His reign as King of the Blues has been as long as that of any monarch on earth. Yet B.B. King continues to wear his crown well. At age 76, he is still light on his feet, singing and playing the blues with relentless passion. Time has no apparent effect on B.B., other than to make him more popular, more cherished, more relevant than ever. Don't look for him in some kind of semi-retirement; look for him out on the road, playing for people, popping up in a myriad of T.V. commercials, or laying down tracks for his next album. B.B. King is as alive as the music he plays, and a grateful world can't get enough of him.
For more than half a century, Riley B. King - better known as B.B. King - has defined the blues for a worldwide audience. Since he started recording in the 1940s, he has released over fifty albums, many of them classics. He was born September 16, 1925, on a plantation in Itta Bena, Mississippi, near Indianola. In his youth, he played on street corners for dimes, and would sometimes play in as many as four towns a night. In 1947, he hitchhiked to Memphis, TN, to pursue his music career. Memphis was where every important musician of the South gravitated, and which supported a large musical community where every style of African American music could be found. B.B. stayed with his cousin Bukka White, one of the most celebrated blues performers of his time, who schooled B.B. further in the art of the blues.
B.B.'s first big break came in 1948 when he performed on Sonny Boy Williamson's radio program on KWEM out of West Memphis. This led to steady engagements at the Sixteenth Avenue Grill in West Memphis, and later to a ten-minute spot on black-staffed and managed Memphis radio station WDIA. "King's Spot," became so popular, it was expanded and became the "Sepia Swing Club." Soon B.B. needed a catchy radio name. What started out as Beale Street Blues Boy was shortened to Blues Boy King, and eventually B.B. King.
In the mid-1950s, while B.B. was performing at a dance in Twist, Arkansas, a few fans became unruly. Two men got into a fight and knocked over a kerosene stove, setting fire to the hall. B.B. raced outdoors to safety with everyone else, then realized that he left his beloved $30 acoustic guitar inside, so he rushed back inside the burning building to retrieve it, narrowly escaping death. When he later found out that the fight had been over a woman named Lucille, he decided to give the name to his guitar to remind him never to do a crazy thing like fight over a woman. Ever since, each one of B.B.'s trademark Gibson guitars has been called Lucille.
Soon after his number one hit, "Three O'Clock Blues," B.B. began touring nationally. In 1956, B.B. and his band played an astonishing 342 one-night stands. From the chitlin circuit with its small-town cafes, juke joints, and country dance halls to rock palaces, symphony concert halls, universities, resort hotels and amphitheaters, nationally and internationally, B.B. has become the most renowned blues musician of the past 40 years.
Over the years, B.B. has developed one of the world's most identifiable guitar styles. He borrowed from Blind Lemon Jefferson, T-Bone Walker and others, integrating his precise and complex vocal-like string bends and his left hand vibrato, both of which have become indispensable components of rock guitarist's vocabulary. His economy, his every-note-counts phrasing, has been a model for thousands of players, from Eric Clapton and George Harrison to Jeff Beck. B.B. has mixed traditional blues, jazz, swing, mainstream pop and jump into a unique sound. In B.B.'s words, "When I sing, I play in my mind; the minute I stop singing orally, I start to sing by playing Lucille."
In 1968, B.B. played at the Newport Folk Festival and at Bill Graham's Fillmore West on bills with the hottest contemporary rock artists of the day who idolized B.B. and helped to introduce him to a young white audience. In ``69, B.B. was chosen by the Rolling Stones to open 18 American concerts for them; Ike and Tina Turner also played on 18 shows.
B.B. was inducted into the Blues Foundation Hall of Fame in 1984 and into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987. He received NARAS' Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award in 1987, and has received honorary doctorates from Tougaloo(MS) College in 1973; Yale University in 1977; Berklee College of Music in 1982; Rhodes College of Memphis in 1990; Mississippi Valley State University in 2002 and Brown University in 2007. In 1992, he received the National Award of Distinction from the University of Mississippi.
In 1991, B.B. King's Blues Club opened on Beale Street in Memphis, and in 1994, a second club was launched at Universal CityWalk in Los Angeles. A third club in New York City's Times Square opened in June 2000 and most recently two clubs opened at Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut in January 2002. In 1996, the CD-Rom On The Road With B.B. King: An Interactive Autobiography was released to rave reviews. Also in 1996, B.B.'s autobiography, "Blues All Around Me" (written with David Ritz for Avon Books) was published. In a similar vein, Doubleday published "The Arrival of B.B. King" by Charles Sawyer, in 1980.
B.B. continues to tour extensively, averaging over 250 concerts per year around the world. Classics such as "Payin' The Cost To Be The Boss," "The Thrill Is Gone," How Blue Can You Get," "Everyday I Have The Blues," and "Why I Sing The Blues" are concert (and fan) staples. Over the years, the Grammy Award-winner has had two #1 R&B hits, 1951's "Three O'Clock Blues," and 1952's "You Don't Know Me," and four #2 R&B hits, 1953's "Please Love Me," 1954's "You Upset Me Baby," 1960's "Sweet Sixteen, Part I," and 1966's "Don't Answer The Door, Part I." B.B.'s most popular crossover hit, 1970's "The Thrill Is Gone," went to #15 pop.
Bessie Smith was a rough, crude, violent woman. She was also the greatest of the classic Blues singers of the 1920s. Bessie started out as a street musician in Chattanooga. In 1912 Bessie joined a traveling show as a dancer and singer. The show featured Pa and Ma Rainey, and Smith developed a friendship with Ma. Ma Rainey was Bessie's mentor and she stayed with her show until 1915. Bessie then joined the T.O.B.A. vaudeville circuit and gradually built up her own following in the south and along the eastern seaboard.
By the early 1920s she was one of the most popular Blues singers in vaudeville. In 1923 she made her recording debut on Columbia, accompanied by pianist Clarence Williams. They recorded "Gulf Coast Blues" and "Down Hearted Blues." The record sold more than 750,000 copies that same year, rivaling the success of Blues singer Mamie Smith (no relation). Throughout the 1920s Smith recorded with many of the great Jazz musicians of that era, including Fletcher Henderson, James P. Johnson, Coleman Hawkins, Don Redman and Louis Armstrong. Her rendition of "St. Louis Blues" with Armstrong is considered by most critics to be one of finest recordings of the 1920s.
