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The Deep Soul of Artie "Blues Boy" White

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Artie Blues Boy White Photo.jpg

My everlasting image of Artie "Blues Boy" White did not come from a down home set I saw at the dimly lit East of the Ryan nightclub or hearing a dusty '45 that was in heavy rotation at the Checkerboard Lounge on East 43rd St.

It was served 'round midnight in the the spring of 1998 in the Malaco Records recording studio in Jackson, Miss.
Mr. White died April 20 in a Harvey hospice from complications of pneumonia. He was 76.

The long time Chicago resident had engaging Southern Soul hits like "Leaning Tree," "Don't Pet My Dog" and "My Dessert."
Mr. White had just finished a recording session in the spring of 1998.........

......He looked tired but hungry.
His producer Tommy Couch, Jr. looked around the modest studio and said, "There's a group of people that want to take the blues from a certain time period, put it in a glass bottle and put a cork in it. To where it can't breathe anymore, where it is preserved." He hoisted an imaginary bottle into the dense Mississippi air. He continued, "Then they can take this glass bottle, put it to the light and turn it at every angle and look at it. And try to duplicate it. Well, music is a growing and ever-changing thing. So is the blues." Mr. White nodded his head in agreement.

Mr. White was one of the last hard core devotees of Southern Soul.
He dug his his heels deep into his convictions.

Southern Soul singers like Mr. White, Bobby Rush (who headlines this year's Chicago Blues Festival), the late Little Milton Campbell and the late Z.Z. Hill departed from 12-bar blues and deployed saucy use of horn sections. The most authentic sound is raw and loud, devoid of elaborate electronics. Many Southern Soul singers, like Mr. White, grew up in the church but also found a commercial home for ribald material that played well in urban nightclubs.

Mr. White was a well known headliner at clubs such as East of the Ryan and the White Rose in Phoenix, Ill. During the early 1970's Mr. White owned Bootsy's near 22nd and Cottage Grove. He also appeared at the Chicago Blues Festival, his most recent set being in 2006.

Mr. White was born in Vicksburg, Miss. and moved to Chicago in 1955 where he became a truck driver delivering goods to Chicago area department stores. He sang with the Full Gospel Wonders gospel group in Chicago before crossing over into the blues in the early 1960s.

Mr. White's "Don't Pet My Dog" was composed by Chicago songwriter Bob Jones. Mr. White sang of an old school gentleman who left his wife at home with his dog. In a 2007 interview with Mr. White, Jones recalled, "The hook was, 'Don't pet my dog, and please don't hold my woman's hand.' If you can hold a lady's hand and pet the dog, you've made yourself too familiar. Something else has gotta' be going on.
"You've never heard that have you?"

Southern Soul always arouses curiosity.

Jones has written more than 900 Southern Soul and blues tunes. His first placement came in 1976 when he wrote "Leaning Tree" for Mr. White. He continued to write more than 20 songs for Mr. White.

Why was Mr. White such an effective conduit for Jones material?

"Style and delivery," Jones answered on Sunday. "Artie was a soul blues singer. He wasn't a traditional blues singer. Swagger was part of his profile. It was part of him period. It was like, 'I'm still your friend, but I'm it period. I'm the thing."

In his acclaimed book "Southern Soul-Blues" (University of Illinois Press, 2013), David Whiteis wrote, "White is pretty old school, his thick, vibrato-heavy vocals reflect his early gospel roots and he's made few concessions to modernism."

Here's Artie completely out of his element on Chicago's beloved "Chic-A-Go-Go":

Jones met Mr. White in 1967 at the Bonanza nightclub, 7641 S. Halsted. Garland Green and Freddie Scott were featured performers at the Bonanza and although Bobby "Blue" Bland did not perform there he liked to have a nip at the club owned by an Arkansas school teacher.
"We got into a conversation about Little Milton," Jones recalled. "Artie and Milton were real close friends. I knew Milton. Artie told me he was a performer. He had a show the next week in Gary (Ind.) and wanted me to come to the show. We became friends from there."

Mr. White recorded for several powerful Southern Soul labels including Ronn/Jewel/Paula in 1985, Ichiban in 1987, and Waldoxy, a subsidary of Malaco where Mr. White had the hit "Your Man is Home Tonight."

Ironically, Mr. White's death comes just a week after the passing of iconic Southern Soul songwriter George Jackson who wrote hits for the late Johnnie Taylor, Denise LaSalle, Little Milton as well as Bob Seger's "Old Time Rock n' Roll" and "One Bad Apple (Don't Spoil The Whole Bunch" for the Jackson 5. Mr. Jackson died April 14 of cancer at the age of 68.

Mr. White was preceded in death by his wife Emma Lee. He is survived by his wife Betty, seven children, 23 grandchildren and 42 great grandchildren.

An all star musical tribute featuring the Artie White Blues Band, Otis Clay, Billy Branch, Cicero Blake and others will be held between 5 and 9 p.m. April 26th at Gatlings Chapel, 10133 S. Halsted. The event will be hosted by Herb Kent and Cookie Taylor, the daughter of the late Koko Taylor. Visitation at 10 a.m. April 27 followed by a 11 a.m. funeral service at New Faith Missionary Baptist Church-8400 S. Halsted, Chicago, IL.

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Dave Hoekstra

Dave Hoekstra has been a Chicago Sun-Times staff writer since 1985. His collection of Sun-Times travel columns, "Ticket To Everywhere," was published in 2000 by Lake Claremont Press. He was lead writer for "Farm Aid: Song for America" (Rodale Press, 2005) which commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Willie Nelson inspired effort.
He won a 1987 Chicago Newspaper Guild Stick O-Type Award for Column Writing. Hoekstra wrote and co-proudced the WTTW-Channel 11 PBS special: "The Staple Singers and the Civil Rights Movement," nominated for a 2001-02 Chicago Emmy for a documentary program/cultural significance.
He lives in Chicago.


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This page contains a single entry by David Hoekstra published on April 22, 2013 1:04 PM.

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