Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Cadillac Records; movie review revisted

While at the lovely place where I do most of my work, I caught the movie again on one of the cable stations. In researching this flick on the net, I see it has mixed reviews. One person thought it made "Black people look terrible!". That person is in another world, and definitely knows nothing about blues or musicians.

My main regret was that Eamonn Walker, playing Howlin' Wolf, didn't get more screen time. The little bit he did matched to a tee what I have read about the Wolf. He was great, as was Columbus Short as Little Walter--the standard by which all hard core blues harp players have measured themselves ever since he created his tone and style of play.

Jeffrey Wright as Muddy Waters did a hell of a job. He's one of those guys who just has a remarkable presence on screen. It is clear the he and the others in this flick took the time to learn about the people they played and they understand the music.

Beyonce Knowles kicks ass, no matter how you slice it. She played Etta James.

Adrien Brody played Leonard Chess of Chess records. I think he gave a great performance. The story is about his studio and the people he recorded and promoted, as well as the culture of that world, the problems encountered due to segregation and the efforts to promote crossover hits---stuff that white stations wouldn't stonewall. Chuck Berry and Etta James were the first to score big there, but Chuck had his troubles, quite possibly unjustly so.

In light of the comment referenced above: I was turned on to this movie by a couple I met who are most likely Black. I met the guy at the 76 station I sometimes frequent when I take route B back from San Diego. He'd missed his bus and had a bunch of groceries. I liked the way he spoke to me so I gave him a ride. I make snap judgements based on the vibe I get from people in those situations. Maybe it is risky, but it sure does broaden horizons. Besides, if I was in need of a lift, I'd appreciate a ride.

On the way I popped in my old band's Sun Studios CD. Of course, I let him know I was the harp player after determining he liked the music OK. He brightened up, calling me Little Walter, but showing skepticism. When we arrived at his apartment building, he asked me to hit a lick since there were a few harmonicas floating around in my car in plain view. So I did.

He then insisted I come upstairs and play some for his wife, which I did. Then they insisted I stay long enough to watch the beginning of Cadillac records. They said it was their favorite movie--couldn't get enough of it. They loved the music and loved Little Walter. I had to promise that I would rent the movie. He was very insistent on this point.

So, at first chance I did see it. And I am glad I did. The movie may have strayed from perfect fact like avoiding mention of Leonard's brother and partner in the studio. I think as far as painting the musicians characters it was not too far away from the truth, or at least the folk legends surrounding these people.

It did my heart good to see how much importance and credit was bestowed on little Walter. He gave Muddy's band the sound.

People may not realize that those early blues guys who eventually made it up to Chicago were hard playing gun toting tough customers. The Wolf definitely did as in the movie, firing a shot in a bar letting Muddy know he didn't take kindly to having his guitar player stolen. So Hubert Sumlin wisely quit Muddy and went back to playing for Howlin Wolf.

I'm enjoying what I've been playing, but I swear, I always have a bit of blues in me. A certain type of blues always grabs me. Not all of it, but a lot. In my view this movie is a real standout. Great flick. Really, these actors had some kind of chemistry. I'll bet they thought it was magic.

****didn't realize that Chuck Berry successfully sued the Beach Boys over Surfin USA. Others probably know that. The melody was lick for lick Chuck Berry.


  1. i have to watch that movie. I did not know that Chuck Berry sued the Beach Boys over that tune...

  2. You remind me this movie is still on my "list". Thanks for moving it back up to the top.


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Ballistic Mountain, CA, United States
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