CeDell Davis (born Ellis Davis, 9 June 1927) is an American blues guitarist and singer.
Davis is most notable for his distinctive style of guitar playing. Davis plays guitar using a table knife in his fretting hand in a manner similar to slide guitar, resulting in a welter of metal-stress harmonic transients and a singular tonal plasticity. He uses this style out of necessity. When he was 10, he suffered from severe polio which left him little control over his left hand and restricted use of his right. He had been playing guitar prior to his polio and decided to continue in spite of his handicap, and developed his knife method as the only way he could come up with of still playing guitar. Davis was born in Helena, Arkansas, United States, where his family worked on a local plantation. He enjoyed music from a young age, playing harmonica and guitar with his childhood friends.
Once he sufficiently mastered his variation on slide guitar playing, Davis began playing in various nightclubs across the Mississippi Delta area. He played with Robert Nighthawk for a ten-year period from 1953 to 1963. While playing in a club in 1957, a police raid caused the crowd to stampede over Davis. Both of his legs were broken in this incident and he was forced to use a wheelchair since that time. The hardships resulting from his physical handicaps were a major influence in his lyrics and style of blues playing.
Davis moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas in the early sixties and continued his artistic work. In recent times, Davis' music has been released by the Fat Possum Records label to much critical acclaim. His 1994 album, produced by Robert Palmer, Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong, received a 9.0 from Pitchfork Media who called it "timeless."
The Best Of CeDell Davis (1995) was also released, with help from Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit. The Horror of It All followed in 1998. His album When Lightnin' Struck the Pine, released in 2002, included work by musicians Peter Buck, Barrett Martin, Scott McCaughey, and Alex Veley.
Earl “Little Joe” Ayers is a blues guitarist and singer based in Holly Springs, Mississippi. For over thirty years, he was a member of the Soul Blues Boys, Junior Kimbrough’s long-time backing band.
Ayers was born in nearby Lamar and began performing at house parties in the area when he was 15. When asked what inspired him to begin playing the guitar, he replied, “It was something that other people weren’t doing.” He also saw the enjoyment that his second cousin, Lindsey Boga, and Junior Kimbrough derived from their musical pursuits, and “didn’t want to be left behind.”
Boga was a contemporary of Kimbrough’s as well as the first person he performed publicly with. Ayers bought his first guitar from Boga’s father for $4 and began learning from his second cousin. “I was around Junior about every other Sunday; I was around [Boga] every other day,“ Ayers says. After Boga went into the Army, Ayers learned more from Kimbrough himself, “picking up his sound.” Ayers absorbed Kimbrough’s unique style so well that eventually Kimbrough asked him to play with him, and in 1965 he joined his band.
Calling themselves the Soul Blues Boys, the band was initially composed of Kimbrough and Ayers on guitar and George Scales on bass. Kimbrough later added a drummer to their group; John Henry Smith, John Henry McGee (both now deceased), and Calvin Jackson all served terms behind the drum kit for Kimbrough. Scales was frequently absent due to the demands of his job as a concrete finisher for a construction firm, and during his long absences Ayers began to play bass in his place. He remained the bassist for the Soul Blues Boys until Kimbrough’s death in 1998.
Ayers toured extensively in the region with Kimbrough and company, but drew the line on playing overseas as he doesn’t care for flying. They made the rounds of the festival circuits in the summertime, and played at house parties and local jukes such as Marshall Scruggs’ in winter. They also frequently performed with members of the Burnside family. “It became almost like a combining thing,“ Ayers recalls. “Whenever they’d have a gig, we’d get one; whenever we’d get a gig, they’d get one.“ In 1991 Ayers played bass behind Kimbrough in Robert Palmer’s documentary Deep Blues; their performance of “All Night Long” was filmed before the release of Kimbrough’s debut album of the same name on Fat Possum Records, which was also produced by Palmer.
Ayers has performed irregularly since Kimbrough’s death. In recent years he has made appearances at the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp, as well as at Red’s in Clarksdale. He also occasionally sits in with fellow Hill Country blues musicians such as Kenny Brown. Having recently retired from his job as an electrician for the Holly Springs School District, he and fellow Soul Blues Boys George Scales and Calvin Jackson are discussing a possible return to full-time performing. Ayers has four children and two grandchildren; his son Trenton Ayers is also a bassist, and currently performs with the Mississippi Delta-based blues-rock band The Electric Mudd. Ayers released "Backatchya", a solo album, on Devil Down Records in September 2011.
