Archive for May, 2013

A Plea for Help

Friday, May 31st, 2013

No, I’m okay. This plea for help is not for me. It’s for a brilliant guitarist I first discovered at the 2011 Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival. His name is (David) Kid Ramos. He lives in Orange County. He is one of the best guitar players I have ever seen or heard. I didn’t know it, but for the past year he has been battling Ewing’s Sarcoma, a rare type of cancer that normally afflicts children and young adults.

Kid has had to undergo surgery and extensive chemotherapy treatments for over a year. The chemo treatments (and their devastating effects) continue. As a result, his medical expenses have been enormous. He has a day job as an account manager for a landscaping company (I can’t believe a musician this brilliant has to have a straight day job — but I guess that says a lot about the difficulty of maintaining a career as a cultural creator in contemporary America).

Kid Ramos has played with the best. He was a member of the Fabulous Thunderbirds, the James Harman Band and Los Fabulocos. His most recent recording was with The Mannish Boys on their newest album Double Dynamite.

During all this Kid has managed to work his steady day job to support his wonderful family. Kid and Linda Ramos have two amazing sons Johnny and Anthony.

As soon as I heard him play I bought every recording I could find by him. Everything he touches just really hits my musical sweet spot. His normal playing is similar to and ranks with the very best guitar work of his compadres in Los Lobos.

His musical family has pulled together to help Kid out with a number of benefit concerts including shows ranging geographically from Covina, California to San Diego, Phoenix, Italy, Canada and Belgium. This should give you some idea how much Kid Ramos is loved and thought of in the world’s musical community.

You can help, too.

Please purchase the Kid Ramos benefit CD, The Kid Ramos/Bob Corritore Phoenix Blues Sessions. 100% of the profits go to help Kid Ramos. Here’s a link to the purchase site:
https://www.blues.org/store/#
Under “DVDs/CDs” click on “CDs”

Donations and well wishes on Kid’s behalf can also be sent to Delta Groove Music, 16501 Sherman Way, Suite 100, Van Nuys, CA 91406. Delta Groove will forward them to Kid and his family.

Any musicians willing to donate their services can contact Delta Groove Music at 818-907-1600.

Thank you!

Our prayers and thoughts are with Kid and the Ramos family. I am personally (and, perhaps, somewhat selfishly) hoping for the chance hear many more years of the incredibly masterful guitar work of Kid Ramos.

Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival – Part Two

Wednesday, May 29th, 2013

Smokin' Joe Kubek

I returned to the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival solo (my wife got bluesed out after seven hours of sold blues the previous day). The first thing I did upon arriving there was ordering up a Cajun breakfast to take with me to enjoy at my spot right in front of the Blues Stage. I got a hot link, jambalaya, crawfish etoufée, red beans and dirty rice, plus plenty of napkins and I was good to go.

I knew my brother John, his wife Sabrina and one of their sons, my nephew Dalton, were planning to come to the festival that day, so I kept my eyes open for them. If I was more hep to cell phone use I would have figured out sooner that keeping my cell phone on would probably have been a good idea.

The first act up was Smokin’ Joe Kubek (see above) and Bnois King.

Bnois King

Known for their electric musical fireworks, they were eager to show what they could do performing an acoustic set. At this point I have to mention I screwed up in my reportage yesterday. It was Smokin’ Joe and Bnois who played that incredibly bluesy version of Beatle George Harrison‘s “Don’t Bother Me” — not Andy T and Nick Nixon. My bad (but now corrected on both pages).

Bob Corritore

They were joined by Bob Corritore (pictured above), Big Pete and Delta Groove’s headmaster, Randy Chortkoff.

Nathan James

Nathan James & The Rhythm Scratchers played the second set. Note Nathan’s guitar; its body is a converted washboard, which Nathan used during his solos to add a nice, scratchy percussive effect.

Curtis Salgado

The Mannish Boys came on after Nathan James. These guys are all top L. A. session musicians with a shared passion for the blues. Their regular lead singer, Finis Tasby was at home recovering from a stroke and listening to the show being broadcast live on his radio.

Filling in for Finis were a number of talented singers, including (Robert Cray and Santana band member) Curtis Salgado (pictured above).

Kevin Selfe

Kevin Selfe joined The Mannish Boys, as did Ike Turner‘s post-Tina wife, Audrey Turner.

