Travis Moonchild Haddix
Travis "Moonchild" Haddix
Haddix has quietly become one of the most lauded electric bluesmen of our modern era. Without the push of a major label he has nevertheless built up a loyal following the hard way- with terrific music and live shows.
Blues guitarist Travis Haddix was born on November 26, 1938 and began playing the piano at the age of seven in his home town of Walnut, Mississippi, located thirty miles south of Memphis, Tennessee. His father Chalmus was a Delta blues artist similar to Robert Johnson in style. The Haddix family moved to Milwaukee, Wisconsin where Travis continued to refine his craft by singing and playing throughout the North. The turning point came when he was eight. His brother Hal took him to see the legendary B.B. King, who came to Memphis and began playing daily at the studios of WDIA. Travis was inspired by King's guitar virtuosity and he hung around the radio station every day to learn all he could. Soon, Travis' piano playing fell by the wayside and was replaced by the guitar, which he plays on stage and in the studio.
In 1959, after serving time in the army, Travis moved to Cleveland, Ohio where he joined the D.L. Rocco Band and achieved regional notoriety that led to a prominent spot with the Little Johnny Taylor group. In the mid-60s he put out a few singles on the Cleveland-based Del Nita label. Later Haddix fronted his own band called the Now Sound followed by the Travis Haddix Band. One of the acts they opened for was Mr. Clarence Carter, who helped get Travis signed to Atlanta's Ichiban Records, which was also Dr. C.C.'s label home. Haddix went on to record five discs for the label before going the independent route. Travis also contributed material to five albums by Artie "Bluesboy" White, who was concurrently on Ichiban. Since starting his own publishing company, Haddix Publishing, and label, Wann Sonn Records, Haddix has been putting out the best music of his career.
From 2008 through present he's allowed labels like Earwig and Benevolent Blues to distribute his albums. His 2009 CD "If I'm One, You're One Too" reached #7 on Living Blues' Top 25 Chart.
"Wrong Side Out" (Ichiban 1988)
1. Caught in the
***1/2 Very impressive debut for this guitar slinger. Set features the humorous and poignant "Nobody Wants You When You're Old And Grey" and the risqué' funk "Two Heads Are Better Than One". Haddix shows his straight blues chops with two killer slow blues ("Old Cliche" & "Don't Take Nothing From Me") and shows versatility with the pop R & B of "Caught In The Middle". He's a triple threat: writer, guitarist, singer.
"Winners Never Quit" (Ichiban 1991)
***1/2 Polished soul blues set once again shows off his great songwriting. The lovely "Winners Never Quit" needs to be covered by somebody. It's a hit song. Haddix' comical side comes to the fore on "Better Than Nothing" where he overhears his woman say he "ain't Billy Dee but he's better than nothing!" Hee hee. Ouch! The excellent, pure slow blues "Beggin' Business" has already been covered by Michael Burks and Artie "Blues Boy" White. Haddix' brand pop-funk-blues is here via "Something In The Milk Ain't Clean". The opener "Homeslice", which is hard to categorize, glides on a midtempo groove somewhere between funk & R & B.
"What I Know Right Now" (Ichiban 1992)
1. No, No, No
**** Even better is CD number three for Ichiban. Once again we get a knockout contemporary soul song ("Through With Love") that would be a hit for some smooth R & B singer. Haddix complains about a word he heard too often growing up (even from girls-ha ha- but I don't believe it) in that gliding pop/R&B/thing he does with "No No No". In the slow eerie blues "Strange" Travis thinks his woman is "trying to voodoo" him. That "Moonchild" cheeky humor is found in "Jawbreaker" about a candy you can't chew so you have to "suck it", thus giving him an obvious double entendre to play with. We also get Bobby "Blue" Bland-ish blues ("Getting By With A Lie").
"I Got A Sure Thing" (Ichiban 1993)
1. (I Got A) Sure
*** Haddix moves into contemporary R & B/Soul territory on this release. Kicking off with a dynamite version of Ollie & The Nightingales "I Got A Sure Thing", Haddix authors the remaining 9 gems. Travis' gritty singing punctuates the toe-tapping "Sure Thing" and "A Day Late And A Dollar Short", a funky gutbucket blues, features another gutsy vocal. It's clear Haddix wants to show off his strong, distinctive vocals this time out. "Penny For Your Thoughts" continues the tradition of smooth contemporary soul songs that Luther Vandross should cover. Upbeat blues gets represented by "Funny Bone", "S*** List," and "Caught In The Middle" (a reprise from his first disc) , a good rolling blues number featuring a sultry guitar lead.
