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Cathy Ponton King Interview
Cathy talks about Life, Love, Music and ...
By MuzikMan
(more articles from this author)
1999-03-08
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I met Cathy through a mutual friend, Dave Wood. Who happens to be a very intelligent, kind and helpful individual in the cyberspace community. He runs the Cowabunga Web Ring. I reviewed Cathy's album in last months issue (see archives) and she was very flattered and wrote me about it. We started to talk and I thought that it was time to ask her for an interview. She agreed to do the interview. What a dandy it is!

A very interesting story full of all the color and excitement of a musicians life. I found some very interesting links for most of the musicians mentioned so you can do some reading up on some of the history of the Blues. Hope you all enjoy. I sure did! Thank you Cathy.

[MuzikMan] When did you start playing guitar and singing?

[CPK] Age 10, I had this incredible and incurable craving for a guitar. I sold greeting cards door to door to the neighbors and sent away mail order and a small plastic guitar came in the mail. The strings were steel and were so high off the neck my fingers bled after a couple of days and I had to play with band aids on. But thanks to Mel Bay I learned all the chords.

[MuzikMan] When was your first gig? Do you remember how you felt?

[CPK] I got rid of the plastic guitar and got one with nylon strings and I played and sang about 4 or 5 songs at an auditorium full of Irish people in Chevy Chase Maryland.

My family is from Ireland, on my mother's side, and I was about 11 years old. It was a talent show and I was also dancing Irish dancing with a troupe, and still had my dancing costume on like they wear in Riverdance. I remember freaking out because the act before me did my song I had practiced but I remember liking the singing into the microphone.

[MuzikMan] Your husband is a musician, how did you meet?

[CPK] Bob Margolin, who played guitar for Muddy Waters for 7 years, was living in Fairfax Virginia at the time. Jeff King had a recording studio close by and Bob recommended I go see him to cut a demo. Jeff and I didn't talk much at first and the band I brought in to record with me were a mess.

I ended up having to get Bob on guitar (great!!!!!) and some other people who were more professional. My own band got drunk and used drugs and the drummer was a mess, and even stole cymbals from the studio that night.

Anyway, I had to come back to the studio again and again and Jeff and I talked and talked into the early hours...I had found a soulmate.......

[MuzikMan] How has you album been doing? Do you feel it was a worth while endeavor? Do you look forward to getting back into the studio again?

[CPK] I am wild about my CD. I think Jimmy Thackery is a genius of the guitar. People get mad at me for not playing guitar on my first CD but, with Jimmy there,why should I? He plays guitar like a monster. He was like a brother to me when I shared a house with him and his wife Judi. He lent me a cool Rickenbacker guitar to use when I first tried to play electric.

DC is a strange town, full of buddy buddy cliques, etc. but Jimmy gave me every break in the book unhesitatingly. I don't know if other cities are like this but DC is controlled by a handful of agents and a couple top 40 bands that play a little rhythm and blues and they seem to stick together for most of the clubs, gigs and "awards". It was fantastic to see Jimmy work with my husband Jeff who is a genius of finding sounds in the studio and coming up with backup vocals and cool parts. It was fantastic to hear my ideas be born in the form of a song. I am getting up to 10,000 in sales. I have to work work work and sell them at my gigs but it's amazing how they have made it all over the planet. Once I got a letter from a guy in Austria, who was out on a boat in the Mediterranean, and heard a Greek Radio Station play my CD and he tracked it down and sent me money to buy a copy. There's a station in Greece that plays it, Michael Liminos I think is the Blues guy in Greece. Jimmy Thackery is pretty famous so a lot of people seek out his playing as they are RABID Jimmy Thackery fans.

I have a lot of original songs I'd like to record and hope to arrange them and work towards that goal soon. It takes so much time to pull all the players together with all the busy schedules. But once that challenge is over, let the fun begin.

[MuzikMan] What is your long term goal as a musician?

[CPK] I want to record, record, record, and I love playing big outdoor festivals.

I would love to meet Allen Toussaint. I have been asked tentatively to open for BB King soon and that's a dream come true.

I have met Muddy Waters a few times,Albert Collins, Willie Dixon, and Paddy Maloney from the Chieftains, came in the club where I was singing Irish music one time. I am NUTs about the Chieftains. They move me tremendously.

I would like to play guitar like my guitar heros/gods.

I would like to go spend about $25,000 right now on new equipment and studio time.

As far as goals go in music, well, the road is the destination. I am thrilled to sing and play every time I do it. I would like to be able to jump over the hurdles of snobs and competition and cliques that prevent me from singing where I want to sing, due to buddy boy clubs and inner circle crap that runs the music world in Washington DC. Maybe people look at music the same sordid and sleazy way they look at politics and power in this town of beaurecrats. Maybe it's not like this in New Orleans and Colorado, I don't know. I would just like the barriers to fall that are bad news to players like me on the outside, and I'm not low on self esteem or feeling sorry for myself, like here's a little violin. I have observed this so long for so many years, since I have been playing here since 1979.

[MuzikMan] Who do you feel has influenced you most as a musician, and as an individual?

[CPK] Hearing Muddy Waters so many times was a great influence on me. He radiated power and soul. I played guitar with Bobby Parker once when he came and sat in with me at a small club and he was electrifying. The whole room lit up like fireworks. There must have been sparks coming from the guitar neck the way his fingers moved. I love Sarah Vaughan CDs. Her smooth confidence totally knocks me out, and those trills and embellishments.

