The Wolfe Gang
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The Wolfe Gang

Wilmington, North Carolina, United States | SELF

Wilmington, North Carolina, United States | SELF
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"Rockwired Radio Profiles Presents Eclectic Roots Rockers The Wolfe Gang and Their Debut CD Read The Fine Print"

ROCKWiRED RADiO PROFiLES PRESENTS:
ECLECTiC ROOTS ROCKERS THE WOLFE GANG
AND THEiR DEBUT CD READ THE FiNE PRiNTMARCH 23, 2011 - Singer-songwriter MICHAEL WOLFE grew up in a family of professional artists listening to classical music on records, (yes, vinyl!) and hearing folk songs sung by his father, who was a gifted singer as well as a painter. In high school he started listening to jazz, mainly MONK, MINGUS, and BRUBECK. In college he was introduced to blues by a friend. After learning guitar, he listened to all kinds of music but was consistently attracted to blues, R&B, soul, rock, reggae, jazz, swing, funk, zydeco, together with a sprinkling of country, bluegrass, and old-time music. On his band’s – THE WOLFE GANG – debut CD ‘READ THE FINE PRINT’ – the scope of WOLFE’s musical influence manifests itself with the help of bassist ROB HARRINGTON and drummer GENE CARMEN.

(Enter the link to hear the interview)http://www.rockwired.com/rockwiredprofiles104.html

- Rockwired Radio LLC / March 23, 2011


"Michael Wolfe"


Michael Wolfe
• featured
• Richie Frieman
Sure, our latest feature is a bit more “experienced” than several of the artists we’ve featured here on PEV… but Michael Wolfe is using that knowledge to his full-blown advantage. Simply put – he might answer our inquiry about his sound and inspiration for music better than anybody. We’ve seen some extremely talented, yet raw and “inexperienced” artists really wrestle with this question in the past, but Wolfe (along with his Wolfe Gang) nails it when laying down what makes him stand out:
“I guess I have a certain BEAT in my head...it's sort of a rock&roll beat with some R&B and the bamboula and meringue and rumba and calypso and reggae, and country, and western swing and jazz and second-line, and zydeco and funk and soul and blues in it, whatever the song needs, but I know this beat, and it's MY BEAT, and I can change up in many different ways, and play the same song in different ways, and all these different beats are still MY BEAT.”
Yes, that’s a run-on sentence at its finest, but you get the point. Wolfe knows how to make a song all his own – all original. His latest record, “Read the Fine Print” represents this mantra, and the sound is bigger than ever. Wolfe gives the description on how the album came together, “At first I was thinking we'd keep it simple… but my drummer said, ‘Why don't we make a killer studio album?’ So that's what we did – it's got sax, keys, percussion, fiddle, female backup singer, various guitar tracks, all layered over the live rhythm tracks with their urgent immediacy.” Good stuff. The buzz is building for “Read the Fine Print”, so check it out. There’s a whole lot more to get into, so keep reading for the answers to the XXQ’s.


XXQs: Michael Wolfe



PEV: Not one to set yourself in a certain category, please describe your unique sound?



Michael Wolfe (MW): We call it "Organic Free-Range Music." That is to say, we don't set limits on what we play except that it has to feel "organic" to us--- not plastic or metallic or phoney or poisonous or made by machines or artificial. It has to feel real and non-formulaic. We don't play music to try to show how "bad" we are. We don't play rap, hip-hop, metal, punk, or disco. We do work in styles and genres that we feel are organic: roots music, Americana, rock&roll, r&b, blues, zydeco, reggae, jazz, swing, soul, folk, and funk, but even when we are covering some great classic song, we never just copy it; we make it our own.



PEV: Calling North Carolina home, what kind of music were you into growing up? Was anyone your main influence?



MW: I've lived in NC since 1993, but I grew up in Mississippi, and started playing music in Louisiana, so my music was fully formed by the time I moved to NC.



PEV: Having played in the business for a good time now, what was it like for you when you first started out?



MW: I played just by myself in the proverbial woodshed at first, trying to get my fingers to work right, and then just jammed with friends, before I ever got on a stage.



It was hard starting out playing in front of people because I was very erratically talented. I was good on some songs and I sucked on others. Fortunately, I always had fans who liked what I was doing at least some of the time, so I never sucked so bad I felt I had to give it up! In most of my early bands, we were all pretty immature and egotistical and all of us wanted to be the leader! There was always drama and shifting alliances and band politics. But after many broken-up bands, I started to find my footing as a bandleader.



PEV: With that, what can fans expect from a live The Wolfe Gang show?



MW: I start out most shows on acoustic guitar, and switch to electric for the second set, or later in the set if it's a one-set festival gig. But we are always intense and urgent. Even our laid-back mellow songs still have a sense of urgency. We mean it. We aren't playing to be background music. We want to connect with and move the audience. We want people to remember us and our songs. We want to touch your soul.



PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?



MW: "MAN, this is fun!"



PEV: How is working as a solo artist different than that of The Wolfe Gang?



MW: I have worked as a solo artist many times, but it is not as much fun as playing with a band... particularly this band! You don't get to play off the instruments that aren't there...or hear them. I like to hear the bass and drums!



PEV: What was the underlining inspiration for your music? Where do get your best ideas for songs?



MW: I guess I have a certain beat in my head...it's sort of a rock n' roll beat with some R&B and the bamboula and meringue and rhumba and calypso and reggae, and country, and western swing and jazz and second-line, and zydeco and funk and soul and blues in it, whatever the song needs, but I know this beat, and it's my beat. And I can change up in many different ways, and play the same song in different ways, and all these different beats are still my beat. Does that make any sense?



I'll hear a little musical phrase, just a lick, or sometimes a whole stanza, and then some words will come to go with it. I'll try to play it on guitar and maybe I can make it work, and then it will become a song...or not! Maybe I have to file it away and revisit it later. Sometimes, I'll get frustrated with a tune and quit working on it and pick it up much later and find that my unconscious mind or ear has resolved the problems and worked it out for me. Everyday life, things in the news, personal relationships, dreams, memories...all can become songs. (I literally dreamed the instrumental on the CD, "Irish Dream Song."



PEV: Tell us about your latest release, “Read The Fine Print”. What can fans expect from this work?



MW: We recorded it live-in-the-studio with the three-piece core of the band. Most of the songs are first-take rhythm tracks. On some I played acoustic guitar, some electric. We recorded 22 songs and decided to use the 14 on the album. We brought in some other great players to fatten up the sound, and then I listened and tweaked, listened and tweaked, listened and tweaked, for six months, before I finally called myself through. At first I was thinking we'd keep it simple and just show what we could do as a three-piece, (and I may do that sometime) but my drummer said, "Why don't we make a killer studio album?"



So that's what we did---it's got sax, keys, percussion, fiddle, female backup singer, various guitar tracks, , all layered over the live rhythm tracks with their urgent immediacy.



And as I said, I have a certain beat in my head and in my right hand, and the drummer, Gene Carmen, syncs his snare with my right hand, and if you listen to the CD enough times, you'll become familiar with my beat. All the songs have different rhythms, and no two are alike, but the rhythm section and I know how to lock in on our certain beat, and put it in the pocket, and it's there throughout as a subtle unifying force. All the songs sound different, and they don't really sound like anybody else, but they all sound like us!



PEV: Do you ever find yourself getting writer’s block and if so, how do you get over that?



MW: Oh yes, and the only way to get over it is to sit down with the acoustic guitar and play until either your fingers bleed or you've got a song...or both!



PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about Michael Wolfe?



MW: That I'm an "Old Guy." I'm one of the first baby boomers...born in 1946! Okay, leave that out if you think your audience will stop reading in horror! How about this: I once steered a cargo ship through the Panama Canal.



PEV: What one word best describes Michael Wolfe?



MW: "Old"...no. "Grizzled"...no. "Gnarly"... "Funky?" "Contradictory?" "Persistent?" "Unlikely?" "Ironic?" "Delusional?" Ok, got it. CREATIVE. Let's go with that.



