Saturday, June 30, 2012

Howlin' Wolf (The Rocking Chair Album)

It is pretty hard to find a Blues record more iconic than this album. 

"....His 1962 LP Howlin' Wolf, which featured contributions from Willie Dixon, Jimmy Rogers and Sam Lay among others, is a famous and influential blues album, often referred to as "The Rocking Chair album" because of its cover illustration depicting an acoustic guitar leaning against a rocking chair. This album contained "Wang Dang Doodle", "Goin' Down Slow", "Spoonful", and "Little Red Rooster" (titled "The Red Rooster" on this album), songs which found their way into the repertoires of British and American bands infatuated with Chicago blues. In 1964 he toured Europe as part of the American Folk Blues Festival tour produced by German promoters Horst Lippmann and Fritz Rau. In 1965 he appeared on the television show Shindig at the insistence of The Rolling Stones, who were scheduled to appear on the same program and who had covered "Little Red Rooster" on an early album. He was often backed on records by bassist and songwriter Willie Dixon who is credited with such Howlin' Wolf standards as "Spoonful", "I Ain't Superstitious", "Little Red Rooster", "Back Door Man", "Evil", "Wang Dang Doodle" (later recorded by Koko Taylor), and others.

In September 1967, he joined forces with Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters for The Super Super Blues Band album of Chess blues standards, including "The Red Rooster" and "Spoonful".

In May 1970, Howlin' Wolf, his long-time guitarist Hubert Sumlin, and the young Chicago blues harmonica player Jeff Carp traveled to London along with Chess Records producer Norman Dayron to record the Howlin' Wolf London Sessions LP, accompanied by British blues/rock musicians Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Ian Stewart, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts and others. He recorded his last album for Chess, The Back Door Wolf, in 1973.

Unlike many other blues musicians, after he left his impoverished childhood to begin a musical career, Howlin' Wolf was always financially successful. Having already achieved a measure of success in Memphis, he described himself as "the onliest one to drive himself up from the Delta" to Chicago, which he did, in his own car on the Blues Highway and with four thousand dollars in his pocket, a rare distinction for a black blues man of the time. In his early career, this was the result of his musical popularity and his ability to avoid the pitfalls of alcohol, gambling and the various dangers inherent in what are vaguely described as "loose women", to which so many of his peers fell prey. Though functionally illiterate into his 40s, Burnett eventually returned to school, first to earn a G.E.D., and later to study accounting and other business courses aimed to help his business career.

Wolf met his future wife, Lillie, when she attended one of his performances in a Chicago club. She and her family were urban and educated, and not involved in what was generally seen as the unsavory world of blues musicians. Nonetheless, immediately attracted when he saw her in the audience as Wolf says he was, he pursued her and won her over. According to those who knew them, the couple remained deeply in love until his death. Together they raised Bettye and Barbara, Lillie's two daughters from an earlier relationship.

After he married Lillie, who was able to manage his professional finances, Wolf was so financially successful that he was able to offer band members not only a decent salary, but benefits such as health insurance; this in turn enabled him to hire his pick of the available musicians, and keep his band one of the best around. According to his daughters, he was never financially extravagant, for instance driving a Pontiac station wagon rather than a more expensive and flashy car.

Wolf's health declined in the late 1960s through 1970s. He suffered several heart attacks and in 1970 his kidneys were severely damaged in an automobile accident. He died in 1976 from complications of kidney disease.

Howlin' Wolf - Moanin' in the Moonlight

I doubt this will require much explanation, this stands as Wolf's first Chess album but it was, in fact, a compilation of singles released throughout the 50's. There are some even earlier tracks from Sun and RPM that I haven't heard.

"Chester Arthur Burnett (June 10, 1910 – January 10, 1976), known as Howlin' Wolf, was an influential American blues singer, guitarist and harmonica player. He was born in West Point, Mississippi in an area now known as White Station.

With a booming voice and looming physical presence, Burnett is commonly ranked among the leading performers in electric blues; musician and critic Cub Koda declared, "no one could match Howlin' Wolf for the singular ability to rock the house down to the foundation while simultaneously scaring its patrons out of its wits." A number of songs written or popularized by Burnett—such as "Smokestack Lightnin'", "Back Door Man", "Killing Floor" and "Spoonful"—have become blues and blues rock standards.

