News


RAFUL NEAL: JUNE 6, 1936 – SEPTEMBER 1, 2004
9/2/2004
Famed Bayou bluesman, singer/harmonica player Raful Neal, died Wednesday, September 1, after a long bout with cancer. He was 68. With his relaxed vocal style and behind-the-beat harmonica playing, he was considered one of the best bluesmen to emerge from the south Louisiana area, bringing the sounds of the region to a worldwide audience. Neal was the patriarch of the famed Neal clan: nearly all of his children are blues musicians, including recording artist Kenny Neal.

RAFUL NEAL: JUNE 6, 1936 – SEPTEMBER 1, 2004

Raful Neal was born in Baton Rouge in 1936, and began playing harmonica at age 14. Heavily influenced by Little Walter, Neal’s playing quickly earned him a reputation as the area’s premiere harpist. His vocal mixed swampy Louisiana blues with soul and R&B. Combined with his harmonica playing, Neal helped create a sound now known worldwide as Louisiana Swamp blues.

Neal formed his first band, The Clouds, when he was just 17. The group originally featured guitarist Lester Johnson (later known as Lazy Lester) who was soon replaced by the young Buddy Guy. Little Walter himself heard the band while he was in Baton Rouge and invited them up to Chicago to fill in gigs he couldn’t make. While Guy headed north, Neal stayed in Baton Rouge to raise his growing family.

Neal’s first single, “Sunny Side Of Love” came in 1958 on Don Robey’s Peacock label. A series of singles followed on regional labels like Witt and La Louisiane. During the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, Neal became a local legend, performing around the south and teaching his children the finer points of the blues. As his reputation grew, a 1987 single for the Fantastic label, “Man, Watch Your Woman,” was nominated for a W.C. Handy Blues Award.

His first full album, “Louisiana Legend,” was released on King Snake Records in 1988 and was later reissued by Alligator. A 1991 recording for Ichiban, “I Been Mistreated,” and a 1998 release, “Old Friends,” for the Club Louisianne label, helped Neal stay in the public eye. Neal appeared on a number of compilation CDs for the Telarc label, including “The Hoodoo Kings,” and “Superharps II.” These recordings kept Neal’s tour schedule full, as he performed from Baton Rouge to points all over the country.

Nine of Neal's 11 children inherited his blues-playing prowess and play professionally, including guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Kenny Neal, who played on “Louisiana Legend” and has made 10 albums on his own. Other famed musician family members include Raful, Jr., Fredrick, Darnell, Larry, Graylon, Noel, and Jackie. Raful was inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame in 1995.

Click here for the full story

NOBLE “THIN MAN” WATTS: FEBRUARY 17, 1926 – AUGUST 24, 2004
8/27/2004
Influential R&B and jazz saxophonist Noble “Thin Man” Watts, whose recording career began in 1954 and who shared stages with such musical luminaries as Chuck Berry, Buddy Holly and Jerry Lee Lewis, died on August 24 in his hometown of DeLand, Florida. He was 78.

NOBLE “THIN MAN” WATTS: FEBRUARY 17, 1926 – AUGUST 24, 2004

Born in 1926, Watts worked raking leaves to pay for violin lessons as a boy before learning to play trumpet and saxophone in his teens. In 1942 he enrolled at Florida A&M University and played in the school’s esteemed marching band with soon-to-be jazz legends Cannonball Adderley and his brother, cornetist Nat Adderley.

The Griffin Brothers, one of Dot Records' most popular touring R&B acts, hired Watts right after he finished college, and he toured with them for a time. In 1952, he joined famed baritone saxophonist Paul "Hucklebuck" Williams as a member of the house band for the groundbreaking TV show “Showtime At The Apollo.” Later on, he had a stint playing with Lionel Hampton's big band. He also played on late '50s tour packages behind the likes of Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly and the Everly Brothers.

Watts first recording came in 1954 on DeLuxe Records. A 1956 single for VeeJay Records preceded his two-year association with New York’s Baton label. The song “Hard Times (The Slop)” brought Watts to the pop charts in 1957. Countless tours and performances – as well as a string of singles for various labels - kept Watts busy through the 1960s and into the 1970s.

A comeback album in 1987, RETURN OF THE THIN MAN, for Kingsnake Records (re-released by Alligator Records in 1990) received massive critical acclaim brought Watts to his largest audience. A 1993 album for the Ichiban label, KING OF THE BOOGIE SAX, kept Watts’ visibility high.