Audrey Turner

It was at about this time my brother, sister-in-law and nephew showed up. I gave them a quick layout of the food venues. Dalton was in heaven, sampling all sorts of Cajun and BBQ tasty treats. He was recently legal as far as alcohol was concerned, so he happily purchased his own beer there. Dalton really got excited when he discovered the hot pepper booth. They had plants for sale as well as an assortment of very hot salsas, with their habanero salsas being the mildest on hand! The ghost pepper salsa heat ( way hotter than habaneros) was insignificant when compered to the off-the-charts dragon pepper heat. There were free samples, so I tried one of the dragon pepper salsas. Hotter ‘n’ Hell, but with a great flavor.

The Mannish Boys Horn Section

Rick Estrin & The Nightcats returned to perform a proper set.

Rick Estrin

They were red hot on Sunday. Estrin blazed on harp and vocals; Kid Anderson‘s guitar work was nothing short of amazing. Their rock solid rhythm section really drove those two to new heights.

Rick Estrin, Bluesman

While the headliner for that day, Janiva Magness, was performing the last set, I was over at the Delta Groove booth, buying Rick Estrin and Kid Anderson CDs. I got all of The Nightcats to sign them but Rick Estrin was nowhere in sight. I spotted Monster Mike Welch over near the entrance to the Artists Area (a private section for the performers to relax) and we talked for awhile. Estrin was nowhere to be seen. Had he already left?

I needed to leave myself. I packed up my gear and wandered over to the Artists Area one more time. I spotted Rick Estrin in his beautiful white suit chatting with some folks — but there was no way for me to get inside that private area.

I finally prevailed upon Kid Anderson to speak to Rick on my behalf. Kid very kindly obliged, retrieved Rick and I got my CDs signed. I got into a great conversation with Rick. I showed him my book and he immediately became engaged in it, searching through the pages to see if all of his favorites were included. He made note of a few that weren’t and jotted down my e-mail address so that he could send me their names.

We talked about songwriting. I mentioned one of my favorite blues songwriters, the Poet of the Blues, Percy Mayfield. Rick lit up.

“Percy was so important to me and my career,” Rick began. “I was down and out at the time and considering giving it all up. I had written a song, though, that I thought would be perfect for a specific performer. I tracked the guy down to a Bay Area club, buttonholed him and sang my song to him a capella. A second voice joined in with a beautiful harmony. It was Percy Mayfield.”

“Say, man,” said Percy. “That’s a beautiful song you’ve written there.”

“It was the first encouragement I had ever received for my songwriting — and it was coming from the great songwriter himself, Percy Mayfield!”

“We got into conversation and Percy asked me to tour with him.”

“Not to play,” Percy said. “Just to hang out together. I like you, man.”

“I toured with Percy and he became my mentor. I learned so much from him. He was a really beautiful human being.”

I signed a copy of Legends of the Blues and gave it to Rick as a gift. My time with Mr. Estrin was an incredible cap to a great weekend.

Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival – Day One

Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Mitch Kashmar (Monster Mike in the background)

I loves me dem blooz!

This last Saturday I drove out to the Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Music Festival. I missed last year’s show (I was at a convention) but I caught the great 2011 event as loyal Journal readers will attest.

The Blues Stage started out with a bang — or should I have said blast, as in harmonica blast. Three great harp players took the stage in the Delta Grove Harp Blast: Al Blake, Mitch Kashmar (pictured above) and Big Pete (pictured below). Delta Groove is a blues label to whom most of the acts at this show are signed.

Big Pete...Hey! Is that Kim Wilson, too?!

There were surprises all weekend. A big one was the appearance of the lead singer/harp player extraordinaire for The Fabulous Thunderbirds, Kim Wilson!

Surprise Guest: The Great Kim Wilson

Years ago I caught a surprise appearance by Kim at one of my favorite clubs, Antone’s in Austin, Texas. I saw Kim get up on stage to sing and play harp with the Texas music legend Doug Sahm (aka Sir Douglas, as in the Sir Douglas Quintet). The man is a great harp player and an incredible showman. Lucky for us, Kim kept popping up on stage throughout the day to lend a musical hand to the proceedings.

Kim Wilson & Kara Grainger

That’s Kim on stage giving support to Australian blueser Kara Grainger.

Ms. Grainger ably performed the second set of the afternoon, showcasing her powerful blues-drenched vocals and guitar work. She had great back-up in the form of Mike Finnigan, Jimi Hendrix‘s keyboard player on “Rainy Day, Dream Away” and “Still Raining, Still Dreaming” (from Electric Ladyland).

