Amplified Test 2 – Mavis Staples

Soul and gospel legend Mavis Staples has an album in the works with another Chicago home town hero, Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy. The two performed together at Lollapalooza; Staples later stopped by the station for a surprising duet with WBEZ’s Rob Wildeboer. (Did anyone else know he could tickle the ivories like that?!)

If you’re hankering for more Mavis before her new album comes out, check out this excellent conversation she had in 2008 with young people from the Chicago Freedom School.

Staples describes how in her youth there was an uneasy relationship between gospel and R & B; gospel artists who “crossed over” to singing the blues for a more secular, mainstream audience often felt the wrath of their churchgoing brethren.  (A subject explored in depth in another great Amplified event, Sinners in the Choir: The Black Church and the Devil’s Music.) Here, Staples describes her introduction to secular music during the summers she spent with family in Greenwood, Mississippi. It seduced her, but she never abandoned her gospel roots.


Click here for Mavis Staples’ full talk with the Chicago Freedom School. The event was held at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum and was recorded by Chicago Amplified, a program of Chicago Public Media.

Featured music:

“O Day” by Bessie Jones, from “The Alan Lomax Collection: Southern Journey, Vol. 1 – Voices from the American South.”

“Since I Fell For You” by Nina Simone, from “The Soul of Nina Simone.”

Editor’s Note: The version of “Since I Fell For You” that Mavis Staples likely heard as a child in Mississippi was the 1947 version released by Annie Laurie with Paul Gayten and His Trio, which according to Wikipedia eventually reached #3 on the “Race Records” charts and #20 on the pop charts. I used the Nina Simone version from 1967 because I liked how it matched the cadence of Staples’ rendition during her talk. You can find the Annie Laurie version on iTunes, although I don’t think I can post it here in its entirety because of copyright issues.

Rehabbed, A Punk Rock Dive Grows Up

Depending on whom you ask, the Fireside Bowl is either simply the bowling alley in Logan Square, or the best punk rock club Chicago ever knew.

In its venue days it was falling apart. It was loud. It stank to high heaven, and the men’s bathroom had no doors and no seats. It was punk rock to the core.

In 2004 it shed its punk rock past, ceasing shows in favor of recreational bowling. Fans of the space thought they’d never see another show at the Fireside.

But in June the venue began a trial run of shows, attempting to cultivate patrons during its slow summer season.

I went to a recent show with the Chicago News Cooperative’s Meribah Knight to ask what made the Fireside a punk rock legend.

Read Meribah’s print piece and see a gallery of photos at The Chicago News Cooperative or at The New York Times!

Editor’s Note: Hooray! I am EXTREMELY happy about this piece. It’s my first freelance multimedia piece, period, and it’s for the CNC and the freaking NEW YORK TIMES. I am really pumped. Also it was fantastic working with Meribah. She’s such a great writer and reporter, and was so easy to work with. I’m doing the happy dance at my desk right now.

I also want to thank everyone we interviewed, especially John Benetti, who connected us with so many great folks; Martin Sorrondeguy, who is an incredibly inspiring guy; and Annie Strong, who gave me a ton of old photos and music files which were invaluable in making this piece. Rebecca Ann Rakstad and Patrick Houdek also made their photo collections available, which again, was amazing and much appreciated. Thank you so much!