Jazzline N 77064 (2CD) / N 78064 (2LP)
ALSO AVAILABLE IN VINYL 180g DIRECT METAL MASTERING
At Home away from Home
It was certainly not the case that Hannover suddenly had become one of the world’s blues-metropolis – but surprisingly enough, in the mid-1970s not only one but two important representatives of this musical genre decided to settle down in the city. Even before Louisiana Red, who in real life was known as Iverson Minter, born 1932 in Bessemer/Alabama, another artist, Jack Dupree, called “Champion” (because of his boxing-past – malicious gossip has it, that his boxing style was the same as that of his piano play; but that is certainly not true) had already moved there in 1976. This odd singer (who constantly recited Shakespeare) was also an exceptional New-Orleans-style cook, who equally enjoyed preparing soulfood and jambalaya as he enjoyed staging his rather muddled shows, for which he was famous. The “Champion” remained living in the tower block right next to the main railway station until he took his last breath in 1992 – and the jazz and blues community of the city that had become his adopted home saw him off with a very athmospheric funeral ceremony at Seelhorst cemetery; a ceremony which also included a procession to a nearby tavern: „Nearer, My God, to Thee“!
It was Jack Dupree who recommended this peaceful city with outstanding rail connections to almost everywhere else to Louisiana Red, at a moment when the latter was considering leaving his home; a home that no longer felt like home – because by the late-70s nobody there was interested in the “classical” old-style blues anymore. The suggestion to move to Hannover therefore seemed acceptable to Iverson Minter and his wife Dora – and indeed, they remained living a perfectly ordinary existence in the rather staid neighbourhood of Heidesiedlung on the eastern outskirts of the city until the death of the singer, guitarist and mouth-organ player in February 2012. However, they have been on the road a lot – as indeed, the “Old World” continued to be interested in musicians like Louisiana Red. And when the time had come for Red to move on to another world, the local blues-community also bade him farewell with a spectacular party, just as they had done ten years earlier for the Champion.
By the way, the stage name “Louisiana Red” (there have been other names as well) refers to a hot sauce customary in the delta-state of Mississippi. Customary, just as the extremely archaic blues of which Louisiana Red has always been a paradigmatic representative; this was also the case on that particular evening in June 1977, when he, the blues-import from across the Atlantic, was alone on stage of “Onkel Pö’s Carnegie Hall” in Hamburg-Eppendorf, accompanied only by his guitar and his mouth-organ. Back then he was still living in the USA, not yet tired enough from his constant struggle for recognition to be willing to relocate to Europe for good.
Everything performed that evening and released now - more than four decades later - is pure. And everything eventually leads back to him: especially the stories Louisiana Red tells in his songs – sad ones, like the one about a friend who died of cancer and funny ones, like the dream in which he met John F. Kennedy (called “Jack” in the song) and totally agrees with the president, that somebody like himself, Louisiana Red, would be a great help in governing the country; or even better: Ray Charles should also be part of the Team-Capitol.
Nothing in Iverson Minter’s songs is without meaning, everything is serious. The boy from Alabama had a difficult childhood; his mother died early, his father was murdered by Ku-Klux-Clan fascists and his uncle was prone to violence … Again and again Louisiana Red came into conflict, not only with the music-industry and its often less than upright way of treating black artists, but also with the racially biased legal system of the ruling class. Furthermore, his family also had blood ties to one of the indigenous peoples, the true owners of “God’s Own Country” – all this made a peaceful and cosy artistic existence quite impossible.
Perhaps we can understand the 30 years in Hannover as Louisiana Red’s response to this fundamental dilemma in his life.
On stage he presented a “hard-core”-version of blues. Nothing was elegant or even polished; Red’s voice had a higher pitch and was more aggressive than was usual in the world of blues and would have been equally suited to hold his ground on a rough street. His guitar playing was simple and in the most intensive moments clinched to individual notes or sequences, which appeared beneath or above the rolling and blunting rhythms. The mouth-organ was of the sort that invited you to join in immediately – blues, as this disputatious artist, whose music was never really adaptable to commerce, understood it, is first of all a statement for the moment in which it is performed, an aid to survive in times that will never be easy. Also because of this he was happy to perform at the “Pö”, whose audience he thought “understood blues”…
In later years he did receive some of the recognition in his native homeland, which had been refused to him during the 1950s – nevertheless, he stayed where he did not really belong – in the Heidesiedlung, Hannover. Maybe it was this unusual home base that provided him with the productive peace he needed. Those who knew that he was there were proud to have him so close. And those, who are listening to Louisiana Red today, may still be proud that he once lived nearby.