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Monthly Archives: December 2011
If you start with the Blues you have to end with the Blues, Right? Here’s some Little Walter for your New Years Eve…
I started my blog one year ago today. My first blog was about “The Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin. At first my site only got about 10 hits per month. A year later my site is getting 1,000+ hits per month. Still chump change in the world of blogosphere, but a great improvement too! One of my goals was to blog every week. I almost made that goal. Sometimes life just gets too busy and these blogs take a lot of time to produce. I am satisfied with my progress and I’d like to say a big thank you to all who read my blog and to all who continue to encourage my hobby.
Santa Claus was very good to me and I want to share the wealth. This LP was a gift from my good friend Jim (a.k.a. “Chip”). What a fantastic blues record this is too.
If you aren’t familiar with the name and music of Walter Marion Jacobs, “Little Walter” allow me to give you some background. Little Walter is considered to be one of the greatest blues harmonica players ever. He taught Mick Jagger how to play the harmonica. Can you imagine “Midnight Rambler” without Mick’s great harmonica playing? Keith Richards says that it’s a shame that Mick won’t “sing like he plays the harmonica”. Walter was born May 1, 1930 in Marksville , Louisiana and died in Chicago, Illinois on February 15, 1968. Little Walter brought the harmonica into the modern age. He was the first person to play the harmonica through a small hand help microphone. This created a “booming new sound for the harp – fat, wide, ineffably haunting.” He also brought a new virtuosity to the harp that had never been done before. He is also famous because he was the harp player in Muddy Waters band until he went his own way in 1952. In 1952 he released his first single called “Juke”. It went straight to number 1 on the Billboard R&B chart where it stayed for 8 weeks. Not even Muddy Waters did that in his prime. Between 1952 and 1958 Little Walter had 14 top ten hits on the R&B charts. But with the advent of Rock and Roll his fame faded in the 60’s. This LP is the 1968 reissue of the original Chess Record of 1958. Many of these songs never made the charts but they will be instantly recognizable to many music lovers. Where volume one emphasized his harmonica playing, Volume two features his vocal abilities. Not to say there isn’t a lot of fantastic harmonica playing on this disc, because there is! So here we go with side 1.
Mellow Down Easy
This song was recorded in 1954 and it was written by Willie Dixon. It features Robert Jr. Lockwood and David Meyers on Guitar, Willie Dixon on Bass, Fred Below on Drums and Little Walter on Vocal and Harmonica. It was originally released as Checker single 805. This song is now a standard of blues bands everywhere. There is a very well know cover of this song by “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band”.
I Don’t Play
This song was recorded in 1960. It was originally released as Checker single 968. It features Otis Spann on Piano, Freddie Robinson and Luther Tucker on Guitar, Wilie Dixon on Bass, Fred Below on Drums. This cut was not on the original Chess record. It was added to this 1968 reissue. Until this LP had been released, this song had never been issued on a U.S. record. It is not only a rarity, it is a great example of Little Walters amazing talent as a harmonica player.
This song was also written by Willie Dixon. It was recorded in 1953 and released as Checker single 780. It features Louis and David Meyers on Guitar, and Fred Below on drums.
Key To The Highway
This song was written by McKinley Morganfield and recorded in 1958. It features Otis Spann on piano, Muddy Waters and Luther Tucker on Guitar, Willie Dixon on bass and George Hunter on drums. Can yo believe you have Muddy, Willie and Walter all on one song? It would be like if you had a recording of Beethoven, Bach and Brahms playing together. All I can say is WOW!! This song has been covered by everyone that is anyone in blues and in rock.
This song was written and performed by Little Walter. It was recorded in 1952. It features Louis and David Meyers on guitar and Fred Below on Drums. This song was previously unreleased in the U.S. prior to this LP. This boogie has fierce driving style to it.
Crazy Mixed Up World
This song was written by Willie Dixon and recorded in 1959. It features Robert Jr. Lockwood and Luther Tucker on guitar, Willie Dixon on bass, and Fred Below on Drums. This has become a staple of blues music and has been widely covered by many musicians. It was originally released as Checker single 919.
This song was written and performed by Little Walter. It features Louis and David Meyers on guitar, and Fred Below on drums. It was recorded in 1953 and originally released on Checker single number 786. This is a stunning instrumental that is every bit as good as anything else the man ever did.
