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Early Blues Interview
Michael Frank
Owner of the Earwig Music Company, Producer, Artist Manager and Social Worker

Honeyboy Edwards © Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved.
Michael Frank managed the career of David Honeyboy Edwards for 27 years and knew him for 39 years
© Copyright 2010 Alan White. All Rights Reserved. Taken at The Chicago Blues Festival 2010.

'Interaction between friends' - an interview with Michael Frank by Billy Hutchinson

Michael Frank is a qualified social worker, the Owner of record label Earwig Music Company, Producer, Artist manager and a huge Blues fan. Blues would be far less accessible if not for those who do not give a damn for profit, be it venue owners or independent labels. I hope you enjoy Frank’s candid interview from his invaluable experiences as much as I did. 

Billy: Michael I believe you hail from Pittsburgh, from a literary family.

Michael: Well literate (laughs). My Mother is still alive living on her own in a suburb of Pittsburgh at 98. She is in the middle of revising her life’s story; she wrote her autobiography when she turned 90 now she is working on updating it. My father was a publisher of a magazine he died in 1989. We all had to hold our own verbally, just to sit at the dinner table so (laughs). 

Billy: I heard you got into the Blues via the ‘60’s British Blues Boom.

Michael: Yeah around there, I mean in ’63 I was 14, I was listening to The Beatles, The Stones and all those people when they first hit the scene. I found out whom they were listening to, and then I started buying all those records. I have a vague recollection of seeing Muddy Waters at the Pittsburgh Jazz Festival in a huge indoor arena. I could barely see him, but he was the only Blues guy on the stage, and then I saw him again about six years later up close at the “Village Gate” in New York City. He was on the bill with Lou Rawls, in his “Tobacco Road” period. I was really into the Blues by that time. 

Billy: I read that you were a big record collector, and even bought up a whole catalogue wholesale.

Michael: Yes, I did I found a record store where I was going to college at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania run by a guy who would be probably be called a hippy now, but he was a Peacenik. I had a bunch of Delmark records and others, I would order a whole lot of them and he would give me like a wholesale price. (Laughs) I don’t know how he made any money. So that is how I got the whole Delmark catalogue, the Biograph and Arhoolie. I didn’t know who a lot of these musicians were, but I read a few Blues magazines, a few Blues books that were around….the Paul Oliver stuff, I read “Blues Unlimited”, “Living Blues” after that. (Laughs) I still have those magazines. I was just fascinated by the culture and the music along with the history of these guys. So when I could read the liner notes on the LP’s…”Remember those days”? I still have a lot of them; most of them that are left are the ones I got while going through college. 

Billy: So when did you move up to Chicago?

Michael: In June of 1972, I’d been out of college about a year, then I moved up here. I was in Detroit first, I was up looking for a job with a degree in Sociology. I knew I was going to be in an urban Blues set up where there was going to be a lot of black Blues musicians. I spent about a week looking for job interviews, and looking up Blues musicians. I didn’t get hired in Detroit so I came over to Chicago, but I met Bobo Jenkins, the folks that ran “Fortune Records” were still in business, so after a week in Detroit I met those fellas. 

Billy: I was surprised to find that you met David “Honeyboy” Edwards almost as soon as you moved into Chicago.

Michael: Just a few months after I got here, I met him October or November of ’72. Yeah he and Blind Jim Brewer were playing at a Blues club; actually just about a mile from where I am living now called “Biddy Mulligan’s”. Honeyboy was 57 I was 23. He wasn’t working a lot, a few little gigs in a few little bars on the Southside. Occasionally he would get a call from somebody out East to do a gig, but he wasn’t doing a whole lot. This was after he had recorded for “Adelphi Records” and before he did the album for “Trix”. He had gotten a little bit of notoriety from the Adelphi record that came out as a double LP “Really Chicago’s Blues”. I don’t know if you have that, but it is a really good record. It has John Lee Granderson, Sunnyland Slim, Big Walter Horton, Big Joe Williams and Honeyboy... and Johnny Shines too. Some of them were playing together. When Adelphi put out that CD in the mid ‘90’s of Honeyboy, it was from those sessions that Adelphi had not released. I knew about Blind Jim Brewer because of his track on the Testament LP about the death of President Kennedy. I ended up managing Jim’s career too. 

Billy: I have to go off script to ask you about the little known maestro Big Walter Horton, and all you know about him?

