Thursday, June 28, 2007

An Interview with a Living Legend by Mark Thomspon

Many of you may not recognize Herert Hardesty by name but I guarantee you that all of you have been listening to his work for years. As a mainstay of the Fats Domino Band for over five decades, Mr. Hardesty's sax solos have graced Domino hit records like "I'm Walkin'", "Let the Four Winds Blow", "Ain't That A Shame", "Blue Monday" and many other hits. At 82 years young, Herb still can captivate an audience with his instrumental prowess.
This interview took place on January 19, 2007, on the high seas during the week-long Legendary Rhythm and Blues Cruise. Mr. Hardesty was appearing as a member of Mitch Wood's Big Easy Boogie Revue, which revisits many many of the classic New Orleans tunes.
Mark Thompson: "Thank you for agreeing to talk with me."
Herb Hardesty: "It's a pleasure being here with you."
MT: "Congratulations on your new grandchild. You're anxious to get back to Las Vegas and see her."
HH: "Yes, it will be an honor tomorrow - be a very wonderful pleasure to see the new baby."
MT: "How did you get started in music ? What inspired you and drove you to learn the saxophone ?"
HH: "What drove me to music is that when I was a small kid living in New Orleans on a street called Claiborne Avenue. They had a park - we called it nuetral ground. During the seasons, bands used to come and play - Louis Armstrong - and they would march through the streets and play. I heard them playing. What happened, my mother had a piano and I used to bang on the piano. And all the time, the neighbors were yelling for her to stop that boy from making all that noise !!
I had a step-father and he was working at one of the hotels. Louis Armstrong gave him a trumpet. He brought the trumpet to me and I started playing it. I would get out there for the parades - I couldn't play but I could hear the notes. The marching band would be playing and saying "Come on, join us - come on and join us." I'd go out there and walk with them for a little while. I could only go a certain distance because then my mother would start hollering for me to come back.
This was the beginning of my career in musc. I started taking private lessons and also in the schools, music school and grammar school. This is what started my career. And I kept up with it until the time I went into the service. When I went into the service, they had trumpet players but they had no saxophone players. So my commanding officier said, Herbert, can you play the saxophone. I said no, but if you get me one, I can learn how to play it. So we went into town and he bought me an alto saxophone. In one week I played it, learned the scales on it and I started playing in the band. I I kept up with both instruments."
MT: " How long were you in the service ?"
HH: " For 4 1/2 years - I was with the Tuskegee Airmen."
MT: "Certainly that group has gotten a lot of recognition lately."
HH: " Oh yes, it was an excellent, excellent group -
the 99th Fighter Squad. They were excellent flyers, excellent technicians. Everybody played a major part in that group."
MT: "What was your role in the group ?"
HH: " I was a technician and also worked in the radar tower, so I had quite a few things that I was doing. All but flying - I didn't fly."
MT: "So you got out of the service and went back to New Orleans ?"
HH: " Yes, I went back to New Orleans and started a career back in music."
MT: "And you started in with Dave Bartholomew ?"
HH: "No, no, no - it was quite some time before I met Dave Bartholomew. I had my own group plus I was in big bands. New Orleans was famous for their big bands like Don Robichaux and Don Redman. That was the style then and working with the big bands was good for me. Then I got my own group, use to call it The Four Dukes. Dave and I got out of the service around the same time. He had his own performing group. We used to come and see each other play. But it was quite awhile before we actually made contact as far as playing with each other. He asked me to come down to the club. He had a big band and I worked with his band. Later in his life and career, he came to be an A&R man for the Imperial Record Company. So he started recording and I was recording with him."
MT: "Around what time was that ?"
HH: " It was in the fifties."
MT: "For those who might not be familiar withthe 50's Dave Bartholomew, are there any tracks that feature your sax playing ?"
HH: " Oh yes - Fats Domino and Lloyd Price - there were a lot of different artists because we were down there recording everybody in New Orleans. And other people were coming into New Orleans - Little Richard would come in and record with us."
MT: "Are there any tracks that feature a Herb Hardesty solo - any that stick out in your mind ?"
HH: " There's a lot of tracks. We did a lot of recording, not just with Bartholomew but other bands, too."
MT: " You've had 55 years with Fats Domino. How did that relationship start ?" HH: " I'll put it to you this way. The time should speak for itself."
MT: " Did you meet in the studio - on a the bandstand somewhere ?"
