Monday, November 10, 2014

Paul Wine Jones

Paul "Wine" Jones (July 1, 1946 – October 9, 2005) was an American contemporary blues guitarist and singer. One commentator noted that Jones, R. L. Burnside, Big Jack Johnson, Roosevelt "Booba" Barnes and James "Super Chikan" Johnson were "present-day exponents of an edgier, electrified version of the raw, uncut Delta blues sound."His style is deeply rooted in the rural blues of the delta, but so distinctly original and idiosyncratic that his sound will not easily be mistaken for that of any other artist. Rock-solid bass-string drones, expansively sonic guitar textures, a seasoning of wah-wah riffs, and a voice that can sound vinegary, molasses-like, or simply, urgently passionate, as the song demands - these are some of the qualities that make Paul Jones a unique and formidable talent. Jones was born in Flora, Mississippi, and learned to play guitar by the age of four.In his teens he played at house parties, and later worked with James "Son" Thomas and harmonica player Willie Foster.However, Jones played music mainly as a pastime, while working on farms up to 1971, when he became a welder in Belzoni, Mississippi.In 1995 and 1996, Jones performed outside of Mississippi, when he was a member of Fat Possum's "Mississippi Juke Joint Caravan".His 1995 debut album, Mule, was produced by the music critic Robert Palmer.On the album he was accompanied by drummer Sam Carr, and guitarist Big Jack Johnson.Fat Possum (an independent record label in Oxford, Mississippi), as well as managing the latter careers of Junior Kimbrough and R. L. Burnside, gave opportunity to a number of amateurs, mostly from rural Mississippi, who had seldom or never recorded before. Some, such as T-Model Ford and Asie Payton, moved on to higher billing, but others such as Jones, were left on the sidelines. Jones died of cancer, at the age of 59, in Jackson, Mississippi, in October 2005.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Old Gray Mule

Simply the best North Mississippi Hill Country Blues being performed today, OGM plays that brand-new old-school juke joint groove. If you are feeling down and mistreated they will lift you up, help you get that happy .Old Gray Mule is a two-man Mississippi Hill Country and Raw Electric blues wrecking machine. With five critically acclaimed albums in their catalogue, Old Gray Mule embodies the old school blues ethic: “Keep it simple, it’s for dancing yall.” Guitarist/vocalist CR Humphrey and drummer/vocalist JJ Wilburn have played/recorded with the best of the best of Mississippi including Cedric, Duwayne, and Garry Burnside, David, Kinney, and Robert Kimbrough, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes, T Model Ford, Robert Belfour, Lightnin Malcolm, Kenny Brown, Bill Abel…. the list goes on.OGM's live shows are straight up Mississippi juke joint style dance parties, with a lot of back and forth with the crowd, girls on stage dancing, and folks sweating out the bad stuff. "Old Gray Mule's Have Mercy is an absolutely brilliant statement on the state of post-Junior Kimbrough, post-R.L. Burnside, Paul "Wine" Jones, and Post-T-Model Ford-style alt-blues, or whatever it's called. It sets a high bar for everyone involved in this kind of music, not just in its musicianship, which is outstanding, but for its sonic construction as well. You'll want to listen to this on headphones just as loud as you will on the big speakers. Rick Saunders - Deep Blues Blog - October 29, 2014 "

