A couple of weeks ago I asked in another post ‘Who in music had made the most important contributions to pop culture’, I was looking for personalities but Amylee suggested that it might not be a person but rather a musical form; the blues. I hadn’t considered that but when I thought about it I realized that it was a significant thought.
The blues, an American twentieth century contribution has played such a significant role in much of the world’s pop music especially since the introduction of international music distribution and radio/TV post WW2. So I started creating a playlist of blues artists from my vinyl collection but it wasn’t working, what I was creating was a list of only classic delta blues, basically fairly primitive voice/guitar songs. I know that’s how it all started and that those are the roots but my interest in the blues extends a long way beyond there and so I started re-shuffling the list and adding some examples of other styles. Suddenly it was getting out of hand and I saw that following Maki’s flamenco lead might be the answer, a multi part series that dealt with all aspects of the blues but I wasn’t sure if there was enough interest for that so I condensed it back to a reasonable size and included a selection of my favorites to create a fairly comprehensive list. One form that I didn’t include but that might be the subject for a separate post was female blues artists, another was instrumental blues, jazz is in large part based in the blues and there’s thousands of wonderful examples so that might be another, and a third is the commercial ‘pop’ style, Bing Crosby sings the blues etc, what I chose are all pretty close to the roots. Here’s just a bit of background on some of the artists and the tunes.
Joe Turner, Boss of the Kansas City blues, a distinct style unique to that city, heard here on Piney Brown with an all star backing group from 1956, I brought this album with me from England when I came to California and I got Joe to autograph it for me. Joe Turner’s the guy who introduced ‘Shake Rattle and Roll’ in the 50′s, a forerunner of rock ‘n roll.
Big Bill, one of the all time greats, a pioneer of delta blues who also in the early 50′s spread the influence of the blues to Europe, I saw him several times in England and he was one of the most imposing men I’ve ever seen, a musical giant.
Taj, a farmer as a young man with a talent for music, he quit farming and moved to southern California where he formed a group with a young friend, Ry Cooder, another great bluesman. Taj, perhaps more than anyone has kept the blues in the public eye since the 60′s.
Basie; of all the popular big bands Basie’s was always the one most strongly blues based, he always had one or more blues singers in the band, Helen Humes, Jimmy Rushing, Joe Williams, Joe Turner et al. Google Wiki for the interesting story on Harvard Blues and check the delicate Lester Young solo on the into.
John Lee, the Hook, One of the most recognizable sounds in the blues, the Hook is unique. The Hook abides!
Lambert, Hendrix and Ross – [Dave, Jon and Annie] An imaginative vocal trio that in this case took the arrangement and the instrumental solos from a Basie classic, Going to Chicago and wrote and sang lyrics to it; the entire album ‘Sing along with Basie’ is in this format.
As an afterthought I thought it would be fun to include the Basie original of Goin’ to Chicago with Jimmy Rushing doing the vocal for comparison purposes, it’s the classic Basie band from April 1941.
Duke Ellington often strongly blues influenced but rarely full on vocal blues, here it’s with Al Hibbler from 1949.
T Bone, A Texas blues pioneer who influenced BB King’s and Chuck Berry’s guitar styles.
Mose Allison, Mose started playing blues piano and singing the blues while he was still in school in Tippo Mississippi in the ’30′s, this is from his debut album ‘Back Country Suite’ from 1957.
Jimmy Witherspoon: AKA ‘Spoon’, A guy who always performed with a jazz backing, often with the big names of jazz, here he’s accompanied by Gerry Mulligan and Ben Webster from 1959 and it doesn’t get much better than that.
Muddy Waters, this one’s from very early in his career, 1948, he already had that strong guitar style.
Keb Mo, another contemporary artist, he started out playing with Papa John Creach in the Jefferson Airplane days but went on to a solo career, a strong Robert Johnson style player.
Memphis Slim, A blues pianist who early in his career, 1940, wrote a song that went on to be recorded by all the great blues singers, ‘Everyday I have the Blues’, it’s on this playlist by Joe Turner.
John Hammond, his father was John Hammond Snr. the well known producer at Columbia who signed Billie Holiday, Basie, Aretha, Springsteen and Dylan to that label. He was raised by his mother and began playing blues guitar in the 60′s as a part of the folk revival in NY, he’s still going strong.
And we finish with another Taj song from the same album, Sweet home Chicago, this time with backup singers the Pointer Sisters.
Jimi‘s a bonus track, what’s there to say about Jimi except this is the track that drew me to him way back then.
In the edit there were many names deleted who should still be here: Buddy Guy, BB King, Jimmy Reed, Albert King, Albert Collins, Little Walter, Chuck Berry, Howlin’ Wolf, Lowell Fulson, Robert Johnson, Josh White, John Mayall and more, they were in the initial list but I felt it was too Delta/Urban and needed to be broadened.
Please feel free to add to the comments via the magic of youtube any favorites that you have. Enjoy.
From the top the photos are: BB King, Buddy Guy, Robert Cray, Albert King, John Hammond and Taj Mahal, Willy Dixon and BB King.
The cuts in order are:
1. Taj Mahal – Corina
2. Joe Turner – Piney Brown Blues
3. Muddy Waters – I’m Ready .
4. Allman Bros – Statesboro Blues.
5. Big Bill Broonzy – In the Evening
6. Basie/Rushing – Harvard Blues
7. Elmore James – Dust my Broom
8. John Lee Hooker – I’m in the mood
9. Lambert, Hendrix and Ross- Goin’ to Chicago
9a. Jimmy Rushing – Goin’ to Chicago.
10. Sonny Boy Williamson – Frogs for Snakes
11. Basie/Turner – Everyday I have the blues
12. Duke Ellington – Good Woman Blues
13. Bo Diddley – I’m a man
14. Jimmy Rushing – Good Morning Blues
15. T Bone Walker – So Low Down
16. Basie/Williams – Key to the Hwy.
17. Mose Allison – Blues
18. Jimmy Witherspoon – Every Day
19. Muddy Waters -Rolling and Tumbling
20. Keb Mo -Perpetual Blues Machine .
21. Little Walter – Key to the Highway
22. Memphis Slim – Havin’ Fun
23. Joe Turner – Stormy Monday
24. John Hammond – Two trains running
25. Taj Mahal – Sweet home Chicago
26. Jimi Hendrix – Red House.