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Revisit 50 years of Jazz Fest with comprehensive box set of live performances

on March 7, 2019 No comments

Fans of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will be treated to a half-century’s worth of live performances in a very special commemorative box CD set being released in celebration of Jazz Fest’s 50th anniversary.

In honor of Jazz Fest’s golden anniversary, Smithsonian Folkways is releasing five discs of live performances from past years’ festivals. Jazz Fest: The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival will arrive on May 10 and is currently available for pre-order, here.

According to Jazz Fest organizers, the box set focuses on “the roots of Louisiana music,” placing emphasis on genres like jazz, bounce, zydeco, brass band, gospel and R&B. Some of the artists featured are Trombone Shorty, Irma Thomas, Big Freedia, Professor Longhair, The Neville Brothers, Allen Toussaint (solo and in a duet with Bonnie Raitt), Dr. John, Kermit Ruffins, Terence Blanchard, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, Champion Jack Dupree, and Buckwheat Zydeco.

“We are simply delighted with this collaboration,” says Smithsonian Folkways director and curator Huib Schippers. “It immediately made sense to us as soon as we started discussing it. There is a compelling and beautiful synergy between the first fifty years of an iconic music festival and a 70-year old record label committed to documenting and celebrating this country’s sound legacy and keeping it available in perpetuity, in whatever format, for a listenership of 230 million and growing. We are so pleased that we can bring some of the amazing sounds and sights and impressions from New Orleans to new and familiar audiences.”

Accompanying the music is a 135-page book with exclusive photographs from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation’s archive, The Historic New Orleans Collection and various independent photographers. Keith Spera and Karen Celestan contributed historical essays, as well.

Allen Toussaint and Bonnie Raitt – What Is Success – New Orleans Jazzfest 2000

For more information on the CD set, click here: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings.

Source: © Copyright Offbeat Magazine But wait, there's more!

Howell Begle, Defender of R&B Artists’ Rights, Is Dead at 74

on January 7, 2019 No comments

By Ben Sisario

Howell Begle, a Washington lawyer who found a second career crusading on behalf of underpaid black R&B stars of the 1950s and ’60s, leading to industrywide royalty reform and the creation of the charitable Rhythm & Blues Foundation, died on Dec. 30 at a hospital in Lebanon, N.H. He was 74.

His wife, Julie Eilber, said the cause was injuries he sustained in a skiing accident on Dec. 24.

Mr. Begle (rhymes with eagle) was a successful corporate lawyer with a specialty in media mergers and a roster of high-profile arts clients, like the Kennedy Center, when, in 1982, a friend encouraged him to meet Ruth Brown, the singer of 1950s R&B classics like “Teardrops From My Eyes” and “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean.”

A lifelong fan of Ms. Brown’s music, Mr. Begle met her after a performance and brought along some records for her to sign. When she told Mr. Begle that she had not received any royalties in decades, he said he would look into the problem.

Ms. Brown had spent years trying to recover royalties from her former record company, Atlantic. One of the label’s earliest and biggest stars, she was so associated with Atlantic that it was sometimes called “the house that Ruth built.” But she had not been paid since leaving the label in the early 1960s. In the fallow years of her career, she had worked as a maid and a bus driver.

Howell Begle with, from left, the singers Carla Thomas, Ruth Brown and Bonnie Raitt at an awards show in Memphis in 1990. Ms. Raitt said that Mr. Begle’s “dedication and tenacity in fighting for royalty reform” made him “a hero.” © Julie Eilber

Like most artists of her generation, Ms. Brown had signed contracts with very low royalty rates — hers was 5 percent, compared with a standard of about 15 percent today. Many of those artists, particularly black ones in genres like blues and R&B, were further exploited through shoddy bookkeeping and questionable business practices. Excessive expenses were often charged against artists’ accounts, leaving them eternally indebted to their labels and therefore ineligible for royalties.

Digging through the accounts of Ms. Brown and other Atlantic artists, including the Coasters, the Drifters and Big Joe Turner, Mr. Begle found further problems. Since 1969, for example, the label had simply stopped mailing quarterly statements, although they were contractually required to. For a 1985 Atlantic R&B compilation, Ms. Brown and Mr. Turner’s accounts had been charged for new mastering, editing and mixing expenses.

Mr. Begle with Ms. Brown and Little Richard in the 1990s. A few years earlier, Mr. Begle had helped Ms. Brown get her first royalty payment in 28 years, for about $20,000. © Julie Eilber

Such practices were widespread, but Atlantic was a vulnerable target. Ahmet Ertegun, the most prominent of the label’s founders, was revered in the industry and had a reputation for treating artists well. Ms. Brown’s case threatened to undermine that.