The Mississippi Blues Trail’s Hill Country Blues marker, Holly Springs, MS: http://www.msbluestrail.org/blues_trail/hills/holly/hill_country/hill_country.swf Junior Kimbrough’s artist’s page at Fat Possum Records’ website: http://www.fatpossum.com/artists/junior.html The Electric Mudd’s MySpace Page: http://www.myspace.com/themudd Devil Down Records: http://devildownrecords.com/backatchya
81 Year Old Mississippi Bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch Makes Debut Album
By Casebeer– November 7, 2013
Posted in: Blues, Blues Articles, Delta Blues, Hill country Blues, Mississippi Blues, News.(BRUCE, MS) — It seems incredible that Leo “Bud” Welch has, until now, remained unknown to the wider musical world.
A casual call from Bud to the Oxford, Mississippi record label, Big Legal Mess began a chain of events that would lead to the debut album of the blues and gospel man at the young age of eighty one.
Born in 1932 in Sabougla, Mississippi, Welch has lived his entire life in the area. Raised with four brothers and seven sisters, Welch’s musical ability was first noticed by his family when he and his cousin took to an older cousin’s guitar quicker than it’s owner, R.C. Welch.
Soon, Leo and R.C. were picking out tunes from the radio and playing them for family and friends. Welch also picked up the harmonica and fiddle along the way.
As the years passed, Bud continued to entertain at picnics and parties in the area. His repertoire consisted of many of the blues and radio standards and favorites of the day.
On several occasions, Welch came to the attention of professional musicians, but planned auditions or jam sessions never materialized. When the Mondays rolled around, Welch was back at work, logging with his chainsaw or working on a local farm.
Yet Bud played on, absorbing songs from the radio. Gospel music was a particular favorite and he learned from his church and the Fairfield Four on Nashville’s WLAC. Even the name of Welch’s then current group, Leo Welch and the Rising Souls, suggests a belief in spiritual redemption anticipating the direction the Mississippi native would take.
One possible reason Welch flew under the radar for so long was his move into the church around 1975. The vast network of churches in Mississippi and the South offered consistent, safe venues to perform. Welch’s brand of blues was becoming old fashioned and gigs were harder to come by. The churches offered a place where a musician like Leo could still play his style, just slightly modified for the gospel. To this day, these music programs and services often pass unnoticed to even lifetime residents in the local communities.
Outside music enthusiasts who have obsessively canvased places like the Mississippi Delta and Hill Country over the last 75 years have largely overlooked the churches in their ceaseless attempts to discover a juke joint out of time. It wouldn’t be that far from overstatement to say that any single county in Mississippi probably has more churches than the all-time sum total of juke houses.
But Welch never let the blues go. He has never seen any reason to:”“I believe in the Lord, but the blues speaks to life, too. Blues has a feeling just like gospel; they just don’t have a [bible].” Welch continues to sing with two local gospel groups in the Bruce, Mississippi area; The Spiritualaires and Leo Welch and the Sabougla Voices, as well as hosting The Black Gospel Express TV show every 1st and 5th Sunday on WO7BN-TV.
“So don’t go looking over your shoulder when listening to Bud’s music,” says the liner notes. “Come on into this church, there won’t be any old church ladies staring you down from the self-righteous section of the pews. Despite what some folk might insist, church isn’t always under the steepled roof. Where ever you are, have a sip, tap your foot, stomp it even fellowship with your friends and rejoice with the Lord and Leo ‘Bud’ Welch. Crank it.”
Sabougla Voices will be released on January 7th on CD and vinyl.
Louis Arzo Youngblood, aka “Gearshifter,” is a Jackson-based guitarist and vocalist who performs a unique blend of country blues, modern soul-blues, and everything in between.
Louis was born in Picayune, and grew up in Jackson, Bogalusa, and, mostly, Tylertown. There Louis was raised in a simple rural environment surrounded by older relatives. As a young boy Louis learned from his great aunt Essie Mae Youngblood the rudiments of guitar. She also taught him several of the songs he performs today, including the traditional folk song "Rabbit In A Log" and the Tommy Johnson song "Bye Bye Blues".
Essie Mae was influenced directly by Johnson, one of the most significant bluesman in the greater Jackson area, who married her sister Rosa in the 1930s and lived briefly in Tylertown. Johnson had a profound influence on a number of artists in the Tylertown area, including Louis’ grandfather and namesake, Arzo Youngblood.