HH: " I first met Fats in the studio. They told me we were going to record "The Fat Man". During that time, they had a program on radio called "The Fat Man". I said wow - we're going to record the Fat Man, that's super. When we got into the studio, I said Dave, where's the Fat Man ? Dave said he's over there by the piano. I said no, man. The other guys in the studio and I were thinking it was the Fat Man from broadcasting. So that's how I came to meet Fats Domino."
MT: " What was the music scene in New Orleans like during the 1950's ?"
HH: " Wonderful. Very nice."
MT: " Any remembrances of places like the Dew Drop Inn ?"
HH: " We had Dew Drop, the French Quarter, not just one particular place but the Dew Drop Inn was one of the amazing places where all the artists would come in from out-of- town and they would come to the Dew Drop. It was a good place to play. It had nice crowds, good musicians coming in and good vocalists."
MT: "People know you for your work with Fats Domino. What other things have you been doing over the years ?"
HH: " Well, I did things with Tom Waits for awhile. I worked with Count Basie for awhile. I worked with Duke (Ellington) temporarily. I've gone to work with different artists, not just Fats.But Fats was the longest person I ever worked with. And it all has been rewarding. I learned something from each individual artist that I worked with."
MT: "Count Basie is certainly one of my favorites of all time."
HH: " Oh yeah, I enjoyed with Basie' band. Plus I got a chance to work with Tony Bennett, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald - all of the top vocalists. We were basically the support band for them...
When we sit down and talk about the history of life - and music - there's no other joyful thing in this world that we could be discussing than music. Music is a wonderful thing of life. And the people who produce it, play it."
MT: " It's been a big part of my life. I like to share it with other people as best I can. And I like to try to get people to get to know artists that are worthy of recognition but people may not have had the opportunity to know who they are."
HH: " That's very nice of you."
MT: "So your commanding officier bought you a sax and you learned how to play it in a week. I've been trying to learn how to play guitar for the last nine months and I can hardly play anything worth listening to."
HH: " It's the individual, it's how much you apply yourself to accomplish something."
MT: " Now you are really making me feel bad !!"
HH: " I'm sorry but when you have the determination within yourself to do something, you can climb the highest mountain in the world. Just like in a profession, you apply yourself to get what you want. So study a little harder !!!"
MT: " Any sax players that inspired you ?"
HH: "Many, many, many sax players. I love the way they play, I love the expression that they have in their music. It's always good to be self-sufficient, to have your own ideas. I love what other sax players do but I never try to play like them. I always want to be myself. And I think that everyone should try to accomplish that - establish your own identity. But I'd like to go back - Coleman Hawkins, James Moody, Sonny Stitt, John Coltrane. I liked all of them - excellent musicians and they had their own true identity, each one of them. And that's very important. It's just like if you were a writer, you'd want to write what was inside of you. Just like you are talking to me now - you are asking me questions based on what's coming
into your mind - and I'm trying to answer them the best I can."
MT: "When you are at home, what kind of music do you listen to ?"
HH: " I love all types of music - classics to jazz, modern jazz, blues. I put myself into all of this. I listen to all music because I love music. I love music from different countries. I can't always understand the lyrics but I love the voices, the music. I love it all !!"
MT: " We talked the other night and the name Charles Brown came up. I know that you have played with thousands of musicians over the years but are there any indivividuals that really stand out in your mind, that were either great human beings or musicans that were a cut above the rest ? "
HH: " It's hard for me to say that I like musician better than this other one. They all had their own true identity, all did what they wanted to do and how they felt about producing their music. So I will not pinpoint one musician or one vocalist. I respect them all, so I will not say I like one better. They all are great."
MT: " You have a new cd out. It's your first cd on your own. Why don't you tell us a bit about it."
HH: " Well, it's a circle. Some it goes back several years ago and up to this time in my life. I did some live things when I was in Europe last year and some of it is old recordings that I had made."
MT: " The things you did last year look like you were in a jazz vein."
HH: " I don't like to be classified as one type of blues player or jazz player. I love it all. And I like to present myself to the public as what I like. If I'm playing the blues, I play blues. And it's all related to a very good streak of creativity."