Keyboard Ace Mike Finnigan (Andy T in the background)

James Harman

Blues great James Harman took the stage by storm and charmed the audience with his wryly humorous observations on life in between numbers. He was joined on stage by Nathan James (more on Nathan tomorrow).

Nick Nixon, Anson Funderburgh and Kim Wilson

The duo of Andy T and Nick Nixon followed James Harman. Beautiful set, full of soul! They were joined on stage by the incredible blues guitarist Anson Funderburgh and… Kim Wilson!

Sugar Ray & The Bluetones were up next. They provided me with one of my most pleasant surprises of the weekend, the incredible guitar work of Monster Mike Welch (his righteous moniker bequeathed to him by Blues Brother Dan Aykroyd). Mike’s playing reminded me of my favorite white blues guitar player, the incomparable Peter Green, founder of Fleetwood Mac. I got to chat with Mike later and discovered that he and Peter shared two big influences: Otis Rush and B.B. King. I showed Mike a copy of Legends of the Blues.

Holy cow! You’re the guy who did this? I bought this book yesterday — it’s great!!

As you can guess, we’re now fans of each other (Mike is also a big comics fan). Mike’s playing is powerful, ballsy and, yet, elegant. He really makes his instrument sing with enormous class and taste. He recognizes the importance of knowing when not to play.

I wish I could say the same for the band’s keyboard player who apparently yielded to an urgent need to fill every available musical space with his incessant hammering on the piano keys. He really drove me crazy with his intrusiveness, plus, he was turned up so loud that everything he played distorted, giving the band a murky, muddy (not in the good Delta way) sound. Sorry to be so critical, but I was ready to shoot the guy. He fooled most of the audience, though (too much booze, perhaps, to be discerning?).

Kid Anderson & Elvin Bishop watch as Kim Wilson wails.

The final set was a tribute to Finis Tasby, who was listening at home to the show on his radio, as he had recently suffered a stroke. Finis is the lead singer for The Mannish Boys.

Kid Anderson, an amazing blues guitarist from Norway (and the lead guitarist for Rick Estrin & the Nightcats), was joined by the legendary Elvin Bishop (you non-blues fans know his pop hit “Fooled Around and Fell in Love”), one of the original lead guitarists (along with Mike Bloomfield) in the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. Kim Wilson did a fine job filling in for the late and sorely missed Mr. Butterfield, as did Rick Estrin (see photo below).

Kid Anderson, Elvin Bishop, Rick Estrin

Kid Anderson, Elvin Bishop, Kim Wilson

Elvin was in great spirits — in fact, I’ve never seen him happier.

The food was great, too. The food tents offered all sorts of appropriate food: Cajun food (including alligator and crawdads), BBQ, corn-on-the-cob cooked in its husk, and plenty of beer, daiquiris and margueritas to wash things down. My wife and I shared a great grilled hot link sandwich and a flavorful andouille sausage sandwich, plus some homemade peach cobbler and a blackberry cobbler.

All in all, it was a great day. And, I could still look forward to even more on Sunday!

Simi Valley Cajun & Blues Festival

Saturday, May 25th, 2013

Elvin Bishop at the Simi Valley Blues Festival a few years ago.

It’s Memorial Day weekend and I can’t think of a better way to spend it locally than attending the 24th Annual Simi Valley California Cajun & Blues Music Festival. I’m looking forward to some great performers (three stages this year) and mouthwatering Cajun food and BBQ! If you see me in Simi, say “Hi!” I’ll probably have a few of my blues books with me.

I’m looking forward to seeing Elvin Bishop again (he played the festival in 2011). I’ve been following his music since he was with the Paul Butterfield Blues Band. His nickname with Butterfield was “Pigboy Crabshaw.” My favorite Butterfield LP is The Resurrection of Pigboy Crabshaw with its killer version of “One More Heartache.”

Crawdads, I’m a-comin’!

Ray Manzarek 1939 – 2013

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

The Doors (L to R): John Densmore, Ray Manzarek, Jim Morrison, Robby Krieger

Ray Manzarek, a Los Angeles music legend, has passed away. Best known as the keyboard player for The Doors and, later in his career, the producer of X, I feel incredibly lucky that I got to perform on stage with this enormous talent. Please allow me to relate how that all came about.

