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STEADY ROLLIN' BOB MARGOLINInterview with Bob Margolin
at the 2007 IBC (International Blues Competition) in Memphis, Tn.
Interview by Big Dave
Transcribed by "Miss Vickie"

STLBlues.net: "Here we are with Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin. How did you get that nickname, Bob?"

Bob Margolin: "Well....actually I have a good answer for that and it's the truth. About 1979, I was playing in Boston with Muddy Waters. I'm from Boston originally, and there was a young man that lived there that was a disc jockey on Emerson College radio station, his name was Eddie Goridetski, and since that time, he's gone on to become a famous television writer and lives out in L.A. and I haven't seen him since. I'd really like to get a hold of him again, but he was a young man that really loved blues music and was friends with all of the musicians and one night when Muddy was in town, he said, You think you can arrange for me to introduce Muddy and his band at the club? And I said Sure! That'd be no problem. Muddy would kind of let me do anything I wanted, so when I suggested it , he said, Sure! Go ahead! So Eddie did that and he speed-rapped the whole introduction. This was like in 1979, but he talked it so fast and made everything rhyme, it was pretty cool. And when he got to my name, he said, And from right here in Boston we have Steady Rollin' Bob Margolin, cause Rollin' and Margolin kinda rhyme, but also Steady Rollin' Man is a Robert Johnson song and I think I lived up to that name by all the miles I had on me in 1979. Now, here in 2007, I got a lot more miles on me, quite a few million more, but I ain't burning' no oil and I'll still top the steady rollin'.

STLBlues.net: "As long as your brakes still work" (laughter)

Bob Margolin: "Ohhh, I think I won't pass the inspection on that one, my friend. (laughter)

STLBlues.net: " All right! Let's back up a little bit. You were born in Boston, in 1949, is that right?"

Bob Margolin: "I can't remember, I was very young at the time." (laughter)

STLBlues.net: Growing up, what led you to music? I know Chuck Berry factored in there, he's a St. Louis native!"

Bob Margolin: "Well, when I heard Chuck Berry's music in the 50's, it just knocked me out. I liked all the stuff I was listening to on the radio. I remember about 1957 or so, I started listening to the rock'n roll stations, I was eight years old and I heard Jerry Lee Lewis doin' High School Confidential on there, he'd already done Great Balls of Fire and A Whole Lot of Shakin' Goin' On but I caught him doin' that High School Confidential where he's goin' Bopping' at the High School Hop, you couldn't hear it very well cause there was a lot of slap echo on it and what are they doin' at the high school hop? I don't know, but when I grow up I want to do that too! (laughter) And then I heard Chuck Berry's guitar stuff and I said I want to play that! And about 1964, my sister, who is five years younger than me, got a guitar and started taking guitar lessons, and I said I'll take that out of your way right here, I can play that! And I did. And so I started playing guitar and I started taking lessons but that only lasted a month because they were trying to teach me how to read music and play scales and I just wanted to play Chuck Berry music on the guitar. So I did that and started getting' bands within about six months and I haven't been out of a band since then, in about late 1965. So I've always been in a band one way or another ever since. Then I kinda followed the path of Chuck Berry's inspiration back to the blues and then one night on a college radio station I heard Muddy Waters. And when I heard that voice, I went, Oh My God, Who Is That Singing With That Incredible Deep Voice? And then, Oh My God! Listen To That, Listen To That Slide Guitar Player! And I soon found out that was Muddy as well. And it was like a real defining moment, a cross roads, or whatever you want to call it, that changed my life when I first heard Muddy and I kinda said well I'm goin' after deep Chicago blues if I can. And I tried to play it in the bands I was in and I started to get into more blues bands and bands that were trying' to be blues. And then in about 1971, one of Muddy's former guitar players, Luther Georgia Boy Snake Johnson, moved to Boston and formed a band there of local musicians. And we would all go out to watch him play and sometimes sit in and then sometimes get
hired in the band. I came down there one night when the bass player didn't show up. I ended up playin' bass with them all night long and he offered me the job to play bass, and I really didn't want to do that, I wanted to be a guitar player, but a couple of months later he had an opening for a guitar player. Luther ran his band just the way Muddy had in Chicago; played a lot of the same songs and had a lot of the same cues and the same language of the blues. And so for six sets a night, six nights a week, and a three-set matinee on Sunday, we played in Boston in clubs that were more in the neighborhood than in the main stream, clubs that the young bands were playing in, and I really learned a lot from Luther and the other guys in the band and took a step closer to the Chicago blues that I love. I left that band with a harp player at the time, his name was Babe Pino, and we formed something called the Boston Blues Band and I was in that with Babe for a couple of years about '72 and '73. When Muddy came to Boston, I went down to one of his gigs and turned out he had just lost a guitar player the night before and I was the next one he saw. He knew I was trying' to play his old stuff and he gave me a chance that really changed the rest of my life and put me on the road I'm still ridin'"

