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Michael Erlewine Discusses His Book 'Blues in Black & White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals'

Sat, 10/21/2006 - 2:45pm

When: August 19, 2010 at the Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Michael Erlewine, the award-winning archivist of popular culture, who founded and built the largest music review database in the world, All-Music Guide, has written a fascinating new book that chronicles the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival.The first Ann Arbor Blues Festivals, in 1969 and 1970, brought together the greatest-ever selection of blues performers and helped bring modern blues music to a wider audience. Never before had such a far-reaching list of performers been assembled. These groundbreaking festivals were the seed that grew into the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, which was continued annually for many years.

Transcript

  • [00:00:30.88] AMY CANTU: Michael Erlewine hitchhiked with Bob Dylan and helped put on Dylan's first concert here in Ann Arbor. In 1965, he formed a band with his brother, Daniel, called the Prime Movers, a seminal blues-based band in the Midwest. He was the band's manager, its lead singer, and harmonica player. And their drummer was none other than Iggy Pop.
  • [00:00:51.34] In the late 1960s, Michel and Dan were invited to help host the first major electric blues festival in the United States, the 1969 Ann Arbor Blues Festival. In 1977, Michael started a software company, Matrix Software, which specialized in astrological software. And he's now a noted astrologer. And in 1991, he founded the AllMusic Guide, which became the largest music database in the world.
  • [00:01:16.31] Tonight, Michael will be talking about Blues in Black and White: The Landmark Ann Arbor Blues Festivals just published by U of M Press. Designed by Tom Erlewine and featuring photographs by award-winning photographer, Stanley Livingston. We're thrilled to have Stanley here as well, along with some of his stunning photographs, which you see displayed around the room. Thanks to Borders, again, for bringing books tonight, which are on sale. And after the talk, there will be a book signing up here on stage.
  • [00:01:44.36] And without further ado, please welcome Michael Erlewine.
  • [00:01:57.34] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Hi everyone. Well, my main topic isn't the book, which I'm happy about. But what I want to talk to you a bit about is the history of the Ann Arbor music scene. And the Ann Arbor Blues and Jazz Festival, which came after the first two Ann Arbor Blues Festivals, is better known. But those first two blues specials really created history. But Amy told you about a little bit about who I am. And we can have some questions as well.
  • [00:02:37.67] But most of you people are probably transplants to Ann Arbor, if you're Ann Arbor people at all. But I'm a townie. I grew up in Ann Arbor. So if you can understand that imagine how I view the world having been raised in Ann Arbor and having no other idea of what life was in the '50s and in the '60s. So I'd like to tell you a little bit about how that was. And a lot of you are a lot younger. But still, you might want to hear about it because it could be interesting for you to know.
  • [00:03:14.79] I was raised in-- I went to Ann Arbor High. I went to Angell. I went to Burns Park. I went to St. Francis, to Tappan. These are all places that most of you must know something about. And in those years when I was raised, it was the kind of thing where at school we were told to get under the desks because the Russians were going to bomb us. And for a kid, that was pretty heavy stuff. Because why were we crawling under the desks? because we might just get bombed. It would be a flash of light. And the other thing that I'm trying to-- I'm prefacing a little bit of what came later. Why there were things like hippies and stuff like that. Some of it came out of the '50s, being raised like that.
  • [00:04:02.39] And the other thing that I really complain about is that, and we were talking about this this morning, that modern psychology was having like a huge heyday during the '50s. And so the idea that we got of our self. Who were we? Well, we were paranoid. We were schizophrenic maybe. We were manic depressive. We were depressed A lot of us, these were our choices. We weren't like compassionate or equanimous. Those really weren't that things are being kicked around. We were mostly painted our idea of our self.
  • [00:04:45.54] And also the '50s was real what we would call straight. And I have short hair now. But crew cuts and stuff like that really were where it was at. So that, growing up in the '50s, what we were attracted to then, first of all, was the whole Beat Generation. And what used to be, does anyone remember Bob Marshall's Bookstore? Do you? There's somebody here that's that old? I didn't mean to say that. But on State Street, Bob Marshall's bookstore had the entire line of Grove Press, which would be most of Kerouac's work and stuff like that. It was wonderful.
  • [00:05:27.43] We read that. And some of us would be so deep into it, I never got out of high school. I left high school. And I went and hitch-hiked across this country. And lived in Venice West, California. Santa Monica. North Beach, California. This was 1960. And it's a long time ago. And from that point on, I began to get tuned into not the '50s culture, but the Beat culture. But I was too young. I just missed it. It was already fading. It was already dying out.
  • [00:06:03.70] But I think it was John Sinclair, who was a good friend of mine. And known to hopefully most of you guys. I think he put it this way. Either that or it was a friend of mine in California that said that we were pre-hippies. That we taught the hippies about literature, about liberal arts. The hippies had no idea of literature. And no idea of art or music.
  • [00:06:27.34] We taught them about classical music. We taught them about European literature, Thomas Mann, Dostoevsky. They didn't have a clue. So that we helped to indoctrinate the hippie culture with some kind of liberal arts, if this makes sense, liberal arts education. Same kind of stuff that you would have gotten back then.
  • [00:06:49.54] So the period I'm talking about now is pre-hippie. And in Ann Arbor, where a lot of us ended up hanging out, particularly in the late '50s, was with the folk music. And in Ann Arbor, before liquor by the glass, it was before you could buy liquor at a bar by the glass, there wasn't really any music. All the music was not in the bars. Now it's in the bars. It was in houses. so if you wanted to hear people like Bob James, or Bob Detweiler, or any number of jazz musicians.
  • [00:07:29.27] In fact, on East Williams, I can remember right near State Street was a big house. And in front of the house was a huge flag that said Thelonious Monk on. And I thought that was pretty. And we had one Beat coffee shop called the Promethean, which is about roughly where the Cottage Inn is now on East Williams. And they served like mulled cider. There's no espresso or anything like that. And they played Shelley Berman records, if anyone can remember that. Can anyone remember the Promethean? OK, you do. Stanley. Yeah.
  • [00:08:07.81] But that was something for us. We would go. And we would have our little swizzle stick of cinnamon and stir cider and listen to Shelley Berman records. And wonder what it was that was supposed to be happening.
  • [00:08:20.27] But I can remember spending a lot of time in these houses. I was a high school kids, so that I wasn't going to-- maybe I got some wine from them. We would go. They would be playing jazz. Bob James was pretty famous at this point. All these guys would be jamming just all the time. And we didn't get any pot. They would smoke the pot. But maybe they knew enough not to give us any. But we were so desperate about it, we would like, snort the ashes. We would get their ashes, and we would snort them just so we'd have something.
  • [00:08:55.88] So this was jazz. So that was jazz. But really what I got into slowly was the folk music scene. At that time across this country, there were like lots of folklore societies. And this is part of what I do want to say tonight, so I want to show you how the folk music turned in the interest in blues. Because I think it's something that most people don't know. And this is just from the Ann Arbor point of view. I think that if you went to many other cities, you'd have completely different stories, histories.
