Tag Archives: B.B. King

Everybody Loved Him and They Weren’t Jiving Either: B.B. King

B. B. King

B. B. King

With B. B. gone from the stage we’ve lost a big part of our collective human soul. A man whose life exemplified simplicity, hard work, passion and resilience. Day in day out doing the thing you’re on the earth to do.

In the past weeks tens of thousands of words have been penned in his honour and remembrance. Here is a link to documentary about his life that you may not be aware of as it is fairly recent .

This particular album is a sweet one in which he hooks up with some pop stars of the day (Leon Russell, Carole King) to produce a slick but still soulful stew of Kingly blues. Named after the small delta town where he picked cotton and worked as an agricultural hand before finally making it as working bluesman the record is full of wonderful piano (with his co stars you couldn’t expect less), some nice horn charts but most of all BB singing and playing in his unique style. The atmosphere in the studio is one of respect and camaraderie.

BB’s speaking voice (and sometimes his singing one too) has often been a window to his sensitive side; his human vulnerability. Though he never spoke out strongly against the racism he and his fellow African American citizens faced so unrelentingly for so long, B.B’s life was not an easy thing.   When you listen to him speak his voice has a fragility. I detect a certain reticence and discomfort there. Perhaps it is its higher than average pitch. Perhaps I’m imagining things. I don’t know. But in his vocal chords I do hear a certain choking cadence. The shyness of the sharecropper. But whatever it is described as, it is belied by his cutting, snapping and plucking way with the guitar strings. As if what was missing from his voice was channeled through his fingers.

Love ya B.B.!

Indianola Mississippi Seeds

Track Listing:

01 Nobody Loves Me But My Mother

02 You’re Still My Woman

03 Ask Me No Questions

04 Until I’m Dead and Cold

05 King’s Special

06 Ain’t Gonna Worry My Life Anymore

07 Chains and Things

08 Go Underground

09 Hummingbird

BBK

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A Scattered History of the Blues Vol. 3: Guitar Stylists

guitar stylists v3

Third instalment of American blues focuses on a few guitar whizzes.  Guys who not only knew how to play the six string orchestra but who have influenced legions of blues axemen, big stars as well as bar room dreamers, since.

Lonnie Johnson

Lonnie Johnson

Blues guitar simply would not have developed in the manner that it did if not for the prolific brilliance of Lonnie Johnson. He was there to help define the instrument’s future within the genre and the genre’s future itself at the very beginning, his melodic conception so far advanced from most of his prewar peers as to inhabit a plane all his own. For more than 40 years, Johnson played blues, jazz, and ballads his way; he was a true blues originator whose influence hung heavy on a host of subsequent blues immortals.

Johnson‘s extreme versatility doubtless stemmed in great part from growing up in the musically diverse Crescent City. Violin caught his ear initially, but he eventually made the guitar his passion, developing a style so fluid and inexorably melodic that instrumental backing seemed superfluous. He signed up with OKeh Records in 1925 and commenced to recording at an astonishing pace — between 1925 and 1932, he cut an estimated 130 waxings. The red-hot duets he recorded with white jazz guitarist Eddie Lang (masquerading as Blind Willie Dunn) in 1928-1929 were utterly groundbreaking in their ceaseless invention. Johnson also recorded pioneering jazz efforts in 1927 with no less than Louis Armstrong’s Hot Five and Duke Ellington‘s orchestra. (READ MORE)

 

Blind Blake

Blind Blake

Blind Blake is a figure of enormous importance in American music. Not only was he one of the greatest blues guitarists of all-time, Blake seems to have been the primary developer of “finger-style” ragtime on the guitar, the six-string equivalent to playing ragtime on the piano. Blake mastered this form so completely that few, if any, guitarists who have learned to play in this style since Blake have been able to match his quite singular achievements in this realm. Blind Blake was the most frequently recorded blues guitarist in the Paramount Records’ race catalog; indeed, Paramount waxed him as often as they could, as he was their best-selling artist. By the time the Paramount label folded in the fall of 1932, Blake had recorded an amazing 79 known sides for them under his own name and had contributed accompaniments to Paramount recordings by other artists such as Gus Cannon, Papa Charlie Jackson, Irene Scruggs, Ma Rainey and Ida Cox to name only a few. (READ MORE)