"A Big Ole' Goodun'" (Ichiban 1994)
1. Big Ole Goodun'
*** The title track ranks as another Haddix classic with the line: "There's only two kind of women I like: A big ole goodun' and a good ole biggun'!" There's some fine slow blues in "Texas Toothpick", a sentimental ode to a sister who made some bad choices ("Little Sister") and a couple sexed-up numbers called "My Dessert" ("I'm gonna have you for my dessert") and "(She Called Me) Knucklehead", which contains his first use of profanity on record.
"Dance To The Blues" (Wann-Sonn 1995)
1. Dance To The Blues
*** First live release by the "Moonchild" contains many Haddix originals not found on his studio records. "Dance To The Blues" is a funky show opener that is self-explanatory. "Everything Is Everything" is a slow blues in the "Thrill Is Gone" vein. "Time To Take Charge" & "Man Of The House", both excellent slow blues, are about a man wants to "show who's wearing the pants". This latter cut was later done brilliantly by Artie "Blues Boy" White. "Looking Haughty" is a comical number about a certain facial expression only a "man of color" makes (according to Travis). "Wasting Tears" is a gorgeous soul tune that, again, would be a smash for somebody. Eventually somebody's gonna get hip. There's also a funky rendition of his underground hit, "Two Heads Are Better Than One".
"Signs Of The Times" (Wann-Sonn 1998)
1.Before you laugh
***1/2 First studio release on Wann-Sonn bucks the sterile, over-produced sound that somewhat stymied his Ichiban discs and opts for a live band feel on this ripping blues outing. Highlights are the pounding "Got Another Thing Coming", "Enough Is Enough" & "They Call Me The Moonchild". The album also features a few songs from past releases like "Through With Love", "Jawbreaker", & "Getting By With A Lie". An auspicious way to kick off his label, Wann Sonn.
The Harlem Ramblers (with Travis Haddix) "Knee Deep In The Blues" (Wann Sonn 1999)
1.Someone to love
"Shootum Up" (Wann-Sonn 1999)
live cd + 1 new studio cut
1. Highway 15 And 72
**** Smokin' live set featuring more Haddix songs available nowhere else. The slow, guitar workout "Highway 15 & 72" once again shows how underrated he is as an axeman. "The Dip" is relentlessly funky and "Made To Order" has the best lyrics. Here Haddix tells of his plans of making himself a woman just like the one he's got. "I got my axesaw and some lumber/Gonna be a busy man tonight/Gonna build myself a woman/One that's gonna treat me right". The disc ends with a new studio track ("Wood Burning Fireplace").
"Old & Easy" (Wann-Sonn 2000)
1. Woman With Clout
*** Another year another fine Haddix album. 10 more original B.B. King-like blues tunes from the man, such as "Job Close To Home" describing his perfect job where he gets a "6 month vacation twice in a year with pay". Are they hiring?!? Another clever cut is "Nasty November" about a woman who had 12 daughters- named after the months of the year. Ms. "November" almost drives him "mad". The album could have benefited from a better mix of the rhythm section as it's almost drowned out by the guitar, keys and vocal. Then again, the rawness has it's own appeal.
"Milk And Bread" (Wann-Sonn 2001)
1. Problem With That!
**** Starting his own label and producing his own music was a creative watershed for the "Moonchild" as he seems to get better with each new release. "Milk & Bread" features more excellent Haddix original blues like "Problem With That", a litany of Haddix' gripes or "pet peeves". On "Catch You In The Truth" he complains that his women tells a lie "when it ain't even necessary and that's something I just don't understand." The manic "Why Wait" urges a speedy trip down the aisle and "Bread, Butter & Blues" contains some colorful autobiographical details. Excellent CD! Finally publications like Living Blues began to get hip to this unheralded blues great.
"Company Is Coming" (Wann-Sonn 2002)
1. Rough Side Drag
*****1/2 This is the album where it all comes together perfectly- the songs, the fretwork and the singing that proves he's one of the best living bluesmen. Buy this one first! Every track's top shelf material right from the blues romp "Rough Side Drag" opening the disc. "First Thing Tuesday Morning" is one of his finest blues songs and one that garnered a good chunk of airplay. It was also covered by Artie "Blues Boy" White who even titled his latest album by the song. The title cut is side-splittingly funny. Everytime he catches his woman with another man she claims it's a relative. "All the tall, dark and handsome men seem to be related to you!" and "it took along time to locate your brother Nick/You said he was 8 or 9/He's already 6 foot 6!" On a more serious note is the soulful blues "The Time Is Now" where he calls upon society to come together "right now". The song also features some sax soloing by David Ruffin & TJ Fortunato. 'Company is Coming" is 12 tracks of deep, gutbucket blues n' soul and is Blues Critic's #1 Contemporary Blues CD of 2002.
