Etta James’ Manager Shares Her Memories Of The Vocal Titan

Good morning everyone.  I hope your day’s going well.  As I promised earlier, I have a couple of interviews that I recently conducted.  One of them is with the former manager of the one and only, Etta James.  You’ll recall I recenetly posted up a review of Etta’s performances at the famed Montruex Jazz Festival.  earlier this year, the world lost the vocal titan.  Now, her former manager, offers her memory of James.  Enjoy!

RR —  What did Etta’s music mean to you both as her manager and as a fan of her music?
L — I heard Etta perform live dozens of times.   She was an inspiration to me as I watched her onstage.. She was just amazing to me Working for her over the years was never easy but the end result was so satisfying.   Of course I love ” At Last ” but for me ” Mystery Lady “, Time After Time ” and ” Seven Year Itch ” are my most favorite.  ” Live in San Francisco is also one I love.  Etta record so many great records that I could go on naming more.

RR — This new compilation of songs is has already been released to CD, and is going to be released to DVD and Blu-Ray, too soon from what I udnerstand.  I’m curious, was this a project that was started on your end, or did eagle Rock get the ball rolling on this one?  Can you explain the process of how this project came to life?
LThe Montreux shows that Etta recorded I always knew would someday make it to disc and out to the world wide public.  It was always Claude Nobs intention to make this a commercial release.  .  He was a major fan of her music.  Claude contacted me in early in 2010 and we began preparations with Eagle Productions to get it released.  I’m happy with the result.

RR — One thing that I always loved about Etta was her ability to switch so easily between that really rough, gritty blues sound and the much softer, more gentle almost Billie Holiday-esque sound on other songs.  From your own vantage point, what about Etta’s singing impressed you more than anything?
L — Well some people consider her a Blues singer, some a Jazz singer, and others R&B or Soul singer.  The truth is that Etta had a gift.  Throw in Country and Rock too.  Etta could do it all.  With her ballads Etta made you feel the song. Every word and phrase she made her own. She brought the lyric to life. I f you didn’t feel the message then you were not listening.   I don t think there was a more powerful singer in modern music.  Etta could rock your soul with her gut wrenching approach.  It was all Blues based but   her music defied category.

RR — On that same note, was there one song that always stood out as your favorite from Etta, or are there simply too many to say for certain that there’s one?
LFor me Etta’s memorable shows were Montreux, The Hollywood Bowl  (which she did every year for 10-12 years) , and her shows at the  Monterey Jazz Festival

RR — There have been some books released on Etta’s life.  I’m curious to know, having known her personally, have you had the opportunity to read anything published about her?  If so, what is your take on what’s been written?  Are there any books about her that you would recommend to fans of her music? Also, do you know of any plans for any new material book-wise, to be released on her life?
LWell there is only one and its in Etta’s own words ” Rage to Survive ”  We hope to make a feature film of her life based on this book  I am ready to listen ,  We will consider  offers.  It would have to be an honest account of her art and life without any sensationalizing. 

RR —  Speaking of her life story, having worked with Etta for as long as you did, I’d love to know are there any really fond memories that you can share with her fans that you could say yourself are your favorite memories of her?  They could be on the road or in the studio or just life in general.
LEtta had a incredible wit and sense of humor.  I recall being on the tour bus some times for days at a time.  Some nights Etta would come out of her mini suite in the back of the bus and come to where the musicians were gathered in the front.    She would hold court telling stories and jokes about people she knew.  She had a uncanny comic sense.   She would have the band laughing and in stitches.  Wow could she tell a story.7)  Blues music today still seems to be very much a niche genre in my eyes.  That’s not to say it doesn’t have a wide spread audience by any means.  But it still doesn’t really enjoy the mainstream success of most popular music.  What is your own take on the state of blues?  Would you like to see it ever go truly mainstream, or are you happy with where it is today?

RR — I have one more question before I go.   Being that you knew Etta James better than many people out there, in terms of her music and her as a person, what would you yourself say is her legacy?  I guess what I’m getting at is people will always remember her for her music, obviously.  So other than her music, what would you personally hope that audiences would remember her for that maybe they didn’t already know about her as a person?
LShe was and is an extremity important American singer.  Her music will be here for decades to come.  Anyone with an ear for great music from any generation will take note when they hear Etta on record.  Her music like all great music is timeless.

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