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John Lee Hooker

Big Legs, Tight Skirt

John Lee Hooker (August 22, 1917 – June 21, 2001) was an American blues singer, songwriter and guitarist. He was born in Mississippi, the son of a sharecropper, and rose to prominence performing an electric guitar-style adaptation of Delta blues. Hooker often incorporated other elements, including talking blues and early North Mississippi Hill country blues. He developed his own driving-rhythm boogie style, distinct from the 1930s–1940s piano-derived boogie-woogie style. Some of his best known songs include “Boogie Chillen'” (1948), “Crawling King Snake” (1949), “Dimples” (1956), “Boom Boom” (1962), and “One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer” (1966) – the first being the most popular race record of 1949.

There is some debate as to the year of Hooker’s birth in Coahoma County, Mississippi, the youngest of the eleven children of William Hooker (1871–1923), a sharecropper and Baptist preacher, and Minnie Ramsey (born 1875, date of death unknown); according to his official website, he was born on August 22, 1917.

Hooker and his siblings were home-schooled. They were permitted to listen only to religious songs, with his earliest exposure being the spirituals sung in church. In 1921, his parents separated. The next year, his mother married William Moore, a blues singer who provided Hooker with his first introduction to the guitar (and whom John would later credit for his distinctive playing style). John’s stepfather was his first significant blues influence. William Moore was a local blues guitarist who learned in Shreveport, Louisiana to play a droning, one-chord blues that was strikingly different from the Delta blues of the time. Around 1923 his biological father died. At the age of 14, John Lee Hooker ran away from home, reportedly never seeing his mother or stepfather again.

Throughout the 1930s, Hooker lived in Memphis, Tennessee where he worked on Beale Street at The New Daisy Theatre and occasionally performed at house parties. He worked in factories in various cities during World War II, drifting until he found himself in Detroit in 1948 working at Ford Motor Company. He felt right at home near the blues venues and saloons on Hastings Street, the heart of black entertainment on Detroit’s east side. In a city noted for its pianists, guitar players were scarce. Performing in Detroit clubs, his popularity grew quickly and, seeking a louder instrument than his acoustic guitar, he bought his first electric guitar.

 

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Jimi Hendrix Experience

Red House

 “Red House” is a song written by Jimi Hendrix and originally recorded in 1966 by the Jimi Hendrix Experience. It is a slowtwelve-bar blues, which music writer Keith Shadwick calls “one of the most traditional in sound and form of all his official recordings”. It was developed during Hendrix’s pre-Experience days while he was performing in Greenwich Village, and was inspired by earlier blues songs. Hendrix recorded several studio and live versions of the song during his career; “Red House” has also been recorded by a variety of blues and other artists.

“Red House” was inspired by blues songs Hendrix was performing with Curtis Knight and the Squires in 1965 and 1966. Music critic Charles Shaar Murray calls the Hendrix/Knight version of “California Night” as “a dead ringer, both in structure and mood, for his 1967 perennial ‘Red House'”. “California Night” (sometimes misidentified as “Every Day I Have the Blues”; both songs use the verse “Nobody loves me”) was originally recorded by Albert King in 1961 as “Travelin’ to California”. “Travelin’ to California” is a slow (70 beats per minute) twelve-bar blues in the key of B with lyrics that follow the common blues theme of the rambling man and his lost love.

“California Night” features an early vocal performance by Hendrix and uses Albert King’s lyrics and arrangement. Two versions were recorded live and issued on European bootleg albums in the 1970s and 1980s. It is believed that these were recorded December 26, 1965 at George’s Club 22 in Hackensack, New Jersey and in one, Hendrix reminded the band “B” before counting off the song. Shadwick describes it as “a staggering display of blues guitar playing that is worthy of mention in the same breath as his later efforts with the Experience”. Although his guitar tone and phraseology is compared to that of Buddy Guy, Shadwick adds that his techniques “simply transcend any previous models, and breaks new ground” and shows that “his ability to spin out long and consistently surprising lines across the standard blues changes is already full grown”. In 1966, during his residency as “Jimmy James and the Blue Flames” at the Cafe Wha? in New York City’s Greenwich Village, Hendrix continued to develop his slow blues number that became “Red House”.