Although Watts performed less frequently in recent years, he did headline a DeLand, Florida concert in 2001 to celebrate his 75th birthday. He received an honory doctorate in 2000 from Stetson University in DeLand. In May 2004, the African American Museum of the Arts in his hometown dedicated an amphitheatre named after Watts.

Watts is survived by his wife, son, daughter, sister, five grand children and two great grandchildren.

Click here for the full story

Mavis Staples on "Sound Opinions"
8/25/2004
Listen to Mavis Staples perform and be interviewed on WXRT-FM's "Sound Opinions" hosted by Chicago Tribune music critic Greg Kot and Chicago Sun-Times music critic Jim DeRogatis. In addition to extended interview segments, Mavis performs three songs, including two accompanied by Chicago singer/songwriter Robbie Fulks and his band. After clicking the link, scroll down to August 24, 2004 to link to the audio of the show.

Listen to National Public Radio's All Things Considered's Mavis Staple Feature
8/17/2004
National Public Radio's All Things Considered featured Mavis Staples and her new CD, HAVE A LITTLE FAITH, in a 9-minute audio program which ran on August 16, 2004. Click the link below to listen to the feature and to view the Mavis Staples build out at the NPR website, which includes two streaming full length songs from the new CD.

Mavis Staples "Have A Little Faith" Features And Reviews
8/16/2004
Mavis Staples' new cd, Have A Little Faith, is already receiving stellar reviews. A few among many are linked below.

Mavis Staples "Have A Little Faith" Features And Reviews

BILLBOARD CD Review
http://www.billboard.com/bb/reviews/album_article_display.jsp?vnu_content_id=1000611986


CHICAGO READER feature:
http://www.chicagoreader.com/TheMeter/040813.html


CHICAGO SUN-TIMES feature
http://www.suntimes.com/output/entertainment/sho-sunday-mavis15.html


CHICAGO SUN-TIMES CD review
http://www.suntimes.com/output/rock/sho-sunday-spins15.html


NEW YORK DAILY NEWS CD Review
http://www.nydailynews.com/08-14-2004/entertainment/story/221804p-190617c.html


Click here for the full story

LEGENDARY VOCALIST MAVIS STAPLES TO APPEAR ON NATIONAL TELEVISION AND RADIO PROGRAMS!
8/12/2004
Mavis Staples, whose new CD HAVE A LITTLE FAITH will be released on August 17, 2004, will appear in many national television and programs over the next few days. “The Chicago Tribune” called the CD “a classic blues-tinged gospel album from one of the greatest soul singers of the last half-century.” Details on broadcasts are as follows:

LEGENDARY VOCALIST MAVIS STAPLES TO APPEAR ON NATIONAL TELEVISION AND RADIO PROGRAMS!

September 3: National Public Radio’s “On Point.” Airing at 8:00pm est. Originating from WBUR in Boston, this program airs on over 40 stations nationwide, including WNYC in New York, as well as being broadcast on XM satellite radio. Mavis will be featured for the entire length of the program talking about HAVE A LITTLE FAITH and her long career. She performs acoustic versions of “God Is Not Sleeping” and “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” For additional information, go to http://www.onpointradio.org/ .

August 14: Public Radio International’s “Conversations From The World Café.” Airing at 1:00pm est. Mavis discusses her career and the making of HAVE A LITTLE FAITH. Go to http://www.worldcafe.org/conversations.php for more information.

August 16: National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered.” Airs on over 700 NPR affiliates domestically and NRP Worldwide, reaching 140 stations around the world. Mavis speaks with host Michelle Norris about the new cd as well as her career. Go to http://www.npr.org/programs/atc/ for more information.

August 17: CNN Headline News. Airing at 11:54am est. “Paste Magazine” editor Josh Jackson will highlight HAVE A LITTLE FAITH in his on-air new releases segment.

August 18: CNN/fn’s “The Biz.” Airing at 12:30pm est. Mavis will be interviewed live in a segment highlighting her new CD.

Click here for the full story

MAVIS STAPLES SINGS "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL" AT DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION! NEW CD “HAVE A LITTLE FAITH” SET FOR AUGUST 17, 2004 RELEASE!
7/19/2004
Gospel/soul legend Mavis Staples, whose Alligator Records debut CD “HAVE A LITTLE FAITH” is set for an August 17 release date, sang “America The Beautiful” at the Democratic National Convention on July 29. Over the course of her long, storied career, Mavis has performed for many political heavyweights, including Presidents Kennedy, Carter and Clinton.