This song was written by Willie Dixon and recorded in 1954. It features Willie Dixon on Bass, Louis Myers and Robert Jr. Lockwood on guitar, with Fred Below on drums. It was originally released as Checker single 793.
Boom Boom (Out Go The Lights)
I just love this song. It has been covered by many many musicians but I really like this early version. This song was recorded in 1955 and released as Checker single 867. It features Robert Jr. Lockwood and Luther Tucker on guitar, Willie Dixon on Bass, and Fred Below on drums.
It Ain’t Right
The LP ends with another Little Walter original. This song features the same line up that recorded Boom Boom. it was recorded in 1955 and released as Checker single 833.
I quote from Chris Morris of Billboard Magazine fame, “Often covered, much imitated, Little Walter has never been surpassed. He played, to quote the title of one of his biggest hits, blues with a feeling, and the feeling is the special province of the true greats.”
So what happened to Little Walter? Well, like a blues man is supposed to do, his life came to a tragic end. Walter was known to have a violent temper. He had been in many fights over the years. On Valentines day in 1968 Little Walter got into a fight during a break at a performance at a night club on the south side of Chicago. He didn’t appear to be seriously injured. He went back on stage and finished his performance. He went to his girlfriends apartment to spend the night. The next morning she woke up and found him dead. An autopsy later revealed that he had died of a blood clot coming loose and stopping his heart. His music lives on…
I hope you have enjoyed this great Chicago blues music. Every song was recorded at Chess records in Chicago,Illinois. A little blues can warm up a cold winter night and makes for great listening on New Years Eve. Happy New Year and I look forward to writing many more blogs in 2012.
The 2012 inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame were announced recently.
The concert and induction ceremony is scheduled for April 5 -14th in Cleveland, Ohio.
The inductee’s included The Red Hot Chili Peppers,
The Faces/The Small Faces,
and the great Freddie King.
There were several other worthy inductees as well that I am choosing not to mention at this time. The criteria the Hall of Fame uses is very broad and subjective. Basically, they can induct who ever they want to. He is the verbatim quote from the Hall of Fame’s own site:
To be eligible for induction as an artist (as a performer, composer, or musician) into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the artist must have released a record, in the generally accepted sense of that phrase, at least 25 years prior to the year of induction; and have demonstrated unquestionable musical excellence. We shall consider factors such as an artist’s musical influence on other artists, length and depth of career and the body of work, innovation and superiority in style and technique, but musical excellence shall be the essential qualification of induction.
So here’s my opinion. Guns-n-Roses is not worthy of the Hall of Fame. They formed in 1987 and broke up in 1994. Their lead guitar player, Slash, has reformed the band with new members including a new lead singer. They put out 2 really good recordings; Appetite for Destruction, and Use Your Illusions I & II. The Hall praised them as “The Rolling Stones of their time…” You have got to be kidding me! I saw GNR twice. The first time I saw them the opened for Arrowsmith. They were awesome and I really enjoyed their show. The second time I saw them was in Texas Stadium at an all day Rock Concert. The headliner was INXS. GNR went on right before INXS. They made it through about three songs. Axle Rose, their lead singer, started kicking INXS’s equipment off the stage. He went on rant about the fact that they should have been the headliner of the concert. The Irving Police Department had enough of his appetite for destruction, and profanity. Axle had to stop using his illusion and ended up in the Irving jail charged with public lewdness and destruction of property. This alone is enough to block them from the Hall of Fame. It’s okay if a musician doesn’t like another musicians music, but it’s not okay for them to disrespect another musician. The Hall is about honoring musicians. I believe that in order for you to be honored, you should have to be honorable. GNR’s brevity of career, lack of a significant body of work, and their attitude toward other musicians make them a poor choice for the Hall of Fame. Shame on the voters and shame on the Hall of Fame. Congratulations to all the other inductees. They are all worthy candidates.
It’s my opinion. I could be wrong. What do you think?
Review of the Wilco concert November 29th at the State Fair Music Hall, Dallas, Texas.
