Chris Peters first came to my attention when he sent through a link for that Dennis Coffey “Premium Blend” podcast that featured an impressively informative set of interviews with the legendary guitarist and his history in Detroit’s R&B scene. Then, last week, Peters offered up a similar treatment for Laura Lee.
Along with his partner Chris Fuller, these two are producing some excellent segments on the history of soul music, uncovering some stories that I had never heard before. I reached out to Peters to get some skinny on his own background:
1) What’s your background in music?
CP: Myself and my partner in all of this (Chris Fuller) have a background in both the artistic and professional sides of the music business. We are both deep into music and its history so that is how we ended up working on these projects. Also, I am a big fan of podcasts, oral histories, and mixtapes. This was a chance for me to both be an amateur Alan Lomax and mix all of that together. Haha.
2) Where did this idea begin to create and produce internet pieces on different musical artists?
We just started working with both Dennis Coffey and Laura Lee in making new music. As part of that process, we wanted to find a way to educate and/or remind people of who they are and why they’re both such important and interesting figures in the history of music in Detroit and music in general. To us, it seemed like this was a great way of doing that while giving listeners something deeper and, frankly, more entertaining than a bio on a website or just an interview alone. After all, what you can learn by listening to Dennis or Laura talk about their careers is great, but the music itself says so much more…so, we felt, why not give people both? In both cases, we want to let people know that they have a lot more music to give, but you also want to remind people why they need to care in the first place. So, we think the podcasts do that pretty nicely.
To be honest, though, apart from all of that, we’re both such passionate music fans and particularly fans of music from our city that it’s been a joy to put these things together. Both Dennis and Laura have had careers that cut across so much important history (musical and otherwise) that getting the opportunity to be in the same room with them, listening to them talk about their experiences and watching their reaction as they hear their own lives coming back at them is really a great experience.
They’re very different artists but one thing they share in common is this; both of them have deep histories and important musical stories to tell, and those stories haven’t been completed yet. Dennis is a guy whose career ranged from working with Del Shannon through Motown, and then into a solo career which was critical in the creation or furtherance of at least three genres (funk, hip-hop and disco). How many artists can match that?
With Laura, she’s someone who was raised in the home of a Soul Stirrer, had hits with Chess Records, worked and lived with Al Green, and also had success with Holland-Dozier-Holland’s Hot Wax label. Again, how many artist’s careers connect with that many touchstones of American popular music history?
Interestingly, it was Detroit 9000 that got me excited about Laura and I saw the film only a few months ago. After a bit of internet searching I found out who the uncredited singer in the film was and was quite surprised as I had a Meditation Singers compilation, a few of her singles, and a copy of Soul Sides Volume Two already in my possession.
4) What has it been like to talk to these folks about their career and history?
It’s been amazing. As we said, we’re both gigantic music fans first and foremost, so to sit in the room and listen to these two people talk about their careers has been a real privilege…. As you’d expect, many of the best stories are told when the tape is turned off. I asked Laura if I could share a few Al Green goodies, but she prefers to keep that stuff private. Fair enough.
5) On the technical side, how do you put these together in terms of the equipment, software, etc.
A mic and ProTools…. The music on the Coffey episodes is all sourced from vinyl…. The guys at Rustbelt Studios in Detroit helped me edit the content and we had friends handle the design of the Bandcamp pages.
6) What can we expect in the future?
More podcasts and new records from both Dennis and Laura. With Dennis, we have three more volumes already recorded, and the second one will be released next week (week of March 15). We will be doing additional volumes as well…some of the episodes to come focus on anecdotes from Dennis’ book (he reads excerpts and then you hear music related to what he’s talking about), a “superhits” episode which speaks for itself, and hopefully some more focused episodes, such as a Northern Soul volume, a mix of his Westbound solo material, and something dealing with Dennis’ disco/proto-disco period.
We have had two Coffey recording sessions and the stuff is sounding great. Very much a throwback to the Sussex solo stuff. The Guitar Band is back! Some great players on these sessions too. That’s a separate discussion.
We plan on doing additional episodes with Laura as well, so more to come on that front.
Also, I spent a good chunk of the past few days going through Armen Boladian’s archive of amazing Westbound Records content. Yeesh! I would LOVE to do episodes on many of the acts from that roster (The Detroit Emeralds, The Fantastic Four, etc) or maybe some stuff on the many great artists that recorded for Hot Wax/Invictus….Right now the immediate focus is on getting people familiar with Dennis and Laura. They both deserve wider recognition and a chance to remind people of their contribution.
7) You plan on archiving these as subscribe-able podcasts?
We are going to continue hosting the podcasts on the Bandcamp pages, All episodes will be available there for the foreseeable future.
wow, that laura lee thing is nice. i’ve got the dbl. hits pkg and a couple of LP’s, but there’s a lot of great bkgnrd and stories . . . did not know of her gospel roots and assoc. w/the franklin sisters. mucho thanks for passing this along, and likewise in the direction of chris peters.
will get back to dennis coffey soon.
thanks for this post, o-dub!
i’ve just downloaded the interviews…can’t wait to give them a listen.
These guys must be pinching themselves.