Interview of Tim Woods by Monica Yasher

Posted on 5/19/2010 by Monica Yasher

Sometimes things start with a picture. As Tim Woods was looking through a magazine, he saw a picture of “Honey Boy” Edwards. He decided at that moment, he had to meet the man who has been a presence of the Mississippi Blues, at what seemed most of Tim‘s life. After some research, with his friend, Ernie Hawkins, Tim sought out and found the man himself, “Honey Boy“. From that meeting, Tim Woods found himself creating, “The Blues Sessions”, with special guests, Allen Batts, Joe Craven, David “Honey Boy” Edwards, Michael Frank, Shannon Hoover, Big Jack Johnson, Aaron Moore, Eric Noden, John Primer, Bobby Lee Rodgers, Jeff Sipe, Kenny “Beedy Eyes” Smith, Ike Stubblefield, Bob Stroger, Lee Williams and Terry “Big T” Williams. Tim tells me this CD isn’t about him, it’s about everybody. Tim’s CD was released yesterday and can be purchased for your listening pleasure. Let’s see what Tim had to share:

Monica: In addition to the blues standards you selected, did you write any of them?

Tim: They are traditional blues songs. Some of the songs were written by some of the artists on the CD.They are songs that I grew up with. The whole CD is a tribute to these great artists that are on the CD.

M: Did you find any of these songs difficult to do or challenging?

T:  I didn’t know what I was going to have, until I got in there.  Really. I kind of…there are a few of them actually, that I learned the night before recording the session..because it was decided to put these songs on there that night. There’s one song from "Honey Boy" Edwards that hasn’t been recorded since 1942, I was told. I don’t think it was recorded anywhere else. At least that’s what I was told.

These were done..Alan Lomax field recordings with "Honey Boy". There was a song like that. A Willie Dixon song was special to me. When I met his wife in Chicago, first thing she said is, “Did you hear the song. “It Don’t Make Sense You Can’t Make Peace”?" I was in shock.  That was a song that I had done for years. I only played it a few times and I knew it. She said that was his favorite song.  But, it never got any recognition. I said, “Maybe someday I’ll record it”. That song, I was able to put down. It’s even in his book that out of all the songs that he wrote, Willie Dixon…there’s a lot of Willie Dixon songs on this CD. He’s really special to me to me in my life. Since I was a teenager, I played his songs in bands. I’ve always based my music around his music and his writing.

M: So you can relate to his songs on a personal level?

T: Right Exactly.

M: Looks like you have two things going on. One, you have artists that have passed on and you chose their songs, and then you have some major artists as many special guests. Let’s talk about what drove you to do this, and how you went about getting it done.

T: It started with one day I picked up a magazine and saw "Honey Boy" Edwards name. I thought wow there’s an actual Delta Blues guy that is still around. So I started doing research, and found a book that he wrote called, “The World Don’t Owe Me Nothin’”. He has an incredible memory that covers the whole story of the Delta and the South during the time that Blues was really thriving. The early days. He played with Robert Johnson. He was friends with him. Big Joe Williams, so many blues artists that "Honey Boy" hung around with. It has him going to Chicago. This was a really cool story.

I asked my friend Ernie Hawkins about where “Honey Boy” Edwards was, and I called to Chicago. I spoke with his manager, Michael Frank. We started talking, and it turns out Michael is originally from Pittsburgh. So, we struck up a friendship. He invited me out to "Honey Boy’s" 90th birthday. So this was four years ago. I went out.

Originally I wanted to take lessons with "Honey Boy". That’s how it all started. I had no idea that I was going to do a recording at that time. So, I went out there and photographed all these blues musicians. "Homesick" James, Robert Lockwood, all these different musicians. It started opening doors to me. I photographed so many of these guys. I have such a big collection. Photographs over the years that I would take. I would go to different venues.

One thing led to another. I asked Michael if I could do a recording. And we talked about it for a couple of years, and kicked it around. We actually came to a day where we set this up. Michael started helping me out . I gave him names, and he threw names at me. There were specific people that I really wanted on this recording, and Michael added some other guys too.  There are a lot of doors that opened.

