Is Chris Duarte The Greatest Living Guitarist?

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July 8, 2017

I have seen in concert or have listened to the recordings of most, if not all of the greatest rock and/or blues guitarists during the past forty-five years, and without a doubt one of the best is Chris Duarte. There have been comparisons made to Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix and there are several Duarte songs that have that SRV sound, but I believe it’s due more to a Texas blues shuffle thing going on than sounding like the man himself.

I have seen Duarte in concert five times and every show has been amazing. As someone who is not widely known, to put it mildly, I always saw him in very small bars and every time he puts on a two to three-hour show of amazing guitar playing for less than ten bucks. The only time I paid more for a ticket, and when he played less than two hours was when he opened for Gov’t Mule at Ludlow‘s, a bar in Columbus, Ohio, which cost fifteen dollars. These seven photographs were shot at Chelsie’s, a now defunct bar that was located in the Short North artisan district in Columbus on June 18, 1999. The price of the ticket was an incredible seven dollars. Needless to say, these photos were shot with film, and then the 4×6 prints were scanned onto my computer to be adjusted, framed and matted before being uploaded online.

For those who have yet to experience the fury of Chris’ playing, I would recommend starting with his 1994 album Texas Sugar/Strat Magik. However, on his 2003 album Romp, is his incredible version of the Bob Dylan song One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below). This song in itself is worth the price of the CD. It was while listening to this CD for the first time while setting up my computer for a new high-speed internet connection that I came up with the name of my new email address, that being DoTheRomp@SBCglobal.net, borrowing the title from the first song on the CD.

Do not take it from me as to the greatness of Chris Duarte, as on the guitarist’s website is a quote from Eddie Van Halen who, when asked during a 1989 Rock One Radio interview what’s it like to be greatest guitar player in the world, Van Halen replied “I don’t know, ask Chris Duarte.”

Do The Romp? Yes, indeed!

Steven H. Spring
Earth

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Muddy Waters #25A, 77A, 77B, 52A, 21C & 21B

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January 21, 2017

McKinley Morganfield (aka Muddy Waters) was born on April 4, 1913 in Jug’s Corner, Mississippi. Although he first began playing the blues on harmonica, by age 17 Muddy was playing local parties and juke joints on acoustic guitar. In 1940, Waters moved to Chicago for the first time, but soon returned home. During 1943, he returned to Chicago for good. In 1945, Muddy was given his first electric guitar from his uncle, Joe Grant, and the rest as they say is history. In 1950, Muddy recorded Rollin’ Stone, a song one decade later five young white, English lads would take as the name of the band, who would become the world’s greatest rock and roll band, The Rolling Stones. Over the years, Waters would have as his backing band some of the most respected sidemen in blues history, including Little Walter, Jimmy Rogers, Pinetop Perkins, Otis Spann, James Cotton, Calvin “Fuzz” Jones and Willie “Big Eyes” Smith.

In 1977, Waters recorded Hard Again, a comeback album of sorts that featured Johnny Winters on guitar, producer and miscellaneous screaming. The first song on the album is a blistering, powerful remake of his 1955 classic, Mannish Boy. For anyone not familiar with the music of Mr. Waters, this is the album to start with. If I could only own twelve albums, and what a hardship that would be, however this would definitely be one.

These photos were shot at a very small bar on the campus of The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, USA, and as such, the lighting was not very conducive to someone wanting to photograph arguably the greatest bluesman of all-time. As a matter of fact, of the two or three rolls of film I shot that night, only one print actually looked worthy of posting on my blog. All others came back underdeveloped. With the use of my computer, I was able to adjust both the color and contrast levels to make them presentable. The one print that looked halfway decent did not even make the final cut to this post. Instead of shooting only two or three rolls of thirty-six exposure film that night, if I had a digital camera back then, I most likely would have shot a thousand photos that night, if not more.

I have always thought the location of this show was Stache’s & Little Brothers. However, when doing some research, it seems the location was a place called High Street Brewing Company, but this might be the same locale, only under a different name. The date of the show was either Sunday February 8, 1981 or Tuesday November 3, 1981, as it seems that Waters played at this bar twice during that year.

Muddy Waters passed away in Chicago on April 30, 1983. The blues are rock and roll and Muddy Waters is the blues!

Steven H. Spring
Earth

Left Alone To Die

October 13, 2015

Twenty years ago today, on October 13, 1995, oddly enough a Friday, life as I knew it ended. Technically, I did not actually die, and there were a few close calls, but that whole day sure felt like hitting a brick wall head-on doing ninety miles an hour. It was on that dreadful day that I was falsely accused by a subordinate at work of sexual harassment, along with several other serious charges. After being interrogated by a couple of “investigators” and after numerous hearings, I was found innocent of all charges by the Auditor of State of Ohio, which I was employed at the time as an audit supervisor. However, the acquisitions resulted in me losing everything that mattered most in life. It cost me my job, career, health, marriage and most of all my precious children.

