Saturday, January 29, 2005

Mississippi Fred McDowell

Mississippi Fred McDowell >John Henry

In 1971, Tom Pomposello was a guitar playing, married 21 year old father of a two year old boy, hippie co-owner of a suburban New York "liberation record store" in my hometown, who wanted to be a bluesman.

I was a 19 year old Columbia University student with a college radio show, who was dropping out of pharmacy school because I liked the Beatles better than chemistry.

Tom, who I'd interviewed excitedly, but badly, interviewed on my WKCR-FM show, told me he was the "New York bass player" for legendary country blues guitarist Mississippi Fred McDowell. Maybe I could record their upcoming set at Village Gaslight for my radio show?

Let's forget that the only blues I knew was from English rock bands (I did know that old black men had started it all, and they did it better) and I didn't really play blues on my show. Or that I no absolutely no idea was Mississippi Fred McDowell was. Or how to record anything. Or that I was low man on the totem pole at the radio station, and there was no way the powers-that-be would ever allow me to take the expensive tape recorder out of the station. Somehow I ended up in the kitchen of the Gaslight with our only professional one-track Nagra recorder, a Shure mike mixer, some microphones, and my new buddy Roy Langbord roaring to go.

A still unrecorded Bonnie Raitt opened the show (Bonnie and Fred shared Dick Waterman as their manager). Roy and I recorded Fred and Tom's sets. I took the 7" tape reels up to the station and dutifully played them on my show. Eventually, the tracks became the basis of our first release on our first record label.

Mississippi Fred McDowell >John Henry


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