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Dirty-South Blues Harp forum: wail on! > Bird Legg
Bird Legg
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kudzurunner
6679 posts
Feb 27, 2021
2:15 PM
Amazing but true: It appears from a quick search of the MBH forum posts that we have never had a thread devoted to the SF/Oakland player Bird Legg. Not once in 13 years.

Here's one video. Please discuss, share memories, bring us up to speed.




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https://www.amazon.com/Whose-Blues-Facing-Future-Music/dp/1469660369/
waltertore
3071 posts
Feb 28, 2021
11:36 AM
I knew him from the bay area scene. He played with Cool Papa for many years. I also played with Papa on and off for 5 years. Never cared for his playing or antics. He seems to be doing the same thing only a lot older.
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walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year in the Tunnel of Dreams Studio.



Lv9ks>over 6,400 songs of spontobeat


" life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller

Smiling With Hope Pizza-pizza with a social cause

my videos
dougharps
2249 posts
Mar 01, 2021
1:15 PM
I had never heard of Birdlegg before your posting the video.

From the video he seems to be a performer who entertains via stage presence with use of dramatic movement, vocals, and harp. He offers an entertainment package in his show.

He is not necessarily a virtuoso or master of esoteric harp techniques, but he seems to be at least a solid journeyman player (or better) who incorporates harp into his overall show using his vocal mic.

We tend to focus on harp virtuosity on the forum and sometimes overlook the entertainment factor in blues shows. An average blues audience will evaluate the entire show, not just the level of harp skills.

It seems as though he would definitely be worth seeing/hearing at a live gig if he were in my area. He is quite a performer.
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Doug S.

Last Edited by dougharps on Mar 03, 2021 7:06 AM
LFLISBOA
116 posts
Mar 03, 2021
6:07 AM
I heard 2 of his releases: "Good Time Blues", from 2003, mostly original songs, and "Live At The Blue Moon" from 2014, mostly covers. I think the second album has a better mixing. Both playing and singing is OK, but not great, and among Cotton, Wells, Bell, Branch, McCain, and many others, it's pretty easy to be under the radar, but I think his show must be good. Most people don't have access to see an artist live, and some recordings don't worth a second/third listening. It's just my opinion, don't want to cause discussion about that.
In my opinion some harp players would deserve a lot more attention than they get, such Billy Branch, Jim Liban, Willie Cobbs, Paul Linden
LSC
808 posts
Mar 19, 2021
10:31 AM
@waltertore.
I very much concur. He can't play harp for squat and his stage show, though full of energy, is hackneyed and cliched and that's being kind. It actually is no surprise there has not been much comment on this forum about him. He's simply not that good. And don't get me started on his attitude to white people playing blues while sucking up and taking money from those he slags off. Not to put too fine a point on it, I find him an embarrassment. Just my opinion of course.

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LSC
SuperBee
6918 posts
Mar 19, 2021
3:05 PM
He got up on one of the fb harp groups a while back. Started off provocative and ramped to confrontational pretty quick before shifting to abuse. Dunno what happened after that. Might have been banned or it might have been one of the groups I stopped following. Seemed like a guy with a high opinion of his own work based along fairly genetic principles. I couldn't see a lot of merit in his suggestion that people should take lessons from him, except maybe it would be good training in developing a thick skin.
StalwartJohnson
67 posts
Mar 19, 2021
7:57 PM
If we kick our harp nerd brains to the back seat and really watch this video, it's absolute comic gold. I mean, I agree... it's not even remotely enjoyable harping but don't dismiss the hilarity of it all. I'm a fan. He's brilliant! I'm showing everyone! Thank you!
Sundancer
388 posts
Mar 19, 2021
11:47 PM
Two sides to every coin...
https://bluesvibe.com/2016/07/16/conversations-with-birdlegg-1-the-hardest-working-man-in-the-blues/
SuperBee
6920 posts
Mar 20, 2021
3:12 AM
Yeah that sounds like how he was on facebook except on facebook there was none of the reasoning, just all the aggression and confrontational part. Didn't go over well.
SuperBee
6921 posts
Mar 20, 2021
3:20 AM
Now I have watched the video above, and I didn't hate it at all.
wolfkristiansen
455 posts
Mar 20, 2021
3:25 AM
Thank you, KudzuRunner, for posting this. (Kudzu, the Vine That Never Truly Ate the South-- Smithsonian Magazine).

