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R&B, Blues, and Jazz: Kissin’ Cousins!

Guest Blogger:
 Terri Brinegar, author of Vocal and Stage Essentials for the Aspiring Female R&B Singer (Hal Leonard Books). Read this and more posts on her blog.

I’m writing this Note in response to a post yesterday I saw from a talented, professional musician who wrote negative comments about a Smooth Jazz artist, insinuating that this artist was not a “real” jazz musician because she played Blues-inspired licks in her soloing. I was trying to decide how to respond to this, since I myself am a Blues-inspired artist, currently learning about Jazz. I am also a lover of Smooth Jazz for the very reason the person was criticizing the other: it is a hybrid of Jazz, Blues-riffs, R&B, and Funk grooves – all the stuff I love! So I just have to defend the genre and the artist who was being criticized.

Let me start with a very, very brief history of Blues and Jazz.
Jazz and Blues both started around the turn of the century. Supposedly W.C. Handy discovered the Blues in 1903 and then wrote the first published Blues tune, “Memphis Blues” in 1912. Around the same time Jazz emerged in New Orleans around 1900. “In 1924 Armstrong joined Fletcher Henderson’s band in New York City, pushing the band in the direction of a hotter, more improvisatory style that helped to create the synthesis of jazz and ballroom dance music that would later be called swing. Although big bands relied heavily on arrangements of popular Tin Pan Alley songs, the blues—with its 12- bar structure, three-chord pattern, blue notes, and call-and-response patterns—also remained a mainstay of swing music. Of all the big bands, the one most closely associated with the blues tradition was led by the jazz pianist William “Count” Basie (1904–84)….

Keep reading this post on Terri’s blog!

In Vocal and Stage Essentials for the Aspiring Female R&B Singer Brinegar shares with her extensive stage experience, her success as a bandleader to some of the greatest musicians in the world, her skills as a musician and songwriter, her training in classical voice, and her years as a vocal coach. Brinegar believes a strong foundation of vocal technique is necessity to success in any style of singing. She is probably one of the few teachers with both a classical background and years of stage experience singing blues and R&B. While there are many books on technique, few, if any, have been written with Brinegar’s broad and comprehensive take on the contemporary music industry.


Happy Birthday, Johnny Winter

Guest Blogger: Mary Lou Sullivan, author of Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter (Backbeat Books)

I met Johnny Winter in 1984, shortly after his 40th birthday. It’s hard to believe that almost 28 years have passed since then and that he’ll be 68 on February 23, 2012. When I asked him about turning 40 back then, he viewed his birthday philosophically. “When you’re 40, there’s no getting around it,” he said. You’re not a kid anymore, you’re middle-aged, you’re an adult. It was kinda nice to me to make it this far and still be a successful musician. To me, the greatest thing in the world was to get paid enough so you didn’t have to get a day gig, where you could just be a musician. That’s all I’ve ever done and it’s a good feeling,” he added with a laugh. “I hope I’m still doing this when I’m 75 or 80.”

Mary Lou Sullivan and Johnny Winter during the recording sessions for I'm A Bluesman. (Photo by Dick Shurman)

Almost 20 years later, when I asked him how long he planned on playing during our weekly interviews for Raisin’ Cain, he’d had a change of heart. “I used to say I wanted to be playing the blues when I’m 80,” he said, as we chatted on his living room couch. “But 80’s nothing now; I’d like to go to 100.”

When I embarked on my seven-year journey to capture Johnny’s story, my goal was to preserve his legacy and give him his rightful place in music history. But the results of writing Johnny’s biography have been even more than I had imagined. Accolades for the book have come from far and wide and from some very unexpected places. Dan Aykroyd, a.k.a. Elwood Blues, called Raisin’ Cain “one of the world’s great music biographies,” and invited me to chat with him on two of his House of Blues Radio Hours. Jimmy Page’s manager David Enthoven took the time to send me an email to tell me Raisin’ Cain was “a great read.”

Johnny’s fans contacted me from around the world, praising the book and thanking me for writing it. I received emails and letters from throughout the US, the UK, Canada, Spain, Hungary, France, Norway, the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, Argentina, and Australia. A copy of Raisin’ Cain made it to the Texas State Penitentiary in Huntsville, where one of Johnny’s old roadies is serving time for too many DUIs. Another copy holds a place of honor in the Library and Archives of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland.

There were other honors as well. The Blues Foundation in Memphis presented me with the 2011 Keeping the Blues Alive Award in Literature, and the Association of Recorded Sound Collections (ARSC) gave its 2011 Award for Excellence in Historical Recorded Sound Research to both me and Johnny.

