blues-guitarist

“Memphis Minnie”  by Kay Robinson

Lizzie Douglas (June 3, 1897 – August 6, 1973), known as Memphis Minnie, was a blues guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter whose recording career lasted from the 1920s to the 1950s. She recorded around 200 songs, some of the best-known being “Bumble Bee”, “Nothing in Rambling”, and “Me and My Chauffeur Blues”.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1983 - “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on April 30, 1983, and peaking at #14 on the R&B singles chart on May 28, 1983. Written by David Bowie, it is the second US chart topper for the British rock icon. Newly signed to a worldwide record deal with EMI Records in 1982 worth over $10 million, David Bowie collaborates with musician Nile Rodgers of Chic on his first album with the label. Before the recording sessions begin, Bowie plays Rodgers a number of new songs he has written including one titled “Let’s Dance”. Originally written on a 12-string acoustic guitar, Bowie’s original arrangement bares almost no resemblance to what it becomes. Rodgers takes the folk-rock acoustic based song, and transforms it into a funky, uptempo dance rock song. Recorded at The Power Station in New York City in December of 1982, “Let’s Dance” along with the rest of the accompanying album is recorded in under three weeks. “Dance” features most of the core rhythm section of Chic including Tony Thompson (drums), Rob Sabino (keyboards), Sammy Figueroa (percussion) and Rodgers himself (guitar) as well as Carmine Rojas (bass), and a then little known blues guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan providing the stinging lead guitar on the track. The title track from David Bowie’s fifteenth studio album, it is released in March of 1983 and is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #59 on March 26, 1983, it  climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The single also tops the chart in the UK, becoming his third chart topper in his home country. “Dance” not only become Bowie’s biggest single and album, but also introduces him to a new audience, winning him a new generation of fans. “Let’s Dance” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Bye Bye Blues - Tommy Johnson

Exceptionally clear track of Tommy Johnson. The country blued often has a mystifying sound, but this one is particularly ethereal.

Son Seals

August 13, 1942 - December 20, 2004

Birthplace: Osceola, Arkansas

Bio note:  “Son Seals will always be regarded as one of Chicago’s–and the blues’–greatest artists. From his debut recording, when he burst on the scene as a fully formed and mature artist, up to his last recordings, his stature as a leading blues voice grew with each new album he released. His untimely death in December 2004 robbed the blues of a major voice.

When guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Frank "Son” Seals unleashed his debut Alligator recording in 1973, his feral guitar work, scorching vocals and innovative songwriting immediately marked him as one of the major blues voices of his generation. At the time, many young blues players were simply covering the popular blues standards of the day. But Son was an original, writing most of his own material and playing his guitar with a fierce, raw intensity matched only by his ferocious vocals. Born in Osceola, Arkansas in 1942, Seals grew up immersed in the blues. His childhood home was a few rooms in the back of his father Jim’s juke joint, The Dipsy Doodle (famous for blues in the front and dice in the back). With musicians like Sonny Boy Williamson, Albert King and Robert Nighthawk playing within earshot of his bed nearly every night, Son knew the blues before he began walking. Even with all the great bluesmen around the house, Son’s father Jim was his greatest inspiration. Jim Seals had played piano, trombone, guitar and drums, touring with the famed Rabbit Foot Minstrels, the training ground of Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith. Because he was such a well-known musician, Jim was able to draw some of the biggest names to perform at his little club. When Son decided at an early age to become a musician like his father, Jim made sure Son would learn to do things right. “My father taught me everything from the start,” Son recalls. “Tuning the guitar, fingering. Where I wanted to be riffing around all up and down the neck right away, he’d keep me on one chord for hours, until I could feel in it in my sleep. I’d get up the next morning, grab the guitar, and I’d be right on that chord.”

By the time he was 13, Seals was an accomplished drummer, backing many of the artists who came through The Dipsy Doodle. At 18 he was leading his own band as a guitarist during the week and playing drums behind whomever was playing at his father’s club on the weekends. Seals hit the road playing guitar with Earl Hooker in 1963, and soon after that as a drummer with Albert King (with whom he recorded the seminal Stax album Live Wire/Blues Power). He moved to Chicago in 1971 and began jamming with everyone from Junior Wells to Hound Dog Taylor to James Cotton and Buddy Guy. After Hound Dog Taylor’s Alligator debut album hit and he began touring, Son took over Hound Dog’s regular weekend gigs at The Expressway Lounge on Chicago’s South Side.

Seals’ debut album, The Son Seals Blues Band, established him as a groundbreaking new blues artist. Son’s audience base grew as he began to tour, playing colleges, clubs and festivals across the country. His 1977 album, Midnight Son, was his true breakthrough. The album received widespread acclaim from every major music publication. Rolling Stone called it “one of the most significant blues albums of the decade.” Robert Palmer, writing in The New York Times, called Son “the most exciting young blues guitarist and singer in years.”

On the strength of Midnight Son, Seals began what would become regular tours of Europe, and he even appeared in a national television ad for Olympia beer. A strong series of six more successful Alligator releases followed through the 1980s and 1990s, growing Son’s audience from a few hundred into many thousands. He became a favorite of critics everywhere. “Excellent modern blues,” exclaimed Blues & Rhythm. Musician declared Seals delivered “performances of the most profound emotion…one of the genre’s most soulful exorcists.” But it wasn’t just the critics. Fellow musicians – from inside and outside of the blues world – took notice of Seals’ immense talents. Seals shared stages with icons like B.B. King and Johnny Winter. Even the popular rock group Phish came calling, covering Seals’ “Funky Bitch” on record and inviting the bluesman to join them on stage at many of their tour stops.

Son’s reputation as a charismatic live performer and a fiercely individual songwriter took him from playing in small clubs to headlining international blues festivals. Over the course of his eight Alligator albums, Seals emerged as one of Chicago’s – and the world’s – greatest bluesmen, and one of the genre’s most powerful live performers. From his introduction as a hot young firebrand in 1973 to becoming a leading voice of Chicago blues, Son Seals blazed a blues trail that others will follow for years to come.“

Source: Alligator Records