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Lazy Lester

Lazy Lester (born Leslie Johnson,[2] June 20, 1933)is an American blues musician, who sings, and plays the harmonica and guitar. His career spans the 1950s to the 2010s.Leslie Johnson was born June 20, 1933 in the small town of Torras, Louisiana, near the Mississippi state border to Robert Johnson and Maggie Hartford. He was raised mostly in Scotlandville, a suburb of Baton Rouge. As a boy, he worked as a gas station attendant, woodcutter and at a grocery story, where he purchased a harmonica and Little Walter’s famous “Juke” record. Lester began to blow harp, and in a relatively short time became somewhat proficient. One of his brothers had a guitar, which Lester also had learned to strum. He credits Jimmy Reed and Little Walter as his main blues influences, and you can easily hear Reed’s vocal style in Lester’s singing. But Lester isn’t shy about telling anyone that his first love was and still is country – the real, traditional kind. He got hooked early on Jimmie Rogers. In his late teens, Lester joined his first ever band, a group called the Rhythm Rockers that included Big John Jackson on guitar, Sonny Martin on piano and Eddie Hudson as singer. Lester blew harp. The group played primarily high school dances, and Lester also began to sit in with Guitar Gable’s band on club gigs. It was in the mid-1950s, on a bus, that fate turned Lester’s way, and the roots to what would become classic music began to grow. As Lester tells it, he was living in Rayne, Louisiana, at the time and was on the bus riding home. Lightnin’ Slim, who was already an established recording artist, was also on the bus and was headed to Crowley to cut a record at Jay Miller’s Studio, where so much of the material for the Nashville-based Excello Records was being recorded. Since Crowley was just seven miles further than Rayne and because Lester had a serious itch to be around big-time music making, Lester decided to stay on the bus and accompany Slim to the studio. When they got there, the scheduled harp player, Wild Bill Phillips, didn’t show for the session. Lester told Slim that he had actually played with Slim’s band and thought he could handle the harp parts for the session. Remarkably, Slim and Miller gave Lester that chance, and he did not disappoint. A classic pairing was born, and Lester became a mainstay on Slim’s Excello recordings and his gigs. He’d follow Slim’s guitar licks with short, stabbing solos after Slim’s trademark prodding of, “Blow your harmonica, son.” Best known for regional hits recorded with Ernie Young's Nashville, Tennessee based Excello label, Lester also contributed to songs recorded by Excello label-mates including Slim Harpo, Lightnin' Slim, and Katie Webster. His songs have been covered by (among others) The Kinks, The Flamin' Groovies, Freddy Fender, Dwight Yoakam, Dave Edmunds, Raful Neal, Anson Funderburgh, and The Fabulous Thunderbirds. In the comeback stage of his career (since the late 1980s) he has recorded new albums backed by Mike Buck, Sue Foley, Gene Taylor, Kenny Neal, Lucky Peterson, and Jimmie Vaughan.In the mid-1950s, Lester was on the margins of the Louisiana blues scene. According to Rolling Stone (February 23, 2006), Buddy Guy, before moving to Chicago, had played in Louisiana "with some of the old masters: Lightnin' Hopkins, Lazy Lester, Slim Harpo." When Guy left for Chicago, in 1957, Lester replaced him, on guitar, in a local band—even though Lester, at the time, did not own such a musical instrument.Lester's work on that first Lightnin' Slim session led the producer, Jay Miller, to record Lester's solo and also to use him as a multi-instrumentalist on percussion, guitar, bass, and harmonica on sessions headlined by other Miller-produced artists including, notably, Slim Harpo. "Percussion" on these sessions went beyond the traditional drum kit, and included a rolled-up newspaper on a cardboard box. Miller dubbed Lester "Lazy Lester" because of his laconic, laid-baLester called it quits with Excello and Miller around 1966 and worked various day jobs including road construction, trucking and lumberjacking. Around 1969, he moved to Chicago for a very brief stint. In 1971, he reunited with his old buddy Lightnin’ Slim for a concert in Slim’s new hometown of Pontiac, Michigan. On the trip, Lester met Slim Harpo’s sister who also lived in Pontiac, and in 1975, he moved to Pontiac to be with her. After he moved, he retired from music. Like so many musicians, he’d tired of the garbage that can go with making your living as a performer. After a few years, he resumed some occasional playing with a few of the Detroit blues artists. Finally, in the late ‘80s, he began performing regularly and realized he was in significant demand. In 1987, he recorded Lazy Lester Rides Again for the Blue Horizon label in England. The record was released on Kingsnake in the U.S. and won a W.C. Handy Award for Best Contemporary Blues Album. In 1988, Alligator Records released Harp & Soul, further alerting the world that Lazy Lester was done resting. Since, he’s recorded two records for Antone’s, one direct-to-disc for APO Records and a 2011 release for Bluestown. All of his Excello material has been reissued by various labels, primarily in the United States and England. Through the popularity of these recordings and as the Excello story has become the stuff of legend, Lazy Lester has enjoyed tremendous popularity worldwide. In 1998, he was inducted into the Louisiana Blues Hall of Fame. In 2004, he played at Radio City Music Hall in New York as part of Martin Scorsese’s Year of the Blues super concert that resulted in his Lightning In A Bottle documentary. The concert included what was perhaps the most impressive lineup of blues stars ever assembled. Lester several years ago moved to Paradise, California, to be with his girlfriend, Pike. He regularly performs both as a solo artist (with acoustic guitar, rack harmonica and foot percussion) and as the front man with a band, playing either harmonica or guitar. He knows more jokes than many comedians, and he’ll almost always include a few in his performances. Talk to him off stage, and he’ll tell you quite a few more. He’s just one of the guys and goes about his business without any pretense or ego, always accessible to his fans. You’d be well advised to see him when he hits your style. More than his vocal delivery, Lester is best remembered for songs that were later covered by a wide range of rock, country, blues, and Tex-Mex stars, chiefly, "I'm a Lover Not a Fighter," "I Hear You Knockin'," and "Sugar Coated Love." Lester stated that he wrote these songs, but almost all are officially credited to Miller, or to Lester and Miller. Lester also stated he received few royalties, which embittered him and made him skeptical of the music industry. If disenchanted, Lester retained his harmonica, guitar, and vocal talents (the songwriting that had been muse to The Kinks and Dwight Yoakam having dried up long before). In 2003, Martin Scorsese included Lester in his blues tribute concert at Radio City Music Hall, a record of which was released as the film and album Lightning in a Bottle. The group photograph inside the album depicted Lester grinning, dead-center among peers and musical progeny including B.B. King, Solomon Burke, Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Buddy Guy, Levon Helm, Chuck D, The Neville Brothers, Dr. John, John Fogerty, and Aerosmith.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Napoleon Strickland

