Friday, 15 May 2015

The Blues Veterans Still Roaring - The Thill Is Gone: BB King (1925 - 2015)



To me BB King's death is not the sad part of this horrible moment, he lived a great life, nobody can argue that, he lived perhaps the greatest life he could of. He grew us as a farm hand in the deplorable conditions of America and died as a true great of music, able to be in the same books as Mozart and Duke Ellington. He was a true great, who changed the world.

His death is sad for me, because of the death of the blues, Buddy Guy has consistently talked of how it is his mission to save the blues from death. But it is possible for the Blues to die? Will it continue as a zombie form, like Dixieland Jazz does or many other forms of long-unpopular music?

BB King was the last pure great of the Blues, I don't believe anyone will argue against that. He outlived Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Son House, and so so many other great musicians. Perhaps he was the lucky one out of them, he got to live up to the age of 89, far above the life expectancy he had as an African-American in 1920s Mississippi. He beat the odds, and became great, and lived far enough into the 21st century to keep the Blues relevant over a century after the W.C Hardy wrote Memphis Blues.

So instead of going on about his death, like I'm sure most will, I'd like to instead talk about some of the remaining Blues heroes, who still stand alive, and relevant.

Henry Gray

Born January 19th 1935, Kenner, Louisiana, United States of America. 

When it comes to the most important blues Pianists, you will hear some names mentioned: Otis Spann (1930 - 1970), Memphis Slim (1915 - 1988), Pinetop Perkins (1913 - 2011), and Lafayette Leake (1919 - 1990). But a name hardly, and unfairly, mentioned is Henry Gray, perhaps the most influential pianist of the Chicago Blues sound. 

He recorded extensivly with chess Records, and is still playing today. He has played with almost every blues legend who existed in Chicago at the time, such as: Sonny Boy Williamson II, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, and Jimmy Reed. 

Henry even played with Elmore James on stage the day he died of a heart attack. He was nicknamed by Little Walter "Bird Breast" funnily enough. 


Cedell Davis 

Born 9th June 1927, Helena, Arkansas, United States of America.

Cedell is perhaps the last practitioner of the classic Delta Blues as perfected by Robert Johnson, Son House and others. Cedell played with Robert Nighthawk extensively in the 50s and 60s.

Cedell plays a highly unique method of using a knife to play slide guitar, which he invented after he suffered severe polio at the age of 10. 

He released his first solo album in 1994 Feel Like Doin' Something Wrong. 

Mose Allison 

Born 11th November 1927, Tippo, Mississippi, United States of America.

Mose Allsion maybe doesn't belong on this list, he is one of the greatest players of the Jazz Blues form, but honestly were he not on this list, then it would be an inaccurate list. 

Mose was the writers of the classic blues song Parchman Farm, which he adapted from Bukka White's 1940 song Parchman Farm Blues. This song has gone on to be covered by multiple Blues legends such as John Mayall, Johnny Winter, and others. He has been credited as an influence over many Blues Rock artists such as The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Waits, among others. 

Jimmy Johnson 

Born 25th November 1928, Holly Springs, Mississippi, United States of America. 

Jimmy Johnson played with some of the most recognisable names in the Blues world, he played with Freddy King, Albert King, Magic Sam, Otis Rush. His brother Syl Johnson went on to become a soul musician, while another brother, Mack Thompson played bass for Magic Sam. 

In the 60s he played Rhythm and Blues with legends such as Otis Clay and Denise LeSalle. While he also recorded the original version of Don't Answer The Door, which would be a #2 R&B Billboard hit for B.B King. 


Little Sammy Davis 

Born 28th November 1928, Wiona, Mississippi, United States of America.

Poor old Little Sammy Davis played from the 40s until the 90s before he gained any personal fame, but boy did he live the live in-between. 

In the 40s and 50s he played in medicine shows with Ike Turner and Pinetop Perkins. He spent 9 years playing with Earl Hooker, with whom he played in the band of Hooker, Turner, Perkins, Little Sammy Davis and Albert King, until Earl Hooker and Albert King got into a fight. 

