Artist Spotlight

Albert Castiglia

Albert Castiglia

 2018 has been an interesting year for guitarist Albert Castiglia to say the least, and he promises to pull out all of the stops on Dec. 2, at The Rabbit Hole when he helps celebrate the Charlotte Blues Society’s annual Blues Christmas Bash extravaganza.


Known for his powerful, in-your-face performances, which mix blues, rock, soul and more, Castiglia – pronounced, as he says, “Ka-STEEL-ya, dammit!” – has been touring the world virtually non-stop since releasing his latest album, Up All Night, on Germany’s Ruf label, last holiday season. Known for his visceral guitar style and potent vocals, he developed what he terms as a “heavy” style for his latest CD, which was produced by his friend and Ruf label mate, Mike Zito. Sonny Landreth and Jumpin’ Johnny Sansone make guest appearances. But the real stars are the guys who drive the beat. Albert’s new touring band -- drummer Brian Menendez and bassist Jimmy Pritchard – make their first appearances on disc to support him. 

The trio fit together like hand and glove, and the reviews have all been positive with one critic stating it “rocks from start to finish” and another saying that it’s aptly titled because “nobody sleeps when this man is in town.”


A native New Yorker born to Cuban and Italian parents and raised in Miami, Albert’s used to dealing with life’s highs and lows, but nothing like he’s had to deal with this year.  Now 49, he was still in college when joined the Miami Blues Machine at age 19, and worked as a social services investigator for the state of Florida for four years after leaving school. His star began rising in the blues heavens in 1996 when he was in the audience at the Musicians Exchange, a long-running showroom and rehearsal space in Fort Lauderdale, and Junior Wells invited him onstage to sit in.  Wells liked what he heard so much that he invited Albert to join his road band as its lead guitarist a short while later. The gig ended when Wells succumbed to cancer, but not before Castiglia had moved to Chicago and become an integral part of the local blues scene.Albert worked alongside a who’s who of Windy City veterans after Wells’ death, including Pinetop Perkins, Lurrie Bell, John Primer, Ronnie Baker Brooks, Billy Boy Arnold and Eddy “The Chief” Clearwater before returning to the Sunshine State, forming his own band and releasing ten CDs since the mid-2000s. He’s also toured extensively with the late Sandra Hall, Atlanta’s Empress Of The Blues, and worked with New England powerhouse Ronnie Earl.


The past 12 months have been a roller coaster of emotion for Castiglia. First, he lost his beloved boxer, then his grandmother. Almost immediately, however, his life brightened immensely in a manner he never would have imaged: He was contacted by a daughter he never knew he had.“The day of my grandmother’s funeral was the day I found out I was a dad,” he says. “So I like to think that she (his granny) left me something before she left the earth.”


His daughter, Rayne, 29, lives about an hour to the north, and she and Albert have developed an instant, rapport. They’ve been spending quality family time and building a father-daughter relationship ever since, getting together whenever Albert’s schedule permits.“The whole year has made me philosophical about life and made me change the way I look at things,” Castiglia admits. “With every loss, eventually something happens to balance things out. There’s a lot to live for. You’ve gotta keep living if you want to find the joy.  I lost my dog while I was out on the road, and when I got home, the place we get our dogs from told us that there was a couple of 10-month-old boxers they wanted us to look at. We connected with one of them, and she’s with us today.“


"It’s the blues! The blues is life, and the life is the blues.”  Too often, the blues is stereotyped, he insists. “I find it quite uplifting. Too often, you go on Facebook and someone’s sayin’ ‘I miss the traditional stuff; there’s too much rock in it.’ But anybody who’s affiliated with this genre of music…we’re all carrying on the responsibility of keeping it alive. It doesn’t matter which way you’re doing it – whether it’s through your writing or doing it traditionally or doing it in a more contemporary fashion.  We’re all doing this music a service by keeping it alive in our own way.”


Albert’s truly looking forward to returning to Charlotte. His most recent appearance here was at the Double Door about ten years ago. “I’m looking forward to seeing some friends and meeting some new ones, too.”


Put on your dancing shoes and welcome the holiday season in style with Albert. Doors open Sunday December 2, 2018 at The Rabbit Hole, 1801 Commonwealth Ave., Charlotte, at 7 p.m. Admission is $5 for CBS members with proper ID and $10 for non-members.   


