Thursday, November 15, 2018

Muddy Waters (c 1914 - 1983)

McKinley Morganfield was born in 1913 in Issaquena County, Mississippi but later claimed he was born in 1915 in a tiny hamlet of Rolling Fork, Mississippi. When his mother died in 1918, he moved to Clarksdale and was raised by his grandmother. Muddy Waters came because he liked playing in mud. He left school early, and worked as a farm labourer where in his spare time he played mouth organ (harp). Aged 17 he got his first guitar and within a year had mastered the bottleneck style preferred by the Delta blues men. The neck of a broken bottle was used across the frets and made the acoustic guitar sound like a vocal with dips, slurs, and sliding notes. Muddy Waters was naturally influenced by Delta blues musicians like Charley Patton, Son House, Tommy Johnson and, especially Robert Johnson.

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He sang in a tightly constricted, pain-filled manner that characterized the best Delta singers. At first he played at local rough-and-tumble gigs forever sharpening his vocal and instrumental abilities. In 1940 he moved to St. Louis before returning back to Mississippi then relocated to Chicago in 1943. By day he worked as a trucker and factory worker and by night he played in the clubs and juke joints. Gradually Muddy established himself as a popular club performer. In part this was due to a gift of an electric guitar from his uncle so he could be heard over noisy crowds. Big Bill Broonzy saw him perform and Muddy was engaged to open for him, especially in front of rowdy clubs. Waters recorded some tunes for Michael Jackson at Columbia in 1946 but they were never released. He later signed with Aristocrat, owned by Leonard Chess and Phil Chess and played guitar with Sunnyland Slim (piano) on the cuts Johnson machine gun and Fly right, little girl.

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Although these were shelved, Muddy Waters’ Mississippi Delta styled "I Can't Be Satisfied" and "I Feel Like Going Home" became big hits in 1948.

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Aristocrat changed their name to Chess and Waters’ signature tune, "Rollin' Stone", became a smash hit.

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At first the Chess brothers did not allow Waters to use his own musicians (Jimmy Rogers and Blue Smitty) in the studio; instead Big Crawford provided backing bass but by 1950 Muddy Waters was recording with the best blues musicians around; Little Walter Jacobs (harmonica); Jimmy Rogers (guitar); Elgin Evans (drums); Otis Spann (piano); Big Crawford (bass); and Muddy Waters (vocals and slide guitar). The band recorded a string of blues classics during the early 1950s with the help of bassist/songwriter Willie Dixon. "Hoochie Coochie Man", these included "I Just Want to Make Love to You", and "I'm Ready".

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Muddy Waters was the most popular blues artist in Chicago in the 1950s and abandoned his guitar to become a front man singer. In Chicago he shared the limelight with gravel-voiced, Howlin' Wolf, who was a worthy rival with a superb sounding band, including Hubert Sumlin (guitar). Both artists recorded the compositions of Willie Dixon which influenced many others to follow in their wake.

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In 1953 Little Walter left when his single "Juke" became a hit and in 1955 Jimmy Rogers quit to form his own band. Muddy never quite recaptured the glory days again as he struggled with various studio musicians thereafter. The introduction of rock’n’roll saw a decline in the popularity of the blues and in 1958 Muddy Waters toured the UK with the backing of Chris Barber's trad jazz group. To his utter surprise he discovered new legions of fans all keen to hear electric blues played loudly. Despite this on his return to the US he went back to playing acoustic blues, but switched again in 1964 as blues gained greater popularity with white audiences. No longer considered a headliner Muddy faded from the limelight but in 1972 was asked to London to record The London Muddy Waters Sessions.

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The four session men were Rory Gallagher, Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, and Mitch Mitchell, but Muddy remain unimpressed. The album went on to win a Grammy. In 1973 was injured in a car crash and forced into semi-retirement for two years. He left Chess in 1977 and signed with Blue Sky Records, a label operated by Johnny Winter. Muddy Waters’ Hard Again album was recorded in just two days and captured the original Chicago sound.