“Red House” was one of the earliest songs recorded by the Experience. The recording took place Tuesday, December 13, 1966 at the CBS Studios in London following their performance of “Hey Joe” for the Ready Steady Go! music television program. Producer Chas Chandler explained

The ‘Red House’ on the album [Are You Experienced] came about during the last fifteen minutes of [the 12/13] session. Noel [ Noel Redding ] even played rhythm guitar on the track, playing the bass line. Jimi just winged through one take for reference and we started rolling.

Redding added, “I had borrowed a terrible old hollow-body electric guitar from someone at the studio … because I liked to play along on rhythm to familiarise myself with a sequence, not being quite at home on the bass yet”. The guitar was tuned down one-half step, with the tone controls set to resemble a bass guitar.

Additional takes of the song were recorded at De Lane Lea Studios on December 21, 1966, which closely followed the earlier arrangement. However, both Hendrix and Redding had problems with missed notes and the takes were not used, except for a backing track that Hendrix later overdubbed at the Olympic Studios on March 29 or early April 1967. When preparing the final mixes for Are You Experienced, Chandler chose to use the track recorded at CBS: “Later when we were scrambling to put the album together, we carted that [12/13 track] out and gave it a listen. We remixed it at Olympic and added it to the album”.[8] The De Lane Lea/Olympic version was later used for the American Smash Hits album.

“Red House” is a slow (66 beats per minute) twelve-bar blues, notated in 12/8 time in the key of B. Although Hendrix fingered the song in the key of B, he usually tuned his guitar one-half step and sometimes one step lower, resulting in a lower pitch. The song opens with a diminished seventh chord frequently found in blues songs, including the intros to the Robert Johnson songs “Dead Shrimp Blues”, “Kind Hearted Woman”, and “32-20 Blues”. After the four-bar intro, Redding and Experience drummer Mitch Mitchell come in while Hendrix solos up to the vocal at bar thirteen. After two twelve-bar vocal sections, Hendrix solos for twelve bars, then finishes up with another vocal section, following the same arrangement Albert King used for “Travelin’ to California”.

The song’s most prominent characteristic is Hendrix’s guitar work. Shadwick describes it as a “close approximation of the human voice … scooping and bending his phrases to maximum expressive effect”. John Lee Hooker commented, “That ‘Red House’, that’ll make you grab your mother and choke her! Man, that’s really hard, that tears you apart. He could get down, he could mash it, yeah, Lord! He had so many blues”. Bassist Billy Cox of Hendrix’s post-Experience Band of Gypsys described “Red House” as “Jimi’s way of using his musical roots, everything he knew and understood best, in a pop context”.

 

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Sonny Boy Williamson II

The Sky is Crying

The Sky Is Crying” is a song that has become a blues standard. It was written and recorded by Elmore James in 1959. Called “one of his most durable compositions”, “The Sky Is Crying” became a R&B record chart hit and has been interpreted and recorded by numerous artists.

“The Sky Is Crying” is a slow-tempo twelve-bar blues notated in 12/8 time in the key of C. An impromptu song inspired by a Chicago downpour during the recording session, it features James’ slide guitar work and vocals. Accompanying James is his longtime backing band, the Broomdusters: J. T. Brown (saxophone), Johnny Jones (piano), Odie Payne (drums), andHomesick James (bass). James’ unique slide guitar sound on the recording has generated some debate; Homesick James attributed it to a recording studio technique, others have suggested a different amplifier or guitar setup, and Ry Cooder felt that it was an altogether different guitar than James’ usual Kay acoustic with an attached pickup.

The song, listed as “Elmo James and His Broomdusters”, reached #15 in the Billboard R&B chart in 1960, making it James’ last chart showing before his death in 1963. James recorded a variation of the song, “The Sun Is Shining”, in April 1960 (Chess 1756), five months after the recording date of “The Sky Is Crying” (although some places “Sun” as a precursor to “Sky”, possibly because the bulk of James’ recordings for Fire/Fury/Enjoy took place after the Chess recordings).

