Charlie Hunter Rules

When Charlie Hunter called to ask if I wanted to do a short, two-week tour with his trio, featuring saxophone badass, Michael Blake, I flipped! We’ve been friends for many years and I opened for him numerous times in the early 2000’s but we’ve never gotten into a car and toured as a band together, so I was totally psyched outta my mind. He’s such a great guy, tremendous musician and just the most wonderful player. I took my girlfriend to see him in Los Angeles last year and we had a great time that night. She knew as well as me what I was up against when I got the call but once he sent the music we’d be playing, I knew there was no need to worry about anything. The tunes from his latest record are superbad and right up my alley. I could not wait.

After some emails & texts to one another, the flight was booked and a few weeks later, I jumped on a plane and made my to his home in New Jersey. One day to rehearse then the three of us hit the road, headed for upstate New York. In all honesty, I was nervous at first but once we started playing, those feelings disappeared and there was nothing but the music. Needless to say, we have been having a blast. We’ve done six shows and the response has been tremendous.

I’m writing y’all from the road, currently sitting in the backseat of Charlie’s car, on our way to Columbus, Ohio with a day-off. Hopefully, we’ll find a laundromat today! There are four more shows left, then we will say goodbye until meeting up again in October and I can’t wait for that!

Xoxo

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Charlie Hunter Trio, at SPACE in Evanston, Illinois April 8, 2017 — L to R: yours truly, CH & Michael Blake. Photo courtesy of Michael Tooles.

 

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They Ain’t Hollow

Had a great time in San Diego last weekend, recording with The Holla Pointe, our third time in the studio together. It was a lot of fun and Studio West is top-shelf.

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I arrived early to find a beautiful, completely original 70’s Rogers kit in lovely green sparkle, all set-up and ready to go…all I had to do was put up my cymbals and snare. There was a 24″ Slingy bass drum upstairs in their drum storage, which I placed in front of the 20″ Rogers and we picked up a good amount of low-end once we mic’d it up. The tones were amazing and tracking started within an hour of the first day. This studio and the folks who run it are some of the finest I’ve ever come across and I can’t wait to hear the results from this session. We laid down fourteen tunes in just two days. Not too shabby.

Before heading back home to Memphis, I took a day to go see some old friends and was really glad I did. It was nice to be back on the west coast for a minute.

Xoxo

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Memphis Welcomes Home

Yes, it’s true…I moved back home to Memphis (just in time for Christmas!) and it’s been rather glorious so far, if I must say. Very good things ahead…

stay tuned!

Xoxo

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Macy Gray and the Johannesburg Experience

Sometimes you get called for a gig that sounds too good to be true and even after you’ve said Yes, you’re still not sure whether or not it’s going to happen. Recently, I received one of those calls and it took me a second to comprehend exactly what was being asked of me.

“Hey man, you wanna go to South Africa with Macy in October?” said my friend Tamir Barzilay.

Wait, what…why aren’t you going?

“I’ve got another gig that’s conflicting, so I can’t go,” he said.

Holy crap, I thought and then told him I needed to make sure there was nothing on my schedule that would conflict and that I would get back to him asap. Luckily, there wasn’t and after weighing the pros & cons of such a long flight vs. getting to see some of the African continent, I called him back and accepted the gig. I knew it would be a lot of work but I’ve seen her band before and I know how great they are, plus her bass player is an old friend of mine whom I’ve wanted to play with for many years, so I had to say Yes.

Well, about six weeks later (which included many hours of shed-time, learning a lot of her material), I was boarding a red-eye flight from LA to New York, which only took five hours…then a six-hour layover at JFK airport then onto Johannesburg from there and that flight was fifteen solid hours. OUCH.

Now, that was a long trip!

We performed at the Delicious Food & Music Festival in Johannesburg, along with some major heavyweights…The Jackson’s, Roy Ayers, Louie Vega & the Elements of Life Band, Arrested Development, De La Soul and several others played. It was really great. Macy hadn’t been able to rehearse with me before the gig, so I was flying by the seat of my pants as far as knowing how she likes it to feel on stage but we held it together, even when it started pouring down rain. The crowd was at least fifteen thousand strong and everyone was dancing. I’ve played some big shows before but this one totally blew my mind. It was so much fun. During our last tune, we brought out a special treat, the Memeza African Choir, who performed one of the country’s most well-known folk songs, Shosholoza. We had rehearsed with them five hours earlier, so the music was fresh and they were amazing.

