Maria Muldaur is a fierce vocalist who combines
a variety of styles at every performance. She uses the term
"Bluesiana" to describe her uncanny blend of blues, jazz and R&B. She has
also recorded several albums for younger audiences. Perhaps Muldaur
is best known for the 1974 smash hit "Midnight At The Oasis."
Muldaur holds an important place in the 1960's jug band revival
movement. As a member of the Even Dozen Jug Band and the
Jim Kweskin Jug Band, she shared the stage with such luminaries as
John Sebastian, Richard Greene and David Grisman. She has also performed with
Dr. John, Bonnie Raitt, Jerry Garcia, Charles Brown, Aaron
Neville and many others.
Digital Interviews: Who were some of your earliest musical influences?
Maria Muldaur: I could tune in a little country music station from Newark, New Jersey. Aunt Katie used to listen to this station all the time, so at age five I was listening to Kitty Wells, Hank Williams, Hank Snow, Hank Thompson -- lots of guys named Hank. [laughs] Ernest Tubb, people like that. The early classics, you know, Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, people like that. The first song I remember singing is “It Wasn’t God Who Made Honky Tonk Angels,” at age five. I didn’t have a major plan to become a singer; I just started being a singer. I was listening as I came up through my childhood. At the end of the radio dial there were black stations. Before Alan Freed coined the term “rock 'n' roll,” it was known as rhythm and blues. There were rhythm and blues stations at the end of the dial, people like Chuck Willis, Little Richard, Ruth Brown, Fats Domino, Muddy Waters -- the early R&B stars. I loved the sound. Little by little, Alan Freed got a really big listenership in New York. He moved to WINS, and right around that time I first heard the term “rock 'n' roll.”
I would save up all my money and go to the Alan Freed “rock 'n' roll” shows -- walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, because I would have just enough money for the ticket, not enough for the ticket and the subway fare. At the Brooklyn Paramount, there would be shows -- ten or twenty artists -- The Platters, The Five Satins, some of the other artists I’ve mentioned.
I did have a couple of girl doo-wop groups, influenced by that whole period, in high school. One was called The Cameos, with three Puerto Rican girls in junior high. My high school was in a different neighborhood, and I hooked up with three Jewish girls from the Bronx and formed The Cashmeres. We wrote songs, and actually did get a record contract, which my mother would not let me sign. I was very disappointed. Around that time, Elvis went into the Army, and all the early, good, black-influenced R&B started getting totally co-opted. We had Pat Boone doing covers of Fats Domino tunes. [laughs] You know, crooning it. Elvis was replaced by Fabian, and people like that, so the whole thing got pretty co-opted and whitewashed, and sort of became a “teen scene” as opposed to this really vital form of American roots music -- R&B derived out of blues. I kind of lost my interest about that time, but coincidentally, in Greenwich Village, where I was living, there was this whole resurgence and rediscovery of American roots music, what we now refer to as the “folk scare of the sixties.” [laughs] People were discovering blues artists and country artists and Appalachian artists in the deep South, and bringing them up North to urban areas for college concerts and performances at coffee houses, which was a real big deal.
DI: Didn’t you help present some of these shows?
MM: Yeah. We would go down South, sometimes armed with just the name of a town
as mentioned in a song -- like Avalon, Mississippi. Sure enough, we’d go there and find
somebody, like Mississippi John Hurt. These were just legendary figures to us, who we
only had heard on Library of Congress records or rare, old, scratchy blues records.
They were still alive and sitting on their porch, playing guitars and singing, or
playing for local dances. I was very lucky to meet these people -- as far as I’m
concerned, among the major cultural elders of our time. We had hootenannies every
Saturday. They would include people like Reverend Gary Davis and Mississippi John Hurt,
whoever happened to be in town. Reverend Davis lived in town, up in Harlem. After the
joint would close down, around twelve or one, we’d all adjourn over to my loft. We’d
all stay up all night and jam, and he’d tell us stories and preach to us, tell us
little Bible stories and play little snatches of songs. Then, without even going to
sleep, we would drive him back up to Harlem, he’d freshen up a little bit and go right
to church and give a sermon. Man, this guy had some energy -- he was amazing. So,
it was a very incredible time. These older blues people, and also people like Doc
Watson, Clarence Ashley, Bill Monroe -- this is all a natural form of music.
