By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
OUT ON HIGHWAY 61: U.S. Highway 61, a road referenced in the famous Dylan tune, is also the route many blues musicians followed from the Mississippi Delta to Memphis, St. Louis and points north. And although 61 is better known locally as Lindbergh Boulevard, it still has a strong blues connection. That's because it runs by Generations, located at the corner of Lindbergh and Watson. The 200-seat club has been presenting top blues musicians such as Son Seals, Deborah Coleman, Tommy Castro, Long John Hunter and Debbie Davies for the past year, plus roots/rock artists like Maria Muldaur and jazz musician Bobby Shew. No, Johnny Richard, who books both national acts and local entertainment at Generations, isn't crazy, although many friends told him a blues and roots/rock club in the county just wouldn't work. "Everyone told me I was nuts to bring national artists -- especially blues musicians -- to the county," Richard recalls. "They told me I was taking the music out of its natural territory, but I thought there was a whole new audience for the music here, and that's turned out to be true. It's been a struggle at times, but now we've established a consistent schedule of national acts on Sundays and Tuesdays. By bringing in music on those nights, we're avoiding a lot of competition from other concerts."
The primary appeal of Generations, Richard says, is the intimate atmosphere, coupled with great sound and sight lines. "I was working here as a DJ," he says, "and I always thought the setup was perfect for live concerts. It's intimate, but it has a great stage, as well as four levels of seating that make it easy to see and hear a band no matter where you're sitting. We also had a great $40,000 sound system installed. So when I had the opportunity to book all the entertainment at Generations, it seemed that bringing national acts in to this setting was the way to go." Upcoming May concerts at Generations include Guitar Shorty on the 11th, blues saxman Eddie Shaw on the 16th, Maria Muldaur on the 18th, Kenny Rankin on the 23rd, Dave Matthews guitarist Tim Reynolds on the 24th and Bernard Allison on the 25th. (TP)
BOUNCE OBIT: I first saw Roger Troutman being carried on a throne from the back of the Arena floor through the crowd to the stage. It was 1981, and Troutman's band, Zapp, was opening for Parliament-Funkadelic in the Old Barn. Zapp, which included three other brothers Troutman (Larry, Lester and Terry), was riding high on a brilliant hit single, "More Bounce to the Ounce." The song established the Zapp (and later solo Roger) modus operandi: thick, reverb-drenched drum and bass grooves, insistent chicken-scratching guitar chords and a vocoder-disguised vocal track that sounded like a 1950s impression of a talking computer. It was a powerful shtick that took the Zapp and Roger through "Dance Floor (Part 1)," "I Can Make You Dance" and a funky remake of "I Heard It Through the Grapevine."
Trends changed, and the novelty effect wore off, so the second time I saw Zapp, they were playing at the old Mississippi Nights (when the club was half its current size), near the end of 1985. You'd think that an artist who'd known the glories of arenas would just run through the motions in front of a crowd a fraction of the size he'd previously entertained. But I remember that night as one of the greatest experiences of my life. Zapp played all the hits; the audience danced and sang along. But Zapp also played blues, and soul, and gospel, and a little jazz. Roger Troutman and his brothers displayed an aptitude for and a knowledge of virtually every stream of black music to that time. It was exhilarating, a history lesson that hit you right in the ass.
Zapp was booked to play Mississippi Nights in a few weeks. I was thinking of checking them out, to see whether they still had that joie de vivre they'd shown 14 years ago. Then I heard the frightening news that Larry Troutman is suspected of killing brother Roger and then himself. The Zapp story is over. The hits remain, though, collected in fine style on Zapp and Roger's Greatest Hits, but we will never again experience the fun they could deliver in person. (SP)