Arts Listings

‘Mz. Dee’s Medicine Show,’ Live on BETV

By Ken Bullock Special to the Planet
Wednesday December 17, 2008 - 07:07:00 PM

Mz. Dee’s Medicine Show, a new musical variety TV series, hosted by lifelong local jazz and R&B singer Mz. Dee, will be cable- and web-cast live on BETV Channel 28 and, 2 p.m., this Saturday, from the Berkeley Community Media studio. 

The show will feature local talent and locations. Guests will include guitarist Risa Gratiano, harmonica player Bird Leg, Berkeley High student and pianist Andre Couture, musical members of Mz. Dee’s family—her brother, Mr. Pockets, on drums and nephew, Playboy, as MC—and her band, the VIPs. “It’ll be a big party, live with a live studio audience, party favors, balloons and dancing.” 

The show will also include interviews with a range of artists from different disciplines, as well as public service announcements focusing on agencies that help the disadvantaged in the Bay Area. 

Future locations will include Anna’s Jazz Island, the JazzSchool in Berkeley and Dorothy King’s Q-Lounge at her Everett & Jones BBQ Restaurant in Oakland. 

Mz. Dee was a featured vocalist with bandleader Johnny Otis and has sung on CD with Bonnie Raitt and at Italy’s Umbria Jazz Festival, besides playing in Ascension of the Blues with Berkeley singer Nicholas Bearde and others. She characterizes herself as “fortunate enough to sing all different styles—jazz, blues, soul, classical, popular tunes ... My mother’s a church organist—not so much Gospel, per se, more Methodist anthems and classical arias. She played for the Church by the Side of the Road on Adeline and for Phillips Temple, for Taylor Methodist and now for Mills Grove Disciples of Christ. It sounds like a bunch of gigs! I call her the Minister of Music, though she corrects me by saying she’s not a minister, but she’s directed massed choirs, been voted best organist in the area, and is a great singer. She used to sing opera.” 

Her mother didn’t teach her music, however.  

“She’d say ‘Not my own children!’ Didn’t think that would work out. But I heard her instructions, just picked it up from her—and growing up, heard all that good music from the Beatles ... I wanted to be a rock star! Then got more into Soul and R&B, listening to Sly and the Family Stone, Tower of Power—the best. I opened for James Brown and he later told a friend of mine, ‘She’s got a lot of Soul.’”  

She also cites “hanging out with Ruth Brown, a wonderful influence in my life. I miss her. And I’ve been fortunate to go on tour in Europe 14 or 15 times. I’m going back to Germany in April for two weeks.” 

Mz. Dee has a CD available on CD Baby, Mz. Dee—Real Woman/Real Soul. “I play a little piano and write songs that way. Some will be on my new CD, hopefully out by summer.” 

Mz. Dee has hosted a TV show before, “about seven years ago, in Alameda, ‘Dee Talks’—people thought it was ‘Detox’! I want to network using television, to help promote other musicians and show good places to hear music. Club business is bad now. We’re making the same money we did in 1980. That’s where the blues is from, trying to get that paycheck, feed your family. And it’s hard to go out and party like we used to—to see a good band costs a lot. People are sitting at home at their computers. They can see us on the web stream.” 

Mz. Dee sums it all up: “You got to keep giving back, remember where you came from. Taking care of everything. I’ve been out of the circuit about a year now, I think. I’ve got no sense of time, except within the song! Some might think I’m emerging again. I’ve been here all the time, but I got to get it back in gear!”