Chicago Slide Guitar, Elmore James

“Say ‘Play that Elmore lick,’ and everybody knows what to do.”
– Derek Trucks –

Chigago slide guitar Elmore James

Elmore James (1918-1963), often described as the “king of the slide guitar.” James’ electric style built on the approach of Robert Johnson and later influenced many blues and rock guitarists.


When Elmore James started playing Guitar in his teens he had difficulties finding a stage name. So James used multiple names like Cleanhead and Joe Willie James. Eventually James used his fathers’ family name we all know him for Elmore James. Before he moved to Chicago Elmore James King of the Slide Guitar often performed in the Mississippi juke joint alongside famous Blues guys like Arthur Big Boy Crodrup, Bubby Rush, Sonny Boy Williamson and John ‘Big Moose’ Walker.

Major influence

The influence of Elmore James is gigantic, his unique sound, and the rock ´n roll groove. That Chicago Slide Guitar sound developed Elmore in Robert´s Electric shop, where he worked after returning from WW II. He used parts from the shop in combination with his D´Armond pickups.

Dust My Broom

Chicago Blues Elmore James Dust My Broom
Chicago Blues Elmore James Dust My Broom

Politician and entrepreneur Charles Evers owned a number of clubs on the Southside of Chicago where he let Mississippians like BB King, Muddy Waters and Howlin´ Wolf perform. When Elmore James arrived in Chicago he got the opportunity to play in Evers Bluesclubs too. Clubs and therefor the musician where as popular as it gets in those days.

In 1951 James assisted Sonny Boy Williamson as a sideman. But when James started performing as a solo musician a year later, he would become a superstar with `Dust My Broom`. He and his ‘Broomdusters’ were as popular in the Chicago clubs as any of these musicians’ bands. But James was known as difficult, partly because of his alcoholic use during shows.

Hard Blues life

Like many other Blues musicians on this Blues Blog Elmore James had a tough life. He was addicted to whiskey, particularly Moonshine, which he began drinking at an early age and also distilled himself. His two bandmembers Willie Love and Johnny Jones died earlier because of alcohol and Elmore would have difficulties with it throughout his career.

James married three times, and fought during World War II. He was stationed in Guam, fighting the Japanese. During those days, a dysfunction of his heart was found.

After scoring multiple hits, he died in 1963 because of the effects of his third heart attack.

On his Wikipedia page a great story of George Adins, the Belgian Blues fan about Elmore James, he recalled.

George Adins over Elmore James

Muddy Waters took the Belgian blues fan George Adins to see James play in Chicago in 1959,

Elmore will always remain the most exciting, dramatic blues singer and guitarist that I’ve ever had a chance to see perform in the flesh. On our way we listened to him on the radio as Big Bill Hill … was broadcasting direct from that place. I was burning to see Elmore James and before we even pushed open the door of the club, we could hear Elmore’s violent guitar sound. Although the place was overcrowded, we managed to find a seat close to the bandstand and the blues came falling down on me as it had never done before. Watching Elmore sing and play, backed by a solid blues band (Homesick James, J.T. Brown, Boyd Atkins and Sam Cassell) made me feel real fine. Wearing thick glasses, Elmore’s face always had an expressive and dramatic look, especially when he was real gone on the slow blues. Singing with a strong and rough voice, he really didn’t need a mike.

On such slow blues as “I’m Worried – “Make My Dreams Come True” – “It Hurts Me”, his voice reached a climax and created a tension that was unmistakably the down and out blues. Notwithstanding that raw voice, Elmore sang his blues with a particular feeling, an emotion and depth that showed his country background. His singing was… fed, reinforced by his own guitar accompaniment which was as rough, violent and expressive as was his voice. Using the bottleneck technique most of the time, Elmore really let his guitar sound as I had never heard a guitar sound before. You just couldn’t sit still! You had to move…

Alabama Shakes Blues Blog

Alabama Shakes Blues

This southern soulfull blues band is new and rising. Since their debut album Boys & Girls the performed at Bonnaroo, Saturday Night Live  and won a Grammy for best new artist. Therefor a place on the Black Bull Blues Blog.

Athens Alabama

Photo Kim Metso, Alabama Shakes Way Out West 2013
Photo Kim Metso, Alabama Shakes Way Out West 2013

The story of the Alabama Shakes begins in a high school psychology class in Athens, Alabama. Brittany Howard, who had started playing guitar a few years earlier, approached Zac Cockrell and asked if he wanted to try making music together.

A few years later Howard and the Shakes performed in Austin, greating the crowd with `Hello, Austin, Texas. I’m gonna murder you,” huffed singer-guitarist Brittany Howard, stomping her feet as the band launched into “Hang Loose,” a rollicking tune about living carefree.

Blues / Soul / Rock / The Alabama Shakes

Howard, and the shakes formed their band and started writing music after school, sitting on Howard’s floor. “It had that rootsy feel, but there was some out-there stuff.” as the band began playing out, they added more cover songs. They played classics by James Brown and Otis Redding, but also by Led Zeppelin and AC/DC. “We had to find music we could all agree on and figure out how to play together,” says Howard, “and that had a lot of influence on how we play now.”

Sweet Home Alabama

Some great artist were born in Alabama like Willie King, Little Jimmy Reed and Dinah Washington. The most famous song about Alabama is of course Sweet Home Alabama. But J.B.Lenoir wrote a much sadder song the Alabama Blues, released in 1965. “I never will go back to Alabama, that is not the place for me. You know they killed my sister and my brother, and the whole world let them peoples go down there free more sad”. those days are happily over, and The Alabama Shakes would make J.B. Return, i’m sure.

