Friday, April 28, 2006

Alan Lomax & The Red Blues

Alan Lomax playing guitar, sometime between 1938 and 1950

I often say, "If you want to play the blues, you have to live the blues." When I make this statement I am often referring to the musicians for the most part. But the more I study the blues and read about the men and women who were on the edges, and not on the stage I realize that many of them had to live the blues too.

Consider the case of Mr. Alan Lomax (January 31, 1915 – July 19, 2002). The LA recently ran an article that chronicles that case against Mr. Lomax by the FBI. You can read it here, The Red-rumor blues By Ted Gioia in a Special to The Times.

It makes me sad, when I think that a man who brought us the likes of Muddy Waters, Leadbelly, Woody Guthrie, Jelly Roll Morton and many other musicians had to suffer like this.

But there your go, you have to live to blues.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Today is the Birthdate of Ma Rainey

Today is the birthdate of Ma Rainey. She was born Columbus, Georgia on April 26, 1886. She wasn't the first female blues singer to make records, but by all rights she should have been.

She was on stage as early as 1900 (Encyclopedia of the Blues, Gerard Herzhaft). She was multitalented, she sang, danced and acted in a traveling vaudeville show. In 1904 she married the dancer William "Pa" Rainey and adopted the nickname of "Ma" Rainey.

Her show was a part of the Tolliver circus and the Rabbit Foot Minstrels. During this time she took a young Bessie Smith under her wing and gave her advice.

During her time women were the marquee names in blues music, and Ma Rainey was the most celebrated of them all. That is why she is often called the "Mother of the blues." She had been singing and performing for more than 20 years before she made her first recording for Paramount in 1923.

Some of the song for which she is know for are, "See See Rider," "Bo-Weavil Blues," and "Ma Rainey's Black Bottom." She had a tough vocal delivery and her music included jug bands, guitar dous, and she also played with bluesmen like Tampa Red and Blind Blake. She is also know as an early jazz singer for her work accompanying musicians such as Louis Armstrong, Kid Ory and Fletcher Henderson.

You can read all about her here, Ma Rainey @ Wikipedia

And if you would like to hear some of her music, consider the following;

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Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Apr 18 was the Birthday of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown

In honor of the birthdate of Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown who was born on April 18, back in 1924 and who passed away on September 10, 2005, I'd like to present an mp3s by him.

You can read all about him here RIP Clarence Gatemouth Brown @ SqueezeMyLemon.

mp3 in red below - right click to save file or click to play.

Clarence Gatemouth Brown - Information Blues mp3

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Friday, April 21, 2006

Little Walter Sound Files

Lately as I play my harmonica, Little Walter has been on my mind. And one of the comments from my post on Sonny Boy Williamson mentioned him. So then I remembered that I have a few sample windows music files of his music.

As I said in a comment earlier, Little Walter is also one of my favorite blues harmonica players. If you have any doubts about that, please listen to the song called Juke. This song is awesome!

Windows media player sound files are in red below;

Little Walter - My Babe.wma file

Little Walter - Juke.wma file

Little Walter - Crazy Mixed Up World.wma file

If you like those files you may want to buy a CD of Little Walters music form here are a few of my favorites;

His Best :(Little Walter)The Chess 50th Anniversary Collection

The Blues World of Little Walter

1947-1953 Little Walter

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Thursday, April 20, 2006

Where To Put Your Mp3s

Every now and then I want to write something that moves the curtain back and allows you to look behind the scene and see how music blogs work.

All us bloggers who provide mp3s have to have somewhere to store them.

So what do you do with all the mp3s that you down load form the web? Well because I provide mp3s for others to scarf up, I need a cool place to store them (actually I need many cool places to store them). And it occurred to me that maybe some of the readers of my blogs might want or need a place to store mp3s.

My answer to that question is Bolt Media's File Lodge

The Free File Hosting at File Lodge is a cool deal if you need a place to store your mp3s.

Go there and check them out!

As I find other places like this online I will let you all know about them.

Here is what they offer totally free;

  • Free file and image hosting.

  • 500 MB of storage space.

  • Hotlinking allowed with a tool that creates links for you.

  • It is perfect for images, music, videos and documents.

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Sunday, April 16, 2006

Sonny Boy Williamson I mp3s: Will The Real Sonny Boy Please Stand Up?

OK, in my last couple of post I have been going on and on about my man Sonny Boy Williamson II (Alek Rice Miller), now it is true that pound for pound he is my favorite blues harmonica player. I think this is because he has a more polished and modern sound and he was a master of the harp. And as I am sure you can see from the last two videos he was an excellent showmen and knew how to play the blues.

However he is not the original Sonny Boy Williamson, as a matter of fact he took that name from a harmonica virtuoso by the name of John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson who lived and recorded during the late thirties. And I would say that if you are a blues harmonica player or you want to become one you need to become familiar with Sonny Boy Williamson's music. He played with grace and style and he engaged in breathtaking harmonica feats. When you combine that with his particular vocal style of mumbling the words, his music is irresistible.