Bessie Smith was one of the biggest African-American stars of the 1920s and was popular with both Whites and African-Americans, but by 1931 the Classic Blues style of Bessie Smith was out of style and the Depression, radio, and sound movies had all damaged the record companies' ability to sell records so Columbia dropped Smith from its roster. In 1933 she recorded for the last time under the direction of John Hammond for Okeh. The session was released under the name of Bessie Smith accompanied by Buck and his Band. Despite having no record company Smith was still very popular in the South and continued to draw large crowds, although the money was not nearly as good as it had been in the 1920s.
Bessie had started to style herself as a Swing musician and was on the verge of a comeback when her life was tragically cut short by an automobile accident in 1937. While driving with her lover Richard Morgan (Lionel Hampton's uncle) in Mississippi their car rear-ended a slow moving truck and rolled over crushing Smith's left arm and ribs. Smith bled to death by the time she reached the hospital. John Hammond caused quite a stir by writing an article in Downbeat magazine suggesting that Smith had bled to death because she had been taken to a White hospital and had been turned away. This proved not to be true, but the rumor persists to this day.
Howlin' Wolf Born in White Station near West Point, Mississippi, he was named after Chester A. Arthur, 21st President of the United States, and was nicknamed Big Foot Chester and Bull Cow in his early years because of his massive size. He explained the origin of the name Howlin' Wolf thus: "I got that from my grandfather [John Jones]." He used to tell him stories about the wolves in that part of the country and warn him that if he misbehaved, they would "get him". As a youth he listened to Charley Patton, who taught him the rudiments of guitar, as well as to the Mississippi Sheiks, Tommy Johnson, and Jimmie Rodgers who was Wolf's childhood idol. Wolf tried to emulate Rodgers' "blue yodel", but found that his efforts sounded more like a growl or a howl. "I couldn't do no yodelin'," Barry Gifford quoted him as saying in Rolling Stone, "so I turned to howlin'. And it's done me just fine." His harmonica playing was modeled after that of Rice Miller (also known as Sonny Boy Williamson II), who had lived with his sister for a time and taught him how to play. He played with Robert Johnson and Willie Brown in his youth.
He farmed during the 1930s, served in the United States Army as a radioman in Seattle during World War II, and by 1948 had formed a band which included guitarists Willie Johnson and M. T. Murphy, harmonica player Junior Parker, a pianist remembered only as "Destruction", and drummer Willie Steele. He began broadcasting on KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas, alternating between performing and pitching farm equipment, and auditioned for Sam Phillips's Memphis Recording Service in 1951.
According to the documentary film The Howlin' Wolf Story, Howlin' Wolf's parents broke up when he was young. His very religious mother Gertrude threw him out of the house for refusing to work around the farm while still a child; he then moved in with his uncle, Will Young, who treated him badly. When he was 13, he ran away and claimed to have walked 85 miles (137 km) barefoot to join his father, where he finally found a happy home within his father's large family. During the peak of his success, he returned from Chicago to his home town to see his mother again, but was driven to tears when she rebuffed him and refused to take any money he offered her, saying it was from his playing the "Devil's music".
Howlin' Wolf quickly became a local celebrity, and soon began working with a band that included Willie Johnson, and guitarist Pat Hare. His first recordings came in 1951, when he recorded sessions for both the Bihari brothers at Modern Records and Leonard Chess' Chess Records. Chess issued Howlin' Wolf's How Many More Years in August 1951; Wolf also recorded sides for Modern, with Ike Turner, in late 1951 and early 1952. Chess eventually won the war over the singer, and Wolf settled in Chicago, Illinois c. 1953. Upon arriving in Chicago, he assembled a new band, recruiting Chicagoan Joseph Leon "Jody" Williams from Memphis Slim's band as his first guitarist. Within a year Wolf enticed guitarist Hubert Sumlin to leave Memphis and join him in Chicago; Sumlin's terse, curlicued solos perfectly complemented Burnett's huge voice and surprisingly subtle phrasing. Although the line up of Wolf's band would change regularly over the years, employing many different guitarists both on recordings and in live performance including Willie Johnson, Jody Williams, Lee Cooper, L.D. McGhee, Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers, his brother Abe "Little Smokey" Smothers, Jimmy Rogers, Freddie "Abu Talib" Robinson, and Buddy Guy, among others, with the exception of a couple of brief absences in the late '50s Sumlin remained a member of the band for the rest of Wolf's career, and is the guitarist most often associated with the Chicago Howlin' Wolf sound.
In the 1950s Wolf had four songs that qualified as "hits" on the Billboard national R&B charts: "How Many More Years", his first and biggest hit, made it to #4 in 1951; its flip side, "Moanin' at Midnight", made it to #10 the same year; "Smoke Stack Lightning" charted for three weeks in 1956, peaking at #8; and "I Asked For Water" appeared on the charts for one week in 1956, in the #8 position. In 1958, Wolf's first album Moanin' in the Moonlight album, a compilation of previously released singles was released.
His 1962 album Howlin' Wolf is a famous and influential blues album, often referred to as "The Rocking Chair album" because of its cover illustration depicting an acoustic guitar leaning against a rocking chair. This album contained "Wang Dang Doodle", "Goin' Down Slow", "Spoonful", and "Little Red Rooster", songs which found their way into the repertoires of British and American bands infatuated with Chicago blues. In 1964 he toured Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival tour produced by German promoters Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau. In 1965 he appeared on the television show Shindig at the insistence of The Rolling Stones, who were scheduled to appear on the same program and who had covered "Little Red Rooster" on an early album. He was often backed on records by bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon who is credited with such Howlin' Wolf standards as "Spoonful", "I Ain't Superstitious", "Little Red Rooster", "Back Door Man", "Evil", "Wang Dang Doodle" (later recorded by Koko Taylor), and others.
In September, 1967, he joined forces with Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters for The Super Super Blues Band album of Chess blues standards, including "The Red Rooster" and "Spoonful".
