I worked hard all week
And it´s time to take a break
Play me some Marvin Sease
And some Marvin Gaye
Call me later, because I won´t be at home
I´m goin´ out tonight
`cause I feel like getting it on…”
Mel Waiters är en av de allra största inom den musik som idag mestadels går under beteckningen southern soul/blues. Jag lånar finske soulkännaren Heikki Suosalos (nättidningen www.soulexpress.net) träffsäkra beskrivning: ”Mel´s music has three clear trademarks: hard-hitting sharp beat, spicey saxophones and powerful singing. All these elements combined, you feel like hit by a sonic hurricane and at times the music leaves you almost breathless. Mel is a modern ´soul shouter´.”
Vid de två konserter undertecknad såg med ”The Blues Is Alright Tour” (en turnerande paketshow med 5-6 solister med sina respektive band) i Florida i februari 2011, var Mel Waiters näst sista akt, endast följd av legenderna Millie Jackson i Tallahassee och i Miami av Bobby Blue Bland.
Cool entré av Waiters. Bandet (tpt, ts, keys, g, bg, dr) har redan lagt ett groove, när MC:n ”Big Mac” påannonserar ME-E-E-L WAITE-E-E-E-RS, M-E-E-E-L WAI-I-T-E-E-E-E-E-RS. Uppsvidad till max – och med sitt Hit It And Quit It Band enhetligt klädda förstås – släntrar Waiters in på scenen. Första kvällen i kritvit kostym, andra kvällen blåtonad. I maklig takt flanerar han några gånger fram och tillbaks över scengolvet och känner efter att slipsen sitter som den skall, justerar näsdukssnibben i bröstfickan, flashar manschettknapparna och drar i kavajslagen för att demonstrera den skräddarsydda kvalitén. Kollar in publiken. Men Waiters är ingen posör (som en del soucouskungar från Zaire), utan han gör allt detta med ett tydligt humoristiskt anslag. Hans främsta kännetecken är annars det platinablonda stubbade håret och kort skägget. Osvuret vem som var först, Mel eller basketbollstjärnan Dennis Rodman.
Waiters hakar på bandets groove med ett medley av sina största hits, varav några återkommer senare i längre versioner; Hole in the wall/Suki-suki-man/Girls nite out/Smaller the club… Lite ekivokt nigsittande upp och ner och kvinnorna i publiken far upp ur stolarna, viftar, ropar kommentarer. Det är bland den Afro-Amerikanska kvinnliga befolkningen Waiters (och andra artister i genren) har sin största support.
Showen är i gång och en bit in i programmet, kommer Chandra Calloway, en av de två körsångerskorna, fram till Mel och knackar honom på axeln: ”Hey, Mel, ”Itchi” showed me what great blues guitar he plays. He axed me, if I could get him to play the blues tonight!” Waiters är förstås inte alls med på noterna, utan menar att inte kan en ”japs” (Masatoshi Itchikawa) spela blues! Men den unge, diminutive, japanen är beredd att ta sin chans. Kliver fräckt fram till scenkanten, frontar publiken med ett brett grin och drar igång en down home blues-slinga, som får folket att jubla (gammal hederlig 12-takters blues går fortfarande hem). Waiters tittar misstroget och avvaktande, när Chandra greppar micken och brister ut i Aretha Franklins Doctor Feelgood med bluesig gitarrsupport. ”Okay, okay, you can play the blues, but I bet my last dollar, that you can´t play no sweet soul music like Latimore.” Varpå ”Itchi” med svepande, sensuella, gitarrörelser kvider fram ett soulballadintro. Mel faller in med How can i get next to you (från sin CD Let me show you how to love). Waiters har inte gjort sig känd som en ”balladeer”, men här visar han vilken utomordentlig sådan han faktiskt är.
