HOUSE OF BLUES, the nightclub chain backed by Dan Aykroyd, George Wendt, Aerosmith and Harvard U., has added soul great Isaac Hayes to its investor roster as it plans its West Hollywood bow next month.
While nightclub investments are fraught with peril, this one seems to have a few financial points in its favor. House of Blues founder Isaac Tigrett has had notable success with his earlier restaurant venture, the Hard Rock Cafe, selling his portion in 1988.
In addition to Harvard, investors in a $ 32 million private placement last year include Sir James Goldsmith, the British financier who has accumulated a fortune buying and selling companies.
Hayes said he got involved with House of Blues largely at Tigrett’s behest.
“I like what he’s trying to do,” Hayes said.
What Tigrett is trying to do is create the illusion of the gritty, backwoods dive that gave birth to the blues — at the cost of several million dollars, of course.
While he hasn’t seen the Sunset Boulevard club yet, Hayes said he was impressed with the New Orleans House of Blues that opened in January. He performed there with the Blues Brothers band.
“The way they antiquated it was really cool,” Hayes said. “It reminds me of the juke joints.”
The West Hollywood club, like the others, will have bas-relief portraits of more than 100 blues artists along the walls and ceilings, including one of Hayes. The club will be lined with black folk art and serve Southern food. And, of course, the location will be replete with House of Blues merchandise.
It opens to the public May 1 after a week of private parties and fundraisers, at which Hayes and the Blues Brothers featuring Aykroyd will likely perform.
While Hayes is perhaps best known for his Academy Award-winning “Theme From Shaft,” his roots are with some of the most legendary blues performers, creating what has come to be known as the Memphis sound. In the 1960s, Hayes was a member of the Stax Records house band, played with Otis Redding and co-wrote and produced a number of Sam & Dave hits, including “Soul Man.”
In addition to the New Orleans club and the original site in Cambridge, Mass. , future Houses of Blues are planned for New York, London and Paris. Hayes said the clubs will give contemporary blues musicians places to play where there previously were few.
“It’s like a modern-day chitlin’ circuit,” Hayes said.
The clubs also have made an effort to educate school children about the blues and developed a curriculum with the Dubois Institute of Harvard U. and the Center for the Study of Southern Culture at the U. of Mississippi. In addition to understanding the music, the program focuses on teaching racial tolerance.
“A lot of us are standing on the shoulders of these great giants and people should know that,” Hayes said.
SW MUSIC: Archers of Loaf, Beck, Alejandro Escovedo, the Bluebonnets and Giant Sand are among the acts expected to lure a contingent of record industry professionals and press to Austin, Texas, for the eighth annual South by Southwest convention (generally referred to as SXSW) Wednesday through March 22.
The conclave, usually one of the year’s biggest A&R festivals, is a showcase for more than 500 new and developing acts as well as critically beloved Southwestern veterans, all lighting up Austin’s famed Sixth Street club strip and other parts of town.
While A&R conventions have multiplied in the last few years, SXSW has retained its national prominence thanks mainly to the ambiance of Austin, which has more nightclubs per capita than any city in the country.
SXSW ’94 has expanded by a day to offer a look at the future. Wednesday is Multimedia Day, with producers, developers and publishers empaneled to discuss the future of the digital superhighway and interactive entertainment.
The 12th annual Austin Music Awards, which last year showcased a rare public performance by 13th Floor Elevators singer Roky Erickson, is another highlight. Performers are expected to include Angela Strehli, Little Sister, Jimmy LaFave and True Believers.
Johnny Cash, whose American Recordings debut album is set for an April release, will deliver the keynote address on Thursday, the primer to more than 60 panels on such diverse topics as “Junkie in the Band,””Indie Label Philosophies” and “Studio Survival in the ’90s.”
TAYLOR’S PRIDE: Billy Taylor’s latest GRP recording, “It’s a Matter of Pride, ” celebrates the 50th year of performing by the jazz composer, educator, pianist and correspondent for CBS’ “Sunday Morning.” But the anniversary was an afterthought — the album’s primary goal was to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.
Taylor collected some of his favorite works for the recording with bassist Christian McBride and drummer Marvin (Smitty) Smith and guests Stanley Turrentine and Grady Tate.
Included are “His Name Was Martin,” which is part of the symphony “Peace Warrior”; “Back Home,” a piece originally recorded in 1959 with a front line of four flutes; 1962’s “At la Carousel” which featured the guitar of Jim Hall; and the mambo “Titoro.”
“I love Latin music and I was one of the first to bring Latin music into a trio setting,” said Taylor, who learned with one of Latin jazz’s best, the band leader Machito.
To support the album, Taylor, 76, will tour with the David Parsons dance troupe in March and April and again in the fall. The concert will consist of Taylor and his trio performing for a 20-minute segment, the dancers performing and then the two groups together doing a commissioned piece.
“It’s a series of vignettes,” Taylor said. “The inspiration was a walk down 125th Street — things I see now and remembering what used to be there. In the piece we see what’s a couple of doors down from the Apollo Theater and peek into a lot of the nightclubs that had a lot of different ethnic music playing every night.”
L.A. SEEN: Cheap Trick was recently in town filming a video, “Woke Up With a Monster,” with director Jeff Stein of Tycoon Films. Stein previously worked with the Cars and Tom Petty.
Southern California-based blues/country performer Candye Kane has entered the studio at Signature to record a blues album for Antone’s Records in Austin, Texas. Titled “Big Mama Candye’s Blues,” the project is being produced by Dave Gonzalez and Tom Yearsley of the Paladins, a rockabilly act from San Diego. Kane, long a women’s rights advocate, recently contributed to the books “Sindiego” and “Exhibitionism for the Shy.”
She also just taped “The Leeza Gibbons Show” in a segment about X-rated moms. Her last record came out late last year, a holiday-themed CD also featuring the Beat Farmers’ Country Dick Montana, called “Let’s Put the X Back in Xmas.”
REVOLUCION: The promoters of this past weekend’s Revolucion ’94 festival at the Universal Amphitheatre hope that this first high-profile attempt at uniting alternative rock musicians from both north and south of the Mexican-American border will be but the first of many such events.
Organized by Mexican band manager Marusa Reyes, the show featured music from four of his rock en Espanol groups: the artsy Santa Sabina; Latin ska-funkers Maldita Vecindad; theatric guitar-rockers La Castaneda; and Caifanes, one of Mexico’s most popular alternative acts.
Also on the bill were Redd Kross, one of L.A.’s most famous underground rock bands; melodic Pennsylvania quartet Live; and guitarist Adrian Belew (of King Crimson, David Bowie and Frank Zappa fame), who’s recently begun producing albums for Latino rock groups.
The event, which also featured art exhibits by Latino artists, attempts to show the links between the two cultures.