“The Sky Is Crying” has been interpreted and recorded by many blues and other artists. In 1963, blues harmonica player and singer Sonny Boy Williamson II recorded the song as a country blues-style duet with Matt Murphy on acoustic guitar for his Keep It to Ourselves album. In 1964, Eric Clapton with The Yardbirds recorded a live slow blues which included a couple of lines from “The Sky Is Crying” (Blueswailing July ’64 (Live)). In 1966, with Jeff Beck on slide guitar, the Yardbirds made a live recording of “The Sun Is Shining” for the BBC (BBC Sessions). Hound Dog Taylor recorded a live version with Little Walter on harmonica at the 1967 American Folk Blues Festival (Fontana). He later recorded another live version with the HouseRockers in Boston in 1972 (Live at Joe’s Place).

In 1969, Albert King recorded the version that became one of his signature songs on the album Years Gone By, later adopted by Stevie Ray Vaughan. King recorded several live versions of the song during his career. Luther Allison also recorded the song in 1969 on his first LP, Love Me Moma, and frequently included the song in his live performances. The Allman Brothers Band played the song at Duane Allman’s funeral in 1971 and has since become one of their staples. Eric Clapton released a studio version on his 1975 There’s One in Every Crowd album. In 1977, George Thorogood recorded it for his second album Move It on Over. A live version was included on his 1986 album Live Thorogood.

Stevie Ray Vaughan recorded the song during the 1985 Soul to Soul sessions, but it was not released until the 1991 posthumous compilation The Sky Is Crying. Gary Moore recorded it for his 1992 album Blues Alive. A live version appears on Johnny Winter’s Live in NYC ’97 album. In 1998, John Martyn recorded it on his album of covers The Church with One Bell. Etta James recorded the song for her 2004 Grammy Award-winning Blues to the Bone album.

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Muddy Waters

She’s 19 Years Old

McKinley Morganfield (April 4, 1913 – April 30, 1983), known by his stage name Muddy Waters, was an American blues musician. He is often considered the “father of modern Chicago blues”.

Muddy Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi and by age seventeen was playing the guitar at parties, emulating local blues artists Son House and Robert Johnson. He was recorded by Alan Lomax there for the Library of Congress in 1941. In 1943, he headed to Chicago with the hope of becoming a full-time professional musician, eventually recording, in 1946, for first Columbia and then Aristocrat Records, a newly formed label run by brothers Leonard and Phil Chess.

In the early 1950s, Muddy and his band, Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Jimmy Rogers on guitar, Elgin Evans on drums and Otis Spann on piano, recorded a series of blues classics, some with bassist/songwriter Willie Dixon, including “Hoochie Coochie Man”, “I Just Want to Make Love to You” and “I’m Ready”. In 1958, Muddy headed to England, helping to lay the foundations of the subsequent blues boom there, and in 1960 performed at the Newport Jazz Festival, recorded and released as his first live album, At Newport 1960.

Muddy’s influence is tremendous, not just on blues and rhythm and blues but on rock ‘n’ roll, hard rock, folk, jazz, and country; his use of amplification is often cited as the link between Delta blues and rock ‘n’ roll.

Although in his later years Muddy usually said that he was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi, in 1915, he was most likely born at Jug’s Corner in neighboring Issaquena County in 1913. Recent research has uncovered documentation showing that in the 1930s and 1940s, before his rise to fame, he reported his birth year as 1913 on his marriage license, recording notes and musicians’ union card. A 1955 interview in the Chicago Defender is the earliest claim of 1915 as his year of birth, which he continued to use in interviews from that point onward. The 1920 census lists him as five years old as of March 6, 1920, suggesting that his birth year may have been 1914. The Social Security Death Index, relying on the Social Security card application submitted after his move to Chicago in the mid-1940s, lists him as being born April 4, 1913. Muddy’s gravestone gives his birth year as 1915.

Muddy’s grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly following his birth. Della gave the boy the nickname “Muddy” at an early age because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek. Muddy later changed it to “Muddy Water” and finally “Muddy Waters”.

The shack where Muddy Waters lived in his youth on Stovall Plantation is now located at the Delta Blues Museum in Clarksdale, Mississippi. He started out on harmonica, but by age seventeen he was playing the guitar at parties, emulating two blues artists in particular, Son House and Robert Johnson.