That took me to Chicago…there are sixteen different artists on this…it took me into the Chicago sessions. Then I went down into Clarksdale, MS where I really got to hear these guys. This music is different than Chicago. It was stuff I played all of my life, but never knew the origins. That kind of boogey stuff that John Lee Hooker did. That was the sound. That is where John came from. BB King. A lot of artists come out of that area of Clarksdale MS and surrounding areas. That’s where I went to, Clarksdale Sound Studio. I recorded with Big Jack Johnson, Allen Batts who was with Albert Collins’ band, and some other session players done there. It was an incredible session.

M: Where you intimidated playing with these guys?

T: I was nervous going in. They didn’t know who I was from Adam. I went in there, and had to be myself and relax.

M: Where they nurturing? What was the experience like?

T: They were very nice. The moment I went in there, I was comfortable with them, where I didn’t know what to expect. Once I met them and got to hang out with them…and I’ve been there several times since…with those guys. I do see them from time to time.

M: They say in the Blues world there is a family hierarchy. The older level wishes to nurture and keep the blues alive. It sounds like you truly experienced that.

T: Oh yeah. That means a lot to me. I want young people to hear this stuff. A lot of the young people don’t know who they are. To me criss crossing the different fan bases is important to me. I think it’s important for people to hear different music.

M: How will you accomplish it?

T: Just getting it out there. Have people listen to it and enjoy it. That’s my goal. Maybe they would be able to discover these musicians as well. This CD isn’t all about me. It’s about everybody.  There’s more places. I also went to Atlanta, GA.  Atlanta, Ga was more of the younger guys playing like Bobby Lee Rodgers and Ike Stubblefield. He’s from Motown. Joe Craven who played with David Grisman;Jerry Garcia. These are guys that played with some of the Grateful Dead. Jeff Sipe, the drummer. They were more into the jazz world, and we went to Tree Sound in Atlanta and recorded there as well.

Getting to the artists here, a lot of them were on my wish list. They are all real professionals and have their own story. To me, I couldn’t go wrong with any of them. When we got in the studio, they knew exactly what to do. They were very professional on that end of it. You didn’t get many takes. We went in there and busted this thing out. We got a couple of takes. But, it felt so comfortable. Every one of the sessions were…comfortable. They were easy to work with.

M: This had to be challenging. Every song had a different group of people. One of the things about Blues is eventually you learn one another and you can play off of one another. It looks like you had, kind of a constant open stage, Tim! (We all laughed.)

T: Yeah. It was…I had an idea of what songs I wanted. I did brainstorm at the end, only because of the certain musicians that I had. I wanted to make sure that I had the songs pretty well planned.

M: How did you convey that to them?

T: We did go over a few other tunes. We had one rehearsal, and it wasn’t with all the musicians. We went over some things. Seven songs in Chicago, three in Mississippi, and two in Atlanta. There weren’t any hidden ones there!

M: Any lost tapes?

T: No. No (He laughs). I did three songs with "Honey Boy". A lot of them were recorded throughout his career. It was neat because "Honey Boy"…the acoustic songs….they had "Honey Boy" sitting right in front of me in the studio. While I’m playing with Eric Nodens they sat "Honey Boy" within two feet of me, and he was just watching. So I had to play this with him looking. He loved it. Like "Spoonful", "Deep Ellum Blues". Honeyboy lived in the town, Deep Ellum. There I was playing with "Honey Boy". It was really neat. He is a terrific guy. He is an American treasure. He just received a Grammy award this year. He is still out there playing away. I enjoy hearing his stories.

M: Any stories for me?

T: I highly recommend his book. Michael Franks helped with the writing.

M: Obviously these people impacted you. What would you want people to gain from you?

T: I just want people to look around and listen to music around them. There are people out there significant in the music world, that we miss. We have their recordings. I also say educate yourself musically, and you will open doors, if you like music, of course. There’s always a link. We are all linked to it all. Look how long the blues has been going. That’s because of this link that has happened over 100 years. A lot of people are carrying on the tradition. I don’t see it slowing down. There are a lot of new and up and coming artists out there. I’m older now, but I’ve been doing this a long time.

Copyright © 2010 Copyright Monica L. Yasher. All Rights Reserved.

Photograph Copyright © 2010 Maureen Ceidro. All Rights Reserved.

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.

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