This is all different styles of American grassroots music of, by and for the
people -- not created to get on hit radio. Not part of the “hit-making machinery,” as
Joni Mitchell used to call it. It was vital that it get passed on to another
generation before the whole pop-music mega-industry just kind of swallowed it
all up. Without really knowing why, we were drawn to the music. There was the
Newport Folk Festival every year, and thousands of people gathered. People
started re-recording these old artists -- Skip James, Son House, Mississippi
Fred McDowell, Willie Dixon, Howlin’ Wolf. All of them were still vital and
still performing. We just soaked up as much as we could, and I think we’ve carried it on.
DI: And you learned to play the fiddle?
MM: They brought Doc Watson and The Watson Family up to a concert. I was, of course, floored by Doc Watson’s playing, pickin’ and singin’, but I especially was drawn to the fiddle playing of his sweet little ol’ father-in-law, Gaither Carlton -- who just played this real simple, sweet style of old-timey fiddle, not nearly as fancy as bluegrass fiddle. I mean, this guy couldn’t have hauled off and played a dazzling version of “Orange Blossom Special” or anything -- that wasn’t the bag; the bag was very sweet old time fiddle. I was drawn to the sound, and they were so gracious -- talk about Southern hospitality. They just said, “Well, come on down and see us, and you can stay with us, and we’ll show you how to play it.” You better believe I was on the next VW bus I could find, me and my boyfriend. We went down there several times. I have great memories of staying with the Watson family, sitting on their porch after supper. Some of their kinfolk would come walking down the mountain, out of the woods, and they’d all sit around on the porch. Word would get out -- “There’s some city folks from New York down to see Doc.” They’d all come, and they all played banjo and sang. Nobody had a TV. It was just wonderful. I’ll never forget it, and I feel really blessed to have been able to be exposed to a little bit of that.
DI: How did you become part of the Even Dozen Jug Band?
MM: I’d recently come back from one of my trips to the South, and I ran into John Sebastian and David Grisman in Washington Square Park. They were all excited. They said, “We’re forming a jug band.” Jug bands were another form of early rural music, a cross between New Orleans ragtime and rural blues, with touches of jazz and swing. The poor people in the rural areas couldn’t afford a big standup bass and a full drum set, so for the bass sound they would blow into jugs or play washtub bass, and for the sounds made by the whole drum kit they would put on thimbles and play on washboards, and pots and pans and whatever. They usually had real mandolins and fiddles -- and harmonicas. The harmonica’s known as “Mississippi saxophone.”
Victoria Spivey was a contemporary of Bessie Smith, still alive and well and living in New York, and way ahead of her time.
One of the first artists I know of to start her own record label. She had seen them jamming somewhere and thought, “This is
good. I ought to put this on my label.” She signed Dylan, you know. On one of Dylan’s early records, there’s a picture of him
standing with this older black lady, who has a turban on her head. I think they’re standing in front of a piano. That’s him with
Victoria Spivey. She was a go-getter and a real hip lady. She wanted to sign them, but said, “You boys need some sex appeal
on stage. What about that little gal I’ve seen singing with you sometimes?” So, they ran over and said, “She says we need sex
appeal. Will you join?” Well, this was before women’s lib. I should have been highly insulted by such a suggestion. [laughs]
Anyway, I took a look at them. They were all 17 and still going through their Clearasil period. Some of them hadn’t even lost
their baby fat. I said, “Well, she probably is right. Sure, I’d love to.” I wanted to jam with them anyway. She took me under
her wing, and started helping me find songs for the project. She turned me on to Memphis Minnie, and she started playing me
old tapes. She even had old 78s of some of the stuff. Elektra bought us out from Victoria Spivey, but I’m sure they made a
good settlement. They had heard that jug bands were going to sweep the nation. There already was the Kweskin Jug Band out
on Vanguard. They wanted to scoop the scene and have their own jug band, and I guess we were “it.” She came over and
said, “You’ll always be my baby.” She would give me pointers about stage presence. “Now, honey, when you get up there, it
ain’t enough just to get up there and sing your song. You’ve got to get up there and strut your stuff.” You know, learning the
moves. When I look back, I realize this was one of the original blues divas, and she just literally took me under her wing. I was
just really blessed to get to know and interact with some of these people.