In May 1970, Howlin' Wolf, his long-time guitarist Hubert Sumlin, and the young Chicago blues harmonica player Jeff Carp traveled to London along with Chess Records producer Norman Dayron to record the Howlin' Wolf London Sessions LP, accompanied by British blues/rock musicians Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ian Stewart, Bill Wyman and Charlie Watts and others. He recorded his last album for Chess, The Back Door Wolf, in 1973. Chess released a Howlin' Wolf compilation album, Chess Masters, in 1981.
Unlike many other blues musicians, after he left his impoverished childhood to begin a musical career, Howlin' Wolf was always financially successful. Having already achieved a measure of success in Memphis, he described himself as "the onliest one to drive himself up from the Delta" to Chicago, which he did, in his own car on the Blues Highway and with four thousand dollars in his pocket, a rare distinction for a black blues man of the time. In his early career, this was the result of his musical popularity and his ability to avoid the pitfalls of alcohol, gambling, and the various dangers inherent in what are vaguely described as "loose women", to which so many of his peers fell prey. Though functionally illiterate into his 40s, Burnett eventually returned to school, first to earn a G.E.D., and later to study accounting and other business courses aimed to help his business career.
Wolf met his future wife, Lillie, when she attended one of his performances in a Chicago club. She and her family were urban and educated, and not involved in what was generally seen as the unsavory world of blues musicians. Nonetheless, immediately attracted when he saw her in the audience as Wolf says he was, he pursued her and won her over. According to those who knew them, the couple remained deeply in love until his death. Together they raised Lillie's two daughters from an earlier relationship, Bettye and Barbara.
After he married Lillie, who was able to manage his professional finances, Wolf was so financially successful that he was able to offer band members not only a decent salary, but benefits such as health insurance; this in turn enabled him to hire his pick of the available musicians, and keep his band one of the best around. According to his daughters, he was never financially extravagant, for instance driving a Pontiac station wagon rather than a more expensive and flashy car.
At 6 feet, 6 inches (198cm) and close to 300 pounds (136 kg), he was an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the "classic" 1950s Chicago blues singers. Howlin' Wolf's voice has been compared to "the sound of heavy machinery operating on a gravel road". Although the two were reportedly not that different in actual personality, this rough edged, slightly fearsome musical style is often contrasted with the less crude but still powerful presentation of his contemporary and professional rival, Muddy Waters, to describe the two pillars of the Chicago Blues representing the music.
Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Little Walter Jacobs and Muddy Waters are usually regarded in retrospect as the greatest blues artists who recorded for Chess in Chicago. Sam Phillips once remarked of Chester Arthur Burnett, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.' " In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked him #51 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Chester Burnett "Howlin Wolf" died at Hines VA Hospital in Hines, IL, and is buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery, Hillside, Cook County, Illinois, USA Plot: Section 18, on the east side of the road. His large gravestone, allegedly purchased by Eric Clapton, has an image of a guitar and harmonica etched into it.
John Lee Hooker
near Clarksdale, Mississippi on August 22, 1917 to a sharecropping family, John
Lee Hooker's earliest musical influence came from his stepfather, Will Moore. By
the early 1940's Hooker had moved north to Detroit by way of Memphis and
Cincinnati. Hooker found work as a janitor in the auto factories, and at night,
like many other transplants from the rural Delta, he entertained friends and
neighbors by playing at "house parties". He was "discovered" by record
storeowner Elmer Barbee who took him to Bernard Besman, who was a producer,
record distributor and owner of Sensation Records, Besman leased some of his
early Hooker recordings to Modern Records. Among Hooker's first recordings in
1948, "Boogie Chillen" became a number one jukebox hit for Modern and his first
million seller. This was soon followed by an even bigger hit with "I'm In The
Mood" and other classic recordings including "Crawling Kingsnake" and "Hobo
Blues." Another surge in his career took place with the release of more than 100
songs on Vee Jay Records during the 1950's and 1960's.
When the young bohemian audiences of the 1960's "discovered" Hooker along with other blues originators, he and various he and others made a brief return to folk blues. Young British artist such as the Animals, John Mayall, and the Yardbirds introduced Hooker's sound to the new and eager audiences whose admiration and influence helped build Hooker to superstar status in the mid - 60's England. By 1970 he had moved to California and worked on several projects with rock musicians, notably Van Morrison and Canned Heat. Canned Heat modeled their sound after Hooker's boggie and collaborated with him on several albums and tours.
During the late 1970's and much of the 1980's, Hooker toured the U.S. and Europe steadily but grew disenchanted with recording, through his appearance in the Blues Brothers movie resulted in a heightened profile. Then, in 1989, The Healer was released to critical acclaim and sales in excess of a million copies. Today the "The King Of The Boggie" is enjoying the most successful period of his extensive career. In the past ten years Hooker's influence has contributed to a booming interest in the blues and, notably, its acceptance by the music industry as a commercially viable entity.
Hooker's career has been a series a highlights and special events since the release of The Healer. In addition to recording his on albums Mr. Lucky, Boom Boom, Chill Out, and Don't Look Back for Pointblank / Virgin, he contributed to recordings by B.B. King, Branford Marsalis, Van Morrison, and Big Head Todd and the Monsters and portrayed the title role in Pete Townshend's 1989 epic, The Iron Man.
His influence on younger generations has been documented on television with features on Showtime and a special edition of the BBC's 'Late Show' as well as appearances on "The Tonight Show" and "Late Night With David Letterman" among many others. John Lee was invited to perform The Rolling Stones and guest Eric Clapton for their national television broadcast during The Stones' 1989 Steel Wheels tour. In 1990, many musical greats paid tribute to John Lee Hooker with a performance at Madison Square Garden. Joining him on some or all of these special occasions were artists such as Bonnie Raitt, Ry Cooder, Joe Cocker, Huey Newton, Carlos Santana, Robert Clay, Mick Fleetwood, Al Cooper, Johnny Winter, John Hammond, and the late Albert Collins and Willie Dixon.
