by Willard Manus
LOS ANGELES -- Calling all blues fans. There's a marvelous new blues website out there in cyberland, BLUEPOWER.COM. Created and hosted by the distinguished guitarist/songwriter/producer John Rhys, the website features music, interviews and biographies. Rhys launched the site in 1994 and has built up a world-wide following of blues fans who click on the hour-long show about 10,000 times a day.
The show I caught (on DVD) dealt with the life of Jerry Wexler, the legendary co-founder of Atlantic Records, the company that launched the careers of LaVerne Baker, Joe Turner (TV Mama), Clyde McPhatter, Ray Charles, Chuck Willis, Ivory Joe, Wilson Pickett, Aretha Franklin, Solomon Burke and Dr. John.
Rhys paid tribute to the color-blind courage and foresight of Wexler, who took a chance on artists he liked, even if other companies had given up on them (e.g. Franklin, who had been dumped by Columbia Records). Wexler picked the right material for her--I Never Loved a Man the Way I Loved You, for example--and made a best-selling star of her.
Rhys has also put together visual and sound podcasts of Walter Trout, Terry Evans and Teresa Russell, to name but a few. He interviewed and jammed with these luminaries in his Van Nuys recording studio/Bluepower.com home base.
John Rhys Eddins broke into the music business at eighteen when he performed at the first ever "Big Ape" Gator Bowl with such budding stars as Jerry Lee Lewis, Roy Orbison and Brenda Lee. Besides his extensive credits as a musician, he has built a reputation as a top-flight producer, promoter and engineer--both in this country and abroad. In Japan, for example, he produced the country's #1 pop artist, Chiharu Matsuyama. Seven successful LPs followed, selling over twelve million copies in the process.
Rhys was also part owner of Hollywood Central sound studio and wrote a blues column for Cash Box Magazine, until its owner, George Albert, died and the periodical changed hands. That same year, Rhys launched Bluepower.com.
I knew I'd love the website the minute I heard its theme song, delivered by none other than Professor Longhair.