the term to describe being rocked and rolled in the arms of the Lord.

From there, it wasn't a far step to have the phrase turn from religious to secular lingo. Black artists used it to generally describe partying, carrying on, and/or having sex (ie, a roll in the hay, dating back centuries in time).

Rock historian Nick Tosches traces the first recorded "rock and roll" line to blues singer Trixie Smith, who recorded "My Daddy Rocks Me (With One Steady Roll)" for Black Swan Records in 1922. The song inspired spin-offs like "Rock That Thing" by Lil Johnson and "Rock Me Mama" by Ikey Robinson. Another expert, Southeastern U communications professor Joe Burns, dates it to the gospel tune "Camp Meeting Jubilee" performed in 1916.

Per Wikipedia, the term was first used in its entirety in 1937, when Chick Webb and Ella Fitzgerald recorded "Rock It for Me", which included the lyric, "...So won't you satisfy my soul with the rock and roll..."

Who knew rock 'n' roll was a double-entendre flapper-era phenomena?

Naming the first rock artist is a crap shoot; Big Joe Turner and Sister Rosetta Tharpe had several songs that could pass as rock records as early as the thirties.

Other candidates considered for the honor include “How High the Moon” by Les Paul and Mary Ford; “The Honey Dripper” by Joe Liggens; “Boogie Chillen’” by John Lee Hooker; “Saturday Night Fish Fry” by Louis Jordan; “The Fat Man” by Fats Domino; “Rock Around the Clock” by Bill Haley and the Comets and “Rocket 88” by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats.

“An argument can be made for and against every song mentioned, but there’s one that fits better than all of those noted: ‘That’s All Right Mama,’ by Arthur ‘Big Boy’ Crudup,” said Burns, who hosts the weekly program “Rock School” on Southeastern’s KSLU 90.9 FM radio station.

Wikipedia adds that "A leading contender as the first fully formed rock and roll recording is 'Rocket 88' by Jackie Brenston and his Delta Cats (actually Ike Turner and The Kings of Rhythm under a different name), recorded by Sam Phillips for Sun Records in 1951.

Three years later the first rock and roll song to enter Billboard magazine's main sales and airplay charts was Bill Haley's 'Crazy Man, Crazy' and the first to top the charts was his 'Rock Around the Clock' in 1955."

But hey, no matter where it started, it's here to stay.

"Rock 'N' Roll Is Here To Stay" - Danny And The Juniors, 1958

Monday, September 20, 2010

TL Returns To The Elks


After a couple of shows at the Palisades in McKeesport, Terry Lee has taken his hops to Monessen - the Monessen Elks Lodge #733 on Pioneer Drive, to be exact.

The next pair of dances will be on Saturday, October 9th and Saturday, November 13th. Admission is $10, the gig runs from 8-midnight, and a cash bar and the Elk's kitchen will be open.

Call 724-344-5040 for reservations.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Porky In The Sunday Paper


Hey, you know there's more to the Sunday paper than the sports, crosswords, and comics. Today there was an article written about - or actually to - Porky Chedwick. It was written in the Post Gazette by Don "Champ" Early, a Mon Valley doowopper with the Sabres, who did "Calypso Baby"/"You Can Depend On Me" in 1955 on Bullseye.

It doesn't go on about the patter and hype of the Daddio of the Raddio; it explains why he was a Pittsburgh legend for taking kids under his wing. This is Early's tale about how one piece of Porky advice - "Champ, don't let the streets consume you" - put him on his life's trail. Click on the link and read it; you'll appreciate Porky just a little more.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Larry Nath

Larry Nath

Born and raised in the Pittsburgh region, Larry Nath has been playing around the area for over twenty-five years. After stints in several local bands, he broke out in 1989 as a member of The Mohicans, a blues rock band formed with guitarist Jimmy Adler, and performed regularly at The Decade, Oakland's Mecca of Rock.

The Mohicans broke up in the mid-nineties, and both Nath and Adler have gone on to establish themselves as successful artists. Their partnership still continues on, as the two perform occasionally as an acoustic/electric duo; Adler contributed to Nath's CD "Live It."

Nath’s style has evolved into a blend of blues and roots-based rock and roll. He often plays solo acoustic shows accompanying himself on guitar and harmonica, akin to a Pittsburgh version of John Mellencamp.

His singing/songwriting shows his influences: Sonny Boy Williamson, Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, the Rolling Stones, Howlin' Wolf, Robert Cray and Tom Petty, all musical story tellers.