"American Roots: Blues" (Ichiban 2002)
1. Through With Love
"Blues From Staghorn Street" (Wann-Sonn 2004)
*** Another quality platter from the "Moonchild" may not live up to his last two powerhouse discs, but that's merely because those two reached dizzying heights. Plenty of hard-edged, soulful blues music is here. "Acute Blues Syndrome", driving "Cut Off The Money", "Am I Country Enough For You" and the title track resonate. There's also a couple holiday blues tunes, one describing Rudolph (the Red Nosed Reindeer) slacking on the job because he's got a girlfriend. As a guitarist Haddix is reminiscent of the late Son Seals, searing and muscular and the horn section throws mo' grease on the fire.
"Mud Cakes" (Wann-Sonn 2005)
1. Dance To The Blues
*** "Ladies and gentlemen, the "Moooooooooonchild!" says the announcer as the Travis Haddix Band cooks up a funky, bass-propelled groove. Then out comes Travis "Moonchild" Haddix noodlin' on his axe to start one mighty fine blues set. The 10 cuts are mostly gems from Haddix' prolific pen. Cleveland's finest already has 12 albums of hard-edged blues, R & B, soul & funk spiked with rapier wit under his belt. Lucky number 13, "Mud Cakes", features material taken from two smokin' shows, one in Osnabruck, Germany and one back home in Ohio. Haddix and the boys kick out shuffles ("Job Close To Home", "Acute Blues Syndrome", "T-Bone Shuffle"), funky blues ("Moonchild Ode To LJT", "My Pet Peeve"), soul ("Winners Never Quit") and grab deep slow blues from the bottom ("My Secret" and "Mud Cakes"). Organist Greg "Silver" Dunning, bassist Greg Nicholson, keyboardist Gil Zachary, drummers Jeremy Sullivan and D'Andre Byrd and horn section (Jeff Hager, David Ruffin, and Gus Hawkins) all get plenty room to flex their chops. Ever the great storyteller, Haddix also gives the folks a funny monologue on "Mud Cakes", one of many highlights here. After squeezing all the electricity out of his guitar, Travis reminisces about making "mud cakes" or "pies" with the girls as a child. You didn't want to do something wrong because: "Some of the girls would make a mud cake and put stones in it to make it pretty...when they hit you with one of those your face would ring for fifteen minutes". This is a heckuva show(s) and it makes me hope for a DVD soon. Haddix has a saying: "I am the best that I can be and since no one else can be me, there's none better!". If you're skeptical about this good-natured boast head on over to www.travishaddix.net and let your ears get hit by some "Mud Cakes".
"Mean Ole Yesterday" (Wann Sonn 2007)
1. Never Make Your Move Too Soon
*** Either Travis "Moonchild" Haddix is the Rodney Dangerfield ("I get no respect") of the Blues or our hero just doesn't care about the mainstream circuit. The year is 2007 and Haddix has independently released another strong set of Chicago-styled Blues and R & B that's worthy of wide consumption. Unlike his usual all original sets "Mean Ole Yesterday" splits the hoof with 4 covers and six new cuts.
A relatively poor mix lessens the opener, "Never Make A Move Too Soon", with the vocals somewhat buried, but that's the only misstep here. Covers of "Rock House" & "Big Leg Woman" sizzle with grit and Haddix' band hits a mighty Soul groove on "Turn Back The Hands Of Time". David Ruffin on saxophone, Jeff Hager on trumpet, Greg Nicholson on bass, Gil Zachery on keys and drummer Jeremy Sullivan have been with Cleveland's own Haddix for years and seem to get tighter with each release. In the past Wann Sonn Records releases have lacked bottom but the rhythm section is equalized just fine on this album. Of the the additions to Haddix' canon comes the funky "Dick For Dinner" with prankster lyrics like "I'm having Dick for dinner/That's what my woman says to me/"While I'm having Dick for dinner I don't want your company"...I got a message from my baby it sounded awful crazy sounded awful mean/She said "I'm having male company"/I got bent out of sort!/"His real name is Richard/We call him Dick for short"". Phew. What a relief. Both the title cut and "Open Book" are smoky up-from-the-bottom slow Blues burners with Haddix squeezing blood out his Gibson while the funny "Sugar In My Tank" continues his penchant for self-deprecating humor. "I was wearing my bell bottom pants/My wingtip shoes/Guitar in my hand/Playing the Hell out the Blues/A woman walked up to the stage and whispered something to the band/She said: "I don't know about you but something wrong with that man...he's got a peach in his pocket and got some sugar in his tank!". Naw Travis, the Creator threw a match in your tank my brutha!