Hooker's 1991 induction into the Rock n' Roll Hall Of Fame was fitting for the man who has influenced countless fans and musicians who have in turn influenced many more. Honors continue, with recent inductions into Los Angeles' Rock Walk, The Bammies Walk Of Fame in San Francisco, and, in 1997, a star in the Hollywood Walk Of Fame.
John Lee's style has always been unique, even among other performers of the real deep blues, few of whom remain with us today. While retaining that foundation he has simultaneously broken new ground musically and commercially. At the age of 80, John Lee Hooker received his third and fourth Grammy Awards, for Best Traditional Blues Recording (Don't Look Back) and for Best Pop Collaboration for the song "Don't Look Back" which Hooker recorded with his long time friend Van Morrison. He died in 2001.
John Mayall John Mayall was born 29th of November 1933 in Macclesfield, an English town near the industrial hub of Manchester--a far cry at that time from the black American blues culture we are familiar with today. The eldest of three from humble working class origins, and in the shadow of WWII, this skinny English lad grew up listening to his guitarist father's extensive jazz record collection and felt drawn to the blues. Strongly influenced by such greats as Leadbelly, Albert Ammons, Pinetop Smith, and Eddie Lang, from the age of 13 he taught himself to play and develop his own style with the aid of a neighbor's piano, borrowed guitars, and secondhand harmonicas.
John Mayall's first brush with fame, however, was not for his music. As a teenager, he decided to move out of the house, and, showing the signature eccentricities and artistic qualities that have added to his legendary status, he moved into his backyard treehouse. This gained him notoriety enough to receive newspaper attention. Even more so, since, upon returning from a stint in Korea, he brought his first wife Pamela to live with him there.
From an art college training, to three years with the British Army in Korea, to a successful career in graphic design, his blues singing and playing took a back seat until he reached the age of 30. From 1956 until 1962, John was performing publicly on a part-time basis fronting The Powerhouse Four and, later on, The Blues Syndicate. It was then that Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated pioneered what was to become known as The British Blues Boom of the Late 60's. Alexis was quick to encourage and help John make his move to London where he soon secured enough club work to be able to turn professional under the name John Mayall's Bluesbreakers. After a couple of years and a constant turnover of musicians, he met his soulmate in Eric Clapton, who had quit the Yardbirds in favor of playing the blues. This historic union culminated in the first hit album for the Bluesbreakers and resulted in worldwide legendary status.
After Clapton and Jack Bruce left the band to form Cream, a succession of great musicians defined their artistic roots under John's leadership, and he became as well known for discovering new talent as for his hard-hitting interpretations of the fierce Chicago-style blues he'd grown up listening to. As sidemen left to form their own groups, others took their places. Peter Green, John McVie and Mick Fleetwood became Fleetwood Mac. Andy Fraser formed Free, and Mick Taylor joined the Rolling Stones. As Eric Clapton has stated, "John Mayall has actually run an incredibly great school for musicians."
In 1969, with his popularity blossoming in the USA, John caused somewhat of a stir with the release of a drummer less acoustic live album entitled "The Turning Point", from which his song "Room To Move" was destined to become a rock classic. He received a gold record for this album. Attracted by the West Coast climate and culture, John then made his permanent move from England to Laurel Canyon in Los Angeles and began forming bands with American musicians. Throughout the 70's, John became further revered for his many jazz/rock/blues innovations featuring such notable performers as Blue Mitchell, Red Holloway, Larry Taylor, and Harvey Mandel. He also backed blues greats John Lee Hooker, T-Bone Walker, and Sonny Boy Williamson on their first English club tours.
The year 1979 proved to be a pivotal, transitional, and climactic year for John Mayall, both personally and professionally. With the public climate being at an all-time low for blues music, Mayall struggled to keep his live and recording career afloat. Personally, however, he began the 20+year relationship with his current wife Maggie (Parker, née Mulacek), a singer/songwriter from Chicago who had been hired with Harvey Mandel's band as Mayall's backup. And extreme misfortune came his way when a brush fire destroyed his hand-crafted and legendary Laurel Canyon home, taking with it his scrupulously-kept diaries, his father's diaries, master recordings, extensive book & magazine collections, Mayall artwork, and much much more. Determined to rise from the ashes, Mayall persevered.
Motivated by nostalgia and fond memories, in 1982, John (together with Mick Taylor and John McVie) decided to re-form the original Bluesbreakers for a couple of tours and a video concert film entitled Blues Alive, which featured Albert King, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Etta James, and Sippie Wallace and others. A whole new generation of followers could get a taste of how it all sounded live two decades before at the birth of the British Blues explosion. By the time Mick and John had returned to their respective careers, public reaction had convinced Mayall that he should return to his driving blues roots. As John McVie returned to Fleetwood Mac and Mick resumed his solo career, Mayall returned to Los Angeles to select his choices for a new incarnation of the Bluesbreakers. Officially launched in 1984, it included future stars in their own right, guitarists Coco Montoya and Walter Trout, as well as drummer Joe Yuele, who is still john's rhythmic mainstay.
With onstage popularity gaining each year, the 90's kicked in with the release of several John Mayall albums that have set new standards in rock blues: "Behind The Iron Curtain", "Chicago Line", "A Sense of Place", and the Grammy-nominated "Wake Up Call" that featured guest artists Buddy Guy, Mavis Staples, Albert Collins, Mick Taylor. In 1993, Texas guitarist Buddy Whittington joined the Bluesbreakers and over the years he has energized the band with his unique and fiery ideas. Making his recording debut on Mayall's "Spinning Coin" album, he proved to be more than equal to following in the footsteps of his illustrious predecessors. After that, they released two modern classics: "Blues For the Lost Days" and "Padlock On The Blues", (the latter co-produced by John and his wife Maggie, featuring a rare collaboration with the great blues legend John Lee Hooker, who had been Mayall's close friend since the early 60's). These albums have all garnered great reviews, critical and popular acclaim and represent Mayall's ongoing mastery of the blues and his continuing importance in contemporary music. In addition, Mayall released three CD's through his own private label, Private Stash Records. They are "Time Capsule" (containing historic 1957-62 live tapes-no longer available), "UK Tour 2K" (live recordings from the Bluesbreakers 2000 British tour), and a selection of solo performances from John entitled "Boogie Woogie Man". Mayall continues to strive to remain true to the timeless music that first inspired this skinny young British lad, living in the shadow of WWII, to teach himself the guitar, harmonica and piano so many years ago.
