What A Houston Blues "Walk Of Fame" Could Look Like
It was a real pleasure for Rocks Off and Lonesome Onry and Mean to bring you this week's Houston Press cover story, "Old School," but it was also bittersweet. Not to put too fine a point on it, but none of these people are getting any younger - although the men and women of "Old School" have exhibited a remarkable amount of stamina and longevity, illness, infirmity and old age in general have already claimed many of their peers.
Lightnin' Hopkins marker photo by Matthew Keever
That's why it was also nice to report that Houston may finally be overcoming its notorious allergy to saluting its rich musical past. Within the past year, enterprising individuals and nonprofits were able to secure (read: raise the private funds necessary to pay for) Texas state historical markers for country-blues immortal Lightnin' Hopkins, historic Third Ward venue Eldorado Ballroom and seminal Fifth Ward R&B label Duke/Peacock Records.
One of the more intriguing ideas on the table is creating a blues-themed "Walk of Fame," a series of plaques or markers patterned after the Mississippi Blues Trail and, of course, all those stars on Hollywood Boulevard. Two possible locations that have been mentioned are downtown around Discovery Green and the streets of Midtown around the Continental Club compound.
True, this Walk of Fame isn't much more than an idea at this point, but it's an idea that has already drawn unanimous support from the Houston blues community and at least one person in City Hall, District I Councilman James Rodriguez. But, you know, we'd need some names for this thing, and there's no better person to ask than local blues historian and Down In Houston author Dr. Roger Wood. Here are his suggestions.
TEXAS JOHNNY BROWN: Master guitarist and songwriter, capable singer, active in recording since 1949; played with a long list of blues stars dating back to the 1940s; wrote "Two Steps From the Blues" for Bobby Bland; leader of the Quality Blues Band since the 1990s onstage (in Houston and well beyond, including national festivals) and on recordings.
JOHNNY COPELAND: Great Louisiana-born guitarist, songwriter and singer who came of age in the Third Ward; recorded for various regional labels before breaking big in the 1980s and '90s on labels such as Rounder and Verve.
GRADY GAINES: Fifth Ward-raised saxophonist and bandleader, played with lots of blues/R&B/pop stars in the 1950s and '60s including Little Richard. Sam Cooke, Little Willie John, et al.; staged a late 1980s comeback by organizing a band of Houston blues veterans and recording acclaimed albums for the New Orleans-based Blacktop Records.
ROY GAINES: Fifth Ward-raised blues guitarist and singer, heavily influenced by T-Bone Walker, whom he imitated on local stages as a child; moved to California, where in the last two decades he has released numerous fine blues albums.
CLARENCE GREEN: Guitarist, singer and bandleader of the longtime popular Houston group The Rhythmaires; recorded for various labels including Duke Records starting in the 1950s.
CLARENCE HOLLIMON: Fifth-Ward-born guitarist who played with numerous Duke/Peacock stars such as Bobby Bland, Junior Parker, et al., as well as with Texas City-born blues crooner Charles Brown, the great jazz-blues bandleader Arnett Cobb, and the original Jazz Crusaders; in later years teamed with his wife, Carol Fran, as a blues duo on stage and on various recordings.
MILTON HOPKINS: Guitarist who backed B. B. King for years, including on the great album B. B. King and Bobby Bland: Together Again for the First Time; leader of his own band since the 1980s, especially during a lengthy tenure at the Reddi Room.
JERRY LIGHTFOOT: Guitarist, singer, and songwriter who played a key role in bringing together the relatively younger generation of white blues enthusiasts such as himself and the older African-American blues community; played for years with Big Walter Price; recorded several fine albums.