News Archive

Chuck Berry in latest issue of Rolling Stone
Friday, 27. August 2010 - 17:12

Chuck Berry Tells All 
Fifty-five years ago, he invented rock & roll. 
In a rare interview, the 83-year-old says he's just getting started.
More details:

Source: Wolfgang Guhl

Chuck Berry behind the scene at photo shoot
Friday, 27. August 2010 - 17:12

The following link shows behind the scene footage during a recent photo shoot Chuck Berry did 
with Rolling Stone Magazine:

Source: Doug Spaur

Fats Domino & Etta James suffering from Alzheimer
Friday, 20. August 2010 - 13:16

Legendary musicians Fats Domino and Etta James have both been diagnosed
with Alzheimer's disease.

Both artists have retired from performing shows and given their state
of health further public appearances are considered unlikely.

Rock'n'Roll Hall of Fame to honor Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew
Tuesday, 17. August 2010 - 21:27

Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame to honor Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum in Cleveland will devote its 15th annual American Music Masters series to Fats Domino, Dave Bartholomew and New Orleans’ role in the birth of rock ‘n’ roll.

“Walking to New Orleans: The Music of Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew,” scheduled for Nov. 8-13, consists of evening lectures, interviews and film screenings at the museum; a day-long conference at Case Western Reserve University; and a culminating tribute concert at Cleveland’s Palace Theater in PlayhouseSquare. Confirmed performers include Bartholomew, Lloyd Price, Dr. John, Irma Thomas, Robert Parker and the Rebirth Brass Band.

The American Music Masters program, the Hall of Fame’s signature series, spotlights key figures in the evolution of popular music whose stories and contributions warrant wider recognition. Past honorees include Woody Guthrie, Robert Johnson, Lead Belly, Hank Williams, Louis Jordan, Buddy Holly, Sam Cooke, Jerry Lee Lewis, Les Paul and Janis Joplin.

“We’ve told a lot of great stories in this program, but we haven’t yet told the New Orleans story,” said Dr. Lauren Onkey, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s vice president of education and public programs. “Because it’s the 15th anniversary of the museum, it seemed like a great time. We want to do it justice.”

Only twice before has the series focused on a living musician, and two individuals have never been honored in the same year. With Domino and Bartholomew, the series will examine one of the most successful partnerships in rock history.

“When you think about choosing people for this event, the list narrows pretty quickly, because you’re looking for artists who made a huge impact,” Onkey said. Domino and Bartholomew “have been on our radar for a long time. Some people would say they created rock ‘n’ roll. We can all agree that they are some of the key people in the creation of the music.

“Their collaboration brought together different traditions and sounds in an exciting way. In terms of the work they did together, it’s a wonderful story that not enough people know.”

In 1949, Bartholomew was a respected trumpeter and bandleader working as a talent scout for Imperial Records. He “discovered” Domino performing in a neighborhood bar and became his producer and co-writer.

Their first collaboration, “The Fat Man,” is widely considered the first true rock ‘n’ roll record. Working at Cosimo Matassa’s studios in and around the French Quarter, Domino and Bartholomew crafted a remarkable string of hits in the 1950s and early ‘60s. Reportedly, only Elvis Presley outsold Domino in the 1950s.

In 1986, Domino stood alongside Elvis Presley, James Brown, Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly, Jerry Lee Lewis, Sam Cooke, the Everly Brothers and Little Richard in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame’s inaugural inductee class. Bartholomew was inducted in 1991 in the non-performer category.

“It’s a great feeling and honor to be recognized at this point in my life,” Bartholomew said. “At almost 90, I look back at my career and I think about the people before us and the people that followed in our footsteps. I think we had a helluva ride and I thank the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame for recognizing our catalog and our place in music history.”

Bartholomew has confirmed his attendance, and organizers hope Domino will attend as well. “We’ve had great response and cooperation from Dave and his family and Fats and his family,” Onkey said.

In addition to the announced New Orleans performers, the tribute concert is likely to include marquee special guests. Past performers at American Music Masters concerts have included Bruce Springsteen, Robert Plant and Alison Krauss, and Aretha Franklin with Solomon Burke and Elvis Costello. Domino is not lacking in famous fans, as evidenced by the who’s who of stars on “Goin’ Home: A Tribute to Fats Domino,” a 2007 benefit CD produced by the Tipitina’s Foundation.

