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Support Angie Mack Reilly of Ozaukee Talent through Arts Wisconsin

Donate Here

Angie is a lifetime arts advocate and leader with proven and documented success who is looking for benefactors to help her keep launching forward.  Contact angie@ozaukeetalent.com

Recent podcasts that feature Angie’s work:

Follow Ozaukee Talent on Facebook to see samples of work

 

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Interviewing the Interviewer

The Music of Milwaukee Radio Host Ben Merens

by Angie Mack Reilly 3.9.20

Ben Merens Musician and Radio Host on the Paramount Plaza Walk of Fame

New Release!  Listen to “Babylon” by Ben Merens on Hot Seat Records

A Master of Improv

Have you ever seen the show, “Who’s Line is it Anyway?”

It’s an improvisational comedy television show.  One feature is that the actors are asked to make up comedic lyrics and a melody on the spot while a band plays music that they’ve never heard before.  NOT an easy task!

I have always marveled at the show’s actors’ ability to do this. Decades of teaching music and drama has taught me that improvisation requires a heightened sensitivity and a rapid mind. Improvisation is done without any preparation. It requires having a wealth of knowledge to pull from as well as a bravado of spirit.

This is why I like to listen to jazz.   In my opinion, jazz is one of the most difficult and advanced musical art foms to master.  Why?  Because of the improvisation.  Likewise, stand-up comedy.  It requires a high skill level of improvisation that is extremely difficult.

Like I was saying.  Very few people have this high level of skill that entails composing music, creating lyrics and creating a melody on the spot.

Ben Merens has this skill.

Having been in journalism for over 30 years, Ben is somewhat of a celebrity in the Milwaukee area. Most people know him as the longtime radio host for Wisconsin Public Radio’s At Issue With Ben Merens on the Ideas Network.

As a live radio host, Ben has had to improvise on every program.  He has literally spoken on thousands of shows without a full script.   Again, not many people can do this.

I find it fascinating that Ben has taken this strongly exercised skill of improvisation and has applied it to music.

An Example

Ben came over to record some music recently and met my son Joshua for the first time.  Within minutes of meeting Joshua, Ben created a comedic song complete with lyrics, melody and music.  The song played on the ironic fact that Joshua is a baker who cannot eat gluten.  Check it out.

 

“Yes.  God must have a sense of humor you see.  When a baker cannot eat gluten.  I think that’s God’s stand-up comedy.” – Ben Merens

Communication Expert

Ben explained to me that all of his experience in radio has taught him amazing focus and mindfulness.   He is a keen listener which can be a rare commodity in today’s self-centered and busy world.  In fact, Ben has written a book called People Are Dying to Be Heard.  He is an experienced keynote speaker on the topic of communication.  He conducts workshops that help people and organizations find their unique story or voice.  His ability to understand people also fuels his ability to create on-the-spot songs.

Adaptability

“And the only constant in life is change. And we all must be willing to rearrange” – Ben Merens lyric from One Hundred Voices

People who have the ability to improvise are highly adaptable.   They quickly adjust.  They are keenly sensitive.   Aware.  Flexible toward change.   Adaptability knows how to feed an audience while feeding off of the audience.  Because no two audiences are the same, you will find that no two versions of Ben’s songs are the same.   He adjusts the song to fit the environment.

Forget buying mood lighting at a party.  Hire Ben to come and entertain your guests in a way that they won’t ever forget!  I’m serious!  Hire him to speak or sing at your place of worship, school, workplace or event.  Ben has a long track record of connecting with audiences of all demographics.

The Background and the Vision

Ben and I recently started connecting after a music event that we both attended in Cedarburg.   The more I have gotten to know him, the more I have appreciated what a gem of a human being he is.   Ben loves people.  Pure and simple.  And he uses his talents to help others in a variety of creative ways.  We have a similiar intuitive, improvisational and heartfelt manner in which we share our talents with others.   We both understand adaptability or, as I like to call it, fluidity.   Ben recently invited me talk with him about creativity on his Riverwest Radio show called Just Talking.  You can listen to the link below.

Because of how creatively compatible we are,  I thought that it would be great to work on a creative project with Ben.  Since we both love networking, I thought that we should invite others who want to join us.  It’s a bit improvisational.  The musicians and singers will have to be adaptable.  But we want to communicate a message as a performance public art piece.  Not perfect.  But heartfelt.  Because a lot of people need a glimmer of light right now.  Please join us.

100 Voices:  Public Performance Art

WHO:  Calling 100 Musicians and Singers for “One Hundred Voices Jiant Jam” (a Flash Mob type performance)  Don’t worry.  Nobody’s making anyone dance. (lol)
WHAT:  We will be performing “One Hundred Voices” written by radio personality Ben Merens (listen to the track above….lyrics are in the comments).  This song was inspired by the book 100 Voices:  Americans Talk About Change by Mary M. Clare.  Mary traveled the nation asking diverse people what change meant to them.  Ben wrote the song upon meeting the author.

Event has been cancelled and will hopefully be rescheduled due to Covid-19 crisis

WHEN:  Sunday March 22nd, arrive no later than noon.  Performance will be videotaped/recorded at 12:30pm.  By participating, you are agreeing to be on film, audio recording, social media, television, etc….Rain date of Sunday March 29, same times.  Try to gather in the cul de sac just south of the giant piano Walk of Fame when you arrive.
WHERE:  Paramount Plaza Walk of Fame in downtown Grafton (outside of Atlas BBQ)
HOW:  We will rehearse the song at noon under the musical direction of Angie Mack Reilly.  Looking for acoustic instruments such as acoustic guitars, hand drums, voices, violins, saxophones, etc….Please have the song memorized and rehearsed before arriving
WHY:  We want to raise awareness about the ripple effect that “one voice” has and how music continues to be a unifying, meaningful and valuable tool to bring people together.  This is an attempt to raise awareness about the musicians who recorded for the Paramount record label.

RSVP:  send your firm email commitment to angie@ozaukeetalent.comMiss6123@gmail.com or ben@benmerens.com No last minute cancellations please.

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Angie is Interviewed by The World Music Foundation About Music History

Much thanks to John Gardner of The World Music Foundation for capturing this very important story that has global influence!

Listen to the Music Podcast Here

Additional Links:

Contact:  angie@ozaukeetalent.com

Please consider supporting Angie’s work in music through Arts Wisconsin

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Donate Online Here

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2019: Angie on Fox6Now Real Milwaukee with Brian Kramp

Recreate a classic: Check out ‘Elf Jr.’ the musical at the Cedarburg Performing Arts Center

Link to 3 Segments

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Liquid Sunshine: Angie Reviews Immortal Girlfriend 4.22.16

“Liquid Sunshine”

by Angie Mack Reilly written 4.22.16.  Photo taken by Angie in April of 2016 in Grafton, WI

Intentionally delayed publishing until 11.12.18

Will and Kevin are brothers from Milwaukee who are hoping to produce their EP this summer. Will is the older brother who writes most of their original songs as well as performs on keys and lead vocals. Kevin plays the drums and bass as well as arranges songs with his brother.

The two performed a “private concert” for me last Saturday which was quite a gift.

Kevin Bush playing bass and Will Bush playing keys
Immortal Girlfriend puts on a private show for Angie Mack Reilly in Grafton, WI before music career takes off.

Their music is highly original with a tight groove, smooth melodies and uplifting lyrics. Listening definitely put me in a better mood. Their performance for me was ambient and fresh yet surprisingly full for two musicians. I couldn’t help but move along to their positive and percussive sounds full of lyrical fluidity. These guys are going places.

Will and Kevin consider themselves as being self-taught. However, they come from a highly musical family with their father Ron being a bassist and their mother Leona a guitar player. Thanks to their cousin who lived with them growing up, Will remembers going to sleep to the sounds of Tupac, Biggie Smalls and other rappers. Will has memories of growing up in the 80s listening to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit on his brand new “Walkman”.