STLBlues.net: "True meaning, The Right Place Right Time."

Bob Margolin: " It was that, but I loved that music already, Muddy had heard me play it and he knew that I loved it so it wasn't like he thought I was a great guitar player and was going to save his band or nothin'. He gave me a chance to do it 'cause I wanted to and it was certainly the kindest musical thing that anybody's ever done for me; the Big Brake so to speak, and I was really aware of the significance of it and the opportunity to be the apprentice to a master, which is not something' that happens in modern times very often. Somebody that's the best in the world playing deep blues and I got to stand next to him and hope that stuff would rub off on me a little bit. I used to stand between Muddy Waters and Pinetop Perkins on the band stand, and between those two there was so much blues goin' down that I was just soaked in it, and I'm still soaking wet!" (laughter)

STLBlues.net: " That's Great! Speaking of Muddy Waters, in 1984 the New Orleans Jazz Fest held a Muddy Waters tribute. Do you know whose idea that was?"

Bob Margolin: "It absolutely was the idea of Quint Davis who produced and still does produce the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. We had met Quint in the '70's when I was playing in Muddy Waters band and he was starting to work for the great promoter, George Ween, who put on the Newport festivals and the start of the New Orleans one. But Quint was out there producing and promoting some of the festivals in Europe and also road-managing Muddy's band sometimes when we were over there. So Quint knew Muddy and all the players really well and when Muddy passed in '83, the next year, Quint called me up and said, I'd like to do a tribute to Muddy at the festival, who shall we get?

You know what I'm thinking of, some of the guys in the band and stuff, but Quint has access to anybody he wants, and he said, Well you know I've got an idea. Why don't we get the Fabulous Thunderbirds to be the band, with Kim Wilson and Jimmy Vaughn in it, and add you and Pinetop on to that , and who should we get to sing Muddy's songs?
And then he brought up something that was original and brilliant, a woman! Certainly one of the heaviest, most powerful blues singers there ever was, Etta James; blues and rhythm and blues. And we worked out some of Muddy's songs together. We did it on the riverboat President. They used to run a riverboat cruise as part of the festival. And before we had the rehearsal, while the Thunderbirds were setting up, Etta and I went off into a back room with just me and my unplugged stratocaster and went over some of the songs together. And meanwhile, I was just having incredible thrills from being around that woman and I found that as we went over these songs together, her voice could lead me where ever I was supposed to go. I didn't have to know the song or anything, and she didn't have to, I could just follow her which is a mark of some of the greatest singers I've ever had the opportunity to work with.

Certainly, I was with a legendary, spectacular singer that day and she was kinda tentative about Muddy's songs and she didn't know them real well and she kinda talked thru them in the dressing room, but when she got on stage, she prowled the stage like a mountain lion and sang those songs, I Just Want To Make Love To You and I Got My Mojo Workin' and a few others and just ripped it up completely as one of the musical thrills of my life."

