Chicago-based Alligator records started operations 50 years ago with a Houndog Taylor release. It was an inauspicious beginning, but with the dedication of Bruce Iglauer, the label prospered with Son Seals, Lonnie Brooks, Professor Longhair, Koko Taylor, Albert Collins and Shemekia Copeland releases marking blues time into the 21st Century. Hats off to Bruce for keeping the music alive and rockin’.
At age 23, Mr. Iglauer…recorded [Houdog] Taylor and company, ran this new label from his apartment, and before long was looking for other Black performers on the scene who could appeal to rock-raised Boomer blues enthusiasts in similar ways. “Genuine Houserockin’ Music” became the official company slogan.
Catch Alligator artist Janiva Magness talking about Alligator in BCI #8
Stone Ronnie Wood offers the second chapter of his blues salute albums; Mr. Luck-A Tribute To Jimmy Reed: Live At The Albert Hall, coming out September 2, 2021 on BMG. Here’s a preview with Reed’s all-time classic “Baby What You Want Me To Do.”
Ronnie shared: “Jimmy Reed was one of the premier influences on the Rolling Stones and all the bands that love American blues from that era until the present day. It is my honour to have the opportunity to celebrate his life and legacy with this tribute.”
The album was recorded at Royal Albert Hall in 2013 with Ronnie Wood Band featuring guests Mick Taylor,Bobby Womack, Mick Hucknall and Paul Weller. The concert pays tribute to Mississippi popular blues legend Jimmy Reed.
Wood began the series of tributes with ‘Mad Lad’covering the late Chuck Berry’s fine catalog of tracks as Ronnie Wood & His Wild Five.
1. Essence 2. Good Lover 3. Mr. Luck 4. Let’s Get Together 5. Ain’t That Loving You Baby 6. Honest I Do 7. High & Lonesome 8. Baby What You Want Me To Do 9. Roll and Rhumba 10. You Don’t Have To Go 11. Shame Shame Shame 12. I’m That Man Down There 13. Got No Where To Go 14. Big Boss Man 15. I Ain’t Got You 16. I’m Going Upside Your Head
Among my favorites in this list are the now and then reviews of Bobby Rush’s, 1979 masterpiece Rush Hour
“Bobby Rush…took his decades of his experience and his close study of Howlin’ Wolf and made an urban blues album for his times, incorporating touches of Philadelphia soul, street-corner harmonies, and the rhythms of the pulpit….Rush Hour was the first album in a sequence of ever-stranger “folk-funk” explorations.
What We Said Then: “Rush Hour …is outrageous and stunning…Rush Hour is a tribute to resilience–a sign that the lessons Howlin’ Wolf and his peers learned and taught have been neither lost nor forgotten. You’re going to need something like this to get you through the Eighties.” — Dave Marsh, RS 305 (November 29th, 1979)
Presently, in this decade, the stalwart blues funk purveyor from Homer, LA has just won grammy for best traditional blues album twice. Congratulations to Bobby on such a good long run of great albums. I look forward to seeing him take the stage, always an inspiration.
Here he is in BCI #15 talking Chitlin’ Circuit and New Orleans blues.
The Black Keys are set to release an all blues shout-out to their Mississippian inspirations. The Akron, Ohio duo Dan Auerbach (guitar) and Patrick Carney (drums) have made a career out of blues-related rock.
Delta Kream will drop May 14th with the track list below
1 ‘Crawling Kingsnake’ (John Lee Hooker Cover) 2 ‘Louise’ (Mississippi Fred McDowell Cover) 3 ‘Poor Boy A Long Way From Home’ (R. L. Burnside Cover) 4 ‘Stay All Night’ (Junior Kimbrough Cover) 5 ‘Going Down South’ (R. L. Burnside Cover) 6 ‘Coal Black Mattie’ (Ranie Burnette Cover) 7 ‘Do the Romp’ (Junior Kimbrough Cover) 8 ‘Sad Days, Lonely Nights’ (Junior Kimbrough Cover) 9 ‘Walk with Me’ (Junior Kimbrough Cover) 10 ‘Mellow Peaches’ (Big Joe Williams Cover) 11 ‘Come On And Go With Me’ (Junior Kimbrough Cover)
“Lost the keys to paradise, well that’s the oldest story in the world..” Peter Case joined by former Plimsoul Eddie Muñoz on a nifty 2012 version of “The Oldest Story in the World.”
In the early 1980’s the Plimsouls were almost famous. This song appears in Valley Girl, and their biggest hit “Million Miles Away” charted at #11. Peter Case went solo shortly after and has mainly navigated an excellent solo career since. Plimsouls reunions are infrequent but enjoyable.
