Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Elmore James - The King of the Slide Guitar

Elmore James (January 27, 1918 – May 24, 1963) was an American blues guitarist, singer, song writer and band leader. He was known as "The King of the Slide Guitar" and had a unique guitar style, noted for his use of loud amplification and his stirring voice.James was born Elmore Brooks in the old Richland community in Holmes County, Mississippi (not to be confused with two other locations of the same name in Mississippi, one in Humphreys County and the other in Rankin County). He was the illegitimate son of 15-year-old Leola Brooks, a field hand. His father was probably Joe Willie "Frost" James, who moved in with Leola, and so Elmore took this as his surname. His parents adopted an orphaned boy, Robert Holston, at some point.
Elmore began making music at age 12 using a simple one-string instrument ('diddley bow' or 'jitterbug') strung up on a shack wall. As a teen he was playing at local dances under the names "Cleanhead" and "Joe Willie James."
Other well-known musicians of that time with whom he played included the "second"' Sonny Boy Williamson and the legendary Robert Johnson. (There is a dispute as to whether Robert Johnson or Elmore wrote James's trademark song, "Dust My Broom".[1]. Elmore was still under 20 when Johnson had recorded his version of the song.) Although Johnson died in 1938, James (like many other musicians) was strongly influenced by him, and also by Kokomo Arnold and Tampa Red. Elmore recorded several of Tampa Red's songs, and even inherited from his band two of his famous "Broomdusters", 'Little' Johnny Jones (piano) and Odie Payne (drums).
An important side to Elmore's character which may have hastened his demise was his lifelong taste for, and manufacture of, moonshine whiskey, to which he was introduced at an early age. Alcohol killed his bandmates and friends Willie Love and Johnny Jones at an early age, and probably others too. His regular rhythm guitarist Homesick James maintained his longevity was due to his not partaking of the heavy drinking sessions after — and often during — gigs, a refusal that was unpopular with the rest of the band. Elmore was also reportedly an extremely fast driver who also loved hunting with guns and dogs down in Mississippi, whence he would head off for protracted periods.
During World War II James joined the United States Navy, was promoted to coxswain and took part in the invasion of Guam against the Japanese. Upon his discharge, Elmore returned to central Mississippi and eventually settled in Canton with his adopted brother Robert Holston, it was at this time he learned that he had a serious heart condition. Working in Robert's electrical shop he devised his unique electric sound, using parts from the shop and an unusual placement of two D'Armond pick ups.[1] He began recording with Trumpet Records in nearby Jackson in January 1951, first as sideman to the second Sonny Boy Williamson and also to their mutual friend Wille Love and possibly others, then debuting as a session leader in August with "Dust My Broom". It was a surprise R&B hit in 1952 and turned James into a star. He then broke his contract with Trumpet Records to sign up with the Bihari Brothers through Ike Turner (who played guitar and piano on a couple of his early Bihari recordings). James' "I Believe" was another hit a year later. During the 1950s he recorded for the Bihari Brothers' Flair Records, Meteor Records and Modern Records labels, as well as for Chess Records and Mel London's Chief Records for whom "It Hurts Me Too" was a hit. His backing musicians were known as the Broomdusters. In 1959 he began recording what are perhaps his best sides for Bobby Robinson's Fire Records label. These include "The Sky Is Crying" (credited to Elmo James and His Broomdusters), "My Bleeding Heart", "Stranger Blues", "Look On Yonder Wall", "Done Somebody Wrong", and "Shake Your Moneymaker", all of which are among the most famous of blues recordings.James played a wide variety of blues (which often crossed over into other styles of music) similar to that of Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf and some of B. B. King's work, but distinguished by the powerful sound coming from a modified hollow-bodied traditional acoustic guitar. He most often played using a slide, but on several recordings he plays without. His voice and style was as instantly recognizable as B. B.'s, Muddy's and Wolf's and, until he fell afoul of the Chicago union, he and his Broomdusters were as popular in the Chicago clubs as any of these musicians' bands. Muddy Waters took the Belgian blues fan (Georges Adins) to see Elmore play in Chicago in 1959, Adins recalled,
"Elmore will always remain the most exciting, dramatic blues singer and guitarist that I've ever had a chance to see perform in the flesh. On our way we listened to him on the radio as Big Bill Hill ... was broadcasting direct from that place. I was burning to see Elmore James and before we even pushed open the door of the club, we could hear Elmore's violent guitar sound. Although the place was overcrowded, we managed to find a seat close to the bandstand and the blues came falling down on me as it had never done before. Watching Elmore sing and play, backed by a solid blues band (Homesick James, J.T. Brown, Boyd Atkins and Sam Cassell) made me feel real fine. Wearing thick glasses, Elmore's face always had an expressive and dramatic look, especially when he was real gone on the slow blues. Singing with a strong and rough voice, he really didn't need a mike. On such slow blues as "I'm Worried - "Make My Dreams Come True" - "It Hurts Me", his voice reached a climax and created a tension that was unmistakably the down and out blues. Notwithstanding that raw voice, Elmore sang his blues with a particular feeling, an emotion and depth that showed his country background. His singing was... fed, reinforced by his own guitar accompaniment which was as rough, violent and expressive as was his voice. Using the bottleneck technique most of the time, Elmore really let his guitar sound as I had never heard a guitar sound before. You just couldn't sit still! You had to move..."
Most electric slide guitar players will admit to the massive influence of James' style.[citation needed] He was also a major influence on successful blues guitarists as Homesick James (Elmore's older cousin who was a member of Elmore's band The Broomdusters since 1957 and featured on many of his recordings), John Littlejohn, Hound Dog Taylor, J.B. Hutto and many others. He also influenced many rock guitarists such as The Rolling Stones' Brian Jones and Fleetwood Mac's Jeremy Spencer.Elmore James' songs "Done Somebody Wrong" and "One Way Out" were covered by The Allman Brothers Band, who cited him as a major influence. James was also covered by blues-rock band Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble many times in concert. The most famous of these covers is one that came by an indirect route: James' fellow bluesman Albert King recorded a cover of "The Sky Is Crying", and Stevie Ray Vaughan copied King's version of the song. That song was also covered by George Thorogood on his second album, Move It On Over and by Eric Clapton .Perhaps the most famous guitarist who admired Elmore James was Jimi Hendrix. Early in Hendrix's career, he styled himself variously as 'Maurice James' and subsequently as 'Jimmy James'. This, according to former band mate and recording partner Lonnie Youngblood, was a tribute to Elmore James.
Elmore James died of his third heart attack in Chicago, Illinois in 1963, just prior to a tour of Europe with that year's American Folk Blues Festival. He is buried in the Newport Baptist Church Cemetery, Ebenezer, Holmes County, Mississippi.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Juke Boy Bonner