At 6 feet, 6 inches (198 cm) and close to 300 pounds (136 kg), he was an imposing presence with one of the loudest and most memorable voices of all the "classic" 1950s Chicago blues singers. This rough-edged, slightly fearsome musical style is often contrasted with the less crude but still powerful presentation of his contemporary and professional rival, Muddy Waters. Howlin' Wolf, Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Little Walter Jacobs, and Muddy Waters are usually regarded in retrospect as the greatest blues artists who recorded for Chess in Chicago. Sam Phillips once remarked, "When I heard Howlin' Wolf, I said, 'This is for me. This is where the soul of man never dies.''

...he was named after Chester A. Arthur, the 21st President of the United States, and was nicknamed Big Foot Chester and Bull Cow in his early years because of his massive size. He explained the origin of the name Howlin' Wolf thus: "I got that from my grandfather [John Jones]." His Grandfather would often tell him stories about the wolves in that part of the country and warn him that if he misbehaved, the howling wolves would "get him". According to the documentary film The Howlin' Wolf Story, Howlin' Wolf's parents broke up when he was young. His very religious mother Gertrude threw him out of the house while he was still a child for refusing to work around the farm; he then moved in with his uncle, Will Young, who treated him badly. When he was 13, he ran away and claimed to have walked 85 miles (137 km) barefoot to join his father, where he finally found a happy home within his father's large family. During the peak of his success, he returned from Chicago to his home town to see his mother again, but was driven to tears when she rebuffed him and refused to take any money he offered her, saying it was from his playing the "Devil's music".

In 1930, Howlin' Wolf met Charley Patton, the most popular bluesman in the Delta at the time. Wolf would listen to Patton play nightly from outside a nearby juke joint. There he remembered Patton playing "Pony Blues," "High Water Everywhere," "A Spoonful Blues," and "Banty Rooster Blues." The two became acquainted and soon Patton was teaching him guitar. "The first piece I ever played in my life was ... a tune about hook up my pony and saddle up my black mare" (Patton's "Pony Blues"). Wolf also learned about showmanship from Patton: "When he played his guitar, he would turn it over backwards and forwards, and throw it around over his shoulders, between his legs, throw it up in the sky."Chester [Wolf] could perform the guitar tricks he learned from Patton for the rest of his life."Chester learned his lessons well and played with Patton often [in small Delta communities]."

Howlin' Wolf was also inspired by other popular blues performers of the time, including the Mississippi Sheiks, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Ma Rainey, Lonnie Johnson, Tampa Red, Blind Blake, and Tommy Johnson (two of the earliest songs he mastered were Jefferson's "Match Box Blues" and Leroy Carr's "How Long, How Long Blues"). Country singer Jimmie Rodgers, who was Wolf's childhood idol, was also an influence. Wolf tried to emulate Rodgers' "blue yodel," but found that his efforts sounded more like a growl or a howl. "I couldn't do no yodelin'," Barry Gifford quoted him as saying in Rolling Stone, "so I turned to howlin'. And it's done me just fine." His harmonica playing was modeled after that of Rice Miller (also known as Sonny Boy Williamson II), who had taught him how to play when Howlin Wolf had moved to Parkin, Arkansas, in 1933.

During the 1930s, Wolf performed in the South as a solo performer and with a number of blues musicians, including Floyd Jones, Johnny Shines, Honeyboy Edwards, Sonny Boy Williamson II, Robert Johnson, Robert Jr. Lockwood, Willie Brown, Son House, Willie Johnson. On April 9, 1941, at age thirty, he was inducted into the U.S. Army and was stationed at several army bases. Finding it difficult to adjust to military life, Wolf was discharged November 3, 1943, during the middle of World War II, without ever being sent overseas. Wolf returned to his family and helped with farming, while performing as he had done in the 1930s with Floyd Jones and others. In 1948 he formed a band which included guitarists Willie Johnson and Matt "Guitar" Murphy, harmonica player Junior Parker, a pianist remembered only as "Destruction" and drummer Willie Steele. He began broadcasting on KWEM in West Memphis, Arkansas, alternating between performing and pitching equipment on his father's farm after his family's move to this area in the same year. Eventually, Sam Phillips discovered him and ended up signing him for Memphis Recording Service in 1951.

Matt "Guitar" Murphy played with Wolf teaching him to play on time. Matt says sometimes he played 13 bars and sometimes 14 and Murphy would cut through to show him how to stay in time, getting it down to 12 bars. Wolf regularly made up lyrics about the band on stage, sometimes in jest and sometimes hurtful. Murphy arranged for Junior Parker to join Wolf's band. Later Parker and Murphy both left to form "The Blue Flames", the name chosen by Murphy.

