FolkWorld #64 11/2017
© Walkin' T:-)M

German Book Reviews

T:-)M's Night Shift

Singer-songwriter Katie Ferrara has chosen a particular way to make a musical career. Instead of playing the pubs and clubs, she is busking on the piers and promenades.

Stories from the Street, Volume 1 »I felt like I wasn't going anywhere with my music career and needed to do something different. I used to play a lot of shows on the Sunset Strip in Hollywood, where I would have to sell tickets for people to come see me. I got sick of not making any money and struggling to get people to come out. When I started playing in the street, I was immediately tipped by people passing by ...«

Katie relates her busking experiences in 14 Stories from the Street, part documentary, part short-story collection, and shares the ups and downs, the obstacles and joys, the rules and regulations, the strategies and suggestions of a proficient street performer.

»I watched a teenage girl put a dollar in my basket. She stayed for a few minutes to listen, smiled and walked away ... A couple stopped to listen. The man was holding a bouquet of flowers and had his arm around his girlfriend. About halfway through the song, he grabbed the girl and kissed her. Then he put some bills in my basket. A few songs later during my set, a little girl and her father came to listen. The girl started wiggling around and "twerking," shaking her butt like Rhianna in her music videos ...«

Katie's musical journey takes her from her favourite haunts in her native Los Angeles to the annual Ferrara Buskers Festival in the Emilia-Romagna in northern Italy. Watch out! She will be walking European streets again, and Vol. 2 of her street diary is certainly in the pipeline.

»My dream is to be able to play at busking festivals all over the world, write about my experience, and keep making a living playing music.«

Artist Video
Katie Ferrara, Stories from the Street, Volume 1. Imagine Cat Music, 2017, pp110, €37,52

Katie Ferrara

Artist Video

Lee Child: Killing Floor »He played the guitar. You know that old expression, he could play the guitar just like ringing a bell? That's what I used to say about Blake. He would pick up that old instrument of his and the notes would just come tumbling out, faster than you could sing them. But each note was just a perfect little silver bell, floating off into the air.«

Ex-military cop Jack Reacher, born on an US Army base in West Berlin and becoming a hobo after his discharge, rather incidentally gets off a Greyhound bus and walks into a small town in Georgia to look for Blind Blake, a blues guitar player who has died 60 years ago and has been possibly murdered. Unfortunatly, the day before somebody else has been murdered and Jack Reacher gets arrested. This is just the start for much bloodshed. Killing Floor is the first book in the Jack Reacher thriller series (also hero of two not-so-noteworthy movies starring Tom Cruise). Its hero is tough, violent and remorseless, but he is also upright and likeable, and has a pronounced sense of justice. As the body count mounts, Jack Reacher uncovers a mammoth counterfeiting operation and also learns about Blind Blake's sorry fate...

Lee Child, Killing Floor. Putnam, 1997, ISBN 0-3991-4253-3 (

Benny Turner has been more than 60 years in the music business performing gospel, R&B, soul and blues.

Artist Video Benny Turner with Bill Dahl, Survivor - The Benny Turner Story. Nola Blue, 2017, ISBN 978-1-54390-128 -3, pp238, US$30.99

Benny had been born in 1939 in Texas. Times were tough then.

When we wanted a special treat, we ate dirt. Not just any dirt, but Texas red clay dirt that was really fine, like talc. Believe it or not, we were too poor to afford candy, and red dirt was our substitute. It wasn't sweet. It has a distinct mineral taste, but for us it was a treat. Again, we didn't know anything different, so we never gave it a second thought. Guess that's what they mean when they talk about being dirt poor!

But Benny had the music.

Music ran deep on the King side of the family, my mother's side. ... She had four brothers. ... They were singing in a quartet, and they'd harmonize. My uncles gave my mother the nickname of "Sang" ... She played Robert Johnson and Lead Belly songs on the guitar ...

Benny relocated to Chicago in the late 1950s, where he emerged as one of the first electric bassists on the blues circuit. At the same time, his older half-brother Freddie King started

... hanging out with Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Jimmy Rogers, Jimmie Lee Robinson, Sonny Scott, and Earl Payton, he jumped in that little circle and started getting some gigs.

Benny first tried out a gospel outfit, later joined Freddie's band. Freddie soon made a reputation, one of the Three Kings of Blues (besides BB King and Albert King). He had a couple of hits in the early 1960s and his distinctive guitar style, based on Texas and Chicago influences, inspired countless guitar players.

Benny and Freddie were absolutely inseparable, just like Laurel and Hardy. However, Freddie unexpectedly died in 1976.

What I didn't realize was that Freddie's time on earth was growing short too. Looking back, several things happenend that should have given me clues something was wrong, but I didn't read them. ... We stopped in New Orleans for a gig. ... We were playing "Hide Away," and Freddie keeled over. He passed out while he was playing guitar on the stage. He fell off the stage onto his back on the floor. ... Freddie immediately came to, got up and finished the song. ... I said, "Man, how are you doing? Are you okay?" "I'm alright," he told me. "I kind of hurt my tailbone." ... On the way back to Dallas, we were on the bus playing poker like we normally did. "Okay, y'all. Everybody listen up. I want y'all to know that I'm giving everybody a Christmas bonus this year!" We looked at each other and said, "What's wrong with Freddie? He doesn't give anybody a bonus!" And we laughed it off. That was the final clue he gave that something was wrong.

Benny became deeply depressed and was even hospitalized.

I had lost my brother, my best friend and my bandmate all at once. ... Slowly but surely, I went into a deep depression that lasted for two years.

Benny Turner: My Brother's Blues

Artist Video

Benny Turner "My Brother's Blues", Nola Blue, 2017

Eventually, Benny turned up again. He first joined Mighty Joe Young, then Marva Wright, the Blues Queen of New Orleans. After Marva passed away, he took the band over: Even though it was never my goal to be a front man, it seemed like it was time, ready or not.

His first solo album was released in 1997. He did never look back nor slowed down ever since. On My Brother's Blues Benny is paying homage to Freddie. The 11 select blues, soul and funk tracks from Freddie King's repertoire feature Benny on bass, guitar and vocals, leading an all-star ensemble (including luminaries such as the late Otis Clay and others).

His autobiography Survivor - The Benny Turner Story, co-written with Bill Dahl, has loads of anecdotes and stories from the road. He is a genuine character who knows a thing or two and that the end is not in sight yet.

Everyone thinks that blues is an easy I-IV-V, but it's how you go to the IV and the V that separates real blues players from all the rest. ... I believe that the blues will survive in years to come, although we don't have many bigger-than-life blues heroes on the scale of Howlin' Wolf or Freddie King anymore. But it will survive. Take it from this blues survivor.


Photo Credits: (1ff) Book/CD Covers, (5) Benny Turner, (6) Freddie King (7) Katie Ferrara (from website/author/publishers).

Previous Book Reviews
Next Book Reviews
FolkWorld Homepage German Content English Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Children Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld Info & Contact

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld