Thursday, February 14, 2013

Eddie C. Campbell

Eddie C. Campbell (born May 6, 1939, Duncan, Mississippi, United States) is an American blues guitarist and singer, active in the Chicago blues scene.Campbell moved to Chicago, Illinois, when he was ten years old, and by age 12 had already jammed with Muddy Waters, and learned first hand from Waters, Magic Sam and Otis Rush. In his early years as a professional musician, Campbell played as a sideman with Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, Little Johnny Taylor, and Jimmy Reed.Although Campbell's music is strongly reminiscent of that classic West Side blues sound, he would prefer to call it "black culture" music. His parents, sharecroppers, moved to the Windy City when Eddie C. was six years old. His mother helped him buy his first guitar at age eight. She would take him to the 1125 Club on Madison Street, where he met the legendary Muddy Waters, who told Eddie C. he could sit in if he learned to play. After relentless study, Eddie C. learned "Still A Fool", and Muddy allowed him to sit in with the band. Eddie C. Campbell was twelve years old! In the mid-50's, when Eddie C. was still in his teens, he was jamming around on the blues scene with Luther Allison and Willie James Lyons, Big Monroe, drummer Willie Buckner, and harp player Pee Wee Madison. The versatile performer was one of the most flamboyant and popular musicians on the West Side scene, riding around on a purple motorcycle, sporting a red Jazzmaster guitar, learning karate and winning sixteen knockouts as an amateur boxer. By the late 50's, Campbell's band was backing up Percy Mayfield, Lowell Fulson, Tyrone Davis, and Little Johnny Taylor, and Eddie C. was performing with Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Otis Rush, and Mighty Joe Young. It was also during this period that he became close friends and running buddies with Magic Sam, who lived two doors down and was to prove influential on Campbell's music. In 1963 Eddie C. became the band director for Jimmy Reed, a gig he held periodically until Reed's death in 1976. Shortly thereafter, Campbell began to work with Koko Taylor, who recommended him to Willie Dixon. Eddie C. played in Willie Dixon's Chicago Blues All-Stars for the next four years.In 1976, Willie Dixon hired him to play in the Chicago Blues All-Stars. Campbell's debut album, King of the Jungle was released the following year, with accompaniment from Carey Bell (harmonica) and Lafayette Leake (piano).His later recordings were enhanced by a discipline not always evident in his life. In 1977, while with Dixon's band, he recorded King of the Jungle, which was released on the Mr. Blues label and reissued on Rooster Blues in 1985. In 1979 he toured Europe for the first time with the American Blues Legends Tour. He moved to Europe in 1984, working at first in England, then moving to Holland, and finally to Germany. While he was in Amsterdam, Eddie C. recorded an album entitled Let's Pick It! for the Black Magic label (reissued on Evidence in 1993). While in Europe he also toured in a German stage adaptation of William Faulkner's Requiem For A Nun.In 1984, Campbell left Chicago for Europe, settling initially in the Netherlands[2], later in Duisburg, Germany. He worked there for a decade before returning to Chicago in the 1990s.] Campbell returned to Chicago in December 1992 so that his son could be born in the United States. He soon resumed work on his latest album, That's When I Know, released on Blind Pig in October 1994. As Dick Shurman says in the liner notes, "His life in England, Holland, and Germany brought some peace with himself and deepened his sense of self as a bluesman and as the product and expression of Black culture. His chops and creativity were fueled by a greater sense of context and renewed personal stability." Eddie C. completed the album, which is composed entirely of sparkling originals. Campbell specializes in jaunty, irresistibly danceable rhythms overlaid with lithe guitar lines, often placed so tightly in the pocket of the beat that his lead guitar almost doubles as a rhythm instrument. Add his unique songwriting abilities and compelling vocals, and you've got That's When I Know, a top-notch blues album that gives notice that Eddie C. Campbell is "an American resource to treasure." Campbell's latest album is Spider Eating Preacher (Delmark, 2012).

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tommy Johnson

1896 in Terry MS Died: November 1, 1956 in Crystal Springs MS Even many Delta blues enthusiasts are unfamiliar with Tommy Johnson's enormous impact on the development of the blues. A powerful vocalist with a menacing howl and a haunting falsetto, Johnson was also a gifted guitarist with a complex and technically-advanced playing style. Johnson's influence can be heard in the music of Howlin' Wolf, Robert Nighthawk, and even pianist Otis Spann. Still, Johnson's musical accomplishments are considered below those of contemporaries like Charley Patton or Son House in the Delta hierarchy. Making His Bones Taught guitar by his older brother LeDell, by the age of 16 Johnson had turned "pro," playing songs for tips on the street. By the end of the decade, Johnson was often playing across the Delta at house parties and in juke-joints with fellow up-and-comers like Charley Patton and Willie Brown. Johnson's reputation was built on his fiery live shows, which would stretch on for hours as the singer showboated for his audience. A larger-than-life figure, Johnson drank heavily, and had a taste for both women and gambling. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Johnson wasn't driven to perform. He'd take the stage when he felt like it, or when the money ran low, and he often performed alongside bluesmen Rubin Lacy and Ishmon Bracey. Long before the rumors swirled around Robert Johnson, folks in the Delta believed that it was Tommy Johnson that actually met with the devil at the crossroads one dark and stormy night, hoping to strike a deal. Regardless of the myth’s origins, Robert must have been the better negotiator of the two (unrelated) musicians because Tommy Johnson became a mere footnote in the blues genre (even after a character based on Johnson appeared in the hit movie O Brother, Where Art Thou?). Johnson's talent was undeniable, however, and it was inevitable that he would record. Traveling to Memphis in February 1928, Johnson cut a number of sides for Victor (later RCA Victor). A second session was held in Wisconsin in December 1929. Johnson would continue to perform until his death in 1956, but he never rose above his humble roots. His talent diminished by alcoholism, Johnson's songs, like "Canned Heat Blues" and "Cool Water Blues," would become blues standards nonetheless.