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Muddy Waters and Johnny Winter partnership worked well and year later Muddy was back working with Walter Horton and Jimmy Rogers. The comeback continued with the critically acclaimed release of Muddy “Mississippi” Waters Live.

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He retired from the music business in 1980 and passed away quietly in his sleep aged 68 in 1983. He was survived by his son and musician Big Bill Morganfield.

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Worth a listen:
Rollin' Stone (1950)
Rollin' and Tumblin' (1950)
Still A Fool (1951)
Honey Bee (1951)
Long Distance Call (1951)
I Just Want To Make Love To You (1954)
Hoochie Coochie Man (1954)
I'm Ready" (1954)
Mannish boy (1954)
Just To Be With You" (1956)
Got My Mojo Working (1956)
Rock Me (1956)
She's Nineteen Years Old (1979)

Queen Live Aid

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Tulsa Time by Walking Shoes

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

The Clickettes (including Barbara Jean English)

The Clickettes formed in 1958 at Yorkville Vocational High School in Manhattan. The group had variously names including Click-ettes, Cliquettes and eventually The Clickettes. In the same year they were signed to the Dice label owned by Johnnie Louise Richardson and her mother Zelma Zell Sanders. The original line up was Barbara Jean English (lead singer), Sylvia Hammond (alto), and sisters, Trudy and Charlotte McCartney (both sopranos although Trudy sang baritone too). Periodically for live performances Shirley Bryant-Ford from the Teen Clefs (Dice label mates) joined the Clickettes. She was not an official member of the group but did appear in the publicity shots at the request of Zelma, who had a reputation for hiring and firing at will. The group released five singles with the Dice label but had little real success.

The single Louella and You Broke Our Hearts was released under the name the Avalons. Some sources claim this may have been the Teen Clefs other the Clickettes.

Frequently they were matched with other lead singers and the singles were released under different names. In 1958 The Ding Dongs (Bobby Darin, Barbara Jean English, Charlotte McCartney, Trudy McCartney and Sylvia Hammond) released Now We're One / Early In The Morning.

The Clickettes left the Dice label in 1960 but the record company continued to release singles by the Clickettes even when they were sung by other groups. ‘Tonight And Forever’ was credited to the Clickettes but it was likely sung by the Teen Clefs.

Free from the Dice label the younger McCartney sisters were replaced by Jean Bolden and Barbara Saunders. The sisters had been too young to tour without their parents’ permission and so the girls went back to school. Richard Barrett (The Valentines) meantime took over the group’s management and wrote and produced “Where Is He.” This was a big hit for the all-female group.

To get the girls exposure he conspired to shoe horn them, unbilled at the Apollo between other acts. The Clickettes proved a crowd pleaser. Into the early 60s the group had various line-up changes and continued to record for several labels. Helen Powell (formerly The Impacts) replaced Sylvia in 196l. The group then recorded two singles for Roulette, including “We Need Them,” released in 1962 as Barbara English and the Fashions (Barbara Jean English, Jeanne Bolden, Barbara Saunders and Helen Powell - formerly of The Impacts).

Before the Fashion disbanded in 1963 they released a couple of singles.

Barbara Jean English went solo in 1963, and Helen went on to join the Chantels.

Barbara released several other recordings but as musical tastes changed she dropped out of the music business.

She made a welcome return in the 70s, and then much later teamed up with the Clickettes in the late '90s. Barbara and the surviving members of the group continue to perform on the retro circuit.

