Friday, September 29, 2006
Robert 'Wolfman' Belfour was born on September 1940, in Holly Springs, MS. Belfour is a little-known but very powerful blues guitarist and singer, he began playing guitar in the late '40s after the death of his father who left the instrument to him. He learned by emulating the sounds of such greats as John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, and his idol, Howlin Wolf, as they were being broadcast on his mother's battery-operated radio. He was also influenced to some extent by his neighbor, Junior Kimbrough.
Belfour's style is deeply-rooted in the sounds of his North Mississippi birthplace. It is a highly rhythmic and riff-oriented type of playing that can also be heard in the work of other players from the region, like Jessie Mae Hemphill, R.L. Burnside, and the late Fred Mcdowell.
Belfour moved to Memphis in 1968 and started playing on Beale street in the early 80s at the suggestion of his wife. He was recorded by musicologist David Evans in 1994 for the German-based Hot Fox label, playing eight songs on a 20-song compilation, The Spirit Lives On, Deep South Country Blues and Spirituals in the 1990s. The record also features selections from veteran barrelhouse piano player and long-time Memphis resident Mose Vinson, who is also a native of Holly Springs.
Although Belfour is virtually unkown in the United States, he makes yearly trips to Europe to perform for enthusiastic and very appreciative crowds who have a deep reverence for authentic country blues, releasing What's Wrong with You in mid 2000. MP3: Breaking My Heart
Thursday, September 28, 2006
Little Milton was born Milton Campbell Jr. on September 1934, in the Mississippi Delta town of Mississippi and raised in Greenville by a farmer and local blues musician. By age twelve he had learned the guitar and was a street musician, chiefly influenced by T-Bone Walker and his blues and rock-n-roll contemporaries. In 1952, while still a teenager playing in local bars, he caught the attention of Ike Turner.
He signed a contract with the Sun label and recorded a number of singles but none of them broke through onto radio or sold well at record stores. After transitioning from several labels without notable success, Milton set up the St. Louis Bobbin Records label, which ultimately scored a distribution deal with Leonard Chess' Chess Records. As a record producer, Milton helped bring artists such as Albert King and popular R&B singer Fontella Bass to fame. Milton went on recording some singles "Blind Man", "We're Gonna Make It" and "Who's Cheating Who?" . All three songs where later to be included in his first album "We Are Gonna Make It".
Throughout the late sixties Milton released a number of moderately successful singles, but didn't release his second album, "Grits Ain't Groceries", until 1969. In the following years Milton struggled to maintain a career. His most recent album, "Think of Me", was released in May of 2005 and he passed away in August of 2005. MP3: Somebody Told Me
Tuesday, September 26, 2006
R. L. Burnside was born Robert Lee Burnside, in Harmontown, Lafayette County, Mississippi, on November, 1926.
Burnside spent most of his life in the rural hill country of northern Mississippi, working as a sharecropper and a commercial fisherman, as well as playing guitar at weekend house parties. He was first inspired to pick up the guitar in his early twenties, after hearing the 1948 John Lee Hooker single "Boogie Chillen". He learned music largely from Mississippi Fred McDowell, who lived nearby. He also cited his cousin-in-law, Muddy Waters, as an influence.
During the 1950s Burnside grew tired of sharecropping and moved to Chicago, Illinois in the hopes of finding better economic opportunities. But things did not turn out as he had hoped. Within the span of one month his father, brother, and uncle were all murdered in the city, a tragedy that Burnside would later draw upon in his work, particularly in his interpretation of Skip James's "Hard Time Killing Floor" and the talking blues "R.L.'s Story".
He often played slide guitar and gave that style a position of prominence in Delta blues. Patton’s songs were filled with lyrics that dealt with more than mere narratives of love gone bad. Patton often injected a personal viewpoint into his music and explored issues like social mobility (Pony Blues), imprisonment (High Sheriff Blues), nature (High Water Blues), and morality (Oh Death) that went far beyond traditional male - female relationship themes.
Patton defined the life of a bluesman. He drank and smoked excessively. He reportedly had a total of eight wives. He was jailed at least once. He traveled extensively, never staying in one place for too long.
