Increasingly, the oeuvre of so many of the masters of the blues is coming under a very needed preservation movement to ensure that the music which created jazz and rock & roll isn't lost through the many mutations it's undergone as decades have rolled on. Piano Red was influential, but, as was too often the case in that day (the 40s and 50s), far more appreciated across the Atlantic than back home. He never came into the financial rewards so richly deserved (um, we DO understand how white businessmen treated black musicians, especially back then, don't we?) though he (William Lee Perryman) was given a Pioneer Award by the Georgia Music Assoc. and inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1983, not long before he passed away (1985).
Piano Red was easily a blues master along the lines of Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, Earl Hines, John Handy, Lightning Hopkins, and many others, not necessarily because his music stylistically matched theirs but because he was 100% original and then some. He literally lived the blues, taking up many side jobs when times were bad—and, again, he was black, so times were often bad no matter what—but ever returning to the keyboard and music halls the moment an opportunity presented itself. Here, at the age of 73, he displays spunk, goodheartedness, vim, humor, innovation, and a marrow-deep residence inside the genre he so loved. Atlanta Tapes is, as liner writer David Fulmer denotes, "a rare piece of Americana" but is also the kind of recording that makes one sit back and sigh, exclaiming "Man……50 years from now, people will still think this is fresh!".
More than anything, when listening to Piano Red, you can't help but start seeing what an influence he was because Leon Redbone picked up on a lot of this, keeping it going along with Dr. John and others, and there was no end of rockers who would finish sets in the 60s and then head over to wherever Red was playing in order to pay their respects: the Stones, Paul McCartney, Eric Clapton, etc. Pete Ham of Badfinger even wrote Red in tribute to Perryman. Listening to this CD will bring modern audiences straight back to the root of things because, in the words of another master, Eric Clapton, "Piano Red is the real deal" no matter when or how you encounter his work.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2010, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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