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Tag Archives: Chess Records
Imagine if you will, a couple of guys setting around the house smoking pot and listening to blues records. The year is 1965. They get the idea to put together a jug band and jam in the garage. Two short years later they are playing at The Monterrey Pop Festival. Then in 1969 they performed at Woodstock in front of half a million people! Kind of cool,eh? That is the story of Canned Heat.
Canned Heat was founded by Alan Wilson and Bob Hite in Los Angeles, California. They took the name from a 1928 blues song by Tommy Johnson called “Canned Heat Blues.” What do you think this song is about? It’s about a man who has such a bad drinking problem that he is now drinking Sterno! Now that’s a blues song…
This album was their 3rd release. This album “Living The Blues” came out in 1968. It contains their most famous song: “Going Up The Country”. The line-up is considered the “classic” line-up of this band: Bob “The Bear”Hite, Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson, Henry “Sunflower” Vestine (a.k.a Harvey “The Snake” Mandel), Larry “The Mole” Taylor, and Aldolpho “Fito” De La Parra. The album was produced by Canned Heat and Skip Taylor. Bob Hite and Alan Wilson new more about blues and the history of the blues than anyone else in the world and they used their knowledge to their advantage. So let’s get to the music.
Pony Blues was written in 1929 by Charlie Patton. It was a ‘standard” of the Mississippi Delta region. It sounds ancient from the very first note. This song is typical of their “Boogie, Blues” style.
This song starts with that loose string blues sound just like the first cut on the album. My Mistake is an original song written by Alan Wilson.
Sandy’s Blues was written by Bob Hite. Very cool, slow blues crawl. It reminds me of the Segal – Schwall Band. I recorded this LP on the Friday of Memorial Day week-end. I was enjoying listening to it so much I posted what I was doing on Facebook. Almost immediately after I put it on the world wide web, the phone rang. It was a good friend of mine who will remain nameless. He said “I smoked a lot of pot listening to Canned Heat when I was in college.” I’m sure you were not alone my friend. “It’s the Blues now…”
Going Up The Country
This is the song that really got famous from the movie “Woodstock”. Although, Canned Heat played at Woodstock their performance did not appear in the original movie. The producer used Going Up The Country for the Opening sequence of the film and the song became a kind of anthem for the Back To Nature movement. This song made it to #1 in 25 countries but reached #11 in the United States. The song is a reworking by Alan Wilson of the song “Bull-doze Blues” by Henry Thomas. The song originally came out in about 1928. In the original version Henry Thomas performed the solo on a type of Pan-Flute that is called The Quills by old blues musicians. The Henry Thomas quill solo was performed note for note on the flute by Jim Horn on the Canned Heat version.
Walking By Myself
This is an old Jimmy Rogers song. It was originally released in the early 50’s on Chess Records. The song has a very obvious Chicago Blues sound. It features the harmonica playing of Alan Wilson. The original featured Little Walter on harmonica.
This song features Dr. John on piano. The song was written by someone named L.T. Tatman III. I can’t find anything on the guy. If you know anything about him I’d love to hear from you. More Boogie Blues and then at the very end a sample of very old original Delta Blues ends the side.
One Kind Favor
One Kind Favor is also credited to Tatman. The one kind favor is to keep his gravestone clean. This is a great blues song.
This is a highly experimental song. Yes, I spelled the name of the song right. This song is a medley of nine different segments. The segments are titled as follows: Nebulosity, Rollin’ and Tumblin’, Five Owls, Bear Wires, Snooky Flowers, Sunflower Power, Raga Kafi, Ice Bag, and Childhoods End. This cut was the brain child of Skip Taylor (the Producer of the album). The writing credit is shared by the entire band. Remember, it was the 60’s and they did a lot of drugs…I think it is a very interesting cut. Notice that several of the sections titles allude to the nick names of the band members. Those sections then feature that band member. (Example: Bear Wires features Bob “The Bear” Hite) It’s kind of trippy. I really like the boogie woogie piano part. What do you think?
Side 3 & 4
Refried Boogie Part I and II
This may be the longest song I have ever seen on a rock album. It takes up all of side 3 and 4. The song is recorded live at The Kaleidoscope in Hollywood, CA. It is a monster jam and I present it in it’s entirety. I had to split it into two tracks because there is no way around having to turn over the record without stopping the music. This is a great example of some of the psychedelic jams of the 1960’s and 70’s. Enjoy….
So there you have it. Canned Heat living the blues. So what happened to Canned Heat? Well they are still around. Henry Vestine was the first to leave the band. He had an on stage fight with Larry Taylor at the Filmore West in 1969. Larry Taylor left the band in 1970 and Joined the John Mayall Blues Breakers. Alan “Blind Owl” Wilson died of a drug overdose in 1970. He was found on a hill behind Bob”The Bear” Hite’s Topanga Canyon home. No one knows for sure why…He was only 27. Just a few weeks later Janis Joplin and Jimmy Hendrix also died. In 1981 Bob Hite passed out on stage at the Palamino in L.A. he had overdosed on Heroin. Later that evening he was found dead at the home of band member De La Para’s home. Harry Vastine died in Paris, France of Lung Cancer. De La Para continues to tour with a band call Canned Heat, but he is the only survivor from the glory days. With 3 of the band members taken by drugs and cigarettes, it only goes to show that you shouldn’t drink Sterno and if you play with fire you might get burned. Even by Canned Heat…
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.