Patton’s standing in blues history is immense; no country blues artist, save Blind Lemon Jefferson, exerted more influence on the future of the form or on its succeeding generation of stylists than Patton. Everyone from Son House, Howlin' Wolf, and Robert Johnson to Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, and Elmore James can trace their blues styles back to Patton. MP3: A Spoonfull Blues
When Hubert was about 10, he sneaked out to the local juke joint and stood on a pile of coca cola crates to see Howlin’ Wolf. Drawn in by the music, he fell through the window and landed right on the stage. The club owner tried to throw out the underage boy, but Wolf insisted that Hubert stay and sit on the stage while he played. He later took Hubert home to his mama and asked that he not be punished.
A few years later, Hubert and James Cotton started a band together. Howlin’ Wolf heard about them in West Memphis and soon brought Hubert to Chicago, where he developed a guitar style based on the human touch of flesh on steel, perfectly framing and answering Wolf’s roars and moans, and soloing with pain and humor, trouble and transcendence. MP3: Look What You've Done
Robert Lockwood Jr.
Robert Lockwood, Jr. was born in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas on March 1915. He started playing the organ in his father's church at the age of 8. The famous bluesman Robert Johnson lived with Lockwood's mother for 10 years off and on after his parents' divorce. Lockwood learned from Johnson not only how to play guitar, but timing and stage presence as well.
Settling in Chicago in 1950, Lockwood swiftly gained a reputation as a versatile in-demand studio sideman, recording behind harp genius Little Walter and piano masters Sunnyland Slim and Eddie Boyd.
Monday, September 18, 2006
Muddy Waters was born McKinley Morganfield in the tiny hamlet of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on April 4, 1915. From the age of three, when his mother died he was raised by his maternal grandmother in Clarksdale, a small town one hundred miles to the north.
Growing to manhood there he had been working as a farm laborer for several years when at thirteen he took up the harmonica, the instrument on which many blues performers first master the music's rudiments. Four years later he made the switch to guitar. "You see, I was digging Son House and Robert Johnson." The two were the undisputed masters of the region's characteristic "bottleneck" style of guitar accompaniment.
Within a year, Waters recalled, he had mastered the bottleneck style and the jagged, pulsating rhythms of Delta guitar. By the time a team of Library of Congress field collectors headed by Alan Lomax visited and recorded Waters for the Library's folksong archives in 1941.
When he died quietly in his sleep on April 30, 1983, in his home in suburban Westmont Illinois, America lost one of the greatest, most influential and enduringly important musicians of the century. MP3: Mannish Boy
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
Honeyboy Edwards was born David Edwards in Shaw, Mississippi in 1915. Edwards learned guitar from his father, Henry Edwards, and friends Tommy McClennan (who "Honeyboy" would long play with) and Robert Petway. At the age of 14, Edwards left for the road under guitarist Big Joe Williams.
During the next few years he played on street corners, in river boats, brothels, house parties, and delta juke joints with folks like McClennan, Homesick James, Big Walter Horton, Yank Rachell, Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson, Robert Petway, and Robert Johnson. Edwards was with Johnson the night he died, and his statement that Johnson was poisoned by a jealous husband is considered most credible by historians...
During the 1930s, "Honeyboy" moved to Memphis, where he played regularly with the Memphis Jug Band, Will Shade, Memphis Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Walter Horton, and Little Walter Jacobs. In 1942, Edwards began his recording career, cutting fifteen tracks for Library of Congress' Alan Lomax.
In 1953, Edwards moved to Chicago, building a reputation as one of the city's best slide guitarists. At the age 91 he is still playing. MP3: Bad Whiskey and Cocaine
Bessie Smith was born in 1894 on Chattanooga, Tennesse. She began singing at the age of nine on the street corners and in 1912 joined the Rabbit Foot Minstrels traveling show led by the legendary blues singer Gertrude "Ma" Rainey, to whom Bessie would become a protégé.
After performing in saloons and small theaters throughout the south, Bessie signed with Columbia Records and scored a major hit with the records "Down Hearted Blues" and "Gulf Coast Blues". Her more than 150 recordings that followed, some of which sold 100,000 copies in a week, propelled her to fame and immortality. She toured regularly in 1920s, particularly in vaudeville, often with such jazz greats as Louis Armstrong, Fletcher "Smack" Henderson, James P. Johnson, and Benny Goodman.
