The Average White Band is the headliner at the Lowertown Blues & Funk Festival in St. Paul’s Mears Park on Friday and Saturday.
After a bit of a technological scare — thanks Mike “Tiny” Rogers of TR Entertainment — original AWB member Alan Gorrie was able to complete an interview via e-mail. Although AWB’s big instrumental hits “Pick up the Pieces” and “Cut the Cake” are from the 1970s, the songs had a seminal impact on the music world.
Also scheduled to perform Friday, 4-10 p.m., at the festival, which is free unless you want to be right down front, are Chase & Ovation, which is doing a salute to Prince, and Mick Sterling and the Stud Brothers. Saturday’s lineup, from noon to 10 p.m. on the first stage, includes Tommy Castro and the Painkillers, Shannon Curfman, The Jimmys, Reneé Austin, and Colin Campbell & the Shackletons.
On the second stage are the McNally Smith Funky Blues Ensemble, Crankshaft, Moses & Paul, Brother Jon, Ken Valdez.
Q: Anybody ever take offense over your band’s name to your face?
A: Oh, one or two long ago — mainly feminist groups who disdained my logo. We were OK with it all because at the end of the day, the music and the fans’ loyalty legitimized everything we did.
Q: What accounts for your longevity?
A: Stamina, good health, great tunes to sustain our performances, determination to beat all the odds, and a love of performing, recording — whatever.
Q: AWB is one of the most sampled acts in music history. Which group or rapper has produced the most residuals for you?
A: Several — TLC, “Ain’t too Proud To Beg”; Tribe Called Quest, “Check The Rhime”; “Microphone Fiend,” Eric B. & Rakim; Rick Ross, “Rich Is Gangsta”; DJ Rene, “Music All Over The World.” Don’t have access to my hundreds of tapes out here right now, but these are standouts.
Q: Did hearing “Play that Funky Music, White Boy,” by Wild Cherry, cause you to say, Damn! Why didn’t Rob Parissi think of us?
A: No, not at all. Never woulda’ done that tune — was cool for THEM, but not for AWB.
Q: When was the last time AWB performed with singer Bonnie Bramlett, who according to Wikipedia and other Web sources, named your band?
A: Well, Bonnie did NOT name the band — she disliked the name and didn’t get the joke. The only time we performed live with her was at an impromptu gig in a bar on Ventura Boulevard, in L.A., while we were making her record.
Q: Is Bonnie Bramlett a total original? That story, again on Wikipedia, about her punching Elvis Costello in the face for using the N-word in descriptions of James Brown and Ray Charles makes her sound like an exceptional human.
A: I’m afraid I don’t know that story. Glad I wasn’t there, however!
Q: Ever hear from the direction of Paisley Park that your horns influenced anybody?
A: Not really — The Purple Genius was certainly a fan, but he had his own train runnin’. I’m a huge fan of his though — best show I’ve EVER seen (and I saw James Brown twice and Ray Charles twice, so there).
Q: You’re Scottish and considered down with the hip music. Do you think you were black in another life?
A: Well, I was my father’s son and he was a mother of a jazz piano player, and the house was full of black records from the 1930s and ’40s, and I grew up on that diet!
Q: Any current acts make you think they could’ve played “Pick Up the Pieces” with Average White Band members?
A: Mint Condition, Snarky Puppy, Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake, etc., etc.
Q: Unscientifically speaking, when you were young and unattached, whose accent picked up more girls — your Scottish or somebody from another country?
A: Pass. I just dunno.
C.J. can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.