Men hans hits har varit danslåtar och det är vad hans chitlin circuit-publik helst vill ha. Så han ger oss Smaller the club (the bigger the party), med häftigt koreograferade danssteg av saxofonisten Micah Brown och basisten Tony Maltbia. Vid varje konsert kommer också ett kort inslag, där Mel deklamerar sin starka gudstro, men förklarar att det ena inte förtränger det andra; det behövs både förströelse och religion. Sedan är det dags för lite comedy igen, när Waiters kallar på Maltbia (en ung veteran som spelat med Tyrone Davis, Willie Clayton, Marvin Sease…): ”Tony, you gotta save us. The people don´t give it up for us. If you don´t do it right, they will boo us off stage!”. Varpå Tony gör ett bassolo, som inte bara imponerar musikaliskt utan också retar skrattmusklerna, när han plöjer som en jordfräs fram och tillbaks över scenen. Ingen risk att publiken buar. Sista låten tillägnar Waiters den nyligen bortgångne southern soul-legenden Marvin Sease, och om det blev Got my whiskey eller Hole in the wall minns jag inte. Förmodligen båda, för Mel bytte en del låtar mellan de båda konserter jag såg. En suverän show av Mel Waiters och hans band. Nu önskar jag bara, att jag någon gång får tillfälle att se Mel en hel kväll i ett ”hole in the wall” (arenan i Miami har 4686 sittplatser, och Leon County Civic Center i Tallahassee 13800!). Som sagt: ”The smaller the club, the bigger the party!”.
”…I came out to have a good time
Yes I did, that´s on my mind
Said, I got my money
And I got my whiskey
´cause tonight, oh yes, I´m real tipsy…”
Mel Waiters föddes 1946 i San Antonio, Texas. Man kan nog säga att han bestämde sig rätt tidigt att bli trumslagare, för när Mel var 6-7 år fick han ett trumset i julklapp. Det kanske inte var så välbetänkt, men antagligen drev Mel frågan hårt, ty för att inte driva sina farföräldrar, som han bodde hos, till vansinne, fick han hålla till i ett uthus. Snart köpte han skivor med The O´Jays, James Brown och andra. När Mel var 12-13 år var han trummis och sångare i The Gotson Brothers Band. Med blåssektion och allt lirade de mycket Doobie Brothers och Chicago. Buddy Miles och Phil Collins blev snart stora förebilder som trumslagare. ”I think being a drummer and (having) my mind on music kept me focused. I didn´t want to drink Boones Farm (billigt sött vin). I didn´t want to smoke pot. I wanted to walk around with a couple of drum sticks in my back pocket and find out what a Gretsch snare was and what it took for me to get my tom-toms perfectly tuned, so I could sound like Genesis or Chicago or Buddy Miles. I wasn´t even into the girlfriend thing my senior year.” (från intervju av Scott Barretta i Living Blues 2006)
I slutet av 1970-talet fick Mel anställning på en radiostation och snart blev han DJ och jobbade åtta år på en station i San Antonio som ”Marvelous Mel”. Under den perioden spelade han inte, men så startade han The Mel Production Band och kom i konflikt med radiostationen och fick sluta som DJ. 1980 spelade han in LPn 1980 for the ladies, som mestadels gick i Kool & the Gang-stil. Titellåten var dock en ballad som sålde bra lokalt.
Men i slutet av 1970-talet kom discon, det blev svårt att få spelningar med bandet, och Mel började åter jobba som DJ på radiostationer och några nattklubbar. På en av klubbarna började han så småningom sjunga och kompa sig på en synth under ”happy hour”. Mel fortsatte att utveckla sig på diverse elektroniska keyboards, startade ett band igen, Mel Waiters & the Concept Band, och spelade 1992-96 på en cocktail lounge i hemstaden. Med sina keyboards började han producera sig själv, och bland annat skrev han och spelade in en låt, Hit it and quit it, som han ville att bluessångaren Buddy Ace skulle spela in. Ace´s producent, Leon Haywood, tackade dock nej till låten, och när Ace dog 1994, gav Mel själv ut låten på albumet I´m serious för Sirius Sound Records, ett litet lokalt bolag. Den kände disc-jockeyn E. Rodney Jones ”breakade”, med hjälp av Bobby Marchan, en veteran inom New Orleans´ musikscen, Hit it and quit it i Baton Rouge, Louisiana, och sedan i Mobile, Alabama. För första gången uppträdde Mel nu utanför Texas, när han öppnade shower i Mobile för Lee Fields och Jesse Graham, och även skötte ljudet åt dessa två sångare.
