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Up In Your Business is a Radio Show by FlagandBanner.com
Rodney Block, a trumpeter who has been featured and performed in various festivals and venues across the globe ranging from corporate to social, has built a niche in the genres of jazz and hip hop. Notable artists he has shared the stage with include Earth, Wind, and Fire, Joe, Sugar Ray, Chrissette Michelle, Eric Benet, Whoodini, Conya Doss, Johnny Gill, Dwele, Jonathan Butler, Dave Hollister,Ellis and Delfayo Marsalis, Kirk Whalum, Layla Hathaway, Eric Roberson, Anthony David, Marsha Ambrosius, Diane Reeves, and The Yellowjackets. Currently, Block is a frequent guest artist with hip-hop legend and icon, Doug E. Fresh. .
Transcript Begins:EPISODE 214
[00:00:08] GM: Welcome to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. through storytelling and conversational interviews. This weekly radio show and podcast offers listeners an insider's view into the commonalities of successful people and the ups and downs of risk taking. Connect with Kerrie through her candid funny, informative and always encouraging weekly blog. And now it's time for Kerrie McCoy to get all Up in Your Business.
[00:00:34] KM: Thank you, son, Gray. After four decades of running a small business, simply called Arkansas Flag and banner, and now flagandbanner.com, my team and I decided to create a platform for not just me, but other small business owners to share their experiential knowledge in a conversational way. Originally, we thought we'd be teaching others, but it didn't take long before we realized that we were the persons learning.
After listening to over 200 Successful people share their stories, soon to be 300 people, I've noticed some reoccurring traits. Most of my guests believe in a higher power, have the heart of a teacher, and are creative, and they all work hard.
Before I introduce today's guest, I want to let you know, if you miss any part of today's show, want to hear it again or share it, there's a way. And son, Gray, will tell you how.
[00:01:24] GM: All UIYB past and present interviews are available at Up in Your Business with Kerrie McCoy's YouTube channel, Facebook page, the Arkansas Democrat Gazette’s digital version, flagandbanner.com’s website, or wherever you listen to podcasts. Just ask your smart speaker to play Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. And by subscribing to our YouTube channel or flagandbanner.com’s email list, you will receive prior notification of that day's guest.
Back to you, Kerry.
[00:01:51] KM: Thanks again. It's not every day you get to talk to a trumpeter. Yes, that's right. Mr. Rodney Block is a real live trumpeter in the studio today to talk about his music, his art, his passion and his life. If you live in Little Rock, Arkansas or close by, then chances are you may have heard the pleasure of hearing this gifted musician blow his horn while slipping in some of his encouraging words and uplifting comments about humanity and having compassion for all people.
Mr. Rodney Block, with the alter ego “Black Superman” is just that. By day, he is a family man selling pharmaceuticals and medical supplies. And by night, he is a horn man playing a range of genres; jazz, gospel, hip-hop and country. As a musician, Rodney has shared the stage with big name performers, Earth Wind and Fire, Bobby Brown, soul singer Laila Hathaway, and the great R&B artists, Johnny Gill. And Rodney often plays with the legendary hip-hop artist, Doug E. Fresh.
Want to hear some of his music? Rodney has recorded nine albums. I think at my last count is nine. Right, Rodney?
[00:03:01] RB: Seven.
[00:03:02] KM: Well, I had seven. And then I counted nine when I went to your – Okay, seven albums at my last count. Maybe more. Maybe less. Soon. Just ask your smart speaker to play Rodney Block for an afternoon of lovely music and melodies. I've been jamming on it for a week, Rodney.
It is my pleasure to welcome to the table, the gifted and talented trumpeter, who's also just a great guy, Rodney Block.
[00:03:29] RB: You’re so nice.
[00:03:30] KM: It’s because you’re so nice.
[00:03:33] RB: You’re so nice. Thank you.
[00:03:34] KM: You didn't pick the trumpet. I like to say, it picked you, because it was kind of a turn of events. Tell us how you came to play the trumpet.
[00:03:39] RB: Yeah, yeah. It was kind of – Basically it was a hand-me-down. I have an older brother. And he was a year older than me. And he started in the sixth-grade band program. And I think he was in it for a few months, and it just didn't take. So my parents had purchased this trumpet for him. So when it was my turn to join the band, my folks said, “Well, if you're going to be in the band, you're going to have to play your brother's trumpet, because we've already purchased an instrument and we're not going to buy another horn. So you have a horn. So if you're going to play in the band, this is the horn you're going to play.” And that was fine by me.
[00:04:24] KM: Talk about your family. You were born in Dumas, Arkansas.
[00:04:29] RB: Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, I'm a country boy from the south.
[00:04:31] KM: Does that make you a dingdong daddy from Dumas?
[00:04:34] RB: Yes.
[00:04:36] KM: I think Arkansas Flag and Banner made some banners one time that we put down the road at Dumas that said dingdong daddy.
[00:04:42] RB: Yeah. I'm from Dumas. And it's six of us in the family. Actually seven of us in the family. My mom and pop, Otis and Ida Block, and those great country names, I think. Otis and Ida Bell.
[00:04:56] KM: Otis and Ida. Ida Bell. Oh, that’s a good name.
[00:05:01] KM: Yeah. Just good people, hard workers. And that's where I grew up. And went through the public school system there, and went down the street to the University of Arkansas, Monticello and graduated college there.
[00:05:17] KM: I love this quote. You say – People always tell you have a great gift. And you say – Do you want me to tell you what you say?
[00:05:24] RB: What did I say?
[00:05:27] KM: You say, “It really wasn't a gift. I really had to work hard. But I think the gift was that I enjoyed it so much.