The Hall of Fame museum’s exhibits on the 1950s and rhythm & blues contain artifacts related to New Orleans. In conjunction with the American Music Masters program, some objects – a Bartholomew trumpet, handwritten musical scores to “Blueberry Hill” and “Walking to New Orleans,” a Domino shirt – will be grouped together in a small, dedicated exhibit.

All American Music Masters panels and interviews are archived at the museum. As part of its educational outreach program, the museum plans to create a course for high school students about Domino, Bartholomew and the early history of rock ‘n’ roll in New Orleans.

The tribute concert “is always a killer show,” Onkey said, “but we really see it as key to our education mission.”

Tickets to the Nov. 13 tribute concert in Cleveland are $30, $40 and $50, on sale to the general public September 15. Rock Hall members can purchase tickets in advance beginning on September 13. Go to for more information and to purchase tickets. A limited number of Rock Hall VIP event packages starting at $250 are available by calling (216) 515-1999.

Source: Wolfgang Guhl

A very recent interview with Little Richard (full version)
Wednesday, 11. August 2010 - 17:12

Interview: Little Richard

My conversation with Little Richard in today's Wall Street Journal (go here or pick up a copy) was a mind-opener. This is the guy who started rock 'n' roll as we know it, for goodness sake. With his first hit Tutti Frutti in 1955, Little Richard single-handedly unleashed a new form of music that to this day continues to influence musicians worldwide. Virtually every major rock and rap act since 1955 owes a debt to Little Richard—and all have said as much in interviews and memoirs.

Though r&b's origins date back to the late 1930s, and rock 'n' roll's backbeat starts to emerge in the late 1940s, Little Richard changed everything in 1955. Tutti Frutti, recorded 55 years ago in September, introduced a new form of rock that had urgency, sexual energy and stagecraft. Within months, the sizzling form was embraced by a generation of young listeners who by then owned radios and bought 45-rpms. By 1956, Bill Haley was already dated.  

Even Elvis Presley's career path was altered by Tutti Frutti's electric appeal. In 1956, the year of his meteoric rise, Elvis recorded four of Little Richard's records to break out and cross over. But Little Richard's influence didn't end in the 1950s. As I note in my Wall Street Journal article today, Little Richard taught Paul McCartney his signature “Wooo," was first to hire Jimi Hendrix, gave a young Tina Turner charisma lessons, and out Janis-ed a screaming Janis Joplin at the Atlantic City Pop Festival two weeks before Woodstock in August 1969.

For me, interviewing Little Richard was a thrill. It's a jolt to interview historic music figures—whether they play jazz, pop, r&b, reggae, disco or rock. (Read my Billy Joel interview.) There's a certain intimacy and excitement that comes from a one-on-one conversation with any artist, especially one who has changed the course of music. 

But not every question I posed to Little Richard, 77, could fit into my Wall Street Journal Cultural Conversation:

JazzWax: Did you listen to jazz growing up in Macon, GA?
Little Richard: Oh, yes. Charlie Parker, Tab Smith , Cootie Williams, Hot Lips Page, Duke Ellington—all of them. I sang all those standard ballads coming up as a gospel singer. I especially liked the jazz vocalists. I listened to Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan , Dinah Washington and Georgia White. Do you know her? She was big in the late 1930s. I used to sing all their songs.

JW: Did you separate music as jazz and r&b in the late 1940s?
LR: Growing up, there was no such thing as jazz in my neighborhood. Everything was everything, and music was either good or bad. [Sings] What can I say dear after I say I'm sorry [laughs]. See what I mean? That sounds good no matter who sings it [laughs].

JW: Gospel was a big influence?
LR: Oh yes. I first sang with gospel star Sister Rosetta Tharpe at the Macon City Auditorium. She could make that guitar of hers talk and walk. I was just a kid and used to go to the theater with a bucket and ice and sell drinks. I'd get lost in the music. I was singing on my own when Sister Rosetta heard me. She asked me to come up on stage with her to sing Five Loaves and Two Fishes. When I heard the audience go wild when we were finished, I knew what I wanted to do.

JW: Your first record in 1951 was for RCA.
LR: I was sort of a gospel-ballad singer then. Actually it was for RCA's Camden label. RCA was for white artists. Camden was for black folks.

JW: Is r&b closer to gospel than jazz?
LR: R&B comes from the emotional feel of gospel. R&B's energy came from the church so the physical excitement of the music was there. The theatrical part of r&b came from the many different acts that toured the black clubs in the South at the time and added their own little eccentric things to stand out. The boogie-woogie came from the blues.