I discovered The Doors before most kids in L. A. I was an avid fan of Arthur Lee‘s band Love, who were the quintessential cool, hip L. A. group in 1966. Love were the house band at Hollywood’s famous music spot, the Whisky A-Go-Go. When their popularity made them too big to continue on in that small club, Arthur recommended his friends The Doors to take their place. They filled the slot well and were signed to Elektra, the same label as Love.

The first song I heard by The Doors was in early 1967. “Break On Through” was getting some local airplay, I loved its intense, driving rhythm and bought the band’s first LP. That was unusual at the time; it was still the tail end of the singles era. LP purchases were still somewhat of a rarity and didn’t usually come much later until the band had racked up a lot of hits.

Lurking within the first Doors LP, of course, was their signature tune, “Light My Fire”. There was no way a pop radio station — even in Los Angeles — was going to play the full 7:05 album version on the radio, so a shortened (2:52) version was issued by Elektra as a single.

“Light My Fire” quickly surpassed “Break On Through” in sales and popularity. Underground radio was just beginning; it was the only place on the dial where you could hear the long version played. We music hipster snobs sneered down on the Top 40 stations for only playing the edited version.

The song became unavoidable. It seemed like it was played every fourth song. It indeed became (and still is, along with Led Zep‘s “Stairway to Heaven”) one of the most played rock singles in music history.

Three of The Doors (Lto R: Ray Manzarek, Robby Krieger, Jim Morrison)

I first saw The Doors at their own first large gig, the Fantasy Faire and Magic Music Festival in July 1967 at Devonshire Meadows (aka Devonshire Downs) fairgrounds in the San Fernando Valley. It was $3.00 in advance and $3.50 at the gate. The line-up included The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Canned Heat, The Grass Roots, Country Joe and the Fish, The Mothers of Invention, Iron Butterfly, Kaleidoscope, The Sunshine Company, Solid State and many, many more bands. It was an important festival, occurring just after the Monterey Pop Festival. It’s not as well known because it wasn’t filmed.

I shot the pictures accompanying this post with my little Polaroid. As you can see, I was able to get fairly close to the band. As I recall, they played nearly everything from their first LP and a few numbers from their as-yet-to-be-released second album.

The infamous Kim Fowley emceed the event. After Solid State set up on stage, it was discovered that their drummer was still caught in traffic. Kim Fowley stepped up to the microphone.

“Is there a drummer in the house?”

I leaped up on stage and took the drum stool, the first and only time I’ve ever played before several thousand people. It was quite a rush!

Flash forward to 2002: I had become a semi-regular guest at the biggest monster convention on the planet, the Chiller Theatre show in New Jersey. I had really hit it off with Chris Palmerini (the lead guitar player for The Dead Elvi) after he discovered I sang and played harp (harmonica). Chris invited me to join the Dead Elvi on stage for some songs (the band headlines a three band show each Saturday night at Chiller). It worked out well and became a tradition whenever I was a guest at Chiller.

Chris contacted me a couple of months before their spring show that year and asked, “How would you like to sing and play harp (harmonica) on “Roadhouse Blues” with Ray Manzarek on keyboards?”

I practically booked my flight on the spot!

Chris had approached Kevin Clements (Dead Elvi rhythm guitarist and the producer of the Chiller Theatre show) regarding the possibility of having musical guests in addition to their usual horror and sci-fi celebrities. Chris had discovered Ray Manzarek had a new book out and thought he might be convinced to attend the show to promote his book.

“Go for it,” was Kevin’s response. “The worst he can do is say ‘No’.” Chris did, and he was successful in getting Ray to agree to attend — and play.

Chris approached me on Saturday afternoon.

“Are you ready? The Elvi are going on first.”

This was unusual. As the headliners, The Dead Elvi always went on last to close the show.

“Ray has been running hot and cold about this gig. First, he said he would do it. Then a half hour later, it’s ‘No, I don’t think so.”, then ‘OK — but just one song.’ He’s been like that all day long. He just agreed to to do the one song again, ‘Roadhouse Blues’, so while he’s in the mood, we’re going to go on first. Grab your harps.”

On stage with Ray on keyboards, the Dead Elvi kicked into the Doors’ classic bar band number, “Roadhouse Blues.” The response from the crowd (we were playing in a packed outdoor tent) was incredible. I looked over at Manzarek and saw a complete change in him. I suddenly realized he had not played before a live audience in decades. He had forgotten the unique sensation of what it was like to play and receive all of that incredible energy from the crowd in response to his music. We finished “Roadhouse Blues” to thundering cheers, applause and even screams.