  • [00:09:27.69] But what happened here is that the Michigan Union, if you all know, Michigan Union used to be, now it's like all kinds of hallways and stuff, but back then it was on the lower level three huge low-ceilinged Formica table, grey Formica table rooms next to each other. So you could sit hundreds of people there. And that was where everything happened. Everybody was there. You know, I can remember having coffee with Joan Baez, or sitting around with Dylan. That's what we hung out. There was no other place that, you know, I talked about these jazz houses and stuff like that. But really that's where it all went down.
  • [00:10:12.19] And all of us were part of a long-- there was a circulation of information, almost like a bloodstream, that went from Cambridge to New York City not really to Detroit to Ann Arbor to Chicago to Madison maybe to Antioch and Oberlin and then out to Berkeley. And all of these people travelled that circuit. Now, you either hitch-hiked it, I hitch-hiked it many times, maybe ten times to New York and a couple times to the West Coast and back. Or they maybe got an old car and all piled into that car and tried to make it all the way up there.
  • [00:10:49.99] We were influenced by the Beats. So it was the Beat poetry and the kind of darkness that the Beats had that we didn't quite get into, which I'm just as glad. But many people that I knew committed suicide or died from drug overdoses. And all that kind of stuff was going on. And what I'm trying to draw your attention to is that the folk musicians, people like Dylan, people like Jack Elliott, New Lost City Ramblers, if you know who they were. They spent a lot of time here. The Country Gentleman. And we all hung out together. And there was no place for them. And they were not like higher than us. They lived with us. They had they stayed with us. They stayed with people they knew there. And we all are in the same place.
  • [00:11:37.06] And so I can remember one time sitting with Bob Dylan. I traveled with Bob Dylan in 1961. And I wish I'd asked him for an autograph. But then he was just like another guy, right But he was a really smart guy. And we were hitch-hiking together with another-- there was a legendary instrumentalist called Perry Lederman. Has anyone here ever heard of him? That's such a shame. Because if I knew Dylan today, which of course I don't, and he and I could get on the telephone or see each other, we would immediately take our hats off. Perry Lederman was like the Roy Orbison of instrumental Travis-style picking. He could play music that created an operatic effect. It would just totally impress. And Dylan couldn't touch him. No one could touch him. He was just like an incredible guy. And he's no longer with us, I'm sorry to say. But I travelled with him for quite a while. He was also an expert on Martin guitars. He would be putting Martin guitars out of people's attics and stuff and selling them. I've seen the most expensive Martins in the world because of Perry. Just because I was with him.
  • [00:12:49.63] But I can remember, just tell you maybe a couple of Dylan stories. Since he's popular. And we were in New York City is a place called Gerde's Folk City. Has anyone ever heard of Gerde's? Anyway, at the time there was, I think it was later in the blues project, an instrumentalist kind of singer called Danny Kalb. And Danny was the hot property. And when he played, it was the coolest thing. And Dylan was really, you would think that maybe he was jealous. But I didn't think-- as I think back on it, maybe I just give it to him now just because of what he did. I don't think he was so jealous as he was not able to believe that no one could see him. No one could see who he was. And I couldn't see who he was, other than, [? yeah ?], he was really good. But he wasn't writing his own music. I mean, maybe he was, but it wasn't--
  • [00:13:52.69] And this is a point that I want to make. All of us then, if you were good then, including Dylan, what you were doing was reviving and restoring and trying to find the most authentic version of, usually it was English or Scottish ballads or whatever. If you could have done your research, or if you came up with the most authentic rendition of it, that was being cool. That was what Dylan did. That's what Joan Baez did. Songs like "Diamonds and Rust", that came much later. When people started writing those songs. And when I knew Dylan, I think he had an album in the works. His first album. But it wasn't out. I never heard it.
  • [00:14:41.23] I can remember one time just hitch-hiking, I'm putting the thumb out. He's got a big old dreadnought or something. I don't know what he had. And he's singing, anyone knows, "Baby, Let Me Follow You Down." So I can remember that.
  • [00:14:55.27] And another story I have is sitting in Michigan Union with him where he played. It was either at the Ann Arbor Folklore Society. Or he played at Ann Arbor High School one time. Was waiting for the review to come in in the Michigan Daily. So maybe it was the Folklore Society. And he was really concerned what people would say. So we just sitting around drinking coffee. And finally, it must have been 10:30 in the morning or something like that, the paper came out. And he had a good review. Was really happy. And he just hitch-hiked out of town. he was just on-- So we traveled from the route that I said before. To Chicago. To Berkeley. There was a constant stream of people.
  • [00:15:37.31] And here's I'm trying to get to the point. The point was that blues then, maybe we heard a little bit of it. But if we did, it was because of I think it was 1959 that George Wein started the Newport Folk Festival. And know that he started the Jazz Festival in '54. And at the Newport Folk Festival, they featured the Kingston Trio. I'm sure some of you remember them. And a young singer named Joan Baez. And in that, in the Newport festivals were some country blues. And it was all acoustic. It wasn't till really 1965 when Dylan and Butterfield played at the Newport that things started changing rapidly. So the only blues that we knew were Elizabeth Cotten, Jesse Fuller. "Walking with my baby down by the San Francisco bay." If some of you remember that. "Freight Train" by Elizabeth Cotten. And we would all play those music.
  • [00:16:46.88] Yeah, I guess my point is that all we knew to do when we heard blues was that this was something that had to be revived. That's why it was called a folk revival. We needed to preserve it. We needed to trace it down, to find the most authentic, earliest version possible. And we needed to reenact it and keep it alive. So we thought the same way about blues when we first heard it. That this is music that's dead. And if we don't keep it, nobody will. And it was up to us to revive it.
  • [00:17:17.81] And so that it only dawned on us very, very slowly that electric city blues was very much alive and playing just down the street. Separated from us by like a racial curtain. We didn't go there. And we didn't even know about it. And so I think that there were many folk people, and I think this is my point, that many folk people from the late '50s and early '60s including Dylan and people like that we did not really know.
  • [00:17:51.56] Sure, we knew some Lead Belly and things like that. Wasn't the same thing. Lead Belly's not Muddy Waters. And Lead Belly's not Magic Sam. And I think there was a real disconnect and real-- I can just remember my own experience slowly realizing, gee, this stuff doesn't need revival. This stuff doesn't need anything except listening, right? And instead of something that's dead or dying, I could go hear it any day of the week if I just went to Detroit or if I went to Chicago.
  • [00:18:30.37] And so we begin to go to Chicago. Some of us cease to be, I would say that in 1965, I started a band with my brother and some other people called the Prime Movers Blues Band. And at the same time in San Francisco, Jerry Garcia started the Grateful Dead. Same Summer, Summer of '65. That was when the music began to change. And the other thing that happened in 1965 that was even bigger than the Grateful Dead for us or our own was the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Here was a racially-mixed band that certainly wasn't reenacting anything. They were just damned playing the blues, right, as best they could. And they were doing a really good job of it. And they just blew our mind. Who has heard early Butterfield? Has anyone? Good for you. Well, wasn't that something?
  • [00:19:27.49] And we would play at the same venue. Our band played at a venue in Detroit called The Living End. And Butterfield played that. And Gordon Lightfoot. Everyone played there. All I can say is that these guys kicked ass. And they blew our minds. And Butterfield wasn't a very nice guy. But Bloomfield was a really nice guy. And a guy that was compassionate. And it's the same with some of the great blues artists. Some of them are just incredible beings.
  • [00:19:58.15] Bloomfield would take care of us. When we went, for example, we went to-- The Summer of Love, which is 1967, was in San Francisco. Our whole band travelled out there. And Bloomfield had no reason whatsoever to do anything for us. Not really. I mean we were just a Midwest band that knew them. And he knew that we loved them. And we did. And he took care of us. He found us a place to stay. We ended up living at the Heliport in Sausalito. We played for our meals. We were broke. We played at a blacks rib joint for food.
  • [00:20:40.05] But we also opened for Cream at the Fillmore Auditorium. Maybe their first gig in this country. Certainly one of the first couple gigs. So we opened for Cream. Thing about that, we watched them shoot up speed in the back room. Eric Clapton, right? And we played at the the Straight Theater, and the Matrix, and the Haight-A. I don't know if any of you know these. But this is what was happening in San Francisco.
  • [00:21:07.66] So I think I've gotten ahead of myself. But I think you got the point. That there was a point when folk music, which was very, very academic in a way-- we would never thought of it in that way-- suddenly broke apart in different streams. And the city blues, like you see in Chicago, And of course, to us it just was absolutely brand new. And the most incredible music we'd ever heard. And to sit in the room with Muddy Waters--
  • [00:21:36.96] I can tell you the story of Howlin' Wolf. Went to Chicago. Went to see Howlin' Wolf. And he was in a little tiny place. I don't remember the name of it. There was nobody there. It was very, very dark. Just at the front, he was sitting on a chair. Wooden chair. Old wooden chair. And next to him was his guitarist, Hubert Sumlin, who's an incredible guitarist. And they were playing. And I think my brother, Daniel, who's a guitar player was there. And we went in and sat down kind of at the back. We didn't know. And I was telling some people about this this morning that-- and I take it most of you have heard Howlin' Wolf. And I don't know if you heard him in person. But all I can remember is that the walls begin to become transparent. And that for a time, I forgot where I was in my life. You know, my life that I was living. And I was just somewhere in the universe. Everything just kind of faded out. His voice was so incredibly, I don't know. It took me on a trip. And we were talking about this this morning too, the idea of time.
  • [00:22:45.32] And maybe we should say a little bit about a musical time. It's really hard to put into words. But it might take me a minute or two. But it's probably worth it. The great blues players, and the great anybody-- Ali Akbar Khan is another one-- the great musicians, literally make time. They don't just follow along. Most of us follow along time. Someone sets the time. And we are listening and going with it. But a really great blues player, and we all have our favorites.
  • [00:23:15.01] My favorite for making time would be Big Walter Horton, who was a harmonica player. He could make the best time. He could give me the best time I've ever had. Ever, ever experience. It would replace-- and I had my own sense of time. This is going on. This before this. You know, time is what we're spending now.
  • [00:23:34.58] But with Walter Horton or Muddy Waters or Howlin' Wolf, they would somehow, their music would take over time. They would take over my sense of time and replace it with like a much vaster more time. More time than I'm used to. Time [? enough, ?] I was describing it again this morning in an interview. It was like time would slow down. They could expand time. And in that time, they would give me more room, almost like an aura, more space to know myself or just to be myself or just to think or just be there. And this is one of the hallmarks.
  • [00:24:14.30] And actually, I experienced this a couple years ago, a music festival called Wheatland. Does anyone know? Anyone been to Wheatland? Good. Yeah, Wheatland's a great festival. They had a lap steel player from somewhere down South, Southeast His name was Aubrey Ghent. And he did a lot of playing church music. But that guy was sitting up there making time. And I had not heard that kind of time since Muddy Waters and people like that in Chicago or so. Wherever you go, they would take over time. And they would put you through something you couldn't do for yourself.
  • [00:24:50.62] And maybe at the end you'd say, gee, that music was really good. But it was like way more than just the music being good. It was like you had an experience that you never had before. And maybe you can't remember it. Or maybe you remember it slowly over a long period of time. Recall it a little bit at a time and kind of read it back yourself.
  • [00:25:09.07] But there is this guy called Aubrey Ghent who was like an incredible musician. And he did the same thing. And you know what he did? One of the things he did it with was the song "Don't Worry, Be Happy." I tell you that the whole audience just stopped and was on his time. And it was an incredible experience. So I got a little-- anyway Wolf put me through that.
  • [00:25:35.29] Another person, another blues player to put me through something like that was the first time I heard Magic Sam. Now, some of you might not know Magic Sam. But Magic Sam was one of the most virile, seminal guitar players that ever, ever played the guitar. But he also was an incredible singer. And you can hear his music on it on the West Side Soul album on Delmark. It was a pretty good capture of him. But I first heard him in Chicago in one of these rooms that is kind of like, sometimes if you go in big cities to Chinese restaurants, big ones they have really low ceilings. And it's just all these tables go way back. You can't-- But it was a room like that, except everyone was standing. I couldn't see Magic Sam. It was a room bigger than this.
  • [00:26:23.83] And I just got in the door. And all I saw were heads. And I'm not that tall anyway. But there was a sheet of sound that was coming from somewhere up front. And it was Magic Sam singing. And immediately the hair just went right up at the back of my neck. I'd never heard anyone sing-- there was literally a shimmering-- So if you never have heard, and you can kind of hear this on the West Side Soul album. How many have heard the West Side Soul album? Great.
  • [00:26:58.05] Anyway, I guess I'm getting distracted. But what I'm trying to do is lay the groundwork for a little bit of history here of showing how the folk music became aware that the blues was a living entity, not something that needed any care on our part. And we didn't know it then, but it too already was very old. Because I played for a year and a half. Ann Arbor used to have one block on Ann street that was black businesses. And now it's all been gentrified. It's gone, which is really too bad. There was a bar called Clint's Club. And right next to it was another bar. Does anyone remember the name of the other bar?
  • [00:27:40.42] AUDIENCE: Derby bar.
  • [00:27:41.07] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Was it?
  • [00:27:42.00] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:27:42.63] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: OK. It was the Derby then. We played at Clint's Club. And the older black people came to heart it. Because we were playing Muddy Waters stuff. And they would make fun of us a little bit. And they had the right to do. Oh, we were absolutely sincere. I spent many years studying black music, day and night. And I never got really that arrogant about it, enough to write my own stuff or to think that I do anything about it. It just like, it was to me a beautiful thing.
  • [00:28:14.06] But the guys next to-- the young blacks were next door. They didn't want to hear that music. And they were embarrassed that their moms and dads were sitting in there carrying on and having fun with the music because they love that kind of music, even if maybe we didn't do it the best in the world. It was where they came from. So there was a disconnect already there.
  • [00:28:35.99] The black music that white people discovered was already quite old when we discovered it. It was already fading. You know these guys were-- I think I did some statistics because I'm that kind of person. I think that the first Ann Arbor Blues Festival, something like the average age of all performers is like almost 50. All major performers. Maybe not every single band member. But that tells you something. So that if all these guys are already 50, and there were people like Son House, who are really old. I guess what we're saying, we didn't get in on the middle of it or the beginning of it. But we did get in on some of it.
  • [00:29:17.71] So let me just take a break there just for second. Are there any questions that anyone has about what I'm saying so far? Anyone have any thoughts? Yeah?
  • [00:29:32.46] AUDIENCE: My experience, being young, of blues comes from a lot of, like, Texas blues, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix's blues. Can you relate to how that influenced you later? After your sort of, the inception of Delta style coming up from [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:29:48.06] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah. It wouldn't have been Delta style that I was an expert in, or interested in. But I was interested in-- I mean, I know that style. And I love and I played behind it and even recently I've backed up John Sinclair playing Delta music. But really I shouldn't be playing Delta music. Because I know nothing about the Delta, right? The music that I know something about and that I've studied most is just regular Chicago.
  • [00:30:19.26] After it came to Chicago, then it became a whole thing in itself. Big Walter Horton, Johnny Young, this is stuff that's almost country that has been citified. Early Junior Wells, Otis Rush. This is like, it's incredible music for anyone to hear. But it's also something that not everyone has heard.
  • [00:30:44.34] So as far as people like Stevie Ray Vaughan or even Hendricks. First of all, Hendricks to me is an order of magnitude. He's a thing unto himself. He really wasn't a blues player. I know that he played with many blues bands. And he was very, very good at it. But I really do think that Hendrix was a unique musician that played-- when he came along, all the blues players that I knew just about died. Just because there's no way they could play like that. I mean, Clapton couldn't play like that. Bloomfield couldn't play like that. Because he was forgetting all the-- he was just completely, he left that arena. He was like out there, right? "Excuse me while I kiss the sky", right? Hendrix I think was like, I have great reverence for him. I think he was an incredible musician. But that wasn't the kind of music that I was interested in. I did say, wow, this is something, right?
  • [00:31:44.22] But Stevie Ray Vaughan, I'm afraid I'm a bit of a snob. I like all that stuff. But I never strayed very far. Why would I listen to Stevie Ray Vaughan if I could listen to Magic Sam or Johnny Shines, right? But I just wouldn't. And I didn't. So I'm not an expert. I never became a really good expert on what I would call second tier. I would always rather go to sort-- if I could hear Howlin' Wolf. You all have heard Howlin' Wolf, right? Man. Come on.
  • [00:32:23.97] Or I met, he was still living, Lonnie Johnson. Lonnie Johnson taught Robert Johnson syncopated guitar. The syncopated guitar artists in the great Robert Johnson licks probably came to some degree from Lonnie Johnson. He was an incredible player. I got to listen to him live. I got to spend a whole afternoon talking to him. He just was in a little club in York Town in Toronto.
  • [00:32:55.20] So I don't want to be rude to anything. I'm just sort of saying, I never got out-- about the same way like with ice cream. I find a ice cream that I like, I never get anything else. As long as I like it, right? And I never stopped liking, I never ever stopped liking--
  • [00:33:14.63] There's an album that you might want to hear, if you want to hear musical time. On Vanguard, there were three albums called the Chicago Blues today. And the third album has Johnny Shines and Big Walter Horton playing together. And there is an example, for those of you that know or want to know, of someone that was creating time. These guys understood each other's time. And it's still there. You can still hear it. You can still go listen to it. Or you try to play along with it, which I've done many, many times. And just go wow. There's so much time. There's so much time to hear and to do as opposed to being pushed.
  • [00:33:54.01] And so a lot of the guys that you might have mentioned, they were doing the same thing I was doing. They were listening to-- But they, no, I agree. Stevie Ray Vaughan, I'm not putting that down. I'm simply saying, because they did absorb it. And they had something to say themselves. I just never did. I had nothing to say for myself.
  • [00:34:15.11] I went in and became more of a musical archivist, right? Started AllMusic Guide, which is trying to put all that into perspective, trying to preserve it. I'm still a folk guy, I guess. Still trying to protect everything. I'm an archivist. I want not anything to be lost and everything to be treated fairly.
  • [00:34:40.73] But yeah, that's come up a lot for me. But I don't listen to him. And when I hear him, I just say, nice. But then I'll go listen to, I don't know, or Lead Belly or something like that. Just like, wow, right?
  • [00:34:54.26] Any other quick questions or not?
  • [00:34:55.87] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:34:56.76] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Sure.
  • [00:34:57.55] AUDIENCE: What years were you playing-- he can hear me-- Clint's Club? What years [INAUDIBLE]?
  • [00:35:02.45] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Well, that-- what years? That had to be somewhere, again, my sense of time is just not good. What I believe in is called teleology, which means it's about the sequencing of things. If you asked me about the sequencing of things, I'm pretty good. But if you ask me what year?
  • [00:35:20.85] So it would have been probably around 1967. Probably.
  • [00:35:26.49] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:35:27.73] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: And '66. Peter might know. Peter, do you remember?
  • [00:35:30.97] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:35:32.90] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: I can't remember. It was after Iggy left our band, for sure. He didn't play. Or if he did, it was only a little bit at Clint's Club. J.C. was playing. J.C. became--
  • [00:35:43.84] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:35:44.61] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: What? Maybe you guys know better than I do.
  • [00:35:48.09] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:35:51.21] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah.
  • [00:35:52.31] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:35:53.27] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: I can remember, remember the riots? That was '67.
  • [00:35:56.61] AUDIENCE: Yeah, I know.
  • [00:35:58.05] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: The stupid police here went and put up sawhorses or whatever around Clint's Club and stuff during the riots in Detroit.
  • [00:36:08.29] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:36:09.64] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: No. Isn't that something? It was just embarrassing.
  • [00:36:17.75] OK. So I think that-- Anyone else, a quick question? I think I'll go on and tell you a little bit more. So I've given you some background. Now, let's talk about the new book that Stanley and I and my brother Tom have done.
  • [00:36:39.76] First of all, let me say something about Stanley. Where is Stanley? Stanley's at the back. Stand up for second, Stanley, so everyone can see you. No, get up. We got to see you. I know a little bit about the blues. And I've published at least a couple of books about it. And I've seen an awful lot of blues music and an awful lot of blues pictures. But I've never seen any better pictures than Stanley Livingston did of the great artists I love.
  • [00:37:14.55] There are no better pictures of John Lee Hooker that I've ever seen. I'm not saying everything is perfect. In general, the best blues photos from the city, the city blues photos of Howlin' Wolf and people like that that I've ever seen, Stanley took. And it took at those first two blues festivals, and also some the blues and jazz festivals. I don't know how many. I can't remember. But we owe him a great lot of thanks for doing that. So just give him another--
  • [00:37:49.94] We were a blues band. And I should probably talk about Iggy for a minute. When our band started, it was kind of a new kind of band. And the other band that we knew then that wasn't new in our sense but was a rock and roll band, a soul band, an R&B band and was always the Prime Movers' favorite friendly band. The people we liked the best, not that we didn't love everyone, and two of them are here tonight, were The Rationals. And Scott Morgan's here somewhere. Where's Scott? Stand up. And Bill Figg is here somewhere. Where's the drummer?
  • [00:38:38.12] Just in their defense, musicians a catty as a group. And I was too. And these guys were the gentleman always. No matter what. Always kind to other people. They did a great job. They were total professionals. And you're still playing, right? You're still playing. Bill, you too? I'm accused of some harmonica from some part of my house once a year or so. Sometimes that happens.
