Sunday, March 19, 2017

James Cotton - Vanguard sessions

Artist Biography by Bill Dahl

"At his high-energy, 1970s peak as a bandleader, James Cotton was a bouncing, sweaty, whirling dervish of a bluesman, roaring his vocals and all but sucking the reeds right out of his defenseless little harmonicas with his prodigious lung power. Due to throat problems, Cotton's vocals are no longer what they used to be, but he remains a masterful instrumentalist. Cotton had some gargantuan shoes to fill when he stepped into Little Walter's slot as Muddy Waters' harp ace in 1954, but for the next dozen years, the young Mississippian filled the integral role beside Chicago's blues king with power and precision. Of course, Cotton had been preparing for such a career move for a long time, having learned how to wail on harp from none other than Sonny Boy Williamson himself.

Cotton was only a child when he first heard Williamson's fabled radio broadcasts for King Biscuit Time over KFFA out of Helena, Arkansas. So sure was Cotton of his future that he ended up moving into Williamson's home at age nine, soaking up the intricacies of blues harpdom from one of its reigning masters. Six years later, Cotton was ready to unleash a sound of his own.

Gigging with area notables Joe Willie Wilkins and Willie Nix, Cotton built a sterling reputation around West Memphis, following in his mentor's footsteps by landing his own radio show in 1952 over KWEM. Sam Phillips, whose Sun label was still a fledgling operation, invited Cotton to record for him, and two singles commenced: "Straighten Up Baby" in 1953 and "Cotton Crop Blues" the next year. Legend has it Cotton played drums instead of harp on the first platter.

When Waters rolled through Memphis minus his latest harpist (Junior Wells), Cotton hired on with the legend and went to Chicago. Unfortunately for the youngster, Chess Records insisted on using Little Walter on the great majority of Waters' waxings until 1958, when Cotton blew behind Waters on "She's Nineteen Years Old" and "Close to You." At Cotton's suggestion, Waters had added an Ann Cole tune called "Got My Mojo Working" to his repertoire. Walter played on Muddy Waters' first studio crack at it, but that's Cotton wailing on the definitive 1960 reading (cut live at the Newport Jazz Festival).

By 1966, Cotton was primed to make it on his own. Waxings for Vanguard, Prestige, and Loma preceded his official full-length album debut for Verve Records in 1967. His own unit then included fleet-fingered guitarist Luther Tucker and hard-hitting drummer Sam Lay. Throwing a touch of soul into his eponymous debut set, Cotton ventured into the burgeoning blues-rock field as he remained with Verve through the end of the decade...."


KingCake said... - Cut You Loose.rar - Best Of The Vanguard Years.rar

pmac said...

Love me some Cotton. These two were not in my library (actually, your old library, if truth be told, ;-0 ) Many thanks, KC!!!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Cotton..


Feilimid O'Broin said...

The first blues album I bought forty six years ago was by Little Walter. I have always loved great blues harp but only in the past five years have I begun to explore Cotton's work so I am grateful for this post. I also enjoy that this blog is not strictly a rhythm and blues blog; the mix of genres, r & b, soul, blues, zydeco, funk, music from New Orleans, etc. is truly wonderful and you have been posting some great music of late. Sadly my nine- year old Dell became fatigued from working too many hours, and is semi-retired and employed by my wife now. I have been setting up its replacement, have fallen behind on posts, and am now playing catch-up. so please excuse the recent absence of comments. Even worse, one of my external hard drives appears to be near death and has entered a deep coma becoming inaccessible to my computer. I'm going to have to expend some cash to try to retrieve the nearly three terabytes of Irish, Welsh, Scottish, Breton, Gallician, Portuguese, Brazilian, Sephardic, and klezmer music I had stored on it. Fortunately I had backed up some of its contents before it entered the coma and, even better, .I have all of my downloads from this and other similar blogs on another external drive which will help me retain my slim hold on sanity even if all of the other music is lost. Although a confirmed Luddite, I love computers for the amount of music they can store in a relatively small place and, of course, the wonders of the Internet, including this and other music blogs that I enjoy and value so much.. On the other hand, I also hate their susceptibility to data loss after a few years and need to buy at least two more external drives to back everything up well.

I can't count the number of hours I have spent in a supremely blissful state enraptured by what you have posted. Chitlins is a powerful drug that enables its followers to be safely, albeit deeply, and legally intoxicated. Tomorrow. Monday, I'll be picking Cotton .and other recent posts for my listening pleasure. As always, le Roi, thanks for all you do. This is one of the few blogs that is indispensable for me and I treasure each discovery I find on it.

I have a much deeper appreciation for the music culture of New Orleans thanks to you and I hope that I'll someday be able to listen and experience firsthand what you and P-Mac regularly enjoy there. I also need to make a trip to Lafayette and other places in south Louisiana so I can better appreciate the environment in which the Cajun and zydeco music I love so much grew. Again, merci beaucoup, le Roi.

KingCake said...!vI41HBga!d52T6ioz_6UoqKMbclS0J5VWqteSxjRxrcKC-2xkASE

Feilimid O'Broin said...

The comment still stands and as we loose so many greats who were with us for years it is necessary to thank you and other contributors for working to preserve the music on blogs. I won't verbosely try to describe what the music means; rather let's just say it makes for a better life to be able to derive moments of joy from listening and appreciating it. Cotton was not my favorite blues man but he was more than comment and deserves to be remembered. He was one of those people who, like Chuck Berry, you assumed would always be there and then mortality strikes. At such times, I think how fortunate we are to be alive during time when technology preserves his and other musicians' work.

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