With my head down …

…wrapping up a review of The Concert Sinatra re-issue LP most of yesterday, I didn’t see the news of Etta James’ passing until late in the day. Sad news indeed. A quick Etta anecdote…

I had a chance to catch Ms. James a few years back…

After nearly a 30 year hiatus, Etta returned to the stage in Austin in the summer of 2005. A couple of previous attempts to make Austin had fallen through because of illness so her visit this time around was highly anticipated.

The audience stacked into Hogg Auditorium that hot July evening … and we waited. And waited. After about 30 minutes past the start time the event folks announced that Etta was having trouble making it to the venue for the show, but she was sure to eventually make the gig.

Most of her band was in the house and they played for an hour+ trying to sooth the savage beast of a crowd — growing increasingly restless and edgy — as we crossed the 90 minutes past due mark.

© Mary Sledd

Folks around us were starting to come to grips with another cancellation when Etta made her way out and settled onto her stool at center stage.

The crowd wasn’t hostile, but Etta needed to win them back and that took all of about 30 seconds! I don’t recall what song she opened with (not “At Last”) but she had us eating out of the palm of her hand just a few bars in.

We all showed up at work a little groggy the next morning… but we did so with big smiles on our faces!

In a weird foreshadowing moment…

We caught Bobby Caldwell in Austin last weekend. There were some technical issues with BC’s mic but Bobby was in rare form and it was a fun R&B fest with some funky standards rolled in (see review here). Caldwell’s encore was a single number … about 10 minutes of a fun funkadelic version of “At Last” that topped off the evening, and left me thinking about Etta all week.

Etta’s in good hands…

Etta lived a tough life. I imagine her having a blast and carousing with her many contemporaries that have gone before her. Nat, Frank, Sam, Ella … take care of Etta for us.

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