This millennium has proved to be as productive so far. 2001: On "Along For The Ride", Mayall re-teamed with a number of his former mates, including Peter Green, Mick Taylor, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, as well as ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons, Jonny Lang, Steve Miller, Billy Preston, Steve Cropper, Otis Rush, Gary Moore, Jeff Healey, Reese Wynans of Steve Ray Vaughan's band and Shannon Curfman for an amazing display of blues power at its finest. Produced by David Z, this album featured Mayall duets with soul great Billy Preston, blues legend Otis Rush and young blues/rock teen sensation Shannon Curfman. "Along For The Ride" also features the first appearance together in over 30 years by Bluesbreakers alumni Peter Green, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, who last appeared together as members of the original Fleetwood Mac.
In 2002: Mayall with the Bluesbreakers, again produced by David Z., recorded the release "STORIES," which debuted the Billboard blues charts at #1, and followed it with an extensive world tour. 2003: John Mayall turned 70 years old. After extensive touring, John Mayall and The Bluesbreakers capped it off at a 70th Birthday celebration in Liverpool, with a concert in aid of UNICEF and featuring Eric Clapton, Mick Taylor and Chris Barber. This concert was filmed, recorded and released as a DVD and double CD in December 2003. To top off the year, BBC aired an hour-long documentary on John Mayall's life and career, entitled "The Godfather of British Blues".
2003: "The Godfather of British Blues" plus a 1969 documentary were released on a DVD by Eagle Records entitled “Godfather/The Turning Point”, as well as "The Turning Point Sound Track" CD.
2004: Private Stash released a live show from Australia on DVD – “Cookin’ Down Under’ and John compiled a collection of his all time favorite classic boogie woogie tracks on a CD for Document Records.
2005 saw the release of the studio album “Road Dogs.”
Spring 2007 brought John Mayall's 56th album release, on Eagle Records: "In The Palace Of The King," an entire studio album that honors and pays tribute to the music of the Mayall’s long-time hero of the blues, Freddie King.
As for the man himself, the father of six and grandfather of six, John Mayall was recently awarded an OBE by The Queen's Honours list and, at 75, shows no signs of slowing down. He plans to keep the blues alive for many more years to come.
Born June 3, 1897, in Algiers, Louisiana, Lizzie Douglas was raised on a farm before moving in 1904 to Walls in northern Mississippi. The following year Douglas was given a guitar for her birthday and quickly learned to play. A child prodigy, she began playing local parties as "Kid" Douglas before running away from home to play for tips at Church's Park ( the current W.C. Handy Park) on Beale Street in Memphis. During the 1910s and early 1920s, Douglas adopted the handle of Memphis Minnie and toured the South, playing tent shows with the Ringling Brothers Circus.
During the late 1920s Minnie began playing guitar with a variety of ad hoc jug bands during Memphis's jug band craze. Minnie also began a common law marriage with Kansas Joe McCoy, a musician with whom she had begun playing and would soon record. Their very first session yielded the hit song "Bumble Bee" (later recorded by Muddy Waters as "Honey Bee"), and McCoy would be her musical partner for the next six years. Within a year of her first recording date, Minnie had logged a half-dozen more sessions, including a reprise of "Bumble Bee" with the Memphis Jug Band. Bukka White claimed that Minnie sang backup on his 1930 gospel recordings. By the time the effects of the Great Depression had shackled the recording industry, Minnie had recorded fifty sides that showcased her powerful voice and energetic guitar picking. She affected wealth as her idol Ma Rainey had done, traveling to shows in luxury cars and wearing bracelets made of silver dollars on her wrists.
During the 1930s, Minnie moved to Chicago where she set the musical style by taking up bass and drum accompaniment, anticipating the sound of the 1950s Chicago blues. After her breakup with Kansas Joe, Minnie married Ernest Lawlars, known as "Little Son Joe," and continued to record into the early 1950s. Poor health prompted her to return to Memphis and forsake the musician's life in 1958. Memphis Minnie was the greatest female country blues singer, and the popularity of her songs made her one of the blues most influential artists.
Memphis Minnie died August 6, 1973, in Memphis, Tennessee, and is buried in New Hope Cemetery in Walls, Mississippi.
He was born McKinley Morganfield-Muddy Waters is a nickname given him in childhood-in the tiny hamlet of Rolling Fork, Mississippi, on April 4, 1915, but from the age of three, when his mother died, was raised by his maternal grandmother in Clarksdale, a small town one hundred miles to the north.
It is scarcely surprising then that the Delta region has nurtured a tradition of blues singing and playing that reflects the harsh, brutal life there, a music shot through with all the agonized tension, bitterness, stark power and raw passion of life lived at or near the brink of despair. Poised between life and death, the Delta bluesman gave vent to his terror, frustration, rage and passionate humanity in a music that was taut with dark, brooding force and spellbinding intensity that was jagged, harsh, raw as an open wound and profoundly, inexorably, moving. The great Delta blues musicians-Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson and, especially in Waters' case, the brilliant, tortured Robert Johnson-sang with a naked force, majesty and total conviction that make their music timeless and universal in its power to touch and move us deeply.
Growing to manhood there, in the very heart of the region that had spawned this magnificent music, Waters was drawn early to its stark, telling, expressive power. He had been working as a farm laborer for several years when at thirteen he took up the harmonica, the instrument on which many blues performers first master the music's rudiments. Four years later he made the switch to guitar. "You see, I was digging Son House and Robert Johnson." The two were the undisputed masters of the region's characteristic "bottleneck" style of guitar accompaniment. With this technique the Delta bluesman could utilize the guitar as a perfect extension of his voice, the sliding bottleneck matching the dips, slurs, sliding notes and all the tonal ambiguity of the voice as it is used in singing the blues.