I didn't get around to looking at/listening to the video when it was first posted. Today, I looked and listened. I was prepared to dislike because of the comments I had read in this thread. I was surprised. I liked.

This is the Modern Blues Harmonica website. Forget Modern for a minute; think about Blues and Harmonica. I like what Bird Legg is doing. There is more in these performances to celebrate than to criticize:

Bird Legg can SING, actually sing
Bird Legg plays BLUES on the harmonica, not a virtuostic ersatz imitation of the blues
Bird Legg has a great vibrato on his harp
Bird Legg has a great sense of rhythm-- listen to him do the Bo Diddley beat on the harp 1:50 onwards
Bird Legg is an entertainer-- you won't survive if you're only a harp player (which describes me, unfortunately)
Bird Legg brings tons of energy to his performances
Bird Legg inspires his band-- check out the bass player grooving to the music
Bird Legg has a sense of drama-- watch him crouch and then get up in his slow song
Bird Legg funkifies!- first two songs at the beginning of the video and the Slim Harpo song at the 5 1/2 minute mark
Bird Legg hits his harp bends on pitch

He's not a harp virtuoso, but so what? I'd pay to see him any time. He's got feel. Feel-- some know what I'm talking about, some don't.

Cheers,
wolf kristiansen
LSC
809 posts
Mar 22, 2021
3:06 PM
@wolfkristiansen: All art is subjective.

You think he can sing. I think he's average at best.

You think he plays blues on harmonica. I think that depends on how you define the word.

You think he has great vibrato on harmonica. I think he's again average at best and has no control of use of dynamics with it.

You think he has great rhythm because he can play a Bo Diddley beat. My wife can play a Bo Diddley beat, especially that particular one, and she doesn't even play harmonica.

You think he is an entertainer. I think he's got a schtick that he milks. I've seen him at several jams. He is usually half undressed by the 3rd number.

You think he has a sense of drama on a slow blues. I hear him stepping all over the guitar solo.

You liked his performance of Scratch My Back. I think it's the best thing on the video but nothing that a dozens of guys in dozens of bars any night of the week can't do as well if not better.

You'd pay to see him. I wouldn't walk across the street.

Again, all art is subjective.
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LSC
Honkin On Bobo
1539 posts
Mar 24, 2021
9:51 AM
I'd never heard of him, and probably wouldn't have watched the video but the comments made me curious so I did watch it. I'd say I most agree with Dougharp's comment.

Wouldn't pay top dollar to see him live but if I were walking by some bar and heard that bands sound out on the sidewalk i'd definitely go in and check them out (and a few cold beverages). Might pay a $5 or $10 cover at the door. I'm definitely in the good groove/have fun camp rather than the wow what a virtuoso camp when it comes to how I want to spend my time these days.

Definitely agree with the "he stepped on the guitar solo" comment though. And it kinda makes me wonder is this his actual backing band? Or did he get invited to sit in with them, or what? Because it came off as pretty amateurish.

Edited to add: Hahaha! Just realized it was shot at "the (in)famous Wednesday night jam at Pat's bar in Oakland".

That explains a lot.

Wednesday night jam.......sounds about right.

Last Edited by Honkin On Bobo on Mar 24, 2021 9:58 AM
waltertore
3076 posts
Mar 24, 2021
10:57 AM
Blues jams use to be invite only affairs before bar owners realized if they opened them up to the public they would make more money than any weeknight band performance. I saw one smart bar owner note that a certain amateur guitarist came to the jams with lots of cocaine and bought drinks for all the invited musicians.
He put 2 and 2 together and soon it was open jam and the register rang all afternoon/night long.