PEV: Is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?



MW: Europe! I've been there several times but not as a band on tour. My wife and I lived in Swansea, Wales, UK for six months in 2002. She had a visiting professorship at the University of South Wales.



After I'd been in town for two weeks I'd put together a five-piece band! We called it Wolfe Gang UK and we played a fair number of pub gigs, and would've played more except that my wife and I were off traveling around the Continent many weekends.



(I now regret I didn't record with those guys. The drummer, Jed Woodhouse, with whom I bonded immediately, now plays in the British band "The Real Tuesday Weld.")



PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?



MW: Reading, gardening, swimming in the Atlantic or at the Y.



PEV: If you weren’t playing music now what do you think you would be doing as your career?



MW: Well, to tell the unglamorous truth, I don't yet have an actual career playing music. I've never been successful enough to make a living playing music. I've always just had a lot of fun playing music, and made enough money to support my music habit. What I have done as a career is to work as a small-business-owner: I'm a painting contractor. It's not what you'd call fun, although, as LaoTzu said, "Work that has been completed is satisfying," and I was successful at it until the bottom dropped out of the housing market.



So then I said to my band, both of whom are carpenters whose work has also been slow, well it's now or never on this music pipe dream of ours... let's pull out all the stops and show 'em what we can do!



PEV: So, what is next for Michael Wolfe?



MW: We're jamming and practicing and playing a few gigs around Willmington (nothing unusual there) and waiting to see what happens next with the CD. So far, response has been very encouraging! The fact that I am writing this interview to you is proof of that.


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- PensEyeView / March 7. 2011


"The Wolfe Gang, read the fine print"

The Wolfe Gang, Read The Fine Print
February 22, 2011 | by Skope Staff
Right away I’m intrigued by the title of this band and album; The Wolfe Gang, ‘Read The Fine Print’–hmm…wonder what this will be about? Definitely a good start just for the fact that I’m highly interested in this group and their new record before I’ve even heard anything. Wondering if there will be any howling at the moon as we try to weave between the lines; we shall see!

Well…there was one howl I did pick up on and plenty of weaving going on. The Wolfe Gang is a trio made up of: lead singer/songwriter & guitarist Michael Wolfe, Robb Harrington on bass and Gene Carmen on drums. The three core musicians brought in some special guests to make the studio recording sound even stronger. You had Jon Tucker on sax, Michael Hanson on congas & organ, Jim Ellis on keys, Doug Chancey on harp, Kellie Fiore on backing vocals and Alex Ball on Fiddle. The Wolfe Gang assembled a fine group of musicians to help out on ‘Read The Fine Print’ that came across as a well-played & well-produced album.

The Wolfe Gang style can not be categorized, so don’t even try. They say it best themselves here: “We play Organic Free-Range music. We play grown-up music for people of all ages that they like to refer to as simply ‘good music’.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement because this album is free from limitations and raw to the bone. It’s just about jammin’ together and havin’ a good time is the feel I got after hearing ‘Read The Fine Print’ in full.

Even though The Wolfe Gang doesn’t have a set style in mind, there are definite influences that I picked up on. You will hear some rock & roll, rhythm and blues, country, reggae, soul, funk, folk, swing, jazz and even zydeco. But I felt that blues was the foundation for it all as The Wolfe Gang played their bluesy hearts out. They’re all over the map musically and having a blast doing it! Right from the start on the title track you get a jazzy, rockin’ number that has a lot of pizzazz. Track three “First to Go” exhibits a heavy blues feel while the next song “Get on Home to You” offered a very peaceful vibe. Grab your harmonica and get ready to hop the next train on “Another Sunday Morning” where you can sing along if you “got some troubles in mind”. Track eight “Everybody’s Got One” gives you a draggy blues joint that’s got so much feeling while “Irish Dream Song” makes for one cool instrumental.

