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Live Review
Little Ed & The Blues Imperials
and Grady Champion
@ Tobacco Road, Miami, FL, 1999
By Gloria Fern Pierce
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Tobacco Road in Miami is the oldest Saloon in town -- indeed it has the #1 Liquor License. Over the years it has become known as Miamiís Blues Scene. But of late, blues seems to be more the exception than the norm, especially for nationally well-known recording artists. At one time just about every big name blues artist played there along with the local blues bands. Over time, things change. For awhile the complaint was that none of the local bands got to play except for the house band Iko Iko. Now it is just the opposite. And as for so much of the music one hears now at "The Road" it is more often than not New Orleans style music - Zydeco or Heavy Rock bands that can be heard reverberating from the club -- outside and inside. In my opinion itís a bit too much. Iím a blues junkie -- I miss the really great blues bands -- but this is Miami and the population demographics now are very diverse indeed!

Little Ed & the Blues Imperials
So shortly before Christmas I went to Tobacco Road to deliver a message to musician friends of another musician friend of mine. They were part of Little Ed and the Blues Imperials. Sometimes I think Iím on another planet since I consider myself somewhat well seasoned in blues -- but here I was -- taken totally by surprise. Of course I had heard that Little Ed was good, but then I hear that so often I am nearly just as often disappointed when I hear more of the same old thing. I didnít even have my camera with me.

What a surprise -- I have to say that again -- What a surprise. They were more than good, they were GREAT and Little Ed can roll those eyes and it reaches right to you. His entire band was so alive and so tight -- no one missed a beat, especially the drummer -- Kelly Littleton -- he was one of the best Iíve ever heard or seen. Heís right where you want him to be -- every second. Mike Garrett on rhythm and 2nd guitar adds such a tasteful compliment to Ed and Edís brother "Pookie" who keeps the groove with his bass. Four guys and a sound that fills the room -- clean, tight, full of virtuoso players and all this on top of Lilí Edís wild stage show. He captures the audience; his guitar playing covers strenuous finger picking and bottleneck slides and sometimes all at the same time. He reaches out to the crowd, but he does more than walk through, he lays down with them and never misses a note.

Grady Champion & Luther Allison JR.
Photo © 1999 Gloria Pierce
All rights reserved

Grady Champion
South Florida has a new upcoming star. Transplanted here from Canton, Mississippi, Grady Champion is about to take on the world. Young and talented, Grady has been entertaining and clowning in one way or another since he was able to walk. Heís only 29 now, but has taken on more personal responsibility and the music business know-how than most of us ever will. He decided blues was what he wanted to do, was what he believed in so he started singing and playing harmonica. He went everywhere, not just here in South Florida, not too frequently in the local clubs, but he went to the root of the music, back to his roots, back to the delta, back around to see and hear and play with every blues legend he could find. He is still doing it and still trying to learn everything he can.

I go to festivals around the country. It just started to seem that at every turn, on almost every stage, there was Grady playing with the likes of Luther Allison, Junior Wells, Holmes Brothers, Smokey Wilson, Louisiana Red and most recently here in Miami with R. L. Burnside. He sits in and gets the audience excited. He is such a personable young man and so willing to learn and so quickly does he. He has not become a copy of anyone else and thatís good. He is so nice a guy, so pure in spirit and positive in attitude and so willing to do whatever it takes to hone his craft and pay his dues and get out there and play at every opportunity. He lives a straight life, no cigarettes, no drugs and barely a beer.

He understands the business end. At 18, he started working promotion for a local rap label and thus has worked around the music business for 9 years. Now he is doing it for himself. Recently, he signed a major 4-record deal with Shanachie Entertainment Corp. They have arranged for Dennis Walker to produce Gradyís first CD for them. Dennis Walker was the producer of Robert Crayís first 7 albums including "Strong Persuader" which went Platinum. He also produced B.B. Kingís 1993 blues Summit Album.

Last year he put out his own CD, "Going Back Home" which included several hits "Brother Brother" and "Blues on Christmas." Grady rites wonderfully creative original tunes about things that we can all relate to. I first met Grady about 1 Ĺ years ago through Luther Allison Jr. who brought me to see him play at Tobacco Road on the back patio. Most recently it was Luther Jr. again who had me meet him and Grady at "The Road" where Grady was to sit in with Iko Iko. This time they were showcased upstairs. Grady just jumped in and it was a natural fit. The crowd was so into what he was doing that all we could hear was praise.

I guess Grady knew quickly that if he was to make it, he had to bypass the local scene for the most part. He is very ambitious and knows that it would be hard to keep a top-notch band together in this part of the country making any money. So he just took himself where he could learn the most -- everywhere else. He has literally spent every extra cent he earns to get himself in the right places and to get people to listen to him. So now it is finally happening. I have no doubts about Grady Champion. He is our next young blues rising star and heaven knows only too well that we need him. All I want to do is cheer him on. I know heís going to make it. His sense of life just canít see it any other way. Nor can mine.

This review is copyright © 1999 by Gloria Fern Pierce, and Blues On Stage, all rights reserved.

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