The Swamp Boogie Queen
The Louisiana Queen of two-fisted piano blues and boogie and deep soul ballads. Guests Bonnie Raitt, Kim Wilson and Robert Cray. "The voice of the century"--BONNIE RAITT
KATIE WEBSTER, Vocals, Piano and Organ
ANDREW JONES, Guitar
RUSSELL JACKSON, Bass
TONY COLEMAN, Drums
with special guests:
ROBERT CRAY, Guitar on Who's Making Love?
KIM WILSON, Harmonica on On The Run and Vocal on Who's Making Love?
BONNIE RAITT, Guitar on On The Run and Vocal on Somebody's On Your Case
THE MEMPHIS HORNS, (Wayne Jackson and Andrew Love)
On Whoo-Wee Sweet Daddy, the players are:
KATIE WEBSTER, Piano and Vocals
JOE SUBLETT, Saxes
ANSON FUNDERBURGH, Guitar
DAVE GONZALES, Guitar
THOMAS YEARSLEY, Bass
SCOTT CAMPBELL, Drums
On No Bread, No Meat the players are:
KATIE WEBSTER, Piano and Vocals
KIM WILSON, Harmonica and Vocals
and THE PALADINS
Produced by BRUCE IGLAUER and ICE CUBE SLIM
Recorded at Streeterville Studios, Chicago, IL
Additional Recording at Sunnyside Studios, Los Angeles, CA, Jasper Sound Studio, Austin, TX, and Digital Recorders, Nashville, TN
Engineered by Justin Niebank, Jay Shilliday, Steve Frisk and David Axelbaum
Additional engineering by Bill Dashiell, Gordon Garrison and Tom Singers
No Bread, No Meat and Whoo-Wee Sweet Daddy were Produced by KIM WILSON
Recorded at Arlyn Studios, Austin, TX
Engineered by Stuart Sullivan
Mixed at Streeterville Studios by Jay Shilliday
Mastered in Dolby SR by Tom Coyne at Frankford/Wayne, New York, NY
Cover photo by Peter Amft
Cover illustration by Holly Tucker
Hand lettering by Craig Havighurst
Robert Cray appears courtesy of Mercury/Polygram Records
Kim Wilson appears courtesy of CBS Records
Backing Katie Webster on this album is a young and dynamic blues trio called Silent Partners. They are Andrew "Junior Boy" Jones on guitar, Russell Jackson on bass and Tony Coleman on drums. Junior Boy spent four years with Johnnie Taylor's "Taylor Made" Band. Russell Jackson is an alumni of the B.B. King Orchestra, having played behind B.B. for seven years. Tony Coleman is a graduate of Bobby "Blue" Bland's Orchestra, having performed with "Blue" for five years. Since they joined forces, Silent Partners have worked most of the West Coast blues festivals, performed at one of the Farm Aid concerts as backing band for Willie Nelson, and toured with Charlie Musselwhite. They're presently working on their own debut album, but will continue to accompany Katie on all her American tours.
--Bruce Iglauer and Ice Cube Slim
Special thanks to: Cyrus and Myrtle Thorne, Myrtle Foster, Betty Handy, Audrey Willturner, Rev. and Mrs. B.E. Allen, Quint Davis, Dawn Griffin, Vicky Bell, Dag Haeggqvist, Ashton Savoy, The Paladins, Anson Funderburgh, Joe Sublett, J.D. Miller, Eddie Taylor, Junko Wada, Chesley Milliken, Robert Cray, Richard Cousins, Mike Kappus, Mark Proct, Kim Wilson and the Fabulous Thunderbirds, Bonnie Raitt, Jeffrey Hersch, Tim Bernett, Bruce Bromberg, Lee Hildebrand, Tom Mazzolini, Charlie Lange, Marty Kirkman and the staff of Alligator Records.
A rocking boogie-blues shuffle begins with a snippet of Clare de Lune and ends up working Blue Monk into its rhythmic textures. The pure gospel-soul of Joe Tex's classic Hold On To What You Got detours into a very personal rap about men who'd like to see their women stay at home "barefoot and pregnant," and women who put off their man with stories about "me-graine" headaches. The stately South Louisiana swamp pop of Sea of Love rolls right into a head-on collision with the torch-mouthed soulshout of Otis Redding's Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa-Fa (Sad Song) and Try A Little Tenderness. Bonnie Raitt, Robert Cray, and the Fabulous Thunderbirds' Kim Wilson make guest appearances, and they're on top of this swamp-boogie-soul-blues mega-meltdown like (you should pardon the expression) the white on rice.