As well as singing Bessie, with her tall, upright, and strikingly beautiful features, was effective at acting, appearing in the 1929 motion picture short St. Louis Blues. It was unfortunate that at this time her career fell into a sharp decline. This was mostly the result of changing trends in music, however, Bessie's long-standing alcoholism played its part as as record producers found her very difficult to work with. Bessie Smith was in the process of a comeback at the time of her tragic death at age of forty three. On Sept. 26, 1937, she was critically injured while on her way to a singing engagement, when the car being driven by her boyfriend crashed into a truck on a road in Mississippi. MP3: Lost Your Head Blues
Memphis Minnie was born Lizzie Douglas on june, 1897, in Algiers, Louisiana. It all strated when seven-year-old Lizzie Douglas was given a guitar. This was her tool of choice for the next 40 years as she blazed a Blues trail as one of the first popular female Blues recording artists of the 20th century.
Taking the name Memphis Minnie during her time in the city in the 1920's, she played in jug bands, sang Gospel, and played Blues and on Beale Street. She would start her recording career here with the hit Bumble Bee, a song that went on to become a Chicago Blues standard. She collaborated and lived with guitarist Kansas Joe McCoy at this time, and after they parted, she would have a guitarist/partner by her side for the rest of her career.
Memphis Minnie's guitar abilities were a rare for her time. Most women performers then were in Vaudeville, and were just vocalists, Minnie was the Bonnie Raitt of her time, great voice, great guitar, great songs, and and very popular. She was also one of the first to pick up an electric guitar, ushering in the ere that spawned Rock & Roll. Minnie wrote, or co-wrote many of her hits with her three musician husbands, McCoy, Ernest "Little Son Joe" Lawlars, and Casey Bill Weldon.
A link between the Country Blues of the 1920's and '30's and the post-war electric Blues, Lizzie created her own musical world that has gone on to become a common denominator in most of today's music. Minnie suffered a career-ending stroke in 1961 and was confined to nursing homes back home in Memphis until her death in 1973. MP3: When The Levee Breaks - Where Is My Good Man At ?
Son House was born Eddie James House Jr., on March 21, 1902, in Riverton, MS. By the age of 15, he was preaching the gospel in various Baptist churches as the family seemingly wandered from one plantation to the next. He didn't even bother picking up a guitar until he turned 25; to quote House, "I didn't like no guitar when I first heard it; oh gee, I couldn't stand a guy playin' a guitar. I didn't like none of it." But Son hated plantation labor even more and had developed a taste for corn whiskey. After drunkenly launching into a blues at a house frolic in Lyon, one night and picking up some coin for doing it, the die seemed to be cast; Son House may have been a preacher, but he was part of the blues world now.
If the romantic notion that the blues life is said to be a life full of trouble is true, then Son found a barrel of it one night at another house frolic in Lyon. He shot a man dead that night and was immediately sentenced to imprisonment at Parchman Farm. He ended up only serving two years of his sentence, with his parents both lobbying hard for his release, claiming self defense.
After hitchhiking and hoboing the rails, he ran into the legendary Charley Patton. He followed Patton up to Grafton, and recorded a handful of sides for the Paramount label. It was those recordings that led Alan Lomax to his door in 1941 to record him for the Library of Congress. After the Lomax recordings, he just as quickly disappeared, moving to Rochester. When folk blues researchers finally found him in 1964, he was cheerfully exclaiming that he hadn't touched a guitar in years.
He fell into ill health by the early '70s; what was later diagnosed as both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease first affected his memory and his ability to recall songs onstage and later, his hands, which shook so bad he finally had to give up the guitar and eventually live performing altogether by 1976, passing away on October 19, 1988. MP3: John The Revelator - My Black Mama
Blind Willie McTell
Born William Samuel McTell in 1901, in Thomson, Georgia, Blind Willie lost his sight in late childhood, yet earned the status as one of the most accomplished guitarists and lyrical storytellers in Blues history. There was some confusion over his surname; some sources claimed his real name was "McTear" but a teacher at a blind school he attended inadvertently changed it to "McTell", misunderstanding Willie's diction. However, in a 1977 interview, his wife Kate McTell said that somebody on his father's side of the family disguised their name because they were "big whiskey still people."
Blind Willie McTell learned the guitar from his mother during his early teens. Through his teenage years and early twenties he played in various touring carnivals and shows, including the John Roberts Plantation Show. During this time he also attended various schools for the blind and became an accomplished musical theorist, able to both read and write music in Braille.
