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mardi 28 janvier 2014



David Evans with Gerard Herzhaft's Award.Thank you David for everything
Ladies and Gentlemen, Dear friends of the blues,

         It is with a lot of pride that I'm receiving this Keeping the Blues Alive Award from the Blues Foundation 2014.
         It has been a long road from the first time I met the blues in France to this Memphis ceremony. I guess it started during the late 1950's when I was a teenager. Those were the Rock'n'roll years even in France and it seemed that the real blues, which was of course one of the pillars of it all, was in small doses coming to us.
         I remember when I got my first blues record. We had a party to celebrate the eve of summer holidays and we were dancing to the sounds of our 45s that were relentlessly playing on an old battered record player. And shaking the floor like we did was also shaking the records a little too far sometimes. Among those damaged was one of my 45. Behind my worried look, the friend who hosted the party offered me to swap my record with one of his. I agreed and this is how I got a Lightnin' Hopkins EP. I had never heard about such a strange name and I strongly suspected my friend to be too happy to get rid of a record he didn't like!
         At first, I didn't like it either: four titles in the same strange mood. Fortunately, I hadn't too many records at that time and Hopkins came rolling again and again on my record player. And the more I listened to this strange music the more I was hooked on it. There was anyway a strong similarity between what I was accustomed to listen to and Mr Hopkins, but he had something more. This was music with incredible feeling, depth and guts.
         " The blues got after me and never let me be...". I could have made those lyrics my own because after that encounter I became a blues fan, searching everywhere for any blues record, tracking any information about it. After that I went to England where there were more blues records, some American blues acts too. I met some other staunch blues buffs, some of whom have become rock stars... I started some tentative writing for the very few magazines that were dealing with the blues.
         A greater shock would be when the American Folk Blues Festival tours started in 1962. It was so exciting to be able to see at last bluesmen that were for me mostly just names on records... Suddenly, John Lee Hooker was moaning his blues just behind me and he was still quite young! Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Big Joe Williams, Sleepy John Estes, T-Bone Walker and many more were playing and singing the blues for real!
         At that time, it was very easy to meet and chat with those artists, especially when you were bringing them a bottle of Cognac. Then I discovered that those who, for me, were Mozarts and Beethovens were fighting for bread and butter in their home country and were not very often recognized as artists. And one thing that was particularly stunning was the impression that I already had met those people through their records... The music was great and full of feeling because the musicians had lived exceptional experiences and had the ability to share them with us through their blues.
         I then decided to try to bring them the recognition they so much deserved. This was how I began to write books and articles about the blues and the bluesmen, searching everywhere, meeting other researchers, going to the USA first in 1968, then in 1973 and after that quite regularly, gaining two Fullbright Grants for my studies in 1979 and 1985.
         Many people helped me to understand the real soul of the blues and I would like to express them my full gratitude: David Evans who brought me in the juke joints of the Delta, an unforgettable experience, was certainly one of the most crucial of those helpers; Barry Lee Pearson, Bob Koester, A.E. Schroeder, Kenneth Goldstein, Bill Mitchell, Jim Griffith and too many generous others to be fully cited.
         I also would like to thank all those who made it possible for me to receive this award today, particularly my friend Jacques Périn, founder of the Soul Bag Magazine, my brother Cisco who was here in Memphis two years ago, France Blues and Jean Guillermo who were so instrumental for my "cause" and of course all of you here at the Blues Foundation who, year after year, act strongly for the blues to be considered as a major art form.
         Thank you, deeply and sincerely, to you all.

Gérard HERZHAFT, Memphis, 24 Janvier 2014

mercredi 1 janvier 2014

BABY BOY WARREN/ Detroit Blues Masters Vol. 7

BABY BOY WARREN: Detroit Blues Masters Vol. 7

   Baby Boy Warren a été un nom important du blues de Detroit, enregistrant entre 1949 et 1954 une série de disques qui font presque tous aujourd'hui figure de classiques du genre.
           Né le 13 août 1919 à Lake Providence en Louisiane, Robert Henry Warren a passé sa jeunesse à Memphis, apprend la guitare avec son frère aîné avec lequel il forme un duo, Big Boy Warren et Baby Boy Warren, un surnom qui lui restera. Il joue dans les années 1930 dans Beale Street et Handy Park côtoyant la plupart des grands bluesmen de la ville et forgeant son style de blues sous l'influence de Little Buddy Doyle et Willie Borum, deux bluesmen populaires à Memphis à cette époque ainsi que, surtout peut-être, de John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. Il fait même partie durant quelques mois du célèbre programme radiophonique basé à Helena (Ak), King Biscuit Time, aux côtés de l' "autre" Sonny Boy (Rice Miller) et Robert Jr Lockwood.
           Comme beaucoup, il gagne Detroit en 1942 afin de trouver un bon salaire chez General Motors et fait ses débuts discographiques en 1949, gravant 21 titres en six ans, une série de très beaux blues pour de petits labels comme JVB, Drummond, Blue Lake, Staff, Prize... avec assez de succès local, pour que certains titres soient repris par des labels mieux distribués comme Federal, Gotham ou Excello.
           Ces disques présentent Warren en compagnie de la crème des musiciens de Detroit comme Calvin Frazier ou Boogie Woogie Red. Mais ce sont ses séances de janvier 1954 qui demeurent les plus prisées des amateurs de blues car il y est accompagné de Rice Miller. En effet, l'harmoniciste de Jackson, avant de s'installer à Chicago, était venu à Detroit, logeant quelques mois chez son ancien compagnon du King Biscuit Time, Baby Boy Warren. Chicken (Chuck a luck) est d'ailleurs essentiellement un instrumental de Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller). Mais les autres morceaux comme Sanafee ou Hello Stranger / Mattie Mae (une composition de John Lee Williamson) sont aussi extrêmement réussis.
           Mais le blues très ancré dans la tradition sudiste de Baby Boy passe de mode dès le milieu des années 1950. Dans une dernière séance à l'été 1954, il tente un peu d'étoffer sa musique avec l'adjonction du saxophone de Johnny Hooks mais, malgré l'excellence de sa version du classique popularisé par John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, Stop breaking down, ce disque n'a aucun succès et Warren va progressivement abandonner la musique durant une décennie.
           Le début des années 1970 voit un certain regain d'intérêt pour le blues traditionnel si bien représenté par Baby Boy et Warren apparaît au Detroit Blues Festival de 1971, à Ann Arbor et fait même une tournée en Europe en compagnie du pianiste Boogie Woogie Red. Il aurait enregistré durant cette tournée un LP entier qui n'a malheureusement jamais été publié.
           Il recommençait à jouer régulièrement à Detroit dans l'orchestre du guitariste Willie D. Warren quand il a succombé à une crise cardiaque le 1er juillet 1977.
                                                                 Gérard HERZHAFT

