Editor’s note: Please welcome the newest addition to American Blues Scene online: “This Week in Blues Past”! You asked for a weekly summary of our daily blues history on Facebook and we listened! Come visit each Monday, where we will be listing the top ten events in blues history in chronological order.
This Week in Blues Past has some big landmarks, with birthdays of powerful blues stars, a big bootleg recording, the passing of influential blues figures, erection of blues trail markers and more! This is the top ten things that happened this week in the blues…
1. The Doors
August 18th, 1966: Blues influenced Southern California band, The Doors, was signed to Elektra Records. Six days later recording began for their eponymous debut album which included not only the hit songs, “Break On Through (To The Other Side)” and “Light My Fire”, but also a cover of the Willie Dixon song, “Back Door Man” which was made famous by Howlin’ Wolf.
2. Ginger Baker
August 19th, 1939: Drummer, Peter Edward “Ginger” Baker was born in Lewisham, South London, England. A Jazz drummer at heart, Baker is best known for his work with the Blues/Rock groups Blues Incorporated, Cream and Blind Faith. In his mid-seventies, he recently signed with record label Motéma Music to release a new Jazz album and is touring with the Ginger Baker Jazz Confusion.
3. Blind Willie McTell
August 19th, 1959: Piedmont Blues singer/songwriter/guitarist, who is famous for playing, exclusively a twelve-string guitar, Blind Willie McTell died of a stroke in Milledgeville, Georgia at the age of 61. Born William Samuel McTier in Thomson, Georgia, McTell, in 1928, wrote and recorded the song, “Statesboro Blues” which went on to become a hit for Taj Mahal and an early signature song for The Allman Brothers. Others who were influenced by McTell include Bob Dylan, Alvin Youngblood Hart, Ry Cooder and Jack White. McTell was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1981 and the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 1990.
4. Stevie Ray Vaughan
August 20th, 1979: The bootleg album In The Open by Stevie Ray Vaughan was recorded at KFAT Radio’s annual “Fat Fry” in Gilroy, California. Consisting of 14 tracks, this live album features Jack Newhouse on bass, Chris Layton on drums, Lou Ann Barton on vocals and, on the song, “Tin Pan Alley”, Robert Cray on guitar and Curtis Salgado on harmonica.
5. Phil Guy
August 20th, 2008: Younger brother of Blues giant, Buddy Guy, Phil Guy died of prostate cancer in Chicago Heights, Illinois. Starting out as a guitar player for Raful Neal, Guy relocated to Chicago in 1969, joining his brother’s band. He recorded a number of solo albums in the 80s and 90s and branched out into the Soul and Funk genres. He even had a self proclaimed “hippy phase” in 1970 when he toured Southern Canada by train with The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and The Band.
6. Blue Front Cafe
August 21st, 2007: A Mississippi Blues Trail Marker was established in Bentonia, Mississippi to commemorate the Blue Front Cafe, a juke joint opened in 1948 by Carey and Mary Holmes and currently owned by their son, Blues musician, Jimmy “Duck” Holmes. Located on Highway 49 in Yazoo County, The Blue Front was, at times, open 24 hours a day to accommodate the local cotton field hands of the area. Two notable things about this famous juke are the fact that is the birthplace of what is known as Bentonia Blues and its famous Coca-Cola sign which was proudly erected when the laws of the state, after integration, allowed the product to be served to African Americans. Artists who have played at The Blue Front include Skip James, Jack Owens, Henry Stuckey, Sonny Boy Williamson II and James “Son” Thomas.
7. John Lee Hooker
August 22nd, 1917: Prolific and influential Blues guitarist/singer/songwriter and man known as the “King of Boogie Woogie”, John Lee Hooker was born in Coahoma County, Mississippi. He ran away from home at age 15 and soon was playing at the New Daisy Theatre on Beale Street in Memphis. He moved to Detroit in 1948 to work in the Ford Motor Company factory there and quickly fell in to the Blues scene on Hastings Street, making his first recordings for Modern Records, including his first hit, “Boogie Chillen'”, the same year. His other hit songs included “I’m In The Mood” and “Boom Boom”. Hooker was in the first class of inductees into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980, and was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1991. He died in his sleep at age 83 on June 21st, 2001.
8. Jimmy Reed
August 22nd, 2007: A tribute concert to Blues great and Blues Hall of Fame inductee, Jimmy Reed was held in Austin, Texas including performances by Jimmie Vaughan, Omar Kent Dykes, Lou Ann Barton, Kim Wilson, Delbert McClinton, James Cotton, Gary Clark, Jr., Derek O’Brien, Ronnie James and Wes Starr. The concert was recorded for broadcast on Austin City Limits in October of the same year. Other artists that were influenced by Reed include Elvis Presley, Billy Gibbons, The Rolling Stones, Van Morrison, Steve Miller and Neil Young.
August 23rd, 1940: Alan Lomax recorded 50 performances, accompanied and unaccompanied by Huddie “Leadbelly” Ledbetter at the Coolidge Auditorium, Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. The recordings included Blues songs, religious songs, popular secular songs, prayers and even a monologue by Leadbelly about Christmas. The recordings were made for the Library of Congress archives on folk songs. Leadbelly was inducted in the Blues Hall of Fame in 1986 and Lomax in 1994.
10. Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup
August 24th, 1905: Delta Blues singer and songwriter, Arthur Crudup was born in Forest, Mississippi. He started out his musical career in Clarksdale, Mississippi and as a member of the Harmonizing Four, he made his way to Chicago in 1939. He was allegedly discovered by infamous record producer Lester Melrose while living in a packing crate in the Windy City. Crudup went on to record for the Bluebird, Delmark and Sequel labels but will always be best known as the writer of hit songs which included “That’s Alright”, “My Baby Left Me” and “So Glad You’re Mine” which were recorded by Elvis Presley and dozens of others. Crudup was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1994.