Release date: February 18, 2022
VizzTone/ SWMAF Records
By Robin Zimmerman
As an in-demand harp player, club owner, radio host, producer and blues writer, Bob Corritore has jammed and interacted with legions of blues legends ranging from Pinetop Perkins and Bo Diddley to John Primer, Sam Lay and so many others.
While all these collaborators left their mark on Corritore, he maintains that one “guardian angel” helped change the direction of his life and led to his long-running career playing and promoting the blues in Phoenix, Arizona.
The man who helped Corritore “grow as a human being” was Iverson Minter, who had many monikers, including Louisiana Red. Corritore met Red at Chicago’s old Delta Fish Market back in 1981, where he had the “honor and the privilege” of playing with him. They exchanged phone numbers and Corritore moved to Phoenix soon after that.
The move to Phoenix was precipitated because Corritore knew he needed to break away from the temptation-laden Chicago blues scene in the early eighties. While he would miss incredible moments playing harp with great artists like Red, a temporary move West was necessary.
So, it came as a bit of surprise when Red rang up Corritore’s landline and said he was heading out to Phoenix. Soon, they were jamming together at Red’s new woman’s home. Not long after that, the same lady called Corritore and told him to pick up Red because she was kicking him out!
Corritore took Red in, and this arrangement resulted in countless morning jam sessions and reflections on Red’s real-life lessons. To say Red had it rough was a gross understatement. His mother passed from pneumonia shortly after his birth and his father was lynched and killed by the Ku Klux Klan.
Following these incomprehensible tragedies, Red bounced around the country to be raised by various relatives. He recorded with Chess Records in Chicago and served in Korea before making the move to Detroit where he worked on the Oldsmobile assembly line, hung out on Hastings Street, jammed with John Lee Hooker, and recorded some tunes under the Rocky Fuller moniker.
After these Motor City machinations, he hit the Big Apple and recorded as Louisiana Red. He had musical success with the politically charged “Red’s Dream” on his first album, Lowdown Back Porch Blues which was released in 1963 and raked in over a million in sales under the Roulette label. This label was managed by gangster, Morris Levy, so you can bet that Red lost out on that record deal.
Red ditched the Roulette deal but stuck with the Louisiana Red name, under which he enjoyed a prolific recording career. So, Red was already an established artist when he came to live with Corritore, his brother and then-girlfriend. Corritore said they “became a little family” and had a “wonderful time together.”
Looking back on this period, Corritore said Red was “guiding my life in ways I didn’t even realize at the time.” These meant-to-be moments included a trip to the Purple Turtle, which later became Corritore’s very own Rhythm Room. He also accompanied Red to a radio interview on the same station where Corritore’s been on air for 38 years.
While Corritore was putting down roots in Phoenix, it was a different story for Red. He toured Europe to appreciative crowds, met a wonderful woman through Champion Jack Dupree and settled down across the pond. But his friendship with Corritore continued as he started touring the States in 2000 and would always stop at his old stomping grounds to perform with Corritore and a rotating cast of accomplished musicians.
Luckily for us, Corritore has captured all of Red’s magic via seven different recording sessions on the just-released Tell Me 'Bout It. Although these sessions went down in the desert, it has a distinctly Chicago feel thanks to the many local musicians who have followed Corritore out to play or record in Phoenix. The sessions took place from 2000-2009 before Red passed away in 2012.
The list of accompanying musicians with Chicago connections includes the late drummer Chico Chism as well as bass player, Patrick Rynn and guitarist Chris James. Other artists who dropped in to hear Red “tell them about it” include Johnny Rapp, Buddy Reed, Bob Margolin, Little Victor, Matt Bishop, David Maxwell, Paul Thomas, Mario Moreno, Billy Troiani, Brian Fahey, and Alex Pettersen.
Corritore remembers Red as a “really kind soul who laid himself vulnerable to the world.” He said Red found a “safe haven” with him that led to a lifelong friendship. This easy rapport between the two gentlemen from very different backgrounds shines through on every track of this stellar new release.
Tell Me 'Bout It opens with the “Mary Dee Shuffle” where Red’s lyrics revolve around spending too much time at a New Jersey watering hole with the title character. While hanging out at the Hideout, he plays his blues all night long with nary a thought to his early call at the local steel mill.
With morning jam sessions with Corritore being part of Red’s repertoire, it’s not surprising to hear “Early Morning Blues” on the second track. Here, a rough-edged Red sings about “coming down” as he schools the listener in down-home Delta blues.
But Red wasn’t one to stay tethered for too long and the upbeat “Alabama Train” is a musical travelogue that touches on everything from late nights in New York City to pretty girls in Pennsylvania. Trains and travel are front and center on several of his songs with both “New Jersey Blues” and “Freight Train to Ride” carrying listeners on an enjoyable journey through a bona fide blues life.
Tell Me 'Bout It also shows Red’s impressive vocal range as he runs the gamut from broken-hearted bluesman to affable storyteller on the title track. Throughout the course of Tell Me 'Bout It, Red’s vocal delivery and off-the-cuff comments demonstrate the comfort zone he found with Corritore and company.
One of Red’s earliest influences was Muddy Waters and his legacy shines through on “Caught Your Man and Gone” as this track boasts a Morganfield vibe mixed with a few utterances that would make Howlin’ Wolf proud. His haunting vocals are also front-and-center on “Earline Who’s Been Foolin’ You.”
Tell Me 'Bout It wraps up with “Bessemer Blues” and “Bernice Blues.” But there’s nothing that’s even remotely B-side about these tracks as Red, Corritore and the rest of the crew bring their A-game to each cut on this impressive release.
While Louisiana Red had all the requisite tools necessary to be a highly regarded bluesman, including receiving a WC Handy award for Best Traditional Male Blues Artist in 1983, it’s surprising that he didn’t receive more recognition during his lifetime, especially during the Sixties blues boom. Like many artists, he was embraced by European audiences and found a place there. He also found a home with Corritore and the pair’s many magical musical moments have been captured for posterity on Tell Me 'Bout It.