Friday, January 13, 2023

In Memoriam: 2022 Blues Deaths

Friday Blues Fix pays tribute to those blues people who passed away in 2022.  It seems like we lost a lot of folks this year, not just in the blues, but with the blues, there are so many older artists who are still performing and making vital music at what might be considered an advanced age by some, so in a way it could be expected.  That doesn't mean we have to like it one bit, though.  It's sad to see artists you've followed for so long pass away. 

These are all the names I was able to come up with that passed away this year.  If you know of any others, please let me know in the comments and I will add them to this list as we go.

Classie Ray Ballou, Jr. (67) – blues/zydeco bass player (Boozoo Chavis)

Howard Grimes (80) drummer (Stax Records, Hi Records)

Sam Lay (86) drummer (Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Little Walter, James Cotton, Bob Dylan, Paul Butterfield, etc…)

Milton Hopkins (88) – guitarist (Grady Gaines, Bobby Bland, B.B. King, Sam Cooke, Jackie Wilson, etc…..)

Elijah Newsome (83) – Greenwood, MS bluesman

Charles K. “Guitar Charlie” Rickard (75) – Greenville, MS guitarist (Booba Barnes, Lil’ Dave Thompson, T-Model Ford)

Charles Lee “Delta Blues Hogg” Hayes (79) – Wisconsin bluesman

Jimmy Johnson (93) – Chicago bluesman

Syl Johnson (85) – Chicago blues and soul man

David “Guitar Shorty” Kearney (82) – blues guitarist

Barbara Morrison (72) – jazz/blues singer

Dennis Walker (79) – songwriter/producer/bass player

Millage Gilbert (83) – Kansas City bluesman

Kris Schnebelen (41) – drummer (Trampled Under Foot)

Classie Ballou, Sr. (84) – blues/zydeco guitarist

Pete Lowry (81) – blues scholar/writer/educator, founder of Trix Records)

Grana Louise Smith (69) – Chicago blues singer

Red Kelly, The Soul Detective (67) – blues/soul researcher (

Greg “Slim Lively” Johnson (60) – Cascade Blues Association president, I.B.C. and BMA M.C.

Richard Molina (72) – guitarist/bandleader

Deborah McCrary (67) – singer (McCrary Sisters)

Lola Gulley (57) – Atlanta’s “Queen of the Blues”

Terry Delafose (60) – zydeco bass player drummer (John Delafose and the Eunice Playboys, Geno Delafose and French Rocking Boogie)

Bobby O’Jay (68) – WDIA DJ

Paul Garon (80) – Blues author/scholar, co-founder of Living Blues magazine

David “Chainsaw” Dupont (66) – Chicago blues guitarist

Sonny Sitgraves (84) – drummer (Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Johnny Littlejohn)

James “Chicken Scratch” Johnson (82) – guitarist (Slim Harpo)

Grandpa Elliot Small (77) – New Orleans singer/harmonica player

Walter "Wolfman" Washington (79) - New Orleans blues and soul singer/guitarist

Paul T. Kwami (70) – Fisk Jubilee Singers member/director

Andy Story (78) – New York bluesman

Jim Davis (71) - New York tenor sax player (Brad Vickers, Paul Oscher, Steve Lucky, Gas House Gorillas)

Hardrick Rivers (65) – Louisiana sax player

Harpdog Brown (59) – Canadian harmonica player/singer

Doug Jay (58) – Harp Player (Doug Jay and the Blue Jays)

Jim Stewart (92) – Co-founder of Stax Records

Christine McVie (79) – English singer/keyboardist (Chicken Shack/Fleetwood Mac)

Marty Sammon (45) – Chicago keyboardist (Buddy Guy)

Kim Simmonds (75) – guitarist/vocalist (Savoy Brown)

Willie J Campbell (65) – bass player (James Harman, Fabulous Thunderbirds, Mannish Boys)

Luther “Guitar Junior” Johnson (83) – Chicago singer/guitarist


Friday, December 30, 2022

Friday Blues Fix's Top 20 Albums for 2022

Well, it's been a while since we've posted here, but the end of the year is as good time as any for us to go through FBF's Top 20 releases for 2022.  In a few weeks, the January issue of Blues Bytes will present their reviewers' Top 10 for the year, so, if you care, you'll be able to see which of these 20 made my Top 10.  This was a pretty good year for new releases, a mix of new, exciting talented artists and a lot of veterans who showed that they still have a lot of fuel in the tank.  

