Monday, January 31, 2011

Pat Hare

Auburn "Pat" Hare (December 20, 1930 - September 26, 1980) was an American Memphis blues and rockabilly guitarist and singer. He was born in Cherry Valley, Arkansas. He recorded at Sun Studios in Memphis, Tennessee, serving as a sideman for Howlin' Wolf, James Cotton, Muddy Waters, Bobby Bland and other artists. He was one of the first guitarists to purposely use the effects of distortion in his playing. Born Auburn Hare (and it's hard to believe that such a name wouldn't have raised eyebrows even in rural Arkansas!) in the Cross County town of Cherry Valley, Pat immediately took to the guitar in a big way. Memphis was just a short distance away across the Mississippi river, and even as a teenager Hare realised that he wanted to be a part of the city's flourishing blues scene. The earliest records of his participation indicate that he was a member of Howlin' Wolf's first electric group in the late forties, together with such luminaries as Junior Parker, James Cotton, Matt Murphy and Willie Johnson. In addition to working the Memphis circuit, this group played regular sessions on the local Arkansas radio station KWEM.
"Yes, I'm gonna murder my baby (yeah, I'm tellin' the truth now) 'Cause she don't do nothin' but cheat and lie" might be forgiven for thinking. And you'd be quite right... were it not for the fact that guitarist Pat Hare, who wrote and recorded "I'm Gonna Murder My Baby" in May 1954, then took the song's message a step further and killed his girlfriend in mysterious circumstances eight years later. But it would be a real pity to concentrate on the sordid aspects of his private life, especially given Hare's immense performance on a host of notable blues records during what was a relatively short career. Indeed, it would be fair to say that Hare's contribution to the Sun blues catalogue was almost as important as that of guitarists like Roland Janes to the legendary label's rock & roll and rockabilly releases
In the meantime, Sam Phillips had set up his Memphis Recording Service with the motto "We Record Anything, Anywhere, Anytime", and from early 1950 began recording local blues artists, initially for the Phillips label, then for RPM/Modern, and from 1952, for Sun Records. Besides the great Howlin' Wolf, the artists included Joe Hill Louis, Willie Nix, Rufus Thomas, Walter Horton, and a young B.B. King. Always on the lookout for talented sidemen, Phillips soon picked up on "the new guitarist with the angry, spine-tingling tone", and recruited Hare to play on James Cotton's debut session for the Sun label. Blues anthologists generally rate "My Baby"/"Straighten Out Baby" (Sun 199) and "Cotton Crop Blues"/"Hold Me In Your Arms"(Sun 206) as being as good as anything that Cotton ever recorded, and Hare's jagged lead guitar solos (which must have sounded even more menacing back in 1954!) definitely deserve some of the credit.
Hare's sound on those early James Cotton records is as overdriven as overdriven can be. And needless to say, fuzz pedals and stomp boxes were still a long way down the line; Hare did it all by turning up the volume knob on his tiny Sears & Roebuck amp as high as it would go, driving the speaker practically to destruction!Towards the end of the decade, Hare then decided to hit Chicago, and in no time became a key member of Muddy Waters' band. The results can be appreciated on Muddy's sensational "Live At Newport" album (1960), where a band featuring Waters, Hare, James Cotton and Otis Spann plays the living daylights out of "I've Got My Mojo Workin'", "Baby Please Don't Go", and the like. Hare remained with Waters until 1962, after which he moved to Minneapolis with harp-player (and fellow Waters bandmate) George "Mojo" Buford.
Reported to have been an unassuming man in private (once married to Dorothy Mae Good, with whom he had three children - a son and two daughters); however, he had serious, and ultimately fatal, drinking problems. On a tragic night in 1962, a policeman rushed to a Minneapolis address following reports of a domestic dispute between Hare and his girlfriend. On entering the house, he discovered that Hare had shot the girl dead. Presumably in a state of panic, Hare rounded on the policeman and shot him dead too. He received a life sentence in 1964 for this double murder and spent the last sixteen years of his life in a Minneapolis jail, dying of cancer in 1980.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hambone Willie Newbern

Hambone Willie Newbern (1899-1947) was a guitar-playing blues musician. His home community was in the Brownsville, Tennessee area along Tennessee State Route 19. He was reported to have played with Yank Rachell and Sleepy John Estes (from whom most of our knowledge of Hambone was gained) in the 1920s and '30s. He recorded one of the earliest known versions of the blues standard "Rollin' and Tumblin'" in 1929.Little is known about blues songster Hambone Willie Newbern; a mere half-dozen sides comprise the sum of his recorded legacy, but among those six is the first-ever rendition of the immortal Delta classic "Roll and Tumble Blues." Reportedly born in 1899, he first began to make a name for himself in the Brownsville, TN area, where he played country dances and fish fries in the company of Yank Rachell; later, on the Mississippi medicine show circuit, he mentored Sleepy John Estes (from whom most of the known information about Newbern originated). While in Atlanta in 1929, Newbern cut his lone session; in addition to "Roll and Tumble," which became an oft-covered standard, he recorded songs like "She Could Toodle-Oo" and "Hambone Willie's Dreamy-Eyed Woman's Blues," which suggest an old-fashioned rag influence. By all reports an extremely ill-tempered man, Newbern's behavior eventually led him to prison, where a brutal beating is said to have brought his life to an end around 1947.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Joe Hill Louis

Joe Hill Louis (September 23, 1921 – August 5, 1957), born Lester Hill, was an American singer, guitarist, harmonica player and one-man band. He is significant, along with fellow Memphis bluesman Doctor Ross as one of only a small number of one-man blues bands to have recorded commercially in the 1950s, and as a session musician for Sun Records.Louis was born Lester (or possibly Leslie) Hill on September 23, 1921 in Raines, Tennessee. His nickname “Joe Louis” arose as a result of a childhood fight with another youth.[2] At the age of 14 he left home to work as a servant for a wealthy Memphis family, and also worked in the Peabody Hotel, Memphis, in the late 1930s. From the early 1940s onwards he worked as a musician and one-man band.
Louis’ recording debut was made for Columbia in 1949, and his music was released on a variety of independent labels through the 1950s, most notably recording for Sam Phillips’ Sun Records,[2] for whom he recorded extensively as a backing musician for a wide variety of other singers as well as under his own name. His most notable recording was probably as guitarist on Rufus Thomas’s “Bear Cat”, recorded as an answer record to Big Mama Thornton’s “Hound Dog”, which reached No. 3 on the R&B chart and resulted in legal action for copyright infringement. He also shared writing credit for the song “Tiger Man”, which has been recorded by Elvis Presley, among others.
Around 1950 he took over the “Pepticon Boy” radio program on WDIA from B. B. King.
He was also known as “The Pepticon Boy” and “The Be-Bop Boy”.Louis died on August 5, 1957 in John Gaston Hospital, Memphis,at the age of 35, from tetanus contracted as a result of an infected cut to his thumb, sustained while working as an odd job man.