Next R&B star?
St. Paul-reared Chris Lawrence, 25, has signed with Pitbull's imprint Mr. 305 Ent., and he's already generating a buzz with his tender heartbreak single "Withdrawal." The song beat out Jesse McCartney's new tune in the "Beat Battle" last week on the syndicated radio show "The Weekend Top 30," which airs locally on KDWB. MTVhits, MTVu and VH1 have also broadcast the video. The single was produced by Kay Gee of Naughty by Nature, who is helping Lawrence finish his full-length album. Lawrence's co-manager, Tim Wilson (Urban Lights store owner), said: "If anyone deserves success, it's this guy. He's been through a lot and has persevered." Lawrence has been through the "American Idol" rigmarole twice, making it to Hollywood in Season 10 but missing the cut. He also won a contest with controversial Backstreet Boys and 'N Sync manager Lou Pearlman that went nowhere. And Lawrence gigs regularly in the Twin Cities, often at the various Cowboy Jack's locations.
'I'm Rick James, Prince!'
"Glow: The Autobiography of Rick James" was published last month, 10 years after the 1970s/'80s funk star died. The book, penned with co-writer to the stars David Ritz, is about as wild and freaky as the drug-addled James was, but I.W. couldn't resist James' thoughts on Prince, who opened for him in late 1979 and early 1980. The "Super Freak" hitmaker accused Prince of stealing his moves, licks and essentially his entire act. After they discussed it one night, they didn't even shake hands. But James feels he got even shortly thereafter at his 32nd birthday party, which he says Prince and his crew crashed. "I went over to his table and grabbed him by the back of his hair and poured cognac down his throat. He spat it out and started crying like a baby," James writes. "I laughed."
Bill T. in the House
Twin Cities artists and arts leaders were on hand Monday at the White House to cheer on Bill T. Jones, who was among 11 artists presented with the National Medal for the Arts by President Obama. A Tony-winning choreographer, dancer and director, Jones has a decades-long association with artists and arts institutions in the Twin Cities, especially Walker Art Center. Attending the White House ceremony were Walker director Olga Viso and Ragamala Dance Theater founder Ranee Ramaswamy, whom Obama appointed to the National Council on the Arts in 2012.
BBQ and blah
Famous Dave's, where blues and BBQ have been synonymous for two decades, has a new boss who ostensibly isn't as fond of the blues as founder Famous Dave Anderson, who personally programmed the blues records broadcast in his restaurants. After testing country music for a week and finding that it turned off some diners, Famous Dave's switched back to the blues. Then last week, CEO Ed Rensi, a McDonald's veteran, ordered a new musical menu. Let's call it inoffensively eclectic, unless, of course, you find America's "Horse With No Name" offensive. The music is a hybrid of KQRS and the old Cities 97. Or, in other words, 10,000 Maniacs, Adele and Jason Mraz mixed with the Who, Blue Oyster Cult and the Moody Blues. About every half-hour, there might be a blues tune by the likes of Bobby "Blue" Bland or Bettye LaVette. Somehow Cold War Kids' "Coffee Spoon" just doesn't make the BBQ go down.
Poet Éireann Lorsung grew up in Minneapolis, earned an MFA from the University of Minnesota and a doctorate in England, and now lives in Belgium. But this summer she's back in her hometown, hanging out in the Blue Moon Coffee Cafe on E. Lake Street through a residency sponsored by Coffee House Press. She spends her days writing, sketching, reading and listening — to customers, but also to music played over Blue Moon's speakers. "A lot of the music they have on here I listened to in high school, like, intensely," she said. "And so hearing it again for the first time in almost 20 years is just a bizarre experience. Also, I used to hang out at the other Blue Moon, when it was on Franklin [Avenue]. It's like I'm here again, but I'm not here." Lorsung will be at Blue Moon at 7 p.m. Monday to talk about her residency. Read a profile of her in Saturday's Variety section.
I.W. appreciates when traveling music stars know more about Minnesota music history than "Purple Rain." Marty Stuart, who's known as a country-music historian, impressed Monday at the Dakota Jazz Club with his knowledge of the Minneapolis music scene. He knew that Dave Dudley cut "Six Days on the Road" in Minneapolis, and he cited "Surfin' Bird" as a Minneapolis record. He even made mention of the old Flame bar at Nicollet and 16th St. as the Twin Cities go-to honky-tonk back in the day. Stuart's sideman, Kenny Vaughan of the Fabulous Superlatives, gave a shout-out to the long-gone Longhorn bar, that bastion of punk in the 1970s and early '80s. He told I.W. that his then-band, Jonny 3, came to Minneapolis a few times to open for the Suicide Commandos and the Suburbs at the Longhorn: "I remember trying to get paid at the end of the night from that guy Hartley [Frank, the club's owner]. He was quite a character." And that's quite a memory.