Michael: Walter detested people taking his photo, and often cursed people over the microphone for doing so. It seemed to throw off his concentration; and a flash may have bothered his eyes. Honeyboy told me that when Big Walter was young he rocked back and forth, so he was called Shakey. Louisiana Red did so also during the time I knew him. It was a way to calm themselves. I had to buy an individual photo from Dee Shigley because Walter would not let my Old Friends cover photographer take a shot of him alone, in addition to the group shot, for my second Earwig release, “Old Friends”. 

Billy; Strange, did anyone including Honeyboy have any insight into that?

Michael: I do not recall us discussing that. I surmise that both Walter and Honeyboy felt exploited by photographers, feeling that they must be making money on the photos, or had some ulterior motive. Honeyboy had that attitude about journalists who talked too long, and about photographers who took more than a few pictures, although he would usually accommodate them, after complaining to me about it before and after (laughs).  

Billy: So how did you get involved with the Jazz Record Mart, and it seems strange to me that Bob Koester encouraged all his enthusiastic staff to start their own label, which probably would be future competition?

Michael: When I went to Chicago, I had about every Delmark Blues record. I actually wrote Bob a letter, I think maybe while I was a junior or a senior at college, enquiring about a job. I was to find out later from Bob that other people had written similar letters, thinking that he was a big operation. I actually met Bob when I came over here for a Thanksgiving weekend with a couple of Fraternity brothers in November 1970. About 800 miles in the middle of a blizzard to hear some Blues for three nights. The first night was at “Theresa’s tavern” on Thanksgiving night, it was a brutally cold weekend. Junior Wells and Buddy Guy and Lefty Dizz and Sammy Lawhorn and all those guys were all in there, so it was like nirvana. The next night was Mighty Joe Young at the “Wise Fool’s”, and Lonnie Brooks on Westside at the “Avenue Lounge” on Saturday night, but on the Friday, I went to the Jazz Record Mart. I met Bob Koester and Bruce Iglauer who worked as a clerk at the time. So that was my first introduction to Bob, and then when I moved there I knew that to find out what was going on in town was the Jazz Record Mart and from Jim and Amy O’Neal’s. I started going out on Friday nights with Bob Koester, I think in around ’75 I asked him for a part-time job, and I got a job as a clerk in his store. I was spending all my money though on Blues records because I had a full-time job as well (laughs). He had that employee discount; anyway, I was the floorwalker that would steer people to Blues records. If they did not know what to buy, I would tell them about all the different artists even if I did not know all the particular records as he had many different labels in there.

Bob wasn’t that kind of person that would worry about competition, or the jealous type. He just loved and still does loves the music, and as long as I have known him shared his knowledge, information and enthusiasm with people. He supported the genres of Blues and jazz and wanted to see as much of it known to the public as possible. That was just Bob’s open mind and open heart about sharing it. All of us that I know that have worked for him still have that feeling about it. You know most of the people I have met in the Blues world that have labels, we all encourage each other because we know it is a small niche and it is a difficult one to be in; we just mostly love the music, all of us. Jerry DelGuidice from “Blind Pig” worked there, not when I was there, none of us actually worked at the same time together. Bruce Iglauer worked there before I did; in fact, one of the memories I have of Bruce is that he introduced me to Bea Houston who had a really good record on “Arhoolie”. I think Bruce Kaplan of “Flying Fish Records” worked there at one time, and Don Kent who went to work at Shanachie Records”. In the orbit of Bob was a bunch of us that were friends or hangers-on. We had a little informal group called, “Blues Amalgamated”. It was Jim and Amy O’Neal, and Steve Thomashevsky who worked for Bob (Steve is a lawyer in town), Wesley Race a Blues poet – he is a Blues fanatic who never produced any music but he would always be hanging around in the black clubs especially around Hound Dog Taylor. There was a bunch of us who all hung out around the same clubs like Rick Kreher, who went on to become the last rhythm guitar player in the Muddy Waters band. Every once and awhile we have a re-union, we had a one a couple of years ago at the Blues festival. Barry Dolins wasn’t in that club, but the late 70’s he came on the scene working for the City of Chicago producing Blues concerts. He was employed at the Loyola University for awhile. He had Homesick James, Honeyboy and Sunnyland come to his class, so later on we included him in that group. 

Billy: How long was it before you got the idea about “Earwig Records”?