DI: Then you joined the Kweskin Band.
MM: After the Even Dozen Jug Band made one album and did two concerts at Carnegie Hall, we realized that not many clubs could afford to hire a 13-piece band. Besides, most of the kids were going off to college. I was learning about American roots music outside of college, so about that time I drifted away. I had been going to Hunter College. Anyway, I was quite taken with one of the lead singers with the Kweskin Band, a certain Geoff Muldaur, who had a very sexy, crooning, bluesy style. We hooked up and fell in love, and I moved on up to Cambridge. After a few months, one of their members left, and they said, “Why don’t we ask Maria to join?” I played fiddle, kazoo and various percussion instruments, and made five recordings with them. Those were golden years -- we were the alternative music of that age, we were very popular at colleges, we sold a fair amount of records. About ’68, the band broke up, and Geoff and I went on to make two duet albums. We’d moved to Woodstock, New York. In the early ‘70s, our marriage was coming to an end. He was very interested in leaving our musical band and joining up with Paul Butterfield. I had the opportunity to go to L.A. and cut my first solo album. It happened to have a little hit called "Midnight At The You-Know-What" on it.
DI: I know that song really strikes a chord in a lot of people.
MM: With everybody -- it’s amazing. It’s so weird to me. Not a gig goes by that several people don’t come up and tell me exactly where they were when they first heard that. I guess, a happy memory for a lot of people. People tell me they lost their virginity to that song, they got proposed to, they conceived babies -- it was a huge hit all over the world. It was God’s way of blessing me, and I’m grateful to that song every day, because it was totally unexpected. That was just the song that happened to click with everybody. So, thank you, God. [laughs]
DI: Right about that time, you remade “I’m a Woman.”
MM: That was my next big hit, on the next album. You know, here I was in L.A., broken up with my husband. We’d been not only husband and wife, but a musical team for years, and we had a little girl named Jenni. It was sad, but a few months later, there I am in the studio with Dr. John, Ry Cooder, Dave Lindley, Jim Keltner and Paul Butterfield, and all of a sudden, I didn’t quite miss Geoff so much anymore. I thought, “I’m going to be okay.” He was the musical mastermind of our band, and he’s a brilliant musician. He just put out a great record called Secret Handshake last year, after an 18-year absence from the music scene. I have always respected and loved his musical sensibilities. When we broke up, I felt like a ship without a rudder. I didn’t know what form my career was going to take. So when I found myself in L.A. with all these great players, and they all respected me and what I did, then I took a deep breath and said, “I can go on. This ain’t so bad. In fact, this is great!” [laughs] After a couple of years, I left L.A. I fell in love with John Kahn, who was Jerry Garcia’s bass player for many years. He pinch-hit for my bass player, who’d gotten a sudden case of dreadful stomach poisoning. We were opening up that night in San Francisco. He showed up and learned 20 songs in an hour. He was a fantastic musician. One thing led to another, and we fell madly in love. I moved up to San Francisco to be with him. At that time, he had Ron Tutt, who was Elvis’ drummer and bandleader. I loved the Garcia Band so much. Donna and Keith Godchaux were in it, and I would go moonlight with them whenever I could. I would show up with my tambourines and stand between John Kahn and Ron Tutt and play tambourine when they did “Mystery Train.” You know, I could just do that for days. Jerry enjoyed having me and eventually asked me to join the band. I did Cats Under the Stars with them and toured with them and had a wonderful time.
