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The Blues Tradition of Johnny Shines

“Everybody is going to have the Blues. If they haven’t already had ‘em, they ‘re gonna have ‘em.” – Johnny Shines

John Ned “Johnny” Shines (April 26, 1915 – April 20, 1992) was born in Frayser outside Memphis. Johnny Shines is member of a small group Blues musicians who played the Delta Blues and the electric Chicago Blues.

Shines started playing the Delta Blues at the end of the twenties and in the thirties alongside Robert Johnson. He moved during the 40s to Chicago to play a perfect Chicago Blues style. He built his remarkable repertoire in a period of 60 years.

Johnny Shines Little Wolf

Shines grew up in Memphis. He was widly inspired by Howlin’ Wolf at the start of his career, he absorbed the Southern Blues style from Wolf till the point he was called Little Wolf for a while. He once said about Howlin’ Wolf:  “I was afraid of the Wolf, like you would be of some wild animal….It was the SOUND he was giving off!”

Ramblin´ Blues

I think Johnny plays both styles very well. While listening to his record Ramblin’ Blues recorded in New York during the period 1972 and 1974 you get the perfect mix between Chicago and the Delta. If you compare his music to  Mance Limpscomb, the delta sound is clear comparable, but Johnny Shines work is modern and more extensive. It is obvious that Johnny Shines plays the roots, an example is the Ramblin´ Blues.

Johnny Shines Blues tradition

Johnny Shines was companion of Robert ‘soul to the devil’ Johnson. They met in Memphis in 1934, and traveled through the south along and Canada with David “Honeyboy” Edwards,  until close before Johnson died. Shines kept on playing the music of Johnson throughout his death. Eventually Robert Johnson became Shines main influence after Howlin’ Wolf. Maybe that explains the two sided Blues style of Shines.

Johnny Shines and Robert Johnson footage

Johnny Shines was part of a forensic research starting in 2007, when a picture of Shines an Johnson was leased. Before that picture was released there were only two pictures of the most important blues musicians verified, Shines was part of the third picture. The picture of Shines and Johnson was used on the cover of The Complete Recordings: Robert Johnson released in 1990.

British newspaper the Guardian wrote a very nice article about the picture of Robert Johnson and Johnny Shines. For those who are interested: Click here.

 

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