Basement players come out in droves with friends and $ to spend. The old school jams I grew up took sometimes a year or more of playing an area before you could play. Bay area jams, which Birdleggs and I attended, would often have Lowell Fulsom, John Lee Hooker, and their peers. Great music but musicians have shallow pockets.......... I would never go to a jam with who knows who is going to be onstage with you.

The birdlegg thing is embarrasing to me to watch. Here is what I knew as blues Jam and got to do a couple songs every couple months at Mark Naftlin' Blue Monday Jam.
You were lucky if the called the key out. You had to jump right in right or wish you never were born. Sadly most of the all black audience blues jams in Oakland never got filmed. Naftalin had a high end production going at the Sleeping Lady Cafe, owned by Bob Weir of the grateful dead, and broadcasted on KPFA with Tom Mazzolini creator of the SF Blues Festival. Today I see jams where the musicians talk for days trying to figure it out before starting a song :-)







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walter tore's spontobeat - a real one man band and over 1 million spontaneously created songs and growing. I record about 300 full length cds a year in the Tunnel of Dreams Studio.



Lv9ks>over 6,400 songs of spontobeat


" life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller

Smiling With Hope Pizza-pizza with a social cause

my videos

Last Edited by waltertore on Mar 24, 2021 5:05 PM
wolfkristiansen
456 posts
Mar 27, 2021
3:50 AM
Thank you, waltertore, for the videos of Mark Naftalin's Blue Monday Jams. It was a treat to see and hear Lowell Fulson, one of my blues heroes. Listen to his Chess album "Hung Down Head".

I'd love to play in jams like these. Geography gets in the way.

About the Bird Legg video. It's not embarrassing to watch. Bird Legg is not the best (or worst) performer I've seen in my half century of watching/listening to blues in bars or concert halls.

But... Bird Legg is something most of us in this forum are not-- a "Front Man". He's singing, grinning, doing everything he can to entertain a live audience; something I did not do in my brief career on the big stage.

My only trick-- I played the 4 inch piece of metal we all love, and was grateful to be able to do so. Someone else was always the Front Man.

Bird Legg is carrying the musicians behind him as he fronts the band. I give him Brownie points for this.

Cheers,
wolf kristiansen
Sundancer
389 posts
Mar 27, 2021
10:06 AM
You’re onto something there Wolf. Being a “Front Man” is becoming a lost (and under appreciated) art, and there ain’t many great ones left. Mick will be 78 in June, Peter Wolf just turned 75 and Bruce Springsteen will be 72 soon. David Johansen is 71. McCartney isn’t a traditional front man, but he’s almost 80. They’re the last of a generation that came up thru the ranks playing bars & clubs and getting in the 10,000 hours of learning to be an entertainer. And they’ve all missed a year of performing for us due to Covid.

In our harp world we’ve got Jason, RJ Mischo and Curtis Salgado who entertain as well as play a stellar harp. There may be more I’m not aware of ...

Last Edited by Sundancer on Mar 27, 2021 10:17 AM
waltertore
3079 posts
Mar 27, 2021
10:45 AM
Lots of definitions of what is cool with a frontman. I prefer one to ease it out over the night than to show me there all on the first song- which reminds me of heavy metal. For a minute I am captivated then it is just redundant. Here is my idea of great frontman with a frontman like backing band that only adds to his shine. I had the pleasure of playing with him many nights and I can testify he could grab and hold any audience.


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" life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller

Smiling With Hope Pizza-pizza with a social cause

my videos

Last Edited by waltertore on Mar 27, 2021 10:47 AM
waltertore
3080 posts
Mar 27, 2021
11:10 AM
Here is great example of frontman that can lay it all out and hold it back and doing it with a pick up band.


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" life is a daring adventure or nothing at all" - helen keller

Smiling With Hope Pizza-pizza with a social cause

my videos
Sundancer
390 posts
Mar 27, 2021
12:44 PM
Waltertore - you’re unfortunately proving my point with videos from Albert Collins and Howlin’ Wolf. RIP.


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