On November 20, 1932, Muddy married Mabel Berry. Guitarist Robert Nighthawk played at the wedding and the party reportedly got so wild the floor fell in. Mabel left Muddy three years later when Muddy’s first child was born; the child’s mother was Leola Spain, 16 years old (Leola later used her maiden name, Brown), “married to a man named Steven” and “going with a guy named Tucker”. Leola was the only one of his girlfriends with whom Muddy would stay in touch throughout his life; they never married. By the time he finally cut out for Chicago in 1943, there was another Mrs. Morganfield left behind, a girl called Sallie Ann.

His influence is tremendous, over a variety of music genres: blues, rhythm and blues, rock ‘n’ roll, hard rock, folk, jazz, and country. He also helped Chuck Berry get his first record contract.

His 1958 tour of England marked possibly the first time amplified, modern urban blues was heard there, although on his first tour he was the only one amplified. His backing was provided by Englishman Chris Barber’s trad jazz group.

His use of amplification is cited as “the technological missing link between Delta Blues and Rock ‘N’ Roll.” This is underlined in a 1968 article in Rolling Stone magazine: “There was a difference between Muddy’s instrumental work and that of House and Johnson, however, and the crucial difference was the result of Waters’ use of the electric guitar on his Aristocrat sides; he had taken up the instrument shortly after moving to Chicago in 1943.”

The Rolling Stones named themselves after his 1950 song “Rollin’ Stone” (also known as “Catfish Blues”, which Jimi Hendrix covered as well). The magazine Rolling Stone also took its name from the same song. Hendrix recalled “the first guitar player I was aware of was Muddy Waters. I first heard him as a little boy and it scared me to death”. Cream covered “Rollin’ and Tumblin'” on their 1966 debut album Fresh Cream, as Eric Clapton was a big fan of Muddy Waters when he was growing up, and his music influenced Clapton’s music career. The song was also covered by Canned Heat at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival and later adapted by Bob Dylan on the album Modern Times. One of Led Zeppelin’s biggest hits, “Whole Lotta Love”, is lyrically based upon the Muddy Waters hit “You Need Love”, written by Willie Dixon. Dixon wrote some of Muddy Waters’ most famous songs, including “I Just Want to Make Love to You” (a big radio hit for Etta James, as well as the 1970s rock band Foghat), “Hoochie Coochie Man”, which The Allman Brothers Band famously covered (the song was also covered by Humble Pie and Steppenwolf), “Trouble No More” and “I’m Ready”. In 1993, Paul Rodgers released the album Muddy Water Blues: A Tribute to Muddy Waters, on which he covered a number of Muddy Waters songs, including “Louisiana Blues”, “Rollin’ Stone”, “Hoochie Coochie Man” and “I’m Ready” (among others) in collaboration with a number of famous guitarists including Gary Moore, Brian May and Jeff Beck.

Angus Young of the rock group AC/DC has cited Muddy Waters as one of his influences. The AC/DC song title “You Shook Me All Night Long” came from lyrics of the Muddy Waters song “You Shook Me”, written by Willie Dixon and J. B. Lenoir. Earl Hooker first recorded it as an instrumental, which was then overdubbed with vocals by Muddy Waters in 1962. Led Zeppelin also covered it on their debut album.

Muddy Waters’ songs have been featured in long-time fan Martin Scorsese’s movies, including The Color of Money, Goodfellas and Casino. Muddy Waters’ 1970s recording of his mid-’50s hit “Mannish Boy” (a.k.a. “I’m A Man”) was used in Goodfellas, Better Off Dead, and the hit film Risky Business, and also features in therockumentary The Last Waltz.

The song “Come Together” by The Beatles references Muddy Waters: “He roller coaster/he got Muddy Waters.”

Van Morrison lyrics include “Muddy Waters singin’, “I’m a Rolling Stone” from his 1982 song “Cleaning Windows”, on the album Beautiful Vision.

 

Curt and Rod Presents – Blues Monday   Leave a comment

Taj Mahal

Statesboro Blues

Statesboro Blues” is a blues song in the key of D written by Blind Willie McTell; the title refers to the town of Statesboro, Georgia. Covered by many artists, the version by The Allman Brothers Band is especially notable and was ranked #9 byRolling Stone in their list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. In 2005, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution ranked “Statesboro Blues” number 57 on its list of 100 Songs of the South.

