Tone Uriza: Second Life’s Blues Pioneer

by Traci Nubalo

“The blues ain't nothing but a good man feelin' bad.” - Leon Redbone

Tone Uriza is a nasty man.

Don’t get me wrong. He’s actually an educated, soft-spoken, well-dressed gentleman who hails from Tucson, Arizona.

But something happens when he straps on his Fender Strat and hits the “on” button to his amplifier rig. Like Jekyll changing to Hyde, he morphs into one nasty-ass bluesman - Second Life’s Big Daddy Blues.

PURE sent me on assignment to interview Tone. I had written a piece on him quite some time ago when I was with another publication, so I was looking forward to the get-together. He’s one of my favorite performers on the grid and I really like him, both musically and personally.
Tone Uriza has been on the RL music scene for about thirty years. He’s a mainstay on the blues circuit in his hometown, and has gone global with his act through SL. Personally, Tone is what I lovingly refer to as a character. He’s amazingly talented and thoroughly down to earth as a human being. He has an infectious high-pitched laugh which is heard liberally all throughout his live performances, which are always fast-paced and a ton of fun.

“Once I was checking into a hotel and a couple saw my ring with Blues on it. They said, 'You play blues. That music is so sad.' I gave them tickets to the show, and they came up afterwards and said, 'You didn't play one sad song.” - Buddy Guy

He’s an expert guitarist and a very proficient dobro player, as well. He plays with the expressive feeling that comes only with spending many years with the instrument in your hand. Big Daddy has one of the most fascinating singing voices I have heard. He somehow is able to blend a smooth, even tone with a gravelly undertone. It makes for a most appealing and unique sonic delivery. And Tone is a natural showman. He is completely engaging with his audience, many of whom (like me) are long-time fans.

At a recent event, Tone made use of a new video technology that allowed us in the SL club to see him in realtime as he performed his set from his home studio. His nasty nature began to surface almost at the gate, with lots of banter about his actually being naked from the waist down. He kicked off his set with Joe Medwich Yeasey and Don D. Robey’s “Further On Down The Road”, then spun directly into a hilarious ditty from Son Seals entitled “Frigidaire Blues”. The premise of this one was that his girl was a tad on the frigid side and the song was laced with one clever image after another ranging from “getting into her vegetable drawers” through “my lips got stuck on her ice tray”, and ending with the cold girl falling asleep on his sofa (before putting out) where “she opened her mouth and a little light came on.”

“It was really stumbling on to the bible of the blues, you know, and a very powerful drug to be introduced to us and I absorbed it totally, and it changed my complete outlook on music.” - Eric Clapton

Traci Nubalo: Great to see you again Tone. And welcome to the pages of PURE Magazine.

Tone Uriza: Thanks Traci. It‘s always a pleasure.

TN: Tone, the main new thing about your show is the amazing streaming video system that you are using. What’s different about this new system?

TU: It’s a feature that the Lindens promised and have actually delivered. It uses the new viewer features, and the person watching must have Firefox or Safari on their machine with the latest flash player plugin that is specific to those browsers only. What it does is allows live streaming flash encoding which has an almost zero latency. The lag is 3 seconds if that.

TN: Wow

TU: Yes, it's very tight. Communication with the audience is almost instant. No more waiting fifteen to thirty seconds. And there is a very nice natural compression that occurs from the audio encoding, so it’s slightly better audio. It makes the sound kind of jump out at you. It’s as if you are in the room with the performer

TN: Yes, it really does. It looks and sounds great from the avatar point of view. I was way impressed at Bottom Line.

TU: It’s definitely a step forward for performers and it doesn't have to be video too, but having both in many situations can be an advantage.

TN: You have always had a very natural relationship to your audiences. Does this help you in that regard?

TU: Omg, yes! I had gotten good at it before but now it's like having a concert in my studio, with people all around me watching.

We had great fun watching you watching you like that. It enhances things from a fan perspective.

TU: Awww, thanks! I'm glad. It means that I am doing my job.

TN: But…we all want to know...were you REALLY wearing no pants that night?

TU: *giggles*

TN: *smile*

TU: Let‘s just say that I had on clothing. Hehe

TN: Good answer. So…what is this new live video system called?

TU: Well it really has no name. It's what Ustreamtv and Livestream and Justintv have been doing for awhile. And Youtube as well. But the Lindens finally made the viewer a true browser.