Scrapper Blackwell

Scrapper Blackwell

Scrapper Blackwell was one of the most important guitar players of the ’20s and early ’30s, with a clean, dazzlingly articulate style that anticipated the kind of prominent solo work that would emerge in Chicago as electric blues in the ’40s and ’50s, in the persons of Robert Nighthawk and the young Muddy Waters. His “string-snapping” solos transcend musical genres and defy the limitations of his period. Although Blackwell‘s recordings were done entirely on acoustic guitar, the playing on virtually every extant track is — and this is no joke — electrifying in its clarity and intensity. Along with Tampa Red (who also had some respect in jazz circles, and who was a more derivative figure, especially as a singer), Blackwell was one of a handful of pre-war blues guitarists whose work should be known by every kid who thinks it all started with Chuck Berry or even Muddy Waters. In addition to the albums credited to Scrapper Blackwell, his recordings can also be found on collections of Leroy Carr‘s work (virtually all of which feature Blackwell) including such releases as Magpie Records’ The Piano Blues: Leroy Carr 1930-35; and one Carr/Blackwell duet, “Papa’s on the Housetop,” which is not on The Virtuoso Guitar of Scrapper Blackwell, but shows up on Yazoo’s Uptown Blues: Guitar Piano Duets anthology. (READ MORE)

 

B.B. King

B.B. King

Universally hailed as the reigning king of the blues, the legendary B.B. King is without a doubt the single most important electric guitarist of the last half century. His bent notes and staccato picking style have influenced legions of contemporary bluesmen, while his gritty and confident voice — capable of wringing every nuance from any lyric — provides a worthy match for his passionate playing. Between 1951 and 1985, King notched an impressive 74 entries on Billboard’s R&B charts, and he was one of the few full-fledged blues artists to score a major pop hit when his 1970 smash “The Thrill Is Gone” crossed over to mainstream success (engendering memorable appearances on The Ed Sullivan Show and American Bandstand). Since that time, he has partnered with such musicians as Eric Clapton and U2 while managing his own acclaimed solo career, all the while maintaining his immediately recognizable style on the electric guitar. (READ MORE)

 

Track Listing

Lonnie Johnson

01 Mean Old Bedbug Blues – 1927

02 Have To Change Keys (To Play These Blues) – 1928

03 Guitar Blues – 1929

04 Playing With The Strings – 1928

05 No More Trouble Now – 1928

06 88 Glide – 1927

07 Flood Water – 1937

08 Swing Out Rhythm – 1937

09 Hot Springs Blues (Skin And Bones) – 1938

10 I’m Not Rough (Avec Louis Armstrong & His Hot Five) – 1927

Blind Blake

11 Blind Arthur Breakdown – 1929

12 You’re Gonna Quit Me Baby – 1927

13 Dry Bone Shuffle – 1927

14 Southern Rag – 1927

15 Too Tight Blues – 1926

16 Georgia Bound – 1929

17 Depression ‘s Gone From Me Blues – 1932

18 Police Dog Blues – 1929

Scrapper Blackwell

19 A Blues – 1935

20 D Blues – 1935

B.B.King

21 Miss Martha King – 1949

22 When Your Baby Packs Up – 1949

23 The Other Night Blues – 1950

24 B.B.’s Boogie – 1950

25 Walking And Crying – 1950

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This Time He’s Gone for Good: Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland

Bobby 'Blue' Bland

Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland

 

The last few days have seen me dealing with a major data loss on the computer, an out of town business trip and, a ‘live on primetime TV’ political soap opera of Shakespearen proportions in which one treacherous Prime Minister was undone by a ‘rising from the dead’ opponent.   At the beginning of this frenetic cycle the titanic beloved gorgeous smoothy of the blues, Mr. Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland passed away at the age of 83.  It is only now that the Washerman’s Dog has the time to bid this wonderful hero of music farewell.

 

Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland’s smoky voice kept me company throughout a year and a bit that I lived and worked in Nairobi more than 20 years ago.  His songs were forthright (I Pity the Fool; Cry Cry Cry), sexy (Blue Moon; Stormy Monday) and tender (I’ll Take Care of You; Share Your Love With Me).  They’ve become part of the collective DNA. It is so sad to think that this humble genius is gone.  I simply adore his growling, screaming and whispering.  Farewell!

