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THE CRAWL, PART ONE

Various Places

Various Dates
By Rolf Olmsted

Do the Crawl!

East to west, north to south
Brand new dance people shoutin' about
It's called the crawl
Aw, the crawl

Cats on the corner, everybody's doin' the crawl
East to west, north to south
Brand new dance people shoutin' about
It's called the crawl
Aw, the crawl

Cats on the corner, everybody's doin' the crawl
      (Lonnie Brooks as Guitar Junior)

PART ONE

Moving into my new living quarters and taking up the strands of life I tried to stay quietly at home and get the moving and settling in done.  But you know how it is with music hounds, once you?ve found the fascination with live music, even with a big CD and record collection you hear of a show that might be hot and the itch starts.  "Hey Rolfy, Little Junior and the Big Boys are playing at the Underwater Inn.  Wanna go?"  Jeez, I?m gone.  Drippin? Soul and the Driveshafts are playing at the Sticky Floor?  I?m polishing my dancing shoes and counting my change.

Leroy Shyne Benefit at Ivy Room, December 28, 2004

Arriving just before the music started I was surprised to find few in the house, and almost all of them were musicians.  The night would have so many stars and surprises that all I can do is mention names.

Scott Silveira was checking his drums.  John Lawton started a group out and the place began to fill.  Sid Morris zipped into the piano chair.  Things began to get hot fast.  Steve Freund was soon up with them and they did some nice classics.

Kelvin Dixon was a real surprise and he did some great funky soul/funk numbers that I really dug.  Another talent to pay attention to.  A great vocalist and interesting guitarist.

Rev. Rabia was called to the bandstand.  I?d never seen her before and was pleased with her voice and styling.  She did some nice stuff, channeling some of the songs of the Blues Queens and modern classics.  I?ll be watching to see her again.

Then the veteran Henry Odom joined on guitar and sang a number that was just so old time and funky.  The cast of musicians was changing in shifts and I apologize for leaving out so many names.  Steve Gannon was there.  I have trouble taking notes at the Ivy Room; it?s hard to see, so I didn?t try.  It would have gotten in the way of the enjoyment.

 

Then at the first break, Craig Horton strolled out of the night in a camel hair coat and homburg hat.  We didn?t have to wait long for Craig to go on stage.  When he did it was full blues power as Craig squeezed and pulled licks out of his guitar.  Craig is just so downhome and uptown at the same time I almost can?t stand it.  Everybody playing with him seems to step up a notch and the whole thing gets STRONG.  Chris Burns on piano just went wild.  Steve Gannon and John Lawton were on guitar, Scott Brenton on harp, Burton Winn on bass and the Horns of Dilemma blowing up a storm.  The whole Horton set was a knock out.

Birdlegg and his Tight Fit Band cohorts guitarist John Graham and bassist Patty Hammond appeared.  Birdlegg immediately took over the bar and the audience.  He just fills a place with personality.  Up on stage his energy and engagement with the dancers and audience was, as always, a revelation.

Miss Dee took over the singing for the last set and what can you say about her voice and styling?  She?s magnificent in almost every style of blues and R&B and swing.  I could listen to her for hours.  A Queen.  Behind her were Tim Wager and an all star crew including The Horns of Dilemma led by Michael Peloquin.

I regret I can?t remember all the individual aggregations over the course of the night.  I remember Robi Bean in there somewhere.  I?ve missed others.  It was one hell of a night.  Thanks to all the musicians.

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New Year?s Eve was for staying home (except for the drummer who picked up a polka gig (!) at a Slavic lodge), and for avoiding the amateur drinkers.  Ham Hocks and Black-Eyed Peas were cooked at our house, just like they oughta be on New Year?s (noth?ners just can?t catch on).  We don?t drink at our house so we had quality root beer.

And like many another year, I went out on New Year?s Night to a fine show while others were nursing their hangovers.  Yes indeed, a more than fine show.

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Low Ceilinged Hack Attack.

Ron Hacker and The Hacksaws at Biscuits and Blues, January 1, 2005.

Ron Hacker made choices long ago.  They?ve led him in whole other directions in the blues.  Somehow he?s connected the modern world to another time and another way of thinking about the blues.  I hope he gets the chance sometime to play North Mississippi jukes, he?s a natural there.  Combined with the brilliant funk bass playing of Artis Joyce (AJ) and the spare effective drumming of Ronnie Smith, this is a band with an uncommon feel.  Raw and sophisticated at the same time, nobody else sounds like them.

Down 101 to the City and a magically open parking space three doors from Biscuits, the B&B basement was only about two-thirds full of comfortable looking people.  Blues friends were there and we took up residence at the bar.

Ron was almost in a trance from the beginning.  His heavy rhythm working in synch with Ronnie while AJ seemed to playing lead bass.  From time to time as Ron came out of a song he would seem to be emerging from a trance and be slow to decide on a song and change guitars.  AJ would immediately begin a funk solo and Ronnie would go with him.  Sometimes Ron would begin to play along for a minute.  These grooves were really solid and entertaining.

I remember a solid "Peachtree" and with "Back Door Man" ("The men don?t know, but the little girls they understand").  I had to go dance.  From then on I was seldom back at the bar.  Eventually I moved to an empty table up front so I was up close even when I wasn?t dancing.  At some point someone found a silver New Year?s party top hat and gave it to me.  I wore it.

Ron is the guy who does the classics by the west Tennessee greats.  He can do the autobiographical feel those songs are known for.

