At one time I listened to a lot of blues music. Back in the early 80s when I was in university, I would go into the listening room at the York U library and sign out all sorts of obscure blues records, and sit down at one of the listening stations – each one of them had a turn-table and head-phones, and listen while I worked on assignments (some days I may have done more listening and less working).
I was attracted to blues that emphasized the song and the groove and I was never much interested in extended blues guitar solos. Over the years, my musical tastes changed quite a bit, and I found myself listening to less and less blues, but still there are some performers who get my attention anytime I hear them. T-Model Ford is one of those. Ford was born in the early 20s and passed last summer. He didn’t start a musical career until he was in his early 70s. Here are a few performances I really enjoy, found on YouTube…
Not much to say tonight. My brain is running on empty and needs recharging. I’m tired, and I think I might just play some banjo for a short while and hit the hay early..
While I do that, why don’t you listen to some blues. Here’s one of my all-time favourite blues performances. I love the way this one builds. It’s Howlin Wolf playing Meet me at the Bottom. If the blues had to stop at some point, if there was going to be a moratorium on the blues, this would be a good place to stop.
Feeling like a little blues. Here’s the Samantha Fish Band playing Sucker Born on a cigar box guitar (just because I like all kinds of folk music)
Here’s Weird Bob covering one of my fave Sonny Boy Williamson tunes – Letterman.
And of course here’s Sonny Boy.
I’m going to spare you the New York Dolls and Doobie Brothers versions and go right to James Cotton
I first heard Sleepy John Estes & Hammie Nixon back in about 1980 in the listening room at the York University Library. I discovered they had a marvelous collection of blues greats on vinyl and I decided I wanted to listen to them all. The room was set up with little cubicles with turntables and headphones and you could ask for any of the recordings they had and play them all afternoon. I’d bring in my books and I’d sign out a few records with the intent of studying while I listened.
Instead, the music pulled me in and I’d spend hours in there exploring all these fantastic blues. I listened to Sleepy John and Hammie and I listened to Big Joe Williams, King of the Nine String and both Sonny’s Boy Williamson and I listened to Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee and Leadbelly and Son House and Skip James and Elmore James and Robert Pete Williams and on and on.
These were records, vinyl records. Fantastic objects, complete with static and bits of dust and a scratch here and there, and record covers and liner notes. These were albums. And they were hi-fi. They were real, they took up space. 33 and a third….does that mean anything to you?
I heard today that Chicago bluesman Magic Slim died. RIP
I think I first heard Robert Pete Williams’ music in 1980 in the Listening Room at the York University library. They had a great collection of blues music there and a bunch of turntables. You could sign out records (some of you may remember those) and headphones. I used to take my homework up there as if I was going to do the homework while listening to selections from their collection, but I always forgot about the homework part when I started listening to the music. It was magical. I heard all these performers I had never heard of before playing these wonderful idiosyncratic blues. It was magic.
Tonight’s Daily Dose features Big Joe Williams, the King of the Nine String guitar. Wait, he’s the only guy who played a nine string guitar. He modified a six string. That makes him the king.
I don’t know that the Daily Dose has ventured into Rev. Gary Davis territory before. If not, it’s about time. Way back when I was a teen-aged blues freak, I found a Rev. Gary Davis record in some little record shop, just sitting there waiting for me in the blues section. It was in the blues section because there wasn’t any other place in this record shop to put it. Rev. Gary Davis played music that messed with gospel, ragtime and blues too. He was a very powerful performer. I was maybe 14 or 15 when I heard a recording of Davis singing Twelve Gates to the City and I had never heard anything like it before.
Here’s some stories about Rev. Gary Davis.
I feel like a broke down engine ain’t got no drivin’ wheel. Tonight’s Daily Dose takes us back to Blind Willie McTell and his 12-string guitar. Here he is from 19 and 33.
I was a teen-aged blues freak, and it didn’t stop into early adulthood either (I hadn’t yet discovered how cool the diatonic accordion really was). I know a lot of blues is what I’m trying to say, and this one remains one of my all-time faves.
Here’s Johnny Winter’s take on it…
Townes Van Zandt is known for his songwriting but he also played his share of blues…
If you like this tune, also listen to World Gone Wrong by Bob Dylan. He did a terrific job on this song as well.