STLBlues.net: "Absolutely! Back in the early '90's, not only were you creative in the musical world, but you became a writer. What led you to become a music writer?"

Bob Margolin: "Well, I live in North Carolina and some friends of mine from the Piedmont Blues Preservation Society asked me to write an article about Carey Bell, who they were going to have as a performer at one of their concerts. And I knew Carey from playin' with Muddy on the first album I did with Muddy; Carey was the harp player on it. And I had run into him a few times since then, so I did write something for their news letter and I enjoyed doing it. I began to write for a local entertainment paper in Greensboro, North Caroline, called ESP, it's not there anymore, just writing blues related things for them maybe every week or so, for about $25.00 an article, which is probably more that some writers get today. I really kinda enjoyed doing it and then somebody from Richmond called me up and said they wanted to do an article on me for a new blues magazine called Blues Review Quarterly. So I did the interview with them and I was really impressed with the magazine that was just getting started. And I called up the founder and editor and publisher of the magazine, named Bob Burell, and thanked him for doin' such a nice article on me and said I've been writing some blues articles for a local magazine and I can send them to you and if you'd be interested in publishing them', maybe we could work something out. And pretty much been writing for Blues Review ever since."

STLBlues.net: "Over the years, Bob, you've been with a lot of labels, Alligator, Blind Pig. Who are you currently with?"

Bob Margolin: "Well, it's actually more than that. I did my first two albums on Powerhouse Records about '88 and '90 , that's a label that's run by my very close friend and a guitar monster named Tom Principato from Washington D.C. I put out two albums with him called The Old School and Chicago Blues, they're out of print now, so forget that completely 'cause you can't get it! Although the Chicago Blues one featured some of the old Muddy Waters guys as well as just a little four piece old school thing with literally the best players in the world that I could find to do it; Jimmy Rogers on second guitar as he was with Muddy Waters, Kim Wilson who I think is as good a harp player as there is and Willie Big Eye Smith on the drums, and some of my old band too which includes Mookie Brill who I was still workin' with a lot. We haven't worked together the whole time, but that's on there. Then I did three for Alligator and then one for Blind Pig and one for Tel Arc about 2003, the Bob Margolin All-Star Blues Jam, and my new album is on my own label, and it features just me at home playin' my very personal blues. It's on Steady Rollin' Records in North Carolina and it's called Mine All Mine."

STLBlues.net: " All Right! Back in 1996, you sat down to dinner with Bruce Iglauer, and Steve Hecht with Piedmont Talent, and something spun out of that dinner. Can you tell me about it?"

Bob Margolin: "Well, I was recording an album that had my good friend from the Muddy Waters' days, Pinetop Perkins on it. Pinetop had been having a hard time that year and he had actually developed a lot of problems and actually spent some time in jail at the age of 82 or so. I mean it was just horrible the things that were going on with him, but with the help of his friends and the people that really loved him and cared about him, he got thru all of that and got way past it, and obviously now, today, he's considered a star and a legend, but back then he was known to blues people, but not the way he is now. I wanted to use him as a guest on the album, both because I love him and for his music and it wasn't any kind of commercial moving' anyway, but as I was talkin' with Steve Hecht from Piedmont, who was booking me at the time, and with Bruce Iglauer from Alligator Records, I said, Do you guys have any ideas for anything I can do to specially to promote this album? and Steve said "Why don't you do some touring with Pinetop?" So we ended up playing together a lot more that we had in the previous 15 or 16 years, we had done gigs together every few months, but we actually put a lot more of those shows together and got out on the road, and it's so wonderful to watch the way the blues world has responded to who Pinetop is and how important he is to the music and what a very special entertainer is. Now here we are in 2007, he's going to be 93 this year and nobody can keep up with him. God Bless him. What an inspiration he is. But aside from all that musically, we've always been very close friends. When we were in Muddy's band together, I was the youngest and he was the oldest and we used to stay out all night and close down bars and just barely make it back in time to catch the band right before they were about to leave town without us. (Laughter) And we still do that for a long time, but in 1998 when my father died, Pinetop put his arm around me and said, I'm your black daddy now! And that's one of the sweetest things anybody ever said to me and he meant it in a really sweet way and I'll do anything for that man. I love him. It's wonderful to see how the Blues world has realized his worth and giving' him his due at the end of his life, and he's having' a wonderful time out there. God Bless him and Long Live Pinetop Perkins!"

