1. Lee McBee
March 23rd, 1951: Electric Blues singer and harmonica player, Lee McBee was born in Kansas City, Missouri. In 1969, McBee moved to Lawrence, Kansas where he played in several blues and blues/rock bands, supplementing his work as a cook. In 1982, he began skipping around the country living in places such as Dallas, Chicago and Los Angeles and performing with artists like Bonnie Raitt, Jimmy Rogers and Johnny Winter. By 1985 he had settled in Dallas, Texas and formed The Crawl with guitarist Mike Morgan where he remained for a dozen years. In 1994, his side project, The Passions, moved back to Kansas City where they eventually evolved into Lee McBee & The Confessors. They released two albums and in 2009 McBee was inducted into the Kansas Music Hall of Fame. McBee died in Kansas City on June 24th, 2014.
2. Boogie Bill Webb
March 24th, 1924: Tommy Johnson inspired guitarist Boogie Bill Webb was born in Jackson, Mississippi. He made his first guitar at age 8 from a cigar box and window screen wire. He won a local talent show in 1947 and moved to New Orleans in 1952. Making friends with Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, he got a recording contract with Imperial Records and released his debut single, “Bad Dog” the following year. Webb’s music was a combination of Mississippi Country Blues and New Orleans R&B and when his single didn’t fare well, he moved to Chicago, Illinois. There he worked in the factories by day and at night sat in with Muddy Waters, Jimmy Reed and Chuck Berry. By 1959 Webb had all but given up on music, moving back to New Orleans and working on the docks. It was 1968 with folklorist, David Evans recorded several of Webb’s songs that later appeared on two compilation albums. Blues fans began to look for him and invite him to tour, which he did beginning in 1982. In 1989, he released the only album of his career, Drinkin’ and Stinkin’ on Flying Fish Records. Webb died in New Orleans on August 22nd of the following year.
3. Aretha Franklin
March 25th, 1942: “Queen of Soul”, Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Moving first to Buffalo, New York and then Detroit with her family, all before age 5, she began her music career singing Gospel music in her father’s church. Due to her father’s fame, several famous artists including Mahalia Jackson, Sam Cooke, James Cleveland and Jackie Wilson often visited the Franklin home. At age 18, Aretha turned her musical interests to secular music and had her first hit single, “Won’t Be Long” in 1961. From there it was success after success with songs like, “Respect”, “Chain of Fools”, “Call Me” and dozens more that eventually won her 18 Grammy Awards and a staggering 75 million records sold. Rolling Stone Magazine listed her #1 on their list of 100 Greatest Singers of All Time, and in 1987 she was the first female artist inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
4. Jeff Healey
March 25th, 1966: Jeff Healey was born in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He lost his sight to a rare eye cancer at the age of 1 and by age 3 began playing guitar in a unique style, flat on his lap. He formed his first band at 15 and began playing local blues clubs including Albert’s Hall where he was discovered by Stevie Ray Vaughan and Albert Collins. His first album, See the Light was released on Arista records in 1988 and contained his biggest hit, “Angel Eyes” along with his Grammy nominated instrumental cover of “Hideaway”. Throughout his career, Healey toured with The Allman Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, Buddy Guy, ZZ Top, B. B. King and many more playing Blues and Jazz. He was also a club owner, and radio host with a personal collection of over 30,000 78 rpm records. Healey died of cancer in his hometown of Toronto on March 2nd, 2008.
5. Spivey Records – Chicago Blues
March 26th, 1964: Recording sessions for the album, Chicago Blues, touted as a “Bonanza All Star Blues LP” by Spivey Records were held in Chicago, Illinois. Participants included Willie Dixon, Sunnyland Slim, John Henry Barbee, Homesick James, St. Louis Jimmy, Washboard Sam, Cocoa (Koko) Taylor and Evans Spencer. Songs that came from this session included “Six Week Old Blues”, “Can’t Hold Out”, “Queen’s Rock”, “Early in the Morning”, “No Pickin’, No Pullin'”, “Drinking”, “Won’t Do That No More”, “So Long”, “What Kind of Man is This” and “Which-A-Way To Go”.
