Sunday, April 17, 2011

In the Beginning

In the beginning was a record.
It was sometime in the mid 90's at a WFMU record fair that I purchased my first record from Ozy. I was literally lured to his table by the music playing on his turntable: Jerry Washington's "Right Here Where You Belong" recorded for the Excello label in 1973. It was an impulsive purchase, but I felt I had to have it.

In the Beginning from Eric Feldman & Leyla Modirzadeh on Vimeo.

Our paths crossed again, several months later at a record show in New Jersey. "You're the guy who bought that Jerry Washington record."  I was invited into the inner sanctum filled with boxes of records labeled "rare", where I spent the rest of the day as well as the rest of the money in my wallet.  It was the beginning of a beautiful relationship. 

Flash forward. Many years and dollars later I proposed to accompany Ozy on one of his record buying trips and document it. There were many polite refusals, but in the fall of 2005 he invited me to tag along. Hurricane Katrina had just devastated New Orleans and perhaps Ozy sensed much of what he loved about the South was also in jeopardy of survival.
The agreement was that if he did not want something filmed, it would not be filmed and that I would not compete with him for records.

Ozy's Home

October 2005.
Ozy told me to get there at 2PM. The note on the door reads, "Come in and make yourself at home."

After waiting for 3 hours, Ozy descends the stairs and informs me that he just woke up. Around 9PM we finally head south on Rte. 95 but only after a dinner of Philly cheese steaks at his favorite restaurant.

Richmond, VA.

Richmond, 3AM.
Country ham and eggs over easy, while the jukebox plays "Life is Like a Cup of Coffee"

Plan 9 Record Store

A small dose of LaWanda (Rated X)


Down in Mississippi

Photo by Talbot Easton Selby

The Po Monkey's Lounge, a former sharecropper's shack, stands in the middle of a cotton field 2 1/2 miles west of Merigold, MS. Mr. Willie Seaberry, proprietor and cotton farmer, lives in a small back room of the lounge. Since the late 1950's, two nights a week his home opens to the public. Mondays play host to exotic dancers from Memphis. This was Thursday, family night.

Jackson, MS - James Bennett

Ozy is in Jackson for one reason: to continue his archeological excavation of James Bennett's record warehouse, a cavernous leaky-roofed building out on Medgar Evers Boulevard in the heart of Jackson's ghetto.

James Bennett still runs his BIP record store as well as his gospel label J&B Records. In the past he has released soul, blues, and rap on his other labels called Traction, Retta, and Big Thigh. In the early 1980's he created the La Jam label exclusively for Bobby Rush.

Queen of Hearts

We spend most nights in Jackson at The Queen of Hearts Chellie B. Lewis, nephew of bluesman Eddie Boyd, has owned and operated the club since the early 1970's. He books the music and does the cooking.

Photo by Scott Barretta

This first clip features the music of King Edward, backed by Prentiss Lewis on bass and Charlie Jenkins on drums.

Here's David C. Ware of Hazlehurst, MS and his unique version of Stormy Monday.

Queen of Hearts Blues Festival

Ozy is supposed to do a record show in Memphis, but instead chooses to attend the 1st annual Queen of Hearts Blues Festival.

David C. Ware starts things off.

Little Sonny's Blues

JT Watkins with King Edward

Chellie B. makes a speech.

Bobby Rush

Our lunch guide

Lunch with Bobby Rush

Bobby Rush live with the girls

James Bennett 2

Ozy and James show their affection for each other. Ozy plays an early J&B record. Ozy and James settle up.

Vicksburg, MS - Margaret's Grocery

"A postmodern medieval necropolis designed by a Tuscan Hindu architect."

- William Arnett from "Souls Grown Deep: African American Vernacular Art" Vol. 2

Once a grocery store, now a monument of genius folk architecture.
Margaret Rogers' first husband was murdered by robbers in their grocery store. She met and married her second husband, Reverend H.D. Dennis, in 1984. Rev. Dennis, who conducts church in the school bus outside, promised to turn her store into a palace.

Driving Across Texas

Austin, TX - Antone's Record Store

This is usually Ozy's first stop in Austin. He checks up on the records left on commission, and gets the scoop on who's playing in the clubs.

Lost in Austin

Getting Ready for the Record Show

Austin Record Show

The biggest record show in the country occurs bi-annually. As in all record shows, the transactions begin before the show opens to the public.

Top 10

Austin Nightlife

Live music is everywhere in Austin and Ozy usually stays out as late as the musicians keep playing. This clip features The Detroit Cobras, Larry Lang and his Lonely Knights, and Wanda Jackson.

Ira and Ozy

Ozy and Ira Padnos, aka Dr. Ike, doing what they do. If you don't know about the Ponderosa Stomp, check it out.



After more gizzard talk, Ozy reveals his filing system and does a commercial for Red Roof.

Photo by Gene Tomko

Larry and Sharon's

Before heading North, Ozy makes a slight detour to pick up some more yard sculpture from Larry Grimes and his wife Sharon. Their home is out on Hwy 49 in the Mississippi Delta, just down the road from Parchman Penitentiary where Larry formerly worked as a guard.

The Long Voyage Home

1100 miles and 20 some odd hours later, we are at Ozy's home.

NYC - WFMU Record Fair 2005

The next day


Former boxer and sometime helper of Ozy. He needs his own movie.

This concludes my first road trip with Ozy. For 2 1/2 weeks we shared a van, a motel room and the same odd hours. We pretty much were together 24 hours a day.  I hope I conveyed a glimmer of what that experience was like.

There are things that are hard to capture like the improvisatory and magical nature of Ozy's life, a life filled with recurring patterns, coincidences, and synchronicities.

There are people, places, and things that I wished I had filmed; the cotton- filled air of the Mississippi Delta at harvest time,  the Katrina evacuees I met at every motel we stayed at, motels that had the identical sign at the check-in desk, "FEMA IS NO LONGER PAYING YOUR BILL."

There was a club in Austin, The Scoot Inn, where I forgot to bring my camera. Ozy was annoyed at me for that. But I got a second chance when Ozy invited me back on the road with him.

Austin, TX - Scoot Inn

Spring 2006

Eve and the Exiles

Featuring Ozy's friends Eve Monsees and Mike Buck (co-owners of Antone's Record Store). They front a super cool band with a repertoire that includes covers of Sugarboy Crawford, the Yardbirds, Love, Bo Diddley, and Johnny Guitar Watson.

"Putty in Your Hands"

Magic Sam's "Everything's Gonna Be Alright"

Final Song and Ozy chats with Eve's dad

Homer Henderson

 Now also a member of Eve and the Exiles

Ozy and Homer go way back.

Memphis, TN - The Bishop

Ozy first met gospel record producer The Bishop at the Birmingham Gospel Quartet Convention. The Bishop still actively maintains his several  record labels.  He produced almost everything Lula Collins has recorded.

As Ozy opens the sealed boxes of records, enormous cockroaches escape running all over the garage. The Bishop turns to me and says, "What does he want with this shit?"

Ozy and The Bishop in conversation

Part 2

Bessemer, AL - Gip's Place

We were in Bessemer for a record show. That evening we went to Mr. Gip's Place, a club run by Henry Gipson, 83 years old when this was filmed and still working as a grave digger.
This clip features Lenny Madden and Hank Moore, music lovers and friends of Mr. Gip. Both were instrumental in the renovations of Gip's Place.


Ozy talks about the Birmingham Gospel Quartet Convention.

Jackson, MS - Parkway Paulette

The eloquent and profound Paulette Roberts talks to us in the record store her mom used to run, which was surely a happening place in its time. Paulette is the niece of soul-blues singer Mckinley Mitchell, whose song "The End of the Rainbow" is ubiquitous throughout the South, as is Johnnie Taylor's "Last Two Dollars" and Latimore's "Let's Straighten it Out."

L.C. Ulmer at the Crawdad Hole - Jackson, MS.

L.C. Ulmer performs with Justin Showah on bass and Kenny Kimbrough on drums.

Holly Springs, MS - Aikei Pro's

Holly Springs, like many small Mississippi towns, is organized around the town square with its general store, court house, banks, cafes,  and other places of necessity readily available. Here, you don't have to stray far from the square before the veneer of order and southern gentility shows signs of cracking. Just northeast of the square you will find the monument of monomania  'Graceland Too'.

1/2 a block west of the square is Aikei Pro's, the anarchic record store owned and operated by Mr. David Caldwell.

To paraphrase Ozy, who has visited numerous times, Mr. Caldwell is an example of why you can't judge a book by its cover. Behind the piles of records mixed in with junk, stands an astute, intelligent, kindly gentleman who runs this empire exactly as he wants to.

Mr. Caldwell was active in the local civil rights movement, an advocate of black owned businesses and self-sufficiency, as well as a close personal friend of bluesmen Junior Kimbrough and R.L. Burnside.

David Kimbrough Jr.

The talented David Kimbrough Jr. performs live at Marshall's Disco, just outside of Holly Springs. At the end of the clip Ozy talks with Willie Wilkinson, manager/protector of David and long time friend of David's father, blues great Junior Kimbrough. Willie has been documenting the North Mississippi blues scene for many years.