STLBlues.net: "Absolutely! I was reading on your website, back in 1997 you were part of a show at the Kennedy Center? Tell me about that”.

Bob Margolin: "Yes. In 1997 they had a tribute to Muddy that was put on there and Pinetop was supposed to play on it, but he missed the plane. But they had Johnnie Johnson playing piano, G.E. Smith was kinda the band leader for the whole thing and did a wonderful job; Barry Goldberg played keyboards there, Charlie Musslewhite was there, Keb' Mo came down and sang one of his songs, Bill Morganfield, Muddy's son, appeared on the show and we played together, I think we played Walkin' Blues, I think he might have played bass on it and guitar or I played guitar, or one of us, I can't even remember what it was, but Bill was there and that was one of the first times he really got out there and got known before he did the Blind Pig album. And it was a very special evening. One thing they didn't put in the show, I did a guitar duet of Muddy's song Rollin' Stone with just me and Gregg Allman. Some of the best moments that I remember from the night didn't make it on that video. Maybe someday somebody will put it out"

STLBlues.net: "Hopefully it's out there in rough. You've always kinda been recognized as your claim to fame is the Muddy Waters Alumni, and back in 2004, you actually won a Handy for a live legacy addition you put together? Is that correct?"

Bob Margolin: "Well, I've had my own band since 1980 and I've been putting out my own albums, but I'm very, very proud to be considered a link to Muddy Waters, who's no longer with us, and I'm always happy to talk about him or try and bring people that don't know him but love him, a little closer to him. I'm trying' to promote my own career out here and play my own blues, but it's heavily influenced by Muddy and I'm real happy to talk about him. I have a friend that lives in New York City now, but I met when he was guitar player in Boston, in the early '70's and he is the head of Sony Legacy. They have the rights to Muddy's albums that were done on the Blue Sky label in the '70's with Johnny Winter producing and playing on them and I played on those too during that time. They wanted to put out reissues that added extra tracks that were recorded but hadn't come out on the original albums, which if you remember lp's they could only be like 35 minutes long or else they started to sound real bad. But they had more material that they wanted to put out and they wanted to reissue the albums with better sound than had ever been done before, so my friend, Steve, who now had access to all this stuff and could make it happen, asked me to produce the albums and probably sitting right where we are here in Memphis, we talked about these things a few years ago, and actually four albums have been released on Sony BMG Legacy now, but rather a large conglomerate and Legacy is the part that kinda digs in the vaults and pulls out all the treasures and reissues them. So I did produce. Muddy Mississippi Waters live album was the real center piece among the four albums because it also featured some tapes that had been found of just Muddy playing in the club with the band. This was the Muddy Waters Blues Band during '74 to '80 or so, that Muddy himself said "I think this is my best band since the one with Little Walter and Jimmy Rogers", which is a high compliment and it comes from the man himself. I don't necessarily agree with him either because there were so many great musicians that have played with him since then, that I give them all their credit, but it meant a lot to me, but I was able to produce this album, this second CD added to the original Muddy Mississippi Waters Live that went with it in the box in this double album reissue that had all this extra music on it and I think it was very revealing of who Muddy was. Now there's something exciting going on too, after the Hard Again album came out in 1976, Muddy did a tour with all the people that were on the album. It was called An Evening of Blues with Johnny Winter, Muddy Waters, and James Cotton. Also featured me and Pinetop, Willie Big Eye Smith on there and Cotton's bass player Charles Calmese, who unfortunately passed away about 20 years ago. He was the youngest of us that got killed in a car wreck; God Bless him, he would have been makin' some great music ever since...fine bass player. We did a tour. It started in February of 1977, 'bout 30 years ago right now, with all the people on the tour and there were about three or four live recordings made from it. Steve Berkowitz, in New York, got hold of old multi-track tapes and said let's make an album out of this and basically just gave me raw mixes from three nights just about three years ago. I went to the mall and tried to pick out the best songs and the best versions of each song, and we found some real treasures on there , like Muddy singing Can't Be Satisfied but at the age of 62 instead of the age of when he cut it when he was in his 30's and he had all of this extra depth that all the years bring and that's going to be the center piece of the album...we'll put that on there first. I'm going to be producing and mixing the week after next, it's not a reissue because it's never been heard before, it's about people that listened to a concert or about people that listened to a radio show that some of it got on back then, but it should be in about June of 2007 and it's gonna be called An Evening of Blues with Johnny Winter, James Cotton, and Muddy Waters and I'm really looking' forward to time traveling while I'm listening to it 'cause I played on it too, little kid with a lot of hair. (laughter)