What cost me my career was that between my attorney and myself, we made the entire Auditor of State’s office look like bumbling idiots. At my final hearing, it was just the two of us against every high-ranking official in the Auditor’ office except for only the Auditor of State himself. And yet, they looked like complete fools. My attorney kicked all their asses. Each hearing led to another with more officials getting involved. I remember one time someone had to warn the Columbus district supervisor that he needed to calm down, so out of control was he. It was far more circus than kangaroo court. If only I had hired my attorney prior to being interrogated. During the interrogation, I was denied repeated requests for legal counsel by the two “investigators.” I was even told I could not leave after stating more than once that I was going back to work. It wasn’t until they brought in their supervisor, that legal order was somewhat restored.

Losing everything all at once was hard enough to take, however to make matters far worse was the ordeal of quitting my medication cold-turkey. I kept working for about six months after the acquisitions were first filed against me, and over that time, with the approval of two doctors I upped the amount of anti-depressants that I was taking four times the amount one should ever take. When I lost my job and benefits, my nightmare really begin. I went through Hell, both emotionally and physically, while withdrawing cold-turkey from the anti-depressants. I still suffer from numerous side affects of the withdrawal, and will probably do so the rest of my life. Only by the grace and mercy of God did I survive.

My children meant the world to me. I grew up never knowing my father. And, to say that my mother and I never got along is putting it mildly. The best way to sum up my relationship with my mother is something my ex-wife once said to me; my mother told her that she had better think twice before marrying me. Wow, what a ringing endorsement (that accidental pun is intended). If truth be told, it was my ex who asked me to marry her. I did, however, end up in a bad marriage.

The relationship with my ex-wife ended not long after our children were born. I place no blame on the children, it was solely the fault of both my ex and myself, but that was what happened. Except for going to a Buckeye football game once a year and an occasional concert, we did nothing together.  Sad to say, we even stopped talking to each other. When my babies came into my life, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. Losing them devastated me. I paid a terrible price for any youthful indiscretion that may have possessed me. It haunts me every single day, and will haunt me all my remaining days.

If any good came out of my mid-life crisis it was buying my first Fender Stratocaster guitar exactly one month after that horrific day, which was my fortieth birthday. I can take a decent photograph, but playing a guitar has been a life-long dream. I’m still not very good, but believe I am getting pretty close to being really good. My guitars gave me the will to live during many dark years. And, still do to this very day. My ordeal also gave me some great ideas for putting words down on paper. I pull no punches, and as I once told a psychologist, my mouth has always gotten me in trouble, as I have always spoken my mind.

The following is something I wrote in April of 2001;

Left alone to die,
I was left all alone to die.
No one seemed to care,
No one had the decency to come by.

The look of death, my neighbor said,
Was evident in my eyes.
In and out of emergency rooms,
Was the only way I managed to get by.

Down on the farm and down on my luck,
And with a family that did not give a fuck.
So unstable was I at that time,
That I destroyed my brand new, bright red Dodge pick-up truck.

Left alone to die,
I was left all alone to die.
If it wasn’t for the man above,
I would not have survived.

Physicians whom I no longer had a plan,
Left me all along to die, there is little doubt.
Of the Hell I went through,
When the meds suddenly all ran out.

Down on my knees, shakin’ in pain,
Out of control and out of my mind.
Pleading with the good Lord, please help me get by,
Life was unbearable, all I wanted to do was die.

Lawyers too, had stopped their shout,
No longer cared after the money ran out.
Cost me my job and career,
They had nothing to lose, nothing to fear.

Family whom I no longer had,
Left me there all alone to die.
If it wasn’t for the merciful man up above,
I never would have survived.

Steven H. Spring

Is Chris Duarte The World’s Greatest Living Guitarist?

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May 18, 2014

I have seen in concert or have listened to the recordings of most, if not all of the greatest rock and/or blues guitarists during the past forty years, and without a doubt one of the best is Austin, Texas-based Chris Duarte. There have been comparisons made to Stevie Ray and Jimi Hendrix and there are several Duarte songs that have that SRV sound, but I believe it’s due more to a Texas blues shuffle thing going on than sounding like the man himself.

