Friday, November 06, 2009

A Good Blues Name

In the history of the blues, it's been important to have a good blues name. There are numerous approaches. One is to have a descriptor tacked on in front of an ordinary name. For instance, who wants to hear a singer named Joe Hunter? Mundane, right? But Ivory Joe Hunter, now that's a whole other ballgame. Naturally Ivory Joe Hunter has to be a piano player because he tickles the ivories.

Here's Ivory Joe Hunter with one of his most popular tunes, Since I met you Baby.

Another approach is to have a name that specifically refers to something else altogether. For instance, Muddy Waters refers to the Mississippi and he's from Mississippi so his name embodies all that history. Howlin Wolf refers to Chester Burnett's vocal style. Of course, it's possible to introduce a little humour too. For instance, a guitar player named Eddy Harrington started calling himself Eddy Clearwater, obviously a different kind of player than Muddy Waters, right? I like Eddy Clearwater's music. I've attended a number of his shows, including a couple in a club he ran for a while in Chicago's Wicker Park area. Eddy also has another nickname. He's known as The Chief. Just to make sure you remember he's The Chief he occasionally wears an Indian head-dress on-stage.
Here's an interview with Mr. Clearwater.

And here he is, doing his thing...

Finally, let's look at a name that is just plain stolen. First there was John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson, and what a great harp player he was.
Here's Bluebird Blues

Then, years later along came another remarkable harmonica player named Aleck Ford, who was also known as Aleck Miller or Rice Miller. He changed his name to Sonny Boy Williamson, maybe to capitalize on the success of his predecessor. In spite of this strange name business, the second Sonny Boy developed a very distinctive style. He was a great player, maybe my favourite harmonica player.
Here's Your Funeral and My Trial

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