Nästa CD som Mel producerade blev dock en flopp och samarbetet med Sirius Sounds tog slut. Ett avgörande steg uppåt i karriären blev det när Mel mottog en Jackson Music Award (i Jackson, Mississippi) för Hit it and quit it. Detta uppmärksammades av Tommy Couch Jr. på Malaco Records, och Mel kunde omgående presentera Tommy en egenproducerad CD, Woman in need, som Malaco köpte rakt av. Från den blev danslåten Got my whiskey en stor hit i sydstaterna och Mel var plötsligt ”het”.
Snart hade han producerat ännu en CD (egentligen en demo), Material things. På den fanns låten Hole in the wall, som Mel skrev till en sångare som kallar sig X-Man. Denne tyckte dock att den passade Mel bättre, en danslåt som påminde om Got my whiskey. Hole in the wall är fortfarande Waiters största säljare. Den och Material things gav Mel hans första listplaceringar på Billboards Top 100 Blues Albums (nr 5) och Top 100 R&B/Hip Hop Albums (nr 83). En stark prestation, för det händer inte ofta att southern soul/blues placerar sig på dessa nationella listor. Speciellt inte hip hop-listan. Hip hop/rap är ju den dominerande musiken i USA sedan ett par decennier. ”Believe it or not, Hole In The Wall, the one that´s on the CD, is the demo that I cut at home. That´s why you hear nothing but Mel Waiters on there. One voice, one track – that´s the demo. The rest of the album was produced with Muscle Shoals Horns but that one song came out of my bedroom.” (citat från Living Blues). Material things kom 1999.
Det ska understrykas att det är livsviktigt för artister i den här genren att ha ny ”produkt” hela tiden; CDn och låtar från dessa på singlar som spelas på de många små lokala radiostationerna runt om i södern och på webbradiostationer som börjat komma alltmer. Detta hjälper till att få livespelningar i den mördande konkurensen i en musikingenre med många artister inom ett mycket begränsat geografiskt och kulturellt spridningsområde, och musiketablissemang som minskar i antal i takt med den ekonomiska regress som råder.
Begreppet ”Hole in the wall” står ursprungligen för en mindre enkel klubb, bar eller dylikt, men behöver inte vara det, utan kan numera lika gärna vara en elegant nattklubb, större eller mindre. Likaledes använder man i southern soul ”juke joint” i betydelsen nattklubb eller rent av konsertlokal, fast det från början avser en enkel lokal med någon eller några musiker eller med bara en jukebox.
2001 kom Let me show you how to love och 2003 A nite out. Från den senare blev Smaller the club en stor hit, men många av låtarna placerade sig högt på singel- och radiostationslistorna. Att Material things inte var en enstaka hit bevisade nästa CD, Throwback days (2006), som gick upp till 93:e plats på Billboards Top 100 R&B/Hip Hop-lista. ”My mark is finding a great hook. The record is only going to be as good as the hook is. When a person hears Got My Whiskey, they really don´t know even know what the song song is about until after they´re into the song because the groove is so good.” (citat från Living Blues)
2010 kom I ain´t gone do it, som produktonsmässigt toppar allt Waiters gjort tidigare. Det är också hans sista för Malaco/Waldoxy. Med den CD:n vann Waiters den erkända southern soul-nätsajten Blues Critics ”Best Album” och ”Southern Soul Artist of the Year”. Titellåten och Everything´s going up spelades flitigt på radio. Och 2011 har börjat bra med ännu en single från denna CD, balladen (!) Meet me tonight högt på topplistor. Samtidigt som nu When you get drunk från första CD:n på Brittney, Say what´s on your mind, placerat sig på Southern Soul Top 20-listan!