[00:05:35] RB: That's true. I enjoy it. I get excited about it. I remember time specifically that, “Oh, man, I have rehearsal tonight. And I really don't want to go to rehearsal.” And I go to rehearsal, and I started playing, and I immediately put in a good place. I feel better. I say, “Man, this is great. I'm glad I came to rehearsal.”
[00:06:03] GM: Yeah. I was just lamenting this the other – Like two days ago.
[00:06:07] KM: Absolutely.
[00:06:08] GM: Yeah. Not wanting to go to rehearsal. Getting there. Loving it. And leaving being like, “Oh, I'm so glad I did that.”
[00:06:13] RB: Yeah. Yeah, it's –
[00:06:15] KM: That’s the yin and yang of life.
[00:06:16] RB: Yeah, I just love it.
[00:06:17] KM: So talk about going to Henderson State University in the sixth grade in Arkadelphia. It seems very small, sixth grade. But I feel like when I was reading about you, it was a defining moment. And I don't think people realize how when those defining moments are going to happen and how they're going to happen.
[00:06:35] RB: Yeah. I remember like it was yesterday. I've never been away from home. I'm going to summer camp.
[00:06:41] KM: At sixth grade.
[00:06:42] RB: Sixth grade. So going to summer – So it's the summer between sixth and seventh grade. Never been away from home. I'm going to band camp just like the movie, One Time at Band Camp. I'm going to band camp.
And so during the 80s, Henderson had a pretty large camp. They had the junior high segment, and they had the high school segment. I was at the junior high segment. Probably over a thousand kids. Maybe 1500 kids. So you have to audition to see what band assignment you're going to get into. So my first year out, I'm there and I hear all the other musicians. I said, “Man. They sound great.”
So I go into the audition room and there's a guy there. He’s a black gentleman. I'm sure he was a director. He says, “Okay, Rodney.” He's looking at the paper, “Okay, Rodney Block. I see you're going to play the trumpet today.” And I said, “Yes, sir.” He says, “Okay, you look like a trumpet player.” And I proceed to play my audition. I bombed it. I sucked. I think I ended up – There were 10 bands. I think I ended up in the ninth band. I wasn't far from the bottom. But that just stayed with me forever. This guy looks at me and says, “You look like a trumpet player.”
And ever since then, I just wore that as a badge. If I played in the band, I played the trumpet, specially coming up in the 80s and 90s when saxophone was like the preferred instrument. People love the saxophone.
[00:08:20] KM: You got a music scholarship from the University of Arkansas at Monticello. You majored in communications.
[00:08:28] RB: Yeah.
[00:08:29] KM: What's up with that? They'll give you a scholarship if you don't major in –
[00:08:34] RB: Yeah, they will. If you play well enough, they will give you a music scholarship. And I was an all-state – I was an all-region, all-state trumpet player back in high school. So I think pretty much every school in Arkansas gave me a music scholarship just kind of based on that accomplishment.
But during that time, I tried to major in music for a semester, and I hated it. I did not like it. I stopped playing my trumpet. And I realized I'm more of an emotional player. I read music, but I don't necessarily have to know the ins and outs of it. So the other thing that I felt comfortable in, speech communication. I'm pretty good in front of people. I'm pretty good talking with people. So I changed my major. And then I started playing my trumpet again. So it was –
[00:09:30] KM: The right move.
[00:09:31] RB: Yeah, it was the right move. And again, I guess I consider myself more of a spiritual player. It comes from the spiritual side of me and not so much that technical side.
[00:09:42] KM: I think that's why you're so much fun to listen to and watch, is because it is emotional. It's not rote. It’s not like, “Doo-doo-doo-doo.” It's, “Doo-doo-doo.”
[00:09:54] GM: If y'all are watching on YouTube, you need to, because mom's face is like perfect.
[00:10:00] KM: Do you remember your first gig?
[00:10:02] RB: My first gig – I can remember some of the first performances being in college, my brother and I, the late Fred Taylor, who was the Chancellor of University of Arkansas in Monticello was having a Mardi Gras event at the Chancellor's home. So they invited me and my brother to do a little kind of Mardi Gras, Dixieland, New Orleans type music. And it was me and my brother. And I remember going over to the Chancellor's house, and you have all these dignitaries there. And you’re a student, and we're playing, and they pay us at the end of it. I thought that was pretty good.
[00:10:44] KM: And you probably ate good hors d'oeuvres.
[00:10:45] RB: Yeah. It was great. And so that was some of the first real performances and gigs that we started doing. And we had like a little ensemble group, a blues group at the university. And one of our first gigs was playing at the old Juanita’s. And we opened up for The Fabulous Thunderbirds.
[00:11:12] KM: Wow, that's pretty impressive.
[00:11:14] RB: Yeah. I mean, so we won a blues competition or something. I don't know how we got invited. But we ended up opening for The Fabulous Thunderbirds at the old Juanita’s.
[00:11:24] KM: You’ve been successful since day one.
[00:11:26] RB: You know, we've had some fun opportunities. I mean, it’s fun opportunity.
[00:11:32] KM: Besides being a gifted musician, one of the reasons you have opportunities is your willingness to do stuff. You're just willing to do it. You're just like, “Sure, I’ll do it. Sure, I’ll do it.” You don't let your ego get in the way. You don't have any weird hang-ups about anything. You're just like, “Yeah, let's try that.”
[00:11:47] RB: Yeah. You know, I tend to be pretty easy. If you come to a show – And this is how I met you guys. But I love being on band breaks or after the show. I love going and meeting people and talking to people and saying thank you for being here. Because you can spend your money any way you want. But if you're spending your money to come listen to us, at the very least I want to say thank you.