While few of his recordings ever earned mainstream popularity, his influence on the modern music and art scene is widely known. His songs (Statesboro Blues, Broke Down Engine Blues, etc...) have been recorded by famous artists such as the Allman Brothers, Taj Mahal and others.
He left the music scene for the pulpit in later life and the details of Blind Willie's death in 1959, remain nebulous; nonetheless, his legacy grows exponentially each year. MP3: Statesboro Blues
Bo Carter was born Armenter Chatmon on March 21, 1893 in Bolton, Mississippi. Bo had an unequaled capacity for creating sexual metaphors in his songs, specializing in such ribald imagery as "Banana in Your Fruit Basket," "Pin in Your Cushion," and "Your Biscuits Are Big Enough for Me." One of the most popular bluesmen of the '30s, he recorded enough material for several reissue albums, and he was quite an original guitar picker.He was a master of the traditional delta blues and his steel string guitar provided him with an instantly recognizable sound.
Carter's facility extended beyond the risqué business to more serious blues themes, and he was also the first to record the standard "Corrine Corrina" . Bo and his brothers Lonnie and Sam Chatmon also recorded as members of the Mississippi Sheiks with singer/guitarist Walter Vinson. MP3: Corrine Corrina
Ma Rainey was born Gertrude Pridgett in Columbus, Georgia, on April 26, 1886, to minstrel troupers. At the age of 14, Rainey worked at the Springer Opera House in 1900, performing as a singer and dancer in the local talent show, "A Bunch of Blackberries". On 1904, Pridgett married comedy songster William "Pa" Rainey. Billed as "Ma" and "Pa" Rainey, the couple toured Southern tent shows and cabarets. Though she did not hear blues in Columbus, Rainey's extensive travels had, by 1905, brought her into contact with authentic country blues, which she worked into her song repertoire.
While performing with the Moses Stokes troupe in 1912, the Raineys were introduced to the show's newly recruited dancer, Bessie Smith. Eight years Smith's senior, Rainey quickly befriended the young performer. Despite earlier historical accounts crediting Rainey as Smith's vocal coach, it has been generally agreed by modern scholars that Rainey played less of a role in the shaping of Smith's singing style.
Separated from her husband in 1916, Rainey subsequently toured with her own band, Madam Gertrude Ma Rainey and her Georgia Smart Sets. With the help of Mayo "Ink" Williams, Rainey first recorded for the Paramount label in 1923 (three years after the first blues side recorded by Mamie Smith). Already a popular singer in the Southern theater circuit, Rainey entered the recording industry as an experienced and stylistically mature talent.
By the early 1930s, Rainey still performed, often resorting to playing tent shows. Following the death of her mother and sister, Rainey retired from the music business in 1935 and settled in Columbus. Rainey died in Rome, Georgia on December 22, 1939. MP3: Slave to the Blues
No blues artist remains so cloaked in mystery as Blind Blake. Likely born in the early 1890's, Arthur Blake was from Jacksonville, Florida. However, a Paramount record ad in the Chicago Defender said he was from Tampa, and some researchers have speculated that Blake may have been from, or spent considerable time in, the South Georgia Sea Islands. Even his name is an uncertainty: his name might have been Arthur Phelps, though the copyright submissions for his songs use some variation on Blind Arthur Blake. Blake travelled widely before and after his first record was made. He spent a good amount of time in Atlanta in the early '20s. Kate McTell said that her husband, Blind Willie McTell, brought Blake to the city from Florida.
What we do have is one Paramount publicity photo, a few scattered recollections, and his songs. The eighty or so sides that Blake cut are incredible in their diversity. They range from out-and-out Piedmont blues to dazzling instrumentals to ragtime to duets with Gus Cannon to skiffle-jazz.