It's easy to spot their connection in his 2008 Bonedog CD, "Live It." The album is a collection of original music with eight songs penned by Nath and three by local songwriter Mike Sweeney, who has inked tunes for Billy Price, Bobby Wayne, and other Pittsburgh acts.

"Live It" features an Americana blues feeling, with mostly uptempo stuff and a couple of ballads.

One track that especially exhibits the strong song-writing skills of Sweeney and the vocal delivery of Nath is the tongue-in-cheek "The Killer And The King", a tale of a soused Killer, Jerry Lee Lewis, headed down to Graceland to deliver a smackdown to the King, Elvis Presley.

"Elvis was kickin' and watching TV, askin' 'who's that out there waving his pistol at me?' The guards at the gate called on the phone; Elvis said 'Tell him to leave me alone.'"

It's good stuff, and he's ably backed by the Bonedog All-Star session players, Brandon Barnes (drums), Jimmy Britton (keyboards), Mighty Lil' Johnson (bass) and Jim Relja (guitar). Jimmy Adler sat in on three tracks and co-wrote two tunes, while Nath plays a tasty harp.

Beside the musical chops, Nath has been a teacher for 12 years. He has a B.S. in Secondary Education English from Duquesne, a Master's degree in English from IUP, and now teaches English, Public Speaking, and Journalism at Indiana Area Senior High School.

He uses his teaching background to further the cause. During the Pittsburgh Blues Festival, he ran a workshop between sets called "Turn Around and Testify."

Nath dissects the blues through the basic "call and response" format, used by many bluesmen ranging from Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters to Robert Cray and Stevie Ray Vaughn. He emphasizes the blues' call to "testify" to the joys and sorrows of life. Dunno that the old blues crowd overly intellectualized their genre, but hey...

You have to work to catch Nath in action; beside fests like the PBF and the Westmoreland Arts and Heritage Festival, his appearances are way too few in local clubs. He performs now generally as a solo artist, and if you see him booked, circle the date. It's a show you'll not want to miss.

Larry Nath - "Love Fool" live

Friday, September 10, 2010

Sweaty Betty Blues Band

Sweaty Betty from Pittsburgh Dance

Now where have you heard of the Sweaty Betty Blues Band? Well, heck, could be from anywhere locally.

If you follow the blues, Sweaty Betty has taken the stage at the Pittsburgh Blues Festival at Hartwood Acres, the Carnegie Blues Festival, the Indiana Music and Arts Festival and will play tomorrow at the First Annual Sharon Blues Festival.

They've entertained fans at PNC Park and Heinz Field. SBBB are regulars at Kelly's Riverside Inn in Bridgewater, Rochester's Hollywood Gardens and North Side's Park House along with many of the regional and City clubs. And hey, if you have a hall that needs some action, well, they've probably been there, too.

Marcy Brown - Sweaty Betty herself - was the ringleader of the popular annual "Bye Week Blues" festivals for the Greater Pittsburgh Food Bank at Moondog's Pub in Blawnox, going on since 2006 to provide an outlet when the Steelers are off. It's October 10th this year.

They've also performed for the benefit of the Special Olympics in Allegheny and Lawrence Counties and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research organizations.

The band formed after Marcy Brown met her future hubby Bill through Yahoo Personals. Hey, it is the internet age. Things went along swimmingly, they found out that they shared a musical background - Marcy was a vocalist with Jack Purcell, and Bill was a rock drummer - and nature took its course.

Neither wanted to become another classic rock band, so they opted for Bill's decades-old love, the blues. He was a fan of Stevie Ray Vaughan, but liked the old guard: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Big Joe Turner.

Sweaty Betty put together a playlist from old-school bluesmen like Slim Harpo, Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Big Joe, and company.

And they're not a blues-as-an-artform band; they do great slow tempo stuff, but are known for getting folk on the dance floor, a dying art in today's music scene.

Lindy Hop dancers regularly book Sweaty Betty for their events. They play jump blues tunes. And heck, shuffle dancers adore the band; Marcy Brown says they even go out of their way to avoid shuffles when adding new songs because they perform so many now.

And they can get a bit playful, too, with double-entendre tunes like "Dirty Old Woman" and "Little Beef on the Side." Guitarist Max Schang will even throw in a riff from a TV theme like "Green Acres," "Mr. Ed" or "The Flintstones" just to see if the crowd is paying attention.

The Sweaty Betty Band:

Marcy Brown, the lead vocalist, is a Maryland native who played lacrosse at the University of Maryland (she was a star high school player). Brown also was a DJ in Ocean City, Maryland, before taking to the stage.