So I've never been a person that gets hung up on, “I'm the artists. And I don't mingle with the people.” I'm just a regular guy. And when we play at a town they say, “Rodney send us your rider. What do you need? Do you need special food or anything?” I say, “No, not really.” I say, “Red wine.”
[00:12:40] KM: Before we go to break, I want to ask you about Sweet Baby. You name your trumpets. And your brother says you stole it from him.
[00:12:46] RB: I do. I name all my trump. I have several trumpets, a Flugelhorn. I have a pocket trumpet. I name on my instrument Sweet Baby. Now my brother Tyrone, he named his trombone Sweet Baby. He says he's the one that started it. I don't know if he was the one that started it, but that’s just the name that we started calling our instruments Sweet Baby back in
college. And every time we get a new horn, it's called Sweet Baby. Now the pocket trumpet, I call it baby, sweet baby. This is a pocket trumpet. It looks like a little baby trumpet.
[00:13:23] KM: Sweet baby one, sweet baby two. How many do you have?
[00:13:29] RB: One, two, three, four, five sweet babies. There's not a sweet baby one or two. It’s just all sweet baby.
[00:13:38] KM: What? Are they different? Play different sound, different tone?
[00:13:42] RB: Well, the Flugelhorn is different. The pocket trumpet is different. But all the others are trumpets.
[00:13:47] KM: Because I know my son-in-law has a million guitars, and I can't tell one thing different about any of them other than the color.
[00:13:53] RB: Yeah. I was online looking at trumpets just the other day, too. But, yeah, sweet baby.
[00:13:59] KM: All right. This is a great place to take a break. When we come back, we'll continue our conversation with trumpeter, Mr. Rodney Block of Dumas, Arkansas. Still to come, playing with some of America's greatest artists, the business of music, and how he stays so gracious and grateful through all his hard work and success. We'll be right back.
[00:14:22] GM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy, a production of flagandbanner.com. Over 40 years ago with only $400, Kerry founded Arkansas Flag and Banner. During the last four decades, the business has grown and changed along with Kerry's experience and leadership knowledge.
In 1995, she embraced the Intranet and rebranded her company as simply flagandbanner.com. In 2020, Kerry McCoy Enterprises acquired ourcornermarket.com, an
online company specializing in American-made plaques, signage and memorials for over 20 years. And more recently, opened a satellite office is in Miami, Florida.
Telling American-made stories, selling American-made flags, the flagandbetter.com.
Back to you, Kerry.
[00:15:10] KM: You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with the music lover, and talented entrepreneur, and trumpeter, Mr. Rodney Block. I don't think people realize that musicians and actors are such entrepreneurs. And the reason I say that is because you take risks, you never know what your income is going to be. And you're positive and always taking on new jobs. And that, to me, is the definition of an entrepreneur. I don't know if you ever thought of yourself as an entrepreneur before.
[00:15:41] RB: Entrepreneur, I definitely agree with taking risk. Definitely think of you have to always think outside the box. There's a musician from Little Rock, fine musician. His name is Merlon Devine. He's from Little Rock. And I'm just a little older than him. But we had a conversation. And he does music full-time. He lives in the DC area. And he looks at it like, in a calendar year, what do I want to make? So what do I want to make each month? And then how do I get there?
And I've kind of adopted that a little bit musically. And I even look at my musicians, how much do I want to make sure these guys put in their pocket at the end of each month? And I think about that. And I have that number.
[00:16:31] KM: That’s just like a business.
[00:16:32] RB: Mm-hmm. So how do I get there? And you get there, you definitely have to think outside the box. You have to be creative. Definitely, the main thing is your product. You have to have – If you know you have a good product, you can get to where you want to go. So the music always has to be good. And the music has to always appeal to a broad range and –
[00:16:58] KM: And be easily accessible.
[00:16:59] RB: Easily accessible.
[00:17:02] KM: People have to know where to buy it, or where do you play, or how to get involved with you. I mean, it's constant networking. You are the product.
[00:17:11] RB: Yes, yes, that's it. And you have to diversify. One thing I find that’s interesting, I really will say is one of a niche for us, is because we play everything. We play jazz, we play blues, we play country music. We've done a country music show. We play rock and roll. We play hip-hop. We do concert band music. I love music.
Sometimes I listen to Gustav Holst. Gustav Holst wrote The Planets. Or I'm listening to Percy Grainger, who is a composer from Australia. I just love music.
[00:17:54] KM: So I saw Barry Manilow in concert one time, and I was like, “Barry Manilow. I don't know. I'll go.” Well, it just turned out to be a great show. I didn't know he had done so much. But he was complaining about there not being a melody in music anymore.
[00:18:08] RB: You know, it's interesting, because right now what I'm hearing is you hear a lot of recycled – The popular stuff is recycled. You hear a snippet of a beat or a sampling from a tune from 40 years ago, and they combined it with a new beat. And the kids love it. They go crazy.
[00:18:35] KM: There's only so many keys on a piano. How are you going to keep coming up with new stuff?
[00:18:40] RB: You know, that's the great thing about it. You can.
[00:18:43] KM: It seems like every combination should have been done by now.
[00:18:46] RB: It’s infinite, right?
[00:18:48] KM: Well, I don’t know. Your hands can only reach so far. You only got two.
[00:18:51] RB: I think you think past that. You have to think past that.
[00:18:54] GM: Technology, instrumentation.
