Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Down Home Music Store

After serving roots music lovers since 1976 the Down Home Music Store was facing a critical financial situation at the end of last year. We have had a long and successful run as a retail shop specializing in all sorts of Down Home, Roots or vernacular musical genres and as an outlet for my Arhoolie Records, but times have been very hard for record shops everywhere. Two years ago the staff felt that we should open a second store on Berkeley's fashionable 4th Street shopping area in an attempt to reach out to a wider audience. Unfortunately this last ditch effort to make the store more visible and accessible made our financial situation worse. We were forced to close on 4th Street, but our San Pablo Avenue store remained open and inherited a large number of listening stations and wonderful CD racks which I hope our customers appreciate for the wide variety of music they can now freely view and listen to.

At the start of 2010 I personally took over ownership of the Down Home Music Store, but had to economize and cut the staff to three and the hours and days of operation to 11 AM to 7 PM from Thursdays through Sundays. Since I am fortunately the owner of the building and wanted the store to survive I am now trying to revitalize the place by having a lot of live, in-store events along with making it more and more a "collector's shop." We also started an eBay store where you will find our more collectable items, especially in the Mexican music field but soon also in other genres and including more and more items from my personal collection. Stay tuned also for Down Home's revitalized web site! We have always bought and sold used LPs, 45s, 78s, and other collectibles and we continue to do so. So, stop by and check out our revitalized stock of not only new and used CDs but older formats like LPs as well.

I also want to take this oportunity to let you know that the Arhoolie Foundation is a not for profit charitable organization which can accept donations of all kinds and give you in return a tax credit. If you have been wondering what to do with your old record collections (of CDs, LPs, 78s, or 45s) that the ARHOOLIE FOUNDATION would love to accept them as a donation, evaluate them fairly, and give you a generous tax deduction. The Arhoolie Foundation in turn could sell such collections at a reasonable price to the Down Home Music store - thus helping both the Foundation and the store! (Chris Strachwitz)

Monday, February 1, 2010

With the Magnolia Sisters at the GRAMMYs

Hello again: Ann Savoy called me and said she and the Magnolia Sisters are flying out to LA for the GRAMMYs because their Arhoolie CD "Stripped Down" had been nominated in the Cajun/Zydeco category and wouldn't I like to come down and join them if she could get me admitted to some of the pre-TV parties and gatherings on Saturday. That I could not refuse - as long as I did not have to put on a monkey suit and attend the TV show! So I flew to LA and rented wheels - because I had been informed that the various events on Saturday were to be at several venues and the ladies needed a chauffeur! At 10:30 we met at the Figueroa Hotel and luckily I had rented a van since there were not only the four Magnolias but also Joel Savoy and Lisa's boy friend and that made it a party of seven!

First stop was the Millenium Biltmore Hotel's Emerald Ballroom where at 11 AM a delightful lunch was presented for the 2010 GRAMMY nominees from Louisiana and their close friends by LED (Louisiana Economic Development) and the Louisiana office of the Lt. Governor. As we entered and sipped the champagne handed us at the door, we already heard the sounds of Cedric Watson (Ex Pineleaf Boy!) and his wonderful band, Et Bijou Creole . The food was fine served by a well known chef from Louisiana - I especially liked the sauce piquante - lots of green salad - the gumbo was already gone by the time I decided to eat! More great music by Harry Connick who was joined by a good rhythm section of bass and drums as well as a fine trumpeter, Shamarr Allen who I felt sang better than Mr. Connick and Trombone Shorty to do some great jamming. Also a fine female jazz/R&B singer - I think her name was Ledici - did some tasty scat singing.

In the afternoon we walked over to the GRAMMY Museum - which had a show of photos about Elvis Presley and also a nice small theatre where the Zydeco/Cajun nominees were to present an informal concert at 9 PM. They all did their sound checks after which we returned to the hotel which seemed to be a nice, comfortable, old fashioned place with no glitz but a large, high ceiling lobby with old tiles and a funky feel from the past!

Around 5 PM we drove over to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre where the GRAMMY folks hosted a spectacular Special Merit Awards Ceremony and Nominees Reception for all nominees and their partners - luckily Ann got me a ticket! All drinks and food were free and of incredible quality and quantity! As I was the chauffeur, I decided to only get one drink right at the start - and gave the out-in-the-patio bartender some directions to make a perfect margarita. He had excellent tequila and was not using syrupy mix but all fresh ingredients - all I had to ask for was more limes!! From there to the inside where I spotted a huge table with salads, asparagus, roasted potatoes, roast pork, beef, and lamb in superb gravies! I went for the incredible roast lamb - I think it was the best I have ever had with a superb gravy! (And I thought I was a good gravy maker!) Wenty for seconds in no time! Later I found out from Joel that there were other tables loaded with crabs, fish, lobsters, etc - and I am not sure what other foods! It was simply superb - very few expensive restaurants could top this! The amazing array of little pastries was also startling and every one delicious - I think I tried at least 8 different ones! I admit I became a hog for that food! There was also live music and nominees had their pictures taken - formally and with assorted well known artists!

Then back to the GRAMMY museum for the evening's concert. Here again we were confronted by delicious guacamole, fruits, chips, as well as mineral water, beer and wine. I asked the lady in charge of service who made all this food and she told me that all the GRAMMY food was prepared by Austrian chef Wolfgang Puck who is apparently quite famous and certainly had trained his minions to perfection!! The concert started with the Magnolia Sisters doing a fine short but varied set after lengthy intros from Mrs. Buckwheat who after all was the prime force behind the establishment of the Zydeco & Cajun category in the GRAMMY's ever lengthening list of categories and the official MC whose name I don't recall but who seemed to be very involved and dedicated to many of the lesser or more regional musical traditions. Zachary Richard and C.C.Adcock followed and finally Cedric Watson and his group put down some great zydeco and were joined by Trombone Shorty and trumpeter Shamarr Allen for the last number which turned into a great long jam mixture of Zydeco and New Orleans funk! An unforgettable afternoon - thanks Magnolia Sisters - I hope you win the next time!

PS I was curious as to who paid for all this fantastic food, and was told by the same nice lady who tended to us in the green room -- or maybe it was someone else who told me -- that all of the GRAMMY food extravaganzas were paid for by the TV show!