Magic Sam Blues

“…you will like Magic Sam regardless of your previous tastes if you are reasonably ‘aware,’ ‘hip,’ turned on ‘ or whatever your generation’s slang may be for being in touch with humanity and life.”

– Bill Lindeman –

Blues Guitar of Magic Sam

Magic Sam was a young talented guitar player. Like many other legends Sam born in Mississippi, moved to Chicago to play among greats like Mighty Joe Young , Koko Tayloand Buddy Guy, enough reasons to listen to this songwriter who combined flashy guitar riffs in combination with Rhythm ‘n Blues from Chicago.

Sweet Home Chicago

His guitar style, vocals, and songwriting ability have inspired and influenced many blues musicians ever since. In the movie The Blues Brothers, Jake Blues dedicates the band’s performance of “Sweet Home Chicago” to the “late, great Magic Sam”.

Magic Sam Blues Name

Magic Sam was named by his bassplayer, and friend Mack Thompson during the first recording session for Cobra Records. Good Rockin´Sam was already in use by another artist.

Breakthrough Magic Sam and Death

Sam’s breakthrough performance was at the Ann Arbor Blues Festival in 1969,[4] which won him many bookings in the U.S. and Europe. His life and career was cut short when he suddenly died of a heart attack in December 1969. He was 32 years old. Sam is buried in the Restvale Cemetery.

Many Blues Musicians from the Chicago Bluesscene are buried in Restvale Cemetary.

Continue reading Magic Sam Blues

The T-Model Ford Blues Blog

“He stayed up all night drinking white whiskey or moonshine, “and playing the guitar,” “He kind of went on from there.” “He’d play late, then he’d spray himself with a bunch of mosquito spray and sleep in his van,”
– T-Model Ford –

T-Model Blues Blog

It never became clear when the late James Lewis Carter Ford was born. Some say in the early twenties. His record company claimed he was born in 1918 or 1919. What we all know about T-Model Ford, he was an amazing Blues musician. Black Nanny, Everything Is Gonna Be Allright and Nobody gets me Down are some great songs of Ford. His Style contains Delta Blues, Chicago, Blues and Jump/Jive Blues.

Blues Guitarist at age 58

Ford started his blues career by playing at private parties and at juke joints in Greenville. The Mississippian claimed he started playing at the age of 58. T-Model once told Will Hodgkinson journalist and writer for the Guardian, that when his fifth wife left him at age 58 she gave him a guitar, he tried to work out the sound of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf, and he did good. Like any other true Rock ‘n Roller he stayed up late and drank Whisky all night long, while trying to play music.

T-model at a Blues Gig

In a recent article by EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS for Associated Press I read the next fine paragraph: Mr. Ford would show up for gigs early and often play longer than expected, even when he started experiencing heart problems in recent years, Stolle said. Mr. Ford would also swig Jack Daniels on stage and chat with the audience. Often, he’d pick out a happy-looking couple that included an attractive woman and would talk directly to the man.

True Mississippi Blues Man

T-Model Ford had a tough life, and served two years of a ten year prison sentence for killing a man in self defence. Blues Music must have released Ford from a live full of trouble. The fantastic Mr. T-Ford recorded eventually seven records with three labels.

Hound Dog Taylor Blues Blog Slide Guitar

Lets Get Funky Blues Blog

Theodore Roosevelt  the 26th president of the United States was known for his  range of interests, his leadership as well as his “cowboy” persona. A man born in NatchezMississippi in 1915 with the same name Theodore Roosevelt Taylor would be known for his six fingers, his extraordinary guitarstyle, his Rock ‘n Roll band and contribution to the Blues, and Rock ‘n Roll. Hound Dog Taylor he ain’t a Cowboy but he sho’ plays like a motherfucker. A new Blues blog.

Blues music Blog

The Route To The North

Like many other blues musicians Hound Dog Taylor made the journey from the south to the north. But Hound Dog left the south because he was chased out of Mississippi by the Klan after having an affair with a white woman. He hide himself for one day, the next day he travelled to Chicago and never returned.

Gonna Send You Back To Georgia – Slide Maniac

Hound Dog Taylor picked up his guitar quite late. He originally played piano, but it would be until his twentieth when he started playing the guitar. And that decision is maybe the best he could make. Hound Dog is for me together with Elmore James the king of the slide guitar. An inspiration for many guitar players who adopted the blues and turned it into Rock ‘n Roll, Hard Rock or maybe Metal. The dirt that comes out of his guitar is fenomonal. Especially in “Gonna Send you Back To Georgia”.

Clubs on the Chicago Southside

Taylor started playing professionally in 1957, till that time he always kept a side job, like building TV cabinets. In 1957 he made the blues his main business, because he became the top hit in a lot of Clubs on the south side of Chicago. Like Little Walter and Sonny Boy Williamson too, Hound Dog played among others on the Maxwell Street Market. I think Hound Dag developed his slide style there. It could have resulted in the collaboration with Koko Taylor and Walter like this one:

The Houserockers

Hound dog Tayler  and the HouseRockers where a plain loud straightforward band. Music website wrote an article about Hound Dog citing a quote of Robert Christau where he referred to band as “the Ramones of the Blues”.