Blake shared some interesting similarities to his more famous labelmates, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Charlie Patton. Each was the first star of his respective blues genre, at least when we look back now; each was recorded extensively by Paramount at a time when few bluesmen were asked to record more than ten songs; each died in the thirties, Jefferson and Blake under mysterious circumstances; each had his picture taken once; and all three had more than a little songster in him, Blake especially so. MP3: Diddie Wa Diddie
In early 1931 James auditioned for the Jackson, Mississippi record-shop owner and talent scout H. C. Speir. On the strength of this audition, Skip James traveled to Grafton, Wisconsin to record for Paramount. These recordings are among the most famous ever made in the blues. "I'm So Glad" was derived from a 1927 song by Art Sizemore and George A. Little entitled "So Tired," which had been recorded by both Gene Austin and, as "I'm Tired of Livin' All Alone," by Lonnie Johnson. The other pieces recorded at Grafton, such as "Devil Got My Woman," "Special Rider Blues," and "22-20," were of similarly high quality both vocally and instrumentally, and are the recordings upon which James' subsequent reputation lay.
For the next thirty years James recorded nothing, and drifted in and out of music. He was virtually unknown to listeners until about 1960. In 1964 blues enthusiasts John Fahey, Bill Barth and Harry Vestine found him in Tunica, Mississippi. According to Calt, the "rediscovery" of both Skip James and of Son House at virtually the same moment was the start of the "blues revival" in America. In July 1964 James, along with other blues performers, appeared at the Newport Folk Festival. he died in 1969. MP3: Illinois Blues
Monday, September 11, 2006
John Lee Hooker
John Lee Hooker was born on August 22, 1917, to a sharecropping family in Clarksdale, Mississippi. His stepfather, Will Moore, taught him how to play guitar, and as a young man Hooker encountered such blues legends as Charley Patton, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Blind Blake along the way. His style of guitar playing is known as two-finger picking or as Deltalick.
John Lee Hooker is a giant of the blues and the father of the boogie. Beginning in 1948 with his first single, "Boogie Chillen", he introduced the world to the persistent, chugging rhythm of boogie music, a form of country blues Hooker learned back home in Mississippi. His foot-stomping boogie was adapted and amplified in the sixties and seventies by a great number of rock and roll artists, including the Rolling Stones, the Yardbirds, Canned Heat, John Mayall, Ten Years After, ZZ Top and George Thorogood. Beyond his ability to lock into a hypnotic boogie groove, Hooker is renowned for the gruff emotionality of his voice and the stark intensity of his guitar playing. Over the decades, he has proven to be a survivor. When interest in electric blues began cooling off, Hooker found a niche for himself on the coffeehouse circuit during the acoustic folk-music boom of the late fifties and early sixties. MP3: Mustang Sally Bought a GTO
BB King was born Riley B. King on September 16, 1925 in (Itta Bena)Indianola, Mississippi. King spent much of his childhood sharing time living with his mother and his grandmother and working as a sharecropper and hired hand.
At an early age, King developed a love for blues guitarists like T-Bone Walker and Lonnie Johnson and jazz artists like Charlie Christian and Django Reinhardt. Soon King was cultivating his own musical skills singing Gospel music in church. In the winter of 1949, King played at a dance hall in Twist, Arkansas. During the performance, two men began to fight, knocking over a burning barrel and sending burning fuel across the floor. This triggered an evacuation. Once outside, King realized that he had left his guitar inside the burning building. He entered the blaze to retrieve his guitar, a Gibson acoustic. The next day, King discovered that the two men were fighting over a woman named Lucille, so he named that first guitar Lucille, as well as every one he owned since that near-fatal experience.
King began broadcasting his music live on Memphis radio station WDIA, he used the name "The Pepticon Boy" which later became the "Beale Street Blues Boy". The name was then shortened to just Blues Boy and, eventually, simply "B.B." .
In the 1950s, King became one of the most important names in R&B music, collecting an impressive list of hits under his belt that included songs like "You Know I Love You", "Woke Up This Morning", "Please Love Me", "When My Heart Beats like a Hammer", "Whole Lotta' Love" , "Every Day I Have the Blues", "Sneakin' Around" ,"Ten Long Years", "Bad Luck", "Sweet Little Angel", "On My Word of Honor" and "Please Accept My Love".
King first found success outside of the blues market with the 1969 remake of the Roy Hawkins tune, "The Thrill Is Gone" , which became a hit on both pop and R&B charts, which was rare for an R&B artist. He gained further rock visibility as an opening act on The Rolling Stones much-ballyhooed 1969 American Tour. King's mainstream success continued throughout the 1970s with songs like "To Know You Is to Love You" and "I Like to Live the Love". From 1951 to 1985, King appeared on Billboard's R&B charts an amazing 74 times. MP3: The Thrill is gone
Wednesday, September 06, 2006
Otis Rush was born on April, 1934 in Philadelphia, Mississippi. Rush moved to Chicago in 1948, met Muddy Waters, and knew instantly what he wanted to do with the rest of his life. The omnipresent Willie Dixon caught Rush's act and signed him to Cobra Records in 1956.
