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Lisa Wenger

Wild Women of the Blues

Madison Blues Society
by Dave Leucinger
February 2015

It’s an unimpeachable fact: the history of recorded blues music started with women.  From Mamie Smith to Ida Cox, Bessie Smith, and the bawdy Lucille Bogan, women’s voices were the mainstay of recorded blues in the 1920’s. It was in that tradition that the Madison Blues Society began its annual “Wild Women of the Blues” seven years ago. Since then, the event has become a showcase for local and regional artists, and one of the largest fundraisers for the organization.


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AtwoodFest 2014 - photo by Dan Schneiderman

Late Summer Festival Preview 2014

by Dave Leucinger
July 2014

Even if you didn’t get Lollapalooza tickets and are feeling left out, the next month is dense with great festivals that feature roots, blues, and more:


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Barrelhouse Chuck

Barrelhouse Chuck

by Dave Leucinger
July 2014

In any conversation with blues piano master Barrelhouse Chuck, finding a topic to discuss is remarkably easy – as long as it relates in some way to blues piano or organ. Fueled by an unmatched zeal and boldness, he has crafted his career through repeatedly seeking out his idols –and then asking for their mentoring.

The keyboard instruments have been a part of his life from the start. “As a young kid, my mother had a piano. She played church hymns,” Chuck said. “At age 3, 4, 5 – there was always a piano around. And we had an old pump organ in the basement.” But his mother’s sacred music didn’t form Chuck’s direction. “I just made up songs; I never really had any gospel influence in my music,” he said. “It was just the instrument. When you have an instrument in the house – you just sit around and doodle. I don’t read a note and never had any lessons.”


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Peaches Staten

Wild Women of the Blues

by Dave Leucinger
March 2014

Since 2003, the Madison Blues Society has demonstrated commitment to community – both musical and otherwise. While promoting education, awareness, and appreciation of blues music remains at the core of the organization’s mission, MBS has also played a positive role in other ways - such as outreach with the neighborhood centers and the Boys and Girls Club of Dane County. Students who learn from these programs have been featured performers at the MBS’s major summertime event, the Blues Picnic.

MBS added a new annual event seven years ago: the “Wild Women of the Blues” series – a reference to an early blues song written and performed by Ida Cox, and also successfully recorded by Bessie Smith and numerous others in the decades since: “Wild Women Don’t Have The Blues.” While the series was previously intended to help cover the costs of the Picnic, the event organizers have chosen to expand the purpose of this year’s event, with proceeds going to organizations that serve women and families.  This year’s show, which will be held at the High Noon Saloon in Madison on Thursday, March 20, beginning at 7:00 PM, will benefit Dane County’s Domestic Abuse Intervention Services (DAIS).


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Jefferson native Paul Filipowicz on the cover of Maximum Ink September 2013 - photo by Nick Berard

Paul Filipowicz

Wisconsin Blues Legend
by Dave Leucinger
September 2013

For guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Paul Filipowicz, making music isn’t about the big theatric shows at stadiums or huge halls. Although his shows are no less intense, his venue of comfort and familiarity is the American roadhouse – a rough-and-tumble venue for a rough-and-tumble style of music. “There are still quite a few out there – even some new ones,” he said in a recent telephone interview. “A lot are still out in the middle of nowhere. We just played at one in the middle of nowhere – Lohrville – it’s between Oshkosh and Stevens Point, outside of Redgranite. We got there at three – just the bartender and one of his staff there. We were set up on a trailer – and two hours later, there’s a hundred people there – many riding in on cycles. That’s one of the interesting things I’ve found about Wisconsin – you can get there when nobody is there, and two hours later, you have a big show.”


