Elmo & the Shades CD Release by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Posted on 10/26/2009 by Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Elmo and the Shades at the Rumboogie

Elmo and the Shades rock the Rumboogie at 3rd and Beale

Elmo Lee Thomas and the Shades

Elmo Lee Thomas

Elmo Lee Thomas and Skip Pitts

(Memphis, Tennessee) This week we roll down to Beale Street to sit in with a denizen of the Memphis music scene and explore his new cd release, "Blue Memphis" on Mudcoast Records. Elmo Lee Thomas has been playing music in Memphis for over 35 years and I have had the rare pleasure to play in many of his bands. He is a fine blues shouter and soul singer and he accompanies himself on guitar and harmonica with aplomb. In the 27 year life of his band, The Shades, Elmo has always assembled truly formidable players from Memphis' most legendary bands and recording artists. Many of them are to be heard on this cd. Elmo and the Shades are a well kept Memphis secret and this record was slow cooked and tastily prepared by some of the city's best and brightest.

On guitar tonight was my friend Charles "Skip" Pitts who most of you will know from his magnificent Cry Baby wah-wah guitar intro to the record "Shaft" by our dear departed friend, Isaac Hayes. Skip introduced the song tonight and stated that he can't talk too much about Isaac because it still tears him up that he is gone. Isaac Hayes was a great friend to all Memphis musicians and I still remember the many long talks we had with my friend Howard Grimes who was his high school classmate and also the drummer on all of Al Green's Hi records hits. He was a truly humble, down to earth, approachable human being who had a heart of gold.

Skip Pitts on guitar

Skip played the Shaft intro again tonight, maybe better than the record, and also performed the vocals in his signature husky basso profundo. It was legit and real cool. Skip has also performed with the Isley Brothers and the Bo-Keys.

Skip Pitts

On sax tonight was my old friend, Stax recording artist Tommy Lee Williams who played with Jimi Hendrix, Otis Redding and Albert King.

Tommy Lee Williams

Mickey Gregory, Tommy Lee Williams and Lannie McMillan

Tommy Lee delivers the goods and is accompanied by his counterpart Mickey Gregory on trumpet. This horn section kicks ass and is steeped in Memphis music tradition.

Mickey Gregory

Mickey Gregory blowing trumpet better than ever

Mickey toured with Jimi Hendrix, was a contemporary of Miles Davis and an original member of Rufus Thomas and the Bearcats(named after Sun Records first release), Otis Redding, Sam and Dave, and Isaac Hayes band.

Lannie McMillan

Also on stage was saxophonist supreme Lannie McMillan who has played with my band and countless great groups from Memphis including Papa Don McMinn, James Govan and many superb jazz groups.

Lannie McMillan

Lannie belts out a smooth solo

Bassist John Grosse, a California native who relocated to Memphis many years ago, rounds out the band. John's bass was flawless all night.

John Grosse on bass

John Grosse

Nico Lyras, owner of Cotton Row Studios and bassist Steve Cobb

Nico Lyras rips on guitar

Steve Cobb on bass, Elmo Thomas and Nico Lyras

Elmo and Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

the author sits in with the band

author and sound engineer Robbie Rose

Longtime sound engineer at the Rumboogie Robbie Rose is a big part of why this room always sounds so damn good. She is a superb engineer and a good friend to many musicians as she makes us sound better and always has an encouraging word for the band.

Steve Cobb back on bass looks just like he did in the 1980's

As the night wears on guitarist and friend Nico Lyras sits in with the band and plays some really searing solos. Nico is a college classmate of mine and the owner of Cotton Row Studios in Memphis. He has many hit records to his credit including Wendy Moten's great recordings. Nico and I have been close friends since about 1976 and he is a tremendously talented jazzer who has expanded his styles into the blues and rock genres seamlessly. He can play anything and does so with feeling. Much of the recording of this cd was done at Nico's studio.

Bassist Steve Cobb and I played in Elmo's band throughout the late 1980's and had some great times together after Steve replaced bassist Carl Watson, another great Stax recording artist. Carl passed away during my time with the band but I enjoyed many great nights drinking Wild Turkey with Carl and learning the way the classic R & B was supposed to be played. Carl cut us no slack in that regard and his memory is still fresh in the minds of the old band members.

Steve Cobb played bass with harmonica wizard Paul Butterfield and he visited the blues great every day in the hospital during his slow decline and eventual demise. Steve is a great bassist and is another hidden treasure of Memphis.

Elmo is to be congratulated for seeing this record through to completion. After listening to it on my groovy new Bose speakers, I could honestly find no fault with it and the vocals in particular are incredibly strong and moving. A hard-working fulltime gigging musician, Elmo has had many challenges to face in producing and financing this project all by himself and he has prevailed in creating one of the best cd's I have heard anybody release in a very long time. It is damn near perfect in execution, mixing and mastering and I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it.

He writes 8 of the 12 songs on the cd and is accompanied by some fine musicians including Michael Toles and our old band mate Carlos Morales on guitars. Carlos played with Peter Green and during my time with the band was known to play solos on tabletops throughout the south. Booker T. & the MG's drummer Steve Potts is also on the cd and Elmo dedicates the cd to some of our dear departed musical friends and band mates including blues guitarist Larry Lee, bassist Carl Watson and original Ramblin' Train(Elmo's first band) member Russell Street.

I sincerely recommend this cd without reservation to any of you that like hard hitting old school R & B, blues and soul music. This is a disc that won't let you down and it is packed full of great solos and ear candy throughout. Just buy it.

When in Memphis, visit the Rumboogie Cafe...150 guitars hanging from the ceiling and great gumbo, ribs and red beans and rice:

©2009, Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms

Bookmark us at American Blues News and come back often!

Click here

American Blues News Staff

What makes American Blues News unique is our coverage across America. Here is our lineup:

Mon: Memphis Correspondent - Robert "Nighthawk" Tooms
Nighthawk is our resident globetrotter and man behind the scenes, as he tours with the Reba Russell Band.

Tues: New York Correspondent - J. Blake
Blake is the American Blues News review and interview guru. You may catch him out and about in NY playing the blues.

Wed: National Correspondent - Monica Yasher
Monica is our executive director and artist interview specialist. You can catch Monica singing the blues around Pittsburgh or working on some country music songs in Nashville.

Thurs: Washington, DC Correspondent - Virginiabluesman
Geraldo offers inteviews and reviews. You may have seen him at an Ana Popovic concert or conversed with him on her websites, as he offers administrative support with her music.

Fri: Northeast Photographer - Nelson Onofre
Nelson offers a Friday column of blues photography and pictorial support for the interviews covered by the team.

Jim Stick in Colorado
Jim will be focusing on the Blues Festivals in the beautiful state of Colorado, and the artists that live and visit there.

Maureen Elizabeth, our resident art correspondent, will be focusing on blues art as she explores the creation of CD covers, or speaking with artists who also have a love of creating pictorial art in addition to their music! She may also feature some of her good friends in the Pittsburgh area. In her love of art, you may find Maureen's photography accompanying writer's articles on our pages. Maureen is also our marketing director.

Pittsburgh correspondent and photographer, CR Bennett, will share the Pittsburgh scene with all of you. You may also see CR's pictures accompanying other writer's articles.

We head to the big state of Texas! Abby Owen, our Texas correspondent.

Another big area to cover, the West Coast with Casey Reagan, Casey will feature many artists and events on this ocean's shores.

Lastly, we have our roving blues entertainment writer,
Chef Jimi.

And of course, we will surprise you sometimes!

Internet Marketingdata recovery