Check out my favorites (listed in alphabetical order) and see how many are on your lists, and please share yours in the Comments if you're so inclined.

Friday Blues Fix's Top 20 for 2022

Rick Berthod - Tribute to Peter Green:  Nevada-based guitarist Berthod does a great job interpreting this tunes that the underrated British guitarist recorded with the early, blues-based edition of Fleetwood Mac.  He remains faithful to the originals, but adds enough of his own sound to keep things fresh.  Like any good tribute album, this will please longtime fans of Green, lead newcomers to check out the original works, and encourage them to check out more of Berthod's impressive catalog, too.

Chris Canas - Detroit (Third Street Cigar Records):  The Motor City's "Prince of the Blues" made the finals of the 2020 I.B.C.'s and this release shows what the fuss was all about.  A powerful vocalist and guitarist and a good songwriter, this album (his eighth) really serves as his mission statement.....he's here to play his brand of blues, - contemporary blues with flourishes of  rock, soul, funk, even reggae - his way.  I think listeners will be perfectly fine with that.

The Dig 3 - It always puts a hop in my step to see a new album of old-school blues played well, or in this case, extremely well.  Andrew Duncanson of Kilborn Alley Blues Band teams up with harp master Ronnie Shellist and multi-instrumentalist Gerry Hundt on this superb set of original tunes that pays tribute to the great blues tunes and artists of yesteryear.  Part of the reason this set works so well is the sheer love and enthusiasm these guys have for every tune.

Ronnie Earl and the Broadcasters - Mercy Me (Stony Plain Records):  This is Earl's 28th album and one of his best, with support from his outstanding band and several guest stars.  Evenly split between originals and covers, Earl's guitar work continues to dazzle, on both electric and acoustic, while Diane Blue continues to be one of the best vocalist currently practicing.  It's hard to go wrong with any Ronnie Earl release, but this one is near the top of the list.

The Love Light Orchestra - Leave The Light On (Nola Blue Records):  I have a soft spot for the great sounds of Memphis blues and R&B of the 50's and 60's, and so do the members of The Love Light Orchestra, a nine-piece band of Memphis-area musicians fronted by vocalist John Nemeth, a master of the soul and blues genre whose voice is tailor-made for this sound.  Their second release is made up of nearly all original tunes that seem to be pulled from a 50's/60's-era jukebox and the performances will put goose bumps on your goose bumps.

Trudy Lynn - Golden Girl (Nola Blue Records):  Over 25 years ago, I met a guy from Houston on the old Blues Access bulletin board.  He turned me on to a lot of great music from the Houston area that I had previously not heard, including Ms. Trudy Lynn.  What an amazing singer and talent, and she's backed by an incredible set of musicians on this excellent set.  Ms. Trudy just rips through this set and leaves you waiting breathlessly for her next one.

John Mayall - The Sun Is Shining Down (Forty Below Records):  The King of British Blues stepped back from touring in late 2021, but he's still recording, releasing this album earlier this year.  There are several guest guitarists on this set, including Melvin Taylor, Mike Campbell, and Marcus King, but he's got the phenomenal Carolyn Wonderland playing guitar throughout the session, the latest addition to his band.  Mayall recently turned 89, but he sounds like he's got a few more great albums left in him.

Delbert McClinton - Outdated Emotion (Hot Shot Records/Thirty Tigers):  McClinton also retired from touring last year, but he also continues to record.  His 27th studio release is a collection of songs by artists who influenced him over his 65+year career, and it's a ton of fun.  Most listeners will know the songs here from Lloyd Price, Jimmy Reed, Hank Williams, Little Richard, John Lee Hooker, Ray Charles, plus a few McClinton tracks as well, and they will be singing along having nearly as much fun as McClinton and the band probably did.

Larry McCray - Blues Without You (KTBA Records):  I've been a fan of McCray's since I heard his 1991 debut.  He's had pretty rough luck since the late 90's - most of his releases are out of print and his later recordings are hard to track down, but he's continued to play and perform.  Fortunately, he connected with Joe Bonamassa and Josh Smith and they produced this fantastic comeback, which may be the best example of McCray's artistry to date, covering blues, soul, and rock in equal measures.  That thunderous voice and guitar work is as strong as it was 30 years ago and hopefully, this is the beginning of a better streak of luck for this underappreciated blues man.

