Friday, June 27, 2008

Episode 132: "Beware" (part 2)

In the conclusion of the 1946 film, "Beware" starring jazz legend Louis Jordan, we return to Ware University (home of the fighting mules...they got an old mule as a mascot) to wrap up the movie with a few more classic Louis Jordan tunes. Two of the songs that Jordan performs in this half of the film, "Don't Worry 'Bout That Mule" and "Beware (Brother, Beware)" went to #1 and #2 respectively on the 1946 U.S. R&B "Race" Charts (that was like the Billboard music chart for black folks music back in the day). Plus you get to see "Long Legged Lizzie" do her thang! I must say that some of these old timey movies really aren't that bad. I thoroughly enjoyed this film...Louis Jordan was quite the entertainer. He could hold his own as a band leader, sax player, singer, rapper, and comedian (plus I understand that he could play several other instruments as well). So I'm glad to wrap up Black Music Month with this musical...and maybe at the same time expose Louis Jordan and his Tympany Five to a new generation. As far as the plot goes...there was just enough of one to keep the movie and musical numbers working together. And in the end, the hero gets the fly girl...the villian gets dissed...and the school survives financial crisis! It can't get much better than that. I hope that y'all enjoy it. Until next time...Peace.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Episode 132: "Beware" (part 1)

As Black Music Month draws to a close, I wanted to share an upbeat musical with my audience. This episode is the 1946 movie "Beware" starring jazz legend Louis Jordan and his band "the Tympany Five". In the first part of this movie, the scene is set and the characters are introduced. The setting: small fictional HBCU, Ware College, in Ohio that is on the verge of bankruptcy. It seems as though the overseeing descendant of the Ware family is intent on letting the school go broke and have to shut its doors, especially since he can't seem to interest the woman of his dreams. In a last ditch fund raising effort, the instructors/administrators reach out to their famous alumni for help. The only one who comes to the aid of his school (although unintentionally) is Lucious Jordan, a former Ware student turned musical superstar (although the old, lame instructors/administrators) have no idea. But the students sure do! Louis Jordan and his band are posted up at their school, and it's about to get funky!! I really liked this film, and wanted to share it as it highlights an HCBU (although a fictional one), the need for its alumni to give back, and some really cool performances by Louis Jordan. Overall, a real positive message. My favorite part comes at the end of part 1, where Louis Jordan busts a rhyme about how "today you gotta have the beat". If this isn't some early 1940s hip-hop, I'm not sure what else to call it. But I think that y'all will dig it...and in part 2, it only gets funkier! Sorry about the quality of this's got some weird wavy stuff going on with the picture. Something didn't go quite right in the conversion process. But the music is what makes this movie fresh...even in 2008. So turn up the volume and tap your feet to the beat. Peace.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

BMA Greatest Hits DVD

I've been thinking about this for a while now, and thanks to my anonymous commenter a few episodes back I at least know that there may be some interest in it. It would be a collection of higher-resolution copies of some favorite BMA episodes on DVD. Specifically, I'm thinking of a collection of some of the old school movies, but the reason I'm posting this is to try and get an idea as to what are some audience favorites. I'd like your feedback on this, just add a comment to this post and let me know which episodes you would most like to have a higher-quality copy of on DVD. Depending on if I get any responses to this posting, I'll look into putting together a "BMA Greatest Hits" DVD of video files. Once I can get an idea as to how many and which episodes should and could (without copyright infringement) be distributed, I'll make the DVD available to all of my wonderful audience for a small fee (plus shipping and handling). The proceeds would greatly help the increasing costs of managing and operating this podcast (I mentioned the bandwidth issue a few episodes ago), plus I would love to help distribute some of these old black movie classics to an even wider audience. So here's the part where I need your input. Hit me up and let me know what have been your favorite BMA episodes...or which ones would you like to have some DVD quality copies of. My hope is that based on your responses, I'll see if I can get a top 4 or 5 and fit them into some kind of double-disc set. So take a look at the listing of past BMA episodes...think it over for a minute...and click the "comment" button to add your 2 cents. Do it today! Peace.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Episode 131: "Hard Times"