När detta skrives har jag från nya CDn bara hört When you get drunk, som är en bra låt med en catchy hook. F ö bara korta snuttar av några låtar, som gör mig något tveksam till helheten. Som Mel säger i intervjun längre fram, så är det tillbaks till ”basics”. Arren är mycket sparsmakade. Men som sagt, jag har inte hört alla låtar. Klart entusiastisk är jag dock över Chandra Calloways, Mels kompanjon på Brittney Records, CD Lose sleep, med komp av bl a Hollywood Scott på gitarr, och producerad av Mel.
”…I´m not gonna sit around all night long
I´m gonna dance until the morning come
I´m gonna let all of my troubles go
It´s 2 a.m. in the morning and I´m ready for more…”
You said in the Living Blues interview (2006), that southern soul is a genre of music and a life style. Can you explain what that means for our Swedish readers.
What I meant by that life style, is southern soul is a name that has been adopted over the past 5-6 years. First we had blues, basically the blues, like from Lightnin´ Hopkins to B.B. to Z.Z. (Hill), all different kind of people. The early guys that were doing blues, these guys were real hard blues. Later on the younger guys came along, like myself, which our production is consistently deep, but our lyrics are pretty related to blues. Our lyrics are blues related, but our music production is pretty much r´n´b, so that gives it the title of southern soul. We don´t do very much like (Little) Milton and B.B., like Walking The Back Streets Crying and My Baby Left Me, Sweet Sixteen. We´re really not doing too much of the 16 or 12 bar blues. It´s mostly the production now got a r´n´b feel to it, but the lyric content is Rhythm & Bluesish. I mean, it´s still in relationship blues. So that´s how the term southern soul came up. Well, a lot of it was produced by… A lot of this music came from guys that really came up from the South, this style of music that I have adopted to as well.
And Texas that´s considered the South also…
Right, right! From Texas all down to Louisiana and Mississippi. You know, pretty much that same style goes thru that neck of the woods.
You write most of your songs that´s on your CDs. What is the writing process? How do you come up with the music and the lyrics?
The reason the lyrics… It varies the way I come up with it, simply because the feelings and emotions are different at times. But I try to stay in the same… ah, arena, because, like my fans tonight… I know what type of fans are in the room, and I know what they pretty much relate to, so I try to not stray too far away from that, and that pretty much keep sets the tone in the agenda, from what I sit down and begin to write. I have to stay with that real well. I can´t go too far. I really got to stay pretty center on that, but my inspiration comes from all those I perform for each week.
Do you write for other artists as well?
Yeah, I have. I´ve written for… My first project that I did, when I got to Malaco (Records) was Ernie Johnson.
He´s got a real sweet voice.
Oh yeah, Ernie´s got a real unique voice, and that was the first project I did for Malaco. And then I did another project on Latimore, which was on my label (Brittney Records), and we had a little success on it, and we became big friends after that. Those were the two major guys, I´ve written for..
Can you explain the background to the song Material Things. It sounds like it´s an interesting piece of music.
Oh, Material Things? I think it was Freddie Young, and they (Malaco) did most of the background for the Material Things CD, that entire CD. And they had sweet harmonies that they did a lot of their own Malaco stuff quite a bit, for Johnnie and Tyrone and Z.Z., and other guys.
But it is something in the lyrics that is special for the song. What´s it all about?
Yeah, yeah! The subject matter here is I´m asking a lady friend, what would you rather have, material things or someone to love you? Which would you prefer? What it pretty much was centered around was from relationships in my life. I was able to write from that, and for the most of all women would always say, that they would rather have someone to love them rather than have material things.
From what I understand from the Living Blues interview, you´re a deeply religious person.