Hearing my grandmother sing to a roomful of people about her home in Ireland, a song called GALWAY BAY ( the OLD version not the American one) is one of my first musical memories. She had that power over people. It came from the gut. The Irish had big house parties where everyone was required to sing.

I was 4 when I first sang for a big crowd like that (well to me at four, 25 people was a big crowd). It was how I learned to sing loud and to please people. My father also is a great singer and he taught me how to play harmonica. He was the singer at our church throughout my childhood, and he entertained all the kids in the neighborhood imitating Johnny Paleo, the HARMONICATS guy who used to be on the Ed Sullivan show, doing wild antics with his Marine Band harmonica.

My husband Jeff is one of the best song craftsman I know. He plays a beautiful eloquent part on all the instruments in the studio and layers it. He writes cryptic lyrics too, that are like a bulls eye to the point yet find an eloquent way to say the thought, not the trite and over used way.

[MuzikMan] Who are some of the more interesting and famous people you have met due to being in the music industry?

[CPK] I keep saying Muddy Waters but hey, how can you top that! My best friend was dating Bob Margolin, his guitar player, and she got us in the shows in DC and we sat upstairs with Muddy drinking his champagne, in his dressing room. He had a case of champagne on his rider- the sidebar on his contract. He was very kind and friendly to us.

I got to open for some great people. One of the best memories I have is of Albert King. He invited me up to sing and told everyone I was the next Janis Joplin (??). The place was packed, about 1,000 people in this great place called the Wax Museum that is now closed, too bad. He was so sweet to me. He really wanted to spend time with us and make sure we knew his legacy, when I was opening up for him with my band the RhythmMasters. He kept saying, which one of my songs do you do? When I told him the one we actually did however he didn't remember recording it! We posed for a photo and someone taped me singing with him that night. And then sent it to me about 6 years later!! WoW!!

Wish I could roll back time and do that again! Also, I loved the times I opened for the guitar genius Danny Gatton. Danny committed suicide about a year later, and that broke my heart. His guitar playing was astounding. I have always been a nut for guitar playing, especially of that caliber, like Jimmy Thackery or Roy Buchanan. Roy was another genius from Washington DC who committed suicide, and that stuff really makes my heart ache.

I also was pretty thrilled at a big gig I played once, during the Bill Clinton inaugural events, when I was playing a gig at a club near the White House, and there was some commotion on stage behind me, and I looked and it was Steven Stills getting up on stage to back me on guitar. I grew up on hearing his band; as that group defined a whole era in music I think. I ran over to him to greet him and we had a hell of a blues jam. That was terrific. Steven Stills, great great guitarist, rocked my world that night, I tell you.

[MuzikMan] What kind of music do you have in your personal collection? And need I ask what genre is your favorite?

[CPK] I guess you can figure mostly Blues.That CD KINGBEE with Muddy Waters, is hypnotic and heavy and it grooves with fun and soul together. Play it REAL LOUD and it's trance like.

I have almost all of ARETHA, (Aretha Franklin) well at least almost all. I worked in radio and at the station, someone gave me about 30 of her records. A lot of Sarah Vaughan, all the FabulousThunderbirds, and almost everything Dinah Washington ever recorded. That was lucky. A friend of mine worked at a radio station that was switching from Jazz/MOR to rock. The idiots actually were throwing away about 40 Dinah Washington records, I mean LPs, you know, the big plastic platters. The covers alone are great. Anyway he gave them all to me! I like Allen Toussaint very much, and the Neville Brothers. I have all of Danny Gatton's work, including a RED plastic platter of Redneck Jazz. That should be worth some money! I love Oscar Petersonespecially with Joe Pass on guitar, and I also am crazy aboutRonnie Earl's guitar playing, especially "Language of the Soul". That is an AWESOME recording. I met him when he was with Roomful of Blues and now he tours the world playing jazz and blues instrumentals. He is from the Boston area and is very intense. I am thrilled I got to meet him several times and talk personally , and at one time he sent me postcards from his travels. He even gave me a guitar strap, a vintage 1950's Fender strap. THAT is something I cherish...because of the man it is from.

John Hiatt is one of my favorites for song writing. The CD "Walk On" is a masterpiece. Just listen to "The River Knows YourName", that song is perfect. I performed it at a dear friend's funeral who died of cancer at age 45, Rand Patterson, who played drums in my band once.

[MuzikMan] Do you feel the Internet is a good thing? Do you think that it is becoming flooded with to much data and "everyone wants a slice of the pie now type mindset"?

[CPK] I think the internet is fantastic. Especially for people to send e mail. I don't get into the anonymous chats or obscenities, I am appalled by porno on the internet or something that could hurt children.

During some tough times of my life, an encouraging e mail, popping up when I'm unable to get on the phone,..actually helped me get through some really tough times. I read somewhere a mother and daughter didn't talk much ,typical stuff, during the girl's teen years, but then she went away to college, and they E mailed tremendous heart to heart stuff. That way it built a BRIDGE.... Finding information is incredible. My husband found a civil war button buried in the earth; and I went on the internet and put in "civil war button" in search. Instantaneously: hundreds of resources came up. How can you beat that. It's like everyone has all the information known to man at the touch of a button. It's amazing, it's incredible!!! If I want to know where a band is touring, or if I want to buy a book or CD: it's done. The graphics, humor and little movies people send me are priceless!!

My e mail address is soulspeech@hotmail.com - As in, "For Heights and Depths no words may reach; music is the soul's own speech".

[MuzikMan] Finally, thank you for taking the time for this interview. Is there anything you would like to say as we close?

[CPK] Thanks for the opportunity. Check my website: http://www.zptduda.com/cpk .

Life is short, love much.


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