Thursday, October 12, 2006

Willie King

Willie King was born in Prairie Point, MS, on March 8, 1943. His grandparents and local sharecroppers raised King and his siblings after his mother and father separated when he was two. Fortunately, King was raised in a music-filled household, as his grandfather was a fan of both gospel and blues music. A young Willie King made his own didley-bo, a one-stringed instrument, by nailing a bailing wire to a tree in his yard. He began playing that and eventually progressed to guitar, when his plantation owner, brought him his first guitar, when he was 13 years old.

He made his professional debut at a house party in Mississippi, playing all night for two dollars. King focused his efforts on learning more tunes and expanded his repertoire to include tunes by Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Lightnin' Hopkins, and John Lee Hooker.

In 1967, King moved to Chicago and spent a year trying to find secure work in that city's south and west sides. He returned to Old Memphis, AL, and began working as a salesman, traveling rural roads, peddling his goods, and talking politics with mostly poor, rural Alabama residents. King got involved in the civil rights movement and with the left-wing Highlander Center.

Throughout the 1970s, King continued to write blues songs inspired by the civil rights activism of performers like Josh White, Harry Belafonte, Joan Baez, the Freedom Singers, and Pete Seeger. King calls his political songs "struggling songs," and in reality, they are political tunes used to educate his audiences. As he explains in his biography accompanying Freedom Creek, "Through the music, I could reach more people, get them to listen." MP3: Living In a New World

Friday, October 06, 2006

Outras músicas - King Crimson

Elephant Talk

J.B. Lenoir

J. B. Lenoir was born on March 1929 in Monticello, Mississippi. J.B. (that was his entire legal handle) fell under the spell of Blind Lemon Jefferson as a wee lad, thanks to his guitar-wielding dad. Lightnin' Hopkins and Arthur Crudup were also cited as early influences. Lenoir spent time in New Orleans where he worked with blues artists Sonny Boy Williamson, and Elmore James. In 1949, Lenoir moved to Chicago and began to perform at local clubs with blues greats Memphis Minnie, Big Maceo, and Muddy Waters.

J. B. Lenoir was known in the 50s for his particular zebra-patterned costumes and his brilliant female-like voice but he was a very influential musician and composer playing electric guitar. His band included Sunnyland Slim, J. T. Brown, and Alfred Wallace. In this period he wrote several blues standards including Don't Dog Your Woman, Mama Talk To Your Daughter, and Don't Touch My Head.

The Civil Rights and Free Speech movements in the U.S. in the 1960s prompted J. B. to record several LPs using acoustic guitar, sometimes accompanied by Willie Dixon on the acoustic bass or drums. His work at this time had an unusually direct political content relative to racism or Vietnam War issues. His "Alabama Blues", for example, included the lines: I never will go back to Alabama, that is not the place for me/You know they killed my sister and my brother/and the whole world let them peoples go down there free.

Despite the angry lyrics of many of his songs, Lenoir sang in a disarmingly sweet, laid-back style, and he was widely known as an exceptionally friendly and gentle person. He befriended and encouraged many young blues artists both black and white. He died on April 29, 1967 from a heart attack related to injuries he suffered in a car accident three weeks earlier. His untimely death is lamented by John Mayall in the song, "Death of J. B. Lenoir". MP3: Mama Talk To Your Daughter

Lightnin' Hopkins

Lightnin' Hopkins was born Sam Hopkins on March 1912 in Centerville TX. Hopkins' brothers John Henry and Joel were also talented bluesmen, but it was Sam who became a star. In 1920, he met the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson at a social function, and even got a chance to play with him. Later, Hopkins served as Jefferson's guide.

In his teens, Hopkins began working with another pre-war great, singer Texas Alexander, who was his cousin. A mid-'30s stretch in Houston's County Prison Farm for the young guitarist interrupted their partnership for a time, but when he was freed, Hopkins hooked back up with the older bluesman.

When Hopkins and Alexander were playing in Houston in 1946, he was discovered by Lola Anne Cullum of Los Angeles' Aladdin Records (although Alexander would not make it out to LA). He settled in Houston in 1952 and gained much attention. Solid recordings followed including his masterpiece song Mojo Hand in 1960. He was an influence on Jimmie Vaughan's work, and, more significantly, on the vocals and blues style of Pigpen, the keyboardist of the Grateful Dead until 1972. He was also an important influence on Townes Van Zandt, the legendary Texas folk/blues songwriter and performer, who often performed Hopkins numbers in his live performances.

Lightnin' Hopkins was a great influence on many local musicians around Houston and Austin, Texas in the 1950's and 1960's. His style was born from spending many hours playing informally without a band as backup. His distinctive style often included playing, in effect, bass, rhythm, lead, percussion, and vocals, all at the same time. His musical phrasing would often include a long low note at the beginning, the rhythm played in the middle range, then the lead in the high range. By playing this quickly - with occasional slaps of the guitar - the effect of bass, rhythm, percussion and lead would be created. He died January 1982. MP3: Gamblers Blues

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Outras músicas - John Coltrane & Stan Getz

Albert Collins

Albert Collins was born on October 1932, in Leona, Texas. Albert Collins was a passionate instrumentalist and singer who became known as the "Master of the Telecaster" for the distinctively pure "icy" tone he produced from his Fender Telecaster electric guitar.

Collins was a distant relative of Lightnin' Hopkins and grew up learning about music and playing guitar. Throughout the 1940s and 1950s, he absorbed the blues sounds and styles from Texas, Mississippi and Chicago. He formed his first band in 1952 and two years later was the headliner at several blues clubs in Houston, Texas. Many of Kansas City's recording studios had closed by the mid 1960s. Unable to record, Collins moved to California in 1967 where he met and played with Canned Heat.

Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Collins toured the United States, Canada, Europe and Japan. He was becoming a popular blues musician and was an influence for Robert Cray, Debbie Davies, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jonny Lang, Susan Tedeschi, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, John Mayer and Frank Zappa.

In July 1993 Collins was diagnosed with lung cancer and he died shortly afterwards, in November. MP3: Too Manny Dirty Dishes

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown was born on September 1924 in Vinton, Louisiana, and was raised in Orange, Texas. Brown was a highly acclaimed multi-instrumentalist, who played an impressive array of instruments such as guitar, fiddle, mandolin, viola as well as harmonica and drums.

His professional musical career began in 1945, playing drums in San Antonio. He was nicknamed "Gatemouth" for his deep voice. He received note, and his fame took off, during a 1947 concert by T-Bone Walker in a Houston nightclub. When Walker became ill, Brown took up his guitar and played "Gatemouth Boogie," to the delight of the audience.

In the 1960s he moved to Nashville to participate in a syndicated R&B television show, and while he was there recorded several country singles. By the late 60s he had decided to leave the music business and he moved to New Mexico and became a deputy sheriff. However, in the early 1970s several countries in Europe had developed an appreciation for American roots music, especially blues, and Brown was a popular and well-respected artist there. In the 1980s, a series of releases of old records revitalized his U.S. career and he toured extensively and internationally.

His guitar style influenced many other blues guitarists such as Albert Collins, Guitar Slim, J.J.Cale, and Johnny "Guitar" Watson. Frank Zappa named Brown as his all-time favorite guitarist. In his last few years, he maintained a full touring schedule, "People can't come to me, so I go to them," he explained. In September 2004, Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer. He died on September 2005. MP3: Okie Dokie Stomp