 

From the New York Times comes this remembrance.

 

Bobby (Blue) Bland, the debonair balladeer whose sophisticated, emotionally fraught performances helped modernize the blues, died on Sunday at his home in Germantown, Tenn., a suburb of Memphis. He was 83.His death was confirmed by his son, Rodd, who played drums in his band.  

 

Though he possessed gifts on a par with his most accomplished peers, Mr. Bland never achieved the popular acclaim enjoyed by contemporaries like Ray Charles and B. B. King. But he was nevertheless a mainstay on the rhythm-and-blues charts and club circuit for decades.

His vocals, punctuated by the occasional squalling shout, were restrained, exhibiting a crooner’s delicacy of phrasing and a kind of intimate pleading. He influenced everyone from the soul singers Otis Redding and Wilson Pickett to rock groups like the Allman Brothers and The Band. The rapper Jay-Z sampled Mr. Bland’s 1974 single “Ain’t No Love in the Heart of the City” on his 2001 album, “The Blueprint.”

Mr. Bland’s signature mix of blues, jazz, pop, gospel and country music was a good decade in the making. His first recordings, made in the early 1950s, found him working in the lean, unvarnished style of Mr. King, even to the point of employing falsetto vocal leaps patterned after Mr. King’s. Mr. Bland’s mid-’50s singles were more accomplished; hits like “It’s My Life, Baby” and “Farther Up the Road” are now regarded as hard-blues classics, but they still featured the driving rhythms and stinging electric guitar favored by Mr. King and others. It wasn’t until 1958’s “Little Boy Blue,” a record inspired by the homiletic delivery of the Rev. C. L. Franklin, that Mr. Bland arrived at his trademark vocal technique.

“That’s where I got my squall from,” Mr. Bland said, referring to the sermons of Mr. Franklin — “Aretha’s daddy,” as he called him — in a 1979 interview with the author Peter Guralnick. “After I had that I lost the high falsetto. I had to get some other kind of gimmick, you know, to be identified with.”

The corresponding softness in Mr. Bland’s voice, a refinement matched by the elegant formal wear in which he appeared onstage, came from listening to records by pop crooners like Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett and Perry Como.

Just as crucial to the evolution of Mr. Bland’s sound was his affiliation with the trumpet player and arranger Joe Scott, for years the director of artists and repertory for Duke Records in Houston. Given to dramatic, brass-rich arrangements, Mr. Scott, who died in 1979, supplied Mr. Bland with intricate musical backdrops that set his supple baritone in vivid relief.

The two men accounted for more than 30 Top 20 rhythm-and-blues singles for Duke from 1958 to 1968, including the No. 1 hits “I Pity the Fool” and “That’s the Way Love Is.” Steeped in vulnerability and emotional candor, his performances earned him a devoted female audience.

Though only four of his singles from these years — “Turn On Your Love Light,” “Call on Me,” “That’s the Way Love Is” and “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” — crossed over to the pop Top 40, Mr. Bland’s recordings resonated with the era’s blues-leaning rock acts. The Grateful Dead made “Love Light” a staple of their live shows. The Band recorded his 1964 single “Share Your Love With Me” for their 1973 album, “Moondog Matinee.” Van Morrison included a version of “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” on his 1974 live set, “It’s Too Late to Stop Now.”

IMG_4615Mr. Bland himself broke through to pop audiences in the mid-’70s with “His California Album” and its more middle-of-the-road follow-up, “Dreamer.” But his greatest success always came in the rhythm-and-blues market, where he placed a total of 63 singles on the charts from 1957 to 1985. He signed with the Mississippi-based Malaco label in 1985 and made a series of well-received albums that appealed largely to fans of traditional blues and soul music.

Mr. Bland was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1992 and received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 1997.

 

Robert Calvin Brooks was born on Jan. 27, 1930, in Millington, Tenn., just north of Memphis. His father, I. J. Brooks, abandoned the family when Bobby was very young. His mother, Mary Lee, married Leroy Bridgeforth, who also went by the name Leroy Bland, when Bobby was 6.