           Baby Boy Warren is another major name of the post-war Detroit blues scene and his recording output (between 1949 and 1954) has gained some kind of a "classical" status.
           Born on August, 13th, 1919 at Lake Providence (La), Robert Henry Warren has in fact been raised in Memphis, learning the guitar with his elder brother with whom he formed a duo, Big Boy Warren and Baby Boy Warren, a nickname that would stick to him forever. During the late 1930's he plays regularly with local bluesmen Little Buddy Doyle and Willie Borum while being strongly influenced by the recordings of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson. He is rumoured to have recorded two titles at that time but no evidence of this has never surfaced. In 1941, he is for a few months a featured member (alongside the other Sonny Boy (Rice Miller) and Robert Lockwood) of the popular radio programme King Biscuit Time broadcasted from Helena (Arkansas).
           1942 finds him in Detroit trying to make a better living at General Motors and playing the blues in the clubs. He finally makes his first known recordings in 1949, visiting sporadically the Detroit studios for the next six years, issuing records on small local labels, some of it stirring enough interest to be also issued by labels with national distribution like Federal or Excello. Baby Boy is backed by the best Detroit bluesmen (Calvin Frazier, Boogie Woogie Red) but this is his January, 1954 session that generally is better known because he is in the company of his old mate Rice Miller who, coming from the South to Chicago, made a stopover in Detroit, living for some months at Baby Boy's place and playing with him at some Hastings Street's clubs. In fact, Chicken/ Chuck a luck is mostly a Rice Miller instrumental. The other titles are of the same high standard, particularly Sanafee and Hello Stranger/ Mattie Mae, a reworking of a John Lee Williamson's hit.
           But, despite an essay to modernize his sound with the add of Johnny Hooks' saxophone on a last 1954 session, the very downhome blues of Baby Boy with a strong late 1940's flavor seems already out-fashioned and Warren won't record anymore, playing less and less outside private parties.
           He was making a modest comeback in the 1970's with appearances at the 1971 Detroit blues festival, the 1973 Ann Arbor festival (where he recorded two "live" titles) and a European tour alongside Boogie Woogie Red (he may have recorded an album during this tour but nothing has been issued insofar) when he died of a massive heart attack on July, 1st 1977.
                                                      Gérard HERZHAFT

BABY BOY WARREN/ Complete Recordings

Robert Henry Warren, vcl/g; Charley Mills, pno; Milt Larkin, bs. Detroit, Mi. 1949
01. My special friend blues
02. Nervy woman blues
03. Lonesome cabin blues
04. Don't want no skinny woman
05. Forgive me darling
06. Please don't think I'm nosey
Robert Henry Warren, vcl/g; Boogie Woogie Red, pno; Calvin Frazier, g; Curtis Foster, dms. Detroit, Mi. 1950
07. I got lucky
08. Let's renew our love
09. Taxi driver
10. Bad lover blues
Robert Henry Warren, vcl/g; Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), hca; Washboard Willie, wbd. Detroit, Mi. 10 janvier 1954
11. Sanafee
12. Not welcome anymore
13. Hello stranger
14. Bring me my machine gun
15. Chicken
16. Chuck a luck
17. Baby boy blues
Robert Henry Warren, vcl/g; Boogie Woogie Red, pno; Calvin Frazier, g; Washboard Willie, wbd. Detroit, Mi. mars 1954
18. Mattie Mae
19. Santa Fe
Robert Henry Warren, vcl/g; Johnny Hooks, t-sax; Boogie Woogie Red, pno; Little George Jackson, g; Jimmy Tarrant, dms. detroit, Mi. juillet 1954
20. Somebody put bad luck on me
21. Stop breaking down
Robert Henry Warren, vcl/g; Boogie Woogie Red, pno; band. Ann Arbor, Mi. 1973
22. Too many drivers
23. She's fine