At 16 Louis joined the Job Corps, in which he learned to operate heavy machinery at camps in Arizona and New Mexico. He played informally with a band during his three-year tenure, and in the process became more interested in developing his skills on the guitar.
After leaving the Corps Louis returned to Jackson, but often stayed in New Orleans with his grandfather Arzo, who had lived there since the early ‘60s. Arzo’s home in the 9th Ward was a gathering place for older musicians, including Boogie Bill Webb. Louis didn’t study directly with the older men, but their music was nevertheless influential on the development of his music and repertoire. He occasionally performed in the city with the Jackson-based group Roosevelt Roberts and Sons.
Although he never recorded commercially, Arzo was recorded by field researchers David Evans, who was investigating the influence of Tommy Johnson, and Axel K�stner. Recordings of Arzo by Evans appeared on several now out-of-print LPs; several of the recordings made by K�stner are on the Evidence CD boxed set Living Country Blues.
In the ‘70s Louis began performing in Jackson together with artists including Robert Robinson and Tommy Lee at clubs including Dorsey’s and the Queen of Hearts. Mostly though, he worked as a heavy machinery operator at sites across the country. In the late ‘70s he lived in Miami, where he performed with Bahamians in a Calypso band.
Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s Louis performed irregularly in Jackson, and became more active in recent years. In 2003 he played regularly at the E&E Lounge in Jackson with T.C. and the Midnighters, and since late 2003 has played every weekend at Monte’s Fine Dining in Jackson fronting the Delta Blues Boys.
Recently Louis has been performing more as a solo acoustic artist, creating a distinctive mix by blending the country blues he learned as a youth with soul/blues classics and electric blues standards. In this capacity he has performed at Hal and Mal’s Restaurant in Jackson, the Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival in Clarksdale, and the Rootsway Roots and Blues Food Festival in Parma, Italy.
See Also: Youngblood's myspace page.
Terry “Harmonica” Bean is still relatively young, but has decades of experience with the blues. A lifelong resident of Pontotoc, Bean first heard downhome blues at home. His father Eddie Bean, a native of Bruce, sang and played blues guitar and prior to Terry’s birth traveled with an electric blues band.
For many years Eddie Bean, who died in 1985, hosted informal music and gambling gatherings at the family’s house on “Bean Hill” in west Pontotoc. He also worked as a sharecropper, enlisting Terry and other of his fourteen children to pick cotton in the surrounding fields.
Terry began playing guitar and harmonica as a child, and eventually his father began featuring him at the home gatherings and taking him along to other house parties. Although Terry was a “natural,” he stopped playing around the time he was twelve because several of his brothers were jealous of the attention he received. Today his brother Jimmy plays bass in church and occasionally in Terry’s blues band, while brother Jerry Lee sings gospel as well as lead vocals in the Pontotoc-based Legends of the Blues.
Terry turned his attention instead to baseball, and was a star pitcher on American Legion league teams and his high school team, which he led to the state championship in 1980. Equally adept with both hands, Terry pitched five no-hitters and attracted scouts from several professional teams.
A professional career in baseball was curtailed, however, when Terry was injured in a motorcycle accident and he lost his competitive edge. Nevertheless, he continued to play semi-pro ball in his ‘20s until he was involved in another automotive accident.
Terry decided to “get serious” about the blues in 1988 after visiting the Delta Blues Festival in Greenville. He went there to see Robert Junior Lockwood, who played with Terry’s idol, harmonica legend Little Walter, but inadvertently fell in with the Greenville blues scene.
Every weekend for three years Terry traveled to Greenville and its environs to play harmonica with James "T-Model" Ford as well as Asie Payton at various juke joints. He also played across the Delta with artists including Lonnie Pitchford.
Back home he formed a band, and began playing guitar himself after becoming frustrated with teaching others his ideal sound. Following the lead of Arkansas bluesman John Weston, he started using a harmonica rack and performing as a one-man band, stomping his feet for percussion.
Since the mid-‘80s Terry has worked full-time at a furniture factory in Pontotoc, but he has maintained a busy performance schedule as both a solo artist and with the Terry Harmonica Bean Blues Band. He has performed at festivals across Mississippi as well as in Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, and regularly works at clubs across the region. Since 2002 he has released six self-produced CDs that document both his band and solo performances.
Terry is consciously dedicated to “keeping alive” older styles of blues. “What’s stimulating to me,” he says, “is people hearing the blues played like they used to hear it.”