Absolutely. I can´t say, that I´m anymore deeply religious than anybody else, but I do have a deeply belief in God, in that it is a God above, because he created the avenue for me right now that has been very succesful. Because I come from an enviroment to where it was very little reward there, but I had grandparents that provided essential things for me, and the same time they taught me how to believe and hold on to Christ. And each night that I do my performance, I take time out to say ”Thank you, Jesus”, and that´s been a part of my show throughout my career.
Are you associated with a particular church where you live?
Yes, yes. The United Chapel Methodist Church.
Are you a musician there or you just go to the (Sunday) service?
Yeah, I just go to the service. Every once in a while when I go home, and they know that I´m comin´ in advance, they like for me to sing a solo or something like that, but other than that I´m just a another person in the audience coming to get a good scripture.
Fotnot: Juli 2010 släppte Mel sin första gospelskiva; en singel. Den ska följas av en fullängds-CD.
A ”crucial” question: I of course would have liked to ask you, what is your favorite brand of whiskey, but (then) I read you don´t drink at all. (Min – vid det här laget – skämtsamma fråga är förstås föranledd av låtar Waiters skrivit som Got My Whiskey, Whiskey and blues, Half pint m fl. i den stilen.)
(Laugh) Yes, that´s real funny, because of my songs are related to people that love to drink, and those are some of my best fans. So, no, I really don´t have a favorite brand of whiskey, but I would say this; if I would like to have a drink it might be Hennessy (konjak). It would be a tad of Hennessy, but it won´t be very much, because my alcohol talents are real low, really.
When did you stop drinking?
Never had! Never had. Never had. Never have (been) drinking, never have smoked. (laughs) I´ve been a bartender, but never drunk.
That´s very strong of you.
You have a funny story in what order you sing Hole in the wall and Got my whiskey at concerts. It seems it´s like a story behind it the order of the songs. Can you tell me about that?
Well, I really not decided like that. We really just started performing like that. We performed, began to do these performances. The order of how they came into play, because there were times when Got my whiskey was more powerful than Hole in the wall, and there were nights when Hole in the wall was more popular than Got my whiskey. But when we began the most recent band, that I have right now, we ………….. our show together, but prior to that we kinda like wind it and… we played on the respons of the audience. But right now we pretty much have a formula.
Reading Soul Express (finsk [!] nättidning), (when) they did a review in 1996 of your first CD, it seems it was quite heavy on ballads. Then you had a string of hits with dance oriented songs. Are you going back to ballads a little more again?
Well, I´d love to, but my fans, really… my fans really accepted me over the past years for singing dance songs, and with the dance songs I´ve been real successful. So pretty much, right now, when I do a ballad, I think the jocks (DJ:s), when they´re going to my CD, they really don´t… When they play a Mel Waiters CD, pull up a Mel Waiters CD, the first thing they listen for is; ”Hey, where´s the hit, where is the dance song on it?”. They don´t pull it up and say: ”Mel, where´s the ballad? You gotta be croonin´!”. But I have had real good ballads. Material things, the title track I felt was a really good ballad. Woman in need from the CD Woman in need, I felt that was a good ballad. I love ballads, but I don´t really have very much success, I feel, with my fans with that.
Maybe one day it will hit, and you´re back as a ballad master again.
I´d love that (laugh). If I have a ballad hit, yeah, I would love that.
You worked with Lee Fields (en mycket bra, men underskattad, soulsångare, aktiv sedan 1970-talet och som nu fått en del uppmärksamhet genom några utgivningar på Dap-Tone Records).
Yeah, Lee Fields was one of the first performances that I did, that I got payed for. Actually, I did (the) sound(board) (for him) that night. I was the opening act. I did sound, and Lee Fields was the head name act along with Jessie Graham from Ichiban Records. And I did my show, I had Hit It And Quit It, over in Mobile, Alabama, and I came off stage and I run to the sound board and I did sound. That was the first time I ever met and seen Lee Fields.
I like his style.
