Shor’Ty Billups

Shor’Ty Billups
Young Woman ana Old Man

Self Release

By Kurt Fitzsimmons
June 2014

The “Short Man” is the consummate entertainer – anyone who has seen his instructions to dancers during a live performance of “Walkin’ the Dog” (don’t ask…) is aware of his tremendous stage presence and musical talent.

Shor’ty, 82, proves it once again on his latest release. The nine-track CD of mostly originals (including a gem by his manager, Hattie Barrett called “Shopping for Shoes Blues”) is solid gold.

Not that he needs any help, but Billups is joined on the disc by a host of Boston greats, including guitarists Chris Stovall Brown and Satoru Nakagawa (Tokyo Tramps,) saxophonists Mario Perrette and Jayo; and organists Felix Mawongo and Jedekiahl Brown.

The record is a good mix of soul and real blues. The funky, nattily dressed Billups was a pianist for years before teaching himself drums at 62. He must have been a good teacher, as he subsequently landed a drumming gig with Wilson Pickett for more than five years.

Billups handles all the vocals and drums on the record with his usual flair.

One of the best tunes on the disc is Barrett’s “Shopping for Shoes Blues.” The eight-minute plus song drips sexy slow blues like a pair of red stilettos strutting into a nightclub. It’s also got a story. Apparently this woman was NOT out shoe-shopping. (“Now I know the truth baby/You were just trying to give me the blues with another man.”)

Hattie told me she love shoes and I wanted Shor’ty to sing “old Southern blues.” Right on, girl!!

“The song is what a man would sing about from the South,” she said.

“Louie’s Stomp,” an instrumental delightfully highlights the harp work of Louis Mayhew, Billups’ regular harmonica player, with some nice spurts from Jayo on alto sax, and Nakagawa on guitar.

The Elmore James classic, “Sky is Crying,” features dynamite slide guitar from Nakagawa joined by Brown on slide and rhythm guitar, and Perrette on tenor sax.

“House Party No. 5 Part 1” is a fun one, reminiscent of Howlin’ Wolf’s “Smokestack Lightning” with a lot of chuckling, shouts, howls, and one-liners going on about a hot babe. The exuberance continues in track 8, “House Party No. 5 Part 2.” More guy talk with Jayo on backup wolf calls. There are hoots, whoops, and some damn good sax (I said “sax” not “sex”) from Jayo. Billups sounds positively boyish here.

The title track, “Young Woman ana Old Man” shows up toward the end of the disk. Well, the tune is about - you guessed it - an old man splainin to a young chick why he would be good for her. (“Come on girl/See what the old man can do!”) It’s a lively, danceable shuffle with fine harp.

“Soul Serenade” by King Curtis, and the last tune, “Talk About My Baby” show off Billups’ emotional, more serious, side, with Jayo hitting his best groove on alto sax on the spirited “Soul Serenade.”

Billups, a Korean War veteran described as the “short man with the funky foot” has shared stages with the best, including Ruth Brown, Sam and Dave, Little Richard, and Jackie Wilson. A Connecticut native, he performed many times at the Apollo Theater and Carnegie Hall, and has written and arranged recorded many songs, including soundtracks for some of his movie roles. (That’s right. He’s also an actor, and a darn good one.)

If you can’t get out to Billups’ incredibly wild and fun-filled live shows, this record is the next best thing. Check it out!

[webmaster’s note: if you want to purchase this CD, please email [email protected]]

<- back to Features