~Marty Gunther 


Marty Gunther has lived a blessed life where the blues is concerned. A native Rhode Islander now based in Charlotte and App State alum, his first experiences with live music came at the feet of first-generation blues legends at the Newport Folk Festivals in the 1960s. A professional journalist and harmonica player whose work appears in Blues Blast Magazine and other outlets, he was a longtime member of the Chicago blues community before founding the Nucklebusters, a band that’s been entertaining South Florida since 1987.


  • Albert will also be the final signature on the CBS Raffle guitar, and he will be drawing the winner as we broadcast the drawing live on Facebook at the end of the evening.


  • The guitar, donated by Rick Kite, CBS Board member, is loaded with signatures and raffle tickets will be sold up until the drawing for $10 each.  All proceeds to benefit Charlotte Blues Society. 





Eric Gales

Eric Gales

By Mary London Szpara



Gale is Defined as “a very strong wind” “a noisy outburst”


You can define Eric Gales as a force of nature all his own, a tsunami in the world of guitarists. The storms he encountered and conquered in his personal life have added a dimension to his writing. He is as unpredictable musically as the wind he rides, but every time he walks on stage is a moment to remember. Music erupts from his soul red hot, much like the lava from Mount Agung. Once it starts, hold on!


If you don't recognize his name, I recommend you hit the 'Tube and surf the tunnel to check out his videos and live performances, then buy every CD he has ever recorded. You will thank me, send me flowers, throw gold coins when I pass you in gratitude. Eric Gales has recorded 18 albums with his name emblazoned on the front and has contributed to well over that on tribute projects. Oh, and he is one of the most well-respected guitarists in the industry. And truly one of the nicest. 


Joe Bonamassa calls him “one of the best, if not the best guitar player in the world”. Carlos Santana says Gales is “absolutely incredible”. Mark Tremonti says Eric “could be the best player on Earth” and Dave Navarro states what I think “How Eric Gales Band isn't the hugest name in rock history is a mystery”.


Eric Gales'  album, released in 2017 Middle of the Road is a slight detour from what you may have come to expect from him. That strong rhythmic “thump” is more than just bass, it is melody, mood and all Eric.


This album is personal. I asked Eric about the change of pace on Middle of the Road, when I spoke with him in November 2017 .  “Its different styles and things I like...reflects what I've been through in life, how my life has transformed. I'm very pleased with where I am in my heart.”


Track for track, Middle of the Road is a walk in Eric's shoes. It begins with “Good Time” and funky fun tune that can almost be called “rollicking”. I had it playing in the background when a friend called and said “Who IS that!” (I love turning people on to great music and musicians...you have a new fan Eric) Next up is “Change in Me (The Rebirth)”. “I got tired of doin' bad, now I'm doin good” reflects his approach to life. If you want some great funky guitar work, “Carry Yourself” is your song. Then there's “Boogie Man” the Freddy King classic with a some help from the incredible Gary Clark Jr (“great song,worked up some cool stuff”). “Been So Long” talks about having been through difficult times, and the positive reggae vibe is pretty special. It's followed by “Help Yourself”. I love this song and young Christone “Kingfish” Ingram plays on the track. (“proud of him, he's really blossoming as a player”). The raw moments expressed in “I've Been Deceived” are real. His lyrics are much like his advice to young players, “keep your eyes open. Pay attention. Don't let yourself be sidetracked”. Eric pulls no punches here. Then we are treated to “Repetition” where Eric is joined by his brother Eugene, who rips it wide open. “Help Me Let Go” is quite beautiful, and very much a prayer for salvation. He picks up the mood with the funky “I Don't Know” and then gives us something to stomp to with a slappin' bass line and swampy feel...oh yeah, its it's an instrumental perfectly coined “Swamp”. This is a fantastic album to throw into your CD player when you hit the road. The tracking is perfect.


Although Eric is not left-handed, his brother Eugene is, and he taught Eric to play left-handed, which is to play the right hand guitar upside down, with the E string on the bottom. Eric said it always “felt right”. It still amazes me when I see him. The references to Hendrix are understandable, but Eric Gales is distinctly his own man.

My radio daze allowed me to interview Eric and Eugene the first time in 1993. They were signed to Elektra Records, touring to support “Picture of a Thousand Faces”. He was a fresh faced kid, still in his teens and this was already his second album with the label since he was 16. I remember how remarkable a talent he was then, displaying a maturity, talent and confidence on stage that belied his age.