Mr. Bland dropped out of school in the third grade to work in the cotton fields. Though he never learned to write music or play an instrument, he cited the music of the pioneering blues guitarist T-Bone Walker as an early influence.

After moving to Memphis in 1947, Mr. Bland began working in a garage and singing spirituals in a group called the Miniatures. In 1949 he joined the Beale Streeters, a loose-knit collective whose members at various points included Johnny Ace, Rosco Gordon, Earl Forest and B. B. King, all of whom went on to become popular blues performers as solo artists.

Mr. Bland also traveled as a part of the Johnny Ace Revue and recorded for the Chess, Modern and Duke labels before being drafted into the Army in 1952. Several of these recordings were made under the supervision of the producer Sam Phillips at Sun Studios in Memphis; none sold particularly well.

After his time in the service Mr. Bland worked as a chauffeur, a valet and an opening act for the Memphis rhythm-and-blues singer Junior Parker, just as he had for Mr. King. He toured as a headliner throughout the ’60s, playing as many as 300 one-night engagements a year, a demanding schedule that exacerbated his struggles with alcohol. He performed widely, in the United States and abroad, until shortly before his death.

In addition to his son, Rodd, Mr. Bland’s survivors include his wife, Willie Mae; a daughter, Patrice Moses; and four grandchildren. Rodd Bland said his father had recently learned that the blues singer and harmonica player James Cotton was his half-brother.

Mr. Bland’s synthesis of Southern vernacular music and classy big-band arrangements made him a stylistic pioneer, but whatever he accomplished by way of formal innovation ultimately derived from his underlying faith in the emotional power of the blues.

“I’d like to be remembered as just a good old country boy that did his best to give us something to listen to and help them through a lot of sad moments, happy moments, whatever,” he said in a 2009 interview with the syndicated “House of Blues Radio Hour.”

“Whatever moments you get of happiness, use it up, you know, if you can, because it don’t come that often.”

To commemorate the Frank Sinatra of the Blues, the Washerman’s Dog has put together a special collection.

 

bobby Blue

Track Listing:

01 Farther Up The Road

02 Sunday Morning Love

03 Get Your Money Where You Spend Your Time

04 If Loving You Is Wrong I Don’t Want to Be Right

05 The Right Place at the Right Time

06 Blue Moon

07 Jelly Jelly Jelly

08 That’s The Way Love Is

09 Let’s Get Together

10 I Pity the Fool

11 Stormy Monday

12 I’ll Take Care of You

13 Share Your Love With Me

14 Twenty-Four Hour Blues

15 Cry Cry Cry

16 Ain’t No Love in The Heart of The City

17 When You Come to The End of Your Road

18 Two Steps From The Blues

19 3 O’Clock Blues (feat. B.B. King)

20 Ain’t Doin’ too Bad

21 I’ll Take Care Of You (feat. B.B. King)

22 No Sunshine When She’s Gone

23 This Time I’m Gone for Good

 

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Royal Trio: The Three Kings

3 kings

 

They say the blues is nothing but three notes and the truth.

 

You could just as well claim it isn’t nothin’ but three Kings with a guitar.

 

In the Rolling Stone list of 100 Greatest Guitarists the three Wisemen of the Blues feature very near the top.  They each influenced hundreds of others, played each others songs, shared the stage from time to time and considered themselves and are considered by everybody else too, as blues royalty. Yet, B.B., Albert and Freddie approached the electric guitar in very different ways.  It’s impossible to say which one is better; ‘best’ depends on your mood and the day.  But one truth that applies to all 3 Kings is this: the blues were their Holiness and the guitar the particular diving rod by which they wrestled out its true gospel.

 

Though lists such as the ones music magazines feel they are compelled to assemble are pretty irrelevant, for what its worth here’s what Rolling Stone has to say and how they rank the three Kings.