Weldon H. Philip Bonner, better known as Juke Boy Bonner (22 March 1932 — 29 June 1978[1]) was an American blues singer, harmonica player, and guitarist. He was influenced by Lightnin' Hopkins, Jimmy Reed, and Slim Harpo. He described the bleak prospects of black urban existence in songs like "Life is a Nightmare", "Struggle Here in Houston" and "Going Back to the Country", accompanying himself on guitar, harmonica and drums in the self sufficient one-man band mode of Joe Hill Louis and Dr. Ross.[2]Born in Bellville, Texas, Bonner wp<

as one of nine children; his parents died while he was very young, and he was raised by a neighbour's family, and later, he moved in with his older sister in 1945. At the age of twelve he taught himself the guitar.[1] He gained the nickname "Juke Boy" as a youth, as he frequently sang in local bars accompanied by the juke box. Starting a musical career as teenager, he won the first prize at local disc jockey Trummie Cain's weekly talent show at the Lincoln Theater in Houston, Texas in 1948. Through this he secured a 15 minute radio slot on a show operated by record retailer Henry Atlas. After having three children with his wife, she left him to look after the children by himself.

Between 1954 and 1957 he recorded several singles for the Oakland, California based Irma record label, but not all were released at the time. In 1960 he recorded again, this time for the Goldband Records, Storyville Records, and Jan & Dill Records labels. In 1963 he was diagnosed with a large stomach ulcer, and had to have almost half of his stomach removed in surgery. The shock of this operation, plus the social climate of the times (which included civil rights riots and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy) led Bonner to begin writing poetry, some of which was published in the Forward Times weekly newspaper. Recovering from surgery, Bonner worked as an RCA record distributor in Houston. Once his strength returned he began playing gigs again in the local area.

In 1967 Bonner recorded his first album for the Flyright label. Chris Strachwitz's Arhoolie label released two albums, I'm Going Back to The Country (1968) and The Struggle (1969) (Arhoolie would later issue some of Bonner's unreleased 1967-1974 recordings on 2003's Ghetto Poet). Bonner recorded mostly original song material through his recording career. He was a guest at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival, the American Folk Blues Festival, and the Montreux Blues and Rock Festival. In 1972 he released an LP for Sonet Records, and in 1975 another one for the Houston based Home Cooking Records label. However, Bonner was not able to support himself from his music due to little demand for his work. Although he would continue to play and record sporadically, he had no choice but to take a minimum wage job at a chicken processing plant in Houston.[1]

Bonner died in his apartment in 1978, aged forty-six, of cirrhosis of the liver.
Juke Boy Bonner mp3's

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Willie Brown - Delta Bluesman

Willie Brown (August 6, 1900 – December 30, 1952[1]) was an American delta blues guitarist and singer.Born in Clarksdale, Mississippi,[1] Brown played with such notables as Charley Patton, Son House, and Robert Johnson. He was not known to be a self-promoting frontman, preferring to "second" (accompany) other musicians. Little is known for certain of the man whom Robert Johnson called "my friend-boy, Willie Brown" (in his prophetic "Cross Road Blues") and whom Johnson indicated should be notified in event of his death. Brown is heard with Patton on the Paramount label sessions of 1930, playing "M & O Blues," and "Future Blues."[1] Apart from playing with Son House and Charlie Patton it has also been said that he played with artists such as Luke Thomson and Thomas "Clubfoot" Coles. At least four other songs he recorded for Paramount have never been found.
"Rowdy Blues", a 1929 song credited to Kid Bailey, is disputed to have Brown on backup, or Brown himself using the name of Kid Bailey. Willie Brown does his song "Future Blues" on the album Son House & The Great Delta Blues Singers (1994), recorded between 1928 and 1930, on the Document Records label.
David Evans has reconstructed the early biography of a Willie Brown living in Drew, Mississippi, until 1929. He was married by 1911 to a proficient guitarist named Josie Mills. He is recalled as singing and playing guitar with Charley Patton and others in the neighbourhood of Drew.[2] Informants with conflicting memories led Gayle Dean Wardlow and Steve Calt to conclude that this was a different Willie Brown.[3] Evans rejects this, believing that the singing and guitar style of the 1931 recordings is clearly in the tradition of other performers from Drew such as Charley Patton, Tommy Johnson, Kid Bailey, Howling Wolf and artists recorded non-commercially.
Alan Lomax added further confusion in 1993, suggesting that the William Brown he recorded in Arkansas in 1942 was the same man as the Paramount artist.[4] The recording was for a joint project between Fisk University and the Library of Congress documenting the music of Coahoma County, Mississippi in 1941 and 1942. Writing over fifty years later, Lomax forgot that he had actually recorded Willie the previous summer with Son House, Fiddlin' Joe Martin and Leroy Williams. Brown played second guitar on three performances by the whole band, and recorded one solo, "Make Me A Pallet On The Floor".The later biography is clear. Willie Brown, the Paramount artist, lived in Robinsonville, Mississippi from 1929 and moved to Lake Cormorant, Mississippi by 1935. He performed occasionally with Charley Patton, and continually with Son House until his death. After this, House ceased performing until his "rediscovery" in 1964.

Brown died in Tunica, Mississippi in 1952 at the age of 52.