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wonder how to Celebrate?

by | Mar 5, 2021 | Celebrate, J Geils Band, wonder

Parental Advisory – Explicit Content.  ;-)… so I have wanted to write this post since I started writing these – literally.  It is one of the greatest musicians, with the greatest names, and bundled into one of the best live bands ever… and there will be a lot of double and triple entendres and allusions that you will get, and some will probably miss… but whatever.  Here we go, and I am indebted to my friend for suggesting we talk about J Geils – as I now have an excuse… as with newspapers, those of you reading this on LinkedIn and FaceBook will have to wonder what happens under the fold… 

Richard Salwitz was born and raised in Connecticut, and like J and the others, went to Worcester Polytechnic to study Physics.  He played trumpet from the age of 8, and loved jazz, but eventually started diving into the blues, particularly the harmonica.  He was one of the founding members of the first jazz/blues trio where the trumpet fit the original jazz motif, but quickly switched to harmonica when the band started to add members.  The band’s early tours with Muddy Water, John Lee Hooker, but particularly James Cotton solidified his interest in the harp. 

Richard was a serious student of the harp, and the playing style of the formative masters – Sonny Boy Williamson, Little Walter, and James Cotton.  Here is an interview about this early instrumental that the whole band took pleasure in putting on their second album, the flip side of yesterday’s love song, and a staple of every show they played. 

Today’s recording is from the June 27, 1971 – the last 3 days of the Fillmore East – which featured in addition to J Geils – Albert King, Edgar Winter, Mountain, The Allman Brothers, Country Joe McDonald… and the Beach Boys, complete with an intro from WNEW New York who carried this live.  PLEASE click on the link and listen/watch… it is one of the best parts of the age we live in that we can find these historical videos…

The wonder of music of my college days started with torn jeans and hard rock at a club called The Binary Star.  With my fake ID, I could get in (mostly) and watch some great and not so great live players… and lots and lots of very drunk people.  The music was fun – the crowd, not so much.  I didn’t really drink – pretty happy with who I was and my path, why would I want to dull that?  When I started working full time, these evenings were typically after work, or studying so I quickly fell out of watching live rock…. 

… but I did find a bar that had live Jazz, and they didn’t mind that I brought my books – yes, I was that nerdy. They didn’t care so long as I would continue to buy food, the occasional Scotch that I found I could sip and still stay focused enough for some ‘easier’ homework while enjoying The King and I – an old black Sax player and his partner on piano that would play to a mostly empty house every night.  Probably why they were happy to let me and my roommates sit in the back and study… 

There are many wonderful blues artists, particularly from Chicago, who used the moniker – “Magic” – and Richard wanted to honor the Chicago roots of his playing style.  I am unable to find a story of where the actual choice of his name came from – I would guess Peter Wolf’s twisted sense of humor, but as hysterical as it is, don’t let it fool you.  He is a true master of the harp, but when you see this come up in YouTube, you may need that warning I posted above – Magic Dick on Tongue Blocking and Puckering.  It is a nerdy analysis of … well click and you will find out. 

I wonder – are we watching the death of much of live music?  The current crisis is decimating both the venues that cater to it, and the musicians without a way to make a living have wandered into other “day” jobs.  We watched a concert the other night that was streamed from the home studios of Lyle Lovett and Vince Gill – and both commented that being “stuck at home” was way better than touring.  I wonder if they and others will get back out there?  I hope so, and will be doing my part even more than before to get out and explore the wonder of live music – join me!!  And like Magic Dick, be a Whammer Jammer!!

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