STLBlues.net: "Like you’ve said, you're connected with Muddy Waters, but you've also got your own career! Back in 2005, I believe you won a Handy for blues guitar. How do you feel about that?"

Bob Margolin: "Well, that was a real thrill for me, I mean, I love to play blues guitar and I said at the time, I feel ridiculous accepting an award for blues guitar while Robert Lockwood, Jr. and Jody Williams and Hubert Sumlin are all sitting right over there, but I've dedicated to them and carry on the music of the Chicago Blues the best I can and held it for a year and they must have took me seriously, 'cause the next year they gave it to Hubert! Which makes a lot of sense and nobody's happier about that then me."

STLBlues.net: "It seems your career is doing great, and they're even honoring you tonight, I understand, with a blues jam! Where do you see your career going from here?"

Bob Margolin: "Ahhh, I haven't the tiniest idea, I just do the best I can and then what happens. What I'd like to do, is just keep playing and keep recording, getting to work with a lot of my friends. We did a record release party, just now at the Rum Boogie, and I had a ball, but couple of times I said I'm just gonna put my album aside and then I put it on the ground and kick it aside (laughter) and play some people who had passed away recently that I wanted to dedicate song to and Diunna Greenleaf from Houston was there and no way is she gonna be in a place where I've got a guitar and a microphone and get away without singing...she ripped it to pieces, she had the whole place crying', she sang ‘A Change Is Gonna Come’ just now. Every year, about three times a year, around the time of the blues events, the IBC (International Blues Competition) in the end of January, the beginning of February, the Blues Music Awards in the beginning of May and around the time of the Arkansas Blues and Heritage Festival in October, I'll do two nights at the Rum Boogie, usually play at, start about eleven o'clock Friday and Saturday, do a set, with whoever's with me in the band at the time, and then kinda open it up and just jam with whoever's around, and there's always some interesting people around , either local or international that come thru; we have musicians from all over the world who come to Memphis, right now, I'm gonna get as many as I can up on the band stand this evening."

STLBlues.net: "All right! Well, I look forward to it. Great luck in your career, whatever it brings ya. You deserve success, that's for sure."

Bob Margolin: "Well, thank you, I really love this music and it's been good to me. It's taken me all over the world. My new album is one where I made all of the music myself, I recorded it at home, and I really wanted to do something different besides just putting out another studio or live album or combination from what I've done. I didn't want to do just more of the same and I hope some people will enjoy that side of me and hear that too, but when I get on the band stand, we're just gonna rock with some Chicago blues and rhythm and blues and rock'n roll and rock-a-billy and just whatever we feel like at the moment."

STLBlues.net: "Sounds Great! Thanks a lot!"

Special thanks to Betsie Brown of Crows Feet Productions for arranging this interview

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