As a seasoned Washington insider, Mr. Begle also knew how to pressure Atlantic and its parent company, Warner Communications. Ms. Brown testified before a congressional panel and was interviewed by a sympathetic Meredith Vieira on “West 57th,” a CBS newsmagazine. In 1986, Steve Ross, the chief executive of Warner Communications, met with Mr. Begle and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Throughout this campaign, Mr. Begle considered Ms. Brown his most valuable weapon.

“I truly believed in Ruth because this woman was tough as nails,” he was quoted as saying in “The Last Sultan: The Life and Times of Ahmet Ertegun,” a 2011 biography by Robert Greenfield. “I knew I could trust her, and I believe Atlantic knew she was not going to be bought off.”

Mr. Begle did his work pro bono; his firm, Verner, Liipfert, Bernhard, McPherson and Hand, wrote off at least $60,000 in expenses. Both Ruth Brown and Ahmet Ertegun died in 2006.

In 1988, as pressure mounted on Mr. Ertegun leading up to the celebration of Atlantic’s 40th anniversary, the label announced that it would waive the unrecouped debts and recalculate royalties for Ms. Brown and others of its R&B artists back to 1970. (Files were incomplete before that date, the company said.) Ms. Brown received her first royalty payment in 28 years, for about $20,000.

A donation from Atlantic of nearly $2 million that year helped create the Rhythm & Blues Foundation, which gives grants to artists in need. Mr. Begle was its first executive director.

In time, most other major labels followed Atlantic’s lead in giving legacy artists improved royalty rates.

The singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt, a founding board member of the foundation, said in a statement, “Howell’s dedication and tenacity in fighting for royalty reform and recognition for the whole generation of pioneer R&B artists who were denied both in the measure they deserve will always make him a hero to me.”


So heartbroken at the tragic loss of my dear friend, Howell Begle. A true hero and founder of the R&B Foundation, with whom I worked for many years. –Bonnie Raitt


Howell Edward Begle Jr. was born in Detroit on Jan. 4, 1944. After his parents divorced, he moved with his mother, Lucille, to Scottsdale, Ariz., and later to Stuart, Fla. He graduated from the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tenn., in 1965 with a degree in political science. His wife said he had fed his love of R&B at wild parties on the campus, where bands like Doug Clark and the Hot Nuts performed.

Mr. Begle received a law degree from the University of Michigan in 1968 and was soon drafted into the Army. He was commissioned a captain despite having no military education. Stationed in Okinawa, he worked in the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, the military law division. While there he also booked concerts by acts like Ike and Tina Turner.

He moved to Washington and joined Verner, Liipfert after leaving the Army in 1973, becoming a partner.

In later years he operated his own firm, Howell Begle and Associates, based at his home in Boston. He continued to represent the Kennedy Center for its annual honors event, as well as the American Film Institute and the Academy Awards, clearing the rights to film clips for the Oscars broadcast.

Besides his wife, his survivors include three sons, Mark, Matthew and Charles; a daughter, Kristin Edwards; a sister, Cathy Deggeller; and three grandchildren.

In a 1990 interview with Rolling Stone, Ms. Brown said that in the midst of her battle with Atlantic, Mr. Ertegun once visited her backstage while she was performing in the Off Broadway show “Staggerlee.” They embraced, and he told her that “everything’s going to be all right,” that he would never let anything happen to her.

Then, Ms. Brown recalled, before Mr. Ertegun left, he added, “You know, Ruth, you got a good lawyer.”

Source: © Copyright The New York Times

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Lincoln Center Out of Doors Presents: Roots of American Music Weekend

on July 12, 2017 No comments

By Matthew McGuire

AMERICANA FEST features: Bonnie Raitt, The Jayhawks, Don Bryant, Traveller, Flaco Jiménez, Amanda Shires, and Low Cut Connie

One of the longest running summer festivals will return to New York City this year for Lincoln Center Out of Doors concert series.

They recently announced the entertainment lineup for the AMERICANAFEST that will be taking place August 12 & 13.

The lineup this year includes: Bonnie Raitt, The Jayhawks, Don Bryant, Traveller, Flaco Jiménez, Amanda Shires, and Low Cut Connie.

August 12: Traveller, Flaco Jiménez and Amanda Shires are set to perform at Hearst Plaza. The Jayhawks, A Celebration of Chuck Berry with musical director Vernon Reid, and Low Cut Connie will be performing at Damrosch Park Bandshell starting at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 12.

August 13: Bonnie Raitt and Don Bryant are set to perform at Damrosch Park Bandshell starting at 7:00 p.m.

All of these events are free and open to the public.

Source: © Copyright The Crescent Vale

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