Aside from being the heart of the country's automotive industry, the birthplace of boxing great Joe Louis, and the home of the current NBA champions, Detroit has spawned three white guys who came to fame as hip-hop artists: Eminem, Kid Rock, and Uncle Kracker. Only one, however, the angry blond himself, remains worthy of the title "hip-hop artist." Unlike Slim Shady, whose lyrical prowess has earned him a list of hit records eight miles long, fellow Motown natives Kid Rock and Uncle Kracker have both moved their acts from the 'hood to the heartland. The two best friends' unlikely transformations -- in which they each ditched hip-hop roots for a sound very much welcome on the country and adult contemporary charts -- proved to be massively successful. And for fans of Uncle Kracker, massively confusing.
Formerly the DJ of Kid Rock's Twisted Brown Trucker Band, Uncle Kracker's path to success has been paved with a complex mix and match of musical influences. Kracker broke away from the turntables in 2000 with his solo debut album, Double Wide. While the lead single, "Follow Me," was a contagiously catchy pop ballad, the rest of the double-platinum album offered a collection of the rap-rock tracks his buddy Rock made famous. In 2002, Kracker dropped the hardcore lyrics of Double Wide for his country-, rock-, and blues-inspired sophomore album, No Stranger to Shame. Propelled by the success of his cover of Dobie Gray's "Drift Away," Shame introduced Uncle Kracker to a new set of fans: the parents who gave their kids the $13 to buy his first album. On 72 and Sunny, the Uncle's latest album, Kracker drifts away even further from his rap beginnings as he leans on the likes of the Beatles and Rod Stewart for inspiration. Catch Uncle Kracker at the Culture Room (3045 N. Federal Hwy., Fort Lauderdale) on Friday, October 1. The show kicks off at 8 p.m. Tickets cost $12.75. Call 954-564-1074, or visit www.ticketmaster.com. -- Tim Hammill
B.B. King is still happy to sing the blues
To see B.B. King in concert is to watch a piece of living history. To hear B.B. King is to listen to the soul of America. King, who turned 79 on September 16, has witnessed three-quarters of a century of this country at its best and worst, and it all comes through in his growling voice and virtuoso guitar playing. The son of Mississippi sharecroppers, King bought his first guitar at age 12 and began singing the blues; he went on to become the man whose name is synonymous with the musical genre. With his trusty guitar, which he lovingly calls Lucille, King has played with just about everyone, including D'Angelo, the Rolling Stones, and U2, and it would be difficult to find a successful guitar player who didn't list him as an influence. King brings his talents -- and Lucille -- to Mizner Park Amphitheater (433 Plaza Real, Boca Raton) for the B.B. King Blues Fest, on Sunday, October 3. Special guests Dr. John, Shamika Copeland, and the Muddy Waters Blues Band get things started at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $49.75 to $65. Call 561-962-4109. -- Mary Damiano
Don't mess with the Joke Man
It's been three years since Jackie "the Joke Man" Martling left The Howard Stern Show, but the ol' potty mouth's been keeping busy enough with movies (Caged, Anne B. Real), his own line of products (Jackie's Talking Joke Machine), and his infamously crude standup act. In case you're not familiar with Martling's material, well... you are -- you just don't know it. You know that guy at work who starts every morning with a dirty joke? Well, now you know the source. Indeed, Martling's live performances take aim at good taste, obliterating any sense of tact in the room. Just check out his quick response to a boisterous audience member: "I bet your dick is so small that your sperm comes out single file." Note to hecklers: Save it for Carrot Top. Why not? What's he gonna do -- throw a stage prop at you? Martling performs tonight and Saturday at the New York Comedy Club (8221 Glades Rd., Boca Raton). Tickets cost $20 to $25. Call 561-470-6887. -- Jason Budjinski
Little Big Man
He may not pass this way again. Legendary funk/jazz saxophonist Pee Wee Ellis, who now lives outside London and from all accounts gives seriously memorable performances, doesn't play many U.S. gigs. But one he's playing this year is in our own backyard (Alligator Alley, 1321 E. Commercial Blvd., Oakland Park, 954-771-2220). Ellis helped give birth to funk when he worked with James Brown in the '60s, writing and arranging classics like "Cold Sweat," "Chicken," and "Lickin' Stick." When Ellis left Brown, he toured as Van Morrison's musical director until the mid-'80s. To hear him play is to understand just how much '60s funk owes to classic jazz and just how much contemporary jazz owes to '60s funk. With the Pee Wee Ellis Band, he's produced records that have hammered the jazz charts. Put on your dancing shoes and get over there. Get details and tickets at www.alligatoralleyflorida.com. -- Gail Shepherd