Napoleon Strickland (October 1, 1919[1] – July 21, 2001) was a fife and drum blues artist, and songwriter, and vocalist specializing in country blues, specifically North Mississippi hill country blues, sometimes known as Napolian Strickland. He also played guitar, drums, harmonica, fife, and all manner of percussion instruments.Born near Como in the northern Mississippi Delta, his father introduced him to the music as a boy but it was Otha Turner that taught him how to play. He was adept with guitar, drums, harmonica, diddley-bow, fife, and all manner of percussion. He was primarily a fife player and singer, playing a great number of festivals, and appearing on several compilation albums of North Mississippi country blues. He also appeared in the biopic documentary film, The Land Where The Blues Began.[2] Strickland was considered by many to have been the premier fife player of his genre, having appeared at numerous festivals, on several recorded compilations and on film. He worked as a sharecropper for most of his life, mentoring other musicians in the region.After a car accident he was committed to a nursing home but continued to play for guests even from his bed.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Robert Belfour - Hill Stomp

Robert "Wolfman" Belfour

Robert Belfour was born in a small plank house several miles South of Holly Springs, Mississippi in 1940. It was one of several shacks on the Hurdle farm, part of which his father rented until his death in 1953. The specific part of Mississippi where Robert was born is the hill country in the northern part of the state. This region has a distinctly different culture than the more famous Mississippi Delta and the Blues from that region is strong and unique. Like most of the other accomplished performers from the area R.L. Burnside, Fred Mcdowell, Joe Callicott, Jesse Mae Hemphill, Junior Kimbrough, and Charlie Feathers-- Robert Belfour, was submerged in the area's rich musical heritage. Robert's first memory is that of his father playing a resonator guitar in a style similar to that of Charlie Pattons. Robert ate at picnics held by Othar Turner, and at church sung gospel songs led by Syd Hemphill. When free from chores, Robert could be found in the company of neighbor, and future label mate, Junior Kimbrough. Robert was 13 when his father died bringing and end to his childhood. From then on all of Robert's energy went to helping his mother provide for him and his younger brother. Robert spent what little free time he had In 1959 Robert married Norene Norman and they moved to Memphis, Tennesse. A year later Robert went to work for Choctaw construction a hard gig that lasted thirty-five years. In the 1980s, Belfour began playing on Beale Street and in 1994 he had eight songs featured on David Evans's compilation album, The Spirit Lives On, Deep South Country Blues and Spirituals in the 1990s, released by the German Hot Fox label. This led him to Fat Possum Records and his first album What's Wrong With You, released in 2000. The album, Pushin' My Luck, followed in 2003 to a positive critical review.At sixty, Belfour's guitar playing was mature and highly accomplished; his voice, clear and powerful, and the sound is pure country blues. Robert left the hills of North Mississippi forty years ago but his music never did,learning to chord his father's guitar.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The World according to Mr. Henry "Gip" Gipson

In this very spot back in 1952, in Bessemer, Ala., you might have found Henry "Gip" Gipson on the porch giving an impromptu guitar lesson to little Earl Williams, or anybody else who came and wanted to learn, and there were lots of them. Soon after, a few friends would have stopped by to shoot the breeze, have a beverage, and play. Black, white, young, old, it didn't matter; everyone was welcome at Gip's place. Some 60 years later, not much has changed. Kids still come to learn and play, like the 15-year-old boy from Helena that Gip says is "every bit of Jimi Hendrix." Little Earl "Guitar" Williams still comes, though he’s not little anymore and now has his own following as a lead blues guitarist.Gip's friends still come by to play, too, but now they include big-name musicians who seize the rare chance to play at what’s grown over the years into a bona-fide juke joint—basically a stand-alone garage behind the house, converted into a stage and decorated with strings of Christmas lights and a smattering of metal chairs and tables that spill out into the yard. People come from miles around—sometimes hundreds of miles—to hear the music at Gip’s Place, with the capital “P” one of the very few nods to officialdom that you’ll find here, along with the $10 armbands sold to help cover the electric bill. No alcohol is sold, though coolers are welcome, and what passes for a concession stand is just a backyard barbecue, with Gip’s son Keith and Gip’s old friend Ms. Bay serving up fried fish, chicken wings, and sausage dogs. Many guests are regulars, while others are making a first appearance, but none of them are strangers for the simple reason that Gip has never met one. In fact, if Gip's is famous for one thing other than the sweet sounds that emanate from the stage, it's the open arms Gip extends to everyone, regardless of race, ethnicity, age, money, or anything else. This is a melting pot in the form of a house party. "Music doesn't care about color," he says emphatically, noting that an early inspiration was the race-transcending rocker Chuck Berry, who once gave Gip one of his guitars as a present. "It ain't about the black and the white.” Over the years, Bobby Rush, Microwave Dave and the Nukes, Mikey Junior, T-Model Ford, Kent and Cedric Burnside, Liz Brown, and countless other greats have appeared (even Tina Turner was scheduled, though she got sick at the last minute and had to cancel). But you almost get the impression that for Gip, whoever happens to be onstage is less important than what the crowd takes away from the experience. He sees the music as a form of love itself, bringing people together and spreading a little joy. In the world according to Gip, it’s as simple as loving thy neighbor as thyself. The music takes care of the rest. Gip’s faith in mankind is reaffirmed every Saturday when the fans come back, again and again, regardless of heat, frost, or football—even near-tragedy, as when a fire on the property threatened to take down the stage this past summer. The flame consumed some of Gip's most treasured possessions, including that guitar Chuck Berry gave him, but Gip got out safely, and the juke joint was spared. "More people were here that Saturday after the fire than have ever been here before," he says proudly. Gip keeps the spotlight away from himself, but he's always good to play some John Lee Hooker, his favorite, or the "Uniontown blues" from his hometown of Uniontown, Ala., upon request from some of the older folks in the crowd. It all comes so naturally to Gip that he's been known to sing and play even when he's by himself at one of the three cemeteries he owns and where he still shows up to dig graves every day. Suffice to say, fame, even of the underground variety, has not gone to Gip’s head. If it translates to more enthusiasm for the music, that’s all that matters. While Gip’s Place is known for the blues, Gip himself is wide open to whatever kinds of music people want to play or hear. There are country nights, too, and gospel almost always makes it into the mix, fittingly enough for a place whose namesake never tires of quoting scripture and begins each Saturday night with a prayer from the stage. "God bring peace on everyone here."

