Local and State News      National News and Beyond

Local and State News

Danielle Nichole Performs at Token Lounge

Danielle Nichole, the founding member, lead singer, and bass player of Kansas City blues-rock band Trampled Under Foot, stepped out on her own in 2015 with her debut album “Wolf Den.” In 2018, Nicole returns with a follow-up release via Concord Records. 

Danielle brought her Blues/Roots/Soul Singer performance to the Token Lounge in Westland, Michigan October 25, 2018.

National News and Beyond

Save the date International Blues Challenge #35: January 22-26, 2019

The International Blues Challenge represents the worldwide search for those Blues Bands and Solo/Duo Blues Acts ready to perform on the international stage, yet just needing that extra big break. Each Affiliate of The Blues Foundation has the right to send a band and a solo/duo act to represent its organization at the IBC.

Melvin Ragin, known as “Wah Wah Watson” Passes at Age 67

Melvin Ragin, known as “Wah Wah Watson” for the textured sounds he conjured from his guitar and wah wah pedal for stars of soul and funk, died on Wednesday October 24, 2018. He was 67 years old.

He joined the Motown house band, the Funk Brothers, in 1968 and later played on one of the Temptations’ most iconic singles, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” which incorporates long, flickering funk riffs, bluesy excursions and pointillistic solos. The shimmery, lingering guitar part after the line “it was the third of September” is a perfect demonstration of the wah wah pedal effect.

Ragin went on to appear on both Marvin Gaye’s sensual masterpieces, Let’s Get It On and I Want You, Quincy Jones’ successful solo LP, Body Heat, Rose Royce’s breakout album, Car Wash, Smokey Robinson’s Love Breeze, disco classics from Gloria Gaynor (“I Will Survive”) and Michael Jackson’s solo starmaking LP Off the Wall, which still lights up clubs today.

Ragin was born in Richmond, Virginia in 1950, but later moved to Detroit. He was just 20 years old when he was called into Motown for a session with Norman Whitfield the producer who shepherded the Temptations through their wildly successful orchestral-funk phase. Watson impressed Whitfield enough to get called back, which eventually led to his work on “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.”

One of Watson's first musical efforts was a member of a local group called The Montclairs, who performed frequently in the city and recorded a single in the 1960s. The group also featured future Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey on drums.

When Ragin arrived in Detroit, he was not yet feeding his guitar lines through the wah wah pedal, the famous gizmo that allowed players to add all sorts of striations and wrinkles to their riffs.
At first Ragin found the device mystifying.

He achieved his goal, playing countless sessions on guitar and helping Whitfield, who would often experiment in sessions by adding a second bassist or a second drummer, expand the sonic potential of soul. In addition to his instrumental prowess, Ragin apparently made cutting jokes in the studio.

Ragin’s pace slowed in the 1980s as R&B embraced synthesizers and drum programming and arranged big-band funk lost some of its commercial momentum. But as R&B experienced a back-to-the-source moment in the Nineties, Ragin was once again in high demand, contributing to Me’shell Ndegéocello’s, Plantation Lullabies and Peace Beyond Passion, Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite and Now, and Brian McKnight’s Brian McKnight and I Remember You. Most memorable was in the summer of 1983, he toured with the late Marvin Gaye. The Midnight Love Tour unfortunately was Marvin's last tour.

Ragin’s influence also extended far beyond his discography. When Stuart Matthewman began to work with Sade before her debut album, Diamond Life, the start of a partnership that would eventually sell over 50 million albums worldwid.

Glenn Schwartz Passes !

Glenn Schwartz (March 20, 1941 – November 2, 2018) was an American guitarist and original member of the James Gang, based in Cleveland, Ohio.

The James Gang did not have a recording contract, nor did the group gain any attention until Joe Walsh joined the band. Schwartz’s tenure in the group was brief. He does not appear on any of their albums, and left at the end of 1967, to be replaced by Joe Walsh.

He later joined the Los Angeles based blues band Pacific Gas & Electric in 1970. The band drew on blues and soul as the root of their hard rock sound. Following an appearance at the Miami Pop Festival in December of 1968, the band signed with Columbia Records, who issued their self-titled second LP in 1969.