"Daylight At Midnight" (Earwig 2008)
1. Word a Lie
***1/2 You gotta love it when one of your favorite artists puts out an album every single year and one of my faves, Travis Haddix, does just that. "Daylight" is his 17th full length and he's yet to disappoint. Ten original raw blues cuts in vintage B.B. King style. Ever the clever lyricist, Haddix writes to the beat of his own tune. In the title track he hits a town where "strange things are happening soon as you hit that town. You'll see daylight at midnight seems like the sun never goes down". Note to all vampires: Steer clear of this town. On "Backward Baby" Travis seems to confess he truly likes living the Blues: "I'm excited when it's raining/The sun is shining I'm sad/What makes other people happy/Always makes me mad...so come on and break my heart in little pieces/Go on and make my day".There's a saying that goes "with friends like these who needs enemies?". That would fit the antagonist on "Good Buddy Blues". He sings: "Friend of mine. My pal. You spend the night and try to hit on my gal. That's one thing I won't let you do/Spend my money and take my woman too."
The lyrics wouldn't matter much if the music didn't match up. Haddix is a triple threat: writer/singer/guitar picker. That back-of-the-throat vocal is instantly recognizable and he seems to improve as a guitarist with each album. Kudos to the band as well, featuring (in addition to various session players) his "Cleveland Band" Greg Nicholson on bass, Gil Zachery on keys, Jeremy Sullivan on drums and the four piece horns (Jeff Hager, David Ruffin, Gus Hawkins and T.J. Fortunado). To quote Travis himself: "I am the best that I can be, and since no one else can be me, there's none better!". So true and the classic Soul ballad "Who Could I Be?" affirms this self esteeming wit: "If I could be anybody else but me, who would I be?". The answer? "I'd rather be me!" Why? Because his woman loves him.
"If I'm One, You're One Too" (Benevolent Blues 2009)
1. Scared Half to Death, Twice
"A Dozen Times" (Benevolent Blues 2010)
live cd + 2 new studio cuts
1. They Call Me
"The Moonchild Live In Cleveland" DVD (Benevolent Blues 2010)
1 Opening Jam
"The Moonchild Experience (Limited Edition CD + DVD)" (Benevolent Blues 2011)
limited edition 2 DISC version combining "A Dozen Times" CD + "The Moonchild Live In Cleveland' DVD
DISC 1: A DOZEN
"Old Man In Love" (Benevolent Blues 2011)
1. She Hit a Grand Slam
"Ring On Her Finger, Rope Around My Neck" (Benevolent Blues 2013)
"Love Coupons" (Benevolent Blues 2014)
1 Love Coupons 5:29
"It's My Time Now: The Best Of" (Blues Critic)
"Mellow Moonchild" (Wann-Sonn 2016)
1 50-50 Relationship
**** Last year the first comprehensive "greatest hits" album was released on longtime Blues veteran Travis "Moonchild" Haddix. We, as Blues Critic Records, released the compilation, entitled "It's My Time Now: The Best Of", which contained 4 new tracks and 14 of the Moonchild's best (18 total tracks). It was maddeningly difficult to create a single disc (80 minutes maximum on a CD) representative of his distinguished career. You see, not only is he a master of B.B. King-like guitar-based electric blues but he's also a creator of gorgeous (Deep) Southern Soul ballads. We only included one on "It's My Time" ("Winners Never Quit") but this new collection, "Mellow Moonchild", rectifies the problem by gathering other key ballads, Blues and 4 new tracks. This makes for the perfect companion to our release (shameless plug alert) or just a great stand-alone album. The noteworthy ballads include "Through With Love" from his third Ichiban Records release "What I Know Right Now", "Penny For Your Thoughts" from "I Got A Sure Thing" and "Wasting Tears" extracted from "Dance To The Blues", a 1995 album released on Haddix's own Wann-Sonn imprint.
As far as the new tracks "50-50 Relationship" is a sprite jump blues with horns, "Mr. Riley B. King", a slow Blues jam in praise of the late King Of The Blues B.B. King, "If You Know Better" benefits from a greasy, funky groove and tight horn fills and the grinding "Dog Biscuits" includes some of that famous Moonchild wit via use of the trusty men as dogs metaphor: "I like my coffee real hot/I like my women big and fat/Nothing but a dog that loves a bone/Most of the times he buries that".
Although this is technically a "best of" type release with some new tracks added it's one of the best overall portraits available from the unheralded genius of the Blues. Whether you have no Haddix in your collection (shame on you!) or have all his albums you will find yourself playing this one more often than nearly all the others. Essential.
"See What I Want To See" (Wann-Sonn 2017)