Willie West debuts The Soul Sessions with Mick Sterling

Friday night at Crooner’s Supper Club felt like remembering a time I never lived through but experienced in glimpses on variety shows of the 19070s. Legend Willie West played music and told stories with Mick Sterling for his podcast with a very Vegas vibe with tiny tables, cocktails and host on stage.

Willie is one of the original Soul and Blues singers from New Orleans. He’s 81 years old and moved to Minnesota after Katrina. (I learned a little bit about Willie earlier this week with a 5 Question Interview.) He has played with the likes of Otis Redding, James Brown, Aaron Neville and more. He graciously noted, “Most people never heard of me …. but I’ve been around a long time.” I feel like he’s going to be around a lot longer.

He played a range of original music and covers. His voice sounds so smooth and his timing is impeccable. His version of Summertime is funky and slow while Dust My Broom got the toes tapping. It’s his original work, like Somebody Have Mercy, that I really enjoy. He has a unique and storied history that comes out in song. As he said, “the more I get down, I get up.”

He taught us about music promotion in the 1950s. Specifically, about how he used scotch to ply local disc jockeys into playing his songs. It seems so much easier than the online hoops new artists go through today to get attention in the form of followers on social media until you think about how many DJs, how many bottles of scotch and how many miles of driving it takes to get where he’s been. He shared a view of life on the road. Surprising to hear about how often guns made an appearance in venues when he played the Chitlin’ Circuit. I won’t ruin the surprise but there’s a story that includes a gun and an Otis Redding impersonator and you can hear in on the podcast as soon as it gets posted.

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