[00:18:58] RB: It’s your imagination. It’s your ability to hear and combine. And then you're creating something that's new, or it may be a variation that no one has ever done before. Its’ wide open. It’s creative. And I just think of not just music, but I think of scientists, and doctors, and just from 1900 to present day, and everything they've done or been able to come up with even with medicines. Even with medicines, how the mind, people, are able to create these things. And there's a creative side to that.
[00:19:43] KM: Oh absolutely. Science and art. Science and art.
[00:19:47] RB: Science and art is very closely related. Did you know that architects, engineers, doctors, pick up music so much quicker than like the average person?
[00:19:59] KM: I did not.
[00:20:00] RB: And I don't know if it's this thing about the analytical side. It’s math. Music is math. It’s a subdivision of notes in a time space. And architects, engineers – I've learned this from an engineer. He was so good at plan changes. He says, “Rodney, if I play this position on my fret,” he says, “it's always going to be a flat night. No matter where I play it on the guitar, it’s always going to be a flat nine.”
[00:20:32] GM: And you’re like, “How did you figure that out?”
[00:20:34] RB: Yeah. How did you figure that out? But it's just interesting how closely related the arts, and math, and science.
[00:20:42] GM: Music theory is a whole science in itself.
[00:20:47] RB: Did you know, you can go to college, and you can have a music degree and apply to law school or medical school? All you have to do is have the prerequisite courses.
[00:20:58] KM: No. Really?
[00:20:58] RB: Yes, you can.
[00:21:00] GM: I knew a lot of people that did that.
[00:21:01] RB: Yeah. You can have a music degree in college and decide you want to go to med school, and you can go to med school.
[00:21:09] KM: So, wow! So you can go to college, be a band guy, get all the chicks and then go off to med school and earn some money. That’s the way I think about that. College is just from mating. I don't know what everybody else is – Speaking of mating, I got to tell everybody, because this, I think, speaks to your initiative and kind of who you are. And I think that people that listen to his radio show need to – Think a lot of people are just born with a gift or born with a silver spoon in their mouth, and life was just easier for them. But you left college and had – Mr. Rodney Block, you left college and had followed a girl to Kansas City.
[00:21:49] RB: Yeah, I did.
[00:21:51] KM: And you had a country western song were you – Let me see if I can – I lost the job. Lost the car. Lost the girl. Lost the money.
[00:22:00] RB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah, I remember that.
[00:22:02] GM: That’s a country song.
[00:22:03] KM: That is a country song, although you don't have a railroad or jail in there. You didn't go to jail. And you didn't ride on the train. But you went back home to your dad, and who you love very much.
[00:22:12] RB: Yeah. You know, it's interesting, because my dad is just – If you can be in love with your parents, I'm that guy. Because I love my mom. I had to tell your story about my mom a little bit later. But my mom and my pop, just really good people, hard worker. My dad is
kind of like a self-made man, I mean, through hard work. Has a great reputation. And he's a brick mason. And he's 74. And he's still laying bricks. He's probably out there working now. And I've been trying to get him retired for last 20 years, but he just loves it. But just really smart guy. And I just remember when I was going through this really low point – Everybody has a rough patch. They really do.
[00:23:01] KM: Where you grow. Where you grow. Or how you grow matters.
[00:23:04] RB: Yeah. And I remember it was Thanksgiving. I didn't even have money to get home. And I call my pop and I said, “Man, I want to come home, but I really don't have money to get there.” He says, Rodney, if you can get here, I think it'd be okay.”
And I remember borrowing money just to drive home. And that first night we were there, and I was talking to him. And he said something really interesting, because I was thinking about moving back home. I said, “Man, you guys are here. I have a support group. I can just move back home. I can work for you. I can just be here.” And he says, “Rodney, don't do that.” He says, “If you move back, then whatever it is that beat you up, it wins.” And he says, “If I were you, I will go back, and I believe it will be better.” And that's not what I wanted to hear. I wanted to hear, “Son, we want you to hear. Come back. Stay with us. We got you.” And he says, “No.” He says, “Whatever it is, you need to get over that hurdle.” So I went back.
And his words were true. Gradually, things just started to turn. Things just started to turn. And I can say – And years later, my pop revisited. He revisits that moment every now and then. This was more than 20 years ago. He says, “Rodney, remember everything you lost?” And I say, “Yeah.” He said, “You got it all back in double.” I said, “You know what? You're exactly right.” And that’s I think working, and not giving up, and my faith in God, too. Because there comes a point, whatever. your spirituality kind of comes into question.
And I remember driving down the highway, and I was just really depressed. And I was driving from St. Louis back to Kansas City. And I remember saying, “God, are you –” I've been speeding the whole way on this interstate. Just speeding. Driving kind of carelessly. And I remember, I said, “God, are you even with me anymore?” And I said it out loud. And as soon as I said it, there was – I was driving down this highway. And if there was a car in front of me, I would just get right behind it so they would move over. Well, when I made the comment, “God
are you even with me?” There was a car in front of me and it immediately lost control. I thought it was going to turn over.
So two, three seconds pass and the driver – I mean, the car went up on two wheels. It came back down and the driver regain control. And then the voice comes to me, “Does that answer your question?”
[00:25:51] KM: Oh, my God.
[00:25:52] RB: That's true story. And my lowest point. So it's –
[00:25:57] KM: Okay, you're there.
[00:25:58] RB: Yeah. I said okay. Yeah, exactly. I said, “Okay, you're there.”
[00:26:02] KM: And Miles Davis helped you get through that.
[00:26:04] RB: Oh, this is all in the same year. It's all in that same year, because it was a gradual progression. Rough patch. Sometimes you don't get out of it immediately. Sometimes it takes time. So I had a friend. Her name was Amanda Martinez. Good friend of mine. For my birthday, she brought me this CD, and it’s Miles Davis ballads. So I knew a couple of tunes on the album. It was a compilation album, but I didn't know all the tunes. And I would listen. For six months, I listened to that album every night before I go to sleep. And my favorite tune, and I actually have recorded it before, it's called It Never Entered My Mind. I rerecorded that tune, and my version, and I renamed it The MD Saved My Life, which stands for Miles Davis.
[00:27:02] KM: Listeners, y'all need to go as your smart speaker to play, because I did. And I've listened to it like five times.
[00:27:08] RB: Thank you so much.
[00:27:09] KM: It’s good.
[00:27:11] RB: So, me, what you're hearing, when people come to a show, they're really – I just made that statement last night. I said that really is my soul that people are experiencing. You can only really play what you lived. And it's like that at every show, no matter what type of show it is.
[00:27:33] KM: We can't finish right there on your life. Because you went back and you met Jane, and you started playing, and you started a group called Dark Complexion. And you became – And everything changed for you.
[00:27:46] RB: Yeah. As you know, we’ve talked about that, that gradual change. I went home. I saw my dad. He says, “Go back.” And I went back. And I applied for a particular job. But after the interview, they said, “Rodney, your personalities best for this job.” So I got a new job. It was kind of like an upgrade in the position. And then around that same time I met Jeannie. And like I said, I'm on this trajectory. Everything's just kind of moving in a positive light. So met Jean in her second year of law school.
[00:28:26] KM: Yeah. She's a rock star.
[00:28:26] RB: She is a rock star. If you do some research –
[00:28:30] KM: Yeah. Who goes into American Indian law? Why did she go into American Indian law?
[00:28:36] GM: Because she's a saint. Yeah.
[00:28:37] RB: Well, you know what? She is part Native American, Southern Cheyenne. And the University of Kansas had just started this brand-new program, Indian Law. And she worked for – After law school, she actually worked for a Pueblo. Out of New Mexico, there's a lot of Pueblo, I think it's the name of it. But just super smart. She's been an attorney for 22, 23 years.
[00:29:07] KM: You’re like opposites. You're like emotional. What is that? Right brain?
[00:29:12] RB: Right brain, left brain?
[00:29:12] KM: And then she would be the analytical lawyer. And I would think Indian law would be big bucks right now. I mean, there's so many casinos. I don't know if they were when she chose it. But there are now.
[00:29:23] RB: Yeah. Well, when we went to New Mexico, there's tribes all along the I-40 corridor, along that interstate.
[00:29:34] KM: So y'all got married like, “Boom?”
[00:29:37] RB: Yeah. We got married in ‘99. And she graduated law school in ‘99. And we moved to Albuquerque in 2000.
[00:29:48] KM: So your life that we just talked about sounds like an episode from Oprah's masterclass, because she always talks about successful people. And then she tells how they were living out of their car and we're just about at the dead end of their street. And then all of a sudden, they got a big break. You can now there Steve Harvey or somebody. So I just think that telling those stories to listeners is encouraging because you're like, “Oh, yeah, everybody has that in their life.”
You're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy. I'm speaking today with music lover and the talented trumpeter, Mr. Rodney Block. Are you still a pharmaceutical rep?
[00:30:24] RB: I'm still in the business. I have my connections. But this music thing has kind of taken over taken over. It’s s becoming the focus. So yes, so I am. And I probably spend just as much time doing music as –
[00:30:42] KM: Well, you do 100 – Let's see. In 2019, you had 130 gigs. That's three a week. And then how many days a week you work? Four, five days?
[00:30:53] RB: Yeah, usually starting on a Thursday through Saturday. Sometimes there's –
[00:31:00] KM: But when you do the pharmaceutical, how much? Is that 8 to 5, Monday through Friday?
[00:31:02] RB: Yeah, that’s 8 to 5.
[00:31:05] KM: So people always think, “Oh, they're so lucky.” They don't realize how hard successful people work.
[00:31:12] RB: It's a lot of work. And it's tiring. But you definitely want to keep a balance, for sure. Or you get burned out really quickly.
[00:31:22] KM: Do you have children?
[00:31:22] RB: No children.
[00:31:23] KM: Well, that’s good. You don’t have to mess with all that.
[00:31:25] RB: Well, I thought as a man, kids – I said, “I would be such a bad parent.” We have a cat. And cats are pretty easy to take care of.
[00:31:36] KM: You don’t even have a dog.
[00:31:37] RB: No. Don't even have a dog, because someone has to take the dog out every day. And sometimes I'm not getting home to like 10 o'clock, 11 o'clock at night.
[00:31:47] KM: And I bet Jean has to travel.
[00:31:48] RB: She travels. She has a pretty busy schedule with her work. And then she's involved with some nonprofits and some different groups in the city.
[00:32:01] KM: So let's talk about your music and all the people you've played with. Ellis Marsalis, jazz royalty at Mosaic Templars right here in Little Rock, Arkansas. And his son, how do you say his son's last name?
[00:32:10] RB: Delfeayo
[00:32:10] KM: Delfeayo. How did that come to be?
[00:32:13] RB: You know, it was interesting, because they were in town for a concert. And they're doing a concert and Delfeayo says, “Well, we're going to do this tune. But normally, it calls for a trumpet player. But we don't have a trumpet player here.” And immediately the crowd at Mosaic, “Yes, we do. He's here. Rodney Block.”
[00:32:34] KM: Yes, we can.
