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The Blue Raven

No love. No money. No solid plan. She's L.A.'s preeminent blues deejay and, man, does she know the territory. by andy meisler

July 23, 2006|andy meisler

Our story in a Blues Nouveau nutshell:

Three years ago, an African American woman named Margaret Ann Long-Dolan, aka longtime local radio deejay Ann the Raven, was handling the announcing chores at a Los Angeles-area blues festival. Ann the Raven, who is in her late 40s ("Late, late, late 40s," she says) had the honor of introducing the festival's headliner, mid-60ish blues legend Etta James, who at the time, unfortunately, was overweight and needed an electric scooter chair to make it onto the stage.

Unfortunately, Ann--most of her many friends call her that--tripped over the ramp installed for Ms. James, fell heavily on her right knee and badly tore the cartilage. She had--still has--no health insurance, and after one Medi-Cal-funded operation, her leg has not totally healed. She's also gained about 40 pounds from enforced immobility.

Since she lost her last regular paying job as a driver for a limousine company that went bankrupt, Ann the Raven has had no reliable income. She scrapes together whatever money she can by baby-sitting and doing other off-the-books chores, living with her 11-year-old terrier mix, Miss Thang. Until recently she shared the rent for her third of an Echo Park triplex with a roommate, a gay Belgian construction worker/video editor whose limited English she could barely understand. One day he decamped for Florida, leaving her in the lurch. She drives a 1984 Mustang convertible with a duct tape-patched top, three bald tires and one undersized spare. She sometimes has to borrow gas money to get to her radio station.

For The Record
Los Angeles Times Tuesday July 25, 2006 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 2 National Desk 2 inches; 69 words Type of Material: Correction
Blues radio: The article on blues deejay Margaret Ann Long-Dolan (aka Ann the Raven) in Sunday's West magazine left the impression that musician John Lee Hooker was still performing. Hooker died in 2001. The article also indicated that Long-Dolan hosts one of three blues-centric radio shows in Southern California. In addition to the three mentioned, "The Blues Shack" broadcasts on KCLU-FM in Ventura County (88.3) and Santa Barbara (102.3).
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Sunday August 06, 2006 Home Edition West Magazine Part I Page 5 Lat Magazine Desk 2 inches; 68 words Type of Material: Correction
The article on blues deejay Margaret Ann Long-Dolan (a.k.a. Ann the Raven) left the impression that musician John Lee Hooker was still performing ("The Blue Raven," July 23). Hooker died in 2001. The article also indicated that Long-Dolan hosts one of three blues-centric radio shows in Southern California. In addition to the three mentioned, "The Blues Shack" broadcasts on KCLU-FM in Ventura County (88.3) and Santa Barbara (102.3).

Ann the Raven tells her own story best, and she does it hypnotically well. If you're able to tune in to her low-to-medium power (on a good day) signal on public radio station KCSN (88.5 FM, from 8 p.m. to midnight on Sundays and 9 to midnight on Mondays), you're likely to hear some splendid blues recordings by artists such as James, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker, Stevie Ray Vaughan and, perhaps, Janis Joplin or Billie Holiday. And probably her signature song, "Blues in the City," by Larry McCray. All speak to the exquisitely bittersweet nature of the human condition.

Then Ann the Raven, who works at KCSN without pay, will cut in:

"This is Ann the Raven, in case you just tuned in, darlin', and I'm dishing out the blues for you this Sunday night. This is a holiday weekend, yeah! And for you people who work--hey! A long weekend. You should be out there playing, having fun. I'm thinking about the things I used to do all those Sunday nights--before I got fat, you know. I used to be one wild chick! And I was thinking: I want that back! I gotta get rid of this fat! [Choked sound from deep in her throat that might be laughing, might be crying.]

"Life in the big city hasn't been pretty for the Raven, but she's hangin' in there. She's doin' the best she can. She's gonna make you happy tonight, though. I know I will. Because I'm gonna try. Earlier, of course, you heard Larry McCray with 'Blues in the City,'--and honey, let me tell you that the Raven's got blues in the city. L.A.'s a city to have blues in. Let me tell you: I've no money, fat, black, hey--what can I say? Broke, no career, no life, love--oh, I need love so bad! Hey, my city is not pretty, I can tell you that. But I'm gonna hang in there 'til it gets better."

Or maybe more to the point, on a special "love-themed" Valentine's Day show:

"I don't know, guys, about playing all this 'love' music tonight. It's just not doing it for me. It's just not doing it. I want to feel the blues. I guess I'm not happy unless I'm unhappy. [Approximately same choked sound as before.] I just can't figure it out. I need to hear something tough. But I gotta remind myself that it is other people out there who're in love and I gotta play it for the lovers. So darlin', I'm going to stick with it for a while. I myself, I admit that I--I keep hoping that one day I'll have someone who I'll feel strong about. Feel good about. I don't know. I can't give up. I ain't gonna give up. I can't give up on love."

So, arguably, Ann the Raven is Southern California's Queen of the Blues--local sovereign, that is, of an art form that's purely American and absolutely seminal to such varied offspring as jazz, rock 'n' roll, soul, R&B and even rap. Unfortunately, the show that made her reputation--a sweet, four-hour Saturday-night slot on powerful KPCC in Pasadena--ended abruptly in 2000 after 15 years. Unfortunately too, at this point in history, the music of her life is so intensely out of fashion that the few touring blues performers who make money are elderly legends such as King or Hooker. A devotion to the art form--just like always, one might argue--is more than ever before an act of extreme faith and eloquently self-expressed suffering.

No thanks," says Ann the Raven. "I feel cool enough to limp tonight."

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