MAVIS STAPLES SINGS "AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL" AT DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL CONVENTION! NEW CD “HAVE A LITTLE FAITH” SET FOR AUGUST 17, 2004 RELEASE!

“HAVE A LITTLE FAITH” is a stirring collection of uplifting songs deeply seated in Staples’ faith and spirituality. Produced by Jim Tullio and Staples, the album features the strongest collection of material – both originals and interpretations – Mavis has ever assembled. This is Mavis’ first full album of fresh material since the Prince-produced “The Voice” in 1993. Mavis’ last recording was a 1996 Mahalia Jackson tribute album.

Possessing one of the most recognizable voices in contemporary music, Mavis Staples (along with her family group, The Staple Singers) is a member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and is included on VH1’s list of 100 Greatest Women of Rock and Roll. Staples – both on her own and as a member of The Staple Singers – is responsible for blazing a rhythm & blues trail while never relinquishing her gospel roots. Appearances alongside everyone from musicians Janis Joplin, Mahalia Jackson, Santana and Aretha Franklin and recording sessions with Bob Dylan, Los Lobos, Bonnie Raitt, and Emmylou Harris to political figures including the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. barely scratch the surface of her accomplishments.

Born in Chicago in 1940, Mavis began her career with her family group, The Staple Singers, in 1950. Initially singing locally at churches and appearing on a weekly radio show, the Staples scored a gigantic hit in 1956 with “Uncloudy Day” for the VeeJay label. Upon Mavis’ high school graduation in 1957, The Staple Singers took their music on the road. Led by family patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples and including Mavis and siblings Cleo, Yvonne and Pervis, the Staples were often referred to as “God’s Greatest Hitmakers.”

With prodding from Mavis, the Staples evolved from enormously popular gospel singers (with recordings on United, Riverside and VeeJay) to become the most spectacular and influential spiritually-based group in America. By the mid-1960’s The Staple Singers, inspired by their close friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., became the spiritual and musical voices of the civil rights movement (according to Pops, “If Dr. King could preach it, we can sing it.”).

The Staple Singers covered contemporary pop hits with positive messages, including many Bob Dylan songs and a version of Stephen Stills' “For What It's Worth.” The Staples sang “message” songs like “Long Walk To D.C.” and “When Will We Be Paid?,” bringing their moving and articulate music to an enormous number of young people. The group signed to Stax Records in 1968, joining together their gospel harmonies and deep faith with musical accompaniment from members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. The Staple Singers hit the Top 40 eight times between 1971 and 1975, including two #1 singles: “I’ll Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again.” Now a long ways from their early roots as a pure gospel group, The Staple Singers were bona fide pop stars.

Mavis Staples recorded her first solo album for the famed Stax label in 1969. After another Stax release, “ONLY FOR THE LONELY,” in 1970, she released a soundtrack album, “A PIECE OF THE ACTION,” on Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label. A 1984 album (also self-titled) preceded two albums under the direction of rock megastar Prince: 1989’s “TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE,” followed by 1993’s “THE VOICE.” Her most recent release, 1996’s “SPIRITUALS & GOSPEL: A TRIBUTE TO MAHALIA JACKSON,” is a moving song cycle honoring Jackson, a very close family friend.

During her career Staples has appeared in many films and television shows, including “The Last Waltz,” “Graffiti Bridge,” “Wattstax,” “New York Undercover,” “Soul Train,” and “The Cosby Show.” Her music has been sampled by some of the biggest selling hip-hop artists, including Salt ‘N’ Pepa, Ice Cube and Ludacris. Mavis has recorded with a wide variety of musicians, from her close friend Bob Dylan (with whom she was nominated for a 2003 Grammy© Award in the “Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals” category for their duet on “Gotta Change My Way Of Thinking” from the album “GOTTA SERVE SOMEBODY—THE GOSPEL SONGS OF BOB DYLAN”) to The Band, Ray Charles, Nona Hendryx, George Jones, Natalie Merchant, Ann Peebles, Delbert McClinton and many others. She has provided vocals on current albums by Los Lobos and Dr. John, and she appears on recent tribute albums to Johnny Paycheck, Stephen Foster and Johnny Cash.