There are even three covers on this record: Mose Allison’s “I’m Not Talkin’”, Merle Haggard’s “Shade Tree fix-it Man” and Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds”. I have to say that I was highly impressed with The Wolfe Gang’s version of the Marley classic because it had a perfect reggae/rock flavor. I do believe if Bob Marley was still alive he would give The Wolfe Gang a hand and then “Pass the Dutchie”. I’d also like to add that I really loved the harmonica sound being played on certain tracks. The harmonica is the quintessential instrument when it comes to playing the blues as it breathes wonderful life into the songs. One other aspect that blew me away was Jon Tucker on his saxophone. Tucker added a nice layer to the whole mix with his smooth playing and really he was just killin’ it throughout this record. I’ve always been a huge fan of the whalin’ sax as Jon Tucker will give you plenty of that to soak up. The conga beat was enjoyable to hear on “Congo Square” and overall I was diggin’ Wolfe’s vocal performance.

The Wolfe Gang worked it out in stellar fashion on ‘Read The Fine Print’. If you’re a fan of music with emphasis on blues as the backbone then you will love this group and their new album. I don’t care if this sounds lame or corny but I gotta say it Wolfe Gang and that is to just “Rock Me Amadeus”!

By Jimmy Rae (jrae@skopemag.com)


- Skope Magazine / Feb. 22, 2011


"CD Review- WOLFE GANG- read the fine print"


Artist: The Wolfe Gang
Album: Read the Fine Print
Label: Independent Artist
Website: http://www.reverbnation.com/thewolfegang

Genre: R&B, Classic Saloon Jazz
Sounds Like: Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, Dr. John
Technical Grade: 7/10
Production/Musicianship Grade: 8/10
Commercial Value: 8/10
Overall Talent Level: 9/10
Songwriting Skills: 8/10
Performance Skill: 9/10
Best Songs: Get on Home to You, Read the Fine Print, Overcoat Blues
Weakness: Dated Sounding Production, Winded Songs

CD REVIEW:



North Carolina based singer/songwriters Michael Wolfe releases his latest CD Read the Fine Print in 2010 with his band The Wolfe Gang. His music has been described as a colorful history of Organic Blues & roots-rich music. Influences are but not limited to Thelonious Monk, John Coltrane, Miles Davis & bass legend Charles Mingus



The CD kicks gets off the ground quickly with the title track “Read the Fine Print” a smooth flowing intro piece that serves up slamming blues rock groove against well placed vocal harmonies, inviting horn section, hot guitar licks, & well placed vocal harmonies from Wolfe & company. Track 2 “Everyone” keeps thing moving in the smooth direction with a passionate vocal delivery from Wolfe with steady flowing rhythm, smooth melodic jazz saxophone accents making for an impressive ballad. Track 3 “First to Go” is another impressive groove that dishes out full tilt rock rhythm, impressive drum fills & thought provoking lyrical content from Wolfe. The CD makes a great first impression dashing out 3 solid songs in a row. The musicianship of everyone involved is clearly above the bar. I would classify this music as classic R&B, American, with brief touches of & even Saloon Jazz. Along the way you will notice lush instrumentation with things like impressive horn sections, saxophones, Hammond Organ chops, impressive solo guitar, piano, fiddles, harmonica, & lush harmonies layered everywhere. As this CD slowly unfolds it’s obvious the players in Wolfe’s band are quite accomplished. The rhythm section pushes the natural accents well. What I like the most about this band is how well they seem to groove together, testament to hundreds of hours of rehearsal time no doubt. Now turning our attention over to Wolfe - as for his vocal abilities, he holds his own within the confines of this catalogue. His voice goes down smooth & fills the space peacefully & unobtrusively. I suspect some of his vocal influences are – Boz Scaggs, Eric Clapton, Dr. John, & Jimmy Buffett just to name a few. By track 3 the CD hits sold stride delivering 5 solid tracks back to back including my personal favorites “Get on Home to you”. All songs are extremely well crafted & consistent across the board. This CD from Wolfe delivers 14 solid tracks all providing musical enjoyment filled with strong musical variety & diversity. This catalogue personifies the life experience with high highs & low lows. Wolfe pretty much touches em’ all with messages of thought provoking wisdom. The music of Michael Wolfe has everything you would expect from a professional R&B production. From upbeat “Bon Temps Roulet” to easy flowing “Another Sunday Morning” & “Everybody’s Got One” to smooth as silk “I’m not Talking” to powerful “Mack the Knife” this CD has something for just about everyone. There’s even a Celtic instrumental ”Irish Dream Song” The CD ends with “Three Little Birds” a perfect finale statement for a CD of this caliber.



