Thursday, March 21, 2019

The F Word: Is It True?

Posted By on Thu, Mar 21, 2019 at 10:00 AM

Is it true, pretty baby, what they said about you? This week, two music icons were taken from us. R&B-soul shouter Andre Williams and surf guitar originator Dick Dale. Something ain't right here.

I had the pleasure of sharing the bill and playing with these legends, and I've had the chance to meet both of them. Dick Dale had the largest guitar sound in the world. It wasn't just loud, it was a picturesque, volcanic seascape; it was the roar of the untamed beast within.

One night, The Frantic Flattops — my band at the time — were playing select dates with Dale. We were backstage in Cleveland one night, celebrating Dale's return from "getting his head together" in the hills of Northern California. He taught us to tell if a piece of jade is real with a simple piece of hair. And he always spoke of himself in the third person. "Dick Dale likes you guys."

But the most memorable encounter was a hot night at the Beat Kitchen in Chicago around 1992. When my band got the opportunity to open the show for Andre "Mister Rhythm" Willliams, who had penned classics like "Jail Bait," "Bacon Fat," and "Shake a Tailfeather."

Now, The Frantic Flattops had learned a rock 'n' roll barnburner called "Is It True?" I had first heard it on a live Barrence Whitfield record. It was a salacious slab of breakneck rhythm and blues, and we had begun closing our sets with it. I had no idea it was an Andre Williams tune. So that night, as so many nights before, we closed out our set with "Is It True?"

Andre was in the dressing room tying his tie in front of a busted mirror when I strolled in sweaty and disheveled. He wore a red pinstripe suit. He was tack-sharp. He addressed me immediately.

"You guys are playing my music," he said. I thought he was being complimentary, like, "You guys are playing my kind of music."

I was clueless. "Thanks, "I said.

He reiterated. "No motherfucker, you're playing my song."

"Ohhhhh..."

So halfway into his set, he brought it up with the audience. "What should I do with 'em?" he asked. A light bulb went on over his head. "I know," he said. "Let's get them up here and do it the right way." That was the night I played "Is It True?" with the legendary Andre Williams. It was cool — downright Frigidaire.

A couple years later, Williams played the Bug Jar in Rochester. I got dressed up and made the scene. I went down to the dressing room to say hello, not really expecting him to remember me.

"Hey Andre, I just wanted to say —" He cut me off, pointed at me and smiled big. He remembered.

"That's right," he said with his gold tooth display. "The 'Is It True?' Boys."R.I.P.

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Friday, March 1, 2019

The F Word: Rochester Music Hall of Fame

Posted By on Fri, Mar 1, 2019 at 5:16 PM

Every year, with the announcement of the latest inductees into the Rochester Music Hall of Fame comes a groan of disappointment from some local musicians and their fans. We're not simply talking sour grapes or envy here.

It's just that there's a lot of scuttlebutt surrounding who gets picked, and the fact that sometimes their links to this town are tenuous at best. And the musicians who make beautiful noise here get overlooked in lieu of artists with greater celebrity. The Rochester Music Hall of Fame is bringing in talent from outside to celebrate Rochester. They're looking without Rochester, instead of within. And this is, well, it ain't cool.

The RMHOF lineup over its past eight years has consistently catered to a 50-years-and-older audience and frankly, it's beginning to get stale. There are so many genres, subgenres and periods of music rooted in Rochester to choose from, spanning from William Warfield and Cab Calloway to Wendy O. Williams and The Fugitives. Let's add in the styles that'll attract different generations.

There are plenty musicians who haven't left for greener pastures, opting to stay right here and make the scene night in, night out. And they should be counted in. There are bands of note like The Chesterfield Kings and The Colorblind James Experience, who have been looked over in the past, and artists like The Hi-Risers, Mastodon, Joywave, and Mikaela Davis, who are out there currently making it happen internationally. And they still call Rochester home.

Everyone on this year's list is on there deservedly. I mean, Dave Kane? institution. But I get the feeling that the board of directors doesn't have that much faith in the people of Rochester to get their asses in seats to sell out Eastman Theatre's Kodak Hall. They seem to feel the need to pad the lineup with artists like Gary Wright performing his hits "Dream Weaver" and "Love Is Alive." And though I'm a big Beach Boys fan - sing it with me: I wish they all could be West Irondequoit girls - Al Jardine spent about five minutes in Rochester as a child when his dad worked at Kodak and RIT. Using this logic, they should include David Bowie because he spent the night in Rochester...in jail.

All I'm saying to the board of directors is goose it a little, fellas. Dig into some of the obscure artists and music, the stuff that make this a great music town. And stop trying to make these ties to Rochester that are anything but.

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My Gal Patsy: The Ultimate Tribute to Patsy Cline @ OFC Creations Theater Center

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Josie Waverly stars as Patsy Cline. Details here....
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