Now, with “HAVE A LITTLE FAITH,” Mavis Staples is building on a family tradition of joining gospel fervor with shades of soul and R&B. Her importance in both the music world and as a driving force of social change makes her a true icon—an artist who continues to create music that will inspire a whole new generation of people to have faith in the healing and uplifting power of her remarkable gift.


###

Click here for the full story

QUEEN OF THE BLUES KOKO TAYLOR RECEIVES NATIONAL HERITAGE FELLOWSHIP FROM THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS
6/2/2004
The National Endowment For The Arts (NEA) announced today that legendary blues singer Koko Taylor will be one of 12 artists to receive the National Heritage Fellowship, the nation’s highest honor in the folk and traditional arts. According to the NEA, Taylor was chosen for her “artistic excellence, cultural authenticity, and contributions to [her] field.” The award will be presented to her on September 29, 2004 in a ceremony on Capitol Hill.

QUEEN OF THE BLUES KOKO TAYLOR RECEIVES NATIONAL HERITAGE FELLOWSHIP FROM THE NATIONAL ENDOWMENT FOR THE ARTS

According to National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Dana Gioia, “The work of these awardees is a testament to the diversity and exceptional quality of America's artistic resources. The cultures and artistic forms represented here speak to traditions, both ancient and contemporary and to artistic achievements that are timeless.”

This is the first time a female blues artist has received the National Heritage Fellowship in the 23-year history of the award.

Click here for the full story

THE HOLMES BROTHERS TO APPEAR ON USA NETWORK SPECIAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT EVENT, "WILLIE NELSON & FRIENDS: OUTLAWS AND ANGELS"
5/25/2004
The Holmes Brothers (guitarist Wendell and bassist Sherman Holmes and drummer Popsy Dixon) will appear on the USA Network concert special "Willie Nelson & Friends: Outlaws and Angels" along with an all-star line up. The band joins Willie Nelson on his original song, "Opportunity To Cry," which the Holmes Brothers recorded on their new Alligator album, SIMPLE TRUTHS. The rest of the all-star line-up includes performances by Jerry Lee Lewis, Keith Richards, Toby Keith, Kid Rock, Merle Haggard, Lee Ann Womack, Ben Harper, Lucinda Williams, Al Green, Shebly Lynn, Rickie Lee Jones, Toots Hibbert, Joe Walsh, Los Lonely Boys and Bob Dyaln. Actor James Caan hosts the concert event.

THE HOLMES BROTHERS TO APPEAR ON USA NETWORK SPECIAL MEMORIAL DAY CONCERT EVENT, "WILLIE NELSON & FRIENDS: OUTLAWS AND ANGELS"

The program will air exclusively on the USA Network on Memorial Day, Monday, May 31st at 9:00pm (ET /PT). The concert taped at the Wiltern Theatre in Los Angeles on May 5. Encore presentations of the show will air immediately following the premiere and again the following weekend, June 5 and 6.

In a show consisting of many highlights, The Holmes Brothers' performance was among the best. Upon introducing the band, Willie Nelson said, "My next guests have become international stars with their truthful and irresistible blend of blues, soul, and funk. I'm honored they've recorded one of my songs on their new CD, SIMPLE TRUTHS, which is quite simply one of the best albums of the year. Here to perform `Opportunity To Cry' with me, are The Holmes Brothers."

Since its January 2004 release, "Rolling Stone," "Entertainment Weekly," "USA Today," "Billboard," "The New York Post," the Associated Press newswire, "All Things Considered" and many other outlets have favorably reviewed SIMPLE TRUTHS. The band appeared on a number of national television and radio programs, including "Late Night With Conan O'Brien," CNNfn, "World Café," "Mountain Stage," "Acoustic Café" and "The House of Blues Radio Hour."

Click here for the full story

ALLIGATOR RECORDS SIGNS MAVIS STAPLES! -- NEW CD SET FOR AUGUST RELEASE!
5/7/2004
Alligator Records is proud to announce the signing of R&B and gospel legend Mavis Staples. A veteran of the music scene for over 40 years – and a Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame inductee – Staples (with her family band The Staple Singers and on her own) is responsible for blazing a rhythm & blues trail while never relinquishing her gospel roots, influencing artists from Bob Dylan to Prince (who dubbed her “the epitome of soul”) in the process.

