Hey, pppssst, how would you like to think about something different for a few moments? You do? Oh good. Warning: The following post has nothing to do with COVID-19.
Do you listen to satellite radio in your car? I do. I’m in my car a lot these days and discovering that space is, well, kinda nice. For SOME reason my car is becoming a bit of a sanctuary for me. So, anyway, I hear Led Zeppelin’s version of “When The Levee Breaks” the other day on “Classic Vinyl” and I started thinking about the way music is interpreted.
In 2011-2015 I was producing a music history radio program called Boosie’s Playhouse Classic Blues. The program took a historical look at the first 50 years of the recorded blues. The American blues are unique in many ways. The origins go back long before audio recording was even a possibility. One of the concepts I learned about was the business practice of black songs covered by white singers. When a blues revival hit the charts in the 60s-70s few white artists gave credit to the original composers, most claimed the tune and lyrics for themselves. Many talented people, whose songs were #1 hits made little, if no, money.
Despite the plagiarism, the blues singers, on their own bill, continued to change and grow, developing the sounds of centuries into something new, again, and again. As the country inched it’s way into the 1900s that moaning of the blues, country, and folk began to get played on the radio and enter into the mainstream of the American experience. Contemporary artists added even more beats. Taj Mahal called it the African Diaspora. He shares in his biography his parents “made him aware that all that was from the African Diaspora belonged to me. So I came in with Caribbean music, African music, Latin music, gospel music, and blues.” Quincy Jones laments, “I only hope that one day, America will recognize what the rest of the world already has known, that our indigenous music – gospel, blues, jazz, and R&B – is the heart and soul of all popular music; and that we cannot afford to let this legacy slip into obscurity, I’m telling you.”
Each musician takes a sound and adds their own part. So, in my car the other day, listening to a version of a song about a massive flood in the 1920s turned into, what I believe to be, a sexually charged blues/rock tune sparked my memory of researching this very song six years ago for my radio program. So what do you think, did Led Zeplin keep the same spirit of the song or create something new? It took many decades and intense social pressure from other artists for them to finally change the credits. Did they pay tribute to the estates of Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie? I don’t know.
Stay safe, wear a mask, and be kind to each other out there. -Shannon
In 2011 I woke up put a turtleneck on and was like, “I’m a freakin’ mess!” That same month I started volunteering at 102.3 KMRE SPARK Radio, broadcasting community radio out of the Museum of Electrical Invention, hoping community work would straighten me out. I used the moniker “Boosie” to hide from judgmental ex-in-laws, and *boom* history was made. This was the profile photo for my FB radio presence for seven years:
Its 2018 and I must admit my life is better for the experience. Want to know more? Take me out for coffee or drinks and I’ll share all my secrets. Until then, keep it real…
“After seven years of producing radio programs, I have decided to say goodnight to this chapter in my life. Thank you KMRE, KZAX, and KPNW for supporting my work. Thank you all for listening, and a special thank you to the hundreds of guests who have lifted me up and inspired me and my listeners over the years.”
-Shannon Laws, producer/host Chickadee Productions
If you have any questions or want to listen to your favorite program offline please contact Shannon Laws on FB messenger or via her writer’s page.
2015 seems like an amplified version of 2014 don’t you think? Except this year we had the added entertainment of an American Presidential race, promotional “stuff” for another Star Wars movie a la Disney, Kim’s booty and the Pope’s world tour to distract us. Finally, sick of the violence and injustice, MORE citizens took to the streets! From Paris, to South Carolina’s Ravenel Bridge to Bellingham Washington, citizens unified in mass against war, terrorism, police violence, and the environment. Round and round we go.
With only a few days left in 2015 it seems the right time to write a Christmas Letter. My mom use to mail an end-of-the-year letter to family and friends, near and far, sharing the highlights of our family’s year. It is in that spirit that I write to you today.