He's matured more than a little since that time, and I freely admit I am a fan. He puts 100% into a show and I've seen many of his performances over the last 24 years, including several at the Double Door Inn. He has never held back on stage: he rules it.

His tour schedule is already rapidly filling up for 2019.  In early 2018 Eric put together a special show January 20th in Memphis with his brother Eugene. The Gales Brothers were together again  and just as Eric said “it's going to be ridiculous!” 


As we were finishing up our call, I wanted to ask him a simple question: If you could jam with anyone, living or dead, who would it be. He didn't miss a beat “Stevie Ray Vaughan & Jaco Pastorius it would be ridiculous”.

Eric Gales. You Gotta love this guy! See you at his next show!


check him out Thursday December 6th 2018 at Neighborhood Theatre.  Treat yourself to one hell of a blues player...no...just make that one extreme guitar player....don't worry, you're gonna love it!

Mary London Szpara

President of Charlotte Blues Society, London was a radio dj, music director and program director gypsy who finally settled in Charlotte NC after traveling and working on the air throughout the US.  Her forte was interviewing artists who came through town.  Her love of the guitar lead her to a blog where she occassonally writes about some of her favorite artists.



Find out more

Otis Rush

So Many Roads: Otis Rush (1935-2018)

 

Ain’t got enough coming in

To take care of what’s got to go out

It ain’t enough love or money coming in

To take care of what’s got to go out

Like a bird, I got my wings clipped my friends

I got to start all over again
Otis Rush, “Ain’t Enough Coming In”

Make no mistake about it, Otis Rush was one of the most important musicians to come out of the second wave of Post World War II Chicago Blues. In particular, his stunning guitar playing was a seminal influence on the playing of such well known guitarists as Eric Clapton, Carlos Santana, Jimmy Page, Johnny Winter, Michael Bloomfield, and Duane Allman, among many. His music was also a huge influence on Texas Bluesman, Stevie Ray Vaughan, who named his band after one of Otis Rush’s classic songs, Double Trouble. Many musicians, including the author of this article, have spent countless hours with the music of Otis Rush.

In addition, Otis Rush was a great composer and one of God’s great singers. Yet, unlike his contemporaries like Buddy Guy and B.B. King , his music is not known to the public at large. Some of this was due, at times, to a limited recorded output and some of this was due to the fact that Rush was a consummate artist and not a showman-like entertainer. He did not like to give many interviews and avoided “show business trappings” whenever possible. As described later in this article, my own encounter with him lead me to believe that he was a very shy and humble, yet an outstandingly kind and generous human being. It is the humanness and the reality of Otis Rush’s music that lead me and so many others to embrace it in the first place.

Therefore, when I learned of the passing of Otis Rush on September 29, 2018, at the age of 83, I shed many tears and continue to shed more. For the most part, Otis had been largely inactive as a musician since he suffered a debilitating stroke in 2003. I was pleased to learn that Carlos Santana had been sending Otis two substantial checks each year since his stroke. I met Carlos Santana in 1998 and found him to be a very kind man. So the generosity and respect that he demonstrated towards Mr. Rush was not that surprising to me . An example of a disciple paying it forward.

America has an alarming history of never really appreciating real talent until they have departed this world. Yet, despite not receiving the recognition he deserved in America, among his other struggles, Otis Rush maintained his art and humanity. That is just one of the lessons within the context of this article. To begin to understand the music and art of Rush we need to embrace some crucial biographical details

He was born on April 29, 1935, in Philadelphia, Mississippi, to Julia Campbell Boyd and O.C. Rush, a sharecropper family. He had started playing music in Mississippi on an older brother’s guitar. When he visited his sister in Chicago in 1948, he decided to stay. The Blues scene in Chicago was booming in the late 1940’ and Otis made his way into the clubs as a listener when he sister took him to see such Chicago Blues legends as Muddy Waters and Jimmy Rogers. Before he was 20, Otis was making an impact in those same clubs. He was a regular at the 708 club and there he met Blues bassist, composer and raconteur, Willie Dixon. Willie introduced the young Otis to Cobra Records President, Eli Toscano.

