Musical Benefit for Blues Legend Tracy Nelson – October 3
“After the Fire is Gone,” a benefit to raise funds to assist Tracy Nelson in rebuilding her home will be held on October 3rd at the Livingston Elks Club at 6:30 PM. Performing are Two Story Ranch, The Shufflebums with Rich Ruggles and Joanne Gardner, Poco Loco and Ms. Nelson herself.
Tracy Nelson will do a set of songs from her 40 plus years in the music business. She is one of the few female singers who has had hit records in both country and blue genres, performing with everyone from Muddy Waters to Willie Nelson to Marcia Ball and Irma Thomas, with Grammy nominations for both her country and blues efforts.
Recently featured on NPR’s “Weekend Edition,” Nelson lost her home outside Nashville to a fire earlier this summer. Her annual summer trip to Montana had to be postponed while she dealt with the aftermath of losing her home, two beloved dogs and many of her personal belongings. Luckily, the new CD that was being finished in her home studio survived the fire and will soon be released.
“Victim of the Blues,” a rather prescient title, will feature Tracy’s legendary voice doing songs from Howlin’ Wolf, Jimmy Reed and others. Tracy will be performing many of those new songs with the Shufflebums as well as favorites from her days as the lead singer of Mother Earth. [Listen to "One More Mile" from the CD, below]
“I’ve made so many friends in Livingston,” said Tracy Nelson, from her temporary home outside Nashville. “When Joanne (Gardner) moved to Montana a few years ago I started coming out – loved the people and of course the scenery, and took up with the Shufflebums, who are a really terrific band. We added Rich Ruggles on the keyboards and Joanne’s singing with us and it just sounds great.”
“ I hardly got the words out of my mouth about the fire and everyone said – what can we do?” said Joanne Gardner, Nelson’s friend and backup singer. “People have enjoyed coming to see Tracy at the Depot and Pine Creek. I hope they’ll come enjoy some amazing music all for a good cause. Tracy’s first Grammy nomination was for a song called ‘After the Fire is Gone,’ with Willie Nelson. . .seemed like the perfect thing to call this event.”
Tracy’s journey began in the early 1960′s when, while growing up in Madison, Wisconsin, she immersed herself in the R&B she heard beamed into her bedroom from Nashville’s WLAC. “It was like hearing music from Mars,” she recalls of the alien sounds that stirred her so. Later, she was bitten by the folk music bug, which she refers to as “the folk scare of the sixties.” As an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin, she combined her musical passions singing folk and blues at coffeehouses and R&B at frat parties as one of three singers fronting a band called The Fabulous Imitations when she was all of 18. In 1964 she went to Chicago to record her first album, Deep Are The Roots, produced by Sam Charters, and released by Prestige Records. A young harmonica player from Memphis named Charlie Musselwhite played on the album and the two would explore the city’s famed south side where she met and was inspired by such legendary figures as Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Spann and others.
A short time later, Tracy moved to San Francisco and, in the midst of the era’s psychedelic explosion, formed Mother Earth, a group that was named after the fatalistic Memphis Slim song of that title. Mother Earth, the group, true to its origin, was more grounded than freaky but, nonetheless, was a major attraction at The Fillmore where they encountered the likes of Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix and Eric Burdon who, as legend has it, was once bitten by Tracy’s dog. In 1968 Mother Earth recorded its first album, which included her own composition “Down So Low.” It became her signature song and was later to be covered by Etta James, Linda Rondstadt, Maria Muldaur and most recently Cyndi Lauper.
The second Mother Earth album, Make A Joyful Noise was recorded in Nashville in 1969, leading Tracy to rent a house and later buy a small farm in the area where she still lives today. As a side project, she soon recorded Mother Earth Presents Tracy Nelson Country for which she coaxed Elvis Presley’s original Sun-era guitarist Scotty Moore out of retirement to produce (with Pete Drake) and play on her rendition of Arthur “Big Boy” Cruddup’s “That’s All Right Mama.” In a way, the phenomenon that is Tracy Nelson is encapsulated in that circumstance: it’s a blues song, made famous by a rock ‘n roller, recorded on a country album by a folkie turned Fillmore goddess, produced by a rockabilly cat and a pedal steel player.
After six Mother Earth albums for Mercury Records and Reprise Records, Nelson continued to record throughout the ’70s as a solo artist on various labels. In 1974, she garnered her first Grammy nomination for “After the Fire Is Gone,” a track from her Atlantic Records album, a hit duet with Willie Nelson. Willie (who, despite the rumors, is not related to Tracy although he contends they just might be “the illegitimate children of Ozzie and Harriet”) provided liner notes for her Live at Cell Block D CD, noting of Tracy’s remarkable instrument, “that tremendous voice has only gotten better over the years.” For more information on Tracy, please go to www.tracynelson.com.
Don’t miss this opportunity to hear Tracy’s powerful voice for yourself and enjoy an evening of musicians helping one of their own. Tickets for the benefit are $20 and available at the door. The show will start at 6:30 PM. The Elks Lodge offers a cash bar. The Elks Lodge is located at the corner of 2nd and Lewis Street in historic downtown Livingston.
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For additional interview opportunities, please contact Joanne Gardner at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406/599-1075.
[Listen to "One More Mile"]