"Tell 'em 'bout the Blues"
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Tell 'em 'bout the Blues by FRED REIF
This is the story of my life in the world of the Blues. It all started with the trip to Pontiac, Michigan in the Spring of 1970, where I discovered Otis Hicks, a.k.a. Lightnin’ Slim. Soon after, I bought a bus ticket for Lazy Lester to come up to Michigan. Then, I discovered Arthur Gunter living in Port Huron, Michigan. In 1972, on a British tour with Lightnin’ Slim, I met Detroit bluesman, Eddie Burns, who was also on his first tour abroad.
Then, at a concert in Flint, Michigan, I met the great one-man-band, Dr. Isaiah Ross. Shortly after, Detroit bluesman, Bobo Jenkins and I met at his recording studio in Detroit, where I met a number of other Detroit-based blues artists including; Baby Boy Warren, Little Daddy Walton, ‘Rabbit’ Johnson, Joe L. Carter, and a few others.
Throughout the following years, I met and became good friends and sometimes, manager, of many others; Boogie Woogie Red, Washboard Willie, Chicago Pete, Willie D. Warren, Johnny ‘Yard Dog’ Jones, ‘Uncle’ Jessie White, and the legendary songwriter, Sir Mack Rice.
Also, from Detroit, Fred Stanley, who was a white guy, and made one record for Columbia Records, in 1930. From Toledo, Ohio, I met the Griswold Brothers. In my hometown of Saginaw, I met Larry McCray and his brothers, Steve and Carl.
Later, I met and traveled with Sharrie Williams. Also in Saginaw, I met Carlene Gill, the former “Fiesta Doll” at the Paradise Club at the African-American resort in Idlewild, Michigan.
Back in Detroit, I was introduced to Calvin Cooke, “The BB King of the Sacred Steel Guitar”; and the child prodigy from the 1940s, Sugar Chile Robinson.
But, it all started with that 90-mile trip from Saginaw to Pontiac, in 1970, when I met the ‘Swamp’ bluesman, Otis Hicks, a.k.a. LIGHTNIN’ SLIM . . .
"All of Me"
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All of Me by FRED REIF
This is an important book on the history of music in Saginaw, Michigan, and its influence on the music of the United States and beyond.
Anyone interested in American music will find this newly uncovered material fascinating. An impressive number of Saginaw area musicians and composers have gone on to national and international fame in a variety of genres.
For example, Gerald Marks co-wrote an American classic, "All Of Me." Danny Russo, co-wrote another gem, "Toot, Toot, Tootsie, Goodbye." Isham Jones led one of the most popular orchestras in the country in the 1920s. Hot jazz banjo player, Howdy Quicksell later moved to Saginaw. Jazz legend Sonny Stitt likewise hailed from Saginaw, as did the legendary Stevie Wonder and Motown band leader, Choker Campbell.
I’ve had the opportunity to interview a number of these great artists. I also have sourced about 200 archival photos dating back to 1911 and up to the 1950s. The majority of these have never been published.
This project will occupy a valuable niche in the history of American music by shining a light on a creative community until now largely overlooked by historians and authors.
"Tell 'em 'bout the blues" - This is a very readable book, written first hand by one of the 1970s pioneers of blues research, marking fifty years of interviewing, traveling, touring and recording blues artists - a labour of love. Long may it continue! Blues & Rhythm - The Gospel Truth magazine. (UK)
This is truly a wonderful, informative book about the history of Saginaw music. I have learned so much more then I had imagined and I now have a greater appreciation for all that Saginaw was known for and the music it fostered. A wonderful read and I would encourage everyone to pick up a copy of this book. - Craig Hodnett/Buffalo, NY
Author Fred Reif shines a light on a largely overlooked creative community. – Michigan History magazine – May/June 2015
Author Fred Reif offered an excellent presentation of Saginaw's musical history from the 1850s to 1950s. Many of the attendees complimented what a great lecture that was and they did not know the abundance of artists that resided in the Saginaw Historical Society of Saginaw County area. (Lecture took place: Sept 8, 2015)
Your book on Saginaw music is a treasure. Thanks for writing the book. – Joseph Heagany
For anyone thinking about purchasing this book, I would highly suggest they get into their car and meet Fred at this book signing and buy a copy. Saginaw was filled with wonderful, talented and important musicians. Fred's book is an interesting read. Buy a copy, have it signed and give it as a gift, you can't go wrong, and then buy a copy for yourself. Craig Hodnett/Buffalo, NY
Great stuff! Thanks so much for writing this book. - Paul Lichau, conductor of the Saginaw Eddy Concert Band
Fred - I got home last week and one of the Christmas presents waiting for me was a copy of 'All of Me' from John. I started it on the plane back and am really enjoying reading through the characters and the history you've put together. Congratulations on a Mike Jahnckesuper piece of work. I think anyone with ties to the Saginaw area would love it, not to mention anyone at all who appreciates American music history. -
I am enjoying this book very much! Lot's of cool old photos and stories about the musicians and entertainers of my hometown from the Bradley Williams (former Saginaw resident living in Austin, TX) 1850s-1950s. -
I attended his book signing at Frita Batidos in Ann Arbor a couple of weeks ago. In addition to getting a signed book and great book at that, we had some great conversation about music from Sonny Stitt to Idlewild, MI's heyday. Awesome! I spent part of my break checking out this book. Very interesting and informative. Cool! - Alicia Marie/Ann Arbor Musician
Fred, I recently withdrew this from the Alice and Jack Wirt Library here in Bay City. I can't wait to purchase this wonderful book you have written. Never knew there was so much music history in this area. Congratulations Fred, you have given us a Gary Linkowski /Bay City well written look on what was here in our musical backyard at one time. Don't let this one get by you folks! -
I bought a copy of your book for my father in law today but I like it so much that I am going back to get me a copy – Joan Stennett/Saginaw
A really nice book of music history (Jazz & Blues) of Saginaw, Michigan by Fred Reif - go and get it. Wonderful pictures inside. - Mario Hemken
Great book, Fred, I had the privilege of working with many of these guys. played a gig where Ange Lorenzo was a guest, What a thrill. – Homer Wickman/Lansing, MI