Their grandfather, Theodore Franks was a multi-talented man who played the guitar and piano in Texas. Their sisters sing and there are even more musicians on their father’s side. Their uncle, Dehner Franks, is a professional and nationally touring songwriter, pianist and minister.

Will and Kevin also minister in music at Epikos Church in West Allis. Both brothers admit that they have risen to a higher level of musical excellence under the leadership of Michael Morgan at Epikos. In 2006, Morgan was in a band called “Northern Room” that opened for Bon Jovi at the Bradley Center. Musicians wanting to play at Epikos have to perform a successful audition.

88.9 logo

Immortal Girlfriend on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Will and Kevin have begun a new tour featuring some of their original titles such as “Portia”, “Avid”, “Temple”, “Adrift”, and my favorite of theirs, “Passage”. They have most recently played at Mo’s Irish Pub and Frank’s Power Plant in Milwaukee with great fan reception. Others have described Will and Kevin’s sound as being somewhat like The Cure’s “Burn” or like Sting from the Police.

Words cannot describe my love and care for the “Bush Family”.  Will and Kevin’s parents and I used to play music together at Spirit Life Church in Mequon in the 2000s on a very regular basis.  I’ve also played with Will and Kevin.   Even though I don’t see them several times a week anymore, they will always be family to me.  Because of this, I am sharing. 

Being ill as a musician can be extremely devastating.  I’ve been there.  I know others who have been there.   There is something special that “I know” about Will.  Not only is he like family to me, doggedly hard-working and an amazing musician.   Above all, Will Bush is a voice.  A voice.  A voice.  A VOICE.  A VOICE.  And his heart is beautifully full of love…..

His voice, his message, is pertinent and life-giving.

Ladies and gentleman, let’s rise to the occasion.  These young men are strong leaders.  Thank you in advance.  

WILL’S RECOVERY 

Will Bush Facebook Profile 11.12.18

summerfest 2018 logo

Immortal Girlfriend at Summerfest 

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Immortal Girlfriend on JSOnline

Immortal Girlfriend on Soundcloud

CONTACT ANGIE:  angie@ozaukeetalent.com

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2005: Angie Interviews Skip James and Mississippi John Hurt Descendant

Contact angie@ozaukeetalent.com

Exclusive Interview with Angie Mack Reilly 

Date:  6/17/05 by phone

Name: Fred Bolden
Born: 1951 Boston, Massachusetts
Retired police officer

A: How are you related to Skip James?
F: Skip married my second cousin (my mother’s first cousin). He’s related by marriage. Skip’s wife’s name was Lorenzo Hurt. I’m really a Hurt.

A: How are you related to Mississippi John Hurt?
F: He’s my grand uncle. (My grandfather’s brother)

A: Do you remember meeting Skip James for the first time?
F: Oh sure….Oh sure….I’ll never forget that…down at Newport. You see, Son House got drunk and was supposed to play that gig in 1964. (Newport Blues Festival) I remember that like yesterday. Skip was so nervous….so nervous…..[laughing] Skip was so nervous that he was shaking like the leaves on a tree.

Reverend Robert Wilkins had to calm him down. He was a performer also. Ever heard of Bob Dylan? He was there, too. Tom Huskins almost threw him out. Howlin’ Wolf was there. They called the tent “Bluesville”. Skip and Misssissippi Fred McDonald were really nervous. When he got on stage that was the highlight of his career. He did this little thing with his left hand. Then he sang, “I’d rather be the devil than to be that woman’s man…..” He did it in that falsetto that sent chills up and down my back. It still does today. The crowd just went wild. He did about 4 or 5 songs.

The highlight of his whole career was the Newport Festival. There were thousands there. I was fascinated by the microphones that picked up his sound. I still have dreams about it. I never saw anything like that before, you know. He had on a preacher’s hat…black, winged tip shoes, a jacket, and a rectangular button with “KIN” on it….meaning he was a performer. That meant that you were part of the staff or a performer.

A: Was Son House there?
F: No. [laughing] Dick Waterman took him somewhere to sleep it off….probably Freebody Park.

A: Who taught Skip how to play?
F: I think Skip taught himself. But there was Little Brother Montgomery and an unknown guy….Henry Stuckey. And don’t forget during WWI, they were in Jackson, Mississippi and he met my Uncle Mississippi John Hurt. I think it’s from my Uncle’s influence. My Uncle used to hang out down there.

A: You mentioned that he didn’t like playing other people’s songs……….
F: That’s right.

A: Do you think it’s because he couldn’t play them?
F: No. No. And I’ll tell you why. You know why? He said, “I can play all those songs, but I want to do my own thing.” Skip said that to me, because we were sitting in the living room. We used to sit in the living room all of the time. He, Lorenzo, and I. I asked him once to play C.C. Rider. He said, “That’s Mississippi John Hurt’s song…….”

A: You said that Son House came to your house and played. What did he play?
F: Well, yes….I remember him and John Hurt doing one song, Blind Lemon Jefferson’s “Blind Snake Moan”. They got really tore up. They were drinking that blues. Son House did “Preaching Blues”….it’s one of my favorites. … and there’s “Empire State Blues…” He used to work for that railroad. It’s about the Empire State Railroad.

A: What do you remember about Skip’s personality?
F: He was quite….almost mysterious……full of spirits….He could be both…..He could be lively…..Down in Newport…..he was so nervous….he was scared $#@less. [laughing] That’s probably the quietest I ever seen him. He could rub people the wrong way. But I was on his good side. I never gave him any argument. I tell you the truth, he liked those %$#@houses and drank a lot. He didn’t drink too much at his house when I was there, though. Not like my Uncle John. My Uncle John always had a pint on him even when he was playing. I asked my mom as a young kid what that was. She said, “It gave him the spirit”……[laughing]

A: What made him mad?
F: Yes….there was a young 17 year old kid with a guitar. He said, “Skip, I learned how to play a song just like you play it….” Skip got mad and said, “I done been and gone from places you’ll never get to……” He got mad all of the time…..in conversation…yeah….like….those guys that found him. They were handling him for awhile. Skip was mad at John Fahey because they took his money and were squandering it at his expense. So Skip got away from them. He said, “They took my money and squandered it.” A lot of those guys they rediscovered….they embroiled them in money problems. The rediscovered blues guys felt cheated. They had no way of assessing what they were really worth. They weren’t prepared to be rediscovered and didn’t know how to deal with it. So they didn’t deal with it well.

When they found Skip in the hospital, he didn’t remember anything. He had to be taught again by blues enthusiasts who mastered his licks.

A: What made him sad?
F: He was a hard hearted man. He had a heart like stone.

A: Did he ever tell any stories?
What kind of stories?

A: Any.

F:  Oh sure…..A lot of stuff he did when he was a young guy….his travels to Texas. (Austin or Dallas?) He said, “With money you can see and buy anything you want”. He told me the story how he got rediscovered. Bill Barth, Henry Vestine, and John Fahey. John went on to be famous, you know. They found Skip in Tunica, Mississippi in the hospital there. A couple of other guys were looking for Son House and they found Son and Skip on the same day. Can you believe that? They came into the hospital and played Skip’s record from the Grafton days.

I did talk to Skip about the Depression. He had to eat at the soup kitchens. Yeah, he went back to his parents. Most black people were hit hard back then and fared the worst I’m afraid.

A: Where did his dad live?
F: I think Bentonia, Mississippi. That’s the place you want to go. Skip had a school down there. He had several musicians down there who were influenced by him and played a lot like him……some great guitar players down there who recorded there.

A: What can you tell me about Skip parents?
F: No…..I tell you the truth…..It’s really really really mysterious……I didn’t think to ask him….I didn’t know how famous he was. I thought he was a regular. He had a lot of recognition. There was a lot written about him.