Yates McKendree - Buchanan Lane (Qualified Records):  While you listen to this album, and you really should, keep in mind that this young man is 21 years old.  McKendree, the son of piano player Kevin McKendree, has released a most impressive album of originals and covers with nods to B.B. King, T-Bone Walker, and Guitar Slim, to just name a few.  A talented singer and guitarist, this young man has a bright future and so does the blues world.

Mississippi Heat - Madeleine (Van der Linden Recordings):  Harp master Pierre Lacocque and his associates (including vocalists Inetta Visor and Daneshia Hamilton, guitarists Giles Corey and Michael Dotson) are joined by a host of guest artists (Carl Weathersby, Lurrie Bell, Kenny "Beedy Eyes" Smith, and Johnny Iguana, among others) on this typically excellent set of original tunes.....a true collaborative effort and one of the band's best ever.

John Nemeth - May Be The Last Time (Nola Blue Records):  Nemeth's second appearance on this list finds the singer teaming with Kid Andersen, Elvin Bishop, and Alabama Mike for a stunning session recorded at Greaseland.  Nemeth is facing a long recovery from cancer surgery that required reconstruction of his lower jaw and could prevent him from singing and playing harmonica in the future.  Nemeth sounds awesome on these tracks, both vocally and on harp, and the supporting cast is fabulous as well.  Proceeds from the sales of this album are going toward Nemeth's numerous medical bills, so there's even more incentive to give this one a listen, besides the fact that it's an excellent release.

The Phantom Blues Band - Blues For Breakfast (Little Village Foundation):  One of the finest modern blues bands turned out a winner with this year's release, a wide-ranging set of blues and soul covers with guest appearances from Ruthie Foster, Bonnie Raitt, Curtis Salgado, and Kelly Finnigan, whose late father, Mike, was a member (and also appears on one track).  These guys have backed nearly everybody that's anybody in the blues world and it's nice that they get to have the spotlight for themselves for a change.

John Primer - Hard Times (Blues House Productions):  Primer has gone from one of the genre's young talents to one of the seasoned veterans of the scene since I started listening to the blues.  His latest album is a well-crafted set of traditional and contemporary Chicago blues recorded with his Real Deal Blues Band and a guest appearance from Primer's daughter, Aliya.  Primer continues to be a force of nature on the Windy City blues scene.

Jose Ramirez - Major League Blues (Delmark Records):  Ramirez is definitely in the big leagues after releasing this marvelous album, his Delmark debut.  The Costa Rican blues man is joined by the late Jimmy Johnson on what would be his final recording and the Delmark All-Star Band on this stellar set.  Ramirez is one of the finest blues guitarist and vocalist currently practicing and this set is just outstanding.

Silent Partners - Changing Times (Little Village Foundation):  In the late 80's, guitarist Mel Brown, drummer Tony Coleman, and bassist Russell Jackson released a fine album that was a forgotten gem.  Sadly, Brown passed away in 2009, but Coleman and Jackson added Memphis guitarist Jonathan Ellison for the sequel.  He proves to be a worthy successor as guitarist and vocalist.  Hopefully, the new trio won't wait another 30 years for their next collaboration.

Angela Strehli - Ace of Blues (New West/Antone's Records):  This one brought a big smile to my face.  I've always enjoyed Ms. Strehli's powerful vocals on her albums.  It's been a while since I've heard anything and this release really hit the spot, as she pays tribute to the songs and musicians who were such an influence throughout her long career.  It's a great set of tunes, most of them you'll know, and she and the band have a blast performing them.  The liner notes are wonderful, too, loaded with pictures and Strehli's comments about each song and artist.

Demetria Taylor - Doin' What I'm Supposed To Do (Delmark Records):  Taylor is the daughter of the late Chicago blues legend Eddie Taylor.  Ms. Taylor toiled on this album for two and a half years, dealing with family losses and the pandemic, but it was well worth the wait.  She has a smooth, refined vocal delivery that is downright refreshing and she is comfortable singing blues, soul, and R&B.  She's also backed by a powerhouse band, including Mike Wheeler, Billy Flynn, and Carlos Showers on guitar.

