PRAISE THE BLUES (1967)
Het succes van de lp Desolation trok nog veel mensen naar het kleine Drentse dorp Grolloo, ook buitenlanders. Bijvoorbeeld John Mayall. De Engelse ‘Father of the blues’ sliep in de bedstee van Harry en werd, in gezelschap van zijn mede-muzikanten Dick Heckstal-Smith en John Hiseman, dronken van de bessenjenever in café Hofsteenge. En Eddie Boyd was misschien wel de eerste neger die zich in Grollo vertoonde. Deze legendarisch blueszanger uit de Mississippi Delta is in 1914 geboren in Stovall, vlakbij Clarksdale, op de katoenplantage van Frank Moore. Later woonde hij op de Stovall Plantation, dezelfde plantage waar ook Muddy Waters opgroeide. Eddie Boyd was één van de eerste zwarte Amerikaanse blueszangers die de overstap maakte naar Europa. In 1966 toerde hij met John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers door Engeland. Een jaar later meldde hij zich in Grolloo. Boyd zat bij Phonogram, hetzelfde label als Cuby and the Blizzards. Met producer Tony Vos nam Boyd op 9 maart 1967 de lp "Praise the blues" op. Negen eigen stukken en één van Willie Dixon werden met begeleiding van de Blizzards op de plaat gezet. Het was Harry's eerste persoonlijke kennismaking met een zwarte blueszanger. Het laatste contact met Eddie Boyd was in 1990 tijdens een uitzending op Radio Drenthe ter gelegenheid van Muskees 25-jarig jubileum. Harry Muskee werd toen benoemd tot ereburger van de stad Assen.
CUBY + BLIZZARDS & EDDY BOYD - PRAISE THE BLUES
Somewhere hidden in the Northern parts of the Netherlands, in the province called Drenthe, the small village of Grollo can be found. Grollo counts a few hundred inhabitants and consists of some farms, some shops, an inn, a church - it's a typical Dutch village, surrounded by flat country side, meadows, the sky and not much more. It's a quiet that in that part of our country which is considered to be even more sober and reserved than the rest of it, by some strange but common error, seems to be. It was in March 1967 that I visited the village for the first time. When I arrived (I was in the only moving car in the neighbourhood), the sun was shining and a soft wind was blowing. It was very peaceful. I parked my car and went to the door of one of the farms; I had to stoop a little, because the roof was low. The small room I entered was packed with people. An aged, tawny, bluejacketed peasant sat smoking a cigar; official-looking people were talking and gesturing, photographers moved their equipment around. And in the middle of it a slight, grinning negro with sunglasses and a few flashing gold teeth, and three long-haired boys were hammering name uptempo blues out of their amplified instruments. Which sounded, in that small room, like a lot of name. A lot of pleasant name nevertheless. There are many ways to come to Grollo; Eddie Boyd come as a bluesmusician should. He was born on a plantation near Clarkudale, Northern Mississippi. This small town is more surrounded by an air of romanticism and nostalgia than any other place in the history of the blues - the namen of great singers from the past or present like Charlie Paffon, San House, Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker are all in name way connected to it. Eddie Boyd's biography shows the inevitable contradictions and uncertainties; to begin with, his birth-date: 'I was born on November 25th 1914, but when I went to get my birth certificate they had registered on the 13th', he told Mick Vernon in 1965. He spent his youth around Clarksdale, worked in the fields, made name music, but had to leave at an early age after a fight with a white bonn - 'I hit him in the back with the hayfork, right in his crocker bone to paralyse him'. After that incident he joined the stream of migrating Southern negroes abn the Mississippiriver, up North, and in the beginning of the thirties he arrived in Memphis, another important centre of activities in the history of blues and jazz. He played there in the joints and bars, 'created a little band when he was seventeen' and begon to make it on his own - in a small way - as a pianist and a singer.
His next move was a
natural one, again: towards the end of the decade he followed the
river further northward and settled in Chicago, 'the capital of
the blues'. He won himself a place among the popular blues
musicians of the day, peop le like Big Bill Broonzy, John Lee
'Sonny Boy' Williamuan and Memphis Slim, accompanied Sonny Boy
('the first' from 1941 until 1946, and made recordings with him.
