MIXED BAG: #2
(1.) One evening in the middle seventies, Pink Anderson performed at Izzy Young’s Folklore Center in Greenwich Village (NYC). This was sort of Pink’s farewell world tour, organized and shepherded by Roy Book Binder – in NYC he was adequate; Roy has told me that on other occasions on the tour he was very good indeed. His appearance was a real surprise for me as I had spent much time over a number of years attempting to record Pink in Spartanburg. Peg Leg Sam tried to help… Pink even resorted to a snort or two (usually a teetotaler) to loosen things up, but to no avail. I suppose that this was like the old fire horse reacting to the siren… one last job!
Among the audience for Pink was JoAnne Kelly, then a recording artist for Nick Perls’ Blue Goose label… it made sense that she would be there. After introducing myself, I mentioned that I was planning on going to hear Bobby “Blue” Bland after Pink was done. That interested her no end and she asked if she might come along, to which I, of course, agreed. Being then a known quantity at the (White) club where Bobby was playing (and also with some of Bobby’s entourage by then), I was able to get us both in for free without any difficulties. Bobby was magnificent with both Mel Brown and Wayne Bennett in his band, and JoAnne was totally in thrall. After it was all over, I escorted her back to Nick’s brownstone in the wee small hours – as a gesture of thanks, she pinched a Yazoo T-shirt for me! (Nick was too cheap to have ever given me one!) JoAnne Kelly was a lovely person with unexpectedly broad musical tastes to add to her talent… one of the good ‘uns.
(2.) While at college (university/UK) in the early 60s I used to pick up copies of something called The Schwann Catalogue. It was an alphabetical listing of available LPs broken down into somewhat broad generic categories… blues, I think, was lumped in with jazz at that time. It was published every two months to keep it relatively up-to-date and it also had two additional sections on different colored paper: one denoting upcoming releases, and one of coming deletions.
One issue had a listing for “It’s the Blues Man” by Eddie Kirkland on the TruSound label in its upcoming release section. Being slightly aware of the John Lee Hooker connection, I placed an order for it at the University Store’s record department (!). It eventually arrived, to my great delight, and the rest of my involvement with Eddie is history, as they say (O&S # 49, 50, 51). In the next issue of Schwann, Kirkland’s album was listed as being deleted!!
I later asked Eddie what had happened to this marvelous album back in the early 60s. According to him, Prestige got a call from a “so-called friend” in Detroit telling them that he owned all the publishing copyrights to the songs on the album. Prestige simply took the LP off of the market altogether rather than deal with the guy. It was officially listed in Schwann as first an “upcoming release”, and then a “deleted release” in the next issue and therefore actually “in release’ for maybe a couple of months, ergo its relative rarity at the time. Needless to say, the folks from Detroit were from LuPine Records for whom Eddie had recorded SOME of the tunes previously, but who hadn’t released anything (and never did). In truth, there were only three or four songs duplicated (see Fantasy/OBC release for the TruSound album, and a Relic Records collection for the LuPine sides). That was enough, apparently, to scuttle what was probably the best blues album (qua album) of the year and about the best thing Eddie’s ever done. After that experience, Eddie made a concerted effort to never record the same song for different labels o that that would not happen again. Too late for this gem, though.
(3.) Staying with Eddie for the moment, he tells a story of when he and Hooker were traveling their circuit together in the mid-West and the deep South and a problem arose. For reasons never spelled out to him, Hooker was exceedingly reluctant to go into Mississippi (actually a sane stance at the best of times!!). He would not go, even though gigs for them had been booked – he sent Eddie on by himself in his place… posing as Hooker! In Clarksdale, relatives of John Lee cooperated with Kirkland’s ruse, telling everybody “That’s my brother”. So Eddie did the tour in his stead through MS with no problem. The problem came later when Hooker finally went back to Mississippi – many came up to him after a gig and said, “You’re not John Lee Hooker… he’s been here before and you don’t look anything like him at all”!
(4.) A final Hooker/Kirkland story that I witnessed directly. In 1973 I was able to get Eddie on to the bill for the Ann Arbor Festival since they were (very cleverly) planning on an afternoon of Detroit blues artists. It ran the gamut from One String Sam to Baby Boy Warren to Arthur Gunter to Little Junior Kennedy. Hooker was to close the afternoon Detroit proceedings, but, when the time came, he refused to go on. Second-to-last had been Eddie Kirkland who absolutely blew away the crowd with his music and his energy. Backwards somersaults, jumping into the crowd… the whole nine yards. He basically kicked ass and took names, folks, as only he can do in full flight! John Lee knew he couldn’t follow that act and he asked to open the evening concert instead. His wish was granted. If you don’t believe me, just ask John Sinclair!
Peter B. Lowry
Published: BLUES & RHYTHM