The Texas Horns - Everybody Let's Roll (Blue Heart Records):  Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff, John Mills, and Al Gomez return with their third great set of horn-driven blues numbers.  They're supported by an all-star cast of guest artists, including Jimmie Vaughan, Anson Funderburgh, Caroline Wonderland, Johnny Moeller, Mike Flanigin, Marcia Ball, Mike Zito, and Guy Forsyth, to name just a few.  This is a well-rounded set of tunes that reminded me a lot of the old Black Top Records releases of the 80's and 90's (several of these artists are alumni of the much-missed label).  

Dylan Triplett - Who Is He? (VizzTone Records):  Last, but certainly not least on my list is this superb release from another 21-year-old, St. Louis vocalist Dylan Triplett.  He comes from a musical family and has been singing over half of his life.  He has a confidence and maturity of someone twenty years older.  This set includes songs from Lonnie Brooks, Jimmy McCracklin, and Marvin Gaye, plus an amazing interpretation of Miles Davis' "All Blues," plus appearances from Christone "Kingfish" Ingram and members of the Phantom Blues Band (bassist Larry Fulcher produced).  Triplett is another great young artist making the future of the blues look even brighter.

Well, that's my Top 20.  I would love to see yours, so please post in the Comments if you feel so inclined.

I have to apologize for the lack of posting this year.  It's been a tough year, especially the last few months, but hopefully 2023 will be a better year for everyone.  Happy New Year to all!

Friday, October 14, 2022

The Do Right Man Live!!

Dan Penn - Columbus, MS 10-8-22 (Photo by Sharon Clarke)

I read about Dan Penn before I ever heard him.  I vaguely knew a few of the songs that he was responsible for at the time, but Peter Guralnick's profile of him in Sweet Soul Music, written in the mid-80's, made me want to hear more from him (not to mention a whole bunch of other characters in the book).  In the book, he just seemed like a regular guy, sort of self-effacing and with a great, dry sense of humor.  He reminded me of a lot of people I grew up around, so I figured he had to be a pretty cool guy.  

That album I tracked down in 1987
I was able to dig a little deeper into his music via the songs he wrote that were recorded by others.  For example, James Carr's version of Penn and Chips Moman's "At The Dark End of The Street" just blew me away when I first heard it.  

For you youngsters, in 1987 I actually had to order a cassette of James Carr's music to hear it since there was no internet, no YouTube, no Spotify, no Amazon Music, etc...., and they certainly didn't play it on the local radio stations.  Back then, there wasn't an instant opportunity to hear a song after I read about it, so things are MUCH better and easier now.  From there, I checked out many of the other songs that he'd written that were recorded by others, especially a lot of Percy Sledge's songs ("It Tears Me Up" and "Out of Left Field" for starters) and Aretha Franklin's version of "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man."

One of the other things Guralnick pointed out in Sweet Soul Music was that Penn's demo versions of these songs were as powerful and soulful as the finished products by other artists.  One of the quotes in the book, from Chips Moman, came during a remark about how well Carr performed "At The Dark End of The Street."  Moman said, "What would I do if I wanted James to cut one of my songs?  Easiest thing in the world.  Just get Dan Penn to sing it for him.  He'd sing it, and all of a sudden James Carr could sing it.  He had to sing it , 'cause Dan sung it so good."  Those demos were the stuff of legend in soul circles at that time.  

Penn had tried a solo career with Nobody's Fool in the early 70's, but it didn't sell well, so he went back to working behind the scenes.  In the early 90's, he gave it another shot with Do Right Man, an album produced by Guralnick that found the songwriter doing his own versions of some of his finest songs.  When I read about it, I ran to my local record store and picked it up and it still gets listened to regularly.  He began touring with fellow songwriter/keyboardist Spooner Oldham and that resulted in a live set of his songs being released in 1999 (Moments From This Theatre).  

A few years later, Penn began self-releasing albums, called his "Demo Series," which he recorded with some of his friends, a mix of old tunes and new one.  In 2020, he released Living On Mercy, one of the year's best.  Last year, he released a collection of gospel tunes (Penn was born again in the early 80's).  In between the Demo Series and Living On Mercy, the UK label Ace released those much-praised demos from the early/mid 60's as The Fame Recordings (two volumes’ worth) and they were everything that had been reported previously.

He still remains active as a writer and a performer, doing solo acoustic shows periodically.  I found out a few weeks back that Penn was going to be doing one of those solo acoustic performances about two hours from my house, in Columbus, MS at the Omnova Theatre at the Columbus Arts Council.  Well, as soon as I found this out, I snatched up a pair of tickets.  I'd never been to the Omnova Theatre, but it sounded like a great opportunity to see one of my musical heroes.