The lyrics, a first-person narrative, appear to relate the story of a man pleading with a woman to let him in her house; the speaker calls himself “Papa McTell” in the first stanza (“Have you got the nerve to drive Papa McTell from your door?”). Throughout the song, the woman, addressed as “mama,” is alternately pleaded with (to go with the speaker “up the country”) and threatened (“When I leave this time, pretty mama, I’m going away to stay”). Throughout the non-linear narrative, the “Statesboro blues” are invoked—an unexplained condition from which the speaker and his entire family seem to be suffering (“I woke up this morning / Had them Statesboro blues / I looked over in the corner: grandma and grandpa had ’em too”). Later versions, such as the one played by The Allman Brothers Band, have shorter, simplified lyrics.

As with many blues lyrics, it can be difficult to establish rules for the narrative order of the stanzas. In the case of “Statesboro Blues,” Richard Blaustein attempted a structural analysis of McTell’s song in an approach influenced by Claude Lévi-Strauss; it is unclear whether his results are applicable to other blues songs also.

McTell borrowed part of the lyrics from a 1923 Sippie Wallace recording of “Up the Country Blues,” which was later popularized by Canned Heat as “Goin’ up the Country.”

 

 

Curt and Rod Presents – Blues Monday   2 comments

Creedence Clearwater Revival  

I Put A Spell On You

I Put a Spell on You” is a 1956 song written by Jay Hawkins, whose recording was selected as one of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. It was also ranked No. 313 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Hawkins had originally intended to record “I Put a Spell on You” as “a refined love song, a blues ballad.” However, theproducer “brought in ribs and chicken and got everybody drunk, and we came out with this weird version… I don’t even remember making the record. Before, I was just a normal blues singer. I was just Jay Hawkins. It all sort of just fell in place. I found out I could do more destroying a song and screaming it to death.”

Hawkins first recorded “I Put a Spell on You” during his stint with Grand Records in late 1955. However, that first version was not released at the time (it has since been reissued on Hawkins’ UK Rev-Ola CD The Whamee 1953-55). The following year, in 1956, Hawkins re-recorded his song for Okeh Records, and is the version best associated with Hawkins.

 

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Paul Lamb & The Kingsnakes

Don’t Answer the Door

Lamb started playing the harmonica during his childhood, inspired by Sonny Terry, and he was fortunate to meet and collaborate with him after beginning to perform in clubs by the age of fifteen. Lamb played only acoustic blues until about 1980. Lamb also played alongside his heroes such as Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, and Brownie McGhee. He formed the Blues Burglars with guitarist Johnny Whitehill in the early 1980s, a formation that eventually became Paul Lamb & the King Snakes. They released an eponymous album with Ace Records in 1990, followed by several others, each building both Lamb’s personal reputation as a harmonica player and the band’s prestige. He was awarded with the British Blues Connection’s annual award for the best local harmonica player several years in a row whilst the King Snakes frequently took the title as best band.

As a consequence, his own harmonica skills have been in demand, and he had a hit in 1994 in the UK Singles Chart with the track, “Harmonica Man” (under the pseudonym of Bravado) with Pete Waterman. Lamb has also worked withMark Knopfler, The Who, Rod Stewart and Jimmy Nail, played on BBC and film soundtracks, and various television commercials in the UK.

Lamb was more recently inducted into the British Blues Awards Hall of Fame. Blues & Rhythm magazine described his band as “lazily cocksure and coolly aggressive”.

In 2011 he recorded a session for Paul Jones’ BBC Radio 2 show.

Members of the King Snakes band have included singer/guitarists Johnny Dickinson and Chad Strentz, bassists Jim Mercer, Dave Stevens, and Rod Demick, drummers Mike Thorne, Martin Deegan, Alan Savage, Daniel Strittmatter, and Sonny Below, and Paul’s son Ryan on lead guitar.

In 2014 the band includes Paul Lamb, Ryan Lamb, Chad Strentz, Rod Demick and drummer Dino Coccia.

 

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