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Chatting it up with a St. Louis Legend: Leroy Jodie Pierson

Real Blues - Real People

by "Miss Vickie"
special ops./STLBLUES.NET
~ Miss Vickie@STLBlues.net ~

"Google-ing" can either get you what you want, really qucikly, or it can bog you down with so many options, you're not sure where to start. For example; try "Google-ing" Leroy Pierson. WOW! This guy is out there! Why? What has he accomplished in his lifetime?

Well....I'm here to tell you some bits and pieces of conversation with Mr. Pierson. This may help you when you "Google".

Leroy was born a long time ago. (laughter) Do we really need to know his age? (laughter) He doesn't look it, that's for sure! He is an extremely nice man, very intelligent, up on world matters and concerns, and has produced and recorded music in the U.S. and overseas, travels, plays, writes music, radio announcer, founder of Nighthawk Records, an international blues and raggae label, and as of December 2005, adds author to his list of accomplishments. (WOW!) He co-authored this book with Roger Steffens. I just went onto to Amazon.com and ordered a copy of "Bob Marley and the Wailers-Definitive Discography" for my husband, Paul. I'll ask Leroy to sign this copy when it arrives. You too can do this, and Leroy will be very happy to autograph your copy. You can catch him at BB's Jazz Blues and Soups from 7:00PM to 9:30PM on Thursdays and Fridays.

Leroy was quoted by A.J. Cabanellas in an article posted in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as a "Renaissonce Man". I can see that. Leroy is a blues and reggae historian, which includes country blues and rockabilly. His knowledge of these styles of music will take you back and keep you mesmorized while you listen to him speak. Leroy is a very well-spoken man. He's been playing music since the mid '60's, but the style he plays now, was developed in the '80's, thanks to Fred McDowell. Fred, Sun House, and Lightin' Hopkins are Leroy's favorites and he initially tried to copy their styles, but Fred told Leroy he shouldn't do that. ( laughter) Fred knew Leroy had a gift of his own style and Leroy just needed a nudge. So, he tried something different. He developed a style of "pop" sounds with his fingers. It's a very dramatic "thump" when he changes chords. Similar to the sound of Walter Vincent who played in the '20's-'30's with the Mississippi Shieks. Now, you can recognize Leroy after one note. (laughter)

Leroy Jodie Peirson has 3 cd's to his credit: Rusty Nail on the Nighthawk label, Leroy Jodie Pierson on the ATO label, and the latest release, Country Blues on the Gravel Road label. All really fine pieces of work. A must for your collection! The most fun Leroy has, though, is when he's producing music. He really loves the interaction with a great vocalist and a dynamic band. It's a real thrill! He's produced St. Louisians Henry Townsend, Fontella Bass, and many Jammican artists including Culture, The ItLS, the Gladiators, and others. He has written liner notes for over 60 blues, raggae, gospel, or R & B albulms for labels like Columbia, Island, Van Guard, Heartbeat, Nighthawk, JAD, ect. He definately contributed to The Complete Wailers 1967-1972, a 10 cd set on JAD Records. This is an excellent piece of work and a contribution to Jamaican history! Leroy toured in Jamaica often, but loved his time in the Middle East, back when it was not such a "hot spot" for trouble. The people loved his music and he was treated very well during his tour.

You know, for a man with so many talents, you would think he had a varied assortment of guitars....but he uses only two accoustic types. Believe it! At home, Leroy plays a 14 fret style "O" National. Most of these have 12 frets, so this one is very special and enjoyable. At BB's, you'll see Leroy with a National Resolectric. This has a small wood body vs the large metal body of some resophonic guitars. He is often accompanied by his good friends, Ken McSwan on guitar and Jackson Smith on drums. Ken comes down on Fridays when the Cardinals are out of town so he can get a good parking spot. (laughter) Jackson loves to sit in on drums. He's the best "one-legged" drummer I've heard! (laughter- Jackson currently has a broken ankle) "The new stage is super and the sound is better. I really like what BB's has accomplished with their improvements," says Leroy.

Leroy is very much respected and loved locally as well as nationally. One night Albert King was in town to play at Mississippi Nights and invited Leroy to sit in. Leroy already had a gig at the Broadway Oyster Bar, but the owner said, "Go ahead and play with Albert. After the first set, we'll send a car for you to come back here." This is respect for the Brotherhood and for the music. WOW! You can only imagine what it's like to be in their shoes.

I want to thank Leroy Jodie Pierson for this interview and for his music. There's a lot of love there and it shows! Leroys gives guitar lessons regularly. Who knows, after a few lessons, I could be a Leroy Pierson, Jr! (laughter!!)

check out these web sites:

BB's Jazz, Blues and Soups | Broadway Oyster Bar

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