They [Skip and Lorenzo] had an adopted son named Bobby. I didn’t get along too good with him. He was a homosexual and he tried to hit on me….right there in Skip’s house. I haven’t seen Bobby since 1969 or 1970

A: You mentioned a notebook of songs that Skip had…….Do you know where it is?
F: Skip and his wife are both dead. I don’t know where it is. They let me have his bedroom when I stayed there. I was there for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you know. They were both very nice. His old notebook had all of his songs in it neatly written.

A: Did it have the chords written in it?
F: Oh no. I don’t think Skip could read music. I don’t think any of those guys could.

A: Where was Skip’s home?
F: Philadelphia. I don’t know whatever happened to that house. I’m sure they sold it or something.

A: You said you spent a lot of time in Skip James’ home? What was it like?
F: I was a young teenager then when I visited there. I would visit my other relatives there. He let me take his guitar out. He let me take his guitar to my mother’s cousins.

Eric Clapton bought the house…it was a really nice house….it really was…Clapton bought him the house because he took one of Skip’s songs “I’m So Glad”. He wanted to compensate for it. Eric Clapton wanted to give something back.

The kitchen was very, very clean….long table in the kitchen. Skip’s room was nice and tidy. They liked me so much that they led me have their room. The furniture was very old fashioned from the early 20’s and 30’s.

A: Did he ever make any meals for you?
F: Lorenzo did the cooking. Skip liked ham hocks, cornbread (the real flaky kind), and collared greens, and chitins.

A: Did Skip always want to do music?
F: He wanted to become a minister when he was young. But he had this thing with the blues. Times were hard…..he wasn’t going to get anywhere singing the blues. He knew that. I think his father was a minister. He went to some sort of seminary or religious school and became a minister.

A: Did Skip ever preach to you?
F: Every time I sat down with them for dinner, we had to recite a Bible verse. One time we were there. One of his friends came and Skip really yelled at him because he didn’t know a Bible verse. I have seen him step on a lot of toes and hurt a lot of people’s feelings. One time, when he was in Philadelphia, he played at a place called the “2nd Fret” ( a coffee house). He most frequently played there. He got on stage and preached a lot. But that turned people off. I’m telling you the truth, there would only be 5 or 6 people there. Can you imagine that for Skip James? His preaching turned a lot of people off.

A: So why did he quit for 30-35 years after his Paramount Recordings?
F: It was the Depression. What Skip was doing in 1930’s wasn’t selling. He went to seminary school after Grafton. Grafton was the only place that he recorded.

A: After Grafton, he was missing. It’s was really a mystery. What was doing? Where did he live?
F: Skip told me that he became a born again Christian. He became a minister for a while then. He sang gospel music and traveled with a gospel group. When he traveled with those caravans (those young people), he probably got a better reception.

You see, can I tell you something? Dick Waterman was Son House’s manager and Mississippi’s manager. Son would try to find the nearest liquor store and get lost. So Dick dropped him off at our house once.

Bob Dylan was at our house in 1964 because my uncle had played at the Café Yana. My uncle had 5 nights sold out. My father and mother threw a party for him to celebrate….along with all of the patrons. Bob Dylan was there. I thought he was going to play. He was with some girl. He was hiding in our house making out with that girl. [laughing] I had to go to the bathroom and get passed him and that girl. This was in February 1964. This was just before the Beatles invaded America.

A: Did Skip ever teach you anything about God?
F: Not that I can remember.

A: Skip used to wake you up on Sundays with church songs. What songs did he play? Where did he go to church?

F: “What a Friend We have in Jesus”, “Just a Closer Walk With Thee”, “Rock of Ages”, all of those songs. I don’t remember him going to church when I was there. I don’t know where he went to church. He had a beautiful piano.

A: He enjoyed playing piano?
F: Oh yeah….. Someone wrote a book on Skip, you know. I don’t think any of this information is in it.

A: What was his piano like?
F: Upright. Beautiful. In those days, most of them were used. He had a new one…..light brown, new. I don’t know what he did with his piano.

A: You said that, one night, Skip started out playing “I’m so Glad” for you real slow and then a flamenco piece. You said he was always full of surprises? How so?
F: Oh yeah, full of surprises….

A: What kind of surprises?
F: Musical surprises. Skip, his wife, and myself would listen to him play and talk in the living room. He would play a Broadway show tune, then a spiritual……something like that….

A: What were some of the spirituals he liked?
F: ….. “Jesus, he’s a mighty good leader, all the way, all the way”….., “I Shall Not Be Moved”, “Wade in the Water”….. I think I learned that one from Skip. That’s in my repertoire.

A: What about the woman behind Skip James, Lorenzo. What was she like?

F:  Lorenzo stuck with him all the way. If you asked him, he say, “She’s shaped like a Coca Coca bottle and she wibbles and she wobbles when she walks. Those are lines from a song of his. Very heavy. Not fat. Large woman. Very kind, thoughtful, and supportive. They have a beautiful grave site. She was religious. I don’t know what church.

A: So what about the lyrics, “I’d rather be the devil than to be that woman’s man?” Was that a real person?
F: He had an experience once. That song was a true story. I think we all have.

A: What did Skip say about Grafton or his recordings?
F: Not much…..except that they paid his way up there…..he had to sit still….in the recording laboratory. That’s what they called those then. He said it was uncomfortable. They were advertised in the Chicago Defender. They sold everywhere.

A: How did he record them? Did he like how they turned out? What about the Grafton studio?
F: It was a factory. He said, “They had me up in a factory in this room…..” I think that was a make shift studio.

A: What is a make shift studio?
F: You make your own place to record….they would set up the equipment to record you. The room would have to have good acoustics. (“Room tone” is what they called it in the 20’s)…..this was common…..The Wisconsin Chair Factory was a great place that was hollow…..spacious…..a great place to record…..

A: Yeah. That makes sense. I never heard that. Did he get paid well for his recordings?
F: Naw……No….I don’t think so. I think he got maybe $50 a record….maybe….I’m not sure how they paid him. You did a bunch of songs and they’d give you $40 or $50. They targeted people like Mississippi and Skip. It meant greater profit.

The black community bought them. Those records popped up in Chicago, New York, the south.

A: What can you tell me about “race records”?
F: Well, they had a market that was all part of segregation….they had a market for blacks and a market for whites. Then later, a polite way of saying “race records” was “R & B”. It was the politically correct term.

A: You mentioned that when Skip was ill, he was really “bitter about the guys running Paramount in the 30’s”. Why?
F: I think I was talking about H.C. Spier…..

A: Did Skip listen to his own recordings?
F: Oh yeah…….I had one of his 1930 sessions from Grafton…..my mother had all of his other albums…..She is, like, 90 years old. I was in Vietnam and I left all my records over there….Blind Lemon Jefferson….all of them….

A: Did Skip ever talk to you about Vietnam?
F: Oh sure….he said things like, “I’m proud of you….be careful…..take it easy…..keep playing that guitar…..If I can do it and John Hurt can do it, you could do it.”

A: Did you play on the ship?
F: Oh yeah.

A: Can you play “I’m So Glad”?
F: Oh God no! I could never play that. It’s too intricate for me. Mississippi John Hurt taught me. I could play his songs like him.

A: What was your favorite Skip song?
F: Al of them…..”I’m so Glad”……I listen to this more than any other. He had a strange way of tuning his guitar. Open E or open D.

Have you ever heard me?

You can hear one of my songs here. www.the-blindman.com/knockin.mp3 This is a song I wrote. Mississippi John Hurt taught me how to play like that.

A: Where did you record it?
F: In my living room.

A: With what?
F: One of those cheap tape players you buy at Radio Shack.
You can also go here. www.soundclick.com/bands/7/waltertoresspontobeat.htm Click on Soundclick. Maybe you’ll see 4 or 5 of my songs.