Michael: I met the “Jelly Roll Kings”, Frank Frost, Sam Carr and Jack Johnson in ’75, which was only three years after I first went to Chicago. I met them twice on the way down and back from the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. I met Frank and Sam at a roadhouse at the junction of 61 and 49 going to Helena, Arkansas. There is a State Tourism Centre there now, right near where the roadhouse was. I just stopped in there to ask directions, and find out where Lula was because it was so dark back then, and Highway 61 was just one lane in each direction. I told the barmaid why I was there, and who I was looking for and she just pointed over in the corner and there was Frank Frost playing pool, and Sam Carr was running a dice game. I went the next morning to Clarksdale and I met Jack and his wife Anjanette. On that, same night on Saturday night in April of ’75 is when I heard them for the first time. A week later, I came back and saw them again, I didn’t forget about them, and I looked them up again the same weekend, three years later. After seeing them that time, I must have talked to Bob about them because that is when I started my label after that second trip.

© Copyright 2010 Billy Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved.By that time I was already quite a bit involved with Honeyboy and Kansas City Red and Floyd Jones, and we had a band together. It was sort of odd that I would start my label with the “Jellyroll Kings”. Bob told all of us, “If you’re going to start a record label you got to think of more than one record, you don’t have a catalogue until you have two records”. It came to me that I should have recorded Honeyboy and Sunnyland (Slim) and those guys so that is why the second album came about. I needed to record a second album, and I had those relationships already. I didn’t really know Big Walter (Horton) very well, but I knew he was really closely associated with Honeyboy, Sunnyland, Kansas City Red and Floyd Jones individually. It was my idea to put them together in a band for the record, and that was the only time they recorded as a quintet. This was the days after Chess (prior GRT takeover) etc, so Bob and I and Bruce didn’t think exclusivity at that time, the bluesmen at that time weren’t by and large contracted. You might have thought maybe Walter or Sunnyland might have had contracts at that time, but they were not recording much at that point. Honeyboy had no albums out at that time, all he had out were some recordings that were individual tracks, ones of which I had in my collection, and how I already knew about him. At that time it was quite easy to make an album of somebody, if you had the money and they were willing you just did it, we all did it. Jim O’Neal started his label, “Rooster Blues”, Frank Bandy, a bass player who started a label maybe in the early ‘80s he started a label by recording Hip Linkchain. 

Billy: Two of your albums I get a real kick out of are not the big names but, Big Leon Brooks “Let’s Go To Town”, and Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones, “Ain’t Gonna Worry”.

Michael: Well that record with Big Leon Brooks I didn’t produce, that was produced by a friend of mine Bob Corritore who has the “Rhythm Room” in Phoenix now. I started my recording in 1978, I think Bob started recording in 1980, right around the time Jim O’Neal started “Rooster Blues”. Bob Corritore decided he didn’t like the realities of the record label business so he put out Big Leon Brooks which was his second album, Little Willie Anderson was his first one, because Bob is a harmonica player. When he got tired of being in the record business, he closed his label but continued to play, moved to Phoenix, and started his club. Big Leon Brooks and Little Willie Anderson used to play at a few little clubs in the Black community, and more frequently a little club that John Brim started for a few months on the North side of Chicago. Big Leon would come and play in there with James Scott a guitar player, and Floyd Jones was in there a lot. Little Willie Anderson would come in there too, but they weren’t playing very many gigs on their own at all, they would just show up. Big Leon died of some terminal illness pretty young. I love harmonic too, I’m a harmonica player too, but that is not my main focus as a label.

Johnny “Yard Dog” Jones is somebody I heard about because he was living in Detroit at the time, when he lived in Chicago he wasn’t really playing. I started hearing about him through “Big City Blues” magazine, and my friends Robert and Shirley Mae Whitall the magazines publishers. They started telling me about him, and they may well have introduced me to him. I quickly realised how great an artist he was. He did a couple of track for a little label in Detroit before I recorded him. I just lucked out there; he’s a great artist, great guitar player, harmonica player and songwriter, a fabulous songwriter and a singer so a total package as a musician. He didn’t really have the drive to deal with all the hard times in the music business, so he got easily discouraged. Having said that I talked to him last week, he wants to get back into it (laughs). I got him a booking agent, but the guy was a new guy that was busy teaching himself. Trying to get a booking agent when there is a shortage of booking agents, so a lot of musicians like Johnny who have been around a long time and are really talented, wonder why they can’t get an established booking agent. There are a lot of reasons for it, but he didn’t have one and like a lot of the older musicians that I have known they wanted to equate longevity as a musician and talent to how much they should get paid. In an ideal world, I would agree with them, but in the reality in the marketplace that doesn’t match up a lot of the times.

