My friend Michelle asked me just yesterday if I had done a Blues Week and while I have definitely written about artists like Koko Taylor, Muddy Waters, The Blues Brothers and Blues-influenced artists like Bonnie Raitt, Stevie Ray Vaughn and The Black Keys, I was surprised to find I have been a little light on the genre. This is especially confounding, given how much I love the music and actually play blues harmonica.
I spent four years in Chicago while at Northwestern and got hooked hard on the music, seeing folks like Willie Dixon, Albert King, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Junior Wells, Stanley Jordan, Lonnie Brooks, Buddy Guy, etc.,, etc. AMAZING!
I had a friend who worked for great blues label Alligator Records, who once took me downstairs to their stock room and told me to pick out what I wanted… Can we say a kid in a candy shop???
The Blues move me, the Blues make me feel, the Blues are where Rock n’ Roll started.
Today, the Blues have a meaning true to the word… Today, the world lost Maurice Sendak, children’s author extraordinaire. On May 6, the music world Michael “Iron Man” Burks.
I had the wonderful pleasure of meeting Maurice backstage at a NYC Opera production, and he sat in a stairwell with my Mom and I talking about his books… Wow… Talk about giving a kid a memory. Everyone will mention the pinnacle Where The Wild Things Are, which I love and adore as well, but my personal favorite, and I STILL have my copy from when I was a kid, is the Nutshell Library that has Alligators All Around, Chicken Soup with Rice, One Was Johnny, and Pierre.
You truly changed the literary landscape, Mr. Sendak… so please keep writing and drawing… Maybe heaven will send some books down to us. We could sure use them!
Michael “Iron Man” Burks – The Best Of Michael “Iron Man” Burks
Sometimes it is a hassle to go see live music in LA… You have to drive, and fight for parking, and sometimes sit with an audience who has no musical manners or live music etiquette. No, I’m sorry, your conversation is NOT more important or interesting than the music.
Sometimes I just get lazy and such is the case with Michael “Iron Man” Burks. He has been playing a bunch out in Southern California, and with each show there was always something that came up… even though I really, really wanted to go.
Well I’ve done it again!
This is a great place to start, but please go deeper with this amazing artist. This is a great collection and is kind of killing me right now… His playing is stunning… his voice so right. THIS is the Blues!!! My favorite track comes deep in… “Don’t Let It Be A Dream”… which just shows you how worthwhile and fantastic a listen this is!
I am so mad at myself right now… Seriously. Go listen to live music… Do whatever it takes… Because once you are there and involved and enveloped… it will change your life!
This is the email Alligator sent out…
“Guitarist, vocalist, songwriter Michael “Iron Man” Burks died in Atlanta on Sunday, May 6, 2012. He was 54 years old. He was returning from a tour of Europe and collapsed at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. He was rushed to South Fulton Medical Center where he could not be revived. The preliminary diagnosis for cause of death was a heart attack.
Michael “Iron Man” Burks earned his moniker by his hours-long, intensely physical performances, fearsome guitar attack, and tough, smoky vocals. He also earned it by the thousands of miles he personally logged behind the wheel of his touring van. Burks was a true modern blues hero whose music was driven by an intense, blue collar work ethic that had won him well-deserved national and international recognition. His instantly identifiable guitar sound and his live charisma earned him four Blues Music Award nominations. He won the 2004 Living Blues magazine Critics’ Award for Best Guitarist. Burks received a nomination for the 2012 Blues Music Award for Best Guitarist.
Born in Milwaukee in 1957, Burks grew up immersed in the blues, and learned to play guitar at an early age. His family moved to Camden, Arkansas in the early 1970s. There, Burks and his siblings helped their father build the Bradley Ferry Country Club — a 300-seat juke joint. By this time Michael was fronting his own band as well as backing several of the blues and R&B greats that passed through town. Burks left music to raise a family and returned to performing blues in the 1990s.
After self-releasing his first CD in 1997, Burks signed with Chicago’s Alligator Records in 2001 and released three critically acclaimed albums. GuitarOne named his debut album, Make It Rain, one of the Top 200 greatest guitar recordings of all time. He has toured the world, headlining blues festivals, concert halls and clubs. His status as an Arkansas musical hero was confirmed by his receipt of the prestigious Sonny Payne Award for Blues Excellence in 2006, presented by the Delta Cultural Center, and by his multiple headlining appearances at The Arkansas Blues & Heritage Festival. Burks had just finished recording his fourth Alligator CD, which is due for release at the end of July 2012.
“Burks has learned to burn his own signature onto almost everything he touches. The aching passion of Burks’ voice and the probing intensity of his guitar lines come together in a searing evocation of desire and desperation. Burks has the ability and the imagination to fuse the best of the old and the new.”