When my wife and I arrived at the Omnova Theatre, we were surprised at how small it was....maybe seating about 75.  There were probably 60 or so there.  It's on the second floor of the Arts Council building, so when we took the elevator to the second floor, Penn was nearly standing in the doorway.  He was just talking to some folks that he knew (he only lives about 30 miles away in Vernon, AL).  I would estimate that at least half of the people in attendance either were related to him (his wife and sister were there) or knew him personally.  He visited with all of them and it was just like a family reunion.

The show was just wonderful.  Penn will be 81 next month and he uses a cane to help him get around, but when he sat down in that chair onstage, it was like he was twenty years younger.  He played nearly all of his classics, "I'm Your Puppet," "You Left The Water Running," "Sweet Inspiration," "Cry Like A Baby," "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man," "I Met Her In Church," "Dark End of the Street," "Zero Willpower,” “A Woman Left Lonely," "Out of Left Field" (requested by a cousin who traveled from New Orleans to hear him), "Nobody's Fool," "Old Folks," "Memphis Women and Chicken," and "I'm Living Good."  I know I'm leaving a couple out (he did do a singalong for "The Letter," the hit he produced for the Box Tops), but man, just look at the body of work that he covered in 90 minutes or so.

He sounds just as good as he ever has and he played and sang with fire and soul...I know he's done these songs a million times over the years, but you can tell that he LOVES what he's doing as much now as he did when he got started over sixty years ago.  He told great stories between songs…. I never knew that he provided the high “girl” background vocal during the wrap-up of “At Thr Dark End Of The Street.”  Afterward, I thought I'd walk up and at least shake his hand and tell him what a fan I have been for nearly 40 years, but he was visiting with family and friends (they also talked back and forth between really was like a family reunion of sorts) and I didn't want to butt in for my little bit, so we headed out on our drive back home.

If Dan Penn ever performs close to my area again, I will be there to see question about it.  You should do the same.  While you're waiting, there are plenty of opportunities to check out his work, either by other artists or by the man himself.  Here are a few other selections shown below, but there's more to be found that should be found.  You can thank me later.

Living On Mercy (The Last Record Company) - His latest release from 2020.  Some very good new songs mixed in with some older favorites. 

Moments From This Theatre (Proper Records) - Some of his best known songs recorded in Ireland in the late 90's with keyboardist and songwriting partner Spooner Oldham.  Comprised most of his set at Columbus last weekend.  Great stuff!

Blue Nite Lounge (Dandy Records) - Volume One of Penn's self-released "Demo Series."  I've only heard the first two (planning to get the others, plus the gospel set), but both of the ones I already have are worth hearing.

Sweet Inspiration - The Songs of Dan Penn & Spooner Oldham (Ace - UK Records) - There are several of these collections on Ace Records, but this one has a lot of tunes you may be more familiar with by Penn recorded by other artists you're familiar with.  Heck, just get 'em all.

Friday, October 7, 2022

Friday Blues Picks (10/7/22)

Sorry if you stopped by last week, but there is a lot going on in the real world for us here in the Magnolia State so we weren't able to make it work.  Don't worry, because we are back this week with a couple more new must-hear albums that should be in any blues fans' collection (plus a set of old favorites).  

This week's picks are star-studded affairs.  I'm not always a fan of those types of albums, sometimes the guest stars overwhelm the main artists on these albums, but these two are quite different.  The artists releasing these albums primarily work as sidemen, supporting other musicians, so they are used to adapting to the artists they're backing and, WOW, these two recordings are top notch!  

Bob Corritore was born in Chicago, where he fell in love with the blues at the age of 12 after hearing a Muddy Waters song on the radio.  After receiving a harmonica from his younger brother, he began to teach himself how to play and, when he was old enough, he started going to see any blues concert he could find as well as going to Maxwell Street, the open-air market where blues performers often set up on weekends.  he eventually was able to join the musicians on Maxwell soon enough, becoming a regular performer.  He expanded into music production, starting his own label and recording some of the Windy City musicians.  He relocated to Phoenix in the early 80's, where he became a mainstay of the city's blues scene, performing, recording with, and producing other artists as well as hosting his own radio show ("These Lowdown Blues," since the mid 80's).  He's recorded numerous albums, all excellent, and appeared on hundreds of others as a guest artist.  