[00:32:35] RB: Here’s here. And Delfeayo, “You have a trumpet player here?” And everyone says yes. He says, “Well, are you going to get your trumpet?” So my trumpet was in the car. Because I'm a firm believer, a carpenter never goes anywhere without his tools. So I remember putting it in the car. I said, “Well, you never know what may happen.” So I get my trumpet. I warm up really quick. And there's this great moment that I'm on stage with Ellis and Delfeayo Marsalis playing a jazz tune. And that was just amazing. These have been my idols. This is – When Marsalis’ daddy, this is Branford Marsalis, his dad and brother. And it was just great. It was a great experience. And I have video. I have video of it. I think I posted a snippet on Instagram maybe a couple of months back.
[00:33:32] KM: You also played with Doug E. Fresh.
[00:33:36] RB: Man! That's was bananas. That was bananas. So Doug E. Fresh, this was in 2016. He was in Little Rock plan a concert. And I was on the same show. So I played before him. And I just remember just – It was a great night. It was fun. High energy. I didn't even meet Doug E. Fresh that day. I just had a great time hanging out.
So the owner of the club calls me and says, “Hey, Doug E. Fresh really liked your horn player. Can he have your number?” I said, “Sure.” And so I didn't think that much about it, because you meet people and they say, “Oh, we like the way you play,” blah, blah, blah. But I don't put a lot of stock in something coming of it.
So fast forward, this was September of 2016, march of 2017 I get this call. It says, “Hey, Rodney, this is Doug E. Fresh.” And he has that New York accent. And he says, “I've been meaning to call you sooner.”
[00:34:38] KM: Now how much later is this?
[00:34:40] RB: This is like four or five months later.
[00:34:42] KM: Oh, wow! Okay.
[00:34:43] RB: So I'm in the house, and I'm like – I put him on speaker.
[00:34:50] KM: Jean, come here.
[00:34:51] RB: And we talked. And he just says, “Hey, I really liked your horn playing.” He says, “I always wanted to play the trumpet.” Boom. Boom. Boom. He says, “I have some shows. I'm having my manager call you, and we're going to get you some dates so you can come hang out with us.” I'm like, “Great!”
So my first show was Bronx Day in New York City. And there was probably – There’s probably like 8,000 to 10,000 people there. And I'm so nervous. But it just ended up being a lot of fun. And that was kind of like my audition. So he says, “That was good.” He says, “What are you doing later?” I said, “Nothing.” He says, “Well, going to play this club in Manhattan.” So I went to the club. It was a comedy – It was like a 10-year anniversary for a comedy show. And Cedric the Entertainer was there. There was another comedian that's on TV quite a bit. And I'm like – And it was so much fun just rocking out. So that just led to a series of concerts and tour dates for that summer. And I had the best time. That's where we did a show with Bobby Brown, Erykah Badu, Babyface. And I'm backstage. And I'm a music fan first. So, I'm there. You play the show. And I leave. And I'm going out – I'm either backstage or I'm going to the audience. And Doug E. or his DJ said, “Hey, Rod, where are you?” I said, “Man, I'm listening to the concert, because I'm a music fan.” And it was just a lot of fun to be in that space with him. Because Doug E, he was like Prince. When Prince was living, Prince really didn't have an appreciation for like rap music and hip-hop music. But Doug E. Fresh was that guy that he liked.
So if you do some research at Prince concerts, like the hype man was Doug E. Fresh. I mean, he was on tour with Prince. But Doug E. is just like a real person. We did a show in Kansas City and we got rained out because of lightning. So Doug E. calls. All the other artists are hanging in the hotel lobby, like SWV, Guy, Teddy Riley, Keith Sweat. So this is the R&B concert. And these are all legends and R&B. And they're all hanging out. And Doug E., he goes out for a run and comes back and says, “Rod, who's all downstairs?” And I tell him. He says, “What are you doing?” This is like 12 o'clock at night. He says, “Come hang out with me in the room.” So I just bend his ear for hours. I didn't leave his room probably two or three o'clock in the morning just asking questions about the industry, and music, and experiences he's had. And he’s just a real person.
[00:37:44] KM: Is there one performance that sticks out in your mind that you're just like, “I love this one.” So throw a favorite.
[00:37:51] RB: Oh, favorite performance. You know, I don't know if there's a favorite performance, but there's been a lot of moments where I go home and I said, “You know what? That felt really good.”
[00:38:01] KM: Is there any you're embarrassed by?
[00:38:04] RB: Yeah. I remember playing the church function. And it goes back to where's your heart? Where's your attitude? I remember – I'm going to tell you two stories. And I learned a good lesson. I was supposed to play at a church. Sometimes we get a little halty and we get a little prideful, “I’m the musician.” Ego. “I'm the musician. I'm going to go in here and I'm going to do my thing.”
[00:38:36] GM: Never serves you well.
[00:38:36] RB: Yeah. It never serves you. They say pride comes before destruction. Well, I flopped. I flopped in my own. Because church and gospel music, that's my roots. That's where I'm from. And I flopped. I didn't play well at all. When you don't play well, you can't give the people what they need. I mean, it was horrible.
[00:39:02] KM: Why was it so horrible?
[00:39:04] RB: Well, my attitude wasn't in the right place. My attitude was not in the right place.
[00:39:09] KM: So your sound wasn’t right.
[00:39:11] RB: So my sound wasn’t right. After that, I said, “Lord, hey, forgive me.” Being able to play music is an opportunity. It’s a gift. And that matter that you're able to do this and share and give something positive to people. When you make it about yourself, that's not cool.
[00:39:30] KM: That’s everything. Ain’t it?
