BLOGGING AND VLOGGING FROM CANADA'S BEST KNOWN UNDISCOVERED OLD WHITE BLUESMAN

Friday, February 25, 2000

Sugar Ray, Bill & Sue

The Silver Dollar - Sugar Ray Norcia wowed Toronto again with a performance that featured his great harp playing and a very natural vocal style. Last summer's appearance at the Dollar resulted in an on-the-spot booking at the Beaches Jazz festival. I saw both performances and was knocked out by his machine-gun delivery of one song after another, usually starting the next song with a harp intro before the applause had died down. This approach didn't work as well with this new band, as the bass player scrambled to switch between string bass and electric or when guitar player Kid Bangham was caught leaning off to the side of the stage to have his king-size cigarette lit by his number one fan, Mary Schultis.
Before the set at the Dollar, I was around the corner at the Free Times Cafe listening to Bill Garrett and Sue-Ellen Lothrop with the legendary Curly Boy Stubbs. I got to hear one of my tunes, The Big Fire, performed by Sue and what a treat it was to see her performing again. She has a unique timbre to her voice and it hasn't changed in thirty years. We grew up on the same street in Sherbrooke, Quebec. Her brother married my sister. And she teamed up with Allan Fraser (pre-Fraser & DeBolt) in the 60's in a folk duo called "Breakfast" and I was their manager. We used to do some recording after-hours in the pioneer Hallmark Studios (at the time they had the first and only 1-inch 8-track recorder in Canada). Here's an old promo pic of Breakfast from 1968 or 69:

Tuesday, February 15, 2000

An open letter to Jeri Goldstein, author of "Be Your Own Booking Agent and Save Thousands of Dollars"

Dear Jeri, your book has been a real eye-opener and has inspired me to start tracking my own progress in the music business. Maybe it will help me deal with the obstacles and opportunities that present themselves. In the past, I've often confronted the obstacles and bypassed the opportunities instead of doing it the other way round! I am forwarding copies of Downtown Jazz and Maple Blues with reviews of your new book Thanks very much for all that information - the "hot tips" are especially relevant. I plan to offer a few tips of my own (for what they're worth).
I've been advised (by this mysterious tall guy) that I should de-lurk and get some "profile" so I'm starting now by posting this message and maybe I'm over-reacting but from now on, I'll be chronicling all my performing-career foibles and triumphs on this website. My life is an open book - "Colorblind Brian's Toronto Blues Diary" and it will feature my (mis)adventures on the music scene along with some occasional useful information.

Here's my occasional useful information on promo photos, the topic of the last few days:
How many times will a photo be used in the same publication? Usually, once. (keep fresh photos coming or consider two 5x7 poses on the same 8x10)
What's the difference between a good photo and a great photo? A good photo gets printed in the magazine. A great photo gets the cover. (a dark, moody art photo gets diddly)
Is there an easy way to provide a reproducible photo on my website? One quick and dirty way is to create an oversize version of it (ex: 10 inches wide at 72 dpi) on a separate page and create a link with some instruction like "click here to view/save a larger version." Once downloaded, the photo can be reduced in size which will increase the resolution proportionally (5 inches would be 144 dpi, 2.5 inches would be 288 dpi, etc.) and it may be suitable for some (but not all) publications.
Is there any acceptable substitute for a traditional glossy? Not really. Laserprinted photos and pseudo-glossies (photos printed on photo paper but with a fine screen of tiny dots) do not scan well. The newer high-quality ink-jet photo prints are pretty damn close to the real deal but I'm a little gun-shy ever since I used one of those, only to have it looking awful because the ink I thought was black was actually blue - and blue doesn't register when the printer is making his plates (they don't call me 'colorblind' for nothing!)



Now that I'm de-lurked, let me tell you a bit more about myself: Besides my publishing life, I am also a songwriter/performer working mostly on the blues scene, though I just got this fabulous little Guild acoustic and have been doing more folky/solo/duo gigs. My roots are actually in folk music and I made my first recording in 1963 with a folk trio that included Allan Fraser (of Fraser & DeBolt - whom I later played with and produced). I also played bass and toured with two early Canadian folksters, Dave Nicol and Tom Kelly, in the 70s (anybody know whatever happened to those guys?)

