For this edition of Instrumentally Speaking, we're going to go with a "Stomp" theme. In the first edition of Instrumentally Speaking, we included Otis Spann's "Spann's Stomp," so we will revisit that theme this time around.
First up is the tune that was the inspiration for this week's topic, Robert "Wolfman" Belfour's "Hill Stomp." Belfour was born in Red Banks, MS, a small community in north Mississippi between Holly Springs and Olive Branch, in 1940. He learned to play guitar from his father and learned to play the blues from local musicians like Otha Turner, R.L. Burnside, and Junior Kimbrough. He combined the north Mississippi sounds with others like John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Fred McDowell, and his idol, Howlin' Wolf. He relocated to Memphis in the 60's and started playing on Beale Street in the early 80's, encouraged by his wife. He was recorded by musicologist David Evans for one of his anthology collections in the 1990's, which was released on a German label, Hot Fox. From there, Belfour signed with Fat Possum Records and released two most excellent albums of his own, What's Wrong With You in 2000 and Pushin' My Luck in 2003. "Hill Stomp" was the first track on his second disc and it was a perfect opening track to one of the best Mississippi blues albums of the decade......seriously, if you don't have this album, you should really make an effort to get it, and play it loud one hot summer night in Mississippi while driving down a dark, dirt road at midnight. You'll get it then, for sure. Belfour passed away in 2015, but these two albums are a great testament to his talent.
Let's take it down south for a couple of tunes.......down Louisiana way. Check out the King of Zydeco, Mr. Clifton Chenier, who cut "Zodico Stomp," for Specialty Records in 1955 ("Zodico" being a variation of the actual word "Zydeco"), as part of the first tunes that really brought him to the public eye. The 12 sides he cut for Specialty producer Bumps Blackwell were later compiled into an album called Bayou Blues. Chenier enjoyed a long and productive career, bringing his great mix of blues, Cajun, and zydeco to an ever-growing fan base, recording into the early 80's and performing regularly up until a week before his death in December, 1987. After his death, his son C.J. Chenier began leading his band, the Red Hot Louisiana Band, and continues to do so.
Staying in the Pelican State, here's one of my favorite blues artists, Lazy Lester. Lester enjoyed a successful tenure as a front man and side man for Excello Records, cutting a truckload of blues standards that are still played regularly by current blues, rock, and country bands ("Sugar Coated Love," "I'm A Lover Not A Fighter," "I Hear You Knockin'" for starters). His numerous sides for Excello included a formidable set of instrumentals, the most famous being the rousing "Ponderosa Stomp," which actually inspired the name of the current New Orleans music festival that brings together blues, zydeco, and roots artists together every few years. Lazy Lester himself is still active after making a bit of a comeback in the 1980's. He's recorded fairly regularly since then and is still a force to be reckoned with at 83.
What the heck.......let's just stay in Louisiana with another native, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown. The Vinton native bristled when he was called a blues man, preferring to say that he played "American Music." That music encompassed blues, country, jazz, Cajun, rock n' roll, and rhythm & blues. He played guitar, fiddle, mandolin, drums, and harmonica. Inspired on guitar by T-Bone Walker, Brown first gained attention recording for Don Robey's Peacock Records, beginning in 1949. Although he enjoyed several hits during his ten years with the label, but probably his biggest song during that time, his most influential anyway, was the instrumental "Okie Dokie Stomp," recorded in 1954. Over his career, Brown moved to Nashville, recorded a few country singles, a great album with Roy Clark (even appearing on Clark's show, Hee Haw, a couple of times), recorded with Professor Longhair on his Rock N' Roll Gumbo album, toured the Soviet Union, and enjoyed a long recording career with a number of labels, recording just exactly what he wanted, paying no mind to musical genres or critics. He passed away in 2005, shortly after Hurricane Katrina destroyed his home in Slidell, Louisiana, but he made quite a mark during his 81 years on the planet.
Friday Blues Fix hopes everyone enjoyed this "Stompin'" set of instrumentals!!!