In Chicago Davis played with legends such as Muddy Waters, Little Walter and Jimmy Reed, and even fronted the Little Walters band, leading to people thinking he was Little Walter. 


Lavelle White 

Born 3rd July 1929, Amite City, Louisiana, United States of America.

White started her career singing in Texas and her career was aided by the recommendation of Johnny Copeland who helped get her a recording deal. 

White has played with legends such as Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, and many others in her long career. 


Matt Murphy 

Born 29th December 1929, Sunflower, Mississippi, United States of America. 

Despite perhaps most famous for appearing in the famous movie The Blues Brothers, Murphy has played with some of the most legendary figures in blues history. He played extensively with Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters, Ike Turner, Etta James, James Cotton, Chuck Berry, Sonny Boy Williamson II, and so many others.

Freddy King is claimed to have once admit that his classic song Hide Away was inspired by Murphy's performance in the American Folk Blues Festival Tour around Europe in 1963. 


Byther Smith 

Born 17th April 1933, Monticello, Mississippi, United States of America.

A cousin of J.B Lenoir Smith learned guitar from some of the greatest Blues guitarists such as Hubert Sumlin, Lenoir, and Robert Lockwood Jr. 

Smith only became a full time professional Blues musician in 1995, despite having played with Otis Rush in the 50s. 


Lazy Lester

Born 20th June 1933, Torras, Lousiana, United States of America. 

In Lousiana Lester played with legends like Lightnin' Hopkins, Slim Harpo and a young Buddy Guy, he started his career by playing with Lightnin' Slim in the 50s. 

He wrote songs which have been covered by The Kinks, Dave Edmunds and the Fabulous Thunderbirds. 


John Mayall

Born 29th November 1933, Macclesfield, United Kingdom. 

One of the main characters of the British Blues boom which helped introduce the Blues to the youth market. Mayall helped start the careers of many of the greatest British Invasion blues players such as Peter Green, Eric Clapton and Mick Taylor. 

Eddy Clearwater

Born 10th January 1935, Macon, Mississippi, United States of America

Clearwater is often described as one of the greatest Blues guitarists and songwriters. He moved to Chicago in 1950 and played with Otis Rusha and Magic Sam, and was heavily influenced by Chuck Berry. 

He was given the name Clearwater to contrast to Muddy Waters name, and has since been given the honorific nickname The Chief


Jody Williams 

Born 3rd February 1935, Mobile, Alabama, United States of America.

One of the most popular session guitarist of the 50s Chiago Blues scene, he was initially unknown outside of the music industry due to his name not appearing on records, but since 2000 he has gained his rightful acclaim and is now considered one of the greatest Blues guitarists ever.

He started his career playing with Bo Diddley on the streets, but later toured with Mephis Minnie, Elmore James, Otis Spann, and Charles Brown. He played on classic Howlin' Wolf singles such as Evil Is Going On and Forty Four alongside Hubert Sumlin. 

Otis Rush famously copied/was influenced by Williams' guitar playing which is apparent on several recordings of Rush. Williams became disillusioned with the recording business due to his lack of recognition and the fact that he gained no composition for the stealing of his Riff from the song Billy's Blues, by Mickey & Sylvia's Love Is Strange. Although he re-entered the music world in 2000. 


Sam Lay 

Born 20th March 1935, Birmingham, Alabama, United States of America.

Sam Lay is one of the greatest Blues drummers ever to play, he is arguably one of the greatest drummers in popular music, as he has played extensively in Folk Rock and Blues Rock as well. 

He has played with blues legends such as Willie Dixon, Howlin' Wolf, John Lee Hooker, Little Walter, Muddy Waters, Eddie Taylor, Junior Wells, Magic Sam. He also played on Bob Dylan's definitive Highway 61 Revisited album. 

