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In Cash we trust 

by Mike Corrigan

Who hasn't blues guitarist CASH McCALL performed with over his illustrious, 35-year career? Celine Dion and Michael Bolton probably (nobody wants to get up there with those guys). That's a drastically abbreviated list, but to be honest, the number of blues, R & amp;B and soul artists who have shared the stage with McCall over the years is so damn long, you're better off just assuming he's played with everybody. That is, everybody that matters. McCall and his current touring band, The Cash McCall Express (including former Earth, Wind & amp; Fire bassist Lui Satterfield, drummer James Burke IV and guitarist Leon Dollison) will be appearing at Capone's in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday, April 26.

Like many bluesmen of his generation, McCall (born Morris Dollison Jr. in New Madrid, Mo.) escaped his Southern rural existence through music. His background was gospel, singing first in his Baptist church choir then with regional touring vocal groups such as the Five Blind Boys of Mississippi, the Dixie Songbirds and many others. By age 20, however, he was working as a songwriter for Chess Recording in Chicago, penning tunes for the likes of Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf and immersing himself in the blues.

But his songwriting talent (along with his rapidly developing guitar technique) was not limited to this one genre. He also composed pop, soul and R & amp;B numbers for such artists as Ramsey Lewis, Blood Sweat and Tears and Tyrone Davis.

His own big break as a recording artist was an unlikely occurrence to say the least. After making a demo of his soul tune, "When You Wake Up" in 1966, the recording was released without his knowledge and landed on the national R & amp;B charts credited to someone named "Cash McCall." Needless to say, the bluesman dropped his previous moniker there and then and hit the road as Cash, touring with Mitch Ryder and Lou Christie in Dick Clark's Caravan of Stars. Ever since that time, it's been Cash McCall all the way.

But for McCall the recording artist, lightning wouldn't strike a second time. When subsequent R & amp;B singles in the same vein as "When You Wake Up" failed commercially, McCall settled into a position as one of the most valuable session players and composers in the Chess cache of talent. He formed an especially close relationship with blues great (and Chess Records staple) Willie Dixon, who mentored McCall in the finer points of playing, recording and most importantly, publishing music. (For years, Dixon was -- like many other early blues performers -- deprived of songwriting royalties that were rightfully his.) In turn, McCall would eventually co-produce and perform on Dixon's 1988 Grammy Award-winning comeback album, Hidden Charm, and tour with Dixon's traveling band, the All-Stars.

These days, the 50-something McCall is out on the road once more, dishing up authentic Chicago blues, rocking R & amp;B, even a little funk and jazz one soulful spoonful at a time. His wealth of experience -- both as an artist directly influenced by some of the greatest figures in American music and as a man who has done and seen it all -- should make next Thursday night's show something extraordinary. Hat's off, once more, to Tom Capone of Capone's Pub & amp; Grill for bringing yet another class blues act to the area.

The Cash McCall Express will perform at Capone's in Coeur d'Alene on Thursday, April 26, at 9 pm. Tickets: $8, advance; $10, at the door. Call: (208) 667-4843.
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