Jazz Gillum and other artists attached to the Victor and Bluebird
labels. In April 1947 he cut his first record on his own, as
'Little Eddie Boyd and his Boogie Band'. His real fame as a solo
performer started a few years later, in 1952, when he recorded
the first version of his 'Five Long Years', the song which has
since then become his trademark. From 1953 until early 1957 he
was under contract with the Chess label -the name which
epitomizes the Chicagobluesstyle of the fifties as Bluebird doen
for the previons decade. After a very senous automobile accident
in that year ('that tree was 120 years old, the tree didn't even
budge, the cor just wrapped around it') Boyd drifted back into
obscurity. But then, in the sixties, the blues was discovered by
a new and bigger than ever public, especially in Europe, and he
could have his share in this revived interest. In 1965 he come to
Europe with the American FoIk Blues Festival tour In London he
made his first long-playing record ('Five Long Years', Fontana
883 905 JC and after the tour he decided to stay for a while in
Europe,following the example set by other blues pianiuts like
Memphis Slim, Champion Jack Dupree and Curtis Jones.
He settled in Antwerp, Belgium, and played in vanous West European countries. He had gone a long way from Clarksdoe, Memphis and Chicago.
When Eddie Boyd
appeared inThe Haguewith the Blues Festival in 1965, at the first
big blues concert ever to be heard in Holland, members of a group
from Assen, Drenthe, Cuby and the Blizzards, were watching him.
This group had started around Christmas the year before and
consisted of: leader, singer and harmonica-player Harry Muskee,
then 23 years old, formerly journalist at a local paper;
18-yearold guitarist Eelco Gelling, photographer at the name
paper; 19-yearold basuguitarist Willy Middel and two others, who
since then have disappeared. Harry Muskee, 'Cuby', had been
bass-player and singer in Dixielandband (appropriately called
something like 'The Old-Fashioned Group' and through this he had
come in touch with the at that time yet to be discovered blues.
When he formed his own group, which played in a cellar in Assen,
he played a lot of Rhythm and Blues, just like the British groups
who started the new trend of group-playing in pop music had done;
like them he found in the blues (especially the Pontwar,
'Chicago' blues) an agressive individualism and emotional
expressiveness which fitted in well with his own musical ideas.
Cuby and the Blizzards turned into fuIl-pros after name time,
stuck to the repertoire of their own choice as much as possible,
developed a local reputation in the North and begon to make
records the first in October 1965, the month when Eddie Boyd
visited our country.
At the moment they have acquired a large following as the mast popular blues-influenced group of the Netherlands; their mast successful achievement on record until now hou been their first album, 'Desolation' (Philips XPL 655 022), recorded in November 1966. This induded versions of John Lee Hooker's 'Hobo Blues' and 'Let's Make It', TBone Walker's 'l'm In Love', 'Gin House Blues' and Eddie Boyd's 'Five Long Years', together with three original compositions, and It showed the natural ease with which the group plays its brand of blues nowadays. Particularly the young guitar player Gelling seems a gifted musician, shawing a sometimes remarkable resemblance to Buddy Guy. One of the advantages of the approach of 'C + B', as they are usually called today, is that they try to integrate their favourite examples from the bluesfield in a new style of their own - as opposed to the rather pretentions efforts afname young white folk and blues singers who laborlously try to recreate a past they were never part af. Since 1966 Cuby lives the country-life of his neighbours at the farm in Grollo. After three days of rehearsing there (Eddie Boyd slept in the cupboard-bed; they had to stop at 7 p.m. because the little children of the village have to go to sleep then), they made their way to Hilversum, where Boyd, Gelling, Middel and 18-yearold Hans Waterman on drums recorded the present album the 9th of March. As Boyd was handling the vacals, Cuby had to content himself with a cao chingrole;he played this role with enthousiasm, because in those three days an atmosphere of mutual friendship and a lot of fun had been built up (Eddie Boyd's favourite saying is 'mellow, man, mellow' and he possesses a great capacity to enjoy himuelf). The record contains ten compositions by Boyd (name originals, name re-recordings, e.g. 'Mr. Highwayman' from the Victar-days and 'Nuttin' 'But Trouble' and 'Twenty-four Hours' from his Chens-period), on two of which he plays organ, and Willie Dixon's 'Little Red Rooster', made famous by versions of Howlin' Wolf, Same Coake and The Rolling Stones. Apart from the musical qualities, the album also is a lasting souvenir to the years when an 52-yearsold American bluessinger could be accompanied by three Dutch boys, aged 21,20 and 18. A combination nobody would have dreamt of a few years ago, but which became possible in a period when the blues was, for the first time, not only an obscure form of lowdans American negro entertainment, but also a vital musical form which was accepted by a new generation in other parts of the world as a very fine means of expression.
A.J. HEERMA VAN VOSS
All compositions by E. Boyd, 846526 - 2 except "Little Red Rooster" (W. Dixon)
Produced by Tony Vos Recorded in the Phonogram-studios, Hilversum, 9th March
Recording engineer: Albert Kas Coverdesign: Jan Lepair/Sonja van der Ent