Perhaps most known to Rock fans though he with the new Rock n Roll hall of fame members The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, with who he is in the Rock n Roll hall of fame, alongside other Blues legends. 


Otis Rush 

Born 29th April 1935, Philadelphia, Mississippi, United States of America.

Perhaps the biggest blues musician still alive is Otis Rush, following the death of B.B King. Rush is not honestly in the same level as B.B King, but he is without a doubt the current greatest living bluesman. He may not have the name recognition among most people like Buddy Guy, but Rush is the greatest alive, that is undoubtable. 

As a guitarist Rush influenced many players such as Michael Bloomfield, Eric Clapton and Peter Green. He wrote the classic songs All Your Love, I Can't Quit You Baby, and Double Trouble. He recorded extensively with many of the greatest Blues sidemen.

His best album is Right Place, Wrong Time, which was released in 1976, despite being recorded in 1971. Unfortunately Rush suffered a stroke in 2004 and has not played since. 


James Cotton 

Born 1st June 1935, Tunica, Mississippi, United States of America. 

Cotton has been one on the most recognisable blues names since the 60s, he has played with almost any blues player you could imagine. He made his first recording at the famous Sun Studios with Sam Phillips, and played with Howlin' Wolf in the early 50s. 

In 1955 he moved to Chiacgo to join the Muddy Waters band, where he became Muddy Waters' bandleader. In 1965 he formed the James Cotton Blues Quartet with Blues pianist Otis Spann. 

He has also played with names such as B.B King, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Freddie King, Big Mama Thornton, and many others. 


Billy Boy Arnold

Born 16th September 1935, Chicago, Illinois, United States of America.

Taught the harmonica by Sonny Boy Williamson I shortly before his death, played on the classic I'm A Man single by Bo Diddley. Billy Boy Arnold appears everywhere in Chicago's blues history. 

He wrote the classic blues standard I Wish You Would, later covered by David Bowie and The Yardbirds. 

Buddy Guy

Born 30th July 1936, Lettsworth, Lousiana, United States of America.

Perhaps the most known Blues musician still alive. He is active in every aspect of the blues, and has been the most prominent statesman of the blues, alongside B.B King since the death of John Lee Hooker. He is arguably the greatest Blues musician left now, although personally I'm convinced that title falls to Otis Rush, however his inactivity means that Buddy Guy is the greatest active Blues musician. 

As a musician he is most known for his musical partnership with Junior Wells and his time playing with Muddy Waters, as well as being a incredibly successful and great solo musician, with his song Stone Crazy being one of the finest blues songs ever. 

As a guitarist he influenced the rock generation more than anyone else, influencing legends such as Jimmy Page, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Stevie Ray Vaughan and many others. 



I'd like to thank anyone for reading. I throughly encourage anyone reading to go and listen to B.B King's finest record Live At The Regal, and I hope you all enjoyed reading, if you think i missed anyone comment below.

Thanks. 

I may also do a second piece like this, but instead focusing on young blues musicians. 

Honourable Mentions - Great blues players still going who I haven't mentioned.

Dave Bartholomew (1920 - -) -  Not a blues player, but defiantly a Rhythm and Blues player. Dave wrote many classic songs along with Fats Domino. He also produced classic songs by Lloyd Price, and Smiley Lewis. 

Faye Adams (1923 - -) - Discovered by Ruth Brown, She was a popular Rhythm and Blues performer of the 50s, before retiring in 1963. 

Chuck Berry (1926 - -) - Perhaps one of the greatest Blues guitarists of all time, Chuck helped create Rock and Roll by fusing the Blues and Rock together. 

Big Jay McNeely (1927 - -) - Arguably a Blues player, arguably a jazz players. Generally people dub him a Jazz Blues players. He was arguably the most influential Tenor Saxophone player in the Blues. 

Cornbread Harris (1927 - -) - A pianist who played on what is dubbed Minnesota's first Rock n Roll record Hi Yo Silver in 1955. 