In 1956, he signed a recording Contract with Toscano’s Cobra label. He immediately hit big with his version of Willie Dixon’s, “I Can’t Quit You Baby,” which made it to #6 on the national R&B charts. ( This same song was also covered by Led Zeppelin on their debut album). During the two years he was with the Cobra label, Rush recorded such Blues classics as, “Double Trouble, My Love Will Never Die, It Takes Time and Groaning the Blues, among other sterling examples of the West Side Blues form. The songs in these sessions were split between the songs of Willie Dixon and Rush. The sessions were overseen and produced by Willie Dixon and included Ike Turner and Louis Myers on backing guitars.

Considering the maturity and depth of the Cobra recordings, it is quite surprising that Otis Rush was in his early twenties when he started to record.

It is also quite interesting to consider the triumvirate of Blues guitarists that recorded for the Cobra label. Otis Rush, along with Buddy Guy and Magic Sam created a style of Blues called “West Side Chicago Blues.” Part of that was some of the locations in Chicago where these three guitarist/singers plied their trade. The other consideration was a stylistic one. In contrast with Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, who were playing electrified Delta Blues with a strong backbeat, Rush, Guy and Sam were playing Blues more along the lines of B.B. King and Albert King. The stylistic attribute of West Side Chicago Blues included bent string solos that were vocal-like in their approach and that also included intense Gospel influenced vocals in the singing of these great artists.

In particular, Otis Rush and Magic Sam wrote and covered many songs that were in minor keys. Because of the minor keys many of the songs in their repertoire had a broadly mordant quality. To quote Muddy Waters, these were “deep blues,” with a broad sonic and emotional palette. Rush also studied Jazz guitarists like George Benson and Kenny Burrell. He also seriously studied with ace Chicago session man, Reggie Boyd.

Otis Rush left Cobra records in 1958. From 1960 through 1976, Otis Rush recorded for a broad range of labels. These included such labels as Chess, Duke, Vanguard, Cotillion, and Capitol, among others. Part of the issue with the recordings that Otis Rush did during this period was that few of the producers of these records shared Otis’ level of talent. However, no matter what the production values were, the records of this period all had glimmers of Otis’ genius.

The seventies were a difficult time for Otis Rush. He suffered bad relationships, bad management, occasional alcohol problems and, for a period of time, stopped playing and recording. Without a doubt, a restless time for a restless soul.

In 1985, Otis Rush started a comeback. This culminated with a contract with Mercury/Universal and the pairing of Otis with a sympathetic Guitarist/Producer, John Porter. In 1994, they collaborated on the stunning album, “Ain’t Enough Coming In.” This record was nominated for a Grammy Award. Ever the restless spirit, Otis signed with the House of Blues label. Again, he was matched with a Producer worthy of his talents, the legendary Memphis Producer, Willie Mitchell, who had produced artists ranging from Al Green to Ann Pebbles to Keith Richards. Together they put together the broad ranging 1998 album, “Any Place I’m Going,” which won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional Blues Album. Otis was finally earning the income and getting the respect he so richly deserved. He was enormously popular overseas.

I first heard Otis Rush’s music when I was in high school. I had been playing guitar for about six years at that point. In particular, I absorbed the Blues of the Mississippi Delta and the Blues from Chicago.

I love the Blues because it encompasses all aspects of the human experience. The Blues is a way to accept my life and accept the struggles and joys of this world. I had the same reaction to Otis Rush’s music as when I first heard the music of the Delta Blues genius, Robert Johnson. Like Johnson, the sound of Otis Rush’s guitar and vocals were both eerie and compelling to me. A contrast of shadow and light in sound.

I have spent a lot of time emulating both his guitar playing and vocals. I still find great inspiration in Otis Rush’s work. He remains a distinct and consistent part of my musical DNA.

In 1996, I was a member of a Blues Society in Norfolk, VA called the Natchel’ Blues Network. Through their good graces, my good friend Pete Brennen and I obtained press passes to go to the First Western Maryland Blues Festival In Hagerstown, Maryland. The headlining act was Otis Rush. Also on the bill were artists like Robert Lockwood, Big Jack Johnson, John Hammond and The Nighthawks, among many.