A friend of the prewar Chicago blues giant, Big Bill Bronnzy, he was murdered at the peak of his fame, at the age of thirty-four. Still he left a mark on blues history and the themes of his music and his style influenced many blues and rock artists to come. His music has been covered by many performers. And finally I would say that if he had not been cut down at such a young age, he may have eclipsed Sonny Boy Williamson II, the pretender.

mp3s by John Lee "Sonny Boy" Williamson;

Sonny Boy Williamson I - Bad Luck Blues mp3

Sonny Boy Williamson I - New Early In The Morning mp3

Sonny Boy Williamson I - Check Up On My Baby Blues mp3

And if you would like to hear the real Sonny Boy Williamson in all his glory, check these out;

Sonny Boy Williamson (John Lee Williamson) Complete Recorded Works I (1937-1938)

Sonny Boy Williamson (John Lee Williamson) Bring Another Half Pint

Sonny Boy Williamson (John Lee Williamson) Vol. 2 1940/1942

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Friday, April 14, 2006

Sonny Boy Williamson II: Thank You Sir, May I Have Another.

panchee, thanks for stopping by. To answer your question left in my last post, I like Little Walter too, he is from my home state of Louisiana and was a great harmonica player and innovator of the blues. But he could not improvise the way Sonny Boy Williamson did. All the harp players that were in Muddy Waters band rose to promanance. i.e. Junoir Wells, James Cotton. That band was probably the best blues band ever.

As for Sonny Boy Williamson music to check out. The two songs mentioned by Mister Anchovy are great songs. If you are a blues harmonica player you have to try to play "Don't start me talking". For those of you who like that song, check out this video of Bob Dylan playing "Don't Start Me Talking".

As for music by Sonny Boy Williamson to check out try these three CDs;
Sonny Boy Williamson His Best

Sonny Boy Williamson King Biscuit Time

Sonny Boy Williamson Bummer Road

These three CD's are my favorite by Sonny Boy Williamson, and I think you will enjoy them too.

And finally check out another Great Sonny Boy Video from YouTube;

Sonny Boy Williamson - Bye Bye Bird & My Younger Days

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Monday, April 10, 2006

Sonny Boy Williamson II - Nine Below Zero Video

I have been asked who is my favorite harp player of all time. Well I have to admit that Aleck "Rice" Miller a.k.a. Sonny Boy Williamson II is the man.

Check out how effortlessly Sonny Boy Plays this tune. He even plays some notes without cupping the harp, while as a harp player I know this can be done. I am just surprised to see how easy he makes this look. Too cool.

When I grow up as a harp player I want to be just like Sonny Boy.

Also note that Otis Span is playing the piano on this cut, check out his break where he tickles the daylights out of those ivories.

Sonny Boy Williamson II - Below Zero Video @ YouTube.Com

You can read Sonny Boy's Bio @ Wikipedia.

Memphis Slim & Sonny Boy DVD

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Saturday, April 08, 2006

Chess Records

Lately Chess Records has been on my mind. I have been listening to a lot of the music of the artist of Chess. If you don't know, Chess Records was an American record label, based in Chicago, Illinois. The brothers Leonard Chess and Phil Chess were the owners and operators of the company. Chess Records is one of the most important record labels in blues history and rock and roll too. If it were not for Chess Records we would not have some of the recordings that are considered the foundations of blues and rock and roll. They released many singles and albums by Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williams II (Rice Miller), Chuck Berry, Bo Diddley and many others.

While they had rock and roll, and rhythm & blues recording, the blues was their mainstay and the area where they had the biggest impact. People like Willie Dixon, Little Walter, John Lee Hooker, and Jimmy Reed among others worked with the Chess Brothers.

With Willie Dixon, an artist whose talent as a producer/songwriter/ session player during the 1950s and 1960s vastly contributed to the label's long-term success. Dixon was very instrumental and a vital figure at Chess Records. He was not only a good musician filling in as bassist and prolific songwriter. He aided in orchestration and was something of a figurehead for the label. But in my mind it is his songwriting that made him that man at Chess. Songs written by Dixon include "Back Door Man," "The Red Rooster," "Spoonful," and "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man." These are just a few of the songs that helped to make Chess Records the great label that it was.

Here are a few books that you might want to read about Chess Records;
The Record Men : Chess Records and the Birth of Rock & Roll (Paperback)

Spinning Blues into Gold : The Chess Brothers and the Legendary Chess Records (Paperback)

The Story of Chess Records (Hardcover)

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Tuesday, April 04, 2006

It's The Birthday Of Muddy Waters

Happy birthday to the Godfather of the blues Mr. Muddy Waters, he was born in Rolling Fork, Mississippi in 1915. According to Muddy his grandmother gave him the nickname of Muddy Waters because he liked to play in the muddy creek near his house. He learned to play the blues by listening to other Mississippi Delta blues musicians such as Son House and Robert Johnson. He worked on the farm and drove a tractor during the week, but he started to perform at juke joints, fish fries and parties on the weekends.

He was one of the blues musicians that was recorded by Alan Lomax for the Library of Congress. When Muddy heard himself on Lomax's recordings he thought that he might have a chance making it as a professional musician. He is reported as having said, "Man, you don't know how I felt that afternoon when I heard that voice and it was my own voice." In May of 1943 he moved from Clarksdale, Mississippi, to Chicago, Illinois. As the legend goes Muddy only took a suit of clothes and an acoustic guitar. He got a job at a paper factory, moved in with some cousins and begin playing his music at parties and get togethers in Chicago.

In 1943 the music was ruled by big band music. Muddy tried playing at clubs and other venues but because he was playing an acoustic guitar it was hard to hear him. That is when he realized that he needed to switch over to an electric guitar. In 1944, his uncle sold him a cheap electric guitar, and the creation of the Muddy Waters sound began.

No one had played Mississippi Delta style blues on an electric guitar before. This totally and forever changed the sound of the blues. In 1948 Muddy made his first hit, "I Can't Be Satisfied," with the Chess Brothers of Chess Records. And the rest is history!

Muddy Waters Interview @ SqueezeMyLemon.

A Review of the Official Muddy Waters Site @ SqueezeMyLemon.

Muddy Waters@ Wikipedia

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