DI: What did you learn from working with Jerry?
MM: I learned that it isn’t so much the notes or the technical perfection -- because he could flub a few notes, old Jerry, you know -- but the way he played came from the inside. He would start out on a solo and he’d just feel around. He wouldn’t just come out of the gate with some rip-roaring, dazzling, fancy licks; he would sort of meander around and wait until the spirit came together. He would build a stairway to heaven with his notes. It didn’t have to do with fanciness; it had to do with waiting for the spirit to descend on him and the band. When that happened, the whole audience would get it. It wasn’t about, “Look at me, I’m going to do something dazzling.” It was more about, “Let’s all really feel this moment together.” I’ve had very accomplished guitar players since then, guys who could just whip all over the guitar neck. A fabulous black guitarist from Marin County named Archie Williams, a real jazzer, could play any kind of lick -- inside out, upside down, backwards, fast, you know -- and he just didn’t get it. There are a lot of other very accomplished musicians who don’t get the “Jerry thing.” They wondered, “How come he’s selling out to millions of people, audiences everywhere, and I’m so good and nobody knows who I am?” I tried to explain to them, it’s because Jerry was not playing from a place of ego. He was not playing to impress anybody; he was playing because the spirit moved him to play. And John was right there with him. It’s really just a tragedy, the whole scene that surrounded them got more and more involved in drugs. It’s a pity because it brought down two of the best musicians I ever heard or got to work with. I miss them dearly to this day. [Stanley] Mouse did a great, wonderful drawing after John Kahn passed away. Jerry’s sitting up on a cloud playing. In the first picture John, with his little hat on, is sort of flying up to meet him with his bass in hand. Then, in the next picture, they’re both sitting on a cloud jamming. And that’s just the way I have to think about them. [laughs]
DI: Your albums in the late ‘70s and ‘80s moved in a Christian direction.
MM: Well, I have always loved American gospel music -- not whitewashed, neutered, contemporary Christian music. I mean, those people are totally sincere, but musically there’s just something that just sounds neutered to me about it. When I’m switching around on the radio dial, I can always tell one of those stations -- there’s something so milquetoasty. There’s some kind of simpy sound to their voice. I can’t speak for God, but I’m sure he’d much rather hear a bunch of black folks in a little Pentecostal church shoutin’ and gettin’ into the Holy Spirit. That’s certainly what attracted me. Way back in those early years, those R&B stations had about two watts, at the very tip of the dial. At about four in the morning they’d go off on a Saturday night, and then the black gospel, live from Abyssinian Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey. I’ll never forget the moment I first heard the Staple Singers. I was about 16, and I’d never heard anything like that. They sang “Swing Down Chariot” and “Let Me Ride” -- and Pops Staples and Mavis Staples were just tearin’ it up. You could hear everybody in the congregation getting the Holy Spirit. I got goose bumps. I was young, I didn’t even know how to describe what I was feeling, but I went, “Whoa! Why don’t they sing like that at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church?” -- where I grew up. That was my introduction to black gospel music. So when I had the opportunity, I did an album with the Chambers Brothers and a bunch of other people called Gospel Nights, a live album that we did at McCabe’s down in L.A. Then I did another gospel album called There Is a Love for Myrrh Records and got to work with some of the greats in gospel music, too. Personally, that’s the style of gospel music that I enjoy. I mean, God wants the music to be good and to really be moving, you know?
DI: Critics hail your 1992 release Louisiana Love Call as one of your best.
MM: During the ‘80s, I worked a lot with Dr. John. After we did the Sweet & Slow album, we got called to do a lot of duet stuff together. We would tour Europe and the States and do little dates together, when he wasn’t working with his band and I wasn’t working with my band. The more I got to hang out with him -- I knew him from the early ‘70s because he had been on my early hits as well -- I got more and more addicted to that fabulous, funky New Orleans sound. He taught me more and more about some of the other great New Orleans piano players. I did long engagements in New Orleans in the late ‘80s and got to meet people like the Neville Brothers. Aaron Neville, Ernie K-Doe and Allen Toussaint all came to my gigs. It started a very serious love affair and total connection that I felt with New Orleans music. In ’90 or ’91, I made a kids’ album called On the Sunny Side for Music For Little People. It’s got jug band tunes on it, songs that were hits for adults in a kinder, gentler age, songs my aunts used to sing to me -- “Would You Like to Swing on a Star?” -- and they’re very sweet songs, but they’re written by really good tunesmiths. They were big hits for grownups, and my idea in presenting kids music is to get the best musicians I can and find the best songs I can. They deserve to hear a really hip saxophone solo, and really cool harmonies, not just, you know, “Brush your teeth or they’ll all fall out.” A lot of the stuff that is done for kids is really moronic. And I’m being kind.
Anyway, I did that and I co-produced it, and it won several awards. It was very well received. Meanwhile, from having worked with Dr. John, I’d insist that my keyboard players learn that New Orleans piano style. Dr. John has instructional videos and tapes out, and I would make them study with that. More and more, the New Orleans sound and rhythms got infused into my music, and I started calling it “Bluesiana” music. I wanted to do an album, and people like Dr. John and Aaron Neville said they’d love to collaborate. Most of the big labels just didn’t get it, but a little label out of New Orleans sure got it -- Black Top Records. They totally knew what I was trying to present, and they gave me the opportunity to go down there and do that. We’re talking small budget but big, big talent on the record and wonderful songs. Zachary Richard played on it. And Amos Garrett -- he’s the only non-New Orleans musician -- we imported him from Canada to come down and play some of his classic stuff. It came out, and it was in People and Rolling Stone. All of a sudden, people were saying, “Maria’s back.” Not that I’d gone anywhere. [laughs] I’d made other records, but all on small, independent labels. I made another one with Black Top, and then three on Telarc Records -- Fanning the Flames, Southland of the Heart, and Meet Me Where They Play the Blues. So Louisiana Love Call was the first recorded presentation of what I’d been doing for the last several years live. It caught people up to what I had been up to.
DI: Do you find a creative freedom working on a small label?
MM: Totally. That’s the joy of this. It’s just awesome. I’ve now just completed my 11th album in 10 years -- all different, all on small independent labels. I’ve produced a good half of them. They’ve all been critically well received. They haven’t sold millions of copies, but I’ve been able to completely express myself, call on the best musicians I can find to help me out. In this decade I’ve worked with Dr. John, Aaron Neville, Mavis Staples, Bonnie Raitt, Huey Lewis -- to name but a few. I gravitate. I don’t call on these people because, “Ooh, they’re famous, and maybe they’ll help me sell a few records.” I call on them because I’m going after a certain sound and I think, “Who is the best person to put across that sound?” Then I call them up and ask if they’d be interested. And no one’s ever turned me down.
DI: The recent Meet Me Where They Play the Blues was a tribute to Charles Brown?