A Blues Lovers Dream

Tuesday, April 1, 2014


Huddie William Ledbetter (January 20, 1888 – December 6, 1949) was an American folk and blues musician, and multi-instrumentalist, notable for his strong vocals, virtuosity on the twelve-string guitar, and the songbook of folk standards he introduced. He is best known as Lead Belly. Though many releases list him as "Leadbelly," he spelled it "Lead Belly." This is also the usage on his tombstone,[1][2] as well as of the Lead Belly Foundation.[3] In 1994 the Lead Belly Foundation contacted an authority on the history of popular music, Colin Larkin, editor of the Encyclopedia of Popular Music, to ask if the name "Leadbelly" could be altered to "Lead Belly" in the hope that other authors would follow suit and use the artist's correct appellation.[citation needed] Although Lead Belly most commonly played the twelve-string, he could also play the piano, mandolin, harmonica, violin, and accordion.[4] In some of his recordings, such as in one of his versions of the folk ballad "John Hardy", he performs on the accordion instead of the guitar. In other recordings he just sings while clapping his hands or stomping his foot. The topics of Lead Belly's music covered a wide range of subjects, including gospel, blues about women, liquor, prison life, and racism; and folk songs about cowboys, prison, work, sailors, cattle herding, and dancing.Lead Belly was born Huddie William Ledbetter on the Jeter Plantation near Mooringsport, Louisiana in January 1888 or 1889. The date is unclear: the 1900 United States Census lists "Hudy William Ledbetter" as 12 years old, with a birth date of January 1888; the 1910 United States Census and the 1930 United States Census also list his birth year as 1888. However, in April 1942, Ledbetter filled out his World War II draft registration with a birth date of January 23, 1889. His grave marker reflects this date. He was the younger of two children to Sallie Brown and Wesley Ledbetter, preceded by a sister named Australia. "Huddie" is pronounced "HYEW-dee" or "HUGH-dee."[5] His parents, who had cohabited for several years, married on February 26, 1888. When Huddie was five years old, the family settled in Bowie County, Texas. By 1903, Huddie was already a "musicianer,"[6] a singer and guitarist of some note. He performed for nearby Shreveport audiences in St. Paul's Bottoms, a notorious red-light district there. He began to develop his own style of music after exposure to a variety of musical influences on Shreveport's Fannin Street, a row of saloons, brothels, and dance halls in the Bottoms. The 1910 census of Harrison County, Texas, shows Ledbetter, listed as "Hudy," living next door to his parents with his first wife, Aletha "Lethe" Henderson. Seventeen at the time, she had been 15 when married two years earlier. It was there that Ledbetter received his first instrument, an accordion, from his uncle Terrell. By his early 20s, after fathering at least two children, he left home to find his living as a guitarist and occasional laborer. Influenced by the sinking of the RMS Titanic in April 1912, he wrote the song "The Titanic,"[7] the first composed on the 12-string guitar later to become his signature instrument. Initially played when performing with Blind Lemon Jefferson (1897–1929) in and around Dallas, Texas, the song is about champion African-American boxer Jack Johnson's being denied passage on the Titanic. While Johnson had in fact been denied passage on a ship for being Black, it had not been the Titanic[8] Still, the verse sang: "Jack Johnson tried to get on board. The Captain, he says, 'I ain't haulin' no coal!' Fare thee, Titanic! Fare thee well!" a passage Ledbetter noted he had to leave out when playing in front of white audiences.Ledbetter's volatile temper sometimes led him into trouble with the law. In 1915, he was convicted of carrying a pistol and sentenced to time on the Harrison County chain gang. He escaped, finding work in nearby Bowie County under the assumed name of Walter Boyd. In January 1918 he was imprisoned at the Imperial Farm (now Central Unit)[10] in Sugar Land, Texas, after killing one of his relatives, Will Stafford, in a fight over a woman. It was there he may have first heard the traditional prison song "Midnight Special".[11][page needed] In 1925 he was pardoned and released after writing a song to Governor Pat Morris Neff seeking his freedom, having served the minimum seven years of a 7-to-35-year sentence. In combination with good behavior (including entertaining the guards and fellow prisoners), his appeal to Neff's strong religious beliefs proved sufficient. It was quite a testament to his persuasive powers, as Neff had run for governor on a pledge not to issue pardons (at the time the only recourse for prisoners, since in most Southern prisons there was no provision for parole).