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The 'Tumatoe' Interview

Forwarded by Gary Jackson. Published on Mar.9, year and publication unknown.

" You know it when you hear it." John Fogerty's unequivocal assertion on the nature of the blues is borne out handsomely on an album that combines elements of luck, fortitude and prodigious feats of editing. No, it's not the latest solo offering from the Creedence's creator, but an unlikely, and uncommonly entertaining, debut from a genuine blues belter whose mom astually named him Duke Tumatoe.

The fact that Fogerty is taking his outside production bow on Tumatoe's Warner Bros. Records release, "I Like My Job," should, by itself, flag the project for discerning ears. A single spin of the album--a blistering barroom set captured live in some of the heartland's finest dives---bears out of the contention that Fogerty has indeed brought back the Real Thing. But that's only part of the story behind this potent slab of vinyl. A backstage glimse of this long player reveals some fascinating facets of Fogerty's continuing quest for real music played by, and for, real people.

"Back when I was working on "Centerfield" I used to make tapes of old blues and play it in the car, pretending that it was coming over the radio. Blues is the basis for rock 'n' roll, of course. It's like Latin's relationship to Romance languages...the source, the root. But it's also a living thing, which means it's at its best when you hear it live. Eventually I started seeking it out, going to different cities to find out what was happening on a street level. It was purely selfish, a way to recharge my batteries, by getting a dose of the music I love the best." Fogerty's musical ramble took him from coast to coast, from New Orleans to Chicago. "It wasn't that easy to find what I was after," he confides, "but what I discovered in the process is that there really are regional music scenes happening all over, with distinctive sounds of their own. That was encouraging."  Sometimes following leads provided by friends, sometimes picking up the scent of his own, Fogerty eventually found himself in Indiana---South Bend specifically. Former home of the Studebaker and well within the legendary blues aura of Chicago, it was here that Fogerty first chanced upon the estimable Mr. Tumatoe, who'd been playing his hard-hitting act on the Midwestern circuit since the early '70s. "I don't know," he muses. "It's like, you recognize the real thing the moment you hear it, as if there's this antenna always tuned to that frequency." What impressed Fogerty almost immediatly wasn't simply Tumatoe and his group, the Power Trio's, hard working dedication to pleasing their obviously appreciative audience. It was the way the audience itself fed back the energy of the band. "These people were having a good time. They knew the words to the songs, shouted them back and kept the whole thing rolling along. I haven't experienced that in a long time."

And, as if making up for lost time, Fogerty returned to the same club for the next four nights for additional helpings of Tumatoe. "I thought to myself, `Hey this is great! Someone ought to get this down on a record, just like it is...live and spontaneous.' It was only later I realized I was talking about myself."

Having decided to take up Tumatoe's cause, Fogerty's next move  as to convince his record company, Warner Bros., that recording an unknown bar band, live in an unknown bar, was something they'd always wanted to do. "I knew they weren't going to play ball just because I was nostalgic for good music, he continues. "The band would have to stand or fall on their own merits, which was exactly what happened. At first I figured the production would be no big deal. We'd set up a tape recorder, let it run and that would be that. It didn't quite work out that way."

Considering that, from inception to pressing, "I Like My Job," took the better part of a year, that last statement had the distinct ring of understatement. "The last thing I wanted was for the group to get stiff and uptight at the prospect of doing a record for a major label," explains Fogerty. "Which is why I didn't ask them to change from what they were already doing. But it's hard to keep those jitters down and as a result the first two nights of taping we did were really only warm-up. We ended up doing six nights in all, over twenty-four hours of Duke Tumatoe. That's when the real work began."

The real work entailed over three months of intensive mixing, in which Fogerty picked and chose parts of performances to assemble a whole most closely resembling the off-the-cuff exuberance of a Tumatoe performance. "I'd take a piece of a song from one night and add pieces from other nights...a bridge here, a chorus there. I was looking to get as close to that feeling I  had when I first saw him. At the same time, it was important to me that I didn't mess with the material itself. Duke is a great songwriter, and great song interpreter. I really wasn't able to tell which tunes were originals and which were covers and that's the way I liked it. This is his music, played his way. I just sort of assembled the best moments."

The best moments also include the indispensible addition of a primed Tumatoe crowd. "That interaction was vital. Which is why
you get a lot of call and response on the record. Duke is a very quick guy. And very funny. He knows how to work a crowd and it was my hope that the energy would come across on record."

It's a hope fulfillment on "I Like My Job." "In a way this whole process was good for me," concludes Fogerty. "I was able to keep my hand in between recording my own records, without getting caught up in career moves and everything else that goes along with making your own album. At the same time, I was helping to boost the kind of music that had always inspired me. That was really gratifying."

That feeling, for music fans everywhere, is mutual.

 

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