THE Bobby Rush: Legendary soul-blues singer is on tour and you must go

Bobby Rush at the Mint LA. Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

Last night at the best spot in Los Angeles for roots music lovers, The Mint LA, I had the pleasure of seeing THE Bobby Rush for the second time. The first time I saw the legendary blues-soul singer from Homer, Louisiana at SXSW in Austin two years ago, I was impressed that well into his 80s he was doing a solo set of acoustic blues, which took me back to a time and place I have never been, but imagined I might have via my distant ancestors.

Last night, I saw Mr. Rush jumping and dancing on stage with a full electric band (including the sax player touring with The Rolling Stones, THE Stones). He was so full of energy and zest, that at half his age, I was a little embarrassed that I almost didn’t come out because I was tired! He brought the entire sold-out crowd to their feet, and unexpectedly, I rediscovered that I too could find that passion I had seemed to lost for live music in the past year. Next thing I know I was hootin’ and hollerin’ and dancing around to the pure, unadulterated (and I mean unadulterated) blues.

Straight from the chitlin’ circuit, he brought a bit of southern blues-soul history to some lucky blues fans in LA. The man who knew Willie Dixon, played with Etta James, Jimmy Reed, Muddy Waters, and Howling Wolf, among others, is unstoppable. He just released an epic box-set, Chicken Heads: A 50-Year History Of Bobby Rush, received two back-to-back Grammy nominations for albums released in 2014, Down in Louisiana
and 2015, Decisions, and is set to record ANOTHER brand new album, with equally legendary roots-producer, Scott Billington.

Bobby Rush is touring the U.S. (Tucson on Jan 28th, Austin on Jan 30th, then onto Nashville, Mississippi, Illinois, St. Louis, Texas, and Ohio all in February and March). Please go see him if you are in those areas. Considering he is one of the last of his generation, a stellar musician, with a stellar band, you will get more than your return in time and money to see a living American treasure in person.

Bobby Rush at the Mint LA. Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

Photos by Pat Rainer with Omnivore Entertainment (c) 2016

King of Chitlin’ Circuit Bobby Rush still groovin’ into his 80s: SXSW 2014

One of the highlights of my time at SXSW 2014 was seeing Mr. Bobby Rush (who was nominated this past year for a 2014 GRAMMY Award in Best Blues Album for “Down In Louisiana”). There is a bit of discrepancy as to his age. He told the audience he was 81, however Wikipedia says 73. According to The Encyclopedia of Arkansas Music (where he lived for a while), “Bobby Rush, known as the ‘King of the Chitlin’ Circut’…was born Emmett Ellis Jr…in 1935, however the 1940 census lists him as three years old.” It’s a mystery. But what is clear is how incredible a performer, guitar player, blues vocalist and harp player this man is. He has been on over 200 records and played with the likes of Muddy Waters, Willie Dixon, Bobby “Blue” Bland, BB King, and Johnnie Taylor.

Here Bobby Rush is on harmonica and vocals for a soulful cover of The Beatles “Come Together”
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Keeping the tradition alive in California: The Long Beach Bayou & Blues Festival

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This weekend, Saturday June 22nd and, Sunday June 23rd, the Rainbow Lagoon Park in Long Beach transforms into a home away from home for Louisiana natives, as The Long Beach Bayou and Blues Festival celebrates its 27th year. The two-day Creole and Cajun celebration feature a non-stop dance floor (including dance instruction), a kids corner where they can enjoy the cultural traditions of the Bayou, a crawfish eating contest, some of the best Cajun and Creole cuisine you can find on the West Coast, and of course amazing roots music. The acts include GRAMMY-nominated Pine Leaf Boys, Brian Jack and the Zydeco Gamblers, Sunpie and the Louisiana Sunspots, Jo Jo Reed and the Happy Hill Zydeco Band, Big J McNeely, and Peter Tork and Shoe Suede Blues (yes that Peter Tork of the Monkees), child blues phenom Ray Goren, and blues musician Bernie Pearl. The event will also a feature a second-line traditional Jazz Band and a costume contest!

There is a long history of Louisiana natives moving to Los Angeles that started back in the 1940s and 1950s. This is from a great article from the LA Times back in 1996, called “Left Coast Creole”:

Roland Davidson vividly remembers the day in 1956 when he tooled into town after a four-day drive from New Orleans and found his Louisiana Creole culture waiting for him in South-Central Los Angeles.

He heard the familiar dropped Rs of New Orleans’ 7th Ward along East 61st Street. And a short drive away, on a strip of Jefferson Avenue between Arlington and Crenshaw Boulevard, he found restaurants that served authentic crab etouffee and gumbo Creole-style, barbershops where news from New Orleans was discussed as if the patrons had never left there, and shops where a working man could buy a fried fish or shrimp Po’ boy on a crispy French roll.

“Everybody we hung around with was from New Orleans . . . [including] people who I went to school with in New Orleans,” Davidson recently recalled. “It was just like we all moved up here and got together again.”

The rich history of Louisiana music and culture (and the south in general) has had a huge influence the music and culture of modern Los Angeles from soul and funk in the 60s and 70s to hip-hop in the 80s and 90s. To get a taste of it, head to Long Beach this weekend and maybe you’ll catch me on the dance floor! Okay, truth is, I’m more likely to be found wherever they are selling gumbo, po boys, and red beans and rice.

Below you’ll hear a sampling of the music you’ll hear this weekend. Do I love me some foot-stomping, hard-core zydeco. It is the same family of Cajun-accordion based folk country music, but it has a harder driving rhythm as it blends elements of R&B and Blues. It is unique in that it features the rubboard. The first time I heard a rubboard (it was also the first time I ever saw one), I was mesmerized. Continue reading