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.


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.


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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.


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.
Love you, Pop.
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So Long, Dad


George Thomas Scott Sluppick — June 7th, 1946 – August 26th, 2016

Rest in peace, Dad. You were simply the greatest!

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Can You Say, Memphistopheles?

Spent the weekend in the studio working on tunes for a brand new band featuring two dudes from Memphis…Doug Wamble & me. Guitar & drums playing soulful, Memphis groove inspired originals is pretty much the gist of this thing. Oh yeah, Doug is an amazing singer, too and there will be lots of that.

Doug Wamble, AKA Mr. Badass...tuning it up!
Doug Wamble, AKA Mr. Badass…tuning it up!

We’re calling ourselves, Memphistopheles.

Wide angle lenses always make cymbals look funny, like pancakes! Photo courtesy of the amazing, James Saez.
Wide angle lenses always make cymbals look funny, like pancakes! Photo courtesy of the amazing, James Saez.
Let's make some noise!
Let’s make some noise!

Stay tuned, y’all!


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Heavy Heart

Back in ’05, I received a phone call from my dear friend Leslie, who (at that time) was working for Craviotto Drum Co., as head of artist relations and such. She’s a very sweet person and happened to be a fan of my drumming, as well as the group I was playing with back then. It’s always nice hearing from her and on that particular day she seemed very excited and said to me, “Hey man, someone here wants to talk to you…” A few seconds later, I hear this crackly voice on the other end and then these words… “Hi George, it’s Johnny Craviotto here. Man, Leslie played me some of your stuff and I really love your drumming. I would like to build you a drum. Is that cool?” Thus began a friendship that lasted to this very day and today I have just learned of his passing and I am oh so sad he’s gone. Johnny was an incredible soul and easily one of the finest craftsman I’ve ever known.

Rest in peace, my old friend and Godspeed.

Johnny Craviotto, RIP.
Johnny Craviotto, RIP.
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