By Heather Leszczewicz Special to Published Jun 28, 2006 at 5:11 AM
Lyricist and local businessman Rodney Washington has spent 30 years trying to break into the music industry, but he's using his experience to support the Milwaukee music scene. His latest project, producing an 11-track CD by Mr. Joe Jordan and Friends called "Let's Go To That Place," was released at the end of last December.

"The beauty of this project is that we were able to convince some of the best urban artists to be on one project, showcasing everyone's talent: production, singing, mixing, the whole nine," Washington says. "We wanted to showcase the Milwaukee urban sound."

He says that this sound is something that the industry rarely sees coming out of Milwaukee.

"Milwaukee is looked at as a cover band city. We wanted to show the rest of the city, state, country that we can compete with the best of the country and the world."

"The same thing that happened in Seattle with Nirvana, the same thing that happened in Minnesota with Prince, the same thing happening with R. Kelly in Chicago, the same thing going on in these cities could happen here. Support local material. Regardless, even if they don't like the genre, they should support them. We're all Milwaukeeans, spreading Milwaukee to the rest of the state."

Washington says that he refuses to see cover bands because it's a "cheap imitation of the original." He says there are real things happening in the city and that's what the Milwaukee public should support.

"There has never been a better urban project, bar none. It was very well thought out. We had the budget, knew the songs, everything was meticulously laid out," he says. "(The CD) took two years to produce. I'm the executive producer. My partner Nick Dillon and I wrote six of the original songs of that project. I chose the three remakes."

The three remakes -- Jerry Butler's "Just Because I Really Love You," Donny Hathaway's "Valdez in the Country" and Walter Jackson's "Come To Me Tonight," -- were chosen because Washington had the Chicago market in mind.

Jordan, of Milwaukee Bucks house band Streetlife, wrote the album's title track, "Let's Go To That Place." The song "Boptronics" was brought to the project by saxophonist George Braith, who Washington says has played with jazz legends like John Coltrane.

Washington says that he has heard good things about the CD from listeners in Ohio and Florida, but also from places as far as Switzerland and Portugal. One radio station in Fairfield, Conn. has the CD in its 24-hour rotation.

"Everyone on this project is reaching for the same thing: they want material on a CD," he says. "Everybody is trying to reach the same place, reach the same level. It's pretty much their credo."

"Let's Go To That Place" is only Washington's second major project, but his catalog of lyrics reaches over 400 songs.

"I bring things I've learned in my business life to my artist life. I've learned, while trying to break into the business, that the emphasis in 'show business' is business," Washington says.

"Over the last 30-some years, I've spent well over $200, 000 and not had any success. I've spent so much time and money, but I can't quit. I was raised not to quit. If you don't try, you'll never know."

Next, Washington plans to go back into the studio to remix his first project, which he produced 15 years ago.

If you're interested in purchasing the Mr. Joe Jordan and Friends "Let's Go to That Place," check out the Web sites listed below.
Heather Leszczewicz Special to

Originally from Des Plaines, Ill., Heather moved to Milwaukee to earn a B.A. in journalism from Marquette University. With a tongue-twisting last name like Leszczewicz, it's best to go into a career where people don't need to say your name often.

However, she's still sticking to some of her Illinoisan ways (she won't reform when it comes to things like pop, water fountain or ATM), though she's grown to enjoy her time in the Brew City.

Although her journalism career is still budding, Heather has had the chance for some once-in-a-lifetime interviews with celebrities like actor Vince Vaughn and actress Charlize Theron, director Cameron Crowe and singers Ben Kweller and Isaac Hanson of '90s brother boy band Hanson. 

Heather's a self-proclaimed workaholic but loves her entertainment. She's a real television and movie fanatic, book nerd, music junkie, coffee addict and pop culture aficionado.