It’s had to find any serious weaknesses with this CD. But if could say anything to Wolfe right now it would be take a few more vocal risks on some of your more passionate songs, & really push that emotional envelope hard. This would really seal the deal especially at the end of your finale moments. In classic Jam Band fashion - all songs over 4 minutes tend to drag you to the finish line. Perhaps trim up the catalogue a bit. It’s fair to say Wolfe doesn’t have a world class vocal ability – but he pulls it off well & it’s obvious he’s comfortable in his own skin. It’s fair to say the mix though effective is somewhat dry, slightly dated, lacks dynamic & depth when compared to other modern world class production within this genera. I don’t like how track 1 fades out.



From start to finish “Read the Fine Print” is an impressive collection of music from Michael Wolfe & company. The songwriting – world class, all consistent musical experiences, each one possessing a unique personality, flair, & signature groove. Note for note, song for song there isn’t really weak piece on this entire catalogue. The writing & playing abilities of Michael Wolfe & his band are rock solid. The melodies & harmonies are well crafted, & the lyrical content is packed to the hilt with good old fashioned no holds barred R&B swagger. Last but not least the vocal presence of Wolfe is simply infectious. Like a drug - you can’t help but get sucked in by his mystique & his music.



Cyrus Rhodes



- Indie Music Digest / Feb.27, 2011


"WOLFE GANG- read the fine print (CD)"

Wolfe Gang – Read the Fine Print (CD)
Posted by James McQuiston on February 27th, 2011 No Comments Printer-Friendly
“Read the Fine Print” begins with an absolutely smooth bit of funk, blues, and jazz that will ease listeners into the unique sound presented them by the Wolfe Gang. With an absolutely lush production, the Wolfe Gang have a tremendous amount of momentum going into “Everyone”. “Everyone” changes things up considerably, with a bit of punchy percussion that allows for a sultry, almost Tom Waits meets John Morrison type of vocal to dominate. As was the case with “Read the Fine Print”, the band’s talent is considerably enough to tie everything together while keeping listeners on the edges of their seats.
“Get on Home to You” opens up intricately, with guitars, horns, and other strings calling forth seventies pop-rock. The band speaks to the current period with the timeless quality of their music, briefly touching upon different genres and styles of music even as they continually forge forward with their fresh sound. “Another Sunday Morning” is a track that will show listeners that the band puts in their all at all points during the album, rather than allowing things to grind to a halt. With “Everybody’s Got One”, the Wolfe Gang make for an interesting second half of “Read the Fine Print”.

Where a great many of the tracks on the album came from a jazz or blues background, the style of “Everybody’s Got One” skirts close to country just as much as honky-tonk. The disc ends with the reggae-infused “Three Little Birds”, a track that ends things interestingly; listeners will have no idea where the Wolfe Gang will go with their later recordings. If they have had a chance to listen to all of the tracks on “Read the Fine Print”, the one thing that they will know is that all music that will be released by the band will be cut from the same stellar cloth as that found on this disc. Pick up “Read the Fine Print” today, check out their live dates, and see where the Wolfe Gang go in the next few years.

