These guys made the roots of all popular music. It were legends like Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and many other Chicago Bluesmen. They blew me away with their songs like “The Blues Had a Baby and they named it rock ‘n roll” and “Wang dang Doolde”. The long and fascinating history of Chicago Blues is still an inspiration for many musicians, The greatest artist in the blues came, performed or recorded songs in this city.
The Chicago Blues made the blues grittier and raw like city life ensembles. A new project Alive and Kicking, Chicago Blues a Living History tries to continue this legacy and therefore a campaign on Kickstarter kicked off.
Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson a career of Blues, Rock ‘n Roll and Rhythm ‘nd Blues
Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson has done it all. The piano player and singer recorded infectious music in a wide range from Rhythm and Blues to Rock ‘n Roll to Rockabilly, Blues and Gospel. You may know him for his 1955 hit record “Red Hot”, which was later covered by Elvis Presley and Billy Lee Riley. But Billy ‘The Kid’ has recorded way more songs in his long career, which led to collaborations with the greatest musicians in Blues and Rock ‘n Roll.
Born in Tarpon Springs, Florida Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson learned the piano at a young age. He joined several local bands before he entered the United States Navy. After World War II Billy Emerson continued performing in the Florida area, where he picked up his nickname “The Kid”. According to Sun Records “He picked up his nickname while playing a joint in St. Petersburg; the club owner dressed the band up in cowboy duds that begged comparison with a certain murderous outlaw.
Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson’ Sun records Days
After Billy Emerson met Ike Turner, while he was stationed in Memphis he became part of Turner’s Rhythm Kings. Turner introduced Emerson to the Sun Record label which led, in 1954 to ‘Billy the Kid’s first single called “No Teasing Around”. Billy Emerson became an important writer for Sun record. his repertoire consisted of a variety of Blues and Rhythm ‘n Blues songs like ‘When it Rains it Really Pours’. He became a popular musician in the Rock ‘n Roll and Rockabilly scene which inspired Elvis Presley, Billy Lee Riley for Sun and Bob Luma to re-record Emerson’s greatest hits.
Billy ‘The Kid’ Emerson for Vee-jay Records
Billy Emerson’ last recording for Sun “Little Fine Healthy Thing” failed to sell, Emerson exited Sun to sign with Chicago’s Vee-Jay Records in late 1955. Sun Records recalls: “Despite first-rate offerings such as the jumping “Every Woman I Know (Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles)” and a sophisticated “Don’t Start Me to Lying,” national recognition eluded Emerson at Vee-Jay too”.
At Vee-Jay Record Billy Emerson’s style became more Blues, more Rhythm ‘n Blues, nevertheless his song would stay as catchy as in the Sun period. For example the hit ‘Crazy ‘Bout Automobiles’, consist steady drums a groovy horn ensemble and a twisting saxophone solo. Above all there is room for the swinging vocals of Billy ‘the Kid’ Emerson.
Chess Records period
After a few years at Vee-Jay the recordings continued at Chess Records in 1958. Along his first few singles was “Woodchuck”. Emerson recorded this song earlier at Sun Records. The Chicago version, is much bluesy more singing, less talking. Another song from the Chess period is ‘Holy Mackerel Baby’, in this song Emerson tried a style of singing I haven’t heard before. Clean, no shouting, no gritty of raw-edge.
Woodchuck at Chess Woodchuck at SunHoly Mackerel Baby’
Own Label Tarpon and collaborations with the biggest bluesman
After recording for some of the largest labels in Blues and Rock ‘n Roll around the USA, Emerson decided to start his own label called Tarpon in 1966. In addition to Emerson’s own stuff, Tarpon issued Denise LaSalle’s debut single. He continued performing with the Biggest Bluesman like Willie Dixon, Junior Wells, Buddy Guy, Earl Hooker and Sonny Boy Williamson II. Billy ‘The Kid’ had an impressive career which led him to musical styles in the broad land of Roots Music.
Photo Credit feature picture: By Lioneldecoster (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
When the great Junior Wells from Memphis Tennessee started playing harmonica he almost went to jail for stealing a Marine Band harp. Wells wanted the harmonica he saw in a pawnshop on Harrison Street, Chicago costing 2 dollars. Junior only had one-fifty. He smashed the one-fifty down, took the Marine Band and ran out. Junior got caught by the police and went to court. The judge was impressed by Wells story and decided to pay the fifty cents. Who was this judge? I don’t know, but the guy was great.
Junior always looked relax on stage, his performances were energetic, his voice soulful and his screams James Brown-like he had charisma. He could sing Blues Ballads, Rock songs and Funk Tracks at the same time. He made a party explode and with his solid band he just had to make a crowd swing. And that was Junior Wells his trademark.
Harmonica with Sonny Boy Williamson
As a kid he learned to play harmonica from the best. At age ten Sonny Boy ‘John Lee’ Williamson took care of him. John Lee was doing a thing with Big Maceo and Tampa Red at that time when they heard Junior play. They liked Junior’s style and asked him to play along. It was Sonny Boy who told Wells to buy a Marine band harmonica.
Junior Wells in the Chicago Blues scene
Junior Wells was a young dog in the Chicago music scene. The world of blues musicians is small. Everybody met everybody, and they all played together. It must have been a friendly but competitive world because they all switched and changed bands, musicians jammed together and record together it was all in the game; play to pay the rent. Junior Wells was no exception. Like many others in the Chicago blues scene Wells met Little Walter and Muddy Waters. He was twelve and saw Muddy and Walter perform at the Union hall of Chicago. After a while Wells took the stage. Walter looked down on Junior and said “He gonna blow a Harmonica”, “A pip-squeak?“ Wells made eighty dollars in tips that night. The twelve year old youngster made quite made his mark that night. (Harmonicas, Harps and Heavy Breathers p. 179/184 by Kim Field)
As a youngster Wells played with many musicians in tavern bars around Chicago. He was part of Tampa Red’s, Memphis Slim’s band. The main persona of this blog went to a lot of houseparties on the southside. At one of those parties he met Dave and Louis Myers. Junior and the Myers started playing together in the Hollywood Rendezvous seven nights a week calling themselves the Aces. Two songs from the aces I like are: Junior’s Whoop and Man Downstairs.