Wilco is one of America’s finest Rock-n-Roll bands. I know many people have never heard of them, but that doesn’t matter. Popularity has nothing to do with quality. And quality Rock-n-Roll is what you get with Wilco. Since their is a good chance you don’t know who they are a little background is appropriate. Wilco was formed from the ashes of the great band Uncle Tupelo. Uncle Tupelo was a folk rock, roots rock band that was formed by Jeff Tweedy (Wilco’s lead singer) and Jay Farrar (Lead singer of Son Volt) Jay and Jeff were like Lennon and McCartney. They were highly talented, ambitious, song writers. And just like Lennon and McCartney they couldn’t get along. Jay wanted to continue in the Country Rock/Americana vein and Jeff wanted to continue in the Rock/Blues/Jazz/Roots vein. They split the band and in 1995 Wilco put out their first album “A.M.” Jay Farrar went his own way and formed Son Volt. Both bands have done very well. The two bands sound very different. Wilco now has 11 Cd’s out, if you count the two they made with Billy Bragg.
The concert started with Nick Lowe. Nick Lowe has written a lot songs that you would know. You just might not know that he wrote them. Songs like “What’s so Funny ’bout Peace, Love, and Understanding, ” or “Cruel to be Kind”. He also covered Allison by Elvis Costello. You rarely see a musician who is so confident of the power of his songs he will perform them with just his voice and a guitar. His set was simply great. He reminds me of Nick Drake.
After a brief intermission, it was finally time for Wilco. I have wanted to see this band for years so needless to say I was pumped up for it. They opened their set with the first song from their new CD The Whole Love: One Sunday Morning (Song for Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend). This is a long sprawling masterpiece of a song that starts like a ballad and ends up like a progressive rock song. This is typical of Wilco. They juxtapose beauty with discordance. Dissonance is a vital part of their sound. They are not afraid to make a lot of noise. A simple song morphs into a sonic experiment at the drop of a hat. At one turn the music and lyrics are heartrendingly beautiful and at the next turn you think your speakers are going to melt from the sonic energy this band creates. As you can see from my photo’s I had a great seat. I was about 30 rows back near the center of the stage. The stage design looked like a weeping willow with handkerceifs tied in the branches. This created many beautiful moments from the light show.
There were many highlights. The Art of Almost, I am Trying to Break Your Heart, One wing (This is one of my favorite Wilco songs. I love the lyrics: “One wing will never fly, love. Nether yours or mine. I fear we can only wave bye, bye…). The menacing sound of Bull Black Nova was followed by the beauty of Impossible Germany. The show built to the powerful conclusion of Shot in the Arm. The crowd chanted with Tweedy as he pleaded “Maybe all I need is a shot in the arm, maybe all I need is a shot in the arm. Something in my veins bloodier than blood!”
The first Encore reached back to their very first CD. The song is called “Passenger Side” a great Country/Rock ballad about a guy who has had his drivers licence suspended. “I don’t like driving on the passenger side!” Before they played the next song Jeff Tweedy introduced the song by saying “This is the closest thing we have to a hit.” They then rendered an enthusiastic performance of Heavy Metal Drummer. The show closed with the uplifting love song “I’m the Man Who Loves You…”
Beautiful songs, beautiful lyrics, beautifully played. More people should know about this fantastic group of musicians. I told a lot of people I was going to this show and the first comment back was always “Who’s Wilco?” Well, the show was sold out and the crowd knew every word to every song. It was a giant love fest for Wilco, and I was among my people a last. If you get the chance go see them and buy their records. The new record The Whole Love is just fantastic. The CD is their first record released on their own label; dBpm Records. Support great rock-n-roll and great musicians.
So that’s a wrap. Roger, Wilco. Over and out…
- 01 – One Sunday Morning (Song For Jane Smiley’s Boyfriend)
- 02 – Poor Places
- 03 – Art of Almost
- 04 – I Might
- 05 – I Am Trying to Break Your Heart
- 06 – One Wing
- 07 – Bull Black Nova
- 08 – Black Moon
- 09 – Impossible Germany
- 10 – Born Alone
- 11 – Jesus, Etc.
- 12 – Capitol City
- 13 – Handshake Drugs
- 14 – Dawned On Me
- 15 – Hummingbird
- 16 – Whole Love
- 17 – Shot in the Arm
- 18 – Passenger Side
- 19 – Heavy Metal Drummer
- 20 – I’m the Man Who Loves You