The time has come for Southern Soul and Blues Artists to have their own Video Show. Just as Hip Hop has 106 & Park, Pop & Country have MTV & CMT; Southern Soul & Blues will have their own video show on a nationally known cable network.
I will be launching N-Da-Kno with Jazzii A. ™ Video Show on Comcast Cable. The show will begin airing on Sunday, September 1, 2013 at 6:00 pm CST/ 7:00 EST / 2300 Hr. GMT and every Sunday thereafter on Comcast’s latest cable network Channel 31. The show will have potential in-home viewing of 1.3 million viewers to start, but the show will be available on demand and at: www.comcast31.com, www.ndakno.com for those who are not serviced by Comcast and/or out of the viewing area. There are plans to air the video show nationally on other cable and satellite networks, with some already in negotiation.
The show will consist of me hosting the show, introducing the videos with occasional live performances and guest appearances of artists, record labels, producers and other music industry people within the World of Southern Soul & Blues Music – Artist such as Bobby Rush, Denise LaSalle, Karen Wolfe, Vick Allen, Sir Charles Jones, Mr. Sam and the newcomers such as Matthew Davis, Falisa JaNaye’, Leroy Allen and Roni to name a few). To my understanding at the time of this writing there are no other Southern Soul & Blues Video Shows airing on any cable or satellite network of this magnitude. Right now I am still in the process of collecting videos from the labels and Southern Soul & Blues artists.
A couple of issues back I asked the question if Southern Soul would ever gain national attention like Rap, Rock, Pop and Country has. Little did I know when I was writing that article I would be launching a national video show for Southern Soul & Blues nor Universal Records was in the process of signing a deal with a Southern Soul Blues artist (TK Soul). Not only did I not know that, but neither did I know David Whiteis would be releasing a retail hardcopy book on Southern Soul – Blues. Yes, I said it Southern Soul & Blues is getting National attention in every direction now.
I am honored to say that I received a personalized copy of the book “Southern Soul Music” sent to me as well as being spotlighted in the book with the King of the Chittlin Circuit Mr. Bobby Rush (page #90). After receiving the book and having an opportunity to review the book, I felt that others needed to know about the author and the book as that is what my brand is all about and that is keeping you N-Da-Kno. The author resides in the Chicago, Illinois area; he has penned other books and has written several articles in other publications. I have had the opportunity to reach out to the author and he has agreed to do an interview with me for the readers of the Jefferson Blues Magazine. Here is the content from that interview.
Jazzii – David in my research I’ve learned that this not your 1st book that you have written, can you tell us how many other book you have written and a brief description of what they are about?
David – My previous book was Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories. It was also published by University of Illinois Press. It focused primarily on the current, active Chicago blues scene, with an emphasis on the community-based circuits on the city’s South and West Sides – basically, where the music we call “Chicago Blues” was born.
Jazzii – What made you want to write such a book and title it ‘Southern Soul – Blues’? Before you answer this question, please give our readers a little history about yourself and if you don’t mind please give us your nationality. The reason for my asking you to disclose your race is to help me prove a point and that is that Southern Soul Blues in not just a regional category of music appealing only to African Americans and only has an appeal in the South.
David – Actually, the title is Southern Soul-Blues. I chose this because, as you know, there’s a lot of discussion and even some controversy about what this music “should” be called. Some artists, such as Bobby Rush and Denise LaSalle, are okay with “blues,” although Denise also takes credit for coming up with the term “soul-blues” to describe this music. Others, such as Sir Charles Jones, go with “Southern Soul.” But then there are artists like Willie Clayton, Floyd Taylor, and Sweet Angel, who don’t like the term “Southern Soul” at all, but would rather be considered “soul” or maybe “R&B” singers; Willie Clayton will also accept “soul-blues” if he has to. For the record, by the way, Tommy Couch Jr., of Malaco Records, maintains that his label first came up with the term “Southern Soul” because it was easier to market the music to a more diverse, all-ages audience if the word “blues” didn’t get in the way.
As for me – yes, I’m melanin-impaired! Although I agree with you that “Southern Soul” isn’t just a regional category, it’s also true that the primary audience for the music is either Southern or has strong Southern roots – either folks from the South who moved to somewhere like Chicago, Detroit, or Milwaukee, or people who have strong family ties to the South. In that sense, it’s not unlike the earlier postwar blues, which also appealed primarily to listeners who were either still living in the South or had moved North (or to the West Coast) from there.