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Milwaukee's Claude Dorsey makes the cover at 93 years old, the oldest yet! - photo by Dave Leucinger

Claude Dorsey

by Dave Leucinger
December 2003

To a generation of Milwaukeeans, Claude Dorsey was the musical centerpiece of the city’s nightlife. For 40 years, he entertained diners as the house pianist and vocalist at the Clock Steak House, a downtown crossroads of politicians, entertainers, and reputed mobsters. “It had great food, and the entertainment was pretty good, too,” Dorsey quipped. “The best meals were when Miss Addie was cooking. Whatever she made, it was the best.” In many ways, The Clock became the crossroads where Milwaukee met the Vegas Rat Pack culture. “All the cabbies recommended it to touring acts – that’s how Bob Hope came to see me a few times. [The] same with Nat ‘King’ Cole , Tony Bennett, and others. The cabbies were great at networking.”

Dorsey traces his roots to Gainesville, Georgia, about 40 miles north of Atlanta. “My daddy was the main minister of a church there,” he said. “I wanted to follow him – I tried, but I was always playing music.” Dorsey came to Milwaukee as a teen in 1928. “My dad became minister at Calvary Baptist Church,” he said. The approval of his father was an important factor in Dorsey’s career. “When he heard me play, he said, ‘you’re ministering here; you’re reaching people. That’s what it’s all about.’ I was so happy that my daddy approved of what I was doing; that he was proud of me,” he said.


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David 'Honeyboy' Edwards - photo by Dave Leucinger

David “Honeyboy” Edwards

by Dave Leucinger
November 2003

“I’ve got a good mind; I don’t forget nothing, you know?” That understated self-assessment by David “Honeyboy” Edwards is characteristic of the 88-year-old blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter. A native of Shaw, Mississippi, Edwards retains the purist links to seminal acoustic country blues. He’s witnessed or worked with virtually every blues musician of note since the late 1920s, from Delta legends Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, and Robert Johnson to Chicago blues icons Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson #2 (Aleck “Rice” Miller), and the Myers Brothers (Louis and Dave). Beyond his eyewitness accounts, however, is the Edwards’ musical retention: subtle yet captivating in a manner that appears simple, but in reality belies awareness of musical intonation and interplay.

Music was a fundamental part of the rural southern culture in the early 20th century. “We had guitars, pianos, violins, mandolins; most of the string music,” he recalled. People used to give country dances on Saturday night, and the musicians would come out and play. Through the week they would sit around the house and learn how to play guitar, and what they could do with it.”


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 - photo by Dave Leucinger

Hank Thomas and the Western Starlanders

by Dave Leucinger
February 2003

Interview with Milwaukee alt-country rocker Hank Thomas of Hank Thomas and the Western Starlanders


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Blind Boys of Alabama

by Dave Leucinger
January 2003

Ricky McKinnie of the Blind Boys of Alabama interview


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Ed Thompson jammin on the cover of Maximum Ink in October 2002 - photo by Rokker

Ed Thompson

by Dave Leucinger
October 2002

He’s staking his position as Pied Piper of the Proletariat. Ed Thompson, Libertarian candidate for governor, added politics to his lengthy and colorful resume of working-man jobs - from boxer to gambler to prison guard to bar owner. He easily won election as mayor of Tomah. So is the Ed Thompson mystique genuine, or is the reality best reflected in the Libertarian party line?

The truth is that Thompson has the ability to sound convincing in both contexts. Thompson is a “people person,” as reflected by long-standing friendships and warm interaction with strangers. His former boxing coach (and current driver), Jim Meckstroth, has been through many of Thompson ‘s previous battles. “He fought as a heavyweight professionally until he was 40,” Meckstroth said. “He won his last fight, but when I asked ‘how many fingers,’ he said he couldn’t even see my hand.” Thompson translated that scrappiness to his bar business. “Anyone who got out of hand, he’d literally pick ‘em up and throw ‘em out,” Meckstroth said. Thompson has also been winning another well-publicized battle. “He’s been sober for eight years now.” But perhaps Meckstroth’s most telling observation of Thompson was from the boxing ring. “Ed was the kind of boxer who would take three punches to land one good one.”


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