In 1950, Howlin' Wolf cut several tracks at Sun Studio in Memphis. He quickly became a local celebrity, and soon began working with a band that included Willie Johnson and guitarist Pat Hare. His first recordings came in 1951, when he recorded sessions for both the Bihari brothers at RPM Records and Leonard Chess's Chess Records. Chess issued Howlin' Wolf's "Moanin' At Midnight" b/w "How Many More Years" on August 15, 1951; Wolf also recorded sides for RPM, with Ike Turner, in late 1951 and early 1952. Chess eventually won the war over the singer, and Wolf settled in Chicago, Illinois c. 1953.[5] arriving in Chicago, he assembled a new band, recruiting Chicagoan Jody Williams from Memphis Slim's band as his first guitarist. Within a year Wolf enticed guitarist Hubert Sumlin to leave Memphis and join him in Chicago; Sumlin's terse, curlicued solos perfectly complemented Burnett's huge voice and surprisingly subtle phrasing. Although the line-up of Wolf's band would change regularly over the years, employing many different guitarists both on recordings and in live performance including Willie Johnson, Jody Williams, Lee Cooper, L.D. McGhee, Otis "Big Smokey" Smothers, his brother Little Smokey Smothers, Jimmy Rogers, Freddie "Abu Talib" Robinson, and Buddy Guy, among others, with the exception of a couple of brief absences in the late '50s Sumlin remained a member of the band for the rest of Wolf's career, and is the guitarist most often associated with the Chicago Howlin' Wolf sound.

In the 1950s Wolf had four songs that qualified as "hits" on the Billboard national R&B charts: "How Many More Years", his first and biggest hit, made it to #4 in 1951; its flip side, "Moanin' at Midnight", made it to #10 the same year; "Smokestack Lightning" charted for three weeks in 1956, peaking at #8; and "I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline)" appeared on the charts for one week in 1956, in the #8 position. In 1959, Wolf's first album, Moanin' in the Moonlight, a compilation of previously released singles, was released.

Friday, June 29, 2012

The Complete Stax/Volt Singles 1959 - 1968

Honestly... what can I say here?!?  This collection is all you could ever want if you are a fan of the Stax sound.  This is in 320 mp3 with no booklet.  You will have to buy it if you want the real deal.  Everything has been tagged fully and correctly.  Chances are this post will be temporary, so grab it while you can!!!

At nine discs and 244 tracks, The Complete Stax-Volt Singles: 1959-1968 is far too exhaustive for casual fans, but that's not who the set is designed for -- it's made for the collector. Featuring every A-side the label released during those nine years, as well as several B-sides, the set is a definitive portrait of gritty, deep Southern soul. Many of the genre's major names -- Otis Redding, Sam & Dave, Carla Thomas, Booker T. & the MG's, William Bell, Rufus Thomas, the Bar-Kays, Albert King -- plus many terrific one-shot wonders are showcased in terrific sound and augmented with an in-depth booklet. For any serious soul or rock collector, it's an essential set, since Stax-Volt was not only a musically revolutionary label, its roster was deep with talent, which means much of the music on this collection is first-rate. But if you only want the hits, you'll be better off with a smaller collection, since too much of this set will sound too similar, and sorting through the nine discs will be a monumental task if you only want to hear Otis, Rufus, Carla, and Sam & Dave.  - by Stephen Thomas Erlewhine

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Earl King - Sexual Telepathy

In the early 90's the great Earl King had one last burst of creativity and did two killer albums for Black Top Records that gave us 23 mostly new songs from one of the greatest singer/songwriters New Orleans has ever known. The first of these was 'Sexual Telepathy', which features my all time favorite EK song 'Time for the Sun to Rise'. That song is playing right now and it still gives me a little chill...too, too pretty. Earl is backed three bands: a NOLA allstar group, Ronnie Earl's Broadcasters and his own Antone's House band. Every arrangement is super tight, and Mark Kazamov's Kamikazi Horns rock the session on every tune. Earl's singing is stronger than ever and the songs...oh, the songs.

I promise this will put some glide in yo stride, a dip in yo hip and some stuff in yo strut. If you ain't hip to Earl King then you'd best get busy!