As Pete and I had never seen Otis live, we were beyond excited. To this day, the 1996 Western Maryland Blues Festival was one of the most intelligently organized festivals of it’s kind that I have ever been to. The first night, May 31, was at a local college with Robert Lockwood performing. The next day the city utilized blocked off streets for performers such as Big Jack Johnson, who Pete and me became friendly with. Jack told us that his band was going to be hosting an open Blues jam at a local club that night after Otis Rush’s performance at the Maryland Theater. I made a mental note of that and hoped we would have the time and energy to participate.

But the Holy Grail was seeing Otis live that night with solo performer, John Hammond, opening. The Maryland Theater was an elegant theater in downtown Hagerstown. ( In fact, the same theater is used in the Opera scene of the Shirley MacLaine film, Guarding Tess). As always, John Hammond played an engaging and intense opening set.

But a cool wind blew in from Chicago when Otis Rush hit the stage. Otis opened with a song from his original Cobra sessions, “All Your Love(I Miss Loving). He also performed songs from the Ain’t Enough Coming In album and other material from the early part of his career. His almost Gospel-like vocals elevated my spirit. Definitely have seen many Blues guitar players in my life, but the wide bends and pitch shadings of his playing were the best Blues guitar playing I have ever heard, before or since that night.

For the guitar players, among my readers, Otis was playing a Gibson Stereo 355 guitar that he ran stereo into two Fender Twin amplifiers. Otis played the guitar left handed/upside down like Albert King with the little finger of his picking hand resting slightly under the low E string. It was well worth the wait to see Otis turn a theater into an almost church- like atmosphere. This was deep Blues at it’s best.

After the show we waited backstage, I with my Otis Rush record collection and press pass in hand. We got in a line of about 20 people, mainly comprised of festival staff and family waiting for an audience with Mr. Rush. We met Otis’s lovely wife, Masaki. When she saw our press passes, she reached inside her jacket pocket and gave my friend Pete and I some Otis Rush guitar picks. I asked about an interview with Otis. Masaki said he was suffering from a toothache and to contact his manager, Rick Bates. Rick would set something up in the near future by phone.

At that point, Otis saw me and the vinyl albums I had under my arm. He gave me the warmest smile and said, “Folks I will sign everybody’s CD’s. But let me talk to this guy with the albums right now, if you don’t mind.” We shook hands and I introduced myself and Pete to one of one of my Blues heroes.

A hero who turned out to be one of the sweetest people I have ever met. A very shy, yet warm man. Otis said, “Man, you have a lot of my old stuff. Thank you!” I expressed how much his music meant to me. That I was a guitar player and singer and that I had studied his music constantly. He thanked me again and than said, “I can see by the covers that you played these records and didn’t just collect them!” He was particularly thrilled that I had a 45 single from the 1969 album, “Mourning in the Morning.”(Note: Mourning in the Morning was produced by Michael Bloomfield and Nick Gravenites) He signed every record I had with me. Mindful of the people behind me, I thanked Otis and Masaki. Masaki gave me Otis’s management information.

Feeling elated, Pete and I decided to go to the Big Jack Johnson jam we had learned of earlier that day. We went to a club outside of downtown Hagerstown, whose name escapes me now. I spoke to Big Jack Johnson, a great man, now deceased, a Clarksdale Mississippi version of Otis, and asked to borrow a guitar and an amplifier to use. He grinned through sunglasses and said, “ Well you need to play for me so I know that you can play.” I plugged in a Stratocaster and ripped off a series of chords and licks. Jack laughed and said, “ That guitar likes you, you will be up next.” Just as my turn came up, Otis and Masaki Rush walked in.

As a musician, in those circumstances, you can either choose to be a coward or choose to be a lion. I chose to be a lion that night.

In the jam we were given two songs. I backed up a local Blues singer on her version of Muddy Waters’ “Walking Thru the Park.” I noticed Otis smiling during the guitar solos. I then walked up to the microphone and dedicated Albert King’s, “Drowning On Dry Land, to Otis. I played and sang like my life depended on it.

When we finished, I noticed that Otis and Masaki were leaving. I did my best to say goodnight, but I was unable to. Otis’ back-up musicians were still there. One of the musicians, the guitarist I believe, told me that Otis’ tooth was really hurting him. But he said that he wanted to pass on to me that Otis really enjoyed my performance and thought my playing was “classic.”

You could have sealed me in a bubble right then and there.