Top Tracks: Read the Fine Print, Get on Home to You

Rating: 8.4/10

Wolfe Gang – Read the Fine Print (CD) / 2011 Self / 14 Tracks / www.myspace.com/wolfegangmusic

- Neufutur Magazine / Feb. 27, 2011


"Wolfe Gang"

Wolfe Gang, Dec 28th, 2010 | By admin | Category: CD Reviews
Wolfe Gang
Read The Fine Print
By John Fonvielle


Rob Harrington, Michael Wolfe, Gene Carmen

Wolfe Gang, a Wilmington trio, is led by veteran music man Michael Wolfe. Moving here in the early ‘90’s from Louisiana, where he led bands for 25 plus years, Wolfe is a mainstay on the local music scene (anyone who played the Ice House is a mainstay in my opinion) fronting different line-ups with his gruff, bluesy vocals and stinging guitar riffs.
Now Wolfe is fronting a trio, Wolfe Gang, consisting of himself (he’s a hairy handed gent), Gene Carman drums and Rob Harrington bass and backing vocals. After playing extensively in the area (lately they’ve been overheard in Mayfair!), WG has laid down a 14 track groove fest, Read the Fine Print. Here Wolfe displays all of his influences: blues, Zydeco, reggae, folk, country and Irish music. A full plate but WG pulls it off with flying colors. Mostly originals, the disc is spiced with songs by the King of Cool, Mose Allison’s “I’m Not Talkin,”, Mr. Country himself, Merle Haggard’s “Shade Tree Fix-it Man”, Spliff Meister, Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” and Masters of Macabre Brecht and Weill’s “Mack the Knife.”

We start with the title song, “Read the Fine Print” touting the age old lesson “The big print giveth, the little print taketh away.” A straight ahead blues song, Wolfe warns of the proverbial carrot-on-a-stick business world. Steady drums and bass and agile guitar licks set the tone for the rest of the disc. This template is used for “Everybody’s Got One”, a musing about the dichotomy in all of us and the need not to share it.

He’s not all howl and growl (rah hoooo!!). “Get on Home to You” is a lush ballad of longing and want. Wolfe shows the soft side of his vocal range. Beautiful backup piano by the great Jim Ellis is married with tasty sax runs courtesy of Jon Tucker.

Tucker and Ellis continue their fine playing on “Mack the Knife”. Here, Wolfe plays his best Leonard Cohen, singing this dark missive of a moritat, deadly deed, in an almost menacing tone, resurrecting the author’s original theme. Mack taught Sweeney how to cut hair.
Soon you’re kicking up your heels to “Irish Dream Song” an instrumental from the Emerald Isle (written by Wolfe) and expertly played on fiddle by Alex Ball the local bluegrass wunderkid.

It’s groove city on Allison’s, the J.J. Cale of jazz, “I’m Not Talkin”. Tucker stretches his legs here laying down tight reed runs and solos. Wolfe’s voice is strong and clear. He does Haggard proud playing “Shade Tree Fix-it Man” in a tight Tulsa shuffle. Doug Chancey adds some nice harmonica, Carman keeping the back beat steady.
The Gang takes it to the edge with Marley’s “Three Little Birds.” First, this is one of the most over played Marley songs, second it’s no easy tune to pull off. Wolfe sings it with complete confidence. Kelli Fiore adds funky backing vocals; Mike Hanson helps out with congas and organ.
Wolfe Gang has presented a comprehensive, cohesive disc of organically played soulful songs. Mr. Wolfe’s experience comes across in his writing, playing and interpretations, backed by his tight, well rehearsed rhythm section and fine session players. His is a well traveled voice, not tired or cynical, but wise and sure footed, showing all the bumps as well as the long stretches. Deft on guitar as he is in singing he leaves you in the comfort zone of a wide lined musical highway.
If you hear him howling around your kitchen door, let him in.
- THE BEAT Magazine /Wilmington, NC/January 2011


Discography

"read the fine print" 2010 (14-song CD)
available as download from reverbnation.com, amazon.com, or at our website: http://thewolfegang.com/, or via email from wolfeman1@vol.com

"Wolfe Gang Live" 2008 (11-song CD)
available from wolfeman1@vol.com

"Makin' It Up As We Go Along" 1999 (14-song CD)
available from wolfeman1@vol.com

Photos

Bio

Feb.14, 2011 SOME SORT OF A MUSICAL BIO Michael Wolfe

People ask, “What kind of music do you play?”

