Volume 7 of the NTAP gives us our first “national” act. Down from Ann Arbor, Michigan, Peter “Madcat” Ruth is one of the best harmonica players around. He studied harmonica with Big Walter Horton in the late 1960’s and toured with jazz legend Dave Brubeck in the 1970’s. By the early 80’s Madcat had gone out on his own, and put on one hell of a show wherever he went.
Madcat appeared at the Table numerous times, as early as 1980. I remember eating there one afternoon in October 1985, and I asked Terry who this guy was; they were making a big deal about him on the Table schedule and on WEFT-FM. I was 18 and just learning about blues and jazz, thanks to both of those places. “He’s great,” Terry simply said. “Just be here.” I was, and brought the recording gear. Madcat was gracious and let me record, and I’m really glad he did. He opened my eyes that night, and I learned how to play a couple tunes on guitar from listening to these recordings that have been a part of my own acoustic sets for many years. Somehow, his LP “Madcat Gone Solo” ended up in heavy rotation on my weekly show on WEFT after this night.
There are three recordings of Madcat at the Table that we’ve found so far: two of my masters and one that just showed up from 1980 in the collection of Jeff Helgesen.
When we started putting together this site, I emailed Madcat to ask if he would allow us to post the tapes we have of him up here. Here’s what he wrote:
I always had a great time at Nature’s Table.
I knew it closed, and I saw Terry one time after it closed, but I did not know that he died… He was a fine fellow.
Yes, I would definitely like to hear any recording of any of the shows I did at Nature’s Table.
And, yes- you have my permission to put these recordings on your website and share them on line.
Peace & Joy,
Peter Madcat Ruth
So, Madcat, thanks a lot for the great music, the permission to post the tapes here, and the great bright yellow t-shirt with the harmonica-playing feline that I wore until it fell apart.
Madcat is still playing tons of music around Ann Arbor. If you like what you hear on these recordings, please be sure to visit his website and support the man.