Perhaps you treat these letters like fruit cake. If that’s the case then I leave you here, in the third paragraph, simply wishing you & yours a happy, warm holiday and prosperous new year. Also, it’s important for me to add a BIG Thank You! Thank you for visiting my page and buying SPL poetry.
However, if curiosity is creeping around your ankles, making it’s way up the leg, securing you in your seat for, say, the next five minutes, then I welcome your company. Nostalgia is a sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations. You are a “happy personal association” and I welcome your presence.
My Christmas Card movie features the SPL staff at it again. This year we are working as a team to beautify our surroundings, sharing the joy with our neighbors. Living on the 48th parallel our winters are long and dark. The sun sets about 4:30 pm and stays down until 8 in the morning. A string of lights is helpful, happy and welcomed.
Blessings to you and yours & Happy 2016!
~Shannon, Brad, Vince, Robert & Chris.
(Click our photo to watch our home movie)
My Poetic 2015
The year started off in PEACE. On New Years Eve World Peace Poets, Betty, Carla, C.J., Carol and I met at the “Peace Pole” in Fairhaven with another group for peace. We lit candles at dusk, tossed paper crane prayers into the sea, then joined hands in a moment of prayer for the new year.
Later in February all FIVE of the “Peace Sisters” published “Peace Poems, Vol I”. We included an award ceremony with the book launch. There are many people in Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C. who stand for peace and understanding. We wanted to recognize them as “Ambassadors of Peace”
World Peace Poets encourage harmony through words for international writers and promote public readings.
In March my poem “Voice on the Trail” was accepted for a wall display in the Bellingham Repertory Dance Company’s “A Night at the Gallery”
In April I joined in the celebration of “The Bard of Bellingham’s” book launch! Beloved +80 yr old Jim Milstead, a well known poet, (finally) released the much anticipated book of poetry “Collage”. Congrats Jim!
For a second time, it was my (well-protected) pleasure to feature at Western Washington University’s Erotic Poetry Night. Such a fun time!
In May I read at Erica Reed’s Poetry Gallery, representing Village Books Poetry Group. This new, quarterly event allows each of the over 22 poetry groups in the Bellingham area to share for 3-5 minutes. It’s a night of cross-pollination, networking and good words. Erica plans on continuing this event into 2016. Look for it in the community calendars!
June: after an exhilarating experience reading on a street corner for the Bike/Poetry Seattle group Mob Rolls in May, I was hit by lightning! Putting in a call with the Downtown Bellingham Partnership, “Poets’ Corner” was born! An exciting new living art display for Art Walk participants. Poets take over a corner, read to the passing masses! Poets’ Corner ran from June-November, co-hosted by Lucas Nydam. It is a fun experiment. Due to the winter weather it is currently on hiatus until April 1, 2016.
Featuring for Everett Poetry Night and Poetry Night in Bellingham within seven days of each other was stimulating to say the least. The audience was warm and accepting, and my books sold! This was my first year featuring for open mics.The change of perspective, audience member to performer, was refreshing. Am I ready for more? I hope so. It’s a great responsibility to feature. The high is amazing and I hope to do it more in 2016.
For July I found myself reaching into new physical and emotional territory. The Lament for the Dead was an 2015 on-line movement about personalizing the victims of police violence. My poem “Wallow in Ashes” was accepted. Also, I returned to my old stomping grounds South King County as a feature poet for Auburn Days. One of my goals for 2015 was to feature outside of Bellingham. I am thankful to Everett and Auburn for letting a circuit-newbie take the stage.
July marked the end of my time at KMRE 102.3 SPARK Radio. I started volunteering with SPARK back in 2011 producing the classic blues show “The Playhouse” that features the blues from 1920-70’s, and occasionally stepping in as an afternoon LIVE DJ, running the “Board of Doom”. Later, in 2013, Jonathan Winter asked me to help him with a show he envisioned where folks that love music share their music story. The New Americana Hour was born! In addition to those two programs I also recorded local poets for an award winning feature called “Poetic Moments”. You can learn more about my radio time at KMRE here. What a wonderful family the Museum of Electrical Invention is! It was hard to say good-bye, but I am thankful to of worked beside some of the northwest’s most influential, giving, and creative characters.
