Under The Spell Of JD McPherson
An interview with Doug Corcoran (Pt. 2)
Words: Vincent Abbate / Photos: Amanda Devitt
Having traveled in blues circles for over 20 years now, I’ve seen the different ways musicians react to the purist attitude held by many long-time blues enthusiasts: They either conform, stick to their creative guns, move on to another genre or pack it in completely. While conversing with multi-instrumentalist Doug Corcoran for the better part of an hour, I learned something. Rockabilly fans can be every bit as conservative.
There’s a difference, though: On the style-conscious rockabilly scene, purism has as much to do with having the right image as with the music itself.
“The really hardcore rockabillies don’t care how good the music is. It’s more about if the band wears the right things. Are they playing vintage instruments? Do they have an upright bass? It’s more about what it looks like, does it fit their lifestyle.”
Still Fierce and Free
An Interview with Watermelon Slim (Pt. 2)
Words by Vincent Abbate / Photos by Mike Latschislaw
(Click here for Part 1 of the interview.)
“Is any part of what you’re telling me off the record?”
I really had to ask, because Watermelon Slim wasn’t using a filter. He was sharing the most intimate details of his life – stuff you might tell your closest friend in confidence – though I’d never spoken with him before apart from a brief exchange at a blues festival ten years prior.
No. Every word of our interview was fit for print as far as Slim was concerned. When you have given up all hope of commercial success and accepted physical decline as a fact of life, you stop holding back.
“I’m an old man. I’m not in the greatest of health. I dance around it and put on a pretty good front, but…”
Lonnie Johnson (with Elmer Snowden) – “Memories of You”
One afternoon in May of 2000, Grammy-winning author and record producer Chris Albertson welcomed me into his Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan. Then it was story time.
Chris spoke about discovering jazz as a teenager in Copenhagen in the 1940s and how he bluffed his way into a job for Danish radio. He talked about emigrating to the US in the mid-50s, his days as a DJ in Philadelphia and subsequent producing gig at Riverside Records. At the time of my visit, Chris was revising Bessie, his standard work on blues singer Bessie Smith, so there were plenty of Bessie stories, too. Indeed, it was Bessie’s voice that had originally called him to jazz and provided the spark for a life devoted to music.
But my real reason for wanting to meet Chris Albertson was because his name appears on the sleeve of one of my all-time favorite blues records: Blues & Ballads by Lonnie Johnson with Elmer Snowden.