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GTCBMS GATHERINGS AND EVENTS OF NOTE

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The Event

JO JO EVENT A SUCCESS

Sideman to the Stars gets his own Day to Shine!

by Judy Cedar; all photographs by Tom Asp

Jo Jo Williams
Jo Jo Williams

The Jo Jo Celebration (held February 29th at Arnellia's in St. Paul) was a tribute to Jo Jo who had his own bands but was also was a sideman to the stars. He played with Otis Spann, Mojo Buford and Muddy Waters for four and one-half years. He traveled with and toured two weeks in California with Little Walter. Jo Jo worked with Harmonica Slim, played in the James Cotton Band and the Earl Dranes Trio. He played second guitar on the Excello Records recordings of Callin' All Cows and Johnnie May with the Lazy Bill Lucas Band. While playing with Mojo here in Minneapolis, he opened for Ike and Tina Turner at the Key Club. In the 50's in Chicago, Jo Jo had his own band named the Blues Rockers. Here in Minneapolis he led a band for awhile that included Maynard Walker on guitar, Little Willie Taylor singing, and Don (??) on drums.

Judy and Jo Jo
Judy and Jo Jo

A huge thank you to Arnellia's for hosting this event for the GTCBMS. We started out the afternoon with a short Board Meeting prior to the event. Photos were on display for folks to look at on big display boards. The photos, from more than 20 years ago, came from Jo Jo's personal photo album and included his musician friends from Chicago as well as photos of Jo Jo himself. We will make these photos available again for viewing at future events. The photos were taken backstage at Ann Arbor Festival and in Chicago and include the following musicians: Jr. Wells, Buddy Guy, Johnny Woods, Muddy Waters, Albert King, John Lee Hooker, Howlin' Wolf, Carey Bell, Johnny Young, Luther Allison, Lowell Fulson, Mance Lipscomb, The Trashmen Band, Lazy Bill Lucas, Johnny Shines, Juke Boy Bonner, P.T. Hayes, S.P. Leary, Mighty Joe Young, Junior Parker, Otis Rush, Robert Lockwood Jr., Victoria Spivey, Johnny Winter, Philip Brewer, Taylor, The Legendary Blues Band, Fred McDowell, Roosevelt Sykes, Little Brother Montgomery, Papa Lightfood, Clear Waters, and more.

Don King
Don King

Last August Art Roy (Producer of TC Muzique on MTN TV) video-taped an interview that Ray Stiles did with Jo Jo. Clips from the interview were shown at this celebration. This interview is being combined with other information and will be penned soon to describe the musical life of Jo Jo.

Jo Jo
Jo Jo

Following the video clips of the Ray Stiles Interview, Jo Jo got on stage to answer questions and he talked some about his trips to Handy Park to watch B B King and Howlin' Wolf sit and play in the park. Jo Jo described the first homemade guitar he made with hay-bailing wire, using a bottle to play it like a Hawaiian steel guitar. Another story was how he met Lazy Bill Lucas -- they met at Jo Jo's sister's home as Lazy Bill oftentimes went to her house to play her piano. Finally, Jo Jo painted an imaginary picture of what it was like to be at a country-dance back in the 40's. This story's image is also described in Jo Jo Williams and Lazy Bill Lucas interviewed by Jeff Titon, Minneapolis, Minnesota August 18, 1968 and Transcribed by James Alan Williams and excerpted here:

Jeff Titon (JT): Yeah. In Mississippi, around the delta region, you had people like Charlie Patton, and Son House, Willie Brown...
Jo Jo Williams (JW): ... I used to go and see those guys shows when they'd used to give those dances out in the wide open, you know, clear out a wide space on the ground and real smooth. Smooth as concrete here, you know. And have kerosene oil lamps all the way around'em lit up. And they'd sit side by side in a straight chair, and they'd just open guitars, you know. They had the big ones with the f-holes in them. And those sounds and night would ring and you could hear it for three and four blocks, you know.
JT: Who would come to these things?
JW: Who would come? Well I suppose...it seemed like everybody was around that was, well I was only going to come from as near as, as far as from 50 miles away. I mean just to hear those guys, you know, and they were really good...
JW: There's two of them and they'd sit side by side, and when they'd get through wigglin' and stompin' there, they'd have...The chairs would be sunk up to the first rung. Because they'd have a big hole stomped in the ground, each place where they were playing.
JT: Was this...Did you see Willie Brown?
JW: Son House and Willie Brown?
JT: Yeah, together.
JW: Yep, both of them were together, yeah.
Bill Lucas (BL): But would their voice carry over that big crowd with no mic?
JW: Oh yeah. I mean very much. At night, out in the country, you'd be surprised how far the sound would go from anything. When I lived in the south, you could hear a guy walking across a field or another road about, maybe a half a mile away, playing a guitar, and you could hear it almost as good as if he was with you out there, you know...
JT: Were the people all dancing?
JW: Oh yeah, dancing, everybody having fun.
JT: Drinking?
JW: Yeah, drinking...
BL: Chitlins and hog feet...
JW: Well, they had food, everything. And the people didn't seem to fight like they do now...
JT: How often did these dances...?
JW: Oh, I would say they usually would have one nearly every two weeks...