Oh, he´s been around for many years. He´s really got the James Brown style, and everybody really take to him.
Walter Waiters, is that a relative of yours? (En uppåtgående sångare och klaviaturspelare i Texas.)
Yes, Walter is my cousin. He grow up in the same old town, San Antonio, where I did. He´s younger than I am, but at the same time he´s coming along and his music is catching on, and I´m real proud of him.
With you being a drummer etc; bass, guitar – how do you reflect on that drummers and bass players are not so (much) used on recordings. They are on live shows but not on (many of the) records. What do you think of that, as being a drummer yourself?
Well, I was real partial to that first, but with the way technology is right now, the drum machines sound just as good as live drummers. And it´s less time, and it´s just a machine as well as a human sitting behind the drum set. You can still put the feeling in there as well with the new technology. I do take bass players and guitar players, horn players in the studio with me now, keyboard players as well, but the thing about it now is they don´t have to play the entire song. They can play so many bars and then we can loop it, we can sample it, and we can move it around. But back in the day when we had 24 track, 2 inch recording, then we would have to play the song through its entirety for each musician as well as the drummer, the guitar player, whatever. But I lock everything with pro-tools and everything. You can play a few bars and use it later on in the song.
I guess you´re aware, that over in Europe we prefer ”live” musicians playing drums and…
Yeah, I would face that with my first single, Hit It And Quit It, that song was presented to Leon Haywood for Buddy Ace, and because I did have live acoustic drums on it Leon didn´dt really like it. He liked the song, but he would have to make some adjustments on it, and they were interested, but Buddy Ace passed away that Christmas in Waco, Texas, so they didn´t get to do it, and I kept it and I released it… Dave Perkins released it on the Sirius Sound Records and it became my first reasonable hit, and I had a lot of fun, lot of success with that record.
Have you been over in Europe?
Never had. I´ve had invitations to Holland. A couple of other spots overseas, but I don´t like flying. I fly to maybe L.A., the West Coast on short flights, but if, you know, the future permits there´s a chance I might go over.
You hit immediately, when you arrived at Malaco, but you produced the whole thing yourself. They didn´t want to change anything?
Yeah, the first CD (at Malaco), Woman In Need, they didn´t change anything. They kept it as it was, and they just pressed it up and made copies. They didn´t alter it at all. And the next CD, they pretty much did the same thing on Material Things. But the third CD, they began to bring other writers in and they had me to mix it at Malaco. So they sort of took away my work on it and my process of creating, what I felt was hits. And the next three albums after that, they begin to bring other writers in with other songs to me, so I felt like they took away from my personal creativity, the way for which I felt I should stay on line with my fan base. I think… I felt like I lost my fans with my last CD´s, because I had too many outside writers trying to write for me, which they didn´t really know what I wanted.
So that´s part of the things why you left Malaco?
Yeah, because I think they took my creativity away from me, I felt. They wanted me to be a machine for them, but at the same time they wouldn´t allow me to run the scheme. They wanted to run the scheme, and mechanically worked me. But when you´re creating, you can´t have that over you, you have to have the freedom to create. And with the end results, it was never my final say. It was always Malaco´s final say, what my picture might look like, what the songs should sound like, and I was a bit… In the end there, you know, I had good years with them, but I just felt like… I´m on the road, I´m a working artist. So on the road I felt like I was closer to knowing what my fans wanted, than what they did sitting in the office at Malaco.
Was Dave Clark (legendarisk promotion person inom blues/southern soul) still working then, when you came to Malaco?
No, Dave wasn´t there. I did meet Dave… I worked in radio for nine years, and Dave Clark would come to the radio station I used to work at, before I got to this part of my career. And before I came to Malaco, I think Dave was dead, (had) passed away by then.
But the first CD at Malaco was a hit. Was it the promotion or a particular DJ that created the success?
