Biography

Bonnie Raitt Ain’t Gonna be Your Sugar Mama No More

On new album ‘Home Plate,’ she sings a woman’s blues to the victims of a man’s world

on December 18, 1975 No comments

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RS_202__Bonnie_Raitt_Photo_-_1975_Rolling_Stone_Covers___Rolling_StoneIt is Alice Doesn’t Day, October 29th, a day to show the system how much it depends on women. Women are urged by the National Organization for Women to refuse to work, in or out of the house, in or out of bed.

It’s 1:30 on Alice Doesn’t Day, but Bonnie Raitt is hung over and doesn’t know what day it is — she is in downtown Nashville, using Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge as a backdrop for a photo session. As she wanders past a few stores, past a few Nashville cats striding by with their guitars in grip, something, or someone, is bothering her. In a minute she’s back at Tootsie’s. A few steps behind are two urgent-looking young men. She looks annoyed. “This jerk” — she motions to the bearded one behind her — “comes up and starts telling me, ‘I was in jail and I let Jesus Christ come into my life, and he forgave me all my sins.’ He wouldn’t stop. If I was a minister the guy wouldn’t have let up enough to let me tell him.”

The two young men are back, hovering. They do not recognize Bonnie, who will be headlining this evening at the new Grand Ole Opry. They just want her to show up at a revival meeting that night. Bonnie stops posing, nods an irritated head toward the two. “I don’t want these turkeys behind me,” she tells the photographer. The two men hear and seem puzzled, but move off toward a parking meter. Bonnie shoots a glare: “Would you please not watch? I’m already self-conscious as it is.”

She has given them a perfect opening and one of the JC freaks — the one who was forgiven — takes advantage of it: “Jesus,” he soothes, “will free your soul.”

Raitt squints, rolls her eyes. “Jesus Christ,” she mutters, “this town is out to lunch.”

Just past three on Alice Doesn’t Day, she returns to the Spence Manor Motor Hotel just in time to climb aboard the tour bus (called Kahoutek I and featuring chrome mag wheels) to go to the Grand Ole Opry for the sound check. For Nashville, John Prine has been added to the Raitt/Tom Waits bill, and Prine looks like he got good and warmed up the night before. Electric hair, Manchurian moustache, undersized denim outfit, green socks, black tennies. He is tossing a drink around. Tom Waits, as always, is hunched over, outfitted in grimy newsboy cap, slop-dash black suit, soiled white shirt, thin tie and thinner cigarette.

“…and I think I got married to the bartender”…Bonnie is talking…”That’s what happens when you don’t get served your dinner till eleven. I only wanted one screwdriver and I wind up drinking eight of them.” She and Waits and Prine had jammed till 5 a.m. the night before and an entire party had collapsed in her suite. She turns to Tim Bernett, her road manager. “Did you leave that cherry in my bed?” Prine fingers his maraschino and delivers the obvious punch line: “I’ve never left a cherry in bed.”

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Mighty Tight Woman – SIPPIE WALLACE

on April 15, 1967 No comments

by Paul Oliver

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A splendid anachronism, Sippie Wallace; a singular survivor of a long past blues tradition. There was a time, in the Forties, when almost the only form of blues which had any recognition was that called ‘classic blues’. The term itself is vague enough and does not carry in it any specific form, or style, or means of expression.
But though it lacks a real definition the classic blues has meant for collectors and jazz enthusiasts the singing of the blues artists who worked with the jazz bands of the 1920s. There were few enthusiasts of the blues in the early years of the traditional jazz ‘revival’ and, in consequence, the blues singers who had associations with jazz were those whose names appeared in the articles and the occasional books which mileposted the developing interest in this form of music. When the ‘trad’ boom was over and the Dixieland bands and the New Orleans bands had fought out their battles of authenticity and purity to meet at last over glasses of warm beer to rue the passing of a fad, attention to the classic blues went too.

In the past few years a rise in interest in the blues has echoed in some respects the traditional jazz phase, sustaining a large number of imitative musicians, developing a market for the issue and reissue of the music of the past, and promoting the rediscovery of veteran musicians.
In all this activity in the blues field there has been little attention to the work of the classic singers. Sadly their link with jazz which had inspired interest in the past is now contributory to the present disregard. Once again, the arguments over authenticity have produced artificial barriers, have classified, often meaninglessly, the categories into which musicians and singers conveniently fall and have imposed a highly artificial form of arbitrary evaluation. And the arguments have weighed heavily against the classic blues singers when indeed, they enter the discussion at all.

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The appearance of Sippie Wallace at the Folk Blues Festival concerts in 1966 must be counted from any point of view, a conspicuous success. Her single appearance has caused critics to reconsider their opinions, some writers to admit grudgingly that there may after all, be some value in the work of singers of her type and generation. As the reviews and the spontaneous acclamation of the audiences revealed, Sippie Wallace’s majestic singing was both a personal triumph and a smashing blow against those who found the classic singer inadmissable to the blues pantheon.

To the extent that the term has any meaning, Sippie Wallace is a classic blues singer. But the term is elastic enough to include at one pole the work of artists of the stature of Bessie Smith and Gertrude Ma Rainey, and at the other the entertainment of Rosa Henderson and Viola McCoy. While the former showed in their every phrase the influence of the blues, the latter singers were vaudeville entertainers whose links were as much with white show business as they were with the Negro tradition of song. No derogatory implications are intended; only some indication of the looseness ot the terminology. Nearly all these singers were women and it is probably a reflection of the recording patterns of the day that while there were few rural women singers recorded in the Twenties the classic singers were almost exclusively female. Those who showed the greatest association with the blues tradition inevitably appeal today to a greater extent than do those whose singing was a part of the vaudeville entertainment of the early years of the century, and for this reason Lillian Glinn, Cleo Gibson or Clara Smith are among the few that are remembered. Standing pre-eminently in their company is Sippie Wallace.

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