By this time, the band had rounded out their sound with a horn section, putting them nicely alongside acts like Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago Transit Authority. In the spring of 1970, PG&E released their third album, Are You Ready? Though the album didn't fare as hoped, the title track was issued as a single which climbed to No. 14 on the Billboard charts.

While in Los Angeles on tour with the James Gang in 1967, Schwartz strolled onto the infamous Sunset Strip and stopped next to a small group of people listening to a street preacher. Sometime later he professed conversion to Christianity, saying "I was finally blessed by mercy for I heard the Gospel of Christ."

Tired of the rock and roll life, he left PG&E to join a pioneering Gospel rock group All Saved Freak Band, which was the musical evangelistic arm of an Ohio religious group the Church of the Risen ChristAll. Schwartz recorded four albums with the Freak Band before leaving it in 1980.

Through the 1990s and 2000s, Schwartz played weekly blues gigs every Thursday at Major Hoopples just outside Cleveland often with his brother Gene playing bass. Changes at venues and increasing health issues kept him from playing live for a few years after 2010.  Schwartz returned to the stage for a 75th birthday show and an impromptu jam at Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival with Joe Walsh and The Arcs, featuring Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys.

Over the years Schwartz kept playing, preaching his gospel while constantly turning heads with his prowess on the guitar. There were many a night at Cleveland night clubs such as Major Hooples, where he played every Thursday night for over 20 years, where he would start the evening with some amazing playing before quickly turning the stage into a pulpit, preaching to the crowd and often berating members of the audience for not living a pure lifestyle.

Despite his tendencies for what one could call savage preaching, Schwartz was a gentle soul whose love for playing guitar was second only to his love for Christ. His final performance was at a 70th birthday party on September 30, 2018 at in his hometown of Cleveland, Ohio.

'Polk Salad Annie' songwriter Tony Joe White dead at 75

"Polk Salad Annie" and "Rainy Night in Georgia" songwriter Tony Joe White died suddenly late Wednesday October 24, 2018 at his home in Leiper's Fork, according to his family.

"He wasn’t ill at all," said his son, Jody White. "He just had a heart attack...there was no pain or suffering."

White was 75 years old, and known for his deep, growling voice and potent "swamp rock" sound, which incorporated elements of blues, rock, country and R&B. Over the last half-century, his songs have been recorded by countless greats, including Elvis Presley, Dusty Springfield, Brook Benton, Ray Charles, Tina Turner and many more.

It was White's 1972 record "The Train I'm On," produced by Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd, that first captivated Miller: "The songwriting, his singing, everything came together. It was just like the perfect storm of soul in every way...and we need all the soul we can get these days."

Tony Joe White was born July 23, 1943 near Oak Grove, Louisiana. He was the youngest of seven children, and grew up on a cotton farm.Both of his parents and all of his siblings played music but he wasn't inspired to pick up an instrument until his early teens, when he first heard bluesman Lightnin' Hopkins."Up to then, I never played nothing. I just sit and listened." he'd said. "But man, I started sneaking my dad’s guitar up to my room at night and learning the blues."

He was first inspired to write his own songs after hearing Bobbie Gentry's 1967 chart-topper "Ode to Billie Joe." Drawing on his own life experiences, White penned enduring classics like "Rainy Night in Georgia," which has been recorded by Brook Benton and more than 100 other artists, all before he turned 30.

In the late 1960s, White signed with Monument Records. His debut album, "Black and White," was recorded in Nashville and released in 1969. Its song "Soul Francisco" was a hit in France, but it didn't take long before American audiences warmed to the

Last month, White released blues album "Bad Mouthin'," which he recorded in a no-frills recording studio that used to be a two-stall horse barn. The record included covers of songs recorded by Hopkins, John Lee Hooker and Big Joe Williams, among others,and a couple originals he wrote before "Polk Salad Annie."The album came out on September 28 the same night, he made his Grand Ole Opry debut.

Shortly before his death, White recorded several new songs that will hopefully be released in the future, said Jody White.