Ray leaned over toward me and asked, “Do you want to do ‘Light My Fire’?”

Chris overheard the question. We looked at each other and beamed in response. Seasoned players all, it was a no-brainer even though none of us had rehearsed “Light My Fire”. It was a song every band, hell, even every garage band, knew by heart, Growing up in Los Angeles meant thousands of hours of exposure to that song. As weak as I am with remembering lyrics (and I’m notoriously so), I could sing that number in my sleep.

We launched into “Light My Fire” and I thought the roof was going to come off the place. Ray looked like he was in a state of pure bliss. Certainly the Elvi and I were!

You can watch us here: http://www.ovguide.com/video/dead-elvi-ray-manzarek-light-my-fire-922ca39ce10036ba0e1156e22bba4dc0

The crowd response to “Light My Fire” was even bigger than it was for the first song; I’ll bet they heard us in Manhattan.

The following week, back in L. A., Ray Manzarek reformed a touring version of The Doors with Ian Astbury of The Cult on vocals. I think The Dead Elvi, Kevin Clements and Chris Palmerini should get credit for being the true seed of inspiration for that tour.

Two of The Doors (from L to R: John Densmore, Ray Manzarek)

So, my own personal cheers go out to Mr. Manzarek for creating the iconic music of one of L. A.’s greatest bands, for being a class act and for providing me with the opportunity to share one of the greatest nights of our lives with my dear pals The Dead Elvi. Your mortal form may have passed, but your music and the memories of the people you touched will last forever.

Rest in peace, my friend.

WONDERFEST!

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

"Mad Love" - Just one of the original Stout sketches for sale at WonderFest!

I am really looking forward to my favorite American convention this weekend: WonderFest! I hope to see lots and lots of friends and fans there. I’ll have my new book, Legends of the Blues, on hand for sale and signing.

See You Soon!

This Year's WonderFest T-shirt by Stout

Dinosaur Art Kickstarter

Friday, May 10th, 2013

My long time friend Richard Jones is not only a great guy who loves dinosaurs, he’s been a heckuva film and television producer. He created a series of dinosaur and prehistoric animal specials for ABC, as well as a beautiful documentary on Ray Harryhausen that features a chat between the two Rays (the other being Bradbury). If you happen to see me on TV, you’re probably watching one of Richard’s documentaries (unless it’s the Frazetta Painting with Fire doc).

Richard’s Kickstarter goal is to create a website to showcase fine dinosaur and other prehistoric animal art (or “paleoart” as coined by my fellow dino art pal Mark Hallett). I recommend checking out Richard’s Kickstarter site, if only to see a fun video and some cool art.

It’s at:

http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/dinos/opening-an-online-gallery-for-great-dinosaur-art-a

RAY HARRYHAUSEN 1920 – 2013

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

Happy day/Crappy day. We often live in a bittersweet, yin and yang existence. On what should be one of the happiest days of my life (the official release date of my new book, Legends of the Blues), I just got hit with the devastating news of the passing of my friend and cinematic hero, the great Ray Harryhausen.

For me (and a lot of other impressionable youths in 1958), my enchantment with the work of master stop-motion animator and special effects man Ray Harryhausen all began with experiencing The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.

I was nine years old. Upon its release I saw that film a magical seven times in two weeks. I couldn’t get enough of it — the visual splendor, the color, the magnificent Bernard Herrmann score, the wonderful cast…but I was especially awestruck by the film’s unique monsters.

I come from a movie nut family. Together we consumed an average of six features per week (three double bills) at the drive-in. Then, on Saturday (and sometimes Sunday, too), my brothers and I would be dropped off by our parents at the Reseda Theater (or another local “walk-in”) to see a another double bill or two.

We were dropped off one Saturday to catch a matinee showing of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad. During intermission I called my mom to let her know that after the second feature we were going to watch Seventh Voyage again. Then, I begged my parents to let me see it two more times on Sunday. When given a choice of films the following weekend, my brothers and I rejected the new features we hadn’t seen in favor of viewing Sinbad a few more times.

Seventh Voyage was the first film I ever saw as a child in which I became conscious of the importance of a film’s musical score. Bernard Herrmann’s Arabian Nights symphony for Sinbad still holds up as one of his finest scores. I personally rate it with not only the finest film scores in history but feel that it holds its own amongst classical music of that genre, including Rimsky-Korsakov’s Scheherazade.