Aikei Pro-Part 2

Ozy has been led to believe by Bishop King, who used to co-own a record store with David Caldwell, that Mr. Caldwell still has a storage room filled with gospel records. While Mr. Caldwell doubts that it's full of records, he agrees to look through his store for the missing key to storage. In the meantime, Ozy explores the neighboring towns for records and finds the Charlie Feathers record in a junk shop for 50 cents.

After the storage locker incident, Mr. Caldwell lets Ozy know that if anything happens to him, he wants Ozy to come down and get all his records. He also lets Ozy know that he expects to live to be 100.  Ozy says, "Well then you'll probably outlive me."

Duwayne Burnside - Son of Blues and Chaos

"The man is a connoisseur of chaos; he attracts it, admires it, and then absorbs it, like a black hole sucking reality itself into the chaos of Nothing."

-Robert Palmer on Duwayne's father R.L. Burnside

This is a cleaned up version of the events.


Back at The Red Roof Inn

Ponderosa Stomp

Because of Hurricane Katrina, The Ponderosa Stomp, normally held in New Orleans, was relocated to Memphis.
The following clips are a random selection from an amazing line-up that included: Scotty Moore, Travis Wammack, Lazy Lester, Barbara Lynn, Roy Head, James Blood Ulmer, Syl Johnson, etc.

Here is Clarence Frogman Henry, Jody Williams, and one-man band Enocky.

Big George Brock

Lady Bo

She blew my mind.

The Eagle has Landed

We head back to Ozy's home, ending what proved to be his final road trip south. His health declined steadily during this last trip together. Years of lugging record crates did serious damage to his neck and back, making long drives too difficult.

Allentown, PA Record Show 2007

The bi-annual Allentown 45 and 78 record show attracts some of the biggest dealers and collectors from around the world. For several days prior to the show the motel rooms are where the action is.

Norman - Philadelphia, PA

Norman, a  record collector and former helper of Ozy's, also owns John Coltrane's Philadelphia home and was in the process of restoring it.

Norman, quite ill when this was filmed, has since passed on.

Ozy's kids



In the Land of the Deer Hunter

Ozy takes me to the places of his youth; the alley where he won his first fight, his favorite pizzeria, the meadow where he sighted a UFO. We visit the towns of Weirton, Burgettstown, Langeloth, and Slovan; places where what union you belonged to was more important than what church.

Ozy and his mom

New Orleans 2009

Ozy and I meet up in New Orleans for the Ponderosa Stomp. He flies down with two suitcases of records to sell at the Stomp's record show.

with Mystic Knight Terry Stewart

This clip features record collector Goichi, who has come to the Ponderosa Stomp for his honeymoon. He prefers to do his shopping in the privacy of Ozy's hotel room. As Ozy has said, "I can change the decimal point on the prices, but it's harder if your wife is standing there."

Also in this clip is Scott Barretta, who had earlier wondered if lying on Ozy's bed naked would dissaude record buyers or if they would even notice.

The end, at least for now.

Friday, April 1, 2011


I would like to thank the following people for their help on this project:

Willie Seaberry and the patrons of the Po' Monkey’s Lounge
James Bennett
Chellie B. Lewis and all the wonderful folks at The Queen of Hearts
David C. Ware
Little Sonny
J.T. Watkins
King Edward
Bobby Rush
Collins Dream Kitchen
Margaret Rogers
Antone’s Record Store
Eve Monsees, Mike Buck, and the rest of the Exiles
Clifford Antone
The folks at TC’s
The Roky Erickson fan from DC
All the record collectors at the Austin Record Show
The Detroit Cobras
Larry Lang and his Lonely Knights
Wanda Jackson
Ira Padnos
The ‘Gizzard Lady”
Larry and Sharon Grimes
Eric Baker
Howard Farber
Kevin Kiley
Rick Kaufman
Doug Schulkind
Kevin Nutt
Tim Harris
Dave the Spazz
King Coleman  
The dancers at the Scoot Inn
The Nortons
Mr. Monsees
Homer Henderson
Bishop Bobby King
Mr. Gip
Paulette Roberts and her brother
L.C. Ulmer
Justin Showah
Kenny Kimbrough
Mr. David Caldwell
David Kimbrough Jr.
Willie Wilkinson
Everyone at Marshall's Disco
Duwayne Burnside and his family and friends
Clarence ‘Frogman’ Henry
Jody Williams
Big George Brock
Lady Bo
Big Joe Louis
Ozy’s family; Sophie, Schuyler, Amy, and Ozy’s mom.
Scott Barretta
Gene Tomko
Leyla Modirzadeh
And David ‘Ozy’ Ozenbaugh.

I apologize to anyone I’ve neglected to mention.