Great post on Hey Bo Diddley/ What’d I Say. The BTW comment is great! I had no idea there was a Rolling Stone instrumental called 2120 South Michigan Ave. Now, this is my favorite band of all time; but you did see them at Altamont Speedway in 1969. I did a little research and apparently this cut appeared on 12 X 5 as an often sought after bootleg. In the Keith Richards Biography “Life” there is a long chapter on the bands visit to Chess on their first American tour. He talks about recording at Chess. Their first #1 hit was recorded at Chess: Bobby Womack’s “It’s All Over Now”. What a great song that was! So without further ado, I present to you the only instrumental that I know of recorded by the Rolling Stones at Chess Records in 1965. 2120 South Michigan Ave.30 – 2120 South Michigan Avenue
Thank you Jimmy Joe!
This could be a long blog today. For one thing, I’m snowed in and there’s not much else to do but listen to and record LP’s. So I’m in heaven. I should share how all of this LP recording got started. I have been an avid purchaser of Vinyl since I was 9 years old. I built up a large personal collection during my teen years and college. I worked at a record and stereo shop during the summer when I was in college and could buy LP’s at cost. It was like hiring a drug addict to run a pharmacy! I feel in love with this girl in college and she lived in Kansas. I sold my Rock albums to buy a plane ticket to see her during the summer. This was one of the worst decisions I ever made! It has taken me years to rebuild that piece of my collection. It still is not what it was. Some things can’t be replaced. As Kurt Vonnegut says…”So it goes…” I did hang on to the Jazz and Classical albums and I do love them. Of course CD’s came along and I put up my LP’s for digital sound. My turntable broke down and I never replaced. Years pass… The CD collection gets quite out of hand. I meet a woman, fall and love and get married for the second time. She is a saint. She encourages me to pursue my musical interests. About seven years ago I buy a new stereo system and I include a Rega P-2 turntable. I dust off the LP’s. The first one I put on was Miles Davis “Kind of Blue”. I’m hooked all over again. I’m back collecting vinyl. Shortly after I begin to try to figure out how to turn these treasures into CD so they are portable and I can listen to them in my car, at other peoples houses, etc… My friend Raymond ( who is a techie Genius) helps me research the Digital Audio Converter. I begin to transfer vinyl. There was a lot to learn. Some mistakes were made. I had to do some over again. But now it’s an organized, systematic, process. I know exactly what I’m doing now. The next thing that happened was that I told people I had this capability. I’m at a friends house and He gets very excited that I can work this magic. He goes into a spare bedroom and brings out 2 boxes of LP’s. He says “take ’em with you and bring them back when you’re done” . There were 100 LP’s. I’m about 2/3rds of the way through his collection. The “Aretha’s Greatest Hits” was one of his LP’s. I refer to this set of LP’s as the Jackley collection. There have been some real gems that have come out of this set of LP’s. Then my neighbor came over one day to ask a favor and I happened to be in the middle of a listening/recording session. He asked what I was doing and when I told him, he got very excited. He says,”I’ll be right back!” He returns with about 50 LP’s and says, (you can guess it) “keep ’em till you’re done.” I refer tho this collection as the RB collection, I’m about half way through his collection. Meanwhile the progress on my collect has slowed down. The next major incident is hard to write about because it involves tragedy. A year ago I lost my brother-in-law to cancer. He was a true Renaissance Man. He was a software engineer, a cook, an artist (painting and pottery), a collector of art, a music lover, and an avid traveler and outdoors-man. This really doesn’t scratch the surface of this amazing person. My sister-in-law gave me his LP collection. There are about 170 LP’s of all types. He had Jazz, Rock, Classical, electronic, international, and on and on it goes… It is a great treasure to me because it was his and it reminds me of him; and because the content is so good! I refer to it as Bob’s garage. When I blog about an LP I will try to remember to let you know about which collection it comes from. For some reason I am a magnet that causes people to give me music. It has come to me in every format you can imagine. And just like any good hoarder I cannot refuse it. So I am in the middle of a giant project that is a labor of love. Some of the LP’s I have already transfered are so interesting they will be worth re-visiting later on. Right now I am trying to blog about what I am currently working on. I have a backlog of LP’s to write about because of the weather and the extra time I’ve had to work on things. Part 1: Hey Bo Diddley… So that brings us to today’s listening session. Three Ray Charles LP’s and the very first Bo Diddley LP. All four of these LP’s came from my neighbor’s collection. I nearly