[citation needed] According to Charles K. Wolfe and Kip Lornell's book, The Life and Legend of Leadbelly (1999), Neff had regularly brought guests to the prison on Sunday picnics to hear Ledbetter perform. In 1930 Ledbetter was in Louisiana's Angola Prison Farm after a summary trial for attempted homicide, charged with knifing a white man in a fight. It was there he was "discovered" three years later during a visit by folklorists John Lomax and his then 18-year-old son Alan Lomax.[12] Deeply impressed by Ledbetter's vibrant tenor and extensive repertoire, the Lomaxes recorded him on portable aluminum disc recording equipment for the Library of Congress. They returned with new and better equipment in July of the following year (1934), recording hundreds of his songs. On August 1, Ledbetter was released after having again served almost all of his minimum sentence following a petition the Lomaxes had taken to Louisiana Governor Oscar K. Allen at his urgent request. It was on the other side of a recording of his signature song, "Goodnight Irene."There are several somewhat conflicting stories about how Ledbetter acquired the famous nickname "Lead Belly", though consensus holds it was probably while in prison. Some say his fellow inmates dubbed him "Lead Belly" as a play on his last name and reference to his physical toughness; it is recounted that during his second prison term, another inmate stabbed him in the neck (leaving him with a fearsome scar that he subsequently covered with a bandana), in defense Ledbetter nearly killed his attacker with his own knife.By the time Lead Belly was released from prison the United States was deep in the Great Depression and jobs were very scarce. In September 1934, in need of regular work in order to avoid having his release canceled, Lead Belly met with John A. Lomax and asked him to take him on as a driver. For three months he assisted the 67-year-old in his folk song collecting abroad the South. (Son Alan was ill and did not accompany his father on this trip.) In December Lead Belly participated in a "smoker" (group sing) at a Modern Language Association meeting at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, where the senior Lomax had a prior lecturing engagement. He was written up in the press as a convict who had sung his way out of prison. On New Year's Day, 1935, the pair arrived in New York City, where Lomax was scheduled to meet with his publisher, Macmillan, about a new collection of folk songs. The newspapers were eager to write about the "singing convict" and Time magazine made one of its first filmed March of Time newsreels about him. Lead Belly attained fame (although not fortune). The following week, he began recording with ARC, the race records division of Columbia Records, but these recordings achieved little commercial success. Of the over 40 sides he recorded for ARC (intended to be released on their Banner, Melotone, Oriole, Perfect, Romeo and very short-lived Paramount series), only five sides were actually issued. Part of the reason for the poor sales may have been because ARC insisted on releasing only his blues songs rather than the folk songs for which he would later become better known. In any case, Lead Belly continued to struggle financially. Like many performers, what income he made during his lifetime would come from touring, not from record sales. Lead Belly styled himself "King of the 12-string guitar," and despite his use of other instruments like the accordion, the most enduring image of Lead Belly as a performer is wielding his unusually large Stella twelve-string.[16] This guitar had a slightly longer scale length than a standard guitar, slotted tuners, ladder bracing, and a trapeze-style tailpiece to resist bridge lifting.[citation needed] Lead Belly played with finger picks much of the time, using a thumb pick to provide a walking bass line and occasionally to strum.[citation needed] This technique, combined with low tunings and heavy strings, gives many of his recordings a piano-like sound. Lead Belly's tuning is debated,[by whom?] but appears to be a downtuned variant of standard tuning; more than likely he tuned his guitar strings relative to one another, so that the actual notes shifted as the strings wore. Lead Belly's playing style was popularized by Pete Seeger, who adopted the twelve-string guitar in the 1950s and released an instructional LP and book using Lead Belly as an exemplar of technique.In 1949, Lead Belly had a regular radio broadcast on station WNYC in New York on Sunday nights on Henrietta Yurchenko's show. Later in the year he began his first European tour with a trip to France, but fell ill before its completion, and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease.[12] His final concert was at the University of Texas at Austin in a tribute to his former mentor, John A. Lomax, who had died the previous year. Martha also performed at that concert, singing spirituals with her husband. Lead Belly died later that year in New York City, and was buried in the Shiloh Baptist Church cemetery in Mooringsport, 8 miles (13 km) west of Blanchard, in Caddo Parish. He is honored with a life-size statue across from the Caddo Parish Courthouse in Shreveport.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Jimmy Reed