JW: You knew how to play piano early on but not boogie-woogie, is that correct?
LR: Yes, Mrs. Clemmons had taught me to play piano when I was young in Macon. Then later I met Esquerita [pictured], an r&b singer whose real name was S.Q. Reeder. He also played piano. He had come to Macon with Sister Rosetta. I watched him play and loved what he did on the piano. I told him I wanted to play like that. He took my hands and showed me how to do what he did.

JW: How did you come up with Tutti Frutti?
LR: I used to go up on stage in clubs to sing boogie-woogie blues but I'd forget the words. So I made up dirty ones to fill out the songs [laughs]. I was doing then what the rap groups do today. When I recorded Tutti Frutti for Specialty, we cleaned up the words [laughs]. We had to. No radio station was going to put those original words on the air.

JW: Tutti Frutti was covered by several artists soon after your single began climbing the charts, including versions by Elvis and Pat Boone, who also had a hit with it.
LR: Yes. It was obvious to me that I had to do something different on the next single. Otherwise, white singers were going to keep copying my songs and standing out more, since their record companies had more money to promote them than mine did.

JW: What did you do with Long Tall Sally, your follow-up single?
LR: I sang it as fast as I could because I knew Pat Boone wouldn't be able to knock off what I did [laughs]. I ran for my life with that song and made it hard to copy.

JW: You taught Paul McCartney your signature falsetto “Wooo" in Hamburg, Germany, in 1962, before the Beatles were the Beatles.
LR: Oh yes. Paul's my buddy. He's a real gentleman. He's beautiful. The Beatles were barely known then. They opened for me at the Star-Club [laughs]. I had gotten the inspiration for that 'Wooo' from gospel singer Marion Williams.

JW: What about Elvis?
LR: Elvis was a good friend. One of the sweetest gentlemen. A good singer, especially with gospel.

JW: Which jazz musicians told you they enjoyed your music?
LR: Tab Smith, Ella Fitzgerald , Sarah Vaughan, Carmen McRae —all of them. Peggy Lee used to come to hear me.

JW: So, did Little Richard kill jazz?
LR: Kill jazz? Oh no, no, no. I don't believe rock 'n' roll could kill jazz. Nothing can kill jazz. Jazz is an original. Jazz is beautiful music. I don't believe that. Jazz is still here. Real rock 'n' roll musicians love jazz. A real musician loves all types of music.

Source: Wolfgang Guhl

A very recent interview with Little Richard
Tuesday, 10. August 2010 - 19:14

Richard, the First


Still in pain following hip surgery last fall, Little Richard had no problem getting down to business. Minutes into our recent phone conversation from his home, the rock 'n' roll founder broke into "Tutti Frutti," his first hit single recorded 55 years ago next month. As he sang, his voice sounded sweet, the lyrics emerging slowly, almost as a gospel ballad. After a dozen bars, the 77-year-old legend stopped abruptly and laughed: "That's right—the song that started it all!"

Even by Little Richard's standards, the remark is an understatement. Recorded on Sept. 14, 1955, the song about a girl named Sue who knows just what to do unleashed a new, sexually charged form of rock 'n' roll and transformed American culture. From the record's opening salvo ("Awop-bop-a-loo-mop Alop-bam-boom!"), Little Richard delivered the lyrics like an arsonist warning of a blaze. More than just another blues shouter, Little Richard had urgency and electrifying movie-star looks.

To put his early voltage in perspective, consider this: Elvis Presley recorded four of Little Richard's singles on his way up in 1956. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame notes that, more than any other performer of the period except Presley, Little Richard "blew the lid off the fifties." His early works included 15 Billboard Top 100 hits by 1958, as well as appearances in two early rock movies for teens—"Don't Knock the Rock" (1956) and "Mister Rock and Roll" (1957)—and the comedy, "The Girl Can't Help It" (1956), for which he wrote the film's grinding theme.

But Little Richard's influence wasn't confined to rock's golden age. He was a headliner in Europe in the early 1960s and was idolized there by the Beatles and Rolling Stones. He gave Tina Turner charisma lessons at the behest of husband Ike Turner, and he hired and fired Jimi Hendrix. In fact, Little Richard's influence can be felt in virtually every top rock act since 1955—from Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis to Mick Jagger, David Bowie, Elton John, Michael Jackson, Prince and many of today's rappers.

"I should be better recognized today for sure," said Little Richard in a hushed voice. "I am the beginning. I am the originator."