Even at nine I knew enough about credits to figure out who was responsible for the Sinbad film’s magical beasts: Ray Harryhausen. From the moment I saw those awesome pixilations I began to seek out Harryhausen’s past work and anticipate each new stop-motion adventure with an enthusiasm I could barely control. I read all I could about the man and his work in Famous Monsters of Filmland magazine featuring articles written by Ray’s high school pal Forrest J. Ackerman (Ray’s other friend from his teen years was Ray Bradbury. In 1953 Harryhausen brought Bradbury’s dinosaur from the short story “The Fog Horn” to life in the movie The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms).

I had to see each of Ray’s new films on opening day. Little did I suspect that one day Ray and I would become friends, eventually embarking together upon a dream project ignited by the supernatural spark of The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.

The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad was not the first Harryhausen movie I ever saw. I recall being scared witless in the back seat of our Ford as I watched Earth vs. Flying Saucers at the Reseda drive-in in 1956. It was explained to me by my father that this was science fiction. He emphasized the “science” part of “science fiction”, however, impressing upon my young mind that the science part of it meant that this invasion of earth by flying saucers could indeed happen — a fact that would probably come to pass in the near future. Assuming it was just a matter of weeks, I began to plot and prepare for the inevitable while watching the movie.

Ray’s first feature, Mighty Joe Young, may have been my first exposure to the sure and steady artistry of Mr. Harryhausen. After the dramatic success of the 1933 King Kong on the 50s TV package program the Million Dollar Movie (one film would be selected to be shown twice a day weekdays and then three times each on Saturday and Sunday), I can’t imagine that the Million Dollar Movie wouldn’t have shown Mighty Joe Young shortly thereafter.

My Terra Nova Press book of drawings entitled Tribute to Ray Harryhausen contained my graphic interpretations of every creature Ray Harryhausen ever animated for feature films.

Here is a list of Ray’s legacy of feature films:
Mighty Joe Young (1949)
The Beast From 20,000 Fathoms (1953)
It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955)
The Animal World (1955/56)
Earth vs. Flying Saucers (1956)
20 Million Miles to Earth (1957)
The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad (1958)
The Three Worlds of Gullivar (1960)
Mysterious Island (1961)
Jason and The Argonauts (1963)
First Men In The Moon (1964)
One Million B. C. (1966)
The Valley of Gwangi (1969)
The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1974)
Sinbad and The Eye of The Tiger (1977)
Clash of The Titans (1981)

Ray and I eventually met through mutual friends. We found we had a lot in common, including a passion for King Kong (we both attended the 50th Anniversary recreation of the premiere of King Kong at Graumann’s Chinese Theater, as well as the VIP party afterwards with Fay Wray) and a keen admiration for the work of the pioneer visualizer of prehistoric life, Charles R. Knight, and for the French animalier sculptor Antoine Louis Barye.

One of my favorite Harryhausen moments happened when Ray was a guest at one of our informal meetings of the Dinosaur Society of Los Angeles. Don Glut had brought a collection George Meliès silent fantasy films to show us. Ray was sitting behind me with his friend and fellow stop-motion wizard Jim Danforth. As we viewed Meliès’ turn of the century short films I couldn’t help but be both amused (and astounded) to hear the then reigning kings of cinematic special effects wizardry both comment on what we were seeing with, “How did he do that?!”

Ray never lost his humility nor his childlike enthusiasm for life. We were both guests at Louisville’s WonderFest convention one year. When I arrived in the convention hotel’s lobby, I was greeted by Ray.

“Bill!” he exclaimed, like a little kid who had just been given the keys to the candy shop. “You’ve got to see my room — it’s HUGE!”

Ray Harryhausen has probably inspired more young people to get into film than any other single person in The Business. Most of the guys I know (and I know a lot of ‘em!) who work in special effects or special make-up effects, or in the science fiction/fantasy/horror film genres idolize Ray. Robert RodriguezSpy Kids 2 is virtually a feature length tribute to Ray and his work.

It was my dear friend Richard Jones (Richard produced a wonderful documentary on the life and work of Ray Harryhausen) who suggested that Ray and I should collaborate on a sequel to The Seventh Voyage of Sinbad.