Earl King - Sexual Telepathy
Black Top Records 1990

1) Old Mr Bad Luck
2) I'll Take You Back Home
3) A Weary Silent Night
4) Time for the Sun to Rise
5) No One More for the Road
6) Going Public
7) Love is the Way of Life
8) Sexual Telepathy
9) Happy Little Nobody's Waggy Tail Dog
10) Always a First Time
11) Make A Better World

Earl King vocals, guitar, songs, George Porter Jr bass, Kenny Blevins drums, Ron Levy organ, Snooks Eaglin guitar, Ronnie Earl guitar, Mark Kazamov sax solos, Mr. Excello tenor sax, Keith Winkling trumpet, Saxy Boy tenor sax, Dickie Reed piano, organ, Steve Gomes bass, Per Hanson drums, Derek O'Brian guitar, Floyd Domino organ, Sarah Brown bass, George Raines drums

Earl King - Hard River to Cross

Numba two of the fine Black Top Earl King releases came out some four years later and is every bit the equal of 'Sexual Therapy'. Just one mind f*** band of New Orleans big boys on this one. George Porter Jr and Dave Torkanowsky head up a cast of heavyweights that also includes Snooks Eaglin, Herman Ernest III, Sammy Berfect, and a revamped version of Mark 'Kaz' Kazimov's Kamikazi Horns. I actually read a review by a truly clueless and nationally published individual (who shall remain nameless) this morning in which he stated that Earl's singing was his weak point and didn't seem to come easily. Who the hell was he talking about and what the hell was he listening to? This man was an absolutely killer singer! Now if you were going to criticize his guitar playing I'd have to go along, but to cap on his singing just proves you ain't listening. At least he recognized that the songs were especially good. If you are just digging the crap out of these be aware that there is a glorious live recording of Earl from Tips about 2 months back on this blog.

Earl King - Hard River to Cross
Black Top Records 1994

1) Medieval Days
2) Seduction
3) Hard River to Cross
4) Clairvoyant Lady
5) It Hurts to Love Someone
6) No City Like New Orleans
7) You Better Know
8) Big Foot
9) Your Love Means More to Me Than Gold
10) I'm Still Holding On
11) Handy Wrap
12) Love Can Save the World

Earl King vocals, songs, guitar, George Porter Jr bass, production
Dave Torkanowsky piano, organ, keyboards, production,
Sammy Berfect organ, Snooks Eaglin guitar,
Herman 'the German' Ernest drums, Mark Kazimov all sax solos
Ernest Youngblood Jr tenor sax, JB Goode tenor sax,
Keith Winking trumpet, Rick Trolsen trombone

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

The Johnny Otis Show - Live at Monterey!

If you never had the opportunity to see the Johnny Otis show then I feel badly for you because it was absolutely the best R & B review ever! You felt like you had been to a real SHOW afterwards and the stars you saw were all the real deal. This double set captures them with all barrels blazing at Monterey in 1970.

The Johnny Otis Show Live At Monterey!1. WILLE AND THE HAND JIVE (3:18) (J. Otis) Johnny Otis
2. CRY ME A RIVER BLUES** (4:47) (Arr: Esther Phillips) Little Esther Phillips
3. CLEANHEAD'S BLUES* (4:55) (E. Vinson) Eddie Cleanhead Vinson
4. I GOT A GAL (2:58) (J. Turner) Joe Turner
5. SINCE I MET YOU BABY (2:38) (I.J. Hunter) Ivory Joe Hunter
6. BABY YOU DON'T KNOW (3:01) (R. Milton) Roy Milton
7. PREACHER'S BLUES (3:28) (G Connors) Gene Connors
8. GOOD ROCKIN' TONIGHT (3:27) (R. Brown) Roy Brown
9. THE TIME MACHINE (3:31) (S. Otis)Shuggie Otis
10. MARGIE'S BOOGIE (3:33) (J. Otis) Margie Evans
11. LITTLE ESTHER'S BLUES** BLOWTOP BLUES/ (L. Feather/J. Feather) T BOND BLUES/ (L. Hite) JELLY JELLY (6:50) Little Esther Phillips
12. KIDNEY STEW* (3:08) (L. Blackman-E. Vinson) Eddie Cleanhead Vinson
13. THE THINGS I USED TO DO*** (5:00) (E. Jones) Pee Wee Crayton
14. R.M. BLUES (3:02) (R. Milton) Roy Milton
15. SHUGGIE'S BOOGIE (4:06) (J. Otis-s. Otis) Shuggie Otis
16. YOU BETTER LOOK OUT (4:10) (J. Otis-D. Evans) Delmar Evans
17. GOIN' BACK TO L.A. (2:46) (J. Otis-D. Evans) Johnny Otis & Delmar Evans
18. PLASTIC MAN (4:51) (L. Chandler) Joe Turner
19. BOOGIE WOOGIE BYE BYE (2:38) (J. Otis) Ensemble