  • [00:39:11.67] So we were the blues band. And Iggy came from a group that was like, a, basically no offense, but a frat band called The Iguanas. And he came into our band. And we liked him. But we punished him a little bit. For a while we called him the name of his old band. We called him Iguana. We wouldn't call him Jim Osterberg. We called him Iguana. And that got shortened to Iggy. And that's where he got the name Iggy.
  • [00:39:42.33] And he's kind of made fun of us in some of his writings because he said we're effete. And there's some truth to it. That we did know literature. We knew art. We knew classical music. He knew nothing. He knew no classical music. He knew no literature. It was all news to him.
  • [00:39:58.01] And he learned a lot from us, even though he has not been generous enough to acknowledge it. It's OK. But he also totally respectful. He's never-- He's been a kind of a wild guy, right? But never-- He was very, very respectful to me always. And we never quarreled that I know of, or nothing.
  • [00:40:23.77] And he was not, I know that he's a big macho thing. He was, at that time, no bit of macho. He was very, very-- Well, girls loved him. There's no doubt about it. And they pursued him. And he knew that. He would allow them. He was never aggressive. they would come to him. And he had very long eyelashes. And he would bat his eyelashes.
  • [00:40:50.81] I will say this. He was a very good drummer. And that one of the things that he learned that was very difficult. Bill probably knows. I don't really know what it involves. But it's called the double shuffle. He learned from Sam Lay, who was Butterfield's drummer. And he spent weeks learning that damn thing. But he got it cold. got it down. So he could do the double shuffle. And I don't know-- see, I never cared much for Stooges music just because it wasn't blues and stuff. It was fine. It just wasn't anything I wanted to listen to. So I'm kind of limited that way.
  • [00:41:27.99] So Iggy was our drummer. And he used to sing a song, a Muddy Waters' song, called "I'm a Man". And he would do that in all kinds of ways. I do have a recording. It came up in someone's basement a few years ago. The primers. There were no, our band had no recordings. We recorded once. But I don't know what happened to it.
  • [00:41:50.14] I can tell you one funny story is we recorded by a subsidiary of Motown. They would come to Ann Arbor in big limousines. And they would put us in the limousines. And they would drive us around. [UNINTELLIGIBLE] But this is what they did for me. My brother Dan is our lead guitar player. So they arranged for us to have lunch, this is mind-bending, with Everly Brothers. We had lunch with the Everly Brothers in Detroit thanks to these guys. They would drive us there in a, I don't remember that, in a limousine. There was Don and Phil Everly. And there was Michael and Dan Erlewine. We had lunch. And this was the kind of stuff.
  • [00:42:29.81] What they wanted, though, this is where it ran into trouble. They wanted us to be a white band doing black music. Which I wouldn't object to that. I would love that. But they wanted to dictate what the music was. And their idea of music was like, whoa. I'm not going to do that. And it's probably the stupidest thing money-wise I could have done. Because we probably could have, we were a good enough band, we probably could have made a bunch of money or something.
  • [00:42:59.87] And I was probably mostly responsible. It wasn't Chicago blues. It wasn't what I cared about. I wasn't, just like I never finished high school. Forget about it. I'm not going to do it. And that was the end of it. I don't know that I really asked the rest of the guys that much. I don't remember anyone challenging me about it. We didn't do it. And of course we've got no more limousines, right? That was the end of that. So we were just dumped.
  • [00:43:27.65] But some tapes did it come out of someone's basement of years ago of one night at Clint's Club. And it's not really very good. But it is on YouTube. If you do Prime Movers Blues Band, you'll find a bunch of cuts of the Prime Movers one night. Not the best stuff, I must say. But there is a little bit. I sound pretty bad. It was a lot of fun.
  • [00:43:53.20] Anyway, the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, we were the blues band that had been Chicago. That knew these guys. I think Jimmy Cotton lived in our house, it was either three or six weeks with his whole band. And that's just with, who here has ever heard of Luther Tucker? Thank God. Luther Tucker was a rhythm guitar player. Like the best one that ever lived that I've ever heard. Played Chicago. Was just incredible. But the whole band lived with us.
  • [00:44:29.06] Every night, we would drive into Detroit. I think that Cotton was playing at the Chess Mate. And he was trying something new. All these guys wanted to be like James Brown. So instead of doing the stuff we most loved, and I can remember Junior Wells really had a bad case of this. Because the stuff like he did like Delmark Records, HooDoo Man Blues, something like that. That's to die for. That's like the most beautiful, that's one of the most beautiful albums. If you've never heard that on Delmark Records called HooDoo Man Blues, it's just an incredible album.
  • [00:45:05.61] But we used to go to Chicago. And Junior Wells was trying to sound like James Brown, right. Wanted to James Brown. Wants to do soul music. And James Cotton went through the same thing. He would go and he would try to do this stuff. And it didn't work. And so our hearts would be in our throat the whole night. Almost like praying for him, right. Please, just make it work, right. Go over the top, right. And he'd just get up there and try so hard. And he just couldn't quite do what he wanted to. But he wouldn't do what we wanted to hear because he'd done that, right. And he was going somewhere else.
  • [00:45:46.28] But I can remember that I would go on the back. And there's a little tiny room in the back. And there would be John Lee Hooker some nights, drinking whiskey, waiting for him to be done so they could hang out. And so we'd go back and sit there. We were lucky to get to see a lot of these guys up close. And the more time that passes, the more you realize how lucky were.
  • [00:46:12.60] I've had this luck twice in my life. The other and I'll tell you this one in less than a minute. I've been very interested in Tibetan Buddhism for 35 years. And I've studied and practiced it just as hard as I practiced and studied black music. We have got, my wife and I, we've got to meet some of the greatest rinpoches and lamas from Tibet, right, that have come to this country because they had to leave Tibet. And they went to India. And we've got to spend time with them.
  • [00:46:43.93] And it's a lot like seeing these great blues guys just because, whatever they did to their mind, or whatever, however they were trained. However the mind was trained reminded me a lot of experience that you'd have if you spent some time with Muddy Waters or something like that. They're just being in their mandala, that's what the Tibetans would say. But we'd say, a few of them, like in that room that I told you about with Howlin' Wolf, you're not going to forget something like that. Because you are in their mind. You're a part of their mind for a while. And it does something to you. And it's not a bad thing.
  • [00:47:21.13] So when the whole [? light, ?] and the man that's responsible for the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, those first two festivals. It was a student at the University of Michigan called John Fishel. And they wanted to have a concert. And so they drew a bunch of people. And John just happen to see a sign on a board and go. And there was some other guy that was in charge. I don't remember the name. I have it written down. I can't remember everything anymore.
  • [00:47:51.45] So they were going to do kind of a British blues thing, John Mayall-type thing. And they wanted to have-- it would have been a nice deal. But John, who had actually listened to the Chicago blues and studied it wasn't having it. And he says, no, no. We're not going to have John Mayall. We're not going to do that. What we're going to do is these guys are still alive. And he knew they were still alive, although he hadn't really been to see much. He did that once he started the Blues Festival in motion. If I understand correctly. So he's responsible, almost exclusively, in saying, no, we're going to get the real deal. We're going to get the roots. We're going to go to the sources.
