Saturday, March 15, 2008

Essie The Blues Lady

This week, I came across Essie's MySpace and enjoyed her the cuts from her album Shape Up which came out last year.

Here's her MySpace blurb:

Notes about Essie If there is ever a competition for a female to be named the B. B. King musical counterpart, if Essie the Blues Lady doesn‘t win that honor, you can be assured that she will be a very strong contender. Born and reared in central Arkansas, Essie spent much of her early childhood slipping and sliding up and down the river banks, fishing and hunting with her family. There was much work and little income, so the family members turned to the wild to supplement their livelihood. While some people have to break away from their normal way of life and make a special effort to grasp what the blues is all about, Essie states “This is not so in my case. I was born into the blues; I was reared on the blues; and I’m a product of the blues. If you’re talking about wearing hand-me-down clothes, cars breaking down, and pinching pennies to get by, you’re talking about the life I've lived.”

Despite the shortcomings regarding “style and keeping up with the Joneses”, there were no shortcomings when it came to happiness. When the chores were done and the sun set in the evening, it was “music time.” Essie’s father played several instruments and her mother sang. Essie and her sisters and brothers would listen for hours (and join in, of course). Essie, determined to learn to play, started picking her dad’s guitar when he was at work. He acknowledged her interest and started teaching her tunes he knew by Jimmy Reed, John Lee Hooker, Howling Wolf, etc. One of her dad’s friends would show her a few licks when he visited the family, and he once told Essie the blues was really a man’s music.

Obviously, Essie let that comment go in one ear and swiftly out the other. Her dad bought for her several B. B. King records and told her she could play anything she wanted to play - just practice hard. Essie listened to "The King" every day and every night and strove to replicate what she heard. When her dad was convinced that she was going to stick with it, he made the decision to buy her an electric guitar, instead of buying the family a new washing machine twhich was desperately needed. Needless to say, that didn’t go over too well with her mother at the time. However, Essie says her mom is the first one to say these days “I‘m so happy your daddy got that guitar for you instead of the washing machine.”

Essie and her sisters formed an all-girl band in the '70s (Queen Bee and the Soul Seekers) and traveled throughout Arkansas and the surrounding states performing their music. One might wonder about Essie’s outlook on life since she was deprived of the finer material things when growing up. Prior to a recent concert, she was asked the following questions: (1) Given a choice, what type of house would you live in? (2) What brand of clothing would you wear? and (3) What make of car would you drive? Essie chuckled and stated “A mansion or a teepee - they’re about the same to me as long as I’m warm in the winter and comfortable in the summer. Brand names don‘t really matter either. But so far as a car, make no mistake, the car I prefer to drive for the rest of my life (whether old or new; sleek or battered) is the one that will take me where I want to go and bring me home again - without leaving me stranded alongside the road.” As Essie, The Blues Lady turned to walk onstage, she glanced back and shouted “But don’t mess with my guitar, ‘Ruckus‘!”

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