 

Number 13.  Albert King

Albert King

Albert King

When Rolling Stone reporter Jon Landau asked Albert King in 1968 who his guitar influences were, King replied, “Nobody. Everything I do is wrong.” A pioneer of electric blues, King (who was left-handed) played a right-handed 1959 Gibson Flying V upside down, with the bass strings unconventionally facing the floor. He used an indecipherable secret tuning, hitting notes with his thumb. The six-foot-four, 300-pound King was able to bend notes farther and more powerfully than almost any other guitarist, and his records influenced a generation: Eric Clapton lifted the “Strange Brew” solo from King, and Duane Allman turned the melody of King’s “As the Years Go Passing By” into the main riff of “Layla.” Jimi Hendrix was star-struck when his hero opened for him at the Fillmore in 1967. “I taught [Hendrix] a lesson about the blues,” said King. “I could have easily played his songs, but he couldn’t play mine.”

 

Number 15Freddy King

Freddy King

Freddy King

 

In a 1985 interview, Eric Clapton cited Freddy King’s 1961 B side “I Love the Woman” as “the first time I heard that electric lead-guitar style, with the bent notes… [it] started me on my path.” Clapton shared his love of King with fellow British guitar heroes Peter Green, Jeff Beck and Mick Taylor, all of whom were profoundly influenced by King’s sharpened-treble tone and curt melodic hooks on iconic singles such as “The Stumble,” “I’m Tore Down” and “Someday, After Awhile.” Nicknamed “The Texas Cannonball” for his imposing build and incendiary live shows, King had a unique guitar attack. “Steel on steel is an unforgettable sound,” says Derek Trucks, referring to King’s use of metal banjo picks. “But it’s gotta be in the right hands. The way he used it – man, you were going to hear that guitar.” Trucks can still hear King’s huge impact on Clapton. “When I played with Eric,” Trucks said recently, “there were times when he would take solos and I would get that Freddy vibe.”

 

Number 6 B.B. King

BkingB.B.’s influences were set at an early stage. Being from Indianola, Mississippi, he goes back far enough to remember the sound of field hollers and the cornerstone blues figures, like Charley Patton and Robert Johnson. The single-note phrasing of T-Bone Walker was another thing. You can hear those influences in the choice of melodies that he not only sings vocally but lets his guitar sing instrumentally.

He plays in shortened bursts, with a richness and robust delivery. And there is a technical dexterity, a cleanly delivered phrasing. This was sophisticated soloing. It’s so identifiable, so clear, it could be written out. John Lee Hooker – his stuff was too difficult to write out. But B.B. was a genuine soloist.

There are two things he does that I was desperate to learn. He originated this one cut-to-the-bone phrase where he hits two notes, then jumps to another string and slides up to a note. I can do it in my sleep now. And there’s this two or three-note thing, where he bends the last note. Both figures never fail to get you moving in your seat – or out of your seat. It’s that powerful.

There was a turning point, around the time of [1965’s] Live at the Regal, when his sound took on a personality that is untampered with today – this roundish tone, where the front pickup is out of phase with the rear pickup. And B.B. still plays a Gibson amplifier that is long out of production. His sound comes from that combination. It’s just B.B.

cover 3kings

Track Listing:

01 (The Welfare) Turns Its Back On You [Freddie King]

02 Born Under A Bad Sign [Albert King]

03 Sweet Little Angel (Live) [B.B. King]

04 Blue Shadows [B.B. King]

05 Until I’m Dead and Cold [B.B. King]

06 Ghetto Woman [B.B. King]

07 Blue Suede Shoes [Albert King]

08 Street Life [B.B. King and the Crusaders]

09 Sugar Sweet [Freddie King]

10 Just Like A Woman [B.B. King]

11 Down Hearted [B.B. King]

12 Dyna Flow [Albert King]

13 Why I Sing The Blues [B.B. King and Bobby ‘Blue’ Bland]

14 Ain’t nobody’s Business [Freddie King]

15 Ain`t No Sunshine When She`s Gone [Freddie King]

16 Blues Power [Albert King]

17 Come On [Freddie King]

18 Crosscut Saw [Albert King]

19 Beautician Blues [B.B. King]

20 Hide Away [Freddie King]

21 I’m On My Way To Atlanta [Freddie King]

22 Killing Floor [Albert King]

23 Look On Yonder Wall [Albert King]

24 B.B.’s Boogie [B.B. King]

25 Night  Life [B.B. King and Bonnie Raitt]

26 Please Send Me Someone to Love [B.B. King and Gladys Knight]

27 Stormy Monday [Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan]

28 The Sky Is Crying [Albert King]

 

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