A: Why didn’t you ever become a performer?
F: Because I didn’t want to go through what Skip and my Uncle John went through. I decided to go to school. I went for 4 years and then became a police officer for the Boston Police Department. I’m retired now.

A: I read somewhere that Skip died of lung cancer. Is that what you remember?
F: He didn’t die of lung cancer. He had his testicles removed. We all in the family knew that. A lot of these people write a lot about these people and they get the facts all wrong. That’s why he had such a high voice because he had his testicles removed. He had that happen in the 60’s.

A: I am also looking at this photo of him taken at his 1964 Newport. He looks so mad. Why?
F: He had a good reason. He was a sick man. When that picture had been taken, he had just gotten out of the hospital.

Fred,  Thank you for very much for taking this time to interview.  And thank you for your enthusiasm, compliments and support when I released my first album, “Comfort My People”.  You have been a great friend to me at Blindman’s as well.  God bless, Angie

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“A prophet is not without honor except in his own town”

“You can’t keep a good #musician down. You can attempt to erase them from history. But they come back.” -Angie Mack Reilly 10.6.18

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”  – Mark 6:4

Strategic Pitching Began in 2005

 

Intentional Event Planning to Raise Funds for the Etching in the Paramount Walk of Fame

 

Educating and Public Relations

Angie volunteered huge amounts of time educating (or paying someone to educate)  about Paramount Records History and lecturing at places like:

Wisconsin Historical Museum, Kiwanis Club in Port Washington, Cedarburg Cultural Center, Village of Grafton Planning Commission Meetings, Village of Grafton Historical Preservation Commission Meetings, Paramount GIG (Grooves in Grafton) Meetings, PBS History Detectives Production, Holy Vessels Baptist Church (Chicago) My Fox Television, Kennedy Elementary School, Grafton High School, Grafton Jaycees (Peter Raymond and Kris Marshall at the time),  Blindman’s Blues Forum(paramountangie), Weenie Campbell’s Forum,  Grafton Area Live Arts NPR “At 10” Radio Show, various MATC classes at the Mequon Campus, Ozaukee County Historical Society, Girl Scout Troops, Boy Scout Troops, The North Shore Academy of the Arts

Father of Gospel Music’s Niece Invites Angie to Chicago to Perform

FATHER OF GOSPEL MUSIC:  Thomas A. Dorsey (aka “Precious Lord)

NIECE:  Dr. Lena McLin, Pastor and Vocal Coach of many famous artists

 

 

Many magazines, newspapers, personal emails, personal meetings…..all for the purpose of educating and networking so that when the time came,

the Village of Grafton and festival organizers would have had a lot of the groundwork already laid out for them to help ensure success.

Angie’s skills as a large scale producer and team builder were working……recruiting key players, giving pep talks, educating, PR, groundbreaking online educating before that was a thing.

In addition, http://www.paramountshome.org was set up in 2004.  The website was Angie’s idea.  She wanted to see information that was available in Alex van der Tuuk’s Book was made more accessible by the international online community.   The more people who knew about the artists who recorded in Grafton (and Chicago, New York and Richmond), the better chance we had at long term success.

What was the goal?

Educate the online community during a time when the Internet was newer and void of much information about Paramount Records.  Paramountshome.org was THE LEADING SOURCE for people to go to in order to find information about the artists and the history.

Thousands upon thousands of hours were put in by Angie Mack Reilly, Alex van der Tuuk and Patrick Mack archiving material and talking to people in the Paramountshome forums.   Their fore running efforts were officially recognized by (then) Governor Doyle’s wife Jessica (D), Mark Gottlieb of the Wisconsin State Assembly (R), Ralph Zaun of the Wisconsin State Assembly (R) as well as The Wisconsin Historical Society.

GRAFTON RESIDENT:  “Did the Village of Grafton hire you as a marketing or branding consultant?”

ME:  “No.  I have not been compensated for any of my work.”

And this is what a leader does.  Steps in.  When something needs to be done.  And acknowledging this important piece of music history is pretty important, right?

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.”

chronic-creativity by author angie mack reilly

Intangible Assets: The Value of an Idea

by Angie Mack Reilly, published in 2007

“Angela is a passionate visionary who has the ability to articulate, set and attain high goals for a greater cause. It has been a pleasure working with her to bring the Paramount Records history of Grafton, WI to the forefront.”  — International Blues Legend, Michael “Hawkeye” Herman

Angie can be contacted at angie@ozaukeetalent.com for interviews, consulting, project managing, public speaking engagements, Blues in the Schools programs and special music performances

PUBLIC SPEAKING RESUME and more references available upon request

Please strongly consider supporting Angie as a talented and pioneering female.

God Bless You….

To Thine Own Self Be True.

PURCHASE ANGIE’S BOOKS HERE

Be Free

Thomas A. Dorsey, “Georgia Tom” photo credit:  https://georgiamusic.org/

Featured

Angie in New York Writer’s Book

About Amanda Petrusich

Petrusich has written for The New York TimesPitchfork Media and Paste.[5] Petrusich has been a staff writer at Pitchfork since 2003.[6]She is the author of Pink Moon, a book on Nick Drake‘s album of the same name for the 33 1/3 music series,[5] and a 2008 book called It Still Moves: Lost Songs, Lost Highways, and the Search for the Next American Music, which Joe Boyd described in The Guardian as “a terrific piece of travel writing…a tour through the roots of American rural music.”[7] Petrusich also wrote a book on record collecting called Do Not Sell At Any Price: The Wild, Obsessive Hunt for the World’s Rarest 78rpm Records.[8]

Petrusich serves as clinical assistant professor at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at NYU.[8] She began teaching at NYU in 2010 and joined the full-time faculty in 2015.[1]

Naming her to its 2016 list of “100 Most Influential People in Brooklyn Culture,” Brooklyn Magazine described Petrusich as “a towering force of grace and encouragement in New York music and criticism circles. Between mentoring emerging voices and writing with discernment about music’s most important figures, Petrusich is helping shape Brooklyn culture from the ground up.”[9]

–Wikipedia

Amanda Petrusich angela mack quotes

Featured

“Fluidity”

FLUIDITY

By Angie Mack Reilly © 4/3/16 Grafton, WI 

When I think of the word “fluidity” I think of smooth.

Easy.

Free.

Without restraint.

Healthy.

Flowing.

Adapting.

Changing.

Happy.

Soft.

Full of grace.

Simple.

Not stuck.

Not rigid.

Not hard.

Not strict.

(An antonym for fluidity is jelly.)

Sticky.

As in, “he got himself in a jam”.

So the next time I am asked,

“Why are you doing this?  Or, why are you doing that?”

Or, the next time I am judged or asked how or why,

I will respond,

I am simply.

Yes, simply.

Unashamedly.

Being fluid.