September the Peace Sisters were recognized for their publication and “Read-In” events by Writers International Network . The ceremony was held in Richmond, British Columbia along with recipient poets and artists from India, Mexico, Korea, Bangladesh, and the Philippines. I am moved and very thankful to WIN for this award.
October was an amazing month. October 2015 marked my fifth year in Bellingham. I am touched by the kindness this community has shown me. I wanted to give back and do it the “Bellingham Way” = do it for charity.
I wanted to coordinate a musical album featuring artists from Bellingham and Seattle, but would any band want to be on it? And WHAT charity would be the benefactor? Then, these two questions were answered within a week of each other. Many band members I contacted grew up with music in the home and/or were introduced to music through a school program. These programs cost money. Blue Skies for Children helps low-income, homeless and foster children in Whatcom County with music lessons and musical instrument rentals. The 17 bands that donated songs to this album are “paying it forward” for future musicians. In October “Blue Skies for Bellingham” was released in time for the Blue Skies for Children charity auction.
“This album together with the original cover art by esteemed painter/musician Meghan Yates, are submissions for Blue Skies for Children’s Annual Dinner and Charity Auction. All seventeen bands are from Bellingham or frequent the Bellingham area. All proceeds go to the Our Little Wishes Instrument Loaner and Enrichment Programs. These programs provide local homeless, low-income and foster children ages six to eighteen for music lessons and musical instrument rental to help increase hope and raise self-esteem.”
Also in October World Peace Poets hosted our 3 rd annual “Read-In”. November and December I read at a new hookah bar Cafe Bouzingo, and the first “Noisy Waters” reading at the Mt. Baker Encore Room, and returned to Auburn to feature at the Auburn Arts Association Poetry Open Mic.
Fall 2016 I’ll release my third poetry book “Fallen” and I hope to get more feature gigs on the books. I also have a few secret projects I’m working on–one includes a phone booth, another a hair artist, painter and fifty sets of crunches a day, and a NEW radio program for KVWV, Bellingham. My body, mind and spirit in top form—yep. That’s what I’m looking forward to in ’16.
Thanks for walking with me through this year. (dang that took a long time!) Have I mentioned how THANKFUL I am?
Shannon P. Laws was born in Seattle and raised in Federal Way, where, she says, “as a teenager I learned that when a guy from Auburn asks you out on a date, he will most likely pick you up in a stolen car.”
Laws reads from her debut poetry collection, “Madrona Grove: Poems Written Under the Canopy,” at 7 p.m. Friday, July 19, at Village Books. She is the host for the Village Books Poetry Group, which meets twice monthly at the bookstore.
She can be heard on KMRE 102.3, SPARK Radio, in downtown Bellingham, hosting two music programs, “Classic Blues” and “New Americana.”
Answer: In 2010 a major life event produced the momentum for a move. Family and work located in Bellingham made it an easy choice for relocation; my mom and brother live here. It’s great to visit them when our schedules allow.
Q: What’s your job and volunteer history?
A: I occasionally host the Chuckanut Sandstone Writers open mic, which meets the second Wednesday of every month at the Firehouse Café. I am a volunteer radio producer/editor at KMRE 102.3, a nonprofit community station that broadcasts from the SPARK Museum. Also, I am a member of the writers group Artistic License and Whatcom Writers and Publishers.
Q: What do you enjoy about what you do?
A: After working in television for many years, radio seemed like a fun project, especially at a station as unique as KMRE. Jonathan Winter and Brent Davis are encouraging people to work with. The museum, in general, is a warm and quirky place to donate time. It feels like a second home.
My pet project is “Boosie’s Playhouse Classic Blues.” The show’s focus is on the classic blues era, which I bracket, 1920-1970s, the first 50 years of the recorded blues. I created a character persona Boosie Vox, the Voice Vixen, to host the show.