MM: It was going to be a collaboration with Charles Brown. He was going to maybe sing two or three duets and play piano on four or five cuts. Unfortunately, he got ill right before we started. I’d chosen the songs with his mellow, more sophisticated jazzy style of blues in mind. We had done several shows together, and I loved his style. I have a very jazzy side to my singing, and he liked my singing also, and he encouraged me. So, I thought, “This would be a great match.” And Telarc thought so too, and they said I could produce the whole thing. I was excited about that. He became ill a week before we had to go in. But we had to go in at a certain time, and then we had a tour coming right up. I kept hoping he’d get better. So we had to go in and cut the tracks without him. I luckily had the help of Chris Burns, my own keyboard player, and Dave Matthews -- another one, not “the” Dave Matthews. Well to me, he’s “the” Dave Matthews. [laughs] He’s a monster piano player. I “timeshare” him with Etta James and Boz Scaggs. You know, when you’re expecting Charles Brown, it’s hard to find a sub. [laughs] But they did a great job. After we had cut the tracks, about two weeks later, Charles sent word that he was feeling better. They said, “Well, she already had to cut the tracks.” And he said, “Well, I can still sing, can’t I?” We said, “You sure can.” To not tire him out, we brought some recording equipment to the convalescent home, and we cut this really lovely duet -- “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You?” -- together. It was just a precious, precious moment. He was very proud of it. It turned out to be, sadly, the last thing he ever cut.
There were actually people who thought, “Oh, how could you go to the poor guy’s bedside?” He wanted to do that so bad. He was so proud of it. The next day, we brought Dr. John to see him, because they’re old buds from New Orleans. He asked Mac, “Well, what are you doing out here?” Mac was going, “Oh, well we’re playing at Yoshi’s, and we went into the studio yesterday and put down some demos for the new album.” Charles lit up and said, “Well, I did a recording session myself, right here, yesterday.” He couldn’t wait to play it for him. When you do something you love all your life, you know -- I hope when I go out, my last breath is I’m singing. Gaither Carlton, the lovely old gentleman that taught me to play the fiddle -- his kids told me that one Saturday afternoon he was sitting on the couch playing the fiddle, and they said they were going out to do their shopping. They came back, and thought he was asleep, and they went in to make dinner, and the fiddle was still right under his chin. They went out to say, “Okay, Grandpa, dinner’s ready,” and he had passed away playing the fiddle. Charles passed away shortly after singing that duet with me, about a month and a half later. These people are icons and mentors and heroes to me. People say, “When are you going to retire?” Why would I retire? I’m doing what I love to do. Charles Brown didn’t need the money; he wanted to sing. When you’re blessed with the gift of music, you just want to keep doing it ‘til you don’t have no more breath to do it.
DI: You’ve also been involved in musical theater?
MM: I did Pirates of Penzance, and another show called Pump Boys and Dinettes, which was real fun. I’m about to go do something called Teatro Zinzanni. I’ll be performing for four months, doing the same role that Ann Wilson did for over a year. It had a very successful run in Seattle -- she did it there. It’s kind of a cross between Cirque de Soleil and a zany, farcical, madcap French cabaret/dinner theater. There’s a character in it called The Chanteuse, and she just comes out and does a few songs as herself, so I’ll be playing Maria Muldaur. It’ll be neat, because it’ll be in the winter months, when I hate to travel. You know, nobody likes to tour when the weather gets really bad. I’ll be able to do that, and then segue into my Spring release, which will be Richland Woman Blues.
DI: Tell us about that album.
MM: About five years ago, I was in Memphis with my buddy Holger Petersen, who owns Stony Plain Records. I was there because I was nominated for a W.C. Handy, although I lost to Eric Clapton. But that’s okay; he deserved it. That From the Cradle album was just too cool. The next day we took a little pilgrimage to visit various blues power spots. I wanted to visit the grave of Memphis Minnie, who was a major influence on me. We also went to Stovall Plantation, where Robert Johnson used to hang out. We visited where Muddy Waters was born. The air, the atmosphere was just dripping with the soul and the spirit of those people, and with the music. Dylan’s World Gone Wrong album had just come out, and I’d been listening to it and listening to it. Here’s the most prolific, best songwriter of this age, and he chose to do an album of old Mississippi Sheiks’ tunes and various other ballads -- songs that had a certain power on their own. It’s just him and a guitar, and it was so powerful, and I’d been listening to it endlessly. It was so soulful. In the liner notes, it says, “Listen to these songs because there aren’t going to be songs like this anymore.” He said, “In fact, there aren’t now.” That same afternoon I went to Memphis Minnie’s grave. The next day I went to see Bob playing at Memphis In May. As I was standing in the wings watching him, it just all came together. I remembered the quote on the back of the album, and I went, “This is what I’ve got to do.” I felt inspired to do my own musical tribute to the original blues legends that had first inspired and influenced me so much -- influenced all of us. I mean, without blues, there would have been no R&B, there would have been no rock 'n' roll. You know, we’d all be singing some boring minuets somewhere.