MT: " There has been a lot of talk about Hurricane Katrina and the situation in Louisiana. Did the hurricane have any impact on you ?"
HH: " Oh yes - very, very bad. The problem is I had for pieces of property down there and I insurance declined on three pieces because I didn't have flood insurance. On the other piece of property, it took insurance so long to pay up - over a year before they'd even settle. And when they settled it, they settled for they thought I should get. There's a lot of people going through that. That's the problem. It's still a disaster down there. I still haven't had things fixed. It's awful."
MT: " Do you think New Orleans will ever get back to anything like it was ?"
HH: "It all depends on what our government does. We can spend money - billions of dollars - over in another country, why can't we spend some of the money to help people back in this country ?"
MT: "I think a lot of people are asking that question."
HH: "And they should be !! All we can do is wait and see, see what our President is going to do."
MT: " Any experiences from your career that really stand out ?"
HH: "Well, about a month ago, I had a chance to talk with ex-President Clinton. It was wonderful - one of the highlights of my life, being able to talk to him. He played the saxophone, you know. We had a picture taken together."
MT: " Where did that happen ?"
HH: "That happened in Las Vegas. And that was a highlight, to shake hands with a President. And he is a wonderful person."
MT: " Did you give him any lessons on playing sax ?"
HH: " No .. we didn't get a chance to play together. But maybe one day we will. If Hillary comes to be President, then I shall play for them."
MT: " So when everything is all said and done, how would you like the world to remember Herb Hardesty ?"
HH: "I'd like the world to remember Herb Hardesty as peace, joyful and happiness. And everybody being able to live together. Countries being able to solve their problems by sitting down at the round table, talking it over. That I would like to see. I'd like to see that I had something to do with bringing this peace around the country. When I first when in the service, we landed in Casablanca. We had nothing - no equipment, no nothing. The Arabians came to our rescue and helped us out. I'll never forget those days.
And I hope that that every nation can live together in peace and enjoy life. This is my desire."
MT: " I know you brought a lot of happiness to a lot people over the years."
HH: " And they brought a lot of happiness to me, too. When you see and hear the happiness and joy in people, then you get a good feeling inside about that
- that's my joy. "
MT: "The other thing I wanted to hear about, this is your first Blues Cruise. What do you think about the cruise ?"
HH: "Well, let me tell you this - when I went to war, I went on a Liberty ship. Twenty-seven days from New York City to Casablanca. Man, I said never again. After the war, came back on another Liberty ship, seventeen days because we weren't ducking mines. That weather was so rough !! And I said never on a ship !! So Mitch Woods called me up to go on this ship. But it's been wonderful. A lot people get seasick but we've been good.
But, man, it must look like I'm pregnant, my stomach. becuase I've been eating so much !! I think I've jumped from a 36" to about a 44 inch."
MT: " I've cut down to two meals a day but that hasn't helped because I just eat bigger meals."
HH: (laughter) "Then, after dinner, it's 9 p.m. and we're eating again. My wife loves ice cream."
MT: "The band with Mitch sounds great."
HH: " Yeah, everybody's a good entertainer, good musicians. And we're happy with what we're doing. Everybody has their own style of playing."
MT: " Any plans for the future - any other projects on the horizon ?"
HH: " I will be doing a thing in New Orleans at the House of Blues on January 27. They are giving Fats Domino an award and I'm going down for that. In February, I'm go to Paris for a week. After that, we'll see what happens after that. Maybe you'll call me up for a gig !!!" (much laughter)
MT: " Over the years, I've heard about all of the great music programs in the New Orleans schools and the nurturing
of the young musicians and I wonder if that is going to be able to continue..."
HH: " I have a very good friend, Dr. John. He is a wonderful entertainer and he has such a good band. No matter where we meet, I can always walk on his stage and work with him. He is a very nice person."
MT: " I don' think I have any other questions left."
HH: " Well, it has been a pleasure talking to you and I hope that we shall meet again in the near future."
MT: " Thank you very much for your time and for giving the opportunity to get to know you better."
For more information about Mr. Hardesty, please check-out his website at:
His new cd -"Just a Little Bit of Everything" - has five tracks of New Orleans R&B with a crack band of musicians. The other six performances were cut live with the Olaf Polziehn Trio. Mr. Hardesty gets the opportunity to display his improvisational skills on songs like "Misty" and "Body & Soul". Please contact Mr. Hardesty through his website to order a copy of this delightful recording.