Mathis James "Jimmy" Reed (September 6, 1925 – August 29, 1976)[1] was an American blues musician and songwriter, notable for bringing his distinctive style of blues to mainstream audiences. Reed was a major player in the field of electric blues, as opposed to the more acoustic-based sound of many of his contemporaries.[2] His music had a significant impact on many rock and roll artists who followed, such as Elvis Presley, Billy Gibbons and the Rolling Stones.Reed was born in Dunleith, Mississippi, in 1925, learning the harmonica and guitar from Eddie Taylor, a close friend.[3] After spending several years busking and performing in the area, Reed moved to Chicago, Illinois, in 1943 before being drafted into the US Navy during World War II. In 1945, Reed was discharged and moved back to Mississippi for a brief period, marrying his girlfriend, Mary "Mama" Reed, before moving to Gary, Indiana to work at an Armour & Co. meat packing plant. Mama Reed appears as an uncredited background singer on many of his songs, notably the major hits "Baby What You Want Me to Do", "Big Boss Man" and "Bright Lights, Big City".By the 1950s, Reed had established himself as a popular musician and joined the "Gary Kings" with John Brim, as well as playing on the street with Willie Joe Duncan. Reed failed to gain a recording contract with Chess Records, but signed with Vee-Jay Records through Brim's drummer, Albert King. At Vee-Jay, Reed began playing again with Eddie Taylor and soon released "You Don't Have to Go", his first hit record.Reed maintained his reputation despite his rampant alcoholism; sometimes his wife had to help him remember the lyrics to his songs while recording. In 1957, Reed developed epilepsy, though the condition was not correctly diagnosed for a long time, as Reed and doctors assumed it was delirium tremens. Jimmy Reed died in Oakland, California in 1976,[1] of respiratory failure,eight days short of his 51st birthday. He is interred in the Lincoln Cemetery in Worth, Illinois.In 1991 Reed was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Monday, March 3, 2014

CeDell Davis

CeDell Davis (born Ellis Davis, 9 June 1927)[1] is an American blues guitarist and singer. Davis is most notable for his distinctive style of guitar playing. Davis plays guitar using a table knife in his fretting hand in a manner similar to slide guitar, resulting in a welter of metal-stress harmonic transients and a singular tonal plasticity. He uses this style out of necessity. When he was 10, he suffered from severe polio which left him little control over his left hand and restricted use of his right.[1] He had been playing guitar prior to his polio and decided to continue in spite of his handicap, and developed his knife method as the only way he could come up with of still playing guitar. Davis was born in Helena, Arkansas, United States, where his family worked on a local plantation. He enjoyed music from a young age, playing harmonica and guitar with his childhood friends. Once he sufficiently mastered his variation on slide guitar playing, Davis began playing in various nightclubs across the Mississippi Delta area. He played with Robert Nighthawk for a ten-year period from 1953 to 1963. While playing in a club in 1957, a police raid caused the crowd to stampede over Davis. Both of his legs were broken in this incident and he was forced to use a wheelchair since that time. The hardships resulting from his physical handicaps were a major influence in his lyrics and style of blues playing. Davis moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas in the early sixties and continued his artistic work. In recent times, Davis' music has been released by the Fat Possum Records label to much critical acclaim. His 1994 album, produced by Robert Palmer, Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong, received a 9.0 from Pitchfork Media who called it "timeless." The Best Of CeDell Davis (1995) was also released, with help from Col. Bruce Hampton and The Aquarium Rescue Unit. The Horror of It All followed in 1998. His album When Lightnin' Struck the Pine, released in 2002, included work by musicians Peter Buck, Barrett Martin, Scott McCaughey, and Alex Veley.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Little Joe Ayers