She performed for 15 years with Pittsburgh's Jack Purcell Orchestra, a 12-piece Big Band, singing jazz standards. She has sung the National Anthem for the Pittsburgh Pirates five times, and performed with everything from wedding to rock bands in between.

"Too Tall" Bill Brown has performed as a drummer and vocalist for over 30 years in rock bands in the Butler and Kittanning areas, and is a veteran of the regional rock scene.

Lead guitar player and vocalist "Blue Max" Schang from Sharon has the group's most varied resume. He studied classical guitar and participated in seminars with guitarists Howard Roberts, Joe Pass, Herb Ellis and Pat Martino.

Schang went on to found the Jazz/Rock group Crown Vetch with George Grexa in 1974, and played with the the nationally recorded Mahoning Valley rock group Blue Ash in 1976. He performed as a member of the Erin Burkett Group in Pittsburgh, and was a blues band booking agent/promoter from 1990 - 2000.

He performed on two European tours with Eddie Shaw and the Wolf Gang, which featured members of Howlin' Wolf's old band. He has performed in five Chicago Blues Festivals, including three on the main stage with Eddie Shaw. In 2000, he released the CD "All These Years: Blue Max Schang."

"Blue Max" also sits in with the E.G. Kight band and the Billy Price Band. He regularly performs in his stomping grounds, the Mahoning Valley, and in the region, with his own band.

Schang replaced long-time guitarist George Kalazantis, who lost his day job and moved to Chicago after five years with Sweaty Betty.

The keyboard player, John DeCola, is from Slippery Rock. John is a seasoned musician who also performs with several local bands and singers like Christopher Jones.

Jim Spears, the bassist, is from Butler by way of LA. He's performed with a mix of national and local artists like Leslie Gore, B.E. Taylor, Little Anthony & The Imperials, The Platters, Sputzy & The Soul Providers, Tommy Roe, Joe Grushecky & The Houserockers, and 8th Street Rox.

He currently plays with the Vanilla Soul Revue, Soul Patrol, and his jazz group, Uptown Combo.

So hey, there are the players. And if you're ready for a little three-stepping to the jump blues, look up Sweaty Betty.

Sweaty Betty - "Tore Down"

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Gil Snyder and the Mystic Knights

Mystic Knights from Jambase

The Mystic Knights came together as pick-up band formed in 1984 at The Decade, a byegone Oakland venue once known as the area's "Home of the Blues." Dom DiSilvio, the owner, approached Warren King to form an "all-star" band to pump up the club's slow Monday nights.

The result was indeed a Pittsburgh all-star jam band, composed of King (Houserockers, Diamond Reo, The Silencers, Red Hot & Blue), vocalist/drummer Ron "Byrd" Foster (The Igniters, Roy Buchanan's Band, the Houserockers, the Silencers, Kingsnake Allstars), guitarist Bryan Bassett (Wild Cherry, Molly Hatchet, and Foghat) and keyboardist Gil Snyder.

Eventually, the lineup changed and the band became "Warren King and the Mystic Knights of the Sea." Formed in 1984, they've had some changes and more top flight members; guys like Chizmo Charles and Guitar Zack Wiesinger have played with the band.

And thanks to Rev. John Wilson, we know how they picked up the Mystic Knights of the Sea moniker: "The name comes from Warren's nickname 'Kingfish.' In the old Amos and Andy radio/TV shows, the Kingfish was the Grand Poobah or whatever of the lodge 'The Mystic Knights of the Sea'." (Tim Moore played conniver George Stevens, aka The Kingfish, who held the MKOTS title of "Great Supreme Kingfish." So Warren King's nickname and his band's name are explained in one fell swoop.)

Now the band is made up of Snyder, vocalist/guitarist Craig King, drummer Joe Cunningham and bassist Harry McCorkle.

King is a Pittsburgh native, and growing up in the Hill provided him an opportunity to hear and see the talented players gigging at the Crawford Grill. He listened to everything from Motown to Zappa. His influences on the ax were Jimi Hendrix, George Benson, BB King, Eric Clapton and Stevie Ray Vaughan.

He's fronted or performed in several bands over the years, such as Andrea Pearl and Mo's Black Magic, played in local clubs and bars, and opened for national acts coming through Pittsburgh like The S.O.S. Band, Con Funk Shun, Molly Hatchett, Bernard Allison, Carl Weathersby, Jimmy Vaughan, Buddy Guy, George Clinton & Parliament, Funkadelic and Martha Reeves & the Vandella’s.

