Jul 30, 2017
by Robert Feuer
If you missed Annie Sampson at Ives Park last summer, you’ re getting another chance on Aug. 16. Backed by two of Sonoma County’ s finest – guitarist Gary Vogensen and drummer Gary Silva – with three others, on guitar, bass, and trumpet, she’ ll be performing her own brand of rock n’ roll, R&B, and gospel.
Sampson, born on 250 acres in rural Louisiana, is the youngest of 12 children in a highly musical family. “My family sang at home all the time,” she says during a recent interview. Her sisters sang gospel on the radio. Sampson has been living in the San Francisco area since age ten, currently in Concord, and is now retired from teaching special education. During San Francisco’s cultural revolution of the 1960s -70s, she lived near the Haight/Ashbury, and describes going to “all the shows” at the Fillmore plus concerts in Golden Gate Park, adding “It was the most wonderful time.”Hearing about an audition in 1969 for the rock musical “Hair” at San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater, she made the cut, taking on a lead role as Abraham Lincoln. Over the course of three years “I never missed a show,” she says. By 1972, Sampson had graduated from the floor of the Fillmore to the stage, singing with the rock n’ roll band Stoneground, which had 11 members early on, including several female vocalists. Legendary deejay Tom Donahue co-produced their first studio album and took them on a European tour. While there, they recorded part of the soundtrack for the film, Dracula A.D. 1972. “We played behind the action, a la carte,” she says. Sampson would remain with Stoneground until 1984, including shows at Oxford University and the Olympia Theatre in Paris.
Sampson has been writing songs since the Stoneground days, some with her sister, and has her own record label, Sweet Potatoe, which released her last album, “Under the Moon.”A new release is in the oven. Currently, in addition to her own band, active since the mid -‘80s, she’s a member of the highly successful Blues Broads, a coterie that also includes veterans Angela Strehli, Tracy Nelson, and Dorothy Morrison. The group originated with annual get-togethers, organized by Strehli, at Marin’s Rancho Nicasio. About six years ago, they decided “to put this on the road, ”Sampson says. Going back, she’ s also performed with Bonnie Raitt, Boz Scaggs, Steve Miller, Elvis Costello, Jerry Garcia, and local icon, Occidental’s Nick Gravenites. As if that isn’t enough, she once played with Chuck Berry and Elvin Bishop at Stanford, and sang the blues classic “Key to the Highway” with Freddie King at a ‘70s concert hall, the Armadillo World Headquarters in Austin, repurposed from an old National Guard armory building by what has been described as “a loose collective of hippies, free spirits, and dreamers.”At Ives Park, Sampson will be singing an excruciatingly powerful version of Dylan’s “It’ s All Over Now, Baby Blue.” Rumors that Dylan will be joining her onstage are greatly exaggerated.
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