Thursday, May 10, 2007

Mississippi Delta Blues: Ted "Floyd Lee" Williams, Chikara Kitagawa, Yuichi Fujisawa

Artists: Ted “Floyd Lee” Williams (guitar and vocals), Chikara Kitagawa (drums), Yuichi Fujisawa (electric bass guitar)
Medium: Guitar, vocals, bass guitar, drum set
Location: Grand Central station by the L train

Floyd, Chikara and Yuichi playing a short track

Floyd, Chikara and Yuichi playing a long track

Interview with the band

Floyd Lee
“Hell yeah…I would play that shit out.” – Floyd Lee on his first guitar

This irreverent, colorful character is Floyd Lee. Floyd was born in Lamar, Mississippi and went to school in Memphis, Tennessee. He picked up guitar after his father who who played all the time and had three guitars sitting in his basement. Floyd eventually stole one and proceeded to teach himself to play. Floyd sites his initial inspiration for playing the guitar as seeing his father with women on his lap every time he pulled out the six-string. “And I saw him and he had women sitting on his lap…and I said wooooh!”

Floyd lead an interesting life that’s taken him all over the globe. Before getting into music, he was a batboy for the 1948 Cleveland Indians – it was first time they won a pennant and “they ain’t never won anything since then.” Apparently the Indians love Floyd so much that they continually beg him to come back and now a movie is being made about it called “Floyd Lee Comes Home.”

Mr. Lee’s exploits have taken him “all over the world, runnin’ around.” Initially starting in New York, Floyd helped start the Music Under New York program with the MTA about 20 years ago when the MTA decided to co-opt the musicians in the subway to clear the passages. Since then, Floyd has performed everywhere from subways to clubs to New York City mayoral inaugurations in countries as diverse as Japan, Russia, and Korea. In September 2002, Floyd and fellow band mate Clara E. were the first to represent New York City at Moscow's first blues festival.

Floyd has a “hell yeah” attitude about playing the subway and passes it on to everyone he can. He recounts that for more than 10 years he’s been sharing his secrets to profitable subway performance with Japanese artists who come in droves to learn English and were practically giving their music away. Floyd was kind enough to tell me the story of his friend Mitsu, who came with nothing and left, thanks to Floyd’s tutelage, with $2,000 in quarters alone.

For Floyd, though, it’s not about the money. “I come down here to play because I feel free.” He enjoys the ability to play where he wants and what he wants. At 74, he describes playing in the subway like going to the old folks home, having a good time and getting paid to do it.

Floyd is still playing all over and shows no intention of stopping. Check out his site at the bottom of this entry for his schedule. This is a man who has devoted his life to his music. “I’ve been playing shows since before you were born…think about it youngblood.”

Chikara Kitagawa and Yuichi Fujisawa
"We come to play music, music, music"

Chiakara and Yuicha are two friends who came to the U.S. with one thing in mind – “to play music, music, music.” Chikara met Floyd through a friend. He says that he likes New York but admits that playing in the subway as “hard.”

Yuichi is, according to Floyd, “the best bass player you will ever find in the city New York.” He’s also a friend of Chikara which is how he met Floyd (unless you ask Floyd, in which case Chikara mugged him for all he was worth which was apparently a spot in his band).

Like what you hear? Check out
Floyd’s influences – (his cousin) John Lee Hooker, B.B. King
and his website –

Really like what you hear? Contact
Floyd Lee –
Yuichi Fujisawa –
Chikara Kitagawa –


Steve said...

Cool, you don't hear music like this much anymore. I'm glad Floyd Lee is around to carry on the tradition.

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