People were losing their minds and by the end of our set, they were chanting for an encore but we had to go because Arrested Development was up next…they were incredible.

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You couldn’t have asked for a better line-up at a two-day festival…it was a once in a lifetime experience for me and I’m fortunate to have been given the opportunity. Macy took me aside at one point and let me know how happy she was with my performance and that made me feel relieved cause I had been so nervous about doing a good job. I sent a huge thank you to Tamir for recommending me. He’s been playing drums with her for more than three years and they’ve got a natural rapport with one another, so I had some big shoes to fill.

The following day, the entire band went on a trip out to the country to visit a lion rescue and an elephant sanctuary. Both were extraordinary and I would encourage anyone to visit there at least once, if you can. The people are extremely friendly.

I can now say that I’ve been to Africa.

Xoxo

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A Life Lived

Never in a million years did I think I’d be charged with the task of writing my own father’s obituary but that’s how it goes sometimes and when it was finally finished and sent off into the world, my only thought was that I hope my words honor him in the way he deserves cause I can tell y’all one thing is for sure…Big George LIVED his life!

Here it is.

Obituary

George Thomas Scott Sluppick

June 7th, 1946 – August 26, 2016

George Thomas Scott Sluppick of Natchitoches, Louisiana (also known as “Big George”) a Viet Nam War veteran, died of lung disease on August 26, 2016. He was 70 years old. Born in Waukegan, Illinois in 1946, the oldest of six children, his parents George Sr. & Florence Sluppick raised him as a farmhand for several years before relocating the family to Memphis, Tennessee. Dropping out of high school, he enlisted into the U.S. Army in March of 1964, just a few months before his 18th birthday. His first assignment was in Korea, where he stayed for ten months before being reassigned to Viet Nam. In 1965 he served with the 57th Assault Helicopter Company, known as the Gladiators under the command of Gen. Hugh Smith as a Huey helicopter crew chief & gunner and later as a truck master on convoys. He survived the Tet Offensive of 1968 but was unfortunately exposed to Agent Orange, which later led to his lung disease.
Post war he married twice, fathered four children and was the credit manager for Merck, Sharp & Dhome pharmaceutical company in Memphis. For more than 20 years, he worked tirelessly, maintaining a busy schedule moonlighting at several jobs, raising his kids and attending night school at Shelby State Community College, where he received his associates degree and was elected into the Who’s Who Among Students in American Junior Colleges. In addition to fronting his own band, the Tennessee Blues Connection, as bassist and singer, George was also an active member of the Memphis Blues Society. As production & stage manager for the Blues Amateur Talent Contest in the 1980’s, he helped usher-in hundreds of blues artists from all over the world.
In 1990, he met Judy Jones who lived in Natchitoches and they were married on October 6th. Relocating from Memphis, Big George very quickly immersed himself into the community there, devoting himself to his church and to the people. He and Judy were owners of For Heaven’s Sake Christian bookstore for several years until he got into radio, a life-long dream of his. As news reporter on KNOC and the host of Talk Back Natchitoches for more than ten years, he helped in the establishment of the Radio M*A*S*H* (Make A Smile Happen) Radio-thon, a fundraiser for needy children during Christmas. He was also a very active member of The American Cancer Society’s Relay For Life, one of the world’s largest and most impactful fundraisers to help end Cancer.
George is survived by his wife, Judy Sluppick, his brothers, Saro & Michael Sluppick, his sister, Juanita Zientara, his children, George Sluppick, Dawne Woods, Audra May, Darrell Jones & Laura Bishop, his grandchildren, Hannah Grace Woods, Chelsea Rose Joy, Jessica Roach & Zachary Bishop and his great grandchildren, Olivia Rose Joy & Keegan Woods.
Big George was loved & adored by everyone who knew him and he will surely be missed.
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Love you, Pop.
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