Worth a listen
But, Not For Me (1958)
Jive Time Turkey (1958)
Warm, Soft And Love (1959)
Lover's Prayer (1959)
To Be A Part Of You (1960)
Where Is He (1960)
I Just can't help it (1963)
I understand (1963)

Barbara Jean English
Easy Come, Easy Go (1964)
I've Got A Date / Shoo Fly (1965)
All Because I Love Somebody (1965)
Love's Arrangement (1971)
I'm Living A Lie (1972)
So Many Ways To Die (1972)
You're Gonna Need Somebody To Love (1973)
If This Ain't Love (1977)

Robert Johnson (1911 - 1938)

Robert Johnson was born in Hazlehurst, Mississippi in 1911. He was the product of an affair his mother, Julia Dodds, had with a plantation worker called Noah Johnson. Julia was married to Charles Dodds and had ten children before Robert was born. Julia left Hazlehurst with baby Robert but after two years, she sent him to Memphis to live with her husband. Charles Dodds had moved to Memphis as a result of problems he was having with some prominent Hazelhurst landowners. He changed his surname to Spencer.Young Robert grew up on the Abbay & Leatherman Plantation near Tunica and Robinsonville, Mississippi, 30 miles south of Memphis. He went to Indian Creek School, in Tunica, Mississippi, and received approximately three years schooling and could read and write by the time he left school. He learned the basics of the guitar from a brother and also could play both harmonica and jaw harp. Robert moved back to live with his mother and her new husband Dusty Willis, and known as Little Robert Dusty. Robert took the surname of his natural father, and signed himself Robert Johnson on the certificate of marriage to sixteen-year-old Virginia Travis in 1929. Tragically she and their baby died in childbirth in 1930.

Unsettled in the wake of the tragedy, Robert sought the company of Willie Brown, and Son House and often borrowed their guitars during stage breaks, and irritate the audience with his marginal skills. He was a lovable pest but when he returned to the Hazlehurst area, he began an apprenticeship with the blues guitarist Ike Zimmerman which eventually transformed him into a guitar virtuoso. Johnson spent about a year living with and learning from Zimmerman, for peace and quiet and not to disturb anyone, the pair practiced at night, in graveyards.

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Robert Johnson, became an itinerant blues singer and guitarist and plied his craft on street corners and juke joints, writing and performing songs that romanticized his rambling and lonely existence. Little detail is known about the travelling troubadour other than he was a country boy turned ladies’ man. Blues singers held special appeal for women, and could, it is said, have any woman they wanted in the audience. While living in Martinsville, Johnson fathered a child with Vergie Mae Smith. He married Caletta Craft in May 1931. In 1932, the couple moved to Clarksdale, Mississippi, when Caletta died in childbirth, Johnson once again became a "walking" musician. He travelled mainly between Memphis and Helena, and the smaller towns of the Mississippi Delta and neighbouring regions of Mississippi and Arkansas. He often stayed with extended family or with female friends. Johnson could play almost any song after hearing it just once on the radio and has a wide repertoire, including his own songs, to please his audience.

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His unusually long fingers and fingerpicking style had him simultaneously play a disjointed bass line on the low strings, rhythm on the middle strings, and lead on the treble strings while singing at the same time. Occasionally, he worked in some bottle-slide playing, too. When Son House and Willie Dixon saw him again they were staggered by his improvement.

The blues musician, Johnny Shines also accompanied him to Chicago, Texas, New York, Canada, Kentucky, and Indiana. During this time Johnson established what would be a relatively long-term relationship with Estella Coleman, a woman about 15 years his senior and the mother of the blues musician Robert Lockwood, Jr. Willie Mae Powell also had a relationship with Johnson. The young lady was the cousin of David "Honeyboy" Edwards.

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In 1936, he went to San Antonio, Texas, for the first of two recording sessions for the American Record Corporation. In the makeshift studio, over three days, he recorded approximately 16 songs, most of them in two or three takes. He reportedly performed facing the wall, which has been cited as evidence he was a shy man and reserved performer. It is more likely he wanted better resonance from the walls. He cut ‘Kind Hearted Woman Blues’, the first of thirteen takes of eight different songs. Three days later he was back and cut ’32-20 Blues’ and then the following day he cut nine more takes on seven different songs. It is thought he received approximately $100 for his recording session. He quickly resumed his life of an itinerant musician.