In terms of demographics, right now I think it’s safe to say that the primary audience for this music is still African-Americans over 30. A lot of younger African-American music lovers still stereotype “blues” as sad music, old-time music, or something like that. Unlike some of their white counterparts, though, they’ll usually accept modern southern soul-blues as good music – regardless of what it’s called – when they have the chance to hear it. A lot of whites, meanwhile still categorize “blues” as being 12-bar, lump-de-lump shuffles, heavy on the guitars and harmonicas – basically the “postwar” sound associated with Chicago. Anything else isn’t “authentic” enough for them.
To be fair, we also have to admit that the terminology has changed over the years. During most of his career, Johnnie Taylor was considered a “soul” artist; these days, a lot of people categorize him as a “blues” singer. Same thing with the late J. Blackfoot or for that matter, Latimore. For another example, Tyrone Davis really resented being labeled a “blues” artist, but that’s exactly how he was often categorized during the later years of his career; he certainly appeared on quite a few shows billed as “blues” shows, in both the South and the North.
Ultimately, though, Jazzii, I have to concur with Sharon Lewis, one of our blues divas in Chicago; I profiled her in my last book. She simply says: “It’s all blues if it comes from the heart.”
Jazzii – How long have you been a fan of Southern Soul Music and why are you endeared?
David – I evolved with the music. I came to Chicago just before Z.Z. Hill hit with “Down Home Blues” and kicked off the modern soul-blues movement. I didn’t come here because I had some kind of romantic notion about “authentic” blues, although I must say that I was blessed to be able to hear, and get to know, legendary older-era Chicago blues artists like Big Walter Horton, Junior Wells, and Sunnyland Slim, along with a lot of others who were still playing in the older style, which I still love and esteem very highly.
But I came here mostly because I wanted to learn more about the music, and experience it, as a living, breathing thing. So I ended up spending most of my time in clubs on the South and West Sides, predominantly African-American venues, where most of the musicians – “blues” musicians, right? – were playing soul, funk, and R&B along with songs by Muddy, Howlin’ Wolf, B.B. King, Bobby Bland, Little Milton, Little Johnny Taylor, Albert King, and so on. And then, during the break, the jukebox would be playing disco, R&B, and pop songs along with whatever someone might want to call “blues.” I think the first time I ever heard Teena Marie’s “Square Biz” was on the jukebox at Florence’s Lounge, at 55th and Shields on the South Side – Magic Slim had the gig there, and believe me, he was about as hard-core “blues” as it’s possible to get. And everyone was partying to all of it, these days, when the band is taking a break in a club, we’re liable to see folks lining up to do your very own ”Stomp”/”Cha-Cha Slide,” which is usually categorized as a hip-hop dance but is just as popular among ”blues” and ”southern soul” fans, no one seemed to cared what any of it was called. So much for “authenticity”!
So I began to absorb the “new” blues, or soul-blues, or southern soul – like Junior Wells said, “Call it what ya wanna!” – That came out in the wake of Z.Z.’s hit, right along with everyone else. And it’s been part of my landscape ever since. So I guess I’m “endeared” for the same reason anyone else might be – it’s still blues, and it still comes from the heart.
Jazzii – How long did it take you to compile the material to write this book and was this a solo venture or did you have a team/staff to help you?
David – Oh, it was solo – I don’t have a secretary! It took me over two years to write; in fact, it took longer than I’d planned, largely because my day job as an English composition teacher at two different colleges here in Chicago is already more than a full-time gig. I don’t regret any of it, although I must say that I am very sorry that J. Blackfoot passed away before he had the chance to see the book with his life story in it. I think it would have meant a lot to him.
Jazzii – The likeness of Ms. Shirley Brown (the Diva of Southern Soul) graces the cover. Of all the artists out there doing Southern Soul, how did you come about selecting her for your cover?
David – Actually, my publisher, University of Illinois Press, chose that photo. They thought it was a very dramatic picture – very “soulful,” if I can use that term – and I agreed. I think it’s eye-catching, and I think it conveys a lot of what the music is about, in terms of deep feeling and emotional power. And, of course, Shirley Brown is one of the major artists in the music, and I did not have the opportunity to talk with her for a full-length chapter portrait; so I think she definitely merits the honor of being on the cover.
