Geneva Red

03.09.2013

Biography

Geneva Red is one of the top female instrumentalists performing on the "blues harp" as well as leading her own band, The Roadsters. Red was born and raised in a small town just outside of Chicago, Illinois. She grew up performing in musical shows somewhat like Bessie Smith, Ma Rainey and other show business performers had in their early years. Both her parents were actors and made their living operating a small theatre troupe. Red was encouraged to perform in this troupe from the time she could walk. By the time she graduated from High School Red was already a seasoned performer but had yet to discover her true love, the music known as blues. While performing as many as two shows per day 4 - 6 days a week for the family troupe and attending dance and voice lessons in her free time, Red was becoming disenchanted and rebellious of the whole theatre scene. About this time, a musician friend who worked for the family invited Red to join him in Chicago during the blues festival. This experience would forever change Red’s course and set her on a new path, a new stage and offer a new breed to the blues industry.

Not only did blues touch Red's musical soul deeply, but something she can’t explain drew her to the harmonica. Red became anxious to understand the subtleties and complexities of the mouth harp. However, it wasn't going to be as easy as she expected. The first attempt she made to breathe life into the tiny wind instrument, she ended up partially collapsing a lung. Oddly enough, this experience would have been enough reason never to touch the harmonica again, but after a while, something induced her to try it again. She picked it back up and began teaching herself the various positions and sounds. Now Red was learning all she could about the tradition of the blues and more specifically, the amplified and un-amplified harmonica sounds of Big Walter Horton, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson I and II, Jimmy Reed, Billy Boy Arnold, Jr. Wells, James Cotton, Paul Butterfield and many other great harp players of the 50s and 60s.

On the suggestion of her guitar playing friend, Jackie 5 & Dime, Red entered the recording studio for the first time to record a demo hoping to organize her own band. Jackie put together a group of freelance musicians that he had worked with throughout the years and together they completed four tunes on the very first session. Spank Money, a small record company associated with the recording studio at which she recorded these first tracks, requested the use of two of these songs for a compilation cassette called Stateline Blues Volume 1. Her songs were featured on this cassette along side other established northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin musicians. After hearing her songs on this cassette, independent label Full Cyrkle Records licensed those same tunes for a 45 RPM record. Recognizing the potential of this studio band, all the members agreed to continue and complete enough material for a full length CD and Geneva Red & The Roadsters was born. Full Cyrkle Records hearing the final product from these sessions agreed to license and publish Geneva Red & The Roadsters’ first CD Alley Ways in November of 1997.

 

 

On the strength of her debut Geneva Red & The Roadsters broke into the tough Chicago blues market performing in some of its most noted blues clubs and outdoor festivals, including a performance at the Memorial Tribute to blues harmonica great Jr. Wells at Rosa’s and the 16th Annual Chicago Blues Festival. The band’s success has brought them engagements throughout the country.

In October of 1998 renowned veteran blues guitarist, Floyd Murphy, (Jr. Parker, Big Mama Thornton, Bobby "Blue" Bland, Matt "Guitar" Murphy) joined the Roadsters bringing his original Memphis style to their music until his health declined in 2002.
Red has performed with blues musicians Matt "Guitar" Murphy, Bob Margolin, Sam Carr, Phil Guy, John Primer, Jimmy Johnson, "Little" Smokey Smothers and she has been a guest performer with fellow harmonica players, Billy Branch, Paul deLay, Studebaker John, R.J. Mischo, and Mr. Downchild.

Geneva Red & The Roadsters second CD In The Red was recorded in 2000 for Full Cyrkle Records with sessions at the famous Sun Studio in Memphis, Tennessee that included Living Blues award winning drummer Sam Carr (Rice Miller Sonny Boy Williamson II, Frank Frost, Big Jack Johnson) and was completed with sessions in Chicago. Their latest CD, Gettin' Cocky on Bottle Cap Records, was released in early 2005 and included Chicago blues legend, guitarist Jimmy Johnson throughout.
As a composer, Red's original music has been used as the theme song for "Catfish Blues" Radio Torino Popolare Rtp. 97 FM in Turin, Italy.

Geneva Red has had an endorsement contract with the Hohner Harmonica company since 1998 and is a member of BMI (Broadcast Music Inc.)

For more about Geneva Red check out The Encyclopedia Of The Harmonica by Peter Krampert, published by Mel Bay Publications Inc.

Band

Geneva Red & The Roadsters

Geneva Red PLAYS