The InsiderOne Daily Report

  Friday, December 08, 2000

How I Discovered The Blues

InsiderOne's Michael Goldberg writes: In a dream last night I saw my childhood friend Toby Byron, with whom I lost touch some years ago. It was Toby Byron (along with the Rolling Stones) who turned me on to the blues. He helped me believe in the possibility of building a life based, one way or another, on music. These days, Toby is known for producing an acclaimed series of documentaries on such major jazz artists as Billie Holiday, and for some quite amazing books on jazz and blues musicians. We met in junior high school, and our love of rock music made us fast friends — and partners in crime. We concocted a rock-poster business (this was 1967, after all, when everyone wanted psychedelic posters for their walls) so that we'd have an excuse to visit the offices of Family Dog Productions, the San Francisco hippie promoters who put on dance-concerts at the long-lost Avalon Ballroom. I can imagine what those guys thought when two 13-year-olds showed up at their office to "talk business." In high school, we put on our own dance-concerts. Toby became friends with the late Michael Bloomfield, of Paul Butterfield Blues Band and Supersessions fame. Toby and I convinced Bloomfield, who lived in Mill Valley, to play at a show we put on at the Tamalpais High School auditorium. I was into rock; Toby was too, but he was already veering toward the more "mature" music: jazz and blues. He struck up a friendship with someone who had worked at Chess Records, and one day a big box of Chess blues albums showed up in the mail. I remember sitting in Toby's bedroom listening to Muddy Waters for the first time. I could tell that this blues music was really something, but it didn't have the cheap thrills of rock and pop. It was difficult. Also, it was hard to relate to these old blues guys — I dreamed of being John Lennon or Frank Zappa, not Howlin' Wolf or Sonny Boy Williamson. For a kid obsessed with everything rock 'n' roll, fantasizing about being a rock star went hand in hand with listening to the music. One summer, a few years after Rolling Stone had started up, Toby and I decided to start our own rock magazine. And we did. We called it Hard Road, after a John Mayall album. We managed to get Jerry Garcia to sit for an interview, and the blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite. Hard Road lasted one issue, but that's another story... Of note: Don't miss Oh Holy Fools — The Music of Son, Ambulance and Bright Eyes, due out January 22, 2001 on the very cool Saddle Creek label (hey, they put out the Spoon CD single "The Agony of Laffitte"). The album showcases two bands: Son, Ambulance and Bright Eyes. This is a kind of quiet pop music that reminds me a little of the Red House Painters. Get a load of this lyric from Bright Eyes' "Going for the Gold": "I know a girl who cries when she practices violin. Because each note sounds so pure it just cuts into her and then the melody comes pouring out her eyes. Now, to me, everything else just sounds like a lie."

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Michael Goldberg is the president of He founded Addicted To Noise in 1994.

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