Personnel: Melvin Moore, trumpet • Gene "Mighty Flea" Connors, trombone • Presten Love, alto and baritone saxes • Richard Aplanalp, soprano and tenor saxes • Clifford Solomon, tenor sax (all tenor solos) • Big Jim Wynn, baritone sax • Shuggie Otis, guitar (Pee Wee Crayton on "The Things I Used To Do") • Jim (Supe) Bradshaw, rhythm guitar (solo on "Good rockin' Tonight"); harp • Johnny Otis, Roger Spotts, Leonard Feather, piano (Ivory Joe Hunter on "Since I Met you Baby") • Lawrence Slim Dickens, Shuggie Otis, bass • Paul Lagos, drums • Johnny Otis, vibes • Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson, alto sax and vocals • Johnny Otis, Esther Phillips, Joe Turner, Ivory Joe Hunter, Roy Milton, Roy Brown, Margie Evans, Delmar "Mighty Mouth" Evans, vocals.

Notes taken from the original album release:

The Historic Rhythm & Blue Extravaganza That Rocked the 1970 Monterey Jazz Festival

"The blues never has been, to my recollection, the occasion for a more joyous celebration of its uniquely vibrant spirit than on a certain day in the late summer of 1970, when Johnny Otis brought his entire azure-indigo caravan of giants to spread their talents over an afternoon on the fairgrounds at Monterey, California.

Here was the consummate proof that where today's music may set up communication and generation gaps, the blues destroys them. On stage, where Shuggie Otis, 16; rhythm guitarist Jim (Supe) Bradshaw, 23; singers Margie Evans and Delmar "Mighty Mouth" (no relation) Evans, both in their 20's; and the rest of the singing and blowing battalion representing every decade on up to Pee Wee Crayton and Big Joe Turner, both in their very late 50's, and Roy Milton, who's up there at the Social Security borderline.

The same with the roaring receptive, over capacity audience. Those who stood up on their seats hollering and testifying, or boogalooed along the aisles, were mostly in the 15-25 bracket, while others, less extroverted, exchanged reminiscences about the first time they had heard the call of the blues, perhaps at some half-remembered dance in the 30's, or on a 78 record player at high school in the 40's and 50's.

That's what this album is all about. This is no gallery of museum pieces set up to rekindle a lost past, no futile exercise in nostalgia; instead it is a meeting ground were ages, races, and backgrounds coalesce, where grooving together is all that matters.

All the other instrumental touches are emotionally strong, tonally robust products of the synthesis forged during the 1940s between jazz and R&B.

Through it all, Johnny Otis remains in firm control, opening the show by reviving his 1958 hit "Willie And The Hand Jive;" soloing and comping on vibes or piano, emceeing and directing his exuberant band through its casual, largely spontaneous arrangements.

There was a lot of love in the air that day. We all felt it, exchanged not only among musicians and singers, but from bandstand to audience and back. Wondering one moment why so many of the true blues pioneers had been short-changed by society, you asked yourself the next minute how a Shuggie Otis or a Supe Bradshaw could align himself so naturally with a music some thought was obsolescent.

On this day the vitality of the blues ws triumphantly reaffirmed. It happened in Monterey-and not long ago. Thanks to Johnny Otis, who put it all together, and the festival's Jimmy Lyons, who brought it onstage, the whole world of the blues burst on us like sunshine on that bright September afternoon."

- Leonard Feather

The Greatest Johnny Otis Show

Okay, let me say first off that I am not impressed by the response from the 30 of you who have downloaded nearly every post have had time to listen so speak up or the door can be locked at any time!

1. Shake It Lucy Baby - Johnny Otis
2. Ma (He's Making Eyes At Me) - Marie Adams   The Three Tons Of Joy
3. (Romance) In The Dark - Marie Adams   The Three Tons Of Joy
4. Willie And The Hand Jive - Johnny Otis
5. Bye Bye Baby - Marie Adams   Johnny Otis
6. Loop De Loop - Marie Adams
7. Can't You Hear Me Callin' - Johnny Otis
8. The Light Still Shines In My Window - Marie Adams
9. Hum Ding A Ling - Johnny Otis
10. Well Well Well - Mel Williams
11. Story Untold - Jeannie Sterling   The Moonbeams
12. All I Want Is Your Love - Marie Adams
13. Good Golly - Johnny Otis
14. You Just Kissed Me Goodbye - Mel Williams
15. Ring-A-Ling - Johnny Otis
16. Three Girls Named Molly, Doin' The Hully Gully - Johnny Otis
17. A Fool In Love - Marie Adams
18. Crazy Country Hop - Johnny Otis
19. Hey Baby, Don't You Know - Johnny Otis
20. I'll Do The Same Thing For You - Marci Lee   Johnny Otis
21. What Do You Want To Make Those Eyes At Me For? - Marie Adams
22. Willie Did The Cha Cha - Johnny Otis
23. Mumblin' Mosie - Johnny Otis
24. Let The Sun Shine In My Life - Johnny Otis
25. Castin' My Spell - Marci Lee   Johnny Otis
26. Telephone Baby - Marci Lee   Johnny Otis
by Stuart Colman