ALLIGATOR RECORDS SIGNS MAVIS STAPLES! -- NEW CD SET FOR AUGUST RELEASE!

Her upcoming Alligator album (as yet untitled) is a stirring collection of uplifting, gospel-rooted songs deep-seated in Staples’ faith and spirituality. Set for an August release, the CD, produced by Jim Tullio and Staples, features the strongest collection of material – both originals and interpretations - Mavis has ever assembled.

According to Alligator Records president Bruce Iglauer, Staples is a natural fit for the label. “Mavis Staples’ voice is one of the best known and best loved sounds in contemporary American music. Her soul and R&B recordings are infused with the spirit of gospel music, and her gospel recordings with The Staple Singers helped create the sound of 60’s soul music. I’m absolutely thrilled to bring this marvelously talented musical icon to Alligator.”

Born in Chicago in 1940, Mavis began her career with her family band, The Staple Singers in 1953. Singing locally before taking their music on the road (upon Mavis’ high school graduation in 1957), The Staple Singers, led by family patriarch Roebuck “Pops” Staples and including her siblings Cleo, Yvonne and Pervis, were often referred to as “God’s Greatest Hitmakers.” The band evolved from gospel hymn singers (with recordings on United, Riverside and VeeJay) to become the most popular and influential spiritually based band in America (as evidenced on their albums for Stax, Epic and Warner Brothers).

By the mid-1960s The Staple Singers, inspired by their close friendship with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., began to sing “message” songs like “Long Walk To D.C.” and “When Will I Be Paid?,” bringing their moving and articulate music to a widespread and diverse audience. The Staple Singers hit the Top 40 eight times between 1971 and 1975, including two #1 singles: “I’ll Take You There” and “Let’s Do It Again.”

Mavis Staples recorded her first, self-titled solo album for the famed Stax label in 1969. After another Stax release, ONLY FOR THE LONELY, in 1970, she released a soundtrack album, A PIECE OF THE ACTION, for Curtis Mayfield’s Curtom label. A 1984 album (also self-titled) preceded two albums under the direction of rock megastar Prince: 1989’s TIME WAITS FOR NO ONE, followed by 1993’s THE VOICE. Her most recent release, 1996’s SPIRITUALS & GOSPEL: A TRIBUTE TO MAHALIA JACKSON, is a moving song cycle honoring Jackson, a very close family friend.

Over the years Mavis has worked with a wide variety of musicians, from her close friend Bob Dylan (with whom she was nominated for a 2003 Grammy Award in the “Best Pop Collaboration With Vocals” category for their duet on Gotta Change My Way Of Thinking from the album GOTTA CHANGE MY WAY OF THINKING—THE GOSEPL SONGS OF BOB DYLAN) to Aretha Franklin, The Band, Ray Charles, Nona Hendryx, Ann Peebles, Delbert McClinton and many others.

Click here for the full story

THREE ALLIGATOR ARTISTS RECEIVE FIVE W.C. HANDY BLUES AWARDS!
4/30/2004
Both Roomful of Blues and pianist/vocalist/songwriter Marcia Ball each received two W.C. Handy Awards at last night's 25th annual W.C. Handy Blues Awards ceremony at the Cannon Center Ballroom in Memphis, TN. Blues legend Koko Taylor received one Award. Boogie-woogie piano queen Marcia Ball took the award for Contemporary Female Blues Artist Of The Year and Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year for her Alligator album SO MANY RIVERS. Celebrated swing/jump/blues combo Roomful of Blues won the coveted Band Of The Year Award along with the award for Best Instrumentalist – Horns. "Queen Of The Blues" Koko Taylor won for Traditional Female Blues Artist Of The Year. This is her 24th W.C. Handy Blues Award. She has received more awards than any other artist - male or female - in Handy history.

THREE ALLIGATOR ARTISTS RECEIVE FIVE W.C. HANDY BLUES AWARDS!

ROOMFUL OF BLUES
Blues Band Of The Year
Blues Instrumentalist Horns


MARCIA BALL
Contemporary Female Artist Of The Year
Contemporary Blues Album Of The Year – SO MANY RIVERS


KOKO TAYLOR
Traditional Female Artist of the Year

Click here for the full story

Holmes Brothers Appear on WBUR-FM's "ON POINT"
3/29/2004
The Holmes Brothers appeared on WBUR-FM's "On Point" program on Friday, March 26 for a full hour of performance and interviews.