His 1956-58 Cobra legacy is a magnificent one, distinguished by the Dixon-produced minor-key masterpieces "Double Trouble" and "My Love Will Never Die", the nails-tough "Three Times a Fool" and "Keep on Loving Me Baby", and the rhumba-rocking classic "All Your Love (I Miss Loving)".
An uneven but worthwhile 1975 set for Delmark, Cold Day in Hell, and a host of solid live albums that mostly sound very similar kept Rush's gilt-edged name in the marketplace to some extent during the 1970s and '80s, a troubling period for the legendary southpaw. In 1986, he walked out on an expensive session for Rooster Blues (Louis Myers, Lucky Peterson, and Casey Jones were among the assembled sidemen), complaining that his amplifier didn't sound right and thereby scuttling the entire project.
Finally, in 1994, the career of this Chicago blues legend began traveling in the right direction. Ain't Enough Comin' In, his first studio album in 16 years, was released and ended up topping many blues critics' year-end lists. Once again, a series of personal problems threatened to end Rush's long-overdue return to national prominence before it got off the ground. But he's been in top-notch form in recent years, fronting a tight band that's entirely sympathetic to the guitarist's sizzling approach. It still may not be too late for Otis Rush to assume his rightful throne as Chicago's blues king. MP3: You Reap What You Saw Video: All Your Love
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Buddy Guy was born George Guy on july 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana. Buddy is known as an inspiration to Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and other 1960s blues and rock legends, Guy is considered as an important exponent of Chicago blues made famous by Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf.
In the early 1950s he began performing with bands in Baton Rouge. Soon after moving to Chicago in 1957, Guy fell under the influence of "Mighty" Muddy Waters. In 1958 a competition with West Side guitarists Magic Sam and Otis Rush gave him a record contract. Guy’s career was held back by both conservative business choices made by his early record company and by Chess records that used him mainly as a session guitarist to back Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Koko Taylor.
Guy's reputation spread to Great Britain with the American Folk Blues Festival in the 1960s, where young rockers like Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and the Rolling Stones were seeking out the roots of American blues. His first trip to the UK was in February 1965, during which Rod Stewart acted as his valet and Guy shared a bill with the Yardbirds. Buddy Guy was a leading star at the 1969 Supershow at Linoleum Factory, England that also included Eric Clapton, Led Zeppelin, Jack Bruce, Stephen Stills, Buddy Miles, Glen Campbell, Roland Kirk, and Jon Hiseman.
Guy's career finally took off during the blues revival period of the late 1980s and early 1990s. It was sparked by Eric Clapton's request that Guy be part of the '24 nights' all-star blues guitar lineup at London's Royal Albert Hall and Guy's subsequent signing with Silvertone Records. MP3: Mustang Sally
Monday, September 04, 2006
Mississippi John Hurt
He returned to Mississippi, and stayed for 35 years where he herded cows and plucked away perhaps only to them and the passerbies at the Valley Store.
In 1963 two 'folkies' Tom Hoskins and Mike Stewart, got a hold of a tape from a record collector. On it was a recording of MJ Hurt's "Avalon Blues" which had been recorded in 1928. In the the song John sang "Avalon's my home town, always on my mind...".
Hoskins and Stewart did the math, realized the man singing on the recording could still be alive, and took out a map. Unfortunately there was no town of "Avalon" listed in Mississippi. Avalon as it happened, still did exist, in the form of a store owned by a family called the Stinsons. When they drove up, there were some men hanging out on the store's front porch. Hoskins asked them if they'd ever heard of Mississippi John Hurt? One of the men said he could be found "a mile down that road, third mailbox up the hill. Can't miss it."
Down the road they went and turned in at the mailbox. As they got out of the car, a tractor came into view, a little man riding it. "Can I help you?" he asked in a soft voice. "John Hurt?" they asked, "Yes" he answered. And at that moment, the rediscovery of a legend had occured, 35 years after his original recordings and at the age of 71.