In the two short years that The Johnny Otis Show recorded for Capitol, they managed time and again to come up with some of the most eternal sides in rock'n'roll. The legendary Mr Otis adopted the role of ringmaster, whilst the members of his revue took turns to show off their many talents. Marie Adams, the Three Tons of Joy, Mel Williams, Jeannie Sterling and Jackie Kelso all featured on the recordings, backed up by some of the very finest musicians Johnny could assemble.

Their debut Capitol single Ma, He's Making Eyes At Me truly caught the imagination of the British public and went right to the top of the charts in November, 1957.

Back home, the much loved Willie and the Hand Jive hit the US Top Ten the following summer and the whole shooting match went on to spread the word in films and TV. Future gems like Castin' My Spell, Crazy Country Hop and Mumblin' Mosie all helped to sow the seeds for the forthcoming R&B revolution in the UK with many homegrown acts from Cliff Richard to the Animals turning to the Johnny Otis repertoire for a source of material. After the disappointment of previous compilations, from other companies Ace Records have finally restored the balance by bringing together the cream of the Otis crop, including wonderful rock'n'roll tracks such as Bye Bye Baby, All I Want Is Your Love and Shake It Lucy Baby that have not appeared on CD before. This landmark release sets the facts straight on paper too, as the complexities surrounding Johnny's arrival at Capitol have never been fully documented until now. The Greatest Johnny Otis Show is no idle boast, because the team succeeded in capturing such a joyous mood, the excitement still delivers maximum entertainment value. Mr. Otis has nothing to regret.   

Personnel: Johnny Otis (vocals, drums); Marie Adams & The Three Tons of Joy, Marci Lee, Mel Williams (vocals); Jimmy Nolen (guitar); Fred Harmon, Jackie Kelso (saxophone); George Washington , Art Matthews (trombone); Curtis Counce (double bass); Leard Bell (drums).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Johnny Otis - Good Lovin' Blues

Johnny Otis was the child of Greek immigrants Alexander J. Veliotes, a Mare Island longshoreman and grocery store owner, and his wife, the former Irene Kiskakes, a painter.

He was the older brother of Nicholas A. Veliotes, former U.S. Ambassador to Jordan (1978–1981) and to Egypt (1984–1986).

Otis grew up in a predominantly black neighborhood in Berkeley, California, where his father owned and operated a neighborhood grocery store. Otis became well known for his choice to live his professional and personal life as a member of the African-American community.He has written, "As a kid I decided that if our society dictated that one had to be black or white, I would be black."

He was the father of musician Shuggie Otis.

After playing drums in a variety of swing orchestras, including Lloyd Hunter's Serenaders,and Harlan Leonard's Rockets,he founded his own band in 1945 and had one of the most enduring hits of the big band era, "Harlem Nocturne". His band included Wynonie Harris and Charles Brown. In 1947, he and Bardu Ali opened the Barrelhouse Club in the Watts district of Los Angeles, California. He reduced the size of his band and hired singers Mel Walker, Little Esther Phillips and the Robins (who later became the Coasters). He discovered the teenaged Phillips when she won one of the Barrelhouse Club's talent shows. With this band, which toured extensively throughout the United States as the California Rhythm and Blues Caravan, he had a long string of rhythm and blues hits through 1950.

In the late 1940s, he discovered Big Jay McNeely, who then performed on his "Barrelhouse Stomp". He began recording for the Newark, New Jersey-based Savoy label in 1949,and began releasing a stream of records that made the R&B chart, including "Double Crossing Blues", "Mistrustin' Blues" and "Cupid Boogie", which all featured either Little Esther or Mel Walker, or both, and all reached no. 1 on the Billboard R&B chart. He also began featuring himself on vibraphone on many of his recordings.Otis produced and played the vibraphone on Johnny Ace's "Pledging My Love", which was no. 1 on the Billboard R and B chart for 10 weeks in 1955.