Tuesday, February 8, 2000

The2000 Maple Blues Awards

It was a gala event for the Canadian Blues community, produced by the Toronto Blues Society and there I was - not on the stage or on the podium - but behind the scenes, as usual. I've gotten to know many of the leading blues musicians in town, and was thrilled to see them receive their "props". Many of them knew me only as the editor of the MapleBlues magazine and didn't even realize I played until I released a CD last May. I guess I do need to work on my profile but when it comes to music I barely have time to get the guitar out of the case, let alone hustle gigs. Last Saturday was my first and (so far) last gig of the decade. But I'm not discouraged because I have my trusty copy of "Be Your Own Booking Agent and Save Thousands of Dollars." I'm reminded of an old blues axiom "There's hundreds of dollars to be made in this business."
Back to the awards evening, there were some great moments and the host Mike Bullard, had fun with the sponsor, Bell ActiMedia. "You guys can change your name all you want - we still know you're a monopoly" and "Your call display has ruined my Saturday Nights." I just found out he worked for Bell for many years. One of the highlights of my evening was having a dance with Louise Pickett, even though I was bouncing around on a broken toe...but that's another story. Her husband, Michael Pickett was honoured with the Blues with a Feeling award as well as Harmonica Player of the year. Pickett is the personification of "cool" (blues style). Last month I was playing the Winchester and just as we were starting the second show, I look down and see him standing just off to the side of the stage. I don't know if that might have made me little nervous but once we had launched into the first tune, I realized I had blanked out on the first verse. I played a guitar solo then it came around and I played another solo (and these were not very "focused" solos because I was just trying to remember the damn first line). Still stuck, I signalled Papa John King at the other end of the stage to play a solo and he looked at me like "Haven't there been enough guitar solos alrteady???" but he played one or two choruses until I finally started singing, and it wasn't even the right verse! As we started into the second tune, I saw him making his way out the side door. I hope he's not one of those harp players who hate too many guitar solos.
There were lots of other deserving recepients of Maple Blues Awards. Imagine that someone of the stature of Jack DeKeyzer had never received an award until now (he got Recording of the Year)! Morgan Davis, Michael Pickett, Alec Fraser, Gary Kendall all pillars of the blues community got their props.
For the first time, the awards were webcast around the world and they are archived at www.primeticket.net. This was a first rate production with two cameras - if you want to see the state-of-the-art in webcasting, check it out, but you'll need a fast computer, RealAudio G2 and (ideally) a high-speed internet connection.

Friday, February 4, 2000

The February Blues Festival, Barrie, Ontario

Just did my first gig of the millenium, kind of low key, an afternoon concert in a little cafe in the picturesque village of Cookstown. This is the beginning of my new solo/acoustic initiative - I even brought along a gorgeous little mahogany acoustic Guild that my friend Peter Toles lent me. It doesn't have a pickup or even a strap but I pulled it out in the middle of the show to do "The Story of the Magic Pick" a spoken word thing I recorded in the early seventies. I screwed up the words again - I'm going to have to play this one more often. The last time I practised this tune I had to pull out the 45 and confirm the lyrics that were printed on the jacket.



I didn't think the little guitar was cutting through that well and switched back to the Epiphone (with pick-up) but in the last set I broke a string and had to finish on the little Guild and I was inspired to do a little walkabout as Robin kept up a bass riff. I walked to the very back, all the way into some little ante-room where I plopped down in a big armchair. Lessons - 1)I needed more tunes, and 2) There were some extra tunes on the set list that I never brought out. Ended with a death-defying ride back to the city in a snowstorm. Several other fabulous performers participated in the festival, Carlos del Junco and a new blues guitarist who's making a buzz, Mike Branton.

The February Blues Festival, Barrie, Ontario

Just did my first gig of the millenium, kind of low key, an afternoon concert in a little cafe in the picturesque village of Cookstown. This is the beginning of my new solo/acoustic initiative - I even brought along a gorgeous little mahogany acoustic Guild that my friend Peter Toles lent me. It doesn't have a pickup or even a strap but I pulled it out in the middle of the show to do "The Story of the Magic Pick" a spoken word thing I recorded in the early seventies. I screwed up the words again - I'm going to have to play this one more often. The last time I practised this tune I had to pull out the 45 and confirm the lyrics that were printed on the jacket. I didn't think the little guitar was cutting through that well and switched back to the Epiphone (with pick-up) but in the last set I broke a string and had to finish on the little Guild and I was inspired to do a little walkabout as Robin kept up a bass riff. I walked to the very back, all the way into some little ante-room where I plopped down in a big armchair. Lessons - 1)I needed more tunes, and 2) There were some extra tunes on the set list that I never brought out. Ended with a death-defying ride back to the city in a snowstorm. Several other fabulous performers participated in the festival, Carlos del Junco and a new blues guitarist who's making a buzz, Mike Branton.