Sunday, November 23, 2008

Pre-T'giving Fun (Version 2.1)

It ain't the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade, but as far as holiday traditions go, I've had a good thing going for eight of the last ten years. I’ve managed -- with my wife's blessing, of course -- to kick off the long Thanksgiving weekend by playing an after-work gig in a Chicago tavern, and I've been lucky enough to have a lot of my musically-inclined friends sign on for the event.

One of the highlights, of course, has been the willingness of the St. Louis Horns, my music-making compadres from Missouri, to make the 300-mile trip to town for the near-annual November bash. This year, however, scheduling issues and a global economic meltdown have conspired against such a large-scale musical onslaught. So I've implemented Plan B -- which means adapting and getting back to the basics.

This year, be sure to jump-start your holiday weekend on Wednesday, November 26, by joining me and my guitar-pickin’ buddy Stevie Doyle (pictured above) as we knock out hours of jukebox favorites at McKellin’s Pub, 2800 W. Touhy (at the corner of California and Touhy), in Chicago’s West Rogers Park neighborhood. We’ll cover a lot of musical ground (e.g., Hank, Haggard, Prine, Kristofferson, Cash, Elvis, Jerry Lee, Buddy, and Carl) and we may even have some special guests.

Mr. Doyle -- an honorary Blue State Cowboy, whenever I can get him on a gig -- has been working his Telecaster magic for over twenty years with numerous Chicago bands, and some of you have probably learned a few things from him through his classes and private lessons at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Over the years he’s shared stages with folks like Pinetop Perkins, David Bromberg, Dale Watson, John Primer, and Smokey Smothers.

McKellin’s is a great neighborhood tavern, and there’s plenty of parking. It’s an early start time. We’ll play from 6:30 p.m. until about 9:30 p.m., and there is no cover charge. Hope to see you down the line.

Some Love From Joe Nick Patoski

A couple of days ago, while having my morning coffee, I e-mailed "Crawl Back To Crawford" -- my band's musical farewell to George W. Bush -- to Joe Nick Patoski, a guy I consider the dean of Texas music writers.

Now, I'd never met Joe Nick, but I've been reading his work for decades. (In fact, I highly recommend his recent biography of Willie Nelson -- a perfect gift for any Willie fan in your family.) Truth is, I sent Joe Nick the song on a lark, thinking it might be nice if someone in Texas dug it.

Turns out he dug it and quickly asked me if he could post the song on his blog. That was a no-brainer for me.

I don't know who visits Joe Nick's blog, but it did make my week to know that a writer whose work I've enjoyed for a long time wanted to post my tune (along with a very cool song -- "Do The Soul President" -- from some serious studio cats in Dallas) on his cyber-forum.

Life's simple pleasures . . . .

Saturday, November 8, 2008

A Stax Saturday Night

I was in musical heaven last Saturday night. Booker T. & the MGs hit Chicago, along with Mavis Staples and her fine band.

And my wife and I had third row seats.

Now, over the years, I've been lucky enough to see a lot of my musical heroes play live -- e.g., Miles Davis, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Johnny Cash, Merle Haggard, Bo Diddley, Albert King, B.B. King, Andres Segovia, Dan Penn, Kris Kristofferson, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eddie Palmieri, Gil Evans, The Temptations (w/ Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin), Jay McShann -- but I've never been able to catch a performance by Booker T. & the MGs. I don't think they've played a lot of Chicago dates during the last couple of decades.

The guys are obviously a little older and grayer than they were when they served as one of the greatest house bands ever (see clip below), but old age hasn't slowed them down on the bandstand. They still bring it.

As for Mavis Staples -- a fellow Chicagoan -- I have been fortunate enough to see her perform over the years, and she still sounds great. Her new record, which was recorded live at The Hideout in Chicago and released this week, captures the feel of the show I saw on Saturday. Her current band features a fine guitarist, Rick Holmstrom, who obviously absorbed a lot of Pops Staples's playing.

If I die tomorrow, I'll die having seen Booker T. & the MGs perform live. (And, yes, I'll look up Al Jackson, Jr. when I get there.) Pretty cool.