Monday, September 27, 2010

Little Joe Washington

Lil Joe Washington was born in Houston on March 1, 1939, to a mother, young and single, who named him Marion. He grew up in the Third Ward, home of blues giants such as Lightnin’ Hopkins. Informally adopted, he lived with relatives in a two-story structure facing the railroad tracks. The bottom floor functioned as a barbershop and tiny cafĂ©, a place where his uncle (who played violin and saxophone) often hosted jam sessions. By the age of five, Marion was bamming on the upright piano in the corner. By nine he was also blowing on a trumpet, and by fifteen he was pounding on drums in a band led by Albert Collins. It wasn’t until he started bending the strings of a guitar and imitating local phenomenon Joe Hughes that he became known generally by the moniker Little Joe.
Following a brief apprenticeship in Houston clubs, the wiry guitarist toured with Roscoe Gordon’s road band. Later, with Cecil Harvey’s group, he worked the territory from Texas to Nevada. Around the age of twenty he settled (if that’s the word for the wild lifestyle he recalls there) in El Paso, where he played the rowdy border town circuit, including a stint at the Lobby Bar in Juarez, Mexico. There he met the group The Champs, who took him to California in 1961 to record on the Donna label (the original versions of “Hard Way Four” and “The Last Tear.” In 1963 Little Joe returned to Los Angeles, where he recorded for the Federal label, ultimately releasing tracks such as “Someone Loves Me,” “I Feel All Right” and “Bossa Nova and Grits.”
In the years that immediately followed, Little Joe bounced around his old turf, from Houston to Juarez and back, performing with all manner of groups. But the bad habits he'd developed in the wide-open party atmosphere of the border bars eventually made him an all-too-willing victim of substance abuse. During the hazy couple of decades that followed, he would often find himself on the streets, owning nothing but the pawn ticket for his guitar.
By the mid-1990s he was essentially homeless: first camping out in the dilapidated structure that had once been his uncle’s barbershop, then (after it burned down in 1997) sleeping in an abandoned car that he had pushed onto the vacant lot. But he never stopped making music. In fact he claims to have found inspiration by being forced by circumstance to hear certain sounds: the constantly improvised riffs of the mockingbird, the staccato bark-and-response of dogs, the eerie howl of a chilly wind.
 He plays that high-speed, low-down, grade-A, third-ward Texas blues. He played it with the top of his head, with his teeth, with his crotch, with his foot, and then when he wasn't using those parts of his body his fingers worked up some licks that were absolutely astonishing. After he got through with his two songs, he immediately started passing his hat. The people were already worked up. They went from a mellow blues feeling to a frantic blues feeling if you know what I mean. They went from happy to delirious! Little Joe has that affect on audiences. Few people I have ever seen can cause the kind of stir that I have seen with Little Joe Washington. He is like a blues terrorist packing lyrical explosives. He just shows up and blows up. Then he's gone!
His musical taste goes from straight up guitar slim style blues to albert collins, who he loved, and joe hughes who is his brother, deep down texas third ward bottom style blues, or he could swing into some stuff by thelonius monk or miles!
You just don't know. he plays the guitar with every part of his body. and i do mean every part. to see little joe play is like going to heaven, you feel like you finally saw the real deal-Sonny James. Check Lil Joe Washington latest release - "Texas Fire Line" on Dialtone  Texas Fire Line .