Beside the MKs, King fronts the band King’s Ransom.

Harry "Alley Cat" McCorkle, the vocalist/bassist, has played with Big Walter Horton (harp player for Muddy Waters), Louisiana Red and Sugar Blue (harp player for the Stones). He's recorded with Rocky Fuller (Chess Records) and sat in with the backup band for Detroit's Capitols of "Cool Jerk" fame.

McCorkle also gigs with Gary Belloma & the Blues Bombers, Alleycats, Jaminators, Wil E Tri & the Bluescasters, Chizmo Charles & the Rhythm Aces and Jimmy Adler, while a session player for the Mon Valley's Bonedog Records. Busy dude - and he had bypass surgery in 2007!

Max Woodhall fills in on bass when McCorkle is jammin' elsewhere. Woodhall is a 50 year-old freelancer, and sits in with Jimmy Adler, Dave Iglar, Chizmo Charles, James Daugherty, Norm Nardini, Wil E Tri & the Bluescasters, King's Ransom, Jimmy King, Jill West & the Blues Attack, Sherry Richards, Sweaty Betty, Angel Blue & The Prophets, and The Real Band Deals.

Joe Cunningham, the drummer, is from Youngstown, and has been playing in bands since age eighteen. He works with Bon Ton Roulet, Chizmo Charles, and James King & the Usual Suspects.

But the glue man and last of the founding fathers is keyboardist and songwriter Gil "The Duke" Snyder. He not only writes and plays, but schedules gigs, too.

Snyder started as one of the original Iron City Houserockers (he played in the Brick Alley Band). He played on the debut album, “Love” and his name appears as the writer of six songs on the Houserocker's second album. "Have a Good Time, But Get Out Alive."

He's worked both in the studio and on stage with Bruce Springsteen, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Little Steven, Steve Cropper and Mick Ronson. Snyder is a member of the City's Music Hall of Fame, an honor bestowed on area artists achieving three consecutive "Best of Pittsburgh" wins (he has four). He joined Walt Harper, Joe Negri, Tommy James, Kenny Blake and Porky Chedwick in the Hall of Steel City All-Stars.

His first paying job was as an organist; he played the 11:00 mass at St. Regis in Trafford. But his love was the blues. Porky Chedwick introduced him to the music of Muddy Waters, Hound Dog Johnson, and Howlin’ Wolf on WAMO.

That eventually led to him hooking up with Joe Grushecky. When that gig went south - Snyder blames the ownership change at Cleveland International Records, their label, when Little Stevie sold to a Japanese conglomerate - he moved on to White Hot and Blue.

Jeff Ingersol of Bonedog Records approached him after the Houserockers broke up. He had already put together WHB and offered him the job with the brass-driven R&B act. Snyder later joined Bon Ton Roulette, and then in 1984 the Mystic Knights of the Sea formed.

Snyder is also a talented film dude, too. He has a degree in cinematography, and won an academy award nomination in 1976 for an animated short called "Ooze.” A year or two later, he produced another short called "Space Infection." Warren King and Snyder created the soundtrack, and named themselves the U2 band. Should have kept the name, hey?

He has an extensive library of old films, 16mm, 8mm, and super 8. Snyder says that he'd like to do a film night somewhere if someone would give him a shot.

But he does more than lead a band and dabble in cinema with his time; he also operates, since 2007, a "Blues Power" open mike night in Irwin for starting bands looking for a venue. He runs them out of the Irwin Eagles or Shafton Firehall every Thursday. Snyder gets a special guest host every week, usually a band member but sometimes a guy like Norm Nardini will show up.

Which leads us back to band. The Mystic Knights have compiled no fewer than 10 In Pittsburgh magazine awards, won City Paper honors and made numerous local TV appearances. The Knights have also appeared in a number of Iron City Beer commercials featuring their tune "Spread Yourself Around."

In keeping with that theme, the MKs have frequently gigged pre-game at Heinz Field, pumping up the Steeler fans, and have performed for the Pirate crowd at the Hall of Fame Club at PNC Park.

The Knights are a lot more than a beer and ballgame warmup. They've opened for acts like BB King, Johnny Winter, The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Mayall, Koko Taylor, Robert Cray and John Hammond.

They give 200+ performances a year, from the clubs to festivals, and have at least a couple of CDs out, 1991's "Live Blues Breakout" and "Heart of Steel."

The Mystic Knights have been pumping out the blues and R&B for over 25 years; we wish another 25 on them.

"Lucille" by the Mystic Knights live in 2008