Let's switch gears away from the blues for a minute, and to a little good old timey gospel music. Lord knows that black folks have been singing gospel music for as long as we've been I present in this episode Elder Curry and his Congregation singing the song "Hard Times". This particular recording took place on December 16, 1930 with Elder Curry playing guitar, and Elder Charles Beck playing piano. Elder Curry and his Congregation belonged to the Church of God in Christ and recorded in (and I believe hailed from) Jackson, Mississippi. The Congregation were well known performers throughout the old tent revivals that traveled throughout the South. Another well known tune recorded by Elder Curry and his Congregation is "Memphis Flu" (you can click here to listen to it online). I have heard a lot about the old traveling church revival meetings that used to be commonplace in the South in the early 1900s. But it was seldom that any of these events were recorded or attempted to be preserved in any way. It is recordings like this one (and dramatic reenactments like episode 91) that allow us to get a sense of what these revival meeting must have been like. Maybe this episode will revive someone out there. Peace.

P.S. Aaaaw...yeah! I got two new iTunes reviews, and have to give a shout out to "smiley e" and "Curtis141" for leaving their comments and kind words. Your attention to this podcast is appreciated. I love it when I log on to iTunes and see that someone has showed this podcast some love with a 5-star comment! You can't beat that. Peace y'all.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Episode 130: "Three Songs By Leadbelly"

Continuing on with our celebration of Black Music Month (I don't know who thought it up...but I'm embracing it), I present to you...the king of the 12-string guitar...the legendary Leadbelly! I put out a few episodes featuring Leadbelly before (go back and check out episodes 96 and 97), but this one is my favorite. First of all it's in color, even though it was filmed in 1945. Secondly, it's a music video and thirdly, it's of Leadbelly singing and playing three classic songs ("Pick a Bale of Cotton", "The Grey Goose", and "Take This Hammer"). But aside from the music (and a mighty fine pickin' and a singin' it is), just the direction/cinematography of this film is extremely interesting to me. As a whole it's beautifully creepy...from the graveyard scenes at the beginning and end, to the way ol' Huddie Leadbetter was filmed. It makes me wonder if the director/cameraman was trying to make Leadbelly look kind of scary and dangerous...or maybe Leadbelly was just a hard and scary looking man. He undoubtedly had a hard life, but the lighting and camera angles are also peculiar. The way the colors, shadows, movement, and editing work together create a soulful, haunting effect. But it is this stange look to the film that's about half of the appeal of it to me. it is...bluesman Huddie Leadbetter AKA Leadbelly performing three songs. Enjoy. Peace.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Episode 129: "Last Kind Words"

“If Geeshie Wiley did not exist, she could not be invented: her scope and creativity dwarfs most blues artists. She seems to represent the moment when black secular music was coalescing into blues.”

Don Kent's liner notes to "Mississippi Masters: Early American Blues Classics 1927-35" (Yazoo CD 2007, 1994)

What more can you really say to that? The guitar arrangement of this song is both beautiful and haunting. Geeshie (Geechie) Wiley was truly a unique talent. As I wrap up my "Ladies Who Sang the Blues" series with this song, keep in mind that the emotions that black women expressed in the early days of the blues are the recipe for almost all soul or R&B secular music that came afterwards. These ladies don't often get the props that they deserve, but their music is still wonderful. This song was recorded way back in March 1930, with a guitar accompaniment by Elvie Thomas. I was even able to find some pieced together (as best they could) lyrics to this one. Check it out:

Last Kind Words Blues
by Geechie Wiley

(Guitar Intro)

The last kind words I heared my daddy say
Lord, the last kind words I heared my daddy say

If I die, if I die in the German war
I want you to send my body, send it to my mother, lord

If I get killed, if I get killed, please don't bury my soul
I p'fer just leave me out, let the buzzards eat me whole

When you see me comin' look 'cross the rich man's field
If I don't bring you flour I'll bring you bolted meal


I went to the depot, I looked up at the stars
Cried, some train don't come, there'll be some walkin' done

My mama told me, just before she died
Lord, precious daughter, don't you be so wild

The Mississippi river, you know it's deep and wide
I can stand right here, see my babe from the other side

What you do to me baby it never gets outta me
I may not see you after I cross the deep blue sea

I hope that y'all enjoy this one, and I have more Black Music Month episodes to come. Give the song a listen again and see how well these lyrics match up. Peace.