 

See More Photography by Angie Mack Reilly on Pinterest

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2000-2008: Leaving Legacies

This was taken from a former website of mine (no longer in existence) called http://www.creativeconnectionarts.com  This is the raw and unedited version.  2008-2018 need to be filled in.  (When I have a spare moment….ha!)  I will go in and fix and re-check the links later…..  —   Angie

PUBLISHED AUTHOR
“Chronic Creativity: A Diagnostic Look at the Condition and How to Become Infected” Published as an E-Book on http://www.creativity-portal.com
Poetry published on Nerve House
“The Value of an Idea”, http://www.creativity-portal.com
Poems and Writings on http://www.creativeconnectionarts.com
Historical articles on http://www.paramountshome.org
Co-Author of “Paramount Walking Tour Booklet”
“So You Want to Be a Singer”, Hooter Newsletter 2008
“An Interview with Kevin Ramsey”, Milwaukee Rep Theatre Playbill Prologue

AWARDS
2006 Wisconsin Historical Society Website Award for http://www.paramountshome.org MATC Poetry Awards
Juanita Schriener Vocal Scholarship
2006 “103 People in Ozaukee County”, through News Graphic/Conley Publishing

MARKETING DIRECTOR, North Shore Academy of the Arts and ParamountsHome

DIRECTOR
“Disney’s Aristocats”, NSAA 2009 “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians”, NSAA 2008
“Tom Sawyer”, North Shore Academy of the Arts (NSAA), 2007 http://www.northshoreacademyofthearts.org
“Disney’s Jungle Book”, NSAA, 2007
“I Have a Dream”, NSAA, 2007
“Emperor’s New Clothes”, NSAA, 2006
“Go Fish”, NSAA, 2006
“Broadway Santa”, NSAA 2005
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Ozaukee Christian School (OCS), 2004 http://www.ozaukeechristian.org
“A Pioneer Christmas”, OCS, 2003
“Go Joe!” OCS, 2002
“A Multicultural Christmas”, OCS, 2001

PRODUCER
“Disney’s Aristocats”, NSAA 2009 “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians”, NSAA 2008
“Disney’s Jungle Book”, NSAA, 2007
“I Have a Dream”, NSAA, 2007
“Emperor’s New Clothes”, NSAA, 2006
“Go Fish”, NSAA, 2006
“Broadway Santa”, NSAA 2005
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Ozaukee Christian School (OCS), 2004
“A Pioneer Christmas”, OCS, 2003
“Go Joe!” OCS, 2002
“A Multicultural Christmas”, OCS, 2001

MUSIC DIRECTOR
“Pirates of Penzance”, NSAA 2009 “Willy Wonka”, NSAA 2008
“Annie”, NSAA, 2008
“High School Musical”, NSAA 2007
“Tom Sawyer”, NSAA, 2007
“Disney’s Jungle Book”, NSAA, 2007
“I Have a Dream”, NSAA, 2007
“Wizard of Oz”, NSAA, 2006
“Alladin Jr.”, NSAA, 2006
“Emperor’s New Clothes”, NSAA, 2006
“Go Fish”, NSAA, 2006
“Seussical”, NSAA, 2005
“Broadway Santa”, NSAA 2005
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Ozaukee Christian School (OCS), 2004
“A Pioneer Christmas”, OCS, 2003
“Go Joe!” OCS, 2002
“A Multicultural Christmas”, OCS, 2001
Spirit Life Worship Team 1997-2001
Portview Christian Center Worship Team 2004-05

AUDITION JUDGING AND CASTING
Ozaukee Idol Initial Auditions, 2008 “Pirates of Penzance”, NSAA 2009 “Willy Wonka”, NSAA 2008 “High School Musical”, NSAA 2007
“Tom Sawyer”, NSAA, 2007
“Seussical”, NSAA, 2005
“Wizard of Oz”, NSAA, 2006
“Alladin Jr.”, NSAA, 2006

EVENT PLANNER
“Embrace the Legacy Concert Series”, 2005 with Grafton Area Live Arts
“Blues in the Schools” with Michael Hawkeye Herman, 2005
“Dance With an Early Jazz”, Walk of Fame Fundraiser 2006
“Embrace the Legacy Concert”, 2006
“2008 Ozaukee Idol and Junior Ozaukee Idol”, 2008
Programming Team, Spirit Life Church

PUBLIC SPEAKER
FOX 6 interview/feature story with Mark Concannon, 2008
“2007 Walk of Fame Induction Ceremony”, Grafton, WI
http://www.jcdisciples.org/photography/pbf/2007/dedication.html
“Giro d’ Grafton Bike Race, 2007, Grafton, WI
“Wisconsin Blues Connection” and Powerpoint Presentation, Wisconsin Historical Society, 2006
http://www.wisconsinhistory.org/highlights/archives/2006/10/wisconsin_blues.asp
“At 10” Radio Interview, National Public Radio, 2006 http://www.wuwm.com/media/at10/at011906.mp3
“Paramount History” and Powerpoint Presentation, Port Washington Kiwanas Club, 2005
“Paramount History” and Powerpoint Presentation, MATC-Mequon Campus, 2004
“Passionate about Paramount and the Blues” Children’s Educational Performance, Grafton Library 2006
“Paramount Blues Festival Panel Discussion”, Cedarburg Cultural Center WI, 2005
St. Mary’s Care Center Chapel Services, Madison, WI 1990-1992

CHAIRPERSON/BOARD MEMBER/MEMBER (past and present)
2006 – 2009 Chairperson for the Paramount Walk of Fame Committee
2006 Chairperson for “A Dance With Early Jazz” fundraiser
Paramount GIG, Board Member
Grafton Historic Preservation Commission, Member
Paramount/Five Points Plaza Ad-Hoc Committee Member

ASSOCIATE PRODUCER
“Pirates of Penzance”, NSAA 2009 “Willy Wonka”, NSAA 2008
“Annie”, NSAA, 2008
“High School Musical”, NSAA 2007
“Tom Sawyer”, NSAA, 2007
“Emperor’s New Clothes”, Hartfor Schauer Center, 2006

COMPOSER
Original Christian Album, “First Love”, 2009 Original Intrumental Album, “Momentum”, 2006
Children’s Christmas song, “It’s The Pioneer Way”, performed at “A Pioneer Christmas”, OCS, 2003
Multiple Congregational and Special Songs, Spirit Life Church in Mequon, 2006-2001
Original Christian Album, “Comfort My People”, 1999

PLAYWRIGHT
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Ozaukee Christian School (OCS), 2004
“A Pioneer Christmas”, OCS, 2003
“Go Joe!” OCS, 2002
“A Multicultural Christmas”, OCS, 2001
Various short skits for Spirit Life Church in Mequon http://www.spiritlifechurch.com

PRIVATE MUSIC INSTRUCTOR 
Private Voice, Piano, Guitar, Theory, Composition, and Percussion at NSAA
Private piano, Spirit Life Church in Mequon
Private Voice, Piano, Guitar, Theory, Composition, and Percussion at OCS
Private Voice, Piano, Guitar, Theory, Composition, and Percussion at OCS
Vocal coach for 2006 Ozaukee Idol Winner, Jessica Dybul
Team vocal song coach for 2007 final Ozaukee Idol Contestants

CHOREOGRAPHER
“Disney’s Aristocats”, NSAA 2009 “Disney’s 101 Dalmatians”, NSAA 2008
“Tom Sawyer”, North Shore Academy of the Arts (NSAA), 2007
“Disney’s Jungle Book”, NSAA, 2007
“I Have a Dream”, NSAA, 2007
“Emperor’s New Clothes”, NSAA, 2006
“Go Fish”, NSAA, 2006
“Broadway Santa”, NSAA 2005
“Do You Hear What I Hear?” Ozaukee Christian School (OCS), 2004
“A Pioneer Christmas”, OCS, 2003
“Go Joe!” OCS, 2002
“A Multicultural Christmas”, OCS, 2001

INTERVIEWER
Milwaukee Repetory Theatre, with Playwright Kevin Ramsey regarding “Grafton City Blues”
ParamountsHome, about Paramount history
CreativeConnectionArts, about music history and creative people

RECORDING ENGINEER
Created “demo” CDs for dozens of performers at NSAA
Recording engineer for 1 original allbum
Created a group Christmas CD for NSAA

TEAM LEADER
Spirit Life Church (SLC) Worship Team
Built up large student worship team at OCS
Portview Christian Center Worship Team
Stagekids Vocal Performers Group, NSAA
Stagekids Team Elite Performers, NSAA
Paramount GIG

PHOTOGRAPHER
Creativity-Portal “365 Pictures” Prompts http://www.creativity-portal.com/prompts/365/collaborators/365p.html

CREATIVE PARTIES
“Grease” themed party, NSAA
“Drama” themed party, NSAA
“Pre-K” themed party, NSAA

WORSHIP LEADER
Lighthouse Church, Madison, WI
SLC Mequon, WI
Portview Christian Center, Port Washington, WI