The success of that album… because Woman In Need was the first single off the album, and it was out about six months, and a young lady by the name of Candy Eastman in Houston, Texas, at Magic 102, did a, what we call, a double play. She played Got My Whiskey back to back ( along with the song Woman In Need) one Tuesday afternoon and the phones went crazy, and at that point of time, it created a buzz, and Malaco released it as a single. But prior to that the single was Woman In Need, the ballad from the CD. So from Candy playing that record in the streets, begin to play it a lot, the entire CD caught on fire. But Hole In The Wall was the song that got me national known. And Got My Whiskey and Hole In The Wall is still played tremendously throughout the US. But to answer the question, Got My Whiskey was the first song to propel me and give me that great note of writing. Hit It And Quit It got me a little reasonable buzz, but Got My Whiskey allowed me to open for Johnnie (Taylor) and Tyrone (Davis) in Houston, and I really never looked back after that.
When Scott interviewed you, you said you could be kind of trapped being with a label like Malaco, considered to be a blues artist. Has that changed (sedan 2006, när Scott Barretta gjorde intervjun)? Because when I listen to southern soul radio on the web, they talk a lot about blues. They say ”blues”; OK, of course ”southern soul” also, but a lot of ”blues”, ”blues”, ”blues”… Do you still feel stuck in an idiom, that you maybe don´t want to? Or have you accepted to more being a blues artist?
I don´t think I´m accepted as a blues artist, because the blues circuit is Buddy Guy and B.B. and so many of the other guys, that I felt is on a different circuit. That´s the blues, which is still there. I´m more of a soul artist, R&B soul artist, because my songs are not played on just blues (radio) shows in the US. My songs are mixed in with J´Neen, Legacy. I was riding to Birmingham one Saturday and K.C. & Jo-Jo went off (on air) and they played Got My Whiskey, and my songs have never really been trapped in that (blues) zone. I felt though, that being signed with Malaco, which is known nationally as one of the biggest blues labels, that it would put a stigma on me, that when program directors would see or hear… see a Mel Waiters record comes into the station, automatically a flair would go over and say, ”OK, we´re getting ready to get something. Let´s talk about Walkin´ the Back Streets And Crying or some ”Whinin´ and cryin´”. But my fan base are definitly on up right now. I´m watching it grow tremendously over the year. So I was afraid, that I would get trapped in that blues arena, but I continue to cut for a certain stock (R&B-publiken).
They are talkin´ so much, the DJ:s and announcers on (Web) radio stations, like *”This is your blues station…”. They´re pronouncing the blues (word), more and more.
Yes, they are.
Is it coming back? Getting more diversified, the blues thing?
I think a lot of the younger jocks, even from my radio days, a lot of the guys now, that are announcers really can´t define what they are playin´. We really are not playin´ blues. We´re doing R&B. I mean, we rob a little from blues, by using blues lyric content. We rob a little from there, but productionwise, the sequencers and the syntheziers and the little keyboard patch horn arrangements, we´re not really touching what the real blues is. So I think that is the closest that a lot of the jocks that are on the radio now (comes). But I know what the blues is and I wouldn´t dare call myself a blues singer, you know, because I´m not a blues singer.
In the blues idiom, do you have a feeling it´s getting more airplay now, than a few years ago? Is it getting better?
(But) with the internet radio?
It could be getting better with web radio, but in circular radio we´re really getting pushed out. We´re not getting mainstream radio airplay like we used to. Because I think the quality of records that are being cut right now are not the quality of records that was being cut with McKinley Mitchell and Johnnie (Taylor) and Z.Z. (Hill) and Tyrone (Davis), which was the Malaco sound, some of it, a little later on. But the early years… Johnnie was with Stax and Tyrone was with Columbia, and they had heck of recording studios and producing teames that created some timeless music. Today we don´t have that. And not enough energies being put into the production. I think it´s real cheesy. I think everybody can buy pro-tools and sonar and all of these softwares, and cheaply cut songs are presented and make people think that they are on their way. But I think we´re not really getting the juices, and getting the juice to flow like those guys (that) had production teams like back in the day, so we´re falling short.
