BlueNotes

Farewell, Bossman

Monday, 03 March 2014 11:22 AM Written by

If there was anything that might bring BlueNotes out of retirement, even temporarily, it would have to be a big deal.

Unfortunately, it's also a sad deal.

It's the death of Porky Chedwick, whose music was probably more responsible than anything else for the sounds that would eventually become the soundtrack of life for BlueNotes.

Those of you who read my blog with any regularity during it's brief lifespan here know that I often mentioned growing up in the Burgh and coming of musical age listening to the Daddio, his patter, and most of all, the glorious music he brought to life in the Pittsburgh area.

The R&B, doowop and blues that Porky played seemed to be the music that I was meant to hear as a teenager, and it was pretty clear that lots of other kids felt the same way. As I grew older, my tastes shifted occasionally to jazz and pop, to rock (back when it was called rock 'n' roll). I added albums by Johnny Mathis and Errol Garner and Nancy Wilson and Elvis to my collection, but I always returned to something like "The Midnighters Greatest Hits" or Jimmy Reed or even the Platters (all still on my iPod) when I needed to connect with something more basic.

I met Porky once, late in his life, and told him briefly that he was responsible for my musical tastes and that it had provided me with years of enjoyment. He seemed to like that, but I'm sure he heard that from most everyone who had moved and grooved with his music.

Thanks for the ride, Bossman. You had a fine and long one. I'm sure those of us who caught the fever will never let the music die. 

 (If you haven't already seen it, I'd recommend this fine post on Porky by Rich Kienzle on his Get Rhythm blog.)

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A fond farewell from BlueNotes

Friday, 25 January 2013 12:00 AM Written by

As many of you probably already know, I‘ve moved from Pittsburgh to Florida. I made the move permanent last year, after spending several recent winters in the Tampa Bay area. All this came following my buyout and retirement several years ago from the Post-Gazette, where, among other less auspicious achievements, I created my alter-ego, BlueNotes.

That means we are both now soaking up the sun on a regular basis down here, where the only pressure on the voluntarily unemployed seems to be finding the best happy hour (hint – it’s not hard).

It also means that it’s no longer possible for me to be a part of the lively Pittsburgh blues scene, and to connect with all the great fans and musicians who make that scene happen. And since BlueNotes is published on a Pittsburgh web site, it doesn’t make much sense to write about the Tampa Bay blues scene (there is a lively one) for a Burgh-based blog.

So rather than try to blog about two different places and not do justice to either one, I think it’s time for all of us to retire – BlueNotes, as well as BeerNotes and BourbonNotes, as some of you may remember.

It’s been a lot of fun, and I’ve truly enjoyed the ride.

BlueNotes began as a PG experiment to see if the young web site could support a blog, if we could use clunky homemade blogging tools, and if anyone would pay attention. Happily, it all worked. Many more blogs followed, along with real blogging software, and now the PG blogging community is vital and thriving. We helped to start it all, and we’re proud of that. And thanks to all of you who put up with my ramblings helped make it happen.

And it gave me a chance to indulge my love for the music – blues, soul, R&B – that had moved me for years. Actually, since my teenage years, when Ike was president, Elvis was king, Muddy and Buddy ruled Chicago, and Porky was the Bossman of the Burgh. Or something like that.

I loved living in the Burgh – was born and raised in the Mon Valley and spent some time here and there before returning, and lived most of my life there (so far). Knew and worked with many fine people. Met a lot of great blues fans. But I also love the feel of the hot sun on my face in mid-January, when lots of flowers are still blooming. And the freedom from snow shovels, fur-lined gloves and frozen windshields.

So it’s time to fold the BlueNotes blog tent, put our feet up, sit back, smell the orange blossoms, pour a couple fingers of Buffalo Trace, fire up the music and enjoy. We’re going to complete the circle, and become just fans again.

Thanks for reading these past few years. You made it worthwhile. And keep on keeping the blues alive.

Yours in the blues,
Jim White, aka BlueNotes

(By the way, if any of you pass this way (Largo, Fla.), stop and say hello. You can always reach me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. )

Here's one final bluesy thought:

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Merry Christmas to all

Tuesday, 25 December 2012 12:00 AM Written by

A very merry Christmas and Happy New Year to all....

A little more about the little-known Charley Jordan.

Many good blues in the new year.

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Pssst... got a few grand for a rare Robert Johnson 78?

Friday, 16 November 2012 01:13 PM Written by

In case you missed this in the Post-Gazette today, and in case you have a few thou in the cookie jar and want your very own rare Robert Johnson 78 (and maybe even still have something on which to play it), Jerry Weber at Jerry's Records in Squirrel has what you need:

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New blues CDs offer tasty menu of styles

Friday, 16 November 2012 12:00 AM Written by

We still have a batch of recent CDs worth a mention, so we're gonna continue mentioning them.

Willie Buck -- "Cell Phone Man" (Delmark Records) -- Willie Buck is old school Chicago blues and soul. I shouldn't have to say any more than that to encourage you to check out this CD (or Willie his own self), but I'll still pass along a few more words anyway. Buck is 74, singing Chicago blues and soul in Chicago, originally out of the blues mud of Mississippi.

Delmark says this is first full-length set of newly recorded music for a domestic label since his first album 30 years ago. Willie has a big, rich voice that carries whatever he sings, from the stark elegance of the acoustic "Two Trains Running" to the powerful, chugging bombast of "Tow Truck Man." It's a shame that we haven't heard more from Willie Buck over the years -- it'll be even more of a shame if we don't pay attention now.

Doug Deming & the Jewel Tones - "What's It Gonna Take" (VizzTone Records) -- Doug Deming and the Jewel Tones have worked their way from Detroit to Florida's Gulf Coast around Bradenton, taking with them a tough, old-fashioned blues sound, some lively guitar and vocals, including sharp harp work by Dennis Gruenling. The band roams from standard blues through blues that jump and swing.

Dennis Grueling - "Rockin' All Day" (VizzTone Records) -- Dennis Gruenling (see above) blows a swinging harp that floats around a number of bluesy standards and some originals, with Doug Deming behind him. Gruenling blows hot and cool with the best -- music that grabs blues harp tradition and spins it out with a cool contemporary feel.

Mighty Sam McClain - "Too Much Jesus (Not Enough Whiskey) (Mighty Music Records) -- Mighty Sam McClain (he climbed into the world with an R&B version of Patsy Cline's "Sweet Dreams") is one of those old-school soulmen whose smooth, smooth pipes can ease you right back into the great days of sweet soul music. McClain has been around for years, often following his own muse in recording with performers like Iranian folk singer Mahsa Vahdat. Oh yeah, that title. McClain said that when he found religion, he began to bore people who came to his house with too much talk of his faith and too little libation. Thus, "Too much Jesus, not enough whiskey."

Mike Wheeler - "Self Made Man" (Delmark Records) -- Mike Wheeler is another Chicago blues and soul veteran, whose big chops and soulful axe have made him a Chicago favorite for years. Wheeler lean heavily on soul sounds and sinuous guitar work for an original sound that's still full of fine blues tradition.

You should enjoy all of them.

 

 

 

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