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From the session, “Terraplane Blues,” was issued as a 78-r.p.m. single on the Vocalion label and became a modest regional hit, selling approximately 5,000 copies. Next came ‘32-20 Blues’ coupled with ‘Last Fair Deal Gone Down’, followed by‘I’ll Believe I’ll Dust My Broom’ and ‘Dead Shrimp Blues’. Sales were not as prolific but clearly good enough for Robert Johnson to be asked back for some more recording.

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In 1937, Johnson went to Dallas, Texas, for another recording session at the Vitagraph (Warner Brothers) Building. Unlike many of his contemporaries , Johnson was content to fit his songs into three minutes of a 78-rpm side. He recorded another 13 tracks before returning to playing around Texas, accompanied by Johnny Shines. They played Jukes, parties and dances, before heading back to Mississippi via Arkansas. Vocalion label released eleven 78 rpm records during Johnson¹s lifetime, and one after his death.

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Much myth surrounds his life and it was claimed his uncanny musical mastery came after he sold his soul to the devil at the crossroad one dark Mississippi night. The legend for many was confirmed when they misinterpreted his lyrics on Cross Road Blues. The songwriter was pleading with God for mercy, not bargaining with the Devil. Secular music was generally considered by some to be the music of the devil and anyone who played it capable of supernatural antics. In folklore, the crossroads is considered to be an unholy place and what amazed people about Johnson was his astonishing improvement in musicianship over a short period , which sceptics put down to the occult.

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After John Henry Hammond II (1910-1987) heard the recordings, he wrote, “Johnson makes Leadbelly look like an accomplished poseur.” A year later in 1938, he wanted Robert Johnson to play in a concert he was producing at Carnegie Hall. Sadly, before he could appear in the “From Spirituals to Swing,” Johnson was dead. Hammond memorialized the late Delta artist by playing two recordings of his songs for the Carnegie Hall audience.

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Robert Johnson is thought to have died in 1938, aged of 27. According to one theory, Johnson was murdered by a jealous husband, who poisoned his whisky. Another theory is his death was due an aneurism caused by a complication of congenital syphilis. Witnesses reported he took three days to die and suffered severe pain. Johnson had little commercial success or public recognition in his lifetime, yet left an enormous legacy on the music and musicians of generations to come.

By 1961, Columbia controlled Robert Johnson’s recordings, and John Hammond oversaw the release of King of the Delta Blues Singers, the first album-length collection of Johnson’s music. The album sold approximately 10,000 copies, which helped reached a wider audience and spark a blues revival in America and elsewhere. Columbia Records issued a second volume, King of the Delta Blues Singers, Vol. II, in 1970. The Complete Recordings, a two-disc set, released in 1990, contains almost everything Johnson recorded, with all 29 recordings, and 12 alternate takes. The set went gold, rekindling interest in Robert Johnson, yet again.

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Dylan B (2005) Chronicles Volume One Simon & Schuster
Clapton E (2007) Clapton: The Autobiography Broadway.
Edwards D (2000) The World Don't Owe Me Nothing: The Life and Times of Delta Bluesman Honeyboy Edwards Chicago Review Press
Graves T (2008) Crossroads: The Life and Afterlife of Blues Legend Robert Johnson Demers Books LLC
Greenberg A (2012) Love in Vain: A Vision of Robert Johnson Univ Of Minnesota Press
Guralnick P (1998) Searching for Robert Johnson Plume
Wald E (2004) Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues Amistad/HarperCollins
Wardlow G D (2000) Chasin’ That Devil Music Backbeat Books

Saturday, November 10, 2018

Eric Bogle

Eric Bogle was born in 1944 in Peebles, Scotland. His father played bagpipes and worked as a railway Signalman. He grew up in Scotland, started writing poetry when he was eight, and left school until when he was 16. Being left handed he learned to play ukulele restrung before the guitar. Lonnie Donegan, Elvis Presley and Ewan MacColl were early influences and he taught himself to play guitar before forming a skiffle group, called Eric and the Informers.

