The presidential faces on the real Mount Rushmore were chosen because they all played important roles in American history. Our first Mount Bluesmore will use the same approach.......four faces that played an important role in the development of the blues as it is today. While you read about who I picked and why, take the time to figure out who your four faces would be on this particular version of Mount Bluesmore and why. In the future, we will look at other versions of the monument, if you'd like. It could end up being a fun topic with lots of discussion.
There you have it.....my Significant Figures of the Blues Mount Rushmore. Now, of course, your versions could vary quite a bit from mine, and that's part of what makes the blues so special. No two people come to the Blues from the same direction, but once here, we almost all end up headed in the same direction, listening to many of the same artists.
Friday Blues Fix would love to hear who your residents of Mount Bluesmore would be.
Friday, September 23, 2011
Slim wisely sought out his own performing style at an early age, bringing an air of sophistication to his playing, more of an urban sound. His warm, mannered vocals were also unique at the time, and soon most piano players were doing their best to emulate his sound. Though he did record as a solo artist for Okeh in the late 30's, Slim also served as accompanist for guitarist Big Bill Broonzy for most of the early 40's, before striking out on his own for good in the middle of the decade and forming his own band, the House Rockers.
Friday, September 16, 2011
on this blog, Walker was an innovator of his own, taking the electrification of the guitar, and expanding the possibilities and potential of the instrument to places previously unimagined, and influencing a boatload of guitarists (B. B. King, Albert King, Jimi Hendrix, SRV, and Eric Clapton) in the process. As you can see from the video, Walker held his guitar at nearly a 90 degree angle from his body when he played.....something you probably wouldn't really understand unless you'd seen him do it. While there are several videos of Walker on YouTube, this one, also from the festival, is one of my favorites because you really get the opportunity to see Walker play guitar as only he did it. If you've followed FBF for awhile, you've seen this one, but it's good enough to take a second look.
here. Here's Rush, introduced by Roosevelt Sykes, playing "I Can't Quit You Baby."
A couple more before we go......Skip James has been covered pretty extensively here at FBF. He also ventured overseas to the festival in the mid 60's. James' version of the blues is the most stark and haunting you will hear. This is a quick (under two minutes) version of "Crow Jane." This is from the third volume of the American Folk Blues series, which features more acoustic artists than the previous two volumes.
Here's Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller) playing "Nine Below Zero," backed by quite a band, which includes the great Otis Spann on piano, Matt "Guitar" Murphy on guitar, Willie Dixon manning the bass, and Billy Stepney on drums. The band is introduced by Memphis Slim, piano man extraordinaire, one of the musicians who ended up relocating in France. He enjoyed quite a bit of success, and remained there for the rest of his life with the occasional trip back to the states.
The first volume of the series opens with this downhome track featuring Shakey Jake Harris singing "Call Me When You Need Me." Harris played harmonica and was part of the Chicago Blues scene in the 50's and 60's. He was also Magic Sam's uncle and appeared on several of Sam's early recordings, with Sam returning the favor by appearing on several of Shakey Jake's singles. You're familiar with the fellow backing Harris on guitar. He sure makes it look easy, doesn't he?
four DVDs available right now, capturing the best of the festival throughout the 60's, featuring these artists and many, many others, like Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Earl Hooker, John Lee Hooker, Memphis Slim, Bukka White, Koko Taylor, Roosevelt Sykes, Big Joe Turner, and many others. If you like the blues at all, you will absolutely have to have this set. There are also some out-of-print CDs with festival performances floating around out there, too.
The American Folk Blues Festival continued on a nearly annual basis from 1962 until 1972. After eight years, it resumed in 1980 and continued until l985. There's also some YouTube footage of the 1982 festival (which I don't think is out on DVD yet). As we close for the week, enjoy this clip of the Sons of Blues playing Little Walter's "Juke." The SOB.'s were one of the newer bands at the time, and featured Billy Branch on harmonica and the awesome Lurrie Bell on guitar. Now the band is booked as Billy Branch and the Sons of Blues. Bell and later guitarist Carl Weathersby have long since departed. A different version of the group (only drummer Moses Rutues is still with the group) continues to back Branch on the road.
One more thing before we go......if you're in the Phoenix area this weekend and itching to hear some great blues, harmonica player, producer, and radio show host (KJZZ's Those Lowdown Blues) Bob Corritore's club, The Rhythm Room, is celebrating its 20th Anniversary with an incredible weekend of blues. Just check out the list of prestigious guests that will be helping Bob celebrate for three solid days.
Friday, September 9, 2011
Bobby Womack, from David Letterman, roaring through "It's All Over Now." I can remember seeing this one when it first aired.
Stevie Ray Vaughan on the Tonight Show, circa 1990.
Brother Ray, from 1987 on the Tonight Show, playing "Mississippi Mud."
B. B. King and Buddy Guy, from 1993, around the time of King's Blues Summit release.
Friday, September 2, 2011
The greatest gift that Honeyboy Edwards gave to the blues over his lifetime was to give fans (via countless interviews in magazines, books, and radio) a more vivid picture of what it was like during the blues' humble beginnings, before the days of electric instruments, Sun Records, Chess, VeeJay, Excello, and the rest, when musicians risked life and limb in the deep south moving from town to town to earn a living playing on the streets, in local joints, at fish fries, and at house parties....when musicians hoboed from town to town, riding the rails from the south to the north, looking for a way to get ahead, staying one step ahead of the law, or an angry woman, or a jealous husband. For most of his listeners, Honeyboy's recollections were about as close as they would ever get to actually "living the blues." As much as I enjoyed listening to Edwards perform over the years, it was even more interesting to hear about his life. He had an incredible memory and could recall things from seventy years ago like they just happened. That will be the biggest loss of all in losing Honeyboy Edwards.....that amazing memory and his wonderful stories.
More than anything you can say about Honeyboy Edwards, that last sentence says it best......He gave the people what they wanted. He wasn't a pioneer, a ground-breaking artist, a major innovator. Instead, he was a guy who loved to play the blues and who filled more gaps in the music's history and lore than anyone else. We owe a huge debt of gratitude to him (and to Michael Frank, who provided invaluable support to Edwards over the past 40 years, recording him for Earwig Records, serving as his manager, backing him on harmonica on tour, etc...) for what he gave us, on record and with countless interviews, stories, and even his own autobiography (absolutely essential reading for ANY blues fan). His was a life well-lived and we should be glad that he shared a part of it with us.
A few of my favorite Honeyboy Edwards recordings.......
Delta Bluesman (Earwig): a wonderful combination of the old and the new. The "old" are Edwards' 1942 Library of Congress recordings. The new are freshly (early 90's) recorded blues tracks that show how strong a performer Edwards was, even in his late 70's. Though it's nice to have the Library of Congress songs, the modern tracks are really special.
Crawling Kingsnake (Testament): Recordings made by Pete Welding in the mid to late 70's. Edwards was at the peak of his powers at this time. Too bad, no one was taking notice. These recordings sat dormant for years (similar to his recordings for Chess, which weren't issued until being collected in an anthology set in the early 70's) before Testament reissued it in the late 90's.
Old Friends (Earwig): The second-ever release from Earwig Records, this recording features Edwards with a quartet of old-school Chicago musicians - Sunnyland Slim, Kansas City Red, Big Walter Horton, and Floyd Jones. Each took turns in the spotlight, and Edwards' material really stands out, but all of it is worth hearing. It sounds like a bunch of buddies getting together and just making music. Rough and ragged stuff....in other words, it's nearly perfect!! One of my all-time favorite recordings.