P.S. I couldn't find any kind of photo of Ms. Geeshie Wiley. It seems that this woman was a mysterious figure...not much is known about her.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Episode 128: "He Treats Me Like A Dog"

Now this lady sings some blues. This episode is blues legend Bessie Mae Smith singing "My Man Treats Me Like A Dog", and boy...the lyrics to this one are some truth and pain. I mean, she doesn't leave much to the imagination about how her relationship is going, and she's tired...she's tired of it. This poor country girl has it rough, and she sings it out in this song with a strong, beautiful voice. But that's what the blues is all about. Bessie Mae also went by the stage name "St. Louis Bessie" and also recorded under the name "Blue Belle". If y'all like this song, I have one more I'm gonna share in my "ladies who sang the blues" series. Then we'll keep it going for "Black Music Month" after that. Stay tuned. Peace.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Episode 127: "Mind Reader Blues"

I'm going to continue on with my "Ladies Who Sang The Blues" it's "Black Music Month" (who came up with that whole notion?) so I plan on sharing some musical episodes with y'all throughout June. Now this episode is one catchy tune...I really like this one. "Mind Reader Blues" is a short but powerful song about a woman who knows just what her man is up to. Bertha Lee sang her heart out on this one, and apparently she was singing about her then common-law husband, blues legend Charlie Patton. It is noted that in the fourth verse Lee sings:

"I remember a day when I were livin' at Lula town,
I remember a day when I were livin' at Lula town,
my man did so many wrong things 'til I had to leave the town."

Lee was from Lula, Mississippi and Patton lived there with her for a period of time.I kinda makes you wonder what ol' Charlie was up to. Some good blues right here. Peace.

P.S. There doesn't seem to be any photo of Bertha Lee that exists, and this photo is one of the only ones of Charlie Patton that seems to have survived the years.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Episode 126: "Where Is My Good Man At?"

As I've said before, I'm a fan of the old timey blues...and as my audience demographic poll has shown, it seems that the sisters have been my core audience supporting this podcast so far. So to show some love for the sisters who have been faithfully checking out the BMA podcast, with this episode I'm kicking off a new short series of episodes of ladies who sang the blues. First off is Memphis Minnie singing "Where Is My Good Man At?". One of Memphis Minnie's more famous songs was "When The Levee Breaks" that she recorded with then husband Kansas Joe McCoy, but I wanted to podcast this one instead, as it highlights her solo singing and guitar playing talent. As the words on her headstone say, "The hundreds of sides Minnie recorded are the perfect material to teach us about the blues. For the blues are at once general, and particular, speaking for millions, but in a highly singular, individual voice. Listening to Minnie's songs we hear her fantasies, her dreams, her desires, but we will hear them as if they were our own." Peace.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Episode 125: Dr. Na'im Akbar (parts 1 & 2)

Winding down with my audience appreciation speech series, I thought I'd finish it off with a more recent speech on video. Thanks to my old neighbor, T, back in Georgia for this one. This episode is a speech delivered by fellow Seminole, Dr. Na'im Akbar on October 23, 2001...and I thought that now was a good time to offer this up to my audience. I'm not really sure what, if anything, I can add to this speech through my lil' commentary, so I'm not going to spend too much time trying. I did try to clean up the audio as best as I could, but you may have to turn up your speakers a little bit. I just hope that y'all listen to and enjoy this message. If you're interested in more from Dr. Akbar, he has several books available for purchase. Check 'em out. Peace.

P.S. I appreciate all of the traffic that the BMA podcast has received recently. It seems like every week and month I am able to reach more viewers that the previous. So if your downloads are going a little slow, I apologize, but it turns out that all of you viewers are eating up the amount of bandwidth that I'm allowed (and costing me $$!). So y'all will just have to bear with me in the meantime until I can find a more suitable long-term solution. But in the big picture...this really isn't such a bad problem to have. Thanks again to everyone for your continued support of this podcast. Peace.