Within a year, Waters recalled, he had mastered the bottleneck style and the jagged, pulsating rhythms of Delta guitar. He had learned to sing powerfully and expressively in the tightly constricted, pain-filled manner that characterized the best Delta singers. By the time a team of Library of Congress field collectors headed by Alan Lomax visited and recorded Waters for the Library's folksong archives in 1941 (they were looking for Robert Johnson at the time, unaware of his death three years earlier), returning to record him further the following year, he had had several years' local performing experience behind him.
Providing the musical impetus for dancers at rough-and-tumble back country dances, in juke joints, and at picnics, houseparties and other rural entertainments had sharpened the young bluesman's vocal and instrumental abilities to a keen edge. The recordings show the strikingly distinctive power of the young Waters, both as singer and master of Delta bottleneck guitar.
The following year Muddy put the Delta behind him forever. He moved to Chicago in 1943, and never looked back. But it was not as easy in the Windy City as the young bluesman had imagined. It was the middle of the war and, though times were flush and there was a great deal of money to be earned in the defense industries, the winds of change were blowing uncertainly through the music world.
Spearheading the new blues was Waters. He had persevered with his music. After several years of playing to slowly increasing audiences, first at houseparties and later in small taverns dotted throughout Chicago's huge, sprawling South and West Side black-belt slums, he had begun to record. Ironically enough, it was for Columbia Records that he had made his first recordings as a Chicago bluesman. Unfortunately, the recordings were not issued. Working as a truck driver, Waters had managed to persuade the operators of Aristocrat-later Chess-Records, a small, independent Chicago firm, to record him.
After several exploratory recordings made in the company of pianist Sunnyland Slim and bassist Ernest "Big" Crawford which made absolutely no impression on the record-buying public, Waters suddenly scored with the single "I Can't Be Satisfied/I Feel Like Going Home." And it is with this record that the history of the modern Chicago blues properly begins. Over the next few years, Waters gathered around him a group of like-minded, country-reared musicians with whom he proceeded to make blues history.
Over the surging rhythmic momentum his group developed so effortlessly, Waters' dark-hued voice chanted the Mississippi blues of his boyhood. In his singing could be heard echoes of the great Delta singers he so admired. Robert Johnson's music, especially, is at the root of so many of Waters' early commercial recordings. But even if the source of the music is not specifically Johnson, it is ultimately based in the traditional blues of his native Mississippi Delta, always the linchpin of Waters' approach to music, as attested by "Rollin' Stone" and "Still A Fool" (both remarkable reworkings of the Delta standard "Catfish Blues"), "Standing Around Crying," "Rollin' And Tumblin'," "Honey Bee," among many others.
Following his earliest recordings, made primarily of traditional Mississippi blues staples and his adaptations of them, Muddy slowly broadened the traditional base of his music to incorporate new instrumental sounds and textures. Memorable among these early efforts were the remarkable trio recordings with Little Walter on harmonica and Crawford on bass in support of his incisive amplified bottleneck guitar: "Louisiana Blues," and "Long Distance Call," dating from 1950 or early '51 are justly praised masterpieces of the postwar blues. Waters' regular second guitarist during this period was the empathetic, almost telepathic Jimmy Rogers whose deft, rhythmically unerring playing was unparalleled in the modern blues. A member of Waters' working band from the late 1940s, he was not to make his appearance on a Waters record until the end of 1951, the same time pianist Otis Spann was added to the group's lineup for live performances. With him on board, the modern blues band format and sound was fully settled, documented on such Waters band performances as "I Just Want To Make Love To You," "Hoochie Coochie Man" and "I'm Ready" (1954), "Just To Be With You" (1956) and a host of others.
With the ensemble finally settled, the final element was added in the form of Willie Dixon the veteran bassist whose abilities as a songwriter of proven talent, versatility and audience-pleasing cleverness enabled Waters to achieve even wider success through the many songs he wrote specifically for, and in some cases helped produce for the singer-guitarist and his crack ensemble. From the middle 1950s Waters' songwriting became almost wholly urban in character, as for example "She's Nineteen Years Old," "Walkin' Thru The Park," "You Can't Lose What You Ain't Never Had" and the anthemic "Got My Mojo Working," among others.
All through the 1950s Waters solidified and extended his initial success with a series of recordings, many of them absolutely brilliant and none less than satisfying, that firmly established his approach as the dominant postwar blues style. Countless groups emulated its brusque, rude force and thrilling sonorities though few were able to match the peerless ensemble integration it attained so consistently and effortlessly. Members of Waters' various bands-guitarists Jimmy Rogers, Sammy Lawhorn and Luther Johnson, harmonica players Little Walter, Junior Wells and James Cotton, pianists Otis Spann and Pinetop Perkins-left to strike out with bands of their own, spreading the Waters gospel further. Later generations of bluesmen took Waters' approach as their birthright: Buddy Guy, Magic Sam, Otis Rush and scores of others-have all been in Waters' debt.
Four decades and more later, the blues of postwar Chicago remain the standard bearers, the yardstick by which all others have been and continue to be measured. Waters, his cohorts and immediate followers had limned definitively the contours of the style, and it was they who extended and reworked the idiom, bringing it to its highest levels. The stage was set for the music's next development, rock-and-roll and its offshoots and permutations.
As the 1950s gave way to the '60s, blues of the direct, yeasty sort Waters and his bandsmen performed so tellingly became ever less relevant to black listeners who increasingly involved themselves with soul music and its offshoots, the more urbane blues styles of B.B. King and his disciples, and various forms of modern black dance music.
By this time, however, Waters and other blues performers of his generation had been discovered and taken up by a new audience-young, white and middle-class that had been born of the folk music revival of the late 1950s and swelled even further a few years later by the British blues boom. The bars, taverns and dancehalls of the chitlin' circuit in which he had performed for black dancers and listeners in the previous decade soon had given way to college auditoriums, folksong, blues and jazz clubs and festival stages, both here and abroad, increasing international touring, television appearances and wide acceptance by the rock community, which accorded him the respectful adulation given a founding figure. His young white listeners gained the beauty and majesty of his music.