Please come help us work at our Mississippi Valley Blues and Berghoff and Blues Festival Tents!

We ask that all members who attend these festivals sign up with Mark Thompson to spend at least one two-hour shift at our tent booth during the festival. We will be selling tickets for the Berghoff Fest at Mississippi Valley and recruiting new members at both festivals. We get a cut from ticket sales and this and the membership dues we collect will help pay for our fall BITS programs. If everyone takes a turn, one shift each should do it. We plan on having the tents manned until shortly after sundown for all days. It’s a great way for you to help out and it allows you get out of the sun for a little while!

Blues in the Schools Benefit Coming to Big Cities Lounge Saturday August 18th

Our Fall Blues in the Schools programs need financial help. We need money to fund our fall efforts so we are having a benefit concert. Unfortunately, at press time we don’t have the acts lined up yet. We will send out email and post the info on our website when it is finalized.
Some ideas for the benefit include a reprise of the Rockford Guitar Shootout (remember that great event from 2005?) or perhaps have some of our former BITS artists come out and do a show. In any case, we will have a benefit show to help us raise money!
The benefit show will be at Big Cities Lounge on Saturday, August 18th at 8 PM. Our benefit night for our Blues in the Schools (BITS) efforts begins with music. Cover is $10, 100% of which goes out to BITS. A silent auction and a 50-50 raffle will also be held to help raise money, 100% of which also goes to our BITS programs. Come out and support this worthy cause. Advanced tickets can be gotten from Steve Jones; call 815-234-3118 for tickets and more information. We will need a little help from members that night, too. Come out and support the blues and support our BITS! We can’t do it without you. And stay tuned for the lineup of guests!

10th Annual Berghoff & Blues Festival

10th Annual Berghoff & Blues Festival

Our own Crossroads Blues Society is selling tickets for this event and we will get money for our BITS program if we sell enough of them, so buy your tickets from Mark for this great event!

Saturday, September 15, 2007at the Green County Fairgrounds
2600 10th Street, Monroe, Wisconsin.

Gates open at 10:00 a.m.

Music begins at 11:00.

Tickets are $20.00 in advance and $25.00 at the gate.

Children 14 and under admitted free with a paid adult or guardian.

Tickets are non refundable.

Food and beverage available.

No carry ins allowed.


11:00 a.m. - 11:45 a.m.The Crashers featuring Jennifer DuPree
12:15 p.m. - 1:00 p.m.The Westside Andy / Mel Ford Band
1:30 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.Sharon Lewis and the Delmark Allstars featuring Dave Specter, Ken Saydak, & Craig Panosh
3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.Sonny Landreth
5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.The New Legends of Blues Allstars featuring Eddie Taylor Jr., Billy Flynn, Sysve Guyger, Bob Stroger and Piano Willie

7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m. James Cotton BROADJAM STAGE

11:45 a.m. - 12:15 p.m.Winner of Broadjam/Berghoff & Blues worldwide talent search - submit your song at broadjam.com1:00 p.m.

1:30 p.m.Winner of Broadjam/Berghoff & Blues worldwide talent search - submit your song at

3:00 p.m. - 3:30 p.m.Pat McDonald

5:00 p.m. - 5:30 p.m.Pianopalooza featuring Ken Saydak & Jimmy Voegeli

7:00 p.m. 7:30 p.m.Chicago Piano Legend Ken Saydak

Chicago Blues Festival

Here is the lineup for the Petrillo Music Shell. See the rest at:
"Boogie Woogie Stomp" Thursday, June 7, 2007
6:00-7:00 - Koko Taylor and the Blues Machine
7:10-8:10 - Jimmy Dawkins
8:20-9:30 - Willie Clayton
"30th Anniversary-Sons of the Blues-The New Generation is the Now Generation" Friday, June 8, 2007
6:00-7:05 - Johnnie Mae Dunson and Jimmie "Prime Time" Smith
7:15-9:30 - Billy Branch's Sons of the Blues 30th Anniversary Reunion
"Downtown Saturday Blues" Saturday, June 9, 2007
5:00-6:00 - Nellie Tiger Travis
6:10-7:00 - Big Jay McNeely with Jesse Scinto
7:20-8:20 - Irma Thomas and the Professionals
8:30-9:30 - Magic Slim and the Tear Drops
"Wang Dang Doodle" Sunday, June 10, 2007
5:00-7:05 - The Disciples Playing for Sunnyland: Sam Burkhardt leads Steve Freund, Bob Stroger, Barrelhouse Chuck, Kenny Smith, Calvin Jones, Willie "Big Eyes" Smith, Kenny Barker with Big Time Sarah and Deitra Farr
7:15-8:15 - Tribute to Wolf featuring James Cotton, Hubert Sumlin, Eddie Shaw, Abb Locke, Henry Gray, Jody Williams, Smokey Smothers with Lafayette "Shorty" Gilbert, and Willie Smith

Early 2007 Blues Festival Season Offers Broad Array of Talent for Local Blues Fans

