by Emery Columna –
I first met B. J. Sharp in 1994 at The Baked Potato in L.A. at the invitation of James Gadson, who’s been playing drums with B. J. Sharp for almost four years now. James Gadson is my Godfather in the Music Business, so when James tells me to turn up at a gig, I take the tip as a personal favor, since every gig James turns me onto has been a benefit to me.James didn’t give me advance warning about what I was going to encounter that night, so when James introduced me to B. J. after the first set, I had trouble raising my chin off my chest to greet her, since B. J.’s performance had just unhinged my jaw. B. J.’s persona at The Baked Potato was like watching Godzilla in a bathroom, I had nowhere to hide. Who was this redheaded monster with vocal chops like Etta James and a patois raunchier than a roomful of sailors?
I didn’t know where this woman came from, but decided to follow this act to watch the story unfold. Incidentally, the night at The Baked Potato I’d also meet Alan Mirikitani, a.k.a. B. B. Chung King, a gifted guitarist who would subsequently produce the album you now hold in your hands.
The next time I saw B. J. was at The Mint. Alan Mirikitani was on guitar and we got to talk about his guitar influences. In the dressing room, I told Alan I heard Albert Collins, Billy Gibbons, & Roy Buchanan shaking in the strings of his guitar. “I steal from all the best”, said Alan.
As a producer, Alan likes to work by consensus; very democratic, while still retaining full control. I observed Alan during the sessions for this album as he built the sonic platform that presents B. J. Sharp in the clearest light. Alan flat-out nailed it, in my opinion, providing the listener with his perspective of an out and out Contemporary Blues Queen.
The basis of B. J. Sharp’s sound begins with drums, and it is James Gadson who has been the solid foundation upon which B. J.’s sonics are built. B. J. oft confides to me she can go anywhere and sing with utmost confidence knowing James Gadson is riding the tubs and chiming the cymbals for her.
Not surprising, since James has played drums for Divas of Popular Song like Barbara Streisand, Diana Ross, Natalie Cole, Aretha Franklin, Etta James, Bette Midler… you dig? On occasions where James has to take Production calls, and triple scale session work, he has never left B. J. hanging. Arguably the Dean of L.A. Session Drumming, James can get on the horn to Ace subs like Willie Ornelas, Tony Braunagel, and Alvino Bennett; drummers of high accomplishment in their own right.
The Bass Guitar Bottom for B. J. has been regulated at certain gigs over the years by Aces like Bob Glaub, Will MacGregor, Tim Scott and Marc Goldberg. Finally, with the arrival of Gerald Johnson, B. J. has a rhythm tandem in Gadson & Johnson that really pops a thump right On The One.
As a teenager, Gerald pulled The Bottom for Fats Domino, and in the years of Love, Peace & Happiness, Gerald’s unique Bass styling would be heard on Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young , Dave Mason and Steve Miller albums. The things Gerald Johnson does on Bottom ought to be illegal in five States. Gerald gets away with it! Gerald’s bad, he’s nationwide.
At the beginning, Rick Ulsky handled the Ivories for B. J. with righteous Hammond B-3 work that never showed a touch of ego. Family obligations forced Rick to relocate to Seattle, Washington. After several abortive attempts to work with talented, but addled Ivory Merchants, Teddy Andreadis became available.
Teddy Andreadis has been a keyboard fixture in L.A. for years. With the departure of Ulsky, Teddy’s been the chairman of the boards for B. J. ever since, sharing keyboard duties with Slash’s Blues Ball and Carol King when he gets those calls.
Miles Joseph is known around town for his lead guitar work with The Jones Boys and Bruce Willis. “Killer Red”, as Miles is known as in Detroit, is quietly intelligent and of few words, preferring to let his guitar do the talking. On occasions where Miles has to jet off to some far flung Planet Hollywood location, Miles gets fellow Detroit Rock City guitarist, Steve Hunter to shake the strings for B. J. Miles cut his teeth with Artists as disparate as Albert King, Aretha Franklin, Al Green, and Bob Dylan.
What is it that causes these musicians of considerable caliber to be a part of B. J. Sharp’s scene?
B. J. Sharp is blessed with an intangible quality chosen few people are born with. All the money in the world can not buy you STAR POWER. B. J. Sharp is a Star. I’ve been at B. J.’s gigs where The High and The Mighty come out to hear B. J. sing and perform in concert. She dwarfs them all.
One of B. J.’s assets is her incredibly strong, resounding voice, flowing from a persona rarely seen during waking hours. The night Mick Jagger came into Harvelle’s, B. J. made her way over to whisper in my ear– almost blowing out my right eardrum with the amount of air she moves– informing me of a Rolling Stones presence in the club. I observed Mick Jagger walk into Harvelles with an entourage that included Jimmy Rip and the superfine Beverly Johnson. Yeah, I know, The Winds about ta blow on ya, Baby’, I said to B. J.
In town recording The Rolling Stones next album at Ocean Way with Ace Producers Don Was and BabyFace, Jagger started out at the very rear of the club as B. J. was kicking out the jams, like she always does. The force in B. J.’s voice pulled Mick and his entourage to the very front of the club so Mick could latch on to the boogie in B. J.’s Blues. Moved by B. J.’s performance, Mick later remarked in the limousine, “Why isn’t B. J. signed to a label already and doing movies?” Days after B. J.’s impromptu performance for Mick, B. J. was invited to the Jagger Manse to play in an All-Star Jam at Mick’s Academy Awards party where the Who’s Who of Entertainment’s Elite heard B. J. sing.
Mick Jagger asked a question and a month later B. J. Sharp was signed.
Here on this album, you will discover the B. J. Sharp who is the darling of entertainers and fans all over the world who love and appreciate what it is she does. Check out Never Felt No Blues , a blues hurricane of a declaration from the Queen of Contemporary Blues. B. J.’s got a spot on the charts that’s hers for the taking with this blistering bullet! When you feel like lovin’ the one you’re with, try spinning I Don’t Deserve , a sentimental belly-rubba if there ever was one. If you’re ready for some perspective on male & female situations, let B. J. turn you on to Chemistry, Rainy Sunday Nights, and Salt In My Wounds. Up tempo songs like Cheatin’ On Me ,Can’t Keep A Hold On You, and Your Mama’s Talkin’ have the healing salve that makes you feel so good when you’re feelin’ so bad. Tied Up, Tied Down and Top Of My Game express the feelings of a woman looking back with a nostalgic grin at life in the fast lane. B. J.’s famous recipes for scrumptious food are only part of her formula for getting and keeping a man in the subtle Keep On Cookin’. A song that seems destined for cinematic prominence, Just Ain’t Worth It portrays B. J. at her dramatic best, underscoring her versatility and range.
So here you have it, a sonic tour de force sure to blow your mind and capture your heart…Heal you when you feel wounded and steady your nerves during the hard times. Someone once asked Johnny Winter what Blues means. Johnny replied, “The Blues? The Blues ain’t nothin but a conversation between friends who’ve been friends a long time, so it ain’t gonna be no problem.” Once you hear B. J. Sharp, you’ve found a friend that can relate, so you might come away from the listening experience feeling like you’ve known B. J. for a long time.
This ain’t the end of it!