Friday, February 27, 2015

Just the Blues...

Hope it's been drier and cooler where you live than where we are.  It's pretty cold and damp in Far East Mississippi these days, with lots of snow and freezing rain in certain areas.  It was actually near 70 degrees four days ago and we were under a burn ban!  We wear shorts and flip flops one day and a big sweater the next day around here during the winter.  So, while we sit here and wait for the weather to change yet again, FBF offers up a well-balanced set of blues for you today….from a few people you may or may not be familiar with.  Let's check them out..... 

First up today is Roy Gaines.  Gaines got his start playing for Bobby Bland on many of Bland’s early Duke recordings, with his combination of T-Bone Walker’s urbane sound and his own grittier stinging leads.  Gaines moved to California in the late 50’s and played in Roy Milton’s band, and also with Chuck Willis'.  He later teamed up with Walker during Walker’s late few years performing.  Though he played a lot of sessions (both jazz and blues), he recorded sparingly on his own until the early 80’s, but has recorded several since then, plus appearing with his brother, Grady Gaines and his band, the Upsetters on the Black Top album, Full Gain.  Here’s the title cut from one of Gaines’ best discs, Bluesman For Life.  Gaines, now 77, released a new live disc with his Tuxedo Blues Orchestra a couple of years ago. 

Left Hand Frank & Jimmy Rogers (Photo by Jim Wydra)

Next up is a familiar voice to regular FBF visitors, the legendary Jimmy Rogers, subject of this Blues Legends post a few years back.  Best known for his role in one of Muddy Waters’ earliest bands, Rogers had a decent solo career during the 50’s, recording many songs that are considered classics in Chicago Blues.  He took a break in the early 60’s because he was frustrated with the lack of work many blues artists got after the advent of rock and roll and soul music, but was driven back to the blues after his clothing store was burned during the riots in Chicago that followed the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.  By the end of the next decade, he was back at it full time and had a nice resurgence before passing away in 1997.  In what was something of a change from his usual electric full-band setting, Rogers recorded some down-home blues in England in the  late 70’s with Left Hand Frank Craig on second guitar.  

Craig performed mostly as a steady and dependable sideman during his career, though he did record four tracks for Alligator’s Living Chicago Blues series and a live set atthe Knickerbocker Café.  He also played a big role in literally keeping the blues alive in the mid 70’s when he saved Alligator Records head man Bruce Iglauer (at the time one of the few US companies recording blues and one of the big names today) from some unruly gang members.  The first video below features Rogers on vocals and guitar, with backing by Craig on guitar and is called “Fishing In My Pond.”  While we’re here, let’s check out Left Hand Frank behind the mic, backed by Rogers, on “Baby Please.”  Both of these tracks are from the 1979 collaborative CD, The Dirty Dozens, from JSP Records.  Rogers and Craig are two often overlooked Chicago string benders who deserve more attention than they get.  

Back to Texas we go to meet Tutu Jones.  This track, “I'll Play The Blues For You,” is from his second recording, Blue Texas Soul.  Jones’s father, John Jones, was a R&B guitarist in Dallas and he grew up around musicians, getting his start as a drummer for Z. Z. Hill and R. L. Burnside, but eventually began leading his own bands, after learning to play guitar and developing his songwriting.  His debut,  I’m For Real, made a lot of noise when it first came out, featuring Jones’ B.B. King-influenced guitar work and his soulful vocals, and he later signed with Rounder's Bullseye Blues label and released two additional excellent CDs, Blue Texas Soul and Staying Power in the late 90's.  He also released a live disc in the mid 2000's and one more studio album, Inside Out, in 2009.   Though he hasn't released anything since, he’s still very active on the scene.  All of his discs are worth a listen, so check him out.

Finally......Lowell Fulson bridged the gap between Texas, Chicago, and West Coast blues, and is considered one of the pioneers of West Coast blues.  His blues mixed the urban sound, country blues, along with funk-influenced tunes, styles he picked up during his lengthy career, which started in the late 40's and lasted until a couple of years before his death in 1999.  He was never afraid to take a chance and do something different. His song, “Reconsider Baby,” was a big hit for Elvis in the 50’s.  Ray Charles recorded his song, "Sinner's Prayer," in the 50's, and his song, “Tramp,” was a hit for Otis Redding and Carla Thomas in the late 60’s. He recorded frequently with a number of labels ranging from Aladdin, Swing Time, Checker, Kent, Jewel, and Rounder, and managed to maintain a consistently high standard with his work.  Here’s Fulson doing his 1954 classic for Checker, "Reconsider Baby," plus a number Fulson recorded in the mid 80’s in London, with the great Eddie C. Campbell on second guitar, called “Meet Me In The Bottom.”

Note:  Back in the days when Friday Blues Fix was a weekly email that I sent out to blues fans, this was more or less the format that I followed with short bios and selected tunes (some of the other topics, like Something Old, Something New...., were used, too)......only I attached sample mp3's instead of videos.  These were always a lot of fun to do, and the recipients at the time seemed to like them.  It was pretty cool to revisit that format and I hope you enjoyed it.  Maybe we'll do it again in the future.  

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