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Saturday, February 26, 2005

mai cramer

Blues After Hours

Dateline Bainbridge Island Feb 25, 2005: What am I supposed to make of this?

I'm sitting surfing with a favorite blues cassette rocking in the background and I suddenly realize that this particular BASF cassette is 21 years old and has been toted all round the world.

History: we moved from Hong Kong to Texas in 1983 for my wife to be near her mother for the birth of our first child, and then up to Boston for bookish employment on Beacon Hill.

That's where I came across wonderful WGBH radio and the mellifluous voice of Mai Cramer, hostess supreme of "Blues After Hours".

I must have recorded countless cassettes of Mai's hypnotic hosting to send to pals around the world and show off what superb radio I had to keep me company.

But only one seems to have survived in my own collection and I've no idea how it escaped my regular and ruthless cullings over the years as we moved from Boston back to London, back to several re-housings in Hong Kong, thence to Seattle in 1995 where even here we've switched abode enough times for a dusty ol' cassette to have been chucked.

But gosh Mai had a lovely voice. No wonder I used to play this cassette on radio shows of my own to let listeners know what I aspired to, and in workshops for aspiring DJs to hear how it should be done.

And what a line-up Mai treated us to at 1am on this anonymous weekend back in 1984:

  • Little Walter
  • Luther Tucker
  • Otis Span
  • Joe Turner
  • Junior Wells
  • Koko Taylor
  • Jimmy Witherspoon
  • Pinetop Perkins (of course!)
  • Albert King
  • And so many others.
  • What also struck me as I pondered the vintage of this recording was that our elder daughter - now 21 and therefore a mere 3 months younger than this tape - had grown up hearing these songs and taken a copy of it with her when she graduated to Western Washington University - so Mai's magic continues to spread pleasure, nowadays to the denizens of Bellingham WA.

    Here's the spooky bit. I've played this tape on and off for 21 years without thinking of its history, then tonight I suddenly wake to its historical value.

    I wonder to myself how Mai is faring and all those good folks back in WGBH - stalwarts such as Ron della Chiesa, also a favorite of 89.7 FM - so I Google the gang.

    My heart sags. Mai died of breast cancer three years ago to the day - Feb 25, 2002.

    Damn, that's sad. R.I.P a wonderful woman.

    That funky old cassette has suddenly become an heirloom.

    And here are Mai's Top 20 Blues CDs

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