Like a lot of old guys that I’ve known he had a very clear idea of how he wanted his music to sound, and he had trouble in finding musicians that would learn his music and play it the way he wanted them to play it. So he got frustrated right behind that Handy Award he got, but he didn’t quit creating music, he was just sitting at home. He moved to Decatur, Illinois and has been there for oh I don’t know, at least 10 yrs now. He has been writing material, and he wants to get back out playing again. You know when I did the Honeyboy Edwards, “Roamin’’ and Ramblin’” CD, which was the last recording Honeyboy made, in 2007, I recorded that. I brought Johnny in to play some tracks with Honeyboy, and while he was in the studio I recorded four other tracks I think, with him, and Chris James on guitar and Patrick Rynn on bass. I might have had Kenny Smith on drums, I can’t remember if I had a drummer, but if I did it was Kenny. So I have some additional tracks with Johnny that I hope at some point to be able to record another record with him. One of all my favourites of all time that I have recorded in terms of talent, as a songwriter, as an extremely passionate outstanding singer, with a different way of blending Blues and gospel together in his guitar playing. Just as good as anyone I think, so he is really high up there in my book. 

Billy: Can we get on about Honeyboy who you knew for 39 years, a very long time for any relationship.

Michael: I met Honeyboy at a time in our lives when in a way we were just starting out. I was just starting out as an adult on my own, and he was at a period where he was still working day jobs, but was wanting to do more. His wife died in June of ’72, just a few months before I met him, and I met him in the fall, so we were both in a transitional period. He was very open to people who knew who he was, and liked the Blues. He was down to earth, and that is how I was able to talk to him at “Biddy Mulligan’s”. Initially Blues guys can be guarded, and some parts of Honeyboy could be like that too, but most of those I encountered were friendly then as we got to know each other. When I met Honeyboy, I just started to go to his house, and hanging out with him and talking with him, and some of the weekends, we would just jam in his front room of his little two and a half-room apartment. The whole neighbourhood would hear him playing, and it would just be like being in the country as he would say, or being in small town Mississippi where the doors were not locked and people just came in, they didn’t have to be asked in.

© Copyright 2010 Billy Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved.


I knew enough about Blues history by that point that we could talk about some of his friends and so on. Little by little, I got into his orbit, the people in his life started to know me, and I started to know them. Back in those days Honeyboy drank quite a bit, especially when we played he drank a lot. He wasn’t somebody everyday of the week that he was drinking, but when we played, especially at his house there was a lot of heavy drinking. On a few occasions, I saw a some of the conflict it fuelled, it wasn’t the cause, I saw a few nasty arguments there where I thought somebody was going to get hurt. He and his brother Mack were really close, his brother came around. He was living in the city driving a garbage truck, and he played a little harmonica. I got to know them at the same time, but not his brother as much. One of these instances where I saw this protective and fierce side of Honeyboy was at one of these jam sessions. Honeyboy and his brother tried to break up this fight between somebody else, so in the process Honeyboy thought his brother was going to get hurt. That was the time I saw something that was on the edge of a violent act, just about to take place, and scary as hell. I had experiences with Honeyboy all the way through from when I didn’t really know him until the end. He knew a lot about life, he was very observant, and he didn’t have a lot of education, but he had street sense, and he was literate, he was definitely literate….he read quite a lot. As we got to work together, and we got to know each other better sometimes there was a cultural, educational, and class conflict that came out when one of us had a strong opinion about something. Usually it happened when he was not happy about some aspect of the business, or if I asked him to do something, which I felt was in his best interest, but that he did not want to do. Maybe when the money was a bit off, maybe it wasn’t what he expected.

At those times, it was really clear to me about how all his life experiences affected his music. How all those things we did not have in common, class, race, economics, education, how those really….I sometimes thought I was a stand-in for the system where he was when he left the plantation to play the Blues. Those experiences, and the times I was at his house jamming, and seeing how his music meant to the different generations in the house, all of that mixed up together gave me a lot more insight to where the deepest origins of the Blues came from. When I was in his house listening to music and playing music, I really got a sense of community, and how the Blues in the African community is very integral, and how music is a very common sense of experience and shared experience. It carries a lot of cultural experience. Between that and the clashes that we had at times from time to time, I just got a much deeper sense of the Blues as more than just a form of music.

