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Thu Mar 05, 2015 at 11:10 AM PST

A Reunion With Friends

by Little Bozo

Yes, it's been a while since I've written anything but I always enjoy the wonderful writing at DK and my fellow Kossacks. I also received a gentle reminder that since I haven't posted anything in a while, now might be a good time. Some of you know I played guitar with Etta James for 22 years, until she passed on Jan. 20, 2012, succumbing to leukemia and other complications. It was an incredible gig for me - Etta was truly one of a kind, told the greatest stories I've ever heard and could bring tears to you at a sound check. I was and still consider myself extremely fortunate. And I miss her, very much.

I still play music and have a band and we play mostly in the Metro Detroit area. This coming Tuesday, we are opening for the Robert Cray Band at the Royal Oak Music Theatre. Robert and Richard Cousins, the groups' bassist and co founding member are old friends. We grew up in Lakewood, WA - a burb right outside of Tacoma. Robert's dad was in the US Army, Richard and myself were USAF dependents. Military brats. Robert and I graduated from high school together and played in a rock band together - we pretty much had a monopoly at both of our local high schools and played a lot of the dances. We graduated June 9, 1971 - I remember because it my birthday. And the great Albert Collins performed at our graduation - Robert and I sat beside each other dumb founded, never to be the same. We used our band's popularity to lobby for Albert Collins and it worked. Later Robert would record and tour with Albert (A Grammy winner) and I also played with Albert off and on for over 20 years. Sometimes Albert and Etta would tour together and Albert would clear it with Etta so I could play with him too. Musical heaven for me.

What is it about friends that you haven't seen in a while? At my age now (I'm 61) I love making new friends, for sure - but there's certainly something special about those that we share a history with. Those that know our foibles or quirks well as well as stories that are now told with a smile and a knowing look into each other's faces. Sometimes told without having to say very much. Did you or are you about to have a reunion with friends or family? Thank you for taking the time to read this.

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."
Ralph Waldo Emerson
Here's a couple of videos, the first one is a duet with BB King and Robert Cray entitled "Playing With My Friends" from BB King's Blues Summit album which won a Grammy. I also play on this track.

Playing With My Friends

And from my last recording

Albert Collins    (Weather appropriate.)

With Etta  I'm doing the solo

Discuss

Originally posted Oct. 18, 2011 9:59 PM EST
Please note: I've had some requests to re-post this due to Etta's passing.

A few years back we (Etta James and the Roots om  Band) were doing a show at the Hollywood Bowl with Lou Rawls. (The late, great  Mr. Rawls was by any account a great singer and a tremendous artist)  We were backstage and Lou had asked Etta if she would refrain from doing 'At Last' on her set and maybe sit in with him (He was closing) on his take of it. He explained it was the title track of his new recording and he would really appreciate it because of it being his new release, record company pressures, etc. Now, I'm not saying this because I've played with her for 20 plus years but Etta owns the definitive version of At Last. (And while she did not write it, without doubt, it is simply her version that defines the song to millions of people.)

She sweetly smiled and said, "No problem Lou, I understand."

Mr. Rawls thanked her saying something to the effect 'I knew you would understand...' and left.

At that point Etta called over our musical director, Josh Sklair and some of the band members and said, "We're gonna open with 'At Last' guys, who the hell does that @#$%&$! think he is?" She absolutely tore it up, there was no way anyone could have followed her with that tune. We loved it and so did the crowd.  

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Sat Jan 21, 2012 at 11:30 AM PST

Some thoughts on Etta James

by Little Bozo

Some of you here know that I played guitar with Etta James for 22 years. I, like so many others, was saddened by her passing. I found out the news when I received a call from a reporter on Friday who asked for a few comments to add to a story. I had also spoken with Donto James, Etta's son, who had gently told me it was just a matter of time before she passed and to prepare myself for the inevitable. That's so like him, consoling others while doing his best to keep it all together. Donto played drums in the band and also co produced her recordings. Her youngest son, Sametto plays bass and also co-produced her recordings. We are close, Donto was my best man at our wedding and both of them also played in my band and often we would open for Etta. However, despite any mental preparation, I wasn't ready for that call. I was crushed. And numb. I will always love her and I cherish my time with my longtime boss, friend and mentor. She was a very special lady and family to me.

In May 2009, James performed her last show in Detroit, at the Motor City Casino's Sound Board. The opening act was her longtime sideman, Metro Detroit guitarist Bobby Murray.

James dubbed Murray, her guitarist for several decades, "Mr. Excitement" for his tendency to burn the candles at both ends (indeed, he says she helped steer him into rehab).

Murray said he last spoke to his old boss in December, when Donto held the phone up to his mother's ear in her hospital bed, so she could hear Murray's voice.

"Donto said, 'She really hears you, man,' she was squeezing his hand while I was talking," Murray said. "I feel numb, but I also feel that she's not far away."

From Susan Whitall at the Detroit News
 

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Tue Oct 18, 2011 at 06:59 PM PDT

Etta James, my boss of many years

by Little Bozo

Originally posted Oct. 18, 2011 9:59 PM EST
Please note: I've had some requests to re-post this due to Etta's passing.

A few years back we (Etta James and the Roots om  Band) were doing a show at the Hollywood Bowl with Lou Rawls. (The late, great  Mr. Rawls was by any account a great singer and a tremendous artist)  We were backstage and Lou had asked Etta if she would refrain from doing 'At Last' on her set and maybe sit in with him (He was closing) on his take of it. He explained it was the title track of his new recording and he would really appreciate it because of it being his new release, record company pressures, etc. Now, I'm not saying this because I've played with her for 20 plus years but Etta owns the definitive version of At Last. (And while she did not write it, without doubt, it is simply her version that defines the song to millions of people.)

She sweetly smiled and said, "No problem Lou, I understand."

Mr. Rawls thanked her saying something to the effect 'I knew you would understand...' and left.

At that point Etta called over our musical director, Josh Sklair and some of the band members and said, "We're gonna open with 'At Last' guys, who the hell does that @#$%&$! think he is?" She absolutely tore it up, there was no way anyone could have followed her with that tune. We loved it and so did the crowd.  

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I must admit I wasn't too shocked when I found out that the creepy guy from Texas had consulted Rumsfeld for a foreign policy team. And of course that old scum sucker  recommended his guys from the dismantled and I thought disgraced, Office of Special Plans - the same people that brought us the Iraq War. A shameful episode of large scale propaganda that was built upon lies, many of them "the lies of ommission." Members of Congress, the American people, the media and others fell prey to the big lie.

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