midwest shows cancelled, news from holland and blues in capetown
Hello everyone and happy summer!!
Our tour is going great here in the Netherlands. www.unitedbymusic.nl for photos. Sue Palmer left us Sunday and my son Tommy is here now to take her place on piano (tough shoes to fill!) and play some trombone for us, for the remaining two weeks. Yesterday we played in a big barn in Rotterdam at a petting zoo. It was an incredible place to have a concert amidst the hay and the goats. There was actually a peacock in the haystack with us and she just sat there the whole time during our rowdy and raucous set. She seemed a bit upset about my big feathery hat and she kept fluffing up her feathers, trying to look bigger. It was cute.
The United by Music artists are getting better and more confident each performance and that is really exciting to witness. I couldnt have done this tour without the help of my friend, UK blues artist Dani Wilde. I have had to cancel a few of my performances because of my health and Dani has been right there to emcee for me and perform her own amazing songs. The entire band is just awesome and everybody is doing their very best for our kids. Robbie Smith arranged all of the horns for me. Johnny Ferreira goes above and beyond the call of duty daily, playing his sax to the kids on stage and playing with them offstage too. He has such a big and friendly personality. The singers all love him. Billy Watson is another great friend and stage artist willing to do whatever it takes it get the job done. He sings a duet with J.A. Grace of "Hit the Road Jack" and sometimes he even lays right down on the ground during the song. His wild antics crack us all up. Harm Van Sleen has really helped the whole time, rehearsing with the UBM artists and he speaks dutch so its great having him there to communicate if things get confusing. The rhythm section features Paul Loranger and my son Evan on drums. Paul is just an angel and he has been so good to me. I love him and of course, Evan is right there for me all the time, keeping the beat and making me laugh. And finally, my girl Laura Chavez is just so incredible. The soul and heart that comes from her guitar playing is just awesome. I am so lucky to play with her and with all these great people. Our tour manager Nanda leaves tomorrow to go back to Singapore. We will really miss her. She is just a beautiful person inside and out. I am so glad we will see her again in Capetown.
On August 25, we will go to Capetown, South Africa for the World Congress for People with disabilities. I don’t know how on earth my body will endure a 15 hour flight but this is a realization of several years of hard work. It has been a dream of mine and Joris Wijngaarden to bring the United by Music project all over the world. It will be a chance for us to explain to caregivers and educators why we specifically use blues music to inspire special needs people to overcome adversity. Because the blues was partly born from the oppression of African Americans, I feel it is uniquely suited to inspire people who are challenged by physical and intellectual disabilities in their every day lives. Some of our artists have already written their own blues compositions. Mirielle wrote a song called “Im not that special. I am just like you.” When she performs that song, she demonstrates the honesty and heart that the blues is all about. It is my sincere hope that the United by Music project can someday be as big as the Special Olympics. By using blues as a metaphor, we can inspire others to create and enjoy music to pull them through their daily challenges. I will be doing a slide show and verbal presentation. The slide show will have photos of blues artists such as Big Bill Broonzy and Memphis Minnie alongside plantation pictures and photos of our special needs artists. If any of you can give me suggestions on where I can find archives for my slide show, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
I am feeling okay but sometimes food does a number on me. Food I used to eat without event has suddenly become indigestable. I got really sick the other night after eating some pad thai. The next day, I took a chance and I ate a salad with some bleu cheese. I thought I would get really sick since I have been virtually dairy free except for acidophulus and yogurt and yet, I felt fine after the cheesy salad. Then I ate a little tiny bit of ice cream and was up all night crying with pain. Its really weird and unpredictable. Everyday is a new gastronomical experiment. I also get really tired very quickly. On this show, I only have to emcee and do a couple of songs nightly. It wears me out! I do give a lot of energy to the singers and musicians in the show and lots of hugs, kisses and a shoulder to cry on sometimes. But still, it has been draining at times, and I have had to take a few nights off. Its really great to have wonderful musicians to rely on to carry me thru. I am also grateful for the kind understanding of the united by music crew and Joris Wijngaarden. They have been so kind when I have had to cancel and their gracious understanding really makes it easier. And of course, it really helps to have my friend and caregiver Heather here with me. She gives me massages once a week and makes fresh juices for me when she is staying with me. I should have probably stayed at home to convalesce longer but Joris and the UBM volunteers have made the tour so easy for me, I had to come and do my best. I didn’t think my special needs artists would understand if I didn’t make it.
I took the liberty of canceling a few of my Midwest shows. I just had such a full schedule that I couldnt imagine having to help drive for four or five hours a day and then performing several shows a night. I still havent purchased a small RV because they are so expensive and my budget is limited; (and I simply haven’t had the time!) So I am really sorry to those of you who were looking forward to seeing me in Omaha, Lincoln, Ann Arbor, Navarre, Des Moines, Indianapolis, Columbus and New York City. We will still be flying out to the festivals in Los Alamos, Wausau, Wis and Marshfield, Mass and will resume normal touring schedules in September. I really hated to cancel anything and let people down. I know how much my agents at piedmont talent and the wonderful promoters and club owners depend on me so I hope people will forgive and realize that I am still healing and figuring myself out. With the Capetown trip looming, I just didn’t feel physically ready to do all of my dates and I had to make a difficult decision. I really hope my fans and blues friends can forgive me and understand that the United by Music Capetown trip can do so much more good for the blues in the long run.
I will have another round of cancer tests on September 6 to find out if all the cancer was removed in the surgery. 14 out of 20 lymph nodes were cancerous so there is a slight chance that some lymph nodes were missed. I am really hoping that my cancer is completely gone, that my strict diet is working and that I wont have to endure more surgery and treatments. In the meantime, I am trying to get as much work done as possible and enjoy the time I have here on earth NOW. I know I live a charmed life and I am so blessed to do this amazing work with these wonderful people.
I met an M.D. the other day and she was amazed at how good I look and how well I am doing since having the Whipple surgery less than three months ago (April 18th!). Comments like hers give me courage especially since I am faced with more fragility than usual. I am not used to feeling feeble and it has been hard to accept. But I am just so grateful to be alive and to be back here in Europe with both of my sons. And even though I look pretty good and feel good most of the time, I am still trying to take things one day at a time. The understanding and kind hearts of those around me really means so much.