As Honeyboy and I got to know each other better we got to talk about that sometimes, and he told me stories that eventually got us to do a book together. He was a complex person in many ways, he thought a lot about what was going on in society, hardly anything ever got by him that he had not noticed. It occurred to me that his choice to play the Blues required him to have those kind of skill sets, to be observant, to be able to judge people, and know when to behave in a certain way, how to negotiate and cross over into different boundaries in society. Because he was so good at that, plus being a great musician and an outgoing type of person he was able to be successful at that, as a young guy not being a plantation sharecropper that was a choice he made, but the success at it had a lot to do with the astute awareness he had of his surroundings.

It was a pretty risky undertaking being a train hobo, he was arrested for vagrancy at least three times. He went to a County Farm when he was about 17, and that was very formative at the way he would later look at things. The guy who was the County Farm Overseer actually took care of him as he was very sick, and the guy nursed him back to health by giving him better food than the other prisoners. It was also very stressful to Honeyboy because he was worried if his Father would find out he was in there, because that would put a big financial strain on his Father. In fact, he did his time before his Father realised where he was. Being on the County Farm made a big impact on him about oppression, because he saw people being beaten, he also told me about the race riots he’d heard about. He did not have a lot of bitterness to white people in general like some people, he knew there were good and bad white people. He said that many times throughout his life. His life experiences never left him embittered, but when he felt something wasn’t right like a business deal, or something he experienced made him feel like he was young, then he would really push back verbally.

Going through that it was very uncomfortable because we had a lot of emotion that triggered so many past memories and issues, but because of the trust in each other on a deeper level with each other we were able to break through that. It allowed us to build a stronger relationship, because we knew we would always be there for each other. We were able and willing to communicate with each other, with other musicians it was not as easy as they were not as good at communicating as he was. Another thing I learned about from Honeyboy on life was he didn’t forget things that bothered him, but he did not let them stress him for very long. Kansas City Red was very much like that too. Honeyboy had a lot of people around him that were poor, had problems with drugs or alcohol, in and out of his house, but he seemed comfortable around those types of people. Periodically one of them would steal something from him or do something. He would never forget that, but he would never write them off, yeah he would be upset about it, but he wouldn’t let it eat up on him. Sometimes he would set some boundaries by reminding one of us in either a playful way, or a not so playful way about something that we did or that he was not happy with, then that would be it. He was not goading us or teasing us, but more saying, OK don’t do that again, don’t screw up like that again.

© Copyright 2010 Billy Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved.

There were a couple of people who would like to come and visit, and sit around and play guitar, and say they wanted to be musicians, but they weren’t serious. (Laughs) This one guy Tommy (not his real name) would visit, bring a twelve pack of beer and a lot of reefer and sit around. Honeyboy was too nice a guy to tell him, “Hey you’ve been here for two hours, so go home”. The guy would hang around a long time, and keep pestering Honeyboy to hire him to play with us. Honeyboy would tell me about it later, and tease me, give me a hard time saying, “Tommy says you won’t give him a break”. Deep down Honeyboy knew this guy wasn’t musically ready, but Honeyboy just would not tell him so. One time we let Tommy come on a trip with us on the road, to this little place with about 85 seats, a little bar that was sold out. After the first set we called Tommy up, on guitar. He was so over his head that he started making mistakes messing Honeyboy up. When Honeyboy felt that somebody was messing up on stage he would say so right on stage, the audience may not know it, but he would say it either to me or to the other musician. At the end of that set this guy really knew that he screwed up on stage, and we all knew this. Honeyboy and I joked about that up until the end of Honeyboy’s life, we both took a liking to this guy, but he would never do what it would take to get him to where he could play with other musicians on a stage. 

Billy: Can you explain to me Michael, I saw Honeyboy the first time he toured here and I was disappointed after reading about him prior. It seemed to me and several others this guy had lost it, and yet on following tours he got so much better.

