It Ain’t Easy Being G
Willie G brings his real, irresistible blues to Sly’s.
Thursday, March 6, 2008
It’s easy to see why Willie G sings the blues. Actually, most of the music on his 2003 CD Fresh Cut is a mix of soul, blues and R&B, but the lyrical content of the release is pure blues.
On the horn-heavy blues and R&B hybrid “Midnight,” G sings: “It was just about midnight/ I was drinking gin and getting tight/ I was thinking about my baby/ She hadn’t been treating me right.”
“It’s a reflection of a few ladies that screwed me around,” G says.
As he talks about other songs on the 13-song CD, G notes that others, including the slow-burning funk song “P.T.L.” and jazzy blues of “Regrets,” deal with relationships gone bad.
A few of the other tracks have to do with dark-as-night subject matter. “This Morning,” which features a harmonica player sparring with a horn section, is about serving time in prison. G co-wrote the song with his friend Wylie Trass, who spent five years in an Oklahoma jail. Another song called “Stone Crazy” confronts the dangers G feels living in Oakland.
“That’s about society,” he says. “That’s about where we are today. We are in a war zone here. Two or three in the morning, they [gang members] are popping off.”
G observes that there is not a song on Fresh Cut that dives into fictional material. “All this reflects me,” he says. “It’s about being able to tell the story about your life.”
G’s early life in Texas definitely provided a lot of fodder for his later career as a blues singer. His mother passed away when he was just 14 years old. Then, after being raised by his grandparents for a year, G became homeless at 15.
G also started to get in trouble in Texas for rebelling against racist southerners in the early ‘60s. “I told white folks what I thought,” he says. “My mother didn’t teach me that I had to bow down for anyone.”
G joined the Air Force at 17. “It probably saved my life, he says. “I would’ve probably been dead in Texas.”
In the ‘60s, G got out of the military and started working with Bay Area R&B vocal groups The Chancellors and The Capitols. Then in 1968, he struck out on his own and started to tour California. G’s work as a bluesman finally paid off years later in 1993, when he was presented the Blues Contribution Award by the Bay Area Blues Society.
These days, G does more than just perform the blues in bars and music venues. He also helps with the Bay Area’s Blues in the Schools program, which teaches children the history of the blues.
Even though many consider G a blues vocalist, he sees himself as something more than just a practitioner of the music. “Here’s the deal about the blues,” he says. “It’s all music to me. The blues is no different than jazz and R&B. When I write my music, I just do it.”
WILLIE G Plays 9pm Friday, March 7, At Sly Mcfly’s, 700 Cannery Row, Monterey. 649-8050.