No ordinary artist could have stirred and seasoned this musical gumbo. No ordinary artist could have lived it, in the course of a thirty-year career that began when she was 15. But we're not talking ordinary artists, the kind who fit comfortably and safely into one well-defined niche. We're talking Extraordinary. We're talking Katie Webster. Katie was born to sing and shout and rock out on the 88's. She obliterates musical categories: she opens her mouth and the walls come tumbling down.
Your first reaction is likely to be something like, "Where has this woman been all my life?" Answering that question in full would require a book, but let's try to hit some of the highlights.
Katie was born Kathryn Jewel Thorne in Houston, Texas. Both her parents were pianists, her father moving from ragtime to rocking gospel when he became a minister in the sanctified Church of God in Christ, her mother inclining to gentler gospel music and European classics. Katie had classical training, but she also grew up listening to boogie woogie piano on the radio, along with the sounds of Fats Domino, Little Richard, Ray Charles, and Sam Cooke. She married yet another pianist, Earl Webster, when she was fifteen. The marriage didn't last, but the last name did, and so did Katie's musical career. Her mother's insistence on classical training helped her learn to read sheet music and secure her first regular musical work in a modern jazz band. Around the same time, guitarist and singer Ashton Savoy heard Katie play and took her over to South Louisiana to record with him.
Katie appeaned as pianist and occasional vocalist on literally hundreds of 45s for Louisiana labels like Excello, Goldband, and Jin, backing stone bluesmen like Lightnin' Slim, Lazy Lester, and Slim Harpo (that's Katie on the immortal Raining In My Heart). She learned the zydeco feel working with the king of the squeeze-box, Clifton Chenier. She made country-and-western sessions with Warren Storm and others. That's her swirling, oceanic piano on Phil Phillips' original Sea of Love, one of the biggest hits recorded in South Louisiana, and a record that helped define the region's swamp-pop sound. She paid her New Orleans R&B dues on the road with Smiley Lewis and Chris Kenner.
Katie made records of her own as well, regional successes, beginning with Baby, Baby/I Want You To Love Me, a Zinn release in 1957. She settled into an extended residency leading her own Uptighters band at the Bamboo Club in Lake Charles, Louisiana, taking time out to tour with the likes of Ivory Joe Hunter. Then, one night in 1964, Otis Redding played a one-nighter in the club. The crowd demanded Katie, Redding's band reluctantly backed her, and Otis came running out of the dressing room in his underwear. "Everybody that I have hired on my bandstand, they act like they scared to sing," he told her when he'd got into his clothes. "But I want somebody that's going to make me work when I come out there. Would you consider working with my band? Would you consider leaving with my band tonight?" Katie didn't want to show how excited she was. "I couldn't leave tonight," she told Otis, "but I could leave quite early in the morning."
From 1964 to 1967, Katie Webster toured with Otis Redding, singing her own opening set, backing him on keyboards (she's on the classic Live at the Whiskey A Go Go album), singing duets with him on Tramp. And then, just as Redding was working to get her free from a less-than-lucrative solo recording contract with a South Louisiana indie label so that Otis and Katie could record together, she overslept and missed the flight to one night's gig. It was Otis Redding's last flight, and Katie was devastated. She didn't work again for two years.
Since she re-entered the arena as the seventies began, Katie has become a huge hit at blues, jazz and pop festivals from New Orleans to Nice. (She's toured Europe 24 times in the last seven years!) Now, with her first album for Alligator, she's got an American release that lives up to the reams of press from Europe and the praises of fellow musicians, like Robert Cray ("I can't understand how someone like me can be famous when Katie Webster isn't") and Bonnie Raitt ("Katie Webster has the voice of the century").
Katie's piano style, with her father's driving tone-cluster bass riffs in the left hand and a unique fusion of gospel, blues and boogie colorations in the right, is a model in miniature for her down-home-but-wide-open approach to music. Some folks might find it mystifying that the woman who British blues maven John Broven calls "a female Muddy Waters" would also have fun collaborating, in the studio and on stage, with Cyndi Lauper. But it's no mystery to KatieWebster. "Nobody taught me how to play jazz and blues and boogie woogie " she says. "I learned that by listening and having the feel for myself. I didn't pattern after anybody 'cause I didn't want to sound like anybody else. I wanted to develop my own sound."
--Robert Palmer (with thanks to Charlie Lange's definitive KatieWebster interview in Living Blues )
(Robert Palmer, author of Deep Blues, Jerry Lee Lewis Rocks and other books, spent a dozen years covering pop and jazz for The NewYork Times. He lives near Memphis, writes for Rolling Stone, Spin and other publications, and is at work on another book, The Roots of Rock.)