Fats Domino (1928 - -) - One of the original players of Rock N Roll and a famous Rhythm and Blues player in the pre-Rock era. 

John Dee Hollman (1929 - -) - Perhaps not as big as the others on this list, Hollman is one of the last original practisers of the Piedmont Blues. 

Bob Stroger (1930 - -) - A prominent Blues bassist who played with musicians such as Otis Rush, Homesick James, Eddie King, Jimmy Rogers and others. 

Tommy Brown (1931 - -) - A Rhythm and Blues singer who is credited with the song Atlanta Boogie, which is one of the earliest references to Rock and Roll. 

Bobby Rush (1933 - -) -  A Blues player who played with Elmore James in the 40s, who has experienced a lot of modern success. 

Carol Fran (1933 - -) - A Blues singer who played with Don Covay, Guitar Slim and Lee Dorsey among others. 

Drink Small (1933 - -) - A Blues guitarist who was labeled as one of the finest Gospel guitarists of the 50s, whose titular nickname is the Blues Doctor

Garnett Mimms (1933 - -) - A early Soul singer who is best known for his hit Cry Baby from 1963. 

Lloyd Price (1933 - -) - A early Soul singer, famous for his 50s hits Lawdy Miss Sally, and Stagger Lee among others. 

Quincy Jones (1933 - -) - Probably best known in popular culture as Michael Jackson's producer. He is also one of the most successful Jazz players of all time, and has had a distinct influence of the Jazz-Blues sound. 

Filmore Slim (1934 - -) - Formely known as the "Pope Of Pimping", this former pimp has made some of the finest blues records of the 21st century. 

Huey 'Piano' Smith (1934 - -) - A prominent Rhythm and Blues pianist who was one of the great New Orleans Blues players. 

Clarence Carter (1936 - -) - A famous Soul/Blues singer who had many charting hits in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. 

Too young to be too old. - Great blues players who just didn't make the list (Ages vary from old to less old).

Eddie Shaw (1937 - -) - Tenor Saxophone player who played with musician such as Little Milton, Ike Turner, and Muddy Waters. He was probably the best tenor Saxophone player in the Chicago Blues alongside A.C Reed. He later led the Howlin Wolf's Wolf Gang which he joined in 1973, and took over after Howlin Wolf's death. 

Gene Chandler (1937 - -) - A soul singer who had multiple singles released by Chess Records. His most famous song is Duke Of Earl. 

Guitar Gable (1937 - -) - A major Swamp Blues musician. Who recorded the first version of This Should Go On Forever

Allen Toussaint (1938 - -) - Probably the biggest figure in the New Orleans Rhythm and Blues scene ever, and a composer of standard songs like Fortune Teller and others. 

Eddie C Campbell (1939 - -) - A prominent sideman in the Chicago Blues scene who played with legends like Howlin Wolf, Otis Rush, Muddy Waters, Magic Sam, Willie Dixon and others. 

Guitar Shorty (1939 - -) - A key player in the Electric Blues world, where he remains popular. He has played with musicians like Little Richard, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, T-Bone Walker and many others. 

Mavis Staples (1939 - -) - A famous member of her family Gospel band the Staple singers, and a prominent member of the civil rights movement. 

W.C Clark (1939 - -) - A key player in the Texas Blues, he has played with players like Big Joe Turner, Albert Collins, B.B King and many others. He was a large influence on Stevie Ray Vaughan, playing with him in Vaughan's early career. 

Dr John (1940 - -) - One of the most famous and eclectic musicians of the New Orleans Blues. He has played with multiple legends, and has maintained a successful solo career, while being thought of as one of the greatest Blues pianists. 

Little Freddy King (1940 - -) - A guitarist influenced by Freddie King, he has played with people like Bo Diddley, John Lee Hooker, Champion Jack Dupree and Slim Harpo. 

Sonny Rhodes (1940 - -) - A guitarist who played with Freddie King and Albert Collins, and has had a semi-succesful solo career. 

And many others born post 1940.