TN: Thanks for sharing all that Tone. I think it's a big development for you and very big for music lovers

“I guess music, particularly the blues, is the only form of schizophrenia that has organized itself into being both legal and beneficial to society.” - Alexis Korner

Back at The Boondocks, Uriza had kicked into the old chestnut “Night Life”, and watching him on the video screen we could see the pure joy on his face. This man means it when he sings the blues. Without missing a beat, he swung from Willie to Buddy Guy as he cranked out a super-danceable “Messin’ With The Kid.” The open chat box was full of woooots, and it seemed to me that the video screen was actually increasing the level of communication between Tone and his fans. After chatting and giggling for a bit Big Daddy slowed it down for one of his original compositions called “Silhouette.” This number features the audience slipping on dance orbs which create silhouettes around them as they dance.

“Blues means what milk does to a baby. Blues is what the spirit is to the minister. We sing the blues because our hearts have been hurt, our souls have been disturbed.” - Alberta Hunter

TN: Big Daddy, what is the blues to you?

TU: Hmmmm...

TN: Tough one - I know.

TU: It is many things and that is probably the appeal. It has many dimensions. But if I had to narrow it down to a favorite thing it would be the fact that what it was first created for still holds true today - to make one feel better.

TN: Lean Redbone has a great quote, “The blues is just a good man feelin' bad."

TU: Yup.

TN: There are so many different forms of music one could choose to learn and perform. Why the blues, Tone?

TU: It chose me, big time. It touched me so deeply via Muddy Waters that I haven't been able to shake it yet. LOL

TN: Wll you ever shake it?

TU: Kind of doubt it at this point. I had a drummer, Jerome Kimsey. He is in his 60s now but he has played all his life. Never made any money at it; always struggling. So one day he was talking to his brother about all his troubles and his brother said, “Jerome, don't even think about quitting music. If you do, you will invalidate your whole life.”

TN: Wow. Well, as you know, I have met quite a few of the great blue players and worked with some of them. One thing that has always struck me is that while they may be characters, almost all were extremely nice people. Does the blues exorcise one's demons or something?

TU: That‘s because I think playing the blues is great therapy for the player as well as the listener. Someone has to talk about the things everyone else is afraid to express.

TN: How has the blues changed you, Tone?

TU: It's made me extremely sensitive to others, really. Made me more patient, more sympathetic to all that we share in common. My favorite thing that we all share and need is laughter.

“I suppose I was waiting until I was old enough to have some sort of experience to sing about. When you're young, it's hard to sing the blues. Nobody believes you.” - Nick Lowe

On the video screen Tone could be seen reaching behind him to pick up the dobro and the metal slide bar that he slipped onto a finger on his left hand. He stepped right into the opening slide guitar intro to Little Feat’s classic hit “Dixie Chicken.” Again his voice was perfectly straddling his bright close-to-falsetto voice with the nasty dog-growl underpinnings that would make most listeners be able to pick him out of a singing lineup.

In between numbers he kept up an amusing and fascinating banter with his audience, enjoying wonderful laughter from both sides of the microphone. The group quickly shifted into high gear as the Master kicked off “One Way Out” from the Allman Brothers Band. Like he does with just about every cover I have heard him play, Tone made this one his own with some anxious-sounding vocals and tasty slide parts.

“Blues is a natural fact. It‘s something that a fellow lives. If you don't live it you don't have it. Young people have forgotten to cry the blues. Now they talk and get lawyers and things.” - Big Bill Broonzy
TN: Do you see that you are one of the current representatives for this art form? One of a long line of great players?

TU: God, I hope I am even close to being that. I don't know that I am, but I sure give it hell.

TN: Well, let's get real my friend. The last time I interviewed you, I wrote about working with the great Muddy Waters.

TU: Uh huh.

TN: This morning I realized something: you could have so easily been on that stage with Bob Margolin and Pinetop Perkins and Muddy. You would have fit right in.

TU: Honestly, I know I would.

TN: *smile*

TU: And something else - just knowing that one person believes that is enough for me. Thank you, Traci.

TN: Good. But there's more. You are also a blues pioneer. You bring this art form to the world via virtual performance - something that none of the old blues players was capable of doing.

TU: I really want to. It's my destiny.

TN: I find this so exciting, Tone.

TU: *smiles*

TN: Well, Tone, this will be going out to the readers of Jayme Carolina's great new magazine PURE and this is your chance to speak to those readers directly. *hands you the microphone*

TU: The blues never made me sadder in my life. It's always made me a happier, better person. And that's all I have to say about that.

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