Don’t Be lonesome By Jack Broadbent
90s blues legends The Red Devils and Lester Butler
The Red Devils where a L.A. based blues band led by Harmonica player Lester Butler from 1988 to 1994. Butler was an excellent harmonica player in the style of Chicago Blues greats like Little Walter, Sonny Boy Williamson and Junior Wells. The Devils are exploding blues monster who made in their short existence a big mark on blues music around the world. Their album King King is what you could name a classic.
No other blues band made me so revive the music Howlin´ Wolf or Muddy Waters bands made once. It were the song ´She´s Dangerous´, ´Automatic, I´ve Been Wrong´ and so on, so on. The Red Devils make blues that stays close to the post-war basics. Beat, Groove, Harp and a gritty voice. You will find all these elements in their music, it may sound easy but it ain’t. It is blues magic.
Lester Butler on Little Walter
Butler was influenced by Little Walter since the tunes of Walter were stomped out of the amplifier at his home for the first time. He recalls: “You couldn’t hear if it was a harmonica or a Saxophone”. The Red Devils were also highly influenced by former revivalists Canned Heat and ZZ Top.
The Red Devils at the King King
During the late 80s the Red Devils became the Monday-evening house band of L.A. Club the King King. With their performances in the King King they soon drew the interest of Rick Rubin and George Drakoulias of Def American Recordings. Soon after they met, Rubin made it clear he would produce their first album, titled after the club that was like a living room to them. King King was recorded during several of their Monday evening performances in 1991.
THE RED DEVILS feat. LESTER BUTLER ~ devil woman
Break up of the Red Devils
Due to drug problems of Butler the Red Devils were disbanded by the end of 1994. After the Red Devils, Butler fronted the band 13. With 13 Lester made an also magical album called “13” on Hightone Records in 1997. Listen to it below.
Butler died of an overdose of heroin and cocaine on May 9, 1998, in Los Angeles at the age of 38. Two of his friends were convicted in his death of involuntary manslaughter.
Of all modern blues bands I consider the Red Devils as one of the best because how these guys could rock the stage with classic Chicago Blues was unique and maybe the last time you could see that kind of Blues on stage. Listen to some of their best songs throughout this article.
Find out more about the Red Devils at Nofightin´.
Feature picture credit: Original album cover of the Red Devils Album King King. Credits to Def American records or the graphic artist. The image is used for identification in the context of critical commentary of the work for which it serves as cover art.
Lester Butler on Little Walter
The Red Devils “She’s Dynamite” on MTV
The Red Devils 1993 Live at Pinkpop The Netherlands
The red devils – louisiana blues
Lester Butler & The Red Devils – Boogie Disease
Time to Cry – live at Pinkpop
Lester Butler 13 on Spotify
Best Blues songs “Got My Mojo Working”
“Got My Mojo Working” is a what you call a classic song, everybody around in world of Blues and Rock ‘n Roll music performed it once, twice or maybe three times since it was released by Ann Cole in 1956. It is the Voodoo, the Mojo that got this song working. Maybe the rhythmic groove or the swinging lyrics. One thing is sure. “Got My Mojo Working” is milestone in music History.
Muddy Waters’ version was released in 1957 and is still a hit if it would be released nowadays. I’ll bet it would be the best song in the charts. Willie Dixon plays bass on the recording. You should expect that Dixon wrote the song because it is a very Dixon-like song. And like all his other songs it is a monster blues hit.
Hollywood actor and songwriter Preston S. Foster
But Dixon didn´t wrote the song. The copyright holder of the original “Got My Mojo Working” Is Preston S. Foster – the actor who played in over forty movies like American Empire (1942), Kansas City Confidential (1952) and The Last Mile (1932). He has a star on the Hollywood Boulevard, and for what we know he didn’t wrote a lot of songs. It is maybe one of the biggest surprises in music history.
Foster’s version was first recorded by Ann Cole a wonderful woman who toured around the south alongside Muddy Waters in the fifties. Ann recorded for several labels like Timely an Baton Records. She had minor hits over the years. A year after she sang “Got My Mojo Working” Muddy Released his version on Chess Records. That song is still one of best songs around and would become a major hit. Waters heard Cole perform on tour and got inspired to make his own version of it.
Kitty Daisy And Lewis Got that Mojo
After Ann Cole and Muddy Waters over a triple dozen artist would play the song like Elvis Presley, Canned Heat, Mannfred Mann, J.J. Cale, Art Blakey, Otis Rush, Eric Clapton, Johnny Winter and recently Kitty, Daisy and Lewis. Some versions of “Got My Mojo Working” are absolutely worth listening.