  • [00:48:36.79] Remember, that was 1965, I believe. It might be wrong. When that first Rolling Stone album came out. The Rolling Stones were people that pointed out to us, "Little Red Rooster", or whatever it was. Not only did they do blues songs, but they were happy to point out where they learned them from. And they were all these Chicago guys that we all said, huh, all right. We want to go hear the original one. "Time is on My Side." That's an Irma Thomas song. So we would go hear the real thing and say, whoa, the Stones are great. But these other guys like are killer.
  • [00:49:11.09] And so everything began to shift. So because we had been Chicago. And because we knew something about, and certainly, if nothing else, we were sincere. We loved this music. And I still love it to this day, every bit as much as ever. We got involved. I wasn't a college student. I didn't go to college. But because we were who we were, this band, we just naturally were part of it.
  • [00:49:39.48] And so we ended up being in charge of food and, more important, drink for all the performers. So that we had like a special access, right? Because if they wanted to drink, they had to come to us. And even my dad came down. We had stuff out on the-- maybe it was Big Mama Thornton had stuff out of the back of her-- I think she did. But we were having the comped bottles of whiskey and stuff like that. And we would be looking at where did they get that? It was a trip.
  • [00:50:11.47] So that we got-- and even more, I got to be in charge of interviewing these guys. And this was a life-changing event for me. Some of these performers came to Ann Arbor many days. Some of these acts were paid $200 or $300. Which is not much. And they came to Ann Arbor many days. Some members were lodged at West Quad. Some of them at Michigan League. But they were in town and had nothing to do. Why they came early, I have no idea. But I was told quickly when they were there. So I spent a whole night drinking whiskey, or he drank the whiskey mostly, with Arthur "Big Boy" Crudup, who's pictured on the far back on the left when you go out. An incredible being just to be around. One of the kindest people you would ever meet.
  • [00:51:10.97] We spent another night with Big Mama Thornton just in her hotel room, right. Just talking until we were too tired to do anything. And a lot of whiskey being drunk. And I'm not a great whisky drinker. So--
  • [00:51:24.32] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:51:25.31] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah, she really was. And she was great. And then my dad came down. And we have this great pictures that's in the Blues book of my father, who was like the comptroller at Ferris State University and Roosevelt Sykes. They talked for two or three days straight. And if you look at the picture, you'll see it in the book. If you look underneath their seats, there's just a million beer cans. There's just tons of them. It was pretty good.
  • [00:51:56.67] But here's my dad. And it was like you had to shake your head. You look over and there's my dad and Roosevelt Sykes. For the second day in a row. And they're just talking like crazy. Big Mama Thornton's standing right there with them, right.
  • [00:52:11.34] So one of the things you need to know about the first two Blues Festivals, for one, there never could have been another one. Because even between the first one in 1969 and '70, all kinds of guys died in that one year. Like Magic Sam. No more Magic Sam. I can't imagine it. he was an incredible being. And he was young.
  • [00:52:36.18] So as the years went by, the chances of ever getting-- even when the blues and jazz festivals, as wonderful as they came. Although the blues and jazz festivals did not try to have such a purist thing. They wanted blues, jazz, and you know Ray Charles. And we wanted to make some money and draw more people. None of that, the Blues Festivals didn't do any of that. It was too narrow thinking. It was just like, gosh, we could get these guys here, right? These are our idols. These are the guys in the whole world we'd like to see.
  • [00:53:07.63] But what I didn't realize until it happened was that these folks had never been together themselves before. These blues players had never been together that many ever. They would be clubs where they would be both playing or they'd be in the same city and they'd go and visit. But there'd never be dozens and dozens and dozens of them in one place. So it was somewhat of a celebration for them. And some of the comments in the book you can see are-- this is like a blues all-star get-together Question?
  • [00:53:43.93] AUDIENCE: Yeah, I'm wondering if you noticed, with regard to that, how similar everybody's sets were. Those two sets that you heard. "Stormy Monday" from almost everybody you heard. "Every Day I Have the Blues", and that would be brought about by them never having to be seven blues acts in a row.
  • [00:54:05.39] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: That could be.
  • [00:54:06.08] AUDIENCE: [UNINTELLIGIBLE] You always had to do those tunes every night. But everybody played them.
  • [00:54:11.06] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: That might be true. You know, to be honest with you, I can't remember exactly what the tunes were. But I do remember how they got along. So there were two things happening. One was these guys are getting together with themselves. And this was somewhat like, it really was like a huge party for them. And then, on the other hand, it was a coming out party for people like myself to witness. But I'd already seen it. I've been to Chicago. But many of the people that came to the Blues Festival had not. Who was at that festival? Anyone here? Oh, good. That's-- well, sure.
  • [00:54:56.25] And there's some footage. I'm trying to track down some other footage. Because I'd like to save all this stuff as best I can. Not just have it be forgotten. That's why I'm here now is to try to tell you a little bit of my view of it in case there's not some other views. You know, there are other views. But--
  • [00:55:14.12] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [00:55:15.43] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah, I might check out. I'm trying not to, right. But you know, it's something you have to think about.
  • [00:55:23.86] AUDIENCE: Could you speak a little bit about how they were impressed by people like [INAUDIBLE]?
  • [00:55:31.21] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Listen, these guys loved to be loved. And they loved to be appreciated. Because first of all, many of these artists had been to Europe. Folk and blues. There's a whole thing that went to Europe before anything we did here. And they were treated like royalty. And Europeans in general love American music, especially black American music. You know, it's like classical music to them. But here most of these guys were still scrambling to make anything at all. And really not making a good living.
  • [00:56:09.07] So the idea that suddenly there was a new audience. Even, as I said, the young blacks weren't interested in it. And I think there's a great quote, I think it's even the book or somewhere, B. B. King I have it here somewhere. But I won't try to-- just sort of saying just that. That the young blacks aren't listening to him. But these white people are listening to me. He felt that he was being heard by us. And we were. Because this was like a-- we used to drive into Detroit. And there would be B. B. King in a gymnasium. But he had a small group that sounded like a whole orchestra. He would have Bobby Forte was the sax player. And Duke Jethro was a Hammond B3 player. And all there would be would be B. B. King, beer, and fried chicken. It was incredible.
  • [00:57:04.54] And these guys, this is what's kind of called the Chitlin' Circuit, right? These groups would move around. But a lot of them didn't even do that. Like in Chicago and stuff, I can remember seeing Junior Wells and Little Walter arguing over, almost fighting with each other about who's going to play, who's going to get up at [? Teresa's ?]. It's a little place. Just like with these great rinpoches, I was telling you, these Tibetans, I didn't realize at the time. Just like with Bob Dylan, I didn't realize it was Bob Dylan. Right? I just thought it was guy like me.
  • [00:57:49.32] So those first two festivals were-- And Jim O'Neal who wrote the forward to this book, that's what Living Blues came from. All these guys were there. Johnny Winter was there. I think Bruce Iglauer was there that made Alligator Records. I'm not sure. But peter, you might remember.
  • [00:58:18.78] Looking back, there never was a group, we never had that kind of collection again. Just because you couldn't. Because it atrophied. Now, today, I think I did some statistics. I think there's like, 90% or more are dead. Of all the people that could have been there. And I'm sorry to say, and this is probably going to be offensive to some of you, that kind of blues never going to be again.
