“Porretta belongs on every serious blues and soul festival-goer's bucket list, a confluence of positive forces to be honored and treasured.”
Dick Shurman, Paul Harris Living Blues 2017

ART DIRECTOR Graziano Uliani

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Zucchero at the Porretta Soul Festival

The bond between Zucchero and Porretta started in March 1987, when Adelmo Fornaciari was producing his first album of pure Rhythm & Blues in Italian at the Fonoprint studios in Bologna. And while the rhythm section was ready, the horn section was still missing. It was then that Graziano Uliani proposed to him to use the Memphis Horns the legendary, mythical wind section of Otis Redding and the Memphis Stax studios. But there was more to come: Andrew Love (sax) and Wayne Jackson (trumpet) who played with Aretha Franklin, Joe Cocker, Sting, Billy Joel, U2, Peter Gabriel, The Doobie Brothers gave Zucchero a Robert Cray record featuring the duo from Memphis. The idea excited him. And this is how the two musicians arrived in Bologna but the one who really touched the sky with a finger was Graziano Uliani (future founder of the Porretta Soul Festival) who met his idols for the first time. Wayne Jackson in his biography recalls the episode and writes:

We arrived in Milan with the most cordial welcome of the Italians, lots of hugs and kisses on every cheek. Graziano spoke a little English, learned from Otis Redding’s records, and his friend Gianni Del Savio, a little more than him. They loaded us into a big, beautiful Volvo, and we headed through the Italian countryside in the direction of Bologna. It was breathtaking! Just like in the movies. Along the way, we stopped for a toilet break, and it was there that Graziano said something now become a quote: “Man! Nobody would believe it, I’m pissing with the Memphis Horns!”

The album will be named Blue’s and will contain authentic hits such as Pippo, Con Le Mani, Solo Una Sana e Consapevole Libidine and the wind riffs are overwhelming. Authentic rhythm & blues but in Italian style. The album will sell a million and a half copies. Zucchero’s first tour will also touch Porretta in June 1987. In the following year, the first edition of the Porretta Soul Festival was born and Sugar Fornaciari will be invited on stage to duet with Rufus Thomas and the Memphis Horns in Otis Redding’s classic I Can’t Turn You Loose.

In 1989 Graziano convinces Zucchero to record the new album in Memphis. Oro, Incenso e Birra will be born with guests such as Rufus Thomas, Jimmy Smith, Eric Clapton and Steve Ray Vaughan. It will still be a hit. One and a half million copies sold. Future will reserve other surprises for Zucchero and the Porretta Soul Festival.

A curiosity: the album should have been called Zio Rufus (Uncle Rufus), especially because of the contribution that the artist from Memphis had given to the production of the album, but commercial opportunities (i.e. a beer as a sponsor) made him change his mind. Among the songs also Overdose d ‘Amore with the famous introduction by Rufus. Zucchero will remember Rufus Thomas and in 1995 he will write Per Colpa Di Chi singing: Meanwhile Uncle Rufus is with his thoughts in his head walking life out to pee…