We left Hagerstown the following afternoon. About a week later, in Norfolk, we did a four man phone interview with Otis Rush. It was on fellow Bluesman and Fan, JD. Silvia’s Radio Show, Blues Alley. This show was broadcast on the Norfolk State University’s radio station, WNSB, 91.1. Also participating in the interview was my friend, Pete Brennen and another Bluesman, Thomas Parker. When I was 19 years old, I played with Thomas in the Jade Brothers Blues Band. The Jade Brothers were a stone cold, Chicago style Blues band. Thomas turned me on to a lot of Otis’ music and was also a great mentor to me.

Each of us, after introductions, basically got to ask one question of Otis. I chose mine carefully. I always thought that the way that Otis bent strings sounded like a slide guitar player without a slide. So I asked him if he ever jammed or studied with the master Chicago guitar player, Earl Hooker. Earl was known for his innovative slide guitar work. Otis said, “He sure did.” I said, “Well I can tell.” Otis in turn said, “Well, you’re the one, Michael.”

What? I couldn’t believe he said that, but I thanked him with a rapidly diminishing air of coolness.

Everybody there asked great and pertinent questions of this great artist who was so generously sharing his time with us. JD mentioned that Pete and I had really enjoyed seeing Otis at the Western Maryland festival the other week.

Otis said thank you to JD. and repeated, “Yeah, but Michael was the one. He played great.”

I am fortunate to have a tape of that interview. Evidence in my old age. I am now the same age Otis was when we met.

One of the many lessons I learned from Otis Rush’s example was how to maintain your humanity in the face of adversity and to aim for the best creation of art in the process. I hope I communicated effectively to him what his words of praise meant to me.

It is always amazing when someone you honor and respect is an even greater person than your imagination could describe. Check out some classic Otis Rush. His music is now widely available at many outlets, including Amazon. Check out first “The Essential Otis Rush: The Classic Cobra Recordings 1956-1958,” and work your way up. There is a flame of genius in every Otis Rush recording.

Otis Rush’s music is for all the ages. It is part of the best that America has to offer to our citizens and to the people of the world. He left a great legacy of art and family. He is survived by his loving wife, Masaki, eight children and innumerable grandchildren and great-grand children. Otis Rush and his music taught me to never fake it. Whether note to note, word to word, or soul to soul.

By Michael Ingmire

October 7, 2018

Reprinted with permission from Politichicks
https://politichicks.com/2018/10/so-many-roads-otis-rush-1935-2018/


about the author:
Michael Ingmire is a musician and writer of over 50 years experience. He has opened for or shared stages with artists such as Dr. Mac Arnold, Bob Margolin, Willie “Big Eye” Smith, Kenny Neal, Allen Ginsberg, Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley, Johnny Copeland, Dr. John, Albert King and John Lee Hooker, among many.  Currently, Michael sings and plays guitar with two Charlotte based acts, The Instigators and The Crossroad Prophets.  As a writer, Michael has written for The Daily Caller and foxnews.com. Michael is currently a Contributor to Politichicks.com writing about Politics, Music and Social issues. 

Charley Patton & Dockery Plantation

Blues History

Charley Patton and Dockery Plantation 


By Michael Ingmire


Charley Patton was a Master Delta Bluesman and a Master Showman.  Born in April 1891, in Hinds County, Mississippi, Charley stands as a seminal figure in the development of Delta Blues.  Musicians as diverse as Willie Brown, Son House, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf, Booker White, Muddy Waters, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix and Jack White, among many, all bear the mark of his influence.  


Charley Patton was an incredible polyrhythmic guitar player with a deep growling voice.  He was a very visual songwriter and an exciting showman who would play guitar, at times, between his legs and behind his head.  Perhaps this is where T-Bone Walker and Hendrix got some of their ideas for their stage moves from.  Patton was obviously first.


Besides his music, there are two very interesting aspects to Patton’s story.  One was the fact that his parents and Charley moved to Dockery Plantation in 1897.  Dockery Plantation was located between Ruleville and Cleveland, Mississippi.  Established by Will Dockery in 1895.  For sharecroppers, Dockery Plantation was a place where they were treated fairly and given a fair return on their crops.