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After leaving school, Eric Bogle worked at various jobs including labourer, clerk and barman. By now he had turned his interests to folk music before emigrating to Australia in 1969. In Canberra, he worked as an accountant and started making his name on the folk circuit before eventually settling in Adelaide, South Australia. In his songs he cleverly combined lyrics about political and humanitarian issues. Nancy was song about leaving his mother in Scotland.

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He performed not only in Australia but also overseas and his gigs were well attended and often bootlegged. From a child, Bogle was always fascinated and puzzled with war and saw it as a paradox of the worst and best sides of humanity. In 1971, he wrote "And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda,” inspired by a Remembrance Day parade in Canberra. Based on a traditional Australian folk song, the lyrics recount the experience of a member of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (ANZAC) in the Battle of Gallipoli. Once it caught the public ear, it became a popular anti-war song interpreted by all, as a reaction to the Vietnam War.

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He entered the National Folk Festival song-writing competition, in Brisbane in 1974. Despite Matilda meeting with thunderous applause, he did not win the competition and the song was given third place. The protest which followed only focused more attention on the song and UK folk singer asked if she could sing it at a festival in the south of England. Bogle agreed and the song proved so successful it was recorded by June Tabor in 1976 and became well known in the UK and USA. Over decades the song has been covered by many artists and translated into different languages. Perhaps the best-known version was by The Pogues.

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In 1976, he wrote "No Man's Land" (also known as "The Green Fields of France" or Willie McBride). The song reflected on the grave of a young man (Willie McBride), who died in World War I. Despite much research into who the soldier, Bogle later admitted he choose the name "Willie McBride"; to simply rhyme with "grave side", but also wanted to give the soldier an Irish name as a counter to the anti-Irish sentiment prevalent in Britain at the time.

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Like ‘And the band played Waltzing Matlida,’ the song took on a new life when British Punk Folk band, The Men They Couldn’t Hang recorded a version in 1984. After John Peel, played the song on his show (BBC Radio 1), it became a No.1 hit in the UK Indie Chart.

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The song was again covered by many other artists and sometimes with slightly different lyrics. In 2014, The Royal British Legion commissioned Joss Stone and Jeff Beck to record the Official 2014 Poppy Appeal Single Poppy Appeal song. They chose No Man's Land.

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Eric Bogle has repeatedly stated that his own favourite recording of the song is by John McDermott.

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In 1983, released "My Youngest Son Came Home Today", an impartial song of a young man killed during fighting in Northern Ireland. Never intended to be anything other than a song it was later adopted by Nationalists and has become associated with Irish Republicanism. When in Billy Bragg covered the song, in 1990, he changed the line "dreams of freedom unfulfilled" to "dreams of glory unfulfilled".

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In 2001, he released "As if he Knows" which continues the theme of the wastage of war and describes the sadness of Australian mounted soldiers in Palestine in 1918 as they are obliged to shoot their horses.

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In 2009, he wrote Bringing Buddy Home, after he witnessed the cargo hold of a plane filled with coffins from Iraq.

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In 2017, he released ‘The War Correspondent.’

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The repertoire of Eric Bogle covers a wide range of subjects and themes, including several comedic songs.

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However, it is his humanity this singer songwriter will be celebrated for many years to come. In Singing the Spirit, tells the sad but uplifting story a black prisoner’s execution in South Africa.

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Since 1985, Bogle toured the UK (sometimes including appearances in continental Europe), every three years. These tours usually included a supporting cast of Australian-based singers and musicians, most regularly John Munro (1947 – 2018) and Brent Miller (guitar/bass). More recent tours in Australia have included Adelaide-based musicians Emma Woolcock (fiddle) and Pete Titchener (guitar/bass).

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Friday, November 9, 2018

Albert Cummings - Lonely Bed

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