"If you go by Brownsville, take that right hand road
Well, if you go by Brownsville, take that right hand road
Ain't gonna stop walking till I get in sweet mama's door

The girl I'm loving, she's got great long curly hair
The girl I'm loving, she's got great long curly hair
And her mama and her papa well, they sure don't allow me there

If you catch my jumper, babe, hanging upside your wall
Well, if you catch my jumper, babe, hanging upside your wall
Well, you know by that I need my ashes hauled

I'm going to Brownsville, take that right hand road
I'm going to Brownsville, take that right hand road
And I ain't gonna stop walking till I get in sweet mama's door."

      (Sleepy John Estes)

It was the old blues, only with a very hip rhythm section.  I loved "Welfare Store" too.  It ended all too soon at midnight.

Mo, Terri and I zoomed down Stockton Street to North Beach only to find parking a problem as Grant Street was crawling with squad cars and Black Mariahs from some gang-banger hassle before we got there.  We had to park at Washington Square.

Walking up one of the dark mid-block alleys, towards us wove an older man.  Mo said, "I bet we?re kind of scary walking down a dark alley!"  "Right Mo, two five-footers and a guy wearing a party hat."  "I?m five foot four in these shoes!" said Terri indignantly.

Daniel Castro was going strong for the twenty-somethings dancing at Grant and Green.  "How was Hacker?" he asked.  Dance tune after dance tune was the order of the night.  The mating ritual was on full force helped by being well lubricated.  My big memory of the night was Daniel doing Albert King?s "Crosscut Saw" in really classic style, and Michael Emerson when his solo came launched into a full Erroll Garner advanced harmonics solo with sub-sections that should have clashed but didn?t.  T. Moran on drums and Burton Winn on bass were right there with the support.  Amazing.  Daniel looked at Michael and gave his head a shake as Mike pulled off the segue-way back into "Crosscut Saw.?

We stopped for donuts, coffee and sandwiches at the all-night deli at Nave Drive in south Novato.  The cool lady that keeps everything together wasn?t there and the selection was small and the sandwich makings not set out.  This was hard on the driver, and on road-trip ritual.

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Levi Lloyd, Willy Jordan, and Carl Bowers at DG?s Bistro, Napa, CA

A last minute cancellation resulted in a call to Levi Lloyd to play on January 7th at the new DG?s bar and grill in Napa?s historic brick Napa Milling Co. "Silo" building on the banks of the Napa River.  Last minute phone calls showed that Levi?s regular band couldn?t change their work schedules and Levi phoned Willy Jordan and Carl Bowers.

Down rain-slick highways in a hole in the cold winter storm we bumped, only to wander downtown Napa looking for DG?s in the newly redeveloped Napa Milling complex south of the county jail.  Finding it next to the Napa General Store (big parking lot) we were pleasantly surprised by the big brick and post room with paintings on the walls, band space in one corner, a baby grand piano (!) and tables on the floor with a dance space.  Good barbecue too.  This is a ?sure ?nuff? venue for musicians and fans to check out.  It?s only been open for a month or so.

The band set up and opened with slow jazzy numbers like Grover Washington?s "Mr. Magic."  They were winging it and it was apparent right away they were all "on."  Things just built from song to song.  Soon moving to blues classics they did "Big Boss Man" and other familiar tunes but with a funk sensibility.  I was just enjoying the show and not taking notes so I can?t list the tunes.  Funk numbers came to the fore and the audience chanted "Get On Up" to "Sex Machine."  The audience was happy to just sit and dig the music in the opening sets.  Everybody had been working and the storm was high.

 

The loose way the guys were playing made any song suggestion something that they were likely to run with.  At a song break Levi fooling around fingered the chords for "Little Wing" and Carl and Willy surprised him by immediately falling behind him and they just ?went.?  I?m used to hearing "Little Wing" done as a set piece or as a tribute number to Hendrix.  This was nothing like that, Levi just burned through the changes and the level got higher and higher.  It was deeply emotional and blue without the lyrics even being sung.  The audience cheered.  Another standout was an incredible "Driving Wheel" with Willy singing.  Levi burned an incredible solo.

"My baby don't have to work, she don't have to rob and steal
My baby don't have to work, she don't have to rob and steal
I give her ev'rything she needs, I am her drivin' wheel

She left me this mornin', said she'd be back at soon
She left me this mornin', but she said she would be back soon
She'd be back early Friday morning or late Saturday afternoon

I wrote my baby a letter, don't want no one to break the seal
I wrote my baby a letter, don't want no one to break the seal
That letter goes to my baby, I am her drivin' wheel

---Now wait a minute, I wanna tell you somethin'! (yeah!)
---I wanna tell you about my baby! (yeah!)
---I'm gonna tell ya about my baby! (yeah!)

Ev'ry time she walks, she's like a leaf shakin' on a tree
Ev'ry time she walks, she's like a leaf shakin' on a tree
I want you to c'mon baby; this is where you get your steak, potatoes and tea.

      (Roosevelt Sykes, ver. Junior Parker)

In the last set the audience got up and danced.  Levi, Willy, and Carl played a lot of hot dance tunes.  Levi was as hot as a pistol with solo after solo and lots of the funk rhythm he?s known for.  Willy was singing and mugging and Carl was grinning.  The audience liked them fine.  They demanded an encore.  A good gig for a cold and rainy night.

...Rolf Olmsted

Rolf Olmsted was born on the banks of the Mississippi River and had a dog and played his father's mandolin. He was exposed to the blues at an early age which accounts for it. Among his accomplishments are reproduction, a collection of cheap guitars, and computer semi-literacy. He's guilty of attempted guitar and mandolin playing.