6. Quinn Sullivan
March 26th, 1999: Blues guitar prodigy, Quinn Sullivan, was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts. Beginning guitar lessons at age 3, Sullivan had already written his first song when he garnered national attention on the Ellen DeGeneres Show at age 6. Later that same year he was invited on stage by Buddy Guy and Guy took Sullivan under his proverbial wing from that moment. He has since performed several large venues and festivals, played with Guy and B. B. King and released 2 albums of his own as well as guest appearing on Guy’s Skin Deep album.
7. Robert Lockwood, Jr.
March 27th, 1915: Robert Lockwood, Jr. was born in Turkey Scratch, Arkansas and began playing organ in his father’s church at age 8. After his parents’ divorce, Robert Johnson lived with Lockwood’s mother off and on for 10 years, teaching Lockwood guitar, timing and stage presence, making the young Lockwood his only direct student. By the age of 15, Lockwood was playing parties and street corners in nearby Helena and all throughout the Delta. He often played with Johnson, Johnny Shines, Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin’ Wolf. By 1940 he was splitting his time playing between Helena, Memphis, St. Louis and Chicago. He made his first recordings in 1941, played with Williamson on King Biscuit Time on KFFA Radio in Helena, and with a young B. B. King in Memphis. By 1950 he was living in Chicago full-time and became part of Little Walter’s band in 1954 playing guitar on Walter’s hit song, “My Babe”. He was also a session musician for Chess Records making recordings with Muddy Waters, Sunnyland Slim, Roosevelt Sykes, J. B. Lenoir and many others. In 1960 Lockwood and Williamson moved to Cleveland, Ohio and there Lockwood stayed playing regular gigs with his band, The All Stars. He was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1989 and in 2004 he won a Grammy, along with Honeyboy Edwards, Pinetop Perkins and Henry Townsend for their album, Last of the Great Mississippi Delta Bluesmen: Live in Dallas. Lockwood died at the age of 91 on November 21st, 2006.
8. Mighty Joe Young
March 27th, 1999: Joseph “Mighty Joe” Young died from pneumonia at the age of 71 in Chicago, Illinois. The pneumonia was developed after a spinal surgery Young had undergone to relieve the numbness in his fingers that was keeping him from playing guitar. Born in Shreveport, Louisiana in 1927, Young was raised in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and was training to be a boxer when he began playing blues in the local clubs in the 1950s. By the late 1950s he moved to Chicago and was working as a sideman with Otis Rush and others. He performed on Magic Sam’s albums, West Side Soul and Black Magic and also performed with Jimmy Rogers, Billy Boy Arnold and Willie Dixon. His first solo album, Blues With a Touch of Soul was released in 1971 and he recorded 7 others prior to his death.
9. W. C. Handy
March 28th, 1955: “Father of the Blues”, W. C. Handy died of bronchial pneumonia at Sydenham Hospital in New York City at the age of 84. Born in Florence, Alabama on November 16th, 1873, Handy was a young musician in his own right as well as a teacher when he had an experience on a train platform in Tutwiler, Mississippi in 1903 that would forever change him. “A lean loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept… As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars….The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard.” That incident and folks at dances asking for their “native music” began Handy on a search for what would become, The Blues. Handy went on to be composer of such songs as “Memphis Blues”, “Yellow Dog Blues”, “St. Louis Blues”, “Beale Street Blues”, “Ol Miss Rag” and many more. Some consider “Memphis Blues” to be the first actual published Blues song.
10. Big Boss Man
March 29th, 1960: Jimmy Reed first recorded his signature song, “Big Boss Man” for the Vee-Jay label in Chicago, Illinois. Written by Al Smith and Luther Dixon, the 12-bar shuffle is one of the few Reed songs that was written by someone other than him. In 1990 the song was inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame and has become a Blues standard, covered by B. B. King, Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, Steve Miller Band and many others.