You don’t have to travel to Mississippi or New Orleans for some great blues music festivals. While Jazzfest in the Big Easy (last weekend in April and first in May) is a great place to spend three days cycling between a dozen stages and Mississippi is home to all the great Delta area festivals, we have a great summer of music right near home where many of the same artists come to you.
Summer begins early in Iowa with Friday-Saturday, May 11-12, 2007 at Simply The Blues in Fort Madison, Iowa, U.S. On Saturday, May 26, 2007 is the Blues Bash 2007 inTrempealeau, Wisconsin. Saturday, June 2, 2007 is the Blue's N Brew at Bloomsberry, Atkins, Iowa. You can’t get any better than free and that’s what it is in Chicago on Thursday-Sunday, June 7-10, 2007 Chicago Blues Festival, Chicago, Illinois. Spend a day or the whole time there without the need for tickets! That lineup is on page 9.
Then on Friday-Saturday, June 15-16, 2007 it’s time for Blues on the Fox in Aurora, Illinois. Friday, June 15 is Nick Moss and the Flip Tops and North Mississippi Allstars. Saturday, June 16 Are the Hix Bros Junior All-Stars, Honeyboy Edwards, Eric Lindell, Tab Benoit, Billy Boy Arnold and The Chicago Blues All-Stars featuring Bob Stroger, Billy Flynn and Kenny Smith and The Robert Cray Band. Not a bad lineup.
A CBS member favorite is on Friday-Sunday, June 29-Ju1y, 2007. The IH Mississippi Valley Blues Festival in Davenport, Iowa ( Friday, June 29th, 2007 features Damon Fowler Group, Albert Cummings, Chubby Carrier & the Bayou Swamp Band, Robert Randolph & the Family Band, Robert Belfour, Paul Oscher, Big Bill Morganfield, Nappy Brown with Bob Margolin, Willie “Big Eyes” Smith and Mookie Brill. Saturday, June 30th, 2007 has Kelly Richey; Jason Ricci and New Blood, Big James & the Chicago Playboys, The Jackie Payne and Steve Edmonson Band, Blues harp blowout featuring Mark Hummel, James Harman and Paul Oscher, Bad Luck City featuring Matt Woods and Michael Swanger, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes; Alberta Adams & RJ’s Rhythm Rockers with CeeCee Collins, Ari Brown Quartet; Watermelon Slim and Trudy Lynn with The Chicago Rhythm & Blues Kings. Sunday, July 1st, 2007 has Dona Oxford; Tom Principato; Ruby Wilson; Little Charlie & the Nightcats. Drink Small “The Blues Doctor”, Dave MacKenzie, Bruce Katz, and Henry Gray & the Cats. This will be a great weekend of blues!
That gets you though June. For more info on line about these and other festivals, check out:

New Blues Web Site– Please Check Them Out! is your #1 source for "all news BLUES" in the Central USA. They actively cover Blues music and events in Alabama, Arkansas, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Wisconsin. Occasionally we include other areas too!
When performance dates are posted they will be listed FREE on the Blues Shows page; fans can find YOUR shows in their area easily! The performance dates you post will also go to thousands of Blues fans in our next Blues Blast email for FREE.

Another Successful Set of Blues in the Schools Programs Held in the Rockford Area

Blues in the Schools (BITS) for Spring 2007 were completed in a hugely successful manner. Six school BITS programs were done with 2,150 students and several hundred teachers lives having been touched by the blues. We completed two days of Spring BITS set of programs today with Ann Rabson while the Reverend Raven and Madison Slim completed their "rookie" day of BITS programs. All in all, the kids got exposed to the blues in a fabulous manner on March 6th and 7th.

Ann began the first day at WNTA AM 1330. Then she was off to school as were the Rev and Slim. In all, they did 4 school programs on Tuesday. The evening show on Tuesday night had 50 blues lovers in attendance. The Rev and Slim opened, Ann did a second set and then the three of them went at it for almost an hour of a great blues jam. The 10 or less minutes of the artists "conspiring" together prior to the show resulted in about an hour of super music with Ann, the Rev and Slim trading the lead back and forth like the seasoned pros they are. It was a great night of blues and the Just Goods Store Music Room is an outstanding and intimate venue for music.The Rockford Register Star came out to Conklin Elementary School and gave the program a glowing review. Music
Teacher Paul Smith joined Ann Rabson on his sax and the kids just loved it. You can check out the newspaper article on line at:

All schools visited were new to BITS. They were:
· Conklin Elementary School
· West View Elementary School
· Summerdale Elementary School
· Dolan High School
· Spectrum School
· Carlson Elementary School

Thank you to the Rockford Area Arts Council for their continued support of our BITS programs. Thanks also go out to our members who make BITS both possible and a superbly successful effort!
This program is partially supported by a grant from the Rockford Area Arts Council which receives support from the City of Rockford, the Illinois Arts Council, and its members.