Artists may come and artists may go, but Detroit born legend James Montgomery has performed in the forefront of the blues for over four decades. In my younger days, I first saw him perform locally around the New England circuit with his own James Montgomery Band and the Shaboo Allstars. James always had fantastic musicians that knew how to keep a funky groove including the late great Matt Murphy and Charles Calmese. When I saw James fronting these bands, he had an energy onstage that I had never seen before. It was great musicians playing off of each other, never knowing what to expect next other than that it would be exciting and funky.
In 1973, James had a Capricorn Records release, First Time Out which I really dug. Later he caught everyone’s attention when he released a funky version of the Huey Piano Smith song, “Don’t You Just Know It” under the title “The Gooba Gooba Song”, produced by Allen Toussaint.
Not only is James a musical star in his own right, but he also had an extensive history with some of my other musical heroes and influences. This includes Johnny Winter and James Cotton both of whom he had very close relations with. James is also currently working on James Cotton’s biography. James Montgomery also has a long friendship and musical relationship with my bandmate and drummer Bobby T Torello as a result of both touring with Johnny Winter.
I felt there was a musical compatibility with our tastes in music and mutually respected artists, past and present. In 2016, I asked Bobby to contact James to see if James would front our band for an upcoming performance scheduled in Hartford, Connecticut at Black Eyed Sally’s Southern Kitchen and Bar. Although we were not needing additional vocals or an additional harmonica player, what a thrill it would be to have a blues legend and frontman that all of the band honored and had a strong mutual respect for. I was surprised and overjoyed that James agreed, and it was a great show and wonderful experience.
Through that experience I communicated occasionally with James through social media, and after deciding to create our sixth ZOHO CD release, I asked James if he would participate. He agreed again, and we scheduled some sessions at Long Hill Recording in Shelton, CT. I had some material pre-planned and sent some tracks and ideas in advance for James to preview. One song in particular that came to my mind was “Detroit Blues”.
James is very proud of growing up in Detroit learning first hand from local masters and this song also reminded me of another favorite by Willie Brown titled Mississippi Blues. Tampa Red released Detroit Blues in 1945 and it went to #5 on the Billboard R&B charts. Tampa Red had a distinctive single-string slide style and his version was heavily dominated by piano. I decided to record it with a finger picking style similar to Willie Brown with James on vocal and harp.
James’ vocal and harmonica performance is exceptional on this track and an accurate expression of his deep love of the city, and for the blues in his soul. James made it very clear that when we introduced him onto the stage, his Detroit origin along with his name was equally important.
Montgomery has toured with Aerosmith, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen, the Allman Brothers Band , Steve Miller and others. He has also performed with B.B. King, Buddy Guy, John Lee Hooker, Junior Wells, James Cotton, Charlie Daniels, Greg Allman, Laverne Baker, Patti LaBelle, and Peter Wolf among others. With all of these amazing credits to his name, James remains a very humble gentleman, and it was a joy and great experience to create this release with him.
The Jay Willie Blues Band has had the pleasure and successful experience of producing five previous releases on the ZOHO Roots label, between 2013 and 2017. As a result, I have earned enough creative and technical credits to qualify as a voting member and District Advocator for the Grammy Awards New York Chapter. In 2015, Johnny Winter was nominated again for his sixth Grammy Award for his Step Back album released only weeks after his passing. Johnny did win the Award for “Best Blues Album” and although it was posthumously, it was a true honor to participate in the voting process and see this hero recognized with this highest musical honor.
Harmonica player Jason Ricci who was featured on our previous ZOHO releases, also performed on the Step Back track “My Babe” which added to my excitement about Johnny’s win. As with our previous ZOHO releases, the majority of the tracks on Cadillac Walk pay homage to early R & B influences of mine including Johnny Winter, The Rolling Stones, Willie Cobbs, Tampa Red and Mink Deville.
The title track “Cadillac Walk” was written by Moon Martin, a pop artist and composer who also wrote Robert Palmer’s hit song “Bad Case of Loving You”. However, Mink Deville’s cover is what really turned me on to this song. Mink really emphasized the slide guitar and gave it a different groove and made it badass. We made it a little sexier and added more slide with James on harmonica.
It is always a pleasure to partner with multi -instrumentalist Paul Opalach and world class drummer Bobby T Torello. Paul is not only responsible for all the studio production and videography but performs all the bass, Rickenbacker lap steel, and keyboards. Thank you for your patronage and we hope you enjoy our music.
Newtown, CT, 2020
Producer: Jay Willie. Recorded, mixed and mastered by: Paul Opalach at Long Hill Recording, Shelton, CT. March and October, 2019. Inside color artists photo by: Paul Opalach. Cadillac photos by: Rodion Yushmanov. Art Direction & Design: Jack Frisch. Executive Producer: Joachim “Jochen” Becker.
Publishing: SONY/ATV Songs, H & R Music Publishing, Raleigh Music Publishing OBO Susan Aberbach Revocable Trust (1); BMG Bumblebee (2); Bro ’n’ Sis Music OBO Crazy Cajun Music (3); ABKO Music Inc (4); Boot House of Tunes (5); Purple Rabbitt Music (6); Jay Willie Music (7); EMI Unart Catalog Inc. (8); Acquarian Music (9); BMG Sapphire Songs OBO Winter Blues Music (10).
Endorsements: Bobby T Torello endorses WFL III Drums and would like to thank Bill Ludwig and Kipton Blue, and is endorsed by Humes & Berg MFG Company.
Thank you: Long Hill Recording Studio, AJ Wachtel for his continued support, Bob Kieser of Blues Blast Magazine, Richard Ludmerer and Ricard L’ Hommediue with Making A Scene The Independent Music Magazine, Jochen Becker and his ZOHO label for his ongoing support, Jack Frisch for continuing to amaze us with his creative design and photography skills, and all the great people who support our music with airplay and positive music reviews worldwide.