  • [00:58:50.51] You can have what I call, and this is kind of offensive, reenactment. Sounds like this. And there are people that have the spirit of the Chicago blues. But that particular blues came out of the Delta. And it came out of the South. And came to Chicago. We can reenact it, black or white or anyone. Doesn't matter. It's history. It's history. And it's a special precious kind of piece of history of ours. But it's not going to be done again. Other things are being done now.
  • [00:59:23.88] And I could be wrong. And I have heard some young players that play pretty damn good. But I haven't met any young player that sets time. I told you that one guy, Aubrey Ghent. He could do it. And if it's done, you know it. Because you are transfixed by it. But that's just me. That's my view of it. Question?
  • [00:59:49.81] AUDIENCE: Michael, I'm not quite following. [INAUDIBLE] you mean can't be recreated? Or you can't learn from it and continue it?
  • [00:59:57.49] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: I'm saying a couple of things. I'm saying we're all going to have the blues, right? We all have it. It doesn't matter what color we are. What race we are. Or where we came from. We all get the blues. But we don't get those blues. We don't get the stuff that came out of the South. Yeah, came up on the train, on the truck. We don't have those blues. We never did. I mean, people like me never had those. And the people that did have it are almost all gone.
  • [01:00:33.13] Those songs, like Junior Wells songs Howlin' Wolf sounds, we're still playing them. But we have to admit, or at least I say, we are reenacting them. This sounded like this. This is what they sound like. But we are not Howlin' Wolf. And we're not Muddy. Muddy Waters was like a king. Just to be in the room with him, everything was like, kind of quiet. Wasn't like a joke, you would joke or anything. Would be like, wow. Would be like being with like the Dalai Lama or something. Kind of like, hmm. That idea. question?
  • [01:01:07.39] AUDIENCE: How did T-Bone Walker fit in, because he was from Texas? And he had a different style than--
  • [01:01:14.46] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Well, totally. Yeah he was a little earlier.
  • [01:01:17.49] AUDIENCE: He was [? effervescent. ?]
  • [01:01:19.19] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah, no. He was. But you're talking about a slightly different kind of blues. It wasn't Chicago blues. But it was T-Bone. T-Bone was like killer. He fit in good. I mean, it was wonderful, right? There's nothing-- I'm not a specialist in that. I mean I've heard a lot of T-Bone Walker. That isn't what I studied most.
  • [01:01:41.07] But there was no problem. He knew everyone. Everyone knew him. But my particular interest was in the city of Chicago electrified blues. And that was what this festival mostly was. Even though we had lots of acoustic music in it. Or some. Not lots.
  • [01:01:59.92] But other questions? I've given you a kind of, there's whole lots of stuff that I could talk about. But I've given you a rough idea. And maybe you have some questions? Or we could talk about stuff. Or or not. Yeah.
  • [01:02:20.16] AUDIENCE: You know, you're saying it was mostly an older generation. What about it seems like there was some young guys like Luther Allison who really connected with kids here when he first came and played at the Union beforehand. And everybody got riled up too.
  • [01:02:39.32] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Absolutely.
  • [01:02:40.22] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:02:41.87] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Luther was someone like my age or something. Or maybe a little younger than me. And he was just a kid, basically. And he wasn't the only one. Yeah. He worshipped those guys. And then he became a hot commodity for a while, right? Yes, shortly thereafter. And Dave Alexander's another one. He hung around. They came and lived in Ann Arbor kind of. Or was here a lot. At the Blind Pig or here or there. I think you of Luther as someone like myself that was studying it. But had the inside track, right? He knew that culture and came from it. But he was cool. I mean, a nice guy. That I remember. I didn't know him real well. He hung out. He was paying his dues. And then doing this stuff, right? Any other questions? Yeah?
  • [01:03:46.00] AUDIENCE: Well, you got into a little about that night with John Lee and all. Could you elaborate more about what happened?
  • [01:03:55.79] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: No. Oh, you mean, what I was describing was that Jimmy Cotton, who was a singer, harp player, right? Was having trouble getting in the groove. That's what I was elaborating. John Lee was waiting for him to finish so they could you know get together and just talk. And stuff like that.
  • [01:04:18.01] AUDIENCE: Did Hooker influence [UNINTELLIGIBLE]?
  • [01:04:19.88] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Oh, I think Hooker influenced everyone. Hooker was like Muddy Waters. There was no joking with him. He was like a really serious guy, I though. But really nice. Not mean. But you got quiet around him. You didn't get quiet around Jimmy Cotton or a lot of them. They were just-- that wasn't what happened. John Lee was like another Muddy Waters. Like he was a very, very serious guy. But he was cool, right? Very cool guy. I didn't known him very well. Question?
  • [01:04:57.53] AUDIENCE: How much younger was James Cotton as compared to Muddy? Do you know?
  • [01:05:01.29] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: He was quite a bit younger. I don't know the exact number of years and stuff. But remember, he played with Muddy at one point for a while. But he came in much later. I don't know exactly. But we was definitely-- I mean, Muddy was Muddy. And the only person that, if there was a war, it was kind of like a war between Muddy and Wolf.
  • [01:05:27.73] And is I think a war that Wolf won. Wolf what's a pretty incredible being. And I do have a complete interview with him in that book. If you haven't read it, my friend John Sinclair says it's the best Wolf interview ever done. Not to my credit. Because I never said a word. It was all just a monologue from Wolf. But it's an incredible verbal document.
  • [01:05:56.31] And I think that Wolf was a real gentleman also. Even though he would get down on his knees and crawl around and bark like a dog or howl like a wolf. He didn't care what he did. But you still had an incredible respect for him. Because he had an incredible mind.
  • [01:06:17.12] If you read that interview, it's a trip. He's talking about all of us people. While people. Those of us who would come and hear him. We had little bitty hearts. And great big heads. And that we were trying to get great big hearts. So you should read the interview. It's pretty damn cool. Question?
  • [01:06:41.24] AUDIENCE: What was his speaking voice like?
  • [01:06:43.80] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Which one?
  • [01:06:45.10] AUDIENCE: What was his speaking voice like?
  • [01:06:46.63] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Who?
  • [01:06:47.31] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:06:48.52] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Big guy. He was big and deep. But--
  • [01:06:52.68] AUDIENCE: Very impressive.
  • [01:06:53.35] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah. I don't know precisely what it was like. I mean, he wasn't always, he wasn't really a ham offstage. Around me anyway. Amy did you have something? Oh you get--
  • [01:07:11.28] AUDIENCE: I was going to say Howlin' Wolf sounded exactly like you would expect him to sound on the phone or anything. Hey, hey this is Howlin' Wolf.
  • [01:07:20.22] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yes.
  • [01:07:21.05] AUDIENCE: He sounded talking just like he did.
  • [01:07:23.52] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah.
  • [01:07:24.51] AUDIENCE: Michael, wasn't he influenced by Charley Patton?
  • [01:07:27.48] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Which one?
  • [01:07:27.95] AUDIENCE: Wolf.
