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VALLEY WEEKEND | ROCKTALK

As a Bass Player, He's Completely Offbeat

Ritt Henn's clever music and lyrics, such as 'Chicks Dig Me Cause I Bowl,' border on peculiar.

July 18, 1996|JAMES E. FOWLER | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ritt Henn, who's playing at the Hot House on Wednesday, admits his songs are a little odd. But then so is he.

How else would you describe a guy who writes whole songs about doing his taxes or buying a new pair of shoes? Or a song like "Chicks Dig Me Cause I Bowl."

"I look at odder things than other songwriters do," Henn says. The song "may be odd by the first verse, but by the third verse I've hopefully tied it to life, love and the pursuit of happiness."

Henn, who most of the time sings his songs accompanied by just his stand-up bass, has just released his first CD, entitled "It's Me."

It's him, and it's also odd, but Henn is not your run-of-the-mill oddball. His songs betray a rather deliberate kind of whimsy. They're clever both lyrically and musically, and that's something that's always in short supply. Henn admits that while his album is not side-splitting it's also "not something that you put on and then go in the other room and cook an omelet."

When Henn is not performing his own material at different clubs around town, he's either playing bass for someone else or working on his public access television show, "A Man, a Bass and a Box of Stuff." He's completed 75 episodes in the last three years, mostly just him and people he knows, chatting and playing music.

He also gigs regularly at B. B. King's with Arthur Adams.

Perhaps oddest of all, Henn likes working with the more conventional blues man.

"It's 10 minutes from my house and it was a sizable 1099 from him last year."

* Ritt Henn plays with his bass at 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Hot House, 12123 Riverside Drive, North Hollywood. Call (818) 506-7058.

Laughin' With the Blues: B. J. Sharp has achieved rare status for a club performer in Los Angeles.

She works regularly enough so that she doesn't need a day job.

"I've made it through the day gig thing," says Sharp, who lives in Woodland Hills.

But it wasn't always that way.

Sharp made her way to Los Angeles from her native Kentucky in the late 1970s with dreams of becoming a comedy star. She worked open mikes at the Comedy Store with people like Robin Williams and Elaine Boosler, hoping for her big break. But it wasn't until she added singing to her act that the steady club work came her way.

Sharp, who performs Saturday at Monteleone's West in Tarzana, is a regular attraction at several Valley venues. Besides Monteleone's, she also performs at B. B. King's, Cozy's and Smokin' Johnnie's.

She does mostly original material. Raised in a Southern Baptist family, her humor nevertheless examines today's sexual/social politics.

"I say a lot of things women are thinking but don't have the courage to say," Sharp says. "I make fun of myself to let people relax.

"I've been a class clown and a village idiot for a long time."

* B. J. Sharp sings the blues at 8 p.m. Saturday at Monteleone's West, 19337 Ventura Blvd., Tarzana. No cover. Call (818) 996-0662.

*

Rock the Vote: Grandmothers who went to Macy's in Burbank on Saturday looking for some accent pillows to go with those teal curtains for the sewing room got more than they bargained for.

Rock the Vote's "Voice Your Choice" event at the Burbank Media City Center not only had music that was loud enough to raise the dead, but worse than that, a lot of pesky political types were spouting off about this and that.

Billed as a celebration of the 1996 elections, the "Voice Your Choice" event featured eight bands, each playing on the hour, plus information booths from various political groups, ranging from the Dole and Clinton campaigns to the Democratic Socialists, the Natural Law Party, Ralph Nader and Ross Perot.

It started at noon and ran past its scheduled ending time of 8 p.m. Its purpose was to encourage young people to register to vote. In that spirit, some of the information booths played more rock music on boom boxes.

Playing it safe by spreading its bets, the Dole campaign booth played an MTV anthology CD. Ross Perot's Reform Party went with the classic rock of Tom Petty. And the Clinton campaign, playing it real safe, had no music at all.

I got there late, but in time to hear the last two bands--Down by Law and Chronic Future. Chronic Future was definitely younger and more angry. Between songs, the band taunted Burbank cops in attendance. The cops didn't look angry, they looked bored.

Possibly revealing what the band was really angry about, the lead singer opened a big box of condoms and threw them out to the small crowd of young men slam-dancing at the foot of the stage. They went for them like fish for chum. Someone blew up a condom like a balloon and people bounced it around like a beach ball.

Nobody said democracy was easy.

At day's end, the mall people estimated about 4,500 people had attended, there were no major problems, and over 300 people registered to vote.

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