Raisin’ Cain not only reached Johnny’s fans and followers; it exposed his story and music to a new generation. A 10-year-old boy interviewed me for a school report about Johnny, and used the latest technology to embed you tube videos into his PowerPoint presentation. Nearly 150 college freshman heard Johnny’s music and story for the first time when I was invited to be a guest lecturer at a music history class at the University of Connecticut.

Johnny’s legacy, like the man himself, continues to thrive. He celebrates his 68thbirthday playing the Sighisoara Blues Festival in Romania on a tour that includes shows in Italy, Croatia, Poland, Greece, Germany, and Switzerland.

Happy Birthday, Johnny. May you still be playing at 110!


Raisin’ Cain: The Wild and Raucous Story of Johnny Winter (Backbeat Books) by Mary Lou Sullivan

Author Mary Lou Sullivan sat with Johnny Winter for hours of exclusive, no-holds-barred interviews, covering the guitar slinger’s entire career. From toughing it out in Texas to his appearance at Woodstock, his affair with Janis Joplin, his stadium-filling tours, and washing out on drugs and the temptations of the road before finally fulfilling his dream of becoming a 100-percent pure bluesman, resurrecting the career of Muddy Waters, and winning a Grammy Award for his effort, this is a raucous roller coaster of story. Raisin Cain is available from Amazon, B&N, independent bookstores, and

Stevie Ray Vaughan: 27 Years Since Carnegie Hall

second volume

Stevie Ray Vaughan--Day by Day, Night After Night: His Final Years, 1983-1990

The following is an excerpt from Stevie Ray Vaughan–Day by Day, Night After Night by Craig Hopkins. This book is available as separate volumes: His Early Years, 1954-1982 and His Final Years, 1983-1990, as well as together in a deluxe boxed set.

October 4, 1984

 Chesley [Millikin, Stevie’s manager] said Stevie wanted to play Carnegie Hall, and he sold it to Ron Densler in New York as a blues show – the only time Chesley ever presented Stevie as a bluesman.

The band wore custom velvet “mariachi” suits made for the show, Stevie in red for part of the show and then in a blue suit matching those of Double Trouble.  The band built a stage set of blue and gold and wanted to film the show, but CBS Records decided against it and only recorded the audio.  Chris [Layton] recalls why the band went to the trouble of costumes and stage set: “Because it was Carnegie Hall – historical place – and so many great people have been there.  It seemed like a real privilege to be able to go there and do that.  We thought, ‘God, it’s so special, let’s make it more special than just haulin’ the gear in there and setting up and just playing.’”

(c) Chuck Pulin

There was a 4:00 p.m. sound check, which was the only practice in Carnegie Hall before the show.

Stevie was introduced as “one of the greatest guitar players of all time” by John Hammond, whose loyal support after hearing the Montreux tape included serving as Executive producer of both Texas Flood and Couldn’t Stand the Weather.

The show was benefit for the T.J. Martell Foundation’s work in leukemia and cancer research.  The 2,200 seats were all sold.  Stevie was extremely excited and nervous, saying he didn’t calm down until about halfway through the third song.

(c) Donna Johnston

 STEVIE:  “We had a limousine to take us to [Carnegie Hall], which is half a block from here, but it was necessary.  Every time we’d go down there or come back to the hotel, we had to get in this car and do a couple of blocks so I didn’t have to stand there with a lot of people that I didn’t know, and some that I did, getting mad at me because I couldn’t get them tickets of backstage passes.  The last time I was that nervous is when I got married, but I couldn’t show that to anybody.  There were some panicky times in rehearsal, but I can’t show them how freaked out I am.  I’m supposed to be leading this thing.  Are you gonna follow somebody who is shaking in their shoes?  It’s a fear of not living up to what you’re trying to do.  I’m not sure how to say this.  Sometimes something can almost mean too much, you know?  I sounded as nervous as I was.  I calmed down about halfway through ‘Voodoo Chile.’ I looked over at Tommy, and he was just sort of staring at me, and that’s when I knew it was gonna be all right.”

(c) Donna Johnston

After the show, MTV threw a private part for the band, record company and other VIPs.  It took [Stevie] an hour just to walk from the bar to the table across the room where his parents were sitting.  Stevie Ray found his father, a retired asbestos worker who hadn’t taken a plane ride since the Korean War, and hugged him until they both cried.

On Oct. 6, Joe Rhodes wrote in the Dallas Times Herald, “Tomorrow there will be chamber music here again, string concertos and people in tuxedos politely applauding the works of Bartok and Bach.  But Thursday night, this place was full of stomping feet and swaying bodies, kids in blue jeans hanging off the balconies, dancing bodies that clogged the aisles.  Thursday night, it belonged to Stevie Ray Vaughan.”