Over time, Corritore has amassed a huge archive of recordings from artists who have appeared on his radio show or performed at his music club, The Rhythm Room.  He has released several collections of these performances as Bob Corritore & Friends, the most recent being You Shocked Me (VizzTone), which features 16 tracks with a host of contributors, including John Primer, Alabama Mike (four tracks), Diunna Greenleaf, Sugaray Rayford, Willie Buck, Johnny Rawls, Bill "Howl-N-Madd" Perry, Oscar Wilson, Bob Stroger, Francine Reed, and Jimi "Primetime" Smith on vocals.  Also featured are guitarists Bob Margolin, Kid Ramos, L.A. Jones, Johnny Rapp, as well as Smith and Primer.  There are also over twenty other artists contributing.  Of course, Mr. Corritore is accompanying these artists on all the songs with his spot-on harmonica work, always in service of the song.  If you haven't checked out any of Corritore's collaborative archive session collections, You Shocked Me is a great place to start, but you will definitely want to hear more afterward.

The Texas Horns (Mark "Kaz" Kazanoff - sax/harmonica/vocals, John Mills - sax, Al Gomez - trumpet) recently released their third album, Everybody Let's Roll (Blue Heart Records).  These guys have appeared on numerous albums over the years....I used to hear Kazanoff regularly on most Black Top Records releases....and some of their friends return the favor on this excellent release.  The guest list includes Carolyn Wonderland, Anson Funderburgh, Jimmie Vaughan, Johnny Moeller, Mike Zito, Mike Flanigin, Marcia Ball, and Guy Forsyth.  Wonderland sings the title track, a mission statement of sorts for the Horns, with Funderburgh and Mike Keller on guitar, Vaughan plays on a couple of tracks, singing on "Too Far Gone," a hip shuffle, Moeller plays guitar on several tracks, and Forsyth sings on "Die With My Blues On" and the 70's R&B-styled "Prisoner In Paradise."  The Horns take center stage on a great set of instrumentals, the Latin-flavored "Apocalypso," a spirited reading of J.B. Lenoir's "J.B.'s Rock," and an inspired cover of the Beatles'(!) "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."  Kaz even takes vocals on "Ready For The Blues Tonight," which features Ball on piano.  Everybody Let's Roll reminds me of those great Black Top albums back in the day, where it always sounded like everyone poured their heart into every performance and had a ball doing it.  

Way back in the early 90's, I was in a music store and happened upon a cassette of Billy Boy Arnold's VeeJay recordings from the 50's on Charly Records.  Charly released a lot of older recordings at bargain prices at the time and it was a good way for a budding blues fan to catch up on some of the music's history.  Arnold's were consistently good.  He was an excellent singer with a lot of soul in his voice and he learned harmonica from Sonny Boy Williamson (Version 1) as a teenager before joining Bo Diddley's band.  He recorded with Diddley on two of his biggest hits, "I'm A Man," and "Bo Diddley," and recorded a few tracks for Checker before signing with VeeJay, where several of his songs became blues standards.  

I searched in vain for a CD copy of that Charly Records collection, but when available, they were pretty high dollar, but Jasmine Records came to the rescue once again, releasing Come Back Baby, I Wish You Would late last year.  This set includes Arnold's earliest recordings with Cool Records, the Checker recordings (including his five sides with Diddley), and all of his Vee-Jay tracks.  Those Vee-Jay sides include "I Wish You Would" (which borrows that famous Bo Diddley beat), "I Ain't Got You," "Don't Stay Out All Night," and "Prisoner's Plea."  The backing musicians on these sides include guitarists Diddley, Jody Williams, and Syl Johnson, piano wizards Otis Spann and Sunnyland Slim, drummers Clifton James and Earl Phillips, and bass players Willie Dixon and Mack Thompson (brother of Syl and Jimmy Johnson).  One of the things that struck me about these recordings was that Arnold was such a confident and exuberant performer at a young age.....playing behind these stellar musicians certainly had to give him a boost.  

Arnold recently released his autobiography, The Blues Dream of Billy Boy Arnold (co-authored by Kim Field), which I haven't read yet, but plan to.  If you've not heard his music, and he's recorded frequently over the years.....most recently with Stony Plain in 2014, you are missing out on some great Chicago blues.  This set of his earliest recordings is a great place to start.