flipped out when I saw these LP’s. Bo Diddley on Chess Records LP 1431. This was one the great influences on the Rolling Stones. How cool is this album cover! There’s Bo blasting out the blues in the middle of the cover. Off on the far left is the maraca player Jerome Green. He played four maraca’s in each hand! Very cool stuff. Jerome was almost like a brother to Bo Diddley but his drinking drove him out of the band. I’m not sure what happened to him. The Rolling Stones first major tour was with Bo Diddley, Little Richard, The Everly Brothers, and someone named Mickey Most. He had a hit single that year (1963) Called “Mister Poster”. The funny part is that Keith Richards had to keep up with Jerome Green because he would disappear right before he had to go on stage so he could get a drink in a bar! Can you imagine Keith was the sober one! Anyway on to the music and what awesome music it is! Side 1 1.Bo Diddley The genius of repetitive music as it builds and cast it’s spell. Don’t you love the bluesy almost rockabilly beat? 2.I’m A Man Bo was a giant of a man and I bet when he sang this live you believed him. 3.Bring It To Jerome This song is about the maraca player. 4.Before You Accuse Me Forever associated with Bo Diddley! I also love the Eric Clapton version. 5.Hey Bo Diddley I love the back up singer “Hey Bo Diddley!” Even his name was rhythmic and musical. 6.Dearest Darling Jerome’s maraca’s make the song. Side 2 1.Hush Your Mouth I love the piano and the maraca’s. The sound is almost primitive. Call and response stuff. I can see why the Rolling Stones worshiped Bo. 2.Say Boss Man A song about the curse of the workin’ man. You can hear the sound of the machines as the laborer toils away for the benefit of his family. 3.Diddley Daddy Listen closely as Bo plays the acoustic guitar. You can hear the soul of Robert Johnson. 4.Diddey Wah Diddey This song is so great I don’t know what to say about it. I love the bending string break and the walkin’ bass. It has drama and subtleties that infect you and make you move. 5.Who Do You Love This is the first song I ever heard Bo Diddley sing. It’s been covered by everybody, but the original is still the best! Don’t you love the voodoo lyrics? 6.Pretty Thing A conversation between Bo and the harmonica. A great example of the importance of the harmonica in blues. Very cool harp playing! Elias McDanials wrote every song on the record. This name is not known to many but it is the real name of Bo Diddley! I love all the Diddley songs on the record. (Bo Diddley, Hey’ Bo Diddley, Diddley Daddy, Diddey Wah Diddy) He ran out of Diddy names so he used Jerome once. These songs sound ancient, like they always existed yet he wrote them all in the late 1950’s and early 60’s. What a treat to hear this on an original Chess Record label.
If you want to see a great movie about the history of Chess Records. Check out ‘Cadillac Records”. Very Cool story about Marshall Chess, who recorded the likes of Etta James, Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, Bobby Womack, Buddy Guy, Chuck Berry, Willie Dixon, and of course, Bo Diddley. Marshall recorded Etta James song: “At Last”. Think of the impact this man had on Rock and Roll. When a ‘Chess” artist had a gold record Marshall would buy them a Cadillac. He supported Black artists when almost no one else would and his goal was to have cross-over hits so they could be heard by white audiences. Some of the greatest blues records of all time were recorded at 2120 South Michigan Ave.
Part 2: What’d I Say…
My neighbor also had three really cool Ray Charles LP’s. “What’d I Say…”, “Hallelujah I Love Her So”, and “The Ray Charles Story – Volume 1”. Well, really he has 2 LP’s. “The Ray Charles Story” has almost every song from “Hallelujah” on it too. First there is “What’d I Say…” Side one opens with this famous song. The minute the needle hits the vinyl I’m hooked. A great thing about vinyl are the liner notes and art work. The back side of the album has notes written by Ren Grevatt of Billboard magazine. It starts with this great quote from Ray, “If I don’t feel what I’m doing on a record, then I’d rather forget it.” Feel is what Ray is all about. What feeling! So feel this:
The music is so great, I have nothing to add. You can’t see it, you’ve got to feel it. That’s enough.
2.Drown In My Own Tears: This song blows me away. You should hear the live version Joe Cocker does of it on “Mad Dogs and Englishmen.”
1.Halleluhan I Love Her So One of his best. The merging of R&B, Gospel, and Soul. Wow!
As the notes on the back say “The blues are old, but they are not tired.”
Last but not least “The Ray Charles Story”. I have only linked the songs that are not on the other two albums.
2. Losing Hand
3. Mess Around
5. Don’t You Know
6. Come Back Baby
7. I Got A Woman
8. A Fool For You
1. This Little Girl Of Mine
2. Mary Ann
3. Hallelujah I Love Her So
7. Ain’t That Love
Ray Charles has no peer. He stands alone at the crossroads of country, jazz, R&B, gospel, and on and on it goes. So on a cold winter day I’ll “put some coffee in my favorite cup” and let Ray melt the snow away. That’s What’d I Say…