 

Don King
Don King
 

Cool Breeze
Cool Breeze
 

Back at Arnellia's, following the storytelling session, the crowd settled down to some serious blues music provided by Detroit Don King Blues Band: Don King (guitar and vocals), Glen Graham (tenor sax), Dan Emerson (bass), Doug Hill (drums), and Dave "Cool Breeze" Brown (guitar and vocals).

Mojo Buford
Mojo Buford
 

Mojo Buford was the band's guest musician that day. Mojo arrived at Arnellia's straight from the Airport (he had just arrived home from a gig in Atlanta). Cool Breeze and Mojo played together in years past. Their enormous smiles gave some clue that they thoroughly enjoyed playing back and forth off each other. Although individual musicians stepped off stage for occasional breaks as other musicians filled in; the music was continuous and without a break!

Mojo and Jo Jo, Don King Band
Mojo and Jo Jo,
Don King Band

The GRANDEST moment of the day was Jo Jo getting on stage with the band and Tom Asp got it on film. Jo Jo is 80 years old and doesn't get out to hear live music as much as he'd like to. He thoroughly enjoyed the day and the music.

More than 55 people attended this event and a few lucky ones went home with door prizes, including a CD compilation (with five Jo Jo originals) and a beach towel with the society logo. All attendees received photo gifts. Jo Jo gives a huge thanks to all who helped with and/or attended this event and for honoring him on February 29th at Arnellia's. His parting comment at day's end was "I love you all".

As a lead up to this event, Jo Jo was on the Rollin' and Tumblin' show hosted by Jacquie Maddix on KFAI. Occasionally you will hear one of Jo Jo's original songs (from the CD Chicago ain't nothin' but a blues band, Delmark 624) played on KFAI by DJs Harold Trembley, Jackson Buck and Jacquie Maddix. Jo Jo is a huge fan of KFAI's and he listens to all their blues programs. ?


The Announcement

It's leap year - so take a leap of faith and show up at Arnellia's on the 29th of February at 3:00 pm to personally visit with Jo Jo and watch the taped interview of Jo Jo by Ray Stiles and MTN-TV. Visit the displays to see a collage of more than 90 one-of-a-kind photos from Jo Jo's personal photo album; all photos of Jo Jo and his musician friends! Hear songs recorded by Jo Jo's band and see his guitar (he might even play some!!!). At the age of 80, it's Jo Jo's turn to take his place in the spotlight and shine as only Jo Jo can. If you've got a few moments, please join Jo Jo and the Greater Twin Cities Blues Music Society for this special event.

 

JO JO WILLIAMS CELEBRATION - ARNELLIA'S
SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 29
3:00 - 8:00 pm.

SHORT PROGRAM - MUSIC FOLLOWS.
MUSIC BY DON KING BAND WITH SPECIAL GUEST MOJO BUFORD.
ARNELLIA'S BAR, LOCATED AT 1183 UNIVERSITY WEST, ST PAUL (TELEPHONE 651 642 5975). GREAT FOOD (NEW MENU) AND BEVERAGES AVAILABLE FOR SALE. COVER CHARGE OF $5.00 ($3.00 IF YOU ARE A BLUES SOCIETY MEMBER) GETS YOU 2 PHOTO GIFTS PLUS A CHANCE TO WIN DOOR PRIZE. DOOR PRIZE IS CD COMPILATION INCLUDING 5 OF JO JO'S RECORDINGS FOR ATOMIC-H.

In Jo Jo's own words ... "My band was the Blue Rockers with P.T. Hayes, Alex Randall, Lazy Bill and Little Willie Smith ...every Christmas I got a 25 cent marine band harp ... I played some saxaphone at the school in Herdiana, Mississippi ...I'd make trips to Handy Park to hear B. B. King and Howlin' Wolf play ... I played with Muddy Waters ... in the 50s I traveled to California and played with Little Walter there ... my band got nicknamed Jo Jo Williams and His Laughing Hyenas because ... I met Lazy Bill ... got my first guitar in 1953 ... "

A huge thank you to the following sponsors for helping with this event:


Jo Jo Williams Obituary

Williams, Joseph E. Known as Jo Jo Williams, a blues legend, and a inductee of Minnesota Rock & Country Hall of Fame in 2006, passed away June 16, 2010 at the age of 86. Services will be held at Estes Funeral Chapel, 2210 Plymouth Ave. N, Mpls, MN 55411, Saturday, June 26, 2010. Visitation 1:00 PM and Services at 3:00 PM. Arrangements by Estes Funeral Chapel 612-521-6744 Published in Star Tribune on June 24, 2010

See also Jo Jo Williams Dies at 86.

 

 

 


 

 

 

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page last updated: Friday, August 21, 2015

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