[00:39:31] RB: That's not cool. And I will tell you, there's another story that’s similar to that. And again, it's a lesson that I learned. When we moved to Albuquerque – Because I was so used to playing in churches and playing it out. There's a huge church in Albuquerque. It’s probably the largest African-American church in Albuquerque. And I met some people there. And I said, “Yeah, I’m a musician in town. I'm so used to playing the church. I'm going to come to your church and I'm going to bring my horror.” And how I set in and play alongside the organist and the drummer.
And the previous week, I was invited to a small church. And I went to the small church. And they knew I was a musician. And they said, “Will you play?” And I said, “No, because the musicians,” in my mind, “were not up to par. They were not stellar musicians. They didn't really play that well.” So I didn't want to play there. That was the previous week.
So the second week, I go to the big church. Expecting them play. I'm going to play fine musicians. Well, the good Lord fixed it. No one – I mean, the people were not friendly. I said, “The good Lord fixed it.” Where I wasn't going to play. And while I was sitting in that pew in that service, the good Lord whispered in my ear, he says, “Remember, when you were at the small church last week? You wouldn't play. But you're here. And I'm making it where you can't play.” You know what I did? The very next week, I went back to that small church. And it was painful. The musicians were still the musicians. But I learned my lesson. It's your attitude. It’s your attitude. It’s your heart. And if your heart and your attitude is not in the right place, you're not going to be successful.
[00:41:25] KM: I love that.
[00:41:27] RB: And I will attribute that my success has a lot to do not so much talent, because there's a lot of great musicians. But hopefully, my heart and my attitude is in a place where I love to play music. I love it. I love it. And I think that's one reason why we get the opportunity.
[00:41:48] KM: The Rodney Block Collective is the name of your current band, right?
[00:41:51] RB: Yeah.
[00:41:51] KM: Talk about the four people in it, or the three people in it. And then your soul sister, Bijoux.
[00:41:57] RB: Oh, yeah. So on keyboard, we have Dre Franklin. On bass guitar, Joel Crutcher. Joel Crutcher is just taking a little sabbatical from the band right now. But we have a young man who's very, very good. His name is D’Shawn Lampkin. And the drummer, he's from Chicago, Jonathan Burks on drums. And our vocalist, Bijoux. She's such an awesome singer.
[00:42:24] KM: I mean she sing Whitney Houston as good as Whitney Houston can.
[00:42:27] RB: She's great. She's great. And Bijoux and I, she called it to my attention this weekend, that we've been working together for about 15 years. So out of this iteration of the band, Bijoux has been with me for the longest.
[00:42:41] KM: She's like your sister.
[00:42:42] RB: Yeah, she’s like my sister.
[00:42:44] KM: Do you ever sing?
[00:42:47] RB: Sometimes. You know, if I'm feeling pretty good – Because I'm not a singer. But, purely, people know that, “Oh, Riley must be in a good space if he's trying to sing.”
[00:42:59] KM: Talk about your talent and your band and how you support – And your supporting roles. Because I think this is endearing. You're all about they're great. They can all be alone by themselves. But, but, but if they get a chance to do something better, you're very supportive.
[00:43:15] RB: Yeah. I think, I mean, are those musicians, or everyone, all the guys that played with me are just stellar. I mean, they're stellar. They could be on tour with someone right now. And they do those things. Andre, who plays keys, he was part of the backing band for Top 10, Top 5 gospel artists that was here back in the New Year, James Fortune. D’Shawn has playing with Tweet, who's an R&B. Another up and coming –
[00:43:52] GM: I loved her album.
[00:43:53] RB: Tweet?
[00:43:53] GM: Mm-hmm.
[00:43:54] RB: Yeah, she's great. She's a great –
[00:43:55] KM: Never heard of her.
[00:43:56] RB: She's a great musician. Where our bass player was in Dallas playing for her just a few weeks ago. The drummer, Jonathan, Guitar Center used to do a drum competition years back. And Jonathan, our Jonathan, made the finals twice. So he's competing against drummers from the entire nation. So you have to win the Little Rock market and then go on to the next phase, and win that phase, and win that phase before. And they only pick the top five.
[00:44:28] KM: Because the Guitar Center is a national company.
[00:44:30] RB: Yes. So all these guys are just phenomenal. And if they get an opportunity to go to a bigger stage and –
[00:44:41] KM: You're proud of them. You’re happy for them.
[00:44:43] RB: Yeah, that's what you do. You know, Miles Davis – I'm not Miles. But Miles Davis, you just think of all the musicians that cycled through his ensembles, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, John Scofield. All these great musicians cycled through Miles’ is band. Cannonball Adderley, the late Cannonball Adderley. John Coltrane, probably being one of the biggest stars that cycled through Miles’ band.
[00:45:16] KM: Herbie Hancock. My gosh!
[00:45:17] RB: Yeah, Herbie is still living. And he's a legend. All these guys cycled through. So these guys are amazing.
[00:45:24] KM: It speaks to that all great leaders or teachers.
[00:45:27] RB: Well, they have the talent.
[00:45:33] KM: And you got to support it.
[00:45:33] RB: And you got to support it.
[00:45:35] KM: I want to tell everybody that you're listening to Up in Your Business with me, Kerry McCoy, and that I'm speaking today with the music lover and talented trumpeter, Mr. Rodney Block from Dumas, Arkansas. We're about to get to the end of the show. So I want to talk about the business of music. You play in other countries, don’t you? Haven't you played in other countries?
[00:45:58] RB: Yes. Yes.
[00:45:58] KM: Ain’t that how you learned that Latin tongue you were just talking about because you were in Mexico?