Through all this his mentors at Chess Records sought to keep pace with the changing tides in popular music, in response to which they placed Waters in a number of recording contexts they felt would broaden his acceptance even further. The most sensitive and, happily, one of the best received of these productions was the 2-LP set "Fathers And Sons," which paid homage to Waters and his achievements through the sponsorship and participation of several young musicians who had learned directly from him, repaying the favor by using their celebrity to focus attention on him-the brilliant young harmonica player Paul Butterfield and guitarist Michael Bloomfield. In 1977, his long association with Chess at an end, he signed with Blue Sky Records, a label operated by another of his young proteges, the guitarist and singer Johnny Winter, and over the next several years produced four spirited albums under Winter's sympathetic guidance.
Waters performed almost uninterruptedly, invariably giving of his best and often, when circumstances conspired to allow it, setting the night on fire with the strength, passion and conviction that only he could muster. He carried his message to countless listeners, first in Chicago, then all the rest of the U.S. and finally, the world. When he died quietly in his sleep on April 30, 1983, in his home in suburban Westmont Illinois, America lost one of the greatest, most influential and enduringly important musicians of the century, one who had reshaped the course of the blues, set it on a new path and, through the influence he exerted on so many other who followed in his trailblazing wake, completely altered the sound, substance and very character of all modern popular music.
When Johnson arrived in a new town, he would play for tips on street corners or in front of the local barbershop or a restaurant. He played what his audience asked for — not necessarily his own compositions, and not necessarily blues. With an ability to pick up tunes at first hearing, Johnson had no trouble giving his audiences what they wanted, and certain of his contemporaries, most notably Johnny Shines, later remarked on Johnson's interest in jazz and country. (Many giants of the blues, including Muddy Waters, were not averse to playing the hit songs of the day.) Johnson also had an uncanny ability to establish a rapport with his audience in every town in which he stopped, Johnson would establish ties to the local community that would serve him well when he passed through again a month or a year later.
Fellow musician Johnny Shines was 17 when he met Johnson in 1933. He estimated that Johnson was maybe a year older than himself. In Samuel Charters' Robert Johnson, the author quotes Shines as saying:
"Robert was a very friendly person, even though he was sulky at times, you know. And I hung around Robert for quite a while. One evening he disappeared. He was kind of peculiar fellow. Robert'd be standing up playing some place, playing like nobody's business. At about that time it was a hustle with him as well as a pleasure. And money'd be coming from all directions. But Robert'd just pick up and walk off and leave you standing there playing. And you wouldn't see Robert no more maybe in two or three weeks.... So Robert and I, we began journeying off. I was just, matter of fact, tagging along."
During this time Johnson established what would be a relatively long-term relationship with Estella Coleman, a woman who was about fifteen years his elder and the mother of musician Robert Lockwood, Jr.. Johnson, however, reportedly also cultivated a woman to look after him in each town he played in. Johnson supposedly asked homely young women living in the country with their families whether he could go home with them, and in most cases the answer was yes—until a boyfriend arrived or Johnson was ready to move on.
Around 1936, Johnson sought out H. C. Speir in Jackson, Mississippi, who ran a general store and doubled as a talent scout. Speir, who helped the careers of many blues players, put Johnson in touch with Ernie Oertle, who offered to record the young musician in San Antonio, Texas. At the recording session, held on November 23, 1936 in rooms at the Blue Bonnet Hotel . which Brunswick Records had set up as a temporary studio, Johnson reportedly performed facing the wall. This has been cited as evidence he was a shy man and reserved performer, a conclusion played up in the inaccurate liner notes of the 1961 album King of the Delta Blues Singers. Johnson probably was nervous and intimidated at his first time in a makeshift recording studio (a new and alien environment for the musician), but in truth he was probably focusing on the demands of his emotive performances. In addition, playing into the corner of a wall was a sound-enhancing technique that simulated the acoustical booths of better-equipped studios. In the ensuing three-day session, Johnson played 16 selections, and recorded alternate takes for most of these. When the recording session was over, Johnson presumably returned home with cash in his pocket; probably more money than he'd ever had at one time in his life.
Among the songs Johnson recorded in San Antonio were "Come On In My Kitchen," "Kind Hearted Woman Blues," "I Believe I'll Dust My Broom," and "Cross Road Blues." "Come on in My Kitchen" included the lines: "The woman I love took from my best friend/Some joker got lucky, stole her back again/You better come on in my kitchen, it's going to be rainin' outdoors." In "Crossroad Blues," another of his songs, he sang: "I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees/I went to the crossroads, fell down on my knees/I asked the Lord above, have mercy, save poor Bob if you please/Uumb, standing at the crossroads I tried to flag a ride/Standing at the crossroads I tried to flag a ride/Ain't nobody seem to know me, everybody pass me by."
When his records began appearing, Johnson made the rounds to his relatives and the various children he had fathered to bring them the records himself. The first songs to appear were "Terraplane Blues" and "Last Fair Deal Gone Down," probably the only recordings of his that he would live to hear. "Terraplane Blues" became a moderate regional hit, selling 5,000 copies.
In 1937, Johnson traveled to Dallas, Texas, for another recording session in a makeshift studio at the Brunswick Record Building, 508 Park Avenue. Eleven records from this session would be released within the following year. "Stones In My Passway" and "Me And The Devil" are both about betrayal, a recurrent theme in country blues. "Hell Hound On My Trail" utilises another common theme: fear of the Devil. Other themes in Johnson's music include impotence ("Dead Shrimp Blues" and "Phonograph Blues") and infidelity ("Terraplane Blues," "If I Had Possession Over Judgement Day" and "Love in Vain").
Six of Johnson's blues songs mention the devil or some form of the supernatural. In "Me And The Devil" he began, "Early this morning when you knocked upon my door/Early this morning, umb, when you knocked upon my door/And I said, 'Hello, Satan, I believe it's time to go,'" before leading into "You may bury my body down by the highway side/You may bury my body, uumh, down by the highway side/So my old evil spirit can catch a Greyhound bus and ride."
