Thursday, November 2, 2017

Lead Belly Baby

One of my favorite ways to enjoy a night on the town is spending an evening eating southern-style barbeque, drinking cold beer and listening to some good Blues music.  I've had the chance to talk with a lot of Blues musicians over the years and have found a common thread among them of having been influenced by an artist known as Lead Belly.  Huddie Willam Ledbetter (1889 - 1949) led the first half of his life as a field worker, ramblin man and chain gang prisoner in America's rural South. These experiences are evident in the style of Blues, cowboy songs, prison hollers, and spirituals, that Ledbetter incorporated into his musical performances later in life as a folksinger known as Lead Belly.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and Lead Belly is considered by many one of the greatest folk singers of the 20th century.

Dan Zanes who began his musical career with The Del Fuegos which were named "Best New Band" by the Rolling Stone magazine in 1984 and had several hit songs during '80s credits Lead Belly with influencing him as a child to become the artist he is today.  Zane has followed his stint with The Del Fuegos establishing himself as a popular children's music performer whose music videos were regularly featured during the Disney Channel's morning slate of kids programming known as Playhouse Disney from 2005 through 2007.  Among his musical accolades Zanes' album Catch That Train! was awarded a Grammy Award for Best Musical Album for Children.

Now Zanes wants to share the music that inspired him as a kid with a new generation of children.  He has released a new musical album for children titled LEAD BELLY, BABY! through Smithsonian Folkways Recordings where Zane along with some friends perform some kid-friendly Lead Belly tunes.  LEAD BELLY, BABY! consists of 15 songs including Ha-Ha This a Way, Polly Wee, Skip to My Lou, and Relax Your Mind providing 45 minutes of music along with a 40-page booklet containing the album's lyrics.

Zanes graciously provided us a CD of LEAD BELLY, BABY! to giveaway and took a few minute to discuss this album with A Geek Daddy:

Why did you decide to create a children's focused album based upon Lead Belly's music?

Lead Belly is usually considered to be one of the most important American folk musicians of the 20th century so if people don't know the music they certainly know the name. I started playing guitar at 8 years old because I was so turned on by his music. I want to pass that Lead Belly excitement along to a new generation.

Lead Belly is often associated with the Blues.  Are the Blues too blue for children to listen too?

I could answer that in many different ways! What I love about Lead Belly is that although he sang Blues songs and spent some early years with Blind Lemon Jefferson he was much much more than just a blues singer. He felt it was important to expose young people to the songs that described his experience.

In other words, he wanted them to know about the world outside their front yards! I've always felt that when we make music that young people will listen to we have an opportunity to open their minds and fire their imaginations and help them to see a bigger picture than the one they may already know. I got this from Lead Belly and I consider him to be the father of modern family music.

I'm personally a big fan of Blues music? Do you think the Blues don't get enough recognition with mainstream society?

I think that African-American music in general doesn't get enough recognition. The lack of appreciation and understanding of the Blues is part of a larger picture that tends to minimize the contributions of black artists, writers, painters, inventors, philosophers, teachers, doctors, athletes, etc. here in the U.S.A.

What impact do you want to make on people through performing these Lead Belly songs?

I really wanted to shine a light on the incredible life and musical legacy of Lead Belly. When people talk about Lead Belly they tend to overlook to inspiring music he made for young people and I wanted to focus on that. Lead belly has been the template for all of my family music and it felt right to acknowledge that.

Now on to the giveaway!  For a chance to win a compact disc of LEAD BELLY, BABY! complete the entries in the form below.  Must be a United States resident over 18 years old to participate. Valid entries must be received before 11:59 pm ET on Sunday, November 12, 2017. A Geek Daddy will randomly select one entrant to win the CD and Dan Zanes' publicist will mail it to the giveaway winner. Good luck!

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  1. Yes! As a fan of the blues, especially the classic blues, I LOVE that they're making Led Belly accessible to kids.

  2. I agree, the blues and the African-American music doesn't really get much recognition especially these days. I think it's great that he's trying to change that.

  3. This sounds amazing and it would be a nice album to have. It's so nice that he's paying tribute to the music that he grew up listening to.

  4. The idea of passing the Lead Belly excitement along to a new generation is really great! This is a really cool giveaway!

  5. I've never heard of this before but is a very interesting story. Love the idea of the children's album!

  6. This look really amazing! This is such a wonderful giveaway! I know someone who totally need this one!

  7. THis is really cool, what a great mix together! And a super cool giveaway too!!