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.)

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:

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.

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:

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.




Some blues cruzin'

Monday, 12 November 2012 12:00 AM Written by

B;ues buddy Tim Rolff passes along some video from his recent blues cruise. Enjoy and eat your heart out -- unless you were there, too,

Lil’ Ed and the Blues Imperials – Tearing it up at the beach party in Bridgetown, Barbados (representing Steeler Nation).  I missed Ed up on his toes, but Kathy’s made a cameo….

Taj Mahal – bringing on Queen Bee with an earnestness that just jumps out of the screen....

Just getting to videos from the Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise Kathy and I went on last week. Thirty acts, five stages and seven days of non-stop music. Gigabytes and gigabytes of data to deal with.  All the cruise info is way down below, past the pictures.   All the videos I post will eventually be here:

We’ve wanted to do one of these for years and had this one lined out more than 14 months ago. So glad we got to go. Soaked up lots of music, got massages and did spa time, got lots of sun, ate and drank like little piggies and slept like logs (when we could) -  had a great time. We’re signed on for next year – Key West, New Orleans and Mexico.  Don’t know the lineup, but  …. they’re all GOOD.

A bluesy birthday tribute to Billy Price

Saturday, 10 November 2012 02:26 PM Written by

Here's a very nice birthday tribute to to Billy Price, one of the Burgh's musical treasures, from blues buddy Bluzer. He's calling it:


Hey, MR. BLUENOTES, how ya' been?
Read this first:

Just for fun, here's an old Billy Price photo from the archives, taken somewhere around 1980 in Mancini's in McKees Rocks. (Jim White photo)

Through a happy alignment of the planets, or maybe as a reward for some unknown act on my part that needed to be rewarded, I came upon the opportunity to spend two consecutive nights (in two very different circumstances) under the influence and in the company of the true king of Pittsburgh's Blues scene...Mr. Billy Price.

Usually I'm forced to travel some distance to see and hear a favorite musical performer more than once in a short period of time. Here was a chance right in my own backyard for back-to-back appearances and I'm here to tell the tale of an experience that rarely presents itself.

Thursday night it was Billy Price and The Lost Minds at Frankie and Georgie's bar/restaurant in that hotbed of Blues, Boogie, and Soul...Squirrel Hill! I arrived at the exact moment that the band was about to begin and had absolutely no trouble finding a primo seat. There were a lot of primo seats. There were a lot of seats, period. Having seen them a couple of times already, The Lost Minds have become my favorite local Blues band. Billy is front and center. Jimmy Britton plays keyboards, Eddie Johnette plays Sazophone. On this night Dave Dodd sat behind the drums. And that's the whole band. (Please excuse spelling errors if I got the names wrong.)

I like to think of The Lost Minds as a stripped down version of the Billy Price band. Not only is it kind of refreshing to hear Billy Price without all the trappings of his usual band it's also really interesting in terms of the material he chooses to perform. There's alot more of a Rhythm and Blues thing going on as opposed to the Soul-heavy show for which Billy is well-known. Much Bluesier, more low-down, and (dare I say it) ROCKIN'!! The band plays three sets and the time goes by quickly. The atmosphere was quite casual and laid back.

Highlights: Lightnin' Slim's "Rooster Blues', Percy Mayfield's 'Boo Hoo all Night Long', A tough, barebones 'Precious Precious/Trapped By This Thing Called Love' which was great, and a bunch more that I can't remember. (The idea seems to be a fast one then a slow one then a fast one, etc.). This is Billy Price as I'll remember him from now on. The true Blue side of a guy who knows his way around the canon of American Rhythm and Blues and the great West Coast Blues of the late 1940's. And some surprises tossed in to make things interesting.

Too bad you're not around, MR. BLUENOTES, you'd love this!!

The next night I trekked to Pittsburgh's Mecca of the Blues...Moondogs. This time it was The full 8-piece Billy Price Band crowded onto the stage. At 9:30 the place was packed and the vibe was much the same as I remember from Billy's 'Free At Last' days when the secretaries would crowd into Graffiti on Baum Blvd. Admittedly, this was NOT my favorite era of Billy Price's career. Expectations at the time were that this was the band that was going to break nationally and, to me at least, it wasn't the great band I had known from the Decade.

Sweaty Sunday nights at the Decade with Billy Price and The Keystone Rhythm Band...Oh how I remember them well!!

Back to the present. This night at Moondogs was/is the core of the Blues scene as it currently exists in Pittsburgh. There were local stars (Andrea Pearl, Sudden Steve), Moondog regulars (where was Craig?), and plenty of dancing secretaries. If there is a better Blues groove to be had in this city I have yet to find it. Billy was clearly having a good time and it was infectious. A large part of this was certainly due to the billing of this show as Billy's 'Birthday Bash'.

Today, November 10, is Billy Price's actual date of birth. It's no secret that he's 63...go to Wikipedia and do the math. I've known about Billy Price (I doubt if anyone really knows THE Billy Price) since I was a teenager. (I'll turn 55 on November 22). While most of the music business is a 'young man's game' the Blues is decidedly an 'old man's game' where an artist only gets better with age. Like fine wine. I look forward to many more chances to enjoy what the future will bring for my friend and Pittsburgh legend in his own time...the great Billy Price.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, BP...AND MANY MORE!! (A hearty second from BlueNotes)

Here's my gift to you on this your day...


New music from Joanne Shaw Taylor, Memphis Gold

Monday, 05 November 2012 12:00 AM Written by

Here are just a couple recent CDs that I need to catch up on. A pair that's worth recommending, even though they might not be household blues names.

Joanne Shaw Taylor - "Almost Always Never" (Ruf Records) -- Joanne Shaw Taylor is a British import now based in Texas who knows her way around a guitar, a song and a lyric. Her latest CD shows off her singer-songwriter chops with an album full of soulful, bluesy, hard-driving material. Tough, smoky vocals help a lot.

Here's a video of the titel track:

Memphis Gold - "Pickin' in High Cotton" (Stackhouse Recording) -- Memphis Gold is Chet Chandler, a blues singer-guitarist-songwriter whose music comes crackling out at you with a real-blues feel. It's mostly acoustic, sharply played and finely sung. His vocals are lean and harsh, like most of his song lyrics, and the acoustic guitar work is appropriately evil.

Here's a video of one of the CD tracks: "Please Don't Take My Blues Away" with an inteerview:

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