I have seen Duarte in concert five times and every show has been amazing. As someone who is not widely known, to put it mildly, I always saw him in very small bars and every time he puts on a two to three-hour show of amazing guitar playing for less than ten bucks. The only time I paid more for a ticket, and when he played less than two hours was when he opened for Gov’t Mule, which cost fifteen dollars. These ten photographs were shot at Chelsie’s, a now defunct bar that was located in the Short North artisan district in Columbus, Ohio on January 15, 1999. Needless to say, these photos were shot with film, and then the 4×6 prints were scanned onto my computer to be adjusted, framed and matted before being uploaded online.

For those who have yet to experience the fury of Chris’ playing, I would recommend starting with his 1994 album Texas Sugar/Strat Magik. However, on his 2003 album Romp, is his incredible version of the Bob Dylan song One More Cup Of Coffee (Valley Below). This song in itself is worth the price of the CD. It was while listening to this CD for the first time while setting up my computer for a new high-speed internet connection that I came up with the name of my new email address, that being DoTheRomp@SBCglobal.net, borrowing the title of the first song on this CD.

Do not take it from me as to the greatness of Chris Duarte, as on the guitarist’s website is a quote from Eddie Van Halen who, when asked during a 1989 Rock One Radio interview what’s it like to be greatest guitar player in the world, Van Halen replied “I don’t know, ask Chris Duarte.”

Do The Romp? Yes, indeed!

Steven H. Spring

If I Were The Editor Of Guitar Player Magazine…

February 10, 2014

After reading the article 50 BADASS BLUES SOLOS YOU MUST HEAR in this month’s Guitar Player magazine, and noting that they left out several incredible blues guitarists, I just had to write their new write in feature, If I Were The Editor Of Guitar Player Magazine… to correct this huge oversight.  The only requirement is that letters be limited to seventy-five to hundred words, which necessitated quite a bit of editing on my part to keep it short and to the point.

The following is my reply.

February 7, 2014

Guitar Player
C/o If I Were Editor Of Guitar Player…
2800 Campus Drive
San Mateo, California  94403

Dear Player,

If I were the editor of Guitar Player magazine, I would be kicking myself for excluding so many great blues guitarists from last month’s feature article 50 BADASS BLUES SOLOS YOU MUST HEAR!  Limiting such a list to only fifty blues solos would be a daunting task, and for the most part, I did agree with the majority of the guitarists featured; however, there were a few names that I did not recognize, such as Amos Garrett, Greg Koch, Wilson T. King and Oz Noy.  There were a couple of names I know but would have left off the list, one being John Meyer.

These cats might very well be great pickers, however to include them at the expense of Chris Duarte, Tinsley Ellis, Walter Trout, Jimmy Thackery and Ronnie Earl was a huge oversight on any magazine’s part!

Sincerely,
Steven H. Spring

Eric Clapton, Duane Allman & Michael Bloomfield

January 30, 2014

Grabbing the latest issue of Guitar World out of my mailbox this afternoon, the first thing I noticed was the cover photo of Eric Clapton, along with the headline The 50 Greatest Eric Clapton Songs Of All Time.  Those who really know me know that I am a Clapton freak.  Stevie Ray looks down on me from the 20×30 poster hanging above my computer table of a photo I shot of him at the Ohio State Fair around 1986, maybe 1987, and was devastated when he died (and still am), and I love a lot of other unbelievable pickers, however, I think based solely on recorded output, no one compares to EC.  I have seen Clapton many times through the years, the first time being at St. John’s Arena, on the campus of Ohio State University on July 4, 1974.

I quickly scanned the magazine’s list of Clapton’s greatest songs, and mostly agree with their selection, however there are a few that I would not have included, songs such as Sleepy Time Time by Cream, ranked number ten (they even include an alternate version of the song at number twenty as well, I Shot The Sheriff at number twenty-two or Lay Down Sally at number forty-two.  It was when flipping the page searching for the last few entries, that I saw a photo of Duane Allman with the tile Dominos Effect, along with the subtitle When Duane Allman sat in with Eric Clapton for Derek and the Dominos’ Layla album sessions in 1970, it was the gig of a lifetime…and it nearly sidelined the Allman Brothers Band.

I have had a subscription to both Guitar World and Guitar Player ever since I started my quest to become a guitar player seventeen years ago, and for the most part, my generalization of these two magazines is that Guitar Player seems more geared towards an older crowd while Guitar World seems aimed at a more heavier rock, much younger than myself type of reader.  Seeing two back-to-back articles about artists and an album that I really like looked very promising.  I have long thought that Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs is the greatest rock album of all time, although I must admit to rating Layla along with Stairway To Heaven and Free Bird as songs that radio played a million times too often.  The Layla album does contain lovely tunes such as Bell Bottom Blues, Keep On Growing, Anyday, Key To The Highway, Tell The Truth, Why Does Love Got To Be So Sad, Have You Ever Loved A Woman and Little Wing.  This album is a rock and/or blues masterpiece.

