The night of July 21 was an electrifying old school, down-home blues event at the Melody Ballroom, 615 S.E. Alder Street. There was food and spirits; folks crowded the floor and danced to all of the tunes on Norman Sylvester’s new CD, to the last song of the night.
Norman “Boogie Cat” Sylvester (a 2011 Oregon Music Hall of Fame Inductee) and his band, including background vocalists, performed an exciting soulful show performing music from his all-original new CD, Blues Stains on My Hands. Instrumentalists included: Norman Sylvester, guitar and lead vocalist; Janice Scroggins, pianist, Sylvester's music mentor; Frankie “Funk Master” Redding, synthesizer pianist with a B-3 Hammond organ sound; Rob Shoemaker, bassist; Paul Shoemaker, drums; Renato Caranto, soprano and tenor saxophone; background vocalists daughters LaRhonda Steele, Lenanne Sylvester-Miller and Patricia Sylvester (whose birthday was that night); and Sarah Billings.
Norman spoke highly of his musicians “on board;” especially Janice Scroggins, Frankie “Funk Master” Redding and LaRhonda Steele. He speaks highly of past history, working with all musicians as they are the ingredients for his success: telling stories with Blues Stains on My Hands. All musicians were given recognition and moments of success, as they performed solo instrumentals during the show.
All songs from the new CD were performed electrifying the room and dance floor until the very last second of this event. The radio station KMHD FM 89.1, the jazz station, interviewed Norman live Wednesday, July 18, and played his recordings before this event. Call KMHD FM 89.1 to get a copy of the live interview and a few selections of the “Boogie Cat's” original CD tunes.
Songs were written by Norman Sylvester except Outsource at the Top, written by bassist Rob Shoemaker. Songs on the CD are dedicated to the memory of Canlie T. Helgenson and Nick Christmas, III, drummer and photographer. Bill Rhoades, harmonica, performs on the CD, but was unable to make the performance this night.
In one area, “In Loving Memory” photos of musicians who are now in heaven were displayed, including Nick Christmas; Michael Cooper, saxophonist; Benny Wilson, piano and organ; Carlie T.; JC Rico; Paulette Davis, blues vocalist; Paul deLay, harmonica; Ralph Black, vocalist; Marianne Mayfield; vocalist; Rhonda Hill; and Isaac Scott. Also, there were photos of 21 “old school” musicians: Howling Wolf, Ma Rainey, Robert Johnson; Buddy Guy; Hubert Sumlin, Muddy Waters, Mavis Staples, Elmore James, B.B. King, Betsy (Bessie) Smith, Albert King, Sonny Boy Williams, Albert Collins, Koko Taylor, Pinetop Perkins; Albert King, John Lee Hooker and James Cotton. The above-mentioned musicians played the blues in any “shotgun” houses available; also called “Chicken Shacks.” The Dockery Farms in the Mississippi Delta Plantation was where the history of many blues players began.
Norman states, “The songs on this CD project are especially played and dedicated to all of my blues heroes of the past and present. In honor of the blues men and blues women for their contribution to the world's rich music history; The “blues stains on their hands” kept them traveling across the United States of America and overseas. They traveled by cars, buses, trains, boats and airplanes to share the stories of the blues and spread the joy of music.” He also states, “I am blessed to have the influences of all…Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, BB King, Albert Collins, Pinetop Perkins, Sonny Boy Williams, Hubert Sumlin and the legacy of my Louisiana roots to thank for my “Blues Stains on My Hands,” I am proud to be named the Boogie Cat of the Northwest. So, please sit back and enjoy the music from my soul.”
He calls his music, “poems in the key of blues.” The lyrics are from his life experiences of 25 years in the Teamsters working the trucking industry and 40 years of playing music professionally, while also raising seven children. He says, “Relationships and family ups and downs and the overall joy and pains of life have given me endless material of blues lyrics and inspirational songs.
Selections performed included Blues Stains on My hands, People Get Ready, S-E-N-D (lyrics discuss your computer e-mails and texting: “Make sure the words are for sure what you want to say before you push the SEND button”), Fine as Frog Hair, If You Didn't Want Me to Have The Blues, Bad Weather, Senior Moments and other tunes from his latest CD.
Watching Norman and his band perform made you feel as if you were watching the “old school” blues musicians such as Muddy Waters and John Lee Hooker perform. Norman doesn't just play an excellent rhythm guitar, but talks the blues stories with his fingers, singing the history of the blues groovin' and smokin' hot. Sylvester's guitar talks the blues.
In the CD liner notes, Norman writes, “A special thanks and appreciation to my wife, Paula; my loving family, my musician family, my supportive friends and wonderful fans. Also, in respect and partnership of the agencies and venues that give us the opportunity to play to many audiences, we thank you all for supporting LIVE MUSIC.”
Delicious party cake was shared with the audience. Photos of studio sessions were also displayed in the lobby along with food at the VIP party.
Norman Sylvester’s contact information is: Boogie Cat Productions, P.O. Box 17538, Portland, Oregon, 97217; for booking, 503-419-7093.
Check your music listings, KMHD FM 89.1 and www.normansylvester.com for his itinerary of upcoming shows. You'll definitely have a great time; especially if you love to dance. Purchase The Norman Sylvester Band's latest CD, Blues Stains on My Hands. See ad and Bandstand (online) for performance dates.