We intended the film to be a capper to Ray’s career. Ray had retired, so we weren’t expecting him to go back and animate again. Instead, our plan was to hand the animation of each creature off to an acolyte of Ray and his work, using the best people in the business. Ray would be the overall Special Effects Supervisor. This would allow each team to create a stirring homage to Harryhausen. We were also sure that each artist would try to outdo the others in their attempts to honor Ray, making for a competitive creative process in the most positive fashion and spirit possible.

I got together with Ray and asked for a list of all the creatures he ever wanted to animate but that for some reason or another (usually budget) he never got a chance to bring to life. I then wrote a screenplay incorporating all of these creatures (and a few more) into The Eighth Voyage of Sinbad – Return to Colossa. We’ve been looking for that elusive studio green light ever since. When that happens, perhaps a new generation of nine-year-olds will be inspired to wander down their own Harryhausen-influenced path of fantastic creativity.

Until then, I’ll have to content myself with Ray’s rich cinematic legacy. By the way, if it’s not too late, grab the limited edition of  Twilight Time‘s blu-ray version of Mysterious Island. It’s an absolute revelation! The color and transfer of this film is so breathtaking, it’s almost like seeing it for the first time. I pray that someday the rest of Harryhausen’s oeuvre receives the same lovingly detailed restoration.

My work schedule today is now out the window. Instead, I am going to settle in front of my home screen and watch Ray’s films for the rest of the day, reliving the thrills, joy, laughs, beauty and tears — especially the tears today — of the worlds created by the late, great fantasy film legend, that Talos-sized giant of a man: Mr. Ray Harryhausen.

Legends of the Blues: Now Available!

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013

LEGENDS OF THE BLUES is a years-in-the-making passion project straight from Bill’s heart. This 224 pp. book contains 100 full color portraits of Stout’s favorite blues musicians and singers born prior to 1930. Robert Johnson‘s here, along with the Chess Records stable of Muddy Waters, Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson, Willie Dixon and Chuck Berry.

Bill has written a well-researched bio for every entry that includes recommended songs and interesting cover versions. PLUS: the book includes Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, a 14 track CD of great blues music personally selected and sequenced by Stout! In addition, Bill asked for (and received) the best introduction he could have hoped for by the brilliant poet, musicologist and comic art connoisseur Ed Leimbacher. All this, and it’s only twenty bucks!

Legends of the Blues, a visual celebration of a great African American-created art form, is the perfect gift for the roots music fan in your family.

Mother’s Day is Sunday! Purchase one for the mother (or mutha) in your family! All books purchased this week will go out by Priority Mail within 24 hours of receipt of the order. Why buy here at the William Stout Bazaar? William Stout signs each book we sell and will be happy to personalize each copy as well.

“William Stout’s Legends of the Blues celebrates the glorious men and women who created the enduring legacy and the unique sound of the blues. Bill’s wonderful ink and watercolor paintings of legendary blues musicians beautifully capture the distinct personalities of these amazing and important American artists. Stout’s portraits give us the performance craziness of Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, the haunted gaze of Robert Johnson, the power of Howlin’ Wolf, and the sly grin of a young Bo Diddley”

John Landis (Director of The Blues Brothers)

“Beautiful!”

Elvis Costello

“The drawings are evocative of Crumb’s style, impressionistic portraits with some subtle touches —  Robert Johnson’s pupils take the shape of little skulls. And yet, there’s a quietness, a stillness, to them also, a sensibility that is Stout’s alone. (This book is) a tribute to ‘the all-encompassing gumbo’ of the blues.”

David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“So good, you’d think illustrator William Stout made a deal with the devil.”

Michael Mechanic, Mother Jones

Legends of the Blues Debuts Today!

Saturday, May 4th, 2013

My latest book, Legends of the Blues, debuts today (a couple of days prior to its official May 7 release date) with a signing at La Luz de Jesus gallery (affiliated with Los Angeles pop culture pioneers Soap Plant and Wacko; see “Appearances” on this site for details) beginning at 6:00 PM.

Tomorrow I’ll be signing in Sherman Oaks at Freakbeat Records, the coolest record shop in southern California.

My book has been getting rave reviews, most notably from Mother Jones magazine and the Los Angeles Times. I just did an extensive interview for Comic Book Resources (which should appear in about a week), as well as an interview for an Athens, Greece (!) fansite.

I am really looking forward to the public’s reaction to this book. It’s been a total labor of love from start to finish. I am already hard at work on the sequel!