Influenced by local musician, Henry Sloan (Who apparently played a form of early Blues), Patton began playing guitar and singing at an early age.  Patton started to play more guitar and avoided farming.  He grew in stature and reputation as a musician and, historically, Dockery Plantation is considered the place where Delta Blues was born.  Many musicians like Son House Willie Brown, Tommy Johnson, Robert Johnson and Howlin’ Wolf sought Patton out and the one of the first Delta Blues “scenes” was created.


The other aspect of Charley Patton that is interesting to me is his American Indian heritage.  Recently, I watched a 2017 documentary film titled, “Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World,” directed by Catherine Bainbridge and Alfonso Maiorano.  This film details the role of Native Americans in popular music history.  A totally inspiring film, especially for a Redbone like myself.  We should stop and consider how Indigenous Americans like Patton, Link Wray, Robbie Robertson, Jimi Hendrix, Jesse Ed Davis, Mildred Bailey, among many, contributed to the sonic fabric of America and the world.  I highly recommend this film for repeated watching.  A wealth of information contained here.  Takes a couple of takes to take it all in.


Charley Patton was of Choctaw heritage as part of his blood line, as was Howlin’ Wolf.  One of the more interesting moments in this film was when Native American Artist,  Pura Fe, was filmed listening to a Charley Patton recording while she sang chants in her own Tuscarora Deer Clan language.  The Tuscarora tribe is based in North Carolina.  She said that “When I hear this (Patton) It’s Indian music to me.”


Charley Patton’s music is immediate and diverse.  I have been listening to Charley Patton since high school and covered many of his songs when I was first starting up.  Charley Patton is a pinnacle figure between Africa and Native America.


There are some great collections of Patton’s work out there.  He recorded from 1929 through 1934 and was successful by the standards of the time.  Note my suggestion for some of the best of Patton’s work.  His work is intense and may be frightening to some.  But well worth it as he was the real deal.  

Patton died on April 28, 1934.  I was born on that date 23 years later.  That makes me feel a real Redbone kinship with Patton.


Howlin’ Wolf, who I spoke to in November 1975, and Booker White, who I took slide guitar lessons from in the 1970’s, both spoke of him like he was a legendary god.  He is the Grandfather of all the Delta Blues singers.


The best collection of Charley Patton is titled, Charley Patton: Complete Recordings 1929-1934 (Acrobat).  This is a five disc collection and is available through Amazon, among other outlets.There is a great deal of his work on posts on YouTube.


Michael Ingmire,

Michael Ingmire is a musician and writer of over 50 years experience. He has opened for or shared stages with artists such as Dr. Mac Arnold, Bob Margolin, Willie “Big Eye” Smith, Kenny Neal, Allen Ginsberg, Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley, Johnny Copeland, Dr. John, Albert King and John Lee Hooker, among many.  Currently, Michael sings and plays guitar with two Charlotte based acts, The Instigators and The Crossroad Prophets.  As a writer, Michael has written for The Daily Caller and foxnews.com. Michael is currently a Contributor to Politichicks.com writing about Politics, Music and Social issues.