It has been suggested that the Devil in these songs does not solely refer to the Christian model of Satan, but equally to the African trickster god (himself associated with crossroads), Legba, although author Tom Graves claims the connection to African deities is tenuous at best. Graves' contention, however, probably stems from a lack of familiarity with the pervasive retention of African religious roots among Southern Blacks early in the 20th century. As folklorist Harry M Hyatt discovered during his research in the South from 1935-1939 when African-Americans born in the 19th or early 20th century told interviewers that they or anyone they knew had "sold their soul to the devil at the crossroads," they did not intend to convey thereby that the person in question was an evil, hell-bound anti-Christian. The confusion arises in the eyes of white interpreters who don't understand that the crossroads deity is a survival from polytheistic African religions and that he has been assigned the only name he can be given in a monotheistic religion. There is ample evidence supporting the African religious retentions surrounding Legba and the making of a "deal" (not selling the soul in the same sense as in the Faustian tradition cited by Graves) with this so-called "devil" at the crossroads.
In the last year of his life, Johnson is believed to have traveled to St. Louis and possibly Illinois, and then to some states in the East. He spent some time in Memphis and traveled through the Mississippi Delta and Arkansas. By the time he died, at least six of his records had been released in the South as race records.
His death occurred on August 16, 1938, at the age of 27 at a country crossroads near Greenwood, Mississippi. He had been playing for a few weeks at a country dance in a town about 15 miles (24 km) from Greenwood.
There are a number of accounts and theories regarding the events preceding Johnson's death. One of these is that one evening Johnson began flirting with a woman at a dance. One version of this rumor says she was the wife of the juke joint owner who unknowingly provided Johnson with a bottle of poisoned whiskey from her husband, while another suggests she was a married woman he had been secretly seeing. Researcher Mack McCormick claims to have interviewed Johnson's alleged poisoner in the 1970s, and obtained a tacit admission of guilt from the man. When Johnson was offered an open bottle of whiskey, his friend and fellow blues legend Sonny Boy Williamson knocked the bottle out of his hand, informing him that he should never drink from an offered bottle that has already been opened. Johnson allegedly said, "don't ever knock a bottle out of my hand." Soon after, he was offered another open bottle of whiskey and accepted it, and it was that bottle that was laced with strychnine. Honey Boy Edwards, another blues musician was present, and essentially confirms this account. Johnson is reported to have started to feel ill into the evening after drinking from the bottle and had to be helped back to his room in the early morning hours. Over the next three days, his condition steadily worsened and witnesses reported that he died in a convulsive state of severe pain—symptoms which are consistent with strychnine poisoning. Strychnine was readily available at the time as it was a common pesticide and, although it is very bitter-tasting and extremely toxic, a small quantity dissolved in a harsh-tasting solution such as whiskey could possibly have gone unnoticed but still produced the symptoms (over a period of days due to the reduced dosage) and eventual death that Johnson experienced. Tom Graves in his biography Crossroads: The Life and Afterlife of Blues Legend Robert Johnson convincingly deconstructs the possibility of death by strychnine and using expert testimony from toxicologists disputes the notion. He claims that strychnine has such a distinctive odor and taste that it can not be disguised even in strong liquor. He also claims that a significant amount of strychnine would have to be consumed in one sitting to be fatal and that death from the poison would occur within hours, not days.
The precise location of his grave remains a source of ongoing controversy, and three different markers have been erected at supposed burial sites outside of Greenwood. Research in the 1980s and 1990s strongly suggests Johnson was buried in the graveyard of the Mount Zion Missionary Baptist church near Morgan City, Mississippi, not far from Greenwood, in an unmarked grave. A cenotaph memorial was placed at this location in 1990 paid for by Columbia Records and numerous smaller contributions made through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. More recent research by Stephen LaVere (including statements from Rosie Eskridge, the wife of the supposed gravedigger) indicates that the actual grave site is under a big pecan tree in the cemetery of the Little Zion Church north of Greenwood along Money Road. Sony Music has placed a marker at this site.
Ray Charles Robinson (September 23, 1930 – June 10, 2004), known by his stage name Ray Charles, was a blind musician. He brought a soulful sound to country music and pop standards through his Modern Sounds recordings, as well as a rendition of "America the Beautiful" that Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes called the "definitive version of the song, an American anthem — a classic, just as the man who sang it." He also appeared in the 1980 hit movie, The Blues Brothers. Frank Sinatra called him "the only true genius in the business".
Almost immediately after signing with Atlantic in 1952, Charles scored his first hit singles with the label with "It Should Have Been Me" and the Ertegün-composed "Mess Around", both making the charts in 1953. But it was Charles' "I Got A Woman" (composed with band mate Renald Richard) that brought the musician to national prominence.
The song reached the top of Billboard's R&B singles chart in 1955 and from there until 1959, Charles would have a series of R&B chart-toppers including "This Little Girl of Mine", "Lonely Avenue", "Mary Ann", "Drown in My Own Tears" and the #5 hit "The Night Time (Is the Right Time)", which were compiled on his Atlantic releases Hallelujah, I Love Her So, Yes Indeed!, and The Genius Sings the Blues. Charles was often cited for using his voice like a saxophone, most notably by the prominent critic Victor Bollo. During this time of transition, he recruited a young girl group from Philadelphia named The Cookies as his background singing group, recording with them in New York and changing their name to the Raelettes in the process
In 1959, Charles crossed over to top 30 radio with the release of his impromptu blues number, "What'd I Say", which was initially conceived while Charles was in concert. The song would reach number 1 on the R&B list and would become Charles' first top ten single on the pop charts, peaking at number 6. Charles would also record The Genius of Ray Charles, before leaving Atlantic for a more lucrative deal with ABC Records in 1959.
Hit songs such as "Georgia On My Mind" (US #1), "Hit the Road Jack" (US #1) and "Unchain My Heart" (US #9) helped him transition to pop success and his landmark 1962 album, Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and its sequel Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music, Vol. 2, helped to bring country into the mainstream of music. He also had major pop hits in 1963 with "Busted" (US #4) and "Take These Chains From My Heart" (US #8), and also scoring a Top 20 hit four years later, in 1967, with "Here We Go Again" (US #15) (which would later be duetted with Norah Jones in 2004).
In 2004, Rolling Stone Magazine ranked Charles number ten on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and also voted him number two on their November 2008 list of The 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.
This site was last updated 07/14/09