Local Music Feature: Travelin' blues

Expatriate Louisiana Red visits Blind Willie's; locals play Switzerland

The story of singer/guitarist Louisiana Red reads like a fictionalized Hollywood account of the life of a blues musician. Red (real name: Iverson Minter), who plays at Blind Willie's Fri. and Sat., Sept. 29 and 30, was born in Bessemer, Ala., in 1932. His mother died shortly after his birth, and the KKK reportedly killed his father when Red was 5 years old. As a child, he says, he was "a bouncing ball," spending three years in an orphanage before going to live with his grandmother in Pittsburgh. He also recalls brutal physical abuse at the hands of a spiteful uncle. Louisiana Red took refuge in the blues. "I grew up listening to blues singers and guitar players on the street, and I wanted to be like them," Red says. At age 12 or so, he asked a local street musician named Crit Walters if he would teach him how to play guitar.

"I was just walking one day and I seen a man playing on the steps," Red recalls. "He must have come off construction work in the day, and in the evening he'd sit on the steps and pick his guitar. I said, 'Mister, can you learn me how to play that?' He said, 'I'll show you what I know.' I used to stay at that man's house night and day. I wouldn't go home."

Red (so named by his grandfather for Red's love of fried "oyster ball" sandwiches, bathed in Louisiana hot sauce) says he also found inspiration in the early Chicago blues recordings of Muddy Waters, particularly "I Feel Like Going Home" and "Rollin' and Tumblin'." Red took the initiative to call Waters' record label in Chicago, spoke with him by phone and met him when Waters came to Pittsburgh. Waters apparently was impressed with Red's development as a musician because Phil and Leonard Chess, owners of Waters' label, Chess Records, soon recorded Red in Pittsburgh under the stage name Rocky Fuller.

Subsequently, Red recorded for countless labels, including Roulette and Atlantic. However, in the early '80s, with the U.S. blues scene moribund, he relocated to Germany, where he lives today. Then, in 1998, he toured the U.S. again. The tour led to the spring 1999 release of Millennium Blues on the Earwig label, a recording that captures the guitarist in both solo guitar and full-band settings. He has a new recording in progress for the Maryland-based indie Severin Records.

For more information on Louisiana Red's shows at Blind Willie's, 828 N. Highland Ave., call 404-873-2583.

Alert to blues musicians and fans: In August 1958, Esquire Magazine spread the word that it was organizing a group photo of local jazz musicians in Harlem. Fifty-seven musicians, including Thelonious Monk, Count Basie, Lester Young, Jimmy Rushing and Coleman Hawkins, made the 10 a.m. photo shoot, resulting in a famous photo, "A Great Day in Harlem," by Art Kane. On Oct. 1, local blues/jazz fan Ronda Wenger wants to do the same thing for Atlanta blues musicians. Wenger, with help from WRFG-FM blues airshifter Richard Forrester, among others, has invited local blues players to a photo shoot at Piedmont Park beginning at noon that day. Local photographer Donald Schellhaas, who did the artwork for John Mooney's new Gone to Hell CD, will snap the photo. California videographer Seth Riddle, currently working on a project with South Carolina acoustic bluesman Cootie Stark, will capture the event on video. Wenger says she will donate the photo to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame. She also is negotiating a deal to have a poster made from the photo. Wenger says she will donate any proceeds from the project to blues-related charities, such as the Music Maker Relief Foundation (a Pinnacle, N.C.-based nonprofit organization that helps Southern roots artists), the Blues in the Schools program, or WRFG.

For more information on the photo shoot, call 770-351-0204. To learn more about the classic Harlem jazz photo, visit www.harlem.org.

Heard and scene: Danny Dudeck and Mudcat recently played the Blues-to-Bop Fest in Lugano, Switzerland. In addition to its own show, the band also backed Frankie Ford (author of Sea Cruise) and guitarist Eddie Kirkland before proceeding to a number of what Dudeck calls "society gigs" in Switzerland and Italy. At press time, Dudeck is planning to spend a day or two busking for tips in Amsterdam before heading to Paris for dates with Polish fiddle Piotr and guitarist Rene Miller. Dudeck is scheduled to return to Atlanta for a Sept. 29th Northside Tavern date that will guest-star harmonica player Neal Pattman. Mudcat wasn't the only Atlanta-based talent bluesin'-n-boppin' amid the Swiss Alps: Piano man Eddie Tigner (who plays every Thursday night at Fat Matt's Rib Shack) was there too, as well as guitarist Sammy Blue.

Talkin' Blues is a monthly column on blues and related subjects, with an emphasis on local artists, venues and events. Please forward your blues news to Bryan Powell, 830 Josh Lane, Lawrenceville, GA 30045-3156, or e-mail Ga6string@aol.com.