[00:46:01] RB: Yeah. Well, actually, Brazil.
[00:46:03] KM: Oh, Brazil.
[00:46:05] RB: Brazil, Mas, que Nada, one of my favorite tunes. And they love the bossa novas in Brazil. And it was interesting, being in Brazil, I don't speak Portuguese, but that music was the great communicator.
[00:46:19] KM: Music is a universal language.
[00:46:22] RB: I mean, it was a great communicator. So been to Brazil. Been to the Caribbean, and been to Europe.
[00:46:29] KM: How do those gigs materialize?
[00:46:33] RB: You know, they kind of materialize, people know you. Or one was a wedding gig, and I was working with some musicians out of Memphis. But I had been working with them over the years. So I think part of it is reputation.
[00:46:48] KM: And this lady said, “We're going to get married and Brazil. Y'all come over here.”
[00:46:54] RB: Oh, in the Caribbean. Yeah, in the Caribbean, yeah.
[00:46:55] KM: Oh, how lovely.
[00:46:56] GM: Nice.
[00:46:57] RB: Yeah. The Bahamas, actually. Oh, that was great. There was a guy that was living here, and he was from Brazil, but he will come to our shows. And he says, “Hey, Rodney, would you do a tour in Brazil?” “Sure.” So we were there two weeks? And it was life-changing? It was life changing.
[00:47:17] KM: What did you learn? How was it life-changing?
[00:47:19] RB: You know what? It was life-changing to me, even though you have these natural barriers. You have the barrier of location. You have the barrier of language. But music is
really that great. It’s a perfect language. It's that great connector. And I learned that – In Brazil, we did a church gig. That was probably one of the most spiritual things I ever experienced in my entire life, because we kept playing. And when we would try to stop playing, it’s like the Spirit took over, and we would start again. And people would sing and clap. And then you will try – It would settle down. And then it will start again. So it was life-changing in that moment. It’s just like, “Wow! This is a real thing. This is –”
[00:48:11] KM: How do you calm down after these great concerts? Is your adrenaline just pumping so hard?
[00:48:16] RB: Yeah. My brain goes – After a show or after a performance, and you're in a good space, especially the ones where I feel like, “Man, I think I played pretty well this night.” Your brain is moving and you're kind of replaying it in your head. And it's more about the experience. That's the main thing, is how do you feel when you leave? And that's the main thing. And that's what we want people to – We want people to have a great experience.
[00:48:45] KM: Every time I see, you talk about you – You get up to the mic and you end up talking about – You slip in a few positive words about gratitude and always encouraging words. And your wife even – I had read where your wife says, “What makes you special?” Speaking about you.” Is, “He is kind and genuine. No matter the success, he remains warm and fun.” Where does that come from?
[00:49:10] RB: I think part of it comes from my mom. My mom is the sweetest lady in the world. She's the sweetest lady.
[00:49:21] KM: You said you were going to tell us a story about her.
[00:49:23] RB: Oh, man. So last year, we started doing this series of mini concerts at different schools in the Delta. So my hometown, Dumas, Star City, Monticello, McGee, Lake Village, Hermitage. So there's a program that’s called See Arts, and they bring the arts into the school. So we're part of the roster.
So my mom is so sweet. And if we're playing a concert that's not too far away, my mom would drive. So she drives to Monticello if she knows I'm going to be in Monticello. I see her
walking into the auditorium. She's at Monticello High School, or she's at Star City, or she's at Lake Village. And this last week we were in my hometown, we were in Dumas. And we did two concerts. We were at the high school and the junior high. We're sitting up at the high school at nine o'clock in the morning and my keyboard player, “Hey, Rodney, there's your mom.” She's right there, down front. And then that afternoon she's at the concert again. She really is the sweetest person.
[00:50:30] KM: Can we follow you on Facebook or somewhere to find out what you're – Just Rodney Block on Facebook?
[00:50:34] RB: Yeah, Rodney Block on Facebook. And I usually post where I'm going to be for the week. So they can go to Facebook and go to Instagram @mobettablock.
[00:50:46] KM: Mobettablock.
[00:50:47] RB: Mobettablock.
[00:50:47] KM: Spell that.
[00:50:48] RB: M-O-B-E-T-T-A-B-L-O-C-K. Mobettablock.
[00:50:51] KM: Mobettablock. I like that.
[00:50:54] RB: And that's from the Spike Lee movie, Mo’ Better Blue.
[00:50:56] KM: Oh. Rodney Block, I loved visiting with you.
[00:51:00] RB: Hey, this is great. Thank you, guys, for everything that you do here in the city.
[00:51:05] KM: You’re welcome. Hey, listen, this is your gift for coming on the radio, an Arkansas flag and a US flag for you to put down there in Dumas, Arkansas on your daddy's desk. He’ll probably like that very much. Thank you.
[00:51:16] RB: Oh, yeah. Well, thank you so much.
[00:51:18] KM: Oh, you're welcome. I loved it. In closing, to our listeners, thank you for spending time with us. We hope you've heard or learned something that's been inspiring or enlightening. And that it, whatever it is, will help you up your business, your independence, or your life. I'm Kerry McCoy, and I'll see you next time on Up in Your Business. Until then, be brave and keep it up.
[00:51:38] GM: You've been listening to Up in Your Business with Kerry McCoy. For links to resources you heard discussed on today's show, go to flagandbanner.com, select radio show and choose today's guest. If you'd like to sponsor this show, or any show, email me, Gray, firstname.lastname@example.org. All interviews are recorded and posted the following week. Stay informed of exciting upcoming guests by subscribing to our YouTube channel or podcast wherever you'd like to listen.