When Little Walter made some big hits in the fifties, Wells got offered a job at Muddy band for a tour through the south. Junior went to Muddy, The Myers brothers went to Little Walter. Wells played Harmonica on the hit song ‘Mannish Boy’. The Myers became the steady jazzy backbeat of Little Walters live band.
Junior Wells Hoodoo Blues
My personal hightlight of Junior Wells recording career was Hoodoo Blues with Buddy Guy. Songs like We’re Ready. Good Morning Schoolgirl and Chitlin’ Con Carne are songs everybody should listen to. He has a great Harmonica sound on these tracks and above all a great rhythmic backing band. The album inspired many blues revival musicians like Eric Clapton and Paul Butterfield.
Chitlin’ Con Carne
Greatest songs Junior Wells
Junior Wells never made the fame other artist like Little Walter, Howlin’Wolf, Muddy Waters and James Brown had on the national Charts. He recorded a whole lot of great records, some with Buddy Guy, and other with Earl Hooker. Together with Hooker he recorded some rock ‘n boogie songs. I really like Lazy Mule, a combination of rock ‘n roll and the later on traditional Blues. Also Come on in this House is a must listen.
He was a true performed, even at an older age he knew how to make good music. If he was better produced an more managed he could have been the greatest blues singer of all time. In 1996 he released the acoustic album Come in My House. At older he age gave a great interview to Lincoln Beauchamp BluesSpeak: The Best of the Original Chicago Blues Annual
Read it here. For now: Let’s listen to this great and remember the fantastic Junior Wells.
Tracy Chapman with Junior Wells- Give Me One Reason
I’ve never missed a gig yet. Music makes people happy, and that’s why I go on doing it – I like to see everybody smile. – Buddy Guy –
Buddy Guy 77 years
Young dogs grow old! Buddy Guy the famous bluesguitar master has become 77 years today. To honor this legend A Black Bull Blues blues blog for buddy. What I like about the Chicago representative is the youth in his voice and music. In contrast to Muddy Waters or Howlin’Wolf with whom Buddy played together since the fifties is that buddy always kept a kind of youth in his voice. For exemple Slop Around or First time I Met The Blues.
Buddy Guy (born George Guy, July 30, 1936 in Lettsworth, Louisiana) is an American blues music and rock music guitarist, as well as a singer. Known as an inspiration to Jimi Hendrix and other 1960s blues and rock legends, Guy is considered as an important proponent of chicago blues made famous by Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf. He has influenced both widely known and local blues guitarists.
Super Blues Band
My father once gave me a blues record super blues band. It contains music of Muddy Waters, Howlin´ Wolf and Bo Diddley. He Told me the guy that plays Bass is also very good. I didn´t knew who Willy dixon was, but it wasn´t Willy it was Buddy Guy. Buddy Guy did not play bass on every track, but i´ve been told that on some songs buddy grabbed that bassguitar.
Buddy Guy Chicago Blues Guitar
Guy grew up in Louisiana where he learned to play guitar. In the early 1950s he began performing with bands in Baton Rouge. Soon after moving to Chicago in 1957, Guy fell under the influence of “Mighty”Muddy Waters. In 1958 he won a record contract with Artistic Records after beating the West Side guitarists Magic Sam and Otis Rush in a “Head Cutting Contest” at the Blue Flame Club. Soon afterwards he recorded for the Cobra label.
Another story ´bout buddy. A friend wen´t to the North Sea Jazz Festival in Rotterdam the Netherlands. Quitte funny thing most times. But that particular year it was buddy who made the show. Buddy Was fantastic, walk through the audience, let ecerybody rock and made impression with his guitar style. How my friend discribed it “ A religious experience”.
Why did they keep changing guitars and amplifiers when they were perfect? They did the same things with cars, if you ask me. They forgot how to make them right, because they focused on style and bells and whistles. – Buddy Guy –
Tonight I listened to a show Messin’ With The Blues, it’s a performance of Junior Wells, Buddy Guy and the great Muddy Waters, live at the Montrieux festival in Switzerland. Every last one of the songs has great lyrics in that show.
Messin’ With The Kid
This song ‘Messin’ With The Kid’ is one of my favorite. The art of repeating, and changing the sequince of words, I love that. Even without the music, just the lyrics by themselves contain that blues feeling., the rhythm and the groove. The groove and the rhythm, like that.
Black Bull Blues Lyrics
You know the kid’s no child, and I don’t play
I says what I mean and I mean what I say
Oh yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah,
oh look at what you did
You can call it what you want to,
I call it messin’ with the kid
Here is the show I’m talking about, watch it if you like. Later on Muddy an Buddy perform. And at one point Buddy tells the people they “get a better thrill out of playing here than at home.” At that point I feel like this:
Just ten years ago People what I would do
No one would ever know
Just ten years ago
People how I would live my life
No one would ever know
The things that I think I would do
Ooo, no one will never know.
Later on it ends with: Yeah, play the blues
It was a world class line up: Muddy Waters, Buddy Guy, Junior Wells, Bill Wyman, Pinetop Perkins, Terry Taylor, Dallas Taylor