Richard Penniman was born in Macon, Ga., in 1932—one of 12 children who lived in a house on a dirt road. The family sang gospel together in churches and at local functions. Little Richard's first stage appearance came in his early teens, when gospel star Sister Rosetta Tharpe heard him sing and invited him on stage to accompany her.

Restless, Little Richard quit high school and joined Dr. Hudson's Medicine Show, where he sang and watched the theatrical Hudson captivate audiences. In the late '40s, Little Richard sang in a string of Georgia territory bands, including B. Brown and His Orchestra. "Brown made up my stage name without telling me," Little Richard said. "When I first saw it on a sign, I didn't realize it was me."

Taught basic piano as a child, Little Richard learned to play boogie-woogie from Esquerita, an R&B singer who sported a pompadour that Little Richard later adapted. Four lackluster recording sessions followed for RCA and Peacock between 1951 and 1953. Then Little Richard's Peacock contract was bought out for $600 in mid-1955 by Specialty Records, which was looking for a new Ray Charles.

In September, Specialty producer Bumps Blackwell took him to New Orleans, to the famed J&M Recording Studio, where Fats Domino had recorded his hits. But the first session was dull. So Blackwell called for a break, and the pair went to the Dew Drop Inn on LaSalle Street for lunch.

Spotting a piano, Little Richard accompanied himself singing a song he had made up years earlier with X-rated lyrics. "I was like the rappers today, creating dirty words to blues songs on the spot," he said. "One of them was called 'Tutti Frutti.'"

The high-energy tune was perfect for the Specialty recording session—but the lyrics had to go. "There was no way they were going to make it onto the radio," Little Richard said. He and Dorothy La Bostrie, a local aspiring songwriter, cleaned up the words.

When "Tutti Frutti" was released that November, the song was akin to a champagne bottle smashing against a ship's bow. The single entered Billboard's Top 100 chart in January 1956, peaking at No. 17. "Long Tall Sally" followed (hitting No. 6), with "Slippin' and Slidin'," "Rip It Up" and "Ready Teddy" next.

In "The Girl Can't Help It," starring Jayne Mansfield, Little Richard's on-screen act was box-office dynamite. "I had started standing at the keyboard so I could do my stage routine without having to get up," he said. "I also began putting my leg up on the piano, like Otis Turner."

In each of his three early movies, Little Richard said, white executives tried to contain him. "They didn't want me letting myself go," he said. "They kept wanting me to be stiffer, telling me 'Here's how a black man would perform this.' I said, 'Now how would you know that?'"

In 1957 and 1958, Little Richard's hits included "Lucille," "Keep a'Knockin'" and "Good Golly, Miss Molly." He also became a Seventh-Day Adventist minister, a move some said was designed to let him escape his paltry Specialty Records contract. "That's not true," he said. "I became a minister because my family had always loved the Lord and I felt the calling."

Little Richard also began dressing more flamboyantly. "I wore makeup and wild outfits to keep white people from focusing on me as some kind of a sexual threat," he said. "I knew that if I looked crazy, not cool, I wouldn't be seen that way. And it worked. People focused on the music."

Faced with financial strains, he toured Europe in 1962 with the Beatles as the smaller opening act. In Hamburg, Germany, he taught Paul McCartney his signature high-pitched "Wooo." "I learned that from gospel singer Marion Williams—she added it for emphasis," Little Richard said.

Throughout the '60s, Little Richard toured the U.S. and Europe as a rock-revival star, often competing with younger acts. One of those concerts was the Atlantic City Pop Festival, held two weeks before Woodstock in August 1969.

"Janis Joplin sang and screamed and had the audience crazy—I mean really crazy," Little Richard recalls. "Backstage, the promoters told me they were fine ending it right there and that I didn't have to go on last. I told them following Janis wasn't a problem. I went out and sang 'Lucille' in the rain, throwing my clothes into the audience. The crowd went really crazy, and I got all the big press the next day."

In the '70s, Little Richard returned to the ministry and produced another gospel album. In 1986 he recorded "Great Gosh A'Mighty!" for the film "Down and Out in Beverly Hills." The part he had in the movie as Orvis Goodnight led to more Hollywood work and revived his rock career.

"I always acted wild and dressed wild because I wanted to make the music good," Little Richard said. "I wanted to be different more than anything else." 7661245246210.html?mod=googlenews_wsj#articleTabs%3Darticle

Source: Wolfgang Guhl

Charles E. Berry Junior celebrates 50th birthday
Tuesday, 10. August 2010 - 19:14