  • [01:07:29.56] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: You know, probably. be Charley Patton would have influenced a lot of people, right? Any of the Delta stuff. There's like a whole, there's a whole lineage there of players.
  • [01:07:39.67] AUDIENCE: I asked that question with [? Peter ?] something.
  • [01:07:42.88] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Oh.
  • [01:07:43.85] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] started telling me the story, which I couldn't. I think Wolf had knocked all his teeth out or something. He didn't speak really well.
  • [01:07:53.51] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Wolf knocked someone's teeth out?
  • [01:07:55.69] AUDIENCE: Ah, [INAUDIBLE] someone.
  • [01:07:57.87] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Well, someone tried to leave Wolf's band at one point.
  • [01:08:01.49] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:08:02.41] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: That's right. And then Wolf threatened Muddy. And it better never happen again kind of thing. Something like that. I wouldn't mess with Wolf.
  • [01:08:12.88] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:08:15.24] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Yeah. Go ahead.
  • [01:08:17.08] AUDIENCE: I just wanted to make a comment. Thank you for coming and sharing with us. I'm as a spectator and as a performer back during those times.
  • [01:08:28.64] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: You were?
  • [01:08:29.86] AUDIENCE: Oh yes. And one of those groups that you mentioned, I mean you failed to mention, was a group I played in along with the Rationals as well. It was called The Apostles. Maybe somebody--
  • [01:08:39.41] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: What's your name?
  • [01:08:40.43] AUDIENCE: My name is Louis. Louis Franklin.
  • [01:08:42.34] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Oh, Louis. How are you?
  • [01:08:43.96] AUDIENCE: People knew me back then--
  • [01:08:45.68] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Louis is an old friend.
  • [01:08:47.23] AUDIENCE: There we go.
  • [01:08:48.05] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Absolutely. there was a great number of bands. And Louis was a wonderful being.
  • [01:08:51.29] AUDIENCE: I thought I'd get that little advertisement. But what I wanted to speak to is because you've been speaking about perspectives. And for the most part, you've been speaking about the white perspective.
  • [01:09:02.84] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: That's right. Good reason.
  • [01:09:04.84] AUDIENCE: Because I was developing and growing at the time. And I do agree with you that the African American response to the incorporation and trying to develop and bring the blues to the market or to a group of young people was a lot different than whites. We as a group didn't have that kind of attraction to the people you're talking about. Almost hailing, as heroes, which I believe that they are in musical terms. I know myself, I was still steeped in a tradition at that time, which was more rhythm and blues. Motown. Matter of factly, if one could look at some pictures of me, I went through progressions of discarding what was the traditional kind of music that young people, African Americans were involved in.
  • [01:10:02.70] But to make this short, I'm saying that I had opportunities. And I was thankful for it. Because I've met and I've played with people like Luther Allison, who you just mentioned. And I know Luther was concerned about trying to make blues, what is it, something that young blacks at that time could embrace.
  • [01:10:29.16] And I remember being in not Chicago, but up in Madison, Wisconsin. A place where he frequented, and talking in clubs before I became a part of his group. Because he had listened to me. And figured that I could give the blues that he was playing a bit more excitement. So I said that to say this. That was a period of learning for black musicians, for white musicians. But maybe especially for the white musicians who were more experimental, more daring than African American musicians were. Because I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time to go on to play with some people like John Lee Hooker as well down in Detroit at the Grande Ballroom. And stuff like that.
  • [01:11:17.55] So I've had some experiences along the way playing with some of these blues people. And in order for me to-- But then I wanted to go real quick now. And I don't want to get steeped in it. But we have to bring in that. Because you mentioned about your trips to the Orient and Tibetan Buddhism. And the kind of spiritualism that was influencing you as a person, in your personhood. And paralyzing, I mean, not paralyzing, paralleling that to your interactions and experiences with the blues players from the South, from the Delta, from Chicago.
  • [01:12:00.76] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: They're both teachers.
  • [01:12:02.13] AUDIENCE: And the one thing that they were holding a common that most of us young blacks, believe it or not, were not paying attention to, even though the Beatles and the Rolling Stones were pointing out where this music was coming from. But what they weren't emphasizing and pointing out to us is the soil, if you will, that that music was being produced from. And that was the soil of the American racism. And all of the Jim Crow. And all of that mixture that went into the substance of that music that you're appreciating today. Do you see what I'm saying?
  • [01:12:41.84] And so therefore, because as a young black back then, we had a disconnect with that black experience. And we were more or less more disposed to deal with the music of that day that was trying to develop itself and realize itself in some recognizable empiric that we could all embrace.
  • [01:13:08.70] So like I said, it's a lot. I had a lot of deep experiences there. And a lot of those blues people that I've met and performed with, we performed all over as well. So I'll give the microphone to somebody else.
  • [01:13:23.32] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: Just right. Yeah, Louis, it's nice to see you again. We were friends back then if you remember. That was neat. I can't see that well that far back. Any other quick questions? We have to do some signing in a minute.
  • [01:13:36.74] AUDIENCE: Have you heard of the recent documentary, Pocket Full of Soul?
  • [01:13:40.02] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: No. What is it?
  • [01:13:41.48] AUDIENCE: It's a documentary on the history of the harmonica. And it focuses on Little Walter.
  • [01:13:48.44] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: I would love to see that. Has anyone seen, there's a video called Piano Players Seldom Get to Play Together. Has anyone seen that? It's wonderful. it's Professor Longhair, Tuts Washington and Allen Toussaint getting together to make a documentary on playing together. But in the process, Professor Longhair dies. And it turns into the whole wake and burial thing. It's just very, very powerful. And if you ever get a chance to see it, you should. Because not only is a music incredible. But you're seeing a part of New Orleans and stuff that you never will see. And it's very touching. Beautiful thing. Question?
  • [01:14:35.20] AUDIENCE: I have some questions on, did you have any time to talk with Hound Dog Taylor? [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:14:46.88] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: No. I didn't book any of that. I've had nothing to do with booking. I did talk to Hound Dog, of course I don't remember exactly about what. I'm trying to find the tapes that we made. And the university's apparently lost some of them. I don't know whether the blues and jazz stuff might be in the archive?
  • [01:15:06.65] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:15:07.33] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: The blues and jazz. All the interviewing that I did for you guys. Do you have--?
  • [01:15:12.11] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:15:15.06] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: OK. I'm going to try to find it.
  • [01:15:17.17] AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE]
  • [01:15:26.32] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: What I did was a lot of video and audio recording of interviews. And I wonder whether you have any of that.
  • [01:15:33.41] AUDIENCE: There's some interview footage. But I'm not sure.
  • [01:15:37.64] MICHAEL ERLEWINE: I would love-- I would like to find out if it's any of the stuff I did. I'd like to get a hold of it and finish transcribing it.
  • [01:15:47.01] I think we have to kind of bring it to close. And we're going to get Stanley up here and myself. If anyone wants to have books signed, which I've never done that kind of stuff before. But thank you very, very much for coming and being part.
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August 19, 2010 at the Downtown Library: Multi-Purpose Room

Length: 1:34:00

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)

Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library

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Subjects
Ann Arbor Blues Festival
Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival
Blues Music
Ann Arbor
Books & Authors
History
Local History
Music
Michael Erlewine
John Sinclair