WEDDING SINGER
Multiple weddings in Southeastern, WI
(Contact me for wedding repetoire and pricing)

ACCOMPANIST/PIANIST
“A Taste of Cedarburg” Chamber/Business Event “4 Hope” Vineyard Community Services Event “Nerve House” Benefit NSAA Showcase LightHouse Church, Madison, WI
SLC, Mequon, WI
Portview Christian Center, Port Washington, WI
Piano player for recordings, productions, etc…
VOCAL PERFORMER
Worship Leader 10+years
Wedding Singer
Christmas performer
Outreach Minister to SE Wisconsin Nursing Homes and Institutions
Demos: http://www.creativeconnectionarts.com

MUSIC TEACHER
Volunteer music teacher/Christms Program Director, Covered Bridge Christian School, Cedarburg
Pre-K and K Music Teacher, St. Paul’s Lutheran School, Grafton
K-8 Music Teacher, OCS
Music Teacher, NSAA
Pre-K Music Teacher, Mequon Jewish Preschool, Mequon

PERFORMING ARTS CLASSES TAUGHT (All at NSAA)
Music With Baby and Me
Audition Classes
Ozaukee Idol Prep Camp
Stage-Kinder-Kids
Stagekids Team Elite Performers
Let’s Jam
Stagekids Vocal Performers
Seniors Sing!
Mini Mozarts
Pizza Productions

DRAMA INSTRUCTOR CONTRACTOR (through NSAA)
Willow Creek Child Care Center, Germantown
School of Humanities, Milwaukee
School of Genesis, Milwaukee

CREATIVE MOTIVATIONAL SPEAKER
Teachings on Creativity, SLC, Mequon
Teachings on “The Heart of the Artist”, SLC, Mequon
Teachings on “Shattered Dreams”, SLC, Mequon
Teachings on “Chronic Creativity”, NSAA

MUSIC HISTORY
Blues Foundation Historian http://www.blues.org/bits/educators.php4
Co-Founder of ParamountsHome Music Historian
Co-Author of Paramount Walking Tour Booklet

CREATIVE INSPIRATION/INFLUENCE
“Sirius Talent Booking Program, NSAA 2008
Creativity Portal worldwide http://www.creativity-portal.com
“I’ll also add that I’ve been greatly influenced in recent years by other creative souls such as yourself, and those who’ve freely shared their work on the Creativity Portal. Susan M. Brackney, Joy Sikorski, Roberta Allen, Michele Pariza, and Angela Mack are a small representation of the hundreds of authors and artists who’ve left a mark on the site that promotes the exploration and expression of creativity worldwide. These people have contributed greatly to the success of the Creativity Portal and have given it more life than I could ever have done on my own. “–Chris Dunmire, Founder of Creativity-Portal

“Lost Musical Treasure” National PBS Segment of the show, “History Detectives”, 2006
http://youtube.com/results?search_query=lost+musical+treasure
Paramount Blues Festival, Grafton, WI
Paramount Plaza, Ad-Hoc Committee Member, Village of Grafton, WI
“Grafton City Blues”, Milwaukee Repetory Theatre, Milwaukee
“Embrace the Legacy” concert series
“Paramount Revival” in Grafton, WI http://www.hawkeyeherman.com/pdf/14_EmbracingTheLegacy_Pt.2.pdf
“Village President Jim Brunnquell originally learned about Paramount Records’ connection with Grafton in spring 2004 when Mack approached him about starting the Paramount Blues Festival, which will debut on Sept. 23 at Lime Kiln Park. Although the idea intrigued him, Brunnquell wasn’t able to grasp Paramount’s importance in American music history until coming across a considerable amount of material that had been published about the label, including a book by Scandinavian author Alex van der Tuuk.

“It appears that everyone knew about the history of Paramount and Grafton except for the village of Grafton,” said Brunnquell. “It involved a matter of somebody opening my eyes to it. Once that happened, it was like ‘Holy cow, this is amazing. We played an amazing part of Americana here.’”

The revelation couldn’t have come at a better time, as the village was in the early stages of creating a redevelopment plan for the downtown area.” — “Grafton’s Blossoming Blues Business” by Tim Carpenter

NON-PROFITS ASSOCIATED WITH (Past or Present)
Vineyard Church, Grafton
Spirit Life Church, Mequon
Ozaukee Christian School, Saukville
North Shore Academy of the Arts, Grafton
Grafton Area Live Arts, Grafton
Cedarburg Performing Arts Center, Cedarburg
Grafton Blues Association, Grafton
Paramount GIG (Grooves in Grafton), Grafton
Historic Preservation Commission, Grafton
Portview Christian Center, Port Washington
Vineyard Community Church, Cedarburg/Grafton

SOME ARTICLES FEATURED IN
Blues Festival Guide, International Publication

http://www.hawkeyeherman.com/pdf/14_EmbracingTheLegacy_Pt.2.pdf


American Profile Magazine, National Publication http://www.americanprofile.com/article/23652.html
Exclusively Yours, Regional Magazine http://www.paramountshome.org/articles/Vault/E_504_LO.pdf

News Graphic, Regional Newspaper, Journalist Tim Carpenter:

“103 People in Ozaukee County”
“In Tune With Grafton”
“Rediscovering the Past, for the Very First Time”
“In Search of Buried Treasure”
“Grafton City Blues to Hit Theatre”
“Grafton’s Blossoming Blues Business”
Ozaukee Press, Regional Newspaper, Journalist Steve Ostermann
“Spotlight on Grafton City Blues”
“Musical Heritage On Tour”
“Embracing Grafton’s Blue Legacy”
“Detectives Show Has Eye on Grafton”
“Blues in Town”
“Saturday Panel Discussion to Focus on Paramount Records”
“Grafton Tunes into Blues Next Week”
“Music Legends Chosen For Walk of Fame”

Featured

Chronic Creativity by Angela Mack Published on Creativity Portal

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chronic-creativity by author angie mack reilly

Angie Mack Reilly has been a long-time creativity coach and advocate for musicians….both dead and alive.  She is passionate about issues that effect musicians and creative people such as mental health issues, economic hardship and pirating.  Angie has spoken to various groups of people about the creative process and how to embrace it.   To book Angie as a public speaker, email angie@ozaukeetalent.com

View Chronic Creativity:  A Diagnostic Look at the Condition and How to Become Infected

Pandemic Poem: No Fear

Pandemic Poem:  No Fear

Photo and Poem by Angie Mack Reilly*

There is no fear
when you know that
the motive in your heart
is love
There is no fear when
you know that your reasons
are pure

Yes. Mistakes happen.
Imperfection is human.
But mostly?
There is misunderstanding.

And assumptions
of intentions
and generations of biases
and egos and not knowing
and confusion
then mistrust
and fear
and the break down
and the shake down
and it all comes tumbling down

*grammar, punctuation, spelling, etc.. intentional

It’s Good to Be Home (from the archives)

It’s Good to Be Home by Angela Mack

Peformed at Spirit Life Church in Mequon, WI

Keys/Lead Vocals:  Angela Mack

Background Vocals:  Lori Wilke,  Tracy Martin, Beth Hammond

Drums:  Tom Wilke

Percussion:  Chris Musbach

Guitar:  Jay Walls, Karen unknown

Bass:  Ron Bush

Tin Whistle:  Monica Radzin

“Unexpected Song”

Very random (unexpected) and not indended to be a professional video.  But…. the vocals.  Musical theatre.  Unexpected song. One take. But you get the idea…

This is a painting that I did several years ago called, “A Good Kind of Dread”.

“Just Talking: A Chat With Angie Mack Reilly 2.29.20” Ben Merens and Riverwest Radio

RiverwestRadio

 

A Place of Inspiration: Harlem

A Place of Inspiration: Harlem

Written by Angela Mack (c) 2004

The time period between 1918 and 1929 contained an explosion of African American immigration, literary and artistic expression in Harlem, NY.

