Bonnie Bramlett’s soulful voice has graced an amazing number of recordings and concert stages over the years, making her a true American treasure. As a teenager, she was the first white Ikette to back Ike and Tina Turner. Later, with her then-husband, Delaney Bramlett, they formed the band Delaney & Bonnie & Friends, which struck a chord in the late-1960s and early-‘70s with its mix of rock, gospel, soul and blues music. The “Friends” in this band included such notables as Eric Clapton, George Harrison, Leon Russell, Duane and Gregg Allman, and others.
Bramlett has also performed and/or recorded with the likes of John Lennon, Joe Cocker, Little Feat, Stephen Stills, The Allman Brothers Band (earning her the title of “Allman Sister”), Emmylou Harris and many others. She released several solo albums in the 1970s, and then more in the 2000s with her latest release the 2008 album Beautiful.
Plus, Bramlett is a noted songwriter, having co-written “Superstar,” which was a mega-hit for The Carpenters, and Eric Clapton’s single “Let It Rain.” A recent composition, “Ain’t Gonna Let You Go,” appeared on Bonnie Raitt’s latest album Slipstream.
And if that’s not enough, Bramlett is also an actress, most notably in her recurring role on the TV show, Roseanne.
Bramlett will be giving a rare performance as part of Bonnie & Friends at the Lobero Theatre on Friday. This is a benefit concert for The Rhythmic Arts Project (TRAP), an educational program that integrates percussion as a medium to address reading, writing and arithmetic, as well as life skills for children and adults with intellectual and developmental differences. Also on the program are Tata Vega, Rosemary Butler, Carl Graves, and Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett from Little Feat. To top it off, the fundraiser will be hosted by actor Edward James Olmos. This is an evening not to be missed!
Bramlett graciously answered the following questions by phone. Click here for the complete interview.
Jeff Moehlis: What can we look forward to at your upcoming performance in Santa Barbara?
Bonnie Bramlett: It’s a surprise. I know that my part’s gonna be really good (laughs). Let me tell you something, I can’t wait to sing with Tata Vega. Her and I are going to do a duet. I love it, she’s just so wonderful. And I’m gonna do a couple of Gospel songs. I’m gonna do one that my daughter, Bekka, wrote called “Strongest Weakness.” The great Etta James cut it as well, rest her soul.
JM: I gather that you and the TRAP (The Rhythmic Arts Project) executive director Eddie Tuduri have known each other for a long time.
BB: We all lived in the same neighborhood, not just Eddie Tuduri but Edward (James) Olmos, me and Delaney, and others. We all were neighbors, within two or three doors of each other, for years and years.
Then just recently, because I just got on Facebook recently, I saw Eddie Tuduri there. And he hollered at me, and I said, “What are you doing?” He was telling me all about his passion with the kids (who he helps through TRAP). And I happened to do a program called Kids On Stage here right out of Nashville, in Leipers Fork, for the last six years. A lot of us accomplished artists (laughs), let’s put it that way, senior artists are really involved in teaching our kids. Some of them are special needs. But they’re all weaved together, they work beautifully together.
So when I saw that he was doing the same thing, but on a much bigger level, I immediately said, “Hey, what can I do to help you?” He said, “By the way, as a matter of fact, we’re doing this thing in Ojai. We’d like to build a program out of Ojai.” I said, “Whatever I can do.” So here I am coming. Here I come!
Everybody ... Tata ... We all go back to the old days. We’ve all been through the test of fire, metaphorically speaking, and we’ve been blessed enough to come out on the other end, alive and well. And I would go so far as to say we actually, quote-unquote, made it (laughs). And most of us that, quote-unquote, made it are trying to give back. For what it’s worth, to quote Stephen Stills.
JM: I noticed that also on the program are Paul Barrere and Fred Tackett from Little Feat. You guys all worked together on the Dixie Chicken album.
BB: I am the Dixie Hen! (laughs) I am in the bathtub with the fat man, moaning. That was me moaning (on the song “Fat Man in the Bathtub”). Can you hear me moan? I can’t wait to see those guys again. I wonder if they need a girl singer? (laughs)
It’s gonna be a monster show. I can’t wait. I’m so excited. I’m working out now, to get ready.
JM: Are there any musicians that you’d love to have another shot to perform with?
BB: Eric Clapton. I’ll always say that. I want to sing with him. Yeah, I’d love to sing with Eric again. I’d love to do that. Wouldn’t you?
I’m just talking about who’s still alive. I’d like to sing me and Janis (Joplin) again. Are you kidding? I want to sing with Delaney again. I’d love to be able to do one more, but we can’t do that. (Delaney Bramlett died in 2008.)
JM: What about The Allman Brothers?
BB: I do that all the time. I get to do that anytime I want to. I’m here, I’m right here in Nashville. I can drive to Gregg (Allman)‘s house in a minute. If I left at the crack of dawn, I could be there for dinner.
I’m in the South. I feel like I belong here, and I mean something to Southern rock music. And the Allman Brothers and I ... I’m honored to be called the Allman Sister. I lovingly take them for granted, as well as I hope they lovingly take me for granted. All they have to do is say, “Bonnie, come here”, and I’d be there in a heartbeat.
Like tomorrow night, Dr. John is gonna be here. I didn’t say Dr. John, because I’m probably gonna sing with him tomorrow night. So I’m blessed. I’m not only here in Nashville, but I have access to some of the most wonderful human beings in my business. And I’m welcome. I must’ve done something right along the way. I’m still loved. I could never be a blues singer who says “nobody loves me.” Everybody does, and it’s been proven to me. I’ve been a real lucky one.
— Noozhawk contributing writer Jeff Moehlis is a professor of mechanical engineering at UCSB. Upcoming show recommendations, advice from musicians, interviews and more are available on his Web site, music-illuminati.com.