Wednesday, March 14, 2012

L. C. Ulmer

L.C. Ulmer
Blues vocalist & guitarist, Ellisville,MS.
Lee Chester “L.C.” Ulmer is a native of south Mississippi who for 50 years played music all over the U.S.—“like horse manure, everywhere!”—before returning home to the Ellisville area in 2001. He is a multi-instrumentalist who plays guitar, keyboards, drums, fiddle, banjo mandolin, kazoo, and harmonica, and performed for many years as a “twelve piece” one-man band. Today he plays mostly just guitar at live performances, and performs mostly original compositions in a distinctive style with a propulsive boogie beat.
Ulmer was born in 1928 in Stringer, Mississippi, and later moved with his parents Luther and Mattie, six brothers, and seven sisters to a plantation near Moss Hill. His father played guitar, harmonica, and “jew’s harp.” Most of Ulmer’s siblings played music, and his mother’s cousin (Charlie Lindsey) was a bluesman. Many musicians visited the house to play and drink whiskey, the most famous being Meridian’s Jimmie Rodgers.
At 80 years young, L.C. brings boogie music from South Mississippi. He drove a truck for the last 40 years out of Chicago and moved back to his home state of Mississippi 2004. L.C. has driven railroad spikes, picked cotton, had a one man band in Joliet, Illinois, worked as a janitor, a yardman, and a shoeshiner to name a few.
Ulmer began playing guitar when he was nine years old and was soon playing with family and other local musicians on the family’s porch. He played by himself for tips, and often played together with white musicians, and remembers old square dance numbers he used to perform. He recalls with delight listening at home to 78rpm recordings by artists including Blind Lemon Jefferson, Blind Boy Fuller, Tampa Red, and Peetie Wheatstraw,
One of Ulmer’s biggest influences was the guitarist and street musician Blind Roosevelt Graves, who Ulmer would see when he visited Laurel to visit his sister. Graves made numerous recordings in both gospel and blues in the late ‘20s and early ‘30s, and Ulmer closely studied his slide guitar technique. Ulmer later built his own slide out of stainless steel.
From age 14 to 16 Ulmer built railway trestles across Lake Pontchartrain, and for the following five years or so worked out of a camp in Heidelberg, Mississippi, building railways spurs to oil wells. During this time he played regularly at a juke joint in nearby Paulding.
In 1949 Ulmer traveled to Kansas City, Kansas, to visit his sister, and stayed there on and off for two years. He played guitar for various gospel quartets, and his blues jobs included backing Chicago-based J.B. Lenoir at a local club. From 1951-55 Ulmer was based mostly in Laurel, where he played as a one-man band at local clubs including the Top Hat, Cotton Bowl, Wagon Wheel, and Twenty Grand. He also performed in juke joints in Meridian.In 1955 he traveled to Holbrook, Arizona, where he found work at the Motoaurant, a 24-hour establishment on Route 66 that featured a truck stop, museum, restaurant, and nightclub, “The Cock’n’Bull.” Ulmer recorded advertisement songs for the Motaurant, and met and/or played with many famous musicians there including Elvis Presley, Les Paul and Mary Ford, Brook Benton, Nat King Cole, Fats Domino, and Louis Armstrong. He also performed regularly at a lumber camp in McNair, Arizona, and at a local Mormon church.
In 1957 Ulmer moved to San Bernardino and then Hollywood, California, where he made a living playing on the streets and joined the musicians union—he still carries his original card in his wallet. He continued to travel regularly back and forth to Arizona “every three or four weeks,” traveled up through Canada up to Alaska.
In 1964 and 1965 he lived in Picayune and Pascagoula, where he worked at a missile plant, and following a brief stay in Laurel moved to Joliet, Illinois, where he lived for the next 37 years.In Joliet he performed on shows with Chicago-based blues artists including Muddy Waters, Elmore James, Howlin’ Wolf, Buddy Guy, Hound Dog Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Sonny Thompson, and many others.
Since returning to Mississippi in 2001 Ulmer has performed locally as well as at the Juke Joint Festival in Clarksdale, The Shed Blues Festival in Ocean Springs, and at the Blues Today Symposium in Oxford. In June 2007 he performed at the Roots and Blues Festival in Parma, Italy. In June 2008, he performed at the Chicago Blues Festival for the first time.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

James Blood Ulmer

James "Blood" Ulmer (born February 2, 1942) is an American jazz and blues guitarist and singer. Ulmer's distinctive guitar sound has been described as "jagged" and "stinging." His singing has been called "raggedly soulful". Ulmer was born in St. Matthews, South Carolina. He began his career playing with various soul jazz ensembles, first in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, from 1959-1964, and then in the Columbus, Ohio region, from 1964-1967. He first recorded with organist John Patton in 1969. After moving to New York in 1971, Ulmer played with Art Blakey's Jazz Messengers, Joe Henderson, Paul Bley, Rashied Ali and Larry Young.

In the early 1970s, Ulmer joined Ornette Coleman; he was the first electric guitarist to record and tour extensively with Coleman. He has credited Coleman as a major influence, and Coleman's strong reliance on electric guitar in his fusion-oriented recordings owes a distinct debt to Ulmer.1983's Odyssey, with drummer Warren Benbow and violinist Charles Burnham, was described as "avant-gutbucket," leading writer Bill Milkowski to describe the music as "conjuring images of Skip James and Albert Ayler jamming on the Mississippi Delta."
Ulmer has recorded many albums as a leader, including three recent acclaimed blues-oriented records produced by Vernon Reid. He also performs solo.Ulmer was also a judge for the 8th annual Independent Music Awards to support independent artists.
In a 2005 Down Beat interview, Ulmer opined that guitar technique had not advanced since the death of Jimi Hendrix.[4] He stated that technique could advance "if the guitar would stop following the piano," and indicated that he tunes all of his guitar strings to "A". Fast forward to December 2006. James Blood Ulmer is gathered with "The Memphis Blood Blues Band" at Piety Street Studios in New Orleans. The seven-piece unit, who were named after the Grammy Award-nominated album Memphis Blood: The Sun Sessions which they recorded in 2001, features Vernon Reid on guitar, Charlie Burnham on fiddle, David Barnes on harmonica, Leon Gruenbaum on various keyboards, Mark Peterson on bass and Aubrey Dayle on drums. This is the third album they're recording together as a band and the follow-up to the critically-acclaimed No Escape From the Blues: The Electric Lady Sessions released in 2003. As a group, they're razor sharp from several tours of Europe over the past year.
Ulmer alternately growls out direction as to the songs' arrangements and shouts his encouragement as they take form. He possesses a singular vision for the music that's shaped by his childhood playing gospel in the Baptist church, his early 20's working the Midwest juke-joint circuit with artists like Hank Marr and his later years on the avant-jazz scene immersed in Ornette Coleman's harmolodic theory. Ironically, blues as a pre-determined style of music means little if anything to Ulmer. But the "concept of the blues" is a whole other thing entirely. A lyric from Ulmer's "There Is Power In The Blues" might best set the tone: "Let's put the color back in the blues, way down here in New Orleans, let's start over just one more time, use the concept of the blues to feel our way around."