Michael: Well it was a bunch of different things; one is that in the last probably twenty years of his life the gigs just escalated. Finally, it ebbed and flowed with my schedule, because of the 25 of the years of the 40 that I knew him I had a full-time job. When he was younger he would go out on his own, however how often he would go out became less frequent. When I finally quit my job in 2005 for the last time, we toured all over the world after that. He had a lot more gigs, and I was with him on all of them; he became less rusty between gigs. Other things got involved that other people were not aware of because I was his road manager, the guy in his band, his friend and all these different things. One was his hearing deteriorated over time, and he was very stubborn about that, wouldn’t wear a hearing aid. I think he minimised the severity in his own mind of the hearing issue. The way it affected his shows was that he would get out of tune a lot, that was the function of his hearing, and because of the fact he really liked thin strings and squeezed them and bent them a lot. On some shows, he drank a lot, so I don’t know which of those factors might have been in play when you saw him. Those of us that played with him a lot understood that what some musicians thought were mistakes were not. Being out of tune yes, but playing in his own timing which was irregular within one song and between songs. There was some degree of predictability about it. Especially to those of us who played with him enough, in order to hear the patterns. Some people didn’t understand what they call country timing and thought it was mistakes. When he was a solo player for most of his early life he could do whatever he wanted, he made his guitar playing fit his voice. There was a certain element of spontaneity, resulting in Honeyboy making turnarounds and changes, where he would take the breaks. Also how long his solo would be or how long he would hold a note. I know Robert Lockwood would have a snobby attitude about it. I know he had consistent timing, great tone, great technique, and he and Honeyboy had a friendship for most of their adult lives, but Robert at least when I heard him express it always felt he was so much better a player than Honeyboy and more sophisticated, and he did know a lot of music that Honeyboy didn’t know. Robert was into just playing, and not a communicator with his audience other with his music, the contrast would be like night and day on stage together. There would be times when I would ask Honeyboy to play certain songs, more traditional stuff from early in his life like a Charlie Patton song or “Rollin’ and Tumblin”, especially prior to that last five years of his life. Sometimes he would get really aggravated with me for asking, and he wouldn’t do ‘em. When I least expected it on a show he would just decide do something like that, but if I had asked him he may very well have not done it (laughs). A lot of times I wanted him to have two guitars with him, so one could be in open D or open G or so just so he could do one of those tunes, but sometimes he didn’t want to be bothered. One of the things I regret not learning is enough guitar to just keep his guitars in tune myself. I never got around to that, he had tuners but would never use them. He got into that mindset where he would like say, “Well when I grew up we had tuning forks, we didn’t need all those gadgets and all that stuff”.  

© Copyright 2010 Billy Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved.Honeyboy was very consistent with his repertoire for many years; he did add a few songs every so often that would just pop into his mind. He knew a lot more songs than he would play. There were about half a dozen guitar players over the 40 years that we got to know really quite well and got to play with us on really quite a high level. Some of these guys encouraged him to play older tunes, so occasionally he would. Dave Peabody was one of the first if not the first, and got to know Honeyboy when Honeyboy came over by himself I think. Dave and I then became friends ourselves. He played with Honeyboy either as an opener or with us on stage as a guitar player. Tom Shaka in Germany, Les Copeland in Canada, Paul K in the US Midwest, and Rocky Lawrence on the US East coast, were the guys who played with us the most. Their high skill level of accompaniment freed up Honeyboy to solo more, and relax musically a little bit. Providing him a musical foil, and also someone to mess with musically. When we laughed on stage during a set it was because Honeyboy had just showed us up with a guitar lick or unexpected turnaround, and he knew it. 

Billy: So what is life like now without Honeyboy?

Michael: I did not prepare myself for that much. In my mind, I could see his health declining in the last year I could see it declining significantly. He retired, but not because he wanted to, but because he had congenital heart failure, and in his lungs the fluid just was no longer controllable. He didn’t have the energy or stamina to go anywhere, to literally leave his house. For me I miss the playing and touring with him, and seeing our friends around the world, even if we only saw them once every couple of years. I never got into playing with anybody else, I never really saw myself as a musician other than my role-playing with Honeyboy, though my friends have told me otherwise. Telling me of all those years, I played with Honeyboy that I was a serious musician; you have been on many big stages so move on with that. Little by little I have been working on that. I wasn’t ready for it, but while I was with Honeyboy even though I had a record label, the record label kind of took a backseat. I mean in terms of the marketing side of it, producing the records that didn’t really sell, though I kept producing the records. Marketing and selling the records took a huge backseat, so in the last year and a half or so I have been re-focusing on teaching myself how to sell records (laughs). Because I wanted to make the records, I didn’t think about the business side, I just wanted to create great music with great musicians, and work with Honeyboy. I have had to make that shift, and other musicians want me to manage them; and I have mixed feelings about it you know.