For example Kitty, Daisy and Lewis from England. A blues group consisting two beautiful woman playing blues like a M*’f*cker. Especially their version on the French television is a must listen. This family band rocks the blues with some fantastic harmonica solos. Watch it here…
Elvis Presley’s Got My Mojo Working
Elvis Presley’s version of ‘Got My Mojo Working’ was part of his “Elvis Sings…” album and a real rhythm and blues kind of songs. Elvis changed the lyrics a little bit in comparison with Waters or Foster’s versions. Presley recorded a lot of blues songs throughout his career one of his greater blues songs is Evil which he performed in the 1958 movie King Creole
BB King recorded the song on his “King Size” and is a real grooving version a true boogie song.
The British band The Zombies covered “Got My Mojo Working in a beat-version a sixties pop song
“Got My Mojo Working” is a true Blues Classic and even now some of the greatest musicians keep covering the great song originally written by Preston Foster, but popularised by Muddy Waters in 1957. If you’re interested in some other great versions listen to the Spotify playlist below.
The Blues of underground legend R.L. Burnside
The music of underground legend Robert Lee “R. L.” Burnside is so divers that we could write multiple books about it. R.L. had two careers as a blues musician; one that contains the life of a performing delta blues farmer in Mississippi and one that reaches through television studios in France and the United States in the 90s. Between these two careers you will find a line of hard-edged blues that reminds you of the likes of Howlin’ Wolf and Son House.
Electrified Chicago inspired Delta Blues
Burnside lived most of his life in Holy Springs Mississippi and performed in his early life in every juke joint around town with his electrified, Chicago inspired blues. R.L. Burnside created a new sound of Delta Blues. He was a neighbour of Mississippi Fred MC Dowell who also played in his band.
Long stays in Memphis and Chicago inspired him to play the blues he liked. It was the blues of guys like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf, Little Walter and John Lee Hooker. That early R.L. Burnside sound is recognisable in songs like ‘Old/Poor Black Mattie’ and ‘Telephone Blues’.
Blues Band R.L. Burnside
When Robert Lee Burnside returned to Mississippi in 1959 he opened a bar where he played his own music. Kind of how Smokey Wilson did in L.A, but R. L. Also brewed his own Moonshine Whiskey. His band in was formed alongside Mississippi Fred Mc Dowell and harp player Johnny Woods, who you can see in the video of ‘Telephone Blues’.
He is very rhythmic and has a soulful expressive voice. He is innovative was rediscovered after the release of the documentary “Deep Blues” in 1992. In that period he also released his debut recording “Bad Luck City” on Fat Possum Records.
Deep Blues documentary R.L. Burnside
At the premiere of “Deep Blues”, R.L. Burnside and Junior Kimborough performed, John Spencer was at that premiere too, he once listened to Burnside and was fan of Burnside’s latest album “Too Bad Jim”. Spencer and his backing band The Blues Explosion wanted to play with Burnside. When Spencer asked Burnside to play with him, R.L. Had no idea who these guys were. So Burnside demanded the impossible: “A ton of money and airlines and everything”. After this, Spencer contacted Matthew Johnson of Fat Possum who managed Burnside and Burnside would open for John Spencer Blues Explosion in 1995.(Billboard june 22, 1996)
The best thing of the collaboration of R.L.Burnside with John Spencer is maybe the album ‘A Ass Pocket Of Whiskey. This album released in 1996 is a true raw electrified blues, punk album. Listen to songs like ‘Boogie Chillen’, ‘Snake Drive’ and ‘Have You Ever Been Lonely’. Working with John Spencer brought Burnside to a new and younger public. It was the thing the old blues dog needed. Het performed in music studios and festivals around the United States and Europe.
After A Ass Pocket of Whiskey, the album Mr. Wizard followed a less experimental album, more blues less punk. R.L. Burnside was a innovative musician who personally experienced the change of the blues throughout the ninetees in the Garage rock scene.
Click around and listen to his finest tunes.
RL Burnside – A Bothered Mind (full album)
R.L. Burnside’s sons hambone (1978)
R.L. Burnside: See My Jumper Hanging On the Line (1978)
RL Burnside – 44 Pistol
R. L. Burnside – Rollin and Tumblin
R.L.Burnside – it’s bad you know