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Hosea Hargrove

Hosea has played his rootsy style of blues in and around Austin for more than fifty years, schooling such notables as Bill Campbell and Jimmy Vaughan along the way. Don’t look for guitar pyrotechnics at a Hosea show, just straight form the soul simplicity that is the very definition of the blues. Hosea’s rich legacy of song is something that must be experienced. One of the best of his kind and one of the last of his kind, Hosea Hargrove is the real thing. Hargrove, who grew up playing family suppers in Crafts Prairie, caught a ride to his first gig on the back of Son Chase's horse, washed dishes in Dallas, and pulled cotton in West Texas, playing acoustic country blues all the while until a fellow named Willie Thornton taught him how to plug in in Phoenix, Arizona, circa 1954. It was in 1949, at age 20, that Hosea Hargrove left Crafts Prairie for Dallas to look for work. Found some, too -- washing dishes in a local restaurant -- but he held onto the dream of playing guitar. Every night after work, he'd go home and practice, or listen to the old-time blues on the jukebox at the neighborhood saloon: Blind Lemon Jefferson, Lightnin' Hopkins, B.B. King. Hopkins was a particular favorite, says Hargrove, "'cause he played it low." There were times, too, that he'd pick up some country & western on the radio, and though he never played the style, to this day Hargrove considers himself a Bob Wills fan.
After Dallas came West Texas, pulling cotton by day, playing guitar by night. Hargrove was one of the last of the traveling musician-pickers, once a dependable feature on the West Texas landscape. It was the early Fifties, and Hargrove played to eager fieldhands all over Texas and New Mexico. Yet it was in Phoenix, Arizona, that he played his first electric guitar, taught to him by a man named Willie Thornton.
Hargrove stuck around long enough to learn to play like his man Lightnin' and before long he was gigging around Phoenix with Thornton, playing amplified takes on the country blues he had grown up with. It was those electrified country blues -- known as "transitional blues" in some camps -- that Hargrove brought back to Central Texas in 1956, settling on Austin's Eastside, where the nightlife was jumping.Hargrove's music reflected his journey, from acoustic country roots to the electric city life, but it never took on the urban polish of a B.B. King or T-Bone Walker, who brought swingin' horns and a chart-reading sophistication to their own country blues. Instead, Hargrove stuck with the standard three-piece of Texas' early electric blues -- two guitars and drums, or alternately, guitar, bass, and drums -- playing Eastside clubs like the IL and the Victory Grill and establishing himself on the small-town Texas circuit.
In the 40 years since, he's been a fixture on the Austin blues scene, laying down his transitional sound and taking time to school a few of the younger players who have come searching for the real thing. Like Jimmie Vaughan, for instance, who looked up Hargrove when he first came to town (pre-Storm, pre-Thunderbirds), learning at Hargrove's side. The two teamed up and started playing together, traveling the circuit and surprising a few of Hargrove's regular fans.
In interviews, both Jimmie and his brother Stevie Ray acknowledged Hargrove's influence on their style. In fact, when Jimmie Vaughan first got the Fabulous Thunderbirds together, he asked Hargrove to join as a vocalist, but Hargrove declined. Eddie Stout,the owner/founder of Austin's independent blues label Dialtone Records, recently signed to Hargrove to Dialtone in 2010 and new release; "Tex Golden Nugget' electric guitar, an ancient beat up amplifier, and 80 years of experience living and playing the blues.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Blind Joe Reynolds

(1900 or 1904 - March 10, 1968), was a singer-songwriter.

Reynolds is thought to have been born in Tallulah, Louisiana in 1904, although his death certificate stated his birthplace as Arkansas in 1900. He was blinded by a shotgun blast to the face in Louisiana in the mid-late 1920s, which resulted in the physical loss of his eyes. Despite this handicap, Blind Joe became known for his distinctive bottleneck style as well as his reported accuracy with a pistol, with which it is said he could judge the position of a target by sound alone. After years of travelling and performing on street corners, Reynolds was eventually discovered in 1929 by musical talent scout H.C. Speir and is known to have entered the studio at least twice, recording four songs on each occasion.
In November 1929, Speir took Reynolds to a small studio in Grafton, Wisconsin where he recorded the songs "Cold Woman Blues", "Nehi Blues", "Ninety Nine Blues" and "Outside Woman Blues". These were recorded under the name Blind Joe Reynolds and released as two 78rpm records by Paramount Records.
In November 1930, Reynolds entered the studio once again, this time in Memphis, Tennessee. There he recorded the songs "Goose Hill Woman Blues", "Married Man Blues", "Short Dress Blues" and "Third Street Woman Blues" under the name "Blind Willie Reynolds" for Victor Records. However, only two of these songs were released, on a single 78rpm record. The recordings of "Goose Hill Woman Blues" and "Short Dress Blues" are thought to be lost forever.
The song "Outside Woman Blues" would later find fame when it was recorded by Cream for their 1967 album, Disraeli Gears. The group became aware of the song after guitarist Eric Clapton heard it featured on a blues compilation album (Origin Jazz Library OJL-8). Curiously, on their version, Cream gave the writing credit to 'Arthur Reynolds'.
Reynolds' "Ninety Nine Blues"/"Cold Woman Blues" 78rpm recording for Paramount was thought to be lost until 2000 when a copy, which had been purchased in 1976 at a flea market for one dollar.
Reynolds is known to have been polyamorous, as is apparent from a number of his recordings. He was also known to be outspoken and flamboyant, often using his music as a medium to attack society. Blind Joe Reynolds was the nom de disque of a Louisiana street singer by the name of Joe Sheppard, who devised his false recording names primarily to keep one step ahead of the law. He was blinded in the mid-'20s during an altercation with another man who shot Reynolds in the face with a shotgun. Throughout his life, Reynolds was known throughout the South not only as a singer, but for his open disrespect for police and the legal system, his contempt for conventional morality, and his pursuit of trouble. His surviving recordings are characterized by Reynolds' shrieking, high-pitched vocals; his rolling, generous, and infectiously rhythmic slide work; and his lyrics, which tend to focus on unfaithful women. Throughout his career, Reynolds travelled the country performing under various aliases as a way of evading the police, as he had served two jail sentences in his early life, as well as "escaping [his] enemies. In March 1968, Reynolds was admitted to a hospital in Monroe, Louisiana following a stroke, where he died on March 10. The cause of death was pneumonia.