Tulsa musician teaches the blues
BY JENNIFER CHANCELLOR World Scene Writer
Sunday, November 11, 2012
11/11/12 at 8:49 AM
Visit the official Little Joe McLerran website.
Tulsa musician Little Joe McLerran's specialty is finger-picking Piedmont-style blues - he's played it as long as he can remember.
He and his father, longtime local musician Robbie Mack, started performing together when McLerran was 8 years old.
"That was 21 years ago," he said. The blues have been good to McLerran. In recent years, the award-winning musician has visited the Persian Gulf, Paraguay, and most recently, Colombia, South America, in his work with the U.S. State Department's bureau of education and cultural affairs.
It all started three years ago, after he and his band performed for the bureau's Rhythm Road project at a concert at Lincoln Center in New York City.
"They really liked us, and we were asked to tour the Persian Gulf," McLerran said. "It's grown from there."
He's developed an education program he calls "American Roots Soup," which he and his band have taken into sold-out music halls, schools and other venues across the globe.
"We teach everything from the earliest American traveling minstrel shows to early blues and its transformation into rock 'n' roll," he said. "It's a lot of work, but it's a lot of fun.
"Blues is a distinctively American music form, and I love to share it with everyone."
This time around, the band, including his father and New Orleans drummer Andre Bohren (son of bluesman Spencer Bohren), played in Pereira, Colombia, and Buga and Palmira, Valle del Cauca, Colombia.
"It's really amazing how much we all have in common," he said. "Over the years, the thing that sticks with me most is that cultural differences are often small. We all want the same things - to love and be loved."
After days spent with school children, they'd play music halls to shopping malls and take in culture, as well as share it.
"Buga felt a lot like New Orleans. The architecture, the outgoing people," he said. Plus, everyone loves to dance. "One girl said to me, 'How do you dance to the blues?' Their culture is so vibrant and involves movement - there's a lot of dancing - salsa, umbia and others. I said, 'The great thing about blues is that you can dance any way you want to.' "
At one performance "at a mall of all places," he said, then laughed, a pre-school aged girl took the stage during their concert and danced. "She was doing the samba. She was amazing at it. They all start at an early age, and it adds so much energy to everything."
His travels have helped inspire a new album, too, he said. "FaceBook Blues" will be released Saturday at a CD release show that will include likely special guests Dexter Payne (sax, clarinet), Jimmy "Junior" Markham (harmonica, harp) "and who knows who else," he said. "This album includes just about everyone, and they're all invited to the show.
Longtime Tulsa keyboardist Brian Lee played on "FaceBook Blues," as did drummer Ron McRorey, keyboardist Jack Wolf, Robbie Mack on bass and vocals and more.
The 13-track album includes six original tunes including the title track. "Here I am, traveling coast to coast and all over the globe, but my wife just bought me my first personal computer so I'll get online. ... I just never really got into that technology thing," he said, and laughed. "I'm just now learning how to use all this stuff."
Now that's old school.
McLerran's album is available from his official website, CDBaby and other online retailers.
CD RELEASE SHOW
Little Joe McLerran
When: Music starts 8:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Tulsa VFW Post 577, 1109 E. Sixth St. (upstairs lounge)
Original Print Headline: Tulsa musician puts blues in learning
Jennifer Chancellor 918-581-8346
Little Joe McLerran at the Grand Mosque in Muscat, Oman. He and his blues band have seen — and educated — the world and most recently toured Colombia as part of a U.S. State Department cultural exchange tour. Courtesy