Flipping past the Layla article, I was astonished to see a photograph of Michael Bloomfield with the headline Blues Power House, with the subtitle He was one of the greatest electric blues guitarists of his time, but Michael Bloomfield is nearly forgotten today.  His friend and collaborator Al Kooper hopes to change that with the new box-set retrospective From His Head To His Heart To His Hands.  It is a misnomer to call Bloomfield one of the greatest blues guitarists of his time, Michael Bloomfield is one of the greatest blues guitarists of ALL time, most certainly, the greatest white blues guitarist ever!

Back-to-back-to-back articles about two of my favorite guitarists, along with an article about the recording of arguably the greatest album of all time, it does not get any better than that on a very cold, winter day!

Steven H. Spring

The Ballad Of Trayvon Martin

July 14, 2013

Once again, it is America’s archaic wild, wild west gun laws and now “stand your ground” laws in thirty states that all but give a shooter the legal right to kill anyone if they feel “threatened” that has resulted in one man walking away apparently free from any legal consequences while a seventeen year old young man lay dead in one more senseless shooting that never should have happened.  As George Zimmerman was found not guilty of all charges late Saturday night, and having listened to former prosecutors and defense attorneys giving their opinions throughout the course of the trial, it seems to me that like the OJ Simpson murder trial, the prosecution was out-lawyered during this trial.  I had never heard of MSNBC legal analyst Lisa Bloom, a former prosecutor, before this trial began, however I firmly believe had she been the lead prosecutor for this case, George Zimmerman would not be a free man today.

I must admit that this is certainly not one of the better songs/poems that I have attempted to write, as I wanted to finish it by the time the jury returned its verdict.  Given more time, and thanks to the editing capabilities of word processors, I will be able to make additional proof readings and make any changes I see fit in the days to come.  Hopefully, I am a much better photographer and guitarist than I am a writer or poems and songs.  However, that may be due only to the fact that I have spent many more thousands of hours shooting pictures and playing my guitars than I have writing songs.  That being said, the following is dedicated to the slain young man’s family.

The Ballad Of Trayvon Martin

Trayvon Martin, never stood a chance
Shot down in cold blood by a man who wanted street cred
Poor George Zimmerman, he wouldn’t have done anything differently, he said
Didn’t have any choice in a shooting that left young Martin dead

“Fuckin’ punks, these assholes always get away”
Were the words Zimmerman used when calling non-emergency 911
Based only on the color of his target’s skin and the clothes he wore
Pity poor Sybrina Fulton, she had to bury her teenage son

The lawyers say Trayvon Martin was the aggressor, it was he who stated the fight
Snuck up from the dark and sucker punched the neighborhood watch captain
Bashing Zimmerman’s head down against the sidewalk
His attorneys said in court over and over again and again

Busted poor George’s nose, and giving him cuts on the back of his head
He was the one screaming for help the attorneys said
Martin had his hands over Zimmerman’s bloody nose and mouth they assailed
However, the dead boy had no blood or DNA under any of his fingernails

Thought he was a cop, talking the policeman’s jargon
“They always come out at night,” George Zimmerman had said
It was God’s plan he told a popular talk show host
For him to shoot the young man dead

Witness after witness testified that they saw Zimmerman on top during the fight for life
Trayvon was armed with a concrete sidewalk was what the attorneys said in defense of their man
Blows were raining down by the assailant from above MMA style
Yet it was Zimmerman who had this type of training, Martin had only one small cut to his hands

The gun magazine was fully loaded and one in the chamber, locked and loaded, ready to fire
The defense team tried to say Trayvon was up to no good
Tried to run if only he could, but shot down where he stood
Profiling indeed, as he was nothin’ but a young black man in a hood…ie

George Zimmerman had an attitude and a loaded gun
Young Trayvon Martin was armed with only a 20 ounce ice tea and a bag of Skittles
Stalked like an animal, poor Trayvon Martin didn’t stand a chance
Now he won’t be able to attend his high school’s senior dance

A “creepy-ass cracker” was following him was what he told his friend Rachel Jeantel
Then the sound of headphones hitting the ground and him yelling “Get off! Get off”
There seems to be little doubt that it was George Zimmerman
The life of Trayvon Martin he did steal

Disclosure: For approximately twenty-five years, I have loved the candy Skittles.  And to further muddy my way of thinking defense lawyers might argue, sweet ice tea has been my drink of choice for more than fifty years.  I will admit to having on more than one occasion boasting that I make the best ice tea in the world.  However, I do not believe these facts had any bearing of my interpretation regarding the facts of this case.  And, this disclosure was in no way written to make light of such a tragic incident.

Steven H. Spring