It was an honor to be invited to hangout and play music with these guys last weekend: Geoff Muldaur who makes a killer spice soup and one of my favorite guitar pickers. Jim Kweskin: who sang a delightful if bawdy song by Shel Silverstein about falling love with a mermaid but liked the girl with the bottom half human and top half a fish, better. Happy Traum: the king of the Woodstock scene and I will have to pick up his blues/folk guitar instruction books from Hal Leonard, for me and my students.
The guitars were passed around like a peace pipe and everyone imbibed. Geoff encouraged me to play a song so I started with a new one Horsepower with it's little nod to Mississippi Fred McDowell. They told stories about Howlin' Wolf scaring off two college girl fans but otherwise being a big nice guy, not so nice for Fred McDowell though. My late husband, Paul Williams was a huge fan of Wolf and I would often hear him playing the original recordings and singing along at the top of his lungs (out of key but never mind).
Paul would tell me stories of growing up in Cambridge and seeing these guys as a young teen, and watching part of that scene make that turn towards rock -ala folk, I feel like I know more than I oughta for my generation, mostly because of Paul. Not to mention that gawd-danged great, hard to find, illustrated story of the Cambridge folk years Baby Let Me Follow You Down by Eric Von Schmidt. And I would be remiss if I didn't mention my bass player of the Damn I Wish I Was A Man years, Waygone Rex Wilson, who would tell stories of seeing all these guys at the LA folk/blues clubs like the Ashgrove in the 1960s.
We are all just standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, as the saying goes.
My current bassist and co-producer David Schwartz (and wife, Jody Schwartz) came too, and brought his doghouse bass. It was a ton of fun. Lots of good and traditional songs were sung and I threw in an oldie (well maybe not so old to these guys) YaYa by Lee Dorsey. A 45 my mother owned growing up and we kids inherited. We'd listen to that dang 45 over and over, in particular the intro, the "oh well Iammm" and then that, grunt, and we'd laugh 'til we cried.
Throughout the night I watched closely what these guys were doing with their guitar chords and blues riffs...lord willing, I picked up a few tricks I can assimilate and pass on to students. At one point I played a slice of Wolf's Smokestack Lightnin' and Geoff looked sideways and said "How do you know about that".
Geoff Muldaur, Happy Traum, Jim Kweskin, Bob Neuwirth
I'm grateful to have been invited to be a part of such a wonderful gathering of the tribes. And now, David and I prepare to do our first recording sessions since the very successful Kickstarter fundraiser. Yes, the word is indeed grateful.
(those black and white photos by David Schwartz, color photos by me)