A NOTE FROM THE EDITOR IN CHIEF
I met Sunday Wilde on Face Book after posting an announcement for The TTW Indy Awards I am producing in San Antonio, Texas, December, 2013. Sunday is a legend in Canada and one of the first women in history to present the first Women’s Blues Festival in American history. I fell in love with her passion and talent and wanted to officially introduce her to the American public. Her dear friend Jack Reno presented an article about this great event for our TTW publication and I was honored to present this entertaining piece to the world! Being an ex-rocker and recording artist, I know firsthand what some of these stories and encounters feel like and what it takes to get the show on the road! Jack captures the momentum and drama step by step (sometimes painfully!) and describes what it took each woman to finally reach their destination in the first Women’s’ Blues festival in history! Sit back and enjoy an amazing first hand story of “The Women in Blues!”
Live from Hopson:
“Women in Blues International”
Written by: Reno Jack
“The Women in Blues International” was birthed from a conversation between an American photographer and a Canadian blues singer. Six years ago they met at a blues festival at the top of Highway 61 in Canada where they noticed a lack of female performers and decided to do something about it. They realized the Internet had grown tremendously, but the female
representation at the blues festivals had not! Lon Mickelson and Sunday Wilde came up with a plan to gather a group of independent women Blues artists that would come together and perform the first recording of its kind. This project would come together at the legendary Plantation at the Crossroads in the Hopson Commissary, Clarksdale, Mississippi, and would
eventually change the role of women in blues history forever.
The core band consisted of Jaxx Nassar, Clarksdale’s own guitar ace who consented to play lead. Heather Crosse came down from Arkansas to play electric bass, and Billie Feather
jumped in her truck with her father and rushed from North Carolina to Mississippi to man the bass violin. Pat Pepin needed little convincing as she hurriedly drove down from
Maine to play sax. Rounding out the outfit was Carol “The Best in Texas” Dierking motoring across from Dallas to play drums. These women had never met before but soon found
out they had a lot in common. They were all veterans and multi instrumentalists, and had all seen their share of heartaches, loss and occupational hazards as they pursued their careers in an obviously sexist world. All had found solace in the blues and would contribute their own original tunes to endeavour – in spite of a music business that was oppressive at best! Arriving with Carol was band mate Cindy Maloney out of Denton; an accomplished pianist who delivered her tunes with the smoothness of Etta James, the grit of Koko Taylor and Ella Fitzgerald’s vocal range. She met fellow Texan Julia Cruz Magness hailing from Austin. Magness sang with the Bells of Joy and toured Southern California to eventually wind up at right place with the right women to sing her song, “Who’s Going to Fill Their Shoes?” Booming out of Australia came Dee Lavell, who the Temptations’ late Ali Woodson declared “a singer’s singer”. This amazing woman brought over a half century’s experience to the stage. At this
point it was clear these women would be creating history right before our eyes! But this was a big job and required a lot of intricate timing which included a few “late arrivals”! The best example would be Kelly Chappue flying from LAX into Chicago, where she faced an eleven hour travelling delay before catching a flight to Little Rock. As she landed, she
frantically rented a car and embarked on a three and a half hour drive, only to arrive five minutes before she was due to perform!!! Welcome to the live stage people…welcome to the live stage!
Selected to represent her hometown of Birmingham Alabama by Magic City Blues Society at the I.B.C, was Die Dra the Blues Diva. She had coaxed her talented friend Janelle Frost
to get off of the road and come join her. This was a difficult task as Janelle had just lost her long- time partner and was still experiencing the grief of that loss. But this skilled and
killer piano player was also a gifted writer…and we all know gifted writers always have a song or two to contribute to a new project! Die Dra’s friends, April Mae and her husband
Catfish, were also competing at the I.B.C. representing New Jersey, and had agreed to meet the ladies for the blues fest. But their cooking oil converted buss had broken down in Jackson Tennessee and they found themselves camping out at Mann’s Wrecker’s yard for two days!
During their unfortunate delay they still found time to take a private tour of the International Rockabilly Hall of Fame, and shortly after a bus wash and shower at a truck stop, they arrived in Mississippi….right on the dot… at 2 p.m….. ready to fill their allotted spot – with literally no time to spare! To complete the unique mix came two more women, Joni and her daughter Alex Buffalohead, from Lon’s home-town, Minneapolis Minnesota. They had taken time off from their family band Bluedog to come down and play. Later, due to bad weather, they would be stranded overnight in Memphis and wind up doing an interview on Vinny Marini’s radio show, “On The Couch” with Sunday Wilde.
Sunday had made it down from the northern Ontario wilderness; freshly back from a one week stand in Toronto. In the continuing saga of reaching the blues fest, she quickly discovered the forty below January weather had killed her car battery! But there must have been an angel on her shoulder, as a note posted on the internet brought a response from a fan who worked at an auto parts shop who contacted the outlet in her hometown to make sure they had the proper replacement battery along with the request to give her a discount.
Sunday had a long journey ahead of her as she was representing Canada down in Mississippi to perform in an international recording project in Clarksdale. Imagine – after all the travelling dramas and minute by minute scheduling challenges, FINALLY, these fifteen women gathered to record an inaugural CD to share their stories in that language they all understood and knew too well – THE BLUES!
For lovers of the blues, this amazing story of the first women’s bluesfest will make total sense! After all, life and all its drama just wouldn’t be life without the blues…and the blues just wouldn’t BE the blues without these 15 amazingly talented women who made history six
years ago…. in Clarksdale Mississippi….with the first, but certainly not the last, W“The Women In Blues International!”