That post also focused on six artists that I enjoyed who were still with us nearly seven years ago.......Magic Slim, Daddy Mack Orr, Otis Clay, Eddie Cotton, Bobby Womack, and B.B. King. Well, as most of you are aware, four of those six have passed away since that post, so as a favor to blues artists everywhere, I'm NOT going to repeat that post's theme this time around, but I will acknowledge a couple of my favorites who recently passed away and pay tribute to them.
When Kim Wilson introduced Lazy Lester, I had no idea who he was, but Wilson recognized him as one of the band's greatest influences. At this point, I was a fledgling blues fan and knew next to nothing about the history other than the Chess Records reissues I'd found in a local record store. When Lester came out, he was wearing a tank top, work pants, and a baseball cap of some kind (I think it said "Louisiana Yard Dog" or something like that) and looked like he'd just gotten off work and walked over to the show. However, when he started blowing that harmonica and singing in that swampy drawl, I was hooked. I wanted to hear more than two songs (I think one of them was "Sugar Coated Love," but my memory has faded), but it was next to impossible for me to find any of his recordings.
|Lazy Lester - Late 80's|
Around that same time, Lester signed with Antone's Records and released a couple of new albums that showed he had plenty of fuel in the tank in his 60's. In fact, he was still pretty active up until the months before his death and I was so excited to see him in that Geico commercial (which they've sadly quit running since his death).
I strongly recommend Lazy Lester to any blues fan. His Excello recordings are the place to start, but everything he recorded is worth checking out. Trust me, if he's not a favorite now, he will be once you start listening.
While Rush didn't record a lot of albums over his 40+years as a musician, nearly all of it is excellent. If he'd never recorded anything after those fantastic Cobra sides in the late 50's, his place in blues history would be secure. They are simply astonishing........his guitar playing was so distinctive (he played guitar left-handed, but didn't restring it for a left hander) and his vocals would send chills down your spine......the original recordings of "Double Trouble" and "I Can't Quit You, Baby" are just amazing.
While he didn't record a lot of studio albums (the Cobra sides, several sides for Chess Records, one appearance at Duke Records, a handful of sides for Vanguard's Chicago! The Blues! Today! series, and several studio albums in the 70's and 90's (netting him a Grammy Award), over the years, he had several live albums released that revealed that as good as he was in the studio, he was even better as a live performer. While some are better than others, the best ones are fantastic. I recently heard the early 70's performance from Cambridge and it's very good. I wrote about the rest of Rush's live albums here, if you want to check them out.
|Otis Rush at his 2017 Blues Marker Dedication, Philadelphia, MS|
The night I heard he passed away, I plugged in his Live in San Francisco DVD and just watched it. It's the closest I ever got to seeing him live. If you'd like to see or hear more from Otis, you can check out my recommendations here and here.
While it's sad to see these two blues legends go, blues fans can take comfort in the fact that there is a whole younger generation doing their part to keep the blues alive. Every week, I hear new releases from young musicians who have taken what Rush and Lester did and expand upon it, adding their own unique flair to keep the music fresh and interesting.