When I was a younger lad, at a critical moment in the development of my first serious Relationship
, the TV was playing one of the biggests songs from a band called "Eric Burdon and the Animals". It was the first (and for more than a decade the only
) song I could play on the guitar
Apparently Eric Burdon gave an interview recently in which he said that he got turned onto the Blues by hearing Muddy Waters play. And according to another story, he said in an interview in the US, when he was a big star there in the 60's, that he was surprised Americans were listening to him when he was really just playing stuff from American Blues greats like Muddy Waters. One of the people who heard this was a kid who had just started playing guitar, named Bob Margolin. He took the advice and started listening to Muddy Waters, and ended up playing with him from the early 70s until Muddy passed away in the early 80s.
In 1994, the XVII Winter Olympic Games took place in Lillehammer. Various infrastructure for winter games, including a ski jump were built.
In 1999, when I had just moved to Boston, I saw Eric Burdon and the New Animals at Cambridge's House of Blues - one of the most fun things I have done in the US.
Last weekend I went to Lillehammer. I saw the ski jump, although I failed in my attempts to find a sensible way to the top of it. At least I know how to get there for next time. I left my skates at home, and didn't bother looking for skis, because the forecast was for rain all weekend. In the end, my first trip into Norway after almost a year of living in Oslo was a weekend when it mostly snowed rather than rained
When it rained, it rained the Blues.
At the Lillehammer Blues Festival, I saw the Blasters, but missed the "Legends of Chicago Blues" - a band including Steady rollin' Bob Margolin.
I heard Jeff Healey and his band blasting out Blues that made my ears ring. I watched Margolin, drummer Willy 'big eyes' Smith (another of the "Legends" members) and other friends jamming with Ian Seigal, a british guitar player of considerable talent - young enough not to be a legend, old enough be an experienced as well as talented performer with a hatfull of stories. As well as their own material Eric Burdon and the Animals played "I put a spell on you", left the stage for the last time after "Ring of fire" with the crowd still singing a riff that had taken on its own life.
I saw local Lillehammer acts like Sidetrack and Vibro Kings, worthy of playing in the company they did. I saw a middle-aged groupie making past-middle-aged legend Bob Stroger a fairly direct and explicit offer to make him *ahem* feel welcome in Norway. (The offer was declined). I got to listen to music, and to people.
The Blues is, of course, about people. About stories, as well as about music. Lillehammer is not a big town, and the festival was concentrated on one venue for Saturday night. So while there was space off-limits to all but the performers, they spent a lot of the time out talking to people. To each other, to members of the public, to journalists, telling stories and meeting people.
Talking about triumphs and disappointments. It isn't the blues if you're living in a Pollyanna world of bliss and TV-announcer fake smiles, so the disappointments they talked about were mostly there own. But the triumphs they would talk about were those of other people - each other, or rising talents, or people who have passed on.
Ian Seigal was described by Otis Redding jr. as "The most soulful light-skinned brother I know". But the first story I heard him tell was of how this was slightly miscopied once, so he was billed as "The most light-skinned brother [Otis knew]". With his classic english looks, maybe it wasn't so far from the truth either. Some of the stories above came from Bob Margolin.
But the best story I heard came from Merete Eide, a music journalist. Almost four decades after hearing Muddy Waters led Eric Burdon toward the Blues, and hearing Eric steered Bob Margolin toward Muddy Waters, the two of them met for the first time, sharing a long ride to the airport where they got to chat, play tunes, and tell stories.
And I got to see The Animals in their latest incarnation, with Eric Burdon singing "House of the Rising Sun" like it was a cool new song he had come across.
I didn't go skiing in the end, but the weekend got me over my blues.