In January 1951, Otis released "Mambo Boogie," featuring congas, maracas, claves, and mambo saxophone guajeos in a blues progression. According to Vernon Boggs, this was the first R&B mambo. He moved to the Mercury label in 1951, but his chart success began to diminish. However, he discovered Etta James and produced and co-wrote her first hit, "Roll With Me, Henry" (also known as "The Wallflower"). Otis produced, co-wrote, and played drums on the original recording of "Hound Dog" written by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller with vocals by Big Mama Thornton, and was given a writing credit on all six of the 1953 releases of the song. He was a successful songwriter; one of his most famous compositions is "Every Beat of My Heart", first recorded by The Royals in 1952 on Federal Records but which became a hit for Gladys Knight and the Pips then just 'Pips' in 1961. He also wrote "So Fine" which was originally recorded by The Sheiks in 1955 on Federal. As an artist and repertory man for King Records he also discovered Jackie Wilson, Hank Ballard, and Little Willie John, among others. He also became an influential disc-jockey in Los Angeles.

After starting his own label, Dig, in 1955, he continued to perform and appeared on regular TV shows in Los Angeles from 1957. On the strength of their success, he signed to Capitol Records. Featuring singer Marie Adams, and with his band now being credited as the Johnny Otis Show, he made a comeback, at first in the British charts with "Ma He's Making Eyes At Me" in 1957. In April 1958, he recorded his best-known recording, "Willie and the Hand Jive", a clave-based vamp, which relates to hand and arm motions in time with the music, called the hand jive. This went on to be a hit in the summer of 1958, peaking at #9 on the U.S. Pop chart, and becoming Otis' only Top 10 single. The single reached no. 1 on the Billboard R and B chart. The song was covered by Eric Clapton in 1974, and became a staple of his live repertoire. Otis' success with the song was short-lived, and he briefly moved to King Records in 1961, where he backed Johnny "Guitar" Watson on some recordings.

In 1969 he recorded an album of sexually explicit material under the name Snatch and the Poontangs.[17] In 1970 he played at the legendary Monterey Jazz Festival with Little Esther Phillips and Eddie "Cleanhead" Vinson. In the 1980s he had a weekly radio show in Los Angeles, playing R&B music, and also recorded with his son Shuggie Otis, releasing the 1982 album The New Johnny Otis Show.

Otis continued performing through the 1990s and headlined the San Francisco Blues Festival in 1990 and 2000, although because of his many other interests he went through long periods where he did not perform. He was inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1994 as a nonperformer for his work as a songwriter and producer.
Other work

In the 1960s, he entered journalism and politics, losing a campaign for a seat in the California State Assembly (one reason for the loss may be that he ran under his much less well known real name). He then became chief of staff for Democratic Congressman Mervyn M. Dymally.  He was also was the pastor of Landmark Community Church.

In the 1990s, Otis bought a farm near Sebastopol, California, north of San Francisco. For a time he ran a coffee shop/grocery store/blues club, where one of the featured singers was the Georgia-born singer Jackie Payne. Around this time Otis also founded and pastored a new church, Landmark Community Gospel Church, which held weekly rehearsals in the tiny town of Forestville, California, and Sunday services in Santa Rosa, California. Landmark's worship services centered on Otis' preaching and the traditional-style performances of a gospel choir and a male gospel quartet, backed by a rocking band that featured Otis' son Nicky Otis and Shuggie's son, Lucky Otis. The church closed its doors in the mid-1990s.

Otis hosted a radio show on KPFA, The Johnny Otis Show. This show was aired every Saturday morning, live from the Powerhouse Brewery in Sebastopol. Listeners were invited to stop in for breakfast and enjoy the show live. Due to declining health, as well as his relocation to Los Angeles, his participation in the show decreased. The show last aired on August 19, 2006.

He died on January 17, 2012, just three days before Etta James's, whom he discovered in the 1950s.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Clarence Gatemouth Brown - The Original Peacock Recordings

1940s and 1950s

Born in Vinton, Louisiana, Brown was raised in Orange, Texas. His professional musical career began in 1945, playing drums in San Antonio, Texas. He was tagged with the "Gatemouth" handle by a high school instructor who accused Brown of having a "voice like a gate". Brown used it to his advantage throughout his career. His career was boosted while attending a 1947 concert by T-Bone Walker in Don Robey's Bronze Peacock Houston nightclub. When Walker became ill, Brown took up his guitar and quickly wrote and played "Gatemouth Boogie," to the delight of the audience right on the spot.