Jazzii – You have pretty much covered all the artists in the Southern Soul Blues “Genre” from the legends to practically all of the new artists on the market. I’m curious; did you listen to the music of all these artists during your research?
David – Yes, I listened to all of the artists I profiled, and in doing so I gained an even greater appreciation of the depth and breadth of this music. Unfortunately, though, I can’t say that I managed to cover “everyone” – new artists are coming onto the scene all the time, and it’s simply not possible to get everyone in that you’d like to include, especially given the time-lag between writing a manuscript, submitting it, and then going through the review/editing/publication process. Jeff Floyd, Tre Williams, Big Robb, Luther Lackey, Charles Wilson, Rick Lawson, Ernie Johnson, the late Reggie P. – there are a lot of really good artists whom I wasn’t able to include.
Jazzii – Who was the most difficult or complex person to interview and who was the most delightful?
David – Oooh! You want me to put people’s business in the street, huh? (Smile)
Actually, everyone I spoke with was very gracious and forthcoming. I was really honored and somewhat humbled by the openness and trust that people showed in sharing their thoughts with me. Denise LaSalle allowed me to use her prose poem, “America’s Prodigal Son,” as the book’s Foreword; she, Bobby Rush, and several others were uncompromisingly honest in sharing their feelings about some very difficult and even controversial issues, such as the problem of whether the cultural identity of the blues as African-American music has been threatened, or is being threatened, by the mostly white musical establishment, including a lot of the so-called blues “industry.” I know you’ve written about this as well, and we’ve discussed it at some length.
Jazzii – Your book includes some artists that are now deceased and divides the artists into categories and sub-titles. What was your reason for this and how did you choose which artists would go under what title/category?
David – The artists who are deceased – Tyrone Davis, Etta James Little Willie John, ,Albert King, Ronnie Lovejoy, Little Milton, McKinley Mitchell, Marvin Sease, Johnnie Taylor, Little Johnny Taylor, O.V. Wright, and, of course Z.Z,. Hill – are people whom I consider to have been major figures in the development and evolution of this music, whether they were active in earlier eras or more recently, and whether they’re usually categorized as “blues” or “soul” or “rhythm & blues” or something else. Although they were both alive when I wrote the book, I’d now have to include Bobby “Blue” Bland and Artie “Blues Boy” White in this list, also – I’m glad I got to include both of them while they were still living. And again, there are plenty of folks whom I left out – Clyde McPhatter, Big Maybelle, maybe Ruth Brown, Nappy Brown, Roy Brown, and Wynonie Harris, just for starters – who could just as easily have been included.
The only “categories” and “subtitles” I used, I think, are in titles of the sections “Leading Lights” and “Soul Serenade,” where I offer brief profiles of artists whom I considered worthy of inclusion, but who, for whatever reason, didn’t get full-chapter portraits. The title “Leading Lights” is pretty self-explanatory; “Soul Serenade” includes some up-and-coming artists as well as veterans who have contributed to the music and are respected in the field, but have not necessarily attained “star” status. Believe me; I wrestled over this one – what makes an artist “leading” or “important” in the first place? Who is a “star”? Who’s “regional,” as opposed to “national,” especially on a circuit that is still based primarily in one region of the country?
In some cases, of course, like Bobby Bland or Johnnie Taylor, there’s no question of their significance. For others, though, it’s a close call. So I made sure, in each section, to explain that there’s always a certain amount of arbitrariness in listings like these, so the reader should view these sections as samplers, not any kind of definitive list or “last word.”
I also have a section called “Stuff You Got to Watch,” which profiles some promising lesser-known singers who have attained reputations on various local circuits (Memphis, Atlanta, St. Louis, Chicago) but haven’t yet broken out strongly into wider recognition. And yet again, this is only a sampling – I made it a point to urge readers to go out and explore for themselves, because there are plenty of talented singers and musicians out there, working in clubs, show lounges, jukes, and casinos, and even getting booked on festivals, who could easily have been included in this section if only I’d had unlimited time, space, and resources.
