Last night I drove the 5 minutes from my house to The Palladium Theater in downtown St Pete to enjoy an incredible evening of music. The Palladium Theater, built in 1925 in the Romanesque Revival style, as the First Church of Christ, Scientist, was filled to capacity. (In 1998 it became a theater for the Florida Orchestra with the original 1926 Skinner organ remaining in the building.) A friend of mine, Roy Book Binder put the show together & also emceed it with great humor. Not only were we treated to 4 hours of incredible music & story telling but also a musical history of the blues & of the old time players who have influenced so many musicians in every genre of music. Nice to see that the age of the audience ranged from teenagers to ninety-something.
Starting off the show was Roy Book Binder. Roy is a singer-songwriter, whose music includes the blues, bluegrass, folk, country, ragtime & popular songs that originated on Tin Pan Alley. Tin Pan Alley is the name given to the collection of New York City-centered music publishers & songwriters who dominated the popular music in the USA in the late 19th century and early 20th century.
Generally, it agreed that it started in about 1885 & continued until about 1950 when rock & roll took over. Roy mixed stories of the great bluesmen he has known including Rev. Gary Davis & Pink Anderson, with songs that emphasized these stories. To quote last night's program, "One of his musical heroes, Dave Van Ronk, said that Book Binder's music is a reflection of his long musical journey through the rich American cultural landscape of the last half of the 20th century." Roy has played with many other great musicians over the years including Bonnie Raitt, Ray Charles, BB King & Doc Watson.
Jimmy Duck Holmes
Next Jimmy "Duck" Holmes played in the distinctive Bentonia blues style made famous by Skip James & Jack Owens. Unfortunately, he is the last living practitioner of this celebrated style. He was born in 1947 in Bentonia, Mississippi to sharecroppers who also opened up the Blue Front café shortly after his birth. Jimmy took over the Café from his parents & it is said to be the oldest juke joint left in Mississippi. He had always played just for the sake of playing & finally started performing actively in the mid 2000's. Many others had recorded his songs but he didn't release his first album until 2006 on the Broke and Hungry label. His stories really touched the audience.
After the intermission, Paul Geremia, who is considered one of the best country blues fingerpickers, songwriters & scholar of early jazz, shared some of his adventures in music with us. He played several guitars and harmonica. Paul lives in Rhode Island and is one of the greatest performers of the Texas & East Coast finger-picking & slide styles.
Last Rory Block came on stage with 3 guitars. She "is widely regarded as the top female interpreter & authority on traditional country blues worldwide." Rory entertained us with stories of growing up in New York where her father ran a sandal shop in the 1960's & of the musicians she met. She left home as a teenager to meet & play with some of the remaining blues greats in Mississippi-Rev. Gary Davis, Sun House & Mississippi John Hurt. Rory ended the night with Mama's Blues.
The stories & experiences that each musician shared with us enhanced their musical performances so much more. After they played, each of them came into the lobby to meet & greet the audience. Cd's were purchased, autographs were freely given & pictures were taken. Everybody left with a smile on their faces & I left there feeling so lucky to have attended.
Palladium, st pete