The Harlem Renaissance, also known as “The Negro Movement” was the time period between 1918 and 1929 in which there was an explosion of African American immigration, literary and artistic expression in Harlem. As Langston Hughes wrote in his manifesto for the Harlem Renaissance, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”, it was a time of “present vogue in things Negro”.

During this time, African Americans were excelling in blues, jazz, theatre, clubs, musicals, intellectual dialogue, literary works, visual arts and an overall sense of unity and community. Duke Ellington, Louise Armstrong, and Billie Holiday are famous names associated with the music of that era. A new pride swelled in the hearts of many African Americans and Aaron Douglas was an artist who portrayed the beauty of being black through his African-inspired themes. Zora Neale Hurston, a friend of Langston Hughes, was a famous female writer of the day who flaunted her unique fashions as well as her literary works such as the play, “Color Struck” and the novel, “Their Eyes Were Watching God”. There were many more African American artists of all types as well as intellectual thinkers who were caught in the momentum of the new black culture.

Why did the Harlem Renaissance occur? First, during World War I, many African Americans moved north with the hopes of finding jobs and escaping inequality in the south. Harlem was a newly developed city that desperately needed tenants in its new townhouses and apartments. Eager to occupy the new buildings, landlords rented to blacks. By 1914, Harlem was considered a “black city”. This move north is also known as being the “Great Migration”. With this great amount of blacks in one place including many from the West Indies and other countries, it was a prime location to hold discussions. Many of these discussions led toward greater artistic expression and literary works.

Magazines from era added fuel to the movement. The well known W.E.B. Dubois was the editor of the NAACP’s magazine, The Crisis. Charles Johnson was the editor of the Urban League’s magazine, Opportunity. There was also the socialist magazine called The Messenger. The NAACP, the Black YMCA, the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and the Urban League Office were all located in Harlem which helped unify the interests of the African Americans who longed for an ending of segregation and a redefining of what being black meant. This led to the popular thought of nationalism. Marcus Garvey, through the United Negro Improvement Association, preached a message of racial redemption. He also cast a vision for an independent black Africa and provided “The Black Star Line” to transport people.

The effects that the Harlem Renaissance had upon the African American culture were numerous. It taught future African American generations that there is power in black unity and pride. It lifted their self image as a race and showed America that blacks are beautiful and very capable of expressing themselves intellectually and emotionally through the arts and literature. Blacks had a newer prominence in American culture and a strong civil rights presence which aided in latter 50’s and 60’s civil rights movement. It was foundational in laying the groundwork for African American expression and thought in America. The Harlem Renaissance gave America as a whole many great artists of all types to learn from. In addition, the jazz erected from the era has become a vital part in American musical history and lifestyles. Many whites took interest in the art produced by their black “neighbors”.

The Harlem Renaissance has had a direct impact on me. My home of Grafton which is just north of Milwaukee, WI recorded at least 1/ 4 of the blues music in this time period of the Harlem Renaissance. Charles Patton began with recording over 28 of his songs just down the road from me in the Old Chair Factory building by the Milwaukee River. “Son House”, Ida Cox, Skip James, Louise Johnson, and many more rode the train north to record in the New York Recording Laboratories subsidiary, Paramount Records. These “race records” are extremely valuable and I have been in contact with various officials in Grafton and around the around the world over bringing this part of Grafton’s history alive. I am working on developing a web site toward its resurrection and hope to get a non-profit organization set up to raise funds for a permanent exhibit and yearly blues festival in Grafton in honor of its Delta Blues artists and Paramount Records.

The Harlem Renaissance embraced the talents of male and female artists alike who were primarily from the working class (although many were in Harlem to earn their education). It taught us what can cause inspiration in a community and among a people: unity, freedom of expression, openness to discussion, the merging of the arts with social issues of the day and intellectual thought. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of great momentum and hope. I hope that the spirit of the Harlem Renaissance comes to life in my home village, Grafton, WI.

https://web.archive.org/web/20130507133154/http://www.creativeconnectionarts.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=14&Itemid=43

Langston Hughes: The Weary Blues from the Eyes of a Musician

A Harlem Renaissance Poet
Harlem Renaissance writer, Langston Hughes
“The Weary Blues” From the Eyes of a Musician
(c) Angela K. Mack 2/05

Langston Hughes is a fascinating African American writer who has written many poetry books such as The Weary Blues, Fire Clothes to the Jew, Shakespeare in Harlem, Montage of a Dream Deferred, and Ask Your Mama: Twelve Moods for Jazz. His autobiography is titled, The Big Sea. He has also written children’s books, musicals, and the Manifesto for the Harlem Renaissance titled, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” and so much more!

Many of his poems contain jazz and blues rhythms. Langston Hughes got swallowed up in the jazz scene in Harlem during its Renaissance and his passion came out in many of his poems. His poem, “The Weary Blues” is a great example of such a poem. Yet other than the musical fingerprints found in this poem, incredible symbolism involving what was going on historically during the Harlem Renaissance can be found as well.

Contrary to what the title suggests, this song is not solely set up to a blues rhythm. It is primarily structured around jazz rhythms. These rhythms combined with the words make for fascinating interpretation.

First of all, “The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes is dripping with clever words of onomatopoeia. Not only do many of the words sound like their meanings, but they sound identical to jazz specifically. The type of jazz that is expressed in this poem through onomatopoeia and specific imagery is the sort of jazz that one would listen to in a club late at night close to “bar time”. It’s that “droning drowsy syncopated” blues played by the “Negro” “by the pale dull pallor of one bulb light” that is described in his poem. When I read this poem, I envision a dimly lit smoke-filled room with a few people left to linger over their final drinks.

The opening line, “droning a drowsy syncopated tune” suggests a song that has a depressing tone and is repetitive”. As I read it out loud, I hear the words “droning” “drowsy” and “tune” as jazz chords that are held for a longer duration than the rapid word “syncopated”. The words “rocking back and forth to a mellow croon” give the poem an almost melancholy or whining feel. It is here that the rhythm of the jazz tune is established. The repetitive phrase, “He did a lazy sway” ends the first musical phrase and makes for a nice hook. It is here that the reader of the poem or listener of the jazz tune becomes engaged.

“To the tune o’ those Weary Blues” is the beginning of the musical refrain. This refrain ends with “Coming from a black man’s soul. O Blues!” The exclamation point suggests that the music in this poem is emphasized here. This chosen punctuation on “O Blues!” “Sweet Blues!” and then “Oh Blues!” again indicate a slight musical climax or place in which the song is lifted out of its depressed state. This adoration and celebration of the blues is exemplified as being the source of hope. These phrases with exclamations are louder than the rest. They are accented musically.

I love how Hughes uses words of onomatopoeia in the refrain that sound musical. Words such as “moan”, “swaying”, “rickety”, and “raggy” explain the diversity that exists in jazz. Some instruments play repetitively while others improvise in syncopation. In other words, some instruments “sway” and “moan” as if depressed. Yet, in jazz, there is always that overcoming joy that exists as notes hop and dance against the laws of musical gravity. This defiance of gravity is visually expressed in the rickety stool which I imagine lifting off of the ground slightly with each sway.

This dichotomy in jazz, I believe, can be taken as being symbolic for the time in which this poem was written. Langston Hughes once wrote about the Harlem Renaissance, “It was the period when the Negro was in vogue.” During World War I, many African Americans moved north with the hopes of finding jobs and escaping inequality in the south. Harlem was a newly developed city that desperately needed tenants in its new townhouses and apartments. Eager to occupy the new buildings, landlords rented to blacks. By 1914, Harlem was considered a “black city”. This move north is also known as being the “Great Migration”.