Jazzii – Let’s say you had to take one male and one female legend to talk about, a new, up & coming artist that the industry or public may be sleeping on in a brief synopsis, who would you choose and what would you say?
David – I always have a hard time picking and choosing like this – I don’t want to look as if I’m somehow favoring some people over others, because that’s not my attitude or my intent at all.
But . . . okay, in terms of the veterans who came up during the Deep Soul era, J. Blackfoot’s career trajectory is both impressive and historically important: he arrived at Stax while Otis Redding was still alive, and in fact Otis was actually there during ‘Foot’s first audition at the label. After Otis died and Sam & Dave left Stax, ‘Foot became one of the lead singers of the Soul Children, a group that carried on that churchy, emotionally intense deep-soul feel right up to the final days of Stax Records. Then, of course, he helped define modern southern soul with his hit “Taxi,” which is one of the all-time classics of the genre.
But I could also talk about Latimore, whom I describe as “the Sweet-Loving Philosopher King of Southern Soul” because he really is a philosopher, not just in his songs but in real life. He’s a deep, reflective man, as well as a man of kind heart who takes his mission as a songwriter and a storyteller very seriously. And, of course, “Let’s Straighten It Out” is another undisputed all-time classic song. Bobby Rush, for all his clowning and showmanship, is also a serious-minded man offstage, whose years in the business have provided him with some very unique and valuable perspectives on both music and life – his was one of the most enjoyable and enlightening interviews I’ve ever done.
As for the younger artists, Sir Charles Jones had to go through quite a bit of struggle to attain the success he’s had; his story, in some ways, is the classic blues man’s tale of triumph over adversity and setbacks. Ms. Jody, when she’s not doing her naughty-but-nice stage routines, is a down-home country girl through and through; I really enjoyed talking with her and learning more about the person behind the image. Same with Sweet Angel. Willie Clayton’s career actually extends back to ‘70s, but since his biggest success as a soul-blues singer has been more recent, I included him in the “younger” artists’ section. Once again, though, you’re looking at a stylist who has spanned several eras, but whose gifts remain as strong as ever – in fact, now that Johnny Taylor and Marvin Sease have both passed away, he’s probably the closest thing this music has to a bona fide “superstar.”
And I don’t want to leave out T.K. Soul, whom I didn’t get to interview, but whose music I discuss at length in the book. He’s one of several artists I cite – Mr. Sam is another one – who I really believe has the potential to help this music cross over into so-called “mainstream” R&B. He writes intelligent songs that really tell stories – “grown folks’ music,” as we like to say” – but his production, his beats, and his voice itself all have a sound that can also appeal to younger listeners. He can even rap when he wants to, as his song “The Days of My Life” demonstrates!
Ultimately, Jazzii, I hope that this book helps to get the word out about this music. I’ve tried to include as eclectic and wide-ranging a lineup of artists as possible; not everyone I profile may be to every reader’s taste, but that only speaks well for the music itself: it’s not monolithic. Instead, it’s a diverse and still-growing genre that can appeal to as wide a listenership as more traditional blues, R&B, and deep soul have done. No matter what your “blues” or “soul” preference might be, you can find a home somewhere in this music. And that, finally, is the message I want to get across.
Jazzii – David, your book is a “must read” for everyone interested in Southern Soul Blues. Please tell our readers where it is available (in hardcopy or any other form)?
David – It’s in paperback, and it’s also on Kindle if you want to do it that way. The best way to get it is through your local bookstore, if you have one. If not, I’d suggest University of Illinois Press:
http://www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/77kfd2bp9780252034794.html should get you directly to my book. You can also get my previous book, Chicago Blues: Portraits and Stories, at the U. of Illinois Press website. The link to that is: www.press.uillinois.edu/books/catalog/77kfd2bp9780252034794.html.
Jazzii – David thank you, for taking the time to interview with me. Is there anything that we may not have covered that you would like the readers to know?
David – I’ll leave you with my final sentences in the book: ”The music,” as Peter Guralnick has assured us, ”is out there.” It’s up to us to find it. Look, listen, and discover!
Jazzii – At the time of me writing this article it is right before the 2013 Jus’ Blues Awards, in my next article I will let you all know the winners. I also would like to thank each and every one of you who took the time out and voted for me this year in the category of “Best Internet Soul & Blues Show Host”.