Hurt was brought up to Washington where he recorded a couple albums worth of material. And when the media caught wind of the miraculous rediscovery, Hurt was immediately booked for the Newport Folk Festival of 1963, where his comeback was an instant success.
John Hurt's success, although sweet, turned out to be relatively short. He died in his home town of Avalon on Nov 2nd 1966. MP3: Frankie
Sunday, September 03, 2006
T- Bone Walker
T-Bone Walker was born Aaron Thibeaux Walker on may 1906 in Linden, Cass County, of Cherokee Indian descent. Aaron Thibeault Walker was a product of the primordial Dallas blues scene. His stepfather, Marco Washington, stroked the bass fiddle with the Dallas String Band, and T-Bone followed his stepdad's example by learning the rudiments of every stringed instrument he could lay his talented hands on. One notable visitor to the band's jam sessions was the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson. During the early '20s, Walker led the sightless guitarist from bar to bar as the older man played for tips.
Walker received some early tuition from Chuck Richardson in Oklahoma City, learning his trade alongside another great player, the jazz guitarist Charlie Christian. During the 30s, he started to develop his own musical personality and veered towards big band jazz sophistication and away from the rural blues of his formative years. 1942 saw his first venture into the studio, recording amongst others two soon to be standards 'I Got A Break Baby' and 'Mean Old World'.
In the mid 40s T-Bone went back to the West Coast and recorded what many pundits consider are some of his best sides. He had tremendous support in these sessions from predominantly jazz players playing in a blues setting. The recordings showcased his ability to play anything, from straight blues 'Stormy Monday', shuffles 'T-Bone Shuffle', jives 'Hypin' Woman' and jump blues 'T-Bone Jumps Again'.
Good Feelin', a 1970 release, won a Grammy for the guitarist, though it doesn't rank with his best efforts. A five-song appearance on a 1973 set, Very Rare, was also a disappointment. Persistent stomach woes and a 1974 stroke slowed Walker's career to a crawl, and he died in 1975. MP3: They Call It Stormy Monday
Huddie William Ledbetter also known as Leadbelly, was born on January 1885 in the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana. Huddie and his parents moved to Leigh, Texas when he was five and it was there that he became interested in music, encouraged by his uncle Terrell who bought Huddie his first musical instrument, an accordion.
It was some years later when Huddie picked up the guitar but by the age of 21 he had left home to wander around Texas and Louisiana trying to make his living as a musician. Over the next ten years Huddie wandered throughout the southwest eking out an existence by playing guitar when he could and working as a laborer when he had to.
In 1916 Huddie was in jail in Texas on assault charges when he escaped. He spent the next two years under the alias of Walter Boyd. But then after he killed a man in a fight he was convicted of murder and sentenced to thirty years of hard labor at Huntsville, Texas' Shaw State Prison Farm. After seven years he was released after begging pardon from the governor with a song.
But in 1930 he was arrested, tried, and convicted of attempted homicide. It was in the Louisiana State Penitentiary (Angola), in July 1933 that Huddie met folklorist John Lomax and his son Alan who were touring the south for the Library of Congress collecting unwritten ballads and folk songs using newly available recording technology. The Lomaxes had discovered that Southern prisons were among the best places to collect work songs, ballads, and spirituals but Leadbelly, as he now called himself, was a particular find.
Over the next few days the Lomaxes recorded hundreds of songs. When they returned in the summer of 1934 for more recordings Leadbelly told them of his pardon in Texas. As Alan Lomax tells it, "We agreed to make a record of his petition on the other side of one of his favorite ballads, 'Goodnight Irene'. I took the record to Governor Allen on July 1. On August 1 Leadbelly got his pardon. On September 1 I was sitting in a hotel in Texas when I felt a tap on my shoulder. I looked up and there was Leadbelly with his guitar, his knife, and a sugar bag packed with all his earthly belongings. He said, 'Boss, you got me out of jail and now I've come to be your man'.
In 1935 Lomax took Leadbelly North where he became a sensation. Leadbelly remained Leadbelly. After hearing Cab Calloway sing in Harlem he announced that he could "beat that man singin' every time". Over the next 9 years Leadbelly's fame and success continued to increase until he fell ill while on a European Tour. He died on December 1949. MP3: Where Did You Sleep Last Night?