DI: You were completing a circle?
MM: That’s what the Richland Woman Blues album is for me. “Richland Woman Blues” is an old Mississippi John Hurt
sonnet. I have gotten more requests for that -- more old Kweskin fans come out of the woodwork and ask for that. The guys in
my band said, “What is that song they’re always asking for?” I said, “Oh, you weren’t even born.” They said, “Well, why don’t
you do it?” So I did that, and my old buddy from the Even Dozen, John Sebastian, is playing guitar. The idea was to do them in
the original, pared-down, simple acoustic presentation. I wanted the power of the songs to shine through. What Dylan had said
was true; these songs had a certain power that was not something antiquated -- “Oh, the blues; that antique music from the
‘20s.” These songs are more powerful and more relevant today than they were then, now that we’ve all lived through another
bunch of weird times. This is a very bluesy world, despite all the glitzy dot-com prosperity, and so forth. People always have
the blues about something. I’m doing a couple of Bessie Smith & Clara Smith duets with Tracy Nelson, and one with Angela
Strehli, who’s a great blues singer from Texas. Roy Rogers is playing on some Memphis Minnie stuff with me. Alvin
Youngblood Hart and I are doing a couple of duets. Taj Mahal is doing a Blind Willie Johnson tune with me. I called on these
people because they’re of my generation. They were equally moved, and have the equal reverence for this early music and
these early artists as I do. They’re keepers of the flame that bothered to learn how to play. The early blues people were
brilliant musicians. You might think, “Oh, it’s back-porch music,” but, man, people are still twisting their fingers in a knot trying
to figure out how to do those Robert Johnson licks. I wanted to present it in its pure form, with my own feeling and my own
sound. Bonnie Raitt, I called on her to do a Mississippi Fred McDowell song, because he is the guy that taught her to play
slide. And John Sebastian, why he sat at Mississippi John’s feet and studied every lick he ever did! I got the people that also
love this stuff and put them on the appropriate songs. It’s very raw -- it ain’t gonna climb the pop charts -- but I think serious
blues lovers will enjoy it. I certainly hope so. It was a labor of love, and we’ll see what happens.
DI: Do you have some advice for a young singer about getting to the next level?
MM: I’ll tell them what I tell my daughter, Jenni Muldaur, who’s also a great singer. Her dad’s a singer, so she gets it from both sides. She’s a great songwriter, too. I tell her, “Do it because you really love it, because you can’t help doing it. Don’t do it with the idea of gaining fame and fortune, because that comes and goes.” Been there, done that. I’m not riding around in a fancy rock-star tour bus; I’ve got an old RV -- they call me “RV Maria.” It’s taking a licking and keeps on ticking. I go out there and play to a bunch of people, and it’s just a love fest. I think of the notes as little wagons; each one carries a little bit of love out to the audience. That’s what you’re up there to do, not to dazzle them with licks. Yeah, learn your craft and learn some fancy licks, you know, and always try to get better and better at what you do. But try to give people something real and authentic, and then you can’t help but get across. There’s this new chick out, Macy Gray. I think she’s great, so genuine and unique. There’s a lot of unique, creative stuff happening with some younger artists now. But these days the corporate machinery co-opts it; barely four notes come out of their mouths and it’s totally glommed onto and co-opted. If you’re doing it for fame and fortune, don’t bother. But if you’re doing it for the right reasons, keep doing it, because good things are going to happen.
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