James Armstrong

-Michael Wolf Ingmire

In a year filled with many changes for this writer, there remains one constant:  The Blues.  No matter how daunting or joyful that this world can be; the Blues always provides the most profound soundtrack for the variables of this life.Therefore, I was truly excited to find out that the Charlotte Blues Society was bringing in one of my favorite contemporary Bluesmen in for the August 5th Blues Sunday at The Rabbit Hole namely,  James Armstrong.  I first heard James Armstrong  in January 2000 when I purchased his 1998 CD, “Dark Night.”I was coming out of a rather noir period in the aftermath of my brother’s 1996 suicide.  Armstrong’s Dark Night CD became the soundtrack of my own healing.  The refrain in the title track became a litany for me in those early days of 2000:“It’s a dark night, it’s a dark night, but I can still see the light…..”Blues, at it’s best, is a music of truth and healing.  James Armstrong embodies those principles in his story, his warm singing voice and succinct guitar playing.  On June 28th, I had the privilege of doing a phone interview with James Armstrong for the Charlotte Blues Society’s BlueSletter.Rather than do a standard Q&A interview I decided to have a conversation about James’ background, his early career and the redemptive power of the Blues and love.  First of all, I had to thank James for the “Dark Night” album and told him the story previously referenced above.  James expressed his thanks and in the course of the interview I discovered James to be a warm, humble and considerate human being. James Armstrong was born in Los Angeles on April 22, 1957.  James was raised by his Father, also named James Armstrong, who was a skilled Jazz guitarist.  Being a single parent James Armstrong Sr. had to seek work outside of music and demonstrated unconditional love to his son.  By the time he was five James was playing drums aptly and he would play duets with his Father.  He soon gravitated towards playing the saxophone and took lessons, learning basic theory.  His saxophone teacher would have him play in the corner to get his “sound.”  On his Father’s record player were artists such as Lionel Hampton and Nat King Cole, who James’ father knew quite well.While still quite young James one day picked up one of his Father’s guitars and played a musical passage.  It made sense.  He played another passage that made further sense.  The path was set.  Soon James had his own, sort of off brand guitar.  Eventually, that progressed to a 1964 Fender Stratocaster.  His Father gave his son music theory every day after school. Because of Father’s connections to the musical community, James met guitarists such as Kenny Burrell and Irving Ashby, who played guitar with Nat King Cole.  I encourage my younger readers to consider listening to Burrell and Ashby.  A musical education is forever.James developed a strong passion for deep Blues and for the great Jimi Hendrix and became a very skilled guitarist and singer.  By the time he was 17, James was on the road with an Elvis Presley interpreter.  In his early 20’s he was the youngest member of Bluesman Smokey Wilson’s band.  In the 1980’s James was one of the founding members of the Blues-Rock band, Mama Roo.  Mama Roo got a record deal with Crescendo records and their album was produced by Stevie Wonder Producer, Robert Margouleff.  Eventually, Mama Roo and it’s members went their separate ways.   In the 1990’s, James Armstrong was heard by HighTone Records Owner/Producer, Bruce Bromberg.   Bromberg had produced other artists such as Robert Cray & Joe Louis Walker.  Bromberg was impressed by James’ guitar work and vocals, but advised him to lose the “Jimi Hendrix” influence.  Their partnership lead to the first James Armstrong release on HighTone, “Sleeping with a Stranger, in October 1995.  In April 1997, as James was preparing to tour, he and his son, James, were victims of a home invasion.  His left arm and hand were stabbed to the point that it was thought he would not play again. Through the support of friends and the Blues World, James started to heal.  James slowly recovered his dexterity, in part, by playing slide guitar.James released his second HighTone album, “Dark Night,” in 1998.  Two of his friends, Doug Macleod and Joe Louis Walker, assisted on guitars.  One of the album tracks, “Bank of Love,” was featured in the soundtracks for the films, “Hear No Evil and The Florentine.”James Armstrong is a truly deep and real life-spiritual Bluesman.  He has continued to recover, tour and record.  In 2001, James received two  W.C Handy Award nominations.  One was for Contemporary Blues Guitarist and one for the song, “Pennies and Picks,” from the 2000 album, “Got it Goin’ On.”  Another song from that album, “2 Sides,” was featured in the soundtrack for the film, “Speechless.”James had a break from recording from 2000 to 2011, coming out with stunning, “Blues at the Border.”That was released on the Johnny Rawls label, Catfood Records.   That release was followed by 2014’s “Guitar Angels.”   In 2016, James formed his own Guitar Angels records label and released the self-produced work, “Mary-Jo Curry.”Aided by his partner and supporter, Alice Goodrich, James Armstrong now lives in Illinois.  His most recent release was 2017’s Catfood records release, “Blues Been Good To Me.”  James told me that he would like to do an album of all traditional Blues.  I urge my readers to check out James at his website, jarmblues.com and on YouTube.   You will hear and see at these sites, and at his August 5th performance at Charlotte’s The Rabbit Hole,  one of America’s most dynamic and deepest Bluesmen.  A true survivor who can still see the light. 
 

about the author

 Michael Ingmire is a musician and writer of over 50 years experience. He has opened for or shared stages with artists such as Dr. Mac Arnold, Bob Margolin, Willie “Big Eye” Smith, Kenny Neal, Allen Ginsberg, Wilson Pickett, Bo Diddley, Johnny Copeland, Dr. John, Albert King and John Lee Hooker, among many.  Currently, Michael sings and plays guitar with two Charlotte based acts, The Instigators and The Crossroad Prophets.  As a writer, Michael has written for The Daily Caller and foxnews.com. Michael is currently a Contributor to Politichicks.com writing about Politics, Music and Social issues.