Bukka White was born Booker T. Washington White, in Houston, Mississippi, on November 1909. At age nine, Bukka received his first guitar and began playing immediately after. Along with the influences of his family (his father was a railroad worker and part-time musician), Bukka's musical career was influenced by blues artists such as George "Bullet" Williams and Charley Patton. As a teenager Bukka worked as a field hand and played at juke joints and parties. In 1920, he moved to St. Louis to play in the clubs. At age sixteen, Bukka married Jesse Bea and moved back to Houston.
White's musical breakthrough came around 1930 when Ralph Lembo, an agent for the Victor recording label, sent White to record some of his songs in Memphis. In 1934, White married Susie Simpson (his first wife had passed in 1928), the niece of blues artist George "Bullet" Williams.
In 1937, White was imprisoned for assault at Parchman Farm. However, this did not stop White from making music. In September of 1937, White recorded one of his hit songs, "Shake 'em on Down". During the1950's his musical career was fairly dormant and Bukka became a common laborer. Fortunately, White was "re-discovered" in 1963. In 1967, he toured Europe with the American Folk Blues Festival, in 1973, played with his first cousin, B.B. King, at the New Orleans Heritage Festival, and in that same year, White was nominated for a Grammy award. He passed away in 1977 at the nage 65. MP3: Shake 'em On Down
Peetie Wheatstraw was born William Bunch on may 1902 in Ripley, TN. Nothing is known of the early life of William Bunch, other than the birth place and the fact that he was raised in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. In 1929, he arrived in East St. Louis, already using the name Peetie Wheatstraw. Allegedly, as Wheatstraw, Bunch was also spreading the rumor that he had been to the "crossroads" and had sold his soul to the Prince of Darkness in exchange for success as a musician.
In the only known photograph of Peetie Wheatstraw, he is shown holding a guitar; curious, as he was primarily a piano player, although he may have played his own guitar on a couple of recording dates. On his records Wheatstraw usually required a guitarist to play with him, and had many excellent ones to choose from, including Kokomo Arnold, Lonnie Johnson, Charlie Jordan, Charlie McCoy, and Teddy Bunn, in addition to pianist Champion Jack Dupree. On some of his last dates, Peetie Wheatstraw recorded within a jazz inspired framework, collaborating with Lil Armstrong and trumpeter Jonah Jones.
His true strength was not so much in terms of instrumental ability as it was his singing and the varied lyrical content of his songs, which dealt with topics such as loose women, alcohol, supernaturalism, gambling, suicide and murder. Robert Johnson cribbed so many lyrical ideas from the work of Peetie Wheatstraw that it's not even worth going into specific examples of that derivation here.
For someone cultivating the legend of a deal with the devil, Wheatstraw's death was eerily appropriate - celebrating his 39th birthday, Wheatstraw and some friends decided to drive to the local market to pick up some liquor, and on their way out they tried to beat a railroad train that was coming down the tracks at full speed. Needless to say, they didn't make it. Mp3: Police Station Blues.
Friday, September 01, 2006
Bill Broonzy was born William Lee Conley Broonzy in Scott County, Mississippi, on June 26, 1883. Broonzy received only minimal schooling. Having to quit school to help his sharecropping family around the house, he learned how to play the fiddle from his uncle Jerry Belcher. At the age of fourteen, he started working for tips at country dances, picnics, and played for the church. During the years 1912-1917, he worked part time as a preacher and violinist.
In 1924, Broonzy moved to Chicago to start his music career. Under the guidance of Papa Charlie Jackson, Broonzy learned how to play the guitar. In the 1930’s Broonzy became known as one of the major artist on the Chicago Blues scene. During this time he performed with other top blues artist in Chicago - Memphis Minnie, Tampa Red, Jazz Gillum, Lonnie Johnson, and John Lee “Sonny Boy” Williamson.
In 1938, Broonzy performed at John Hammond’s famous Spiritual and Swing concert at Carnegie Hall in New York City. This was the first time that he had ever performed in front of a white audience. After the concert, people start calling him “Big Bill” Broonzy.
After the arrival of artists like Muddy Waters and the playing of the electric guitar, Broonzy's brand of blues was pushed aside. Rather than retire, he changed his style of music to folk blues. In 1957, William Lee Conley Broonzy was diagnosed with throat cancer. He continued to perform until he died on August 1958. MP3: Good Liquor Gonna Carry me Down