Tag Archives: Filmore West

Canned Heat “Living The Blues”

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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.

Side 1

Pony Blues

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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.

My Mistake

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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

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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

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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

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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.

Boogie Music

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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.

Side 2

One Kind Favor

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One Kind Favor is also credited to Tatman.  The one kind favor is to keep his gravestone clean.  This is a great blues song.


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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

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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…

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Posted in Blues Music, Rock Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Who The **** was The Siegel-Schwall Band!?!?!?

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Great Question.  This album was loaned to me by my neighbor Ray.  He has the most interesting taste in music.  This was another little gem from his collection.  I also really enjoyed researching this LP.

So who was the Siegel-Schwall Band?  Corky Siegel and Jim Schwall met in college at Roosevelt University.  They had an idea of combining  country music with blues.  Jim Schwall was into country and Corky Siegel was into blues. They became the house band at Pepper’s Lounge on Chicago’s south side.  They became a mecca to great blues musician’s.  There was no telling who would show up and set in with the band from night to night.   (Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Little Walter, Junior Wells, etc…)

The Band was made up of Corky Siegel on Harmonica and piano, Jim Schwall on Guitar, Rollow Radford on Bass (Rollo had played with Martha Reeves and the Vandrells and also Sun Ra) and Sheldon Ira Plotkin on drums and percussion.  They signed their first record deal in 1965 with Vanguard Records and made four albums.  During that time the Paul Butterfield Blues Band started touring the country and left an opening at Big John’s in Old Town.  They were becoming more popular so they launched their first national tour in 1969.  Although they were not as popular as Paul Butterfield or John Mayall they still played some large halls like Fillmore West.  In the early seventies they signed with Wooden Nickle Records. A local Chicago label that was distributed by RCA.

953 West was the third album released on Wooden Nickle.  It was recorded in 1973 in Chicago.  I can’t find what the title meant.  There is a poem on the back of the LP written by Eddie Balchowsky. (Who also did the art work on the LP jacket.)

“Standing in the doorway

of 953 West, –

The afternoon sounds

and the shadows,

The reflections –

and the momentary silences

All press one into

A motionless observer,

No thoughts or feelings

Disturb the Anesthetic

of this reality.”

Next to the word “doorway” is a quote from Lao-Tzu: “He who knows where to stop in naming things has security.

Next to the word “Sounds” is a quote from Engels: “Freedom is the recognition of necessity.”

Next to the word “reflections” is another quote from Lao-Tzu: “The best way to do is to be.”

Next to the word “observer” is a quote from Buddha:  “Be ye lamps unto yourselves.”

Next to the word “anesthetic” is a quote from the poet himself Balchowsky: “It’s the same for everybody.”

The Siegel-Schwall Band has another unique claim to fame.  In 1968 they became the first blues band to play with a major symphony orchestra.  They performed “Three Pieces for Blues Band and Symphony Orchestra” by William Russo.  Russo was the genius behind the Stan Kenton Orchestra and was a major figure in Jazz music in America.  Siegel-Schwall also recorded the composition for Deutsche Gramophone.  Both the live performance and the LP were recorded with Seiji Ozawa and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Let’s hear the music and then we will wrap up the story of The Siegel-Schwall Band.  Wooden Nickle records were cute in that instead of “Side 1” and “Side 2”  they had “Heads” and “Tails” soooo….


I’d Like To Spend Some Time Alone With You Tonight My Friend

A great opening cut. Real Funky piano by Corky and great slide guitar from Jim Schwall.

Traitor From Decatur

Funky almost Cajun feel Alla Little Feat, Neville Brothers. Great harp from Corky and once again nice guitar work from Jim.  Plokin’s percussion is also a standout on this cut.

Good Woman

Definitely Dixie Land Jazz.  The brass section is referred to on the LP as John Payne on Soprano Sax and Friends of New Orleans:  Philly, Fred & Dave Paquette.  I like the reference to “a pick up Bar on Rush Street”.  That is still the part of Chicago where the party is!

Just Another Song About The Country Sung By A City Boy

I really like this song.  It’s just another great boogie beat R&B song.  I guess I’m a city boy that likes to sing songs about the Country too.   Great Boogie Woogie Piano by Corky.

When I’ve Been Drinkin’

What would a blues record be without at least one good drinkin’ song?  I love this stuff!  The harmonica and the acoustic guitar.  Schwall is laying down that great blues guitar and great vocals while Siegel sing with the mouth harp.  Priceless!


Old Time Shimmy

The Title says it all!  Great blues vocal by Radford.  I love the whole band doing the echo chorus.  Another Chicago reference in the lyrics to “Belmont Street”.  The middle section is really kind of wild.

Off To Denver

Nostalgic blues.  Great piano and vocal by Corky Siegel.  It could have been written in any time.  A great example how traditional, folk, blues, country are really branches of the same tree.

I Think It Was The Wine

This is one of my favorite cuts on the LP.  It is really a nice boogie blues song.  Plus it’s about drinking wine!  That can get anybody in trouble!  Especially during the full moon.  Great harmonica solo by Siegel.  What a funny line: “Last night I thought I scored an angel, but I woke up with a Clown.”

Another great drinking song…

Reed Zone (Psychiatric Institution Blues)

The song starts out with a great blues harmonica solo by Siegel.  A slow blues…  Solid back beat laid down by Radford and Plotkin.  “Bring my Whiskey babe, Bring me my sleepin’ pills.  If the angels don’t want me babe… you know the devil will…”  then the harmonica wails it’s lonesome cry.

Blow Out The Candle

“If can’t light it at both ends honey, I’, goin’ to blow out the candle..”  This song features an instrument called a Ratjug.  Not sure what that is.  The all female chorus features Jim Schwall’s wife Cherie Schwall.

So here’s the rest of the story…

The band broke up the next year (1974).  In 1987 they reunited and recorded a new album on Alligator records.  They went on tour and followed that up with a live album in 1988.  In 2005 they recorded another record on Alligator records called Flash Forward. It made the Billboard top 15 Blues record charts!  Siegel later formed a group called Chamber Blues. The unusual band is made up of  a string quartet, tabla, and harmonica/piano.  Corky  Siegel is still living in Chicago and plays a large roll in music education for Chicago public schools.  What a great legacy to leave behind!  So, who was the Siegel-Schwall Band?  Just a very influential band from the south side of Chicago.  One of the trailblazers of melding popular music with traditional symphonic music.  All in all, not a bad legacy and a really enjoyable record to boot!  Thanks Corky and Jim.  Keep blazing the trail.  What do you think?  Let me hear from you.  do you know the meaning of the title 953 West? If you think you have some insight let me know.

Thus ends another tale from the turntable…

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Posted in Blues Music, Vinyl | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments