henry gray

Henry Gray (January 19, 1925 - February 17, 2020

Henry Gray was a beloved musician for more than 80 years,  performing throughout the United States, Europe and Japan. His festival performances included 39 appearances at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival as well as engagements at the Montreux Jazz Festival, the prominent King Biscuit Blues Festival in Helena, Arkansas, and the Chicago and Baton Rouge blues festivals.

A Chicago resident from 1946 to 1968, Gray worked with many of the city’s classic blues artists, including Jimmy Reed, Jimmy Rogers, James Cotton and his fellow Louisiana natives Buddy Guy, Little Walter Jacobs and Morris Pejoe.

Playing blues and rock ’n’ roll standards as well as his original songs, Gray typically performed a mix of joyfully up-tempo selections and heart-wrenching blues. His many honors included the National Endowment for the Arts’ National Heritage Fellowship Award he received in 2006. The Memphis-based Blues Foundation inducted Gray into its Hall of Fame in 2017, the same year it inducted Mavis Staples. In 1998, Gray received a best traditional blues album Grammy nomination for “A Tribute to Howlin’ Wolf.”

Incidents such as the 1989 tornado strike that destroyed his house in north Baton Rouge and the city bus that crashed into his car in Chicago in 1951 earned Gray his nickname — Lucky Man. He served in the South Pacific during World War II and survived the 2016 flood that affected thousands of Baton Rouge area households.

Born January 19, 1925, in Kenner, Gray grew up in the East Baton Rouge Parish community of Alsen. A woman in his neighborhood taught him to play blues piano. His religious parents disapproved until his father realized Henry could earn money playing music.

Following his service in the U.S. Army during World War II, Gray returned to Louisiana, but didn’t stay long.
In 1946, Gray moved to Chicago, a destination city for African Americans who left the South and brought the blues with them. He found a mentor in Big Maceo Merriweather, one of the city’s great piano men.

Gray spent 12 of his 22 years in Chicago playing piano in blues star Howlin’ Wolf’s band. Gray recorded for several record labels, including Chess Records in Chicago, APO, Telarc Blues, Bluebeat, Hightone, Wolf, Blind Pig and Lucky Cat. Three of his recordings are featured on the 1992 MCA box set “Chess Blues.”

In 2004, Gray released the DVD “Henry Gray & the Cats: Live in Paris.” The French audience treated his performance as if it were a classical recital in a world-class concert hall.

Gray is also featured with Dr. John in the Clint Eastwood-directed “Piano Blues,” an episode of the Martin Scorsese-produced 2003 PBS series, “The Blues.”

A songwriter as well as a singer and pianist, Gray’s original songs on his 2009 album, “Times Are Gettin’ Hard,” include “Barack Obama Boogie,” his homage to the first African American president. “He’s my man,” Gray sings. “If he can’t do it, can’t nobody can.”

Gray’s recordings include 2015’s “The Henry Gray/Bob Corritore Sessions, Vol. 1: Blues Won’t Let Me Take My Rest” ‎and 2017’s “92.” Grammy-winning zydeco artist Terrance Simien, co-producer of “92,” met Gray at the 1984 World’s Fair in New Orleans.

Even while Gray appeared at festivals around the world, he played regularly at the Piccadilly cafeteria on Baton Rouge's Government Street for more than a decade. In his early 90s, Gray gigged at the Time Out Lounge every Tuesday for nearly three years. He refused to stop performing there despite a collapsed lung and a mild heart attack he experienced in quick succession. Henry Gray died Monday  February 17 at 95.

snooky young

Eugene Edward "Snooky" Young

Eugene Edward "Snooky" Young (February 3, 1919 – May 11, 2011) was an American jazz trumpeter. He was known for his mastery of the plunger mute, with which he was able to create a wide range of sounds.

Young was lead trumpeter of the Jimmie Lunceford band from 1939 to 1942. He played with Count Basie for three stints totalling eight years), Gerald Wilson and Lionel Hampton, among others. Young  and was an original member of the Thad Jones/Mel Lewis Big Band.

His longest engagement was with NBC, where, as a studio trumpeter, he joined The Tonight Show Band in 1967 and stayed with them until 1992, when the band was replaced by a new, smaller group.

He was also part of the touring ensemble that traveled with Doc Severinsen, performing live concert dates, corporate events, and headlined shows in the main rooms of Las Vegas. The one nighters usually occurred on Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays, as Severinsen was committed to The Tonight Show on weeknights.

For the Las Vegas gigs, the nucleus of Severinsen's touring band consisting of Young, conductor Steve Thoma, and drummer Paul Line would commute to Vegas nightly, leaving Van Nuys airport around 6:00pm via Lear Jet, arriving in Las Vegas by 7:00. A limousine would transport the musicians directly backstage, where they would dress and prepare for an 8:00 pm and midnight show. Then back to the airport for the ride back to Los Angeles, where Severinsen and Young had their NBC gig, and Steve Thomas and Paul Line were undertaking studio sessions daily.

Young performed nightly with Severinsen, and he was featured prominently for several solos, as well as a trumpet version of "Dueling Banjos". He continued to perform in Los Angeles, appearing on the classic 1976 Coconut Grove recording Bobby Bland and B.B. King Together Again...Live and again on King's 2008 album One Kind Favor.
He was one of horn players that accompanied rock group The Band on their 1972 live album Rock of Ages.