The L.A. Times reports that 673 tape reels of Producer Allen Toussaint have been purchased at Roadium in Los Angeles, a weekend flea market. The trove includes masters and safety copies of many 1968-1979 records at Sea-Saint Studios. After several ownership transitions following the sale of the tapes winding up in a flea market where Mike Nishita purchased them. He is brother of Money Mark and a DJ of reknown. The tapes had been feared lost after Hurricane Katrina.
I had the distinct pleasure of video interviewing Allen twice in the mid-1990’s as well as shooting a play talk interview with Earl King at Sea-Saint. Funky and full of mystique, Sea-Saint is best known for Sir Paul’s Venus and Mars, Labelle’s Lady Marmalade, Allen’s own Southern Nights, and Robert Palmer’s Sneakin’ Sally Through the Alley, but so often Toussaint could pull magical results from his regular backing band, The Meters.
Providing to New Orleans what Booker T. & The M.G.’s did to Memphis, they went on to become a funk mainstay and have had outsized influence on subsequent sounds. In addition, the Neville Brothers found a world-wide audience summarizing these triumphs with tours and records featuring songs first recorded at Sea-Saint.
Finally Chicago gets a blues museum, at Muddy Waters former home on the Southside. Celebrating the blues by passing down the history and the music with a recording studio and renovation, it aims to engage the next generation of talent.
“It’s our job as blues historians, but as people who love blues or are vying for the blues legacy … it’s our jobs to remind people that the blues is the root of a lot of music,” said Chandra Cooper, Waters’ great-granddaughter.
Waters, born McKinley Morganfield in 1913, moved to Chicago in 1943 to pursue music professionally. He developed an influential electric guitar based blues style that went on to heavily influence the Rolling Stones, Johnny Winter and an entire generation of blues rockers.
Israeli bluesman Andy Watts recently put out his fifth album Supergroove with guests including (BCI #2’s) Joe Louis Walker, singer Eliza Neals, Roy Young, and Israeli vocalists Danny Shoshan and Gadi Altman. Watts, 56, was born in Sweden and moved to Israel when he was 20 years old.
The record has had some chart successes remaining on the Roots Music chart for 17 weeks, reaching a peak of No. 6. It hit No. 9 in the U.K. and went top 20 in Australia.
Blues pioneer Gertrude Pridgett (1886 – 1939) began performing as a teenager and became known as “Ma” Rainey after her marriage to Will “Pa” Rainey in 1904. They toured with the Rabbit Foot Minstrels and later formed their own group, Rainey and Rainey, Assassinators of the Blues. Her first recording was made in 1923 followed by over 100 more including “Bo-Weevil Blues” (1923), “See See Rider Blues” (1924) and “Soon This Morning” (1927).
Rainey was known for her powerful vocal abilities, energetic disposition, majestic phrasing, and a “moaning” style of singing. Rainey recorded toured until 1935 (including with Thomas Dorsey and Louis Armstrong) when she continued as a theater impresario in her hometown of Columbus, GA for the reaming four years of her life.
In 1982, August Wilson authored the musical Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – the title coming from Rainey’s song of the same name, which refers to the black bottom dance from the Roaring Twenties. Now it is a high production value Netflix feature with Viola Davis excelling in the lead role.
When the first gramaphone recordings of blues hit the market in 1920, black female singers surged to success. However, once guitar caught on in the following decade, men predominated popular blues. While the blues has remained in the popular music picture at all times in the intervening century, it is often behind the scenes powering rock, R&B, country and funk. But the blues is still with us.
100 years later things are going full circle. Female artists kicked down the door for this important music then, and now a younger generation is picking up the guitar and plugging in to carry the blues forward. In “Women created the blues. Now they are taking it back” in Christian Science Monitor Stephen Humphries discusses how Larkin Poe, Samantha Fish, Joanne Shaw Taylor, and Jackie Venson are reinvigorating the music.
Humphries adds this backstory:
The most popular blues performers in places like Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and Tuxedo Junction in Birmingham, Alabama, were Black women. Notably, these singers bent their voices to sing something unheard-of in staid European music capitals: minor “blue” notes in between major notes over 12-bar shuffles. The blues drew on the call-and-response of spirituals. …Yet the women who helped pioneer the genre were shut out from the recording industry. Then, in 1920, vaudeville singer Mamie Smith convinced the Okeh label there would be a huge Black audience for her recordings. Her second release, which included the song “Crazy Blues,” made her the Adele of her era.
“It’s the first song to bring in a million dollars, and it really set a precedent for women taking the stage and starting to become recording artists,” says Lynn Orman Weiss, head of the Women of the Blues Foundation. “Bessie Smith, Alberta Hunter, and Mamie Smith were huge stars.”
For more from Stephen Humphries CSMonitor article on women in blues today click here
Samantha Fish stars often in BC’s coverage of the New Orleans blues scene. Here is a clip of her in action at the 2018 NOCBGF. The Blues Center has been an official sponsor of the event since 2017. And in 2020 it was renamed the Samantha Fish New Orleans Cigar Box Guitar Festival.