Great Moments With Mr. Rockefeller: Buddy Guy, Erykah Badu and a Naughty Prom

[Ed. Note: To help spread the word about next Friday's benefit for the Houston International Festival's education programs at Rockefeller Hall, featuring Texas Johnny Brown and Marcia Ball, Rocks Off asked iFest director of performing arts and former Houston Chronicle music critic Rick Mitchell to reminisce about the most memorable shows he saw at the venerable Washington Avenue music hall. See more information here or here.]

Buddy Guy: "On any given night, Buddy is the greatest blues guitarist alive, and maybe who ever lived. I remember one night at the Austin Music Hall where he took on Eric Clapton, Robert Cray and Jimmie Vaughan in an epic jam, but that is a different story. As part of his usual set, Buddy likes to give a blues history lesson, in which he makes reference to and mimics the styles of Robert Johnson, Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and so on, up through Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.

"On this night, some happy frat boy felt the need to show his enthusiasm by calling out 'Play Stevie Ray Vaughan!' while Buddy was still back down in the Delta. He stopped playing and hissed, 'I'm talkin' bout before that, muthafucka!' Then he tore the kid a new one with a solo that not only clipped Stevie but Hendrix's 'Voodoo Chile.'

Erykah Badu: "This must have been not long before the club closed. Her first album, some of which had been recorded in Houston, had just come out and the joint was packed with young neo-soul scenesters decked out in cool-looking clothes and creative hairstyles. But the music was for real - a laid-back, funky groove in which Billie Holiday met Marvin Gaye After the Dance in the post hip-hop era. When Ms. Badu introduced 'Call Tyrone,' in which a fed-up woman informs her erstwhile lover that the time has come for him 'to come get yo' shit,' she just about brought the house down.

Awty International School Senior Prom: "I do have one memorable moment from the current incarnation of Rockefeller Hall. The Awty School, where I taught for several years after leaving the Chronicle, held its senior prom here in, I think, 2004. I attended as a faculty chaperone, and I took a brief turn as a guest DJ. The early arrivals were mostly juniors, who stood around in their tuxes and gowns waiting for the party to start.

"Right at 11 pm, a stretch limo pulled up in front of the building. Just as I was spinning Outkast's 'Hey Ya,' the glass doors swung open and in walked the senior class president with an entourage of 10 or 12 of his fellow seniors. They immediately started dancing, and so did everyone else. Knowing that my time at the turntables was limited, and rightfully so, I segued into Marvin Gaye's 'Let's Get It On' and they kept right on dancing, only closer together.

I saw the school principal headed my way. 'Uh, oh,' I thought. 'I must be in trouble now.' He told me, 'Thanks for playing something I recognize.'"

Note: Tickets for next Friday's benefit are only available through iFest; please do not call Rockefeller Hall. Stay tuned for Rick's final three picks on Friday.

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Chris Gray has been Music Editor for the Houston Press since 2008. He is the proud father of a Beatles-loving toddler named Oliver.
Contact: Chris Gray