I always have to think for a minute: What kind of music do we play?

Usually I just say “Rock and roll, rhythm and blues,” and that’s close, but it’s not the whole story. So I’ll begin at the beginning…

I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi in the Fifties and Sixties, in the first wave of the baby boom. My parents were artists---not amateurs, but real professionals, serious, artists, who had a unique position in the community as successful outsider nonconformists. They made a living from the sale of their paintings, portraits, drawings, sculpture, ceramics, and stained glass throughout their lives. They didn’t do art as a hobby in their spare time; art was their day job. They were regionally famous, and nationally recognized. They didn’t follow a bohemian lifestyle; they were steady, sober, hardworking, passionately committed artists.

So right there, you can tell I grew up way out of the mainstream. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I can look back and see that I grew up watching artistic creation, the real thing, enacted by my parents every day of their lives. I grew up knowing I would need to create something of my own in my own way.

My father was a fine a`cappella singer with a great voice. (My mother told me she fell in love with him because of his singing.) Some of my earliest memories are of him singing me to sleep at night. He knew a lot of great old folk songs. Some of them I’ve never heard anywhere else; I doubt he had any idea what their actual origin was, and I have no idea where he learned them---true folk music. He knew sea-chanteys and cowboy songs and mountain songs and comic songs and spirituals and old English and Irish ballads. I got my initial interest in music from him. He also had a collection of classical records that I came to know by heart. My mother painted my portrait at age four sitting stock-still on a tall stool--- not posing for her, but listening to Beethoven.

I was in grammar school when rock and roll dawned upon the scene, and of course all of us Mississippi kids were pretty excited, because Elvis was from Tupelo and Jerry Lee was from Louisiana and Memphis was right up the road. I dug it while it lasted, and I knew it was different from what had come before. But then Elvis got drafted, and Jerry Lee got blackballed for marrying a 14-year old, and Buddy Holly got killed in a plane crash, and Chuck Berry got arrested, and Little Richard got religion, and for a few years there really wasn’t any rock and roll. I couldn’t stand the whiny, wimpy pretty-boys singers who filled the airwaves then. I didn’t like the country music of the time. I also hated the crooners from the previous generation. So I completely turned against popular music, (set my teeth on edge) and I hadn’t yet discovered blues or r&b.

But I did discover jazz, and all through my teens I listened to either classical or jazz: Monk, Brubeck, Miles, Coltrane, and my all-time favorite, the great, inimitable Charles Mingus. I quit watching TV when I was in the 9th grade, to concentrate on reading classic novels. I’d quit playing sports. So you see how well I fit in with my junior-high and high school crowd. I was also a liberal, during the worst of the racist police state in Mississippi; I grew up during segregation, but I never bought into it for a minute and always knew it was wrong. The Klan once hand-delivered a threatening card to our mailbox because of a protest letter I’d written to the local racist newspaper. They’d probably have gone farther if my parents hadn’t been prominent, well-respected citizens. (It’s amazing and disgusting to hear the same old attitudes and language I grew up despising being regurgitated on cable TV in more coded terms today!) ...but back to music.

When the Beatles and the rest of the British Invasion happened, I initially resisted, but finally had to admit that pop music was worth listening to again. And then I began following the clues back to the blues: (hey, that sounds like a line from a song I ought to write!) back to where rock and roll came from in the first place. It had been right under my nose in Mississippi all the time, but, being a white boy, and a jazz/classical snob, I hadn’t been aware of it! The English bands brought American black music back across the pond to the ignorant white audience in America. So my musical appreciation started with classical and went through jazz to rock and ended up at the blues.

In high school I began to write short stories, and had a couple published, and decided that my artistic endeavor (our family’s motto was “Create or Die!”) was going to be writing. In my senior year I wrote a sociological study of my high school, that became an underground sensation and ultimately a scandal-- it was banned by the principal, who tried confiscate all the copies. But my status changed from weirdo geek to cool