One day Jonathan approached me about an idea he had for a new show that discussed the way music influences our lives. The program “New Americana” was born. In January of this year we started to bring in local musicians to share the five songs that influenced their lives. Jon and I sent out the invitations for guests and we are amazed at the positive returns that show has created.
Q: How did “Madrona Grove” come about?
A: An idea is a nagging, a tug at the heart, that demands to be heard. It wants to be recorded, as if my simple notebook is an official document linked directly into the planet’s psyche. I constantly get visions and inspiration, whether I am lying in bed contemplating a dream, or notice a crow staring at me on my walk as if it remembers me.
Q: What do you write?
A: I primarily write short stories, memoirs, an article or two, and there’s a novel in the works. My blog, Madrona Grove, started in 2010, and, at first, was my only creative outlet. My first book of poetry, named after my blog, was published in January.
I do not edit work that is over a year old. I like to respect who I was at that time. The voice of the work is as important as the words themselves. Ten years from now I want to pull that book off the shelf to read it and say, “Yes, I remember that woman.”
Q: What’s fun for you outside of the world of radio and literature?
A: I love the outdoors. A walk, hike or a day at the beach are perfect moments for me. A double-tall mocha at the Black Drop is a guilty pleasure I do not mind satisfying from time to time. I typically enjoy any type of live music. Also, I’m a big movie nut who just recently discovered the joy of watching local theater. I am a season ticket-holder to the Idiom Theater and Pickford Film Center. It’s the ideal form of time travel outside of my own imagination.
Since fall of 2011 I have been the hostess on a local classic blues radio show, “Boosie’s Playhouse Classic Blues” that airs/streams on KMRE 102.3/ kmre.org heard every Saturday night at 10 p.m. PST. In doing research for the show I come across many interesting stories. Here is one of my favorites about the classic blues artist, Lead Belly.
Lead Belly was born in 1888 as Huddie Ledbetter. He reached the top of his blues career later in his life during the 1930’s – 1940’s.
Lead, unfortunately, spent much of his early adulthood in a Texas prison for homicide. He got an early release after writing and singing a song for the State Governor. In 1925, he wrote a song asking Governor Pat Neff for a pardon. Neff, who had promised at his election never to pardon a prisoner, broke his promise and set Huddie Ledbetter free. Lomax and Ledbelly In 1930 Lead returned to prison, this time for assault with intent to kill. Reputation and talent follow you everywhere, even through prison walls. Good citizen or not his music was desired and according to a folk song collector for the Smithsonian, John A Lomax, needed to be documented. In 1934 John and Lead recorded for the Library of Congress the album now titled “Leadbelly’s Last Sessions” Excited for this opportunity Lead let loose! He had a wonderful memory for music and folk stories. He played and sang songs from the Tin Pan Alley, dance tunes, prison work songs, mule-skinner hollers, rag songs and the “Mean-Blues”. This jail bird did SING! Accompanied by his 12-string guitar he sang all of these in his signature roof-ratting high baritone voice.
Lead and Lomax recording in prison
His style of “Country Blues” or “Folk Blues” made him in a minor celebrity at the time. Lomax arrange (another) early release for Lead. Despite the segregation social pressures at the time these two, a white man from the northeast and a black man from the south, were determined to preserve musical history, together. Lomax and Lead traveled all across the southern states collecting and recording rare and traditional music. Most of the folks they recorded were like Lead, too poor and unsure of how to get a recording contract. Folks who had memorized stories and songs from their friends and family and passed them down verbally. Songs that were distinctly American but most Americans would never of heard one note if it wasn’t for this unusual “power team”: Lomax with the equipment and cash, and Lead with the knowledge and connections.
Lead Belly~ his temper landed him in jail twice, but his music, the music of his people, set him free -twice. His biggest recorded hit “Good Night Irene” raised a revival for Folk Blues and influenced many.