Earl “Little Joe” Ayers is a blues guitarist and singer based in Holly Springs, Mississippi. For over thirty years, he was a member of the Soul Blues Boys, Junior Kimbrough’s long-time backing band. Ayers was born in nearby Lamar and began performing at house parties in the area when he was 15. When asked what inspired him to begin playing the guitar, he replied, “It was something that other people weren’t doing.” He also saw the enjoyment that his second cousin, Lindsey Boga, and Junior Kimbrough derived from their musical pursuits, and “didn’t want to be left behind.” Boga was a contemporary of Kimbrough’s as well as the first person he performed publicly with. Ayers bought his first guitar from Boga’s father for $4 and began learning from his second cousin. “I was around Junior about every other Sunday; I was around [Boga] every other day,“ Ayers says. After Boga went into the Army, Ayers learned more from Kimbrough himself, “picking up his sound.” Ayers absorbed Kimbrough’s unique style so well that eventually Kimbrough asked him to play with him, and in 1965 he joined his band. Calling themselves the Soul Blues Boys, the band was initially composed of Kimbrough and Ayers on guitar and George Scales on bass. Kimbrough later added a drummer to their group; John Henry Smith, John Henry McGee (both now deceased), and Calvin Jackson all served terms behind the drum kit for Kimbrough. Scales was frequently absent due to the demands of his job as a concrete finisher for a construction firm, and during his long absences Ayers began to play bass in his place. He remained the bassist for the Soul Blues Boys until Kimbrough’s death in 1998. Ayers toured extensively in the region with Kimbrough and company, but drew the line on playing overseas as he doesn’t care for flying. They made the rounds of the festival circuits in the summertime, and played at house parties and local jukes such as Marshall Scruggs’ in winter. They also frequently performed with members of the Burnside family. “It became almost like a combining thing,“ Ayers recalls. “Whenever they’d have a gig, we’d get one; whenever we’d get a gig, they’d get one.“ In 1991 Ayers played bass behind Kimbrough in Robert Palmer’s documentary Deep Blues; their performance of “All Night Long” was filmed before the release of Kimbrough’s debut album of the same name on Fat Possum Records, which was also produced by Palmer. Ayers has performed irregularly since Kimbrough’s death. In recent years he has made appearances at the North Mississippi Hill Country Picnic in Potts Camp, as well as at Red’s in Clarksdale. He also occasionally sits in with fellow Hill Country blues musicians such as Kenny Brown. Having recently retired from his job as an electrician for the Holly Springs School District, he and fellow Soul Blues Boys George Scales and Calvin Jackson are discussing a possible return to full-time performing. Ayers has four children and two grandchildren; his son Trenton Ayers is also a bassist, and currently performs with the Mississippi Delta-based blues-rock band The Electric Mudd. Ayers released "Backatchya", a solo album, on Devil Down Records in September 2011. Pertinent websites: The Mississippi Blues Trail’s Hill Country Blues marker, Holly Springs, MS: Junior Kimbrough’s artist’s page at Fat Possum Records’ website: The Electric Mudd’s MySpace Page: Devil Down Records:

Saturday, February 1, 2014

81 Year Old Mississippi Bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch Makes Debut Album

81 Year Old Mississippi Bluesman Leo “Bud” Welch Makes Debut Album By Casebeer– November 7, 2013 Posted in: Blues, Blues Articles, Delta Blues, Hill country Blues, Mississippi Blues, News.(BRUCE, MS) — It seems incredible that Leo “Bud” Welch has, until now, remained unknown to the wider musical world. A casual call from Bud to the Oxford, Mississippi record label, Big Legal Mess began a chain of events that would lead to the debut album of the blues and gospel man at the young age of eighty one. Born in 1932 in Sabougla, Mississippi, Welch has lived his entire life in the area. Raised with four brothers and seven sisters, Welch’s musical ability was first noticed by his family when he and his cousin took to an older cousin’s guitar quicker than it’s owner, R.C. Welch. Soon, Leo and R.C. were picking out tunes from the radio and playing them for family and friends. Welch also picked up the harmonica and fiddle along the way. As the years passed, Bud continued to entertain at picnics and parties in the area. His repertoire consisted of many of the blues and radio standards and favorites of the day. On several occasions, Welch came to the attention of professional musicians, but planned auditions or jam sessions never materialized. When the Mondays rolled around, Welch was back at work, logging with his chainsaw or working on a local farm. Yet Bud played on, absorbing songs from the radio. Gospel music was a particular favorite and he learned from his church and the Fairfield Four on Nashville’s WLAC. Even the name of Welch’s then current group, Leo Welch and the Rising Souls, suggests a belief in spiritual redemption anticipating the direction the Mississippi native would take. One possible reason Welch flew under the radar for so long was his move into the church around 1975. The vast network of churches in Mississippi and the South offered consistent, safe venues to perform. Welch’s brand of blues was becoming old fashioned and gigs were harder to come by. The churches offered a place where a musician like Leo could still play his style, just slightly modified for the gospel. To this day, these music programs and services often pass unnoticed to even lifetime residents in the local communities. Outside music enthusiasts who have obsessively canvased places like the Mississippi Delta and Hill Country over the last 75 years have largely overlooked the churches in their ceaseless attempts to discover a juke joint out of time. It wouldn’t be that far from overstatement to say that any single county in Mississippi probably has more churches than the all-time sum total of juke houses. But Welch never let the blues go. He has never seen any reason to:”“I believe in the Lord, but the blues speaks to life, too. Blues has a feeling just like gospel; they just don’t have a [bible].” Welch continues to sing with two local gospel groups in the Bruce, Mississippi area; The Spiritualaires and Leo Welch and the Sabougla Voices, as well as hosting The Black Gospel Express TV show every 1st and 5th Sunday on WO7BN-TV. “So don’t go looking over your shoulder when listening to Bud’s music,” says the liner notes. “Come on into this church, there won’t be any old church ladies staring you down from the self-righteous section of the pews. Despite what some folk might insist, church isn’t always under the steepled roof. Where ever you are, have a sip, tap your foot, stomp it even fellowship with your friends and rejoice with the Lord and Leo ‘Bud’ Welch. Crank it.” Sabougla Voices will be released on January 7th on CD and vinyl.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Louis "Gearshifter" Youngblood