Young recorded only three albums under his own name. The 1971 album, Boys from Dayton, featured Norris Turney on alto sax, Booty Wood on trombone, Richard Tee on piano and organ, and Cornell Dupree on guitar.  His 1978 album with altoist Marshal Royal, Snooky and Marshal's Album, featured pianist Ross Tompkins, rhythm guitarist Freddie Green, bassist Ray Brown and drummer Louie Bellson. Horn of Plenty features Ross Tompkins on piano, John Collins on guitar, Ray Brown on bass, and Jake Hanna on drums.

He received a NEA Jazz Masters Award for 2009 on October 17, 2008 at Lincoln Center in New York City.

Throughout the years, Snooky recorded and performed with Gerald Wilson (a friend since the Lunceford days) and his Orchestra. Until 2010 he was still playing and recording with the Clayton-Hamilton Jazz Orchestra.

bubby boldon

Buddy Bolden

Charles Joseph "Buddy" Bolden (September 6, 1877 – November 4, 1931) was an African-American cornetist who was regarded by contemporaries as a key figure in the development of a New Orleans style of ragtime music, or "jass", which later came to be known as jazz.

Bolden's father, Westmore Bolden, worked as a "driver" for William Walker, the former master of Buddy's grandfather Gustavus Bolden (who died in 1866) at the time of Buddy's birth. Boldon’s  mother, Alice (née Harris), was 18 on August 14, 1873, when she married Westmore (who was around 25 at the time, as records indicate he was 19 in August 1866). His father died when Buddy was six, after which the boy lived with his mother and family members .  In records of the period the family name is variously spelled Bolen, Bolding, Boldan, and Bolden, thus complicating research. Buddy likely attended Fisk School in New Orleans, though evidence is circumstantial, as early records of this and other local schools are missing.

Bolden was known as "King" Bolden  and his band was popular in New Orleans from around 1900 to 1907. He was known for his loud sound and improvisational skills, and his style had an impact on younger musicians. Bolden's trombonist Willie Cornish (among others) recalled making phonograph cylinder recordings with the Bolden band, but there are no known surviving copies.

The Bolden band around 1905 (top: Jimmy Johnson, bass; Bolden, cornet; Willy Cornish, valve trombone; Willy Warner, clarinet; bottom: Brock Mumford, guitar; Frank Lewis, clarinet.

Many early jazz musicians credited Bolden and his bandmates with having originated what came to be known as jazz, though the term was not in common musical use until after the era of Bolden's prominence. At least one writer has labeled Bolden the father of jazz. He is credited with creating a looser, more improvised version of ragtime and adding blues. Bolden's band was said to be the first to have brass instruments play the blues. He was also said to have adapted ideas from gospel music.

Instead of imitating other cornetists, Bolden played music he heard "by ear" and adapted it to his horn. In doing so, he created an exciting and novel fusion of ragtime, black sacred music, marching-band music, and rural blues. He rearranged the typical New Orleans dance band of the time to better accommodate the blues: string instruments became the rhythm section, and the front-line instruments were clarinets, trombones, and Bolden's cornet. Bolden was known for his powerful, loud, "wide open" playing style. Joe "King" Oliver, Freddie Keppard, Bunk Johnson, and other early New Orleans jazz musicians were directly inspired by his playing.[citation needed]

No known recordings of Bolden have survived. His trombonist Willy Cornish asserted that Bolden's band had made at least one phonograph cylinder in the late 1890s. Three other old-time New Orleans musicians, George Baquet, Alphonse Picou and Bob Lyons also remembered a recording session ("Turkey in the Straw", according to Baquet) in the early 1900s. The researcher Tim Brooks believes that these cylinders, if they existed, may have been privately recorded for local music dealers and were never commercially distributed.

Some of the songs first associated with his band, such as the traditional song "Careless Love" and "My Bucket's Got a Hole in It", are still standards. Bolden often closed his shows with the original number "Get Out of Here and Go Home", although for more "polite" gigs, the last number would be "Home! Sweet Home!".

One of the most famous Bolden numbers is "Funky Butt" (later known as "Buddy Bolden's Blues"), which represents one of the earliest references to the concept of funk in popular music. Bolden's "Funky Butt" was, as Danny Barker once put it, a reference to the olfactory effect of an auditorium packed full of sweaty people "dancing close together and belly rubbing." "Funky Butt" was one of many in the Bolden repertory with rude or off-color lyrics popular in some of the rougher places where he played; Bolden's trombonist Willy Cornish claimed authorship. It became so well known as a rude song that even whistling the melody on a public street was considered offensive.

Bolden is also credited with the invention of the "Big Four", a key rhythmic innovation on the marching band beat, which gave embryonic jazz much more room for individual improvisation. As Wynton Marsalis explains, it was the first syncopated bass drum pattern to deviate from the standard on-the-beat march. The second half of the Big Four is the pattern commonly known as the hambone rhythm developed from sub-Saharan African music traditions.

Bolden suffered an episode of acute alcoholic psychosis in 1907 at age 30. With the full diagnosis of dementia praecox (today called schizophrenia). He was admitted to the Louisiana State Insane Asylum at Jackson, a mental institution, where he spent the rest of his life.

While there is substantial first-hand oral history about Bolden, facts about his life continue to be lost amidst colorful myth. Stories about his being a barber by trade or that he published a scandal sheet called The Cricket have been repeated in print despite being debunked decades earlier.