Cool Fool, Blues Rockin' The Hammer

a lifetime spent living the Blues in Hamilton (The Hammer), Canada

Real Blues Magazine Review

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What is the most important city in Canada in regards to Blues and Rock’n Roll history?  Toronto?  Montreal?  Vancouver?  Calgary?  Sorry folks, even though the aforementioned do have some pedigree of note, stretching back to the late 1950s, Canada’s true Music Mecca is Hamilton, Ontario, a blue-collar steel-town, approximately 50 miles West of Toronto.  I myself am a Torontonian although I did spend some important years in Montreal at the height of the city’s Music Revolution (1967-71).  But, despite my roots in Canada’s two biggest urban centres, I would never dare to challenge the standing of Chicago North a.k.a. Hamilton.  For decades there has been an ‘under-the-surface’ rivalry between Toronto and Hamilton with many Toronto musicians sporting an inflated sense of self-importance whilst looking down their noses at the untamed and wild Hamilton scene.  But, it’s like comparing Pat Boone to Screamin’ Jay Hawkins and any truly honest Canadian music fan soon realized that the hype and bright lights of the ‘Toronto Sound’ couldn’t come close to the nasty and mind-blowing Hamilton Boogie.  While Hamilton was probably 1/10th, the size of Toronto for some reason an Army of magnificent Blues, Soul and Rock talents emerged from Steel Town.  This book explains why and eloquently so.  Doug Carter was there from the beginning, picking up electric bass around 1961 and joining The Barons, which later morphed into The Chessmen and then as Son Richard and The Chessmen.  Both bands featured future Blues Legend Richard Newell a.k.a. Son Richard a.k.a. King Biscuit Boy, Doug’s close friend and school classmate.  Carter seems to have a photographic memory when it comes to recall and his astute thoughtful observations makes this book an exciting and knowledgeable read!  (I read it cover-to-cover in a late night 3-hour marathon).   While the presence of Richard Newell seems to permeate virtually every page, Carter treads a fine line, recalling events and figures from his own 40-year career as one of Hamilton’s most dependable and talented bassists and while King Biscuit Boy fans will love this book, “Cool Fool” is not an attempt to create a tribute to The Biscuit Boy.  Carter surprises with his analysis of Blues & Rock’n Roll in general and more importantly, all the factors that turned Hamilton into such a rich hotbed of creativity/talent.  While Hamilton beget King Biscuit Boy, Jack de Keyser, Teenage Head, Harrison Kennedy and Guitar Mikey to name but a few, Carter correctly focuses on the Black Hamilton Blues & Soul scene of the 1950s and 1960s, making sure the reader knows just how hugely influential Bobby, Jackie and Reggie Washington, Russell Carter (no relation), Nelson Flowers and Harrison Kennedy were to the music fans and aspiring musicians of Hamilton, Ontario.  The book is chock full of obscure and enlightening photos, which add to the tremendous value of this memoir.  Poignancy abounds, especially in the closing chapters dealing with the demise of old friends and Real Music, but I really must say Carter has given us the Best Book on Canadian music ever written.  Books written by musicians always seem to be far more truthful, intimate and to-the-point compared to most of the crap written by journalists and academics.  Blues fans (and especially King Biscuit Boy’s thousands of fans all over the World) will cherish this wonderful document; and one feels obliged to thank Doug Carter for this gift to The World.  6 Bottles for a book that truly needed to be written.

…A. Grigg

Written by Doug Carter

October 12, 2010 at 11:45 pm

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