Louis Arzo Youngblood, aka “Gearshifter,” is a Jackson-based guitarist and vocalist who performs a unique blend of country blues, modern soul-blues, and everything in between. Louis was born in Picayune, and grew up in Jackson, Bogalusa, and, mostly, Tylertown. There Louis was raised in a simple rural environment surrounded by older relatives. As a young boy Louis learned from his great aunt Essie Mae Youngblood the rudiments of guitar. She also taught him several of the songs he performs today, including the traditional folk song "Rabbit In A Log" and the Tommy Johnson song "Bye Bye Blues". Essie Mae was influenced directly by Johnson, one of the most significant bluesman in the greater Jackson area, who married her sister Rosa in the 1930s and lived briefly in Tylertown. Johnson had a profound influence on a number of artists in the Tylertown area, including Louis’ grandfather and namesake, Arzo Youngblood. At 16 Louis joined the Job Corps, in which he learned to operate heavy machinery at camps in Arizona and New Mexico. He played informally with a band during his three-year tenure, and in the process became more interested in developing his skills on the guitar. After leaving the Corps Louis returned to Jackson, but often stayed in New Orleans with his grandfather Arzo, who had lived there since the early ‘60s. Arzo’s home in the 9th Ward was a gathering place for older musicians, including Boogie Bill Webb. Louis didn’t study directly with the older men, but their music was nevertheless influential on the development of his music and repertoire. He occasionally performed in the city with the Jackson-based group Roosevelt Roberts and Sons. Although he never recorded commercially, Arzo was recorded by field researchers David Evans, who was investigating the influence of Tommy Johnson, and Axel K�stner. Recordings of Arzo by Evans appeared on several now out-of-print LPs; several of the recordings made by K�stner are on the Evidence CD boxed set Living Country Blues. In the ‘70s Louis began performing in Jackson together with artists including Robert Robinson and Tommy Lee at clubs including Dorsey’s and the Queen of Hearts. Mostly though, he worked as a heavy machinery operator at sites across the country. In the late ‘70s he lived in Miami, where he performed with Bahamians in a Calypso band. Throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s Louis performed irregularly in Jackson, and became more active in recent years. In 2003 he played regularly at the E&E Lounge in Jackson with T.C. and the Midnighters, and since late 2003 has played every weekend at Monte’s Fine Dining in Jackson fronting the Delta Blues Boys. Recently Louis has been performing more as a solo acoustic artist, creating a distinctive mix by blending the country blues he learned as a youth with soul/blues classics and electric blues standards. In this capacity he has performed at Hal and Mal’s Restaurant in Jackson, the Sunflower River Blues & Gospel Festival in Clarksdale, and the Rootsway Roots and Blues Food Festival in Parma, Italy. -Scott Barretta See Also: Youngblood's myspace page.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Terry "Harmonica" Bean

Terry “Harmonica” Bean is still relatively young, but has decades of experience with the blues. A lifelong resident of Pontotoc, Bean first heard downhome blues at home. His father Eddie Bean, a native of Bruce, sang and played blues guitar and prior to Terry’s birth traveled with an electric blues band. For many years Eddie Bean, who died in 1985, hosted informal music and gambling gatherings at the family’s house on “Bean Hill” in west Pontotoc. He also worked as a sharecropper, enlisting Terry and other of his fourteen children to pick cotton in the surrounding fields. Terry began playing guitar and harmonica as a child, and eventually his father began featuring him at the home gatherings and taking him along to other house parties. Although Terry was a “natural,” he stopped playing around the time he was twelve because several of his brothers were jealous of the attention he received. Today his brother Jimmy plays bass in church and occasionally in Terry’s blues band, while brother Jerry Lee sings gospel as well as lead vocals in the Pontotoc-based Legends of the Blues. Terry turned his attention instead to baseball, and was a star pitcher on American Legion league teams and his high school team, which he led to the state championship in 1980. Equally adept with both hands, Terry pitched five no-hitters and attracted scouts from several professional teams. A professional career in baseball was curtailed, however, when Terry was injured in a motorcycle accident and he lost his competitive edge. Nevertheless, he continued to play semi-pro ball in his ‘20s until he was involved in another automotive accident. Terry decided to “get serious” about the blues in 1988 after visiting the Delta Blues Festival in Greenville. He went there to see Robert Junior Lockwood, who played with Terry’s idol, harmonica legend Little Walter, but inadvertently fell in with the Greenville blues scene. Every weekend for three years Terry traveled to Greenville and its environs to play harmonica with James "T-Model" Ford as well as Asie Payton at various juke joints. He also played across the Delta with artists including Lonnie Pitchford. Back home he formed a band, and began playing guitar himself after becoming frustrated with teaching others his ideal sound. Following the lead of Arkansas bluesman John Weston, he started using a harmonica rack and performing as a one-man band, stomping his feet for percussion. Since the mid-‘80s Terry has worked full-time at a furniture factory in Pontotoc, but he has maintained a busy performance schedule as both a solo artist and with the Terry Harmonica Bean Blues Band. He has performed at festivals across Mississippi as well as in Alabama, Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee, and regularly works at clubs across the region. Since 2002 he has released six self-produced CDs that document both his band and solo performances. Terry is consciously dedicated to “keeping alive” older styles of blues. “What’s stimulating to me,” he says, “is people hearing the blues played like they used to hear it.” -Scott Barretta