2010 was a very fine year for you. You had I Ain´t Gone Do It as best album with Blues Critic, and you were southern soul artist of the year, so that helps to spread the fan base. More people catch up, you think?
It was a big help. (But) I´m still a little hurt, because… But that helped me quite a bit, and I´m thankful to Blues Critic and to people that voted and went on line. I´m very appreciative to it, but I´m a bit hurt, because I´ve been standing around on the side of the stage for about 11-12-13 years now, watching Johnnie, Tyrone, Marvin (Sease), Milton, Z.Z., and I´ve always strived to give a quality show. And if anyone that have seen my show, they would know that I put a lot into my performances, and a lot into my music. The music Malaco has put out on me over the years. And I just don´t really… I think my fans love me, and I think my fans love me because of the quality in the style of my music, but I don´t think the industry itself has really recognized me enough to understand that — I´m not stroking myself — but I´m a diamond, I´m a diamond in the raw, because I can rise to all occasions when we play venues. Because my band is always outstanding, incredible. We do great shows and we just do the best we can do each night, and I don´t think promoters…
I don´t think other colleagues of mine in this industry give me the accolades that I´m due, right now. So I´m a-keep on pounding at it until I get their attention. Because I think I´ve stood around and watched enough guys, and I´ve taken on what I watched Johnnie and Tyrone do. They were class act guys (in) their stage presence and they were professional all the time. You would hear (other artists do) a little tidbit things, but it would never measure up to what they (Johnnie Taylor, Tyrone Davis etc) looked like, or sounded like on stage, and I think that what you look like and sound like on stage stands more for your career, than what the (business) gossip may say. And those guys I feel (are) like real class acts and mentors to me. To where I want to, if not get to their level (at least, get) even higher. So that´s why I refuse to do cheesy music. I refuse to do explicit content written music. I choose to stay on the right path to try to keep their revered soul/R&B kind of music alive, because I think we really got a short cut right now. But I hope that we can hope and trust in the Lord, that we can get back on top again. But I keep pounding away.
Your new CD, is it out now (and) on your own label?
My new CD is (just released) on my label, Brittney Records, and my first single is titled When You Get Drunk, You Say What´s On Your Mind. The CD is titled Say What´s On Your Mind. I´m excited about it, and it´s real promising. I have early sales on it. That´s really promising. I´ve never seen this side of the industry, but I´m excited about it, and I hope it will bring me good things, and I hope it will bring me to Sweden and some other parts.
You have a home studio it´s been recorded at?
Yes, it was recorded in my home studio. All of my CD:s were recorded in my home studio. What happened was some of them were mixed at Malaco, but I´m back to the basics now. I´m cutting at home and I´ve released it from home.
Brittney, is that a collaboration of you and Chandra (Calloway)?
Chandra is a writer. She writes along with me. She handles the publishing department.She´s also my background singer, you know. And Brittney is my daughter, who my company is named after. So we have a heck of a thing going. Chandra is also on Brittney Records, with a CD that I produced on her. And her single is I´m Gonna Loose No Sleep Over You. So she´s got some promising material that is coming up from the label as well. So we´re really excited about where we can go, right now.
You´re getting airplay both of you?
Yes, Chandra´s getting a tremendous amount of airplay in certain spots. But I´m hoping that the more I grow, I can bring her and my other artists on the label, we can bring Brittney Records to the Motown standards.
That sounds great, and I really hope that you succeed.
Thank you, so much.
”…I came out to have a good time
Yes, I did, that´s all on my mind
Said, I got my money
And I got my whiskey
Because tonight, oh yeah, I´m real tipsy”
”I got my whiskey”; komp. M. Waiters/H. Joseph
Intervju med Mel Waiters 2011-02-26
Scott Barretta, intervju med Mel Waiters i Living Blues #188, 2007
Text: Tommy Löfgren Photo: Joseph Rosen/ Jefferson #168