Harlem, in its day, was symbolically a series of syncopated rhythms that overcame and defied the moaning gravity of suppression. During this time, African Americans were excelling in blues, jazz, theatre, clubs, musicals, intellectual dialogue, literary works, visual arts and an overall sense of unity and community. There was a NAACP office in Harlem as well as the Universal Negro Improvement Association, and the Urban League office. The Harlem Renaissance was a time of extreme momentum much like the music of Duke Ellington who was a famous pianist during the era. Also carrying much momentum in this time period were the railroads which were popular and aided in expansion overall in America. The jazz loved by all at that time was as fast sounding as a train! Likewise, the Harlem Renaissance was a fast explosion of creativity that burst out of many depressing years of segregation and inequality for the blacks.

This syncopation of the Harlem Renaissance was sandwiched in between 1919 in which the race riots of Chicago contributed to 76 African Americans being lynched and 1929 when the stock market crashed. The Harlem Renaissance was an amazing and legendary time in history. It was definitely something to shout about with an exclamation point! It appeared to be a type of new beginning in the lives of African Americans.

“The Weary Blues” by Langston Hughes refers to new beginnings as the jazz pianist sings, “I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’ And put ma troubles on the shelf.” Again, there is a sense of hope. The word “shelf” most likely ends on the musical tonic denoting a feeling of finality and a sense of “home”.

Harlem was a home to Langston Hughes. He moved there in 1921 after graduation and after spending time with his father in Mexico who was non-existent for most of young Langston’s life. Originally, he went there to attend Columbia University to study mining engineering. His lawyer father urged him to go to school for that and he also provided the money to do so. However, Langston dropped out after two semesters. It wasn’t his passion. The music, dance, and literary discussions of Harlem had captivated his interests.

Langston Hughes traveled a lot throughout his lifetime. However, he always managed to return to Harlem. At age 21, he joined a crew ship that sailed for Africa and also landed in Holland, Spain, Italy, and France. Hughes also traveled to Haiti and the Soviet Union in his lifetime. But Harlem was his home. He knew it so well that he wrote the Manifesto for the Renaissance titled, “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”.

“The Weary Blues” takes a turn as did the Harlem Renaissance. Eventually, the Great Depression, the invasion and commercialism of whites in the area, poverty, gang violence, and more inequality came crashing down on the burst of creativity. The poem reads, “Thump, thump, thump went his foot on the floor.” Musically, these thumps are a series of notes that could be played in rhythmic unison among the instrumentalists. They are simple and quick. They break the momentum of the poem and transition it back into a depressed state. The singer continues in a typical I, IV, V chord blues pattern, “I got the Weary Blues And I can’t be satisfied. Got the Weary Blues And can’t be satisfied— I ain’t happy no mo’ And I wish that I had died.” Ah yes, the droning, drowsy, swaying and moaning continues. The song returns to the familiar and ends with “While the Weary Blues echoed through his head. He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.” The song ends on the tonic of its scale.

Finally, after studying and analyzing the life and works of Langston Hughes, I see the “The Weary Blues” as being intensely symbolic. In it, Hughes expresses well the dichotomies in jazz by using carefully crafted and opposing onomatopoeia. These poles explain, ultimately, the plight of the African-American artist. They also explain the intensity, hope, and community that he so loved about Harlem music and nightlife. This poem has been interpreted on a literal and musical level. I have also attempted to interpret this poem from the eyes of African Americans as well as from the eyes of Langston Hughes.

However, being one of the greatest writers ever, he is able to explain in a few words what I have been attempting to say all along,

“But jazz to me is one of the inherent expressions of Negro life in America; the eternal tom-tom beating in the Negro soul–the tom-tom of revolt against weariness in a white world, a world of subway trains, and work, work, work; the tom-tom of joy and laughter, and pain swallowed in a smile”.

– from “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain” written by Langston Hughes (1926)

Syncopation and improvisation are the two main aspects of jazz. I now understand why Langston Hughes insisted on combining syncopation and words of onomatopoeia in “The Weary Blues” as well as many other poems. Jazz is overcoming music. It is one of the most advanced forms of music. It defies gravity and is full of joy. It contains elements of surprise and momentum in the midst of familiar and repetitive beats. Perhaps, in my own words, this is his subtle message in combining jazz with his poetry:

EVEN WHEN THINGS DO NOT CHANGE, IMPROVISE ANYHOW! CREATE SOMETHING UNIQUE. PLAY YOUR OWN TUNE PROUDLY! RISE ABOVE THE GRAVITY OF DEPRESSING AND REPETITIVE CIRCUMSTANCES AND OVERCOME!

The Weary Blues

by Langston Hughes

Droning a drowsy syncopated tune,

Rocking back and forth to a mellow croon,

I heard a Negro play.

Down on Lenox Avenue the other night

By the pale dull pallor of an old gas light

He did a lazy sway . . .

He did a lazy sway . . .

To the tune o’ those Weary Blues.

With his ebony hands on each ivory key

He made that poor piano moan with melody.

O Blues!

Swaying to and fro on his rickety stool

He played that sad raggy tune like a musical fool.

Sweet Blues!

Coming from a black man’s soul.

O Blues!

In a deep song voice with a melancholy tone

I heard that Negro sing, that old piano moan–

“Ain’t got nobody in all this world,

Ain’t got nobody but ma self.

I’s gwine to quit ma frownin’

And put ma troubles on the shelf.”

Thump, thump, thump, went his foot on the floor.

He played a few chords then he sang some more–

“I got the Weary Blues

And I can’t be satisfied.

Got the Weary Blues

And can’t be satisfied–

I ain’t happy no mo’

And I wish that I had died.”

And far into the night he crooned that tune.

The stars went out and so did the moon.

The singer stopped playing and went to bed

While the Weary Blues echoed through his head.

He slept like a rock or a man that’s dead.

http://www.themediadrome.com/content/poetry/hughes_weary_blues.htm

Works Cited

Feather, Leonard. “Weary Blues Langston Hughes”. Audio recordings of poems with music.

http://www.geocities.com/xxxjorgexxx/wb.htm

Hughes, Langston. “The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain”. (1926). The Nation.

http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/g_l/hughes/mountain.htm

Hughes, Langston “Langston Hughes 1902-1967.” (with poems written by Langston Hughes). The Norton Anthology of African American Literature. (2004). 1288-1338.

National Endowment for the Humanities Seminar of Kenyon College. (1998)
http://northbysouth.kenyon.edu/1998/music/harlem-page/harlem-page.htm

Nichols, K. Pittsburg State University. “Jazz age culture”. (2003).
http://faculty.pittstate.edu/~knichols/jazzage3.html#harlem

PBS. “Langston Hughes: A Biography.” http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/masterpiece/americancollection/cora/ei_hughesbiography.htm

Article rescued from https://web.archive.org/web/20130507081715/http://www.creativeconnectionarts.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=12&Itemid=43

Photos taken from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/446630488016755716/?lp=true

 

Poem: Who Are the Innocent?

Who are the Innocent?

by Angie Mack Reilly (c) 2020

 

Who are the innocent?
Yes. The unborn are innocent.
And the sexually abused
are also innocent.
Those wrongly stolen from are innocent.
Those who are falsely accused are innocent.
Animals are innocent.
Our environment is innocent.
Those who are sick
and refused care
are innocent.
The frail can be innocent.
The racially targeted are innocent.
Justice for all?
Is there justice for the innocent?
How can one group of innocent
be more important than another
group of innocent?
Those who did not commit a crime
are innocent.
Who is defending the innocent?
Perhaps your party and my party
are defending different kinds of innocence?
I don’t see society defending the innocent
like it once did.
I see people denying the innocence
and refusing to look at it altogether.
Even destroying innocence.
Shooting kids.
Denying medical assistance to kids.
Abusing kids.
Trafficking kids.
Hurting.
The innocent.

Photo taken by Angie Mack Reilly at a hate rally in West Allis

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