Ivy Leaf - Fall 2003
By official Congressional decree, 2003 has been designated the "Year of the Blues." In that spirit, Jerry Zolten, associate professor of communication arts and sciences at Penn State Altoona, produced a one-hour radio blues special, "Chimpin' the Blues," with cartoonist Robert Crumb (of the Academy Award nominated films, Crumb, Ghost World, and the recently released American Splendor). The show is an off-beat, off-the-cuff, one-hour excursion into the blues, pre-blues, gospel, and jazz of the 1920s and '30s, seasoned with plenty of anecdotes and trivia.
The show debuted in Oklahoma on September 15 and aired in Central Pennsylvania on Saturday, September 20 on WPSU-FM. The show was also broadcast in Australia, Belgium and public radio stations around the country.
"Chimpin' the Blues" with Crumb and Zolten includes 13 rare tracks accompanied by pertinent background information. It covers a dimension of the blues that will simply not be heard in any other media tribute in this, the official "Year of the Blues."
Zolten is an academic, record producer, and author. He teaches courses in communication arts and sciences, american studies, and integrative arts at Penn State Altoona. In the early 1980s, he spearheaded the return to commercial recording and touring of Grammy-winning a cappella gospel quartet, the Fairfield Four. Zolten produced the group's only live CD, Wreckin' the House (Dead Reckoning/Compendia) and a solo CD, Beautiful Starts (Lost Highway) by Fairfield Four bass singer, Isaac Dickie Freeman. Author of numerous roots music liner notes and profiles of blues artists, Zolten's latest work is the book, Great God A' Mighty! The Dixie Hummingbirds / Celebrating the Rise of Soul Gospel Music (Oxford Univer-sity Press). Zolten, himself a rabid collector of rare 78-rpms, first connected with Crumb in the early 1980s with the receipt of a letter from the cartoonist offering to trade his artwork for records. Finding kinship in their shared obsession, the two have remained friends ever since.