I am in a transition stage in terms of my mindset, and sorting it all out still. I think it is just about time for me to just get on with it. When I was really young, around 13, I wanted to be a musician, I was really scared, too shy; so part of me is still in that space. Friends who we have played with are encouraging me to go into that space that I have been reluctant to get into. I love making great records, you know I have been working on a couple of things. I am working on the definitive “Bea & Baby Records” story, because I knew Cadillac Baby. Especially in the last years of his life I visited him quite a bit when he was at 51st and State. This is way past his heyday in the late ‘50’s and early ‘60’s. “Red Lightnin’” put out three LP’s in the late ‘70’s, then some of it showed up on “Wolf Records” after Cadillac licensed it to somebody, who licensed it to Wolf, but I actually bought the label rights from his widow. I worked with him as an administrator in the last couple of years of his life, and then after he died I had an administrative agreement with his wife, and I then bought the label rights from her. There is a lot of material that was only issued on 45 in the late ‘50’s & early ‘60’s that is not on the “Wolf” and “Red Lightnin’ Records”. I am working on putting out the complete “Bea & Baby” which includes which includes gospel, and includes a girl singer called Faith Taylor who was in her early teens at the time. A bunch of gospel stuff plus the Blues stuff which is Eddie Boyd, Sunnyland Slim, Homesick James, James Cotton and Little Mac, other lesser-known people.

I have been working on a new Johnny Drummer record. Johnny is somebody who’s been on the Chicago scene as a singer and bandleader since the early ‘60’s, who’s never gotton proper acknowledgement or credit for his career. I may have met him even before I met Honeyboy, but I didn’t know him well, I would see him on the West side or the South side. I am now working on his fourth record on my label because he is a great songwriter, great blend of electric Blues & soul and R&B all mixed up together. He is a fun songwriter, especially about relationships, and he is one of the guys who wants me to manage him. Another record I am working on is called, “Angels Sing the Blues”, which I am actually producing for some friends of mine who are social workers who work in geriatrics. They put on Blues events at geriatrics conferences, many of which I arrange for them. They had this idea they wanted to do a club show, and an album so we started it in 2007 with the Johnny Drummer band with Mary Lane, Shirley Johnson and Liz Mandeville. The economy just tanked, we just sat on it, then three weeks ago, we resurrected it, and we went back into the studio to put down three new recordings. We recorded a Mary Lane song, which her bass player Jeff Labon wrote, and a Shirley Johnson song which she wrote and then these producers love that song, “Angel From Montgomery” that John Prine wrote it and Bonnie Raitt had a huge hit with. They were determined to record that with these women so we did a live version at the club show in 2007, but only one of the singers knew the song (laughs). We did a new version in the studio two weeks ago.

Talking of homes I am in my office right here, I live upstairs, but in my previous house, I took over the house with all my inventory & my office so we had to separate them. It was a real mental and financial strange when I was doing everything, being a social worker, handling Honeyboy’s career, a record label etc. Blues records don’t sell very well, even when you are marketing them real well they don’t sell very many. A couple of times I quit my job to focus on just being in the music business, once in ’79 to ’80, before I was married. Because I was in the middle of this long distance love affair, and once that crashed then after about a year I went back to work at Child Welfare. From ’87 to’96 I did also, and I produced a lot of records at that time. That’s when my catalogue number went from 4912, 12 records in the catalogue to….in six years I put out about 20 records. Most of which I produced, financed and paid for, and then I went back to social work again for a while. Then in 2005 that’s when I gave it up….well I still think about being a social worker (laughs). I have my Master’s degree; I was in Child Welfare so that was somewhat of a strain. I ended up just by accident working with abused and neglected children. The first job I got was as a Childcare worker in a residential treatment centre for abused and neglected children, if the first job I had gotten was in some other area of human services, I might have just stayed working in that. I think about that sometimes, but I know I would have wound up doing the same thing (laughs). Whether I went to Detroit, Houston, Memphis or New Orleans I would have met the same generation of musicians, and have been hanging around with them, doing the same thing, I am sure of it.

Billy Hutchinson

Many thanks to Billy Hutchinson for the in-depth interview.
Alan White,

© Copyright 2010 Billy Hutchinson. All Rights Reserved.

David Honeyboy Edwards
born Shaw, Mississippi, June 1915 and died Chicago, Illinois, August 2011

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