Thursday, November 13, 2014

Week 12: City Blues: Chicago

Junior Wells performing at Theresa's Lounge (Marc PoKempener photo)

Key CHICAGO BLUES people include Muddy Waters (who arrived in Chicago in the 1940s), Howlin' Wolf, and John Lee Hooker (Hooker is associated with Detroit, but like Muddy Waters, was born in the South). And Willie Dixon, Little Walter, Magic Sam, Otis Rush, Buddy Guy, Johnny Shines... Otis Spann, Junior Wells plus many many more... It's important that you understand the dynamic between the two regions--the Mississippi Delta (Country Blues in general) and Chicago (Urban Blues in general)--and why the music sounds the way it does.

A rainy night outside Theresa's, MPK photo (late 1960s)

The important theme to concentrate on is this Mississippi-Chicago axis. (See Robert Palmer's book, Deep Blues.) Many of the "city" players had their start in the south (Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf, for eample.) They took their downhome music north. Sometimes it worked the other way around. Johnny Shines, the Chicago blues artist  (who as a young man was influenced by and had traveled and played with Robert Johnson) is included here on a track called Too Wet To Plow--recorded later in his life, but at the same time a beautiful return to his southern roots.

Here's where it all started: 

Muddy Waters: Feel Like Goin' Home (Aristocrat, 1946)

Muddy Waters, Chicago,  late1940s

Reading.  Last week's reading continued to apply. And again, for a very different view of music made by Black Americans, see Albert Murray's Stomping the Blues (which treats a much wider musical panorama, with attendant ideas as to how we should understand "the blues..."). Alternatively, make use of the week to do some online research into the bios of Chicago blues people--Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf, Little Walter, and the rest.

Download (same as last week):
Last week's download includes songs for both weeks 11 and 12. Here are the tracks especially for this week:

Long Distance Call    Muddy Waters   (1913-1983)
Rollin' & Tumblin', Part Part 1   Muddy Waters
Honey Bee    Muddy Waters
Blues With A Feeling   Little Walter   (1930-1968)
Too Wet To Plow   Johnny Shines   (1915-1992)
I'm The Wolf    Howlin' Wolf   (1910-1976)
The Red Rooster (With False Start And Dialogue) Howlin' Wolf & English Rock musicians Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood, Bill Wyman, Charlie Watts)

Theresa's Lounge, Lost & Found, MPK photo

You can also refer back these selections mentioned in last week's post:

How Long, How Long Blues  Leroy Carr (1905-1935)  (Nashville, originally)
Jet Black Snake    Roosevelt Sykes   (1906-1983)
Hoodoo Lady    Memphis Minnie   (1897-1983)
Black Snake Blues    Victoria Spivey   (1906-1976)

and these two more recent tracks:

J.T. Blues   Big Joe Turner   (1911-1985)  (Kansas City "blues shouter")
Sad Street    Bobby "Blue" Bland   (b. 1930)  (Memphis, originally)

Chicago, MPK photo

There are myriad blues styles and blues players. Concentrate on Muddy Waters and Howlin' Wolf--then move on to some of the other tracks (Roosevelt Sykes, Victoria Spivey).

Also included, back-to-back, Joe Turner, originally a "blues shouter" from Kansas City, in a late-great performance (J.T. Blues)--and (also wonderful)  Bobby "Blue" Bland singing Sad Streets...

Big Joe Turner (Kansas City)

Plus one track from The Wild Tchoupitoulas (pure New Orleans), one from Sleepy LaBeef (of rockabilly fame), and one from the immensely curious (and powerful) Bahamian player, Joseph Spence. But Joseph Spence's music would be another story in itself...

There's also a good back-and-forth between traditional black blues musician Howlin' Wolf and a group of young English blues players. (Howlin' Wolf is basically teaching them how to play Little Red Rooster.)  I included this as a track on your download under Little Red Rooster.

Howlin' Wolf at Silvio's, Chicago (Hubert Sumlin on lead guitar, next to drummer)

Another cut on your download, Too Wet To Plow, by Johnny Shines--a beautiful song by a southern blues musician--Johnny Shines--who moved to Chicago to make his career, but later in life again recorded some of the Mississippi Blues songs he knew from his youth. Johnny Shines as a young man traveled with Robert Johnson--and learned his style. You'll hear it in the way he plays the song, recorded decades later.

Johnny Shines, Too Wet to Plow

Hey, there are many many good traditional blues players. The download gives you a mini cross section. But here I kept the list here simple so that you could concentrate on the Mississippi Delta / Chicago (rural blue/city blues) dynamic. Which is also an acoustic instrument/electric instrument dynamic.

Muddy Waters, 1960s

Some related YouTubes with video:

MUDDY WATERS -hoochie coochie man (1960) - YouTube