In 1949 Robey founded Peacock Records in order to showcase Brown's virtuoso guitar work. Brown's "Mary Is Fine"/"My Time Is Expensive" was a hit for Peacock in 1949. A string of Peacock releases in the 1950s were less successful commercially, but were nonetheless pioneering musically. Particularly notable was the 1951 instrumental "Okie Dokie Stomp", in which Brown solos continuously over a punchy horn section (other instrumentals from this period include "Boogie Uproar" and "Gate Walks to Board"). As for his gutsy violin playing, Robey allowed him to record "Just Before Dawn" as his final Peacock release in 1959.

1960s and 1970s

In the 1960s Brown moved to Nashville, Tennessee to participate in a syndicated R&B television show, and while he was there recorded several country singles. He struck up a friendship with Roy Clark and made several appearances on the television show Hee Haw. In 1966, Brown was the musical director for the house band on the short-lived television program, The !!!! Beat.
However, in the early 1970s several countries in Europe had developed an appreciation for American roots music, especially the blues, and Brown was a popular and well-respected artist there. He toured Europe twelve times, beginning in 1971 and continuing throughout the 1970s. He also became an official ambassador for American music, and participated in several tours sponsored by the U.S. State Department, including an extensive tour of Eastern Africa. Brown appeared at the 1973 Montreux Jazz Festival, where he jammed with American blues rock band Canned Heat. In 1974, he recorded as a sideman with the New Orleans pianist Professor Longhair on his album, Rock 'N' Roll Gumbo (originally a Blue Star Records release). He moved to New Orleans in the late 1970s.
Later years

In the 1980s, a series of releases on Rounder Records and Alligator Records revitalized his U.S. career, and he toured extensively and internationally, usually playing between 250 and 300 shows a year. He won a Grammy in 1982 for the album Alright Again! and was nominated for five more. He was also awarded eight W. C. Handy Awards and the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Heroes Award.
Clarence Brown was featured as one of the stellar musicians on the Southern Stars poster created by Dianna Chenevert to help promote him and historically document his contribution to the music industry. On October 12, 1983, USA Today reporter Miles White highlighted Brown as being included on the poster, which provided him with more nationwide attention. In 1997 he was honored by the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, and in 1999 was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame.

In his last few years, he maintained a full touring schedule, including Australia, New Zealand, and countries with political conflicts in Central America, Africa, and the former Soviet Union. His final record "Timeless" was released in 2004.

In September 2004, Brown was diagnosed with lung cancer. Already suffering from emphysema and heart disease, he and his doctors decided to forgo treatment. This greatly affected his musical career.  Later his home in Slidell, Louisiana was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and he was evacuated to his childhood home town of Orange, Texas, where he died on September 10, 2005 at the apartment of a niece, at the age of 81. Brown is buried in the Hollywood Cemetery in Orange, Texas. However, flooding caused by Hurricane Ike in September 2008, damaged his grave.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Albert King - New Orleans Heat

Not your normal Albert King album with the fiery guitar licks and all that, there are plenty of those albums to choose from. Here Albert came down to New Orleans and received the full Sea-Saint Toussaint / Quezergue treatment with horns and back-up singers and such. The music focuses on King as a singer and sets him up with some Chitlins Circuit type vehicles that he has some fun with.

Albert King - New Orleans Heat
Tomato Records 1978

1. Get Out Of My Life Woman
2. Born Under A Bad Sign
3. The Feeling
4. We All Wanna Boogie
5. The Very Thought Of You
6. I Got The Blues
7. I Get Evil
8. Angel Of Mercy
9. Flat Tire

*The players on New Orleans Heat (Note: the horn section is unlisted but it almost certainly would have included Gary Brown and Clyde Kerr):

Albert King – vocal, electric guitar
Leo Nocentelli – electric guitar
Allen R. Toussaint – acoustic piano, 88 RMI Echoplex
Wardell Quezergue – electric piano
Robert Dabon – electric piano, RMI
George Porter, Jr. – bass
Charles Williams, June Gardner, Leroy Breaux – drums
Kenneth Williams - percussion 

Now I ain't saying this is Albert's best album or anything silly like that but it is some good fun. The session was also the last recording of the great New Orleans drummer Charles 'Hungry" Williams who became The Man when Earl Palmer went to L.A. This is my LP rip from my perfect copy.