Monday, August 6, 2012

Talkin' the Blues with Brian Lukasavitz

Don’t let his quiet, unassuming manner fool you. Brian Lukasavitz is passionate about the Blues. An attorney who represents musicians and artists by trade, Lukasavitz has developed a course called Blues-ology 101 and the Blues Federation in which he both performs and teaches the history of the blues to K-12 and adult students. His aim is to preserve this true American art form that is the blues. He is also starting to tour colleges and cultural centers to entertain and educate on the history of the blues which he aims to turn into a book and CD.

EN: You have a special enthusiasm for and background training in blues music. How did this come about?

BL: Like many blues fans I "found" the blues through rock n roll. I was raised listening to early rock n roll and rhythm and blues. The first music that moved me was that of Buddy Holly. I became obsessed with the music. I got into people like Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and Little Richard. I had a friend that handed me a couple of cassette tapes (for those that remember pre-digital technology) of John Lee Hooker and Muddy Waters....I never looked back. While my friends listened to Def Leppard and AC/DC, I was checking out people like B.B. King and Howlin' Wolf.

EN: Of all places, why is Clarksdale, Mississippi so often cited as the birthplace of the blues?

BL: I asked one of my clients this exact question. He is a true Delta Blues Musician. He was born blind, on a cotton plantation, just outside of Clarksdale. His baby-sitter as a child was none-other than the younger sister of Chester "Howlin' Wolf" Burnett. He is also distantly related to the "Queen of the Blues," Bessie Smith.

When he and I first met, the topic of Clarksdale, MS being Ground Zero for the blues came up. He explained that being the largest community in the area, with railroads, highways and a river port made Clarksdale is hub for transportation, jobs and musicians. Many of the Great blues players from all generations were born or raised near or in Clarksdale, including: Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Son House, Charley Patton, etc.. We talked about how musicians followed the money, and in Northern, Mississippi there were lots of opportunities for musicians to find work there.

The history of the blues is actually the history of the blues as it was documented and commercialized. I believe that some of the greatest blues-musicians around never recorded and therefore were unable to leave a legacy. Clarksdale, being a major hub for traveling blues musicians, served as a great starting point for record producer and ethno-musicologists to find blues-musicians and places to record the music.

EN: Chicago is also famous for its blues scene. What’s the connection between the Mississippi Delta Blues and the Chicago Blues?

BL: During the late 1930's and 1940's there was a great migration of African-Americans from the rural south to the urban centers of the north. Chicago was one of those cities that offered decent paying jobs to often unskilled laborers. Among those who migrated to the north were many blues musicians. The Bluebird record company and later in the 1950's the Chess record company made names for themselves by recording many of those great artists that made the migration to Chicago. Among those to move from the Mississippi Delta to Chicago were cats like Big Bill Broozy, Tampa Red, Elmore James, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, Big Walter, Howlin' Wolf and the list goes on and on. These Delta born artists brought the music of the rural south and adapted it for a northern urban audience. Many of the songs written in Chicago refer to the Delta because it was a common history among the musicians and audiences.

The other portion of this interview was presented in this week's Reader Weekly.
Here's another interview with The Blues Attorney as well:

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