Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Silas Hogan - Swamp Blues Man

Silas Hogan (September 15, 1911 – January 9, 1994)was an American swamp blues musician. Hogan most notably recorded "Airport Blues" and "Lonesome La La", was the front man of the Rhythm Ramblers, and became an inductee in the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame.Sometime in the late '20s Silas learned the basics of the guitar from his two uncles, Robert and Frank Murphy, who later went on to influence the idiosyncratic style of Robert Pete Williams. Learning his trade by playing assorted house parties and picnics in the local vicinity, by the late '30s Hogan was working regularly with guitarist Willie B. Thomas and fiddler Butch Cage, making the local juke-joint circuit his new found home. A move to the Baton Rouge area in the early '50s brought changes to his music. Armed with a Fender electric guitar and amp, Hogan formed his first electric combo -- the Rhythm Ramblers -- becoming one of the top drawing cards on the Louisiana juke-joint circuit.Similar to Lazy Lester and Slim Harpo, Hogan was influenced by Jimmy Reed.They assisted in the development of the Baton Rouge Blues sound, and with band members Hogan (guitar), Isaiah Chapman (lead guitar), Jimmy Dotson (drums), plus Sylvester Buckley (harmonica), they stayed together for almost ten years.In 1962, by which time he was aged 51, Hogan was belatedly introduced by Harpo to the Crowley, Louisiana based record producer, J. D. "Jay" Miller. Miller, via the offices of Excello Records, started Hogan's recording career, at a time when interest in variations of swamp blues was starting to wane.Hogan recorded for Excello from 1962 to early 1965, seeing the last of his single releases issued late that year.Hogan did nevertheless see the issue of several singles up to 1965, On some of his recordings, Hogan was backed by the harmonica player, Moses "Whispering" Smith.When Miller clashed with the new owners in 1966, ending the flow of Crowley product on the label. No longer an Excello recording artist, Hogan disbanded his group, going back to his day job at the Exxon refinery near Baton Rogue. The chance to record came around again in the 1970s, with Hogan cutting sides for labels like Arhoolie and Blue Horizon while remaining active on the Southern blues festival circuit for pretty much the rest of the decade. With as little fanfare as his Excello singles were greeted in the marketplace, Silas Hogan quietly passed away in January of 1994 of heart disease, at the age of 82.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Lonnie Pitchford

Lonnie Pitchford (October 8, 1955 – November 8, 1998) was an American blues musician and instrument maker from Lexington, Mississippi. He was notable in that he was one of only a handful of young African American musicians from Mississippi who had learned and was continuing the Delta blues and country blues traditions of the older generations.
In addition to the acoustic and electric guitar, Pitchford was also skilled at the one-string guitar and diddley bow, a one-string instrument of African origin, as well as the double bass, piano and harmonica. He was a protégé of Robert Lockwood, Jr., from whom he learned the style of Robert Johnson. His own debut album, All Round Man was released on Rooster Blues Records in 1994.He was born and raised about five miles outside of Lexington, a rural Mississippi town not far from Clarksdale. Lonnie Pitchford was one of the most versatile musicians you will ever hear. He's played one room jook joints and Carnegie Hall. He was a carpenter by trade and he was good at his work. He's built his own guitars and his own house. A guiet man who never let on he was a world famous musician; Lonnie could be seen around Clarksdale wearing his carpentry belt and carrying on his trade.
Lonnie began making one string guitars as a child and taught himself to play them. He often construct one on stage and then proceed to amaze audiences with his abilitiy to get incredible sounds from it. He also builds a one string guitar known as the Diddley Bow. He could get more from his Diddley Bow than a lot of guitarist can get from their Strat. He began performing outside Mississippi as a teen-ager, appearing at the Smithsonian Institution's Festival of American Folklife from 1972 to 1991.
By the 1990s he had toured in Europe and Australia as well as the United States. When not on the road, he worked as a carpenter.
He appeared in the documentaries "The Land Where the Blues Began" (1980) and "Deep Blues" (1992), and was recorded for five blues anthologies before he made his first solo album, "All Around
Man," for Rooster Blues Records in 1994. He was working on an album for Mississippi Crossroads Music. He also made an album with the New Africa String Band, which included Powell and Big Jack Johnson.
In November 1998, Pitchford died at his home in Lexington, from AIDS. A diddley bow is featured on his headstone which was paid for by John Fogerty and Rooster Blues Records through the Mt. Zion Memorial Fund. His grave is located near the grave of Elmore James, in the New Port Baptist Church cemetery in Holmes County, Mississippi.